Cheers to my younger brother, Dan on the event of his forty-first birthday. Last year saw us filling the night with howls and yowls on a rented Karaoke machine (an awakening that I continue to thank him for with every opportunity I get to sing "Hell's Bells" or "Summer Nights" at the top of my lungs). It is coincidental that his birthday also marks the anniversary of our moving into Rancho DeLuxe - nine years ago, Dan gave up any hope of a relaxing or sedate day of relaxation to schlep all of his brother's worldly possessions - as well as those of his sister-in-law. He did it for the pizza, and a few liters of Coca-Cola.
This guy is a mensch. If he were not my brother, I would still be tempted to sing his praises, if only to highlight his refreshing world view. Having grown up in the rather quiet suburban enclave of Boulder, Colorado, I was surprised to see him so at home in the very urban sprawl of Los Angeles. During a visit to his vast concrete loft living space, filled with murals and objects of art and curiosity, I asked him how he managed to navigate the vast spaces of the City of Angels. He explained to me that he lived his life via a series of well-worn ruts: the rut to work, the rut to coffee, the rut to friends house. He didn't try to incorporate a larger geography, he was happy to know where the things he needed were. It was on this trip that he imparted his wisdom for dealing with California traffic: "Avoid impact." I marked those words and live by them to this day.
Three decades ago or more, I used to get away with calling him my "little brother." Not anymore. We used to tease him and call him names to get him to throw his lunch box at us. Then he just adopted the name that used to infuriate him so. Pretty Gandhi of him, I think. He's been a roadie for a rock and roll band. He's lived in the bitter cold of Minneapolis, and the sweltering heat of L.A. He's seen "Repo Man" more times than either one of us can remember.
Did I mention that he is an artist? A painter. I am as chagrined as can be, considering the frustration I know he felt when teachers and other grown-up types would fawn over my cartoons, while he gnashed his teeth quietly in the shadow. I am proud to say that I now have several of his paintings gracing the walls of my home (again, the one he helped me move into). And I could go on with the adulation for weeks, but here's the deal: I know he reads this blog, and I wouldn't want to embarrass him. You won't read his comments here on-line. As a semi-practicing Luddite, he will read the blog, but then carefully consider his response, put them on amusingly decorated postcards, and mail them to me. Happy Birthday, Dan - avoid impact.