"It'll be fine in the end," is what I half-heartedly told myself all through the horror that was last Friday. Seeing as Tristan's birthday cake was ultimately cut by the birthday boy and shared amongst friends, the day had turned out fine. Or at least just inched itself off Tristan's list of "Candidates for 'Worst Day of My Life.'" I hope.
But it was one of those days during which time somehow managed to speed up and slow down at the same time, when seemingly everything that could go wrong did go wrong, aside from anyone dying, and even that was a close call. While Tristan summed up his Day of Doom rather neatly in his livejournal, I'll recount the day much less succinctly. With photos.
I started planning Tristan's surprise birthday party two weekends ago, giving me about a week to pull everything together before holding the party this past Friday. His birthday was actually yesterday, May 4th, but I figured it'd make more sense to hold a party on a Friday night than a Sunday night for the sake of people being more in the mood to go to a party-like thing, aside from being less expected. "Happy two-days-before-your birthday!"
I tend to plan out my activities, but parties? Not so much. Birthday parties? Definitely not; I never even had a real one for myself. A surprise birthday party? Hell, that requires even more effort than a normal birthday party. I didn't really think about how much more complicated things would get when, after talking to his roommate Kim, I secured his apartment as the venue for the party. Simply, I had to make sure he wasn't in the apartment when my friends and I set it up in a party-like fashion. Unsimply, I had to make sure he wasn't in the apartment when my friends and I set it up in a party-like fashion. And it became unsimple because, to ensure that Tristan would be free on Friday, I planned for us and a few mutual friends to eat dinner at Bahia that night. Which I would then have to bail out on. For reasons unbeknownst to him.
Overall, it would've been less complicated if I could think up of better diversions and were a more convincing liar. Alas, I fail in these departments.
And then it got a little worse
It did work out pretty well until Friday morning. I received a good number of RSVPs from his friends, coordinated who would be willing to bring what food, got some friends to help me decorate the apartment, ordered a cake from Two Little Red Hens, and then some. There were still a few loose ends, but the kind of ends you could kinda slick back with some spit; no one would notice. Or at least Tristan wouldn't notice.
But then on Friday morning, mere minutes after I plopped myself in front of my computer at work, Kim emailed me to inform me that we couldn't have the party at the apartment due to two important reasons: another roommate had just moved in the day before, reducing the square footage of the apartment by about 50% or more, and her set of keys had gone missing in the mess of boxes. Having been sick at home for the past three days probably made me sound more dejected than I should've—she tried to clean up, but having seen the apartment myself that night, I know it would've been nearly impossible to get it ready in time.
After my brain died for about 5 seconds, we talked about how to keep the party going. Take it to a bar? Another friend's apartment? Ah yes, the latter. After a frantic email to John, who lives fairly close to Tristan, his apartment became the new location of the party. I informed the invitees to the best of my ability, although freaked out when I realized I didn't have everyone's phone number. Note to self: whenever planning a party, get everyone's phone numbers. There were only two people's numbers that I didn't already have, but it was my fault for not asking. Thus is the mark of the amateur party planner.
And then it got a lot worse
Tristan called me that afternoon. As I picked up the phone, I figured he was calling to say hello and confirm our plans for that night.
"Hello," he began, in a deceptively ordinary tone.
"Hi! What's up?"
"I got hit by a bus."
And this is when everything I've so far complained about in regards to failed party planning didn't really matter anymore.
"WHAT? A bus?!"
"Actually, I got run over by a bus." Those crucial words "run over" detail didn't really sink in until I saw him that night.
"...WHAT? Are you okay? Where are you?"
"Bellevue Hospital. I'm not too hurt, I'll only be here for a while. I'll still see you at dinner tonight."
"I was riding in Times Square,"—he's a bike messenger—"and a tourist bus got too close to the curb and didn't see me. I got pinned to the side and it dragged me and my bike and..."
I didn't stop paying attention at this point; I was distracted by trying to recreate the incident in my head. Which was a bad idea. You shouldn't envision your best friends being squashed by mammoth charter buses; you might feel like puking, or some other unsettling visceral reaction. Then again, whatever you feel won't be as bad as being part of the accident.
After quietly freaking out—I was at work after all—and being reassured by Tristan that he wasn't too badly injured, I went back to staring blankly at my computer and thinking, "What the fuck is wrong with today?"
Later, when Tristan fully described the accident, we realized what a miracle it was that he didn't sustain more injuries. If his legs had been in any other position, he could've ended up with two broken legs. And then some. The worst of his injuries is the puncture in his left forearm, which required four stitches. Otherwise, he emerged with abrasions and bruises all over different parts of his body, a small consequence considering the seriousness of his accident.
And then there's the smashed bike. And a newfound intense dislike of tour buses and the people inside them.
By this point I really, reallly wanted to make the party work. If ever there were a time for him to be surrounded by good friends, this was it.
Party Plan In Action
The "keep Tristan occupied" plan was for him to eat dinner at Bahia at 7 pm with Olivia, Lauren, and Jones. As for how they would get him to go to John's house afterwards, well...there was no plan there.
But first, I had to get standard party supplies. Party Glitters, a short walk from Tristan's apartment and a few subway stops from John's apartment, became our purveyor of cups, plates, streamers, candles, and helium-filled balloons. I only found it accidentally after the night of pizza and gelato, when John, Dave, Ainara and I had gone one subway stop too far and had to walk back a stop. But now you know: Party Glitters is party-supply central for South Williamsburg/Bed-Stuy/those other neighborhoods whose names I can't remember.
John helped me lug the single-use items back to his apartment. Mostly the balloons. You can't help but feel a bit happier when your hand is attached to a floating bundle of a dozen bulbous upside-down teardrops in assorted colors. You may look weird—especially when you're forced to tame the balloons on the subway—but...there is something joyous about things that can float/pop at any moment.
Before John and I headed back to his apartment, Lauren and Jones met us outside the Lorimer stop on the J train to hand off the birthday cake (they live near Two Little Red Hens; lucky!) and, from Jones, a special bag of Sterzing's potato chips straight from his home state of Iowa!
"They're supposed to taste somewhat like donuts," explained Jones, "but that's with the regular ones. I didn't know I got the trans fat free version."
Donut flavor, they had not, but they were still addictive. Like the bottom of the bag said, they tasted fresh and crisp. Next, I'll have to try the trans fat-laden version.
It wasn't long before friends came by to help: Annie, Claire, and then Diana. Us females dealt with the food—including way too many jelly beans, corn chips, beer, orange juice, and vegan cupcakes—while John and Dave streamered their living room.
Nothing screams festive like a crowd of balloons by the door. Unless it's actually someone screaming, "FESTIVE!"
While we waited for Tristan to appear (ignoring that the logistics of this part of the night hadn't really been planned out), Dave and John drew these ridiculously cute birthday cards for Tristan. Dave's was addressed to "Tistan," but we figured that was the same person.
At some point I took a gander at the customized cake. While I knew there'd be balloons on it since I specified that the cake was of the birthday sort, I had no idea that the decorational balloons would take up 50% of the cake's surface and looks so colorful, turning it into something more appropriate for a 5-year old than a 23-year old. ("Did they know what age the birthday cake was for?" joked Annie.) Then again, the nickname "Tristiecakes" probably doesn't appear to belong to a 23-year old. Overall, the cake was beautiful and something I could never dream to make on my own; we just thought the balloons were funny.
And then we waited some more, eating about half of the corn chips in the process and maybe going through a third of the carton of orange juice. How were we supposed to get Tristan over? The original plan was for Olivia, Lauren and Jones to come with him to John's apartment in conjunction with some excuse I had yet to come up with, but this non-plan faded when Lauren and Jones had to go back to the city for work and Olivia's dinner ended with a debilitating stomachache. Oops. But they did get to eat dinner together, so it was all good.
I simply called Tristan, telling him to come to John's after he was done putting his things back in his apartment. Not that I had much of a reason to be at John's. "Surely he suspects something by now," I thought. Getting hit by a bus didn't destroy his intuition.
But it seemed like he really didn't know anything, or at least he didn't ask me any questions. More waiting occurred, during which a Paper Rad DVD burned holes of saturated primary colors into our brains and thankfully another friend, Sydney, popped by. When the clock ticked past 9 pm and no Tristan was to be found, I texted him to find his whereabouts.
"I can't walk very well, but I'll be over," he answered.
Oh...yeah. Okay. I didn't forget about the bus-smashie thing, but I had never seen a limping Tristan before in my life.
...Which is why it was a shock when he finally did arrive in one piece, mildly damaged. John helped him up the stairs while I quickly shooed everyone else behind a partition in the living room so they wouldn't be seen.
"I knew you must've had something important for me if you asked me to come over," he said when his dazed eyes caught upon the balloons and streamers.
John took him to the refrigerator to get him something to drink while I informed the others that hiding time was over. As they came out, one by one, Tristan's dazed look transformed into one of a mixture of happiness, horror, surprise, and slight embarrassment. And maybe a little more horror.
"Oh my god," he repeated, with his palm over his mouth, eyes just shy of tearing up. It's a face I probably won't ever see again, but I'll never forget it either. Judging from his response, I'd say we did a pretty good job of surprising him.
For the next hour or so, we just hung out and talked in John's kitchen, starting with Tristan's action-packed day of misery and pain.
"I would've put on nicer clothing if I knew I was going to see you guys!" he said after pointing out that he had been wearing the same clothes all day, including his ruined jeans that the doctors had to cut through in the hospital.
"That would've totally defeated the purpose!" I replied.
He explained that right before he got pinned by the bus, he had swerved to avoid pedestrians on the curb. ...Which makes it even more insulting that he had been run over by a bus of tourists and that tourists were actually taking photos of his accident. Not to say that he'll run over them in the future, but he'll begrudgingly avoid them.
Rather than cover his cake with 23 candles, I opted for the easy 2 and 3 candles. On retrospect, it would've been more fun to have a flaming cake. Next year.
Fat, quadruple-layered slices of chocolate cake sandwiching coffee cream and covered in hazelnut frosting were passed around the table. As you probably already know, I'm not a fan of coffee, but I can deal with it in cake-form. Besides, I knew Tristan liked coffee and chocolate. As for the hazelnut, it seemed like a logical addition.
The cake was approved by most, if not all. It excelled in the most important distinctions of awesome cakeness: the cake was moist, the buttery frosting was smooth and of the non-gluey type, and the combination of the two didn't result in a diabetes-inducing sugar bomb. It was a very balanced cake, something that can be hard to find in a world of many dry and/or overly sweetened baked goods.
After deciding that we were all tired and ready to go home, Tristan, John, Dave, Diana, Claire and I took a leisurely walk back to Tristan's apartment (or the adjacent J train stop, more like) through the dead streets of late night Bed-Stuy.
You can't expect life to go as planned or predict the worst, even just for half a day. Despite the many shitty memories that May 2nd may conjure up for Tristan, there was, at the very least, a few hours of happiness. Many thanks to his friends who helped make things go as smoothly as possible and fill his heart with happiness! It wouldn't have been a success without you.
And happy day-after-your-birthday, Tristan! You are most definitely my best friend. Until we get sick of each other and our camaraderie turns into loathing.
Last Weekend: Part 2: Pupusas, Dumplings, Jumping, Tea, and Breakfast (Review of Bahia)
The motherload of all food tours, part 1 (Review of Two Little Red Hens)
Gelato, Abraço, Shanghai Cafe, and a Cake-Filled Birthday Bash (Review of cheesecake from TLRH)
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