happy birthday, ham box

Last night. Where do I begin?

Our friend Gina, who lives in Monterey, decided at the last minute to drive up Saturday morning for the party. While she made the three-hour hike, Chad and I did our last-minute party-prep shopping (Target and Safeway) and I tried not to freak out. Since we had cleaned so thoroughly the weekend before, there wasn’t much straightening to be done, but I hadn’t laundered any clothes for the evening and had a spot of angst about that and the state of the bedroom, in case anyone wandered back there. Gina arrived and decorated the living room with purple and ivory streamers and balloons. I bought a hydrangea to match and was going to add candles to the whole mix, but then I would worry about burning the house down so I didn’t.

While we all puttered around the house, we caught up with Gina, and I made the frosting for the cake. (I’m so glad I made the cake itself on Friday night, especially since I ran out of red food coloring and had to run to the store in the middle of it. D’oh.) It’s cooked frosting, so it was trickier than just mixing stuff together, but it still turned out well. Actually applying the frosting to the cake without the proper utensil was quite challenging, yet fun. I purchased black icing and red cinnamon hearts for accents. The cake was too small to write out Happy 29th Birthday, Halsted so we all decided on HB^2 – clever, no? We thought so. Chad drew a squid on it, too. I was pleased. And he put “nipples” on the peaks of the capital B. I was amused.

After some last-minute vacuuming and laundry, I jumped in the shower to get ready for the party itself. Chris and Clay arrived early, as did John and his wife, Laura. I was still ready before eight, when it formally started, and we got the pizzas going and the wine opened. More guests arrived – Rob, Ryan and Sam, David and Brina, Darius, Lily and Taylor, and Jen – and I was so thrilled! We played “Apples to Apples” which is my favorite party game; with fourteen people it’s partial, wonderful chaos. It took so long just to go around once that we decided to end it there.

Then it was time for me to get nervous. I had not only baked a cake for the occasion, but I had written a poem as well. I mumbled something to preface it, then read it. The reaction was good, I think, although I’m the worst judge of my own poetry. Everyone clapped, that’s all I know. After that, Taylor and I went to the kitchen to put the small army of candles onto my cake. I was relieved from this duty because it was taking me so long to light them. (Twenty-nine was suddenly a larger number than I had realized …) The rendition of “Happy Birthday” left me warm and giggly. I couldn’t blow out all the candles! I got about twenty on the first breath, and I’m not even a smoker anymore so I can’t blame diminished lung capacity. People ate the cake, but it wasn’t delicious. As I announced at the party, “I’m a poet, not a baker.” I’m not a mathematician, either; I forgot the parentheses around HB in order to properly square it.

On the invitations, I requested that no one purchase any gifts for me; the idea was to keep everyone’s costs (and levels of frustration) down. As a result, I received some very creative presents, ranging from homemade vegan chocolate chip cookies to original photographs to loaned CDs and DVDs to computer clip-art to salon product samples to . Yes, that’s . It’s a beautiful hand-painted box with the initials HB on the top and with a beanie-baby-esque pig and some Pez inside it. HB for Ham Box, of course. O, and I can’t forget to mention the poem that Ryan created entirely out of lines from They Might Be Giants’ lyrics. (I’ve posted it at the bottom of this entry.) And the button from Darius that said, “I Eat the Flesh of the Living – And I Vote!”

Next we played “The Great Dalmuti” and we started to use exclamations of “Ham Box!” instead of “I pass!” Playing this game with Chad is very dangerous, I realized. He shows no mercy when he is the Greater Dalmuti, and as the Greater Peon I had to suffer with socks on my hands, balancing my vampire squid stuffed animal on my head. We played a round and then it was time for people to head home, even though I wished it never ended.

Some pictures from the party are here temporarily. I am still mastering the ways of iPhoto. And I will post the poem I wrote. Just … later. One last note, though. Chad was exempt from my no-buying-gifts rule. He rose to the occasion, he did: he got me a full set of dice (d4, d6, d8, 2d10, d12, d20) made out of amethysts. I am a stylish D&D geek now!

Carinah’s 29th Birthday Poem, by Ergazork (courtesy of TMBG)

In my dream she is reaching past my hollow core Which one of us is the one that we can’t trust?

Careen in tandem, the sea into the landem Blow my mind your royal flyness I dig your bangs Tabloid footprints in your hair Even when I close my eyes your silhouette is smiling at me

Why, why did they send her? She’s walking ‘round wearing all of my clothes Placental the sister of her brother Marsupial She’s stuck in my heart now, where my blood belongs.

And in the back of the edge of hearing Everything’s catching on fire The evidence will vanish from your charred and smoking chair I’ve got no one to blame but my fat self

Mysterious whisper Blew out your pilot light And sees you softly weeping as some music fills the room Before the expiration date

I’m interested in things It scares me so, like I scare myself Glistening white triangular tooth Condemned to a life of bleak despair

I kick the rocks beneath me You declare that I have drowned My defeated heart keeps beating on I am not the only dust my mother raised

I was the worst hope of my generation The colossal mess they’d made of their lives When they start the love machine and I can love again I want to raise my freak flag higher and higher

See the spring of the grandfather clock unwinding Raise a glass and sit and stare For on the kitchen table I must lie Someone keeps moving my chair

Soul crushing dirt bike Why the shrieks of pain Pour the poison in my ear One degree shy of sadistic Was it something you would do for anybody?

I walk along darkened corridors A place where we could live I see a broken figure silhouetted on the wall Does he feel totally worthless?

In your darkest hour, my indolent friends I promise not to kill you But really I’m not actually your friend

Children obey what the robots say Fire alarms go off in your head And time is still marching on

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I give respect and reverence to those who came before me.