Since it’s still the month of my birth, I’m going to attempt a triumphant return to blogging — on a topic related specifically to my birth, which I’ve been wanting to blog about for a long time. So here we go.
Words and photos can hardly do it justice, but just over a month ago — on Saturday, March 24, 2007 — my amazing wife threw me the most incredible, thoughtful surprise birthday party ever. It’s been more than a month, and I still think about it nearly every day. For the first solid week following the surprise weekend, it was all I could think about. I had a hard time concentrating on work or anything else since it was so much to process and I was so moved by the kindness of the gesture — by Jen and her team of accomplices, which included more than 30 of our family members and friends.
There were 4 major components to the most awesome surprise weekend ever.
First, the night before the party, Ben and Enoch arrived from San Francisco to surprise me. Jen had planned the whole thing with them right under my nose. And they all managed to trick me into thinking that they had come for the wrong weekend. You see, there was an Evite we had sent out for what I thought was to be my birthday party the following weekend. Everyone but me knew the Evite was fake. So Ben and Enoch led me to believe that they had accidentally scheduled their trip for the wrong weekend. And the next day, I was told, Shrey would be stopping by to hang out since Ben and Enoch were in town anyway. I knew something was happening that weekend; I just didn’t know what. When Jen had cleaned the house and made the guest bed that Friday afternoon, I knew someone was coming; I just didn’t know who. When Ben and Enoch arrived, which was a huge surprise in itself, I thought that was The Surprise. But that was just Amazing Surprise #1.
The next day, Ben, Enoch, Shrey, and I are hanging out around town, waiting for the impromptu BBQ I thought I had thrown together for that evening to begin. Jen tells me not to worry — that she’ll take care of all the preparations and that we should just have fun around town. So we do. We walk around Broadway. We stroll through Congress Park. We have a couple drinks at Brinidisi’s. It gets to be close to 6:30pm, when I think a bunch of our friends are showing up at our place. So we head home. Jen’s nowhere in sight.
Then I get an urgent call from her that she’s stressed out, trying to get ready for our guests to arrive. She says she’s at the store on her way home to shower, but forgot to get beer, so could I go pick some up. I agree. She talks me into getting beer at the brewery, since I’d been telling Ben and Enoch all about the cool place anyway. Ben does a good job convincing me that he wants to go there to get a growler of his own.
So we head to the brewery, and I’m thinking we’re just picking up some beer for our little BBQ get together that evening, which I thought I had planned. In I walk, growler in my hand, and then everything goes to slow motion. I look around and see a crowded room of people holding up what I think are paper plates. As everyone yells “SURPRISE!” my first thought is that I’ve accidentally ruined someone else’s surprise party.
Then, as I slowly look around the room and realize that the paper plates are, in fact, cut-outs of my own face, I realize that this is my surprise party and the Saratoga Brewery tasting room is filled with my friends. I stand there in shock. Surprised. Stunned. Happy beyond belief. Death grip on my growler.
Jen emerges from the crowd, smiling. She hugs me and kisses me, and takes the growler out of my hands. I slowly start emerging from my shock and recognizing everyone — Alex with the video camera, Cati, Jonty and Dina from New Jersey, Sarah and Eric, Justin, Ken, my mother-in-law Jane, Anne and Tom, Hugh and Jami, Matt, David, Sue and Josh, Alexis and Kevin, and pretty much all our Saratoga friends. I declare to the crowd, “So I guess the party’s here?” Everyone laughs and someone starts yelling, “Speech!”
All I can say at that point is this: “I’m speechless. And I had no fucking clue!” Indeed. So that was Amazing Surprise #2.
The next few hours at the brewery are among the best of my life, enjoying the night with my incredible wife and all our kick-ass friends.
I eventually make my way through the crowd, saying hi to everyone and thanking everyone for this best birthday gift ever. There are hilarious Photoshopped pictures of me everywhere. At the back of the room is a scrapbook of my life — about 80 pages, I would later realize. Jen and my family and our friends had created this thoughtful and moving photo scrapbook with memories, haiku, notes. Even many of our west coast family and friends — my Dad, my bro Peter, my Aunt Tracy & Uncle Andy, Shannon, Karen, Jeanine and Martha, Katie, Enoch, Ben — and my Ohio family, Uncle Bruce & Aunt Michele — had contributed, along with other friends from afar — Heather & Saahil, Sue & Josh (who also came to the surprise party), Shrey. I couldn’t believe it. It’s brought me to tears more than once. So there was Amazing Surprise #3.
Someone turns on music. Sarah busts a move on the dance floor. I join her on the makeshift dance floor, surprised that Enoch was not the first to bust a move, and notice a movie screen. I grow suspicious. Someone mentions an AV presentation later in the night.
An hour into the party, it’s announced that it’s time for the movie. I take my seat front and center and watch in amazement as the most incredibly produced and hilarious video of my life as a washed-out karaoke rock star unfolds right before my very eyes. It’s my 30th birthday video roast, VH-1 Behind the Music style, produced & directed by Alex. Narrated by Tom. Featuring original performances by Sarah, Cati, Hugh, Jami, and Alex. Footage from the late 1970s through 2007. I’ve watched it a dozen times and laugh my ass off every time. (If you haven’t already seen the video, and you’re someone I know well, drop me a line and I’ll send you the link. The video is not for public consumption. Yes, it’s that good.) So there it is: Amazing Surprise #4.
Later in the night, it’s time for the cake and time for me to give another speech. Justin acts fast and records my birthday cake speech:
And then there was the crazy, karaoke-filled after-party.
After it all went down, I was filled in on all the details, all the planning that went down right behind my back, and had a number of Kaiser Soze moments. From the master planning led by Jen, Alexis, Niki, Sarah, and Co. to the secret invitation created by Sarah to the Phoshop mastery by Jen and Niki to the official party music mix created by Tom & Anne to the video produced by Alex, it was all so cool. You all rock.
Words cannot express what this all meant to me. Thank you to Jen, and thank you to every one of you who contributed to every aspect of what was one of the most unforgettable nights of my life.
I love you all.
By the way, my video roast was a big hit at Cannes, and its stars were awarded appropriately: