I’m madder than a laughing hyaena watching one of Shakespeare’s tragedies over the fact that so many people are living to such a ripe old age nowadays that you can’t have a surprise party for them out of fear that you’ll give them a heart attack and kill them the second you scream when they walk (or get pushed) through the door!
Look, you all know that the ol’Screecher was smart enough to buy the extended warranty on all my vital organs a long time ago, so it is safe to say I ain’t going anywhere anytime soon, and the same seems to be the case for all my relatives, who clearly love it here so much that I keep having to attend those aforementioned milestone birthday parties that are apparently more important than the most important day of every year — that day years ago when the earth and everyone on it was given the gift that keeps on giving — me.
But I digress.
Because this column is again about the latest and greatest surprise party that yours truly wouldn’t miss: my brother-law Leo Vento’s 90th.
Now, I don’t need to get into the circumstances surrounding this one, but I will anyway, on account of hitting my word count (which, in case you are counting, is 750 — more than they give to any other writer in this vaunted publication, and with good reason, because you know and I know that I’ve got you hanging on every single solitary one).
As I wrote about earlier in the year, my sainted sister Susie died a few months back, and Leo was the guy who did the heavy lifting when it came to taking care of her (along with his two kids Anthony and Barbara).
But what I didn’t tell you was that Leo’s wife Jennie, who is also my sister (hence the “in-law” suffix next to “brother” when I mention Leo (you got all this?)), was not doing to well after the family emergency that was her sister’s death.
Anyways, with all this stuff going on, Leo’s 90th snuck up on all of us, and the Ventos, who plan parties quicker and better than anyone, somehow were able to book Mama Rao’s Party Room on 64th Street and 11th Avenue for Aug. 1, and gave us (and everybody else) about 18 hours notice to get there and have a blast.
Which is exactly what we did.
When me and my lovely wife Sharon got there, there were already 91 people in the room (that’s one for every year, and one for the pot!) and the deejay had everyone singing and dancing while we waited for the man of the hour to arrive.
We soon found out that they were six blocks away, and we were all reminded not to screech “Surprise!” at the top of our lungs — which, of course, is my speciality — but instead to just start singing “Happy Birthday” in order to avoid the aforementioned coronary.
Leo and Jennie thought they were going to some Italian company’s promotional event with a few family members there (that way, they wouldn’t be surprised when they saw a relative’s car parked outside), but boy, when they saw all those relatives and life-long friends, the tears just started flowing!
And then my favorite things started flowing: the food!
There were rice balls, pizza, fried gallamaäd, tomatoes and mootz with prosciutto, olives, roasted peppers, salad, and homemade fresh hot rolls. By the time I got to forcing down the pasta in Ed Marinaro sauce, I saw poor Sharon asking the waiter to wrap her’s up so I would have more when I got those hunger pangs in the middle of the night.
And we didn’t even get to the entrees!
We got to choose one of four choices: veal Florentine, chicken French style, filet of sole, or an eggplant tower for those that don’t like meat.
The white-glove service was impeccable, with the wine glasses constantly getting refilled, and the olives were so big in my martinis, that I couldn’t finish the ones that came in my second helping.
Joseph and Anthony, Leo’s great-grandchildren, congratulated their papa before some of his six grandchildren got up and made poignant speeches that made even the Screecher shed a tear.
Then, Leo got up and said the words everyone in attendance knew were true — that the three must important things in life are (in order) family, friends, and good wine!
And it only took me and Sharon three hours to get home by Access-A-Ride!
Anyways, happy birthday, Leo, and thanks for all you’ve done!
Screech at you next week!