I'm not one for pomp and circumstance, but I do enjoy a good festivity now and again. Graduation at the Paramount Theater was all well and good, but what was really getting me through as I sweated over page 106 of my thesis was the after party I had planned with my family and friends at this pink anomaly:
T.J.s Ginger Bread House
I've been driving past this place on my way to the Webster tube for almost two years now and until three weeks ago it lived only in my dreams, shrouded in myth. What was a baby pink, heart-covered Victorian claiming to be a cajun restaurant doing wedged underneath the BART tracks and 880 south a mere stone's throw from blighted West Oakland? After a year of timid drive-bys I was tempted to drop in, but then a little birdie told me that besides needing a reservation waaaaaay in advance, you need to order your food ahead of time...what was this place?!
I knew wondrous things must be waiting for me inside, so I decided I'd wait and book an inaugural visit in honor of my graduation. A couple weeks before the date I called the number and spoke with a lovely woman who turned out to be Miss Noel (emphasis on the "Miss"): our hostess, server, quizmaster, entertainer and confidante for the evening. She asked me to come in as soon as possible to pick up menus (no place could be less online) so I could get everyone's order in ahead of time. I would have asked why this was necessary (out of curiosity--not contrariness) but she had just mentioned that she'd give me a cookie and a lemonade when I picked them up, so I hardly had time to hang up the phone before the screen door hit my bum on the way out to the car. I didn't get a cookie--but I did get a hug from Miss Noel and something that looked like this:
That's my sister holding a plate of "sassy" cornbread smothered in what can only be described as movie-theatre popcorn butter. Sensational.
Miss Noel and I quickly bonded and set our date for the 16th of June. It was one of the great events of my life--we were treated to fruit salad and fruit punch, games of chance and skill, and tips on life and love from Miss Noel herself. At one point she pulled a knife out of her apron--no joke!-- to show us how she protects a pretty little bit of a thing like herself. Here she is pulling out another recommendation:
Germs are nothing to kid about.
Miss Noel was one of those sweet people that talk like they've known you forever, which is very touching and sweet until you start to feel really awkward about nodding your head so much while they go on and on. Eventually you realize that you have nothing to say in return because you're not one of those people, so you just blather on with "thank you so much!" and "so true!" and my favorite: thhe upward sliding "ahhhh." The whole evening was this on-your-toes mix of being put at your ease without ever feeling easy. The highlights (sponsored by Ted on the Web, the West Coast's expert on "awkward") included a rope puzzle that kept Gnu and Alisa literally tied up for much longer than was entertaining for anyone (I won't post the pictures because I'm pretty sure Alisa and/or Whitney would kill me), and a 15 minute lecture Erica received extolling personal safety for the single woman. Also, there's this gem:
My pop ended up willingly posing for a picture with a flower in his hair (I told you wondrous things were waiting inside). We also snapped what is maybe the greatest ever photo of the grandmas:
A glorious time was had by all.