I’m 38

September 16th, 2006

I celebrated the dawn of my thirty-ninth year (my thirty-ninth year begins with my thirty-eighth birthday, follow?) in a rather non-traditional manner. I suppose the only thing birthday-ish about it was the cake Ruth baked for me, but I’ll get to that later.

The day started off when she asked my if I felt any older. “I don’t know how I could feel much older than I normally feel every day,” I answered but I actually felt pretty good and my day at work went pretty well. The weather was just about perfect, sunny and cool. There was a kind of vibe around the cube farm- the supervisor was out, the boss left before lunch, and a couple of buddies and I took a long drive to get some cheap good grub from the Elk’s Club ‘Bar-B-Q’.

Another thing that made the day enjoyable was looking forward to the big surprise I had for Isaiah. I’d been planning it for almost a month and I knew he’d get super-big kick out of it. See, I’d read about– Sorry, you’ll have to wait in anticipation just like he did. He knew there was going to be something cool tonight, but he had no idea what.

When I got home Ruth asked if I had anything in mind for my birthday dinner. I replied that I didn’t since my lunch had left me not very hungry and Isaiah and I had the surprise later. I went upstairs to change clothes and when I came down Gideon jumped out and shouted “Surprise!” I don’t think he fully grasped the concept of a surprise party, but I was a surprised by the cake on the dining room table.

Then Isaiah suggested they tell me where we were going for supper and Ruth shushed him. The boys had come up with the idea to take me to Fin Inn, one of our favorite restaurants which sounded like fun, but I wasn’t really hungry. It’s also about thirty minutes from home and I didn’t want to spend all that time driving there and back with Isaiah’s surprise coming up later. Instead of Fin Inn we got some hamburgers from Charlie’s drive-in and took them to a park the boys hadn’t been to before. The both had a blast on the play equipment there running, climbing, and sliding until the sun went down and the mosquitoes made it time to go home. We had to pry Gideon, wailing at the top of his lungs, off the ladder he’d mastered climbing up, but he got over himself with a few sips of the last of the root beer from supper. As we walked back the car Isaiah asked about the surprise for the one-hundredth time since I’d gotten home. He knew it was coming, but not what it was and the curiosity was driving him nuts.

“Dad, what is the surprise?”

“I told you, Man, it’s a surprise.”

“Oh, come on Roger,” Ruth piped up “You might as well tell him. You know it’s about his favorite thing– he’ll go crazy when you tell him.”

“I don’t know…”

“OK, then I’ll tell him- Isaiah, your dad got you tickets to Barbie on Ice!”

“Aw, Mom– gimme a break.”

“It’s OK, Isaiah, I know how much you love Barbie. When I saw it coming to town I knew you would want to go,” I replied.

“Dad you wouldn’t make me go to that.”

“I know, I wouldn’t have to force you. I know Barbie is your favorite thing.”


“Yeah,” Ruth added “and you’ll get a wand and fairy wings and your own tiara to wear.”

Needless to say, he didn’t buy it.

When we got home we sat out on the back porch, playing with the cats and listening for owls till it was time for Gideon to go to bed and Isaiah to go rest up for the surprise. I sat down and started watching something about weird weapons of World War II which was pretty interesting, but I dozed a bit. Actually I dozed a bit intentionally to be rested up for the surprise while Ruth worked on email. About ten-thirty she woke me up and mentioned that I should probably go check on Isaiah. He was sound asleep in his clothes. I shook him and called to him but he didn’t wake up. I opened his left eye and watched his eyeball roll around, but he didn’t wake up. I opened both his eyes (If you want to see something really weird, open both the eyes of someone sound asleep and watch them roll around– in different directions) but he didn’t wake up. I grabbed his arm and sat him up and called his name and he finally woke up.

“Are you ready for the surprise?”


As we were getting in the car Ruth came out to hold the cat we call Fuzzy since he has a knack for running under the van just as I start the engine.

“Are you going to tell him what the surprise is?”

“It’s a surprise– he’ll find out when we get there.”

“Come on, Dad!”

“Go ahead and tell him, Roger. He’ll be just as excited.”

“OK, OK. Isaiah we are going to see a midnight showing of The Muppet Movie at the Tivoli theater in U. City.”

The big smile on his face told me what I already knew– that my idea was a perfect hit with him. In fact it was three cool things wrapped into one:

1.) Seeing one of his favorite movies

2.) Staying up really late to see the movie

3.) Going to U. City

U. City is University City, the location of St Louis University. The Tivoli is in the heart of U. City near the west end of what is called the Loop– several blocks of the coolest and hippest shops, boutiques, restaurants, and places to hear live music. Ruth and I had seen a movie at the Tivoli a few weeks previous and when she told Isaiah the theater was in U. City that letter and word became one of those mysterious symbols of interestingness that fascinate kids even though they have no idea what they represent. She hadn’t said anything about U. City or the Loop, just that the theater where we saw the movie was there and the name (I guess because he’d never heard of a city with a one letter name before– or maybe he was captivated by the idea of visiting ‘You City’) suddenly became something special. So saying he was excited is a bit of an understatement.

There was very little traffic and none of the anticipated construction between our home and our destination so the trip took only about forty minutes instead of the alotted sixty. We parked in the garage directly across from the theater and crossed the street to stand in a short line for tickets. He was pretty impressed. The architecture of the outside of the Tivoli is decorated with several flourishes reminiscent of the bygone era in which it was originally built. Isaiah looked up and pointed to the lights and cornices above our heads. When we bought our tickets, the lady who sold them to us thought it was pretty cool that a kid was there to see this great kids’ movie.

We still had some time so we walked along the loop for a couple of blocks. There were some interesting characters to see and lots of sights and sounds. I thought we would have heard more music leaking out of some of the venues, but the only real music we heard was some guy drumming loudly on the table of a bistro. He was a pretty good table drummer, though.

Soon it was time for us to turn around and walk back to the theater. The minute we stepped inside, Isaiah’s attention was captured by something I had forgotten all about.

“Look, Dad– King Kong! and the creature from the Black Lagoon and GODZILLA!”

Just inside the theater there is a glass case on the wall with small figures about ten or twelve inches tall of famous movie monsters. I think I remember noticing it before and commenting to Ruth that Isaiah would flip when he saw it, but that was all the impression it made on me. Of course, my prediction was correct and we had to walk over and check out all of them up close. I think he was having a pretty good time.

Evidently, Isaiah was the only kid there. I guess that’s not surprising since it was a midnight showing. The woman selling popcorn thought it was pretty cool that he was there. She asked him if he’d seen the movie before and he said yes, but not at the movies. I think it was released about fourteen years before he was born.

With our popcorn and drink we walked down the short hallway to the theater admiring the old movie posters plastered on all the walls. Isaiah was impressed with the theater itself, too. He especially liked the domes inset into the ceiling. They were probably ten feet in diameter and went about five feet up into the ceiling. They were painted with a fade from orange-red at the bottom edge to white at the top and they were uplit by lights around a lip at the bottom edge. I think there were two or three of them running along the center of the ceiling from front to back. I especially like them, too- they are pretty cool.

One of the neat things about the Tivoli is that the theater is restored to look like what it must have back in the thirties when going to a movie was much more of an event than it has been in the interceding decades. (Note- I don’t say ‘more of an event than it is today because with the astronomical prices at cinemas today going to a movie has once again become much more of an event for many people, although without the formality and specialness it had long ago.) The abovementioned beautiful domes are only one of the many delightful architectural features that harken back to a bygone era including the plasterwork shield in the center of the top edge of the wall at the top edge of the screen.

“Look at that shield up there, Isaiah. What do you think of that?”

“That’s pretty cool– it’s like something a knight would use.”

“It’s got a big ‘T’ in the middle of it, what do you think that is for?”

“I don’t know…”

“Do you think it’s for ‘THE Muppet Movie’? Maybe they switch it out for each movie.”

“Uh, probably not. If it was it would probably be an ‘M’ for muppet, Dad.”

“What do you think it’s for?”

“Hmmm… Maybe ‘theater’?”

“I think it’s probably ‘T’ for Tivoli– name of this theater.”

“Oh, yeah. I bet that’s it.”

We drank some soda and ate some popcorn and pretty soon the lights started going down. There were a couple of horror movie trailers during which Isaiah covered his ears and shut his eyes, but then a very interesting trailer came on– for Tron. I hadn’t seen the movie in years and it was amazingly dated in it’s look, but those cool computer generated scenes in it will always look cool to me even if they are cheesy by modern comparison.

“What did you think of that, Son?”

“It looked pretty cool…”

What I didn’t tell him was that the trailer was showing because Tron would be the midnight movie in two weeks and I was planning to take him to see it too. But just now The Muppet Movie was starting!

What can I say about this film? It, unlike Tron, is perfectly timeless. Well, that may be an exaggeration since the in several ways it makes very obvious that it was made in that interstitial era a few years long between what we consider ‘the seventies’ and ‘the eighties’. But it is one of those movies that will continue to bring smiles to faces for generations to come.

Seriously, the opening helicopter shot of the swamp accompanied by Kermit’s banjo notes plastered a kidlike smile on my face in the first thirty seconds of the movie and my smile remained until the movie was over. I know Isaiah was having as much fun as I was, too. He was belly laughing out loud- and had to keep telling me what was going on and why.

Of course his favorite part was when, after taking some of Dr. Bunsen Honeydew’s magical growth pills, a thirty foot tall Animal’s giant head bursts out of the roof of the ghost town building to scare away Doc Hopper and his frog hunting cronies.

We sat through all the closing credits to watch the muppets hanging out and doing funny stuff on screen behind them. We decided we are both fans of Lew Zealand (the guy with the boomerang fish) and Crazy Harry (the guy that blows things up).

Isaiah fell asleep, of course, on the way home but not till we’d gotten out of U. City and back out on the highway. He wanted to look at all the interesting buildings one more time.

We’d had a marvelous time together investigating a cool new place and seeing an old favorite movie– not to mention staying up way, way past midnight! This is the kind of thing I love doing with Isaiah (and will love doing with Gideon in a few years). I am sure he will remember this for decades. I know I will.

Maybe when he turns thirty-eight we’ll talk about the time we saw the Muppet Movie at the Tivoli.