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March 2, 2004
What do you want to do for your birthday? I ask Q, to avoid getting out of bed.

I don't know, he says. Let me think about it.

I won't give you a surprise party, I promise. I've given two surprise parties for him since we've known each other, and was planning a third when I realized that he doesn't enjoy them. You think you're going to have a nice read in your favorite chair, and you walk into your living room and there sit all your neighbors. That's the evening, then, and you never do get to read your book.

The person for whom surprise parties are fun is the person who gives them. And the people who attend. Surprise parties uncover a layer of gentle sadism most of us don't know we have. We are surprised by how much fun this discovery is. We should be sobered.

"I'm going to be the age of the American life expectancy," Q says.

"Really?" I say. "What is it?"

"Seventy-six," he says. "Do you know what it was in 1900?"

"No, what was it?"

"Forty-six," he says, shaking his head. So many people died young in those days. Q has beaten the rap.

"I have a new carrot cake recipe," I tell him, from a health website.

"Chocolate," he says.

"You want chocolate cake instead of carrot cake?"

"No. I want both. Chocolate first. Pure chocolate. Not chocolate cake."

"I see. So perhaps we should just have desserts. For what remains of your life."

"Why not?" he says. "I'm seventy-six."

"Yeah, who cares? How long do you think you have?"

"It's anybody's guess."

And it is, of course. Tomorrow is promised to no one. So find love, most easily done by giving it profligately away, and remember that romantic love is not the only kind of love there is. Have courage to contemplate the end of your life: don't be scared to think about it and talk about it a little, because thinking and talking about it makes you brave. Take a stand on things that matter, and be prepared to explain clearly just why they matter. Do these things while you still can.

And eat plenty of chocolate. While you still can.

But try the carrot cake:

Stir together 2 cups grated carrots
juice of one orange
2 tsps vanilla extract
1/4 cup olive oil (or 1/2 apple sauce)
1 cup honey (or 1 cup Splenda)
1/2 cup crushed pineapple, drained it was canned

In another bowl, stir together
1 cup unbleached flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice

Stir in
3/4 chopped walnuts

Add all the dry ingredients to the carrot mixture and stir only until mixed.

Bake at 350 degrees in a greased and floured 8" square pan or a greased ring mold, for 45-50 minutes or until a knife blade inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven, cool slightly and turn out onto a plate.
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