Turning forty required a two-day celebration and extravaganza!
Mindy June & I had begun discussing the implications of a zero-laden birthday last fall. She wanted to celebrate with me in whichver US city I chose, since she was going to be in the States for the Christmas holidays - even though we are really just heathens who hate Christmas and instead purposely wish everyone HAPPY HOLIDAYS! just to screw JC out of the attention that is rightfully His. But I digress.
Since I've been saying since about 1992 that on my fortieth I would reenact Eddie's AbFab 40th birthday, Mindy also offered the option of my flying to England so that we could do it authentically. We also considered New York (my current home), Los Angeles (my preferred home), and for about two minutes I considred Minneapolis (my spiritual home) until I remembered the first New Year's I made George attend there - he barfed the entire time and has never really wanted to go back.
Ultimately we decided on Chicago since a) I would already be there to celebrate Christmas with my family, b) it was not as difficult for the handful of Minneapolis friends who wanted to join us, and c) I have a small group of friends there who were up for partying. So Chicago it was!
Christmas with the family was nice and quiet. We spent several days with with my sister in Springfield, and one of the highlights of the holiday was spending time with my very cute two-year old great-niece, Haven.
Haven with Great-Uncle Tom
Haven in her new Chinese outfit, with Great-Uncle George
After Christmas we had a day in Palatine with my parents, and then we set off to Chicago to start the birthday extravaganza.
<--Waiting for the Northwestern into Chicago
On the way to party for two days-->
When we disembarked in the city, we hopped in a cab and rode over to the W Lakeshore hotel, where Mindy was able to book us some great rooms with a view of Lake Michigan.
View of the lake and Navy Pier from our hotel window
After checking in, we headed up to Wrigleyville to have lunch and queer-eye ourselves a bit for the New Year.
George with our fab stylist, Tina
George & I then headed back to the W to have cocktails with our Evening One party! First we ran into Laurie, one of my old pals from high school whom I had not seen since her wedding day about 12 years ago! (What can I say, time flies!)
Tom & Laurie Whorie, with Steve in the foreground
Then we ran into Mindy, and the cocktail party began. Also present were Lulu, Jane, Steve, Bethany, Sharon, Scott, Tim, Shawn & Christy. Jane kicked off the celebrations with the first of what became the "hourly toast" by welcoming everyone to Chicago.
After sucking down several $15 cocktails at the W, we piled in cabs and cars and headed off to Wicker Park, a young-ish funky neighborhood (and there is no "u" in the word "neighborhood," Min) where we dined at Feast, a fabulous "eclectic" restaurant with South and East Asian twists. More cocktails, dinner, conversation, and hourly toasts.
On the way to Feast
Hourly toast number 4? -->
George with Scott & Sharon
Last evening of my thirties
After a fabulous dinner and many toasts, we headed off to a nearby club, the Double Door, a very cool mid-size live music venue with a slightly grungy feel. Going out to hear live music (and not of the orchestral or symphonic kind) was one of my main hobbies in my twenties, and is something I've gotten away from as I've aged. So I made a pact with myself that I would revive that part of my life in my forties, starting with my birthday celebrations - which was to be two nights of live music and other festivities.
I had enlisted the help of Lulu and her friend Sharon to choose the appropriate venues. Sharon has always had music as one of her primary interests in life, and was a great resource for tapping into what Chicago might have to offer. Her initial search (which started in the late fall) didn't, according to her, yield much in terms of live music, although she did say that Liquid Soul at the Double Door could be "mildly interesting." I checked out their website & listened to some sound bytes, and liked what I heard. They are kind of contemporary jazz, kind of funkish, only slightly rap-ish. And the venue was the kind of place I was looking for - somewhere big enough to move around a bit but not overly huge.
I loved Liquid Soul! When we first arrived we were drinking beers & kind of standing around the back of the room until the music started. It was kind of hard to get into them standing so far back, so eventually I decided to move up to the front, bringing along Sharon, Scott, Bethany, Christy, and my friend Marla who arrived late. The rest of the gang headed to an upstairs table area where they were able to sit and converse.
The singer with the dredlocks came down into the crowd and gave me a big hug when he was passing by. He was outstanding.
I had an unbelievably great time listening to this group. Marla and Christy really liked them too, and I think Sharon & Scott liked them although we haven't spoken since that night so she can tell you herself. I think everyone else was slightly lukewarm, or at least just really tired since this was all happening at about midnight on a Friday - despite my reliving my twenties, we're just not 25 any more. But I felt like I was that night! And I have such nice pals that were willing to indulge me.
Marla initiated the other highlight of the evening, which was crowding into one of those old-fashioned photo booths that spits out a series of four pictures of you & your friends making goofy faces. At the end of the night she crammed four of us in there together - and I would like some of these pictures by the way, to those of you who kept them all!
Mindy drove Marla, George & me back to the W where we collapsed in our respective rooms.
I got up at 6:30 am with a splitting headache and a questionable stomach. It was one of those hangovers where the headache is borderline migraine and you feel like you might be sick if you move the wrong way. Not a great way to start off the actual day of my birthday. I crept into some clothes and out into the fresh air of the city. I knew I had to find some food so that I could down half a bottle of Advil, and the first thing I came across was McDonald's, where I was able to get down about half of an Egg McMuffin, followed by about four Advil. Almost lost it all right there on the table. (Thank you for sharing, I know.)
Then out for a walk in the brisk lakefront air, which put me back to my splendid old self in about twenty minutes. I had a great walk along the water and into Navy Pier. Bizarre observance: Navy Pier has some amusement park type rides including a large ferris wheel with mini gondoloa-like cars to ride in. For some strange reason the park never turns off the loudspeakers inside the gondolas. So if you walk by this ferris wheel at an odd hour (as in 8:00 am on a Saturday in December) you will hear a chipper man's voice telling you about the landmarks to be observed over the lake while you ride the ferris wheel.
Ferris Wheel at Navy Pier during a warmer time of year
I also sat for about ten minutes in a deserted indoor/outdoor ampitheater and imagined I was a famous director/producer contemplating my next stage hit. I also imagined this is probably where local teens come to do naughty things when it's a little warmer.
When I returned to the hotel, George was just waking up. I called Min & Marla to see what they were up to, and we decided to go to Chicago's Chinatown in search of dim sum for breakfast. We found some, and it was delicious - every bit as good as what we get in Brooklyn. The restaurant people speak completely fluent English unlike their Brooklyn counterparts. They were slightly horrified that we requested oyster sauce with our turnip cakes, but that's how they serve it in New York (as we had to explain.) They complied, but not willingly.
Marla, Tom & Min in the Chinatown parking lot. Mindy's pretending to be a morning person.
We headed back to the W and hung out with Marla for a few more minutes before she had to take off. It was so great to spend some time with her - I don't see her enough.
Me counseling Marla on what it's like to be forty.
Then it was naptime! Before retiring to her own quarters, Mindy came up to make sure our room was up to snuff. I liked the window from the bathroom to the bedroom.
Our hotel room
Party Evening Two!
The festivities resumed with a 5:00 pm cocktail party at the W, featuring a live reenactment of the "Eddie Turns 40" AbFab episode, the most successful show ever to be produced in the lobby bar of the W Lakeshore! A smash hit, starring:
George, as Saffy (anal retentive daughter)
Christy, as Patsy (alcoholic sidekick)
Beth, as Mother (senile crow)
Tim, as Marshall (gay ex-husband)
Shawn, as Oliver (poisonous odious boyfriend)
Lulu, as Bo 1 (gold-digging Yankee bimbo)
Jane, as Bo 2, and Steve, as Justin (junkie ex-husband)
and Tom as Eddie
Directed by the Lovely & Talented Mindy June
Beth, Lulu, Jane & Steve give it their all
Jane fairly swoons at Tim's portrayal of Marshall
Can't keep your hands off second-hand goods!!!!
Eddie, Patsy & Oliver -->
Dr. Beth Stover contemplates her character's motivation, while Lulu emotes as Bo
We weren't quite sure how to approach the whole reenactment thing, so we mainly sat in our bar area reading from the scripts. If I ever do something like this again I will get a large screen TV and do a Rocky-Horror style front-of-the-screen thing. But it was fun, and we amused more than several bar patrons & employees. The bar even sent over a tray of birthday treats when they saw what we were doing.
Next time I celebrate New Year's with Jane, we'll do the "Patsy's Sister" episode where she will portray Bubble! ("I know something....")
We then piled into more cabs and headed off to Coobah, for dinner. Coohbah is another "eclectic" restaurant with a heavily Cuban influence on their menu, along with tastes of other areas of Latin America. I highly recommend it if you're ever in Chicago. I continued my Eddie impersonation throughout dinner, and tortured the server a bit. "Oh, should I clear my own plate on my birthday? Well not much of a bloody birthday, is it Sweetie?"
Our cab driver had given us a rose. (Ok, so he probably meant for it to be for Beth, but I absconded with it since it was my bloody birthday.) Since Lulu brought her own tiara to dinner, someone got the idea that each of us should don the tiara and hold the rose between our teeth for a photo op - hence the following photo series. (I had forgotten that we did this until I saw the pics. Kind of unsanitary, but fun!)
Mindy June -->
Beth & George, sans Rose & Tiara
After dinner we were off to the final leg of our two-day party for some live music at Schubas, an intimate little club in Wrigleyville favored by Lulu. The opening band was Office, whose sound I enjoyed quite a bit. The lead singer was this bald Billy Corgan-looking mothah with a nice mellow voice. And I'm so glad when guys in bands try to clean it up a bit and wear a suit. You don't have to look like you haven't bathed in three years to rock down.
Their gimmick was this girl dressed up like a 1940s secretary who sat at various typing machines and banged out rhythm along with the percussionist, although you couldn't really hear her tapping at all. Sometimes when they felt sorry for her the band would give her a tambourine.
1940s secretary tapping
Billy Corgan-looking mothah
Between bands, our party separated. We said farewell to half the group who went back to the hotel to watch fireworks on Lake Michigan while George, Lu, Beth, Jane, Steve & I stayed on to hear the headline band, The Changes. They are a local favorite and were pretty good, though several of us concurred that the first band was better. The lead singer of The Changes had a strong start and a very nice voice, but as he progressed through his first set he started to lose his pitch. The crowd was starting to get drunk & unruly, but we stayed on. My pals are such troupers!
Jane would make a good royal
Beth, still striking after midnight
I enjoyed The Changes until they started to lose their pitch, which had something to do with it being late, the crowd getting excited and there may have been alcohol involved too. Then, they ran out of original songs and started a cover of "Every Breath You Take" which was our signal to leave, on accounta I have a policy never to listen to that song from start to finish.
The streets of Chicago at 2 am were like a scene out of "Night of the Living Dead," and we were more than happy to wind up safe back in our hotel room.
It was one rockin' New Year's birthday, one that I will not soon forget. Thanks to everyone who played!