Kage Baker vastly enjoyed celebrating birthdays. And she enjoyed other people’s birthdays every bit as much as her own – as long as there was plenty of opportunity for decorations, furbelows, squibs, confetti, banners and all other manner of domestic special effects.
When unable to bake a Catharine Wheel into a cake (or some artistic equivalent), Kage liked to organize Birthday Charabancs: large, complicated travelling parties covering several days and as many miles as possible. She put together some memorable ones that took place on Catalina Island: sometimes extending to veritable mobs of our sisters and their spouses and offspring, sometimes just the pair of us spending a week living in a tent in an abandoned aviary.We’d walk down Avalon Canyon for cocktails and evening fireworks.
In later years, we spent weekends in June and July following faint trails throughout Central and Northern California. Kage loved old maps, and often planned road trips based on them. This was especially interesting when the roads she wanted to follow had been removed or renamed; or when the town she was seeking had fallen into a sinkhole sometime in the 1910’s, and was now marked only by the half-hollow remains of a granite memorial pillar otherwise full of active beehive.
My birthdays were more and more celebrated in Pismo Beach, with as many of the people we knew and loved as possible crammed into the back yard of our almost-beachside cottage. We had our own Tent City, where people played tag and Guerilla Croquet between the tent ropes and lawn chairs: a ball down a gopher hole was a penalty stroke and people’s pet dogs ate the vegetables out of our garden. At night, the little kids scared themselves to sleep with flashlights and ghost stories, while the grownups lured raccoons with leftover barbecue and experimented with multiple bottle rocket launchers … and on the 4th of July, the entire kit and kaboodle would dig a motte and bailey on the beach, set off illegal fireworks (along with the other 30,000 maniacs in town) and wait for the Municipal Fireworks.
You know, Dear Readers, I have been incredibly rich in the happenings of my life. Kage and I wandered well beyond the Fields We Know for most of our lives, in fact. Even staying home was a jolly combination of The Bobbsey Twins On Holiday and Clan of the Cave Bear.
This year, I have been firmly At Home since the heat began to rise. It’s not so bad this week – we’ve actually had a few lights on at night! And since portions of the LA Basin and its ever-so-flammable rim have been on fire since more or less Easter, it so far appears that there may not be as many illegal fireworks this year. That would be nice – it makes the pets insane, and sets fire to things unnecessarily. We don’t have a nice convenient sandy beach a block away here by Griffith Park.
So, birthdays are a little tamer now. Though I’ve had painted fondant butterfly cookies and fried clams tonight, and otherwise enjoyed considerable natal pomp and circumstance. But, hell – I am 63 now, and really ought to be applying my feeble energies to the metric tons of writing waiting for me. I’ve adventured and charabanced and gypsied a lot more than most, after all. Even Kage preferred flush plumbing and rooms you could stand up in for a good rest.
Sometimes I do miss that mad adventurous life. Sometimes, though, I am relieved things are at least a little slower and less frantic these days. At least, until I get my Cruiser’s transmission repaired. Then, look out!
Come on, you Euros,, you New and Old Pounds, you relict Deutschmarks. The road is calling.