It would have been Jim’s 77th birthday this Sunday, February 3, 2013. Notably, one of Jim’s favorite teams, the San Francisco 49ers, is in New Orleans preparing to take it to the Baltimore Ravens in the Superbowl (Go Niners!) this Sunday as well.
All this synergy got me to thinking about birthdays past and one of the more super surprises I ever pulled off. Basically, I managed to crash Jim’s big 50th birthday celebration: a formal dinner at his favorite Marina restaurant, Mulhern’s, with dozens of his nearest and dearest friends in attendance. To throw him off the scent, I had told Jim repeatedly that I couldn’t just drop everything and fly out from New York for his dumb old birthday, which really hurt his feelings. I pretended not to care.
The bash was organized by Jane Judge, Jim’s “sister,” who was kind enough to fly my starving freelance self out for the occasion. I hid out that afternoon and arrived very, very late with a guest and dear friend of Jim’s, James Mason, who was a rather large individual. Thus, he managed to totally camouflage me as he sauntered into Mulhern’s darkened back room, with me walking directly behind him in lockstep.
Jim was giving Mason a rash of shit about being so late until I stepped out from behind Mason and said, “Happy Birthday, Jim!” I’ll never forget his reaction as long as I live. Jim’s eyes bugged out, he yelled “Michie!,” then he grabbed his chest, gasped, shut his eyes and fell back against the wall in complete shock. We all thought I had given him a heart attack. It was pandemonium.
Needless to say, Jim recovered almost instantly, grabbed me in a bear hug that almost crushed my ribs (with assorted other extra curricular activities thrown in) and proceeded to never let go of my hand throughout the whole evening. I’m smiling now at the scenes running in my head, such a superb evening.
I was able to dig up the photo Jim took of me with truck at SFO that I’m running with this blog as evidence of that super weekend 27 years ago. Jim snapped it before I ran to catch my plane back to NYC and my new life. This mounted print sat around Jim’s kitchen table and shelves for all those years, so the print and mat is sort of beat to hell, and I treasure it all the more.
I mean how fitting that the 49ers offense is known as the pistol, right? If Jim were here he’d say it’s just ’posed to be. Happy Birthday, Jim, we miss you now and always more than I can say.