getting these parties started


-- चार हजार तीन सौ --

I had quite the eventful weekend, even though I spent pretty much all of Saturday doing nothing of note, and sleeping as much as I could -- probably because the weekend had been so eventful, and honestly I think I exacerbated this awful cold by overextending myself in multiple ways on Friday. But hey -- Gabriel is worth it!

It wasn't all about Gabriel, though; I should be fair. The thing is, I have no idea if the severity of my cold would have rebounded on Saturday regardless of how Friday went or not. I do know that, after being home sick on Wednesday and then feeling like I was well into recovery both Thursday and Friday, it was perhaps against my better judgment that I rode my bike to work and back on Friday. Not only that, but I weighed my shoulder bag down with three boxed slices of cheesecake from the shit ton of cheesecake and cake samples the Deli had that day -- there's still plenty left right now, I heard. Anyway, biking back up that hill on the way home is difficult enough just when I've started biking for the first time in six months in the spring, let alone when I'm immune-compromised, and packing my bag with extra weight. I was fucking exhausted by the time I got home.

And then I left pretty much as soon as I got home. I left work on Friday at 4:00, so I could be home by 4:30 -- the biggest reason I took the bike, actually, as it's the quickest way home when not driving a car -- and then grab Shobhit's car and drive roughly ninety minutes through Friday rush-hour traffic to join Gabriel and his family for their traditional family dinner they apparently do for each other every year now.

I was invited by his brother, Garret, and it was actually rather sweet. He sent me a direct message on Twitter:

Hey Matthew! Garret here (Gabriel’s brother ha ha). Wanted to extend an invitation to you to join us in celebrating Gabriel’s birthday this Friday night @ 6pm at a joint called “Brewers Row” in Tacoma. It’s a low-key, family get-together dinner that we do for each [other] and since Gabriel doesn’t have a “significant other” joining us like usual, I thought it would be great if you could join. (I also consider you family). If you already have plans, no worries, but let me know if you’d be able to attend!

After telling him how sweet that was, and telling him I was unsure of how on time I would be given traffic, I told Garret that I would be there. Garret then added, Also, he doesn’t know I invited you. You can surprise him or tell him ahead of time, ur call. And, no obligation for a gift, completely optional.

Gift? Ha! My presence would be the gift, hello! I decided I would not say anything to Gabriel beforehand, and just leave it up to fate whether Gabriel would find out in any other way that I was coming. I had no idea if Garret told anyone else or how else it might get to Gabriel or whatever. I was just going to go with the plan and not say anything -- and, it worked out quite well, actually: I managed to arrive at this "Brewer's Row" place in Tacoma at nearly 6:00 on the dot, even after GPS said (and I messaged Garret) my ETA was 6:17. And at first, the ETA went up to 6:30, but then GPS did this weird and cool thing where it gave me an alternate route that would shave something like ten minutes off my travel time. It had me get off the freeway at the SeaTac Airport exit, and it seemed like it just took me quite briefly on this back road before putting me right back into the thick traffic on I-5 -- as Shobhit noted later, it probably allowed me to bypass a mile or two of traffic, which alone shaves off a notable amount of time. And from then on, I kept making better and better time, until the arrival was actually back down to 6:00 or so.

Being the one person not blood related to anyone else at the table that evening was rather interesting. I later told them I felt like Jane Goodall. Turns out I was using the wrong name -- I should have said Diane Fossey. Only then would it make sense for me to say Newtons in the Mist. Damn it! Well, I never said that last part anyway, actually. I only said I felt like Jane Goodall. So maybe the metaphor still works.

Anyway, all the parking was full at Brewer's Row when I arrived, but I easily found side street parking in front of houses all of one block away -- which, honestly, made me a little uneasy. Any equivalent parking near where I live on Capitol Hill would have carried great risk of a parking ticket, but for the life of me I could find no signage in this neighborhood that said anything at all about parking, let alone any restrictions. Parking is just open-ended and free? Really? This is the kind of difference -- among countless others -- that makes Gabriel love living in Tacoma and hate driving to Seattle. It's also the kind of problem I solve quite easily in Seattle by not having a car of my own. Anyway, the car was fine and still there when the dinner was over.

When I turned the corner toward the front entrance, I saw a bearded guy leave the restaurant and run toward the opposite direction, presumably to his car. I assumed almost immediately it was Marcus, Gabriel and Garret's younger brother. Something about his look, his body language, his demeanor, even the way he ran -- I was like, That's a Newton. Obviously some of them had arrived already.

Including Gabriel! When I told Garret over Twitter DM that I was unsure how on time I would be (not yet knowing I would be right on time), he responded, Perfect. Gabriel, as you know, is never on time to anything either. Glad you can make it! So now, after years of shitting on Gabriel for his lack of punctuality, well into a new era in which he actually has become a pretty punctual person, I had to come to his defense: Ha! To be fair, I now have extensive experience with his exasperation of me expecting him to be late when he's been pretty much on time. 🙂 Garret then replied, in part, That seems to be exclusive only to you... Whatever! I wonder if Garrett even noticed that while I was right on time myself, Gabriel himself beat me there? Sheesh!

And he was genuinely surprised to see me walk up and wait a second before he noticed me, and even seemed rather touched that I had come. So, I'm certainly glad I did. Something sort of bittersweet did occur to me later as I sat at the table, fairly characteristically quiet especially compared to this nearly uniformly boisterous family: had it been Shell there instead of me, just as an example, she certainly would have more than matched the din provided by everyone else. Now, in my defense, there were moments when I had no choice but to insert myself into the conversation, such as when it came up that Janine had recently been on three dates with the same guy within a single week. I know Janine will have zero desire for me to provide any further details about that (hi Janine! don't panic!), but I will say this: this was news. Like, headline, giant bold letters, above-the-fold news. I had questions, and I was going to ask them. Gabriel even said "That's a good question" at least twice. In any case, my only point is, when the situation dictates it, I can cut through the Newton chatter. This was one of those situations.

But before all that, right after I arrived, I saw a number on the table, and assumed they had all already ordered -- it turned out they had all just ordered drinks, which I did not realize. They old sold beer and wine there, which I had no interest in and would be driving anyway, and so I just went to the order counter to order a plate of tacos. It was not long after that when Gabriel noticed my number on the table, and when I told him I had ordered food, only then did he and the rest of them go make their food orders. I had my dish and was done eating it before anyone else even got food, but whatever, it was fine.

During the relatively extensive amount of time I had just to sit and observe (Gabriel and his brothers had lots to talk about regarding either sports of the video games their kids play, neither of which did I have anything to contribute to), I was struck in a way I never had before by the pretty obvious family resemblance between all three brothers. Facial features (and in a couple cases, facial hair), body hair, body size, general demeanor, vocal volume -- all similar.

There was more variety among the children, and I realized sitting there that Janine has five grandchildren: one from Gabriel; two from Garret; two from Marcus. Tess was delighted to see me. I don't think any of the other kids really had any idea who the hell I was, but they clearly didn't care that I was there either.

I had sweet potato tacos which were surprisingly good considering how little I care for sweet potatoes -- or kale, which was also on them. I took a bite of Gabriel's tacos with artichoke hearts, which I don't generally like either, but it turns out they were deep fried, and guess what can make just about anything more than just tolerable? Deep frying it! His dish was even better. If I ever go back there again, I'm ordering that.

Side note! Gabrie's birthday was actually Thursday; they just had their dinner on Friday. For eleven days, he and I will both be 41.

-- चार हजार तीन सौ --

After first thinking I would just do dinner and drive home after that, Gabriel mentioned he was going to have people over to his place for a while afterward, and his work friend Mandy would be coming. Mandy and I are huge fans of each other, so naturally that heightened my interest. I had to text Shobhit that I would be going over there for a while, but would try not to stay too long.

Garret and Katie had another birthday party to attend the next morning so they didn't come, but Janine did, and so did Marcus and Amber with their two kids. Not long after, Mandy and her husband David arrived, an astonishing amount of cheeses, crackers and ice creams in tow. I had a lot of the crackers and a lot of the cheeses, but none of the ice creams, which was probably for the best.

And I was there until about 10:30. A good time was had by all. Gabriel lamented that we did not get any one-on-one time, which was sweet, but I responded with the point that it was to be expected at a party. It's not like we could go off anywhere on our own or anything. I suppose I could have asked him to walk with me up that long steep trail to the parking lot from his house on the water at Salmon Beach -- which, that night in particular, was truly exhausting -- but I told him it wasn't necessary. He would have done it if I'd asked, I'm certain, but I didn't think he should leave his other guests.

There was a brief period there where Amber was asking me things about where I work and about Shobhit. When she asked, "How come he didn't come?" I just said, "Oh, I don't know." She immediately accepted that response, even though it was sort of dishonest -- of course, I did know. Firstly, I was rather sure Shobhit would not have wanted to. Second, even though there was obviously nothing set in stone about this, I was sort of filling the void of Gabrie's absent "significant other," and my coming alone was a 1:1 ratio there and bringing Shobhit would have made it 1:2. To my way of thinking, it was to a certain degree about balance. Besides, when I texted Shobhit the screenshot of the invite from Garret last week and asked if he minded if I took the car on Friday to go to this dinner, that clearly inferred from the outset that I would go without him. And third, of course, I'm still nervous about whenever the hell Gabriel and Shobhit might be in the same room again, and I didn't think Gabriel's birthday dinner would be the best timing for that.

Gabriel and I should get some one-on-one time next week anyway, when we'll hopefully get together for the first botanical garden of my Birth Week, at the Rhododendron Botanical Garden in Federal Way on my way down to Shelton to stay the night with Jennifer on Saturday.

-- चार हजार तीन सौ --


-- चार हजार तीन सौ --

As you can see, I had a rather full day on Friday. I slept much of the morning on Saturday morning, feeling a little more ill that day again. I took Shobhit's suggestion of not going to a movie as originally planned that day, and just taking it as easy as I could. I did go out briefly, taking a walk with Shobhit to the bank and to QFC, but that turned out to be the only thing I showered and put on makeup for.

How well I felt really ebbed and flowed that day. I woke up several times through the night Friday night, feeling kind of crappy -- especially when I got up to feed the cats about an hour earlier than usual at around 6 a.m. But after going back to sleep again and waking up a few hours later, I felt much better. After walking with Shobhit, I felt worse again.

A mildly notable thing about that walk: we passed Tommy on Broadway -- Tommy being the roommate in between the two times Ivan lived with me. I literally would not have had any idea had Shobhit not said something; both Tommy and I were looking at our phones. Shobhit lambasted me for not paying attention, but it really didn't matter much; I have long since stopped after many efforts at reaching out to that guy. I would absolutely have said something if I had known for sure he saw me, but I have no idea if he did or not. I mentioned it to Ivan later over Facebook Messenger, because for some reason Ivan has always eaten up any gossip about him: You should have chased him down, he wrote. Then: He was ignoring you deliberately. Maybe, maybe not.

We actually saw him twice, and the first time I wasn't even certain it was him -- we had passed walking in opposite directions, but after Shobhit said something, I could only see him from behind, as he walked further south on Broadway. But after we came out of the US Bank, there was Tommy again, waiting at the light to cross northward, coming back from wherever he had just walked to, clearly quite briefly. Not only was he still looking at his phone, but he also still had headphones in. I still felt no need to go over to him, and Shobhit and I just walked back the way we had come. In any event, it was still the first time I had seen Tommy out in the wild since he moved out in late 2016 -- pretty notable given he still lives in Capitol Hill, and judging by how often he posts photos from there on social media (we still follow each other on all the sites: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram), he frequents Cal Anderson Park, which is actually closer to my place than to his. Or actually, maybe the north side of the park is the same distance from his place as the south side of the park is from mine. Anyway, he doesn't live far, so it's kind of surprising it took this long for me to see him.

I snoozed for a little while again Saturday afternoon, I think. I'm trying to remember. Shobhit and I also watched a few episodes of season eight of Roseanne, which, honestly, took the weakness of season seven and took it into the realm of "lame." I'm not sure I even want to finish that season, to be honest. We finally went back to season two of Santa Clarita Diet on Netflix, which is way better.

I was in bed super early that night, at Shobhit's suggestion: I finally went ahead and took one of his "Incid-L" pills he brings back form India, and was in bed a bit before it was even 9:00. Shobhit has been feeling like he may have a tickle in his throat now too, so he also took one, and even came to bed soon after. We both slept a long time that night: me for 9 and a half hours, and extraordinary amount for me; Shobhit for well more than ten.

-- चार हजार तीन सौ --

And how much of a difference did it make? We had a lot going on yesterday, starting with a brunch we'd been invited to by Aimée, the Office Manager at work, who invited a couple dozen people at work, and then the entire office after Andrew apparently inadvertently invited his entire department in IT. And I seriously debated whether to cancel going, for quite a while yesterday morning, because I did not feel good when I woke up. I'm still not sure whether I should have -- probably not, actually. But I had assured her multiple times I would be there, and especially in light of how few people confirmed they were coming, I did not want to disappoint.

I never quite let on to Shobhit how crappy I really felt until later, and if I had, he might successfully have convinced me to stay home. But once I got up, I kept up with the plan to make the dozen quiche muffins (roughly based on a long-ago-concocted recipe by Susan Dennis, which I have made a few times myself but the last time was ages ago . . . extras I added: veggie sausage; onion; bell pepper; mushrooms) I figured rightly would be needed as a vegetarian option among the food choices at this brunch.

I felt slightly better as the morning progressed, through my shower and then making the quiche muffins. The brunch was listed as lasting from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and we got there about 11:30 -- unsurprisingly the first to arrive. Aimée already had lots of food out, although she did kind of create a mild snafu with the two dishes she baked, both of which she added bacon to: a lasagna-like dish and little potato bites. None of those got touched by any of her guests, as both Shobhit and I are vegetarian, and the only other two people to come turned out to be Katie, the receptionist who works under Aimée, and her boyfriend, whose name I forget. Said boyfriend, though, we Vegan. Shobhit and I were kind of surprised that Aimée would not expect these many dietary restrictions, given the typical clientele of the company we work for. Katie is neither vegan nor vegetarian -- so she, at least, had one of my quiche muffins, assuring me it was delicious; and Aimée took one before Shobhit and I left as well. Katie herself brought a vegan blueberry pastry that was surprisingly good. And to give Aimée herself some credit, she also had mini muffins and cheese and crackers. Shobhit said Katie didn't have any of the meat dishes but she may have without him noticing, I don't know.

It wasn't that long after Shobhit and I got there that Katie and her boyfriend arrived, and Aimée gave us all a tour of her house in the Seward Park area, which she said she's lived in for over twenty years, and which was very nice. She had redone her entire basement -- not especially spacious, but well designed and organized. This was especially the case on the ground floor; she has a very nice house. We did not get to meet her husband as he's out of town; her oldest son is married and doesn't live there, but we did meet her 15-year-old son who responded to introductions with a kind of stoic stare as means of acknowledging us.

Aimée made Shobhit a Bloody Mary and she made me a mimosa. I honestly felt steadily worse as the morning drew to a close; I took a couple of Aleve and that helped a bit, but after a while I felt like I had a heavy, sinus headache and was slightly nauseated. Had I been feeling fine I might have wanted to stay a little longer, but after being there about ninety minutes, Shobhit said he was ready to go and I said I was too. I asked Aimée if the low turnout would discourage her from trying this brunch as an annual event as she had previously indicated, and she said, "Oh, no! I have no shame." Good for her! So I definitely look forward to coming back next year, hopefully not feeling ill and with more people around. Also, hopefully I didn't make anyone sick yesterday.

-- चार हजार तीन सौ --

Shobhit and I still had grocery shopping to do, and since he'd had two drinks (a coffee one after his Bloody Mary), he asked me to drive. First we went to the Columbia City PCC, and then on to a new produce stand called Rainier Produce on Rainier Avenue that we noticed on the drive down -- it was all right, but we'll stick with MacPherson's from here on out.

We then went home and, much to my relief, I was able to go to the bedroom and just lie down for a while.

Somewhat to my surprise, even after finally indicating to Shobhit how awful I was feeling, he never gave any indication of canceling the plans to go down to Danielle's in Renton for "breakfast for dinner," as they had invited us to do a couple of days before. Danielle's longtime friend Jeanna, who I figured out I had last seen when she visited after Danielle's hip surgery in 2010 (and I had last seen her before that in the late nineties), was visiting, and wanted to meet Shobhit and make us grits for dinner.

It was this, actually, that briefly had Shobhit suggesting I just go by myself -- Shobhit heard Jeanna was from the South (specifically Alabama) and thus assumed that anything she might make could have some kind of meat stock in it and she would still think it counted as vegetarian. This even though I told him multiple times Danielle would make sure it was vegetarian. He was so relentless about it I finally texted Danielle in exasperation to get confirmation there would be no meat stock; Danielle responded that they already talked about using vegetable stock. Of course, never, ever satisfied with any fucking answer, Shobhit responded with, "And no lard, right?" So then I followed up with that question to Danielle, adding that I was ready to drop kick him out the fucking window.

Danielle then responded, He can bring his own stuff and she can cook it. She was probably not being serious there, and I really should not have told Shobhit she said that -- because it was that, that triggered Shobhit to suggest I go on my own. I asked him to please come; the whole fucking point was so that Jeanna could meet him, for Christ's sake. And, ultimately, he did come -- and instead of grits, in the end, Jeanna made us biscuits and gravy, making separate meat gravy and a gravy made with veggie ground sausage, which was seriously delicious. Even Jeanna herself loved it.

And to be fair to Shobhit, he did apologize to her for stereotyping her as a Southern person. Jeanna was beyond gracious about it, assuring him she totally understood, it was not a problem. In fact, with Jeanna's background in real estate and extensive knowledge of property taxes, they got into such deep discussion about such things that it began to bore Danielle and me.

Oh, and by the way, napping for a couple of hours yesterday afternoon actually made a huge difference. I felt far less ill once I woke up from that, with only the slightest residual left over from what I presumed to be a sinus headache, and even that faded away over the rest of the evening. I even coughed far less through the rest of the evening, which was awesome. Now, I'm coughing a little more today, but other than that I still feel far better today than I did for most of yesterday. I was feeling ill enough yesterday early on to start wondering how much worse this might actually get. As of today, I'm feeling on the mend again. God, hopefully it will be gone completely by the end of this week, which will mark the beginning of my Birth Week -- the 15th year in a row that I've celebrated the entire week!

Danielle made me a Screw Driver yesterday as well. So, Shobhit drove us home. Something weird has been going on with Seattle traffic this weekend -- both on my drive home from Tacoma Friday night, and from Renton last night, GPS had us going up the 405 and crossing into Seattle on I-5, that actually being ten minutes faster than going straight up I-5. When we first looked up the drive time home from Danielle's, it said it was 49 minutes! Jesus. That's only maybe 10 minutes more than it usually takes, to be fair -- because Danielle lives out in the middle of Bumfuck, Renton, 13 miles left to go even when you get off the Interstate.

We had told Danielle we'd get to her place around 6:30, give or take half an hour, and guess what? We arrived right at 6:30! We stayed for maybe two hours before leaving again, which means we spent nearly as much time driving there and back as we actually spent there, but that's okay. Again, totally worth it! We had a good time.

It did mean, however, that unlike Saturday night, I did not get to bed early last night -- and under other circumstances, I would have again gone to bed early. And I must have primped at a slower pace than usual this morning, as once I left the condo to leave for work, all possible buses were just out of reach before having to wait too long for the next one. I could have just walked downtown and caught a bus on 3rd, but that almost certainly would have gotten me to work a bit after 7:30 -- so I grabbed a LimeBike and rode a bike to work, which did take a bit out of me, but I got here at 7:22. Now I'm coughing more, although I was coughing a little more this morning too. It's not too bad. I'm not going to bike ride home today though. I have a movie to see right after work, and then I'm taking the bus.

-- चार हजार तीन सौ --


[posted 12:20 pm]