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Yeah, so much for keeping my birthday a secret.

I got my license the day before my twenty first birthday and somehow that turned into me driving the van the next day.

When Bart climbed in he smiled and hit me on the shoulder, but then sat pretty quiet like maybe he was afraid of breaking my concentration.

Ziggy was a little more boisterous: “Oh my god!” He crossed himself as he got in. “On the road, on the road!” he shouted/sang as we cruised down Boylston Street toward Chinatown.

We arrived without incident or accident.

We were making good progress on a song we were calling Million Miles when dinner time rolled around. “Hey,” Bart said when the discussion of what and where to eat came up, “aren’t we taking you out for your birthday?”

I shook my head. “That really isn’t necessary.”

“Fuck necessary,” he said, swinging his bass into a stand and cracking his knuckles. “We’ve been waiting for this a long time.”

Rolled eyes were not enough to dissuade him. “Come on, Daron. You took me out for my twenty first.” Well, more accurately Michelle and I had gone with him back to Providence for dinner at his favorite Italian restaurant there. We didn’t have a lot of fondness for Providence, but for certain things, well, okay.

“I don’t want to go out.”

“You have to eat.” Bart.

“Just for an hour, come on.” Ziggy.

“Live a little.” Chris.

“Okay, jeezus.” I took my guitar off and rolled my neck back. “Let’s go out. Did you fellows have somewhere in mind?”

They looked at each other. “We ate at Moon Villa yesterday,” Ziggy said.

Bart yawned. “Why don’t we go over to the North End? I’m tired of Chinese food.”

“No, I know,” Chris said. “If we’re willing to go as far as the North End, we should go out to the harbor piers for seafood.”

“Seafood,” I repeated, wary of exhibiting too much enthusiasm.

“Jimmy’s?” said Ziggy.

“Nah, let’s go to that place that doesn’t have a name.”

“You’re taking me to a place that has no name.” For some reason my irony meter went wild and I started thinking of strange tabloid headlines: Band Leader Dies on Birthday at Nameless Restaurant. And so on.

“That’s right,” Christian said. “I’ll drive.”

We took the van past South Station and doubled back among empty industrial lots until we came to the far side of the World Trade Center and a parking lot. Outside the wind was raw and wet, and we shuffled behind Christian along the loading docks of fish companies, “John’s Fish”, “World’s Freshest Sushi!”, “Riordan Seafood” until we came to a door marked by a menu framed with a donut-style life preserver. Inside the place was dark wood, nautical-looking lanterns, seascape paintings and elaborate miniature ships. We followed a pinched-looking hostess up a steep flight of stairs to another similarly appointed dining room that might have had a nice view of the harbor during the day. Tonight the windows were dark.

And I wasn’t looking at the view anyway, I was looking at a bunch of people waving to us from the corner.

Christian led them in a loud chorus of “Happy Birthday to you”: Carynne, Colin, Lars, Michelle, a girl I didn’t know, Watt, Peter from the Soft Shoes, Marilynne and Reggie from Colin’s band, and a guy I didn’t know. As the song ended everyone began talking at once, motioning us toward seats, waving menus, lighting new cigarettes and laughing.

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