Mark Trione had a birthday the other day, turned 69.
He’s out of state just now, so lifelong buddy and fellow Santa Rosa native Jim Keegan has to wait a bit to return to Mark something the likes of which I’d never seen before. Have you?
It’s a birthday bag — an ordinary, lunch-sized brown paper sack before it was commercially transformed into a two-way, perpetual birthday card.
Printed on it is a bow-tied cat and these words: “So here’s Birthday greetin’s on this paper sack. When mine’s due, you fill it up and send it back.”
It looks to have been 1958 when Billie Keegan, mom to little Jimmy, then 9, purchased the sack, probably in downtown Santa Rosa. She had Jimmy place a gift in it, write a birthday greeting on it and give it to his best friend, Mark, also 9.
It’s possible, to tell the truth, that it was the other way around. Maybe Madeleine Trione bought the bag and had Mark put a present in it, write on it and give it to Jimmy.
Regardless, what’s amazing is that 60 years later Mark and Jim continue to pass that paper-bag birthday card back and forth. They haven’t exchanged it every year; the card sat idled while the guys were doing what ambitious guys do in their 20s and 30s.
But if you read the sack front and back, you see that the sons of late Sonoma County community titans Henry Trione and James Keegan hailed each other’s birthday loyally as kids, then quite often in the 1980s and through the a’90s, and they’ve seldom missed in recent years.
What’s customary is for them and their wives, Diane Keegan and Cathy Trione, to meet for dinner on or near Mark’s birthday on Jan. 25 and Jim’s on June 7, and to exchange the card. Most of the year it resides in a protective sleeve, at one guy’s house or the other.
It’s been a long time since either Mark or Jim bothered putting a gift inside. The bag is just the right size for a bottle, but by now it’s too old and fragile to hold anything.
Mark was hugely happy and relieved to be able to return it in 2015, the year Jim survived the surgery that brought him a transplanted heart. Neither of the pals for life wants to be left holding the bag.
AT THE LBC the other night, Janet Rogers heard two couples ask a golden-age usherette for help finding their seats.
The woman perused their tickets, pointed down the lobby and directed to them to proceed three doors down.
She seemed perplexed by the laughter that burst from the patrons, who’d come to see the Mississippi rock band 3 Doors Down.
LOVING SPOON-FULL: Of all the things she lost to the flames that devoured the home off Riebli Road that she shared, Carrie Freyer missed most the unusual, handcrafted pendant she’d received from a grandmother.
It was the flattened bowl of an old, sterling silver spoon, engraved with a simple and clever message. It was made by an artisan at the Shaker Woods Festival in Columbiana, Ohio.