Hippo Bird-day 2 Me!!
Anyway, I looooove TJ’s, ever since my California friend the incredible Mary introduced me to it some years back. There’s one on Long Island not far from my mom’s house, and every time I go out there I usually coerce someone into driving me over so I can load up the wagons with crab cakes, fish sticks, chocolate-covered raspberry jelly bars, oyster crackers, shrimp roll-ups, et endless and deeee-lishus cetera.
But now there’s one a mere ten-minute walk away! And they deliver! My joy is complete.
So much so that when I went out to California the first week of March to celebrate my 60th birthday and attend My Dear Friends (henceforth MDF) Mary and her husband Steve’s Oscar party, I didn’t even feel the need to hit the nearest TJ’s, as I knew I would be returning home to Opening Day on East 14th Street.
In any case, the trip was crammed with food and incident. First, on Friday, MDF Lisa picked me up at the airport and took me to the Burbank Disney studios to meet Sam and Cheryl, lovely people who have big important jobs there (Sam, aka Iron Bess in her pirate incarnation, has an office full of the BEST toys). We all had lunch at the commissary, good food and great fun. Then there was a prime rib and Yorkshire pudding dinner that night at the fabulous Tam O’Shanter, also in Burbank, where I lost my jacket and sunglasses and they were sadly not returned to me.
Saturday was my 60th birthday party at Finn McCool’s pub in Santa Monica—shipped over from Ireland, the whole glorious thing, dark wood and stained-glass windows and everything. Finn’s is owned by Geraldine Gilliland (friend of MDF Kathleen, who played me in That Damned Doors Movie and who has honored me with her friendship ever since), former owner (with her late husband) of Gilliland’s restaurant , also in SM, where I once had the best dessert in the world, when I was out there to shoot That Damned Movie. Milk chocolate mousse in a dark chocolate box crowned with fresh sliced strawberries and sitting in a lake of raspberry sauce. I still dream of it...
Anyway, Geraldine, a lovely red-haired Belfast lass, had arranged for me to have it as a surprise birthday treat! I was most grateful and I ate up every scrap and I didn’t share. Plus MDF Jared had made me a chocolate birthday cake in the shape of a castle! Towers and gatehouse and curtain walls and everything! Plus Mary and Steve had obtained for me ANOTHER birthday cake, all chocolate, all the time, with a chocolate LP record covering the whole top of it! Attendees were California MDFs Steve, Mary, Jared, Lisa, Kathleen; and me. Steaks. Boxty. Fish and chips. Cider. Single-malt whiskey. What a night. Oh, and there were fabulous presents too. But it was just so nice being there with people I love soooooo much...
Sunday was Mary&Steve’s justly famed annual Oscar party, to which all guests must bring a dish suggested by or relevant to one of the nominated movies. Needless to say, we had many rude sausage items alluding to “Brokeback Mountain”, of course, and a rather amusing cupcake concoction I blush even to think about (pink rose cupcake with chocolate, uh, trimming. BAD Lisa!), ditto. But there were also “Heck of a Job Brownies” (for “War of the Worlds”), Chinese food not made by Japanese people (for “Memoirs of a Geisha”), a big and delicious leg of lamb made by Jared (also for “Brokeback”) and more desserts than you could lift a fork (or forklift) to. Plus lots and lots of funny, witty people, many of whom make their living being funny professionally on TV.
Monday was lunch and shopping in Santa Monica with Mary and Kathleen; then I went up to Malibu to stay a few days with Kathleen and her family there. Tuesday she and I drove up to their ranch, by way of Ventura, where I got to see my first Spanish mission (and it was to St. Bonaventure, or San Buenaventura, so that was all very neat and appropriate). We drove all over the extremely vertical ranch in a Kawasaki Mule, said hi to the pretty horsies, had excellent burgers at a little roadside shack (I didn’t know about the existence in those parts of tri-tip barbecue places, or else I would have been SO there), then went to the Ojai studio of Jes MaHarry, a lovely woman in all senses of the word, who designs absolutely spectacular jewelry (www.sunhorse.com), some of which was borrowed for Kathleen's movie premiere a few nights thence, and who has a totally cool mom and the most gorgeous and intelligent blonde three-year-old I’ve ever met. Both Ventura and Ojai are beautiful little towns, btw. Dinner that night at a terrific little Italian place in Malibu with Kathleen and her husband, MDF Bruce.
The next day it was lunch at my favorite PCH eatery Malibu Seafood, fried clams and shrimp, and then back to Santa Monica again to see the extraordinary photographic exhibit “Ashes and Snow”—unbelievable, I was so sorry I’d missed it in New York last year. And home on the red-eye that night.
All in all, the best birthday of my LIFE. Thank you to all who made it so, especially Mary and Kathleen. I love you all so very much. (Sorry for all the food porn...well, no, I'm really not...)
My original birthday plan was “Hawaii 6-0”, spending the week on Maui and interviewing big-wave surfer Laird Hamilton for a piece on the spirituality of surfing for Lisa's magazine. Since his 42nd birthday was on the 2nd and my 60th was on the 4th, the plan was for interview and birthday cake on the 3rd. But the waves called and he had to go to Tahiti (rough life!) for business reasons. So we’re hopefully rescheduling for December, when he stays close to home on Maui for the big waves that come through then.
I’m currently obsessed with big-wave surfing, by the way. I have no intention of ever hanging even ONE delicately varnished little piggie, let alone hanging ten of them, but I’m completely addicted to watching and reading about this absolutely amazing sport and the people who do it. It seems to refresh me in some obscure psychic way. More about that later.
And Happy Birthday to MDF Mary Susan! May this year bless and heal you forever, sweetest girl, and may the echo of our birthday chorus reach you there beside the silver lake!