When you think about how we kick off a birthday — essentially a celebration of surviving another year — it seems a little absurd. "Good job not getting yourself killed. Now stick your face close to that fire we put on your dessert; we're gonna take a picture."

Risky, wrong-headed, slightly dangerous presents can bring more excitement over the coming year (thus making the next celebration even bigger) and so for my birthday, I ordered a swimming pool I have to put together myself. I then spent the next two weeks debating the pool's location. Final answer: in the pea gravel between the fire pit and the barbecue.

Some of you are wondering why I'd put a relatively delicate inflatable pool in the hot, hot gravel, between the hot, hot fire pit and the hot, hot barbecue, a few feet from a wasp trap.

Those people cannot swim in my new pool. (Obviously, Rule No. 1.)

As I tore open the box containing the pool, I began wishing I'd had the forethought to get a sign made. But what kind? A standard metal one with pool hours, some garbage about glass bottles, and a frowny face next to a dude diving? Non, non, mes chéris!

I went into a fugue, tossing both styrofoam peanuts and infuriatingly cryptic pool rule ideas off faster than a bikini top during a can opener dive (also not allowed.) Clearly, I'd need at least two signs, probably ones that resembled stone tablets. "Thou shalt not spill" would be near the top. ("Spill WHAT?!" people would scream.)


Before the pool's top ring was even inflated, I was drunk with power, imagining throngs of people outside the garden gate, sweating profusely (as nonswimming people in 100-degree heat are wont to do) begging to be let in. From atop my solid gold lifeguard's throne, I would wave my floaty scepter, dismissing one after another.

"You are too sweaty and didn't bring the beer I wanted."

"Your swimming suit has weird rivets on it that may damage the pool's gossamer inflatable-ness. Off you go."

"You do realize the water reaches all the way to your chin when you're sitting down, right? That's why you can't wear a candy necklace in here."

"No shirt, no shoes, and definitely no banana hammocks, Friendo. Buh-bye."

"That mullet needs to be in a jauntily flowered swim cap before you return. I bid you good day, Sir. I SAID GOOD DAY!"

Weeping neighborhood children, water-skiing squirrels, best friends, my own flesh and blood — anyone found breaking any of the 387 rules would see the cruel, beautifully manicured yet pruny hand of fate turn them from the glory of my 10-foot-diameter inflatable swimming pool. Daenerys Targaryen may have dragons aiding her in a bid for power that could literally backfire any second, but I've got an Intex Easy Set and another birthday in 11 months. Bring it.

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