On Saturday night I was totally convinced that Cherfy, Kenneth and I were going to watch Falstaff at Lincoln Centre. I got downstairs to meet them only to find Shuxiang, Mark and Adrian there as well. I thought we were all going for dinner together before the opera. Turns out I was only partially right - we were going to dinner, but there was no opera to go to. I had been completely and utterly duped. I was most impressed. I did not suspect a thing. This was a surprise early birthday dinner (because quite a few people would not be free next weekend, myself included, hopefully - I am on the waiting list for my church's fall retreat).
Cherfy had gone to much trouble to deceive me about Falstaff and Kenneth had rounded up the others. They even gotten in touch with Cass, and Serene and Greg came all the way down to New York too! I called Janice at the very last minute and she braved the pouring rain to come uptown. I was very, very touched by it all.
We went to Carmine's on West 90th Street, a big bustling Italian restaurant where all the food comes in jumbo family portions and everyone shares everything (think the Chinese version of Italian food). We had to wait almost 3 hours for a table - I kid you not. Very New York. On the weekends, all the good places to eat are just packed to the brim. Carmine's also refused to take reservations and big parties are always harder to seat. Most of the time was spent rather enjoyably in raucous conversation in the comfort of a nearby Starbucks. The wait was not in vain - the food was most excellent and the size of the portions bordering on obscene. We rounded off the meal with a yummy tiramisu cake and they insisted on singing Happy Birthday in Chinese, and then in Malay, because everyone else was singing it in English. I was deeply embarrassed but also greatly tickled, not knowing whether to laugh or to hide under the table.
After dinner a few of us went on an impromptu road trip up to Princeton - Greg had driven up to New York and so we gave Serene a lift home after dropping Cass and Janice off downtown. The random road trip turned out to be much fun even though there was some initial protestation on Serene's part - she didn't want us to be driving around so late. But we didn't want her to be travelling on public transport so late all the way back to rural Princeton, and we really weren't taking no for an answer.
The freeways were clear and Jersey city spread out before us in a sea of light. As we were approaching Princeton, we saw a deer dancing on the green.
We got back to Manhattan around 4am. I crashed straight into bed, only to be woken by numerous phonecalls. We were brunching in Chinatown. We had yummy northern dim sum at Shanghai Cafe - that woke me right up. Cherfarn pointed out that my birthday had become an 15-day long fête - like Chinese New Year. I very much liked the sound of that. Just like all my other birthdays, I even have an exam very close to it - I have an oral French mid-term this Friday. All part of the celebrations of course.
Janice and I were going to drop by her apartment but we took a wrong train and ended up in Brooklyn. It was a lovely accidental trip. She suggested we go to the Brooklyn Heights Promenade and so go there we did. The views overlooking the East River and Manhattan were stunning. The weather was perfect - clear skies sprinkled with clouds, a crisp breeze and gentle sunshine. It was so beautiful, I was almost taken by surprise.
This whole weekend in fact, has just been one beautiful surprise.
Thank you all.
the name of the LORD is to be praised.