Zack’s 30th Birthday Surprises

11 Nov


Planning my birthday since I’ve been in Austin has been super easy. Just go to Fun Fun Fun Fest and maybe get a meal with friends. Caitlin, being the sweetheart that she is, wanted to do something extra special for my 30th. I found out that she started planning this even before my 29th. Caitlin telling me, “Don’t look at my phone this weekend!” was the only clue I had about a birthday surprise. That actually helped narrow it down quite a bit*.

I figured it had to be an out of town visitor, since why else would who she’s texting with be a clue as to the surprise**. With Andy and Jordy in Baltimore for a wedding and my dad having just visited, I hoped it would be my sister Suzy. She’d yet to visit Austin, but she’d just traveled to Vegas the weekend before. Surely, she wouldn’t be able to come all the way from Jackson Hole, Wyoming just for my birthday.

*I really wanted to try to not say ANYTHING about anything, but 1) Zack looks at my phone a lot, as would anyone who is curious when a “ding” goes off, and 2)Just like Zack with the engagement surprise, the closer we get to surprising the other person, the worse we get at keeping it from them.

**I don’t understand why he jumped to this conclusion – if it were me, I would have just thought, got it, don’t look at texts because there *is* a surprise. I don’t think I said anything about, “Don’t even look at who it is!” Whatever, he outsmarted me here.


Aftera delicious brunch Friday morning at the newly opened Counter Cafe across the street from us, we spent the day at Fun Fun Fun Fest seeing everyone from the incredible hip hop duo Run The Jewels to Alt-J and SZA. Caitlin insisted I wear the birthday boy button all day and though I pretended not to love it, it got a lot of people to be super nice to me, including a guy whose birthday was the next day at the beer tent and a dude who played a giant game of Jenga with us*. We ducked out towards the end of Alt-J to let the b-day festivities begin. I was surprised no one we knew was at Kerby Lane when we got there. But before we could even dig into our queso**, in walks Suzy and her husband Sky! I had hoped she’d be there, but I really didn’t think it would happen. I must have done a double take or at least had a comically slow reaction to her walking in, but I do remember a big hug***.

*There are few people in this world who don’t love the adoration that comes from wearing a birthday pin. A guy who I met because of Twitter fame, and who started dating me because I KNEW him from said Twitter fame? Yeah. Do the math.

**We’d actually almost finished our queso when they arrived, and I know this because I thought to myself, “Stop eating, Caitlin! If they come in while you’re swallowing and you try to shout ‘Surprise!’ you’ll choke and die.”

***Zack stared at Suzy for a solid 30 seconds before the recognition set in. It was adorable. Oh, come on. Five seconds, tops.


The usual brownie sundae got a loving touch as Suzy brought 13 candles to spell out the birthday wishes. Mmm candle wax. She also had a bottle of champagne brought over and we drank and smiled and toasted and ate and enjoyed celebrating a birthday together for the first time in over a decade after being together for the first 17. I felt so loved with my two favorite women surrounding me.


I didn’t know there was a surprise party waiting for me at home … until Caitlin and Suzy acted coy about where we should go next, deciding our apt. made the most sense without really asking for my input*. What else could be going on there**? Still, I was extremely happy to open the door and find my best Austin friends and Scooby hiding and blowing noisemakers at me. I don’t think Scooby blew one, but I don’t remember.

*Damn it.

**Suzy could want to meet Scooby!…Even though she was allergic to him!!


After we poured more champagne, there were even more candles and more dessert. How lucky can one guy be? That is the face of a boy who is excited to blow out some candles.


Caitlin had everyone sign our leftover Pumpkin from the carving party as a big card. Even Scooby signed. OK, he may have had a proxy. Still, very sweet. I’ll cherish it… until it starts to rot. At which point we’ll Office Space it in Slo Mo or something cool.


It was hard to party after a long day of festing, you guys. No one lasted that long. Poor Ally! My dad took this (and the rest of the) photo(s), and Ally shared that he was apparently teasing her a bit for falling asleep. But she and Alex got to hang with my dad and apparently they’re all BFFs now which is kind of awesome. I really appreciated everyone making the effort to come out after a long day of festing!


I was all smiles surrounded by friends while it lasted, though.


You could even say I was glowing. OK, maybe it was the candles. They looked like a UFO, it was nuts.


My dad graciously offered to treat Caitlin and I to dinner for my birthday, but once Suzy was in town, I suggested we change it to brunch and the four of us had a scrumptious meal at Blue Dahlia. After shunning lox our entire childhood, it was surprising to see Suzy chowing down on the smoked salmon tartine. It was great to have more time to catch up on Suzy and Sky’s new condo, hearing about interesting students she works with, and their recent adventures in Vegas. Big thanks to my dad for treating us all to a great pre-fest meal! Seriously! Thanks, Gene!!


I gotta say, the Saturday of Fun Fun Fun Fest was quite possibly the least appealing single day of festival line-ups I’ve attended in the 100+ days I’ve spent festival-ing in the last decade. Aside from wanting to see Joe Mande do stand-up at 2:10 and the Silicon Valley comedy after show, all I had was a passing interest in The New Pornographers and Modest Mouse. We found our own fun, though. For me, the day was 100% about First Aid Kit and Modest Mouse, so I had a LOT of time to kill in between. And luckily, Suzy is a free spirit who is best at finding fun, so we did.

Screen Shot 2014-11-10 at 9.48.13 PM

Suzy and Caitlin stopped on the walk across the fest to get “flash tattoos.” Pretty adorable*.  Suzy found the power of mixing vodka with watermelon juice and we took pics and found shade to chill in. We discovered Suzy is even more terrified of the black stage than we are and enjoyed watching her take in a festival that wasn’t full of hippies. She wasn’t used to so much casual head nodding and dark, tight clothing. She was feeling Saturday night vibes and decided First Aid Kit was more of a Tuesday feeling, so her and Sky went to check out Nas and Girl Talk while Caitlin and I stayed through Modest Mouse’s encore. Zack was too kind to stick out my early 00’s memory-show with me, but I loved it loved it loved it. “Tiny Cities Made of Ashes,” y’all!!

*I’m still wearing mine at work today, and one of my closest friends Katie said she wished it was a real tattoo because it looked so cool. Me too, Katie, me too.

We ended up missing the comedy show, but we were so exhausted by the time we walked there, it was probably for the best for our group that we got some sleep and I got to see all of those comedians the next day anyway. We stopped off for a late night burger and a drink at Sputnik and made plans to meet up to say goodbye the next morning. We were way too exhausted to follow through on 9:30 a.m brunch plans and sent Suzy and Sky for breakfast tacos and they went for breakfast burritos (give them a break, it’s their first Austin visit.) But what a great first Austin visit it was. It warms my heart that planning this visit and our wedding have brought Suzy and Caitlin closer together and after spending quality time with Sky at Amy’s wedding, it was fun to fest with him for the first time in ages. I couldn’t be more grateful to Caitlin for making all of this happen, to Suzy and Sky for traveling so far to be with us and to all my friends who made me feel great about turning 30. Happy 30th, my love!



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