Bounce Bounce Bounce Bounced To Miami For My Birthday

michael and chris have become two of my closest compadres in my thirties, so i feel so lucky to have spent my b-day with them.
Michael and Chris have become two of my closest compadres in my thirties, so I feel so lucky to have spent my b-day with them.

My semi-annual trip to Miami for my side-hustle collided with my birthday weekend. Just like I like it, absurdity ensued.

I’m really fortunate to have a crew of brilliant and hilarious friends down in the 3-0-5, so Friend Chris organized a whole day/night featuring my favorite activities: beachtime, sunshine, pooltime, delicious cocktails, celebrity sightings, Justin, meat and cheese, Korean liquor, the 90’s and private karaoke. These are some things that happened:

just seeing the glowing orb they call the sun was pretty amazing.
Just seeing the glowing orb they call the sun was pretty amazing.

Justin, my partner-in-crime, came down for the shenanigans and while we were catching up at Starbucks, Jesse Something, The Bachelor circa 2004, walked in. He’s still on TV as an ESPN commentator, and he paused at the sugar/cream station and kept looking at me as if he either knew me or was waiting for me to realize who he was, but it took me too long. Wah-wah. I didn’t get to invite him to my birthday party.

After getting drunk on the beach thanks to a pitcher of some refreshing vodka concoction, we decided to do some poolside time at Soho House even though the water was flooded with children. I looked left and BAM! Spotted Sofia Coppola reading a magazine just a few chairs down from us. I was too chicken to say anything to her, so Justin and I took weird surreptitious photos. Then we noticed her husband — the lead singer of Phoenix — and her daughters, playing in the water. We avoided taking sketchy photos of the kids.

the coors light ladies gave us free bead medallions which i will treasure forever.
The Coors Light ladies gave us free bead medallions which I will treasure forever.

Tim Elfrink (who just won a Polk Award, woot) lives in Miami, and our mutual Mizzou friend Nick was also in Florida escaping DC’s wintry gloom, so they joined in on festivities. We started at a divey pool bar with excellent cheesesteaks and $5 drinks.

We got some ridiculous Coors swag and posed with the beer girls. Then we had to drink some free Coors Light.

Tucked away in our private-karaoke room by midnight, these are some of the selections performed by the group to celebrate the 1990’s, my halcyon days of youth:

“Birdhouse in your Soul” They Might Be Giants
“Spiderwebs” No Doubt
“Always be my Baby” Mariah Carey
“The Sign” Ace of Base
“Livin’ La Vida Loca” Ricky Martin
“Man in the Mirror” Michael Jackson
“Callin’ Baton Rouge” Garth Brooks
“Unpretty” TLC
“Too Close” Next
“Mmmm Mmm Mmm Mmm” Crash Test Dummies
“Thong Song” Cisco

so much fun.
So much fun.

Despite four attempts by different people, the song system was unable to choose R. Kelly’s “Ignition (Remix)” which is infinitely superior to what kept coming up — just plain ol’ “Ignition.”

Karaoke participants — on four separate occasions — chose R. Kelly’s “Ignition,” which is an inferior song that is most definitely not the catchy, viral “Ignition Remix” of 2003. Then I came home and discovered Jimmy Fallon had sang it for us.

While squished on our leather karaoke room couch for 12, pal Michael and I went through two and a half bottles of soju on our own. I think Justin enjoyed his own bottle on the other side of our karaoke coffee table. He nursed a hangover for two days, since we started drinking some kind of refreshing vodka stuff around 3pm that afternoon.

rebekah monson is my favorite new friend of 2013. we killed it on some garth brooks together.
Rebekah Monson is my favorite new friend of 2013. We killed it on some Garth Brooks together.

There is something involving 3am sandwiches at some famous place on South Beach, but I don’t remember it clearly except that Justin awoke the next morning with two of those sandwiches in bed with him.

On the actual night of the birthday, Michael Maness took me out to a smokey dive bar where he got to control the jukebox. Yes, there was David Allan Coe. And yes, we did stop to eat 1am Cuban sandwiches on the street. Happy birthday, indeed.

Happy 15th Birthday, Saidee

my momma's beagle.
My momma’s beagle.

For all my Texas pride, Saidee’s the only member of the Hu family that is a living, breathing Texas native. She was born in Grand Prairie, the runt of the litter. I remember her dog father being a show dog named “Copper Mountain Cody” — all the official AKC show dogs in her lineage were named by the street they called home.

I was a junior in high school at the time and, knowing I’d be leaving home for college the next year, scoured the classifieds to find a puppy daughter for my dog-loving mom. We hadn’t had a dog in our house since the unfortunate and painful hit-and-run death of my cocker spaniel, when I was 12.

My best friend Erin helped me choose Saidee — we drove out to Grand Prairie in my red Jeep Cherokee and visited the litter, which included three boisterous boys and one girl who seemed to struggle getting to feed as much as her brothers. She also had more brown in her coloring and an identifiable spot, so I picked her out and called dibs until she was old enough to come home. I snuck her into the house in my coat pocket — it was Christmas-time, 15 years ago — and presented her to my mom later that night.

We all fell in love. Saidee lived with my parents until my mom was transferred abroad, at which point she lived with my brother Roger and his then-girlfriend Tracy, in Tucson. She moved in with me and Matty in 2007 and has been with us ever since. In her 15 years, she’s lived in four states, survived a cancer scare, ran away and returned at least five times*, moved across the country by plane and car half a dozen times, explored the nation’s monuments, trekked through the Appalachian mountains, eaten everything that she shouldn’t have, put up with a total of four cats and now, a toddler.

When I got Saidee, I was a girl. Now I have a little girl of my own. We truly grew up together. I don’t mean this to diminish parenting a human in any way, but so much of my confidence as a momma came from learning how to really relate with Saidee and meet her needs over these past 15 years.

Now that she’s 15, she spends most of her days sleeping, has gone deaf in both her ears and is vision impaired, too. But she’s still spirited and spry — getting hyper and running around in circles when we come home, rolling around on her back for belly rubs, tirelessly rearranging herself in bed in order to snag the perfect spot, which somehow always seems to take up a lot more space than her 23 lb body would let on.

Happy Birthday, Saidee. I love you.

*In the most ridiculous Saidee runaway story, Saidee ran away to the home of another Asian-American woman in St. Louis, where she was living at the time. The woman renamed her “DuDu Peng” for the days they were together. I only know this because she took Saidee to the vet for her lifelong affliction with skin allergies, and got a prescription. My dad only tracked down Saidee because he was out at an intersection putting up Lost signs and across the street, his friend spotted “Found” signs showing Saidee/Dudu’s image.

This February 17th, A Chance to Give Thanks

midway through our homemade version of the game taboo, which featured disgraced politicians, sports stars and entertainers.
Midway through our homemade version of the game Taboo, which featured disgraced politicians, sports stars and entertainers.

Feeling too lazy and overwhelmed by a short month that included returning to work after maternity leave, two trips to Miami and the heartbreaking season finale of Downton Abbey, I barely wanted to celebrate my birthday this year. Too. Tired.

It’s a definite shift from the annual norm, since for all five of the birthdays I spent in Austin, my fellow February 17th-ers  and I would throw a massive “Three-Way”  birthday bash that got bigger and more drunken with each passing year. And last year was the unforgettable (and also libation-laden) birthday week in Costa Rica.

So this was the hangover birthday year, if you will.

But my spouse Stiles still managed to make the day quite lovely by inviting a few of my favorite people over to eat brisket and birthday cake. And play a competitive team game in which we all pitched in to provide the content. And watch “classic” YouTube videos together on our big TV. (Grape lady, anyone?)

While I’m overwhelmed by life this month, I also feel overwhelmed by gratitude. My friends and family members are adventure partners, life coaches and constant inspiration. So I want to take this birthday evening to say THANK YOU:

Continue reading “This February 17th, A Chance to Give Thanks”

Birthday Soon and Birthdays Past

Blogger and actress Elizabeth Banks just did a fun post looking back on her birthdays in years past. She encouraged her readers to do the same. It’s perfect timing for me to participate, as the second anniversary of my 29th birthday is in a couple weeks.

good friends hangin' out at our costa rica casa. (photo by e brooks)
Good friends hangin’ out at our Costa Rica casa. (Photo by E Brooks)

My Best Birthday Ever was only a year ago…

It involved being in Costa Rica, with 11 amazing people, sharing two idyllic vacation villas, grilling our own food, making fresh guac and eating under the stars, being newly knocked up with the-fetus-that-would-become-Eva, and getting surprised on the actual birth day when the pals all showed up wearing bastardized Costa Rican flag t-shirts with my face on them. (The shirt did lead to a minor snafu at the airport with Costa Rican officials, but we all eventually made it home.)

My Worst Birthday Ever was in sixth grade, when I turned 12.

It started out awesome, with my dad surprising me in the morning with a “dirt cake.” He dumped ice cream into a flower pot and topped it with a layer of oreo cookie crumbles and gummy worms. But that night, when I hosted a little scavenger hunt at the mall, my friends Samantha and Kelly decided to shoplift some rings from JC Penney and got detained by mall security, then slipped out of the questioning room when no one was watching and disappeared. This led to a few frantic hours in which two 6th graders were missing in suburban St. Louis. Birthday FAIL.

My Most Absurd Birthday Ever was when I turned 21.

It involved going to a Ja Rule concert in the basketball stadium at Mizzou. Enough said.

The Costa Rica Memory Vault

After 2010’s raucous four-day party in Amsterdam with 30 of our favorite people, I asked nagged some of the attendees to write up what they remembered the most so that we could save them for posterity, since booze and time tend to erase some of the best moments from our memories. I love reading over that post every once in awhile, so I rounded up some Costa Rica 2012 memories, below. (Y’all know I’m a hopeless nostalgic, so my poor friends end up subjected to this activity more than most.)

The pals in Costa Rica in our matching “Sucia Treinta” birthday shirts they surprised me with.

 

TERP: Oh gee, how bout being TERRIFIED OUT OF MY MIND when you and Matty gave me my assault wake-up call. Or when I nearly went to the Sandanista GITMO because I was wearing a flag defaced with “that Chinese girl.”*
[Terp pauses. Then…] I’ll never forget swinging from treetop to treetop with my newfound friends. We climbed questionable ladder-stairs to the canopy of Costa Rica where goofball Sandanistas flung us down ziplines while flirting with Mon-Pon and calling me FLACO! (skinny.) Then at the end I paid them far less than we owed since I was convinced they were ripping us off… even though they weren’t.

ERICA: I think one of my favorite memories from our week in Costa Rica was the lunch we had at Eat @ Joe’s. We grabbed lunch at this beach-side restaurant whose claim to fame was their “Nachos as Big as Your Ass.” Unfortunately, the nachos were the best thing Eat @ Joe’s had going for it. After we polished off the nacho appetizer and were still waiting for the rest of our order and chalking up the delay to “Tico Time,” one of the wait staff came up to us and apologized for the food taking so long. “I don’t know what happened to your server. I don’t know if he died, or what.” Best. Excuse. Ever. A little while later, our food was delivered; well, kinda. Terp and I had each ordered grilled Mahi that arrived as grilled chicken, and Justin’s food didn’t show up at all (that didn’t keep them from charging us for his absent meal later, though!). The stinky cherry on top of it all, though, was that while we were eating our tardy meal, sewage started spilling toward us from the bathroom right next to our table. Nothing reminds you that you’re in a foreign country like late table service, incorrect or completely forgotten meal orders and a sewage spill seeping toward your table. Pura Vida, for sure.

Continue reading “The Costa Rica Memory Vault”