A Celebration of Life

A belated birthday celebration came to mean more

Counting of years turned into a celebration of living–as birthdays should, but rarely do for me.

A belated birthday celebration came to mean a lot more

This night was planned as a belated birthday party for me at Mehanata Bulgarian Bar (113 Ludlow St, NYC) by friends who couldn’t come out the week before. However, it came to signify much more.

A few days before getting together, my mother had called me with sad news. My uncle Gino had passed away. He was 96 and remarkably survived by his wife of 71 years. Over the days leading up to his funeral, the sadness of the loss gave way to the beauty of the life. I felt it was somehow appropriate that the funeral was going to be held on the day of my belated birthday party.

The counting of my years turned quickly into a celebration of living–as birthdays should, but rarely do for me. I don’t know if I’ll last 96 years, or if I’d even want to. Plus the chances of me being married for 71 years is pretty far fetched. If I were to get married today, that would make me 113 years old in the end. But still this man’s enduring dedication to his family is an inspiration.

I hate that it takes funerals to make me see the value in life. I often take things for granted, never really appreciating what I have. I’ve been told this by countless people. With the passing of a loved one, I always proclaim, “From this point on, I’ll live life to the fullest,” (mainly so my eulogy will be compelling). Yet I never do and it’s back eating junk, drinking beer and watching the rest of the world live.

On this day of remembering my Uncle and all of his humor, wisdom and loving care, there were also points of frustration. Cousins and other relatives not seen since the last funeral or wake. The idea that we’ll very likely not do so again until the next was just unacceptable. I hope this time we don’t go back on our promises to get together soon and under far happier circumstances.

Later surrounded by the wonderfully kitsch, multiple personality decor of Mehanata, as I sat sipping my Astika Beer, I pondered these thoughts knowing that this quiet would soon be shattered by a welcome invasion of sweat and laughter. There would be plenty of music to play me thru the night, as well as more Astika and some clear rocket fuel whose name I forget.

As friends strolled in and strangers smiled, drumming up good times, I was handed a rose. I balanced it by it’s stem on my wobbly hand and I thought of that other rose I had placed in my uncle’s honor earlier in the day. With that passing moment, I lost myself in the music of Maeandros.

Theirs is a mellow sound that wasn’t lacking for moments of intensity. Bursts of cheer-filled energy would sneak in and around a mystical carousel of sound rooted in Greek and Near-Eastern tradition.


The Balkan ruckus that followed kept got us jumping–although I admit, my spring has seen bouncier times. The band introduced themselves and it sounded like they said, “Hello, we’re Mama’s Baba Ganoush from Denmark.” So I laughed. That can’t be right. It must be that rocket fuel kicking in.

I swear, they said it again. And again, I laughed. On the way out I asked the bar manager who they were. He replied, “Mama’s Baba Ganoush from Denmark.” And I laughed again. So far my efforts to discover anything more about their joyous, bombastic noise have come up empty. So my search continues.

Mama’s Baba Ganoush

As the night wound down with a quiet couple of drinks at nearby Stanton Social, the melancholy of the day set in. It is safe to say, I have a long way to go in my quest of fulfillment. My strolling alone thru moments of personal despair deep in the early morning hours is proof of that. The details are not important here and they are too personal to share even if they were. But I’m on my way … I hope.

See Also:
Mehanata (website)
Mehanata (myspace)
Maeandros (website)
Maeandros (myspace)


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