This week my favorite cousin turned forty years old. Some think forty is over the hill, but the older I get, the more I look at forty as the new twenty. So as her birthday approached I tried to not call her, send her a text message, or even send her a message on Facebook. I had bigger plans for her birthday.
My cousin lives in Scottsdale, Arizona with her husband Jim. They moved out west a few years ago, and I try to visit as often as I can. Living only a short drive from the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, they are an easy destination. It’s been a while since I was out, so earlier this year I booked a trip to head out and play some golf. But I just couldn’t wait. I wanted to be there to wish her a happy birthday in person.
Her husband Jim was holding a huge surprise birthday party for her. It was going to take place at The Compound Grill in north Scottsdale. Ironically I knew a lot about this venue already. I had intentions of moving to Scottsdale a few years ago, and when I heard about this place, I immediately introduced myself on Facebook. To this day I talk to them on a regular basis and am always paying attention to what’s going on. So when I landed and found out that was where the party was going to be, it was like killing two birds with one stone.
The party was slated for Saturday night, but I wanted to make sure I got in early so I could get settled. I flew in, headed to my hotel in Tempe, and relaxed a little bit before heading to the hotel bar for a complimentary beverage. I got a free drink because I was promised a ten minute shuttle pickup that ended up taking an hour. They said it was traffic related. Not true; there was no traffic. Anyway, they were nice about it and I was just glad to be on solid ground.
Hitting the Streets
After I refreshed myself and changed clothes, I headed downstairs to get a drink and try to find something to eat. The hotel I stayed at was right off Mill, one of the busiest streets in Tempe. Not to mention across the street is Arizona State University. ASU is one of the country’s biggest party schools filled with nothing but tan attractive people. Ugly people just must not live in Arizona!
When I left the hotel I walked up and down Mill a couple of times looking for the hot spots. I was only in town one night. I had to make sure I picked the right spot. It reminded me a lot of Broad Ripple with shops, bars, restaurants, and street vendors everywhere. I ended up at a place called Vintage Lounge. What sold me was the buy one get one beers for $3 and the $3 shot list. That and the fact it was the only place that didn’t charge a cover. So I headed upstairs, grabbed a seat at the bar, and had a drink in my hand within seconds.
The place was decent at best, but cheap drinks and decent music made this a happening place almost immediately. Just when I thought all the DJ was going to play was rap, he threw on a David Guetta track. Then a track from Boyz Noise and Afrojack. From that moment on, I knew I’d be here until I went home. Great drink specials and dance music is exactly what I was looking for.
Starting to Get Hungry
After a couple of drinks, I was starting to get hungry. I had been up for almost twenty hours and hadn’t eaten since I left Indianapolis. I made my way downstairs and found a hole-in-the-wall Mexican joint. There wasn’t anyone inside, but it was on the way back to my hotel so I gave it a shot. Ten bucks later I headed back to my hotel, sprawled out on the bed, ate my dinner, and passed out from utter exhaustion. Eight hours later I was up ready to explore Tempe.
I ended up at Gordon Biersch for lunch. It was right across the street from the hotel, and they had an impressive beer list. A beer sampler later, I was settled in for the better half of the afternoon. I had to kill time in Tempe until Erin, Jin’s daughter, came to get me later that day.
Lunch was good, the beers were good, and I was able to yank some free Wi-Fi from a Starbucks downstairs. I ended up writing a couple of blogs, posting a couple of blogs, and getting a fair amount of work done while I was there. I made friends with the manager and my server and heard all sorts of stories about her and her new man, her shopping plans for this week, and all the homework she had to get done before Tuesday. She had a test and two papers due on Tuesday!
My Own Personal Taxi Service
Around three, Erin called and said she was on her way to pick me up. She told me where to meet her and told me to look for Carissa and Todd. Carissa is Jim’s other daughter, and Todd is Erin’s husband. He is a hoot too, but I will get to that in a second.
I headed north, met up with all of them, and waited for Erin to arrive. They had all been at the Tour de Fat, a huge festival put on by New Belgium Brewing. Erin arrived shortly after that and we were off to pick up some more drinks and two of those cookie cakes for Chris’s birthday. We had some time to kill, and they all had to get ready, so we ended up at Todd and Erin’s house. It’s a nice place; their yard is not grass, but rock. Welcome to the desert. Here we shared some drinks and told stories about our careers and talked about golf and all sorts of things. Before too long it was time to party!
The Compound Patio Opens Up
When we arrived at the Compound, I was stoked to see it. It’s a restaurant and bar first, but also a music venue that has played host to some huge acts like Robert Randolph and the Family band, Matisyahu, and more. The live entertainment that night, however, was a battle of the bands. Not your typical battle, this was doctors versus lawyers and they were both trying to raise money for their respective charities.
The birthday party was outside on the patio and had an open bar and tons of finger foods. The buffalo wings are great, by the way. They also have a great beer selection. Anyway, we got there early so that we could surprise Chris. All along she had no idea. I wanted to make the surprise extra special since she had no idea I was coming. So I went inside and hid until she got there. Erin texted me once it was okay for me to come out. She was standing with her back to me, and I walked up, put my arm around her and said, “So I hear it’s your birthday?”
She looked at me in shock and awe, said a few cuss words, and got all excited I was there. It was the exact reaction both Jim and I had hoped for. I think the whole party threw her off, but having me there was the cherry on top. We spent the next few hours eating, drinking, and talking about scuba diving. I know it wasn’t my birthday, but it seemed like a great night for everyone involved. I am just so glad that I got the chance to go and be there with her on her 40th birthday.
Chris asked me why I came, what I was doing there. I looked at her, smiled and said, “I figured I would come out for this one since you probably won’t remember too many more birthdays after this one!”
I might have only been in Arizona for the weekend, but I had a blast and the look on her face was worth every minute. Happy birthday Chris, I hope you had a great time. I know I did, as I am headed back to Scottsdale in a few weeks to play golf for a week!