Tag Archives: fire

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

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AUGUST 31
Making it battered and bruised…literally… it was time to once again to burn the man.
Determined to make it to one of Kelsey’s performances in the Black Rock Philharmonic at 11 AM that morning (early by playa time), I first prepped for the goal of making it to the Naked Tiki Bar that afternoon when dressing in a Parrot Head getup. Grabbing my bike when ready to head out to watch her performance, I thought about how bummed I was to have missed the one they put on at The Folly. An amazing cousin to an old-Western style art center (for lack of a better description) that was one of the pieces to be sacrificed to the fire gods for the year. I had never made it there but at least I got to see the orchestra in their home camp, which just so happened to be my favorite day camp to chill at, Frozen Oasis. Regardless of being lucky to have averaged even a couple hours sleep a night, I was still able to enjoy the slushies gifted out, albeit perturbed by the terrible pour that could have fit into a rocks glass. Also lovely to literally help chill were the misters, soft color scheme of a light turquoise and grey, a metal dragon that breathed fire and us playing along with the kazoos that were handed out at the end of their performance.

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

SEPT 1 – SUN
Aha the day of the temple burn. Thank God. I was doing my best to stay present through meditative reminders that I was in the most important place in the world to me. Like every year, many of us were just fighting to just get through it at that point. A notable about of seasoned burners even left every year once the weekend (Labor Day weekend) hit. Being a year of extra miserable exhaustion for me, it was the first time the thought didn’t appall me. It was also the first time I realized that maybe the reason I never noticed the “weekend warriors” who were notorious for only coming with the goal of more superficial partying was because I was always too worn out.
I’m sure I started the day the temple was to burn at the Swan like usual but honestly, the whole day is pretty blank. Maybe nights were easier to recall because they were such a reprieve from the relentless sun and it’s inescapable hellfire heat. An unfortunate byproduct to such a level of exhaustion, the temple burn didn’t do much for me. The after-party at Spanky‚Äôs called Swine Bar where I bartended for awhile was my favorite event of the camp, though, so that was still a little fun. Especially having the little bit of space in the middle of the crowd that tending bar provided.

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

November 2018 – A quiet month of daily life…mostly.

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.