“Birthdays are a just a reminder that you’re another year older”. This is the jaded and pessimistic sentence heard time and time again from almost anyone over 25 who has a phobia of aging. Aging is a funny thing though; it is depressing; especially when you look around you to so many up-and-coming youths who are parading around and being obnoxious, and they piss you off despite the fact that you think to yourself, “I was once just like that.”
In the last four years, birthdays have taken on a whole new meaning; what used to be dinner out somewhere and a few cocktails, has become somewhat of a random adventure, and choosing that adventure has just gotten better and better with time. What makes my birthday particularly special is that every year now, I get to share it with my two very best friends, who are born within ten days of me. Upon discovering (and cherishing) this little tidbit, a good friend of ours (more than good friend) told us that he knew a whole bunch of friends born within a week of him; and every year, they would go out every night of that week to celebrate what he dubbed “Birthday Week.” And birthdays have never been the same for us since.
The Very First Birthday Weekend
21 is a good age to be. While not quite as good as 20, it allows you legal drinking and gambling all over North America, which is never a bad thing. And while most people celebrate 21 with a trip to Vegas, with 21 shots at some club surrounded by shitloads of wasted friends, here is what we did instead: we each picked two “activities” (some of which were meals… which are still activities in my eyes anyways), and we spent the entire weekend together, sleepover and all, and did them all. And while typical 21-year olds would drink each other under the table, here is what we opted for instead:
First, we went skating at West Edmonton Mall, which I had never done before that day (and actually haven’t done since). Amongst hockey dads and Nazi Zamboni drivers and seniors in love, we spent the evening skating our asses off. I’m a terrible skater; I’ve always been a terrible skater and I always will be. I can’t stop so what I choose instead, is to stop myself by slamming into the boards. It didn’t matter however, that none of us are Olympic athletes… what mattered is that we took epic photographs and spent the whole evening together careening across the ice. It was so innocent and yet, so much fun.
That evening, for dinner (and dessert), we went to the Cheesecake Cafe. Again, something I’ve never done before, or since. We were starving – almost literally – when we got there. And of course, they don’t take reservations. So we sat in the waiting room, not even talking because we were too hungry to say anything to each other. We probably waited about 45 minutes before getting a table. The fun fact about the Cheesecake Cafe is the food kind of sucks (as does the service — they totally forgot our appetizer, leaving us in a hilariously awkward stunned silence when our entrees arrived) but the dessert is amazing and sumptuous and huge and excessive in the best way. And what else would you expect from a place called “the Cheescake Cafe”?
The piece de resistance was after dinner; we rushed back to my then-apartment and changed into our “fancy” clothes and headed, again for the first time (this is starting to sound like Breakfast at Tiffany’s when we spend the whole day doing things we’ve never done before) to the Confederation Lounge, an epic city bar recommended to us by none other than once-class guest speaker (and amazing writer) Todd Babiak. Since this day, we’ve gone to our share of fancy (and fancier) Fairmont hotel bars – from New York, to Toronto, to Banff – but this particular experience on this particular birthday was by leaps and bounds, the best. We sat in cozy living room-style couches and ordered fancy frozen cocktails and got complimentary snacks of Bits and Bites and pretzels and peanuts, and we had Sex and the City-esque chats about frivolous 21-year old topics, and we were served by our attractive and hilariously entertaining waiter, DJ, who we bothered for a photograph near the end of the night – he then took it upon himself to lay down across our laps in what is the most hilarious and awkward photograph ever, of all time in the history of the world (he got a huge tip from us). After cocktails, we went out onto the balcony and took a bunch of self-indulgent photographs and the train home was giddy and epic and hilarious and fun and we were all floating home on clouds.
The next day, we had planned on Death by Chocolate waffles for breakfast (plan failed – apparently they “don’t serve waffles at breakfast) so we went to the Friends and Neighbours Cafe for breakfast instead (not terrible) before heading back to West Edmonton Mall and going to the water park. We spent the better part of the afternoon there linking pinkies and riding water slides (as an aside, I love water slides). We were certain everyone was judging us (they so were) and afterwards, we waited for the bus home, looking like total Chlorine garbage, but not caring (sort of) because we had so much fun.
The first annual Birthday Weekend was over; and we spent the entirety of it semi-sober; no rowdy shots, mechanical bulls, plastic tiaras or dance clubs one associated with typical 21-year old birthday parties. But… we’re not your typical best friends either… and we never will be.
Since 21, our Birthday Weekends have gotten increasingly complex, planned-out and elaborate. But the first one was a kind of simple magic that has been technically “topped”, but not repeated in emotion and juvenile exuberance… yet!