Friend: Any plans for the weekend?
Me: I’m going to an 80-year-old birthday party.
Friend: You have an 80-year-old friend?!
Me: Yeah, he’s my friend from Burning Man.
I had the privilege of attending a glorious 80th birthday party today that not only celebrated the birthday boy Marty, but also emphasized family. Marty has 4 families: his immediate family, his Chinese family, his tennis family, and his Burning Man family.
Marty’s 4 successful kids organized the event at Cafe Arrivederci in San Rafael. The weather couldn’t have been better. We were there until the end, soaking up the Marin sunshine. I don’t know a lot about Marty’s history, so it was particularly endearing seeing pictures of him through the years, including black and white shots of a young, grinning Marty during his Bar Mitzvah. Marty was an only child which, to me, totally explains why he wanted to have a big family.
Guests had a chance to say a few words at the mic and one friend described the first time he met Marty. Marty, who was supporting his daughter at an LGBT parade, was stuck in the back, hauling water and ice for the rest of the crew. It was obvious how proud Marty is of all his children and grandchildren.
A Chinese woman spoke about how special Marty is that 25 years later, she’s going to her boss’s birthday party. Her family has become his family which he says is his Chinese family.
The tennis family was the most touching. A bunch of guys have been playing tennis together regularly for 40 years! They talked about how Marty is the one who organizes the matches and even when he was in the hospital undergoing triple-bypass, he was on his computer making sure the guys were still playing. Dick Cheney, I swear to God, is part of the tennis family. Once the pictures come out, I’ll have to post them. Dead ringer for Dick Cheney.
Lastly, there’s his Burning Man family. That’s me! I’ve gotten a lot of slack for going to Burning Man for 10 years in a row. The questions being, ‘Aren’t you over it?’ ‘Aren’t those days of partying over?’ ‘You’re going to Burning Man again?’ It’s not about the partying. It’s not about the music. It’s not even about the art. It’s always been, for me, the annual reconnection to my family. It’s those ties that have sustained me for this long. I am taking a break from going to the event this year, but the thoughts are churning around a simultaneous week long vacation with my Burner friends in Mexico instead of the playa.
It was such a beautiful celebration that people were saying they wanted to have an 80-year-old party just like that. Well, I want to have a 40-year-old party just like that! Why wait? Marty joked that the party was like being at his wake, except that he’s around to enjoy it.