Monday, May 22, 2017

A Gathering for the Demi-Centurion

Eleven days ago I turned 50.

I don't mind telling you, it did my head in a little bit. I didn't feel significantly different and certainly no wiser on Thursday than I had on Wednesday,but this particular milestone had more of an effect on me than I had anticipated.

For most of my adult life, I've striven to maintain a certain degree of immaturity in a number of small ways, including the title of this very blog. The expression, "Growing old is mandatory, growing up is optional" has become a bit of a rallying cry for me and many of my friends, it seems.

It annoys me to no end when people are exceedingly coy about their age, and many seemed surprised to hear I was turning 50, which is extremely gratifying, but then encourages me to let even more people know. By the end of the week, the clerk in the grocery store saying, "That will be $124.50," would be likely to hear, "I'm turning 50! Crazy world, innit?" in response, and that's not right either.

Mind you, others would crack wise about me not looking a day over 58, so perhaps it all balances out.

Quick sidebar: on the day of my birthday, my co-workers also completely surprised me with a Marble Slab ice cream cake! Working with awesome people is simply tremendous!
Jenny put the impromptu celebration together, as well as captioning the photo; I warned her that she is required by law to advise her subjects that her iPhone has a mind-reading app.

At any rate, after almost a decade of smaller scale birthdays, I decided it was high time to expand a bit. With Pete willing to loan me his kegerator (and facilitate the purchase of 20L of Alley Kat Amber), I hoped a night of burgers and brews would be enough to draw people out to our modest abode.

Previous parties had tapped out my theme ideas though (Hawaii Four-Oh, a Big Lebowski night with housecoats and Wii bowling), so I went with something accessible and asked people to Party Like Rockstars, and to wear their favourite band or concert shirts.

The day before the party I decided the burgers needed to be amped up a smidgen, and bought a whackload of bacon at Costco along with the cake, salads, and the other party staples.

Glory helped me to prep some cookie sheets so we could cook all the bacon at one go, which is good, because grilling up 60 burgers took a bit longer than expected (and over a liter of Cattle Boyz bbq sauce).

However, after a couple of Rammstein-looking hours, they were all tucked into the oven awaiting deployment, and I had just enough time to fish out the concert videos I wanted playing and stick up the last of the decorations.

Now, my appreciation for my friends is a matter of public record, but I had never attempted to mix so many different social circles together before, even at our Oscar party. We had two or three fairly distinct socio-cultural sets, plus my mum, my sister and her family, plus people from church  and a cohort from my workplace. One old buddy was coming all the way from Calgary and I hadn't even seen him in person yet this year! Would they have anything to talk about? Would they get along?

Turns out I needn't have worried.

After a false start with the keg followed by a rapid away team mission searching for CO2 in the west end of the city, it seemed like no time at all before a ton of well-wishers were ensconced in my basement (and a handful upstairs to boot), chatting, having a pint, and watching Muse in concert from the Rome Olympic Stadium.

I spent much of the evening just trying to catch up with folk and thank them for coming, but there was also time for laughs and toasts, and selfies with as many people in concert shirts as I could manage. I missed a lot and wished I had been more on top of things, so if I didn't get a chance to selfie it up with you, my apologies!

I was especially impressed with the church folk who got their offspring to help dress them and committed so wholeheartedly to the theme. Y'all genuinely ROCK.

Truth be told, our place is probably a bit small for three-dozen partiers, but the cool, wet weather conspired against us and restricted us to the indoors. I wouldn't have described it as crowded necessarily though, maybe just cozy.

Soon enough the cake was brought out, the song was sung, and after some teasing, I was asked to say a few words.

And you know, what? It was HARD. So many feelings about the scope and scale of wonderful people in my life; I tried to convey the sense of gratitude and privilege and inadequacy at being the hub of such a magnificent wheel. I don't think I did it justice, but I think the feeling came through anyways.

And besides, it's not like I'm going to stop articulating my thanks just because my birthday is over.

Not as many people stayed on to play Rock Band as I had hoped, but the usual suspects still got a few licks in before we finally pulled the pin at 3:30 am. Not bad for an offically auld fella, eh?

Best of all though were all the comments I heard afterwards:

"So nice to finally meet the friends you are always talking about!"

"I loved talking to your Mum, and her dog is ADORABLE."

"Glad you brought the church folk over to liven things up!"

"You work with such awesome people."

"Your sister was a treat to talk to!"

It's all a bit humbling but an encouraging reminder of the sheer number of tremendously awesome people I am fortunate enough to be able to call my friends. If you couldn't make it, no worries, we will catch you another time, but if you did manage to make it, even for a little while, I am grateful that the Venn diagram of my demicentennial could bring us all together, even for a single evening. Cheers, all.

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