Monday, February 18, 2008

In the bonus!

A long time ago, with a girlfriend far, far away, I made the mistake of taking a simple question at face value and answering honestly. "What would be your perfect day," J said.


Well, let's see. I guess it would start with the Sunday New York Times and a cappuccino at Trieste (we were living in San Francisco at the time; Caffe Trieste, in North Beach, was and is my favorite coffee joint anywhere). And I'd go to a Giants game, play some poker, see a movie and have some good Chinese food, maybe at Hunan.

"Hmm," she said. "Is that it?"

I racked my brain to see what cool stuff I might have left out or could still fit into one day. Skiing, impractical. Reading all afternoon at the beach would squeeze out either baseball or poker, no good. Bowling, nah.

Yeah, I said, that sounds like a pretty good day.

My mistake, it turned out, was that my perfect day didn't include any plans built around J or, for that matter, even mention the possibility of her tagging along. One of many lessons that I like to think of now as Boyfriend School.


Years before that, in college, my friend Gohman and I used to waste a lot of time at the tavern playing video games and pinball. If you scored enough points to win an extra round, Gohm would happily announce: "In the bonus!" You had beat the game, tricked the actuaries. You had permission -- almost an obligation -- to play with abandon, to explore the game for hidden points, go for the trick shot. In the bonus was free life.


Today is my birthday. The past few days, leading up to it, Michelle has kept asking how old I am, thinking maybe she'd freak me out. (I am getting up there.) Then last night, at our little birthday party with the girls, she pulled out my Dad's famous (in our family) question whenever anyone had a birthday: How does it feel to be .... 11, 23, 35, 60, whatever the magic number was. To which, whatever the answer and whatever the number, he'd follow up with, "What a great age!"

So, how does it feel to be 48? Considering that at 46 I had two brain surgeries and was diagnosed with a fatal disease and, for a while there, wasn't sure I would make it to 47, 48 seems pretty good. I feel like I'm in the bonus.

It's nice of them to make a national holiday on my birthday. Michelle's off today for President's Day and she asked me the other day what would be the perfect way to spend the day.

Adjusting for geography and the fact that it isn't baseball season, my list hasn't changed much. Only now there's a preface.

"Since you have the day off," I said, "I think it would be cool if we ..."

We're going out for our cappuccino now. Poker session and Chinese food at the casino to come later.

(Michelle took the above picture of me at Trieste during our visit last summer.)


kateco said...

Happy, Happy birthday!!!! Have a wonderful day!

kateco said...

And, man, you really are in the bonus when you find the one whose perfect day lines up so nicely with your own ... I know what I'm talking about -- because Val and I will spend at least part of this day building armed towers to defend the villagers of our virtual world against spider, fat bees and gorilla monsters.

Also ... what the hell kind of paper does Michelle work for? I never had Presidents Day off in my newspaper day. It must be cause she's a poobah or something.

mich said...

Great birthday story! Have a wonderful day, Mark. Mom and I are thinking of you.


Mark said...

Thanks, everyone, for the nice birthday wishes.

I got a few birthday greetings on my stupid Facebook page too. My favorite was from Joel, a friend in LA who I taught to play poker:

"Mark -- in honor of your birthday i pulled down $400 at the no-limit table last have schooled me well, master."

Master. I like that.

Kaye, Michelle works for the web site, not the real paper. That's why she can have the day off.

Have fun defending the universe. Here's to the bonus!

kateco said...

Michelle=smart like that

freda said...

happy birthday Mark, I hope you have a lovely day. Kay, what a shame you and Val don't know Michelle's brother, Steve, you would all have so much fun, he is really into games like that.

Mark said...

Seems the Muckleshoot degenerates didn't get the memo about it being my birthday.

Michelle and I both lost yesterday afternoon, but we had a good time and got home in time to fire up The Godfather on DVD with a bowl of popcorn and a glass of gin.

A great birthday all around. Thanks again, everyone.

kateco said...

mmm popcorn and gin.

Lisa G. said...

Happy belated birthday Mark. We haven't had a chance to read your site for awhile. It is always fun and very witty. Well being the dorks that we are we haven't been able to figure out how to leave comments with our names attached, if you remember last time Jeff left a comment it was as anonymous, signing off as Jeff. We might just have it figured out now so maybe you will hear from us more often.

Your Paris trip reminds me of our fight we had in France. We didn't speak french, still don't, and had rented a car to drive down to Spain. I don't know what happened to our french dictionary but anyway we were at a gas station trying to buy gas. The first problem was we did't know how to pump our own gas (Thank you Oregon) and we didn't know which gas was unleaded. Needless to say this small task totally stressed us out. That afternoon instead of trying to order lunch in some small french town we just went to McDonalds and ordered two La Big Macks.