Wednesday, August 15, 2012


A handful of my very most favorite people in the whole wide world took me out to celebrate my 40th birthday Saturday night.  The evening began in a civilized enough manner, in what I would characterize as true "forty" fashion.  We all gathered, including our children, at the home of our dear and incredibly gracious friends whose home is centrally located for all members of the Southern California based crew in the city of Pasadena. 

We started the evening with a perfectly mixed margarita and a highly anticipated slide-show viewing.  We had all returned from a shared, family summer vacation on Lake Chelan in Washington's Columbia Valley a few weeks prior.  The slide-show served as a welcome reminder of what an amazing trip it had been for grown-ups and kids alike.  Eight friends who have known one another for 20 years; six children who, because of their parents, have had their lives intertwined since birth; and one dog named Speedy, who likes to retrieve sticks from the lake.  A lot.  Smiles were broad and a few tears were wiped away as frame after frame of laughing, water-skiing, dancing, hoola-hooping, inner-tubing, and just relaxing on the dock faded on and off the screen to the sounds of Eddie Veder and The Black Keys, among others.

Soon two cabs pulled up in front of the house.  This was the "grown-ups" cue that our dinner reservation was officially upon us.  The kids could barely be bothered to tear themselves from their various activities to say good-bye as we parents made our final pleas that they listen to their baby-sitter, eat their dinner and go to sleep by 10-ish.

I could feel the hands of time begin to turn back as soon as our cabs pulled away from the curb.  One of the best gifts the company of old friends provides. 

"Where is the restaurant?"

"Now, what's the deal with the band?"

"Lizzie, I can't believe you are finally 40 like the rest of us!  Thank God!"

"How many margaritas did you drink before we left?"

"I think I'm buzzed already."

Dinner was a blur of reminiscing and sharing updates about our summers - the best possible conversation punctuated by laughter and sips of prosecco and cabernet.  There was a meal in there somewhere and of course the requisite song, candle and birthday wish.  In fact there were two candles and wishes because we all agreed that the overly-decorated, chocolate bundt cake that made the trip with friends who drove from Orange County came into being inside an over-sized Easy Bake Oven.  Maybe not in 1963 when the baking toy with the incandescent bulb was first introduced to the world but very possibly in 1972 when this birthday girl was.  All's well that ends well because the forsaken cake was replaced by a bread pudding that was beyond delicious.  Thank you Green Street Tavern.

Our second cab ride of the evening delivered us to an alley.  Quite abruptly.

"Here, here, here!  Stop! Here!"

Our driver had turned up the radio in an effort to drown out the sounds of my rendition of Diana Ross and The Supreme's Love Child.  Rude.  In hindsight, probably completely necessary but still rude.  More on that song choice on that particular evening at a later date.

There was something magical happening inside the dank, hot bar with no cover called Toe's Tavern this night.  I'm actually not sure if the bar is even called Toe's Tavern because the sign above the alley entrance said T. Boyle's Tavern  but in college, I knew it as Toe's.  In any event, the very special thing was an 80's revival band called…wait for it…Past Action Heroes.

Lead Vocals: Magnum PI (looked more like Freddie Mercury - wigs and fake moustaches in Tom Selleck's rich and lustrous chestnut brown are apparently harder to find than black)

Lead Guitar: Ponch Poncherella

Bass Guitar: James "Sonny" Crockett

Drums: Hulk Hogan

We walked down eight steps and crossed an inexplicably vacant dance floor to reach the bar that only had beer.  I never drink beer.  We just don't like each other.  Alas, it was a special occasion so we made a failed attempt at a reconciliation for just that one evening.

My husband successfully engaged one of the bartenders and was ready to place our order when Magnum jumped on the bar top in front of him impeccably dressed in white hot pants, white high-tops (with wings, literally), a black Past Action Heroes t-shirt (of course) and a black trucker hat that said "Sexy Bitch" in red letters (what else?).

"Ladies and gentlemen, Jerry O'Connell is ready to place his order," Magnum shouted into his mic.  I'm not married to Jerry O'Connell.  My husband Jeff turned and offered the crowd a wave.   

Next, Magnum turned and tilted his head to the sky, raised his voice-changer come megaphone in front of his mic and uttered the first verse of one of the best one-hit wonders ever written:

I heard you on the wireless back in fifty two
Lying awake intent at tuning into you
If I was young it didn't stop you coming through

Oh-a oh

The crowd exploded to Video Killed the Radio Star.  The dance floor was packed in an instant.  And rightfully so.

From Kim Wilde's Kids in America and Nightlife Baby from the Cars to Michael Jackson's Billie Jean and Don't You Forget About Me from Simple Minds, right on through to Modern English's I'll Stop the World and Melt With You, it was the perfect evening of music, dancing and sweating like pigs.  I couldn't have dreamt up a better birthday celebration right down to my strained right calf muscle from repeatedly jumping and fist-pumping to Billy Idol's Rebel Yell.

Of course my seven year old twins Vince and Nick were the only kids still awake when our final cab of the evening delivered us safely to our friends' home.

"Mommy, we can't sleep." They told me when we walked in the door.

"That's ok.  It's mommy's birthday.  We'll all go to sleep now,"  I whispered to them as I grabbed their hands and we stepped together over sleeping kids on air mattresses, then headed down the hall to Jeff and my assigned bedroom. 

"Do you know what time it is?"  I asked them.

"No.  What time is it?"

"It's one o'clock in the morning."

Their sleepy eyes turned into saucers and their mouths dropped.  "It's morning?  We stayed up the latest ever!"

"How does that feel?"

"So fun!" They giggled.

"I couldn't agree more!"  

Me, Sonny, & Magnum