Tag Archives: birthday

Upcoming August 2022 Events

Because August is the only month of the year without an official federal holiday, the Triffid Ranch has to take up the slack, and that means open houses after the Aquashella Dallas show on August 6 and 7. The usual noon-to-5:00 open houses resume on August 13, and things switch to a seventh anniversary blowout on August 27. As always, admission is free and masks are recommended, and if you’re averse to going through the whole Eventbrite dance of Europe to get tickets, rest assured that you don’t need tickets to attend. (The Eventbrite listings are mostly for local news venues to include open houses in their event calendars.) At bare minimum, look at it as an opportunity to get out of the heat, get into air conditioning, and view the renovated front space now that the entourage has vacated the premises. The plan includes debuting a whole new series of enclosures by August 27, so if you don’t view them earlier, you can view them then. And so it goes. (And no, the dinosaurs shown here are not located at the gallery. Yet.)

I’m living in my own private Tanelorn: the birthday edition

The Czarina’s birthday was two weeks ago, and she got exactly what she requested. Namely, a perfect variable-speed band saw, with a replaceable diamond blade for cutting stone, glass, and some metals. Naturally, she’s thrilled, so now she figures that it’s my turn. Every other day, she asks “So…what would you like for your birthday?”, and I know she won’t like my answer.

To understand part of the problem, let me tell you a little bit about my mother. My mother’s birthday is right around Christmas, so all of her children (of which I’m the eldest) had it impressed into their skulls at a very early age that the height of tackiness was to purchase a “Happy Birthday/Merry Christmas” present for her. I mean that quite seriously: you could make a gravestone rubbing of the back of my cranium and read it, if you want. To this day, I take that seriously with any friend or relation with a birthday coinciding with a holiday: a niece’s birthday is on St. Patrick’s Day, and I’d only get her green beer if she asked for it. (Next year, she’ll be old enough to accept it without her aunt and uncle getting arrested for doing so.) A good friend’s birthday is on New Year’s Eve, and the year I planned to throw her a real birthday party with no mention of New Year festivities, she was already moving to Seattle.

Now, my mother may have had that attitude for her birthday, but consider the joys of the child born just before the start of the school year. Any answer to “What would you like to get for your birthday?” is translated to “School clothes and supplies,” and I so detested the annual month-long shopping expeditions for school clothes that I still blank out the clothing sections of stores to this day. Combine that with the first day of school in Texas school districts falling on my birthday, and you can imagine the joy. “Mom, you shouldn’t have. Paper and pencils?”

“Don’t have too much fun with them. You have to get up to go to school in the morning.”

Technically, that last happened 30 years ago this next week. The very next year, school started three days earlier, making me the only sixteen-year-old in Lewisville High School‘s senior class. I got school dress shirts that year, too, so now you understand why I bypass the “Back to School” section at Target and go straight toward the Halloween section at the local Michael’s store. Greenhouses are cool.

The other problem is that I know that the Czarina gets frustrated when there’s simply no way she can get me the perfect birthday present. Every birthday goes the same. The mere words “crocodile monitor” cause her elbows to slide out of their sheathes and drool venom on the floor. In fact, I think I’d be in less trouble if I said “power of attorney” or “threesome”. She can’t afford what I really want, and I wouldn’t expect it of her. As for the other possibilities, she has the same problem when she wants to plan a vacation. She wants someplace nice and romantic, and so do I, but when I say that my idea of a perfect getaway is hanging out on the shores of Lake Vostok in the Miocene, she just starts to cry. I won’t even start with her attempts to make an operational Red Lantern ring, just so Leiber can dress up for Halloween this year.

However, this year is different. I need new garden implements, and she understands this. I need something to help haul plants to shows, and she understands this. Therefore, she won’t have any problems when I ask for this:


(Apologies in advance to the original photo owner: this is being used without permission solely because I couldn’t find any. This will be amended, and the photo owner compensated, as soon as I track down this person. All I can tell for sure is that the creator of this wonderful beast is in London, in the Shoreditch area, and that there’s video. Image copyright by Wreckage International.)

Of particular note is the driver of this beast. Yeah, have fun with Tank Girl, Jet Girl, Boat Girl, and Sub Girl. When the Triffid Ranch goes international, my first hire will be Triceratops Tractor Girl.

EDIT: a bit more digging reveals a bit more. The critter in question is named “Adrianne”, and she was the work of the Wreckage International art group. Sadly, the group’s Web site is done, but if you want to listen to how Adrianne was constructed, have at it.

Birthday beatings

I love the Czarina with all my heart and soul, and that’s probably why I give her so much grief. It’s obviously an addiction to adrenaline: walking up to a black rhinoceros and slapping it in the face, giving a Komodo dragon a thorough flossing, or going to a science fiction convention and telling the assembled crowd how the only thing you loathe more than Star Wars is its fandom are easy. Nothing compares to making the right comment that ends with the last things you see for the next six hours are her elbows going for your forehead. When it’s birthday season, it’s time to double down.

Now, the Czarina is exactly three weeks short of three years younger than I am, so she starts worrying about birthday celebrations around April. A lot of this comes from her being part of a very large and very enthusiastic Texas family, where quiet birthday parties are about as alien as dressing for minus-forty temperatures. (I regularly try to describe minus-forty weather to her, having lived through far too much of it in my childhood, and it’s much like describing the concept of “plaid” to Stevie Wonder. Our nephews and nieces love the idea of ice and snow for playing and skiing, but they question the sanity of anybody willingly living in places that stay frozen for eight months out of the year. I do, too, which is why I’m in Texas instead of Ontario.) Her mother reminds her of her obligations around February, so she has six months to fret and fuss to herself over whether she’s neglecting me. Naturally, I regularly steal Bill Cosby’s comment about how his kids can’t sleep at night unless they’ve had a good beating, and this time of the year, I sleep incredibly well.

It usually starts on the weekend, when we have some free time. We both know the rules. She asks for my input while keeping control of the situation, and not giving in to completely unreasonable requests. In turn, I know that if I make completely unreasonable requests for the next hour, for things she knows I don’t really want, I can drop a good humdinger and she’ll agree to it before realizing her folly. I can then look at her, tears running down my legs and into the stormdrains, and weep “But you PROMISED!” until she realizes I’m messing with her again. This fuels the adrenaline addiction, because one slipup, such as using the words “Wyoming real estate” or “threesome,” and I’ll need years of therapy before I regain such advanced skills as color vision and bladder control. Those elbows are sharp.

The other trick is to push the edge of “How does Brundlefly eat?” territory without going over. For instance, the esteemed garden guru Billy Goodnick commented on Facebook a little while back that the best way to take care of the arguments in a marriage about leaving the toilet seat up at night is to use the sink instead. I told him “Naaah. Use the dishwasher a couple of times, and she’ll be GLAD you use the sink.” When the Czarina saw this, her first response was to impersonate her mother and sigh “Oh, PAUL!” My immediate response was “What? I was going to say ‘oven’!”

And so the bladeplay began. She asks innocently “So what do you want for your birthday?”, and before the first syllable can emerge, yelling “And NOT a crocodile monitor.”

She’s obviously learning, as it’s only taken nine years of marriage for her to pick up my opening gambit. “Well, I had something I wanted, but SOMEone wouldn’t let me haul it home.”

“If you bring up that stupid case one more time…you know it’s GONE, right?”

“Yes (sniffle), because someone wouldn’t let me get a truck to pick it up. (sob)”

“Okay. Aside from a crocodile monitor or a glass case, or the case so you can keep the crocodile monitor, what do you want for your birthday?”

That’s when I realized that I didn’t have a good answer. I mean, I have an answer, but finances won’t allow it for a while. I could have a smartaleck answer for her, and then she’d just look at me and say “Mm hm. And you got one of those when you were ten, right?”

*mope* “grumble* *scuff shoes in the dirt* “Yeah.” She’s remarkably perceptive as to the fact that it’s not 1976 any more, damn her.

“I’ll ask again, and I want an honest answer. What do you want for your birthday?”

Okay, then. I told her what I’m telling everyone else: get something for yourself. I’m serious.

To start, I can’t say enough about the intrepid crew at Bat World Sanctuary in Mineral Wells, Texas. Not only am I glad to contribute what I can to help out, but I’m still going through the kilos of bat guano they let me sweep up last year for fertilizer. (Yes, I spent the Czarina’s and my anniversary last year sweeping up bat guano, and I thanked them for the privilege.) It’s definitely time for you to adopt a bat. Every bit you chip in means a bit more guano for my dragonfruit and the Czarina’s roses, so everyone wins.

If you’re more inclined toward the floral, then get me something nice. Get a membership with the International Carnivorous Plant Society or a premium membership with the International Brugmansia and Datura Society. There’s also the North American Sarracenia Conservancy for those with a more particular bent, but all of these will work quite well.

Oh, and don’t listen to the Czarina when she mocks me about wanting a pony. She’s still ticked off at when I introduced her to the works of the exemplary author Jeffrey Somers. Specifically, he has a married life much like mine, only he refers to his wife as “the Duchess”, and she’s much shorter than he is. Otherwise, the beatings are identical. My mistake was noting that I truly fear the day that my wife and Jeff’s wife meet, because they’d probably be friends for life, and then Jeff and I would be in real trouble. I even started using an endearing nickname for the love of my life based on this observation.

Kids, take my word for it. Even in the days before Google, the Czarina would have found out what “MasterBlaster” meant sooner or later. And when the Duchess finds out, I’m going to need skin grafts on the insides of my nostrils from where the two of them yanked out my nose hair.