I’ve never been one for a quiet birthday. In my tweens, I was known for having a birthmonth, which by my teens had shrunk to a birthweek. But in taking the leap from my rock-and-roll 20s to my settle-down 30s, this celebration required a birthweekend.
The love of my life, Emily, with whom I share an apartment, (2 people, 3 cats, 400 square feet of space!) had promised me a surprise activity-packed weekend. Friday night we rode our bikes to Coney Island to watch the fireworks and eat clams and drink beer on the Boardwalk at Ruby’s. Sunday (my actual birthday) was revealed as a BBQ, thanks to a middle-brother supplied leak in the airtight seal of information suppression. Saturday was a mystery.
We woke up early, cleaned house, and got ready for what Emily called a “secret surprise breakfast.” Upon leaving our apartment, I saw Jonah coming towards me for a hug, saying “Happy Birthday Brother!” As I embraced my brother I felt a sack go over my head and a shoddy batch of ropes wrapped around my arms. I was being kidnapped!
Gideon, Jonah and a bunch of mystery hands rough-handled me onto the floor of a mildewy-smelling van, the radio blaring Mexican salsa music and a stranger in the shotgun seat videotaping the debacle. The doors slammed, the tired squealed, the van roared off.
I was half-nervous yet half-thrilled that i was in the middle an abduction. The familiar voices of both brothers refused to answer my cries of “Where are we going!? Where is my girlfriend?!” The van screeched around a few blocks until Gid went “You think we should take off the mask? Let’s take it off.” and I found we were back at my apartment surrounded by a dozen-plus of my closest friends on the street, shouting HAPPY BIRTHDAY MATT!!
So we all piled into the van – Jonah & Gideon, Dave Z at the wheel and his lovely girl LizGwinn sitting shotgun. Ben Haas brought the bagels, Josh brought the Greyhounds, Aaden and Molly with the Bloody Marys, Randi and Kate brought the good cheer. A solid dozen of us, with 8 more in two additional cars and we were off. Where to? Everyone refused to tell. Josh admitted that I had never been there, but I was going to have a helluva time. After we crossed the Outerbridge, I guessed it – the Jersey Shore.
Or first stop – Runner’s Restaurant in Lavallette NJ, for a phenom fish feast. With 16 of us at the table, we had shrimp, scallops, oysters, clams, steamers, soft-shell, fish, lobster bisque, fries and beers, and it all came to $17 a head, which is a preposterously low cost for a meal so satisfying. After the feast we made our way to Seaside Heights, NJ, which is apparently the real-life quiet beach town known for some house filled with a half-dozen annoying brats from Long Island. Fuuny enough, we actually saw them – Snooki, JWoww, The Situation and the whole cast shooting on the boardwalk, amidst hundreds of screaming fans. We didn’t care – we were there for the waves.
The waves were magnificent. Six and eight feet high, crashing down with beautiful symmetry, all on a white sandy beach crammed with beach-goers. Hours at the beach, laughing, drinking, celebrating. After the beach, the boardwalk and Riggers, a local dive bar, with pizza and cupcakes and whiskey shots for the birthday boy. We piled into the dank van around 10pm and were back in BK by midnight.
The clincher? For a born-n-bred Brooklynite, I’ve always ragged on Jersey. We have a whole Jersey Joke bit we use when touring up the Hudson River. And here i was, elatedly happy, blissful even, that all my friends had whispered in secret, how best to surprise a New York Know It All on my 30th birthday. And they did the last thing in the world I was expecting – they took me to NJ. And I responded in the last way conceivable; I loved it. We’ll be returning next year. Whatevs. Jersey Shore, I heart you.