Chapter 33 - I absolutely love celebrating birthdays...
#Spillthebeansonlove - Chapter 33
It was now a month before Guapo’s birthday and I began to brainstorm what we should do. I absolutely love celebrating birthdays so planning his was something I was very much looking forward to. He mentioned to me that he would like to go to Napa Valley, as he hasn’t been, so we put that on the list. I recommended Washington D.C and NYC since those are two amazing cities with endless ways to celebrate and easy to get to.
After much discussion and finding out that another couple wanted to come along for the festivities we settled on NYC. The plan was for Guapo to come to Philadelphia, then we would train it to NYC, spend 3 nights in the Big Apple, then come back to Philadelphia for another night or two.
I set my planning skills into action. I reached out to some of my best NYC resources and got recommendations for authentic artistic experiences, along with hot restaurants and trendy rooftop bars. I wanted to show him, and his friends who were first-time visitors to NYC, the absolute best time imaginable.
I spent days, even weeks planning and re-planning. Doing research, making reservations, then doing more research, and making new reservations. I wanted the weekend to be a mix between chill rooftop vibes during the day, stunning sunsets over the Hudson River at dusk, interesting, lux restaurants in the evening, followed by authentic late-night NYC entertainment.
I wavered between jazz or comedy, loungy or chic, underground or in the sky…when it comes to NYC, the options are endless…
I had plans A, B, and C ready to go and I kept wishing for just one more day in NYC to be able to show him everything. At last, I settled on the actual celebration plan and was so pleased with my final decision! I reached out to the other girl, ran the plan by her, sent her the websites of everything I chose, and got her blessing. We were so excited and decided to keep the plans a secret from the boys.
The weekend has finally come and Guapo arrives in Philadelphia. There he is waiting for me at the airport with his award-winning, perfectly imperfect smile, his hair freshly cut, and the perfect amount of cologne to draw me in for a heart to heart hug. I can’t believe he’s here and I am giddy like a little girl at Christmas to celebrate his birthday week!
We get to the house and I have some small gifts ready for him. A few shirts that I know will make him look irresistible, and an IOU promise to make him custom bean bag seats for his boat.
We eat some late-night snacks, cheers to a fabulous weekend with friends, and hit the hay as we have an early train to catch in the morning.
The following day, we wake up before our alarm out of sheer excitement and catch the Amtrak train to NYC. Guapo keeps pressing me to share the celebration plans. He has no idea what I have up my sleeve and I tell him to ‘trust me - it’s all under control.’ I promise him, beautiful views, amazing food, and an authentic NYC experience like never before. I tell him I ran the plan by the other girl and we think we nailed it.
As we sit on the Amtrak train, I get butterflies in my stomach. I love riding on trains. For some reason, they’ve always had a magical quality for me. Maybe it’s because where I grew up train rides were only offered in far off lands? Perhaps it’s because it symbolizes exploration, or quite possibly because the closest I got to riding the train as a child was through a whimsical daydream as I read the Polar Express.
Regardless, this was the first time in all of my travels, that I was able to sit on the train and hold hands with the man I love. (Oops, I hope that wasn’t out loud. He doesn’t know that I love him yet).
I show him the sites as we make our 1 hour 20 min train ride from Philly to NYC. As I spot NYC in the distance, I bounce up and down in my seat and say, ‘Look! There's the city! OMG, we are going to have the best time. NYC is EVERYTHING.’
He smiles as we get closer and closer to Penn Station. His deep, dark, intense eyes, widen as he notices the sparkle coming off the Hudson River. Although we’ve been to NYC many times, we can’t help but be awestruck by the buildings, each one bigger than the next, and the architectural feats of the NYC bridges.
We squeeze each other's hand a little tighter. ‘Wow.’ He says. I smile and bat my eyelashes. I just know this is the right place to celebrate.
First things first - we must check into the hotel, drop our things, freshen up, and then go meet his friends. I’ve seen these friends on FaceTime and enjoyed lots of pictures of them, but I’m very excited to meet them in person for the first time.
We take the elevator way up, open the door to our hotel room and we love it! The view is intense. The sun is shining and it’s lighting up the room. I stand right up next to the window, pressed against the glass, looking out at all the possibility this city has to offer, and I take a deep breath. I can’t believe I’m in my favorite city in the world, with my dream guy and we are about to celebrate him. This is bliss.
For about the last decade, I have been making vision boards in order to be able to physically ‘see’ my dreams and make them a reality. Sometimes the ideas on the board happen really quickly and other times it can take months or even years to materialize. Over the years, my goals and dreams have changed as they were achieved. For example, I kept my current job on my vision board for 3 years. When it came to fruition, I tweaked it to make it more specific to align with my new aspiration.
One of the images which has remained unchanged and has been included on every single one of my boards is a black and white photo of a woman (represents me) being lifted up as she wraps her legs around a dark, handsome man (represents my ideal), while they engage in a passionate kiss in NYC. In the photo, the woman is physically wrapped around her dream man and they are in a world of their own juxtaposed against the hustle and bustle of the NYC streets. The photo isn't on my board as a literal translation. It's on my board to represent the visceral feeling I wish to have when with my dream man.
As I looked out over the busy city, I was reminded of the photo I have looked at almost every day for 8 years. I got a little emotional. I could feel my stomach do a flip and my heart take an extra flutter. I pursed my lips to hold back tears and just then Guapo hugged me from behind. With his chin resting on my shoulder, he soaked in the view and said, ‘It’s amazing, isn’t it?’ I replied, ‘Yes, it’s really very special.’ If only he knew just how special.
We head over to a hip restaurant with a fun, relaxed bar area to go meet his friends. We get there before them, so I tell Guapo that I’m going to run to the ladies, wash my hands, and put on a little lip gloss. When I return to the bar, they have arrived. We smile, reach out our arms, and embrace as if we are old friends. The guy says, ‘whoa, you’re so short! TV is very deceiving.’ It was the perfect ice breaker. We get a good laugh and I let them know it's not the first time I’ve heard that.
The four of us enjoy connecting, laughing, storytelling and getting to know each other. I’m enjoying watching Guapo smile from ear to ear. Three of his favorite people all coming together in a fabulous city to celebrate him. This is life! This is what it’s about.
We finish up and decide it’s time to get ready for our big night out. We all head back to the hotel, get ready and meet on the rooftop for a pre-dinner drink. The air is crisp, Fall has arrived and it’s just chilly enough to have the excuse to cuddle up a little closer to Guapo. We watch as the sun sets, and our celebratory night begins.
My goal for dinner was to go somewhere super chic. I wanted the ambiance to be on point. I was looking for sophistication paired with vibrant energy and a unique ‘only in NYC’ vibe. I wanted the lights down low and the music to set the tone. I wanted drinks and apps to start flowing right as we sat down and I wanted the birthday boy to sit back, relax, and enjoy every single second as we celebrated and honored him.
The restaurant delivered. It was a unique experience. So far so good. I gave myself a little pat on the back.
One of the major factors to take into consideration when planning an NYC weekend is geography. There is so much to do, but it’s key to figure out your neighborhood and travel time between activities. A good rule of thumb is to pad a few extra minutes into your itinerary because the traffic is always bad and everything always seems to be just a little further than imagined. For this reason, I had arranged for someone to stand in line for us for our next activity. I pre-bought tickets, but in order to sit in the very limited premium front-row seats, we had to be first in line. The last thing I wanted to do was rush the dinner experience, so the stand-in was integral to being able to have a relaxed stress-free dinner as she secured our place in line.
We walk the 3 blocks from dinner to our show and the guys are begging us to tell them what is happening next. I ask the girl if I can spill the beans and she says, ‘go for it.’
I say through laughter, we are going to an underground variety show. This is one of the longest-running shows in NYC and now you will be introduced to the very cool, funky, late-night underground NYC scene. I wanted something really unique for tonight. I wanted a show and an evening to remember, so here goes nothing! I tell them that I’m nervous because I haven’t pre-screened this show, but the reviews are amazing. There will be fire dancers, comedy acts, burlesque dancing, acting, and poetry. It’s a wild free-for-all and we are about to see some real underground art. The kind of art you can only find through loads of research and a bit of curiosity. So hold on everyone, we’re going for a ride!
We easily secure the premium seats because our line holder was on point. We get settled in and I’m excited and nervous as this decision is riding on my back. Will this be like Cirque du Soleil? Will the comedy be good? How much fire is really in the show, we are underground, after all.
The four of us, wait anxiously in our front-row seats, when just then a cocktail waitress in a bustier with her girls up to her chin, and basically dental floss as bottoms, walks up to take our drink order. The four of us freeze, try to make extreme eye contact and only eye contact with her, order our drinks and hold it together until she walks away. Slowly we turn our focus off what just happened and on to each other. We all glance at one another waiting for someone in the group to break. I bite. ‘Well, I wasn’t expecting that, but I hope the drinks are good!’ We laugh and roll with it.
With drinks in hand, smiles on our faces, and enjoying our premium seats; I look behind me to see that the place is filled to the brim. I couldn’t get out of my seat if I wanted to, because there are so many people packed in the room. All seats are taken and the standing room only section is bursting at the seams. Elbow room is non-existent and I'm even more grateful now for our seats. The lights go down. A spotlight appears on the stage and poof, the MC for the evening is revealed! OK, I think. This is more what I was expecting. I sip my drink, settle in, and Guapo grabs my hand. He whispers, in my ear, ‘thank you.’
The MC begins his attempt at comedy, I quickly realize this is not anywhere close to a Cirque du Soleil performance, but I’m going to set those expectations to the side and enjoy this show for exactly what it is.
Just then a man comes running through the crowd and jumps on stage…NAKED. Not, like covered tastefully, or even covered a little bit. Not in a cool, artistic way…stark naked with his you know what flying all over the place. My jaw drops, I squirm a little in my seat. Guapo and his friend look as though they are turning green. The other girl and I are in partial disbelief and partial hysteria. I can’t look at it and I can’t not look at it. We are in the front row and I'm staring at this man from a very intrusive angle. I am paralyzed. This was very clearly NOT in the reviews. Nowhere in the reviews did it say you will see a man's private parts within the first 3 minutes of the show or at any time for that matter. But very clearly right in front of me was a man dancing around and swinging his goods. A shimmer of panic runs through my body. What have I gotten us into?
After about 5 min of the naked man act, (and for the record, the longest 5 minutes of my life), the curtain goes down as does my vodka soda. We order another round of drinks, because at this point what are we supposed to do? Ok, it's time to reset my attitude. I am releasing expectations and I am here to enjoy this show for what it is, and not what I thought it would be. I have now created a personal mantra in order to endure this show.
The next act comes on stage. It’s two girls in biker chick outfits. There are fake motorcycle revs coming out of the speaker system, and one of the girls flings off her top as the rev gets louder. I begin to set my mantra aside and instead of, ENJOY the show for what it is, I start to SEE the show for exactly what it is. Act by act, I start to put the pieces together, and then like a confetti explosion, POW, I blurt it out. ‘OH MY G-D, we are at a strip club!’
The guys nearly spray their drinks out of their nostrils. I. AM. MORTIFIED. I literally met Guapo’s friends 3 hours prior and now I am the reason we are sitting front row at a strip club. Mind you, we weren’t TECHNICALLY at a strip club, we were at an artistic underground variety show...NYC's longest-running variety show dammit. Napa Valley is looking like it would have been the better choice at this very moment.
Authentic NYC underground art experience - check. Completed and not to be repeated.
I frantically look around. There is no place for us to go. We are jammed in like sardines and we are in the front row, so leaving would be the ultimate disrespect to the artists and the others trying to enjoy the show. So as a group we decide that we are in it for the long haul.
After each vignette, I breathe a sigh of relief that we are one step closer to leaving this situation, and NEVER, EVER discussing it. Just when I thought we were at the finale, and I could relax, the MC says over the microphone, ‘I understand we have some birthdays in the house tonight. ’OH, SHIT! I mentioned Guapo’s birthday when I bought the tickets.
The MC declares, ‘Would the following birthday boys, please come up onto the stage…’
As my hands lift to cover my face, Guapo ascends up the stairs and onto the stage under the bright lights to join the MC and a gaggle of scantily clad girls. I. AM. DEAD.