Yesterday was The Big Day. The B-Day. This was the first year for as long as I can remember that I did not have some sort of elaborate, one-of-a-kind, stay-out’til-the
local-diner-on-the-corner kind of birthday parties.
I love birthdays. Especially my own. I love them so much, I have even been known to throw myself a surprise birthday or two…or 6. I know, I know…it’s nothing I’m proud of, but as a girl who prides herself on having exceptional party planning skills, I just don’t trust anyone to do it better. Kinda like Celest with her makeup.
However, this year, amid the chaos of the holiday season, the many Dinner Belle gigs and the part-time freelance jobs I took so I could have money to buy Christmas presents and pay rent (the writer’s strike has pretty much stalled all my auditions), I simply did not have the time or the energy to plan a huge party. Don’t get me wrong, there were wonderful little events scattered throughout the day: the happy b-day phone calls, texts and e-mails from friends and family all across the country, the 5pm champagne cocktail and french fries at Balthazar with Kimberly and Celest, the 7 o’clock, romantic, candle-lit dinner at Gemma with my man, and then a great series of shows at Mercury Lounge. It was simple. Low-key. And that was okay. Nice, even.
However, as we were walking home, cold winter air nipping at the exposed part of my neck that my scarf had abandoned, I realized I had not yet had any cake! A birthday without cake…imagine the horror! So we decided to duck into a local east village favorite, Cafe Cortadito. We were among the first people to try this Cuban gem when it first opened a mere 5 months ago, and have since become great friends with the owners, a lovely, charismatic husband and wife team. As we walked through the bright orange entryway, the waiter told us that he was sorry but they were closed. Disappointed, we asked if we could just say a quick hello to our friends (the owners) and be on our way. He kindly agreed and led us to the private room in the back. Tucked away in this cozy and serene oasis straight out of ABC Carpet and Home, were our friends, finishing a bottle of wine and their own dinners after a busy night of cooking and serving others. We apologized for interrupting and said we had just wanted some cake for my birthday, at which point they practically grabbed the coats off our backs and pleaded with us to join them in the pillow-lined booth. We said we would only stay for a quick drink and then get out of their hair and let them go home, as it was nearing 1am by this point (they close at 11:30pm)…but within minutes, rounds of Corona’s were served, along with wonderful conversation and much laughter. And just as I thought we were ready to go, the chef himself came out holding a beautifully decorated plate with my favorite Cafe Cortadito dessert on top—“Tres Leches,” a decadent Latin cake, piled high with whip cream. The fancy writing on the plate wished me a “happy birthday.” I felt a huge swell of emotion and saw generous sincerity in their eyes as they sang to me, these acquaintances who were giving up two hours of their time to help me celebrate MY birthday. It was touching and lovely, and with a man I love sitting across the table from me, I honestly couldn’t think of anywhere I would rather have been at that exact moment…
…Except perhaps if everyone I knew jumped out of the kitchen and yelled “Surprise!” But hey, there’s always next year….