Howling at the Moon in a Sci-Fi Western

[Current weather: 3 degrees. Wind chill -17.]

Last night we had a surprise birthday party for Norma, the Queen of the Neighbor Grouppies, and someone mistook my outfit for a Barbarella costume. Yikes.

Until last spring, I lived in a 12-story 1920’s apartment building in the Gold Coast, which was managed by a charming gal named Norma. The building has just under 200 apartments — but it functions more as a college dorm, in social activity terms. I became friends with tons of people over the three years I lived there, especially with a group of about 12 who take turns cooking dinner every Sunday night, with the gathering always held at Norma’s place. Then we watch Desperate Housewives.

This is quite a motley group. Age range is 25-50. Ethnic range is white, black, Mexican, Puerto Rican. (Many would claim also to be Vulcan.) We have the skinny fitness gurus, the plump food-addicts, the intellectuals, the video gamers. And everyone pitches in to help if someone’s having a rough time with a family death, health problems, simply needs a cat sitter.

Here we are after our progressive dinner at Christmas, with our lovely white elephant treasures in hand:

The Sunday Night Grouppies

Back to the Future:
Norma turns 40 tomorrow. She LOVES Battlestar Gallactica, Stargate, and pretty much any other sci-fi show in existence. So the grouppies decided to throw her a sci-fi-western-themed party — inspired by the show Firefly.

Norma’s Party Invite[

Fortunately my asinine, dilly-dallying cab driver managed to get me there before the big surprise happened. (Though arguably I was running 30 minutes late in the first place…)

When I arrived at Norma’s apartment, it was completely decked out in balloons, with cut-out planets and aliens all over the walls. One lady was wearing vulcan ears, and several donned cowboy hats. We had “ground prairie dog” dip, quesadillas, ribs, chili, and the coolest flying-saucer shaped cake decorated with red licorice and gum drops. And the kicker was we had faces of her “boyfriend” (her favorite character in Stargate) a la paper-plate-popsicle-stick-masks.

She arrived to all of us holding these up, giving the Vulcan hand sign, saying “nanu, nanu.”

We dug in. She opened her presents (everyone had gotten her Best Buy gift cards as donations to her TV fund). And just when I was making myself another drink in the kitchen, Greg asked if I was dressed as Barbarella. I had no idea who that was, so he explained it was a character played by Jane Fonda who slept her way through the galaxy.


Here’s what I was wearing:

Supposed Barbarella Outfit

Here’s a photo of Barbarella:


Yeah, um…no.

M.F. was in town to watch the Super Bowl among fellow Bears fans, so he came over to join the party. Little did I know he was a sci-fi nerd. (But a very well-dressed one, to be clear.) I think he’s sad he can’t watch the Super Bowl with them tonight, as he became instant best friends with them all.

The party broke-up around midnight, but the evening led me to reminisce a bit on Norma’s past two birthday parties.

Last year my boyfriend du Jour Ryan, aka crazy dancer when drinking, provided endless entertainment when he turned a quiet wine-drinking evening into a dance party. He was doing the swing with Robyn and Amy, and flipped both of them (at separate times, of course). Keep in mind we were in a 13×19-foot room, and there were 10 other people in there besides them.

But my hands-down favorite year was two years ago, when Norma had a party at Howl at the Moon.

Which brings me to my real point today: HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MOM! You’re getting even hotter as the years go by.

Mom and Dad

Mom and her friend Colleen had come to Chicago to visit me over her birthday weekend. As part of our weekend doings, we met the grouppies at Howl at the Moon, a rowdy dueling piano bar, where people just get drunk, scream bad 80s music, and watch in awe as the truly amazing pianists sing and play just about anything. It’s quite fun.

The grouppies were sitting on the front row when we arrived, so we joined them, in such close proximity to the stage that we rested our feet on it. I’d tried to prepare Mom and Colleen for the scene — probably scaring their lights out with stories about my 30th birthday party there, where I was summoned on stage and serenaded with “I touch myself.” I told them I was really quite lucky, as the next birthday girl’s song with “Let’s do it dog style.”

So you can imagine Mom’s horror when she found herself sitting on the front row, knowing that any minute I could tip the piano guy into playing a song for her. To top it off, the piano man had a spotlight, which he would shine on mom now and then. She was with rigid with anxiety the whole time. I assured her I wasn’t going to do that to her…for some reason she didn’t believe me.

Ultimately he did call her up on stage. This was her expression:


There was no way to refuse. She sat down next to him. And she sighed with relief when he started playing “Under the boardwalk.”

We’d been there about two hours, and after two drinks, the ladies were pooped. I think that was enough birthday excitement to last about 10 years.


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