In all of the hoopla about the “Friends” 25th anniversary, it dawned on me last week that I would be turning the same age as the characters were when the show ended. For 25 years, I have been watching a show where the characters were always able to provide some semblance of what adult life is able to look like at any given age. Granted, by the time the show ended most of them were married or had found their soul mates, many had kids and grown-up enough to land their dream job or buy their dream house. Major milestones.
Being that my life doesn’t reflect any of that, would normally freak me out and send me spiraling. Even writing that sentence almost makes me want to crawl up into the fetal position. Alas, there are bigger concerns… after my unfortunate ailment last year, it was time to make a comeback for my birthday. Oh yes, BIRTHDAYPALOOZA™ IS BACK.
Initially, I hemmed and hawed about whether to do some big, flashy event or something lower key. Well, dearest readers and friends, we have been on this journey for over a year now… which do you think I went with?
Coming Up With an Idea
The timeline for Birthdaypalooza is simple. February I start percolating the ideas for themes. By Memorial Day, my STDs (save the dates, as I like to call them) go out. Around Independence Day, I send out the actual invites. The event itself is always held the weekend before my birthday. This sounds OCD, and I fully acknowledge and accept that.
Well, the Spring came and went without a solid idea. It wasn’t until watching Madonna’s “Medellin” video that I finally decided it was time to pull the trigger on having a Diner En Blanc themed birthday. If you aren’t aware what DEB is, check this out. At least in Philly, it’s a hugely controversial event with think pieces every year talking about how elitist and stupid it is.
I, on the other hand, love the spectacle.
Problem #1: How am I going to be able to use a public space to have this event? It turns out there’s a permit for that. All you have to do is get 90% of your neighbors to agree and pay $150 fee and viola you can get a permit. I was intent on shutting my block down….
Problem #2: I hate talking to people I don’t know. It honestly took me two months to complete it, partly because I kept procrastinating and finding reasons not to do it and partly because I have ninja-like neighbors who avoided me. I even left letters for them to call me with good times to reach them, which helped with about 7 (I had to get 30). Finally, I got the last one by chasing her down the street on my way to work.
My Most Ambitious Party Yet
Because it took so long, Memorial Day came and went. June even came and went. Finally, I sent out STDs to my friends with no information because I had to get on their calendars. I got my last signature and submitted my application on a Thursday, and by Monday I had my permit and was ready to go.
Now mid-July, I was so behind the eight-ball. By this point, I usually would have everything planned. Quickly, I reached out to my friend whose company I always hire for Birthdaypalooza to DJ. The date was still free, so we got that locked in. I also quickly found a caterer to use and hired a bartender.
Next, I needed a white outfit. So of course, because I’m insane, I decide to have leather pants made and go for a rock n roll look. I found a seller on Etsy, who agreed and said I would have them in about three weeks (the middle of August), which would be plenty of time…. Well, the pants didn’t arrive until the second week of September, a month late, and let’s just say they have some ‘splaining to do. The zipper goes all the way down into my taint, the pockets start just above my knees, and they are so loose I can easily slip in and out of them without a belt. But I have them and, honestly, most people probably will never be able to tell the difference.
I started buying all the decorations, ordering furniture to be rented, supplied, caution tape to alert people that the road is closed. My apartment for the last month has been filled with boxes from Amazon, Party City, and everywhere else.
No Calm Before the Storm
Everything was going too smoothly, though. I had everything and I started to second guess everything. I had enough alcohol that all 50 guests would be able to go on a bender that would make Charlie Sheen jealous. The food was basically a three-course meal. I even took a week off of work.
My coworker actually came over to me the week before the party saying she was at a tailgate the previous weekend and people there (who I didn’t know) were talking about my party. WTF?!?
The RSVP deadline came on Friday the 13th. Beginning Monday, the 17th, a flood of RSVP changes came in and people who hadn’t RSVPed started RSVPing. It was all feeling very much like Cher’s debate speech in “Clueless.”
And then two days before I get the urge to check about detours for the bus that goes down my street. I see nothing on the website, so I call SEPTA, Philadelphia’s public transit provider, and the customer service rep tells me she doesn’t see anything and starts giving me a lecture about why didn’t I call before. At this point I cut her off and give her my best “Not today, Satan” meets Julia Sugarbaker (from Designing Women) speech… and she transfers me to another department.
Basically, I go to bed the night before not knowing if my party of 5-50 people is actually going to be able to party in the street or possibly risk getting run over by a bus…
It’s now the day of the party. I wake up and go running — but not too hard because I don’t want to mess up my spray tan — because running releases endorphins, which make you happy, and happy people don’t just murder people (to paraphrase Elle Woods from “Legally Blonde”).
When I get home, I see that the buses haven’t been re-routed, so I call SEPTA again and speak to a lovely woman who says they are sending someone over. Three hours later, no one had shown up. I call again, as we are an hour before the street is supposed to be shut down. She tells me someone is coming and if I have to, just shut the street down because if it’s blocked the bus will just turn. I tell her, I don’t fully trust that. But what am I supposed to do?
My friend John, who’s DJing the event and I would have never gotten through this without, gets there and we shut down the street – angering drivers everywhere and hearing things not suitable to reprint. Then… a bus comes. It doesn’t turn. It honks until I go talk to the driver. He’s nice enough and does indeed turn. Shortly after, the transit police show up, finally.
The food arrives and we begin setting it up. Suddenly, sirens start wailing. We are now an hour from when the party is scheduled to start. The sirens get closer and we see a fire engine and ambulance come towards us. John and I both look at each other like, it’s not actually going to come this way, right?
Sure enough, the fire was a block up from us in an antique store. We had to rush and move the food, tent, and everything that we had already set up to let them through. What are the chances, my friend Allen would later ask?
I decided, fuck it, I need a drink and let the good times roll. We finished setting up at 4:50 p.m. a team of six. The party went off amazingly. It was a spectacle that even had three rando girls trying to crash. A friend alerted me to the infiltration when I came outside from getting something in my apartment. This is what followed.
Me: Hi, this is my party.
Girl 1 (holding a plate full of food): Hi, we’re here to celebrate Jake’s birthday.
Me: Well, I’m Jake and I think you need to leave. Now.
The trio left, plate in hand. There was not another hitch during the party, but I definitely lost one of my nine lives. Everyone had fun. We ate, drank, danced and were merry.
I could sleep for a year… or at least until February when planning for next year starts.
Padraic Maroney hails from upstate New York, suffering from middle child syndrome. His writing career began after moving to the Philadelphia suburbs while in high school. He wrote for The Bucks County Courier Times’ Reality section, written by local teenagers, and has the distinction of writing a weekly gossip column for a college newspaper at a school he didn’t even attend! His love of pop culture led him to intern at Teen People, where he met Janis Gaudelli, and realized he could turn being a millennial into a career. Since then he’s alternated between writing and marketing, but always focused on Millennials and everything they bring to the table. Padraic is a lover of shenanigans, 80s music, and the movie “Scream.”
You can follow his additional adventures on Instagram: @padraicjacob