Last night I celebrated my birthday with a few friends, colleagues, and friends of friends downtown in Chelsea, doors away from trendy galleries and museums, in a new high-rise.
My roommate and I didn't head downtown until 6:45 p.m. because I didn't expect anyone to arrive before 9 p.m. for the scheduled 8 p.m. start. As stated in a previous blog here: I dislike planning parties because people ALWAYS flake out at the last minute, or never have any intention of attending when first invited.
Last night was no different to anxiety-filled past parties I've planned. I prepared Cajun (dirty) rice with ground beef, pasta salad with broccoli, mozzarella, and peppers, and crudité and fruit/cheese platters. I busied myself with cooking in a new kitchen and on a new stove with a crackling, popping burner that I knew would catch fire and explode, a fitting end to what felt like would be an empty party.
After slicing into my index finger with a new chef's knife, Jorge (roommate) and Mort (party host) returned because I was fast losing blood, with a bandage from the concierge. It turned out that there was a simple fix to the crackling and popping of the front right burner -- adjust the knob just so that it stops the aforementioned annoying noise, which probably grated on my nerves so that I wasn't paying attention to the sharp knife.
With the crisis averted, I continued cooking and tried not to read the digital cock on the stove as the minutes ticked by and no one had yet to arrive. A member from my screenwriting group and a former private student arrived within minutes of each other, but I still wasn't happy. Where were those who RSVP'd that they'd definitely attend?
I resisted the urge to drink alone in a corner and continued cooking and setting up the buffet-style platters on the countertop.
A former member of the fiction critique group, Katie, arrived with great news. She's recently been accepted into two MFA programs, one more appealing than the other, but it's an accomplishment all the same because of the number of original applicants to better MFA programs.
It wasn't until Katie arrived that the room felt differently. It'd no longer be an all-male party with an underlying awkward tension as those outside of the kitchen tried to make small-talk.
By night's end, nine people were in attendance besides me, a jump from last year's birthday party at my place with six, but well below previous twenty or three people crammed into my uptown apartment.
I reflected on the importance of last night's celebration as I rode the subway home in the wee hours of Sunday morning, and I'm resigned to know that the number of guests in attendance doesn't matter, nor does receiving gifts, but the intention of the gathering.
One of my friends returned from Miami and headed over to the party. This was one of the invaluable blessings I received last night. Anyone else would have claimed exhaustion after an evening flight, but not Carlos.
I had a great time last night.