“Death is only a crossing over into another world” from The Secret Language of Birthdays by Gary Goldschneider & Joost Elffers
I met Shawn by chance at an event recently and his beard was what prompted me to ask him to be one of my subjects for the project. But I knew there was more than just a guy with cool facial hair. Shawn is the type of person you want to have around when you are having a bad day… he can make you laugh at just about anything. And he has the most amazing collection of things in his home including an Underwood typewriter and what he told me was one of the first skateboards.
Image by Camila Gargantini
An Interview with Shawn
Q. What is your best memory/moment from one of your past birthdays?
A. My 40th birthday was one magnificent memory. I was surrounded by my family, close friends… One of my friends, who was in from out of town, took me aside and had me soak in the moment, telling me how lucky I was, to have all these people here for me, that I was loved, that despite personal struggles, I’ve done pretty damn well. And he was right. I’m very grateful, and that was a moment when the gratitude really crystallized for me.
Q. How about the worst? And why?
A. I was probably alone, without someone to celebrate with. Birthdays should not just be another day of the week, and when they are, it’s sad.
Q. What was the present you’ve received for your birthday that most surprised you?
A. My sister once gave me this fantastic graphic novel about 9-11, which is both magnificent and harrowing all wrapped together. And she usually gives me a gift card for Banana Republic, so that was a surprise gift.
Q. Is there one food or dish that you insist in eating during your birthday celebration?
Q. What do you believe is the most important aspect of celebrating a birthday?
A. Taking a moment, stepping back, and taking stock. But just for a moment. Not too long, but long enough where you can take a pause and appreciate where you are, what you’ve done, who loves you, who you love… Hopefully you’re in a good place, and if not, thinking out how you might get somewhere better. Also getting laid can be both an important and very fun aspect of one’s birthday.
Q. Do you/your family/culture have any traditions/rituals/ceremonies that are performed to celebrate birthdays? What is it?
A. Maybe a song. Some cake and scotch. And hugs, too.