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.
  • NO PRESENTS!

    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:

    NO PRESENTS!

A Witch Does Passover – 2019

This was the first year since 1995 that I did not cook the Passover seder.

The reason was that I’m still recovering (after four months!) from a medical problem I had just before Christmas 2018. I will get better, hopefully within another month, but I was not in position to do my usual annual shopping and schlepping and simmering.

Fortunately, a good friend of mine (and a veteran of my seders since 1995) took up the task of cooking. She made a grandmother-quality matzoh-ball soup; if you’ve ever had soup prepared by a Jewish grandmother, you know that’s high praise indeed. Instead of my usual roast she made a brisket; I may do that myself when I cook the Passover seder next year.

It was an unusually small seder for one held on a Friday night. Only three people could make it, including me and the cook. It resulted in something that hadn’t happened to me in decades: I was the youngest at the table. I therefore asked the Four Questions. At last, after fifty-something years, I know why this night is different from all other nights!

Though the attendants were few, the conversation was no less lively. “Game of Thrones” took up quite a bit of discussion time. We also discussed the Museum of Cairo’s Eqyptian exhibit, and speculated how Egyptian Jews react to the anti-Egyptian sentiment in the Haggadah.

One of us pointed out something she learned from the History Channel: the animal sacrifices at the Temple in Jerusalem were supposed to act as atonement for sins of the past year. Since the Temple was destroyed, how do Jews atone? As a lapsed Jew, I’m ashamed to admit that I did not immediately know the answer to that question. It’s especially sad because the answer is contained in one of my favorite jokes:

Moshe said, “My rabbi is so pious. The other day, when it was raining, on everyone else’s head there was rain. But in a little circle around my rabbi’s head, there was no rain.”

Shlomo replied, “My rabbi is also pious.”

Moshe exclaimed, “Are you kidding? Last Yom Kippur, the most sacred day in the Hebrew calendar, when all Jews are supposed to fast for their sins, your rabbi was seen in the corner deli eating a pastrami sandwich!”

Shlomo said, “You see? On everyone else’s head, it was Yom Kippur. But in a little circle around my rabbi’s head, it was the day after Yom Kippur.”

Next year the Passover seder will be on the night of Wednesday, April 8, 2020. My week-night seders are usually not well-attended. It’s nice to know that, even so, a seder is still a seder. Maybe I will see you there!

A Witch Does Passover – 2018

The seder on Friday night was grand. It had all the usual elements: Good food, good people, and everyone wincing at the sound of my singing voice. (I can’t sing, but I never let that stop me.)

One major topic of conversation at this seder focused on the Wicked Son: why do people make a forced distinction between themselves and the rest of the world.

My usual notes:

– There’s always a debate on how well-cooked people like their roasts. I’d prefer an internal temperature of 140 degrees; rare-meat lovers would prefer 125. We settled on 135 so everyone could complain.

– The supermarket butcher told me, “You don’t have to order the roast in advance; we’ll have it.” He was well-meaning, but he didn’t consider that I might come in to get the roast just after the start of the butchers’ lunch hour. I had to hang around the supermarket for 45 minutes on shopping day. Always ask them to prepare the order in advance.

– I’d planned the seder to server 9 people, though only 7 could make it. There were barely enough latkes for 7. For the next large seder, get two boxes of potato pancake mix, perhaps using three envelopes.

– While we’re on the subject of latkes: Don’t forget that the latkes will get darker when I heat them up in the oven. They don’t have to come out of the frying pan fully brown.

– There weren’t as many matzoh balls from one box of the matzoh-ball mix as I would have wanted. Next time consider getting two boxes of mix, again perhaps using three envelopes.

– Make sure the oven is turned on when you bake the apple kugel. We had to hang around for additional half-hour after I noticed that it wasn’t heating. We spent the extra time and chatted with each other, so the time wasn’t wasted, but it did make for very late evening.

– “Behold this matzoh. It’s a symbol of our land. You can eat it at a seder. You can hold it in your hand. Amen.”

A Witch Does Passover – 2017, part 2

After most of the day, I’ve finally recovered from last night’s Passover seder. I’m glad it’s my practice to take the day off following the seder. I didn’t get to sleep until about 3AM this morning, and the food coma lasted into this afternoon.

It was a small seder, only five people. Even so, the discussion was lively and engaging. The only topic I can remember today is us sharing our different experiences in strip clubs.

Food notes:

– Manishewitz knows what they’re doing. From now on, I’m going to use their matzoh-ball and potato-latke mixes. There was only one omission from the latke mix: no onions. Latkes without onions are an abomination unto the Lord, and are among the reasons why Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed. I added a shredded onion the latke batter, and it tasted great.

– I cooked a smaller roast than usual, and it was done more than hour before the seder meal started. I must remember a two-rib roast requires less cooking time than a three-rib roast. (Strictly speaking, at Passover you’re not supposed to serve roast beef at all. Such is my reward for not obeying all the Pesach rules.)

– The apple kugel was great… what there was of it. I had poured the mixture into two containers, but somehow I left one container behind. Next time do a more careful inventory of the food I’m bringing to the seder.

– I learned how to hard-boil an egg in a rice cooker. It takes longer than simply boiling them in water, but there’s less chance of the shell cracking.