It’s My Birthday and I Won’t Let It Rain On My Parade If I Don’t Want It To

My birthday was on Wednesday. I spent most of that day driving from Amarillo Texas back to Lafayette Colorado after attending Burning Flipside just outside Austin. Amarillo City is a strange place, full of false advertising and unwelcome propositioning, so perhaps overnighting there means you carry some of that strangeness with you when you leave.

So it was I made my way to McDonalds for breakfast and more importantly to use their wifi since my motel didn’t live up to their advertising. A bunch of wonderful people had said a bunch of wonderful things to me on Facebook to brighten my birthday. I was finishing up and about to leave when I noticed a status update pop up from a friend I don’t remember meeting. Next to his smiling Willie Nelson middle finger profile photo were the words:

“I Hope your birthday sucked and it rained giraffe shit all over your parade. Ok, now thats done, everyone else have a great day! I know I will!”

It should be noted this was on his own wall and not directed to anyone and I have no real reason to think it was meant for me. Except it was my birthday this day. And while he used past tense as if the object of his disaffection was born yesterday, I happened to be returning from an event called “Freaky Deaky Time Machine” and furthermore the post office had just notified me essentially that my hold mail request “has expired tomorrow”. So it seemed time was not following normal rules.

While this snarky status update (someone else boldly declared “Rude!”) clearly couldn’t have been meant for me, there was something about it which I felt a mysterious connection to and so it malingered in my mind as I headed north out of Amarillo. After stopping for gas in Dumas, I was at a light waiting to make my left turn to follow highway 87 to New Mexico and noticed the tractor-trailer in front of me was dripping brown liquid. It was one of those trucks to hold livestock. I suppose one might imagine cattle in there. Or dumb asses; maybe that’s what grows in a town called Dumas. Or giraffes, though I imagined their necks getting bent out of shape in the tall-but-not-tall-enough trailer. Wait… wheels turned… must be giraffes… light turned… THAT GIRAFFE SHIT IS GONNA RAIN ALL OVER MY PICKUP IF I DON’T GET AROUND THIS TRUCK BEFORE I GET OUTTA DUMAS!! Luckily there was plenty of double lane road ahead. I didn’t look inside the box, though a trailer full of giraffes surely would have been something to write a blog post about.
giraffe shit

I can’t help pondering, now, whether I would have made the connection between dripping brown liquid and that it would rain giraffe shit on me if I didn’t pass, had I not had that snarky post nagging at me that morning? Quite possibly not. But then, I probably would have been well ahead of that giraffe truck had I let the snarkiness slide like water off a duck’s back. Seems like it was meant to be, or not be; maybe that is the answer. Or like Sophie said: It is what it is, and it isn’t what it isn’t.

Continuing on over and up highway 87, I first had a good hearty laugh at how I dodged a dirty disaster. But then I noticed another truck, and another, some birds flying overhead and some giraffe-shaped clouds and I realized the day was still young. I was on renewed alert and thoughts again of the snarky comment started chasing away the laughter and gnawing away at my mood again. In Raton, New Mexico I stopped for lunch and when I went to sit down I heard the song “Laughter in the Rain” in my head. At first this prompted a knee-jerk defensive flash of hostility, only then I realized it came into my head by way of my ears and some speakers. (Now that’s a good golden oldie, how did that not come up when I asked for Rain songs last year?) More importantly, I remembered I in fact avoided getting giraffe shit rained on me and it was me doing the laughing, not being laughed at. This time I won, if only by keeping a negative attitude and not losing.

Still, the day was not over. In spite of Colorado welcoming me with its colorful vistas, the other part of the snarky post about “hope your birthday sucked” started festering and for a little while I was seriously contemplating spending the evening wallowing antisocially at home by myself while trying to make a dent in cleaning up the post-Flipside mess, as a defensive move to avoid potential inevitable further birthday suckiness. But then it dawned on me that letting fear of suckiness win would only guarantee a sucky birthday. It is what it is and it isn’t what it isn’t. Furthermore, it would seem mighty rude of me to let some snarky indirect comment overshadow all the kind wonderful amazingly sticky sweet things all my other friends said to me. Like Greg says, all of my wallowing is unbecoming, and I didn’t want to let friends and family down. So I picked myself up off the floorboard and invited some of my close friends to meet for dinner.

I warned them I was a little cranky and one well-meaning friend did try to rain on my parade a little but I let her know I wasn’t having any of it today. I know she was only trying to help, and she’s right, only she’s wrong, just as am I, but this day I played judge and overruled her.

If there is any point to all of this it is something that was kicking around in my head the previous day anyway, in that you can always say “no thank you” to someone’s manifestation on you. There’s no saying it won’t boomerang back to you later or deflect and hit someone else instead, however. Maybe that’s how this one came my way in the first place. And now some other poor sap in Dumas is wiping giraffe shit off their windshield.

When all was said and not done and the day was over, the only raining I ended up saying “yes please thank you may I have another” was in the form of the myriad toppings sprinkled and hot fudge drizzled over some froyo.

Before someone suggests I was hallucinating again, I’ll have you know that this sort of “that which was written shall come to pass, but those Rainy Day wipers were never meant to last*” thing has in fact happened to me before. Frequently it involves weather. Sometimes I wonder if I’m not some sort of figment of Hitchhiker’s Guide author Douglas Adams’ manifestation, namely the lorry-driving (that’s British for tractor-trailer) Rob McKenna, aka the Rain God. He had 231 types of rain. I’ve started my own tally, I’ve probably missed a few, but I figure I’m up to at least 14 now.

*About the wipers quote: Last summer I bought Rainy Day brand windshield wipers and the guy at the counter helpfully warned me they wouldn’t last very long. I shared this with the world and my friend Jean had said then that I should write a poem about it, I tried but really only came up with that sad excuse of a two-liner above. Meanwhile, I finally replaced those Rainy Day wipers just before my Texas adventure, and found that the helpful guy was in fact correct, for they are now branded as Rain Guard wipers. Wonder if they are improved to withstand giraffe rain.

Twigs in Your Sandbox

My Mom recently shared some little anecdotes from when I was kid. I found this one rather sweet:

“Discovered the other day that Beth doesn’t cower when involved with selfish children at the sandboxes in the parks. She hangs right in there, quietly knowing her rights. One little girl had a mass of toys and wouldn’t share them. Beth gathered some twigs we had been using as candles on a ‘sand cake’ and gave them to the little girl – all that she had – and the girl threw them out of the sandbox. It was touching – as have been other recent expressions of sharing Beth has been showing. Am glad to see her strong little spirit and that it’s allied with gentleness.”

I got to overthinking about this from all sorts of angles. Unsolicited twigs, ungrateful little girl. No wonder I sometimes get reluctant to give them out to people. But then, who wants a whole load of twigs anyway? That’s mighty rude of me to dump them in someone’s sandbox like that. There are better twigs out there, toys even. I probably should keep my twigs to myself. Or ask first. Or at least have the sense to spread them around a little, maybe a twig or two won’t piss you off like a whole bunch of them, maybe you’ll be indifferent enough to allow me to put one in your box. Dead detritus from living trees. I myself will pick them out of the volleyball court with my toes between plays.

And so in a sense I’ve conditioned myself to expect that no one wants my twigs. I hesitate to promote them. I underestimate their value. I try to keep them in my own sandbox. And so I go off there and sit quietly playing and building things out of them, things that I like, that I find pretty or interesting, never expecting anyone will want or understand the new things I fashion from the unpopular twigs. No one will want to play in my sandbox, why would they? It’s just me and my twigs in there.

Then every now and then someone expresses an interest in them and I get confused, disturbed, like my mind is struggling to divide by 0, or take the square root of negative 1. Does not compute, it’s too much, irrational.

Why? Maybe because if someone starts wanting my twigs, starts playing in my sandbox, starts gathering up their own, what does it say about me?

I don’t know. I take myself too seriously sometimes. That was a long time ago, I’m not the same little girl. Maybe I’ve turned into the other one, shellfish. Maybe she’s turned into me.

Sometimes I can’t see the tree for all its twigs.


I wrote this about a week ago for some friends in L.A. who had a new cat visit them and win over their hearts. Pennycat ended up with their daughter and family and is doing great – and they all enjoyed the poem!

Penny for your thoughts,
mister starving cat
where did you come from?
can’t help but wonder that

Persistent you were
with those big green eyes
charming us with your purr
and to our surprise

We caved in quickly
even Bruno is adjusting
we couldn’t leave you sickly
and you seemed so trusting

Now you’re with us
and it seems so right
having you is a plus
asleep on our bed at night!


For weeks I’ve been telling myself I should have finished this post by now. I think I’m still trying to decide how I feel about having gone to Burning Man. Maybe I should just list a bunch of random thoughts.

Burn In

  • I suspect you can only really know what it’s like by going. I’m glad I went.
  • I met totally awesome people at my camp. I had several deep and meaningful conversations with new friends; that is one of the things I look forward to in this community.
  • Like when you go hiking in a beautiful place, almost no one was grumpy. There was a couple fighting outside my tent one night (“Listen to me! Listen to me!” Then silence … he was listening, so then why didn’t she talk? LOL), but that was the only negativity I can remember personally.
  • Having some sort of purpose there is important. I helped out with an art project and also our camp setup/takedown.
  • I didn’t see all the art on the playa. I didn’t go down all the streets. I didn’t see all my friends who were there. You can probably replace “didn’t” with “couldn’t” and these statements don’t lose any accuracy.
  • In spite of being about radical self-expression, I found myself feeling a little withdrawn. I missed my electronic connections. When the rest of the 50,000 or so people got to the playa I realized I might as well put my phone away, plus I thought it might be good for me to just give it up for a week and so I did. I think I would have been alright if I’d thought up something to replace it with. But I didn’t, and so in some sense I withdrew a little.
  • Adding to that, I found the weather/climate very uncomfortable, especially in the day: hot, dry and very dusty – and this was a “good” year. In a way the whole thing was like a big party; I enjoy but am not a big partier. I was there early and left late. 11 days of uncomfortable partying is too long for me for.
  • I did really enjoy going out at night wearing all sorts of light-up stuff and seeing other people’s illuminated creativity and seeking out good music. Disorient, Space Cowboys, Bass Couch and the Robot Heart… The last time I found the Robot Heart it was on the move, and I was one of dozens of people on bikes, pedaling along on the port side. It reminded me of how dolphins follow a boat. So then I wondered if the sound which boats make as they motor by is like the house/psytrance music from the Robot Heart. I’ll choose to believe that.
  • I already had a burner name in mind for myself and on the way out there explained to some of my campmates and one of them started calling me that: “Sparks”. More on that in some other post 😉

Burn Out

  • As I’ve wondered whether I can wash suede, sussed out how to clean my suitcases, and was rearranging the dust in and around my pickup the other day, I mused about why people burn so much there. And was reminded of what a trailwork friend from California said after he’d been working around poison oak – that he would wash his clothes in the fireplace.
  • Being in some kind of funk after the burn is common. I felt a little like I’d been in a plane that someone else had been driving and they’d suddenly left and left me at the controls. Several people I know came down with physical illnesses. Socially it sounds like we’re walking on shifting sands. Now I’ve mostly got control of the plane again, but it still has a few dips and swoops. But maybe it’s better that way; don’t want to get too comfortable.
  • Those feelings notwithstanding, it WAS worthwhile, I’m real glad I went and I do hope to do it again sometime. Just more comfortably and/or not for so long. Maybe next year, maybe not. If they continue to limit ticket sales, I might prefer to imagine my ticket in the dusty hands of someone who’s never gone before. We’ll see. Shifting sands…
Burning Man 2011: black flowers before the temple

Burning Man 2011: black flowers before the temple

More photos on Flickr.

Apogaea 2011: Illuminate

Last weekend I was at Apogaea, Colorado’s regional burn. Similar to Burning Man, but just for Colorado. The website says “Apogaea is a collaborative outdoor arts and music festival held in beautiful mountains of Colorado.” Not sure that really covers it all, but it’s a start. It was my first time, and while I can agree with the above description, it was a lot of other things too. It had the art and the music – mostly electronic music, loud and entrancing until dawn – but also community, collaboration, celebration, fire (burning effigies at the end), things that light up (LEDs/EL wire/blacklights/flourescent paint and materials etc.), interesting activities (I especially liked the High Flying Aerial Acrobatics workshop, Camp Wardrobe Malfunktion was fun too), people in costumes, etc. In short, lots of different things to sink one’s teeth into.

In the days before heading off I made a Day of the Dead costume. While I’ve normally been adding my pretty little LEDs to Goodwill-hunted merchandise, this one was something I designed and made from a raw sheet of fabric, something I haven’t done in a while. Not intending to leave it unLEDed, I placed 1.8mm red LEDs in each of the eyes. The effect was so illuminating that even Facebook thought one of the skulls was a person and asked me to tag them. I was kind of rushed getting it done, no time for lining on this one, but it held up ok considering. My Rainbow Raincoat, Smolder dress and Flower Power dress also came along with me and showed their colors.

I camped with some friends I met through the Boulder Hackerspace who created the Musical Universe of Faux Fur Flowers (MUFFFs) – a sound-interactive art installation with LED strips, faux fur, bent pipes and flourescent paint. It was fun helping with assembly and take-down, and also joining the cuddle-puddle I found one night lying underneath enjoying the lights react to the music and their conversation! Here’s some videos of the MUFFFs in action: Cuddle puddle or with drums

And here’s some photos from the event: