The Perfect Surprise

So as I was saying, on my birthday proper I went for a nice dinner with Cassie. We also planned to have dinner again, at a nicer place, on the following Friday. The plan was to let LA know I was here. Turns out they already knew.

Cassie told me that we would have a nice meal relatively early on Friday, then we’d go home in time to meet a couple of friends who would bring a birthday cake. I was looking forward to seeing that bunch again, as I hadn’t seen them yet this trip.

Come Friday, Cassie and I dressed up (well kind of in my case), and we went to Café Stella, which is a really nice place, even if the cheese plate looked like they were taking the mick. The food was great, the suggested wine was really good, and of course, sitting at a table in the covered outside area, in the balmy Silver Lake evening, was delightful.

During the meal, Cassie sent a couple of texts, which I don’t mind – I need to send messages as soon as I remember as well. Then as we were finishing up, the waitress came round with our coffee, and asked if we wanted to look at the dessert menu. Cassie looked at me and then said that we would skip dessert, as we were meeting friends at home. The meal was pretty pricey, but excellent. We’ll be going back there.

I drove us home, then I walked up the steps, unlocked the front door, and opened it just as the aprtment full of guests turned on the lights and shouted, “Surprise!”

It was perfect! I had literally no idea. The place was full of people I hadn’t seen for ages, and was strung with stars and stripes bunting and a big ‘Happy Birthday’ banner. You see, it wasn’t just a birthday party, it was a surprise birthday-and-welcome-to-your-new-life-in-a-new-country party.

As we walked through the door, a glass of bubbly was pressed into my hand, and Brian stepped up to make a short speech and toast. I was too busy gasping and gaping like a fish on a carpet to remember exactly what he said, but it was spot on, and everyone cheered and drank the toast – none more so than me. I was then presented with my first gun – an inflatable M16, in camoflage pattern, with USA stencilled on the stock. I slung it over my shoulder and carried it for the rest of the night. I don’t want no teenage queen, I just want my M16.

I say I had no idea, and it’s true, but thinking back, little things I’d dismissed turned out to be relevant signposts. The bathroom had been cleaned, and candles put out. People I’d wanted to meet for dinner earlier in the week had bailed out, or asked for a raincheck. It was like an M Night Shallamallamayan film, only without the intelligent design advocacy, and very enjoyable.

There was a cake, an amazing Red Velvet beast with cream cheese frosting, and barbecue, and lots of food, and music, and people being nice to me. It was organised by Cassie, with loads of help from Brian and Stacy, whose wedding I attended in October, and Sarah, and lots of other people all in on the deceit.

Obviously it look loads of organisation, and part of that was the detailed instructions Cassie left for Brian and Stacy so they could set up while we were at dinner. Here’s a bit of what she wrote.

Hi guys,

I thought I would put down on paper some last minute stuff that I won’t be able to do because it would arise too much suspicion. But first I want to thank you guys again for your help with this. It could not have been pulled off without you.


  • Extend the kitchen table by pulling out the sides under the table and push it up against the window. This will allow the food and cake to be displayed and provide as much room in the kitchen for mingling as possible.
  • Fill the blue ice bucket found in the laundry room with ice for people to put beer in. You can put the Champagne in there too.
  • Display the cake on the table when it arrives with Sarah Cohen. You can put the plates and napkins and forks out too.

Living Room

  • I will have the iPod set up on the speaker dock set to a playlist for the night. It’s called “Cocktail Mix.” Just press play at some point when people start to arrive.
  • Please make sure the curtains are closed.


  • Keep the bathroom window closed until we get home. We will walk right past it on the way from the car to the house.


  • Please do not plug in the green/blue lights in the back where the BBQ is. I will be parking in the driveway when we get back and Matt will see them if they’re on. We can plug them in when I get home.
  • Don’t worry about anything in the back. Just keep in dark and quiet over there and we can set it up when we arrive.

Our Arrival

  • I’ll text you when we are paying our bill which will give you a 15 minute or so head’s up. At that time you can make sure everyone has their champagne glasses assembled and the champagne ready to be poured. Please have two glasses ready to hand to us when we walk in the door.
  • When we get close to our place, maybe as we’re turning on the street, I will call my land line and let it ring once or twice. That will be your signal to be quiet and have your glasses ready. We will park in the driveway and walk up the stairs. I will have heels on so you will hear us arrive.
  • Make sure the door is locked, both the door knob and the dead-bolt. I will unlock the door, open it and hopefully Matt will be right by my side. Make sure you tell everyone to get eyes on Matt before they yell “Surprise!”
  • Brian, I would love it if you would make a little toast to Matt when he gets over the shock of the surprise and has a glass in his hand. It’s totally cool if you don’t feel like it but there just seems to be a need for some sort of formality as long as everyone is standing there with champagne in their hands. Anything you want to say would be great.

After all that, I want you to drink, eat cake and relax. Thanks again. You are awesome.

And that’s exactly what happened. I ate cake and drank as well. Lots of booze and cake.

Thank you Cassie, and Brian & Stacy, & Sarah, and everyone. I’ll never trust you or anyone ever again.