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Sunday, March 13, 2011

The rest of the birthday party story

So there we are. I'm back in the car. I get the phone out and start scrolling down through dozens of e-mail messages to see if I can find the link to the party on E-vite. It takes forever, and all the while I'm hoping the hosts don't look out the window and see us out there, especially if there's no party.

Finally it shows up on the screen.

It's the wrong night. The party is the next night.

We back out of the driveway, as discreetly as possible, and drive away. Now what? We need dinner, me pretty badly. Where should we go? As we head over the Ross Island Bridge, still not sure what's ahead, the Mrs. has a smart idea: Let's try this place, where we had a great dinner a couple of months ago. She Googles around, gets the phone number, calls. They can take us. Excellent!

As we head in that general direction, another road block, at the corner of SE Milwaukie and Clinton. A train! No, a gott-damn train! We see the red lights start flashing, the bells are ringing, there's no way I'm going to try to beat it. But trains at that spot can be looooong, and they can leave you cooling your heels for an annoying length of time.

It turns out, it's just a locomotive. Through that stretch, there are signs warning that the engines might actually be robots, with no human operators. That could well have been the case with this one. It passes through quickly.

Now, when we've had a fine meal at a restaurant, we're always a little apprehensive about going right back there. Sometimes the first time is a charm, and the return visit disappoints. Not in this case, not by a longshot. Every bite and sip was excellent.

My calendar malfunction meant that there was no way we were going to make the actual birthday party the next night. I had a work conflict, and we had already used up our babysitter chip for the weekend. But I salvaged a little. When my work gig got out, I managed to put in a brief appearance at the tail end of the birthday function, grab a plate of really nice food, and tell my story.

What I found out is that if we had rung the doorbell the night before, we would have encountered the birthday boy and his mate getting ready to head out to a nice restaurant themselves. Instead of an awkward bag of pretzels around their kitchen, we would have had a lovely meal in a friendly party of four. And so whether I rang the bell or not, it was going to be a good night. Did I make the right call? It's a tossup.

I brought home some birthday cake, and the Mrs. had some the next day. All's well that ends well. But when you start going to your peers' 60th birthday parties, a certain kind of stuff happens that wouldn't have happened when we were half our age.

Comments (4)

Birthday cake is good.

Also, coming into a birthday party near the end is good. You can never be too late for a birthday party. If they still have cake.

Jack, your story is a little like ours. We arrived a week early for a 50th BD where just a few couples were coming. No cars were in the driveway in West Linn home. But the lights were on, so we thought we'd just got the hour time wrong, maybe. We went to the door and the child sitter answered the door with the parents two kids laughing at our mistake. We had a great party the next week with homemade beer and a few great exotic mixed drinks with our bring-your-favorite-dish. And our mistake made for good laughs and many well placed jokes since I'd past 60.

60 happens :(
And then you get over it :)
But the short term memory loss is difficult to adjust to :{
go by...what's that again?

Similar story earlier this year – a cold slushy January night the phone rings as I walk in the door from my evening commute. On the line is my eldest daughter. Mom asked her to call, the cell phone is dead she says, so is the minivan battery, she is calling from a borrowed phone at 2029 N 21st Street. Can I come round them up, warm them up and jump start the minivan. Sure I say.

I get out the laptop, Google the address – it’s on the other side of the County. I wonder what in the world the wife and kids are doing there. But I don’t let it concern me much because they have an adventuresome and unpredictable streak. Off I go, driving with purpose.

As I near the address I’m thinking, this place is so tucked away, a remnant of a larger neighborhood that was sliced off a generation ago to make way for an expressway, that I can’t imagine how my wife found it in the dark. If I hadn’t been in this neck of the woods before, in broad daylight -- out on the yard sale wars -- there is no way I could find the house.

As I turn the corner of the 2000 block, there are no street lights and a single front porch light along the entire blockface – across the street is a pitch dark thicket of tangled brush. I drive up the block and back down again. No minivan, not ours, not any. I get out of my Jeep, identify the 2029 house, which is dark in front and has a light on in back. Hmmmmm. I think, there must be a mistake. But hey, my wife and kids are stranded in frigid weather; I’m not going leave any stone unturned. I ring the bell. Dog barks. Lady answers the door cracking it open with one hand and keeping her other hand on the chain collar of her Staffordshire Terrier. I shiver.

Be calm I say to myself, dogs can sense nervousness. I explain I am looking for my wife and three kids stranded by a dead car battery at this address. Have you seen or heard anything of them? The lady peers at me, glances at my unkempt gray and white Santa Claus winter beard, gets that “Wife and kids in a minivan, sure” look on her face and slams the door.

Ok I think, I need to get out of here, quick before the dog jumps out or the police show up and things start to get really complicated.

As I’m driving away I decide to go to the center of the County to the last location I knew my family had visited earlier that afternoon. I was pretty sure there is a swath of 21st Street there – maybe they had never strayed far and the street number somehow was garbled.

Sure enough there was a two and half block long section of 21st Street nearby. I drove up 21st slowly. Nothing. I drove back down 21st. Nothing. I decide to turn off of 21st and scout nearby parking lots, but suddenly I sensed movement in my rear view mirror. I looked back. There were my 10-year old and 8-year old daughters at the corner screaming, waving their arms and jumping up and down. I looked up at the street sign. It was the corner of Woodstock and 21st, but I noticed immediately that some wag had done the old 90 degree rotation so 21st was Woodstock and Woodstock was 21st. Mystery solved and the frozen four rescued. They were never happier to see their old man.

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