Nov 20, 2013, 08:43AM

Celebrate: A Winter Evening in Boston, 2011

On excessive celebration.

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On the heels of a treacherous drive south through slush-covered vision and slippery wheels. On the heels of a flight to catch, an early morning wake-up call. On the heels of a sleepless night, on the heels of something close to a perfect day. Which starts with a Celebration.

Celebrating sleeping in, celebrating getting coffee, celebrating the crunch of a freshly toasted bagel. Celebrating spontaneous birthday shopping, celebrating the birthday song, a slowed-down and sexy-silly version, and cupcakes.

Celebrating wrapping and unwrapping. Celebrating looks of pleasant surprise upon a beautiful and serene face. Celebrating the pre-dinner dress up. Celebrating the harmless drive to dinner on the sullied-snow-piled streets of Cambridge. Celebrating the town/city divide in the near-urban landscape.

Celebrating the waiting inside the entryway of the restaurant. Celebrating the hosts eating their pre-shift meal. Celebrating the wondering why they’d unlocked the door and had us stand and wait. Celebrating because it’s fucking cold outside. Celebrating the people who show up after us, who are told the same thing, “We actually open at 5:30, but you can wait inside here.” Celebrating avoiding the long-walk, the avoiding-the-long-finding-a-parking-spot, the short blast of frigid wind, the obstacle course of a slush-filled sidewalk and the piles of leftover snow bank, collecting interest.

Celebrating the awards on the wall, near the host’s stand. Celebrating sitting down and taking in of atmosphere, of setting for this meal of celebration. Celebrating the menu and the giddiness and the palette, teased. Celebrating the greeting of the waiter, the wine or beer, yes we’ll end up with two unfamiliar beers please, and then celebrating with the five courses, the anniversary tasting menus, celebrating the restaurant’s celebration of 10 years, and the birthday celebration of 31 years of life.

The celebrating of elegantly and thoughtfully conceived of, prepared, executed, and delivered plates of sumptuous sustenance, mingling flavors and textures, a whipped and fiery feta here, a beer battered mussel there, a delectable middle course of vermicelli tinged with saffron and vanilla. A juicy lemon chicken, all leading toward a baked Alaska with a twist, the meringue skillfully spiked and hiding the caramel ice cream and the coconut crumble, all encircled by a passion fruit glaze that entrances us. These five courses chosen for our celebration melting into the restaurant’s celebration and the city’s celebration.

Celebrating the “Does this meal have to end?” Celebrating the “Sadly, it does,” and the running off into the cold night to find sandwich-making materials for the plane ride tomorrow. Celebrating the off in search of our seats at the arena and our quest to beat the opening tip.

Celebrating the “Will we make it?” Celebrating the waiting for the red light. Celebrating finding a parking spot. Celebrating the “Will we get towed?” Celebrating the booth guy, with his island patois, and his opening of the door, and his call, “You can leave your car here...” And then celebrating his coming back out and saying, “You can leave it for two hours.”

Celebrating the “Now he’s on to us.” Celebrating the finding of a new parking spot, in the same lot, but farther away from the booth guy, who I insist doesn’t want to come out of there into the cold night, to have cars towed off the lot, not on a holiday, not on Dr. King’s birthday. Celebrating Dr. King, by listening the day before to the seventh graders listening to his dream speech, to observing their discussion about why he was assassinated, about how he sounded when he was making this speech, this history, this spot in time, like the imagining of all the people, like all of the dreamers in the history of the world, sitting down together, and celebrating, and calling us all out to awareness, if only for a moment, like Obama on that moment of inauguration, before the clouds came rolling back and hovered again over that bleached White House in D.C.

Celebrating the finding of a new parking spot.

Celebrating the getting out of the car, and the pretend visit to CVS to make the parking look real, like we really needed something from one of these many stores in this shopping center, near the T station, before the tip-off. As we celebrate.

Celebrating the train, the ticket-buying and the waiting for. Celebrating the train’s arrival. Celebrating the train’s mysterious stop before it finally comes all the way into the station. Celebrating the finding of the two seats, next to the edge, near the doors. Celebrating the having a place to sit and not rock back and forth, the urban sway that so many of us feel.

Celebrating the off-balance man with the somewhat-strange demeanor, “nefarious,” the word coming to mind. Celebrating the man with the disease, maybe it's Down Syndrome? and his inaudible mumbling. Celebrating the counting down of the stops, celebrating the changing of trains, and the waiting for the next train while celebrating the looking at the watch and wondering if it’s still possible to catch the game in its entirety. From tip to buzzer.

Celebrating the anxiety that is always ready to leap out and cascade over the minutes, the watch-wearing minutes. Celebrating the relief of the two buskers, the subway musicians and their cushioning the watch-wearing minutes with impromptu performance. Helpful to live in a city with good musicians, not just names coming in and out.  Celebrating what music school does to musicians, and what busking does to musicians.

Celebrating the looking at the watch again, the brain that races toward the countdowns that surround waking life. Celebrating the time in between songs, where the quiet gives way to more mellifluous sounds.

Celebrating the rendition of an old, mostly unknown song by a very well-known musician. Celebrating the dropping in of a dollar bill to the mostly empty guitar case, doubling as a tip jar or collection plate.

Celebrating the next song. Celebrating the running up toward the arena, close to the finding of the familiar seats. Celebrating the free posters, and the thinking of the other friends who might enjoy the extra posters. Celebrating the almost at the seats now. Celebrating that the game has not tipped. That we will see every moment.

Celebrating the fast start, the big early lead, the excitement of the return of the fallen star, the team’s backbone, the jersey she wears next to me, my soon-to-be-wife, our lovely life, our KG, our Celtics, our cheers drowning out our fears, our tears. We come not to sit quietly; we come to urge on, we come to push our boys to that hard-to-sustain level of intensity, that desire will take us all there, and that it is possible.

And then we stop celebrating for a time.

We cannot stop the others, those behind us, two rows back, the 10 of them, a college group, the cruel and idiotic taunts that they insist on belting out, the misogyny, the stupidity, the pathetic display of self-importance by way of drunken chanting. We attempt to block it out, those of us sitting in these nearby rows. It eats at us, as we attempt to refocus ourselves on our reason for being here.

We have to keep celebrating. We must.

How do we celebrate the increasing agitation, the inability to ignore, the constant barrage of diarrhea coming from the mouths of the two most obese of the crew?

Celebrate the man next to us who shouts, “You’re so dumb!” Celebrate the fact that this won’t help. Celebrate the summoning up of the nerve to turn and say something to the man, say something related to the volume, even though the content is a disturbing problem. Celebrate the turning in the seat, the saying to him directly, “Do you think you could keep it down? Just a little?” The nerve losing steam once the start of the confrontation happens. The just a little. Celebrating the expected initial retorts, the feedback from the friends defending their head moron. Celebrating the blood boiling, despite the attempts to keep calm. Celebrating letting the blood come back to even. Celebrating the trying hard to refocus on the game and the enjoying of the moment. Celebrating the scouting for an open pair of seats nearby.

Celebrating the loss of enthusiasm and the confrontation. Celebrating the fear of being jumped after the game for responding, for confronting, for making a strong suggestion that all of us wanted to make. Celebrating irrational fear. Celebrating the halftime, and the search for the new pair of seats. The confronting and now the running away from the bully. Celebrate the couple that is waiting near the restroom where I wait. Celebrate the fact that they are having a similar problem in their seats. Celebrating the fact that people, especially younger people, like to turn a sporting event into a drunken party where they can show off their lack of class and grace and general humanity.

Celebrating the pairs of people that don’t want to change seats and the fact that you consider paying someone to change seats before she pulls you back into reality that the fear has run away with you.

Celebrating that your need for a perfect pair of seats is starting to edge its way into the equation, the quest for the unattainable. The courtside view. The being as close to the sweat and the screams as possible. The knocking on the door of the fourth wall. Celebrating the acceptance that you cannot have it perfect, with the steadying influence of the birthday girl, the birthday woman now.

Celebrating the beginning of the second half and the moving up three rows and the plugging in of balled up napkins into the ears. Celebrating the drowning out of the useless and distracting noises. Celebrating the close game. The intense defense. Celebrating one of the best young point guards in the NBA and his dazzling vision and creativity. Celebrating the dramatic ending. The building of the tension and the crowd uniting behind their team. Celebrating the defense winning championships. Celebrating the backbone and his steal at the pivotal moment, the snatching of the game from the opponent.

Celebrating the slapping of hands and the exaltation. Celebrating the perfect ending to a wonderful day. Celebrating that the celebration won. And that disappointment lost. Celebrating the fact that we all need to find more to celebrate.


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