Tail of the Weak is a series of insights and musical memories from the mind of Uncle Dave Griffin, singer/songwriter and founder of the Annual Gram Parsons Guitar Pull and Tribute Festival, from Waycross, Georgia.
The older you get, the better you get...unless you're a banana.
I had the routine down pretty good by the time I was five and living in Tripoli, Libya.
The cake was everything you were. Whatever it was you were into—Hopalong Cassidy and his horse, Topper; Disney mice, ducks, dogs, and cows...I still can't get over Goofy Dog and Clarabelle Cow in a romantic relationship; Revell hot rod surfer cars—the cake bore the heroes and icons of our youthful dreams.
I became a pretty decent present sleuth in the days and weeks leading up to September 1. High atop closet shelves, I could spot the multi-colored, majestic mysteries in honor of moi. I never opened them. I just stared in awe at the beautiful, perfectly-wrapped wonders and counted the days.
Mama was a birthday party specialist—building icing-covered monuments out of milk, eggs, and sugar; redecorating the rooftop of our Tripoli apartment, festooned with balloons, streamers, and tailless donkeys; and feeding the hordes of cousins, playmates, and neighbors with endless hot dogs, chips, and grape Kool-Aid.
Birthdays were special—especially as a kid—but, as time moves on, they lose their luster and innocence. All that's left are marks of achievement—becoming a teenager; becoming a licensed driver; becoming a drinking-age adult voter. Then the round numbers start rolling by, faster and faster. BOOM—you're 30, with children of your own.
BOOM—you hit 40, the metabolism slows, and you gain three inches in the waist.
BOOM—the big 5-0, and you're lookin' back instead. BOOM—you hear yourself say, “I'm 60”, and you can't believe what you're hearing as it comes out of your mouth and enters your brain. But, like the old cliché goes, 'It's better than the alternative'.
Toy soldiers, race tracks, and cowboy paraphernalia are replaced by cologne, tequila, and a never-ending supply of socks and underwear. Gone are the toothless grins, the sparkling eyes, and the beardless chins. Here are the wrinkles, the missing teeth, and renegade nose hairs. How did it get to this?
Birthdays—that's how. I have been blessed with 64 so far; and, I hope to have many more.
The one that stands out the most to me was number 50. It was the only surprise birthday party that surprised me, thanks to my beautiful daughter, Megan Stewart. I have always been proud of my wizened sense of cynicism. You got to get up pretty early in the mornin' to pull a fast one over on Uncle Dave, so I thought.
On Saturday, August 30, I went in to work at Crosstown Music with owner, Paul Lee, and a young coworker named Joe. Late that afternoon, right in front of me, Paul dispatched Joe with a rental P.A. system to a church barbecue. It went to my backyard instead.
Six o'clock closing time rolled around; and, I stayed to get the day's cash deposit in order. The phone rang. It was Megan. “Dad, when are you comin' home? We have reservations for dinner at 6:30. Get it in gear!”
That should've been the dead giveaway. Since when do restaurants in Waycross require a reservation? I missed it and moved blindly forward. As I'm comin' up the hill toward my home, I see the cars—scattering the yard, lining the ditches, and stretching around the house. I knew I'd been had.
Once inside, the house was quiet and empty; so, I put on my surprised party face and slid the patio door open. From that moment on, time slowed down to a crawl. All my family and friends were there bearing gifts—one stunning, blue tequila bottle with a neck like Dr. Seuss would've drawn; a bottle of Tequila Rose; and, my favorite—Tequila Cazadores Reposado—the one with the antlered deer on the label.
Surrounded by black balloons, I blew out the cake candles and did three birthday shots— one from each gift bottle. My nephew, Gram, abducted me in my own van, and chauffeured me out Central Avenue, all the while smelling something burning that wasn't birthday candles.
We returned what seemed like hours later. I looked at my watch, which read 7:13. The best present that night was the present—which seemed to be standin' still. Time wasn't even standin' still—it was goin' backwards. The music went on through the evening—the best of the best musicians and songwriters Waycross, Georgia had to offer—jamming across the patio stage. The drinks flowed, the people smiled, and it was a birthday to remember.
I certainly had a good time—everybody told me I did. As the night wore down, my wife put me to bed. Sometime later, one of our friends passed through the bedroom on her way to the master toilet, and found me—hangin' off the bed, face down, naked, throwin' up in a shoe.
20th Annual Gram Parsons Guitar Pull and Tribute Festival Advance Weekend Passes:
REFERENCES Memories straight from the mind of Uncle Dave Griffin