Tuesday, September 21, 2004

I could be president

Went to Southern California for the weekend to celebrate our family's Momentous Birthdays.

My bird-like grandmother, a woman of impeccable taste and lasting humor, turned ninety on Sunday. She weighs eighty-two pounds, despite her fondness for sweets, and still wears heels every day, even when she's by herself. (Some of her parting words to me were, "J.'s such a smart, kind man, so full of integrity...just like George Bush!" Which she delivered with a sardonic wink and a giggle.)

My father--unbending, turned in on himself, suspicious of change--turned seventy today, surprising himself to some degree as he was just sure he was already elderly when I was still a child.

And there it was, thirty-five, waiting impatiently for me on Saturday. Ready to Get On With It.

On the long drive home from the festivities, my unruddered ship went astray, veering off unpredictably toward the Sierra Nevadas. (I had already changed out of my pajamas, so I figured, heck, let's make the best of it. Make it an occasion instead of heading straight back to The Other City By The Bay).

Meandering up the Owens Valley with vague itentions of seeing Mono Lake, we decided to take a detour to view the ancient bristlecone pines in the Inyo National Forest. These are the trees that were alive when the Egyptians built the pyramids: the oldest living things on earth. They survive on harsh, dry, cold and exposed mountainsides in the middle of nowhere, with little water, infertile soil and cutting winds desiccating all but the heartiest speciments.

You know what's impressive? Even the oldest of the bristlecones is still reproducing. Scattering their little pinecones far and wide, tiny saplings popping out of the dusty soil all around.

And if they can do it at 3,842 years or more, why am I letting thirty-five get me so worried? Plus, I just remembered the one advantage of thirty-five: I can now run for President.

So watch out, Shrub: I still have six weeks to get on the ballot.


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