How my birthday was

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‘Twas a swell birthday I had Saturday, a swell birthday indeed. To my Jehovah’s Witness friends, of whom I have none, let me say that you don’t know what you’re missing.

The morning mail arrived with two items. One was an envelope bearing a card accompanied by a check for a generous sum of money. This was from my parents. The other was a large package from my friend Lisa Valentine Clark, member of the Garrens Comedy Troupe (back in the day) and a funny, lovely woman. The package contained: a box of Wheat Thins, a box of Chocolate Fudge Pop-Tarts, a bag of Oreos, a container of the Wal-Mart store brand of little chocolate donuts, and a loaf of Grandma Sycamore’s white bread. You wonder what these items have in common, and it is this: They are my very favorite TV-watchin’ foods! Lisa Valentine Clark has watched countless hours of TV with me, so she knows which snacks I favor.

(You are perhaps also thinking: Grandma Sycamore’s white bread? What, does Eric just sit there and eat plain, unadorned bread, right out of the bag? The answer is yes, yes he does. It is delicious. And to both predict and answer you next question, yes, the Wal-Mart store brand of little chocolate donuts is my favorite, even better than Hostess. They are fresh, moist, and have just a hint of dark chocolate. They are divine.)

At 11 a.m., I had lunch at Typhoon in downtown Portland with my friend Rob. I had rarely eaten Thai food before Rob started making me do it a year or so ago, and now I like it very much. I like it especially when someone else is paying for it. And I believe it is best to eat at Typhoon as often as possible now, before a massively destructive typhoon strikes someone in the world, kills thousands, and renders the restaurant’s name distasteful.

Later in the afternoon, I paid a visit to my friend and movie-critic colleague Dawn Taylor. Dawn used to be a pastry chef, and she had kindly volunteered to bake me a birthday cake, from scratch, using the finest recipe she could discover. I gave her only my very basic cake guidelines — chocolate, and no nuts of any kind — and off she went.

The finished product was a devil’s food item, and to reiterate, it was made completely by hand from scratch. It is without hyperbole that I say it was the single most delightful thing I have ever put in my mouth. Moist (but not too moist), dense (but not too dense), chocolatey (but not too sweet), and baked to complete perfection. I wish I could share it with all of you. In fact, the next day, when it was gone due to my eating it and sharing it with others, I wished, addict-like, that I could have more, more, MORE of it. Regardless of what sins Dawn may have committed in her life — and boy howdy, that’s a long list — I am confident she will go to heaven despite them, based solely on the merits of this cake.

I enjoyed a slice with Dawn and her husband, then went to dinner with my friends Mark & Mark (but not the Funky Bunch). They had left choosing the restaurant to me, and as they are both prosperous and generous, I knew the sky was the limit, menu-wise. Yet I am a man with simple tastes. In discussing our dining options with Mark, I said, “You know, I actually would really just like to go to the Outback, but I’m afraid you’ll make fun of me. You guys are all hip and trendy, and the Outback is so ordinary. Are you going to mock me behind my back? ‘Oh, the Outback? What, was Olive Garden closed? Couldn’t get a reservation at Red Lobster?'” Mark assured me that such was not the case, and that he and Mark sometimes eat at the Outback themselves (but not, I am given to understand, Olive Garden or Red Lobster).

It was a fine, steaky dinner at Outback, and then we went home to eat more of Dawn’s cake, then to digest a bit before heading out for a night on the town, the town in this case being Portland.

Somewhere in all that, my parents and my sister and one of my brothers called. Two other brothers and a sister were in absentia, though I’m sure their birthday wishes for me were implied. A few friends called with greetings, while others e-mailed or sent MySpace messages. The friends who failed to remember it was my birthday, despite my having remembered theirs, will forever live in the toxic cloud of my smugness.

But truly, it’s nice to feel loved and appreciated now and then, to have all these people in your life, some of whom only flit in and out occasionally, step up one day out of the year and make you feel all fuzzy inside. It is also nice when they mail you food, or make food for you, or take you to a restaurant and pay for your food.

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