122907 The John Henrys, Ottawa, ON

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Wasn’t that a party!

December 29th, 2007 ended my fortieth circuit around our solar system and to mark the occasion m’lady planned a secret surprise celebration of great proportion that gathered several tonnes of my favourite sapiens together in my favourite drinking hole to see my favourite local band, and there was even presents.  My favourite!

If you know me you know birthdays ‘round here are a big deal.  And why not?  Birthdays are your annual Darwin Awards report card, a celebratory spa day for existentialism that provides an inalienable excuse for excessivity and day-drinking.  So I was probably already half in the bag when m’lady coaxed me to Irene’s Pub for “dinner”.

When we walked in I was greeted with a cheer from dozens of great friends who lined up to hug me and cajole me with a steady stream of proffered beers, shooters, and more.  Gift bags littered the tables, party hats were handed around and plated cake sat waiting in the wings.  When I glanced at the stage and recognized The John Henrys’ gear I was instantly reminded of a hazy post-show conversation a month earlier when the band’s bass player tipped his hand and blew the surprise.  I’d immediately forced myself to forget that he had said a word and succeeded tremendously, as my genuine shock at finding this waiting party proved.

The band played and they were fantastic.  The John Henrys were an alt-country band stacked with stellar players and great songwriting.  It didn’t matter who you were or what you were into; if you liked good live music you liked The John Henrys.  I know I did, and so did everyone I knew.  

All of whom were in attendance, did I mention that?  It seemed that every minute brought another great friend through the door.  It was like a sloppy This Is Your Life encompassing the entirety of the previous seventeen and-a-half years of my personal person:  Toddvelvet: the Ottawa Smears.

M’lady had attached a bunch of different little photos of me to toothpicks and stuck them like flags into each slice of cake.  Gift bottles of whiskey and tequila amassed in a pile.  Kisses, laughs, speeches, shooters…it was an endless patchwork of awesomeness all pointed straight at me.  Looking around the room and seeing it packed to the rafters with nothing but super-fun, exceptionally wonderful people made me proud to be alive.  I ate it up with an unabashed lack of humility that made me glad I’m not famous.

Given my ambitious start, I was forced to an early demise when our crowd inevitably closed down the bar and shifted to a thriving, domestic afterparty.  But friends to the end, when I woke up I discovered that all of my birthday bottles had survived the party unmolested.

I tell you, it sure is great to be amongst the living, and with this sort of encouragement I intend to keep at it as long as I can.  Thanks to Irene’s for being such a great bar and for housing the event, crazy-awesome thanks to The John Henrys for putting in an epically long set that kept us all singing along the whole night, an enormously huge thanks to m’lady for putting together such an astounding evening (and for being so darn cute), and my eternal thanks to, well, everyone for being part of this torrential game of Life that we all share.

Happy Birthday Everybody.

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