Tag: Birthday

Forty Years Old Now vs Forty Years Old Then

This morning I woke up and Joasia had turned forty years old. This is going to be an unusual birthday for her due to the lockdown. We had a conversation about whether she felt forty years old and she said no. I think most people have that feeling. I think the feeling is born from the fact that when we defined what forty years old looked like, we were twelve, living in a completely different time, where people who were forty had lived harder lives than we did. So what came to define “forty” was a life of often physical labour, bad food, worse relationships and then the normal rigours of time. Now that we have hit forty, it just doesn’t seem the same. We’ve had access to better healthcare, more extensive knowledge on how to remain healthy; better eating habits, better exercising habits, better separation of professional and private life, and a better understanding of what constitutes mental health.

It made us both consider how far we’ve come, from the girl growing up behind the Iron Curtain, to the law professor now living and thriving in England, and the boy who grew up in a poor family of scum and villainy who found himself by her side. I was the first in my family to earn a college degree, hot on my heels was my cousin Kim, three months my junior. And now my brother has earned his bachelor’s degree. Three people in that generation. (It’s a large family, and a large generation, so perhaps there have been a few others since, but not that I’ve heard of.) Generations of nothing, and then suddenly a generation that produced three (possibly more) college graduates. That’s a good indication that times have changed for the better. There is still a lot to do, and a lot to improve, however. And while we sometimes take a step back, I am confident that we will continue to take two steps forward.

Jim’s Birthday Weekend

Last Thursday, I flew out to Chicago for Jim’s birthday weekend. My flight went through Dublin, which is interesting since you do all the security and customs checks there, so that you don’t have to do it once you arrive in Chicago. Because my initial security check at Schiphol happened about two hours before the American security check happened in Dublin, it was easy to compare the experiences. I made note of it all so that I could compare it to the security check in Chicago on the way back. In short; the American security check was absolutely awful compared to the one at Schiphol.

At Schiphol, unless you’re wearing heavy boots or boots with metal things in it or on it, you can simply keep your shoes on. At the American check, everyone takes their shoes off except children younger than 12, and the elderly past a certain age. At Schiphol, depending on how busy it is, they don’t require you to take laptops out of your bag any longer. At the American check I think that, without exaggeration, I had to show my boarding card to at least three people for verification. And that’s not to mention just how rudely you are treated. In Chicago there was a man who kept yelling at people to stand differently, who was yelling while moving entire rows of people, and giving instructions that, honestly, hardly anyone could understand. It struck me that the American security personnel were rude, disinterested and sometimes even hostile compared to the personnel at Schiphol. It’s strange, since when you compare the service industries between the U.S. and the Netherlands, you’re much more likely to get treated well in the U.S. I don’t understand why your airport experience needs to be any different.

So that was the shitty part of my weekend. The rest of it was awesome.

I arrived in the early evening on Thursday, jumped into an Uber and arrived at Jim’s place, which I hadn’t seen before, in time for a tour de casa, a shower and drinks at The Violet Hour with Laura and friends.

The house is really cool and I really like what he has done with the place. Downstairs he has a spacious kitchen, spacious office, a second bedroom and a nice sitting room with a beautifully framed triptych map of Chicago. It’s lacking in natural light a bit because and it could use bigger windows, but the space itself is amazing. The staircase upstairs does have wonderful light and has a big wall that’s ripe for a beautiful painting or mural. The second floor has these beautiful sky light windows over an open space (which has mats on the floor so that you can do jiu jitsu!) and a spacious master bedroom, which Jim was so gracious to leave to me for the duration of my stay.

We went out to The Violet Hour and met up with Laura and some of her friends. Later we were joined by Kevin, and I saw Sprite and his girlfriend as well but they couldn’t sit at our table because we were completely crammed already and the bouncer wouldn’t let us put more seats around it. We had a few drinks there and eventually left for another place where we met up with Daki, Josh, Lisa and Scott as well as a friend of Jim. It was good to meet up with Josh again, and I was surprised and somewhat impressed with how openly he spoke about the things he had been struggling with since the last time we saw each other. We spoke about Ireland and both of our trips there and he was delighted to hear that I had thought of him a lot while I was travelling through Ireland because of how enthusiastically he had spoken about his trip the last time we saw each other.

I was exhausted by the time I got to bed. Jim’s bed was a delight and I slept very well. The next morning, Jim had to go to work and I decided to do some shopping. Joasia had handed me a few requests and since I had the whole day to kill I took my time. Julie was lovely enough to give me a ride and drop me off near the places I wanted to go to, and I spent some time having breakfast and doing the shopping. On the way back to Jim’s, I took another Uber and was surprised that the lady who drove me started proselytising. A little unexpected and unpleasant. But! I thought it was very clever. You know you have someone for the next twenty minutes without them having a place to go, so under the guise of “having a nice chat” you can start recruitment.

Back home I took some time to read and continued watching The Handmaid’s Tale, which I had started watching on the aeroplane ride over. (Shit, that story is brutal.) When Jim returned we made our way to Aloft where Jim was doing a trapese class. I had never been to their new studio space yet, and it was pretty bananas. It’s a beautiful old church, quite a bit smaller than their previous place, but definitely in a better part of town. I was once again amazed at the casual feats of strength and dexterity that the students displayed. Julie was in the back giving a private class, and the three of us returned home and changed to go out to dinner.

Dinner was at a Greek restaurant whose name escapes me right now. It’s a place that Jim and I had been to frequently to have gyros, only this time it was the scene for a cabaret show, with a band called Brooklyn Britches and the Whispers and several burlesque dancers. The show was awesome. The food was not awesome. Jim and Julie knew the singer, Brooklyn, who turned out to be very charming, so we had a chat with her afterwards.

After dinner we went to The Underground Lounge, a place that became the location of some of the events that used to be held at Neo before it closed down. There I bumped into Laura and some of her friends, Kevin showed up, and I was happy to see Katja was there as well. We didn’t stay very long, just had a few drinks and ended up leaving.

The following day we had some breakfast out. Julie had an appointment to keep that afternoon and Jim had two back to back circus classes that he wanted to attend. I had the ambition of going to the Field Museum, but the weather was so miserable that I decided to relax some more. More Handmaid’s Tale. When Jim was done, we jumped into the car and drove out to Frankfort, which is a southern suburb of Chicago. We were to meet up with a bunch of people and play laser tag.

The ride over took about 90 minutes due to traffic. I didn’t mind because it gave Jim and I some time to chat, hang out and listen to music. The ride took us through miles and miles of strip malls, which I find absolutely soulless places of conformity and misery, but they also fascinate me a little bit. The uniformity, the spaces, the architecture, the signage, the types of businesses that settle there. I used to think all strip malls were Targets, CVS’s, tae kwon do schools and nail salons. I had to amend my list and add yoga studios now, too.

When we arrived at the laser tag place, called CMP Tactical Lazer Tag, I was dreading the upcoming experience a little. The place was filled with faux military stuff and a lot of teenagers. We had to sign up really quickly, but luckily we bought the tickets in the car on the way over so we could get a 50% discount. Jason, Laura, Scott, Lisa were there already, as well as Jim’s father and some people from his life whom I had never met before. Most notably; C. C is Jim’s acrobatics partner, a person who turned out to be as friendly as she is tiny.

We were lumped in together with the teenagers and were divided up into two groups. Our group was mostly complete, but because the group of teenagers was larger in number, some of them were added to our group. We got some awfully realistic looking rifles and some sensors to put on our heads (head shots only!) and we were explained the rules.

No running. No contact between players. You can take three shots before you’re dead. You can respawn in your team’s respawn zone. No spawn zone camping. Your rifle holds 120 rounds before you have to hit reload. Check.

The games that they came up with were kind of cool. My trepidation of the experience had completely subsided by the second game. It turned out to be a lot of fun. We absolutely crushed the other team over the span of six games. Only one of which we lost. It turned out that the teenagers were awful at working as a team, and we actually employed some tactics. The teenagers that we had in our team quickly became addicted to winning and so they were up for the team work as well.

My favourite moment was when we were playing “cops and robbers”, a game in which the robber team had to extract money from several safes (you actually had to punch in a code and open the safe) and place the money in a bag. Then you had to get the bag to an extraction point, which was a very exposed jeep. Lisa, C and I were at the safe’s really quicly. Lisa and C opened all the safes in record time while I stood guard. We immediately went to the exposed jeep to drop off the bag. C was leading, I was trailing. C dropped to a knee behind a crate and covered us. I overtook Lisa and went on a suicide run, blocking Lisa and sniping off anyone who dared to take a shot at us. We dropped the bag off and won the game in record time.

When all was said and done, we had a great time and took a silly photo to prove it:

We drove back to the city. The traffic on the way back was much lighter so we made it back in half an hour and we met up at a Mexican diner. I shared some food with Laura and we went to Lincoln Kareoke to do what Jim loves; sing horrible songs, loudly and out of tune! A bunch of extra people showed up, Gremlin, Ann, Austin and a dude named Mad Robin who walked in carrying his bagpipes and wearing his bagpipe band uniform. He played a birthday song on the pipes, which drew a crowd and proceeded to crush it with the ladies.

I don’t normally sing, but was emboldened by Gremlin’s suggestion that “[I] can actually carry a tune”. Jim and I did Daft Punk’s Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger and Austin and I did Marilyn Manson’s Tainted Love, which was awesome.

When everyone was good and sauced we said goodbye to everyone and went back to Jim’s place. Two people joined us for a night cap and Jim and I got to drink a bottle of birthday Asti for old time’s sake.

The next morning we met up with Gremlin, Scott, Lisa and Jim’s friend Matt for brunch, which was nice. I had a wonderful pizza which made me feel like winner. I had finished the book that I was reading so when people suggested hanging out at a bookstore for a moment after brunch I ended up buying the first Harry Potter book. I had never really been that interested in the series, but Joasia had gotten me onto the first few films and I watched one on the aeroplane over and decided I would want to know more.

Afterwards Jim drove me to the airport and we said goodbye. Another awful security experience later and I took the flight out to Dublin. I landed at 5 in the morning and an hour later flew out to Amsterdam. I arrived home by ten in the morning and wasn’t as tired as I thought I would be. I think it was a very successful trip. And I hope Jim enjoyed it as much as I did.

Birthday Celebrations

This year my birthday celebrations came the weekend after my birthday. Jim had flown in like a rockstar friend and we went out to dinner on Saturday evening. It was Joasia, my brother and sister, Jim, and Luba who was visiting my brother. We went to the Beefsteak Club where we had a great meal. Initially, my sister wasn’t liking the idea of paying a boatload of money for the food, but she seemed to come around once the food actually hit our table. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves, which made me happy.

Afterwards, we made our way to the House Bar for drinks. I had arranged with Thomas, the bar manager, that he’d make sure that there was a welcome punch for the guests and he had cleared some space for our party. We were there right on time, and Bodil was already there, finishing up her shift behind the bar.

Interestingly, there was an American lady by the name of Beth at the bar who started talking to Jim and I. It turned out that she lived in Chicago for the past three years, but both Jim and I were a little surprised that she had very little knowledge of Chicago and its neighbourhoods. It was a nice enough chat, but we left it at that. Later, she was suddenly standing next to me and handed me a note with her number on it and an invitation to let her know what the plans were for the rest of the night. I thanked her for the note and she left the bar. Very flattering, and kind of brave on her part because Joasia was sitting right there. Joasia handled it like a cool cucumber.

People started arriving. Alina, Thomas, Ed, Dennis, Moulsari and Kim, my cousin. Kim and I are about three months apart in age and she and I grew up together. So it will be her fortieth birthday soon, too. People tell me that I look young, but she hasn’t aged a day over 25! Another person I really enjoyed meeting was Marc, Bodil’s boyfriend, who turned out to be a really nice guy.

Then I was surprised by Morven and Zak, who suddenly showed up out of nowhere! They had been celebrating gay pride in London and had decided to take the last flight out to Amsterdam in order to be there for my birthday celebration after all! They completely caught me off guard, and it was an incredibly nice surprise.

People started leaving after midnight, and we were left with the hard core. Unfortunately, my brother and Luba left around midnight, too. Apparently, they decided that they didn’t get to see each other very often, and therefore wanted to leave. I understand it from Luba’s perspective, since she doesn’t care about my feelings, birthday, or my relationship with my brother, but I was very sad that my brother decided to leave.

We stayed at House Bar until about 2 o’clock, when Mounir had showed up after finishing his shift at the Taylor. We took one last shot of bourbon and paid the bill. (Ouch!) We jumped into taxi’s and made our way to Club Nyx. My taxi arrived a bit later than the other one so when I showed up at the club the people who were already there had gotten pizza’s!

After pizza’s (and an impromptu shoe wear change on Morven’s part) we were in the club and I had a great time, consisting mostly of a) dancing and b) shots. We decided around five to leave and we said our goodbyes. When we were home, Jim and Joasia went to sleep, while my sister and I decided to walk over to the train station and wait for the first train to take her home. That took a while, but eventually I got to bed around eight or so.

And that was officially the end of my birthday celebrations.

A few days afterwards, Eva was telling me that she had been at a yoga retreat, practicing some metta meditation and right as I celebrated my birthday she was sending me all her karma-chi-love vibes. I believe I felt them, because that night was pretty awesome.

Birthday Celebration

Today was my birthday. Yesterday as well as the day before yesterday, colleagues had their birthday, too. So when I got to work, and the others had brought a shit-ton of birthday cake, I was really glad that I managed to convince my friend Alina (of Solid Cocktails fame) to make me a bunch of boozy bonbons. They cake came in the morning, and I treated everyone to the bonbons in the late afternoon. They were very well received.

My work is pretty challenging at the moment because I had two new team members start today. This meant I had to welcome them, guide them, set them up and get them started on a project. All new managerial tasks for me. Luckily, both guys were excellent sports and they hit the ground running. Really happy.

Last night, Joasia and I ate at Gebroeders Hartering again, which was absolutely lovely. Today, lots of people messaged me, so I felt quite fortunate. Jody sang for me, Moulsari sang for me, Eva, Scott, Lucie and Minna sang for me. Made me feel loved.

Later this week Jim is going to come over, and we’re planning to have some birthday drinks at House Bar. Thomas, who runs the bar, agreed to make me two different birthday punches for the people I’ve invited. A group of us are going to have dinner at The Beefsteak Club beforehand, and hopefully we’ll do something fun afterwards. Maybe Club NYX. Would be fun.