🎵 The song for this post is HYPE, by Glitterati. 🎵
Per the last two years, I decided to have an ornate birthday celebration. While my birthday falls during Burning Man, I like to celebrate externally because most of my friends don't go, and there are some experiences that work better away from the desert.
I was pleasantly surprised with how much I loved my new camp and how special they made me feel on my actual birthday, so having this celebration felt flat-out indulgent. I followed through with it anyway and am glad I did.
Earlier this year (around July 4th), the mighty Corpse Flower at SF's Conservatory of Flowers started to bloom:
Join us for a special after-hours program to see, smell and learn about Scarlet the Corpse Flower! The infamously pungent, towering Titan Arum (Amorphophallus titanum) is now blooming at the Conservatory. Meet one of our botanical experts who can answer questions and share fascinating facts about this rare bloom. The bloom will only last approximately 48 hours, so don't wait to see it!
A friend told me the line to see the blooming flower was hours long. This was the cal invite I sent around mid-August for a save-the-date:
The event is "Pablo Bloom". You may know that the SF's Conservatory of Flowers' "Corpse Flower" bloomed, something it only does every 3-5 years. Here, we celebrate the Pablo Bloom, which only happens every 33-39 years. Everyone comes in character. Then at some point in the evening, the Bloom will happen.
Suggested characters include:
- A scientist who's been waiting for this for 36 years
- A cultist of an ancient tribe that did religious ceremonies around the Bloom
- A thief trying to heist something from the Bloom (like a clam opening up and revealing a pearl)
- A literary fan of some Famous Dead Author, who very famously used a Pablo Bloom as a key scene in one of their novels (think Proust and madeleines).
This all took place in a beautiful little AirBnb we found near Santa Cruz.
We didn't go heavy into the Bloom characters. In retrospect, I could have included it a bit more in the activities and games. Characters who arrived included:
- Bees, to pollinate 🐝
- Two "scribes" to make notes of the Bloom 🧘
- A mixologist wishing to harvest the nectar for his new cocktail 🍸
Someone took a video of The Bloom itself.
First minute is me intro-ing and saying thanks, but really, what you want starts around 1:19
Comments for after the video (spoilers)
And this is how Marios are born. One inspiration was this comic:
But the initial spark came from the mighty Tae-woo Kim, my personal trainer in SF (if you like my physique, credit to him!). He made a joke between sets about Mario coming out and inviting everyone to do 🍄s. It was a drive-by joke, but it occurred to me I could pull it off and make it theatrical.
I also got to reference this:
Saurya was the mixologist, and he made a little cocktail menu for the drinks he wanted to make. They're pretty strange, but there's backstory:
When having dinner with a mutual friend (Adi, who made the lasagna and taught us Chinese Chess), Saurya cryptically asked:
- How would you describe the sound of the accordion, as a taste?
- What is the season you associate with Sapo? (my dog)
- Is there a flavor that reminds you of Burning Man?
I answered the questions not knowing he was going to do anything with it (I guessed it was personality test), it turned out these would become cocktails. Here's the menu, and what he was aiming for:
Get ready for lots and lots of berries
Here Saurya is calling back to Celeste, the game I've loved most in the last 5 years. I didn't expect to be so moved by it, nor did I expect to go as deeply into it as I did. You can see me completing the masochistic "no death" challenges here, here, and here. I did them for everything but the DLC.
The drink itself is a berry milkshake with vanilla ice cream and a ton of Bailey's Irish Cream. It worked really well. Berries because you collect strawberries in the game, and milkshakes have birthday significance for me.
The Frog Vagina
because Sapo loves to SPRING
In response to "what season is Sapo," I answered "Sapo is Spring," so it's a spring-flavored drink with simple syrup and ginger.
Sapo's been with me for 8 years now. You can read a little write-up of our relationship here.
Why the Frog "Vagina?" Because Sapo in Spanish means "frog" (or toad, depending on where you are), but apparently in Chile "sapo" is slang for "vag."
The Burning Pablo
what is the essence of Pablo… whiskey?
After a decade of being a Burning Man hater, I've become That Burner Friend. This is very new to me too, but the last Burn changed a lot for me. This drink was an invitation to talk more about that.
Accordion to Pablo
the taste of music is fishy with a dash of peanuts
I answered "the accordion reminds me of that fishy taste that comes with seafood. It's a little strange, and the strangeness is rarely called out as what people love about it. But it wouldn't be seafood (or in my case, accordion) without it. If I have to give a more concrete taste, I'd say oysters, with that little of brininess."
Again, I didn't know what these answers were used for, but when I said this, Saurya made a face suggesting I just made his life very difficult. Anyway, yes! I play the accordion. I started April of last year after a magical trip to NY, and while I still hesitate to say "I play the instrument" (because I only play 2-4 songs, and still make lots of mistakes), I can do this (from July, only take):
is a green goddess
This is a reference to programming languages, my first love after theatre. I wrote a post on strategies for using weird languages after a decade of hobby programming in them. You also see this inner nerd come out in this post, where I propose a better way to talk about them.
Plays and play reading
Now becoming the birthday tradition, we read two full-length plays, References to Salvador Dalí Make Me Hot by José Rivera, and The Shape of Things, by Neil Labute.
We staged References at Brown in 2008, it was directed by my ex Charly (now a very successful playwright) and I sound designed it. It's a very challenging play to stage but the language is so goddamned beautiful and the conflict between Gabriela and Benito only gets more and more real as I grow older and have longer relationships.
(If you'd like to read something fun, check out the playwright's 36 assumptions about playwrighting.)
The Shape of Things was one of my first, and strongest, "blood runs cold" moments in a theatre. I remember feeling purpose down to my bones: I had to make my life about changing the world with acting and directing. The author wrote a bunch of other plays I could never love as much, but this one remains, and is great to read because you only really need two people.
I have two friends I consider capital-F Fantastic Fucking Cooks, and they both volunteered to bring food. Adi made a lasagna, where he mixed a British and American recipe, while letting us know which each side brought to the table. Anya made a candied pork roast, roasting 6 hours, served with lettuce wraps and Korean condiments and seasonings.
I was so spoiled 😋
All good times. Anything else?
I had moments where I had trouble coming to terms with the fact that people came out and spent a weekend with me. Weekends are precious, so asking someone to give one up to drive a few hours away, to celebrate me, seemed like a lot. My invite sounded like fun but it's hardly a guarantee. We had to forgo some creature comforts (we shared rooms, and had to carpool to match the maximum number of parking spaces). It required a faith and investment for the folks coming, and I felt some worries that it wouldn't live up to their investment.
Now, I had the most incredible time. This was the stuff of dreams. If you couldn't tell from the acting background, this blog, and how I present: I love attention. I love when people make space for me to be the main character. These are many of my favorite people and we did things I love.
But just as true: my inner critic is relentless (did I mention how much Celeste spoke to me?). Yes, it's beautiful and validating to be confronted with evidence that "you're lovable, talented, and people you love and admire believe in you too." But as I told my therapist: the familiar (even if Bad) is always some kind of comfortable, and the foreign (even if Good) is some kind of uncomfortable. Even if you're getting something you want, even if it's what you want most in life… I've been invalidating myself, stewing in self-hate like a cruise ship vacationer in a hot tub for so long, that this lovely, healthy attention about me also made me a bit uneasy because it's less familiar.
Sometimes, just trying to "enjoy myself" can feel like a dog wearing boots for the first time:
I'm grateful for this kind of love, but creating an opportunity for it to present itself so clearly, and accepting it: that's new, and less familiar than the isolation I've put myself in for most of my life.
This wasn't the most prevalent feeling of the weekend, just the most surprising. Like dogs in boots, I'm capable of adjusting. There's a great line in the Netflix adaptation of Castlevania, where a character who's fallen into nihilism is told "if you don't have your own story, you become part of someone else's." I said earlier "I love when people make space for me to be the main character." A lot of my recent growth is letting myself occupy main character space in my own life, and my conception of the world.
Here's to more 🥂
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