WineGuy had a wonderful 50th birthday! The celebrations started a couple days early, when a drug rep brought him a decadent chocolate mousse cake from Norman Love’s shop. The next day, WineGuy’s office staff brought in food from his favorite Greek restaurant for lunch. They showered him with lots of funny “over the hill” gifts as well as a custom-engraved bottle of Hess Collection Cabernet Sauvignon, a gift certificate to our favorite sushi restaurant, and a gift certificate to the fancy hotel restaurant where I hosted his party the following evening.
WineGuy’s actual birthday dawned sunny and bright. His friends, The Radiologist and The Writer, got bumped from their connecting flight the night before, so they flew in and joined us at a MLB Spring Training game in the early afternoon. I had previously arranged with the stadium’s PR office to broadcast a “Happy Birthday” announcement during the game. WG was tickled.
The big surprise came later that evening, when we planned to meet The Radiologist and The Writer at the fancy hotel for dinner. I had arranged for us to meet them in the lobby at the appointed time. WG and I got there a couple minutes early, and he started whining about hating sitting in the lobby when we could be comfortably seated at our table. I kept quiet saying only, “They’ll be here any minute.” They arrived right on time, and we walked over to the restaurant. The F&B Guy came over and asked for the name and reservation. He first said he didn’t recognize the name, then he “found” the reservation. He noted that the dining room was full and led us to a private room. I walked in first, followed by our guests and WineGuy. “SURPRISE!!!” everyone yelled. And, he was. He looked so happy and genuinely touched. He was astonished to see our closest friends there, standing around drinking great wine and nibbling appetizers.
We sat down at the table, and there was champagne all around. I asked The Radiologist to stand up and make a toast. The Radiologist spoke about knowing WG for 30 years and sharing many of life’s milestones together. The Writer added that she cherished a friendship that weathered time and tide. We ordered dinner and starting drinking and chatting. The evening flew by in a blur of laughter, good wine, good food and good friends.
Sometime between entreés and dessert, WineGuy stood up and made a speech. He is a terrific extemporaneous speaker. He acknowledged each and every person who was there, saying something nice or funny or poignant about each one. There were kudos to long-time friends and new friends, to drinking buddies, and fellow foodies. He reserved the loveliest words for me, his “wonderful wife,” as he put it, “who arranged this great party and kept it a complete surprise. I couldn’t ask for more.” I was misty-eyed.
‘Round midnight, the first of our friends rose from the table to leave. I couldn’t believe how late it was, how happy WineGuy was, and how drunk I was. I thanked everyone for accepting the last-minute invitation and making it a memorable evening. A couple people stayed behind and helped us take down the decorations and collect the gifts. Hey people, I said “No Gifts!” We stuffed the huge bunches of balloons into my car and drove the two miles home s-l-o-w-l-y. We got home, unloaded everything, and crawled into bed. I was bone-tired from running around all day. WineGuy had “other things” in mind. Ahem . . . you can’t refuse a guy on his birthday, after all.
[cut to Sunday morning] I was wrecked all day. Cole Porter was so wrong when he wrote “I get no kick from champagne. Mere alcohol doesn’t thrill me at all.” Champagne bubbles are wonderful from the tongue to the toes, but they cause a murderous hangover the next day. I’m just saying.