How are Greenbelters celebrating birthdays during the coronavirus shutdown? At least one, 2017 Citizen of the Year Paul Downs, enjoyed a fun ride-by party organized by his partner, Susan Barnett. We’re seeing reports of drive-by birthday parties in other cities, but for Greenbelt’s most famous environmentalist, that would NOT do.
Asked whether Paul was surprised, Susan answered:
Oh my he sure was – and so was I! It unfolded as we headed up Ridge from Plateau toward Laurel Hill and A Crazy Red Headed Fairy came barreling toward us on her bike singing as loud as she could “Happy Birthday” and getting everyone around to start saying “Happy Birthday” – just innocent bystanders. When we got to Laurel Hill there were more crazy-looking creatures and pollinators about, with signs for Paul. Further down Laurel Hill Jiminy Cricket came out with his cane and danced and sang for us. At the end of Laurel Hill a band of Wild Folks played music and sang. Seriously by that point I didn’t even know what had happened. It continued like that everywhere we went – it was really amazing. Everyone had a different idea and it was absolutely fabulous!
We toured along Ridge Road (to See Diana McFadden) back to Research Road (Andy Z, Rob and Dea Zugby, Frank Gervasi,John Abel and Jenise Williamson). John Cooper and Gina Mai Denn joined us on bikes at Research and stayed with us to the end of our tour. Off to Hillside (Jean Newcomb), back to Ridge Road to Plateau where Jessie Brylanski greeted Paul with a huge smile and beautiful sign. Back to Ridge Rd to see Mark Christal and Shirley Middleton and Jan Wolf (oh my she was wonderful dancing for Paul – unfortunately my camera skills somehow failed and the pics of her didn’t come out).
Down along Ridge to see Rob Petrie in his window, to 38 Court where Katy Gaughn had organized an incredible drum, song, dance celebration. We were just blown away.
Off again to Gardenway where Barbara Havekost, Katrina Boverman, Leon, Sylvia Lewis, Lore Rosenthal and Michael Hartman gave Paul their best shout. Lore and Michael had made a great sign. Then down Ridge again to visit with Hopi Auerbach, Konrad Herling, John Henry (who sang to Paul from his window), the Sweeneys, Susan Stern (who also sang from her window), Mark and Jennifer Cheater.
Then we did a stop at the New Deal Cafe to pick up Paul’s Birthday Dinner from DC Vegan, and rode along the path that follows the concrete creek, where Kristi Fletcher met us with an enormous sign.
We finally arrived home 2 hours after we started, totally stunned and feeling blissfully happy to live in such an incredible community. Super, super loving fun!
I will add, all the signs were wonderful – hand made and each an original. We wish we could have carried them with us. And I wish I had gotten better photos of them. We are so thankful to everyone who participated in their own social distanced way.
According to participant Amethyst Dwyer, “Paul’s event was lots of fun! Susan had everything really well planned out, with schedules detailing what courts they were biking to and the estimated times of arrival. It was great to be able to celebrate Paul’s 60th birthday in a socially-distanced and very unique Greenbelt way. An ambulatory birthday jubilee a la James Joyce’s Bloomsday….Downsday, perhaps?”
Photo credit: Gina Mai Denn and Susan Barnett.
NOTE: By contributing these pandemic stories, photos, et cetera, Greenbelters are making an unconditional donation of the material to the nonprofit Greenbelt Online.org and the Greenbelt Museum/City of Greenbelt, which reserve the right to keep, lend, or otherwise dispose of the donated material, and may use the material on our website, for social media or other postings, in promotional materials or in future exhibits.