the operation of the machine vs. the wheels of time



What a crazy day Ralph Nader and Chelsea Clinton and Elizabeth Taylor and I had yesterday.

Well, I don’t know how those three celebrated their birthdays, but my big dirty thirty was ridiculously pleasant.

It was a day full of haiku, present maps, tasty vegan cake, biodynamic Champagne, cards, emails, Facebook and MySpace greetings, organic flowers, two new handmade dresses, wrapping paper, ribbon, tissue paper (that birthday holy trinity that seems to become more rare every year), FedExes, phone calls, homemade presents, and a purely fun (errands strictly forbidden!) NYC visit.

Having annoying political/cultural oppositions to pretty much every holiday, and also being intensely selfish, I’m a big birthday person. I know some of my friends are probably mystified by my shameless indulgence of my own birthday, but who cares.

Last year my sweetheart was out of town, so I thought I was justified in taking my birthday into my own hands. (He made up for it by recoding our favorite Grammy-award-winning musician friends singing me a customized Happy Birthday song, sigh.) I threw myself a birthday party – a presents-and-singing-strictly-verboten birthday party, but a birthday party nonetheless, complete with mailed, hand-designed invitations.

So yesterday was another in a string of adult birthdays that were something less than adult. I unabashedly did the whole birthday thing – breakfast in bed, journal writing, 30th-year resolution-making (Floss! Posture! Recognize that the most effective activism is local activism and don’t spread yourself too thin by working on national issues! Be a better boss! More Punk Rock Aerobics!), girlish involuntary “it’s my birthday!” smiles, a special outfit, a Sarah Jessica Parker sighting (somehow she seems like a permanent birthday girl, no? In truth she was kind of scowly, but I probably would be too if I was wearing frighteningly high heeled boots with weirdly cuffed jeans and a bizarre puffy stripey faux-fur coat) – the works.

If you are a discerning vegan chef turning thirty, I cannot recommend a customized vegan tasting menu, complete with wine pairing, at P*ong restaurant highly enough.


They have a cocktail called “the vegetarian”! Oh P*ong, you had me at celery infused vodka with carrot, sea salt, balsamic, and vanilla.

If you happen to have a weakness for adorable, sweet and insanely considerate celebrity chefs, sleek mod restaurants, and a refreshing lack of haute cuisine pretension, P*ong is your place. Be sure to call ahead to discuss the veganosity of the menu, and be prepared to talk directly to fancy famous chef Pichet Ong, probably several times. Be prepared as well for candied aloe vera, “strange flavor eggplant,” white miso roasted pear, red bean sorbet, and so, so much more.


Plan to spend 3-5 hours, and know that the wine pairing will include a shocking quantity of delicious alcohol (if I believed in marriage I would marry Mr. Brachetto D’Acqui, Le Donne Dei Boschi, Ca’dei Mandorli 2006, Castelrocchero, Italy – a zingy sparking red that can almost restore one’s faith in the intrinsic goodness of all beings) that will necessitate several walks around the frigid block before driving back up to your snowy upstate home, or, in our case, a late-night showing of Persepolis at the justifiably beloved Angelika theater. I adored the books so much, and it was wonderful to see how beautifully Marjane Satrapi adapted them for the screen.

In the car ride home we talked about past birthdays and I lay back and saw all these special days standing out in my life like The Gates in Central Park – big bursts of unexpected, insistent color. All those days of cake and wine, surprises, poems and indulgent presents.

Here’s the thing: thinking, political people often live insular, private lives. The people I like the most are the ones who live in their own worlds – whose success and sanity depend on an ability to block out the hideousness constantly threatening to break down the door. It’s true, Mario – the world makes you sick at heart that you can’t take part. Which is why I need that one day a year when I can pick my head up and peer out at the world feeling sure that it has only sugary, frivolous sweetness to offer.

2 Responses to “the operation of the machine vs. the wheels of time”

  1. Maggie

    I’m glad you had a wonderful birthday. sounds like it was a lovely time. =)
    btw, I think your my space has been hacked. some bulletins have been posted by you that I very much doubt you posted. change your password.
    take care!


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