I just woke up earlier than I expected from a late night out with friends, and just felt like blogging about a terrific birthday, probably the best in ten years. But I should step back a bit.

My mom offered to host a big 40th birthday party for me but I passed because:

  1. Even if I took over the garage again for old times’ sake it still would have been at my mom’s.
  2. Most of the people I’d want there are no longer in Silicon Valley. And the ones that are left, well, my generation has a high rate of cancellations at this point — our schedules haven’t been less under our own control since we were about 8. it would have been terrible if nobody showed.
  3. What made parties charming in my 20s and 30s would be creepy and sad now, like those middle aged swingers at a convention on the episode where Real Sex jumped the shark.
  4. And I don’t know how to have fun at a party in a house any more.

Eventually I got to thinking about the friends I have locally, and I wasn’t really being fair or accurate. Certainly I’ve lost many, many dear friends to the Exodus, and having a birthday party without them there was indeed weird. But I’ve made a ton of new friends since then, and many of them ARE in Silicon Valley, even if it’s a tiny subset. Some of them I haven’t even met yet — just online. And then I realized that I have a lot of friends in San Francisco that I don’t usually get to hang out with. So I set out to put together a night out.

I wanted to go to my favorite restaurant, Kan Zaman, which I haven’t been to in like 13 years, but from the Yelp reviews it looked like strong potential for a birthday bummer. And I wanted to go to a bar afterward, and that place you pretty much have to settle into to get the whole experience. I wanted the dinner to be small and the bar to have the bulk of my friends so we got out of San Jose as soon as we could and went to meet a friend a place called Layaly. Like many restaurants in the Richmond, the atmosphere sucks but the food is good, reasonably priced and served quickly. Parking was a drag though — it had been a long, trafficky trip up and I had to pee so bad I could barely stay bent in the seat, so finding a spot seemed like it took 45 minutes, but it was probably only 20.

Getting my wife to come along was a challenge. Family emergencies, stress and just not feeling particularly sociable made the idea of hanging out at a bar as a non-drinker sound pretty awful. So I arranged it so that she could bail at any time — I could stay at BJ’s place or catch a lift with someone else. Not ideal — she doesn’t like sleeping in the house alone — but at least she wouldn’t be trapped. I also had to bribe her by giving her a present early, an Eternity Scarf from Urban Outfitters that was cozy, fetching and versatile.
Justina, Simon and Julee
So I convinced her to come to the bar, and Justina Kochansky was already there with her husband Joe, sweet and nervous and reminding me a lot of my shy wife. I was so glad she came — I haven’t met her in person before, just Flickr and Facebook. Julee Herrmann was there with her husband Simon, looking like she owned the place, charming and funny and comfortable. Nikki Meeks’ sister Paula, who I haven’t seen in like 10 years, preceded her sister by a bit, and brought a friend named Jen. And Nina, who kindly suggested the place, came too, sparkly and comfortable, sociable and funny. Great crowd. Perfect.

I immediately started in on the Ketel and Cranberries. My wife Shoshanah had no problem talking to everyone and never looked bored or even uncomfortable. For some reason I was the only one who brought a camera so there aren’t any pictures of me, but I did remember to snap pics from time to time. There were a lot of people that I either missed somehow, or were making a weird face or whatever, so out of consideration I just deleted those. (In the best shot of Shoshanah it looked like she was picking her nose with a pool cue, for example.) But my Flickr has the keepers, such as they are.

There were some people, like Joe and Justina, who I really would like to have just talked to, but conversation was difficult (my throat is thrashed — anyone else?) as the crowd was so loud they made the jukebox (which was loud) hard to hear. (Good conversation starter though: “Is this ‘Holiday in Cambodia’?” “I dunno, I thought it was the Buzzcocks!”)  Paula’s friend Jen deserved more attention than I gave her.  Every time I saw her she was texting someone, but at one point she whipped out some really good cheese and crackers (Joe: “Someone had to class the place up.”), and at the very end she did this faboulous and funny rant about the people in the bar.

I loved this bar. It’s Nina’s favorite and I can see why. For starters, it has the best jukebox in the whole world. If they could get clearances I’d pay good money for the mix CD’s they put in there. I got to listen to Joy Division, Iggy Pop, the Cult, Bauhaus, Black Flag, the Dead Kennedys, Devo, and more. They have pinball, though only one machine was working. I kicked its ass and left a credit on the machine. There’s pool and foosball. The place is startlingly dog-friendly. And loud as hell. And it has the most punk-rock bathrooms since CBGB’s. And I was really missing Laura Argilla and K-DJ and Howard and Peter and so many others.

But in spite of thinking about all the people who should have been there, I had a terrific time. It was an awesome blend of old and new friends, people to meet, surprise guests and a fun bar. And my wife, in spite of herself, had a great time.

OK, this was too long but fuck it it’s my blog.