60th birthday – the invitation

I invite my friends (new and old, near and far) to my 60th birthday party.

Date: Saturday, December 7, 2019
Time: 6PM – 11PM
Location: This is a public blog post, so I’ll send the address separately. It’s the same place as my 40th and 50th birthday parties, and a few Yule celebrations.

The event: A professionally-published murder mystery, set during a masquerade ball.

If you’d like to come, please respond by Tuesday November 5 (Election Day!) with the information below. You can reach me via email, send me a message via Facebook, or text/call; my contact information hasn’t changed in 20 years. (I advise against replying directly to this WordPress blog post, as it’s visible to the public.)

Guests are welcome, especially those friends who did not see this invitation either via Facebook or email.

For each person who’s coming, I’d like to know the following information.

  • Your postal address, so I can send you game materials in advance.
  • An email address so your fellow players can contact you in-character before the party. If you only want to be contacted some other way, tell me; bear in mind that some of the other guests don’t use Facebook.
  • Your level of commitment to the mystery:

    • Category 1: “The show must go on! Neither daemons pouring from the gates of hell nor hosts of angels with flaming swords shall bar my way to Ravenwood Castle!”

      People in Category 1 will receive key roles. One of them may be a tragic victim. One of them may be a foul murderer.

    • Category A: “Stuff happens. I plan to be there, but I can’t make a firm commitment.”

      If you choose Category A, you’ll be in a role that offers clues to solving the mystery. You’ll be missed if you’re not there, but the other guests can forge on.

    • Category Alpha: “It’s hard for me to commit in advance. I might not even know if I can make it until a few hours before the party, or I could be late.”

      Those in Category Alpha will have auxiliary characters. If you can make it, you’ll be able to participate and provide more clues. Who knows? Your character might even be innocent of any wrong-doing.

  • The characters have color-based names (e.g., Finn Burgundy, Reese Cerulean). The game suggests people wear costumes and masks of that color to identify themselves. Let me know if you’d like me to help out with your mask.

    (You don’t have to come in costume, or even wear a mask. I’ll have name tags for everyone.)

We’ll coordinate food (it will be semi-potluck) and rides (e.g., more than one person may be coming from Philly) as we get closer to the date of the party.

Remember: NO PRESENTS! My response to any presents will be Shakespearean.

I look forward to seeing you there!

60th birthday – interested?

For my 20th, 30th, 40th, and 50th birthday parties, I organized events centered on gaming. As you’ll see if you click on the links in the first sentence, for my 40th and 50th I set up a LARP party. For my 60th birthday party, I’m going to take a simpler approach and host a murder mystery.

This is not an invitation to that party, at least not yet. This is to get a general idea of how many of my friends would like to come.

All I know right now is the date of the party: Saturday, December 7, 2019; the place is somewhere in the Rockland County/Bergen Country area. The exact location, the setting of the mystery, and other details depend on how many are coming. I’m leaning towards a masquerade party, but we’ll see.

If you’d like to come to my 60th birthday party, please let me know.

Fiddly bits

  • Please let me know before mid-October.
  • You can reach me via Facebook, or send me e-mail, or text me, or call. None of my contact information has changed in the past 20 years.
  • If you reply to this WordPress blog post, please leave your name. Otherwise the only thing I’ll see is the IP address, which won’t be enough for me to know who you are.
  • Guests are fine, but please let me know how many would be coming with you. The total number of people affects the location of the party and possibly the mystery’s setting as well.
  • I’m not asking for a commitment to attend, just general interest. I will ask for a commitment when I start assigning roles for the mystery.
  • Unlike the adventures of my last three birthday parties, which I wrote, the mystery will come from a professional publisher. Even I won’t know whodunnit.

    I was a dick about this at my 40th. I was a total dick about this at my 50th. I’m prepared to go completely Richard III at my 60th.

    I don’t want stuff. I have enough stuff. Friends and laughter and back rubs are what are important to me at this point in my life.

    One more time:


Peking Duck

My 30th birthday took place at one of the threshold times in my life.  I had recently read The Spiral Dance, and was in the process of looking for a Wiccan group.  Six weeks later I would attend my first Wicca class/ritual, and my life would be forever changed.

That change hadn’t happened yet, but I was aware of the potential.  I wanted my 30th birthday party to reflect that sense of transition.  I was determined to do things I had never done before.

I’ve already mentioned one thing I did that was different: a two-city Star Wars RPG session over the phone.  But somehow, that wasn’t enough.

I’ve had a long-time love of Chinese food, but there was one item on the menu I’d never tried: Peking Duck. I had no clear idea of what it was or how it tasted, but it sounded exotic.  Almost every Chinese restaurant I’d even been to had a note next to Peking Duck in the menu: “This item must be ordered at least 24 hours in advance.”  What could it mean?  What exotic method of food preparation required a full day?  And why did it cost so much?

I did a little research (not enough, as will be seen, but these were the days before Google).  I found that the reason that Peking Duck took so long to prepare is that it involved some kind of slow-cooking process that allowed the fat to drain.  This whetted both my appetite and my curiosity.

I decided I was going to try Peking Duck for my birthday.  And if I was going to try it, why not let the party guests try it too?  Peking Duck for everyone!  At least, for everyone who wanted it.  Almost everyone was as ignorant and curious as I was and wanted to go along with the idea.

I made arrangements with a Chinese restaurant near where I lived, and with one in the area where my Chicago friends lived.  I arranged to pay for dinner at both restaurants.

The managers of both Chinese restaurants independently contacted me when they heard that I placed the orders for Peking Duck in advance.  They essentially both asked the same question: “Are you sure you want this?”  “Yes, I do,” I replied enthusiastically.  They were trying to warn me, but due to a combination of language difficulties and my eagerness for the project, I didn’t pick up on it.

The same thing happened at both the restaurant in New York and in Chicago: My friends all sat down, hungry after a long gaming session.  The waiters came out bearing mountains and mountains of duck.

You’re way, way ahead of me, aren’t you?  What I didn’t understand is that Peking Duck is an appetizer that’s meant to be shared among four people; that’s part of the reason why it costs so much.  I asked for one order of Peking Duck per person.  The result: More duck than even a bunch of gamers could comfortably consume.

I was eating leftover duck for two weeks afterwards.

For the amount it cost me, I could have flown out to Chicago and had a separate birthday party with that group of friends.

Oh, well.  I learned something.  Maybe

I haven’t had Peking Duck since.  It’s not that I’m afraid of it; it tasted good and it’s a pretty low-fat dish.  It’s that I haven’t been to a sit-down Chinese restaurant with three or more other diners who planned more than a day in advance to order it.

Say, want to try some Peking Duck?

Brownie balls and monster cakes

I said that I would tell this story, and here I keep that promise.

For my 20th birthday party, I held an all-day event at my house.  Good food, good games, good people (not in that order, of course).

I’m a workman-like cook.  I can’t come up with much that’s new or innovative, but I can follow a recipe.  As a meal planner, I’ve always had difficulties; I’ve described my problems with Passover Seders, and I wasn’t any better when I was 20.

Among the many dishes I served that day, I decided to offer both cheese fondue and chocolate fondue.  Some 30 years later, I know that’s a mistake.  Oh, I know that other people do it besides me; it sounds like a cool idea.  But the fact that many have done it doesn’t make it right.  The older me knows that part of a meal is balance, and having two dipping courses in a single day is not good balance.

The cheese fondue turned out all right, but let’s focus on the chocolate fondue.  Normally, one dips fruit or chunks of pound cake into the melted chocolate.  I didn’t like fruit (I don’t especially care for it now), but I thought that only offering pound cake would be boring (another mistake; nowadays I would have fruit available too).  So I decided to make chocolate balls to dip into the fondue (yet another mistake; good taste experiences usually involve contrast).

I made the chocolate balls from a brownie mix, baking them a day or two before my party.  I put them into a container and left them; I had plenty of other things to prepare for the big day.

We come to the day of the party, at the time I’m serving the dessert.  I bring out the chocolate fondue, the cut-up chunks of pound cake, and the brownie balls.  My friends are playing games in the living room, so I set up the food in the dining room.

If it had been a sitcom, it could not have been better directed.  Each of my guests came into the dining room one-by-one.  Those that were already there had had the experience, and kept quiet as they watched the newcomer go through it: the unsuspecting victim would stick the fondue fork into the brownie ball, they’d dip it into the chocolate fondue, maybe they’d blow on it to cool it down, and they’d stick it into their mouth whole.

The brownie balls had hardened into rocks while sitting for two days.  Each person found themselves with a hot chocolate-flavored golf ball in their mouth.  They’d tried to chew it, while the rest of the guests would laugh themselves silly, remembering that long-ago minute when they’d been the one to look like a fool.

Later (years later!) a more experienced friend figured that I’d let the brownie balls dry out.  It doesn’t matter; I’ll never repeat that experiment again.

As for the monster cake:

I’ve had a weight problem for most of my life.  As I was approaching 20, I decided I’d deal with it.  I exercised and dieted, and lost quite a bit of weight.  (Yes, I did it to impress a girl.  No, she wasn’t impressed.)

One of the guests at my party, who was also a player in my role-playing game, was a wholesale baker.  Even though I told no one to bring any food, because I had plenty, she decided to bring a birthday cake for me.  It was one of those huge sheet cakes, the kind that you get for a wedding for a hundred people, about 3×4 feet.   Some of the guests (those who weren’t satisfied by the brownie-ball experience) had a piece, but basically that entire cake was left over after the party.

Here’s the part of the story that’s difficult to believe: Over the course of the next two weeks, that cake leaped from the table and wrapped itself around my mid-section.  Eventually I threw it out (there was about a third left), but it was too late.  The monster cake had claimed a victim.

The successful attack of the monster cake had nothing to do with that girl not being impressed by my dieting.  Nothing at all.  I don’t know why you’d make that connection.  Let’s change the subject.

My tale of birthday food disasters did not end with my 20th birthday.  Next: the tale of the Peking duck.