A year ago Jon and I were in San Francisco with a five-month-old bald baby attending the Chawazek wedding. Last year’s birthday was one I will never forget, it being the one with the food poisoning and the puke and the nuclear diarrhea, but the day before my birthday was one of the best days of my life. I had intended to write about it, but emotional outbursts and a mental hospital got in the way.
Summers are notoriously cold in San Francisco. I know this only because everyone who has ever lived there will be sure to tell you about it, about how there are maybe three or four certifiably hot days in the city and those will most likely happen in the winter. This is why I chose to live in Los Angeles, for the year-round warm weather and all the consequent visible cleavage. I’m going to stop this paragraph here so that this doesn’t end up as a post about boobs.
July 18th, 2004, however, was a perfect summer day in San Francisco, I AM A LIVING WITNESS. There were only a few clouds in the sky, and the air felt like a warm bath complete with a foot rub and french fries. We were staying in the Stanyan Park Hotel in an adorable room that was decorated to look like a guest bedroom in your grandma’s house, one that hasn’t been updated since 1978. The linens smelled like a mixture of moth balls and Pond’s Cold Cream.
Leta woke up around 6 am and I brought her into bed with us. It was the first and only time I was ever able to nurse her while lying down. Normally, if I had tried to nurse her in a horizontal position she would have tried to bite my boob off, but that morning she snuggled into me and fed for over a half hour. Jon lay on her other side rubbing the back of her neck. After she finished eating we all fell asleep for an hour and a half. The significance of that moment was not lost on me: I knew that I was going to have to wean Leta within weeks, and lying there with her and my husband in the same bed listening to the loud sounds of the city just outside the window, I knew that if I were coherent in the moments leading up to my death that this would be one of the first memories I would reach for.
I know I just mentioned boobs again, but I promise you, this is not a post about boobs. I tried to give that up a long time ago when there were actual boobs to post about. Maybe it’s the ghost of my nursing boobs come back to haunt me because this morning I was watching my neighbor breastfeed her two-month old and I SWEAR I could feel the milk letting down in my own boobs. There’s a horror movie for you, Ghost Boobs, women waking up in the middle of the night covered in their own milk, women standing in the check-out line at the grocery store waiting to pay when all of a sudden they shoot the clerk in the face with milk. Thought you finished nursing years ago? WRONG YOU ARE.
After we woke up we dressed and headed downtown to the Apple store near Market Street. Sure, Market Street is a bit of a tourist trap but we were going to be out in the city and unable to get back to the hotel in time for Leta to take her next nap, and we needed to be able to walk around so she could sleep in her stroller. The Apple Store in Glendale, CA is where I first found religion, so visiting Apple Stores in other cities is to me like a devout Mormon finding the local ward house when on vacation. Sacrament is the same everywhere.
While Leta dozed in her stroller I surfed Kottke.org on four separate machines. You think you could out-blog-whore-me, you amateur? Stick me in the middle of the Australian Outback with no water or food and I’d still find a way to check Kottke.org at least once a day. We spent an embarrassing amount of money on laptop batteries and camera card readers and fire wire cables and both of us almost passed out from the glorious rush of being surrounded by so many beautiful and perfect pieces of machinery. At one point we both noticed that we were simultaneously hunched over about to lick a 23-inch Cinema Display, a real live living Orgasm of Hardware.
Leta continued to doze, her thumb perched firmly in her mouth, while we browsed Urban Outfitters and The Old Navy Mecca, biggest Old Navy I ever done seen. I could yell, “Performance Fleece!” and it would echo 15 times off the canyon landscape of capri pants and multi-pocketed khaki shorts. While I was trying on three different colors of the same shirt Leta woke up, noticed where she was and mistakenly thought she was at home.
After a brief lunch we headed back to the hotel to get ready for the wedding. We took turns taking showers while the other one watched the baby, and then the impossible happened: I pooped WHILE ON VACATION. I know that Heather and Derek would rather go on living never having to know that one of their wedding guests wrote about taking a shit on their wedding day, but you have to understand: I am not a vacation pooper. I am not a when-at-home pooper. I’m not even a gun-to-the-back-of-the-head-if-you-don’t-go-poop-I’ll-fucking-kill-you pooper. And yet, I pooped. IN A HOTEL BATHROOM, that’s how cooperative my bowels were. I could just stop this story right here and you’d have proof that this was indeed one of the best days of my life.
After pooping! and dressing Leta in special baby wedding shoes, shoes so adorable I wanted to eat them, we joined a large group of Internet Rockstars outside Heather’s apartment to begin the walk up to Tank Hill. This was the running commentary coming from our little square of sidewalk:
OH MY GOD THAT’S CATERINA.
OH MY GOD THAT’S STEWART.
OH MY GOD THAT’S VEEN.
OH MY GOD THAT’S HAUGHEY.
OH MY GOD THAT’S BRYAN.
OH MY GOD THAT’S LESLIE.
OH MY GOD THAT’S JUDITH.
OH MY GOD THAT’S LANCE.
OH MY GOD THERE’S MAGGIE.
Do I have anything in my teeth? Do you think anyone will notice that I’ve peed in my dress? Smell my armpits real quick.
Fuck George Clooney, man. We get to meet Lance Arthur.
And then we walked through the streets of Cole Valley up to Tank Hill overlooking the city, and it was nothing short of magnificent. Heather looked like royalty and Derek, well, move over Kevin Federline! Leta sat in her stroller the entire ceremony without bemoaning her existence once, and Jon stood very close, the smell of his freshly shaven neck mingling with the Aveda conditioner in my hair.
We hired a nanny to babysit Leta while we partied at the wedding dinner, and then we headed over to a bar afterward to have drinks with all our Internet Icons, Mighty Girl among them. She bought me a few martinis and demanded that I stay out until midnight so that everyone there could wish me a proper Happy Birthday. The pictures from that night can and will be used against me if I ever run for public office, but I remember thinking, this is such a Whitney Houston musical moment in time and if there had been a microphone nearby I would have humiliated myself even further. I remember grabbing Stewart Butterfield right as he was walking out of the bar and saying, “Hey. I know who you are. You are Stewart.” I’m pretty sure he felt sorry for me, but I didn’t care. I got to touch Stewart Butterfield on my birthday, CAN YOU SAY THE SAME?
Four hours later I woke up with abdominal pain worse than I experienced in labor, and then I proceeded to throw up for the next 16 hours. Somehow we got home, not without vomiting into a plastic bag as they cavity-searched me at the airport. But now that there is distance from that horrible day (and consequent FREAKING OF THE SHIT OUT because I had spent my entire birthday puking and he would get to spend his birthday not puking, can you say Irrational Woman, Get Thee On Meds!) I think of the day before as the real day of celebration, and it was the best birthday of my life.