So this is a story about Valentine’s Day. Valentine's Day never was my holiday, but for some reason, in life with JR's dad, who is otherwise a rather unromantic sort, it has taken on rather epic proportions (he proposed on 2/14/99, we signed the agreement of sale on our house on 2/14/00, which allowed us to set a wedding date, he usually does plan some type of event that involves going out). This year, he was particularly proud of himself. He made secret plans, arranged for JR's grandmother to babysit, and I caught him last Saturday bragging to some neighborhood moms – although he cut short the brag when I walked in. A few days before VD, he came home with a box which JR and I helped him wrap.
I, on the other hand, barely managed to buy a box of chocolates for his mom and a card each for JR and his dad. The cards were quite uninspired, since I bought them in my office building at 2:00 p.m. yesterday when the selection had pretty much been picked through.
I also came down with a horrible cold on Wednesday night, so I spent most of yesterday wishing that instead of having to go out, I could just go home and crawl into bed.
I got home from work and Memom was there, cooking dinner. JR came home with a stuffed bag of valentines from his classmates (everyone else gave out candy, or valentines with tattoos or lovely handmade confections – we managed to get JR to sign his name to 43 store-bought “Ratatouille” cards).
We had the exchange of presents – my MIL loved her box of chocolates. The boys were gracious about their uninspired cards from me. I was ecstatic to discover that the box I’d wrapped for myself contained John and Kira’s “lovebugs” (handpainted ladybugs of chocolate ganache filled with chocolate truffle). After dinner, we made our way out of the house.
JR's Dad had arranged to rent a car from Philly CarShare (this is actually worth it in our neighborhood, because moving our car off the block in the evening almost guarantees we will be unable to park anywhere near our house when we get home). We started driving deep into South Philadelphia – ending up at “The New Alhambra Sports and Entertainment Grille” at Front and Ritner Streets (this is an industrial wasteland of a neighborhood underneath Route I-95). I’d seen advertisements on telephone poles for boxing matches at “The New Alhambra.” The crowd hanging outside did not (to my relief) look much like a boxing crowd. However, there was far more black clothing, spiked hair, Doc Maartens, and tattoos to make me feel wholly at home in my powder blue parka and pink fuzzy scarf.
Inside, the boxing arena has been converted into a stage and a very loud, very Aerosmith-like band is playing. Above the stage I see a banner which finally explains the reason for our presence: “The New York Dolls” is scrolled across in red script lettering.
We had so much fun. The show was loud and high energy and upbeat and just a blast. For a few hours I got to forget that I just had a birthday and that I live this very conventional familial life where the big event is the occasional potluck dinner at neighboring parents’ homes. We stood in the crowd, cheering and dancing and singing along and feeling like we were still 25.
The first thing JR's Dad said when we got there was that he was sure he wouldn’t know anybody there. Was he ever wrong! First we saw a woman we know (friend of a friend), then we saw the younger sister of one of our closest friends, then we ran into another neighbor couple whose kids are in the same age range as JR. The crowd was interesting – lots of young punk rock types and lots of older folks (some of whom looked much older than us) looking unfashionable and, as they say, too young to die and too old to rock and roll.
So now you know why I love JR's Dad.
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