Tomorrow is my birthday – July 22nd. And it’s not just a “garden-variety” birthday. It’s one of those big “milestone” birthdays (whatever that’s supposed to mean). On Tuesday, I will turn 40 :groan: Trust me, readers, when I tell you that I am not so hopelessly vain and insecure that I’m getting all flustered about turning 40. I swear I’m not. I was fine with it, until about a month ago, when it suddenly hit me like a brick, “I’m going to be 40 years old in a few weeks!”. It’s a crappy sounding number. “39” is cool; lively, rhythmic, still has sparks of youth. “40” just sits there; leaden, drab, cheerless, middle-ageish. Any numerologists out there? Help!
For the past few days, I’ve been asking myself, “How do I blog my birthday?”. How do I present it in such a way that doesn’t bore the hell out of my readers, come across narcissistic or whiny or self-indulgent? Or reek of maudlin sentiments like a Hallmark card.
Among my many hairbrained theories, I have a theory about birthdays, and it’s honestly helping me to cope with tomorrow’s doomsday and put things in perspective. See, it’s natural and logical to treat birthdays as an occasion for soul-searching and self-absorption, to ask ourselves all sorts of profound, introspective questions about our lives “so far”, make personal assessments, weigh our accomplishments, and rue our regrets. To hell with all that. A better alternative is my trusty theory, that birthdays should focus not on your autonomous, isolated self, but yourself in a larger context, and function as a reminder that there are things much bigger than you. And especially for our gang who turn 40 this year (that includes you Steph!), we should consider our birth year and the state of the world into which we came.
I was born in 1968. What a delightful year! Assassinations, riots, shootings, military invasions. I think all dictionaries should be altered to put “1968” as the sole definition entry for “turbulence”. It’s as if every act of political upheaval and social unrest are encased within those 12 months. I can’t even watch a PBS documentary without being reminded that some violent and horrific event took place in 1968. Sure, there were some bright spots amid all the unrest. But not many. So I invite you all to take a nostalgic stroll with me through the significant events of 1968. How uplifting it will be!
American soldiers kill 500 innocent Vietnamese civilians in the My Lai Massacre.
Soviet Union invades Czechoslovakia in the “Prague Spring”.
North Vietnamese launch the Tet Offensive.
Lyndon Johnson announces that he will not seek Presidential re-election.
Dr. Martin Luther King is assassinated by James Earle Ray at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee.
Paris surgeons perform the first successful heart transplant.
Football stampede in Buenos Aires leaves 74 dead and 150 injured.
Robert Kennedy is assassinated by Sirhan-Sirhan at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, just hours after winning the California Democratic Presidential primary.
Saddam Hussein becomes Vice Chairman of the Revolutionary Council in Iraq after a military coup.
The Beatles release The White Album.
Columbia University students stage protest, shut down the school, and and seize control of five campus buildings. Violent conflict erupts with New York police.
Pierre Trudeau becomes Canada’s 15th Prime Minister
Andy Warhol is shot, but not killed, by Valerie Solanas.
Stanley’s Kubrick’s groundbreaking film 2001: A Space Odyssey opens.
Chicago police clash with protesters at the Democratic National Convention. 100 go to emergency room, 175 arrested.
Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-in debuts on NBC.
Shootout between the Black Panthers and Oakland police.
Yale University goes co-ed.
“Bloody Monday” revolt of 5000 Parisian student demonstrators fill the Latin Quarter. Riot ensues when Paris police throw gas grenades.
Medalists Tommie Smith and Juan Carlos raise black power salute during the Star-Spangled Banner at the Mexico City Olympic Games.
Frankie Lymon, lead singer of The Teenagers, is found dead of a heroin overdose.
Richard Nixon narrowly defeats Hubert Humphrey in Presidential election.
Ok, in retrospect maybe my “larger context” idea isn’t so great after all. Ugh, that was brutal! It’s a miracle that the year didn’t end with total Armageddon. I think we should all be grateful that most of those events are 40 years behind us. But thank god for The White Album! And Laugh-In 🙂
Amid all the turmoil and tragedy and anarchy of 1968, on a hot day in late July, a husband and wife in New York City welcomed their second child; a daughter, who they named Claudia, a future artist’s model. I thought the best way to close this post is with a drawing by the woman who gave birth that summer night. Yesterday, I posed down at Spring Studios for the Sunday portrait drawing session. Upon my request, my mother obligingly came down to make a drawing for me, and for Museworthy! It is the most meaningful birthday present I’ve ever received. And what better way to mark my 40th year, than with my image by the hand of the woman who brought me into this world, in the midst of one of the most tumultuous years on record.
This is me, on the eve of 40, through the eyes of my mother, Elaine Hajian. Charcoal on paper. Created at Spring Studios, July 2008:
Thanks for the drawing, Mom. I love it. And thanks for everything else . . .
40 . . . here I come! 🙂