Burning Man 2018 – Back on the Playa Again

Waking up and driving the last five or so hours (which included a few stops for eating, gas, water and groceries) on that day, Friday August 24, 2018, we finally made it to the outskirts of Black Rock City. Pulling up to a line of loaded up often decorative vehicles full of burners on a two-lane road that lead to a dried up riverbed that, beyond our temporary city, had nothing except a tan-colored alkaline dust that was known for getting so far into every crevace that it reached our dusty souls. It only took maybe three hours to get into city limits from there, which was the main reason I was happy to be there a day before the main entry. When coming normal entry my first year on the Burner Bus, it had taken over ten hours to get in and it had taken about twelve hours to get out the year before thanks to an Amber Alert. It was always a gamble and I had learned to change my mentality to embrace it as part of the experience (might as well get out and hang with traffic neighbors) but was happy when able to avoid it.
Knowing that we had two Burning Man virgins with us, my exhaustion was momentarily lost as I became majorly pumped as we pulled up to the greeters. Between not knowing what the deal of who these people were, the traditions they carried out and complications of being on the Burner Bus my first year, I hadn’t got my chance for the initiation our two gals were about to go through. Every year since then, I had lived vicariously as the initiation speech was given, virgins were rolled around in the dust and they were given a hammer to hit the gong. It certainly rang my bell in all the right ways. Most of ours, actually. To see people first experience the level of magic I had only ever found there was the kind of wonder that could bring us to our knees.

With the miserable experience of getting there and having to set up at night more than once in the past, my lowest of lows for those years, it was a happy relief that we had gotten there midday. It gave us time to build our individual homes for the week, mine being the second dropoff after Elena (aka: Glenda the Good as she was deemed for a burner name at warp-speed) at her Russian camp, You are Healer , and to either reunite or get introed to new campmates while helping to build our theme camps. A couple of the new guys I met, by the way, that I used the last of my favorite hot pink lipstick on.
After two more of my first new pals in camp helped me set up, a couple of Indian fellas from LA who were super excited to be there for their first time, Mia had found her way back over after getting set up at her own camp, Cheesy Porn. It hadn’t been far from my own, Spanky’s Wine Bar, but was still above and beyond to bring the things I had forgotten in the RV. As was all to common at the burn in regard to expecting the unexpected and it being so easy to bond, that quickly lead to hanging. Something that included a ride on one of my most-visited camp spots for the week, a Sybian. A fascinating (an expensive) machine in that all it looked like was a simple horse saddle with a lump (attachments are an option) that can be ridden fully clothed (if chosen) while giving women an intense orgasm. An experience for Mia that entertainingly puzzled the two of us in that semi-private trailer turned sacred safe space as it made her laugh uncontrollably. Spanky’s is obviously known for wine but also for PBR (playa beer) and for being playfully sex-positive. Beyond the Sybian was erotic massage with multiple sensory stimulations, especially an experience named by the campmatesgifting it as Eros Tangere, naughty games at the bar and a stripper pole in the middle of the circus-like tent space that the camp was centered around.

Adding to the gang of new burner buds was a couple who had almost immediately offered me the shower in their RV along with napping any time I needed. Crash and Rex were super awesome and, among the many I bonded with, the closer of my new amigos. In no small part, I’d imagine, due to the time Crash and I got to spend together with her bartending while I barbacked. We both took on those rolls a lot during the first few days. It was by far the largest camp I had been with and the burn brought out such an amazingly loving connectedness that it was hard to not want to give back and participate.
The next day was the official first day of the burn. After grumbling to myself about adorning my body with the weekly atire of a Camelback, a scarf to breathe through in dust storms, goggles and a whole bunch more necessities one never wants to be caught without (including a more heavy-duty mask in my bike basket and mist bottles to gift), Mia and I took advantage of the morning hours to bike around the playa. Myself, beyond the things previously mentioned, in nothing more than a fanny pack, unicorn horn and hot pants. As we peddled around checking out camps on the Esplanade (the main street all the way on the inside of the u-shape of the “suburbs” that included the biggest, oldest, arguably most fabulous and eco-friendly camps), we managed to find Hardley Saloon. A camp that had always been one of my favorites with it’s theme being an all-night whiskey bar and old-West style saloon. Svetlana even went on a date with one of their main campers when we met him at the SF Decompression event a month or two later.
Once the temp started getting too hot to wander comfortably, I headed to Brigit & Aaron’s camp, Go the Fuck to Sleep. They were part of a neighborhood full of Rangers where I would, of course, be visiting a few times throughout the burn. Something I was particularly happy about that day as the worst dust storm I experienced for the year (along with a tiny bit of rain) meant that cars would be stopped at the gate due to visibility. Also holding them up was that more people than Nevada would allow were trying to get in. More and more examples of the ways the line could take so long. A big “whoopsie” on behalf of the org and why I was so thankfully relieved to come early entry.
In addition to finding shelter with Brigit and Aaron from the dust storm, it also provided one of my most entertaining moments for the year when Aaron came looking for after he got the feeling that I’d get lost on my way back from the blue rooms. Which I did. Opting to stay and hang back at camp later on with an “early” bedtime around midnight, the official day one was complete.



Back to the Burn 2018

It was time once again to head out to my favorite place in the whole world (and by far the most transformative), Burning Man.
After my aging parents had accidentally donated important belongings I had boxed up in their garage, I had secured a semi-seedy storage unit the size of a closet but for only $40 a month. Thanks to having a place for it, I was able to save supplies, I was able to cut down in my quest for what I still needed to two or three trips to pick up items found on Craigslist (like a bike), Dixieline (swamp cooler) and four or five orders off Amazon (costumes, heating packs, etc.). Maybe a little silly, I was excited and proud of myself for being ahead of the curve compared to my previous three years.
All set with my own personal checklist, or at least as much as I was going to be for the year, I had been up until 11:30 PM the night before hanging and handling last minute prep with the help of Fuckin Jewels and then unintentionally woke up at 4 AM before exhaustedly heading out during 7 AM rush hour to meet up with my carpool in the nicer pocket of a questionable area of San Diego known as City Heights. The lead of my ride, Mia, lived there and was the only woman of the four I had previously met. I liked her instantly.
Radiating kindness, playfulness and a caregiving spirit even online, the vibes I had been getting had only been solidified once meeting her in person when I had stopped in on her enjoying champagne brunch in Old Town after a run for a fun “drinking group with a running problem” she would later introduce me to called the Hash House Harriers. Being around the same age (which, as usual, would take a few reminders for her to remember), being a nurse (my people) and constantly flashing a big and playful jokeresque smile which was endearingly accentuated by being a petite Asian-American, I was already casually hoping we would develop a friendship beyond rideshare companions.
Starting what I had come to find as an experience within itself, the journey to the burn had begun with my already being worn out and hazy from not yet having time to recover from India. Thoughts about the irony of decompressing from that trip by going to my own intense journey of pilgrimage kept me amused albeit a wee bit nervous while unloading my car and packing the RV. Mia along with Rebecca, an aging (and proving we can still live fab over 30) ex porn star with the style of a cheerleader barbie doll were the women I had originally met on the local Facebook burner page who were going to be staying in the RV and were leading the rideshare. Well, Mia was really the one holding the reigns with a pop-in from Rebecca on rare of occasion.
Heading out a couple days earlier than originally intended, the three of us who had joined in for rides only, myself and two younger women, had been caught offguard when being told about extra expenses too late to figure something else out without excessive stress and effort. Specifically, we would be staying at hotels in Lake Tahoe for two nights on the way there and two in Reno on the way back. Not only was the cost of the rooms added to our budget but also the extra days we would have to take off work. Ballin’ on a budget meant that the start of the trip was a little more stressful (in line with expecting the unexpected when it came to the burn) but was also exciting once given the OK to pay later. Specifically for the ideas not only of comfort on the way there and back but also getting to spend time in our beloved Tahoe and a huge pool party on the way back. For all the things the burn was, comfort was NOT one of them. I didn’t fully know it then but those two adjustments were about to provide experiences that I was to want to become a normal part of my annual routine from then on.
I was not a patient woman and it was only getting worse the older I got and the more I got used to being alone. In was also ten-fold at the burn thanks to sleep-deprivation and to being at my limit of stimulation. In ironic contrast, that left me with so much love to give but also very little tolerance. Something I tried to reign in as Rebecca was on nonstop mode with whippets and complaing which both tested my limits by grating on my nerves and worrying me. I was able to find some compassion for it, though, as I got the impression it was related to anxiety and, while it seemed likely that she used to be a sparkle pony, she had learned to chip in. Maybe not as much as Mia (little Mizz kick ass doing everything) and on a lesser note myself (who was feebly trying to support Mia) but still tried. By the end of the burn, I had mixed feelings about her. Something that meant I’d probably like her in a less stressful environment where we weren’t required to be up in each other’s personal space while also relying on each other so much.
Elena, a cutie-pie joining our crew who also followed in line with myself and Mia in regard to looking younger than our actual ages, something accentuated by her being tall and thin with a blond bob, was a chatty 29 year old woman with a strong Russian accent who still had an innocence to her despite how scrappy she had provento be by all she had gone through coming to America. A sign that she was going to do great on the playa.
Having issues with the air-conditioner not working in the huge RV as we all took turns driving from SD to Tahoe, the two of us woke up alone in the hotel our first morning in that enchanted lake town full of pine trees as Mia and Rebecca had left to get the RV looked at. The scent and sunshine refreshing us as soon as we stepped out in our sundress-covered bikinis to walk down to the lake, myself also being filled with memories of childhood family trips, I was happy. I was also instantly overwhelmed by nonstop chatting being directed at me as it was just the two of us (the fifth and youngest of us five, Jewels, had taken off with a local friend the night before) as we walked up to a local gal miserably trying to smile through a cold while doing her job of granting access to the lake’s beach. Talking to her for a few minutes, the attention went back to being all on me as we laid there sunbathing while I wished for quiet meditative time while at the same time not wanting to cast her spirits down by asking for it. Trying not to be distracted, it bummed me put that I wasn’t in a better headspace to meet her on that plane as she was such a sweetheart, low-maintenance and had been doing her part to chip in. Dropping her off the next day with her Russian camp, I look back and wish I would have made more of an effort to roam the playa with her. Even if she WAS on the other side of the playa. 😜
Jewels (not FJ/Fuckin Jewels), a woman in her earlier twenties, was the youngest and the one who, while I could see the sweet side of a girl who wanted to do the right thing somewhere in there, more so both infuriated and insulted me with a constant ignorance and self-importance that I could only hope was an immaturity that would be outgrown. Also because, once again, I was extra situationally sensitive.
She and Rebecca were both always running late but she was by far the worst and seemed to have a self-entitlement of expecting us to do things for her. Never having been, she loved to tell us vet burners what Burning Man was all about, talked about drugs the whole way up as if it was nothing but some kind of rave (NOT my thing) and was the first to scratch the gigantic RV after acting like she knew what she was doing before driving it. She was a festie and seemed convinced that was what Burning Man was, which was a great big no no in the community. By the time we got back, I actively avoided the brewery she worked at, though I doubted she’d be there long given the team-player work ethic she’d proven not to have. At least not yet.
Rebecca and Mia returned in the afternoon to meet up with Elena and I and were sweet to cover the majority of an expensive dinner at a restaurant overlooking the lake so we could all enjoy it together. An extra super cool gesture since the rest of us were already way over our budgets. Something that’s hard not to do at the burn and they would also be experiencing by the end. Later that night, Elena and I walked into the hotel room after a spa session that loud splashing kids had chased us out of to a cloud of bacon smoke that started as soon as the elevator doors opened and trailed all the way to our room as Mia had been prep-cooking for her camp.
Bacon and PBR. Two things that can be found in abundance on the playa. Giggling at the tasty cloud, enjoying celebratory drinks and joining in the dance party after Mia had also take off her skirt after exclaiming that she was too hot, it was time to crash out for our last few hours before hitting the playa. Well, time for them to crash out. Once again, I couldn’t sleep. Shocker.

The thing is, when we go through such a big and transitional life experience with others, regardless of how we react at the time, we are forever connected to them and that plants a seed in our hearts. In this case, those seeds have grown into love for all of them. Yes, even for Jewels. 🦄💙🦄

Living Like a Traveler at Home – Mucho Video & Picture Edition

Finally home and falling right back into the category of “no rest for the wicked” , I flew into San Francisco and went straight back to putting in a couple hours behind the wheel Lyfting on my way to the casa of Aaron and Brigit, my burner pals, (and a second home of sorts for me) in the Santa Cruz Mountains. San Diego would have to wait, though the excitment of finally being able to check out the idea I’d had for years of flying back and forth every week or two did help to fight off too much homesickness. A new goal achieved that almost instantly proved too exhausting and expensive to keep up with once at it.

Between driving for rideshare and studying for the work I was to do with teens in India over the summer, I didn’t have much free time. Even so, Brigit, Aaron and I managed to find some fun to get into during the small windows I managed to carve out while there. Pedicures, our coveted hottub coctail hour of skinny-dipping under the stars, St. Patty’s Day, a dinner party, my favorite Felton log cabbin bar and Pedelyte to help recover from it all.

Once back in San Diego, I was excited to move into the new place I had found for (what ended up only being) the next month at home in OB. A spot that would end up costing me $450 more than I had budgeted, half-week’s pay (ouch), but worth it in order to avoid the confusion of figuring out an unstable daily back and forth amount. The roomie was also super flexible and chill which was appreciated. Plus she had doggos for me to love on.

Still forever trying to catch up with my writing, I was back in full school mode while still studying for my new gig. Visiting my favorite cafes along with dog and housesitting helped to get some quiet time for those things but my social and family life, along with catching up with that beach town that I loved so much, still (poor me) consumed an ansorbinant amount of my time.
So did falling in love.
Stephane and I were magic. We both swept each other off our feet to a place that brought old black-and-white romance movies to colorful and vibrant life. Our kind of chemistry put those around us in a whimspical state of euphoria. Minus the subpar sex life (but at least he tried), it was as close to perfect as I’d ever had. He not only admired me, the lifestyle I was leading and my dreams/goals but also supported them. He was also just as busy with his multiple companies, tennis and properties as I was with my stuff, which meant that we didn’t have the constant issues I’d in the past of lovers suffocating me.
So yeah. I went from the person who never falls in love to a level teenage girls dream of.
As mentioned, I was exhausted from the commute back and forth between San Diego and San Francisco within a couple trips. I’d imagine that to be, in large part, because of lack of routine and needing to figure out last minute when it made sense to go. A detail that made travel expenses jump from an expected $200 to double that per tri0. Ouch x 2. To triple it, I found out that I needed $1,000 in vaccines that the company I was to be working for would not cover. At least if I wanted to follow the reccommendations of the main immunization and travel clinic of San Francisco. Something my new regional director, concentually, hinted at me to not get in order to avoid overhead. Direction that still bothers me two months later. I’m 40 years old and don’t know my tits from my ass in regard to diseases in India and which vaccines to get in order to protect myself. Sorry dude but I’m trusting the professionals. Extra cash to buy another sari or two ain’t worth risking my health. And I know you mean well but I resent defending high overhead by reccommending otherwise.

Flying back to the old SDizzle again, I headed directly to my homie Bradley’s boat to hang with him and his girlfriend (who so happens to be one of my favorite gals) Juliette. It was fun watching the rideshare driver be surprised at how close it was (the airport is along the water downtown) and that there was a large sailboat pulling up to get me. Score for putting a smile on a random person’s face. Daily goal met.
Back to the Bay once again (head spinning yet?) where I managed to catch a comedy show by one of my favorite comedians (Kathleen Madigan) in Napa and then SD again, Big Red took me out for a Brothel & Bar history crawl in the Gaslamp quarter. I also got the chance to hang for one of Nikki & Brent’s son’s birthday parties and cheer Nik on for a thriathalon she rocked. Something she was to do a repeat performance of a couple weeks later. Kick-ass crazy woman.

Somewhere in there it was May. The month of my parent’s and sister’s birthdays as well as the anniversary of when I had lost my fur-baby in 2015 and four people the year before. Relieved that the losses (that will probably forever haunt me) didn’t take over the celebration, we had a great time at the pool at Harrah’s Resort & Cassino, starting with just Wendy and I so we could get our grown-up time in (AKA: coctails) and then were joined by our parents and my niece’s a few hours later.
One of my weeks in So Cal was consumed completely by an intensive WAFA (Wilderness and First Aid) certification course. It was the first time I met the man who was to become my local director and he instaintly rubbed me wrong. My instincts had me on alert but I told myself that it may just be because I had an aversion to Marines (he was a vet). Reasoning that, based on past experience, I would be able to be tolerant, compassionate and professional regardless of what was to come, I also tried to tell myself that polar-opposites have different strengths to offer which can create a kick-ass team as a whole.
Another flag was how obvious it was when he talked about the other mentor that he, at the very least, had a big crush from when they had crossed paths the summer before. I wouldn’t have been all that surprised to even find out they had even already danced the horizontal hokie pokie, minus the details that he was physically unattractive and socially awkward by traditional standards.
I hoped for the best and even reached out to give him rides along with going out to an awkward dinner with him and one more colleague for the sake of team building. What could I do? I tried and I tried and I tried but holy shit did it turn out to be worse than I ever expected. Just wait until that blog post of horror comes out…
Things with Stephane and I were ramping up. He and two of his closest friends headed down from Orange County (where they lived) to go with me to Brent’s birthday a week or two before leaving for India. A ton of my closest friends from our twenties and also my family (as far as he knew) were going to be there.Thank God they (my family) pulled out thanks to my mother being uptight about his being separated as opposed to divorced and sister not wanting to go after I got upset about her bringing Sean into my safety circle.
Drinking champagne before heading over, one of Stephane’s friends raved about how good we were together and what a good guy he was. A good time and good vibes that were to continue until a couple hours into the party. Drinks kept flowing, friends were made and the laughter amped up. Somewhere soon after, my world crumbled. As the minds of most women work, at least in my experience, I don’t just shrug and let it go if something seems to have even a little stink of fishiness. Instead, walls stay at least a little up while I bide my time, keeping myself in a “we’ll see” mode.
I had been in that “we’ll see” mode about the details of his separation since first finding out about it. His daughter, being an Olympic-hopeful for volleyball (according to him) and the kind of man he was, I could see how he could still be supporting his supposedly-separated-wife as she played manager to their daughter, but also knew that I was giving significant trust and was taking a big risk.
Stephane, once drunk at the party, said something that put me on alert at a time when I saw the door open to get a more honest answer. So I asked straight out in that moment of seeing an opportunity to finally get the whole story. And he responded.
Yes, he was still married.
Instaintly breaking down in alcohol-fueled tears, I refused to let him say anything more as I demanded he gather his friends and leave. Juliette showed up soon after, unknowing to what had happened, but was the one to sweep me off the floor, even without the details. Most of those people who used to be my closest friends didn’t even check on me as it happened to see if I was OK, let alone send me a text the day after. Another harsh reminder about what happens when not around to nurture relationships. C’est la vie.
Wendy had been through a lot with the type of guys she had dated and surrounded herself with. It had hardened her to men and made her defensive toward any sign of risk. Sister-syndrome likely making it worse, she had been against Stephane and my putting myself out on such a long limb since the beginning. With a question the day after the big reveal that was so obviously leading toward the opposite answer, she asked me if I regretted it. No. I did not. I would risk myself over and over again for something so wonderful. Even if only for a moment and even if not totally real. Sometimes, in a world that can be so cruel, it can be easy to forget that the best and most beautiful things are just as big abd worth it all. The look on her face made me think that maybe I had reminded her of that. And that started the strings of my heart to already start pulling back together again.

My mind has always shut out the most traumatic experiences for a few months before having enough distance to process. It gave me those last couple weeks to hang in OB with loved ones (including the mermaid who was up for a few sweet weeks), hiking in La Jolla, cheering Wendy on with billboards I had made of her face while she ran the Rock and Roll Marathon, dinner at Cafe Sevilla with Big Red that was followed by salsa lessons (in which Mom and Kate joined us later), wine tasting and a very satisfying afternoon of organizing my storage unit. The closest thing I had to a stable and constant space of my own, it gave me a great sense of peace and getting my affairs sorted right before leaving again. Even more, when my heart needed sorting as well.
That was it. Once again, it was time for this free Robin to fly.