I am an only child.
I am an only child who was raised during the decadent 1980s.
Only Child + Lavish Decade = One Spoiled Brat?
I realize my desire to acquire more and more friends and acquaintances in my life stems from the fact that I am only child. Do I constantly surround myself with smiling faces and warm hearts because I never had brothers and sisters to play with, or do I yearn to have everyone focus on me because I am that attention-hungry, spotlight-hogging, sibling-less sycophant? Or is it also a combo-manifestation of living in a city where, in order to survive, connections are more important than oxygen?
I also get high off seeing every person I know (or just met a few weeks ago at a cocktail party) interacting in one place. I love the eclectic mix of personalities, introducing people to others who wouldn't normally find themselves sharing the same space with each other. I like throwing everyone together and seeing what happens, like one of those abstract artists who slaps different colors of paint onto a blank canvas to see what sticks.
It's only natural that I submit myself to this self-analysis during this time of the year.
The days leading up to my birthday are usually filled with rummaging through my contacts to make sure my party guest list is in tip-top shape. I live for RSVPs during the month of March. Giddy am I whenever an email from a "friend" I haven't seen in months (typically, since his/her birthday) falls in my inbox, gladly accepting the invitation and adding a plus one or two to the list. Haven't seen you since that Valley barbeque in '05? Come on over! Haven't swapped studio secrets with you since that Clive Owen screening in the fall? Come have a mojito with me!
Together, my birthday and the new spring season are refreshing reminders to enjoy life and not take anything for granted.
'Tis also the season of brushfires and brown skies in sunny L.A.
(Taken the day before my special day; you can just make out the Hollywood sign below the pillar of smoke. You'd think Los Angeles was built on a volcano).
Most importantly, however, my birthday is also a history bookmark, signifying a time when New York single gal Sandy Riehm met Japan transplant Tatsuya Mitsuzuka while standing at a bus stop in New Rochelle, circa late 1977. Little did they know they were also neighbors in the same apartment building on Stonelea Avenue.
Tatsuya was short a nickel for the bus fare, and wanting to help a handsome stranger, Sandy offered some extra change. That connection, that glint-in-the-eye, was born right there and then. Next came phone number exchanges, home-baked cakes left on doorsteps, and other wooing I wish to leave to the imaginations of others.
The wedding was in January of 1979, the honeymoon followed at Walt Disney World, and on the last day of March of the following year, yours truly, weighing in at seven pounds and four ounces, entered the human race via a moderate Caesarian procedure.
And that happy day was celebrated for the 27th time, this year at the posh, poolside Circa 55 in the Beverly Hilton of Beverly Hills, California.
I had arrived at the hotel fashionably late. In the history of birthday bashes, I don't think I've ever seen the guest of honor arrive before the first couple of guests. The reason for this is either due to the host's desire to "make an entrance" or uncontrollable circumstances said host could not forsee.
This time my excuse was the latter: First, dinner at Cheebo on Sunset had run late. Second, to make matters much worse, the original room my bosses had booked for me as a birthday gift (awesome, right?) was given away, and the room I was to receive instead was not ready. "Just twenty more minutes," Shalam, the front desk clerk, told me as I stood there, pre-costume change, holding balloons, a weekend duffel strung over my shoulder, and a plastic bag full of plates, forks, a birthday banner, and a giant bottle of Malibu for possible afterparty prospects. Karim was behind me carrying the mocha cake.
"Um, but I'm supposed to be hosting a party and greeting guests downstairs right now."
Dear blue-eyed, olive-skinned Shalam then offered a solution - give us a temporary room in the Wilshire Tower, and when our other room was ready, move our belongings sometime during the night...during the party. There wasn't even an offer to have a bellhop do the switch for us. I was not pleased.
I started to panic about getting the cake into a cooler. I started to panic over the fact that guests were waiting for me at the bar. I started to panic about the music not being set up in time as people streamed in. I started to panic over which pair of jeans was supposed go with the Express button-down I bought the day before (Should I go with the tight, faded black, or slip on the butt-hugging, hole-in-the-crotch blues?) Beads of sweat were already making their way down my forehead.
And then came the phone call from Doug, reminding me that overnight street parking in Beverly Hills is a no-no.
My Focus? It was sitting outside on Wilshire...
Boys and girls, Item #5 to add to the List of Things to Stress Me Out.
With the help of the observant Jen Cross, who flew in from Chicago for the festivities, I further analyzed myself and came to the conclusion that I am most likely one of those Type A control freaks. If the slightest detail falls through, if the ribbon color doesn't match the balloons, an annoying gnat will buzz around my head until it's swapped with a phone book and things are as they should be.
Jen and I grabbed the keycards to our temporary room. I wiped my brow, lugged my crap into the elevator and made a beeline for the bathroom to change.
I rushed downstairs, greeted the arrivals and took a deep breath. The glass doors were open wide, letting in the crisp air that bounced off the glowing pool and filtered through the spaces of the dimly lit venue.
Here I was.
In between glasses of vodka tonics and Malibu Cokes, in between some Nelly Furtado and Lily Allen, I welcomed everyone who walked through the doors, received dozens of hugs and kisses, and enjoyed the remaining rhythms and beats of my iPod playlist booming through the soundsystem (thanks to Mark, the hospitality manager). A co-worker of mine, the ever-festive, ever-lovely Eleni, offered to take my car keys and move my Ford off the street and into valet.
I would later demand the front desk to comp my parking fees to make up for the lousy handling of my room.
Delightful Surprise of the Evening: not one, but both of my bosses showing up in time for cake and some PG-13 debauchery by the pool (for the record, I had invited them, not expecting an attendance). Cassie and Sue Ellen, the wonderful women I assist Mondays through Fridays, showed up to extend their birthday wishes to me and partake in a late-night cocktail (for purposes unknown, I'm sure they would appreciate their pictures being omitted from this blog).
Just one of many reminders to show how fortunate I am to work with such amazing people at such an awesome company.
Circa soon closed up shop around 1AM. The lights brightened, the music stopped, and March 31st had seamlessly bled into April Fools' Day prank-free. Some friends of mine stuck around because drinks needed to be finished, certain amenities needed to be taken advantage of.
An afterparty up in my room needed to be had:
I had welcomed my late 20s with open arms, one more shot of rum, and a plush pillow that eventually carried me into a slumberland where things always go as planned, finances are never stressful, and bliss is neither ignorant nor short-lived.
And just think: Had a certain Japanese twentysomething carried the exact change for bus fare in 1977, none of what you have just read and watched would have existed.