A Backwards Party Journal - Two Weeks of Revelry in One Post
The afternoon is here and I am finally posting on my blog. See the entry below – which I began in the morning – only to leave off to clean my apartment and chit chat on the phone, and walk on the beach. See how I am. Can’t seem to get back “on task.” Hahahaha! This post is extraordinarily lengthy - you'll not want to consume it in one sitting. And it's a flagrant exercise in self-indulgence!
Sunday Morning, June 4
I am in bed, sitting up against the pillows, my laptop in my … lap, of course. The bed linens are a pale sage green, pink, and white stripe, with a sage green cotton blanket quilt that has alternating stripes of white and a band of delicate, pink florals corralled by a thin, dark green border. It’s overcast outside, and I have the TV on – the talking heads are yammering about Iraq and now the economy, but I am not really listening. I have been so busy with grading and then with graduation festivities and guests – I’ve not been following much of the news and I find I like it that way – it’s a nice respite. Why should I care about these things – why should I get so riled up about things over which I have no control? The ideal, of course, would be to keep this attitude while still listening to and reading the news. I’ll try that for a bit.
For your amusement (and perhaps boredom – who knows which) I’m posting my party journal from the last two weeks or so. I didn’t post as I went along – so you are tortured by numerous posts meant for each day. Browse as you see fit – I’ve given each entry a title to help you select. As you can see, Bird has been pretty busy with various festivities! The May 27 entry includes my graduation party menu – the food was FABULOUS. I am still waiting for the email recipes from me stepmum and daughter and will post those later.
Friday, June 02, 2006 - Back to Normal?
I take my last houseguest (I’ve had 5 over the last week or so), Jae, my dear, dear friend from high school, to the airport. She flew in 10 days earlier, keeping me company as I ran about town in some sort of pre-graduation frenzy, picking up much-needed supplies and doing various personal business errands. I managed to grade some papers every day, despite our frenetic activity.
But now she flies home to Alaska. We hug each other at the curb, still laughing from our adventures. I return to a quiet home.
Thursday, June 1 - Bra Buying Party followed by a Family Dinner Party
Jae insists on a shopping trip to Nordstrom’s - a store I patronize most infrequently because of the high prices. “Sales,” my friend tells me, “sales.” She is the ultimate consumer and shopper, and spends more discretionary money per month than I do on groceries, but she’s come up from a hard path, worked so hard for her money and is also a master investor and saver, what can I say? I zip my lip – after a brief lecture about “living simply.” She just laughs.
But she’s been lecturing me as well – why do I buy such ill-fitting, cheap bras? She pesters me. Why should I spend money on such things, I ask? What difference can it possibly make? She laughs and sighs. “Look, bitch,” she tells me, “you’ll feel much better in a proper bra.”
Off to Nordstrom’s, where to my friend’s delight, I learn I’ve been wearing the wrong sized bra! (I told you so, says Jae with glee.) I’m fitted by a sophisticated young woman that I am sure must tell stories about her customers when she arrives home at the end of the day – stories about women affected by gravity, women with odd-placed moles, and rolls and rolls of flesh and fat, wrinkles, etc. but also buff arm muscles – cause I do lift weights – so there! – and she expertly measures and helps us into bras, and shows us how to place our voluptuous breasts in these fancy, lacy, beautiful bras (so unlike the utilitarian – not-so-much-actually atrocities I’ve been wearing). But my goodness – what a difference a properly-fitted bra can make. Talk about lift and separation – hahaha! I am so thrilled – I buy four bras and a slinky top that shows-off my new silhouette (I discover I am a 36 Double D – yeah, read it and weep girls. Drooling yet boys?). Later, I flash the new bra I’m wearing to my niece, in the lobby of my apartment building, when she arrives for dinner that evening. She giggles and feigns shock – but nothing her auntie does surprises her anymore. Pity. I flash my daughter too, on my balcony, and she too feigns her surprise and shock (geesh –I’ve become so damn predictable!). Jae shows off her see through, pink bra and we all agree that hers is a bra definitely designed to come off – on a hot date, after the appropriate foreplay. We ooh and aah and laugh. Then the men arrive (my son and my daughter’s boyfriend) and we cease such carrying-ons. Us middle-age ladies try to behave fittingly – it is quite difficult though we manage to pull it off.
Yes, another dinner party – a family dinner party - a simple meal of roasted asparagus with sweet Visalia onion and olive oil, pasta, and shrimp sautéed with bell peppers, garlic and olive oil. We serve a white merlot from Beringer vineyards and a sauvignon blanc from Sterling. It is Jae’s last evening with us – and as she is the godmother to my son and my daughter bears Jae’s first name (Jacqueline) as her middle name, it’s appropriate we should gather to fete Jae on her last night here.
Wednesday, May 31 – Napa Valley Wine Tour: A Relatively Controlled Bacchanalia!
Me stepmum drives. We make our way leisurely through only three vineyards, but our first stop, Sterling, is my favorite as we ride a tram up the hillside to the vineyard, and sit on a lovely deck, overlooking the Napa Valley, tasting various wines. Jae knows quite a bit about wines and tutors me. I declare I will take a wine-tasting class through UC Berkeley’s extension program this fall. We’ll see if that really happens.
Late in the afternoon, Jae and I bid me stepmum adieu and head south, back across the Golden Gate, shrouded now in a light fog, and arrive safely back at my apartment. We munch on leftovers for dinner, and retire early.
Tuesday, May 29 - In and Out Burger – Oh No!
We take Eryn, my friend from Washington, to the airport. She flew down on Friday, sans her partner Ravyn (whom I adore as well). Ravyn’s work season heats up this time of year – she is in charge of public works in her county and late spring and summer is the time for construction projects – which she oversees. Eryn and I met over ten years ago at a women writers’ conference. We recognized each other as kindred souls immediately and have been engaged in high jinks ever since. We’ve a reputation for short-sheeting our bunkmates’ beds at various writers’ retreats, toilet-papering cars and cabin doorknobs, and in general, behaving quite badly when we’re together. But we are also quite sure that Coyote, to whom we pay homage, approves of our antics.
After dropping Eryn off, I am hit with a powerful craving for an In-and-Out Burger. This fast-food restaurant is exceptionally clean and well-run and makes a great burger – but I rarely patronize the place as its corporate offices donates money to organizations of which I do not approve (neo-con and fundamentalist Christian outfits). But I cannot resist the urge, so after pigging out, I write a check to Planned Parenthood and mail it off – my mea culpa.
Jae and I drive up to Santa Rosa, stopping at Bob’s Fruit Stand before arriving at me stepmum’s. We buy cheese, strawberries, a mango and some deliciously moist apple bread. That evening, me mum makes a lovely meal of pesto shrimp, rice pilaf, and salad. Our goods are intended for breakfast the next morning.
Monday, May 29 - Upstairs Neighbor Disturbed By Rowdy Middle-Aged Women Behaving Like Teenagers!
The party continues with three of us now – me, Jae, and Eryn. It is a rest day of sorts – we just hang out. But early in the evening we crack open a bottle of Moet et Chadon a Epernay Champagne – Cuvee Dom Perignon Vintage 1985 – a bottle I received custody of during the divorce. My ex and I had saved it for years, waiting for the right occasion – which never seemed to arrive. It seems appropriate to share it now with these dear girlfriends in honor of my masters and the divorce (signed off the papers, but still waiting for the “official” document, rubber-stamped by the court, to arrive in the mail). So we sit on my balcony and toast my ex (a man for whom I still have a soft and tender spot, yet a man I am rapidly moving away from in my heart – after three years of separation – yeah – it’s real rapid – haha!). We toast my apartment. We toast each other. We toast the potato vine, growing lustily, and the miniature yellow roses, a recent addition to the balcony garden. We blast the stereo – Van Morrison and then BB King. Jae and I dance on the balcony while Eryn videos us. We are girls again, giggling and laughing. My poor new neighbor upstairs – a 30 year-old recently moved in– what can he think? It’s been nonstop party in my little place - he is getting an education – yes, middle-aged ladies party like 16 year-olds!
We finish off the champagne and move on to a bottle of merlot to accompany the BBQ London broil with my dad’s much-beloved cheese sauce and a salad and pasta as well. As the evening progresses, we move on to another bottle of red. The giggling and dancing continues on the balcony. Later, the three of us swap stories from our childhood. I am thrilled that my dear friend Eryn and my dear friend Jae have finally met and somehow, it’s as though the three of us have been friends since forever.
Sunday, May 28 - Bonds Blasts 715! – The Girls Party at the Ballpark!
Bob and Tim (from Thailand, but by way of Chicago on this, their annual trek to the States – Bob is an American expat and Tim a Thai. I’ve known Bob since the early 80s – he was once my boss and a bossy boss at that! He, I, and my ex all worked for the same place – that’s how we all met. Bob has been a part of my family ever since and of course, when he “married” Tim, Tim became part of the family too! Luckily, I received custody of Bob in the divorce – hahaha!) head for Monterey (we may catch up with them later in the week when they return) and the party girls head to the ballpark. I am treating my friends, Eryn and Jae, and Desiree (who also graduated yesterday) and me stepmum to a Giants game. It’s a perfect day – warm with a slight breeze. I purposely ordered view seats, so my family and friends could take in the Bay as well as the field. Jae has NEVER been to a ballgame before, and me stepmum hasn’t been to a game since she was 10. Desiree (also a recent graduate and colleague) is an As fan (though we forgive her for that) and Eryn, being from Washington, is a Mariner’s fan.
Bonds hits #715 and the ballpark erupts with pandemonium. No matter the controversy - 715 is exciting – we’ve witnessed baseball history- asterisk or no asterisk – it doesn’t matter! Orange and black streamers burst out over the seats and field and fireworks explode! The Bay is alive with kayaks and sailboats and windsurfers and the day is perfect. Bonds runs the bases while fans high five and hug each other!
Nonetheless, the Giants play badly and lose to the Rockies.
Saturday, May 27 - Grad Ceremony and Revelry Extraordinaire – Woohoo!
I torture my loved ones all: son, daughter, sister, stepmum, Bob and Tim, Eryn, Jae, and my first-year composition teacher, MJ, (responsible for starting the whole dang thing and to whom my thesis is dedicated) with the composition department’s reception prior to the grad ceremony. Wine, champagne, sparkling waters, an assortment of Danish, muffins, cheeses and chocolate, etc.
I introduce my family and friends around. I have a posse and I’m loving it. We take pictures, make toasts. The room is crowded with ecstatic grad students, ecstatic profs, and ecstatic family members. The joy is palpable, tangible, vivid. Everyone is smiling.
My sister, stepmum, children and MJ stay on for the ceremony and the others head back to my place to put the finishing touches on the party. My family leaves to take their seats in the stadium and I head off with my colleagues to line up for the march into the stadium. There are ten of us masters (in English: Composition) marching together, wearing our purple gowns and purple, gold and white masters’ hoods and purple cap with the gold and purple tassels.
The comp department profs yell and applaud as we march by. We smile and wave our best beauty queen waves. When the speeches are over and I walk up across the platform and receive my fake diploma (a letter from the University President congratulating me on my accomplishment and informing me my diploma will arrive in 6 weeks in the mail), I know that the nightmare I’ve had for the last week will cease. The nightmare: The phone is ringing and I answer it. One of my thesis advisors, Sue, is on the line and says, “Bird, I know your thesis is bound and shelved in the library already, and I’m terribly sorry, but Mike and Harriet and I have reviewed your thesis, and there’s been a mistake. You’ll have to do it all over again.” And then I wake up in a cold sweat and a panic.
But I know I’ll never have that dream again. I hug my dear friend, Disguised, the Red-Hooded Woodpecker and head off to find my family and head back home – for THE PARTY. Bob and Tim, Eryn, and Jae have been busy – decorating with gold and purple crepe and balloons. Setting up the buffet table, chilling the drinks, hanging the twinkling lights on the balcony. Bob is at the door when I enter, video camera in hand. I am triumphant and happy. Smiling, smiling, smiling.
Me stepmum (a gourmet cook) and daughter (a talented though young chef in her own right) made all the party food (with an assist from Tim who made a Thailand dish – holding back a bit on the heat in case guests were overwhelmed.) Here’s the menu (sans the Thai dish – whose name I cannot possibly spell):
Chicken liver and mushroom pate with sliced baguettes (a much-loved recipe).
An abundant array of cucumbers, radishes, green onions, and carrots accompanied by various dips.
Black bean and corn salad.
Sweet potato salad (to die for).
BBQd shish kabobs of:
country style pork ribs marinated in brown sugar, garlic, mustard, ginger and cayenne (my dad’s recipe).
shrimp – don’t’ know what the marinade is – but boy was it good!
Veggies – radish, Timatoes, mushrooms – yum!
Wine flows liberally, along with water and natural juice sodas. Bob pours the champagne all around and sets off a round of toasts. My sister speaks, then Eryn, Bob, my friend Olive, and dear MJ. My brother and his wife are smiling, raising their glasses as well. There are twenty people crowded into my apartment for this affair. I blush and bask in the attention and love. This masters was a long hard road, and one I accomplished mainly on my own – no loving support to come home to at the end of the day. It was a lonely masters – but mine all the more as a result. And yet, friends and family, both local and from afar – encouraged me on and listened to my woes. Keep going, keep going – don’t give up. I didn’t.
The meal ends with a gorgeous hazelnut vanilla cake with chocolate cream filling and butter cream frosting which my daughter baked and decorated – all from scratch. I am so grateful by the effort all my family has made to make this party happen and to be here with me on this day. I ask for and receive a hearty applause from all my guests for the various cooks. Hurrah!
And of course, the party is a huge success – all the people I care most about in the world are present and mingle and laugh and talk and a grand time is had by all. Later in the evening, when it’s just a few of us left, Eryn plays her ukele and Bob sings along. Eryn plays a Hawaiian song and then launches into Blue Moon. Her voice is high and sweet, Bob’s low and rich. The uke is beautiful.
I have had my trials and tribulations in the last few years – moments of pain and sorrow, confusion and doubt. I’ve had my soul shaken to the core, but I know one thing: I am blessed with a loving family – my large, sprawling, eclectic, extended family.
Friday, May 26 - The Pre-Party: Pizza, Wine, and Politics
Me stepmother arrives, as well as Bob and Tim from Thailand (not actually fresh from Thailand on this leg of their trip – but from Chicago – they had also stopped in SF earlier on their trek, so I saw them but a few weeks ago as well), and my old pal, Eryn from Washington. My sister arrives on the back of a gorgeous, red Harley, driven by her man, Manny (he is gorgeous too in a rough, tough, he-man way. I tease my sister – call her a biker bitch. She is a little bit of a thing and normally a high maintenance traveler, lugging around a large cosmetic bag for all her make-up, hair dryer, curling iron and products – but she’s adapted and left the bag at home – no room on the bike. She and Manny have come down from Nevada, but first by way of Pismo Beach. This is Manny’s first exposure to this loud, raucous, blended and eclectic family. He holds his own and even pops off a “gay” joke that sets our gay, straight and bisexual crowd into hysterics. Manny has earned his “colors.” Haha!
Yes, the pre-party’s on – wine, pizza, salad and numerous jokes. Gift-opening – ooh, ah, ooh. Later in the evening, when the crowd has thinned out, we discuss serious matters – politics, the war, Bush, the new immigration bill. Poor Tim cannot enter the country and stay for long – and cannot immigrate either – there is of course a diversity quota and visas are issued by lottery but he has yet to get lucky. And of course, since his marriage to Bob is not recognized (or rather, was made null and void by the state – they were married two years ago, on Valentine’s Day in SF but have been together for over a decade), he cannot immigrate based on his relationship with Bob. Bob is worried about his folks, growing old here in the US. Knows that at some point, he will have to return, for a rather lengthy stay, to care for them. But somehow, Tim must come along as well. They are searching for legal methods – they care not to live the furtive life of illegals. And so amnesty for the illegals strikes them hard – for that will create even less room for folks like Tim. That my country doesn’t recognize their marriage is embarrassing and shameful. Such good folk, such stalwart folk – such stable folk. Such intelligent, productive folk. Such loving and caring folk. My family. How can it be that they are denied? But we cannot resolve the ills of the world or of the US, so we toddle off to bed.
Thursday, May 25 - Finals and an Aborted Bon Fire
I torture my first-year comp class with a final – an in-class, timed essay. They hate it and so do I – but it is the last assignment and required by the department. As usual, I am astounded when students come up after class to shake my hand, or give me or hug, and thank me for my efforts. I’ve had some great students in this class – in particular, one student who emailed me constantly, met with me several times, and worked her little butt off. I saw her essay grades rise steadily moving from a C-, to C, B-, to B, to B+ and finally, an A- on the final paper.
After class, I high tail it from campus, students’ essays shoved into a bag – to be dealt with later. Jae and I have appointments for a pedicure and manicure and later, our eyebrows are to plucked and waxed.
Jae, my best friend from high school has been in town for 4 days now, helping me run errands and prepare my apartment for the big party on Saturday. Tonight she is the designated driver for three of us soon-to-be masters. Our plan: a bonfire and potluck at Ocean Beach in San Francisco. We want to burn the drafts of our theses. We are so DONE!
As the day progresses, the wind kicks up. Against our better judgment, we purchase firewood (and bring along bags filled with various drafts of our theses) and head out for the beach. But it’s no-go – the winds too wicked to permit an open fire. Noting how the wind drove the sand into our teeth, we opt for a picnic table in Golden Gate Park, where we dine on an array of tacos, chicken parmesan, dolmas, chocolate, strawberries, and champagne. Thesis burning will have to wait for another day.
We end the evening at a gay bar in the Excelsior district, sipping on coffee drinks with kalua and whipped cream garnishes (except for Jae, who drinks a Coke) and admiring the lavish and garish altar in the center of the bar-room floor – a shoe fetish altar.
May 22-24 - Preparations, One Ugly Museum, Roses and Pink Flamingoes!
Jae arrives. I haven’t seen her since Thanksgiving two years ago. I am beset with final classes this week and paper-grading, yet there is much to do in preparation for the party, and of course, Jae and I must go sightseeing in Golden Gate Park – we do so Tuesday and we are both appalled by the new De Young Museum. I’ve not been in it since the rebuild – it’s ugly as can be. But we also walk through the Rose Garden in the park and I am inspired to have roses in my balcony garden. We visit the Sloat Garden Center near Ocean Beach, where I ponder various rose bushes and large pots, wondering how well roses will work on my balcony and if it’s worth the exorbitant cost. I finally settle on a miniature yellow rose plant and a beautiful new pot to go with. I am tempted to purchase the metal sculpture of a pink flamingo, but the price is $50 and I decide to wait until I stumble across some plastic pink flamingoes at a reasonable price. The quintessential white trash garden ornamentation – I must have one for my balcony. Little do I know that in a week’s time, my sister will call and tell me that her neighbors across the way have not one, but four plastic pink flamingoes adorning their front yard. I will ask her to steal one for me in dark of night – she, being a stalwart, upstanding citizen will decline, but invite me up to conduct my own midnight ops.