I went to a birthday party

What I saw: R’s birthday party, at her mom’s boyfriend’s apartment on the upper west side, in Manhattan.

What I wore: Eileen Fisher black pull-on stretch pants that are neither too long (because I buy them in “petit” so they’re above-ankle length), too tight, or too loose, so they’re basically pajamas, but better because you can wear them outside and people don’t ask you if you’re sick; that weird new green blouse-top with a grey floral pattern; black Fluevog heels (which were appreciated by three people at the party); new tiny fancy turquoise cross-body Furla handbag that the Bacon Provider got me for my recent birthday; mascara, and, for part of the night, a party hat.

Always wear a seatbelt, even if you’re a bouquet.

What I did beforehand: took off my party shoes and put on boots and leather gloves to go cut flowers for the hostess.

Who went with me: I went alone, but when The Graduate arrived at the party after I did, it seemed he hadn’t realized I’d be there.

Elevator Selfie

How I got invited: via email, from R’s mom; it was supposed to be a surprise. It was not.

Why I went: when we first moved to NYC, in July of 2011, R (a college friend of The Graduate) went out of her way to introduce us to her family, take us to the opera, invite us to the Adirondacks, and make us feel like we actually knew people. 

Where I sat: between R’s mom’s boyfriend and her old roommate (who may have been accidentally responsible for the lack of surprise).

The hats lit up. I have food in my mouth.

Things that were sad: I have fresh home-brewed IPA to share and forgot that I meant to bring some until I was half-way there. Also, I was in the bathroom when they sang “Happy Birthday,” and there were five opera singers in attendance. Lastly, I forgot my goody-bag, and it had a Toblerone in it.

Things that were funny: party poppers, party hats, Charades (I successfully delivered “The Geography of Sub Saharan Africa” and “Inception”).

One of the primary gestures of Charades

Things that were not funny: the dog hid the whole night; the cars I had to avoid, weaving on the Saw Mill Parkway on the way home; waking up the next morning for an 8:30 lesson.

He kind of always looks like this
What it is: in the United States, people often celebrate the anniversary of their birth with a party. Traditions include, but are not limited to, a birthday cake with candles, the singing of a traditional birthday song, games, a piñata, the giving of gifts to the person having the birthday, and party favors for guests. When my children were young, we had many birthday parties at home, including one with a magician, another with the Reptile Man, and, a particular favorite, a spaceship party where the kids decorated a refrigerator box in the back yard and we had a countdown and blastoff.

Who should go: my brother once told me that you should invite everyone to parties. This is a completely unrealistic rule that I try to follow as much as possible. 

The Graduate had fun

What I saw on the way home: as I waved goodbye to R’s mother, I accidentally hailed a cab. 


It has been such a long time since we last moved addresses, I had an oh-gee-cool moment when I discovered that changing one’s address with the U.S. Postal Service can now be done through a secure online form.  But after three days in New York with not a single scrap of mail arriving, I gave the management company of our temporary housing a call. I was assured that my mail would be delivered to my apartment.  I also asked if there was something special I needed to be doing to get my newspaper subscription working.  Again I was told that it wasn’t them, it was the New York Times. 
I had called the New York Times around the 29th of June, when I had them transfer my Seattle delivery to New York delivery. Not only do New Yorkers get a different edition of the Times, but it’s cheaper, so my freshly renewed six months’ worth of daily newspaper there translates to something like sixty-seven years’ worth of paper here.  Better yet, the woman on the phone said, “Welcome back to New York!”
“Oh,” I said. “I’ve never lived in New York before.”
“Well then,” she said. “Let me officially be the first to welcome you to New York.”
Of course, all the cheerful conversation seemed to have resulted in the paper starting in New York on the 10th of July, instead of the 2nd as planned.  I straightened this out on Friday.
My other Friday discovery was mail.  While it clearly says in our agreement that mail will be delivered to our apartment, new mail is sometimes sitting in a pile in an in-box on a small table in the lobby.  Two more small stacks of mail are held together with rubber bands and sitting on a shelf in the utility closet in the laundry room (the same utility closet with the special blue lock-boxes).  At one point we were all headed out together and someone was slower than the rest of us and I rifled through the stack on the table in the lobby.  There I found some bank statements, and a credit card bill—bank statements and a credit card bill with my name on them—just the sort of mail you do not want to have lying around in the lobby of a building in a strange city, or even in the lobby of a building in a familiar city.  Emboldened by my discovery, I went in the laundry room and pulled off the rubber bands. Yes, I found more of our mail.
Sunday morning we headed out for the first dog walk of the day, a daily affair prepared for in extreme haste in the perpetual hope of no accidents. We had even overslept. Just as we exited the building, there on the steps down to the key-pad and locked door was a Sunday edition of the New York Times, secured with a tan rubber band.  Affixed to the outermost section was a label with our name on it.  It felt sadly comforting to be able to read the paper again after a week away from it. I found out that South Sudan is a new nation, and everyone is unhappy about the verdict in the Casey Anthony case, and that Derek Jeter is a big fat Yankee.  I am happy for the people of South Sudan.
Later on Sunday I noticed a new small stack of mail in the laundry room, and found another piece of my mail, probably delivered Saturday.  I am trying not to be neurotic about the mail, just as I am trying not to be neurotic about finding a school for my rising 8th grader, a place to live, new friends, and a life.  But of course I am being neurotic about the mail, and all the rest of it.  
Monday, Ramon came and changed sheets and towels. He was hesitant to come into the apartment because of the dogs, but I assured him they were fine. The truth, of course, is that they might not have been fine, because for all nine years of her life, Cherry has had to be confined to a crate when the housekeepers came.  There, she has barked in a frightened and angry voice, unsilenced by cajoling or threats. Captain loves everyone, including the housekeepers, and greeted them with a celebratory trot-around, his own square dance.  I sent the dogs to lie down, and they both headed to the quilt-covered chair, where they lay down in a tangle of dog parts and fell asleep.  I am pleased with Cherry for being willing to try something new. Perhaps today I need to be more like my dog.
On the other hand, the cat is displeased with the presence of a stranger, and is in his new favorite hiding place: behind the fridge.

What I learned about Basil

I asked Maggie D., Basil’s first owner, what she remembered about the snake. Here’s what she wrote:
I got Basil my freshman year in college when I was living in Northgate and going to Cornish – would have been early in 1998. I really missed having animals around having grown up with pets and was also feeling kind of isolated living out there so far from my classmates. I had always loved snakes, but never had one and kind of on impulse one day I went to a pet store that was on Northgate Way at the time. I didn’t really know anything about different kinds of snakes, definitely not cornsnakes. But I went for it. I didn’t have a car, so I took the bus back to my apartment with Basil, heat lamp, tank that I could barely carry by myself, etc.

Basil came home with me for the summer, then the next school year, I moved into a Capitol Hill apartment with a classmate. He was also terrified of snakes, but Basil stayed in my room and Rob could mostly ignore that she was there. Until one day I left the top ajar after cleaning the tank. I was gone at school all day and didn’t notice until late that night that she was gone. My boyfriend and I searched every tiny nook and cranny in my bedroom and the shared space in the apartment, but then had to go tell Rob that the snake was loose. He only panicked mildly… but even after searching his room, Basil was not to be found.

There was a significant gap between the bottom of the front door and the floor, so I put up a photo and sign with my phone number and an emphasis that she was a totally harmless snake by our mailboxes to have other residents of the building keep a look out. (Basil was still pretty small then – maybe a foot and a half or so long and half an inch thick.) I never received any calls about it, but my building manager did – people were freaked out. Fortunately, the manager was cool and it wasn’t too big a deal to him. About a week passed and a good friend who lived the next floor up happened to be opening his front door at the same time as a woman down the hall from him. As she opened her door, he heard her make some kind of exclamation and there was Basil, coiled up at her threshold. Freddy ran over and said something like “Oh my god, that’s my friends snake!” and he picked her up. The lady replied with something like, “I’m so glad you were here, I probably would have chopped its head off. It might have killed my cat!”

So thankfully, Basil’s head was not chopped off and we were reunited, but not long after that I decided I just didn’t have the time I wanted for her and I hadn’t had time to get a stash of frozen baby mice and had had to feed her a live one. I was a bit haunted by the screams of that mouse as it was being eaten. So Polly took her!

I’m excited to read about the further life of Basil!