#253 In which our hero throws a high-stakes party
When The Scientist was 11, her parents planned a big birthday party for her. She was allowed to invite as many kids as she wanted; so she ended up handing out 30 invitations.
One person came. The next-door neighbor.
This was crushing for an 11-year-old, as I’m sure you can imagine. I’ve probably heard this story half a dozen times, whenever a birthday--anyone’s birthday--rolls around. And even though she jokes about it, I really think there was a lasting effect on her. So much so that when we started talking about a party for her 40th birthday, I got a little nervous myself.
At this point I should admit that I’m a lousy planner. I’m much more of a “Hey! Let’s go take the kids to the park and have a picnic!” sort of guy. So even though there was this pressure to throw my wife a great birthday party, I hadn’t really given it a lot of thought. To make matter worse, we had a week-long camping trip a week before her birthday, and there was a lot of planning involved with that… so I didn’t even begin to think about it until we got back.
The Scientist’s best friend, M., volunteered to help in any way she could. And she helped mostly by sending me email that said, “Um, hey, are you doing anything about the party?” To which I lied and said, “Well, oh COURSE, I am!”
A week out I was trying to think of a theme, when it struck me to do a Tiki/luau sort of thing. That sounded fun, and it was something that I might actually be able to pull off in a week. So I sent out e-vites to everything I could think of. Then I had a guy at work whip up a printed invitation.
The good news is that The Scientist didn’t want a surprise party. She was very clear on this. NO surprise parties. Which was good by me, because I could give her a stack of invitations and have her invite her own friends.
The key here, remember, was to have a LOT of people at the party. Well, after several days of handing out invitations and emailing people, I hadn’t heard back from anyone. Not a single person. This is the point where I started to crap my pants a little. All the more so, when my wife and I had this conversation around Wednesday:
THE SCIENTIST: People are going to come to my party, right?So there it was. She had a party at 11 years old, and it went to hell. TWENTY-NINE years later, she was going to try it again.
ME: What? Of course!
TS: Because my last birthday party didn’t work out that great.
ME: People are going to come, don’t worry.
ME: Besides, that wasn’t your last birthday party, surely. You’ve had a party since you were 11.
TS: No, I haven’t. I’ve never had another birthday party since then.
It was critical that I didn’t fuck this up.
So I got on the phone and started calling people. One guy asked if he could bring his new girlfriend; to which I said, “Hell yes! Have her bring some friends, too!” I emailed people and begged them to come. I invited the neighbors, something I hadn’t planned on doing at first.
With the number of people coming still up in the air, I soldiered ahead with the things I could control. Namely, food and decorations. I found some tasty-sounding recipes online, and printed them out. I was a little unclear about the difference between a “tiki party” and a “luau,” but I figured screw it, I’ll just pick and choose what I liked.
I got a five pound pork roast. Jerk wings. Salmon. Macadamias and pistachios (are pistachios a tropical nut? I have no idea). Roasted corn. And a metric assload of fruit.
Then I went to the party store and holy crap, that’s my new favorite place. I thought I might be able to find tiki-head plastic glasses, but instead I found everything I could have wanted, and more. I walked down the aisle, stood looking around for a minute, then went back and got a cart. I got a tiki head platter, tiki head shot glasses, paper wall decorations, a big plastic mask, grass skirting for the table, a CD of hula music and other little odds and ends. And leis, of course. Lots and lots of leis. I definitely spent more than I should have, but the party had to rock.
About Thursday, I started to feel a little better. Several people had confirmed they were coming… there would be at least six or seven people there. That’s better than one.
Also on Thursday, while I was surfing around looking for other ideas for the party, I came across this: a pineapple palm tree kit. I thought it was awesome, and instantly knew I wanted to make one for the party. But I wasn’t keen on paying $69.95 for it, and besides, there’s no way it would be delivered on time. But as I looked at the thing I thought, “I could make that! I bet it’s nothing more than a piece of rebar bolted to a board.” So I went out at lunch and got a piece of rebar. Then I went over to the craft store and bought a couple plastic ferns. I am not at all a handy guy, but optimism was high that I could pull this off.
That night I banished The Scientist from the basement as I bent rebar and bolted it to a board I had laying around. The concept was solid, I thought. Now just to execute.
So, Saturday morning comes and I put in the slow-cooked pork. I whip up the orange mustard sauce that goes along with it. Then I’m sorta at the point where I don’t have anything to do until closer to the fact. So I take a nap.
When I get up I prep the yard: tiki torches in the ground, extra chairs, a cooler with ice and cans of soda. M. comes over and helps me cut fruit. The Scientist takes the girls upstairs and promises not to peek until I call her back down.
I drag my rebar/wood centerpiece out of the basement, along with the eight pineapples I brought for it. I trim the first one and muscle it through the rebar. It seems to work, more or less. One thing I hadn’t planned on was the pineapples being so juicy… because now I had a puddle of juice on the table. I start to worry that it’s going to be a huge mess before everything is said and done.
I impale the last pineapple, and top it with the plastic ferns. And goddamn if it doesn’t look great!
Then people start to arrive. I am hardly prepared at this point, I still have to make the punch, go get the cake, shred the pork and put out the salmon. Not to mention put up the decorations. But it’s only the neighbors, and they go hang out in the backyard and play cornhole.
I call down The Scientist and she is floored by the display.
As am I. Honestly, I damn-near put my shoulder out of joint patting myself on the back about those damn pineapple palm trees.
Then more people start to show. Actually, a lot more. By the time I’m pouring the four (!!) bottles of rum into the punch bowl, there’s about a dozen people milling about. Most eagerly awaiting the chance to dive into the punch.
I finally change into my flowered shirt, and join the party. People devour the pork, put a hurting on the fruit skewers and make short work of the chocolate-covered strawberries. The revelers also do damage to the Lomi-Lomi Salmon, which is a raw salmon salad with tomatoes and onions. I didn’t expect most people to try it, let alone go back for seconds (and thirds).
Lots of people bring their kids, which is fun. The Scientist had bought some cheap toys at the dollar store to keep them occupied, and for the most part, I think the kids (all of them, not just ours) were entertained and surprisingly well-behaved.
The rum punch was a big hit, and it knocked nearly everyone on their ass. It was STRONG. But that’s how it’s supposed to be, I guess. Come 11 o’clock or so the neighbors have cleared out, as have most of the people with young kids. All that’s left is our circle of close friends. Being that the booze flows even more freely, the f-bombs and friendly ribbing shifts up a notch or five. The Scientist is pretty drunk, as is M. As they both work in an IVF lab, there’s lots of talk about semen and hairy coochies and other unsavory topics. But we’ll all friends, so I little raunchy talk doesn’t phase anyone.
No-one pukes, which is a huge bonus. One woman looks like she came pretty close, but was able to rally and hold it back.
In the end, there were around 25 people there. The Scientist deems it a huge success, and declares it to be much better than her last party. Which, to be honest, hadn’t set the bar very high.
For myself, I’m just happy that my wife had a good time. She lamented afterward that she didn’t have time to talk to everyone she wanted to--the sign of a well-attended party. We both sported mild hangovers the next morning, but again, well worth it.
But now, I have to figure out how to top this party with the next. Oh well, I guess I have another 29 years to figure it out.
Labels: the scientist