Here comes everybody

I turned 30 on Thursday. I’m not one of those people who mourns the passing of her 20s. I feel like our 20s are the time where we figure out who we are, what we like and what we can’t abide by, try new things and succeed or fail in turns, and lots of life happens to us. For me the 30s represent the culmination of our seeking 20s, getting to enjoy the life that you’ve chosen, and really start living in it.

My fiancé Etan, as always, went all out for me for my birthday. He woke me up with an empty basket and sent me on a scavenger hunt for 31 pieces of candy (one for good luck), which I am still not-so-slowly eating. Perhaps to balance out all that candy, he also got my bike fixed up and got me a really cool esquestrian-looking bike helmet, which is a sleek matte black instead of looking like some sort of ugly plastic alien brainsucker like every other bike helmet. We went to a spa during the day and to a great pop up restaurant downtown called Le Comptoir at night. Its name means “the counter” in French, and you sit at the counter and the chefs feed you courses of amazing food that conforms with the philosophy of using cooking methods to bring out the best natural flavors of the food. It was really great, big thanks to fellow Joyce lover Jonathan Gold for the recommendation.

Saturday I had a birthday party at our place, and I was really just looking forward to spending time with a bunch of my friends in the same place, especially with the wedding coming up, and me knowing that we won’t be able to invite nearly all the people that we’d like. I didn’t for a second expect the big to-do that Etan and our friend Alexis orchestrated on my behalf.

Finnegans Cake (with some starting words from Joyce's Finnegans Wake)

I’ve explained my love of James Joyce’s Ulysses on this blog previously, and Ulysses featured into our engagement. They came up with a James Joyce cocktail which involved Tullamore Dew, limes, and triple sec and was incredibly tasty and easy to drink.

The wrapping paper made of text from Ulysses. The highlighted parts spell out the birthday song.

Then they called everyone’s attention (which made me blush a little) and Etan made a little speech and gave me the card, and I knew what the gift was at that point but still couldn’t believe that Etan & Alexis had coordinated so many of my friends from so many parts of my life’s history (one friend from elementary school!) to chip in and buy me the much-coveted facsimile of the manuscript of James Joyce’s Ulysses.

Joyce Birthday card with the names of all my friends that chipped in

Back in Philadelphia I was a docent at the Rosenbach Museum & Library, the home of the one and only handwritten Ulysses. Dr. Rosenbach, rare book seller to the stars at the time that Ulysses was written, had gotten a reputation for paying top dollar for modern novelists’ manuscripts, notably Joseph Conrad. Joyce took notice of this practice, and decided to make a manuscript of Ulysses even though it was partially written already in typescript. He knew that Ulysses was going to be his masterpiece, but he majorly counted his chickens before they were hatched, and bought his family an apartment in Paris on the spectre of the money to come from the manuscript’s sale. Unfortunately for him, practically no one in America had the opportunity to read the work before the manuscript was put up for sale because it was banned in the U.S., so the manuscript failed to meet the reserve price. Dr. Rosenbach picked it up for a song. Joyce was furious, and wanted Rosenbach to give it back to him so that he could sell it later for more money. Sorry Jimmy, that ain’t the way it works. Joyce pounded sand, writing angry limericks about Rosenbach, but that was the most he could do. And the manuscript still lives at the Rosenbach to this day, and not in Dublin where one might expect to find it. Besides a lot of other delightful Joyciana at the Rosenbach (like a Japanese translation of Finnegans Wake…what the??? how the???), there is also a death mask of Joyce, owned by the estate of director John Huston, Angelica’s dad. So, in short, go visit the Rosenbach, especially on Bloomsday.

Alright enough blather, onward to the photos!

The facsimile & accompanying card, and a 150-year-old french ring tray from Adam & Brie. Just behind the facsimile but unpictured is my awesome new bike helmet.

For her generous donation, my mom got a limerick composed by our friend Alexis.

A typical page from the manuscript. They say Joyce's margins veered sharply down the page because he wore an eyepatch.

Like a kid on Christmas.

I’m still overwhelmed at the generosity of my friends. I am a very lucky girl to surround myself with such stellar company.

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One thought on “Here comes everybody

  1. Sherry Harsh says:

    Megan, Aviva sent me the story and it sounds like a FABULOUS birthday ! Happy belated birthday! Really admire your philosophy about turning thirty.

    Sherry (Harsh)( ex-neighbor to Aviva and Ben and Etan,)

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