Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Happy Birthday, Esther (Gratuitous Violins)!

Happy Birthday, Esther (Gratuitous Violins)!

It's not every day I use this space to wish someone a happy birthday -- of course lately it's not every day I post anything, period. But today I'm absolutely thrilled to wish my dear Esther at Gratuitous Violins a very, very extraordinarily happy birthday.

I'm too much of a gentleman to reveal a lady's age, so let's just say that my dear friend is observing one of those major milestone birthdays on this May 5. And if you read my post from last Wednesday, today you'll hear -- as the late broadcaster Paul Harvey used to say -- "the rest of the story."

Last week, you learned how I was traveling to Providence to visit Esther. To capitalize on our shared love of live theatre, as well as to mark the 30th anniversary of my having first seen Annie, Esther purchased tickets for the two of us to see a Saturday afternoon matinee of the touring production in Rhode Island's capital city.

But naturally, that was not all that was planned. There was a very special surprise awaiting Esther.

After enjoying my own brisk Saturday morning run from the Capitol through the Down City streets and up toward Brown University and back to my hotel across the street from the State House, Esther picked me up and we proceeded to the front door of the impressive McKim, Mead & White-designed seat of power for Rhode Island's government. The State House is inexpicably closed on Saturdays (unlike so many other State Capitols), but Esther -- demonstrating with tenacity that the name Gratuitous Violins is no fluke -- had pulled some major strings and arranged entry for us into the building. We essentially had it and all its majestic grandeur to ourselves.

Throughout the rest of the day, Esther served as expert tour guide, sharing not only her wonderful home town (including a terrific brunch at Down City Cafe), but also aspects of her life that make her the cherished friend so many of us know and love. She provided me a chance to meet some of her co-workers, see her high school and junior high, and best of all, I had the opportunity to see her childhood home where I met her father.

Little did Esther know that once Annie concluded, I began maintaining a close eye on my watch with great vigilence. You see, the minutes had started to count down to the impending moment Esther was to receive her surprise -- a celebration of her life from but a cross section of her friends, including Chris, Kari, Roxie and Sarah.

After a couple of false starts, such as Esther and I arriving at our appointed meeting place just a little too early ... twice ... the surprise of these cherished friends traveling to Providence to join me in celebrating our honoree ultimately came off without a hitch. Esther was truly surprised, and clearly enjoyed every minute we shared, including a special Saturday evening dinner in her honor at one of Providence's marvelous Italian restaurants, Siena, suggested by the birthday girl herself. Given how Esther had initially brought many of us together once upon a time for our very first bloggers brunch, it seemed appropriate that many of us would come together in an esprit de corps over her.

While Chris wasn't able to join us on Sunday, the remaining five of us drove to Newport and enjoyed more conviality together -- well, minus the spirits of the alcoholic variety -- as we toured majestic mansions including the second Cornelius Vanderbilt's The Breakers and Theresa Fair Oelrichs' Rosecliff, not only where "The Great Gatsby" was filmed, but perhaps more significantly (especially to theatre lovers like us) where Cole Porter wrote Anything Goes -- the gorgeous Steinway he used to compose the musical is on display in the mansion's opulent ballroom.

Our time together culminated much too quickly, less than 24 hours after our celebration began, over a late lunch at one of Newport's seafood restaurants.

Now, as hokey as this may seem, I can't seem to get that tune Carol Burnett used to sing at the close of her show out of my head:

I'm so glad we had this time together
Just to have a laugh or sing a song.
Seems we just get started and before you know it
Comes the time we have to say "so long."

Esther, so long as the stars are in the skies, I know we'll enjoy each other's company. It may not always be in person, but it most certainly will be in spirit. And so I not only send you my birthday wishes across the miles on this very special day regardless of how many bridges we must cross, but I also give you the rest of Joe Hamilton's timely lyrics:

There's a time you put aside for dreamin'
And a time for things you have to do.
The time I love the best is in the evening
I can spend a moment here with you.

When the time comes that I'm feelin lonely
And I'm feelin' oh so blue,
I just sit back and think of you only,
And the Happiness still comes through.

That's why I'm glad we had this time together
'Cause it makes me feel like I belong.
Seems we just got started and before you know it
Comes the time we have to say, "So long."

Happy birthday with love, Esther. Keep rosining up that bow, and never lose sight of your dreams and the gifts they hold.

And now you know the rest of the story.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

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At 05 May, 2009, Blogger Dale said...

What a nice tribute to Esther and it sounds like everyone had a fantastic time. In honour of it all (okay, I already had tickets), I'm going to see Carol Burnett on June 12 here in Toronto. Happy Birthday again Esther and good going Steve!

At 05 May, 2009, Blogger Esther said...

Awww, Steve, my dear friend and brother. Thank-you for arranging the best birthday celebration I've ever had. You do surprises better than anyone I know! It was an incredible weekend and one I'll always treasure. I loved showing you around and my father loved meeting you. You're family now, so come back anytime. And bring everyone with you!

At 05 May, 2009, Blogger Vance said...

The pic of you and Esther is SOOOO Cute!!!


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