@

Today is my birthday.

I was born thirty-one years ago at the Scripps Memorial Hospital here in San Diego at about 12:50 in the afternoon. A Cesarean birth, I came into the world buck naked, soaked in blood, and screaming my fool head off. I have every intention of leaving it the exact same way.

I share the 17th of June with cultural luminaries like M.C. Escher, Igor Stravinsky, and fellow TNBer Darian Arky. I also share it with Newt Gingrich and Joe Piscopo, but please, don’t hold that against me.

Thirty-one. It’s an odd year, no pun intended. I don’t mind aging into it, especially since I seem to be doing it with a reasonable amount of grace, but thirty was a good age for me, and I’ll miss it. It was the age where I realized the act of becoming my adult self was complete, and I was happy with the result—far happier than I was with myself at eighteen or twenty-five. Sure, I haven’t set the world on fire the way thought I would, but there’s still years to go before my inevitable naked screaming bloodbath. In the meantime I feel perfectly comfortable telling myself, Hey, you. I like you. Let’s go get a beer.

Thirty-one, though? Meh. Just a number. Not even worth bringing up, really, and the only reason I do so is because, in addition to my birthday, today marks a personal anniversary too important for me to let pass unacknowledged.

Fifteen years ago, on June 17th, 1995—my sixteenth birthday—I was promoted to black belt in karate at a large, once-a-year ceremony held at our dojo, in front of every gathered student and their families. I was the only one who qualified to test that year, so I was the only new black belt promoted. As far as birthdays go, that experience didn’t suck.

I tested for black about three years after I started training, a much faster progression than usual, which only happened because I was there training or serving as an assistant instructor every day I could. I went to every special training seminar and every tournament possible, both in and out of the state. I went to open workouts and scheduled private lessons to develop the areas where I was struggling. In short, I progressed that fast because I worked my ass off.

The black belt test is a private matter, and different for each student, so I wouldn’t discuss the details of it even if I weren’t forbidden from doing so. But I can tell you this: fifteen years later it remains the most physically and emotionally demanding thing I’ve ever done. It was so exhausting I slept for most of the two days afterwards. By comparison, defending my master’s thesis was a cakewalk.

Until then, my life had been all about keeping my head down and my parents happy so they’d leave me alone. I brought home excellent grades, but only because I more or less had the freedom to do whatever I wanted as long as I kept my report cards covered in As. Applying myself to my schoolwork was a necessary evil, one I took no pride in whatsoever.

Putting that belt on for the first time, though, the fabric still darker than the unlit night sky and so stiff it resisted knotting, was something wholly and completely for me, and the joy of it was so overwhelming I wept a little bit, there in front of all those people. Remembering it brings unashamed tears to my eyes even as I write these words.

I cannot, and would not, deny that it’s that accomplishment and the training that went into it that shaped me into the adult I’ve grown into. One reason among many, for sure, but one that shines out like a gold nugget among the granite scree.

My belt has aged a bit worse than I have. At fifteen years it’s physically older than some of my students. It’s faded and tattered, but still bears the four red stripes that mark me as a fourth-degree sensei. I’ve gone from being a novice black belt to one of the senior instructors. My next promotion will elevate me to fifth degree, the internationally recognized rank of shihan (Master). I imagine I’ll retire my current belt when that happens and start over with a new one. Though this might seem somewhat undignified, the belt is really only the symbol of the accomplishment, not the accomplishment itself; that, I carry within me at all times.

These days it’s my honor to exclusively teach our dojo’s adolescent brown belts, to train and prepare them for their own black belt tests, and I’m proud to say I’ve never had a student fail. I’m a taskmaster who doesn’t feel complete unless my students are some combination of sweaty, sore, or exhausted at the end of a lesson, and these kids continue to humble and surprise me with their energy and exuberance in rising to every challenge I throw at them. Even the goofballs. Especially the goofballs.

Though thirty-one might be a humdrum number, starting tomorrow night I’m going to celebrate it all weekend: drinks with friends and coworkers; my annual viewing of Blade Runner; maybe a new tattoo. I’ll get a few presents, I’m sure, and who knows, maybe I’ll even meet a girl; there’s nothing quite like “It’s my birthday!” for earning a bit of cache with the opposite sex. Well, it works on me, at least.

And all that will be fun, but I already know tonight is going to be the best part. Tonight I’m not just celebrating my birthday, but my fifteenth year as a black belt, and I’m going to do so by training with my students. We’re going to get tired and sweaty and bruised and have a lot of fun doing it. Working with them is the gift I give myself, and it never disappoints.

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Matthew Baldwin MATTHEW BALDWIN is a writer, martial artist and all-around misanthrope living in San Diego, California. He's published fiction and poetry in several small literary journals, most of which went out of business soon after. Make of that what you will. He currently holds a fourth-degree black belt in karate, a B.A. from the University of California and an M.F.A. from the University of New Orleans. In his free time he serves as a professional martial arts instructor, working mostly with teenagers. He's currently at work on both a first and second novel, and can be followed/harrassed on Twitter. And please, call him Matt.

173 Responses to “The Birthday Gift”

  1. Simone says:

    Matt, when you mentioned the other night that you were writing a piece about your birthday and a “special” anniversary I didn’t realize it was something as big and meaningful as what you posted today. I had goosebumps while reading this. I’m sincerely proud of you, and glad to have you as a friend.

    Loved this line:
    ” Hey, you. I like you. Let’s go get a beer.”

    Happy birthday, my dear. And Happy Anniversary! *holds up beer in cheers!*

  2. Joe Daly says:

    Happy birthdays, man. You give a great reminder that sometimes we more deeply absorb the benefits of a given subject through passing it on to others, than receiving it ourselves.

    Have a savage weekend, brother- it’s been richly earned.

  3. Jennifer says:

    I love that you left the apostrophe out of the plural of “A”….Thank you.

    And I’ll see your Piscopo and raise you a Hitler. :-)

    Happy anniversary squared.

  4. Ronlyn Domingue says:

    Igor Stravinsky? Sweet!
    May you always feel that happiness and pride when you think of getting the belt.

    • Matt says:

      Yup, Stravinsky.

      I’ve always loves Escher’s work too, so it was a huge bonus finding out we share a birthday.

      Thank you. I feel that pride every time I put my belt on, and even when I’m not. But I’ll tell you this much: it’s even better seeing my students put theirs on for the first time.

  5. I never get over how cool you sound when talking about the black belt, Matt. Christ, I really need to get me some kind of martial arts cred. You and Erika Rae. You two rock the house.

    I want to suggest to you that the act of “fully becoming your adult self” is still more of a process than it seems to be at thirty-one. I hope that doesn’t sound patronizing, because really I mean that in a good way. You seem highly self-aware and reflective and for people like that–we writer types!–to have “fully become” would be a big fat bore, worthy of an utter freak out. The truth is, the thirties are every bit the wild ride the 20s are, albeit maybe with less casual sex (well, for some of us), and a slightly earlier bedtime (that last part not applicable to me since I’m a raging insomniac.)

    I am a decade ahead of you, and who I was at 31 was just fine–I too had an awesome 30th year, living in Amsterdam, and so 31 felt anticlimactic, like all those big things were behind me . . .

    Man, I didn’t know squat about what life still had coming my way.

    Three kids I would get to know, get to watch grow and become real people. An international adoption, a miscarriage, a difficult pregnancy.

    Launching a book press.

    My first two books coming out.

    Burying my mother-in-law. Changing my father’s diaper. Spoon feeding my mother in the hospital.

    Writing several novels.

    A full-throttle manic episode my 40th year, in which I would do things I am still trying to forgive myself for and put behind me, and in which I also produced what I believe is my best fiction yet.

    It keeps on rolling. It doesn’t stop.

    You keep changing with it.

    Happy birthday and enjoy the ride.

    • Matt says:

      Oh, nononononononono. Not patronizing at all. I was a little worried I might not be completely clear what I meant when I wrote that line.

      What I was aiming for was, I hit a point at 30 where all the existential angst that went into “growing up” was gone. When I finished graduate school, I was really casting about for some sort of definition. After two decades of education I wasn’t a student anymore, didn’t have any sort of career job lined up, and was so burnt after all the writing/revising/defending/revising again of the 200+ pages of my thesis that it was almost a year before I was able to produce a workable piece of fiction. I really had no sense for a while there who post-graduate Matt actually was.

      A lot of my current twenty-something friends seem to be going through this same phase right now.

      By the time I hit thirty, though, I realized that all that was gone. It’s not that I’ve found definition so much as that doing so had really ceased to matter. I looked at my accomplishments, major and minor, and all the qualities of my character that had developed in the meantime, and realized that I’m really happy with myself. The idea of being “defined” in that sense just seemed…silly.

      Part of that was acknowledging that I am, and always will be a work in progress. I know there are a lot of tests I haven’t taken yet–marraige, parenting, publishing a novel (wrote one and it’s unreadable)–but I’m looking frwards to those. Think I’ve got the mettle to do all right.

      The house is still being built, but it’s got a pretty solid foundation, I think.

    • Matt says:

      By the way, your new gravatar is smokin’!

      • Thanks, kind sir.

        Now everyone at TNB can stop expecting me to have long blond hair when they meet me–that other gravatar was 3 years old.
        Of course, they should all stop expecting me to be 6 feet tall too. Not sure why, but every time I meet a TNBer in person, they are shocked to find me “so little.” (I’m not quite even 5’2″ . . . even Erika Rae and Irene Zion are tall next to me, I’m afraid.)

        • Matt says:

          People are going to start equating “Frangello” with a spicy Italian dish!

          Seriously, TNBers are a hot-looking bunch of literati, huh? I feel sexier just being here.

          I’m about the same height as Simon, but with a thicker build in the shoulders and torso. Been this height since I was about thirteen, so I usually just assume most people are a bit shorter than me.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          To be honest Gina, I recognized knew your name and gravatar and thought I knew who I would be meeting in Chicago, but then when I saw you I was all, “Wait, who?”

          Phew! This gravatar does bring congruity.

          I’m not gigantic, Matt, but I’m on the tall side and my fondness for heels puts me at a “working” height of about 6′ on a pretty regular basis.

          At the Boos BBQ, I was in heels and the same height, or taller, than Simon.

          Then in all the downtown pics I’ve got the cons and am considerably shorter (and less fierce, I think), which vexes me.

          Don’t show the flats!!! I am trying to maintain an illusion here!!!

        • Matt says:

          I don’t know about that. Big bangs can come in small packages.

        • Richard Cox says:

          That was excellent, Matt. Subtle physics humor.

        • Becky says:

          I keep forgetting to put the “e” on the end of “Boose.” It’s these flip-flops.

        • Hey Becky! Yes, I am short and brunette–who knew?!
          Nice meeting you at the Boose house. I always say Booze. Apropos, right?

        • Matt says:

          The Boose house = the Booze house? Excellent. I’ll keep that in mind if I ever end up in Chicago.

  6. Lorna says:

    Aw, we were born in the same hospital.

    Dang, I really want to give martial arts a try.

    Happy Birthday Matt.

    • Matt says:

      That’s awesome!

      Funny birthday anecdote: while going to college at UC Riverside, I met a girl who’d been born on the same day as me. In the same hospital. And we went to school in the same districts our entire lives. But we didn’t meet until we’d moved away to go to school.

      Strange world.

      • Lorna says:

        I just a had a severe deja vu experience when I read your response to my comment. Seems like I’ve heard your story of you and this girl before. Have you written about it? Possibly in your comments. If not, whoa, I’m trippin’.

  7. Irene Zion says:

    What a wonderful story, Matt.
    Happy Birthday!
    and
    Happy Anniversary!
    I’m proud of you.

    Can a 62 year old woman with arthritis learn any martial arts? I’ve always wanted to, but I figure I’m too not young and all.

    • Matt says:

      Thanks, Irene!

      You absolutely can! My oldest student was 61 when he started. Wound up getting his black belt a few years later.

      You might want to look into tai chi. It’s low impact, compared to things like karate or kung fu, really helps develop balance and coordination, and there’s some research that the increased circulation it causes decreases the effects of arthritis. There are even places that offer Tai Chi for Seniors classes.

  8. Richard Cox says:

    I love reading about the pride that comes with a goal so hard-fought to attain, the confidence and sense of accomplishment that comes with it. Happy anniversary and happy birthday.

    2 kudos for making Blade Runner an annual tradition. I love that story, mainly because I’m fairly sure I’m a replicant.

  9. Uche Ogbuji says:

    Cool. I always want some sort of heavy exercise on my birthday. Whether soccer or basketball or tennis, or skateboarding or a good hard Kenpo session (in early November the snowboarding is never really good enough).

    Happy birthday, and don’t forget your mouthpiece, You wouldn’t want your dentition to match your age until next year :D

    • Matt says:

      Oh, keeping the mouthpiece handy is a must. And I have my groin cup on whenever I’m in gi.

      Not sure what we’ll do tonight. Maybe some sparring, maybe some nuchuku work, maybe some kali. Remains to be seen.

  10. Gloria Harrison says:

    There’s nothing quite like “It’s my birthday!” for earning a bit of cache with the opposite sex. I had to read that twice. The first time I read it, I saw: There’s nothing quite like “It’s my birthday!” for earning a bit of sex. I thought, “Wow. Good to know. Wish I’d thought of that.”

    Happy birthday, Matt. And congratulations on your success(es) with your Karate. I wish you were closer, my goofball 8 year olds would really benefit from your instruction.

    Have a stellar weekend.

    Out of curiosity – can you quote the whole “If only you could see what I’ve seen with your eyes” speech?

    • Gloria Harrison says:

      Also, I was born the day Howard Hughes died. I find that far more interesting than the fact that I share a birthday with Melissa Joan Hart. (We’re the exact same age.)

      • Matt says:

        If the most recent photos of MJH are any indication, you’re aging a lot better than she is.

        • James D. Irwin says:

          haha. She really let herself go…

          I share a birthday with David Duchovny…

        • Becky Palapala says:

          I share a birthday with Lawrence Welk and the Madden Brothers and Rupert Murdoch And Thora Birch.

          None of these people are particularly proud-making to me.

          BUT you know who died on my birthday? Thutmose III.

          Of course, that was some time before I was born.

        • Richard Cox says:

          I share a birthday with Ozzy.

        • Matt says:

          Becky – Thora Birch was showing some promise there. Then she kinda disappeared from the acting scene. Also, I had to go google famous deaths on my birthday. The only one that really jumped out on cursory viewing was was Catherine of Portugal.

          Rich – Does this mean at some point your going to take to wandering about the house in a track suit and mumbling incoherently?

        • Richard Cox says:

          As far as I can tell, this thread is nested under one of Irene’s comments.

          Poor Irene.

      • New Orleans Lady says:

        I share my birthday with HsT.

        I’m really late to this discussion, but wanted to give you guys my 2 cents, too.

    • Matt says:

      I’m assuming you mean Batty’s soliloquy at the end: I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I’ve watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those..moments..will be lost..like…tears in rain.

      Time…to die.

      That it?

      ‘Cause the “What I’ve seen with your eyes” bit is just one line of dialogue.

      • Gloria says:

        Heh. Point.

        • Matt says:

          But was that the bit you were thinking of?

        • Gloria says:

          Yes sir. It was. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen the movie, so I misquoted. But you nailed it. I think of Blade Runner fans as existing in two different factions: those who can quote that part and those who can’t. For the record, I can not. Obviously.

        • Matt says:

          I’ve seen that movie so many times I can’t even count. At least 25, but probably closer to fifty.

          One of the reasons I love it so much is, for all those viewings, I still see something new every time. It’s that multi-layered.

  11. Slade Ham says:

    To my knowledge, I share a birthday with no one but baseball players. Jeff Bagwell and Frank Thomas.

    Oh, and Vincent Price.

    Get a bottle of whiskey and a rocks glass and I will toast you from TX tonight… to your birthday and your black belt.

    • Matt says:

      Vincent Price? That’s cool as hell. I have an audio book of he and Basil Rathbone reading Edgar Allan Poe stories.

      I bought a bottle of Gentleman Jack last night for that express purpose. I’ll be home about 11 PM your time.

    • Irene Zion says:

      I don’t know who shares my birthday, but I choose to believe it’s Genghis Khan.
      He’s my hero.

      • Matt says:

        Genghis, huh?

        Just Google something like “People born on _____” for the date of your birth. Might pull up some interesting things.

  12. I was just wondering the other day (really, I was!): Who is, or was, Sir Run Run Shaw?

    And Igor Stravinsky, the bloke who discovered the helicopter! Nice one. Don’t forget Barry Manilow; I get Jennifer Lopez.

    • dwoz says:

      My dear sir…I’ve heard Le Sacre du printemps called many things, but nothing quite so blunt as this!

    • Matt says:

      He’s a Hong Kong medial mogul and philanthropist, if I remember correctly. And apparently, a knight.

      Yes, Barry. I also share it with Edward Longshanks. I hope David Wills doesn’t hold that against me.

      • I love it when his name comes up (Sir Run Run Shaw, not Barry Manilow); for me it’s the most definite indication that I’m about to watch Blade Runner. Again. Same with “A Brandywine Production” (or “Brandywine Productions”, I forget) – I’m about to watch Alien. Again.

        • Matt says:

          For me it’s that little trumpet music that plays when the Brandywine logo appears at the very start of the credits. Gets me every time.

  13. Tawni says:

    Awww. What a cool anniversary/birthday you’re having. Congratulations on both. Reading this made me happy for you.

    I can’t believe you’re a Gemini. You don’t seem like a Gemini to me.

  14. Cynthia Hawkins says:

    Well, you know I think every event worth remembering should be remembered with an annual movie viewing … and if that annual movie is Blade Runner, all the better! Happy birthday, and happy anniversary, to you.

    • Matt says:

      Thanks, Cynthia!

      One day, when I’m rich and famous (or supervillain of at list Kim Jong Il levels) I’m going to have a private screening room with a print of Blade Runner, just for special occasions.

      Ridley Scott needs to make more sci-fi. He does it like no one else. And the historical action pictures are getting a little played out.

      • Cynthia Hawkins says:

        When I was house-hunting once, I came across a typical little place in the suburbs … with one bedroom transformed into a “movie theater.” Really weird. But kind of awesome! I was tempted. They even had actual theater seats screwed into the floor.

        Scott’s Robin Hood broke my heart, it was such a tremendous disappointment! I don’t even think I could sit through it again ….

        • Matt says:

          That does sound like the kind of house that would fit my bill, for sure.

          I didn’t even bother to see Robin Hood. Scott’s never made a bad film (though his brother sure has) but he’s made some pretty mediocre ones, and that one just had the look about it.

          When he’s on, though, he’s ON.

        • Ahem. GI Jane.

          Isn’t Scott planning an Alien prequel? Ooh gosh.

        • Matt says:

          Last I heard he wants to do two of them. Of course, I don’t think development has progressed any farther than that.

  15. James D. Irwin says:

    This was truly awesome man.

    I recently bought the Blade Runner box set with EVERY version of Blade Runner for £6. That was a pretty sweet deal.

    Hope you had a great day physically torturing kids!

    • Matt says:

      Oh, I did. I certainly did.

      I almost bought that box set, but I have most of the version in it, so I opted to just get the Final Cut DVD. But I here it’s great. Enjoy!

  16. Becky Palapala says:

    I hated my birthday this year.

    Not sure why. Or maybe I didn’t hate it, I was just really disappointed at how little I cared. I think, actually, that not caring (I barely remembered) that it was my birthday made me realize that I was in fact old. Old people do shit like that. Forget its their birthday. Forget how old they are.

    Because you’re so old it doesn’t even matter anymore. And it won’t matter again until you’re 55 and can start eating off seniors menus at some of the more liberal dining establishments…

    • Matt says:

      Yup, once you’ve quit caring, you’re officially Old. Time to check you into the retirement home, so you can spend the rest of your life gumming your food and staring out the window until it’s time to put you in that cold, cold Minnesota ground.

      It’s funny the way the importance of our birthdays change as we age. Like, when you’re a kid, you can’t sleep before hand because you’re so excited, and everyone comes over and you get dozens of presents. Later…well, that doesn’t matter so much. I’m at that stage where I might get five or six gifts, which is fine by me, since I don’t really need any “stuff”, and am really happier just getting together with people to mark the occasion. Suits me just fine.

  17. Zara Potts says:

    Happy Birthday! And I agree – you have the best present ever in your achievement.
    The thirties are such an interesting time.. You feel kinda old at 31 and then it just flies on by.. And suddenly you’re staring down 40.
    I share my birthday with John McEnroe. I am very happy about that.

    • Matt says:

      I hope they’re interesting. Don’t really need that “flying by” bit, though. Or staring at forty (and you don’t look a day older than 32, so shut it on that account). Gina mentioned something about wild, frivolous sex–ohpleaseohpleaseohpleaseohpleaseohpleaseohplease.

      Do you mean McEnroe the tennis player?

  18. Jordan Ancel says:

    Fifteen years as a black belt is a helluvu accomplishment. Congratulations. Don’t get into any bar fights this weekend ;-)

    • Matt says:

      Thanks, Jordan.

      Last time I was in a bar fight was when I was working as a bouncer in New Orleans. They kind of lose their appeal once the venue quits paying you for them.

  19. Erika Rae says:

    Happy birthday, fellow gemini! (My 37th was Monday) The 30s are the best. Well, better than the 20s, at any rate, although only because they are less extreme. Extreme highs and lows in the 20s. Like age 2 versus age 3. Then again, the 20s are so cool BECAUSE they’re so extreme. Anyway, I’d beg you to be my sensei if I lived closer. Respect.

    • Matt says:

      Erika Rae! Happy belated birthday to you! Though I don’t buy that 37 one bit.

      My 20s were only really extreme because that damn hurricane came and landed on the city I was living in in ’05. I was in one relationship for most of them. Compared to my teens they were calm, stable waters.

    • Matt says:

      Ack, hit the button too soon.

      I would totally take you on as a student, though I doubt I could match ass-kicking granny for sheer meanness. My head instructor has actually discussed the possibility of opening a dojo of my own once the economy improves.

      Or I could move to Denver, and me, you and Uche could open the first TNB martial arts studio.

  20. I’m not sure I can remember 31. Too long ago. And I’m afraid it might be filled with bad memories. Yes, I think I would rather just always remember your story of turning 31. It’s a happy story. It’s a tough story. It’s an accomplishment and leadership story. I like that.

    • Matt says:

      Thanks, Nick.

      Given your penchant for turning the odd, offbeat and the weird into the sublime and beautiful, I’m sure there’s something interesting you could tell us about your thirty-first year. If not your own personal history, than something going on in the world at the time.

      • It was 1999. I had been working in Las Vegas for a year writing animated shows. I was playing a lot of roller hockey, and my kids were the coolest little dudes imaginable. It was a good year.

  21. Stacy Bierlein says:

    This is beautiful, Matt! Congratulations and happy birthday!

  22. Happy Belated Birthday Matt. Actually read this yesterday but just hadn’t commented. Nice day to have — that with Jello Biafra and all.

    • Matt says:

      Thanks, Jeffrey!

      It was always a strange day, calender-wise. Father’s day lands on the 17th about every three years, and both my high school and college graduations landed on it.

  23. jmblaine says:

    At age 19
    a well meaning friend
    gave me a surprise party.
    It was at the park, in the day.
    I thought my friends & family
    knew good & well that I despised
    parties & outdoors during the daytime
    so though I tried to put on a good face
    I was more than a bit of a horse’s ass.
    After that I had the notion that
    on your birthday
    you should be able to
    do exactly what you
    want to do.
    Be who you want to be.
    Sleep all day.
    Watch movies.
    Cry about the future &
    the past.
    go ahead,
    it’s your birthday.
    Have a happy one Matt.

    • Matt says:

      At 19 we’re lucky
      NOT to be a bit of a horse’s ass.
      That’s how it goes.
      Though I wouldn’t mind
      a surprise party
      in the park, in the day
      (sounds good right now)
      just a beer with friends makes me plenty happy.

      Thank you.

  24. Slade Ham says:

    I have a hungover recollection of having called you last night, hahaha. I don’t think the shot we did was the one that put me over the edge… It was probably one of the ten or twelve before that. Hope you had a great one. I certainly did.

    • Matt says:

      Oh, yes. You totally drunk dialed me last night. There was a punching contest going on.

      The day was already going pretty swell, but that right there totally made it for me.

  25. Rachel Pollon says:

    Very cool, Matt. This really brought home how important, life changing, and nurturing it can be to have something in our lives that we work hard at and can see our accomplishments. I wish I never quit piano. And I wish my parents enrolled me in ballet. But that’s the past! What can I accomplish today? :) Congratulations on all of it!

  26. Matt says:

    But that’s the past! What can I accomplish today?

    You can sit down at a piano, place you fingers on the keys, and see what happens. Simple as that.

    And thanks!

  27. Rachel Pollon says:

    (A metaphorical piano, right? Cause I don’t have one here. Perhaps the keyboard on my computer can be my piano! Oooh, I feel more jaunty already!)

    Happy Birthday Weekend!

  28. Rachel Pollon says:

    Hey, you put a picture up, dwoz.

    Yes, it has to be a Steinway. :)

    No, you put it well — must be invested.

    In the act, not the tool.

    (For the most part.)

    (Probably.)

    • dwoz says:

      I’d been searching for the button that said “upload your avatar here”, and it just wasn’t to be found. Because the universe has a habit of providing, someone else in another thread mentioned the gravatar thing. Coincidence? I don’t think so!

      Would it make you feel worse if I told you I was sitting at my Steinway grand when I wrote this?

      The funny thing about piano playing is that the “ceremony” of going through the hassle of finding a great big very very very heavy box with strings and hammers and keys and tiny wheels on it’s massive legs, and six very strong-backed people to levitating it up three flights, is an affirming commitment. The embarrassment of a month later having to tell said six strong-backed helpers that you haven’t bloody touched the keys since, is too much embarrassment and so your self defense mechanism will drive you to sit down at it.

  29. New Orleans Lady says:

    I’ve been thinking about putting my son, Aiden, into karate but I’m worried about finding the right school. There are so many around here but I’ve heard some negative things about a few. Do you think 4 is too young? Actually, I think he would love Capoeira but I don’t think I can find someone to teach him. What are your thoughts?

    • Matt says:

      Okay, a few rules for finding a new place:

      Beware of any school that wants you to sign a training contract, for any length of time. Odds are good they’re overchaging you.

      Likewise, beware any place that won’t let you obseve a couple of classes before enrollment. Like any business, you’re a potential customer, and you have a right to know what you’re paying for. Observe the classes your son might be in. Ask the instructor questions if you have them. A school that’s on it’s game should have the answers ready.

      If you’re paying more than $100 a month, you’re getting ripped off. My place charges about $78.

      A lot of places won’t take 4 year-olds, prefering to stick with 5 and older. We DO have a small 4 year-old class, (which I used to teach) but I can’t say whether it’s good for your son. Depends entirely on the kid. If his attention span can last, say +/- 45 minutes, he might be ready.

      I don’t really know any place in N.O. to refer you to, but I’ll ask around. My friend Joseph was fairly active in the martial arts community there.

      • New Orleans Lady says:

        Thanks for all of the great info. I’ll start looking around and if you find anything out, let me know. Thanks again.

  30. My father took me to see Blade Runner in the theater when I was 10 or so….understood little of it, except thinking Sean Young was the most beautiful woman alive. That didn’t last long. I’ve probably seen it 20 times since. It’s in my top five. It did take me years to get over nail-in-palm, though.

    I also own a life-size J.F. Sebastian doll.

    Okay, that part’s not true.

    Anyway, anyone who watches it as a birthday ritual deserves to have a total blowout of a day. Hope yours makes it.

    • Matt says:

      That’s one of the things I like about the film: it’s not wall-to-wall violence. So when violence does happen, it’s shocking and unpleasant: the nail-palm, the skull crush, even the gunshots. Everything hurts, and everyone, human and replicant, feels it.

  31. kristen says:

    Nice one, Matt. I hope you indulged in some hearty, much-deserved celebrating last night.

    • Matt says:

      I did!

      And I’m doing some more tonight.

      And tomorrow.

      I’m getting old, after all. Have to fit this revelry in while I can. :-D

  32. Don Mitchell says:

    Matt, Happy Birthday. I got my first real job at 31 (before that, student, fellowships, post-doc, etc.).

    So you’ve got me beat, about the adult onset part.

    For my day:

    Cindy Lauper, Michael Landon, Lionel Richie, Andre Watts, Bob Vila, Olympia Dukakis, Audie Murphy, Chet Atkins, Errol Flynn, Lord Carnavon, and yes, King Sigismund III (Poland/Sweden).

    Clearly I’ve got a lot of work to do before I get on any birthday list.

    Now about that yearly film ritual. I like it. I don’t suggest this as a substitute, but reading what you said about your own work as sensei (and student), which was very nicely rendered, made me think of a film that my teacher gave me for my birthday when I was exactly twice your age. He denies he laid it on me because the exquisite way it handles teacher/student/learning/training/perfection/sliding by, but I think he did.

    “Tous Les Matins du Monde.” French, subtitles. Check it out sometime during your 32rd year. You won’t be disappointed.

    I’m glad you’re here on the planet with us.

  33. Marni Grossman says:

    Happy belated birthday, Matt. It’s good to know that 30 is good. Hopefully 31 will be better. 24 has- to put it bluntly- sucked.

    • Matt says:

      Thanks, Marni.

      My 24th year wasn’t all that good, either, and 25 & 26 weren’t much better (26 was actually worse) but things got better. I’m actually enjoying my thirties a lot more than I did my twenties.

  34. [...] Thirty-one-year old fascinated by creatures thirty-one million years old (and even older). [...]

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