I’ve come to wish you an unhappy birthday

It’s just a number right?

350,000 hours give or take since that Saturday in 1972 when I was unceremoniously thrust into this scene from a Goya painting, the moment, it seems when humanity was first awarded the title “suffering humanity”, at least for my poor father who missed an episode of Doctor Who to be there.

Those 350K hours have contained I’d say a fairly evenly split at this point between complete fucking wastes of everyone’s time on the one hand and soaring luminous speech defying wonderment on the other.

I’ve been so high and danced for so long that I literally became one with the Gaian mind, I’ve cried like a baby at 5,850m as I left items from friends old and new at Drolma La, the highest pass of the Mt Kailash Kora in Tibet, thereby removing all the negative karma accrued in this life, I’ve backed away smiling with calm detachment as the Taliban fighter pointed his AK47 at me and shouted in Pashtun in a gun and hash market in Peshawar Pakistan, I’ve had a tiny glimpse of what the Tibetans call emptiness after 5 hour meditation sessions in monastery overlooking the Kathmandu valley in which I could no longer feel my legs, I’ve crossed moral boundaries in Bangkok that would cause the Marquis de Sade to give me a high-five and I’ve seen attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion………ok not that last one

I could go on, I mean I haven’t even mentioned wrestling with a lion in Pakistan, hanging out with the Dali Lama or hurtling helmet less on a motorbike on a road with no safety barriers in the Himalayas and being so close to death from the oncoming insane truck driver that I could literally see the dirt under his finger nails.

The decisions I have made to get here have meant that I have never been and probably never will be financially rich, but that experientially I feel like I make the Forbes rich list.

And through it all I’m quietly proud that my version of “My way” is far more Johnny Rotten than it is Frank Sinatra.

John Paul Satre wrote “hell is other people” and believe me Jean Paul would be hard pressed to beat me in a misanthropy contest but I think he was only half right.
There are places and people who will live inside of me their phosphorescent memories slowly mutating and fading till this body returns to the earth and some part of this consciousness that I call “me” returns to the wheel of life and my next birth as a cockroach.

But all of the things I’ve seen, the places I’ve been mean nothing if there is no-one to share them with.

I wish some of you had known me 20 years ago, I was a lot nicer then, No! really I was, but now, to borrow a line from Bob Dylan, “if my thought dreams could be seen they’d probably put my head in a guillotine”. I’m an angry, cantankerous, opinionated cunt most days.

There I days when I feel like Hamlet via Richard E. Grant, that all I want are the finest wines known to humanity and I want them here and I want them now, that this brave o’erhanging firmament, this majestical roof fretted with golden fire – why, it really is nothing to me but a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours
But on those days there’s always someone I can call to remind me of how lucky I am to be alive.

So, I raise a glass to you, here, to all of my dear friends not present here and those from the past who I still love to this day and all those others who have lit my path to this day, for you are what has made reaching this day worthwhile.

Thank you.

( a little speech I made at my birthday picnic yesterday)

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  • Wish i could have been there, really do. We have both wandered a vagabond trail to this land of suburban hunger. Cages are rattled though yours the louder and braver. But that as as it should be fir you speak for many lost, amazed souls hitting the wrong decades harder than they ever imagined. Long may you continue to do so my friend. Another favourite Withnail line is “chin chin!” drink on me next time we meet. Happy birthday !

  • Jason

    I suppose the big four oh is your impetus to write this, looking back and taking some stock. A very well written midpoint ponder. (I probably like this quite a bit because it has doses of Jumping Jack howling in the driving rain, as well as dashes of Mr Zimmerman himself.)

    Thanks for this. A joy to read. Oh and happy birthday.

  • Love the bit about slapping high five with the Marquis De Sade in Bangkok. To have been a fly on the wall(or a mosquito) in those (mis)adventures.

    Happy Birthday, Bub. Wish I’d been there.

  • Jim Clinefelter

    It was one of the better “I’m 40 Now” speeches, truth be told. It was fun to be there, and when you hit 50, I’ll make a point of being there for it, too.
    Just remember that I’m not only older than you, I’m much meaner, too. That kindly presence I project is just schtick…remember that…and enjoy your youth :)

  • @Jim Clinefelter
    Thanks brother.Moved by your comment, I doubt very much you are meaner than me tho, I can be a real bastard ;)