“You must frame your answers in the form of questions.” – flag outside of a camp
last year when we returned home from BRC, i was depressed, but it was because we returned to the wreckage of Katrina and the ensuing political and economic and social debacle and were fed a lot of guilt. my 2005 burning man experience, however, despite its bumps and scratches, was magical, and upon return i immediately immersed myself in the SF burning man community, addicted to the inspiration and potential. over the past year, i’ve met at least a 100 new people and have made some most excellent new friends, participated in dozens of creative community events, and i really felt fully prepared for another year on the playa. more than prepared: fully-engaged.i had a lot of plans for 2006; i was excited; the anticipation was almost painful. i acquired a new wardrobe, plotted a schedule (ha!), and was absolutely certain that this year was going to be full of miraculous connections, visceral highs and serendipitous wonderment. we avoided joining a large theme camp for multiple reasons: not wanting to camp on the Esplanade (main drag), not wanting to have to do work shifts, not wanting to feel obligated to be anywhere at any time – so we set up a small camp with 2 of our very good (and well-experienced burner) friends and i dedicated myself to taking full advantage of our small-camp freedom to experience as much as BRC could offer.
i did that until about wednesday night. monday, tuesday, and wednesday were great. BRC was slowly filling up, people were working, everyone seemed pretty focused on their missions, and i had a wonderful time helping various camps set up, finding all my friends, and flitting about on my bicycle. we were lucky when we arrived monday afternoon that some of our super-early arrival friends (and some former CrackCookie campmates from last year) had saved a large amount of space at 3:30 and Chance for their camp, Fucking Yay!, and they were totally awesome and let us take up the far corner of their real estate to set up our annex camp, “ALL DRAMA, ALL THE TIME”. it was really great knowing that people we knew and loved would be right there next door (frank&tracy, darin&strawberry, richard&soleil, snowflake, and many others), and they were excellent neighbors all week long, stopping by to see if we needed any help, serving us drinks, and being an all-around fun crew.
monday was spent finishing camp set up and finding people, with a stop by happy hour at camp misfit toys. tuesday was full of anticipation, as that night, False Profit was hosting the Space Cowboys and the Unimog – two camps we know well = recipe for a fantastic dance party outside, and the FP camp was decorated top to bottom and full of carpets and pillows and decorative lighting, creating a mostly-clean and comfortable (something much cherished) ambient space. tuesday afternoon i was giddy and inspired, we helped false profit finish getting their camp set up and decorated, then went back to camp and i created a new dress out of fabric and safety pins that i LOVED. my friend and campmate ivan put on his white tuxedo, and shortly after sunset we headed over to his friends’ camp while jay and reagan continued getting ready to go out. when we arrived at the camp, we learned we were there just in time for a wedding! they had built themselves a little turret tower, with the seating platform about 15 feet high – a pretty good view of the 10:00 side. ivan’s friend was officiating, and the ceremony was both thoughtful and hilarious. we had a good time.
ivan and i rode back to camp and then we all headed to false profit. it was the first night partying for many of our friends who had spent the previous 48 hours working in extreme conditions, and everyone was in high spirits. all night long we were there and danced and socialized with a wonderful crowd of people. the party was truly amazing and lasted until the sun was quite high in the sky on wednesday morning – and we were there for all of it, high on the communal joy surrounding what had been created.
then, after wednesday morning, i think i started to burn out. and, PMS started to set in, and i started to get very irritable, tired, and depressed. perhaps the timing of my menstrual cycle had a lot to do with this. ok, not perhaps. it did. i know a few of you will understand this: the days i experience PMS off the playa are usually filled with wide swings in mood and energy and usually involve irritability, irrationality, and a deep need for outside reassurance and attention. combine that with severe weather, limited food and beverage resources, and having everything, including taking a piss, be 10x harder than in the default world….and i will fully admit i had some full-on BITCH moments labor day weekend. my energy levels were painfully low, to the point that i was ANGRY that i couldn’t muster more energy to do things. i sat and stared for hours. i lay in my bed, half-asleep, listening to playa-life go by, for hours, unable to get up and participate.
wednesday day, i got up in the afternoon, put in a minimal amount of clothing and headed out for a solo bike ride around BRC and to find the place where the big hoopdown was taking place later that afternoon and then go to the meeting for the “burning man fashion show 2006″ i was intending to participate in, way on the other side of BRC. while i was out looking around, the only memorable dust storm of the week hit, and i was fully unprepared. no dust mask, no goggles, i could barely breathe or see enough to get back to camp. i arrived back at camp to find our shade structure on the verge of blowing over due to one of the guy wires ripping out of the canvas, and no one around. jay came back just in time, and we then spent the next hour or so with me using pretty much all of my body weight to hold the structure in tact while jay tried to stabilize it. a wonderful way to spend an afternoon after you were up for 24 hours the day before. the dust storm fortunately did not last too long, but i was exhausted from lack of sleep, heat and then duststorm battles, and so didn’t make it to the fashion show meeting, or over to the big “hoopdown” that was going on – meant to be the biggest daytime gathering of hoopers from everywhere – just down the street. i felt really lame for not going to both, but i just didn’t have the energy to represent myself the way that i would have wanted to, although i suppose i could have just gone and watched or hooped along the sidelines, and now i wish that i had.
with the dust storm came a cold front, and even before the sun went down, wednesday night was COLD. multiple layers and gloves and hats cold. some friends were spinning early sets just after sunset at Nexus, and so we headed over there. i fell asleep on the couch, and after their sets were over i went back to camp and went to sleep, too tired to stay up and not willing to deal with keeping warm until sunrise. i felt lame, but there was nothing that was going to keep me up that night. jay, however, somehow found the energy and stayed out, so i snuggled into bed alone.
thursday morning started badly: because jay stayed out all night, and i asked him to come back to camp in time to wake me up at the first light of dawn so that i could get up and get ready for Christabel and Kramer’s wedding at dawn. i woke up as it was getting light, and jay hadn’t returned yet. i had to hurry to get ready (in the white dress i bought partially for the occasion) in the dark, and trying to rush to get ready by light of headlamp is difficult to say the least. jay came back to camp before sunrise, but we were still late to the wedding and missed the beginning and all the pre-dawn ceremonial fire-spinning. i was really angry with him for staying out all night and not coming back to camp when I thought he should have, and i blamed us missing the beginning of the wedding on him and it was a horrible sunrise of silent-treatments and frustration.
the wedding was beautiful though, out on the open playa, the bride and groom standing on pedestals encircled by a crowd filled with friends and strangers, and i finally calmed down a bit as the sun came up and i saw how happy the bride and groom where and how happy everyone was for them. after the ceremony ended, we then headed to the temple, where many others in white were as also that morning there had been the annual silent “white procession” from center camp to the temple. there, we found many friends sharing the sunrise, and i worked out some of my negative energy with some yogic dancing. we spent a few hours wandering about, taking photos and enjoying the early morning.
what started to dig at me after a few days is that almost no one we knew, outside of those in Fuckin’ Yay who were camped directly next to us, came to find our camp and say hello, including some of our very best friends (but jason did!). it’s sort of a burner hospitality thing, i think, to try to find the camps of your friends, make an appearance, show that you care where they are and meet who they are camping with. it’s also true that many of our friends had camps which were much more comfortable, entertaining and we could have left ours to hang out there for hours, and it’s also true that i didn’t try to find EVERYONE i knew, but i did go out searching for a good number of them. and, usually when you do find their camp, they’re not there, and i know this, but i still let myself dwell on it. when we decided to camp alone (the 4 of us), we discussed this – how we might be sort of isolated and that we might not see some of our friends nearly as much as we would if we camped with them. i thought that perhaps this would happen too, but i have also been through the group camp thing (and remember, i am always calculating for two of us, not just one), and this year, despite the drawbacks of non-communal camping, i did not feel like engaging in that way on the playa. i wanted freedom; i got it. perhaps too much.
i figured we’d hang out at our friends’ camps a lot, but then once we got there, to be honest i was feeling for some reason really self-conscious about just hanging around them, like because we had declined the invitation(s) to communally camp it was awkward to us come and take advantage of the camp, having put very little effort into helping build it.
long-time burners will adamantly defend that Burning Man is not (just) a rave; it’s not about the drugs and the partying: it’s about community. and i agree. for those who go year after year, the party becomes less and less important and the social aspect is far more important. this is why it really hurt me that so many people who i thought were part of MY community seemed to completely not even care if we were there, or, at least, they did not care enough to attempt to find us and spend time with us at any point during the entire week we were there. they expected us to come to them. realizing that, when given the freedom of ample time (6 full days) and close-proximity (within a half a mile), some people whom you formerly thought loved you will not in fact put forth any effort to find you or spend time with you is really hard to swallow. and, learning that the playa gives everyone a sort of “get out of jail free card” in terms of being a total flake is something you cherish for yourself but hate that other people use it too.
i know that this feeling was underscored by other things, and i know that everyone gives into their own parameters there, partly because of outside forces (dust storms, heat, work/camp duties), partly because you can (where else can you miss someone’s wedding and everyone understands?), and that for those reasons our paths didn’t cross much with a lot of people. no one bailed on any agreed-upon plans, and for that reason i don’t feel that my friends owed anything to me other than what they were willing to give, but at the time i was just feeling sort of lonely. lonely in a crowded room.
on thursday afternoon at burning man, it was really hot and jay was sleeping, so i went and hung out at center camp by myself for a while. i was way too tired to try to make it to and participate in the fashion show, and while i knew that i was bailing, i just couldn’t bring myself to show up there, grumpy and tired in the hot afternoon heat. i figured not showing up was probably a better choice. at center camp, there was a pretty good band on stage and people were practicing contact movement dancing in the center. it was really obvious by thursday that the weekenders had arrived, as touristy looking people were all over, cameras around their necks exclaiming “i just HAVE to take a picture of this!” left and right, like they’re at the grand canyon or disneyland or something. i was wearing my full-length white dress from technodolly and carrying my shade parasol, which i guess was odd enough to catch people’s interest. the rule on the playa is that you should ask first before taking someone’s photo, but if you happen to be someone who is just out for some alone time, it gets rather annoying after about half a dozen excited people interrupt your daze to ask permission.
so anyway, while i was sitting at center camp listening to the music and watching people and dust drift by, several people asked to take my photo. apparently, one of those people was a chron photog, cuz hey – there i am.
thursday night, False Profit invited us to family dinner. jay, also, was invited to DJ while they set up and got ready. dinner wasn’t until 8, but jay wanted to be there at 6 to help with sound and play music. this was at the same time as christabel’s wedding “reception” and hoopdown at the Deep End, but i just didn’t feel i could go. last year, the deep end hoopdown was fun, but it was also exhausting as well as a bit of a spectacle. i was already tired, hungry, and not in the mood to be a spectacle. by the time i decided i could at least have gone, said some hellos, and watched others, it was pretty much too late. i felt terrible for feeling unmotivated, and instead spent the time half hanging around false profit and half across the street at Pink Flamingo Lounge, where a lot of our beach friends and campmates from last year were camping. by the time dinner rolled around, i was feeling a bit lonely and bored, not to mention STARVING once i could smell all the food being cooked. cooked food! dinner was served to at least 75 people (?): sweet potatoes, vegetarian soup, rice, mac&cheese, greens, salad, cornbread – it was heavenly and i was so grateful. i took a bunch of leftover food back to camp too, to give to reagan, who i knew was there sleeping and would probably wake up hungry.
thursday night after dinner, we went to sleep early but then got up before dawn on friday so that jay could spin a sunrise set at Pink Flamingo Lounge. not too many people were up, but it was a chill group and as the sun came up more people joined us. i was feeling really weird, and i was very grateful for the hospitality shown to me by that crew. my back was hurting and i was pretty grouchy, and so a few of them took me into their RV and pampered me with “magic wand” back massages and hippie breakfast. by the time the sun came up, my back was feeling much better and after receiving some much-needed attention and TLC, i was in a much better mood.
we stayed up for a few hours after sunrise, and then headed back to camp and dozed on the air mattress in the shade structure. as we lay there, i heard a car pull up, and i looked up to see justin and heidi, who we were hoping would come and find us. i was really excited to see them, and we set up their tent within our camp space. the main reason i was excited to see them was that it meant 2 more and different people to spend days with. until that point, we had spent a lot of time alone with one another during the hot days, and so fresh blood was much welcome. unfortunately for them, however, while they were fresh and raring to go, we were all burnt out messes. friday afternoon we rode around quite a bit but the heat really limited our adventure, so we went back to camp and napped.
as the sun set, and everyone got ready to go out, i woke up with my chest was feeling extremely tight and painful. i could breathe ok, but although everyone’s first thought was “too much dust”, my lungs felt fine and uncongested; it was more muscular feeling and taking big, deep inhalations hurt all across the front of my upper chest. i lay in bed for hours while people made dinner, took evening strolls, and got ready to participate in the first really BIG evening of the week. we could hear the big, fire-breathing art cars prowling the playa, orange glows lit the sky in all directions, and thousands of people streamed by on their glow-stick covered bicycles. the population of BRC had reached its 90% point, and there was some serious party energy. this of course only made me more depressed, as i was in pain and feeling completely unmotivated to join the inebriated masses.
strawberry brought me some decongestant and vapo-rub, which didn’t help, and i lay there in my tent trying to determine what might be going on with my chest, and finally came to a really embarrassing conclusion. earlier in the afternoon, while we had been riding around in the sun, i had been holding a parasol the entire time, switching back and forth as my arms got tired. when i laid down to nap and it got colder, my muscles tightened up. the reason my chest hurt was not because of a cold or dust inhalation: it was because i got too much exercise. i put away the vapo rub and cough drops and took some ibuprofen and got up and got dressed, just adding layers to what i already had on.
jay was scheduled to spin at about 2:30 a.m. at this big, white, two story box thing called the Sugar Cube, which sat between center camp and the man out on the playa. heidi, justin and, i however, were eager to begin having fun, so for the next few hours, we walked and rode around the open playa, looking at all the fire and light projects, while jay stayed at the sugar cube and helped with sound. we went back there for a while, and then heidi and justin took off. i stayed for about 90 minutes, cold, and sort of biding time until jay was done. for who knows what reasons – cold? location? type of music? – , not too many people stopped by the sugar cube to dance or listen, so it wasn’t much of a scene; in fact, other than those working on the project or other DJs standing by, there was pretty much no one there and it was windy and cold. ivan and reagan where there too, but reagan was cold and tired and ivan seemed pretty much in his own headspace. i paced a lot. i sat, wrapped up in my layers, on the cold playa in the dark for a while, holding a single glowstick so that passersby wouldn’t hit me. i really just wanted jay to be done so that he could leave and we could run around the playa together, and a bit after 4:00a we headed back to camp to drop off his records and then headed off to take in some BRC nightlife – most importantly, the Space Cowboys Hoe Down – their big friday night party that was taking place at the Serpent Mother fire art installation. the Hoe Down in 2005 was arguably the best party of the week, so there was a lot of expectation and anticipation for a reprise.
shortly before sunrise we stopped back by camp to drop off our bikes (tired of riding), and found justin and heidi still awake in justin’s tent. i tapped on the side and demanded they get up to watch the sunrise, and after some prodding, they eventually found all their things, put their coats and hats and shoes back on, and we wandered off into the dawn together.
we walked around checking out the music and looking at art until the sun came up. jay and i went back to the hoe down and found dozens of our friends there in various states of sobriety and energy-levels. we started dancing and socializing, and heidi and justin went off to bed again…… and we danced and wandered around BRC for a couple more hours in the calm, cool morning hours.
i stayed up pretty late that morning (saturday), but when we got back to camp jay basically passed out. i eventually did too for a few hours in the hot heat of the afternoon, and then it was time to get ready for the burning of the man. sunset came and went, the crowds went rushing by heading for the man, and after a while we headed toward the bacchanal too. we opted to stay on the fringes, back by the art cars, instead of heading into the crowd. i also wanted to be able to really SEE the man burn this year. in 2004, i slept through it. in 2005, we were there, front and center, but we were downwind and after the first couple of explosions we were engulfed in smoke and embers and i didn’t see much of the fire at all. so, this year we stayed upwind and back far enough so as to have a full view. we hung around the DEX and the flowers, and also found the lovesub and kiki and marshall.
the man was ignited, and the fireworks display was spectacular. then, we went back to camp and went to sleep. i didn’t feel at all like dealing with the 40,000-person crowd, and nothing sounded special enough to drag me from my bed. i thought about getting up just before dawn to head over to nexus for some sunrise dancing, but i was exhausted, it was cold, and i didn’t.
sunday morning is always very melancholy. it’s the last day for most, and many people pack up and leave. we hung around for most of the morning and afternoon, took another bike tour of the art on the open playa, and then determined we should pack up the camp so we could leave after the temple burn like we did last year to avoid the labor “exodus” and labor day traffic. one of our campmates was missing, however. reagan was not there that morning when we came back, and none of us had seen her. she had slept through the burn and got up sometime in the night and left. it was sort of annoying at the time that she wasn’t there to pack her stuff away and help clean up, but i wasn’t blaming her. we hadn’t told her that’s what we wanted to do. just annoyed that she wasn’t there. she came back at about 4:30, completely exhausted and tired to the point of tears, and when we told her of our plan to pack up the camp, she begged for a couple of hours sleep. we waited until it started to cool off, and just before sunset started to pack up. packing went well for the most part – having heidi and justin’s extra hands was helpful, but we didn’t really finish by the time everyone wanted to leave to watch the temple burn, so heidi and justin left, and then once all the cleaning up was done and just needed to be packed into the van, ivan and i went to watch the temple burn together and left reagan and jay there, as they weren’t really in the mood for it.
i figured that the temple burn was close to starting, if it hadn’t already, because it seemed so dark. however, when we arrived, we waited for at least 45 minutes, standing fairly silently, ivan and i both in odd moods – i was really in no mood to talk at all – and so we stood, waiting, rather impatiently; the whole crowd seemed impatient. as we stood there, me in my white dress again and ivan in his white tux, i suddenly felt hot blood run down the inside of my thighs. fucking great. my period started as i stood there. how appropriate a way to end my burn, i thought. usually i receive some very clear physical signals (acute cramping) before my bleeding starts, but perhaps my overall physical state of being overshadowed those. so, i asked those around me if anyone had any babywipes or a tissue, and remembered that i had put an o.b. tampon in my hip pockets. i excused myself, very carefully walked back to my bike, found a shadowy area, cleaned myself up and inserted the tampon. i managed to not get any blood on my white dress, but i was then paranoid about it for the rest of the temple burn until i got back to camp. how nice: a literal period to put at the end my burning man 2006.
as the temple disintegrated, the next thing scheduled to burn was the enormous wooden belgian structure, Uchronia (aka “the belgian waffle”). this structure was the most enormous thing, way out past the temple, haphazardly formed by a team of 90 belgians with 2″x3″s, the inside forming a nest-like dancefloor. everyone wanted to see that thing burn.
however, jay and reagan were still back at camp, basically waiting for us so they could leave. i told ivan i was going straight back; he opted to check out the uchronia burn – we weren’t sure what time that was scheduled for, but everyone was headed over there. he said if they waited too long to light it, he’d come back. i got back to camp at around 10:15. heidi and justin were there, and jay and reagan were sleeping in the neighbor’s (our awesome Fuckin’ Yay! neighbors) shade structure, and i went over and woke them up. jay was a bit annoyed that ivan didn’t come back with us, as we couldn’t really just leave him there. his camp was mostly packed into his car, but it was unclear whether we were supposed to be taking is shade structure with us, as it was just lying there on the ground. and, i didn’t feel good about leaving him to drive back alone either. it was getting late, and a tired solo driver (with no radio) on a dark desert road is dangerous. but, jay insisted that if he wanted to go back with us, he should have come back after the temple burn. we waited in the van for about an hour, half-asleep, and shortly before midnight we gave up on waiting. we tied his shade structure to the top of the van, and left. i felt incredibly horrible, but it was also true that we were wasting our waking hours waiting around instead of driving, and it was getting really late. plus, ivan’s a pretty self-sufficient guy, and i wasn’t sure that he’d even really want to leave when he got back anyway, as he mentioned he might not feel like driving.
so we drove slowly out the dusty road, and i tried to determine if the belgian structure was burning yet. it was pretty far out, but i assumed i’d see an enormous glow from the fire. i couldn’t tell though.
jay drove for about 45 minutes on the lonely dark road, reagan was fast asleep. he got tired, and i took over and drove for about another hour, noting all the other cars/RVs stopped along the side, just like last year. just before we reached 80-W, i pulled over, not wanting to drive on the freeway while so tired. we slept until 5:30a, and then i woke up and started driving again. we pulled over in reno, and then continued on, stopping a couple of times to get breakfast and secure the load on the top. the three of us had a few brief conversations along the way about how we felt, mostly just expressing a pervasive feeling of disappointment. in who? ourselves, mostly. reagan and i especially.
we arrived back in oakland at about 10:30 am on labor day. we unloaded the van and then laid around in bed most of the day. on tuesday, we took the van to get cleaned inside and out and then returned it to the airport.
the journey was over, but my processing of it had just begun.
over the past week, as i’ve been working on this write up and talking a lot to my friends, i have gone through considerable introspection about what happened. people have been talking a lot about expectations, and how unreal or difficult ones lead to disappointment. i agree, but i really didn’t think i had set too high of an expectation for myself or for others. like i said, i felt READY. but, i guess i had forgotten the mentality that pervades the community once you enter BRC. expectations are good, but only if your expectation is that anything can and will happen, and that you’ll have to adjust. expect to have both wonderful and terrible moments. expect to experience extreme highs and lows. not to say expect the unexpected – nothing that unexpected happened. the only thing unexpected was that once i got there, i lost all interest in who i thought i wanted to be. instead, i spent much of the week isolating myself. even my wardrobe reflected that; i spent much of the week wearing full-coverage costumes – hoods and sleeves and floor-length dresses – only going out in skimpy clothes during the hottest hours of the day.
and interesting aside on this theme of my self-consciousness, we camped across the street from “Barbie Death Camp and Wine Bistro“, a long-time BRC theme-camp. on monday, i went over and introduced myself to the older gentlemen who set up the camp. i think i was wearing this and looking barbie-esque. “i’m offended by your hostility toward barbie!” i said, joking and just trying to start up conversation. “we only do this to get pretty girls to come and talk to us,” the guy said, sort of pervily. “every girl has a barbie memory.” “does it work?” i asked, sort of put off by his outright admittance to preying on female insecurities to meet chicks. “sure it does. you’re here, aren’t you?” “yeah, but only because i’m camped across the street,” i retorted. throughout the week, i was annoyed by barbie death camp. and, sort of out of ironic protest, i wore my “material girl” t-shirt around proudly as part of my hot-afternoon attire. obviously, though, their schtick works – they get a lot of attention. it annoyed me for a whole week, but on friday and saturday afternoons there always were literally crowds around the display, taking tons of photos and loving the overplayed irony. perhaps if i weren’t so hyper-sensitive (having been accused of being one, and sometimes being one) to the “playa barbie” stereotype (or playa bunnies, as some refer to them) – meaning girls who spend burning man dressed up in hotpants and fishnets and skimpy outfits and furry bikinis, as opposed to those who dress more utilitarian/hipster – i wouldn’t have been bothered so much. and, of course, as he said, there are my own personal barbie stories that it brought up. everyone else LOVES Barbie Death Camp.
perhaps the most telltale piece if information about my personal energy levels and mood during this year’s burning man experience is that i hooped for a total of approximately 3 minutes. for many reasons, including heat, exhaustion, avoidance of being a spectacle, not wanting to feel competitive, and lack of motivation, i attended no “hoopdowns”, and while our hoops went with us many places, i never felt inspired to use them. we never even lit up the fire hoops. this is dramatically different than last year, when i hooped so much my body was bruised from wrist to ankle. i saw others hooping, and the energy around them was not something i wanted to experience. here in the bay area it’s no secret that i often avoid high-spectacle hooping events; i don’t enjoy having all eyes on me, and i especially don’t enjoy being treated like a sideshow. this year on the playa, i was just never in the mood to be “another hooper”. AND, knowing that i didn’t have the energy to be a really GOOD hooper, i certainly didn’t want to go around feeling mediocre. vanity: it can be enervating. but was it vanity? or self-doubt? are they that much different?
again, i asked myself, in a desperate way, “what am i doing here?” many times throughout the week. the fact that once i got there, there was a severe disconnect between what i planned on doing/who i planned to be and what i manifested for myself put me into a real headspin. what was i doing there? was i trying to be someone i’m not? am i different person than i was a year ago, when i had so much fun? or worse, was i pretending them and am over it now?
i still can’t say. i went because i wanted to once again have a chance to be a pure version of myself. i go through cycles – cycles of energy, cycles of creativity, cycles of sociability, cycles of self love and self hate, and so it is not unusual that i went through a weird mood while there. i just wonder how much of it i could have changed, but really, i felt immobilized while there. subject to greater forces. unable to control the world.
toward the end of the week, the things i love and hate most about human nature: creativity, whimsy, humor, intellect, innovation, compassion, wonder; selfishness, greed, excess: all were in full bloom out there in that desert. i sat watching joy and wonder one moment, and witnessed selfishness and abuse the next. i saw some personalities blown wide open, their potentials increased and limits pushed, while other people, like myself, withdrew in the face of a complex and overly dynamic culture.
the one part of this year that was as wonderful as expected was that everywhere i went, i saw someone i knew. even if i only saw them whizzing by on their bicycles and didn’t say hi, it was awesome seeing familiar faces all over BRC, to not be able to get from point A to point B without stopping at 10 camps along the way to say hello, get a drink, chat a bit, dance a bit, and them move on down the block. from false profit to the pink flamingos and fucking yay!, even with so many strangers everywhere i always felt that my friends were close by. the first year we went, we knew almost NO ONE, and so it was such a wonderful thing this year to have a community there and endless fuzzy hugs to fall into. i want to say thank you to all of our friends who helped me/jay out in various ways on the playa – to frank and tracy and all the Fuckin Yay’ers who let us take up a bunch of their camp space, to the pink flamingos who gave us dawn-related love and let jay spin, to strawberry who gave me herbal medicines when i thought i was really sick, to darin who always makes me feel like a million dollars, and, of course, as noted, i owe many thanks to our friends at False Profit, for tuesday and for thursday and for receiving our mail, and to all of those who were so wonderfully familial with open arms every time we ran into each other while out there. opting to camp basically alone and “unattached” this year (not to minimalize reagan and ivan, i just mean camping without a huge crew) was a tough decision for us this year, but in the end we ran into people we knew and loved everywhere we went and that made us feel incredibly loved all week long. at least, in between the times i was feeling really lonely anyway. funny how now, in retrospect, i was feeling equally as lonely as i was loved. how the fuck does that happen?
i also give big props to jay, my love and life-partner, for being there 100% for us, for doing the lion’s share of physical labor to put up our camp, for allowing me to be all of my selves, positive and negative, and despite his own challenges still being the best playa-buddy ever. the trials and tribulations of burning man can ruin friendships and relationships, but every year i have the best time with jay, and always feel proud to have him be my #1. after all these years, and this our 3rd burn, we seem to go together seamlessly, sometimes on completely different planes but still parallel. it’s amazing to me, and in no way do i take jay for granted. ivan and reagan were fantastic camp mates too, as were justin and heidi once they arrived. despite my own personal inner drama, our camp did an excellent job of living up not living up to our motto of ALL DRAMA, ALL THE TIME, as was planned. outside of our post-temple burn disagreement about when to leave, it was smooth sailing amongst friends.
still, when i got back, i felt terrible for a couple of days- basically a full-on emotional and physical hangover. i knew exactly what happened, and i was in control the entire time. i do know why, and i seem to forget. like i forget why i get so upset in certain situations and ask myself “why me?”, but in fact i’ve been there before and know exactly why but for some reason allow myself to not remember, to get upset anyway, and then go through the whole process of figuring it out, again. and then, even though i’m over whatever small event/trigger actually happened, i’m upset with myself for allowing myself to get upset.
in short, i basically ruined burning man for myself. do you know how bad that feels? it took a few days, but i’ve moved on from that. it’s still true – my experience was what i made it, but i’ve also come to realize that i think i needed some serious emotional cleansing and some time for myself. over the past few months i’ve done so many things that have pushed me outside of my comfort zone. i’ve hooped on runways and danced on stages and done photoshoots. we’ve been all over the state disco camping, all over and under SF, and i feel like i haven’t been home in months. my new year’s resolution was to shine, remember?
“I have selected a quote by Irish playwright Brendan Behan to serve as your motto in 2006. I suggest that you write it out on a piece of red paper and place it in a prominent place like your bathroom mirror or computer monitor. “If you have a talent, use it in every which way possible,” said Behan. “Don’t hoard it. Don’t dole it out like a miser. Spend it lavishly like a millionaire intent on going broke.”
i guess i just wasn’t really thinking that i would ever burn out. i’ve pushed myself really hard this year to become more of the person i want to be. i think, however, after a really busy and intense summer that the burning man culture, the burning man community, was just a little too much at the time. or, i expected burning man to be the peak, but i actually peaked way earlier. burning man was not so much a pinnacle as an enormous after-party for the summer of 2006. plenty of people were being freaks. plenty of people were dancing. plenty of people were hooping. the art and the music and the fabulousness were taken care of, and i was tired. so i stepped back, a little unsure of why. it felt like a lot of self-doubt, which it was, but it was also that i was given the opportunity to not participate, and so i didn’t. in that sense, i empathize with the weekenders. i understand that if you give 110% in your day-to-day life, perhaps spending a lot of time money and effort, not to mention blood sweat and tears on your vacation to burning man isn’t what you want to do. (see previous post for more thoughts on BM elitism concerning burners v. spectators)
given my painful anticipation and subsequent disillusionment, i can’t help but have these appropriate lyrics swimming in my head the past few days as i write this:
we knew all the answers
and we shouted them like anthems
anxious and suspicious
that God knew how much we cheated
it can’t come quickly enough
and now you’ve spent your life
waiting for this moment
when you finally saw it come
it passed you by
and left you so defeated…
i accept 100% full responsibility for how my week went, and i made some very bad decisions, few of which had to do with anything or anyone specific but more about my insecurities and strange battles with perception and community. still, all in all, it was another unique and amazing experience that i do not regret, although i think we should have left earlier, on a higher note.
this year, burning man left me with a lot of questions about myself and my community, but what i discovered in the process of attempting to answer those questions – and all of the conversations i’ve had with those who have taken the time to listen – has only served to strengthen my faith in human nature, but not in the same way it was before, particularly my faith in myself. perhaps because i’m turning 30 soon i felt that sense of desperation this year – desperate for definitives, desperate for something concrete to show – but having realized now, after witnessing en masse so many living examples of pure love, creativity and determination in the midst of such extremes – that we are all – our bodies, our minds, our communities, our relationships – as fragile as eggshells and as subject to change as the wind – accepting this has made me cherish every moment: the good, the bad, the ecstatic, the hot, the cold, the dusty, the exhausting – all of it. cherished.
i have said before that i would continue going to burning man as long as i still felt i had things to learn from it; that i would go until i got everything i wanted out of it, and put everything into it that i wanted to. i am still unclear as to whether i’ve reached that point yet. i cannot say whether i’ll want to go again after this; it depends more on where my life is – what i’m willing to put into it – 10 months from now than whether or not i have a desire to go. i think i will always WANT to go to burning man. whether i always WILL go will be subject to change.
i still truly love the community, though, and we’re having a bunch of them over for dinner tonight. and i’m pretty sure all we’re going to talk about is burning man. like the way i feel about modern art, i am still very much in love with the idea of burning man; it’s the execution – or, my participation in the implementation – i’m not so sure about. then again, that’s what it’s all about: the context, and the process. whether i like it or not is open to continual interpretation, but it is why i go.
so, then. things to do differently if i go again?
. remember that 3:00-10:00a is the best time on the playa, particularly on labor day weekend, and try to always be up for those hours. take a nap after sunset, but GET UP a few hours later. i saw 4 sunrises this year (yay! at least one goal reached! (see more than 1, as per last year)), and i absolutely love the dawn. those hours between sunset and 3:00 a.m. though… really, what are those for? oh yeah, sleeping.
. get a hammock. a rope one. absolutely needed for super fucking hot afternoons. all i wanted all week long was a hammock.
. don’t plan anything – except dates with friends that you MUST spend time with while there.
. remember this year, and be much more proactive in responding positively to situations that aren’t going the way i want them to go. i am the only one responsible for how well my burn goes.
. don’t expect to be someone i’m not. don’t expect anyone else to be either. let the freedom allow me to relax, not burden me with overwhelming possibilities. take advantage of BRC, but don’t get disappointed when things don’t turn out as planned. they never do.
my flickr favorites
burning man flickr pool (thousands of photos!)
initial post on BRC 06
on burning man art.
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