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Then there was Crashe’s 40th birthday. Oh lordy.
With mine having just been on the 8th and her ex’s in Feb as well, we ended up being birthday backup dancers also with undertones of it being my last hurrah before a year abroad. Well, for what was planned to be a year. As long as the health issues I was semi-hiding didn’t get me booted. That or being a wild child in a conservative country.
My original plan had been to spend a few hours a day with her and work around it. To stay in San Francisco at the hotel she booked as my own little staycation and because it would make it easier to be in the thick of it with her.
It was a struggle to be back and forth across the state so much in such a short amount of time but I managed to jam back to SF from San Diego on the 13th. Driving through the beautiful snow-covered overpass on the San Gabriel mountains and getting texts from Crash and her man as they started painting the town red kept me entertained during the long drive at least. They were cracking me up as I made that nine hour journey, him giving me the play-by-play of her chatting everyone up at the bar after the drinkies had gotten her nice and lubed.
Finally making it to our friend Eve’s in Petaluma (actually about an hour north of San Francisco) for the first couple nights, it was the beginning of what was to be the biggest event with burners outside of the actual burn that I had ever been a part of. I was going to have a damn hard time keeping up through the whole thing but it meant a lot to me. Besides the reasons already mentioned, because it was likely that I wouldn’t make it to the burn that summer. We didn’t know yet that it wasn’t going to happen anyway thanks to Covid.
I was exhausted though still excited to see my friends when finally getting there just after 10 PM. Doing my best to follow Crash as she told us booze-fueled stories and occasionally went on confusing rants about not telling her dude anything about Thunderdome (she wanted to keep it a surprise), it was already chaos. Good times and lots of laughs regardless of feeling shitty physically. Years of insomnia were working in my favor for once.
Not quite refreshed the next morning, it was still relaxing to wake up to the beautiful rolling hills of Eve’s neighborhood. Taking a video of the ladder I made for Ish as my first piece of playa art, our crew was soon to head out for lunch and sight-seeing. Originally thankful I didn’t have to be the driver, I soon regretted it as I got carsick sitting in the back seat of the truck while Blackbird drove. It also wouldn’t take long to be cringing about our inadvertently stopping and blocking other drivers throughout the day.
Later that night in the middle of nowhere, we got pulled over for expired tags and rolling through a stop sign. The cop didn’t give us too hard of a time though. Blackbird had probably indulged in one too many but was still more chill than the rest of us. He looked older than the three of us in the back (he had white hair and I still looked like I was in my twenties) so I was guessing that the officer figured him to be the responsible one taking care of us. That or maybe he decided that it wasn’t worth dealing with since there were five of us. Whatever the reason, we were going back and forth after between reprimanding ourselves and cracking up as Crash made jokes. I can’t remember her exact words but something along the lines of “oh, you’re all doing body-bumps and tequila shots without seat belts, have expired tags and blew through a stop sign going 30 miles over the speed limit? That’s no big deal. So sorry for pulling you over and wasting your time, sir. My bad.” The worse the scenario she made up, the funnier it got.
Back to the day before that happened, Eve and Blackbird took us to lunch in her quaint little town and on a gorgeous (albeit windy) drive along the lush seaside cliffs, ending with a stop at a lovely spot at the beach. I was still so tired (and a little carsick) that I stayed in the truck to nod off but at least got an occasional peek through the window. Then we headed to a dock where one of our campmates that Crash had a special bond with snuck up on her dressed in the disguise of a crotchety old man that we would after tease him had looked like an aged version of a member of Motley Crew. Excited to go out on his boat, we at least made it for sunset before it started smoking and we had to go back to get the ‘ol girl docked with help from the neighbors. The symbology to life wasn’t lost on that one.
After that, it was time to finally make it to the hotel in SF for the packed pre-party and to get ready for one hell of a big night complete with the beginning of Crashe’s campaign to ensure that my cat-eye eyeliner was always on fleek. An odd obsession but it would keep me pretty entertained and give me a little of the warm and fuzzies of someone actually paying attention to my small details.
Then there was our night out. Holy shit. Somewhere around a dozen of us went to the Big Booty Mashup where even more joined for a fantastic show that was a mix of performers somewhere who were a mix of drag queens who were amazingly trained pole dancers, singers, aerialists and I guessed at some point a member of dance troupes. Some of them were so good, I thought them to be on the level of Cirque Du Soleil. I missed a lot of it, though, thanks to being so overwhelmed by the packed hyped crowd that I was hiding at the bar. Chatting up the bartender, I didn’t realize that an Aussie with a big ‘ol smile who excitedly came up to say hello was our friend. Not recognizing him without facial hair, I had thought he was just some random hot guy being friendly and fun. It was the vibe, after all.
Usually a sweetie of good standing, it didn’t take him long to make out with a chick in front of another in our group who he was then seeing at the time. He had been pretty devastated after recently separating from his wife. Not cool but it could be forgiven considering. What I could have killed him for, however, was my ending up being the one to take our gal in all her jaded glory (abrasiveness and aggressive personality, as she will proudly tell you) under my wing to calm and comfort until sunup. Thanks, buddy.
Six of us “slept” there but we didn’t get in trouble until the next night when our buddy snuck his dog in after Crash had given the green light. I talked to the manager who was sad-upset, making me feel like a lying asshole when saying so unconvincingly that the pup had just stopped by. Life goes on but it would be a long time (if ever) until I stopped feeling like an jerk for that one. Rough reminder that I wasn’t a liar. Another way I tried to pitch in was by paying for all the Lyfts throughout the week. It felt empowering since I was usually the broke one, though ouch. Expensive enough on it’s own, I was tipping fat for drivers putting up with our crazy-asses and because I didn’t want bad ratings on my account. I deserved them but somehow still lucked out and ended the week without my passenger account in jeopardy. It would be a surprise but maybe the drivers actually found us to be full of chaotic amusement. From my end, it was pretty funny to think back on all of us clowns crammed into those cars we had turned into our clown cars, me trying to chill everyone out with no success.
Our friend Goat hosted a party the next night at the house of burners she was watching (with their permission) before and after going to an event in Oakland. She loved the opportunity to be queen and I loved the friendly kitten at the house, Tyrone. What I didn’t love was the packed event with EDM pumping in every room. Then there was Disney karaoke. We had started it as a fluke at our friend Bacon Daddy’s own birthday party not too long before and had so much fun there that we were giving it another go. Alas, as I more than half expected, it had lost it’s magic. Especially after Crash earned her name when crashing into a plastic kitty box and a random chick, insecure and slightly arrogant, began bragging about her singing abilities along with how she did it for a living before taking the mike and clearing the room. From then on, Crash would be belting out “Let It Go” at the top of her lungs as tune-deaf as she could.
The next day was her actual b-day. Later laughing about how Goat told us to do a moop sweep the following morning and then talked Crash and her man into doing yard work she was going to get paid for, I helped for an hour and then took off to work and get some de-stimulation time in for a couple hours. F all that nonsense.
Date Day Hoax! Probably my favorite day. Well, maybe not the first half when I had to go to Oakland to take care of paperwork for the teaching gig and to get a car window replaced that had been busted out on a cute street lined with shops and restaurants by our hotel. Lame but at least nothing got stolen and I got it taken care of pretty fast. Not fast enough to get through traffic and over the bridge in time to say goodbye to her man before he flew out, though. It was just the two of us for the first time from there. Instead of Sex The City, we were the Duo of Destruction.
After some beautiful nature time hiking in Golden Gate Park, we headed to the Haight. Walking the streets stopping at countless thrift stores, we then went to eat at my sister’s favorite SF spot, Cha Cha Chas. For me it was the warm memories of taking a French burner crew there a couple years before when they had just flown in and we were getting ready to leave for the burn. We made a new favorite memory there, though, as Crash had everyone in the restaurant thinking we were on a romantic date. Awkward and embarrassing for me at first but it became more and more entertaining as onlookers started cooing over us. She was so confident, I just went with it and it worked like a charm. So funny and so much fun.
The next day we ate at Queens Louisiana Po-boy Cafe on the Warf and then headed out to Napa and the surrounding wine country, including to see our sommelier buddy, Ish (the one I made the ladder for) at the private winery he worked at where we were treated like gold and in love with the wine. We also made sure to continue our “couples” photo shoot since we were still cracking ourselves up with it. Then we drove to a darling Italian restaurant in Santa Rosa named Rosso to meet up with Jo Jo and his dog again followed by a fun bar he picked that had a creative and edgy vibe that once again fell right in line with the world we knew.
On Thursday, we drove south. First to Testarrossa Winery which I’m not too much of a fan of given high prices, snotty attitudes and wine that I don’t even like. The grounds are impressive, though, with the tasting room being in a cave and having an interesting story that included how the property was leased from monks. I had written an article about it for a magazine in the past which always created sentimentality. North of that was my second home in the woods. Oh how I loved those forested mountains along with the wineries hidden within. Way more than the area better known up north. My favorite was MJA Vineyards, so I was determined to take her there. The tasting room attendant was awkward unfortunately and there was a woman with two cute dogs who wouldn’t stop chatting our ears off. As seemed to be a constant theme, annoying then but later it was comical. After we were off to meet Brigit and Aaron for one of their cocktail hours, first with a quick drive around Santa Cruz. Brigit was finally about put her cat Meowlie (as I called her) down within a day or two, so there was an importance to making it over beyond introducing different people in my life. Poor thing had been dragging her back legs around like a zombie for a couple months but she was was a fighter so she had stuck in there for way longer than I ever would have thought. I couldn’t believe how long she had lasted, actually. We all spent a little time together and then, with Crash being more warn out than me for once, we decided to sleep over. Not surprising to any of us as I wasn’t about to drive through those windy mountain roads with a buzz and we all knew we’d be having a couple.
I was pretty conflicted leaving Brigit the next day but it was Crashe’s last full day in town and we had to get back to SF. After meeting up with my colorful British burner bud Rupert at Spanky’s Cafe to pay homage to our camp’s name, we headed back for a picnic in Dolores Park. Crash seemed to be pretty recovered but I was dragging like hell. It had been one crazy staycation and I, feeling like Meowlie had looked, had officially hit the wall. I was only used to dealing with that level of intensity on the playa and I barely even survived then.
No one we had invited was able to make it in time for the picnic but Goat did join us for Irish coffees at The Buena Vista after and later on JoJo as well at a gigantic and very touristy tiki bar/restaurant called Tonga Room in the Fairmont hotel. Sharing an expensive group drink called Siren’s Song, I spent most of my time trying unsuccessfully to get Crash and Goat to stop acting rowdy (kind of stuffy high-end hotel) while JoJo just laughed.
Goat stayed back at the hotel after that while JoJo, Crash and I wandered around The Castro looking for a bar. Showing that maybe she had hit the wall too, Crash was being sassy with people, thinking they were being smart-asses with her (they weren’t) and using the word “retarded”. Meant as a slang word that proved we were teens in the ’90’s, it had since become a derogatory word (rightly so) that the folks of SF would not take kindly to if they overheard. Especially in the Castro. I was pissy about it regardless of knowing that the way I felt was more about being burnt the fuck out. Poor JoJo. Poor, poor JoJo. We were spent. No one had continuously rallied with us the entire time, which made us the only two champions crawling toward the finish line on bloodied knees.
The next day was goodbye. Even though we had nothing left in us unless we were going to a R&R retreat or, I don’t know, somewhere we’d be hooked up to IVs, it was bitter-sweet. It had been the most epic birthday celebration I had ever been to and probably ever would. It had been an honor and privilege to not only be able to celebrate my girl but also to ride her coattails with my own birthday, burn and goodbye. Happy 40th, Crash. You sure knew how to bring it in with one bodacious never-to-forget bang.