Birthdays, Past and Present

This past Saturday was my birthday and for as long as I can remember, I have tried to do something memorable or unique. So in honor of that tradition, here’s what I can remember from my birthday celebrations of the past 5 years:

19th Birthday: Gigantic party in a high school friend’s backyard. Her uncle, who was supposed to supervise, ended up doing shots with some frat boys. Somehow a window upstairs was broken. Felt epically cool.
20th Birthday: Have no idea.

Cappo Gallo, Sicily

 21st Birthday: Was in Palermo, Sicily, at the end of my Italy trip. My Scottish friend, Alyson, also partaker in recent Portugal trip, and I went to a little cafe we had found where the owner promised to make us “a real Sicilian meal.” He had no idea it was my birthday, but we ended up eating something like a 7 course meal, with the waiter and other people making us special dishes. I’ve never felt so guilty about not eating something and so horribly full. We then went to a secluded rock beach where there were a few scattered locals and the clearest of the clear Mediterranean water.

That evening, the Sicilians we were staying with had an aperitivo, or cocktail hour, with Sicilian snacks and sweet Vermouth, to celebrate.

22nd Birthday: Those of us left from graduating the previous month went to San Francisco, hit up a bunch of dive bars, included the Lone Palm, got Mexican food, took too many pictures, and then passed out.
My 23rd Birthday (I’m on the right)
23rd Birthday: Nick took me to Elf Cafe, the one vegetarian restaurant I like, and group of friends accompanied me to some Downtown LA bars. One of them was supposed to have a Soul themed, night that never materialized. Probably ended up dancing at some point anyway.

24th Birthday: My family and I went to the Noriega Hotel in Bakersfield for a traditional Basque dinner. The restaurant recently won the James Beard Award for home-style cooking and it has been serving food since 1898 to its boarders and various patrons. We started with a picon punch, got called into the dining room at 7pm along with all the other patrons (that’s the only serving time) and sat at one of the three wooden tables that ran the span of the dining room. It felt like being at a party where you know one person and every one else knows each other. But people were friendly and wanted to know who we were, and as we passed around the salad, the soup, the plate of pickled tongue, we learned about various local traditions and people in Bakersfield.

Being from LA, Bakersfield doesn’t seem far away, it being a two hour drive. But the locals viewed things as entirely different worlds. It reminded me of being back in Britain, where the same distance causes even more rifts being populations.

We continued with the rest of dinner: pasta, fried chicken, oxtail stew, french fries, bread, beets, blue cheese, cottage cheese, and at last, ice cream. It had a candle for me. Oh, and there were bottles of wine and water on the table that came as part of the meal. And a cup of coffee in a mug that looked like it belonged to one of the chefs in the back.

My great-great-grandmother ran several boarding houses in LA around the same time this place opened up, and I could only imagine it was pretty similar. However, the one major difference: my great-great grandmother was famous for her fruit pies.

We were told we’d have to come back again, and I’m pretty sure we will.


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