Mia was an awesome little lady I had met when looking for a rideshare to get to Burning Man in 2018. She was a kick-ass Asian American about my age (though of course she thought I was younger at first) who, of the group of ladies we went with,I knew I wanted to be friends da with.
Organizing the whole thing, she would also drive and be out doing the physical things with the gigantic RV that I was used to either a man or myself doing. Hurray for breaking gender rolls!
Doing burner things, our own thing and her introduconge to the Hash House Harriers, we had been friends ever since.
It was finally time to go to Sint Maarten, baby!
Sister was turning 40 and, after finding the tiny half Dutch half French Caribbean island on a cruise, it had been one of her favorite places. Excited to finally be on the go again, I was also nervous about doing the all-inclusive resort thing given that it was pretty much the opposite of my style. Still, I was happy to do it for her and tried to focus on the potential of it being a way to take it easy and get some rest for once. Something that didn’t happen, of course, bit it was worth a try. What had been more than a small challenge leading up to the trip on the $25k a year I was netting was the $1k room cost for the six nights we would be there along with the $1k in additional expenses. I had damn near killed myself during the two or three weeks before by working 80+ hours to cover it and even had that first grand-mal seizure of three years talked about in the last post. I had wondered if it was a fluke the first time but having one again put me in a position of trying to process the upsetting reality of having epilepsy and what that meant to my future. Working so much in Nor Cal while also plugging away on getting my TEFL teaching certification had me all turned around with trying to keep track of anything else. That included thinking that I was on different flights from my family when in fact we were all on the same both to and from. Well, all minus our brother and niece/his daughter who didn’t come. Not flying solo as I had initially though was bitter-sweet as I could have used some alone time to decompress and process. At the same time, I was happy start to the adventure together. Finally getting there after half a day’s travel, Sonesta Maho Beach Resort was just OK by my tastes. Lots of sparse white walls with big open spaces and there was only one elevator working among the construction still understandably going on in recovery from the hurricane. Luckily nothing too bad considering. Especially given that we got the rooms at half price because of it. Always the little things, what did bother me was that the booze in my room wasn’t stocked. Regardless of the discount, I didn’t pay that much to be shafted on “all inclusive” treats and it was my vacation too, dammit. Especially if I was going to be stuck in a place full of young middle-class mostly American families and the elderly. Not exactly a crowd I related to. That afternoon being the first time hanging at the large peanut-shaped pool (which had one of the palapa-covered pool bars I loved so much), we grabbed a drink with Dad and I splashed around with Sienna as she climbed all over me. Loving seeing Dad actually have an adult beverage and Sienna letting go to play with me, it would end up being one of my favorite family moments of the trip. Later but not late enough for anything to be poppin, Big Red and I headed out to a hookah bar called Beirut sxm that was set up like an(atthe time) empty dark disco on the strip next to the resort. It was OK but I didn’t like that she let an arrogant bartender from our resort of whom she had befriend partake in the hookah she paid for. I didn’t like his cocky energy and wasn’t hiding it. A few drinks in, I eventually started calling him a fuckboy. Not my proudest moment. Like other friends of mine, I loved how generous she was but throwing money around forever reminded me of the gluttony and shadiness of the subprime mortgage industry. I hated it.
After that, and as was to become the norm, she went back to the resort and I stayed to hang with the locals. Quite the introduction, that first night turned into my meeting a cute guy who had a puppy I wanted to pet when trying to blow off a different guy. The one with the pup just so happened to be the son of the chief of police and the only (rated PG 13) romantic interlude of the trip. Being what must have been in his mid twenties, way too young comparatively, he was a pup himself and I pretty much a cougar. On our impromptu date of the night, we walked the puppy around (he was also a dog trainer) as he told me about the area and then we dramatically argued with the resort staff saying that he was who I was there to visit and so should be allowed in. Asshole move on my part as they could get their pay docked if caught. After waking my parents up to steal their booze in the middle of the night (whoopsie) for a last drink while hanging a wee bit longer, I sent him packing before things got too hot and heavy. Going to bed for the few short hours of sleep I’d get before Wendy woke me up bright and early, it was a somewhat alarming rise-and-shine as I was covered with all kinds of mystery bruises. I didn’t know it then but that was to become a serious autoimmune disorder that was going to get worse over the next few months. A lot worse.
Best part about the resort and it’s three restaurants: best jerk chicken ever! We ate it almost every day. It was also fun to spend time at the beach with Sienna who was was once again crawling all over me in the ocean, both of us cracking up as my sunglasses were lost to the ocean while she turned into a sea-monkey smothering me. Later we set off for the day with a laid back local taxi driver, Walter, of whom we had hired independently. One of the things I had been adamant to my sister that we do and we all ended up being super happy about.
One of the first stops was to feed wild iguanas lettuce. Something pretty cool and fun in it’s own right but especially watching Mom enjoy it and Sienna freak out. Driving along the coast as we headed to the French side of the island (we were staying on the Dutch side), it was a mental trip to see so many boats on their sides from the hurricane, many of them looking like multi-million dollar yachts that had never been used. I was snapped out of it when our guide informed us that it was Carnival. Forever in FOMO mode, I was all over checking out what was going on with the list he gave me as I giggled to myself with the thoughts I always had of how much our family reminded me of National Lampoon’s Family Vacation. The classic National Lampoon with Chevy Chase, not the newer one. Remember, I was 41.
Stopping to shop on our day’s sightseeing trip of the island, Wendy was ecstatic to find a wooden sword. She had gotten one taken away from on her first visit to the island when goofing off too much with it. Something she continued when accidentally hitting me in the head with the new one. The French side was definitely, at least the part we saw, more run down and less touristy. Walter told us it was due to being less focused on tourism and it’s inhabitants living off the French version of welfare. The ability to earn on the island was almost at the same income level as what they got from that so it didn’t make sense to work. I got where the concept was coming from but my workaholic-ass couldn’t relate. It just seemed depressing. Stopping to get French pastries for later, we made our way to a cute and quaint French restaurant Wendy had found with light pink walls, flowers, candles and a live lobster pool that we watched be filled with the crustaceans that had just been caught in the ocean that day. Opposite to what is often expected from the French culture, I was surprised and charmed by how friendly and charismatic the staff was. It was over all an enchanting culinary experience.
Sleep deprived and hungover being the theme of the trip, it was a lovely day but I was happy for the chance to end it with a wee bit of recovery and more quality time with Sienna back in our rooms while Wendy and Dad went to the casino across the street. Causing multiple people to wonder what the heck was on my legs over the next couple days, that included letting her use the henna from India on me that I had given her. Regretting not having spent the night in her and Wendy’s room as Sienna requested, night two was the second in a row of not sleeping much. That time, though, was due to insomnia, not partying. C’est la vie. The next day, May 4th, was Big Red’s actual birthday. Heading to the pool and beach, she managed to find thw 40s club of the resort. In other words, we made friends with a couple and two ladies who were also there for 40th birthday celebrations. I, of course, eventually had a tray full of colorful drinks with little alcohol and a lot of sugar brought out to the waterfront for the grand finale of our hang. From there, sis and I headed back to our rooms to get dolled up for the dinner she had reserved at one of the resort’s nicer restaurants. A dinner of lovely family time that was temporarily interrupted with a hiccup when a man was being abusive to his wife at a table nearby. Both Wendy and I told staff and I shot him eye-daggers when he looked over but other than that it didn’t affect the dinner too much. Actually, I was proud of sis and I for being lionesses who weren’t about to let someone be abused without a little protection. Among other things, Sint Marteen is known for Maho Beach. More specifically, a small strip of land where people can stand on the sand while being blasted by planes taking off from the island’s airport runway. While too tired to do it myself, we did manage to watch a little boy do it while dining at the neighboring Sunset Bar and Grill. An awesome restaurant next door that we all loved enough to visit twice. Foodie note if you ever make your way there: it had the best coconut shrimp I’ve even had.
That night was the major “fun” event for me. Carnival’s Wet Fete! I had found it on the list from our tour a couple days before and, while Big Red and I had been too tired to go to the party of Carnival the night before, I was determined to make it to this one. I mean come on. Water and soca music with almost all locals? So much so that we only saw two other white people and they weren’t even American. I couldn’t miss it! Good thing I didn’t given that it was the total highlight of doing something more my style.
Set up on a big asphalt area half an hour from the resort, of course I happened to be one of the first people sprayed with a big hose when picking up Wendy’s shoe to put back on her Prince Charming style.
Prior to coming in, she had talked Walter into coming in instead of waiting in the car, telling him she would pay him to hang and be our bodyguard. Something that was about to cause a big fight between the two of us back at Sunset Bar the next day with the after I had ended up being the one to pay him after she passed out. Back to Wet Fete, sis also made friends with a woman from the islands of whose drawn on eyebrows I couldn’t stop staring at.
Dancing away while Big Red continued to lead us to the bar to keep the drinks flowing (her generously paying once again), we were all free flowing and having a blast until sis had one too many and started getting a wee bit too feisty. Amusingly liking to tell dudes I was a player when she was loaded and that particular time acting like I was lame for not letting her drink anymore (too much booze made her feisty and made me cry), I decided it was time to leave somewhat early before we were both too much of a hot mess and would have regrets. My little sis had to enjoy her epic 40th, dammit!
After putting Wendy to bed, Walter continued on with me to go out on the strip by the resort after and we immediately ran into our 40s group friends at the fun outside bar next door called Tres Amigos. Cool but would have been better if Wendow was there. Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for him to try to kiss me (go home to your wife, dude) and I sent him packing. Then I sat on the strip chatting until shortly after sunrise with another guy who had come back on foot to say hello after driving by with a fancy car. Dr. Philing him (AKA: I think I’m a therapist after I’ve had a few), the guy seemed to think we were in a relationship until weeks after I was back in the states. There I went again. *Rolling eyes at myself.* Sis showed up to my room still buzzed a couple hours after I had gone to sleep claiming that she was waking me up to make sure I was OK. I believed that she was really just excited to get the day started and still loopy from the night before. From there, she took me pointless wandering so much that we never got to eat before leaving for a snorkeling excursion. Not a good combo with a lack of sleep, booze the day before and a boat. She had been excited and inadvertently not letting me sleep the whole trip. Something that wouldn’t fare well by the end. Still, the snorkeling trip was fun and the guides were cute (well, one of them) and playful. We got to see the wrecked ships even closer, sad and surreal, and check out the tropical fish of that Caribbean island. Cool but somewhat sparse and not overly-impressive compared to other places I had been. I had spoiled myself!
Feeling shitty and way too tired by the time we got back, I went to lay down for little more than an hour before Mom called my room to say that the family was waiting in the lobby for me to go back to the restaurant by the airport. No one had given me any notice and it felt like I was an afterthought. Let’s just say it didn’t help my mood. Grouchy and especially not happy with Wendy, I finally lost it when she tried to say she paid Walter, not me, because of how much she spent. Then we went into full sister-syndroming when she said that I always freaked about money, which she hates. As a reminder, I was netting $25k a year and had just spent a couple grand (as well as a seizure) on the trip. Also that I hadn’t felt comfortable and didn’t want Walter (who was lucky his wife was still with him after impregnating another woman) to go. And then I had ended up being the one to pay him $100 as she hadn’t been in the state to do so by the time we got back. As was all too common, she took no responsibility for her own actions and I was hostile as hell about it. Yeah, we were both sister-syndroming each other like crazy. I was usually the crazy, wild and irresponsible one but she had her moments too and I had hit my limit. Even if it was her 40th. I did take responsibility for not handling it well though, at least to myself. I would spend a long time sadly regretting that one. Maybe forever. The next day was our last. That trip being no exception, I had a habit of getting burnt out and bummed at the end of being somewhere. Travel, Burning Man, between my homes of Southern and Northern California, you name it. Riding the coat tails of the night before, breakfast and hanging by the pool the next morning with the rest of the family tolerating my shitty energy, we made our way home and me to finally get the rest I had thought I would get there. Yeah, I needed to work on my grand finale skills. Nobody’s perfect.
Happy 40th, sister. Even with the lows, it was one hell of a high. I love you.
Hike, hike, hiking in Henry Cowell State Park.. Those redwoods, the doggos and horses on path…I coveted it and was happy to get it on a regular basis. Hitting the Santa Cruz burner happy hour wasn’t my thing once the EDM started but I was happy to make it over to hang with burners for an hour or two. What was my thing was going wine tasting in the mountains and for a couple drinks at of course our local dive, Monty’s Log Cabin. Routines sounding familiar yet?
Dinner with Brigit & Aaron at Casa Nostra, an Italian restaurant that was becoming a routine, was quite a treat as was Svet and I enjoying White Russians at Morgan Hill’s dive bar M&H Tavern both in celebration of our late friend Wren and to say goodbye to the little town before she moved out. The siblings were annoying me with the sis being all about her body and getting six-pack abs for her 40th birthday the next month (though I got it at the same time) and the brother with messages about studding out his purebred dog. Superficiality and breeding dogs, especially when I had seen so many in trouble during my travels, were topics that didn’t sit well with me. They knew that.
Highlight of the month: I got my ticket to Burning Man! Or should I should say that Brigit did. We both sat on laptops plugging away the second they went on sale, each facing error messages that weren’t all too unexpected until she finally got through. Yay! True to a burner’s heart, her and Aaron even gifted me with covering half of mine as well as our friend Melissa’s. B kept saying that she had been gifted in her earlier days and now it was her turn. I love, love, love our community. And them. My little man-made family. Sad to have to cancel a flight home for my brother’s birthday and Easter, the reason was happy as it was to save money for Sint Marteen for Big Red’s 40th! Instead I got to celebrate the holiday with Brigit and Aaron where she, in her smirk of dark humor, carried on a tradition of cooking rabbit. A couple more hangs in Santa Cruz, meals in San Francisco, hot tubbing under the stars with Brigit, Aaron and even Melissa finished off the month. That along with finally making it to Muir Woods for a hike (Pelican Inn is a cute place to stop to eat but I wouldn’t recommend the stew) and signs of the second time having grand-mal seizure/s (first being years before) when waking up on the 25th with a majorly bit up tongue. I may have been stressing my body out by working too much for the sister’s birthday trip. Whopsie-doo. It was a short and sweet month in Nor Cal enjoying the peace and pals. Not my norm and not so bad. Probably overdue, actually.
Starting the ‘ol birthday month with my grandma in LA was a nice way to warm up. Always getting to her house late for initial arrival, that particular time was due to hanging with burner buds in Long Beach the night before. The next morning started with her making brekkie, something she was sweetly stubborn about doing, and even the repetitive nagging of wishing I visited more while at the same time on repeat about the effort it took to do so added to the Grannie magic. Of course it drove me crazy (duh) but it also warmed my heart to see her being amped about my being there. She was getting used to my coming around on a semi-regular basis. That made me happy. After breakfast I took her out to run errands and for lunch, took her to a place in her neighborhood called Zankou Chicken that a podcast I had been listening to called My Favorite Murder had talked about. It had been covering the story of how the founder had killed members of his family. Delicious food with only a hint of murder. 2019 was a year with more traveling back and forth within my home state as opposed to the overseas tornado of 2018. Something I was especially enjoying given that I was planning on being overseas for just about all of 2020. Going home to SD on the specific date I did this particular time was for the purpose of watching the dog of my homie and old roomie Jewels. Poor baby had cancer, as had her other pup who had passed a few months before. It already wasn’t hard to get my help with doggos and the year had been turning out to not have quite as much time at home as I was comfortable with (though was loving my second home) so I was happy for the push to come back for a couple weeks. 2019 had been, and would continue to be, a year of family. Probably the most of my entire adult life up to that point. Of that, Kati, Nik and their families were lower maintenance than my blood family. Not to infer that my blood family was high-maintenance in a bad way, we were just close for the first time and when I saw them they were usually all together. Mostly because they lived on the same estate (the Satterwhite Sanctuary) and it was a half an hour away. Even more challenging, totally outside of the central-coastal bubble I lived in. Yeah. Not easy. Going to their property was the hardest of all the time we spent together as it meant an entire day of different stages. All of us together, Mom and Dad in their house, my niece’s at the pool, my sis at the bar, socializing with their friends, my bro on the couch in front of the TV…it was a family circus. And something I didn’t want to miss. I’d eventually learn to give up on accomplishing anything else on those days and to just plan on spending the night but wasn’t quite there yet.
On the opposite, going out to eat was a norm with them and maybe the only way time management stood a chance. It was super fun being able to take them, especially my parents, to places in SoCal I had always thought they would like. For instance, taking them and their dogs to Julian for the town’s famous pie. Special times that would always warm me up to think about later on. Being a traveler and living in NorCal part-time sometimes magnified the ticking of life’s clock a little too loud. I never felt like I had enough down time at home in the comfort bubble of my small community beach town. Not being home all the time did make me especially love my routines more than ever though. Even doing laundry was fun and something I looked forward to. For example of how, the $10 burger and a beer lunch special at our local dive, The Stick, was directly next to the laundromat and something I always paired with it. Home when my birthday once again hit on Feb 8th, for once I wouldn’t have made a big deal about it given that it was coming on the heels of the big 40. Sis wasn’t having it though. She arranged an awesome fondue dinner with the Kid (little bro Sean) stepping up to have her back to make sure we fondid it right. Even Grandma surprised me by being there! I wasn’t the most thrilled that Wendy invited her ex-husband knowing that I had strong mixed feelings about him given that he was usually super cool but also a leach on our family and would once in a while would go getto. Something I had no tolerance for even from someone who was usually super cool. Otherwise, all happy sparkles. It didn’t take long after that for me to be back up north in Felton with a stop along the way to visit the peacocks at Casa de Fruita. Back to work right away, the sightseeing of driving for Lyft was part of the fun and something I enjoyed getting back to. Every once in a while, the destination of passengers would even take me by the house I grew up in that my parents had only moved out of a couple years before. I, of course, used those opportunities to send photos to the fam though I didn’t miss that city in general at all. Besides using rideshare to sightsee, socialize and network, there was also the usual stuff of my NorCal life to keep me happy. Hangin at Cafe Gratitude in Santa Cruz, visiting my pal Renee in wine country and small lingering birthday celebrations such as Svet getting me shoes I emo-loved thanks to their raising money for doggos being a few examples. Of course I accidentally rubbed part of the heel off from driving within a couple weeks of wearing them non-stop but that just made them rep me with all the more accuracy. The big event of the month, and why I was back in Nor Cal so fast, was Brigit and Aaron’t party to celebrate his being done paying alimony. Money to Burn was the name and it was a 1920s theme that was the absolute bee’s knees. Fabulous as the parties she threw always were, I got a huge kick out of their goal being to use the budget of one month of what the payment had been. They even flew out a friend from Hawaii to cater the food and hired a fan dancer. It was full of bohemian-spirited people and a level of the cat’s meow that would be hard to match.
For the perfect ending to my 41st birthday month a week or two later, I went for a low-key hang at Monty’s that started with my walking into dogs abounding, a fresh couple dancing to “Magic” by Kenny Chesney (love!) and ladies from Hawaii chatting away. It was one of those enchanted moments that made time slow down for a minute. Something that didn’t happen as much at home as when I was traveling. You better believe I grabbed onto it when it did.
With the plethora of holiday parties over, I finally got a chance to chill out at home in San Diego. Something that included details like binging on a podcast called My Favorite Murder that I found out about when dropping some women off at a live recording of it. It kept me sane driving so many long hours even though one of the two women hosts (yay for ladies!) drove me bananas by sounding dumb as dirt and the other, while I liked her in private recordings, sounds fake as fuck during public ones. It would eventually be why I stopped listening but hey, it was great while it lasted and I probably couldn’t have come close to their over all magic. The simplified psychology of the murders and humor mixed in was indeed a great formula and their ratings showed it. It was great to get back to my roots in Ocean Beach. A local dive bar called The Tilted Stick had a delicious $10 burger and a beer deal that I loved to take advantage of while doing laundry next door. While still only on my “to do” list, driving by donation-based yoga on the beautiful Sunset Cliffs further down the main street was also awesome. So was writing on the back patio of a restaurant called Breakfast Republic. It reminded me of a couple cafes I had gone to in India with Alexandra which made it even extra special. Hangin at the beach meditating with my mala beads and reading Playa Dust for my third time was something I had been dreaming of and was finally back to doing. Juliette was forever pulling me over to another of our fun local dives called Lucy’s and unfortunately sometimes also pulled me into hangin with her soon to be loser boyfriend. Sweet dude but had too many problems to count and would later try to hook up with me while also trying to spin it to make it sound like I was coming onto him AND his friend. Knowing I would never do that, she saw right through it (helped that I had his attempt in writing) and I did my best to hold back on bitching about lowlifes. Made me extra thankful for my type being slightly nerdy sweethearts that have their shit together. I mean, one of us better, right? Back to the love, visiting Jewels and snuggling on Sugs made me happy when I got a chance to do it. She was always a ray of sunshine even though really upset about something that happened involving her friend on that particular time back and I was happy to be able to dog-sit. Yup. My life was thankfully still where I had left it. Still in my bubble though in a neighboring art district called Liberty Station, a swanky movie theatre called The Lot offered discounts for members on Wednesdays so I took my pop and then to a burger place called Sladers 50/50. It was a great daddy daughter day. Something we would soon do again but farther away when I took him a couple weeks later to a casino called Barona for a $45 lobster Wednesday buffet and a few hours of gambling. The half an hour to pick him up, popping into the Satterwhite Sanctuary (hurray to be able to love on the four pups) and another half an hour to the casino was a somewhat painful trek but I was happy to be spending time with him. Not knowing how much longer we would have him given his health was always haunting. Especially with the idea of going overseas for more than a year. Gig work was still a hustle, especially catching a cold for a week and a stupid BS delivery company I was thinking of starting with threatening me when telling me I had to return their equipment since I didn’t sign up for a shift fast enough. Unregulated gig work was such crap and the class action lawsuits hadn’t begun to roll out against them as they were to a few months later. Heading out with the roomie for a drink was fun and a good bonding experience before heading back to the Bay. Kicking my time off back there with a fun night at a Star Wars Bar called 7 Stars Bar & Grill with the homies from high school Nick, Ant, Leilani and a couple more, of course Nick started a conga line. Of course.
Dropping my phone in a toilet a few months before = no audio but you get the idea…
India creeping into my subconscious once again, I came upon a spot in a parking lot of the seedy East Side of San Jose littered with garbage in a way that reminded me of my time there followed within a day or two by also being transported back to Thailand when getting a cheap massage at a spot called Life Reflexology. Little reminders that I may be taking a breather at home but I was happiest when also on the road. I loved spending time with my little Felton family of Brigit, Aaron and sometimes Melissa. Just like home in SD, I was forever humbled to be able to call such a magical place my second home. During local hikes in Henry Cowell Mountain State Park, I would watch deer feed in fields, people ride horses, dogs walking with their human family and got to say hi to my horsie friends at the neighbor’s cute and quaint corner house. Lady’s night with Brigit and Melissa at Henflings was super fun and felt extra great to have cheaper prices even though only being half an hour from the Bay. Something I was painfully reminded of at lunch a couple of days later when a Korean place double-charged me for a lunch by serving it hot instead of cold without telling me first that there was a price difference. It was extremely rare for me but I was definitely not leaving a tip there. $20 lunch my ass! Catching up for my few short weeks in Nor Cal, Svet and I screwed around trying stuff on for the Money to Burn party Brigit and Aaron were going to throw to celebrate his being done paying alimony (Brigit always threw great parties) and then it was back to driving Lyft all over the place up there with SF, the mountains and Santa Cruz being my favorites. Already time to drive back to Southern California, I visited Grandma for a couple nights also driving for Lyft in LA (no bueno) and even managed to meet up with my burner buddies Angelique, Sid and Ash. Back and forth, back and forth…there was always plenty of good times and adventure even in my quieter moments. My personality may not have allowed for a life that had much of it but it was at least more than average at that time. I was soaking it up.
Deciding to stay home in California until after Burning Man 2019 by no means meant that the adventure was about to slow down. December exemplified that as it gave me plenty of opportunity to do what I loved to do best. Celebrate! Santacon, a pub crawl started in San Francisco in 1994 in which everyone dresses as Santas (with a few relating exceptions) has evolved into a tradition that different cities around the world have continued on. Brigit was heading the charge for Felton and I wanted to stick around for it. My buddy from Spanky’s, Blackbird, even came down from SF to join and we had a blast. Adding additional entertainment, a server from a local restaurant, Creamer House, (where Brigit and I frequented for tuna melts) was one of the twenty or so who joined in and not only managed to leave with a crush on me but also with the big, furry cape my momma had made to keep me warm when I had been working in matchmaking in San Francisco. Long story short, even though I wasn’t all that interested, he still managed to give me a guilt trip about leaving to go home to San Diego and pissed me off by not getting the cape back to me for months. After Santacon but before I headed back to SD, I got my hair did for the first time since Layla died in 2015. Something that may seem as boring and mundane as getting a pedi at first mention but, as had happened with many before, it had taken on some sort of right of passage. Even though I was disappointed with the result, probably my fault for not communicating clearly, I was happy I did it. To me it symbolized making an effort to take care of myself in the ways getting my bohemian lifestyle off the ground had been beating me up. A graduation to the next level of sorts. It’s funny how little random things so often end up being what marks moments of growth and change in our lives. Heading home to San Diego within a couple days thereafter, I staycationed for an event another friend put on called Naughty or Nice. It was a weekend where a social group I had joined years before stayed at a local resort and did all kinds of local activities with the main attraction being a Christmas-themed pub crawl (not a Santacon though) in one of our local beach towns. So, so many pub crawls… Svetlana had flown out and I met a cool guy from Denver who became my event boyfriend. For any of you burners, travelers or festies out there, you probably know what that’s like. It was great to catch up with old acquaintances and friends. Svet and I had a room right by the event’s main suite, making it even more fun. One of the nights of the event was also Sea World’s annual Christmas pub crawl where trainers, new and old, reunited for some fun. I had been around a lot when Nik was a trainer so it was always fun to join even if it meant that I was jumping between both of the events on one of the nights. It was good times to be sure but I was definitely ready to take a break from partying by the time it was done. For a few days at least. Speaking of Nik, while I was always happy to be back in general, hanging with her and Kate was what what always made it most feel like home. I even managed to dive right back in with their kids when giving myself a black eye throwing Kate’s youngest, Audrey, up in the air in just a way that landed her chin right onto my eye socket. Christmas celebrations still pouring out everywhere I turned with more party plans that hadn’t quite being fulfilled, Wendy and I thought it would be funny to utilize that shiner at champagne brunch in PB for a photo opp before getting drunkenly stuck in neighborhood Christmas parade and block party. The high of the day, something I still proudly chuckle at, being when we successfully crashed a random work Christmas party at The Grass Skirt tiki bar and successfuly pretended to be employees. The low of the day later being when I grabbed a dude’s cock while telling him to do the dishes at Nikki and Brent’s Christmas party. To be fair, Nik had only told me about the party a few days before so I hadn’t had time to rearrange boozy brunch. I stood no chance. Thankfully the dude and his wife were super fun, cool and also rowdy, though it still wasn’t exactly fun apologizing to her a couple days later. God. I still get embarrassed thinking about that one. JerseyJ’s Christmas party was the last of the holiday tornado. It was fun with her awesome Italian cooking and big warm and vibrant personality that fit especially great with the holiday but it was also awkward thanks to her roomie being pretty much done with her after all the drama she had put her through with her then recent ex. Also because the rebound she had there at their party was an obvious loser, no doubt added fuel to the fire. It also caused Jersey J’s other friends there to “WTF are you doing” and her to get really upset about it. Beyond those who cared about her just being concerned, she never seemed to acknowledge how the people she put in their lives affected them. I was far enough removed at the time to find it interesting to compare behavior patterns and reflect on my own. In the end, even though I didn’t agree with her, I had her back. I didn’t want her to feel alone and she was the only one responsible for making the decisions of her life. Especially when she was spinning in all kinds of different directions from her breakup. I’d end up regretting it but you’ll have to wait to find out about that… At some point over the month, Wendy set up family pictures at a stupid department store (so 1995) in which I looked horrible. Something that made sense when I got hives an hour later. Probably because I hate those cheesy pictures and thought it was especially lame given that we lived in a beautiful place full of great photographers. Well, just maybe it was also because I had been to about five million boozy Christmas celebrations. Over all, she wanted to make sure we had a recent picture because of how sick our dad was. That was pretty rad. Just like Thanksgiving had been, Christmas day was mostly a bust. Still not comfortable going over to the family’s house, my parents met me for brunch on the OB Pier and that at least ended up being a pretty awesome high given how much they loved it. I then spent the rest of Christmas alone with hives. Again. Even if it wasn’t to last as long as I wanted, I loved being home for a minute to catch up with my people and little beach town. Alas, NYE was on our toes and I had plans for it that were about to lead me back North. More specifically, a campout with Mia and Los Angeles burners in the LA mountains. Fun but it was too damn freezing! By the time I had found a warm communal tent on the second night, I wouldn’t leave it. Between that and a couple of dudes I managed to smooch out with, I did manage to find my warm and fuzzy for saying goodbye to 2018 after all.
Being a foodie in California, especially when in San Francisco a decent amount of the time (and double that when constantly on the road) can be a little slice of gluttonous heaven. Especially when finding good prices by focusing on lunch specials, happy hour and Restaurant Week. Being all over the place and checking out these new culinary spots is about more than just food, of course. Aptos St. BBQ in, well, Aptos had a blues vibe with live music and Summit House in the Santa Cruz mountains (on the 17) combined a great mix of a calming scenic view while also being full of bikers. It was a lot of daily-life fun with a lot of appreciated diversity.
Besides chowing down, life in Felton also continued to consist of the hikes I adored in the redwood tree-infested Henry Cowell State Park and I even managed to finally meet the retired equestrian park ranger neighbor who lived in a picturesque house across from the park with his two horses in the front, Buster and Dandy. I had always wanted to love on them and jumped at the chance to say hello when he was outside one day, asking if I could share some of the many apples falling off a tree at Brigit and Aaron’s. Even though I was driving 60+ hours a week for Lyft, I still semi-managed to take advantage of other opportunities that popped up, like stopping in and drinking Russian vodka with Svetlana when dropping off a passenger by her house late enough to justify calling it quits. Moments like those were great when I actually pulled together enough energy to rally myself to take advantage of my Bay Area bucket list. Still, reality was that driving so many hours, sometimes until 1 or 2 am, often left me waking up the next morning dizzied, disoriented and in an exhausted mental fog that was sometimes so strong it took a moment to remember if I had taken anything to sleep. There were nights of insomnia where I would finally take a Tylenol PM at 5 AM, sometimes from being too amped from a really good day and others from the stress of it going the other way. By the time I was ready to start driving the day after these rough nights it would be mid afternoon (so much for working out) and by the time I really started to feel awake, the sun was going down. Of course, and as was a constant concern, I knew I’d be more successful if I slowed down and had more balance, but I had always been terrible at that. Constantly scolding myself, the story played on repeat in my head about how I was setting myself up for failure and losing happiness by working too much like that. By late November I had given 5,576 rides and was getting less and less bummed about my time driving for rideshare likely coming to an end. Well, for the moment. I knew I’d still miss it. Even with those days of being floored by Lyfting too much, I was proud of myself for managing to take care of little things. I stayed aware of and looked into money-making side-hustles I came across and dealt with micro-stresses like figuring out how to refill my meds at a new pharmacy when the label on my current bottle had all but worn off (thanks to my most recent travels), called about the microphone on my phone not working (after dropping it in a toilet at Nikki’s birthday), dealt with a call from the social security office about possible identity theft, looked into what I had to do to get medical (what ended up being to pay $200 a month for Medi-Cal) and about setting an appointment to get my hair did in order to help me feel a little less like a raggedy hippy. November was a quiet month for the most part. Except for, you know, the deadliest wildfires California had ever seen. I drove for Lyft on the day the air quality was the worst in the world and could only see maybe half a mile in front of me. Even though I had worn a mask, I was still not-so-surprisingly laid up on the couch the next day feeling horrible. It had been scary enough just experiencing that much, and I had been worried for the people in real danger, but I was also still selfishly bummed about missing a fundraiser for Black Rock Roller Disco (the roller rink camp at Burning Man) being held at the Church of 8 Wheels. Going there was one of those things on the SF bucket list. What the smoke did do that I appreciated was eliminated out ability to play “out of sight out of mind” and forget about those poor people literally in the line of fire. It must have felt like Armageddon for them. I donated a little then for the people and animals in trouble and promised myself I would six months to a year later when most had forgotten the need that would still be there. Moving on to later in the month, Thanksgiving was next to non-existent. Brigit had originally said she was going to make a meal for the holiday for the little family of herself, Aaron and I but later let me know that she had made other plans by asking me if I had plans. What it did turn into was a night of kicking off the holiday weekend at a bar in San Jose called Britannia Arms with my late-teens BFF Nicki to celebrate an old tradition, complete with a reenactment photo of us trying to be “hard” to be cool. She had brought a bunch of her people I didn’t know, or at the very least wasn’t close with, so it didn’t have the nostalgic feeling I was hoping for but I was still glad I made the effort and was pretty content as far as the actual holiday went (with only a few pangs of hurt and self-pity). It was a glorious and rare day alone with string bean casserole and snuggle time with Meowlie for most of the day until Melissa came over later. As far as work went on that holiday weekend, Wednesday and Sunday were a bust thanks to being TOO busy. AKA: the nightmare of just inching my way around in airport traffic instead of getting anywhere in a productive time frame. Sometimes I couldn’t even get into our waiting lot at SFO to be in the digital countdown, though I did luck out once in a while with random long rides that took me in the right direction. What seemed to happen more often, though, were long rides that took me in the wrong direction toward the end of my shift. For instance, getting one at 11:30 PM from SJO all the way back up to SFO. AKA: away from home which added at least an extra hour to bed time, making it after 2 AM. Not great for how I would be feeling the next day. There was a lot of the beautiful mundane that is so much of what life consists of. Well, maybe not my kind of life quite as much but you get it. I was happy that I managed to meet up with Wendy and her friends one night when she flew into town to drop off my niece. Once again, they weren’t my people so I was a little uncomfortable despite crashing with her sweetheart of a friend, Sara. I quit the show I had been watching, the Good Wife, feeling like I had wasted those moments of my life, at least after the first season, and caught a cold as I seemed to do once a month. Thanks, no doubt, to the sanitary conditions and germs of those around me both when driving and at home. There were little treats like taking advantage of $5 movie days at the local Cinelux movie theatre to see Fantastic Beasts, grabbing a beer every now and again to sit with around the fire at Monty’s and $8 lunch specials at the local Chinese restaurants. The food wasn’t great but the prices couldn’t be beat. Driving down the streets of our amazing mountain town, waving back to locals filled my heart and gave me amusingly paranoid moments of wondering if I was acquainted with any of those people or if they were just randos saying hello. Driving over the hill from the mountains into the Bay, I made mental checklists…scrub the car seats, yoga, hike, write…by the time I hit the beautiful but dangerous winding highway 17, my analytical mind had graduated from the warm-up of the lists and even further into the creative imagination that I had lived in as a child. I’d think about how I had a lot of good things in my youth, especially once moving to San Diego, but the main words I’d use to describe my life up until my mid twenties was pain and rejection. Finally finding Lamotrigine in my mid-thirties was the first thing that had really changed all of that but also took away some of the things I identified with and loved the most about myself. Then I’d analyze about whether that was really true or if it was a chicken or the egg thing. Following that train of thought and falling even farther down the rabbit hole, I thought about how I had been a happy and inspiring human drug to those around me when on one of my natural highs of charisma, adrenaline, happiness, love and empathy. How I had been able to live in my imagination and the way that inspired my writing. I thought about how different I was compared to the “normal” people of society and how I got it from my mom. Then I was thinking about her. How she would get upset when everyone around her was happy because, I thought, it maybe fucked with her self-worth and sense of direction to not have anyone to take care of. Plus the (for her) anxiety-ridden and upsetting chaos of the excitement that happiness brings. There was, of course, also fantasies about winning the lottery, being discovered by someone who wanted to work on this blog and the book I wrote, travel funding and (cringe) falling in love.
As my mind wandered six ways from Sunday, the beauty of that nature I was so in love with still managed to pulled me out of my imagination for small moments too magical not to notice. My favorite at that time being the steam that burned off the trees in those mountains as the sun hit in the mornings. Unfortunately, I was also pulled out for not so magical moments of having to focus on that scary road. Especially during a super rainy year of driving a Prius down a freeway where so many crashes took place. I had already hydroplaned once or twice, once knowing that I would have been in a crash if anyone was driving next to me. Not fun. As those tedious moments that make the day to day continued, I felt happy and high when finally kicking the cold and extra great when it happened to come on the same day of a great 11+ hour working day of making $300 (before $85 + taxes overhead). Good timing before managing to take three days off driving. Something I hardly ever did. Maybe the most fun I had all month was making it to the Dickens Fair with Brigit and Aaron for the first time followed with the relief of getting my hair did. Being at the salon for 5 hours, though, with the stylist’s kid playing on the floor wasn’t exactly what I had in mind. It was cheap at a total of $100 ($50 Groupon and a $50 tip) and I rarely did the “take care of myself” grooming so, even though the outcome wasn’t what I was hoping for, I was still gratefully happy. So yeah. Over all, it was a month of the mundane day to day that is, I reiterate, so much of the beauty of life and something I hadn’t had in a long time. I had learned to appreciate it so much more and tried to hold on before the craziness of my adventures returned.
The first time I partied after getting back from Burning Man was, ironically, with my new burner bud Mia when she introduced me to the Hash House Harriers. A “drinking group with a running problem”, it started in the military as a creative way to keep soldiers in shape and had since evolved into a social group that was pretty much a scavenger hunt with costumes, running, booze and other debauchery. Of course I loved it, albeit a couple of super young Marines who got me just a little too drunk, triggering my issues from playing military mama back in the day and I ended up crying by the end of the night. It was good fun all-in-all and a cry every once in a blue moon can be quite the release. Even if a hot mess when doing it.
Back to Felton I went from there. I was about to spend most of the next year up there in those Santa Cruz mountains full of redwoods in order to make the money for my sister, Big Red’s 40th, Burning Man and all of the things I had to pay for to go teach in Korea. God I loved it. My first home, San Diego, was a fun, living on vacation, excitement, close family and friends beach lifestyle. The mountains and San Francisco, my second home, was where I found peace, nature, rest, culture and where my burner life was centered. Of course there was exceptions but that was typically the rule. The two together are what made for my balanced home. Nicki, one of my closest friends during my formative years for those of you just turning in, was turning 40 and throwing a theme party a week later where everyone was to come as one of their favorite musicians. Dragging Svetlana along who cane as Prince, I came as Jimmy Buffet. My one regret being that I forgot to sing “Why Don’t We Get Drunk and Screw“. Always presented with painful reminders of how impossible it was to make it to everything, I missed seeing Doozer (honorary little sister/Kati & Nikki’s sis) who was in San Francisco an hour away that weekend but did manage a week after that to camp out for a night and go wine tasting in the mountains with my good friend from home, Juliette, and her pal Rose when they came to town. I even managed to picnic in Dolores Park with Levi, another one of my new friends from the burn as well as our campmate & bud at another time, Bacon Daddy. Burning Man was slowly taking over my life, if you hadn’t noticed. I had stepped into a year of working 80 hours a week but was still managing to fit in amazing moments. Something I had always strived for but typically been bad at in the past. From afar these occasions looked like nothing but fun and adventure but reality was that I killed myself to make them happen and could only half enjoy because of it. That isn’t meant to be a complaint. On the contrary, I hope to show how the bigger picture is always hard when going for grand things and how growth while building a foundation is painful and at times more important than instant gratification. Who knows. Maybe I’m half-pointing that out to remind myself.
Now that a history of debilitating anxiety had finally been successfully taken care of, learning how to say yes, sieze the day, make time with no excuses and to be there for loved ones when it mattered was finally up to bat. The more I was weighed down with work, goals and bills, the more important it because to learn how to break away and look up. For the first time in my life, I had finally been finding my way in so many ways. This was one of the most important. Speaking of Burning Man slowly taking over my life…the first time I had gone to San Francisco’s Burning Man Decompression party, I had taken my sis Wendy and had been heartbreakingly disappointed. It felt too much like a generic one-day for-profit party festival and not enough like the ten principals that made the burn so important to me. Between that experience and flying out the day after the one that was coming up for Nikki’s surprise 39th birthday, I had been apprehensive about going for 2018. Svetlana had been so excited, though, that I gave in and had was pleasantly surprised when having an amazing time. As opposed to the previous experience, I felt the spirit of the burn. Especially through her eyes and squeals as she exclaimed her thoughts and feelings, all of which lined up with what I believed the burn to be about and why it was so special to me. (Insert proud tear.) She even managed to find a way to get her first experience of being covered with playa dust and I managed to find and participate in one of my favorite things, a cuddle puddle.
Catching that early flight after way too little sleep the next day, and somehow managing to look presentable while doing it, it was all absolutely worth it when meeting up with the group of friends from my twenties who had once upon a time been my family to give Nikki a birthday surprise of an urban pub crawl on a group party bike Brent, her hubby, had rented. We even got the driver hyped and I made one of my old matchmaker attempts to set up a date with him and Wendy. Alas, she broke his poor heart after our punk guy friends convinced her that he was gay (he wasn’t) and I ended the day by dropping my phone in a wobbly toilet after not wanting to leave it with my drunk friends because I was scared they wouldn’t take care of it. Freakin figues.
Whoopsie-daisy should be the new motto of my life.
Back to Brigit, Aaron and their cat, Meowlie’s in Felton along with visiting a bud from the burn in Oakland, it was back to working non-stop for the rest of the month with occasional breaks to be a foodie, cocktails, for naked skinny dipping under the stars and a night or two of hanging around the fire pit at Monty’s Log Cabin. I may not have gotten traditional weekends but I sure did know how to make the most of it all. ✌🏻 Brigit, always fantastic at throwing a soiree (never say no to a party thrown by burners) hosted a witches tea party and I managed to go to Nicki’s Halloween party, which I had been told would be a movie night but ended up mostly consisting of taking kids trick-or-treating. Heading back “over the hill” to meet up with our a friend to finish the Halloween night her favorite bar, Joe’s, it was a pretty low-key Halloween which worked just fine for me. All things considered, I’d say I was recovering from Costa Rica, India and Burning Man pretty well. Email maybe for that pesky rest thing I was still so damn bad at. C’est la vie!
In the years I’d been going, I don’t know why it never dawned on me before takeoff that the journey back after Burning Man was a huge trek within itself. By the time packing up, herding the crew and actually getting through playa traffic was done, it could easily take eight hours to get to Reno. Eight if lucky. Way more if there was an accident anywhere down the two-lane road, an Amber Alert (like 2016) or any number of other things.
*Cue a runaway building-sized eyeball with a narwal horn and dragonfly wings.* Originally grouchy about adding another stop after the burn, when the time came, Grand Sierra Resort in Reno had actually stopped me from having the mixed feelings of being bummed as the city started to break down while at the same time trying to amp up for the man burning. What it also added, and I ended up being so incredibly relieved for, was indoor sleep, a huge pool after-party the next day and one last night’s sleep before the long drive home. Continuing our pilgrimage meant that there were of course be a few more hiccups. First not being able to find a dumpster that had any more room for the loads of smelly trash we were taking off the playa and then when I hit a car parked in the wrong spot when trying to park our gigantic RV at GSR. Finding the man who was renting it to own up, I lucked out when he said not to worry as insurance would cover it. Only a burner still riding the magic could be so cool.*tear*
I, on the other hand, wasn’t exactly channeling that same magic when flipping out on rich dude Mia was acquainted with for taking my spot in bed on that first night when he had his own damn room. I way too tired from the previous two weeks, two months if including India, to let that shit fly. Finally home in San Diego somewhere around 3 AM a couple days later, Mia and I crashed at her pad for a few hours after Mom had left me stranded there (I’ll spare you the ugly details) and then woke up to find that the RV had been towed for blocking a street that was a dead end alley. Adding to the fun of that experience was being covered in flea bites in the tow yard office when going to pay the $800+ to pick it up. An infestation the people who worked there knew about but didn’t manage to mention. The people who work at those places are always such lovely folks. For a grand finale, it was just her luck to hit a neighbor’s car with that beast of a motorhome after I had gone. Major lesson learned: no way do I ever want to drive a vehicle that big again. Though of course the thought of it still makes me cringe, I giggle a little at the hot-mess of it now. Unwinding for the rest of the month was pretty low-key. I was back at my place in Ocean Beach, picked up a new insanely expensive rental car to continue driving for Lyft and just generally recovered from India and the burn while showing off little badges of honor by wearing colorful Indian jewelry and putting my majorly dried out fingers on display. Playafied, baby. Beyond that, I was back to my normal SD life. Chilling out at the beach, eating acai bowls, hangin on a buddy’s boat, writing from cool spots like my favorite local cafe, Te Mana, friends, farmer’s market on Wednesdays and caught up with loved ones. Happy times that included taking my pop for a movie and a crazy ice cream float at Slater’s 50/50 (you know, to prove I was still American) and spending time with all my sisters (two from another mister and one by blood) and the rest of the fam (minus mom) doing fun local stuff like coffee or coctails and the beach. Goodbye and goodnight, September. You were the last month of big adventures for a while. And for once, I was totally OK with that.
While usually being someone who lives in the moment, immediacy is at the same time the hardest of the ten principles for me. Specifically in regard to taking pictures and notes for memories. Besides the odd way my brain processes those things (hence this blog), it’s such a big experience for most of us that the first day or two can feel like a different lifetime just a few days later, just like travel. Monday was the first official full day of the burn and I was excited albeit already run down. Once again, just like the norm of the rest of my travel. Venessa, my awesome pal from the previous burn who had also met up with me in Costa Rica for their “burn” found me later in the day, first hanging at Spanky’s and then ditching her man to wander and adventure all night. Staying out until just before dawn with her rallying my tired-ass so we could get our quality time together (yay!), Jewels found me in the hot and dry early afternoon the next day, unzipping my little ill-equipped but colorful tent to say hello. Still half-drunk, the effort made me feel bad about being so frustrated with her on the ride in. I wanted to be better than that. With a quick and hazy hello and goodbye, I ascended into what was to be my crash day of the week after one or two hair-of-the-dog PBRs. My body was to break down four times over the burn, actually, as I was also getting a cold that must have come with me given that there’s hardly any germs out there. In a hazy daze, I barbacked a lot for a few days, often with Crash bartending, and hung around camp. Sitting under the large circus-like tent structure during the intro speech of Admiral Painjoy when the time came, the owner and faithful lead of our amazing camp, I struggled to hold onto what he was saying. Especially over the dazed and grateful emotions of being there as a part of Spanky’s, one of the first camps I had so loved on my first burn back in 2015. I also failed to notice (more like be conscious for) the morning ritual of the blasting song, Sheena Easton’s Morning Train (English followed by French editions) and the accompanying dance party to tribute the morning before heading back to bed. Or for some, to head to bed for the first time.
It was something that had been adopted from another camp, which made me love it even more as that was the way the burn was built. It was one of those great things that I didn’t notice at first but creeped in a little more every day until the light bulb clicked and it became a celebration of starting the day that will forever be important to me both as a wakeup and a song. Kind of like howling at the sunset. Just one of those epic playa traditions. Planning on, well, anything at the burn is almost a joke. So much unexpected amazingness happens at just about every turn that it tends to be more realistic to set a destination just to have a general direction while knowing full well that there’s a very good chance of ending up in something else even more epic along the way. My only exception for previous years had been bartending during the Irish music session at my first camp, Twisted Swan. Ironically, one I was to miss for 2018 as lower-key energy handicapped me from making any direct commitments. I did still manage to actually visit twice along with making it for visits to my two previous camps. One of the three times doing that at Leopard Martini Lounge being when I made it out on Edge’s art car to see a parody of Daft Punk at the trash fence, the second to be when Vanessa was bartending for their big party of the week and the third being to just sit around on fold out chairs for a low-key hang. I had even managed to find my old friend, Brandi, four times. She blew me off most of the time, which of course upset me, but did provide a good reminder (after taking a minute to pout) that the burn is not a place for expectations. Bla, bla, bla Buddhist bullshit. With playa boogers that tended to turn it into the biggest nose-picking week of the year and a lot of sweaty under-boob thanks to being slouched and at least half-naked over a bike on those hot desert days, I was elated when finding a huge and quite awesome camp adorned with turquoise and grey draped overhangs along a framework of misters just down the street from Spanky’s. Gifting alcohol slushies and live classical music that I hoped in vain would one day include a lovely little lady from my camp who had been playing around the playa with a full orchestra, I was in heaven. Grateful for relief from the heat and also scolding myself for not having found it earlier, I made note to self (I’m sure not for the first time) to scout the neighborhood early on in future burns to see which camps were around for close access to relief, fun and debauchery.
While not a fan of the burn’s EDM music, by far the strongest influence of those offered, many other types that I did like could be found in the nooks and crannies. Case in point, the aforementioned classical and unexpected moments such as riding up upon a man adorned in a pegasus hat and yogi pants while singing opera at a skill level that made me think he must be professional. One of those surprise sidetracked moments on my way to get glow-in-the-dark henna Wednesday afternoon. An outing that also included a sunset wedding on top of a motorhome and new friends who came back to Spanky’s a few hours later.
Thursday was usually my crash day but I had already got that out of the way so my day was opened up to doing something on my burner bucket list a bit to the opposite end of the spectrum. Instead of staying up all night to see the mythical sunrise, I woke up an hour before in order to have the experience sober and with (still a very small amount of) sleep. Biking out to the dimly-lit temple in the dark chill of that desert night, I walked around looking at the hand-written letters and other tributes hung in the structure that were often made out to recently deceased loved ones (the doggo ones got me the most), observed the people in there and checked in with what was happening to me at that moment in the most spiritual place of my universe. Outside was more musicians playing impromptu, this time in the style of soft singer-songwriter, and watched someone dressed as a Chinese Death Warrior walking around while stopping to stare at the rising sun. Biking farther into deep playa in a semi-agro-semi-curious search of the sound camp that had been shaking the entire city during all hours, I stopped first when stumbling upon a sunrise wedding and then continued on, finding it with what looked like spaceships outside and a kind of meditative chanting session beginning inside. From there I headed back to camp for the attempt of a nap, stopping along the way to check out the man and other art. Later was the Swan’s music session where I experienced one of the most impactful moments for the year when watching a woman who appeared to be from Ireland or Scotland and was emotionally being reminded of some kind of big memory. It was fun to be able to be in the middle of the music instead of staring at the backs of others while bartending but it wasn’t so fun to bust out about half way through with an allergic reaction to all the dust that was being kicked up directly into my face thanks to the rugs of previous years being MIA during the obligatory jig-dancing and stomping with the music. Que a Benadryl daze and the third of the four times my body went down.
On what I’m not sure was that night or one of the two surrounding, I grouchily hoofed it to Go the Fuck to Sleep, Aaron and Brigit’s camp, after letting someone talk me into a different camp visit that made me miss an art-car ride that I had tried to chase down five minutes too late. Thanks to a flat tire on my bike, personal transportation had been grounded for the evening, leaving me on foot. Once making it and after hanging for a bit, our old pal Moose joined us in the special state we had opted to participate in for a designated night of playa wander. What itty-bitty-teenie-weenie little bit of it we could cover before our feet and backs started to hurt at least. We even managed to find some square dancing that Moose and I participated in (while Aaron grumbled) and live Bluegrass. Hurray for some of my kind of music/NOT EDM! A couple nights later was the grand finale. Hopping on an art car that was a magic carpet to make our way out for the burning of the man, that huge and epic celebration full of lights and fire, it for some reason took on my spiritual highlight for the week. Even above the temple burn. When that happened the next night, after being pleasantly surprised by running into a woman also camping with us whom I had had a special relationship with years before when meeting at the event in 2013 that had first introduced me to the burn, I managed to hop onto a different art car that was a bar. As I still wasn’t fully recovered from heat exhaustion I got earlier in the day, not being fully there in head or spirit could explain why the man burning had more of an emotional impact for the year. As was customary, I had made it to the Orgy Dome (don’t be a prude) after the man burned the night before with a great fella from my camp and a lovely couple from the UK who I had met at glow-in-the-dark body painting and hung with a couple times since. The problem was that we hadn’t made it there until the wee hours and had stayed until almost dawn before starting to break down camp just a couple hours after finally making it to bed. So yeah. Cue heat exhaustion. The grand finale of my body rebelling against such harsh conditions right after India. Raking the dust to check for moop out there in the blazing sun where our large camp had been set up, I had eventually gotten dizzy and out of it enough to find a camp that was offering different flavor teas and set up to chill, as the one with misters I loved so much had already been broken down. Not feeling much recovery until the sun went down and even after the temple burn, I was still at half-mast for the last night’s epic party at what was left of Spanky’s. A great time complete with jump ropes of fire, I did manage to stay out long enough to want to be there as an end to my annual time on the playa for years to come.
With the odd feeling of a bubble of magic that had burst as our utopian city said goodbye the next day, for once I wasn’t bummed when reuniting with Mia and the crew to take off. I hadn’t known it would make such a difference when she had set it up before leaving San Diego but we were headed to one last burner escapade and it was already making all the difference. The adventure wasn’t over. We were off to Reno… Brigit’s Cougar Camp where young fellas (though everyone tends to jump in) shake it for a cookie. 🍪
A travel & lifestyle journal about the messy pilgrimage of adventure and personal growth of a Gen Xer.