If I love doing anything, I love telling people how much I love them with creative gestures. Because of this, Valentine’s Day is my day to shine. Or, rather, in the case of this year’s love day project, not shine. Like, not shine at all, at all costs, no light shall be emitted from me.
My idea was simple. And stolen. Around the New Year, someone was telling me about the fabulous holiday gift they’d received in which all the makings of a gourmet dinner were included. I immediately, and terribly, stopped listening and started planning a Valentine’s Day version of the very same gift that would be given to couples friends. My Valentine would be yummy, secret, inspiring passion and would include lots of driving. I needed a partner in crime.
You know my BFF that inadvertently named this blog? I enlisted her right away because I knew I needed to make this daunting task fun, I needed creative collaboration, and I needed a co-pilot. Not just for the project, but a literal co-pilot as we’d be covering lots of ground. Someone to hold maps, run to and from rung doorbells and someone to keep me awake. Aris was on-board and it was perfect. (To be honest, we were mostly excited to spend multiple hours together, which hadn’t been done in forevvvvver.)
The concept of the cupidgram was drawn up almost on the spot and it was as follows:
- 9 couples
- 6 bottles of wine and 3 bottles of sparkling cider (for those who don’t or can’t drink because they’re growing babies in their bellies)
- 9 each bars of dark chocolate, bags of pasta, bags of Zoë’s Spice of Life (from the restaurant Zoë’s), pasta recipe for a night in, LOVE mixed cd
- Lots of pink and red and glitter!!!!
Aris took her portion and I took mine. Feeling like I make an awful lot of mixed cds for friends to be original anymore, I consulted with two master mixed cd-makers who right away responded with more sexy songs than I knew what to do with. Thanks to these two who made life so much easier! With these lists, I curated what I believe to be the best Valentine’s Day mixed cd of all time (you know I like to be overly confident even in the face of uncertainty, yes?). The cover came complete with a poem by the especially-sultry Pablo Neruda.
Next came the recipe. I got in the kitchen and thought simple and spicy, employing the flavors of what I consider to be the most sensuous part of the world… the Mediterranean. What resulted was indeed very simple and very delicious. Perfect for pairing with a nice glass of wine, some dark chocolate and the one you hold most dear. I called it “Spaghetti Innamorata” because I was really trying to cram those romance languages in there.
We chose Thursday, February 7th to be the day to doorbell ditch the Cupid way. To be honest, I had been kind of avoiding the scheduling of all these stops because I didn’t want to get discouraged. All I did to prepare was fill up the gas tank, load the car up with SmartWaters (in case we got stranded in the desert), and tell Aris we’d be back late. I printed out a map of all our destinations minutes before leaving to pick her up. The estimated time of travel? 4 hours 9 minutes. Fantastic.
7pm Pick up Aris. Almost run over a lost chihuahua. Aris runs out to see if it will go to her, but it is skiddish and runs off into the darkness and we are sad. We just have to switch gears.
7:05pm I am pumped. I am ready run. Ready to deliver love! I am also, damn it, hungry. In all my prep, I’d forgotten to eat and so a stop at the Taco Bell drive-thru became the first (shut up) fast food stop of the night.
7:10pm Well, clearly, I can’t drink any of that ridiculousness at Taco Bell, so we crossed the street and got Starbucks. So… close…to…the…freeway… we nearly run over a man and his two (count them!), two chihuahuas. He needs cash. We don’t have cash! Who has cash anymore! We are sad again. Those poor dogs. For those who are counting, that’s 3 chihuahas and 2 drive-thrus and time is not on our side.
7:15pm The freeway. For what seems like forever. I will remember this always when this first friend of mine treks over to my neck of the woods. (Tangent: We once had a huge karaoke contest at my house with a $5 buy-in and this faraway friend got the jar of bills and I was relieved she had been compensated for gas. And that’s when she lived closer!)
8:15pm San Tan Valley, stop 1. Did you know that to get to San Tan Valley you have to go where it’s very dark and trust Google Maps with your life? And also, you have lots of time to discuss how this runaway delivery will be executed and instead you talk about your kids and gossip? Bah!
First couple. I cut the lights. I park in front of a house I haven’t been to before. I can’t see which side of the house the door is on! Aris has made up the package and I take it and I pad quietly up the walkway. “You dropped something!” I hear whisper-yelled and I quickly snatch up the fallen spice bag from the rocks. Guilt waves over me as I realize this couple is totally putting their baby to bed and, oh, they have dogs. I ring the doorbell and run in my (hello, genius) ballet slipper flats which threaten with every step to fly off, trip me and give me away. A dog is barking furiously! I get back in the driver’s seat and peel away. I remember to turn the lights back on but I decide it’s bananas that I be the runner and getaway driver. New plan for house numero dos.
The adrenaline is amazing, btw. We now know how we’ll survive the long night. YES.
8:30pm Starbucks having run through us, we need a stop. We find a safe-enough looking Burger King and are surprised the bathrooms are wide open, unlocked for all to use. Hey, we are from the city and there, the only way to get into the bathroom is to obtain a banged-up, gross-infested metal spoon with a key on it. We scamper away as if we stole something.
We transverse what seems like circles over the same four street names and end up…
9:15pm Mesa, stop 2. I’ve been here. I try to get a photo of Aris running back to the car, which, by this point, I realize will be the best entertainment ever!, but I end up with a shot of her flying hair when I realize, oh, we should drive away. I make a wrong turn and we end up having to sheepishly pass the house again but I know now we were not noticed. Terrible at being inconspicuous.
9:30pm: Gilbert, stop 3. I’m in a bad place with the map thinking I’ve yet again made a wrong turn and I realize my lights haven’t been on. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the scariest thing has happened. But I notice and I turn them on and no one gets hurt. I see a familiar landmark. We’re there already?
Okay, folks. I can literally hear my friend cussing out the doorbell-ringer before we even do it. I’m afraid. As I turn around onto the right side of the street, Warren G’s “Regulate” comes on and I freaking turn up the radio. Aris has to tell me we should probably turn it down. Doorbell rung. Love package left. Minutes later, I will come to find out, our friend texts my husband at home asking “Were you just here?” With all honesty, he’s answered with a simple “Nope.” Ha.
9:45pm Chandler, stop 4. Arriving at a place I’ve been to a couple of times from another direction has messed me up. I take the map from Aris and end up making so many wrong turns. Logic is working against memory against printed map. We finally find the house and there are a tremendous amount of lights on. There’s also a huge front window I don’t remember. Aris has to essentially be invisible to pull this off. The doorbell is rung and my tired (already!) eyes see what appears to be a little furry dog. Aris sees a confused face. Either way, we gotta go!
10:10pm Ahwatukee, stop 5. I literally see familiar street corners and thank the heavens we are somewhere I can get home from, sans-map. I manage to take another wrong turn and we retrace our steps. I begin to fear that the 4 hours and 9 minutes will turn into days at this rate. I have to get it together. I know I won’t, but I can be optimistic.
Okay, seriously, Ahwatukee, what’s the deal with having both odd and even addresses on one side of the street? Why are you messing with the very principle driving my confidence for this evening’s activities!?
We have to more-than-obviously walk up to houses to read their street numbers and surmise that our target is between the two houses we practically trespassed on. It is now very dark and Aris is hesistant. But we do it. And the couple at this house was afraid to open their door to get the stuff, I later discovered. We scared each other! What a fun story!
10:20pm Another potty break. Oh, and also, we’re hungry again. Fear of breaking down on an “unmaintained” road or getting caught by grouchy neighbors sure makes a girl hungry! We stop at Sonic, America’s Drive-In and opt for sweet drinks instead of food. Nothing can hold us back! Also, we use the world’s most lit rest stop with what Aris called “crackhead sinks” and realized we were indeed “in the zone.”
10:30pm The long haul to the west Valley begins. Reinvigorate that “love” playlist, DJ.
10:45pm Avondale, stop 6. Surprise, I turn into the wrong street, but I’m getting better at being a bad navigator. This time, I did get a photo. And I’m pretty sure someone saw us. But as far as I know, we either scared them or someone stole the loot because our girlfriend hasn’t said a thing. We realize we accidentally made this as much ghost story as love story.
10:50pm On the road again. This time, I ditch the map. I mean, I didn’t like litter, but it was definitely not consulted anymore. I get on the 101 and we head to north Phoenix with a goal of trying to figure out how/where to leave the stuff in a place they’ll see it because for a house with kids (sorry, Avondale), it is now officially too late to bug people. We are sobered with a challenge through our sleepiness.
11:30pm North Phoenix, stop 7. We put the cupidgram by the front wall, hoping for obvious placement to homeowner and not to early-morning-walking neighbors. My sources tell me the second car to leave the house the next morning saw what cupid left. Whew. We. Are. Tired.
Oh, and also, I’ve been to this house a million times and I got lost. Twice. Eye roll times a thousand.
Down the 51 to our hood. Our conversation has turned to sinkholes on highways and we are seriously hoping we don’t run into one.
11:50pm Central Phoenix, stop 8. This guy. Seriously, STOP WATCHING TV ALL AWAKE IN YOUR LIVING ROOM! The door is right next to the couch. The driveway is a million miles long. Aris has made a night out of sprints and she’s running out of gas, guys.
The doorbell happens because there are no dogs or babies. Suckas! (I mean I love you guys, obvs.)
I was wickedly glad to learn days later that this couple was stumped by the Zoë’s Spice of Life. Like, they thought Zoë was cupid. I love this. Especially because I’m pretty sure I’ve eaten at Zoë’s with this person before.
Midnight: Central Phoenix but down the street, stop 9. It’s the house next to the house that looks like it’s always having a party. Read: the whole damn street is lit up like Christmas. Also, we thought the last driveway was the longest driveway. Ha ha, no no. This one is. This house has a dog, a big dog and they believe super strongly in porch and security lights and we no longer care that it’s after midnight. It’s our last stop and the doorbell will be rung.
Aris removes her shoes and it’s like a slow-motion prison escape movie scene with “Chariots of Fire” playing in the background. I’m beyond giggly and just like that, it’s over.
And we can go home. Just over 5 hours and 193 miles later.
Aris quickly checks social media and the confusion is beginning to spread on our feeds, complete with photos and friends reassuring other friends that it’s okay to bring the stuff inside, it’s not for some other house.
In the end, I had an amazing night with my best friend full of hours of tireless talk, a few life epiphanies and lots of radio dancin’. I was blessed to have the opportunity to share the mystery of the cupidgram with a bunch of my favorite people and I hope that we’ve inspired some love to be shared in the form of steamy music and garlicky carbs.
I hope our glitter hasn’t gotten on too much of your house to ruin any sort of mood.
Happy Valentine’s Day everyone. xx