Happy birthday to me, Feliz cumpleaños a mí… Joyeaux Anniversaire a moi, Feliz cumpleaños Happy birthday to ME!!!

What a birthday!!! Let’s do it again!!!  I am still savoring it. 13669571_1047155385369805_4993947718874278850_n

Not too long ago, birthdays were usually celebrated with family and maybe a few friends. Today there is INTERNET!!! Skype tells everyone on your Contact list that it is your birthday and invites them to help you celebrate by –what else? – giving a gift of Skype credit for phone calls. Facebook sends all the people you have ‘friended’ an email reminder that you are celebrating a birthday and then sends you a notice of those that congratulate you. Afterwards, Facebook tallies up the final score on your FB page so that everyone can see how popular you are or aren’t.

13879373_10207828128555189_7987522197833662195_nThanks to Whatsapp, saying Happy Birthday with many smiley faces and clapping hands is more than easy and can be done in less than a minute, so the phone just keeps whistling all day long to let me know another message has been received.

And to top it off, when I sat down at my computer and opened Google, lo-and-behold, my search page sported a series of birthday goodies. For a split second I thought it might just be a coincidence so I placed the cursor over the display and clicked: “Happy Birthday, Brianda my birthday (2)appeared on the screen. Now that is a first! I truly must exist if even Google thinks so! It makes me feel soooo connected! All day long, if I wanted to check to see if I was real, I could return to the Google page and get another birthday greeting.

Then, of course, there were the advertisements: websites that I have visited and registered at that sent me all sorts of invitations to give myself their products for my birthday. So kind of them to think I 13912591_1657263811267272_8661916408328722376_nmight need something on this special day.

All this attention helped me to understand the ease with which people become addicted to internet. If someone feels lonely, they can click on internet; if they are jilted by the love in turn, they can turn to internet; if there is a celebration they wish to share and nobody around seems interested they share it on internet… Then they get responses from people they can’t even remember or perhaps have never met, but who are there (apparently), loving them (apparently), thinking of them (for at least a few seconds) and the momentary feeling is of no longer being lonely or left out of the world. And, of course, they are there even if –like me- you don’t feel lonely or left out of anything.13921031_10210201599856043_5559419092677839889_n

It was absolutely fascinating and I spent most of my day saying thank you (in three languages) to so many people that sent me wishes and pictures, not only thanks to the Social Media on internet, but also because I had made no secret of the fact that it was going to be my birthday. Many years ago, I decided that waiting to see who might remember my birthday was an exercise in self-torture. Since then, I celebrate my own BIRTHDAY, after all it is MY day (and I could question that belief!!!), and I enjoy letting everybody know. I don’t expect them to remember: I remind them when I see them. It is kinder to them and to me.

petit foursMy group of morning coffee friends organizes birthdays for everyone. The plan is always the same: the birthday person brings the goodies (a cake, a pie, croissants or whatever) and pays for everyone’s coffee (everyone who is sitting at the birthday table, of course). In return, the celebrated one receives a lovely card filled with 10€ bills collected amongst all the celebrants and gets to spend it on a gift of her choice (only the girls get celebrated, but the boys get to put their money in too, heh-heh). This year, one of my friends had already taken my usual offering (lemon meringue pie) so I settled on petit-fours and they were a great success. And when I went to pay for the coffee, the owner –Rose- told me that no, she was paying as a birthday present for me. What a generous world!!!

And the fun kept on going. On the way home from coffee, a trio of my favorite people sung13892099_10207085290626583_4880492004903632853_n me Happy Birthday right in the center of Salies. When I got to my apartment, my kids and grandkids called or sent messages, and I received the most beautiful letters from a few friends thanking me for things that have given me so much pleasure to do that I certainly never expected any gratitude in return.

And the surprises continued! At lunchtime, I went to my regular restaurant and ordered exactly what I felt like eating: a hamburger. When I was finished, I checked my body to see if there was space for a birthday desert. There was a little so I considered a “Café Delice” which is coffee with all sorts of sweet tidbits. I could ask which ones were served cafe gourmandand only order it with one or two tiny sweets. I was considering this when the owner and chef, Melanie, came out carrying…. a Café Delice with four tiny replicas of my two favorite desserts on it: crumble with caramel ice cream and lemon meringue pie (her special recipe). She then proceeded to sing me Happy Birthday in French and everyone in the restaurant clapped. When I went to pay b daythe bill, there was no desert or coffee on it.

So, there it was: gifts left and right, more birthday wishes than I had ever gotten or that I would ever have imagined getting in my whole life and a very happy, happy birthday with Google to keep right on reminding me all day long!

Can’t wait to see what happens next year with the big

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LIFE WITHOUT INTERNET

Arghhhh!!! Two days and no connection to Internet. I send my Muse (el Muso, an old friend from highschool days recently refound and whom I call ‘my muse’ because it was to share with him that I originally began to write about Salies) an ES-EM-ES saying I am disconnected. I get an answer, well no, I get obsessively the same message over 12 times: WRITE ABOUT LIFE WITHOUT WWW. Twelve times is definitely an order, so… Muso, here goes.

Life without Internet… sucks! I have written a piece yesterday. I want to post it: impossible, no internet. I want to send it to el Muso, impossible, no internet. I want to talk to my children, impossible: no internet. I want to play a game on the web… same. Suddenly I realize how dependent my life has become on the WWW. I even thought I could live in Salies because Internet would have me connected. I go over to the Park Hotel (Casino) and get permission to hook up to their WiFi. I get hooked up and… no internet: I cannot connect. My computer says it is connected but e-mail, explorer and other utilities are not working; Skype refuses to connect. Frustration. My I-phone keeps repeating the same message: WRITE ABOUT LIFE WITHOUT WWW. Muso.

What in the world is going on with connections in Salies? The phone has become a parrot with one discourse, and my computer refuses to connect to Internet. I walk over to the Cyber Service (now that I have discovered where it is). A sign on the door announces the person in charge has gone on a vacation and won’t be back until a week from today, August 30th. Frustration. WRITE ABOUT LIFE WITHOUT WWW. My phone has OCD, obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Ok, so I realize how my life is affected by Internet. Even in Madrid I am hooked up a good amount of time and my being able to be in contact with my kids at practically any waking hour we share is part of feeling free to live wherever I want. I don’t have to live next door (the phone repeats, every 15 minutes, WRITE ABOUT LIFE WITHOUT WWW… ok, I’m doing it, I’m doing it.) So even living in Madrid without internet would be problematic. I would have to revamp my life. What else am I dependent on. Good God, everything!

Think of life without computers (I used to write on an electric typewriter and before that on a manual one, and before that by hand…), without electricity, without supermarkets, without running water, without phones… Think of life without modernity, period! No trains, no planes, no cars… Back to the basics. Many people still live that way. (WRITE ABOUT LIFE WITHOUT WWW…I wonder what is wrong with my I-phone. This is the 14th time the message has entered and I AM DOING IT!!!!). Life without internet… well, most of my life I have lived without internet. Without television at least until I was 11, without cellular phones, wow!, until just … what has it been, already 15-20 years. It is hard to remember when we weren’t connected all the time by some mechanical device. (WRITE ABOUT LIFE WITHOUT WWW… I turn the damn thing off, crazy phone).

I used to go to the supermarket with my Mother, it was much smaller then, practically no choice: cereal (Kellog’s Corn Flakes; later, Kellog’s Rice Krispies), one kind of milk, a reduced selection of veggies, meat, nothing fancy, local produce. When we got home we had no idea if anyone had called while we were out. It didn’t occur to us that this might be a problem. There was no way anyone could leave a message; they just called back when they thought we might have had time to get home. If somebody died you might find out two days, a week or even a month later; if that someone wasn’t close, you might not find out for a year or two, or maybe never. You didn’t need to know.

Without Internet… I would go to lunch, no hurry to get back, sit on a shaded bench in the park, read while Salomé sits next to me. Two French children, boy and girl, come over to play with Salomé. My French is terrible but I invite them to throw something for her. They find a blue top to a plastic bottle and begin to throw. As usual, Salomé won’t give it back: she prefers to be chased. They find a red plastic top to a bottle and she gives up the blue one. The game goes like that. Then I take my leave; Deborah and Davey (the two children) watch me walk off. I would have stayed longer but my French is so lame, I tire very rapidly of trying to say things understandably. When I say them in my head, when I am alone, I speak very good French. It is when talking to others that I mess up. C’est la vie!

WRITE ABOUT LIFE WITHOUT WWW… I have turned the phone on again. Its insistence begins to bore me. I do not understand why one means of communication is nonexistent and the other insists on repeating itself endless and uselessly. This is the modern world. Without Internet, one might just decide to take a nap.

WRITE ABOUT LIFE WITHOUT WWW.  Ok, already. Life without WWW would be quiet. Yes, very quiet. Life without WWW would give me time to watch “Living Luminaries” and see Eckhart Tolle remind me of the power of Now. I could be in the Now. Life without WWW, would be silent and present. I would put on my boots and tie them carefully, breathing all the time, listening to my breath. Then I would begin, one foot in front of the other, walking, purposely, attentively, breathing, feeling my breath as my eyes settled on the present, the green, the trees, all different shades of green, the grass, the call of the birds in the trees, movement, fantastic shapes of white clouds against a sky so blue, so blue, so blue… Now, life, happening, step by step, along the path, picking black berries and sharing them with my little dog, that dog, the one the follows me and then runs ahead, without Internet, eating blackberries, diving into the underbrush with me, through the thicket of trees, the path we know because we followed it the other day, to the field where the good corn is, and back with corn in my pocket, breathing, watching the clouds leave the evening sky while the setting sun tries to catch them before they go, without Internet, the breeze beginning to cool the setting day, breathing, now, watching life unfold, flow, slip by like the breath.

Thank goodness, I have left my neurotic phone home. When I return there are six more messages: WRITE ABOUT LIFE WITHOUT WWW. WRITE ABOUT LIFE WITHOUT WWW. WRITE ABOUT LIFE WITHOUT WWW.   WRITE… WRITE… or not.