So tomorrow’s (August 24th) my birthday. I’m going to be 1,548 years old because it actually doesn’t matter, and now I’m that person who worries about whether chairs and shoes have enough support, and if you think the place we’re going later on will be too echo-y, because then you can’t hear anyone. And I really, really appreciate flannel now, and my mother gave me this hair mousse that covers up gray.
Unsolicited, lying hair mousse.
Anyway, very little planning went into my birthday this year. Actually, that’s not exactly correct. Earlier this year, a LOT of planning went into my birthday. I was going to create some kind of mythical gathering in the tradition of a French salon, and friends would read poetry inspired by Dalí, and other friends would play music, and there would be singing, and probably no clowns, but lots of alcohol and maybe people would say nice things about me, like, “I’m so glad I flew 12,000 miles from that war-torn country where I work with the International Red Cross so I could be here for Ceil’s birthday.”
But while recreating a smaller, cleaner, temperature-controlled, middle-aged version of Woodstock seemed like fun, I thought maybe it wasn’t practical, and also I don’t buy pot from a guy in the dorm across the highway because I’m an adult now. So all planning halted until about 31 hours ago, when my husband asked what I had in mind for my birthday.
After I set aside thoughts of a parade of gophers playing tiny brass instruments while wearing really, really cute hats (but they had attitude, you know?), I decided on dinner and cake in the park.
There’s a new-ish park nearby that has a really nice gazebo with a picnic table that no one uses, because they put it in the corner of the parking lot, 80 miles from the playground equipment, near absolutely nothing. But it overlooks a really pretty valley, and you’re more or less alone, because “Hey, let’s eat dinner in the corner of a parking lot” is a thought that only occurs to me, apparently.
Tonight was cake-making night, then. Scott had never made a cake, but the directions are on the box. You have to pour the cake mix on the floor and mix it with roadkill to mess it up. I had picked out this ridiculous cake mix with sprinkles IN it, because if I’m not going to have a party, the inside of my cake will have one, I guess.
Anyway, here’s the box. This cake is having more fun than you ever did. This cake went to Studio 54 and dropped acid with Warhol. This cake sung backup on Karma Chameleon.
“There’s LSD in the mix!”
Anyway, he made the cake while I got the child ready for bed, and at some point he asked if I had a minute, which meant that there was some kind of cake problem.
Actually, it was a question about frosting, and there was spirited discussion about icing cakes, and how to get the icing “bakery smooth” (I explained that no one does this unless they have a corrupt value system). I have a collection of (and here I’ll say that none of these words sound good) spreaders and scrapers (stop it) which allow you to do a nice job of icing a cake, but don’t damage the psyche (unless you think of the words) because with these tools, there’s no way to achieve Total Icing Smoothicity (say it a few times, you’ll like it).
Cake was iced, and then festooned with sprinkles. It looked like Stay Puft at 3am on New Years’ morning, but it definitely was festive and certainly held up its side of the birthday contract.
“But wait,” I thought. “Rainbow sprinkles INSIDE the cake, and rainbow sprinkles ON the cake don’t seem like enough. We can make this cake a birthday TOUR DE FORCE.”
In Scott’s defense, he didn’t know what was happening until it was too late. I had gotten these terrible, awful decorating gels with sparkles a while back. They were within easy reach.
“Red,” I thought. “It needs red. Around the whole cake. Right now.”
As I started squeezing the gel on the cake (gross, right?) I had forgotten that it’s actually pretty watery. It began to drip down the side.
Me: “Ugh. That kind of looks like blood, doesn’t it?”
Scott: “That’s horrifying.”
Me: “I can fix this.” I shook the tube. “There. It should thicken up now.”
I finished it.
Me: “Nope. My cake is bleeding. It’s an atrocity.”
Scott: “It looks like you beheaded a clown.”
Me: “I can fix this. If I add another color, it won’t look like blood.” I started with another tube of weird gel stuff. “I’ll add yellow.”
Scott [watching for a minute, then]: “You can’t really see yellow on white icing.”
Me [finishing the yellow]: “Maybe I’ll add green.”
Scott: “I can’t believe you’re doing this to my first cake.”
Me: “It’ll be ok.”
It wasn’t ok. If you were thinking of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man before, now imagine that he’s just had a kidney removed in a cheap hotel room in Singapore, and he’s 3 hours from waking up in a bathtub of ice.
No, don’t imagine. Here’s the “finished product”.
Happy Birthday to y- OH GOD IT’S ALIVE.
And here it is right before it gets in a shower in a Hitchcock film:
Scott, as he watches me set up this shot: “You’re going to be here a while, then?”
The thing is, I love it. No one else has a kidney removal cake for their birthday (that I know of personally) and it adds a certain je ne sais quoi (or maybe a pourquoi) to the whole affair. And I will definitely remember this cake, even if I don’t remember turning 1.5 millennia years old.
And now, a piece of advice that crossed my mind: If you are in the business of removing peoples’ kidneys, the least you can do is get them a cake. Kidney-removal cakes should be a thing, at least as much as actual kidney-removal is. Like, “Sorry we took your kidney, but at least we left you dessert.”
I’ll stop now. [Throws confetti.] Yay! I’m older.