“Martin Luther King’s Poor People’s Campaign is continuing with even greater momentum since his death,” reads this flyer circulated in the spring of 1968 by the West Village Poor People’s Campaign. Weeks after the assassination of Dr. King, the organization he founded brought thousands of people of diverse backgrounds to Washington, D.C., to set up a protest camp and demand economic justice.
West Village Poor People’s Campaign. “Poor people’s power” : Dr. Martin Luther King. circa April 1968. New-York Historical Society.
Martin Luther King Jr. PR-52 Portrait File. New-York Historical Society.
A Palestinian protester returns a tear gas canister fired by Israeli troops during a protest against the Jewish settlement of Ofra, in the West Bank village of Silwad, near Ramallah. Apr11 2014 Mohamad Torokman/Reuters
For the past month, I’ve tried to wrap my head around the fact that on March 6, I’d turn the same age at which Alberto died.
Like every other wife of a 39-year-old, I had curated Alberto’s surprise 40th birthday. A summer weekend party in Connecticut with eight other couples was planned. Surreptitious deliveries of balloons, Chivas Regal and dulce de leché cake were coordinated. Alberto had a history of hating surprises, but, by the end of that weekend, he was adorably (and uncharacteristically) grateful.
That was his last birthday. I’ve held onto that memory and placed a shit-ton of “thank-Gods” upon it.
Lately, I found myself dreading my encounter with that same milestone birthday: definitely taking the day off work, but should I celebrate in L.A. or NYC? Which restaurant? Who should I invite?
Gayson to the rescue: NYC venue booked, guest list solidified, menu planned, afterparty sorted. All I need to do is show up…right?
Last Sunday, I made my peace with the fact that neither a husband nor a boyfriend would be at my side that night.
On Monday, my cousins cancelled on dinner and I did not take it well.
On Tuesday, I shared my 40th-birthday plans with my mom—and choked before finishing the first sentence.
On Wednesday, the unanticipated emotions of this birthday were officially throwing me into a ball of chaos, so I start sharing my messy sadness with the people closest to me. Began confessing my unexpected ambivalence and asking for prayer that I would focus on what I’m grateful for—not what’s missing.
On Thursday night, snowmageddon translates into a spontaneous visit (and birthday spanking) from a man I wasn’t expecting to see until next week but whose flight out of New York was cancelled a few hours before.
The next morning, I wake to a Face Time call from my pal of 27 years, Tony Papa. Two hours into our conversation, my sister-in-law calls to tell me how excited she is about dinner tonight. My parents ring in, put me on speakerphone and hear me squeal like a five-year-old while I open the birthday gifts they shipped. While talking to them, Gayson shows up with a bottle of Veuve and a giggle I can hear before even opening the front door.
By the time we finish it, I’m still in pajamas and the four-o-clock sun is casting pre-sunset orange all over my apartment. The gap between Gayson leaving and coming back with friends for pre-dinner cocktails is a few hours from now, but I’m no longer afraid to be alone in my head. I have a daughter’s call to return, a flower delivery to receive, a mountain of gift-wrap to recycle, a shower to take.
The glow of a day spent among the voices of my favorite people stays with me long after the sun has set on March 6. It carries me into heels I can dance in and the private dining room at one of my favorite West Village restaurants, where 12 people who have made my decade in New York so memorable await.
With Alberto’s sister on my right and my bestie on my left, I order my late husband’s signature drink, Chivas neat. The glass moves when I play musical chairs between courses, following me to other end of the table where eventually a candle is lit and a song is sung. I take in the view from this side of my fourth decade and notice how many chairs are filled instead of the one that isn’t. I raise my pinot noir to the room of smiling faces and toast them.
Before heading to the afterparty downtown, I clink the ghost glass of Chivas to my wine and leave it behind, glass full.
So you live in west village but you're asking people to fund your cosplaying. Sounds like mommy and daddy have enough money as it is. How's the trust fund?
lol I’m in a dorm. The fact that I live and go to school in Manhattan is exactly WHY I take donations. My tuition is beyond extreme. I need to spend any money that I make, from working mind you, on things that I need. If you want to see me have great cosplays you can donate, or you can not donate. Entirely up to you. Now, what I don’t appreciate, anon, is the way you’re addressing me right now and your idea that my financial situation is any of your business. Kindly take your pitiful jealousy elsewhere, or if you really want to spar come of anon.