the lost man chronicles

haciendo el tonto

One of my favorite birthdays of all time actually did not occur on any day close to my birth date in November.

It was the middle of summer and my siblings and I were in Mexico with my father. We were having lunch at a local restaurant replete with dark wood railings, and soft-toned tiles painted with various motifs and symbols of the Aztecs.

After we finished lunch, my father called over the waiter and asked him out loud, "oye, es el cumpleaños de mi hijo mayor aquí. ¿le puedes hacer algo especial?"

Since it was not my birthday, my father's request caught me by complete surprise, but I played along with great giddiness nonetheless. The one thing I did not catch though, was the wink that my father had given the waiter.

The waiter promptly came around thereafter and blindfolded me. I heard the clink and the clank of what sounded like the fork against my cake plate, which I presumed was placed in front of me. He then told me to blow. I blew. And for an almost imperceptible moment something magical wafted over me.

Everyone cheered and laughed, and shouted "¡Órale!" and sang "For he's a jolly good fellow, that nobody can deny…." For no good reason I had been made man-of-hour, and I foolishly felt a spontaneous sense of pride.

The waiter then stripped away the red-folded cloth napkin and I brimmed a silly smile. What I did not realize though, was that I had thoroughly been played for the fool.

For a few seconds later the waiter brought over a mirror and handed it to me. I inquired over to my father with a squint of my eyes, and he said, "Take it son, take a look."

"Hmmm," I thought suspiciously, and then held up the looking glass. Most of my face and the crest of my hair was covered with white powder. I realized that I had been asked to blow into a bowl of flour and not at the candles which were still flickering before me.

I began laughing with everyone, whose rollick suddenly pitched louder and echoed against the painted adobe walls.

At that moment, I felt more than ever that I wanted to be as carefree and jocular as my father. He truly knew how to turn convention upside down, and could enliven any gathering of friends and family better than anyone I've ever known.

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