I walked into the kitchen just in time to spot a person in a hoodie carrying large pieces of wood into my backyard. Moving closer to the sliding glass door, I noticed a blue tarp and a person's legs dangling down from the top of the pergola, 12 feet above the flagstone patio.
I slide the door open.
It was my friends from D.C., Sue (hoodie and wood) and Justin (dangling legs), who were staying with us for the weekend on their way to attend a wedding in Trumbull. Or so the Germans would have us believe.
"What are you doing?"
"Your wife wanted us to put a tarp over the pergola."
"That's what she wanted."
I speed-dialed My Love's Blackberry.
"We're having a few friends over," she said. "I thought we might want to use the patio and it looked like rain."
"Who's coming over?"
"A few friends."
"Look," I said, "I just spent 2½ hours on the phone with HP trying to get the hard drive on the home computer fixed. I'm not in the mood. Tell me who's coming over."
"Oh, just Tom and Suzanne and Amy and Andy."
That should have tipped me off. She was mixing unaffiliated college/work friends with our neighbors. Worlds colliding! Worlds colliding!
But I was still a tad light-headed from the HP phone support experience to pick up on it.
Until, of course, the West Side Party Rentals truck backed down the driveway.
"Oh, it may be a more than few friends," My Love said.
"There are 70 people coming!" yelled Thing 2, obviously showing knowledge not normally associated with kindergartners who still can't tie their shoes.
"Surprise!" added My Love.
Jig was up. Surprise party for my 40th birthday was in the works.
Cool. Unlike My Love, who a few years back threatened divorce and/or death if I acknowledged her 40th in any sort of public manner, I was resigned to the fact my youth was on life support. It actually started last year when I had to officially move a waist size up for the first time since high school.
Besides, she owed me. On my 30th, she quite loudly chewed me out in a Home Depot for "futzing" when she had a hair appointment to get to. Hello -- guy, birthday, Home Depot … did the woman need a diagram?
I agreed to vacate the house for several hours so the workers could set up. Besides, I needed the Geek Squad to retrieve from the family hard drive the data that I thought I had backed up three months ago. Turned out, I had backed it up … a YEAR and three months ago.
Hours later I returned, $159 lighter and two Dos Equies Ambers happier (Best Buy in Norwalk is next to an excellent and reasonably priced Mexican restaurant, Rio), to find the biggest frickin' smoker I had ever seen -- in my driveway -- before.
"Surprise! It's a barbecue!" said My Love, as I basked in the charcoal goodness of The CookHouse catering team. Mmm, barrrr-beeeee-cuuuue, uuuuuhuuuuuhuuuuuh.
After putting my birthday cake in the basement for safekeeping (My Love asked me to pick it up on the way home … c'mon, I knew there was going to be one at this point), I ventured out to check out the huge tent now killing my second attempt at growing grass in the back this spring. Along with it and the margarita machines (note - plural), I discovered a half ton of sound equipment and stage lights on the pergola/patio.
"Uh, will there be music tonight?"
"Yep. We're having a band."
"Anyone I know?"
"Oh, it's a band."
"OK," I said, "that means it is one of two people …"
(HA! Several years ago, My Love asked me who -- within reasonable limits, of course -- I would want to play a party at our house if I had the chance. I gave her two choices.)
"You'll see," she said.
Ten minutes later, a dark blue car pulled down my driveway, and from behind the wheel emerged …
TO BE CONTINUED …