Our brother Christopher turned 50 this year. much like the nyc surprise of last year, we surprised him in Philadelphia. Click on each image to view a larger photo; use your browser back button to return to this page.
tuesday & wednesday | thursday & friday | saturday & sunday | alfred hitchcock's "lifeboat" | back to manitscoldhere.com
We meet up at the Continental prior to brunch. A quick trip to diBruno Brothers for souvenirs, then a fabulous lunch at a local bistro, where we encountered the creamer lady, who brought her own creamer to this upscale restaurant, and who has had one too many facelifts (reminds me of an old Phyllis Diller joke, which I can't repeat here). Then to the Reading Terminal market for salami for John's family, and then to a Independence Brewpub in the market, where we meet up with boisterous Wisconsin nurses. We pass the LOVE sculpture on the way to John's car. John departs for home. Later, we head to Elvez--a fantastic hip, kitschy place--for appetizers. Best feature is an entire wall of "dia de los muertes" scenarios. Then back to Szechuan Tasty House and the Chinatown firehouse to cap off the evening.
The e-mail conversations leading up to the surprise...
Subject: Alfred Hitchcock's "Lifeboat"
Okay, not really. It's a ruse.
I thought I'd start the conversation here about how / where to
surprise Mr. C.H.H. for his birthday. I don't know where he hangs
out: Curtis, home, the corner grocery...
Any ideas of someplace in or around Philly that he would NEVER expect
to see us? Any possible scenarios for the "reveal"?
We thought of being in the recital hall at Curtis, onstage when he
walks in...or...I don't know.
On a train?
In the rain?
In a boat?
With a goat?
If there was some sort of song we could work up... a version of happy
birthday a cappella...
Boss: Hey, Chris, there are some auditions scheduled for Wednesday
night. Can you cover it? Thanks.
Chris: Damn it! (thinks) Sure, Boss, I'll handle it.
Shaune: (on phone) Hell, Chris, and I had this nice dinner all planned
out for your 50th birthday, too.
Chris: Yeah, I hope they weren't planning on surprising me for my 50th
birthday that night.
(Then get a dummy auditioner to sing before us, we get up there
afterwards, and do whatever).
Or, Shaune can send him to the grocery store to get some milk, where we
all are already, and we can either be customers or store employees...
And perhaps this time I should be the one who "couldn't make it"...
LOVE the idea of us being store employees...hm...
PS, I can "stoke the fires" by showing up in Philly THE PREVIOUS WEEKEND, i.e., like two days earlier, with apologies, "Oh Chris, work is just HELL this week, so I wanted to come early so we can celebrate..."
Then I'll just come back!
And sure -- we can let Susan out of the bag LAST!
I'm sure you all know how smart he is, so he may eventually suspect you're up to something, no matter how good my acting skills may be, but in any case I'm sure he will play along and be a good sport and will be happy to see everyone.
The audition plan probably wouldn't work, unfortunately, because he runs auditions only during a certain part of the year (February-March) and they wouldn't be going on at the time of his birthday, unless you want to try to orchestrate (no pun intended) some kind of "special" audition to be held not during the usual audition season but around his birthday, which, again, because he's so smart, would probably make him suspicious.
Here is a general overview of his daily schedule, in case it may be helpful to you.
7:00 Get up, drink coffee, watch "Today" show. (You could be at the "Today" show waving a Happy Birthday sign.)
8:00 - 9:00 Get ready for work, take bus to be at work at 9:00 a.m.
9:00 - 5:00 Work
5:00 - 5:45 Walk home from work
5:45 - 6:00 Shower
6:00 - 9:00 Dinner or Rehearsal
He'll sometimes stop at a drugstore or grocery store on the way home from work, especially if I ask him to pick something up.
He usually doesn't eat breakfast or lunch, but occasionally goes to lunch if he knows he won't have time for dinner before rehearsal. He may take breaks throughout the day outside around Curtis - I'm not really sure what he does during the day. He does show a lot of people around Curtis on a daily basis, especially in the fall, giving tours of Curtis to prospective students, retirees, and tourists - you could dress up as Japanese tourists.
Sometimes I ask him to check out music for me from the Curtis library and he brings it to me at work, since he's only about 5 minutes away. I could ask him to do that and you all could be here instead of me.
An easy thing to do would be for Bruce to say he's coming down and the three of us can plan go to whatever restaurant Chris chooses because he's always big on trying new restaurants, and Susan and John can show up there. Of course, that's not very creative, but it's just a start - you could obviously liven the plan up with disguises, serenades, red herrings, etc.
My mind is fried from work right now, so forgive me, but his birthday is on a Wednesday, right? I work on Wednesdays (have no vacation time left for the year), so often when Bruce comes down, I meet the two of them somewhere after I get off work at 7:00 p.m. Maybe they could meet me at my office and you could be here - just another idea.
Let me know if you need any more particulars about his habits.
MOLTO helpful, Shaune! This kind of "activity blueprint" is great...I think with the right planning, he won't have a clue. AND...perhaps we can plant some subtle seeds to make him think the surprise is happening much later, like in December or even in 2007. We rarely do stuff on his actual birthday, so that could be advantageous.
I forgot the weekend. I work Saturdays 7:00 - 7:00.
7:00 Get up, drink coffee, watch "Today" show.
10:00 or 11:00 Go to breakfast at one of the local diners or coffee shops and work the crossword puzzle
Rest of the day - It's a mystery
7:00 Get up, drink coffee, watch "Today" show (or whatever news show is on)
9:00 Leave for church
1:00 Done with church
Rest of the day - usually free
Yes, very helpful for stalk...--er, um...I mean "planning".
Oh--by the way, I will be there on 9/6. I believe John arrives 9/5.
I think that if we could do something on his actual birthday, that
would be the biggest surprise for any Hodges child. He would never
suspect that we would have our act together enough to do that.
I'm just wondering now how anyone will ever manage to surprise you and
John for your 50th birthdays.
Funny... we've already been discussing that. John suggested that my
surprise would be that NO ONE SHOWS UP for anything. That would be
about the only way.
Say, by the way...when is YOUR 50th?
Oh, I won't be celebrating 50. I have ceased to publicly acknowledge
any more of my own birthdays - I don't want any surprise out-of-towners
showing up on my doorstep and giving me a heart attack! (just kidding)
"Hi Shaune. We've booked you on a trip to MARS. It's just like, a little rock-gathering, scientific-type trip. You know...nothing special. We just called up NASA and thought they might be looking for some civilians..."
From Susan, June 7
So any further thoughts on the "reveal"? It would be fun if we were
all on the bus at a stop just before he gets on, just sitting and
reading the paper or listening to music or whatever.
Or, if we are somewhere on the route of his walk home.
Oh now THAT would be funny...just sitting at a bus stop or hey -- on someone's front porch!
I'm going to try a little ruse to help, and go down to celebrate his birthday on the previous weekend, Sep. 1-4 (more or less), explaining that since his birthday is on a weekday, and since I have much work to do before a major special event in October, I can't really take any days off out of town.
We'll have a really nice dinner somewhere -- nice enough that he'll feel (hopefully) like "that's it" -- that there's no more celebration. And I'll like, telephone him on Wednesday to wish him a happy day, etc. All just to make him think that truly, NOTHING IS HAPPENING ON SEPTEMBER 6, HA-HA...
So back to the reveal. We could show up at Curtis...the Dean could call him in for some kind of meeting with "prospective students," and there we could be...
(wondering out loud) I wonder if we could get Curtis involved in a larger way, or if we even want to go that route...?
Your ruse should really help out.
Shaune, do you know anyone at Curtis (who can keep a secret) who could
help us out if we went that route?
(interjecting prior to Shaune's reply)
Well, I've chatted informally with the receptionist there, who noticed he and I sound alike (sort of), and I would be more than happy to just call, cold, introduce myself and explain the situation. Chris is very well-liked at Curtis (I think) so it wouldn't be any problem to get someone (or lots of folks!) in on the fun. But we don't need to get that ball rolling quite yet...mull over.
Chris gives people tours of Curtis almost on a daily basis, some pre-scheduled and others who just drop in, so you could arrange for a tour with him pretty easily by having someone call him for you. I don't know any of his co-workers at Curtis, though, for purposes of planning anything elaborate. I did find out that he takes the 8:22 or 8:32 bus in the morning at the stop two blocks from the apartment, so if you wanted to be on the bus, you could do that.
Ah...thank you so much, Shaune...(wheels turning)...
So Chris is informed that a group of high-level donors will be meeting him in the President's office for a tour, and then...
I love either idea!
I'm still drawn somewhat to the random surprise; where he would just
"discover" us, but there are risks involved there, that we would be on
the bus that he doesn't take that particular day. Of course, we could
arrange for both--if he discovers us on the bus, then the tour is then
time that we have to visit, or if he doesn't, then we use the tour to
If Bruce executes the early ruse, I'm thinking that for us, the mass
reveal is the way to go (Shaune, are you rolling your eyes at us
yet?). Here's why: If Chris and Bruce do the "official" birthday
celebration early, and even if any one of us appears on his birthday,
he will suspect the other two to appear very soon after.
More to ponder.
By the way, Bruce, you were going to pursue some hotel / B&B options.
Any luck there? We still don't have anywhere to stay.
From: Bruce, August 9
Just spoke with Carol at Curtis again, and we're all set. They're
very excited. She is going to make sure Chris has "a meeting" that
day so he won't take the day off (he may suspect something, but oh
well...), and the surprise will be unveiled at the afternoon tea.
They're getting a cake, and as far as the reveal, I suggested that
we just mix in with all the other Curtis people in the crowd.
It should be quite fun, actually...I hope he doesn't have a clue...
Still mulling over hopping in for the State Fair...we'll see -- that
would be just hilarious...
Meanwhile, Chris is in Minneapolis...
Hi, Susan. I heard Chris telling you last night that 9/6 is only a
rehearsal for his concert, not the performance. Sorry I gave you
misinformation, but when I asked him last week what he wanted to do
for his birthday he said "I'm actually singing that night. Donald is
in town and asked me to do a concert." So I thought he meant the
concert was that night. He has now clarified the concert will be
Friday night, 9/8.
He just left for the airport - I'm sure you all will have a nice time!
Yes, that was interesting! And good to clarify. But at least we know
that he will be in town while we're there, which is the MOST important
Thanks--we will have a great time this weekend! "Minnesota State Fair,
here we come!"
So, how was the visit? Is he still there?
We had a great time. He left today. We tried to send you a photo on your cell phone, but you don't have that service (I wouldn't except my company pays for the phone service...)
The fair was great--you MUST plan to bring the family up next fall...as long as your school doesn't start in the middle of July, like it did this year (groan).
He spent some good time with Mom and the boys, just visiting. He showed Andrew quite a bit of origami, which Andrew likes a lot.
I did tell him that I had tried to get you and Bruce up here for the fair, but it just didn't work out. He talked about how Bruce was coming over to celebrate this weekend, and that was going to be great...but that everyone was just too busy right now...<tee-hee>. Of course, he may know, but he didn't let on, and neither did we, as far as I know. And the boys didn't know, either, since I'm sure they'd have said something.
Well, he'll know soon enough!
So the "decoy dinner" ("Some decoy!" several people have said) is all planned at The Fountain, at the Four Seasons Hotel. I'm going to try to get us a) a view of the fountain and b) have a special 50th dessert done.
We may go to a baseball game on Sunday, but I'm going to come back late Sunday night, with the (almost accurate) excuse that I need to prep some on Monday (Labor Day) for this day I'm spending <snip> on Tuesday.
But I just can't be "out the whole week," I'm afraid, despite my best intentions.
I'll also call Carol on Tuesday to confirm arrangements. May I give her your cell numbers as well?
The Salad is Almost Congealed!!
Yes, she can have my cell. So, what will our actual "script" be for the "reveal"?
I don't know at the moment how the afternoon will work. Perhaps something like:
* we sneak into the place where Curtis has the afternoon tea
* the afternoon tea commences, with [the President] making remarks
* [He] concludes and says, "Chris, I believe we have a cake for you" and they bring in the cake, or WE could bring it in...
Any more creative ideas are welcome!
That's a good enough thing for me, but we can certainly keep thinking.
Maybe a behind the screen birthday song...
OK, Eureka! (Maybe) Picture it:
* We're out of sight, perhaps in another room (This is dependent on a rather large crowd in the main room)
* President makes his greetings, then invites everyone to join him for some birthday cake...everyone begins lining up to be served cake...punch...
* One by one, we sneak into the crowd and just sort of bump into Chris - "OMG I'm sorry -- whoops!" as just bystanders in the crowd...
What think y'all? I will try to call Carol today or tomorrow to get her take on the afternoon and what might actually work, since she knows the layout of the place and how these "afternoon teas" work.
PS, Chris is singing in a concert on Friday, Sep. 8, so I'm going to tell him that I'll come back the next weekend for the concert, heh-heh...I already said I might, when he mentioned it.
That's good. I think I'll just lay low and not contact him at all. No sense in raising any suspicion.
Yeah, see what Carol thinks.
That sounds good. He would expect you to forget, anyway...
<running and ducking>
You're too kind.
tuesday & wednesday | thursday & friday | saturday & sunday | alfred hitchcock's "lifeboat" | back to manitscoldhere.com