It was the best Alderson’s Birthday ever!
While Alderson’s Birthday has been well-known for its world-wide festivities, they had been, for me, quiet affairs. This had stemmed from the only Alderson’s Birthday celebration to which I had actually been invited, a 6th birthday party planned by my Mother, causing the worst snow storm of the 20th century. Nobody had ever been willing to risk that kind of severe weather ever since. Until last weekend.
An event marking my 60th year among the quick had been planned by my brother, the younger of the Alderson Boys. I had decided a while back that being the older had been a lot more fun when we were kids, until his scheming convinced me otherwise, at least for a weekend.
He had suggested weeks ago that we spend the weekend of Alderson’s Birthday hanging out in Fredericksburg with the Grillmaster and Senior Hokie. Since my plans were the same as they usually are, none, I had readily agreed. That a little more might have been on tap quickly became obvious through some cryptic social media postings [Ryan, I appreciate it, but, after seeing that picture, I would have gone to Atlanta] and were reinforced during Friday night’s dinner when I overheard Alderson the Younger relate to somebody, “He doesn’t suspect a thing.” But, I saw little reason to throw a damper on things; after 54 years, I was really looking forward to finding out what was planned, which apparently contained some element of surprise.
We arrived in Fredericksburg Friday afternoon in time to tour the battlefield and interrupt the afternoon drinking of the Visitor Center park ranger. He seemed so surprised to have somebody actually show up at his government job backwater that he tossed aside his vodka bottle and readily engaged in conversation about this first of quite a few ‘On to Richmond’ campaigns. I got the feeling he didn’t often get to actually talk to people.
We trod along Marye’s Heights and the Sunken Road, remarking on the special genius of Burnside that caused him to ignore the success he had experienced in piercing Jackson’s line while reinforcing the utter failure of attacking Longstreet’s with division after division. No wonder Lincoln became so exasperated.
Afterwards, we returned to the hotel where we met what is known as the core group of the Clubhouse Tailgate [i.e., those with the original RV's] for cocktails before walking to a Joe’s Crab Shack that was about as far away as the distance Logan Thomas had covered in beating the Canes. In the future, I vote that all hotels where we stay have that chain nearby.
Quite a while was spent engaging in one of my favorite activities, stuffing shellfish into my mouth. I also discovered they have an unusual activity required of those there for birthday celebrations. That I did demonstrated, again, that 1] attractive young waitresses can talk me into just about anything and 2] the amount of martinis and margaritas consumed was only slightly behind the numbers of crab legs.
Follwing dinner and my making a drunken fool of myself by riding a stick pony around the restaurant, we adjourned to the hotel bar, where we discovered a very good Motown cover band and that this seemed to be a prime gathering spot for attractive young Fredericksburg ladies who were no longer very young. When your first sight on entering a place is to notice numbers of women dancing with each other, you know that you have either hit a lesbian bar or the jackpot. This was the latter. The evening culminated in my stumbling around the dance floor with an attravctive young lady who actually asked me to dance, perhaps because I was one of the few there actually older than she [by 5 months].
Saturday morning had the operation moving west, first to tour the Chancellorsville battlefield, where it was determined that if there was a patch of high ground in and around Fredericksburg in 1863, Lee was astride it [a lesson in military planning he seemed to have forgotten later at Gettysburg]. We drove along the route of Jackson’s flanking march, culminating at the spot where Howard’s men first laughed at all of the wildlife running out of the woods, then had a slightly different reaction when it was followed by thousands of screaming Confederates. Hooker’s feelings as he stood outside his headquarters discussing with his generals the mopping up of Lee’s army only to discover his own men racing pell mell by him in an attempt at getting away from that same army were likely not positive.
149 years after Hooker headed back to the safety of Washington, we moved slightly westward to the spacious country estate of the Grillmaster. It was here that Alderson’s Birthday tidings were delivered by a full-blown Clubhouse Tailgate. The extent was a surprise.
There were quite a few tailgaters, food being dished up from the Clubhouse Kitchen put together on the back deck, home brew, a cake and enough presents of liquor to stock a Virginia ABC branch. Needless to say, a very pleasant afternoon and evening was had by all, especially me. Even Mother Nature got into the act.
I have previously mentioned major snowfall being the reason for so few Alderson’s Birthday celebrations having been held in the past; it was again demonstrated, although this time the snowfall was moderate enough to allow those attending to safely drive home, although it did provide opportunity for snowball fights on the Grillmaster’s deck.
By the time the taxi poured us out back at the hotel [the cab had been wisely prearranged by the planners, figuring, likely correctly, that I or nobody else would want designated driver duties and a Spotsylvania County judge would not share in the warm Alderson's Birthday wishes exhibited by the Clubhouse Tailgate], I had experienced just about the best Alderson’s Birthday ever. And continued to, as we decided to partake of ‘just one more’ in the hotel bar, where the band was still playing and a girl named Sue was still there and still seemed to want to dance. A pleasant day indeed!
My car was returned Sunday morning in time for breakfast and the drive back to Danville, where I was able to watch the delivery of a birthday present by Seth, of all people, in the form of a rare Tech basketball win. When Alderson Boy the Younger decides to throw his older sibling a birthday bash, he doesn’t screw around.
It was a weekend for the ages that I enjoyed immensely. I express a heartfelt ‘Thank You’ to all those in the Clubhouse Tailgate who organized, planned and attended the event.