October 2019 – Nikki & Nicki turn 40! And, uh, a heart attack…

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October started with a bang when San Jose Nicki (not to be confused with Nikki) came to town for her 40th birthday. As a reminder, she was one of my besties in my late teens/early twenties when the two of us and the Lugo sisters all went to high school together. Kate was already friends with her back then which and how we had been introduced. A couple decades since Nick and I were close, we only saw each other two or three times a year despite my living half an hour away when in Nor Cal. We brought it back with a bang, though, when she threw my 40th celebration for that side of the state and was coming to celebrate hers with us. She had said that she understood my needing to work during that time but as soon as the 1st arrived, I was already distracted and justifying skipping out on hours enough to be blowing off my morning shift to wait for her. It was a fun few days albeit probably close to a $600 one if including that time missed behind the wheel.
After a morning of waking up to drink coffee on my patio and do some yoga while waiting, her flight arrived and it was time to head out for the always delicious Mexican food of San Diego at Miguel’s in Old Town. It lucked out that another friend from San Jose was also in town for work and Leilani, was able to join in the fun for the whole day as well. Also Wendy and Kati for lunch and Nikki later on for the beach dive bar around the corner from me called Lucy’s. First, though, with an impromptu show of weirdos getting agro with each other at the seedy motel across the street from mi casa called Ebb Tide. That’s OB, baby!
The next day being her actual birthday, Nick and I headed to Barona Casino with Pop and holy hell did that place spoil her. So much so that it became a happy joke. Not to mention a note for self in the future. Hanging at the Satterwhite Sanctuary when getting back, later we made our way to Nik and Brent’s for dinner followed by her spending the night there while I went home for some much-needed quiet time. The next day, we had a BBQ and sleepover back at the fam’s to celebrate one more time. A night that ended with the two of us drunkenly watching Post Malone videos as we came up with different scenarios about his history (so much better than looking up the real story) and commented about how we couldn’t look away from the talented train wreck. Cue plenty of ammo for future jokes.
Alone and left to spin out on my own thoughts once again, I was back to feeling plagued by the mixed feelings I was having about not just her but everyone. I enjoyed and was thankful for our time together but also resented feeling more obligated than I could financially afford (which I tend to do to my own damn self), the ways I had been unhappy in our relationship, her flakiness (a hot spot for me) and how I never saw her in the Bay. I tended to feel both sides with most people, though, which I believed was being real to and for them as well as in our relationship. A newer challenge to consider was how the whole almost dying thing was starting to take its toll on the way I was thinking and how I was feeling. I didn’t know what I could trust in the ‘ol noggin. Processing the experience was still new and it was going to be a long journey.
It was a month with a couple big 40th birthday bangs that had a lot more of the normal day-to-day in between. Farmer’s market, being a foodie with too much going out to eat (what with always being on the road working), took Pop to Barona again, Balboa Park, the beach, treating myself to pedicures, making it to another more my nieces soccer games, car maintenance, Barona with Pop and occasional hangs with friends when meeting up with Kate and and her friend at El Perez (Pacific Beach/PB) and a night out when heading out to a venue called Music Box with Mia when we went to see some violin-playing DJ who went by the name of Govinda and was going to be spinning EDM. I also went to Oktoberest with Jewels but that ended much earlier than expected when I half blacked out from smoking weed. Yes I knew better but I was trying to be one of the crew like I was 15 all over again. Hey, don’t judge me, man. We all have our moments.
There were a few things that weren’t back to normal. Brigit had a small heart attack on the 6th. My Brigit. The friend/mother figure who had become one of the most important and supportive people in my life. The world slanted just a little bit and got hazy. Of course I wanted to leave right away but Dr. Vlad’s response was something along the lines of “it’s better she has a heart attack than you die”. I don’t think it was those exact words but it was something close and enough to jar me back into reality. There were also a few medical scares of my own related to the ITP and steroids I had been on. Feeling horrible one day and shaking like hell, I was determined to still make it to Bar Pink where Nikki and the band full of moms she was in were playing, her being the drummer. Well I made it but felt so horrible that I had to leave early. Turned out, as doc Vlad would soon let me know, that I was crashing off the ‘roids. My blood pressure was super high and I was having heart palpitations. More side-effects of the treatment, though Dr. Vlad didn’t seem to have any interest in hearing me when I stated multiple times that I hadn’t had any major problems in that area before. Adding insult to injury, he was too stubbornly set on it being because of my weight.

Back to Nikki, it just so happened to be her turn for a 40th birthday celebration on the 25th! Giving her a tortilla blanket a few days before as an inside joke, we went to go see a Queen cover band at, for the second time that month, Music Box. It was her choice but I wasn’t happy about it at first. She had started talk months before about all of us renting a house that came with a private chef in Costa Rica. A much bigger celebration and I thought she deserved it. True I also was a traveler who loved Costa Rica, but that was secondary. I had seen too many who originally started with a big plan for their 40th only for it to be shot down by people around them. Well, turned out that I was totally wrong and it was awesome! The singer was amazing, though he seemed to be an ass when I watched the way he talked to his band from a few feet away. Hopefully he was just having an off night.
Over all, it was a night of splendid entertainment. Because of the show and also because of being back together with so many friends. It was great to be have Team OB running around being ridiculous like old times as was seeing the Sea World trainer crew from our twenties. Alas, the steroids were still getting to me so I wasn’t feeling my best. Still, I managed to hang in there for the show and even managed to make it back to the Brick House (Brent & Nikki’s house) for a rowdy after-party that continued the flashback to our twenties. Good times with my favorite part being when it ended with me, Brent and another friend (Rachael) talking until almost sunrise.
Getting the OK from Dr. Vlad about my numbers being decent enough to leave a few days after, I jammed back to Nor Cal on the 29th as fast as I could to be whatever support I could be after the heart attack and to spend Halloween with Brigit and Aaron. Something that ended up scary indeed as it turned out that the trunk-or-treat event we crashed in a parking lot was actually for the church attached to that parking lot. They tolerated us joining in with letting kids trick-or-treat out of all the decorated cars but weren’t thrilled. I could have killed Brigit if the two of us hadn’t already “been there, done that” recently. I totally have the kind of religious PTSD that comes from being raised Catholic. Churches give me hives. I really didn’t need to deal, on top of that, with a priest who came off as a sexist (and likely racist) small-minded man from a small mountain town who thinks he’s a god himself. Maybe I’m overreacting, maybe not but I got through it and at least got her to go with me to Henflings after. We both liked that bar and it was rare to get her to come out so I was happy enough in the end. Plus, once again, ammo for something to laugh about in the future.
What a trip (pun intended). I had planned to be living and teaching in S Korea by the end of the month but instead had ended up covered in huge bruises, almost dying and on steroids. My goal hadn’t changed, the timing had just been pushed out. That always seemed to be the case for one reason or another. Still, I didn’t know what to expect with such a big new shift. It was just so…I didn’t know the answer to that. I didn’t even know how I felt.

September 2019 – Bleeding Hearts

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I had just returned from being gone for two weeks on the pilgrimage of Burning Man 2019 When days before leaving for it, I had gotten out of the hospital. All I wanted was some down time to finish my damn California burrito in peace, snuggles from Sugs in that tropically decorated house Jewels had decorated like a true beach babe with my same taste and 20 hours of sleep. What did I get instead? Some tweaker showing up like a cracked out tornado as she talked even faster than me about how she had been the one dog/house-sitting and needed to grab the laundry she still had in the dryer. I didn’t know a thing about her and was not only completely overwhelmed but also uncomfortable as hell. Not to mention frustrated with Jewels for trusting someone like that, regardless of her being nice. Fucking bleeding heart, man.
My first instinct was to call Jewels to make sure everything was OK with the situation. I really didn’t like the woman being there at all, let alone having her car. Thinking better of it as I looked at my phone, I stopped myself. JerseyJ had bitched me out for being too overprotective with a call in the middle of the night on the 4th of July when her ex had been throwing a party at her pad when she was out of town. I didn’t want a repeat of that. Not to mention that I knew I’d be sending Jewels’ anxiety through the roof, possibly ruining the rest of her trip. So instead I spent the next three days miserably and uncomfortably dealing with the woman and feeling terrible for her sweet tween daughter. All the while trying to recover, survive a wretched cough and labor away on getting my stuff gathered, cleaned and put in storage before getting back to work.
Recover…yeah right. I had known the steroids weren’t working when my bruises had returned within the first couple days on the playa. That meant I pretty much expected bad news from a physical scheduled for the 5th. Not as bad as it turned out to be, though. Waking up on the morning of the 6th to multiple voicemails, the doctor’s office had been calling to say that it was urgent for me to be checked into the ER. My sister too since they had been calling her as my emergency contact. Whoa. I was in a serious enough situation for my emergency contact to be called. It may have been then that it was finally able to click. That it wasn’t just a passing fluke and was serious. Life slanted a little. My platelets were under 3,000. As a reminder, the normal range for Americans is 150k – 450k.

Going in for a platelet infusion, I argued with the ER doc that I also needed help with my cough. I was never going to be able to sleep in order to get better if I was constantly hacking so badly that my eyes were watering and I was almost throwing up. He blew me off. That is until he could hear me hacking up a lung for two hours from outside my room. That’s when a nurse came in to tell me that he was prescribing me cough medicine with codeine and that I had a respiratory infection. What I didn’t think about until until a week later when the infection was mostly gone was how coughing that hard could have possibly caused something to burst in my brain given my super low platelet count. Crikey!
Once again, I didn’t expect good news at the appointment with Dr. Vlad the day after that. My numbers were so uncommonly low that he had my blood taken twice to double check once there. His response was, saying with raised eyebrows and a surprised Eastern European accent, “well, you didn’t die”. That was followed with how I was to be hospitalized immediately, maybe for days. He let me go home for a couple hours first to get my affairs in order since I wasn’t showing signs of internal bleeding. That was let me go with nonstop and adamant comments from him, his staff and anyone in the health profession who heard my number to be careful to not hit my head. Nonstop to the point of making me WANT to hit my head.
Thinking about calling Jewel’s mom to watch Sugs as I drove back to pack up, I worried about asking it of her when she lived kind of far. Jewels already had that other woman doing it before me so, as much as I didn’t like it, I asked her to cover. Lord how I wish I would had just called her mom. Only going so far as to send her and Jewels messages to fill them in, I regret not being more outspoken about how I felt. I also wish I hadn’t left the cough syrup with codeine there. Especially after Tweaker Lady told me excitedly that people she knew would pay good money for it upon my return. Flash back to being a teen with friends drinking their parents booze and filling the bottles back up with water.
Back in the hospital, I received an IVIG treatment on top of the steroids that were still being used as a form of chemo. Coincidentally, that’s when my cough really started going away, too. My family didn’t come to see me. Parents because they had a cold and Wendy because we thought I was going to be in longer and she kept pushing it off. Sean…he was a lost cause. Besides the 10 minute ride I asked of him that was on his way home after picking up my nieces from school, I wasn’t even to get a text. Even after he was so upset upon dropping me off. Taking pictures of the two of us together and talking about how serious it was, he also commented about how one of his dogs had recently passed from the same thing. It’s what I expected, which was what hurt the most. What was newly painful and surprising, however, was when I found out that he was planning to buy his neighbors who had just lost their dog an expensive puppy from a breeder. He couldn’t be bothered to give a crap that I was fighting for my life but was doing that. Wow. I could at least find a little solace a couple months later when he told me that he was having a major mental break at that time and was in and out of touch with reality. Though that was a whole different kind of heartbreak.
At least I had friends that would come through. Well, a handful of them. Mia surprised me the most, coming once or twice and even talking about coming back to spend the night. Nikki and Kati came of course. I could always count on them. Nikki with lots of fun pampering stuff like facial masks, Kati with a book and a burrito. Not to mention finding the time to make it when she was dealing with major pain in the ass paperwork, calls and other setup stuff for starting a kids school for aeronautics. To make it even harder on her, she showed up when I had a bloodied IV in my arm and was being surrounded by nurses poking and prodding for too many different reasons to count.
Always the weirdo (and probably still in shock), the experience was new, exciting and even a little fun. I wowed all the nurses and staff with positive energy. They commented another two or three times about how I didn’t seem like a patient and how it was the happiest room they’d been in. At one point, I had a dance party with myself and even had a stationary bike brought into my room for a teenie bit of exercise. It was great to brighten their days albeit a little somber given that the reason for what they were accustomed to dealing with cancer patients. Over all, it was the best time to end up there if it was necessary. I was exhausted and in desperate need of de-stimulation as well as getting away from the sun.

Getting out of the hospital and back to my beloved home-sweet-home (and sweetie of a roomie) once Jewels was back, it was time for the last round of unpacking, cleaning from the burn and putting the rest of that stuff so far into storage that I didn’t have to see it until the next burn. Having drinks with one of the besties at her local dive soon after, it was nice to be back on the supportive side of things. She was understandably hurt by the reaction of her husband during an already stressful remodel of their house while living in the middle of it with two young boys. He had been so wrapped up with the project and work that he was too stuck in tunnel vision to remember that they existed. It was the second round of the same thing as they had done the same thing with the same result on their first house only a few years before. Que a weird form of suburban sadomasochism and drinking too much. Speaking of the suburbs, I made it to a movie and a drink with the other bestie and a couple of moms she was friends with. I connected fine with them (they seemed to be “cool” moms) but it was still weird listening to them talk with rolling eyes about the PTA and other scary suburban stuff. All-in-all it ended with me thinking, once I stopped being oblivious to one of the women disregarding my girl, that the suburbs still sucked.
Life was back to the norm almost instantly. I was proud of myself for making it to one of LanaBell’s soccer games within days of getting out of the hospital, though it was surreal (and a bit of a struggle) to be in a hot and sunny park while still on the roids. Smiling as I stole glances at her big sister under a tree with her boyfriend (aha young love) while talking with her mom, she commented on how her and her nurse colleagues called someone like me a career patient. Man did that hit, but life goes on and so would I. Beyond that, it was nice to participate in a few other “normal daily life” things over the course of the rest of the month. Dinner with the fam at Sienna’s favorite for her 11th b-day, Old Spaghetti Factory, Pop’s favorite Barona Casino followed by hanging with the family at their estate (though never comfortable there), hanging with Mia in OB and Jewels at her pad. Then there was writing the sentimental thank you note to Dr. Vlad for all his help with the ITP and continuing to be proud of Kate as I watched the progress of her aeronautical school for kids, trying in vain to think of a way to help.

There was more than enough to make for a happy month. Lots of walks along the beach, finally finishing up cleaning off the bike I borrowed from Jenny for the burn and getting the tent back to the folks, yoga at home (shout out to Yoga With Adrienne), dinner with the family again (including Grandma who had come down from L.A.) for Restaurant Week at La Bocca in Little Italy, driving around to see Halloween decorations and, I’m quite proud to say, hosting a local burner happy hour at THC. I had gotten frustrated with not seeing anything going on around me in our burner community so I went ahead and empowered myself to make it happen with a reminder of the “doacracy” mentality that had been taught to us. Go me! Another thing I was proud to have ponied up with and taken care of right away was when a palm tree fell on my car and busted the windshield. Well, Tavian’s car really as I was just the long-term renter. He didn’t think insurance would cover it, but seemed to be guessing, so I decided to do my own research. It’s amazing how much being broke can inspire when it comes to potentially lowering a bill. Getting past the overwhelmed anxiety that would have stopped me in the past, I called the insurance company and jumped through the hoops there to find out that it actually WAS covered with a $100 deductible. Someone was sent out to change the windshield and it didn’t affect the policy because it had nothing to do with my driving. Beyond that, we even got to celebrate Grandma’s birthday at the end of the month. Yep. Life was back to normal and changed forever all at once.

Before Grandma’s birthday, it was Sienna’s turn. Though right before that was when the beginning of what would be a long and emotional roller coaster about the ITP hit. How fragile and temporary our bodies were, not showing any symptoms beyond bruising to warn me, the reality of most of the relationships in my life…it was like a bomb went off, exploding in too many different directions to keep track of. I told Wendy about it. Specifically because I was worried I was going to start acting weird. Isolating and getting really dark, pushing everyone away…when things were really bad, I got nasty. It’s not something I’m proud of. I’m just in so much pain and unable to grasp what’s going on…I can’t get away from it. The picture of a wounded animal cornered, snarling and biting at someone trying to help has always popped into my mind.
Wendy had asked me to handle the decorations for Sienna’s b-day on the 21st and I had been excited to do it. Balloons and live flowers I had gone to get at the market – whatever I could think of to make my niece happy. True, I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off the morning of, but the level at which I was already disoriented and exhausted by the time I arrived at their house didn’t make sense. That’s when it happened. With Dad standing on one side of me and Sienna on the other, my being seated, we all worked on the decorations as they excitedly chatted away. Feeling it come on, I calmly called out to Wendy, her ignoring, as the first episode I’d had awake in years started. “Episodes” as in short mystery sessions I’d had for over a decade, both mental and physical, that gave very little clue as to what was happening to witnesses beyond my becoming a bit distracted, disoriented and starting to sweat. At first, and after being screened with nothing showing up, the associated medical team had blown them off with my main doctor’s response being “we don’t know, probably anxiety attacks”. Years later, after a witnessed grand mal seizure, the medical professionals involved at that time thought them likely somehow related to that. Whatever the case, I was totally whacked out after and needed time for my mind to reboot and exhausted body to recover. More time than I had.
Missing the beginning of the party to at least rest for a couple hours, I pulled myself together enough to go outside and join the festivities. That’s when, in my whacked out state, a little bit of the underlying resentment I harbored for my sister snuck out when I said something snarky about her to one of the kids moms. She felt justified in not talking to me for weeks after that. Regardless of how the ITP or episode played a roll or how I had told her only a couple days before about how I was just starting to get to fall into a dark place where I needed support. It didn’t need any help getting worse between us from there but it did. I felt abandoned when I needed her the most and when I tried to talk to her about it, she made it about her. I messed up but did I deserve that? I don’t know, maybe I did. But I still wasn’t going to accept it.

2019 – Bye Bye Burn, Hello Reno After-Party

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I was a loony-tune exhausted, overheated and upset mess once finally done with packing up and sending my stuff off with an aggravated driver. Trevor, always being the gentleman, told me to go lay down in his trailer and drink some of his signature mixture of ice, OJ and vodka, both of which I desperately needed (minus the vodka). Seeing ripped condom wrappers on the ground, I was relieved to see he had gotten laid before shutting my eyes for an hour or two, of course not really able to sleep, before heading back out to wander. Finding friends I hadn’t spent enough time with and sharing essentials during a quick hang, I soon headed off to Spanky’s to catch my ride off the playa. I would say happily but I couldn’t feel much beyond miserable exhaustion.
Kelsey and I had made plans to ride back with Levi/Pepper Jesus in his packed rental car to the hotel in Reno. Pepper Jesus was the one who was going to give me a tent but his car had broke down last minute before the burn. Close to leaving, I could have asked him to pick me up at The Swan but I instead headed to Spanky’s with the goal of trying to help moop. An unsuccessful attempt unfortunately as I couldn’t find much to do besides a wee bit here and there and the Admiral was too upset about so many bolting without helping to give much direction. I kept trying to find something myself and was asking others but after a couple hours, I gave up. Having thrown in the towel, the three of us took off with the Admiral getting a little upset with Levi for not sticking around longer to do more. Such a bummer to not having successfully figured out how to navigate the whole thing but that indeed was a constant of the burn. I made a big-fat note to strategize better for next time with step one, as always, being to figure out how to get some sleep. Then I did my best to let it go.
I thought making it to GSR, the hotel in Reno of the burner after-party, would make me feel relieved but I was too much dreading having to get out of the car. Then having to check in. Then eat. Then get up to our room. Then shower. Then put myself together before crawling into bed. Watching all the burners there in happy moods with the celebration of having made it through another year, I was bewildered (and a touch resentful) at how they could be so fresh when I was so beat up. Even so, I was thankful to meet some really cool folks. One of which Mia knew who connected with Kelsey by the end of the night and the two of them becoming inseparable from there. A lucky thing for her as after Mia and her friend left a couple nights before us (the four of us were sharing a room), she didn’t have to be kept up all night by a cough of mine that was progressively getting worse. She double lucked out when I misquoted her on our share of the cost that I would go ahead and pay. Made me feel better anyway since she was never in the room anyway so ~shrugs~.
Floating around in cool water at the pool party for burners the next day had been heaven the year before but I just wanted to get home. I still made it there, though, as well as to the annual Spanky’s dinner at a delicious Italian restaurant called Sardina’s. With luck that never lets me down, I ended up being stuck there with the guy handling the bill for all of us (and all the drama that came with) until everyone but the two of us were left. At least it got me out of going to a club where one of our guys was spinning EDM.
I was so done, I headed to the airport hours early the next day so I didn’t have to be around happy, rejuvenated burners. A decision that made me extra relieved when finding out by the time I was to board that people were missing flights because of all the folks flooding the airport at the time I originally would have. Flying back to San Diego, the plan was to go straight to house and dog-sit for Jewels. As much as I just wanted to go straight to my own home, it didn’t sound half bad considering I could dive right into cuddling up with her doggo, Sugs, and not do anything for a couple days. Just stay tucked away from the sun, chillin with my furry friend until I had to go pick up my stuff. Self-conscious about coughing up a lung as I flew home, I grabbed a Lyft from the airport and got the driver to go through a taqueria drive-thru so I could get a California burrito. My ritual when first getting home, no matter where I had been. I had finally made it. Not in one peace but I wasn’t dead. Something I was about to find out was pretty surprising.

2019 Burning Man Art

The End of Burning Man 2019 – Aug 31 & Sept 1

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Making it battered and bruised…literally… it was time to once again to burn the man.
Determined to make it to one of Kelsey’s performances in the Black Rock Philharmonic at 11 AM that morning (early by playa time), I first prepped for the goal of making it to the Naked Tiki Bar that afternoon when dressing in a Parrot Head getup. Grabbing my bike when ready to head out to watch her performance, I thought about how bummed I was to have missed the one they put on at The Folly. An amazing cousin to an old-Western style art center (for lack of a better description) that was one of the pieces to be sacrificed to the fire gods for the year. I had never made it there but at least I got to see the orchestra in their home camp, which just so happened to be my favorite day camp to chill at, Frozen Oasis. Regardless of being lucky to have averaged even a couple hours sleep a night, I was still able to enjoy the slushies gifted out, albeit perturbed by the terrible pour that could have fit into a rocks glass. Also lovely to literally help chill were the misters, soft color scheme of a light turquoise and grey, a metal dragon that breathed fire and us playing along with the kazoos that were handed out at the end of their performance.

Never good at wearing my mask, I rode around from there checking out art and hitting a few bars on the way to Dr. Bronner’s for a group shower. Backfiring from the original plan of counting on it to be relaxing and rejuvenating, the long line under the hot sun was making me feeling even more worn out, dizzy and worried about the ITP within twenty minutes of getting there. Adding even more to the bummer of it all, the guy from Mexico standing in line next to me seemed like an intelligent and interesting person whom I’d have enjoyed connecting with under better circumstances. I wasn’t able to enjoy the shower much when it was finally my turn to get in but at least I got to run into Annie, an old ridshare buddy from a previous burn.
The three hour excursion starting at 11:45 AM sucked up prime time during the day but I had learned through the principle of Immediacy and to quote Forrest Gump, that you never know what you’re gonna get, so I was able to do an OK job of shrugging it off. On my way to half-heartedly find the Naked Tiki Bar from there, I took a sharp left when seeing the popular drinking and hang camp, the Petting Zoo. Trying to dull the edge of how shitty I felt with a little buzz, I somehow turned back into a Dr. Phil meets Dr. Ruth sex therapist for a straight and gay man almost as soon as my buns were seated. No matter how burnt I was and how much I was depleted socially, I still got a rush when I felt like I was helping others. So there I was until the sun started going down, giving up on the idea of making it to the Naked Tiki Bar all together.
I had been dreading the long ride back to The Swan to head out with the crew for the man burn but it turned out that wasn’t going to happen anyway. Making my way to Spanky’s once saying my farewells at the Petting Zoo, I stayed longer than expected because, well, that’s what always happens, and also because one of our campers had a heart-stopping seizure and needed CPR. I would have felt like an asshole if I bolted so instead I used it as an excuse to stay.
Hanging with the couple who had shown interest multiple times in hooking up that year, it was a mix of both feeling discomfort and delighted at the situation while also a little resentment that I felt like we were all of the sudden playa-dating without my having even been consulted to see if I was into it. Relationships are already challenging but add in the aspect of such an unconventional community and it’s even more mind-bending. I did indeed dig them a lot as friends and wasn’t opposed to hooking up if the situation popped up organically but I was into the friendship aspect a lot more than sexually or romantically. I still wish that I could just feel more strongly one way or another, dammit.
The sun went down and it was finally time to head out to the man. Biking alongside an art car that some of my campmates were on, we eventually stopped to climb up on a taller one to watched the spectacle as the fire conclave danced. Spoon after, the arms of the large wooden stick figure with an upside-down triangle for a head raised as fireworks started to shoot out of his body and then a grand explosion lit him fire. It was still the biggest communal party I had ever been to in the world, even if I was too donezo on that particular night to be feeling the spirit. Still knowing when we were done with the merriment there that my body was too out of whack for sleep anyway, I gave up on the idea of even trying. I was sick of adding more misery to the exhaustion and definitely didn’t want to miss out on yet another night while I just laid there in frustrated despair. Choosing instead to stay up all night partying back at Spanky’s, it was more of the same but a “same” that I loved. Even through the haze of my zombie state.

Aha the day of the temple burn. Thank God. I was doing my best to stay present through meditative reminders that I was in the most important place in the world to me. Like every year, many of us were just fighting to just get through it at that point. A notable about of seasoned burners even left every year once the weekend (Labor Day weekend) hit. Being a year of extra miserable exhaustion for me, it was the first time the thought didn’t appall me. It was also the first time I realized that maybe the reason I never noticed the “weekend warriors” who were notorious for only coming with the goal of more superficial partying was because I was always too worn out.
I’m sure I started the day the temple was to burn at the Swan like usual but honestly, the whole day is pretty blank. Maybe nights were easier to recall because they were such a reprieve from the relentless sun and it’s inescapable hellfire heat. An unfortunate byproduct to such a level of exhaustion, the temple burn didn’t do much for me. The after-party at Spanky‚Äôs called Swine Bar where I bartended for awhile was my favorite event of the camp, though, so that was still a little fun. Especially having the little bit of space in the middle of the crowd that tending bar provided.

Barely knowing where I was, we kept going until dawn. That included ending up in one of our camper’s trailer for what I was to find out was one of his notorious after-parties. Two words: body bumps. I was probably just off my nut and there wasn’t any good reason for it but at one point I took the man of the couple I felt like I was “playa dating” outside of the cramped trailer so his wife could have a little space to wile out. That’s when the two of us started bickering in an almost comical drama-agro way about pretty much nothing. It’s definitely not uncommon for folks to be falling apart by that time in the week. Putting two colorful and passionate people together on top of that and, well, there’s some extra fireworks. Add to all of it how if an attempt of any sort is made to control or take ownership of me, it just adds dynamite to those fireworks. Flash to the future for a second: yes, we’re still pals and talked it out after letting the playa-dust settle.
Back to what had become the next morning, our continuing to argue without his hearing my comments about needing to get back to The Swan to pack up, I finally had to jam at dawn with him and another male camper in tow as I petaled across the playa like the crazy pissed off woman I was to pack up before Glenn came to get my stuff. Only being half-way to having my physical shit together (definitely not mental) when he showed, he was understandably agro about it. To be fair, he had actually already showed up that way thanks to committing to too many people and his wife ending up hating the burn. My not being ready just made it worse. That didn’t justify his leaving some of my stuff at the end, though. Stuff that included the incredibly sentimental cape my mother had made me. I wouldn’t have even known until days after getting home if another camper, first pissed off thinking I had left junk for others to take care of, hadn’t told me. Being too tired and feeling too shitty later in the day to think about asking Mia to take that stuff home, I ended up throwing most of it out on the drive back to Reno anyway.

Burning Man 2019 – Friday August 30th – Pushing boundaries

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Leaving Spanky’s somewhere around 4:30 AM to make a gallant attempt to catch sunrise in Deep Playa, I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t stop at Hardley’s Saloon for a shot of whiskey when passing it on the Esplanade at 5 AM. I had given up on the idea of Mia and I doing it together to celebrate the beginning of our friendship but that didn’t mean I couldn’t do it on my own. Instead, I met a handsome (and borderline too cocky) man from Australia who I connected with on a chair swing outside the saloon until it was too late to make it anywhere else before sunrise. His departure being just before yellows and oranges started to rise in the sky through the bars of the sleeping Thunderdome in front of me, I fought to keep my eyes open as the sun made it’s way over the horizon. Having only been asleep for a few minutes, a cutie-patootie of a Chinese American gal jumped off the back of someone’s bike (hers had been stolen) and plopped down, chatting before her buns even hit the seat. Seeming oblivious to my head bobbing as I fought to stay awake, I was bewildered by the tidal wave of intensity coming at me. If she had been ready to snuggle to sleep under that morning sun, I could have stayed there forever. Instead, I had to excuse myself after a few minutes of her happy chittering to petal my way back to camp with leaden feet to do my best at catching a few hours of ZZZ.

Miserably exhausted as I always was by that time of the week, I’ll be damned if I still couldn’t sleep even when in my own “bed”. Finally giving up on the attempt and getting up two or three hours later once the heat had become too much to bare, I headed over to one of the neighborhood’s lightly air conditioned chill champs inside a Middle Eastern style tent with a prayer that it would help. From there I made an effort to find Spicy given that he had already tried to find me so many times. Feeling insecure about showing up when I worried he might not want me to, I knew feeling that way was ridiculous but the torture of feeling vulnerable wasn’t about to let me get too confident. Even so, I made it all the way over to the other side of the playa per his direction and even made sure to take advantage and stop for a drink with random burners when something caught my eye along the way. For example, when I stumbled upon a Mardi Gras show at a New Orleans themed camp. A great example of one of the best and most magical parts of Immediacy at the burn. I don’t know if I ever would have had it in me to do so if it hadn’t been ingrained over those last five years or burning.

Finally making it to his RV, I kicked back in the oppressive heat on a mound of teddy bears and pillows he had set up under a tarp patio connected between him and his neighbor until he finally got up. Planning to head out to pick up the vest he had left at the glitter camp, we first hung with that attached neighbor who just so happened to be trans and also just so happened to be…we’ll just say also attached. It pushed my boundaries, yes, but mostly because she didn’t seem interested in befriending me and I don’t like feeling like second string. Our plan was short-lived from there as his bike had broke the night before and it became apparent that it wasn’t going to be a quick fix. It also became quickly apparent that plan B to hang in his RV wasn’t going to be a success either as he was too tired to perform and I broke the bed. It was time to call it. Leaving him to finally get what may have been his first major sleep for what could have been the entire burn, it would be the last time I was to see him.

The next few hours were pretty lax. At the beginning of the burn, it was always exciting to mark the “when and where” events in a book we were given when first coming in through Gate knowing full-well that we’d be lucky to make it to any one of them thanks to living on playa time. In a last minute “oh yeah” on that particular day, I remembered a burlesque show that I had marked and actually made it for the first time ever. It was an excitingly hopeful first step in attending other events and workshops in my future. That was if I was ever able to figure out how to get some sleep.
After the show, I thought it would be nice to try to go find Spicy’s vest (never even found the camp) and fun to get us souvenir cups from Sharkey’s. Walking up to one of the camp’s two wooden bars with a brief stop to watch people do some axe-throwing, a sweet and somewhat proper British man of average looks and a friendly demeanor started talking me up. Having a tenancy to step in as a buzzed therapist when drinking combined with a background in matchmaking, I quickly became his Dr. Ruth. Pouring his heart out, he told me about how he had limited sexual experience, specifically in ways of his less traditional desires, and how those needs combined with the shame he felt about them had always affected his confidence and self-esteem. His thinking it would ruin the relationship with his fiance, he couldn’t take it anymore and had told her anyway before leaving for the burn. Half expecting her to break up with him, she instead told him to go experiment and have fun. Being honest with her had not only set him free from the cage he had been in for so long but also strengthened their relationship. It was touching.
Speaking of touching, he then asked if I would be up for going to the Orgydome. I can’t say it was a surprise. It was obvious that he was looking for a sexual mentor and was already seeing me in that light. Honestly, for as free-spirited, sexually liberated and open-minded as I like to tell myself I was, I didn’t know how I felt about it. When it came to sexuality, it only felt right to me to do the horizontal hokey pokey when having an intimate connection both emotionally and mentally followed by physical attraction. Whether knowing each other an hour or a year didn’t matter, just that level of connection. That meant that my first instinct was to say no. Then I realized that I had a chance to do something I believed important enough for it to speak to me. Besides stroking my ego (among other things) and having a little fun, I got to help someone. Not only that but I got to do it in an area where I also had a history of great pain and shame until having found healing at the burn. So I decided to go outside of my norm and what the hell, say “sure, let’s go”. His wide-eyed expression of nervous excitement was another of the moments that resonated with me most that burn. It was…cute.
Getting in line at the Orgydome, I was a little impatient to have to go through the routine of all the safety, consent, no phones, etc. drills again one day later but also excited to watch him experience what that looked like. Then getting up to the front, one of the gals working the door excitedly asked, “hey, you’re the chick who was covered in the glitter the other day, right?” It was obvious from her tone that our libido and other fun had been talked about in the camp along, I’m sure, with annoyance at the glitter. It was also entertainingly awkward to respond that, yes, it had been me and a little embarrassing that he heard it. Continuing on, we went to the “open to more” room as opposed to couples only and started to make out. It was odd as I didn’t feel much of a sexual connection but I didn’t feel like that was why I was there anyway. Excusing myself to run back for nipple-glue remover once taking off my fuzzy pasties, I came back to him and an attractive Asian woman with a very cool mowhawk that had patterns buzzed into the sides waiting for me. She had apparently approached him wanting to join. Things definitely got more interesting from there.
While petite isn’t my “type”, I also believe that objectifying people by putting them into narrow-minded boxes is BS. I loved her vibe, so I went for it. Partly because I knew it would feed into his fantasy. Like most of my theesomes from the past, it became more about her focusing on me because I made her feel safe while he excitedly jumped in wherever he could and how I instructed. What was different from past experiences was that I was leading as a coach in the whole thing. Communication and finding a way to make everyone feel involved, seen and comfortable was what it was about for me. His mind was blown, as was my eardrum from her screaming in it as she climaxed. I was content that I had given them something special and in so, they had given me a gift that meant the world in return. It all ended abruptly after she came, though, as I realized that I was about to be late for a bartending shift at a Celtic sing-song back at The Swan.
Giving him a long hug and getting a happy rush from seeing his enlightened and mind-blown appreciative smile as he thanked me, I took off and was bartending 20 minutes later. It wasn’t to be the end of my sexcapades for the night, though. The year before, I had been left after unsuccessfully chasing an art car to get to the Great Canadian Beaver Eating Contest at Spanky’s sister camp, Black Rock Bordello. A fellow camper had talked me into going to another neighboring camp with promises that we’d be back in time, which of course we weren’t. Yes, I am absolutely still pouting and no way was I going to let it happen again.

I tried to talk my crew from the Swan (and other compadres from PolyParadise) into coming with but they were unfortunately already amped about going to an event where one of our guys was going to get naked and completely lubed up to wrestle another guy while swinging from chandeliers. That meant that the only one who ended up joining me was Trevor. Great. Don’t get me wrong, I was a fan of the big guy but his crush was suffocating and I resented that I all of the sudden felt like I was on a date that I didn’t agree to. Making it to the tent for the show, we took a front row seat and I was quickly jumping back and forth between him and other Spankers. Partly in an attempt to show Trevor that I saw him as nothing but a pal, I told Levi that if he wanted us to compete, to sign us up. It was an unintentionally mean and I still feel bad about it but feeling suffocated makes me panic. Haven’t mastered that one net.
Next thing I knew after that, Levi and I are being called up and I’m getting the most intense oral that I’ve ever received. So much so that I was gripping onto the mat so that my sweaty body wasn’t pushed off the stage by the pressure he was using. Almost laughing as I ripped off the rainbow wig I was wearing and putting on my sunglasses to hide from the intensity, I was in and overwhelming state of pleasurable shock that absolutely entertained me. That didn’t mean I wasn’t making an attempt to look up at the other competitors, though. I mentally pouted at those unsuccessful attempts but got over it when realizing that we must have been the best show given that the judges extended our time twice and I could hear the crowd cheering. As someone who thrives on bringing pleasure to others, damn straight I’m an exhibitionist and damn right was I loving it. Trevor was gone by the time the whole thing was over. Feeling relieved though bad, I was also later a bit angry when he pouted about how he was OK but would have rather been a participant in a way that made me think he was assuming it would be us.
What a day but the sexapades even STILL weren’t over. There was a hottie from camp who had been watching and had been turned on by the show. When he politely approached me about hooking up, I was a little weirded out that he would be interested in a woman who had just been receiving oral from another man, and in front of a crowd no less. We all have our turn-ons and I knew that, so I found myself once again asking why it made me feel awkward. The best answer I had was that I hadn’t been in that particular situation before. Being nice as I skirted off with a smiling decline to the invitation, I jumped around with my friends until he appeared again an hour later. Finding him sweet, laid back and quite attractive, I decided what the hell for the second time that day and went for it. Going to his nice conversion van, he lit candles and was more the most tender of my recent lovers. Kind of boring, actually, in that he liked me laying down doing nothing while he hit it from behind, but he did give me three orgasms from oral (extra impressive given alcohol and that crazy head from Levi) so it was a big win over all.
During our shenanigans, there had been a knock that I had a feeling was his partner with some kind of message. Seeming to have turned into a theme, it was the third new experience pushing my boundaries for the day. When I sought him out to say hi a couple more times over the rest of the burn, one of the times he had actually been with the partner who I assumed was the one to be the knocker. Not making an attempt to be part of the convo with him and I, it was once again what most bothered me. My connection with him didn’t go any farther. That was until he added me on Facebook and I found out that he lived in my Northern California neighborhood. Not that he’d even respond to future PMs. So weird.
Man…what a day for the books. Reminds me of a certain meme about doing all the wild and crazy things we can now so we have something to talk about at holidays when we’re old. Anyone who knows me well knows how much I love shock value. That’s one to look forward to indeed.

Burning Man 2019 – August 28th & 29th

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Following my favorite night was my favorite day. The morning started, as always, by hanging with folks at The Swan and PolyParadise until Spicy surprised me by showing up. Something he had attempted a few times before and would a few times after, usually without finding me. As luck would have it, he did on that particular day, though, and we were to spend most of it together. Dragging him right away to a camp controversial for offering biodegradable glitter, I had first been introduced to it my second year with the Frenchie friends I’d camped with and was determined to partake in that herpes of the crafting world fabulousness at least once again. Adorning each other head to toe, we then headed to Go the Fuck to Sleep in Hushville with stops along the way at camps that included one with a Russian roulette style game of choosing a flavored shot that ended with my taking one of disgustingly warm Cheese-It vodka and then headed across the street to a boring lecture on sexuality. Boring, I should say, for our level of experience. We made it to Brigit and Aaron’s camp after that for her popup event, Cougar Camp, where us ladies would all dress in leopard and sit out along the street to tempt guys (via Brigit yelling through a blow horn) into stopping to dance for us with a cookie as their prize. My favorite part for the year being a tie between Spicy being our pool boy and when chicks passing by would stop to join us.
Getting myself in a pickle with an actual pickle as Cougar Camp headed to a close, Spicy and I walked across the street to play a game of bobbing for pickles where the rule was to slap the bobber across the face when they came up for air. I didn’t understand it and thank God he wasn’t comfortable enough to really go for it despite my insistence. Receiving a small yet sobering smack, it was a slightly annoying experience that still makes me think of idiot frat boys and Marines of my past causing drunken brawls in bars. Moving on. The glitter camp and Cougar Camp had been main goals for the day but a goal for the entire week was to make it to Orgydome with him, so off we went. Before you get too excited, don’t. After the first five minutes, it’s nowhere near as wild and exciting as you might think. It’s mostly just a place for couples to have a mattress in air conditioning in a communal room with the occasional scene that’s more exciting than that. We’ve all experienced sex. After a couple minutes, it loses a lot of it’s excitement. That being said, it was by far the favorite time I’ve ever had in there and I’d imagine we were one of the rare who actually did put on a small show.
After getting past the mandatory lectures and speeches at the end of the line about acceptable behavior and measures taken to ensure them, we got to the main waiting room where we took advantage of cuddle couches and massage tables where I treated Spicy to what may have been the most epic massage I’d ever given. Per his request, we then moved into the couples only room when our turn came for two and a half hours of smooth and sensual sex. His libido mixed with an impressive member good at staying at attention was an orgasmic mix (pun intended) for a session that was less about the intense passion I was used to and more about relaxed pleasure that sustainable for a marathon. Challenge was that, even though we were rocking it James Brown style instead of ’80’s glam rock, it was still plenty enough over a long period of time to run out of water. His not being allowed to stay inside the tent without me, we got a break pass for 15 minutes to run out barely covering ourselves (not that it mattered) and try to find some much coveted agua. Unsurprisingly challenging as water was liquid gold on the playa, we didn’t find any. What we did find was margaritas at a camp called Sharkey’s directly across the street and ice cream sandwiches that someone walking by was passing out. Giggling as we hurried back with me joking about getting even more sticky, we gave it another try, though that time in the “open to more” room. Giving it a go for a little while longer, we had unfortunately lost our steam, but had an impressive four hour experience over all so we were happy. It still puts a big smile on my face to think about. Especially the part where we were running around like crazed, giddy kids trying to get back before we got “in trouble”.
I needed some alone time after that to recharge. Not specifically from him, more because I always did. OK yes, partly because I needed to process being into him more than usual. The environment of it all and wondering what was real didn’t help with all those confusing feelings either. Still, I would have preferred it if we were in the same camp so we could go back to our own places within instead of knowing it unlikely to find each other again that night regardless of what we planned. With word of meeting back up at Spanky’s a couple hours later, I let my foggy sex-brain talk me into skipping out on the night Aaron had suggested for the two of us and Brigit for the off chance of spending more time of him. Yeah, I was “that” girl. One of the many examples of the principal of Immediacy, time seemed to go away and I had even almost ditched the plan myself to jump on an art car made of a black light tiki-style face with curtains resembling moss as hair. Whether he showed or not, I did want to spend more time in my second camp. Still, I was just the tiniest bit resentful for giving up the chance for a night with B & A even if I did get to spend it reconnecting with other friends that I hadn’t seen in a year. Two of which were a couple from overseas who surprised me by seeming to be interested in a wee bit more than friendship. An odd follow up to the happenings of the day but hey, it’s all about pushing boundaries and learning about ourselves…right? Maybe, maybe not but it was too much for me at th3 moment. Even if it was fun in theory.

Starting, of course, with the morning hang in camp, I didn’t make it too far for my morning venturing the next day when heading to a camp across the street early afternoon to participate in a shotski where a tall dude on one side of me sent the short chick on the other flying by throwing it back too hard. His being so thoughtless and oblivious was one of those things that weirdly annoys me all these months later. Back to camp not too long after, it was my time once again provide some of the meal for camp. It was way more chaotic than the first time, though, and partakers seemed more entitled than thankful. I had heard that to be the case after main gates opened but it was still a bummer. I stayed in camp after that for a live music session at The Swan Brigit spearheaded that consisted of a Celtic jam band. Hiding by the bar with so much going on it, it was unfortunately all a blur. Exhaustion and over-stimulation were already enough to make my brain shut down so adding a boozy buzz meant that I barely remember saying hello to friends whose face I would only be able to see that once for the year.
Short but sweet, when later heading to Spanky’s for a night that included the aforementioned couple making a more direct attempt and a naughty cuddle puddle with us and a few others trying to awkwardly join in, I had another of my highlights for the year when opening the door to a blue room with lights blinking out from the inside and walking in to see a disco ball and other shiny paraphernalia covering the walls. I had heard of those mythicaly decorated port-a-potties for years but had never actually come across one. It took half a decade to happen but it did and it was oh so worth the wait!

Burning Man 2019 – August 25th – 27th

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August 25th was when the burn officially started and the days were already starting to blur together. I was so worn out that I don’t remember much of what I did that day. I probably started at camp hanging and connecting with everyone and then biked around the neighborhood to scout it out, no doubt already having bike problems. Hurray for having bike repair camps close to us! It was too intimidating to think about getting to my other camp, Spanky’s, across the playa but figuring out that Mia’s camp happened to be right by me was a pleasant surprise. Especially since our phones had stopped working by then so it was going to be all physical coordination from that point on. Being so close was going to make it a lot easier to coordinate. Or so I thought.

First hanging with my camp crew for a couple hours the next morning, I then headed back to find Mia at her camp, Draft Punk, to be emotional support during the elaborate brunch she was throwing. Her ex from a previously serious relationship was also camping there with his girlfriend and she wasn’t sure how she was going to feel. After the impressive brunch with no sign of awkwardness, I then continued what was about to become ritual for the rest of the burn by finally biking over to Spanky’s. Getting back into the sex-swing of things as soon as I got there, I jumped into a volunteer shift bartending and had a dude with quite the splendid moves shaking it in his shiny gold leggings and scarf around his neck within minutes.

Getting lost on the way to find Brigit and Aaron later, I finally found their camp for a low-key hang that was only to last a little under two hours since they were already buzzed and winding down. Just sitting around chatting over Aaron’s lovely cocktails, Brigit pointed out an extra Kodiak tent a fellow camper had brought with the intention that she was going to talk to him about selling to me so I could have a decent place to sleep for the rest of the burn. An idea that never materialized but brought some a relief to think about, even if just for a moment. Another compadre of theirs, one of Aaron’s innocent crushes and head of B.E.D, showed up on a OneWheel resembling a tipsy character out of Star Wars with her head-garb and maroon genie pants that slit vertically along the legs and joined at the ankles. “Loaning” her my headlamp on her way out shortly before my own, I knew it was likely the last time I’d see it. I wasn’t left in the dark, however, as I had my disco lights and that’s all I ever seemed to need.
A few of us from Spanky’s went out later including my girl, Kelsey, who played in the Black Rock Philharmonic and was going to be a roomie at the hotel after the burn. It ended up being the first super late night, not heading home until around 4 AM after Kelsey, some of her friends and I made it to a camp with aerial acrobatics and I took my leave both for alone time and to make it to the Black Rock Roller Disco. My night was soon to end upon arrival though when, like every other year, I couldn’t find my size skates. Probably for the best given that hitting my head could have instantly killed me since the ITP was hitting hard again. I knew it was back to bad but wouldn’t know exactly how much until after the burn.

Speaking of that pesky bleeding disorder, I finally forced myself to face the music and find the makeshift series of connected tan tents that created the Rampart hospital to get checked out the next day. Already looking to be a casualty of the playa herself, the doctor hobbled her way over on crutches with a hurt ankle when it was my turn and I had to fight back the emotions of being touched by this woman who cared enough for that world of ours to still be helping even with an injury. I was pretty quick to snap out of it, though, when she didn’t know about ITP let alone what to do about it. There was no way to take a tiny sample of blood and test my platelet count there. A little surprising as it seemed like such a fast and minor procedure at Dr. Vlad’s office. She told me I could have a special pass to leave the burn for a “real” hospital and come back or I’d have to be air-lifted if I needed immediate help. I knew it was unlikely that I’d make it back if I left for the playa. That meant that I wasn’t going to leave. It may not have been an option to say goodbye to the burn but what could have been was increasing the steroids back to their original amount since I had just started weaning off. My instincts were telling me to do it but I instead trusted her as a professional when she told me that it was probably best to keep the dose where it was. Steroids were a nasty business so I wasn’t all that surprised. I still wonder all these months later if my numbers would have been so bad when I got home if I had just followed my intuition.

I headed back to Draft Punk when I was done to spend time with Mia as a guest bartender at one of her camp’s happy hours. Confused why she and the RV-mate/friend, Susan, weren’t around (she had been sleeping when I swung by earlier), the board she kept up showing where she was had been updated to say she was out and about. Super vague, though who among us knew where we were going to end up at any given moment out there. Puzzled about her whereabouts but enjoying the company of a fabulous man who was still way too put together for someone who hadn’t slept the night before, she finally showed up about an hour and a half later having gotten the days of her shift mixed up. After that, she instantly disappeared again. Where did I find her next? Looking out into the street, there she was dressed as a giant beer standing on a crate as she hollered at people through a megaphone to come in and have a drink. That’s my girl!
My fifth year and I still struggled with how odd it was to never know who I was actually going to end up spending my time with regardless of plans made before. The Swan crew and I planned to go out that night and I was able to talk them into going over to Draft Punk with me to pick up Mia and Susan. When we showed up the ladies were still getting themselves put together and taking selfies for fifteen minutes before we all finally managed to hit the road in a pack on our bikes (the equivalent of our cars out there) and lost them almost immediately. I raised the white flag and told myself to let go. It could be the last time I’d see her regardless of being camped on the same street but oh well. At least we’d had fun fresh material to cover when we got home.

The rest of the night ended up being what may have been the best of my burn. Rolling around on art cars was my favorite thing to do at the burn and it ended up being the only night I did it. To our surprise given that we needed to attach Disco Inferno’s two person bike to any that we were able to get on, we managed to make it happen almost immediately when ending up on my favorite car for the year, a super cool dueling piano bar. Later on, we hopped onto one that was pretty much a big bed where I was fighting to keep my eyes open and another one of us couldn’t. It was entertaining to watch given that he had been the one who always seemed the most pumped up. Entertaining, that is, until he bragged after about how he can fall asleep anywhere. Damn him and his not having my sleeping problems. Our group finished up the night with a bang both literally and figuratively when making it to Thunderdome. A fighting dome inspired by the movie Mad Max where participants are hoisted into the air to battle with foam-covered bats, I hadn’t been into it my first couple years but was finding it pretty damn fun that year. It was an amped way to end the evening just before the clock hit midnight. Still early on the playa but not for us, we then made our way back to camp.

Burning Man 2019 – Aug 22 – 24: Getting There and Getting Started

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Dr. Vlad and Mom (still can’t believe it) knew how important it was for me to get to the burn. Mama even helped by lending me a big tent last minute after the one I was going to borrow from a fellow burner fell through. She went so far, in fact, as to be giving it a test-run, setting it up in her driveway as I walked up.
Que an impactful and touching moment while also triggering traumatic flashbacks to when I had taken it to the playa before and it had been a total nightmare. A nightmare I already knew was going to repeat as it wasn’t made for such harsh conditions.
She (again surprising) hadn’t been one of the people giving me a hard time about going so soon after discovering the ITP regardless of a specialist who had been before giving the green light. Especially my sister who was to resent me going for months after, if not forever. Her ex-husband managed to freak her out even more than she would have on her own by worrying her with news of challenging weather conditions on the playa after I had gone. Add it to the list of “I owe you one” he’s due.
Negative feedback from those in my life against doing things most important to me had always been confusing regardless of knowing big picture that it was unintentionally about their comfort and happiness, often at the expense of mine. The advice of conservative squares had lost power, respect and consideration when my first burn helped me to understand just how much all of that bullshit had kept me away from what was important and kept me in a place of unhappiness most of my life. I was going to the burn, dammit, and thank God I did. It may have been the only thing that got me through the couple months after.

Let’s dive in, shall we?

Flying to Reno as opposed to road-tripping proved itself to do the opposite of it’s original intent by being way more work than driving. Mostly because of the chaos of setting up extra rideshares. One for my stuff from and to San Diego, one to get me onto the playa from Reno, another to get be back to GSR in Reno and then one for me from the airport in SD to Jewels’ pad for house/dog-sitting. For my stuff, I managed to find someone somewhat quickly through a local burner page on Facebook. The connection was strained from the beginning, though, as it seemed hard for him to grasp that he would only be taking my stuff, not me. I in turn got confused about what I must be missing that made it so hard to understand and where I was failing to communicate clearly. It was a pretty clear flag for how things were to go down (as if I needed help in the hot-mess department) but I had such a long laundry list of stuff to take care of, I let it go. At least joining a burner cocktail hour at his house the week before takeoff made me feel confident that he was an upstanding guy. Upstanding in intention but still not good with coordination or how much he took on. By the time we were all to leave, he had committed to taking stuff for way too many people (for a fee) making the whole thing even more of a mess. Among other things, he hadn’t realized he would be taking my perishables and I had failed at packing the cooler with enough ice for that food to make it the two days to the playa. In no small part because it was only supposed to take one. He had decided last minute to go a day later and hadn’t thought it a big deal to clear it with all of us. Doing my best to hold back panic with reminders that things going awry was the way of both the burn and travel, two main focuses in my life, we ended on the note of him putting in an extra bag of ice on his way and me lugging the heavy tent with me.
Part of the reason I was going by plane was already out the window but the main goal had actually been to get some sleep before getting onto the playa. I still had a shot there. A shot that was also to end up missing the mark thanks to anticipation-induced insomnia and a roomie who thought bringing a guy back to hookup with was a good idea. That part was fine, actually. What wasn’t was for both of them to be constantly opening and shutting the door all night for god knows what reason. Before that lovely grand finale of the trek, though, and after dealing with the headache of figuring out my stuff, I had gotten to the airport only to find out that the flight had been delayed. I could only laugh about that though I could have strangled the dude sitting by me in the airport as he loudly chomped away on his food and talked at full volume on his phone.
Finally getting to the Morris Burner Hostel in Reno and still having some time in the afternoon, I managed to turn my frown upside down when walking right into being able to show off my knowledge of the 10 Principals for a discount followed by being offered homemade biscuits and gravy. I also lucked out in being assigned to a very cool mermaid room. Forcing myself to not let an exhausting rough start make me miss out on too much after check-in, I even managed to make it to the thrift store across the street in that uninviting industrial neighborhood followed by checking out the grounds of the actual hostel. There was art all over the place along with the varied themed rooms I had checked out earlier. Meeting a new humpty-hump door-squeaking roomie when dropping my stuff, a sweet gal from overseas who had never been to the burn, I had been excited for her being a virgin and a little worried on her behalf that she was going to tire herself by going out to meet up with friends before hitting the harsh desert. Those feelings of excitement and care were replaced with agitation, however, once her and the dude she brought back were in and out, in and out, in and out. Man. I just couldn’t catch a break.

The next rideshare to get me from Reno onto the playa was with a local Reno burner name Party Marty. A name, I was about find out, that had been given to him being fun but also in irony since he was sober. When communicating virtually, there had been a couple comments that sounded a little pervy in the bad way so I was relieved when he ended up being a sweetie who had a meticulous RV and loved his girl. Sadly, she couldn’t come as she was battling some pretty serious health problems. I’d agree that the playa wasn’t a place to go in that situation, even if I wasn’t following suit. Picking up one more road-dawg (who looked to have been partying most of the night at her hotel), we managed to see the the sun come up as we drove onto the playa. It was a peaceful moment mixed with excitement as we only had to wait two or three hours in line as opposed to the ten hours we could have been waiting if we didn’t come Early Entry.

As soon as we got to the cones that lined the last couple miles to entry, I breathed in the dust and exhaled the toxicity that I had been holding onto. That didn’t mean I wasn’t still feeling up-tight in other ways. It was so good to be home but I was stressing about finding what was to be my main camp, Twisted Swan. Especially when so much of the city hadn’t been built yet. Once getting over that hurdle, I had to get that huge damn tent set up, which I finally did with the help of the only two campmates who were already there, a couple with the playa names of Disco & Inferno.
He helped me set up while she made us yummy treats. Sadly, if the tent ever had the possibility of standing a chance, it was already doomed when no other tents or RVs were set up yet to shield it from the wind and the shade structure I was borrowing from Mia wasn’t to show up for a few more days. That meant that some of the poles were about to snap before the sun even went down. Another guy in our village of PolyParadise (though not in our actual camp within the village) proved to be incredibly resourceful when he helped me figure out how to duct-tape metal piping to the poles for a quick fix and stronger support. I would continue to be impressed with how hard-working T (we’ll call him) was and to hang here and there but the puppy-crush he had already developed was starting to smother me. Not that he was too incredibly overbearing. That stuff just got to me easily and I was frustrated that so many seemed to be blind to the fact that I had the same flirtatious and sexually-charged energy with everyone.

Besides setting up my tent, I went back and forth between hanging with Disco Inferno and helping to set up Polyparadise. Terrible at being responsible with wearing a mask, I’d majorly regret it when the head of the village, Scotto, hazed me by getting a few of us to shake out huge tarps, creating a big cloud of alkaline dust to breathe in. I still wonder if it played a roll in the ITP bruises returning within a couple days.
Finishing up and having a couple drinks with new friends, I headed to my three-roomed tent early. With doors open and screens closed, it was magic to hearing people howl at the sunset as I watched El Pupo, the flaming metal octopus, shoot flames to add to the pretty colors filling the sky. It was a lovely start to the evening, not that I was going to actually get any sleep. The irony still gets me that my main goal had been to do just that when it was about to end up being my worst yet. However I did accomplish my second goal with flying colors. To reconnect with romantic and sexual intimacy. More on that later…

More of the camp finally started showing up the next day including the camp lead, Guami. Setting up Twisted Swan was faster than the much larger PolyParadise had been but a lot more of an unorganized mess, to which I handled by running around jokingly calling everyone “fuckin hippies” while switching back and forth between helping and taking small breaks thanks to already being worn out from the day before. An impatient person, I got a break from the disarray when it was my turn to go to the village kitchen under the huge tent behind the Swan, it being one of the two shifts of the year I was reasonable for pitching in to provide a meal. Back by popular demand from the year before, sandwiches and smoothies it was. It was fun providing for a smaller more essential crew. There was a sense of relaxed and appreciative community as opposed to the Hunger Games fight to the death amid unfamiliar faces that would be the case rest of the week.
Man, day two and not only was I already worn out but I had also woken up with big bruises signifying that the steroids weren’t working. Distracting me with the surprise of a fun connection later in the day, though, was when a weekend lover from the off-playa past, D/S (we’ll call him) showed up dressed fabulous albeit spun out on who knows what acting lovey-dovey enough for me to feel awkward as my new little camp crew looked at me with excited “who’s this” smirks and raised eyebrows. Explaining that they shouldn’t take it seriously, we were soon off for some physically uncomfortable tent sex before I told him to go home and get some sleep. Together on and off from there, D/S and I tried to hang with Mia and others but trying to turn our attention away from each other was a little pointless. I was guessing his being so “you’re my whole world” was the same attention he gave to all of his partners so I had been able to take it lightly and not freak out. Instead I soaked it up and enjoyed the sex. Really good sex.

Getting to Jeju Island to Teach – One HELL of a Trip

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Well that was certainly the roughest journey to get to the other side of the world I’ve ever had. And I’ve been to the Himalayas!
It all started on a Thursday, March 19th of 2020 at 9 AM when my mama called and woke me up. My flight wasn’t until 12:30 PM and I had been up for a few hours in the middle of the night, so I hadn’t exactly been in a rush to rise. Using her call as an alarm clock, I groggily pulled myself, recently bleached hair sticking up everywhere, out of bed to finish packing and to make one last trip to drop stuff off in storage. Running a little behind on my way back, I still drove through a neighborhood taqueria for what was to be the last of the delicious burritos of San Diego I was likely to have for the next year and then jammed the five more minutes home to where my sis and mom were waiting for me. Mom had lent me their spare car for the couple days after I turned in my rental and Wendy gave her a ride to pick it up back and to say goodbye. Living ten minutes from the airport, I was relieved and thankful, especially after the painful $50 to get to my family’s house a couple days before, that Mama came to me and dropped me off at the airport.
Mom being Mom, though, was making me feel a little rushed when seeming a bit impatient to head out. I assumed because she wanted to get home but also because it was too hard to grasp leaving a little later than I had originally said without triggering her anxiety. Understandable, and I was probably unintentionally stalling because my heart was torn to leave the home I loved so much, but rushing someone before they can do their final sweep is never a good idea. Something that proved itself to be true when I hurriedly threw all of my Promacta meds (for ITP) in a medicine bag that was in the big beat-up blue suitcase about to be checked. Before that I had planned on taking ten minutes to borrow her pill cutter and throwing one of the bottles back in my purse. She had instead told me I could have it and didn’t seem to be in any mood to wait. I wouldn’t realize until later that I checked them all but what I did realize about thirty seconds after locking the front door was that I had forgot the newly purchased portable battery and international converter that was plugged into the wall next to where I was planning to split the pills. Que swinging by the local OB Target that I had sworn I would never go to for a new converter. Still managing to let feeling rushed distract me from grabbing the right one, I’d later find another surprisingly cheap attachment at a little store in my hotel in Japan. Already off to a typical hot-mess of a Robin start and I hadn’t even hit takeoff.
Oh how I fell in love with Japan Airlines. My small experience in Japan in general, actually. I think I had flown them before but hadn’t had the experience yet to know how good I had it. So unlike me to “pansy out” and actually think smarter than harder, I sprung for the $5 cart to take my gigantic 48 lb suitcase, 41 lb medium-sized one, 22 lb backpack, huge puffer jacket, hoodie and pillows (both regular and neck) for the short ride to check-in. From there it was as smooth as Barry White singing “Let’s Get It On” at last call. The staff was so sweet, helpful and I even got a lot of them to giggle with a little of my happy and bubbly Care Bear stare. Something easy to channel at the beginning of such a trek but oh so not by the end.
The flight attendants continued to be just as lovely the whole way through both flights, as was the two impressive meals served on the first of 12 hours and second of 4 1/2 the day after. Indulging in three mini bottles of complimentary wine of both flights, the attendants didn’t blink an eye. I even managed to watch all but one of the movies offered that looked decent while I, unsurprisingly, didn’t sleep more than dozing just enough to bob my head into being jerked awake. Realizing that I had a 16 1/2 hour layover once making it to Japan, a few hours longer than expected, I sat outside the baggage claim thankful to pull down my mask for a minute and eat the rest of the breakfast burrito from home while contemplating whether or not I should splurge for a last minute hotel. Seriously debating the pods offered in the airport that I’d heard about, in the end I opted for a hotel ten minutes from the airport that offered a shuttle, complimentary breakfast and was even a wee bit cheaper. Cheaper than I’d expect in general given how expensive I’d heard Japan to be. Still, I was balling on a budget until I got reimbursed by the school so the free breakfast tipped the scales for the win. That and needing the de-stimulation time that I wasn’t going to get using the communal bathroom and shower situation that was offered with the pods. Making a mental note to go for the cool experience next time, I hit a few buttons, walked across the street to an almost empty shuttle bus and was on my merry way.

Getting a decent night of six hours sleep, something I rarely do when traveling, I was happy to get back in the sky with Japan Airlines and relaxed when I got off the plane in China. Impressive as I had only had bad experiences flying through the country in the past and had sworn to never fly through it again. Unfortunately those bad experiences took all of about two seconds to continue once walking into the terminal. Holding a paper questionnaire regarding Covid-19 that the flight attendants had given everyone, something I was to find out later was only meant for those going into China, I asked an employee where to go for a transfer to Asiana Airlines. As was to become the norm during my time stuck there, next to no one understood English (how does that happen at an international airport?) and instead of trying to figure out what I was saying, she blew me off by pointing me to the line for quarantine after seeing the paper. Quarantine at the airport, ladies and gentlemen, was only for those entering China; not for transfers. Something I would also find out about half way through the four hours I was detained by employees in full hazmat suits that made them look like astronauts. Asshole astronauts taking their time who were holding my passport hostage and refusing to communicate with me when I tried to express that I was going to miss my flight. Finally being called an hour after I did indeed miss the connection (which would make me also miss the one after that), I found out that checking “yes” to whether or not anyone had tested positive in my community meant in my direct contact areas such as work or home, not city. Also, after multiple employees couldn’t grasp that I was neither leaving China or going in, that the form wasn’t even something I needed to fill out and that I never should have been there in the first place. Double the “oh shit” expression on their faces once the light bulb finally went off. Being told I could go on my way with regretful expressions, not a damn thing was done to help me about the position I had been put in. Cue adding an additional two days of hell, one and a half of which was in China. The country I was least comfortable going through amid the Covid-19 endemic, even for what was originally supposed to be only three hours. Lucky me.
Sent out of quarantine and into airport purgatory, the sparse white-washed large room meant as an exit for those coming off flights and others on their way to go through security was to become my horrible home for the next day and a half. First was the help desks that proved to be no help at all. Once again, no employees understood or spoke decent English and tried to blow me off instead of helping. The closest I got was vague comments about calling the airline to which I did but not before first spending an expensive hour first holding for the booking company with an automated voice telling me it would be twenty minutes for at least forty while I also double-tasked to try to get help online. When a rep in India for kiwi.com finally did get on the line, all he did was tell me after another brief hold that I was neither covered by the guarantee nor the additional insurance I had bought. In a panic, that would be when I did call Asiana Airlines direct and was told that not only would they not help but that I was also being charged a $150 no-show fee. But hey, after that I’d have an open ticket for a certain amount. How does that even work? I mean, how the hell is that justified? I admit that I hadn’t done my homework to try to figure out why but I just couldn’t see how the airline lost out on any profit. If anything they made some by not having to provide meals, having an extra seat to sell last minute and/or making for a more pleasant experience for another passenger by providing extra room. Not that it was needed. The airports and planes were sparse. I had my own row in all three of my four flights. That part was glorious.
Fighting with my recruiter about leaving me abandoned and stranded (it’s got it’s own story), I finally had money wired to pay for a last minute flight a day and a half later on Korean Air. With little in the way of options, I was to be stuck on three plastic chairs in an isolated corner until 6 PM the next day but not before my third or fourth attempt at the help desk. Once employees finally got enough communication through to let me know that no one could help me until a rep for the airline got there the next evening, I gave up. Selecting the option on kiwi.com to buy a new ticket on my own and get partial reimbursement (suck it Mr. India man!) I melatonined myself to sleep on and off while also walking around like a miserable zombie ghost to look for a place to plug in my phone and extra battery. With only a guy in his early twenties who had a hard to understand super strong Australian accent to keep me company, the two or three cumulative hours sleep I did manage to get would leave my hips feeling bruised and favorite jeans ripped from the button on a pocket getting caught. Thinking about how thankful I was for the snacks I brought as I would have had nothing else to eat otherwise, I was even more thankful when an employee actually was the one to come up to me at 6 PM that next day. Without explanation as he went back and forth from somewhere out of sight, he finally gave me a hand-written ticket for my flight (that’s a first) and told me to follow him. Thankful the Australian kid was given a meal (still can’t figure out why he turned down some open-bag trail mix from me a few hours before during those virus times), we said a goodbye and good luck as I followed the once again astronaut-looking employee to an isolated security line. Always without explanation, he spoke back and forth in Korean with other employees, often with others walking up to join the conversation, for long enough to make me feel weird and wonder even more what the heck was going on. Finally walking thorough security there and into another empty washed out room to put my belongings and myself through the security x-ray machines, I was then dropped of at a waiting room that had a friendly young German woman who reminded me of someone I would meet at a hostel. I tried to be friendly and converse but all I really wanted to do was distract myself with watching Grace and Frankie while trying to keep it together.
Once again not being given any update as to why I hadn’t been picked up to go to my flight in a totally different terminal until after the time my it was supposed to leave, I was finally informed that my flight was delayed as I was taken to a shuttle where I was to be the only passenger. A long ride in itself, by that point I honestly wondered if I was about to be dropped on the airway somewhere to fend for myself until I could figure out where my plane was and board the steps. Thankfully that didn’t happen. Finally reaching the terminal, still clumsily struggling with the tons of carry-on stuff that I swore had grown in weight to a million tons, I found out that the flight was indeed delayed two hours. By then the whole thing just felt like one big hot-mess sitcom joke.
Finally getting on the flight with very little notice for me to heave all my stuff back up, especially challenging given that I had tweaked my anterior ankle the day before (I would make a terrible sherpa), I awkwardly made my way onto the plane, once stopping to put all my stuff down to help a woman struggling with her own only to be told by an impatient stewardess to move into the seats while I got my belongings together. She hadn’t seen me put it all down to help the woman who was the one really holding everything up.
So incredibly relieved to get out of that hellish place, I finally made it to and fell into what was once again my own row, spinning out on crestfallen thoughts about how I had sworn I would never fly through China again, how I knew that in reality I always would if it was the only option and how I would rather sit in L.A. traffic. Passing out in a comatose sleep within a few minutes, I only managed to wake up long enough to eat the small meal of a sandwich, piece of pineapple, grape yogurt and brownie. Happy to have it after all that time without a real meal, I was surprised that a meal was served on such a short flight. A flight so short that I was in astounded disbelief that it required such a terrible experience and so much time.
The fun wasn’t over yet. Getting into Seoul at 2:30 AM, I felt a vague sense of internal celebration and hint of relieved happiness for finally making it to S Korea. It was already a huge improvement to see an employee at an information booth where I could ask about the luggage that should have arrived the day before. Having to explain a few times that it would have been delivered via Asiana Airlines even though I had checked it in with Japan Airlines (and grasping to understand how it all worked it myself), I never once thought to use Google Translate to help as I had in the past. When she finally got it regardless, she told me that I’d have to go to Asiana Airlines at a different terminal with a shuttle that wouldn’t start running until 4:30 AM. Knowing that I was probably already fucked before having even gotten there, I stared at her defeated, exhausted and delusional for a short moment before deciding that going to sleep could screw me even farther. Heading upstairs to the door where she had directed me, I continued to dull the pain by watching Grace and Frankie and The Witcher until I was able to catch the shuttle. Another long one, I walked up and down the terminal looking for baggage with the only small moment of success being when I stumbled upon a place to convert my money for what was probably a large enough fee for me to be glad I didn’t understand the conversion. Finally giving in when seeing another information booth after that, I jumped back on the merry-go-round until finally conceding to being told that I had to go to the lost baggage office of Asiana Airlines and that it wouldn’t open until 9 AM. I had only asked where baggage was and, like every other time, no one would give me a straight damn answer. I knew finding my luggage was going to be another battle, so much so that I refused to buy another flight to the island in advance regardless of my recruiter’s insistence (plus I didn’t have the funds to forfeit for another missed flight), but I couldn’t believe it was turning into THAT much of a nightmare. The employees weren’t as uncaring and just plain bad as in China but ugh.
Finally conceding to lay down on another hard bench by a pretty rocked pond with gigantic goldfish, I sat up a couple hours later, still rubbing my eyes, when a thin Korean man in his fifties walked up with the fake friendliness of someone in sales while trying to get me to donate money for kids. A little offended while brushing him off, I thought about how the headache I was getting was so out of character until it dawned on me that I hadn’t had coffee in a couple days. Like a ray of light from the heavens, there just so happened to be a coffee shop right next to me with more comfortable seating. The coffee did indeed cure my headache and there was a caffeinated moment of happy almost human again awakening as the sun rose and I didn’t want to watch shows anymore. Instead I tried to catch up a wee bit on emails not related to the current situation and Facebook socializing only to realize I had calculated the time wrong to join a virtual hangout with the Spanky’s crew. In fact, I had just missed it while sitting there not knowing what to do with myself. Add the bummer to the mountain of bummers of the last four days.
As soon as 9 AM hit, I was on my feet heading to the lost baggage offices of Asiana Airlines to one again go through the process of trying to reach understanding through a language barrier followed by being given a complicated answer that didn’t answer my direct question. Adding to it, I was becoming more and more of a klutz with all the large and heavy stuff that I was carrying. Struggling to get out paperwork to address what a women at one of the stops was asking for, I managed to add to the party when dropping my phone to the ground, breaking it to the point of it’s death. With her not skipping a beat as the look of pain crossed my shut eyes, I continued on until somehow being sent back to the terminal I had been at in the first place in order to meet with someone at Korean Airlines. The good news was that I had first spoken with the man and he not only was pretty fluent in English (my having practiced Korean for months seeming to have gotten me nowhere) but also seemed intelligent and like he could be one of the people in charge. As a side note, it had been nice to watch the sweet women in her twenties at that particular information booth (I made it to that one twice) get excited that I was from the US because, as she told me, her grandmother lived in Texas. Que fighting the blank expression of that being a pretty different world from California.
Taking the shuttle once again and also once again having a hard time finding the place he had instructed, I miserably went to information knowing what was going to happen and was unsurprisingly sent to the wrong office. Continuing to be given wrong information at that wrong office, I argued with the woman I was speaking with until she finally gave in and called the number of the man I was looking for instead of just instructing me how to get to what was undoubtedly another wrong place. Embarrassed at looking like an idiot who couldn’t follow general instruction after she ended up physically leading me, a couple of guys who reminded me of military guarding a door took my passport and started another exhaustive process of procedural BS when the man walked out like a guardian angel, telling them I was with him. The intelligence I had heard through the phone showing behind his eyes, I had a little faith once again but still reminded myself to be ready to crash and burn. It didn’t happen though. He, the first one after all that, actually got it. Having me fill out a basic lost luggage form, he explained that he believed the luggage to still be in China given the complications of my trip and then explained the process of trying to track it along with how and when I would be contacted.
Relieved that it was coming to an end in a way that I felt confident would get it taken care of, I hadn’t had my Promacta for a few days so I was still a little panicked. Especially given that I had started getting the bruises that indicated internal bleeding. At least I thought some of them were from that. There were definitely plenty from getting bumped and banged along the way and a few from my brother in his dark place. Either way, it was especially hard to keep what was left of my cool when he said there was no way to know how long it would take. I managed to compose myself pretty quickly, though, both because I didn’t want to freak out on the person ending my nightmare and also because of remembering oh so many previous experiences where I had felt like the world was ending and just shut down. As a way too high-strung and anxiety-ridden person who lived in the moment, I had always done that, feeling as if there was no other option and that I had once again proven myself to be a fuck up. From those many painful and intense experiences, I had finally learned the hard way (the only way I ever learned) that it just wasn’t true. Telling myself to turn on my brain to think of the big picture in regard to other options, I reminded myself that the next bottle of meds had been delivered to my mom, the three changes of clothes with me should be enough given that I was going to be on quarantine for a couple weeks and that I had made due MacGyver style plenty of times in the past. Both through travel and especially through the burn. I had better survival skills than most.
Thanking him while being surprised by my little moment of glowing up, I figured out how to catch the next bus to the more local airport that would finally take me to my new home. On a roll, I was also thinking about how not having to figure out all the difficulties of dealing with that gigantic luggage with me was pretty damn rad. Floating down that Buddhist river of letting go and going with the flow, I went to the counter once getting to Jeju Air to see if I could get any small amount of refund on the flight I had missed, either to go toward a new ticket or just a regular refund. Already seeing online and through IMing with a rep when I was in quarantine in China, I knew I would be lucky to even get half but it was worth a try. So after explaining that I had kept being cut off with the IM rep when trying to cancel after I couldn’t figure it out online, I crossed my fingers and waited. Not having to pay extra for the luggage meant that the flight would only be around $35 anyway, so it wouldn’t be too painful either way. Well that wait turned into a long one of multiple employees talking about whatever was going on with it while going back and forth between working on their screen and looking on the e-ticket on mine. Once again with new employees walking up to join in, I was starting to jokingly wonder if I was some kind of person of interest and didn’t know about it. In the end they surprised the hell out of me by giving me a full refund. I couldn’t believe it. It was the rainbow at the end of a dark and ugly hurricane tornado. As far as flights and other forms of public transportation went, I could finally exhale. It was over.
With an aching ankle, hips and belongings that still felt next to impossible to manage regardless of checking in the trekking backpack, I treated myself to a bowl of traditional Korean bibimbap as a celebration of making it and then headed to security for my 2:30 PM flight. Grabbing a couple of canned coffees that would be desperately needed the next morning after passing security, I found my seat on the plane, hid the fact that the seat belt didn’t fit, and tried in vain to read a book about the smartest kids in the world that a neighbor had given me at our teenie block party on my birthday back in OB. The attempt was almost a joke as it took less than ten minutes to black out in exhaustion for a flight that was so short that it reminded me of flying from Southern to Northern California in that pretty much all we did was go up and down. Once off the plane and to the baggage claim, mine was one of the first ones out. After going to the bathroom to wash my hands (as my recruiter had asked me to do an annoying amount of times), I opened my laptop planning to send him a message that I was ready to be picked up when I had one last moment of fun as an employee impatiently asked me to move away from the carts so he could add more. Whatever. I balanced my laptop preying that I wouldn’t drop it like I had my phone and sent the message.
Walking out to a pretty tropical setting of trees and shrubbery, I instantly felt the darkness of suffocating hibernation from not going on enough on new adventures over the last year start to break away. A few minutes later, the middle-aged Korean man with salt and pepper hair who had mostly helped and sometimes hindered me so much over the last few months drive up in his small SUV. Opening his trunk for me to put my stuff in (thanks for the help, dude) while uncomfortably expressing how he didn’t know what to say about all that happened to me on the trip, he asked me to sit in the back and we were on our way. Being more than comfortable to sit back there, no doubt both from his being scared of the virus and also from being over me, I was happy to be able to check everything out while not talking. It was about 5 PM on Monday, what was Sunday morning in the US, when I finally pulled up to my new home. Making as quick of an exit as he could, I looked around with a new sense of excitement, confidence that I had made the right decision and being touched by all of the treats and furnishings the manager of the school had left. My favorite of which being a couple of coffee mugs that had little removable spoons built in. Looking at the helpful little post-it notes everywhere, I was surprised by the studio being better than I had expected. It even had a washing machine. Before coming I had thought myself likely to move into a bigger place within a few months. Looking around and quick to organize and clean enough to feel settled, I was already seeing plenty of potential to stay.

August 2019 – Dying to Have a Good Time

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It was the month of Burning Man. That meant a lot of saying no to most other events popping up, though I’m sure it won’t be all too surprising to know that I did still manage to sneak in a fair amount of smaller things. It was also the Month of Mia, as I like to call it, as we kicked off on the first with brunch and another go-round at a burner bike decorating party. Throughout the rest of the month, the two of us got rowdy at a Hash House Harrier event and hung at the burn. I also managed to do the smaller non-party things I loved like farmer’s market, beach time, taking my parents to an event called Tiki Oasis and hangs at the houses of family and friends. Free time on most days, though, was consumed with thrifting, Amazon orders, sorting through my storage unit and lots of other organizing before taking off for the burn on the 22nd.
The biggest event I allowed myself was the aforementioned Hash House Harrier weekend with Mia. Lots of hedonistic shenanigans that ironically ended up playing a roll in saving my life and doing so in enough time to still be able to go to the burn. The Red Dress Run of the Hash House Harriers (a drinking group with a running problem) had been sparked in 1987 by a woman named Donna Rhinehart and then made official in San Diego the following year. Mia told me that it was the biggest event of the year. Something easy to believe given all the other related gatherings over the weekend. Now you may remember from previous posts that I had been getting more and more self-conscious about bruises that had been appearing out of nowhere. By that point they had gotten bad enough that I and the abundance of nurses surrounding me in family and friends knew I needed to get checked out. I had no other symptoms, though, so I never would have guessed it to be too serious. That was until a hematology nurse I was hot-tubing with at the event told me it really could be and that I needed to get to the ER right away.
I had known I wanted to go to the doc before the burn so I didn’t have to “hear it” from other campers but after that nurse’s comment, I finally committed to going within the next day or two. A big part of why I hadn’t already was because I didn’t have insurance and didn’t know how to do it. That had been more stressful than the actual bruises. Go ‘Murica, huh? Anyway, heading over to visit my family the next morning on Monday August 5, I pulled over to the ER on Coronado Island with the intent of leaving if the wait was too long. Good thing it wasn’t as I was told by the ER doc with very little explanation that my life was in danger from the platelets in my blood being too low and I was facing being hospitalized.
I’d be in shock for months but things became a lot clearer as far as what was going on over the next week. I was assigned to an oncologist, as they are “blood doctors”, and was indeed hospitalized on the 13th. Turned out that I had developed a super rare autoimmune disorder called ITP (Idiopathic Thrombocytopenia Purpa) where my immune system was misreading the platelets in my blood as a foreign entity (think germs) and killing them off. All I had really known about platelets was that I used to donate them so it was going to take me an extra minute to try to understand and grasp the whole thing. Especially because I had no other symptoms.

What was explained to me was that the platelets in our blood are what causes clotting and stop us from bleeding out. Because mine had gotten so seriously low, I could have started bleeding out of my orifices like a horror movie at any moment. From there, the reaction of professionals would be constant enough to get annoying as they exclaimed over and over about how they couldn’t believe I was OK, not to hit my head and constantly questioning as if I had forgotten that I had shown signs of internal bleeding. I was told such things as how not having a period (I have an IUD) may have saved my life and had a nurse practically doing an interpretive dance over how OK I seemed when he expected to walk into my hospital room to find someone on their death bed. Like so many other times in my life, I was some kind of freak. That time, however, it saved my life. I must note that throughout it all, it was fun to put a smile on the nurse’s faces. I was in the oncology unit so they were used to being around super sick people dying of cancer. I came off as healthy and was full of my normal fun and smiles. Shit, the day I was hospitalized, I was even having a good hair day.
When meeting Dr. Vlad, an oncologist and hematology specialist originally from Eastern Europe, I had no idea he was about to become the main man in my life for the foreseeable future. Attractive, close to my age, taking trips around the world to do goodwill work and with other similarities, it made the connection a bit odd in that it sometimes made things a little less comfortable while at others a little more. Picking up on a relaxed side of his personality underneath the front of professionalism, I had to fight the urge to see him as a challenge and force myself to focus on the ITP. The best part of being paired with him: he had been to Burning Man and knew it was important. For my condition, his plan for the next couple months would be to use (absolutely horrible for the body) steroids like chemo is used to kill my immune system in order to balance my body back out.
When they looked to be working right away, he said he didn’t see any reason I wouldn’t be able to go to the burn with the reasoning being that I still had to live my life. I was more than appreciative for his understanding. It was healing to experience a doctor who actually thought of me as a person and considered the things that actually made my life worth living as opposed to just telling me not go. The ominous question on my mind about that was how much his point of view had to do with, as an oncologist, being around death on a constant basis and how much he categorized me with that group. I couldn’t grasp it but I really was walking a tightrope of life and death. I’ll always be thankful to him for realizing how much more important that made to be able to go to the place that was the foundation of my heart, healing and soul. I’d imagine it to be the reason I was able to get through the next couple months.

A travel & lifestyle journal about the messy pilgrimage of adventure and personal growth of a Gen Xer.