There is nothing like having a party at your house to force you into addressing all the stuff that needs your attention. It wasn’t all that long ago that I mentioned that young architects should work construction – besides all the practical “you’ll become a better architect” things you learn along the way, there are things that hit even closer to home … as in “you can fix things in your actual home.”
I turned 50-years-old a month ago and on this last Saturday, I finally had a party at my house to celebrate the occasion. In the 26 days between my actual birthday and the party, I have been spending the vast majority of my spare time trying to address as many of the items in my house that cause me embarrassment. I have taken apart cabinets so they could be sanded, filled holes, chips and gouges, painted millwork, and installed new cabinet hardware. I have also installed mirrors, plumbing fixtures, towel bars and hooks, painted the entire inside of my house, patched drywall, refloated walls, installed new air register grilles, disassembled part of my bar so I could install a new beverage fridge, took down a shed, and I literally chopped down a tree …
For the record, when I say “I”, I literally mean my wife and me… we did the work ourselves. As a wildly successful architect, I have enough money to buy the stuff it takes to fix things, but not enough to hire someone else to do the work. As of 3 days ago, all of this effort was finally put on display as I opened my house to 50+ of my closest friends to help me usher in the next half-century of my life.
Based on the attendance and overall mood of the attendees, I think I can confirm that there are two universally important ingredients to a good party:
For the first item, we hired a bartender, which makes sense since we have an actual bar in my house … and I decided I would rather drink with my friends than spend my evening making them cocktails. Since we had a professional behind the bar, I decided to come up with a fun cocktail menu for the evening. Since I am neurotic about these things, I decided to design, print and cut out (by hand with an X-Acto knife because that’s what architect’s do) 50 of the following cards:
I decided to pick a “drink” that I consumed at the various stages of my life and create a “Bob through the Years” sort of activity. The first three drinks were all during my early imbibing years (when I didn’t actually imbibe all that much). Of course, nobody really wants to drink “Slurpee and Everclear” so I worked with the bartender to come up with some creative interpretations on what was essentially trashcan punch, Jack and Coke, and Gin and Tonic.
The other moving part was that I had a stamp made so that for each cocktail ordered, the bartender would “terminate” that phase of my life and you would move on to the next cocktail – with the ultimate goal being that your team consumed all the cocktails of my life and, as a result, be in the running for the door prize … which was all the leftover barbeque.
Which brings us to successful party item number 2 … the food.
I’ve mentioned it on site here a few times that the closest thing I have to a hobby is smoking barbeque. I have held the opinion for a long time that most architects like to cook and for me, becoming a chef was my backup plan if the architecture thing didn’t work out. While I could stand to lose a few pounds, I don’t think you would look at me and think “That dude eats a lot of barbeque” and you would be mostly correct, but only because I’ve become a BBQ snob and with only a few exceptions, I would rather eat what I make than to go eat someone else’s mediocre product. You are looking at a 15-pound brisket that I smoked for 12 hours … and that was consumed in about 15 minutes.
I was in charge of proteins for the party and I smoked three pork butts and one brisket … 43 total pounds of meat for feeding basically 50 people, and I still ran out. We had vegetarian options and my wife made one of the best salads you could ever hope to eat, but this was clearly a carnivorous crowd.
This was our bartender Mario Hernandez1 … and he was amazing. My wife tracked him down and I could not have been happier. We tasked him with making six incredibly fussy drinks (in addition to whatever people wanted that were off menu – you want a gin martini? Mario has you covered) and he showed up about an hour before the party to start setting up his work area. It was a good thing he did because he needed all of the space we had to give him.
Just like architecture, presentation and delivery are a huge part of the process – the goal is to get as many senses involved as possible. Since I don’t consider “scotch” to be a cocktail, most of the cocktails I consume usually happen when it’s hot outside and there is a pool involved – which is probably what accounts for my drink selection.
I managed to locate images for 5 of the 6 cocktails on the menu (sorry Margarita, you were delicious but inconvenient to photograph – Thanks to my good friend JB for capturing these five).
You know the old adage that if you have a party, everyone ends up in the kitchen? Well, if you have a bar and a bartender, that’s where everyone ends up. The next morning the floor in the bar was so sticky I thought a clown had exploded back there.
Once the party started, I put my phone/camera in another room and didn’t pick it up until the next morning – a rare feat for me. I have recently been thinking that I need to be “in the moment” rather than constantly trying to capture “the moment“. The good news is that I thoroughly enjoyed not thinking about all the pictures I wasn’t taking. The bad news is that it makes writing blog posts a lot harder.
My wife took a handful of photos throughout the night (the guy in the black Architectural Jolly Rogers t-shirt seems to be in a lot of photos …) while I spent my evening talking with my friends. I will add that one thing that I like about my current home is that there are at least 7 sitting areas scattered around and everyone was using them. My Mother-in-Law noticed this and said it was like 7 parties going on at once with people moving from one area to the next.
In the end, I don’t think any of the work I tackled around the house made one bit of difference as to whether or not my guests enjoyed themselves, but I am glad we did the work. You spend more time in your home than anywhere else and it should represent not only who you are, but how you live. As a good friend of mine likes to say, this isn’t your house, it’s your home” and I am pretty sure that everyone felt at home this last weekend.
1 If you live in the Dallas area and need a bartender (which, let’s admit it, everyone needs a bartender) I can’t recommend Mario highly enough. You can email him here