I got engaged

Every now and then, something happens in my personal life that I feel the need to chuck it up here, even though this site has been a veritable ghost town in recent years. And by recent years, I mean forever. Well, something did indeed happen that’s worthy of a post, and it’s also part of the reason why I haven’t posted in so long: I got engaged.

So most of you know that already, but I haven’t had an opportunity to go into detail about how shit all went down. Even if no one reads this post, I figure it’d be good to get this down in writing anyway for years down the road when I’m super fat and wrinkled and beat down and want to recall one of the higher points of my life.

For those of you who have never met my fiance, her name is April. Here’s a picture of her:

We met a few years ago when I was just starting Republic Studios, and we became “sorta friends.” You know, the kinda where I try making moves to impress her and get her to go out with me while she tells other people “we’re sorta friends.” Last year in April (yes she was named after the month in which she was born), I crashed her birthday party and was made aware that she had recently ended her long-distance relationship. Two weeks later I gave her a bottle of cognac and we watched The Princess and the Frog and she let me hold her hand and then soon after that we started dating.

The ensuing few months were pretty great. We shared a lot of the same interests, such as drinking booze, reclining on the sofa, and throwing slices of pepperoni at each other. Sure, we had arguments, but usually because she was frustrated at my capacity to be so perfect and awesome. We took trips to Taiwan, Hangzhou, and a massive one to Europe. Below is a picture of me and her at a Mexican restaurant in Amsterdam. The look on her face was one of total awe because I had just said something intellectually devastating and totally incredible. I forgot what it was though.

We had talked intermittently about getting married and wondered aloud what our married life would be like. She would say funny things like “I would like to have a wedding, I’ve never had one before I want to know what it feels like” and I would respond by saying “Can we change the channel, I don’t feel like watching the Powderpuff girls anymore.” Generally though, we were never really thinking about geting engaged anytime soon. Life was pretty good without that hanging over our heads.

The reason this picture of beef on a Japanese yakiniku grill is here is because soon after I took this picture, I suddenly and unexpectedly decided to start putting it over our heads. A few bottles of sake into the meal, this abrupt yet welcome thought entered my head: “I want to marry this girl.” I started smiling but didn’t say anything. April asked me if I had farted, and of course I said “yes” as I didn’t want to let her in on this moment of clarity that I was enjoying. She proceeded to throw slices of beef tongue at me since we didn’t have any pepperoni.

Not only had I concluded that I was going to ask her to marry me, I had also nailed down the date of my proposal: April 2nd, the day of her birthday. I texted my pal and business partner Clint what I was planning on doing, all while April was sitting across from me without a clue what was going on in my head. Being a newlywed himself, he offered me his congrats and said if I needed any help I could go to him. I asked him for money so I could buy the ring. He stopped texting back.

I forgot to mention that when I had made my decision, it was already the tail end of February, leaving me with just slightly over a month to: A) buy an engagement ring, B) organize the joint surprise birthday/proposal party, C) get a haircut. I was pretty stressed out about the haircut, so I saved that for last and started doing online research on the ring and beginning to map out the special night in my head (and on a handful of spreadsheets). The challenge for me was, how would I put together a party that she’d find fun and memorable enough that she’d forget that I got the diamond on Taobao?

That was a joke of course, although the diamond was the first thing to stress me out. Thankfully, I have an awesome friend named Steve who was terrific enough to help me secure the diamond at a fair price, get it set, take it with him to Beijing on his business trip, and fly it down to Shanghai specifically so he could hand it to me the night of the party. And also, I can’t forget the countless amount of technical advice he gave me. Thanks to him, I’ll never confused a “cloudy girdle” with dirty undergarments ever again!

One of my good buddies proposed to his fiance last year in front of all their friends. He rented a small lounge, provided canapes and drinks, and then had her friends steer her over. As she walked in everyone yelled “Surprise!” and he got down on one knee in front of everyone. Prior to that, I had never considered making any sort of public proposal, but after seeing it all go down in that fashion I have to admit, I pretty much wanted to rip-off many aspects of his idea. But no matter what scenario I played out in my head, I could not see myself dropping to one knee in front of everyone, not because I was afraid she would say no and humiliate me, but because when I’m down on one knee everyone can see my muffin-top. Still, I did want to do something where all our friends would be able to participate in some way, so I decided to do the actual proposal in private, then bring in the mob right after to celebrate. Kind of a “have your cake and eat it” deal.

No matter how the night was executed, however, the most important thing was for April to be totally surprised that night. Therefore, it was important for me to lay the groundwork. First, I told her that I would organize her birthday party for her, including contacting all the guests, securing a location, hiring the strippers, and getting the balloons (one of those four things I did not promise to do). I had her draw up a guest list, then I took that guest list and split it into teams: her coworkers, her girlfriends, her platonic (hopefully) guy friends, and then all the friends that she met through me. I assigned a “captain” to those first three groups, and told them to start spreading the word to their team that I would be throwing a surprise birthday for April, and to clear their schedules and get their stories straight…once I figured out what that story would be. And because any leaks of information would be lethal, I told the captains of the “coworker” and the “platonic (hopefully) guy friends” teams that I was going to propose that night, but refrained from telling the captain of the “girlfriends” team. I’m not saying that those ladies can’t keep secrets or anything, but just know that those ladies can’t keep any secrets, and it was a brilliant idea to keep them in the dark. Good job, Eric.

As Steve was helping to get the ring for me back in the States, I was forming the backbone of the plan for that night. I somehow had to get her to go to the hotel suite on the night of her birthday, find the right moment to propose, and then have all of her friends there to surprise her in the immediate aftermath. I started researching venues that had a private space (proposal) and a bar/lounge space (party) that were as close to each other as possible. I ultimately decided on URBN hotel, an eco-friendly boutique hotel that had a nice roof terrace and a couple of big penthouse suites. After scoping the place out and having more than a few phone and face-to-face discussions with URBN’s events manager, I booked one of the suites and the use of the rooftop if the weather was nice, or the lounge space right across from the suite if the weather ended up being an asshole.

As all of this was going on, work was also in a heightened stage of stress. We were dealing with an ever-changing production schedule of projects, and also renovating our new office space. In fact, our official move-in day was the weekend immediately after April’s birthday. For most of March I was working a lot of hours and struggling to sleep at night. April, naturally, slept like a log, but those few weeks when I was worried about getting the diamond and finding a venue and plotting the surprise, on top of all the work stuff, was really starting to wear me out. That heightened the importance of making sure that night went smoothly and without a hitch.

As the date crept closer, April was starting to worry about the party. Were people going to show up? Would the venue be nice and comfortable for everyone? Was I ever going to stop eating ice cream even though I’m lactose intolerant? Though I tried to comfort her that everything was under control, the fact that I kept all the details from her made her even more nervous, so I decided that I at least had to tell her the venue for her party…which, of course, was NOT URBN hotel. I ended up telling her that our good friend Debbie had pulled some strings and had booked the private lounge space at a bar called The Apartment, and that we were being given discounts on the drinks and the snacks. Then, about a week before the date, I told her that our friend Sabine had booked the penthouse suite at URBN for us on the night of her birthday as a gift, and that we could use it for a pre-party or an after-party. I even had Sabine play along when April insisted on calling her to thank her.

The plan was coming together. I would tell April that before heading to the Apartment, we would take advantage of Sabine’s gift and enjoy a romantic dinner in the suite, then stay the night after the festivities came to an end. One thing remained: how would I actually pop the question? As cliche as it sounds, I could only do this once, so I had to do it right. Plus, despite the length of this blog post being evidence to the contrary, I really am not good with words when it comes to being romantic. Sure, I was good at staying stuff to make women cry, but not in a way that would work for a marriage proposal.

I ended up reaching out to the team captains once again, and gave them a list of names. I wanted her closest friends to shoot videos of themselves saying nice things about April, and then I would edit all these clips together into a montage that I would play in the hotel room after dinner as a sort of pre-surprise. My plan was to be the last clip in the montage, and when the video ended she’d look over at me, with tears in her eyes, and see me down on one knee. How could she not say YES? Man, even I get hot flashes thinking about it! I said it once already but I’ll say it again: Good job, Eric.

Anyway, this blog post is so long that by the time you finish reading this we’ll probably already be married. But basically, the night pretty much went exactly as planned. There are some very brief moments of concern, like when I picked up the ring from Steve two hours before we were supposed to be at URBN, only to go home and fine April SOUND ASLEEP and trying to beg out of going to URBN at all. Or, when the two of us were eating our romantic dinner in the hotel suite, only one of us aware that all her friends were amassing quietly in the lounge space right across the hallway (the weather decided to be an asshole), and the events manager actually called our room to tell me that some guests were early (she was apparently even more excited that I was). When I got back to the table, April asked “who was that?” and I had to tell her that the hotel staff was so diligent that they called to tell us that they ran out of french fries. Bless her non-inquisitive heart, she stopped asking questions after that. Here are a couple of pictures of us having dinner in the hotel room. Little did she know I was going to wallop her up the head with sentimentality in less than an hour!

I had gone to the suite earlier in the afternoon and put the DVD of of the montage into the DVD player, so after we finished dinner and she went to freshen up, I turned it on so she could see all her friend saying nice things about her. We watched the 5 minute video on the bed as all of our friends were waiting just a few meters away. Then I got down on one knee and showed her the ring that I had traveled thousands of miles over the Pacific ocean to get to where it was at that moment. That moment which, sadly, is kind of a visual blur for me. But I still remember the feeling of that moment, the feeling of all of it bubbling up inside me as she was kicking her legs up in the air on the bed in total shock and happiness. It was a feeling that all of this was worth it, that I had just performed the single most romantic gesture of my entire life on the girl I was going to marry, and here she was smiling and crying and about to get hammered in a few hours, and all I could think about was “Good job, Eric. Good job.”

I’ll excuse you for a second while you wipe the vomit off your keyboard.

So yeah, that’s basically it. She said yes, we hugged and I made jokes about how her fat fingers made the diamond look small, and then I took her across the hallway under the pretense that the hotel had provided us some celebratory champagne for the two of us, and when we opened the door she got her last happy shock of the night. All her friends were there, Sade’s “By Your Side” was playing on the speakers, and people were very happy for the two of us. So that’s the story. Below are three pictures from the party, which are also on my Facebook page. Now it’s time for the credits.

April’s best friend in Taiwan who organized the videos of all of her friends in Taipei – Winnie
Awesome photographer friend who sadly got mistaken by the guests as a professional and got bossed around but who really was just nice enough to help me document the night – Peijin
DJ – Jason
Team captains – Steven, Maggie, Jessie

April upon seeing all her friends in the next room

People dressed up thinking it was just a regular birthday party

We love open bars

Who the hell are Blue?!

M1NT is a Shanghai super-club that has been surprisingly resilient the past 2-3 years given the amount of competition that has risen up and competed for the same piece of the coveted and fickle trend-setters pie. Though I’ve been to the club one time in the past 12 months, I will confess that I was a one-time member of this “member’s only” organization, having come across a free membership through a friend in the PR racket. Thus, I am on their mailing list and receive all their promotional e-mails. And it was the last one I received that caught my eye:

To celebrate the arrival of Chinese New Year, M1NT Shanghai is pleased to announce a show by BLUE. The original group have reunited to record brand new material for worldwide release later this year.

This very unique comeback show will feature their platinum selling hits with songs such as “All Rise”, “One Love”, “Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word”, “Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours” which saw them become a global phenomena and go on to sell more than 10,000,000 records worldwide.

Here is your chance to see one of the greatest pop acts of recent times while overlooking the glorious “Pearl of the Orient” Shanghai.

Who the hell is Blue? And why is it that I’ve never heard of one of the greatest pop acts of recent times!? And what the hell are they doing playing M1NT? Either I have been seriously ignorant of pop music trends the past decade, or the good folks doing PR copy for M1NT are getting a little too excited about the talent they just booked.

Debbie’s Birthday

Here are 3 pictures from Debbie’s birthday this past weekend. I don’t know how our friend Sabine does it, but she can put together a themed party at a piano bar, complete with props and costumes, in a span of 48 hours. Props to her, and to all the people who deftly mixed single malt whiskey and lots of red wine.

Giving Thanks, Shanghai style

My original plans of ordering a roast chicken and sharing it with my mom for a low key Thanksgiving were dashed when Debbie called all of us together for a big Shanghainese dinner at Fu1039. The reason? Her awesome mom (who just now offered to set me up with a fleet of China Airlines flight attendants) is in town to drink whiskey and chill with her daughter and her awesome friends. So Jason and I both brought out our mothers for a big giving of thanks. Per usual custom, Debbie went all out at this very nice Shanghainese restaurant, the pinnacle of her efforts to please being the crab cake and dumpling pictured below. Shredded crab meat and crab egg yolk baked in a tiny crab shell, with crab sauce smothered in a ball of sesame sprinkled fried dough. We definitely have much to be thankful for. Good friends and family and food and fun. Hope all of you got yours as well.

And who are you supposed to be?

Just finished watching the most recent episode of Mad Men last night. Betty and Don have the talk. And then…what the hell, that’s it? They go trick-or-treating? And how the hell does everyone drink so much and not get fat? Damn, I want to be back in the Sixties. Even though if I went back the way I am now, I’d be working in a laundry somewhere.

So in two days, Halloween is once again upon us. I’m attending an actual Halloween Party, of which there are ten thousand in Shanghai every year. But it’s special because I loathe Halloween parties, and I haven’t been to a proper one in a few years now. I actually only have two costumes, and frequently wear them at the same time: Super Mario, and drunken idiot. Here’s an example:

So this year I’m returning back to the Halloween stage, this time supposedly to be surrounded by hot, buxom Taiwanese nurses while I drink red wine out of an IV drip. Sounds wonderfully complicated, but putting this together falls completely out of the bounds of my enthusiasm. So, between now and Saturday night, I’m going to have to come up with something passably clever and impossibly easy to put together. And one that, despite their calls, does not require exposure of anything other than my big fat face.

Does anyone have any suggestions? Oh wait, no one reads this blog anyway, never mind.

Photos from 31st Birthday Party

Eric Bday09-010

One of the best ones yet! Reserved the entire bar of new restaurant 3TOP, and invited new and old friends alike. Got so wasted I completely do not remember what happened at Karaoke between 2am and 5am. Very scary thought. Ok, next year, will definitely scale it down. Thanks to my buddy Ozzie for taking all these great photos! Click on the photo above or at this link here to access the entire Flickr album.