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.

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