Friday Free-for-All #92: Birthday Edition

Some random birthday memories over the years, in Q&A form.

In which I answer random questions — this time, my own questions about things relating to my birthday, which is today. An ongoing series.

Least favorite birthday party?

Ironically, it’s also the first one I vaguely remember, and was ruined by… a flu pandemic. (There were a lot of those going around when I was a kid, apparently.) It was my 4th birthday, and everyone had the flu, although I don’t remember anyone I knew of dying from it.

Although my mother had planned a big party for our backyard and sent out all the invitations, in the days before, invitee’s parents apparently started calling in to cancel because their kids had suddenly broken out in high fevers and were very sick.

Ultimately, the only kid who showed up, Scott, lived a couple of doors north of us — the one direction on the street I never went — and although I didn’t really know him, we did have sort of a small party together, with cake and that was about it.

I don’t remember getting sick, but I do remember our moms lifting us up onto the picnic table in the backyard so that we could both blow the candles out together. Facing each other. As you do when there’s a pandemic going on.

Sigh. Still — it could be worse. All those unvaccinated parents with sick kids could have just shown up because, “It’s just the flu.” At least people weren’t that stupid back then, and we had all the Moms to work as the CDC contact tracing network at the time. If one person came down with it (flu, measles, mumps, chicken pox, etc.) pretty soon they’d all have a good idea of who had it and who was going to start showing symptoms.

Memorable birthday faux pas?

When my play Bill & Joan was produced, we timed it around the centennial of William S. Burroughs’ birth, which was on February 5. Mine is the day before but something we didn’t know until we were in production was that his wife Joan’s birthday was also on February 4th. (That detail hadn’t been added to his biography when I’d originally read it.)

I think that our show nights were Thursday through Sunday, so my birthday had already passed before our next show, and I don’t even remember whether it was a Thursday or Friday night; possibly a Saturday.

Anyway, an old friend of mine had come to see the show but the gathering afterwards was generally always theatre company members and the friends of the cast who’d come to see it. My friend was the only one outside the company I knew that night. So we went down the block to a bar that was the unofficial hang-out for the theatre company to catch up.

Then I started to get texts from our AD. “Where are you?” I told him and he called me. “Your director wants to talk to you right now.”

“What about?”

“Just get back here.”

I excused myself and walked back — maybe it was notes or something — only to arrive and be greeted by “Happy birthday” and a cake fashioned out of a bunch of cupcakes. I blew out the candles, thanked everyone, then grabbed two cupcakes and headed back to the bar with the intention of bringing my friend back. I eventually did, but the whole thing may have seemed kind of assholey on my part.

Still, no one had told me “stick around” in the first place — and I really don’t like impromptu birthday observations with mostly strangers.

Most interesting birthday activity

This was been when I turned 21, although it’s a lot more wholesome than it sounds. Two friends of mine took me out to see a movie on opening day, although it must not have been that good, because I don’t remember what film it was.

Next, they took me out to dinner (their treat) and we went to the fancy place — Denny’s actually connected to the mall. Okay — fancy for starving college students. The other two were both seniors who had already turned 22 and were a few months from graduation.

Anyway, we had dinner and when the waitress came over to ask about dessert, the other two insisted to her, “Card him! Card him!” She did, realized what day it was, and explained that Denny’s had a very special special for 21st birthdays — a drink called the Hurricane.

I had no idea at the time what it was, but the waitress announced that it had a lot of rum in it. I looked it up just now, and it was actually created in the early 1940s in New Orleans. Apparently, they had a lack of fruit juice but a surplus of rum. Go figure.

This drink certainly didn’t lack in the rum department, and it came in a glass that was huge — in fact, one that became known as a “hurricane glass,” named after the drink.

And yes, I see the enormous irony in a drink from New Orleans being called that. Maybe because this one could probably get you as wasted as Katrina.

Anyway, I had the drink and we eventually left, but it wasn’t the hurricane that made the evening fun. Nope. Their last surprise was that we were all going ice-skating — something I’d never done before but had expressed an interest in.

Now let’s do the math here. Take friend out for birthday. Get him a pretty strong drink. Take him to the ice rink to do something he’s never done before. Was their intention that maybe I’d be so relaxed that I’d take right to it or so drunk that I’d fall down and break my ass?

Surprisingly, I actually took right to it, and didn’t fall down once — and yes, that surprised the hell out of me. We were on the ice long enough that the cold and the physical activity plus time started to cut the effects of the alcohol, and I got to love the whole experience.

Fortunately, I hadn’t driven, but you can bet that I sought out the ice rinks closest to the university and made it a habit to regularly visit after that.

Favorite celebs I share the day with

There are so many, surprisingly, and a lot of them are very interesting people. There’s the eccentric

Emperor Joshua Norton, who became a beloved figure in San Francisco and is still practically a saint there today; Charles Lindbergh, although not really a favorite because he’d probably be a big TFG supporter now; Clyde Tombaugh, who discovered Pluto; Rosa Parks, who wouldn’t give up her seat; Ida Lupino who, like Lucile Ball, was a very powerful woman in Hollywood in her time; George Romero, noted horror film director; Alice Cooper, noted rock star and horror film character; Jonathan Larson of Rent and Tick Tick Boom fame; Hunter Biden, son of President Joe Biden; and singer Natalie Imbruglia.

It’s a really eclectic bag, but I think the one thing in common can be summed up by the word “eccentric.”

Worst thing to happen on my birthday

Well, this was the worst thing for her, not for me, since I don’t even remember it happening. But it was on my birthday that Patty Hearst was kidnapped.

Most traumatic

I went to school. When I came home, my mom was in the E.R. and my dad had burned my birthday cake. For some reason, Mom had started to hyperventilate, so next door neighbor, who was visiting at the time, drove her to the E.R. Dad was called home early, really couldn’t do anything at the E.R. at the moment, so decided to bake my cake and managed to incinerate a basic Betty Crocker mix. No, I have no idea how one manages that.

This was the beginning of a long medical odyssey for my mother, although I never thought of it as my birthday ruined. Rather, it was the start of a difficult period for all of us as we and her doctors tried to figure out what was wrong. They never did, but to this day I’m convinced that it was actually the treatment attempts that ultimately killed her.

Now, I believe in modern medicine, I had great doctors that saved my life once thanks to it — but doctors were also different when my mom got sick, and I remember meeting her primary care physician one time. Total asshole who apparently didn’t think that women had the ability to know or report on what they felt happening inside of their own bodies.

Repeat: Total asshole.

Best gift

I’m really not into material gifts and actually never have been, not even as a kid — my birthday was close enough after Christmas for that former holiday to be the big one.

As an adult, the best birthday gifts I’ve ever gotten have been time with friends — just hanging out to celebrate, and that’s it. Although out of those, the bestest has been when one of the many times one of my best friends took me out to dinner for one of my favorite foods — usually Mexican or Thai — and we just hung around and talked one-on-one for a long time.

That’s better than any gift that can be stuck in a box, wrapped, and then very soon thereafter be lost, stolen, or break but, in any event, will never last as long as the memory of time with loved ones.

If it’s your birthday today or around this time of year, happy birthday Let me know when it is/was in the comments, and share a memory of your favorite celebration.

Sunday Nibble #89: Happy birthday to the little Queen

In honor of what would have been the 17th birthday of a dog no longer with us.

Today, November 14, 2021, would have been my dog Sheeba’s 17th birthday but, unfortunately, she left us just over a year-and-a-half ago, on May 1, 2020.

One of the sad truths about pets — besides that they do not live as long — is that we always know the exact date they died, but rarely know the exact date they were born, unless we get them from a breeder.

Which you should never, ever do, by the way. There are plenty of loving, healthy dogs available in shelters and rescues, and they also have the advantage of not being as potentially inbred as an expensive designer dog might be.

But whenever I adopt a dog, one of the first things I do is pick their birthday. I know that some people like to make it the anniversary of the adoption day — and even call it their adoptiversary — but I’d rather give each of my dogs one special day out of the year that I can also use to keep track of their age.

My first two dogs both happened to be born around middle to late August, so they both got August 23 as a birthday, although they were born fifteen years apart and never actually met. I picked the 23rd because that day is associated with Sirius, the Dog Star.

Sheeba was a little trickier because her birthday fell in late fall, probably some time in November. So, since I had two friends with birthdays on October and December 14, I decided to put Sheeba right between them, and November 14 became her birthday.

I always celebrated my dogs’ birthdays with them although, obviously, it’s a lot easier to do it in a one dog household. For the just over nine years that I had both Sheeba and her older sister Shadow, they both celebrated each of their birthdays the same way.

Sure, neither of them ever had any idea what the hell was going on, but because of how I celebrated, they didn’t really mind. Depending on how much money I was making, they would each get either their own steak (well, generally, part of a London Broil) in good times, and their own miniature cheeseburger in tougher times.

I’d serve this on one of my real plates and sometimes even let them sit at the table to eat — although that can be a bad idea if, like Shadow did, your dog thinks this means that they can sit at the table all the time. That’s part of why including things like singing happy birthday and doing other little rituals are so important. It lets them know that there’s something different about today.

There would also always be presents — usually squeaky toys for Shadow and chewy things for Sheeba, plus a bag of their favorite treats. I’d loosely wrap these in newspaper to make it easy for the dogs to open them. And, yet again, I had to untrain Shadow once the first Christmas after her birthday rolled around, and she proceeded to unwrap all the human presents stacked in the corner.

The festivities would end with a dog safe “cake” consisting of a muffin they could actually safely eat, quite often with numbered birthday candles on top. Yes, they were clearly totally baffled by the idea that their food was on fire, but I’d handle blowing the candles out and they would scarf down their treats.

Of course, I never had any illusions that I was doing the dog birthday parties for anyone but me, but I could tell that it made them happy because, special food, even if they had no idea why it was happening.

That’s something you learn as a pet parent, though. Their happiness is your happiness whether it’s them greeting you with full-body wiggling excitement when you come home or flipping out in joy when it’s time for walkies or a ride in the car.

One other moment of insta-joy that I shared with my dogs from time to time also involved a cheeseburger, although in this case it was one that Daddy made with eyes bigger than his stomach, and when that happened and there was a third of it I just couldn’t eat because the whole thing was like three quarters of a pound to begin with, then the dogs would get the remainder, cut up into tiny bits.

The funniest thing was this, though: They could just tell when I hadn’t finished the whole thing, even if I left it on my plate for ten or fifteen minutes but pushed to the back of the plate in the middle of my desk where they couldn’t even see it.

Sheeba became particularly adept at this one. As soon as I’d stand up and grab the dish, she was leading me backwards into the kitchen, tail wagging furiously in anticipation — but she only ever did it when there was something leftover on that plate for her. Otherwise, nary a glimmer of excitement.

I really don’t know how they did it; whether the remains of the burger really had enough of a different, stronger smell that they could estimate the amount, or whether it was some body language I was giving off that told them, “Damn, why did I try to eat all of that?

All of that is just part of the wonderful mysteries of dogs, and for the nearly fifteen years that she was a part of my life, Sheeba in particular was the Queen of Wonderful Mysteries. She just has a way about her, and the ability to figure out and understand things that a dog never should have been capable of.

Which is a big part of why I miss her so much — especially today, but every day since she left me.

Momentous Monday: Dog day

For me, August 23 will always be a special day because it’s the day that I chose as the first family’s dog’s birthday. We had adopted Dazé around Thanksgiving when she was twelve weeks old.

In fact, it was about a week before Thanksgiving, and when I did the math backwards, I hit the end of August. T-Day had been on November 22nd, which is the earliest date it can possibly fall. I think that we must have adopted her the Saturday or Sunday before the holiday, which would have been either November 17th or 18th. Calculating backwards, this landed me on either August 25 or 26, but I didn’t like either of those dates.

Since my parents didn’t really care either way — Dazé to them was “just a dog,” after all — I set her birthday as August 23rd, mainly because I’d read somewhere that 23 was a very important number, and the 23rd of August was when Sirius first appears in the Northern Hemisphere.

Well, more or less. But Sirius is the dog star, August 23rd is close enough for jazz, and so that was from then on Dazé’s official birthday.

If I had ever believed in astrology, I would have put that date back one day, because no way that bitch was a Virgo. Dazé was a little lion. But I don’t believe in that bunk. I do believe that she had the personality she was partly born with and the one that I nurtured in her.

I’ve mentioned this here whenever I’ve mentioned Dazé — despite the fact that she was technically my mom’s dog, since Mom was the one at home all the time while Dad and I were at either work or school, Dazé never saw it that way.

I was her human from the second we first laid eyes on each other at the rescue shelter, and that was that.

It’s kind of funny, because in a strange way she wound up actually being a kind of surrogate mother to me, since my own mother died less than three years after we’d adopted Dazé. I wound up being responsible for her — the walks, the feeding, everything — and she did an excellent job, when I wasn’t, of giving me gentle reminders.

“Hey, dad — what time is it?”

Now, my dad had to take over when I moved off to college and dogs were not allowed in the dorms — not that I would have wished that atmosphere on any non-human living being at all. Hell, I couldn’t even keep a goldfish alive for more than two months because while I was home for a weekend, my roommate decided to see if it liked beer.

Hint: Goldfish do not do well when their breathing medium is flooded with alcohol.

I don’t hold it against him, though. We were both kids, really. Young and stupid and with all of our own hang-ups, since we were thrown together at 18. We were kind of oil and water for the time we shared a 12’x10’ cinderblock-walled room, but I can’t help but think that if we’d first met after our mid-20s, we would have gotten along fine.

And maybe if I hadn’t run home every weekend because it was only 26 miles, we might have bonded during those wild Friday and Saturday night dorm parties. But I had to run home to see my doggy.

That was the only real reason. Honestly, I figured that my dad could survive without seeing me again until my first year ended in May, and I could always do laundry at the dorm, even though it cost a few quarters and I had to do it myself.

Okay, I still had to do it myself at home, but the machines were free and much nicer.

College passed and I moved on to adulting and into an apartment with two… well, acquaintances. I wound up stumbling into the deal because a college friend was living in a three bedroom place with these guys (he was in a band with them) but then he got stupid and proposed to his girlfriend (Dude — you’re 22!) so was ready to move in with her, leaving a spot open.

So I popped into the master suite of bedroom and private bath — a fair trade-off for the lone parking space, I think — and was there for about a year and a half. And the two guys were not total strangers to me, since I had been the manager of the band they were in with my friend.

But, of course, the band went “poof” as soon as he slipped his… er, slipped that ring on her finger.

I was really tempted at that time to move Dazé in with me, but something told me to wait and I did. Eighteen months later, my two roommates went their separate ways. Meanwhile, it just so turned out that three of my co-workers — a single friend and another friend and his fiancée — were looking to move as well.

We found a very old house in Van Nuys — I think it was built originally as a tenant-worker home on a rancho around 1919. The construction was basically lathe and plaster, which meant that it had absolutely zero insulation.

Also, although the front house had two bedrooms and a bathroom, it was tiny. In fact, I’d almost venture to say that it had fewer square feet than the one-bedroom place I live in now.

But… the kitchen was really nice, and my small bedroom also happened to have one wall with built-in shelves and drawers and the like which gave not only a built-in desk and storage, but no need to move any kind of bulky furniture other than the bed with me.

It also had a nice backyard, a very ancient garage that was just as likely to have held a horse and carriage in its early days as a car and which we quickly converted into a mostly sound-proofed studio — I was in a band with the non-affianced roommate, another co-worker, and a bass-player we’d found through an ad.

Finally, there was a guest-house in the back, where said single roomie lived. It was essentially a studio with a bathroom off to the side, but it was remarkable for its 1920s-era tiled kitchen and the probably 1950-s era leather banquette diner-style booth in the, well, dining area.

Oddly enough, it was a lot more accommodating than the main house for small gatherings, so all of us spent a lot of time there.

Once I was settled in, I decided that this was the right place for Dazé, so I brought her to live with me, and life was awesome.

We did have a lot of parties but, thanks to the front door lock being gnarfy, we only ever let people in through the garage gate and back door, so there was never really any worry of her wandering out.

Not that she would have been inclined. It was clear at these parties that she had two jobs. Number one was keeping an out for daddy. Number two was scamming food from people and stealing beers when they weren’t looking.

Oh, yeah. I was both annoyed and oddly proud of her when I saw that one. Cue a debauched 20-something evening, bunch of people I don’t know because they’re mostly our bassist’s friends sitting or standing all around the living room, and one guy who seems about to nod off sits on the floor in front of the far end of the sofa and sets his beer down.

CLOSE ON: BEER ON FLOOR

Suddenly, a white, furry snout pokes its way around the edge of the sofa, black nose sniffing. The snout has a goatee, which flutters as the nose exhales sharply.

The snout moves forward, followed by THE DOG. She scans the room, in full-on Ethan Hunt mode. Then, realizing it is safe, she zeroes in on the objective: The beer bottle.

She grabs it with her mouth and backs out of sight.

ANGLE ON: AREA NEXT TO COUCH

THE DOG settles back with her reward, adjusts the bottle so that its mouth is in her mouth, then tilts sideways and chugs.

REVEAL THE DOG’s DAD peeking around the corner to look at what THE DOG is doing.

DAD

Well, fuck me sideways…

A totally appropriate way to present it, since I fancied myself a screenwriter at the time. Ah, to be young, stupid, and in Hollywood — and without having worked out enough to just go right into porn.

But Dazé actually did steal a beer, one time. She got really hyper and really silly fast, then started wandering around bumping into things until she managed to find the bedroom and then she never tried to steal a beer again.

Smart girl.

Meanwhile, she lived with us until stupid Dad managed to stick his dick in crazy and make the same mistake, slightly delayed, that the friend whose moving out had put Dad into these housing situations in the first place.

I.E. Dad agreed to move in with the first one-night stand who went out with him two more times.

Yeah, if I had a time machine, I’d go back and bitch-slap some sense into me, too.

Of course, what I didn’t see at the time was that this dude was manipulative, a total gas-lighter, abusive, and probably borderline psychotic, and one of his first demands was “No dog. I’m allergic.”

So what did I do? To my discredit, I thought with my dick and shipped Dazé back home to live with Dad again.

Fortunately, this little mistake didn’t last all that long, and by the time I threw his sorry ass out I was at least making enough to pay the entire rent on our WeHo studio so that I didn’t have to move soon, so Dazé came back and she was with me until her final breath.

That final breath was on April 30, 2001, and she had been with me through a ton of incarnations and ups and downs. And, despite all of the times I’d shuttled her back to my dad or nights I didn’t come home until nearly dawn, she never gave up on me.

Even at the very end, it was like she was hiding her pain and illness from me because she didn’t want to put me through it. And even though I happened to be unemployed (but with fuck you money) at the time, I did everything I could to try to save her.

It was not to be, and I had to let go of my best friend since forever.

And then, eleven days later, to fill the hole in my heart, I adopted Shadow, who was around a year old. I found her since I searched “American Eskimo,” since Dazé was probably American Eskimo and West Highland Terrier, and Shadow was presumed to be a mix of White German Shepherd and American Eskimo.

Shadow was only slightly bigger than Dazé, but the same shade of white, and even though the math didn’t quite work, her official birthday in my heart was also always August 23.

The big difference was that Dazé took care of me and taught me how to take care of myself. Shadow needed every single thing that Dazé ever taught me. Yeah. She was a needy girl. But so what?

So why did Shadow get Dazé’s birthday? Because it’s a special day for me and my dogs. On the other hand, Sheeba was the combo breaker in a lot of ways. I adopted her Labor Day weekend when she was eleven months old, but wound up pegging her birthday as November 14, mainly so that she wouldn’t have to share with Shadow.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention — my dogs always got crazy special birthdays — human food, as in “I’ll have what daddy’s having,” and a dog-friendly muffin with a candle. I used to let Dazé eat at the table with me because she was smart enough to know this only happened at special times.

Shadow and Sheeba, not so much. They got plates on the floor.

Meanwhile, it’s been way too long since I’ve gotten to celebrate a dog birthday, which I really wish I was doing today. Maybe, before too long, I’ll get to do it again.

The Saturday Morning Post #68: Pamela Rewarded Part 3

Previously: It’s May 2000, and Pamela is an Emmy-winning former show runner, just after the last season of that award-winning show. We learned a bit about her life and early career, then jump back to the present as her son, Walter, winds up in the hospital. Pamela’s first husband, Roger, is actually Walter’s son, but he doesn’t know it. To find out why, read Part 2.

“The doctor said it’s a spiral fracture, which I guess means it’s worse than a normal one. He’ll be in there a while,” Pamela explained as she and Oded stood outside the ER entrance, along with Roger and some bored-looking young blond boytoy, Pamela the only one not smoking. She wasn’t sure why she had called Roger. It just seemed like the proper thing to do when someone’s son fell off a second-story roof.

“But it’s just his arm?” Roger asked, and he was truly concerned.

“And his wrist,” Pamela said. “He’s going to have pins and everything in it. It’ll be a few months.”

“What was he doing up on the roof, anyway?” the boytoy injected with a vague drawl.

“Brian…” Roger hissed, and Pamela wondered how many Y’s were in the name.

“We don’t know,” Oded offered, Pamela giving him a stern look. “Well, we don’t,” he defended.

Well, she did, she thought, hoping no one else knew. She’d only been trying to talk to Walter, up in his room, the one he stayed in when he wasn’t in school, to convince him to live here the next semester instead of in the dorms on campus.

It had been hard enough steering him into USC in the first place. He’d wanted to go to NYU. But she’d convinced him that he’d make much better connections in the industry at a local school, and especially a prestigious film program, for which she could yank strings like nobody’s business, guaranteeing he’d get in.

She’d never expected him to move on campus. Yes, it wasn’t that far away, but it wasn’t in the greatest neighborhood, either. That was the approach she’d used, making a plea to his personal safety, but he didn’t seem worried at all. Then again, he was six-five and broad-shouldered. He never would have been a football player, but he probably didn’t have to worry about being mugged. That argument exhausted; she was trying to think of a second attack when Walter started crying.

“Honey, what is it, what’s wrong?”

He blubbered incoherently, couldn’t say anything for a long time. She sat there with him, arm around his shoulder, listening to the sniffles, muttering her own encouragements. He could tell her anything, she was his mother.

After about the third round of that, he suddenly bolted from the bed, tearing out of her arms, and he yelled, “Stop running my life!” She tried to approach him, to give him a reassuring hug, but he kept backing away, arm out to fend her off. He was babbling something about how she always made his decisions, always had to know what he was doing, was always intruding into everything, but she wasn’t really listening to that. She just wanted him to stop crying, and for everything to be okay. He finally backed into a corner and stood there, not looking at her, eyes red and angry.

“It’s okay,” she said, walking up to him, arms out.

“No it’s not, it all sucks,” he yelled at her, suddenly making a decision. He shoved past her, walked to the far end of the room and threw open the window.

“Walter — “

“This is your fault,” he announced, and then he lumbered out the window, onto the eave, somehow managing to fold himself through the small opening.

Pamela rushed to the window and got there just in time to see Walter vanishing in a swan-dive, heard the crash and thud below, and then a groan.

She was down the stairs in a second, flipping open her cell phone on the way, out the back door over to Walter, who had bounced off a redwood table, half into a flower bed. He was holding his right arm, mouth open to scream but sound not coming out. Pamela was already talking to 9-1-1 as she knelt next to Walter, gently touched his cheek.

“Mommy…” he whimpered.

“Sssssh,” she said.

And then the waiting, she and Oded and Roger and Brian, doing nothing for hours in the quiet place. If they asked, she’d tell the doctor he’d been cleaning the gutters or something. No, why would he be doing that after dark? Maybe he was chasing a chattering squirrel away.

But then a candystriper was escorting Walter out the double doors and Pamela got to him first, kissing his cheek, carefully avoiding his right arm, which was slinged and wrapped in plaster, metal bars protruding from the casing.

“Guess I’ll be living at the house next semester,” he said, indicating his arm and smiling. Then he saw Roger and reacted strangely. “Yo, Brian. Whazzup?”

It turned out that Roger’s boytoy went to school with Walter — or to put it another way, Pamela’s son was friends with Pamela’s gay ex-husband’s little blond whore.

Only in LA.

* * *
She’d been taking meetings but nothing was happening. It had been three months already since the last episode aired. Pitching stories left and right, but she’d inevitably hear through the grapevine that whatever suit she had played her heart out to had said, “No, it’s too much like Father’s Daughters. Different lyrics, same tune.”

And Walter had been quiet and surly lately, avoiding her. At least he hadn’t tried to do anything stupid and self-destructive, not since that dive off the roof. Anyway, he’d be living at with her in September. That was one big headache out of the way. Being on campus all the time, away from… Well, there were just so many bad influences out there.

But, she had more important things to worry about right now. It was almost Althea’s eighteenth birthday, and Pamela was throwing her a big party. The girl had seemed so depressed and withdrawn lately, which was a mystery. Althea had had everything she’d ever wanted, and her mother indulged her every whim. Why wasn’t she happy?

Well, the party would fix that. There’d be a tent in the yard, clowns and magicians, maybe she’d rent horses. She’d find some boyband to hire for the evening, invite everyone she knew, and the highlight of the evening would be the last of many gifts bestowed, a new car, she hadn’t decided exactly what yet, but it would be black, Pamela’s favorite color.

The preparations kept her distracted, so she almost didn’t notice that the RSVPs weren’t coming back. A week before the party, and only three of the five hundred invitees had responded, although two of those were “No.” That was unusual. She should have at least heard something. She made some phone calls, left mostly messages, got vague excuses from other associates. “Oh. You know, Pam, we’re not sure yet if we can make it. That’s a busy weekend…”

“Oh, bullshit,” she thought after a few of those. This was the height of production, the slowest part of the social calendar, and anyway, people in these positions could arrange to not be working, if they really wanted to do something.

But that was impossible. Everybody knew how important Althea was to her. What a big occasion this was. Was somebody else having a big party that they hadn’t invited her to? No, that couldn’t be it, because the two-party arrangement was standard practice in Hollywood. Always mention the other party, whether it exists or not, so there’s an excuse to leave if the first party sucks.

By three days before the party, she was frantic. Only she, Steph, Walter and Oded were on the guest list. Even the old man hadn’t replied, and Narita just kept taking messages when Pamela called, giving no reasons for his lack of response.

There was only one thing left to do, so she called an old friend in extras casting. Althea would never know the difference and her party would be a success. The “friend” insisted he couldn’t offer any discount, but Pamela still booked three hundred and fifty extras at a hundred bucks a head. The specifications were “studio executive and young mogul types, and their significant others.”

Dammit, now she’d have to have nametags. Well, Oded could do that and make himself useful for something. He’d tried to poke his nose into the planning and arrangement, but Pamela shooed him off. He knew nothing about that sort of thing.

It’s funny, he’d been her accountant originally, starting the year she’d become a staff writer. She blasted up the ranks so fast that she soon outgrew his practice and was going to move up to an entertainment management firm, but when she came in to tell him his services were no longer required, she could tell he’d been crying.

He tried to cover it up, act as if nothing had happened, but she pried it out of him. He’d fled Iraq just before Desert Storm and was trying to get asylum, but his application had been rejected and he was expected to leave the country in two weeks. Just like that, some bureaucratic decision. Pamela was outraged.

“Isn’t there anything you can do?” she asked.

“No,” Oded replied. “Well, get married, but I don’t know anybody, that’s not going to happen.”

“Marry me.”

“What?”

She repeated the question, just as abruptly. Why not? She needed somebody to keep an eye on the kids, and the accounting thing could be useful. Not to mention the tax breaks, if she paid him for his work.

“It would be strictly a business arrangement,” she explained. “Pre-nup, of course, what’s yours is yours and what’s mine is all mine.”

“Let me think about it…” Oded said, but she could tell he seriously was considering it.

Ten days later, he said yes and they were married the next day, which was Valentine’s Day, but that was strictly coincidental. That was seven years ago, just before Father’s Daughters aired as a mid-season replacement. By their first anniversary, Pamela finally had everything she’d ever wanted — career, house, children, husband. Everything except the Emmy, but now she had that, and life was complete.

And the party on Saturday was going to be a success if it killed her, and Althea would be happy again.

* * *

Some Flag Day birthdays of important people

In the United States, June 14 is Flag Day, which commemorates the adoption, by the Second Continental Congress on that date in 1777, of the official flag of the British colonies. This is the familiar banner of 13 alternating red and white stripes, and a blue field with a circle of 13 white stars in it.

However, it’s important to remember that while it came after the Declaration of Independence, it also came before the country won its independence, so it started out as the battle flag of a rebellious territory. The only reason it finally became the first flag of the U.S. was because we won that war.

That’s an important distinction to make when it comes to flags, even if some people forget and have to be reminded. It’s also probably not true that Betsy Ross created that first flag. Rather, this was propaganda created nearly a century later to benefit the guy who created the famous painting of… Betsy Ross creating the first flag.

Hm. I wonder if Bob Ross is related? “And let’s paint a happy little rebel right here…”

But Flag Day as an official holiday was not declared until 1916, by Woodrow Wilson, U.S. President and noted racist dick, This was the year before the U.S. entered World War I, by the way, although it was still called The Great War at the time because Germany hadn’t come back to release the sequel and the special edition of the first one, which involved a lot of retconning.

Now, it’s probably just a coincidence, but quite a lot of babies born on Flag Day would have been conceived because their parents fucked on Labor Day weekend — no, really, they’re about 280 days apart — and although that’s just the average, it still gives us the image of Labor Day turning into labor day on Flag Day.

Which brings us to the topic at hand: People born on Flag Day who have made significant contributions to the world, ordered by date of birth.

  1. Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811) Author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852), a somewhat heavy-handed and patronizing work that was sympathetic toward the plight of American slaves when it was written — a terrible example of YT people missing the target now, but incredibly progressive for its time.
  2. Pierre Salinger (1925) American journalist, author, and politician, press secretary for JFK and LBJ, briefly an interim appointed senator for California, and campaign manager for RFK in 1968. Later, a reporter for ABC News. Notably, he never lied while he was press secretary.
  3. Ernesto “Che” Guevara (1928): Argentine Marxist revolutionary, poster child for generations of college students who think they’re Marxists and don’t read his story — he did a lot of good, but was not as good as his fans think. Basically, kind of like everyone else.
  4. Marla Gibbs (1931): African-American actress, made famous by her role as George Jefferson’s maid Florence in the 1975 TV series The Jeffersons. She was one of many actors in the 70s and 80s who elevated black people in American mass media, presenting them as people who were not just pimps and junkies but, rather, who were just like everyone else.
  5. Jerzy Kosiński (1933): Polish born immigrant to America, writer. Best known for the novel Being There and the movie based on it, about a man who is so simple and who grew up so isolated from the real world that he becomes an everyman, a blank slate that people project their hopes and fears onto. While he has absolutely no real personality, empathy, education, or people skills, his fans still think he’s the greatest thing to ever happen. Hm. Sound familiar? The only difference is that Kosiński’s Chance the Gardener character was totally benign and harmless.
  6. Steny Hoyer (1939): A Democratic congressman from Maryland, former House Minority Whip and current House Majority Leader. In his last election in 2018, he defeated his Republican opponent, William Devine III, 70.3% to 27.1%.
  7. Boy George (1961): English singer, songwriter, DJ, and fashion designer who became famous for bringing gender-bending and sexual ambiguity to pop music in the early 1980s. He was largely responsible for making Boomers clutch their pearls as their Gen-X kids latched onto the music and style. OMG, Boy George wore make-up and flowing outfits that could have been gowns or muumuus and, most importantly, pissed off old people by his mere ambiguous existence.

So there are seven significant people I could think of who were born on this day. There are certainly a lot of others who may be lesser known or have done less, but I can’t think of any more important, at least not in the modern age.

Happy birthday to these seven, and happy Flag Day to my American readers.

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