Posted by: Tommy | December 18, 2010

Happy Birthday to Me

One of the main reasons we ventured to Johannesburg (regarded by most everyone as the most dangerous city on our itinerary) was because my friend Johnson has been living there for a year and a half.  We knew we’d be coming to Africa as part of our trip, so it made sense to stop in Jo’burg – and hey, if you have to turn 30, it might as well be in the city where your best friend lives halfway around the world.

Anna always makes my birthday special, and she wasn’t deterred this year by our travels.  She and Johnson went to the store that morning and acquired the supplies she would need to keep me fat and happy all day long.  We started with chocolate chip pancakes (I think I ate 9) with a glass of chocolate milk, followed by mimosas.  The three of us ate pancakes and drank mimosas, then played Casino.  Johnson and I used to play Casino (a card game that can be played with 2,3, or 4 players) in college and I’ve taught Anna to play, but she hates to lose so she refuses to play anymore.  So it was a special treat for her to play and for me to get to play Casino at all.

Before anyone could possibly be hungry again, Anna was up and making the largest, most delicious sandwich I could image – fresh baked bread, straight from the bakery, grilled, topped with lettuce, tomato, avocado, a fried egg, bleu cheese and BACON.
We played some more cards and then had our scheduled calls with our families.  Jennifer (my sister) arranged for my aunt to come to her house and we Skyped with both of them, then Anna’s parents, then mine.  As soon as the calls were done, it was time to change clothes and head to dinner.  Yes, dinner – I was still stuffed from lunch, but hey, how many times will I turn 30?

Johnson and his wife, Anita, had been raving about the quality of the steak in South Africa for the whole 2 weeks we’ve been here, so we decided that a 30th was the perfect occasion for splurging on fancy steak.  We told them to book a place and we invited Ed, Anna’s TV producer, along.

They took us to The Grillhouse, a swanky steak house in the Rosebank area of Jo’burg.  It had a Capital Grille sort of vibe, but with less dark wood.  There were metal cow sculptures decorating the main eating area – including one near our table which I dubbed “Cannibalism” of a cow sitting at a table with a knife and fork… The best decorative aspect was the framed, autographed covers of Cigar Aficionado magazine gracing the walls.  I’m not sure that these people had ever been to The Grillhouse, but they had autographs from Demi Moore, Danny DeVito, Sharon Stone and my favorite, Chuck Norris.

The steak, as the locals had claimed, was phenomenal.  And considerably cheaper than the Capital Grille steak that it reminded me of.  After dinner, a chocolate sundae, complete with sparklers shooting fire, was brought to the table and everyone sang Happy Birthday.  We bid Ed adieu and headed back to Johnson’s house, having to pack and get up early for safari the next morning.

It was a great way to end our two weeks in Johannesburg, getting food prepared in a proper kitchen, seeing good friends, both new and old.  As I reflect on being 30, it seems just like 29, but with less hair.  Yeah, my knees hurt after some of our hikes and I definitely can’t eat as much as I could in college, but its hard to think of myself as an adult, especially since I don’t have a job and I’m staying in Youth Hostels with kids on study abroad all the time.

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  1. Sounds like a great birthday and impossible to forget. It is hard to feel badly turning 30 when you are on such an adventure.

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