I’m in New York for the weekend, celebrating the 31st birthday of my dear friend Jesse Oxfeld. For his birthday this year Jesse decided to throw a Bar Mitzvah themed birthday party (at 13 he had a Bar Mitzvah, at 31 he had a Mitzvah Bar). It was, of course, not a religious event but a cultural one, echoing the social traditions of upwardly mobile jewish suburban culture. Maybe I’m overstating it. It was a birthday party, in a bar in Manhattan (I think the neighborhood is called Tribecca, but I’ve grown New York-ignorant over the years) laced with the accoutrement of our culturally bereft adolescence.
At the door was a sign-in board, a large poster board decorated with a picture of the birthday boy. At bar mitzvah’s it’s usually a baby picture, in this case it was Jesse’s bar mitzvah portrait. Attached to the board are usually some silver paint markers for guests to leave their messages, ideally, or deface the honorees image if things get a little punchy. I think, traditionally, the parents frame the thing afterwards and hang it up in the kid’s room, or maybe the basement rec room to oversee inevitable experimentations with alcohol, drugs, and awkward sexual stumbling.
The other key tradition was the lighting of the candles on the cake. Customarily, the bar mitzvah boy invites up groups of friends and family members to light each candle. Jesse did this in snarky, rhyming verse, as he had 18 years earlier, and we had prepared musical cues to accompany each group: for his parents, We are Family, for his partying brethren, I Love the Nightlife, for his former coworkers, Get A Job, for his gay buddies, It’s Raining Men. Compiling the music for the event was my job, including a smashing playlist of bar mitzvah classics, circa 1990. For anyone interested, here was the playlist.
This trip marks my last respite from studying for the next few months for sure, but likely for much longer.