Happy Hours: Jennifer and Eric's 40th/50th Birthday Party


So my weekend was almost entirely characterized by spending the night at Jennifer and Eric's on Saturday night after attending their joint birthday party -- Jennifer turned 40 on Monday last week; Eric turns 50 today. They are ten years apart in age and their birthdays are exactly one week apart. I actually had encouraged Jennifer to do this joint birthday party, or at least do something special for these two milestone birthdays. We had the conversation specifically while we took a walk through the Mason Lake campground last August during the Second Annual Family Gathering there.

I suppose I could back up briefly from there, though, to tell you about Friday evening, when Shobhit and I met with Laney for Happy Hour at a new Capitol Hill bar called Queer / Bar. It's in the old Purr space on 11th Avenue between Pine and Pike, meaning it's all of four blocks from home. It's about a 15 or 20 minute walk for Laney. And anyway, we were all pretty impressed for it, for several reasons. First, it's unusually pointed in its intent to serve the LGBT community, a refreshing pushback at the perceived lack of queer identity on Capitol Hill anymore. Now, to be clear, I still think people wringing their hands about that are whining a little too much -- between the rainbow crosswalks, the actually numerous gay bars that still exist (including one lesbian bar still limping along), Three Dollar Bill Cinema's annual outdoor movie series at Cal Anderson Park, and the visibly queer people of all stripes I still see any time I walk around the neighborhood, Capitol Hill still feels to me like it's plenty gay. I guess people who are even older-timers than I am lament a time when it was apparently really gay -- but you know what? I've lived in Seattle 19 years now, and people were saying this same shit two decades ago. But it hardly feels less "gay" to me now than it did then.

Still! I do love that Queer / Bar is openly intending to address these concerns, and is clearly intent on avoiding being exclusionary in any way -- it's not a specifically gay male bar, nor a lesbian bar; by the time we were nearly finishing our time there, at least a third of the people in there were women. Our wait person was even of indeterminate gender, although they struck me having more of a "trans man" vibe. Laney and I even discussed the awkwardness of using "they" as a gender neutral term for them, but basically we both decided it was time to start getting used to using it. I'd even consider using it for myself if I didn't still find it so grammatically awkward. Also putting all my family and friends through my basic coming out twenty years ago was enough; I don't want to go around insisting they all stop referring to me as "he" or "him." I actually think it would be met with a bit more understanding than my coming out did generally in 1996, but it still feels to me like something more cumbersome than it would be worth. Besides, I still consider myself "mostly male" -- a phrase I've been using for years and years -- anyway, so using male pronouns is thus appropriate, even though I do technically think of myself as gender variant.

But I digress . . . a bit more than I intended or expected to. Whatever. Back to Queer / Bar. We all felt very comfortable there. It wasn't super busy, but then, we all got there at 5:15. There were two young men and a young woman practicing choreography on the small dance floor in the back, which Laney and I found charming. There's a great neon sign right on the wall which I put in the background of the requisite Happy Hour group selfie, which reads, I know you're queer, but what am I? And perhaps best of all, and here is where they get very overt in their women-inclusive messaging, a huge mural on the mirror behind the bar was of two hands forming a vaguely vagina-like triangle, which they filled with pink to make a pink triangle. I didn't get a photo of that, but intend do when we come back -- Laney and I decided we'd make it a point to come to this place a lot, just to support it, and we'll come back again for Happy Hour in January. In December, actually, we discussed going to the Wildrose.

Also: Queer / Bar's Happy Hour menu is so shockingly great, we wondered how sustainable it might be. Laney made the relevant point that they make their money from drinks rather than food anyway. In any case, all food is half off between 4 and 6 pm every day, and it's not for typically dinky Happy-Hour portions either -- they are all regular menu portions. This includes the order of nachos that Laney and Shobhit and I ordered; Laney got a box for half of hers to go for lunch the next day and Shobhit and I split ours. We also split a very tasty order of macaroni and cheese. All three of these dishes had a regular price of $12 and we got them for $6. I had two well drinks for $4 each; Laney and Shobhit both had beers which were something like $2.75.

In short: Queer / Bar comes highly recommended.

As for Shobhit, he wound up working quite a bit over the weekend, giving him his primary excuse for not coming to Jennifer and Eric's party -- I left him my Orca Card so he could take the bus, and I drove the car to Shelton. At first Shobhit thought he had Saturday off, and would only need to be to work early Sunday morning. Ivan was going on a second date with the same guy he met the previous Sunday after he and I parted ways from Neko Cat Café; I had even attempted to tell him I'd be happy to see Lady Bird a second time if he'd like me to join him, but I'd only be available on Sunday. But he had plans to see the movie with this guy on Saturday; then go out to dinner; then bring him back to our place "to meet Shanti". I knew what that meant. Shobhit was actually considering taking himself to Steamworks that evening just to get out of their way for a while, but then he got a call Saturday morning asking if he could work to close that evening, 4:45 to 9:45. He definitely needs the money so he went with that plan instead, leaving Ivan and his man-friend to have the place to themselves for the evening.

The guy actually wound up staying overnight with Ivan, who in earlier Facebook Messenger exchanges with me Ivan clearly assumed I would get to meet -- but I told him I'd be in Shelton. Maybe I'll meet him another time. As it happened, Shobhit never met him either; they were in Ivan's dark and very quiet room when Shobhit got home from work Saturday night, and then Shobhit was up and gone for his early shift yesterday morning long before they got out of bed. I still had to tease Ivan a little when I saw him after returning home yesterday afternoon, though: "Evidently your second date went well!" Predictably he asked why, and I mentioned two things: first, Facebook Messenger indicated yesterday morning he was last active on Facebook seventeen hours earlier -- this is extraordinary, as Ivan is on Facebook constantly. He almost never posts, but he's reading and liking stuff all the time, often while we're watching movies. He's now taken to denying this, but always with a guilty smile -- I have a slight feeling he may have somewhat deliberately avoided getting on Facebook for so long during his date this time simply because I had mentioned how often he's on it just a couple of days before. And then, the second thing: they left the guy's undershirt on the living room floor before they had retired to the bedroom. I indicated to Ivan that Shobhit had mentioned this to me -- Shobhit actually texted me a photo he took of it there on the floor (at first I was like, "What the fuck is that?"), when he discovered it there after getting home from work, but I opted not to tell Ivan that part.

I was actually pretty happy to hear Ivan has plans to see this guy a third time next weekend, and spend time with him across the Sound in his home town of Port Orchard. Honestly I'm not sure he's been on three dates with the same guy in all the time he's ever lived with me, so I'm excited for him and I hope it lasts a while (if not forever, given Ivan's plans to leave for a three-month trip to Eastern Europe next fall before finally moving to Vancouver, B.C. -- but for now, as he put it, "We enjoy each other," and that strikes me as a good thing). He was in his room when I got home from the ferry terminal yesterday, apparently reading, and I quickly made a veggie burger for lunch because I had eaten nothing yet all day and was starving. Ivan came out to use the bathroom while I was eating at the table, and he actually sat down at the table to chat with me for several minutes before going back to his room to read some more.

He did also ask me about how the party in Shelton went, and I didn't have a whole lot to tell him. I had a good time and was glad I went, although I didn't get much time with Jennifer specifically. I have no actual complaint about that; it goes with the territory when you're the host of a party. She probably did hang out with me a little more than any other one person on average, with perhaps the exception of a couple of coworkers. I meandered back and forth a lot, often coming inside and back outside and back inside again. There's an outdoor couch on one of the back patios that Dad and Sherri, who also came, spent more of their time there sitting on. I sat next to them for a while a few times, but it was always too far away from the one nearby outdoor space heater which was only effective of you stood right next to it, and it was rather cold out there. It might have been fine if two more of those space heaters had been set around other sides of that deck, but as Eric pointed out, the sloped roof came down too low and the heaters were too tall to be put in those other spots.

Sherri actually said to me at one point when she walked past me, "You look bored to death." Do I? I really wasn't bored and did not intend to look as though I did. No one else seemed to think that, at least. I did enjoy meeting a friend of Jennifer's named Amanda, who she met through her sister Jennifer used to work with. Amanda is one of the very few black people who live in Shelton, though the aforementioned sister is white -- because they have different dads. So, technically Amanda is biracial. But whenever she talked about her new "boy toy" she's seeing from work, and people familiar with her work would ask who, she would say, "Who do you think? How many black people live in Shelton?" I guess she assumed everyone would assume she was dating a black guy? And a guy quite a bit younger than her, which she mentioned several times -- she kept saying he was 16 years younger than her. But when she told me she was 48 and he was 36, I had to tell her, "That's actually twelve years."

I told Ivan some of this stuff, which he clearly did not find that fascinating, nor would I expect him to. "That's the most exciting thing I can tell you about it," I said. He doesn't know any of these people, so I don't know what more exciting kind of information he -- or anyone -- could expect anyway. Unlike the Halloween party they hosted last month, this time I didn't even have any funny costumes to recount.

The guest list was slightly smaller than the Halloween party, but they still had plenty of people and for a bit the house was pretty crowded. Uncle Paul -- Jennifer's dad -- and Sarah did not make it to the Halloween party, but they did come to this one. Jennifer even talked to me last month about how she wasn't sure how well it was going to go down if they brought their kids; Braxton, who is now a teenager and huge, is developmentally disabled (this is the kid my cousin Andrea shook and had taken away from him by the state, who also took away his sister, and Uncle Paul and Sarah adopted them both -- making them simultaneously Jennifer's legal siblings and her genetic nephew and niece . . . this kind of thing is the tip of the iceberg in my extended family) and he still often acts like a rowdy child. Mercifully, they left the kids at home to come to this party. And Sarah, who has a history of wearing outrageously ridiculous outfits, actually looked really nice. To be fair, it's been several years since I've seen her wearing something as garish as she used to be partial to.

I still don't know if Uncle Paul even knows that I unfriended him on Facebook, just to stop my posts from showing up in his own feed. I got tired of his god-awful comments on my posts critical of Trump and other horrible conservatives in this country -- instead of defending them, he'd just hurl personal insults at me. I was just like, I don't have to put up with this shit.

Now, I can't remember if I've ever been Facebook friends with Sarah; I just know that I'm not right now. And she actually walked up to me at one point during the party, kind of sheepishly and said, "You can say no if you want to, but do you mind if I send you a friend request?" Now, she actually did respond to a comment I made not long ago on another cousin's post which was itself critical of President Fuckwit, and she actually said, "I for one am really happy he's our president!" -- and I wanted to vomit. It struck me as the words of someone with zero capacity for truly critical thinking. Nevertheless, I told Sarah she can send a friend request if she wants. The key difference is that I know she's never going to get on Facebook and insult me personally. When it comes to Uncle Paul, I am positive he thinks of it as just "joking around" -- which was his response a couple of decades ago after he sent me a letter in which he suggested I like to fuck sheep -- but some jokes just have no place being used anywhere, something Uncle Paul in particular has never quite understood.

Sarah, on the other hand, told me more than once how much she "sure enjoys" the pictures I post, and said she's taken to photography herself. I still haven't gotten a friend request from her, as it happens; once I do, I'm sure I'll accept it. Unlike Shobhit, I'm not interested in cutting people out completely outright just for voting for President Fuckwit, which is literally part of the broader problem in this country and counter-productive at best. There is simply no place for that level of hypocritical self-righteousness, which plenty of people on the far left -- who make me nearly as crazy as those on the far right -- are guilty of. Shobhit's refusal to see or acknowledge this point is one of the many things that continue to drive wedges between us, and sometimes makes me question the ethics of my staying in a relationship with him. Having differences of opinion is one thing; harboring vindictive grudges is quite another, and only moves a person closer to losing everything, rather than bringing or keeping people together. I truly can't understand why he doesn't see this.

Shobhit does come to Olympia with me when he can, though, and in fact we'll be at Gina's for Thanksgiving on Thursday -- although of course presumably everyone there will be on the same side of the political divide. That's not quite the case with Dad and Sherri, however; they are also conservative, generally speaking -- and are certainly no fans of Hillary Clinton, which plenty of people have legitimate reasons for feeling. (The broad cultural lack of acknowledgment of the level of sexism and misogyny at play, the plainly obvious notion that even if absolutely everything else had been the same but Hillary Clinton had been a man, she would be president today -- that’s a different conversation. With people on both the right and the left, the divide among the latter -- a divide Shobhit is also perpetuating, mind you -- also being a key element in Hillary's defeat.) Still, even though Sherri herself once told me she tried nudging him away from doing so, I have no idea if my dad voted for this president, and I kind of hope I never find out. I'm not sure even I could bear it. I mean, he supported Bush Jr, a guy who would have happily stripped me of my humanity -- and actively tried, in fact -- but whatever. I refuse to subscribe to this recent notion of Bush seeming better in retrospect and still consider him a vile man in his own right -- but that said, Donald Trump is simply beyond the pale, someone even Republicans fled from, until he secured the nomination. Now Congressional Republicans actively support him only in a transparently cynical means to an end in pursuit of tax cuts for the wealthy. Now we live in a country where far too many Republicans actively support accused sexual harassers and child molesters. (They elected one to the Presidency.)

Anyway, I don't want to get too deep into all that. Dad actually came up to me at one point at the party and said, jokingly, "You're spending too much money!" He was actually kind of ribbing Shobhit there. I guess he's been reading this very blog recently. Shobhit has actually been slightly better about his bullshit regarding my finances the past couple of days. Maybe two days isn't that much, but I'll take what I can get.

As for Jennifer and me, we literally just don't talk about it. She did vote for Trump, and it was a single-issue thing: her blind fury at how she feels Obamacare fucked her over. And, well, now Republicans control all three branches of government, and they still have not come up with anything better -- something the rest of us knew would be the case all along. Our current government is astonishingly ineffective for being dominated by a single party, which is unusual to be sure. To me that's been a relief, to a degree, even though President Fuckwit is still inflicting far more damage on his own than gets even a modicum of attention in the midst of whatever stupid outrage he ignites on Twitter. To say he's denigrating and literally corrupting the Office of the Presidency in a way no one has in decades (maybe even more so than Nixon -- although, and I say this as a Democrat, even I would say Bill Clinton kind of comes close -- and I do not think supporting Hillary is hypocritical on that point) is a vast understatement. Now I just look with hope to the 2018 midterms, which seems increasingly likely to result in a Democratic takeover of Congress, if not even -- unlikely as this may always be -- ultimate impeachment. This last election was widely hopeful on that front.

I do think this president is turning out to be far worse than plenty of people who just voted for him, feeling like they had no better option, expected. What turns my stomach is the percentage of Republicans who support him wholeheartedly no matter what jaw-droppingly heinous he says or does.

Anyway! It should really be noted that none of this came up at all at the party. I don't want to mislead anyone. It's partly because it was not discussed there that I mention it here -- this is my forum, after all; a repository for my own thoughts and feelings about my life and the people in it. I can only hope I'm at least less offensive in that endeavor than I used to be, but I'm still generally going to be unapologetic about saying what I feel. And when it comes to members of my family, such as Jennifer: what I feel is that they are more important to me than whatever ideas they subscribe to that I find disagreeable. And when it comes to Eric in particular, this bears repeating: that man holds no grudges and doesn't seem to have a vindictive bone in his body. He's one of the most gracious hosts I have ever known and that's something I can appreciate. As always, yesterday morning he returned from one of his gas stations with a London Fog tea latte for me.

He also prepared a lot of food for this party, which he was at the tail end of getting done when I arrived Saturday evening. I even asked if he needed help with anything, if you can believe that! (I don't often do that.) He said no, though -- well, except he did ask me to stir the mix of refried and black beans in the small crockpot, the vegetarian version of taco filling prepared for both Hope (who has gone vegan) and me (who is vegetarian, not insane -- yes to cheese to me please forever). That was the main meal at the party: a taco table where we could make our own tacos. Eric didn't make the tortillas, but he did deep fry them all, which was one of the last things he did soon after I arrived. The snacks table was all set and ready to go, which I took a picture of through the front window before I even went inside the house -- Eric let me start grazing a bit early, even though he told the kids not to. I love getting to do what the kids aren't allowed to do! Hahaha kids -- what suckers.

Jennifer wasn't even home from work yet when I arrived; she wound up working later than expected. Eric made some quip about how pleasant she'd be when she got home, but she was fine (if a bit snippy with him far later in the evening). She had hoped to make Birthday Cake martinis, but decided to bag the idea and not go to the liquor store for the cake flavored vodka it needed. She said yesterday as I was leaving that she'd make them next time I come stay the night for my Birth Week, in April. Sounds good to me!

There was plenty drinking to be had otherwise, including an iced drink dispenser I somehow managed to forget taking a picture of -- one tub was full of frozen margarita; the other full of strawberry daiquiri. There was even a sponge-like thing soaked with lemon juice to put the rim of your cup into, so either salt or sugar would stick when put into those trays before pouring the drink. I had three of the margaritas, which Eric said was 1:4 ratio of tequila to margarita mix; I opted out of having any strawberry daiquiri because those have rum and I lessen the likelihood of a hangover these days by sticking to one type of liquor for the evening. But! Then later, because I wanted a hot drink, I went for a hot buttered rum anyway. I put a bit too much of the batter in it though and was ultimately unable to finish that drink, in the end closing out the evening without getting even slightly buzzed. What a waste!

I actually wasn't up super late that night. When I finally went to bed, it was around 11:00 -- my Sleep Cycle app tracking my sleep starts that evening at 11:28. Only one of the other party guests was still there, a coworker of Jennifer's named Jody who apparently is a challenge to end conversations with, whether in person or on the phone; Jennifer later told me that when I came down to tell her the upstairs bathroom was out of toilet paper, she used that as the perfect opportunity to say, "Let me show Jody out before I get that for you." That Jody woman was interesting: she wears sunglasses at all times, and when I just said, "What's with the sunglasses?" she said, "They're prescription." I said, "You don't have regular prescription glasses?" She just said no. Um, okay. Jennifer said later she has some kind of light sensitivity, but it also apparently drives a lot of people crazy that she always wears the sunglasses. It does make it hard to read a person's face when you can't see their eyes at all, so it was odd.

Just as I had when I stayed over after their Halloween party last month, I aimed for the 12:20 ferry from Bremerton back to Seattle, and so I left their house at about 10:40. I could have waited nearly another hour, but I wanted to account for any possible traffic -- of which there was none, so I arrived at the Bremerton terminal at 11:34. This still gave me a good solid couple of hours to hang out with Jennifer in the morning. I thought about having a slice of the pie that was still leftover, which I had none of on Saturday, but I just didn't want to eat anything in the morning. I ate too much junk the night before -- including leftover Halloween candies, of which they still had a ton. Even though I was starving by the time I finally had some lunch around 1:45, in the morning I couldn't bear to think about eating anything at all. I mean, I might have had some cereal, but the only cereal they had was a kids' sugar "cookies" cereal. Too much sugar for that moment, even for me. And that's saying a lot.

The upside is, I ate little enough yesterday that in spite of how I pigged out on Saturday night, I was back down to 145 lbs this morning! Hooray! This morning I celebrated at work by eating three chocolate truffles.

Yesterday morning was also when Jennifer took her own picture of all their cards and gifts gathered together -- she kept remembering another thing to fetch and add after taking a few pictures. I got my own picture of her taking the picture, seen below. It included eight different gift cards to Outback Steakhouse, totaling $185 in value, which apparently Eric doesn't even really like -- but Jennifer does. You can play a version of "Where's Waldo?" in the photo before and identify all eight Outback Steakhouse gift cards. Or you can just click the photo, or the photo above, to be taken to the full photo set for the party on Flickr.


[posted 12:19 pm]