35 = Great

My birthday weekend was so good that I had one of the several cakes people made for me for breakfast today just because I felt like it. I’m sort of sniffly and snuffly and had to skip yoga tonight so I could come straight home and make soup for dinner, but I am still basking in the greatness of my weekend and thinking that thirty-five is pretty damn good so far, as I blow my nose and drink tea with lemon and honey.

Sooooo….Friday, which was my actual birthday, I went to Havana for after-work drinks with many excellent people. I, stupidly, did not take any pictures of any of these excellent people, nor of the mountain of presents (the majority of which were chocolate-based) they so kindly gave me. It was a warmish day and I was wearing my favourite dress that I got for free at the first Pretty Pretty Pretty clothing exchange and everyone was so nice to me and it was so cool to look around and see all sorts of people from various parts of my world hanging out together. I am weirdly shy and awkward about hosting stuff, as anyone who has ever had the pleasure of talking me out of the bathroom where I am huddling with anxiety tears half an hour before people show up will attest—but it’s so nice to have all the good people in one place at the same time that it sort of makes me think that I should do that sort of thing more often.

We ran over to the Embassy to see the Goonies—which was predictably, full of hipsters in their mid-thirties—and had, seriously, so much fun watching it and singing along to Cyndi Lauper and yelling “Slick shoes!” and starting a round of applause when Chunk and Sloth rip the sail on the pirate ship. Afterwards there was nothing for it but to go to what is fast becoming my other favorite bar and eat a cheese plate and read out loud to each other from random books. I wish I had a picture of Dave declaiming from “Manly Australasian Poems,” but sadly I don’t the camera has been invented yet that could capture such a sight.

Saturday I had to go to Porirua for a work thing, which mainly entailed having to wear an extraordinarily hideous green polo shirt, getting lost, and watching a kid breakdance/krump competition, which I happen to LOVE. After a four-hour nap at home it was time to get ready for the three parties I had that night.

I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned this, but one thing about New Zealand social life I’ve noticed (or actually maybe it’s just Wellington, I don’t know because I haven’t really gone out much in other cities) is that basically every party is a theme party, or costume, or fancy dress, or however you want to say it, depending on where you’re from. So every other weekend I find myself texting various friends all like “Hey does anyone have cowboy boots?” or “HEY GUYS I REALLY NEED AN OTTER SUIT FOR THIS WEEKEND PLEASE HELP.” Every once and again I’ll go somewhere in just jeans and t-shirt or even dress and heels, but it really does feel sometimes like every social occasion—and this is not including Sevens! Sevens is a whole other thing!– is just an excuse to head over to the good old Costume Cave and see what’s what.

Anyway, so, I was invited to this house party for Saturday, and the theme was retro/future—like you could be retro, or future, or some unholy combination of the two, or whatever. I thought this was a pretty good idea and ended up getting into it, like I went and hired a pink vinyl mini-dress and some gigantic silver glitter boots that I think were meant to be mens’ (some sort of Bowie thing, I’m sure) and a white wig and then I went to the two-dollar shop and got some silver arm cuffs and a weird necklace and some completely carcinogenic lipstick made out of, like, lard and pink food coloring, and I just went to town.


Every time I caught a glimpse of myself in a mirror or a plate glass window or something I would freak myself out because it turns out my regular hair is apparently like a huge part of my visual identity, or something—my very sense of self–and it was so weird to see myself without it. The fact that I was wearing the exact shades to make my skin appear its most jaundiced was sort of secondary.

The joke was, though, that the theme party was actually the third (and final party) of the night, which gave me a bit of a dilemma because what to do about getting dressed in the costume, you know? I didn’t want to have to lug it around and have to get dressed in someone else’s bathroom—for one thing I couldn’t manage my own eye makeup—and also it’s a bit weird to be all “hey, I’ve got this other awesome party to go to, so I will spend the majority of yours struggling into some pink PVC.” I ended up just wearing the whole thing to my other parties, and getting a lot of mileage out of comments like “Sorry, it’s laundry day and this is all I had clean,” and “What theme? There’s a theme?” and so on and so forth. All the parties were full of excellent people and cool outfits and nice chats and good music and I was feeling pretty awesome by the end of the night. Oh, also, when I was scuttling down Courtenay Place from one party to the next some people yelled “LADY GAGA” at me and that was hilarious on every level.

Sunday I was too tired and too stuffed up to go to tribal jam and elected to stay in bed and wipe my nose for a while, and then to lay around drinking tea with my flatmates in my lounge on my 80%-life-size lounge suite that looked a lot bigger in the TradeMe photos. We’d all been to various parties the night before and all had stories that needed some pretty hard analytical work (“Okay so then what did he say? And what did you say to that? Wait, he said what?”). We have this new rule in the house that whomever brings someone home from a night out has to cook the whole flat breakfast the next morning, preferably with the overnight houseguest sitting awkwardly at the table in, like, a borrowed bathrobe or something. Sadly no one has had a chance to test this rule yet, so we spent some time bemoaning each others’ pulling skills as we were all really in the mood for someone else to make pancakes.

Not that I could have eaten them even if someone had got lucky the night before, because I was on my way to an amazing birthday lunch at Giulia’s and I basically never want to eat again because I want to hold the memory of that food in my mind forever. Gianpietro made ragu-stuffed arancini, Suming made two types of dumplings, Rosie made a zucchini salad, Filippo grilled some fish that he’d caught with his bare hands and also made these insane cheese balls that were actually made of strained Greek yogurt rolled in fresh herbs and soaked in oil, Raffaele made tiny little meatballs, and Giulia went all out and not only made some Texan stuff like iced tea and real lemonade and cornbread, but also the bread for the cheese balls and fantastic molten chocolate cakes with Swiss meringue and strawberry sauce. I eat with these people fairly often—we had so much fun that we’ve decided to do monthly potluck dinners this autumn and winter—but this exceeded my already-quite-high expectations.

Right Before Lunch

Everyone gave me even more presents and hugs and kisses and I just had the best time, shoveling food into my face with both hands, a big smile on my face.

Birthday Cake

I had cleaned my plate before I thought of taking any pictures—I wish I could show you those arancini, man–but I did manage to hold off long enough to take a picture of the little cakes. I actually licked the plate, for this one, citing birthday immunity from manners.

Now this would have been a pretty exciting weekend already, but can you believe that after I rolled my way home it was only to get ready for some more fun? Because, lo and behold, those tickets to see The Swell Season as part of the Arts Festival that I bought back in November were finally going to come in handy, so after a restorative cuppa I hopped on the bus and headed down to Franks Kitts Park, where this happened:

Best Ending To A Birthday Weekend Ever

I was just walking up to the auditorium and Glen Hansard was just hanging around outside, signing autographs and taking pictures…so even though I was a little embarrassed, I invoked the power of my birthday weekend and asked if I could have a picture too. “Can you think “Happy Birthday” in your head as he’s taking the picture?” I asked and he said “Yes, I am, I’ve been thinking that since you walked up,” and yeah, that’s a permanent crush right there. I’ve been showing everyone this picture all day and just kind of…basking in it.

Anyway I managed to tear myself away and Alice met me inside and we climbed up to our very uncomfortable seats and the band played–The Frames were there, much to Alice’s delight, and mine as well, especially when the fiddle player played—and I got that feeling you get sometimes, with good art, where you’re there and not there, like you’re listening but not necessarily just with your ears, if that makes sense. Glen had the audience sing along on some songs and at the end when everyone was sort of cooing along with him about finding joy, I don’t mind telling you I had tears in my eyes. You can always tell when you’re hearing people who were born to do what they do, to make the art they make.

I was still feeling a little floaty as we walked to the bus stop, thinking about the music, about my three-hour lunch, about my silver glitter knee-high boots. It was such a good weekend, full of everything I like best: silly movies and yummy food and theme parties and general fun. It’s…this is so obvious, and so sappy, and so clichéd, but it’s the people that I love best. I have made so many mistakes in my thirty-five years, you know, I have lied and cheated and betrayed as well as been boring and annoying and gossipy and judgmental and uninspired and talky and overanalytic and underhanded and cruel. Often I think I don’t deserve my friends, but on weekends like this, I don’t care, because I just love everyone so much. I’m glad I was born. I’m glad to be alive. Maybe I’m doing something right.

Tags: , ,


  1. Who do I have to sleep with to get an invitation to your potlucks?

  2. This Hansard person totally looks like your new boyfriend (in fact I assumed he was, until I read the text).

  3. Oh Chiara! That sounds like the awesomest birthday weekend! Happy belated, lady. And the Glen Hansard picture? Oh my. My my my my.

  4. It sounds like you had an absolutely perfect weekend, which is nothing less than you deserve.

  5. Yes, what Nellig said! You and Glen Hansard make a very fetching couple! Someone needs to tell him that. Stat!

  6. Babe. After we talked the other day I looked up The Swell Season (and Once which was already on my rental list). Glen Hansard is amazing. I am so glad you had such a great birthday weekend. I love you.

  7. It sounds like 35 is fantastic – something to look forward to, definitely. (Also, I’m so jealous! I love themed parties and rarely get to attend!)

  8. Hey, did I ever tell you about the time that Jemaine Clement came to my house? ;P

  9. so your are only 35 and your always claiming you’re old ;_)