Sunday, January 26, 2014


Last week I finally turned 70.  Not that I've been anxiously awaiting this day, because I haven't.  I've been dreading it for the last twelve months when I knew it was inevitable.  It seems everyone I know who graduated in my high school class of 1961 was doing it.  But now that it's here, there's not much I can do but marvel in the fact that at the age of 70, I can still do the same things I did at 69.

Biker Chick at Seventy

The date was January 15th during our trip to Burma, while staying at a fabulous resort on the Ngapali coast along with twelve friends.  I had no idea, of course, but Bruce threw me a surprise party and even brought balloons and party decorations all the way from California.  He hid them in an extra bag full of bubble wrap that we carry, which enables us to bring home the ethnic artifacts we hope to buy.  Since we often travel in January, I'm used to celebrating somewhere exotic.  Over the years I've blown out candles on a birthday cake in Vietnam, Ethiopia, Argentina, Mali, Cuba, Belize, and India.   But I've never had a party per se.  Just the cake.

Bruce sketched out his idea for the surprise party and how it would play out in emails he wrote to our friends before we left.  He contacted the resort, and together they made plans for the party to be held in a special place with a lot of ambience.  Everything was in place. He just had to get me there so it would be a surprise.  To be honest, I did expect a cake, so when I heard Bruce whisper the word "surprise" to one of the resort's staff, I pretended not to hear  since I assumed he was arranging for the cake. 

That evening we planned to join our friends at the outdoor bar, so we could watch the sunset and have drinks together before going to dinner.  Because I am such a stickler for being prompt, I was impatient with Bruce who was futzing around and taking longer than usual to get ready.  I'd already seen two of our friends walk by our bungalow, so I was anxious to get going.  Finally Bruce said he was ready, so together we walked a short way down to the outdoor bar.  I was surprised not to see our friends sitting in the same spot they had the previous night, but I wasn't suspicious, even though I saw a string of balloons and a birthday sign.  What a dork I am.  I thought it might be decorations for someone else's party. 

Sandoway Resort, Ngapali Beach, Myanmar (Burma)

As I approached the entrance to the inside section of the bar, there were our twelve friends, holding up glasses of bubbly Prosecco, and singing Happy Birthday.  Bruce had even borrowed the resort's piano player for the opening ceremonies.  "Drinks are on me, there are a lot of hors d'ouevres," Bruce shouted to our friends.   I was shocked, stunned, and speechless.  Yes, believe it or not, I was truly speechless.  After about 30 minutes of drinking bubbly, we  sat down at a long table outside that had been arranged by Bruce and beautifully decorated by all of our friends.  That's when the shit hit the fan.  No one held back.  One by one and going around the table, my friends mercilessly roasted me black and teased me even some more. Do I really talk that much?  Is it true that I constantly drop the name of Podunk U?   It was a great party and a fun way to turn 70.

Although many of my very funny friends went to great lengths to make this a special birthday for me, the funniest person roasting me that evening was my husband, Bruce.    He read out loud what he described as a draft of a blog post that I had just written about the Burma trip, but it was a spoof written by him   Although some of it will be lost on people who were not traveling with us and those don't know me personally, it should resonate with those who have followed my blog.   Here goes ---- 

Biker Chick Gone Seventy

It's early January, and after recovering from a New Year's drunken stupa -- I mean stupor, I find myself in
Burma.  Why Burma, you might ask?  The answer goes back to my childhood.  When I was a kid growing up in rural New Hampshire, I used to sit in the back of my parents' donkey cart as they went to the local market in East Hicksville.  Now the main road to East Hicksville was lined with a series of little 6 X 15 inch signs that said "Burma Shave."  And so ever since the age of seven, I knew I was destined to go to Burma some day.  My frequent travel companion, Carla, arranged this journey as an all-expense paid trip in honor of my 70th birthday.  A wonderful gesture to be sure, but I told her that I didn't want to make the trip without Bruce.  She eventually agreed, but I had to promise to keep a lid on his often obnoxious behavior.  I never know when he might get into a shouting match with someone over something trivial.  So far, Bruce has behaved well, but we had a close call when we were at an antique shop in Bagan and Carla and Gary bought a beautiful piece that Bruce had his eye on.  I thought he was going to become unglued, but I managed to push him out the door, where he kicked around in the dirt until he calmed down.  Luckily nobody else noticed this.  One time in Bhutan Bruce had a hissy fit when all I did was lock the door to our room when I left for dinner.  Oh well, enough about Bruce.

There are 12 other people in our group.  We've traveled with most of them before.  Most of them listen to me when I talk --- the rest are B-O-R-I-N-G!

Since some time in the 1970s, this country has been called Myanmar.  Apparently the name change was never recognized by the U.S. Government.  I have a friend in the State Department who told me that the shaving cream lobby is quite powerful.  At a Department of Agriculture hearing in 1981, there was testimony that it would cost several billion dollars to alter signs all across rural American to read Myanmar Shave.

Scattered about the Bagan area are thousands of beautiful Buddhist temples and stupas.  These monuments are best seen at sunrise in a hot air balloon.  It was very expensive, but we took the balloon ride.  Other than in an airplane, I haven't been so high since my pot smoking days with Billy Randall back in high school.  We frequently would shack up in a motel room.  Actually, it was my room, since I lived at my parents' motel -- ah, but I seem to be digressing.

Back to Burma.  One morning we visited a couple of schools, and I was so embarrassed.  At the primary school our entire group sang 3 verses of "Old McDonald" in a classroom full of dumbfounded Burmese kids.  All they wanted to do was translate "I have an apple" into the Burmese language in their workbooks, only to be interrupted by a bunch of camera-wielding adults spouting animal sounds.  Then at the high school came an even more  bizarre event.  One of the couples in our group had schlepped a huge pile of ugly green soccer uniforms all the way from California to give to school kids.  So a couple of confused students were summoned to the principal's office and told to hold out their arms.  Then as the soccer shirts and shorts were piled into their outstretched arms in front of a camera paparazzi, I just know that the stone-faced kids were thinking, "What the fuck?"

Buddhism is heavy duty here in Burma.  It seems to be a different kind of Buddhism than we saw in Bhutan.  But, like we saw in Laos, long lines of monks walk the streets in the early mooring holding food bowls and looking for potential donors.  What a contrast from my fund-raising days at Podunk U.  At Podunk U we would give potential donors bowls already filled with food.  They would eat it and then give us money.

When I was in fundraising, I once arranged for a dinner event at George Clooney's house -- and believe me, the guests did not show up in bare feet and burgundy robes holding empty bowls.  Incidentally, a funny thing happened that evening.   Before the event,  I went over to the Clooney house for some final preparations, and I guess the butler was off duty.  Would you believe that George Clooney himself answered the doorbell in his underwear.

OK, but here I am digressing again.  Yes, back to Burma.

The hawking of trinkets, postcards and other souvenirs is endemic at all important tourist sites.  At many places we were approached by a swarm of sellers, most of them children.  They were a nuisance, but I could identify with the effort to earn money at an early age, selling stuff that nobody wanted.  One year while still a teenager, I got a job as a sales person at Lord and Taylor.  I was in the glove department -- now just imagine trying to sell gloves in July.  But, you know what?  One day I sold a pair to a movie actor -- Tony Perkins.  When I told him that I had the same last name, he smiled and said nothing.  This still bothers me to this day since most people love talking to me.

Oh, shit, I'm digressing again.  This blog post is supposed to be about Burma.  But as I sit here thinking about how best to describe the incredible scenery and the warm and welcoming  Burmese people, it occurs to me that mere words are inadequate.  So I'm going to stop trying.

But don't think for a minute that I'm at a total loss for words.  No sireee.  I've got 70 years worth of tales to tell -- so stay tuned as life's adventure continues...........

Red Faced at Seventy

1 comment:

  1. What a wonderful party, and I love Bruce's "blog post." You're a very lucky woman, even if you are 70. I look forward to actually meeting you in person one of these days.