By Dom Cioffi
Exactly a year ago, my brother-in-law sent me an invite for a 50th birthday party for his wife. He sent the invite a year in advance because he was giving all invited guests an opportunity to fully prepare for the event.
At the time, I thought that was overkill, but I placed the event in my calendar and responded that my wife and I would attend, and then I basically forgot about it. Fast-forward to last week and an alert pops up on my phone notifying me that the big event is only days away.
Up until that point, I hadn’t really looked at the itinerary. I scanned it briefly a year ago when it arrived, but I had forgotten most of what was involved. I knew I had to drive to a remote location in the woods, but I wasn’t sure where, so I pulled up the itinerary and reviewed the plan.
Basically, we would be driving four hours away to a remote mountain location where we would spend two nights at an exclusive log cabin-style enclave that only attended to 20 guests at a time. All the food and drinks would be provided for, and the only requirement was that we join the birthday girl on a Saturday afternoon hike.
To be honest, I wasn’t thrilled when I first realized that my entire weekend was going to be accounted for and that it would be bookended by a very long drive. I was also dismayed that, other than my brother-in-law and sister-in-law, I did not know any of the other guests attending her party.
I knew deep down that they would be nice people, but there’s always that discomfort when you’re forced into a group setting with individuals you know nothing about.
The Friday afternoon drive to the remote location turned out to be a bit hectic given that everyone on earth seemed to be headed into the mountains. But once we got there, I knew we were in for something special when we were met at the resort gate with a glass of wine.
From that point forward, it was pure bliss.
The accommodations were rustic but posh. Our room was not big, but it was clad in an elaborate log cabin design and had an interesting antler chandelier over the bed. The bathroom had all the accoutrements of a luxury hotel with the addition of a steam room and towel warmer.
We freshened up and then went down to where all the birthday guests had gathered on a deck that overlooked a glorious mountain range. We then sat and mingled for a couple hours getting to know each other.
There were five total couples in our group and within half an hour I had decided that they were all good people. Sometimes you can tell when certain individuals are going to rub you wrong, but these appeared to be genuinely great people to spend a weekend with.
This point was solidified over dinner.
My sister-in-law had all the husbands sit at one end of the dinner table and all the wives at the other. Given that I didn’t really know the other guys in the group, I wasn’t sure how this was going to play out, but it turned out to be a masterful move because, by the end of the meal (and a few cocktails), we were all fast friends.
The next morning, we woke up and had an amazing breakfast on the deck and then headed out for our hike. The grounds of the resort abutted a national forest, so we had thousands of acres of hiking at our disposal. We spent the better part of five hours careening through mountain trails before finally returning home after a 10-mile excursion.
After a brief nap, everyone freshened up and met for an exquisite dinner, where we celebrated the birthday girl with a gorgeous cake. Afterwards, we all headed down to a fire pit where we drank wine, laughed and told stories into the night.
The next morning, we gathered for breakfast before saying goodbye and getting on the road home. I can honestly say that I made some new friends over the weekend — so much so that we all agreed to go back next year!
This week’s film, “Blood Red Sky,” also features a group of new friends, except these folks are battling the reality of being kidnapped by terrorists who are looking to make a statement with the plane they are all in.
I knew going into this film that it was not going to be a Hollywood-level production. Netflix has been a great disrupter in the movie industry, but many of the films they release are suspect from a proficiency standpoint.
“Blood Red Sky” had an interesting storyline — it simply lacked the overall professionalism to make it a winner. Check this one out if you enjoy the zombie genre, otherwise, steer clear.
A gory “C-” for “Blood Red Sky,” available for streaming on Netflix. Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him at email@example.com.