SOAKed to the skin

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A brief SOAK journal:

Monday, pre-event:

– I thought sure I would be the last [dis]Placement person on site, so I made a last minute trip to Tom and Manda’s place to deliver a birthday gift to Manda and drop off surveying flags with TomCat.

Tuesday, pre-early admission:

– First thing in the morning I packed up my cooler with stuff from the fridge, loaded the last odds and ends into the Element, drove out to the RV place, did all the rental paperwork, moved gear from the Element into the RV, gave Bobo a goodbye kiss and got on the road. On the way I thought about five things I forgot to pack and still decided against a last minute stop at Fred Meyer. I also firmly decided against a breakfast stop and decided to head straight to the site.

– I got there around 12:10 pm, shocked to find I was the first person on site. Well, practically the first. There were two Porto Potty trucks in the main field, with workers laid out in the grass basking in the sun. Hmm, who is supposed to direct those guys where the portos go? Oh, right. That would be [dis]Placement. No rest for the wicked; park the RV, dig out my map, introduce myself to the waiting workers and start planting portos  around the grounds. Such glamorous work. 🙂

One lone RV

– A couple of the portos needed to be moved around the site. It just seemed reasonable to balance them in the tiny back of the gator with people standing up on each side of the porto. No deaths!

– After the portos were done and the rest of the [dis]Placement team arrived, we split into separate groups and started placing surveying stakes on the site, marking out roads, theme camps and art installations.

– A brief bit of history. What The Festival? had been at the same site in years past, and they had roughly 2500 people. Additionally, several of our RCs and more senior Placement folks looked over the site and gushed about how massive it was. “So much room for activities!” So that’s how we hyped it to the rest of the leads, and at the Town Hall in January. Then we constructed a scale map of the site and started laying out where various elements would go and… panic set in. The site didn’t look nearly so large, and we really began to fret about how to fit everything into the event. We spent so many hours playing tetris with the map, trying to shoe-horn in one more camp, one last piece of art. We even sent an email to all the camps asking if any of them could perhaps manage with a slightly smaller footprint. I was very nervous.

– So once we got out measuring wheels and planting stakes, we discovered the most wonderful thing: the scale on our map was wrong! Wrong in the best possible way, we had more space than we thought. In the major field, we probably had 250 feet more in length than we thought we had. Hot damn! We did some on-the-spot rearranging to give a few camps some more real estate, and moved several camps from somewhat marginal spots in the trees into more prime locations in the larger (flatter, more open) fields.

– Another happy and unexpected note: the event rents a small number (four) of all terrain vehicles (“gators) to help us shuttle tools and people about the site. They are a rare and precious resource, and usually unavailable to the mere mortals in [dis]Placement. And yet, we had damn near exclusive use of one all day long. Zipping around on one of those when the site ie empty was fun! No people in the way, no tents to mow down, make a new path straight up the hill and bounce all over the place. So much fun, and so incredibly useful!

– We broke for dinner around 6:30 or 7. Wow, I was completely unprepared for how well Central Services supported the volunteer crew! I thought I was going to lose some weight at SOAK; I was flabbergasted by how generously Sippy Cup and Miss Sippy kept us supplied with meals and beverages and a seemingly endless supply of coffee. So, so spoiled!

– After dinner, we felt pleasantly ahead of the curve and so decided to stop for the night and focus on getting our personal camps setup and squared away. I tidied up the RV a bit, hung out the solar fairy lights across the front of the RV, and put out our white board.

RV at night

Wednesday, early-admission:

– Early admission for theme camps and art projects and volunteer crew opened at noon, so we had a few hours in the morning to finish up preparations for [dis]Placement. We planted flags for the last few bits of real estate. Delightfully, we finished everything with about 20 minutes to spare before Gate opened. Woohoo! And in those last few minutes we awaited the mad rush deluge of people swarming in!

– And the swarm never came. It wasn’t even a mad rush. It was a slow steady trickle. We had eight people on our team, stationed in pairs throughout the event, but no one was ever moving beyond a patient walk. And once again, [dis]Placement seemed to have a gator at our disposal whenever we needed one. Such luxury!

– Our entire crew was just so reliable, so dependable! No drama, no hassles. We’re all on radio, and were passing issues back and forth all day, “Sepia, someone from Fire Whiskey Circus just rolled in. I’m sending them your way in the upper field, prepare to catch.” “Roger that, I’ve got ‘em.” Effortless, easy.

– Only a couple of camps were prima donnas and needed extra hand holding. Mostly people were thrilled with how we had things arranged. One camp was jaw-droppingly astounded that we upgraded them to the main field and immediately started rewarding me with cocktails. Woohoo!

– We took a break in the early evening for dinner (again, provided by Central Services!), and then a couple of us stayed on radio to handle emergencies that never came.

– Around 8:30 pm, several of us from the team (Sepia, me, TomCat, Joshie), a couple of pals (Dapper and Alissa), and a couple of people I didn’t know as well, commandeered a gator and went touring the grounds. Several bars were visited. I learned I could hang upside down by my knees from the rollbars of the gator (in my kilt, natch). We were silly, drank too much, drove too fast and generally had a good time. I gave up around 1:30 in the morning and dragged back to my RV.

Thursday, main gate opens:

– Again, we got braced for the onslaught that was surely coming, everyone in place, radios at the ready! And… snooze. Very slow, manageable traffic. Only a couple of special snowflakes to be handled. So very easy, no drama. I caught Bobo and as rolled on site and steered her back towards the RV.

browse and bobo

– I ended up hanging onto the radio for the afternoon and evening, even though things were so slow. Mostly, I just liked being in the loop on what was happening behind the scenes. I have a better appreciation for those volunteers who seems to be working all the time.

– I also caught our friend MiSo and her 10-year-old daughter Grace as they rolled into SOAK. This is their first time attending any Burner event, and I was equal parts excited and curious to see how it would all look from an outsider’s eyes.

– SOAK had its first “Pink Light District” village of sex camps! Bobo and I visited the dome of “That Fucking Camp” around 9 pm, only to find the dome completely empty. We still made great use of the the opportunity, but it hardly seemed the same without anyone else there.


– Mostly a quiet day. The event still had people arriving; out of 1300 tickets I would guess 1000 people had arrived. All but two theme camps had at least someone on site. I decided to carry around a radio one last time, just for funsies.

– And it’s a good thing I held onto the radio. As Bobo and I wandered into the upper field to catch the past bits of the Miss SOAK pageant, we caught a Ranger announcement made from the stage regarding a child looking for her mom. Yup, it was Grace. I got on the radio and told the lead Ranger I knew the mom and daughter and was en route. Grace was happy to see a familiar friendly face, but a little freaked out about her mom. Bobo took grace to her camp to get warmer clothes (as night was coming) and took her to our RV for some growing food. I went on a lengthy walkabout, looking for MiSo. I checked in with Rangers and a regional contact on the hour to let them know the child was fine by mom was still being sought. About half an hour later I finally found MiSo and reunited her with Grace. Time had simply gotten away from her as she was having fun, and I gently suggested a regular check-in interval might be a good habit to start. When I radioed back into Rangers, they were very happy and relieved to hear the happy ending.


– In the afternoon, I wandered over to That Fucking Camp for my “Make Your Own Flogger” workshop. I hung around outside for a bit before the class, playing with the flogger, stirring up a little interest. I got to flog a curious passerby, which is always fun. About 20 people showed up for the class, a majority of whom had not done anything with a flogger before, and in fact had never done anything in the BDSM realm. I took about ten minutes to say the bare minimum of cautionary words I felt morally obligated to share on the topic (Consent is mandatory! Safe words are smart; use ‘em!), and then talked about some of the variations in design and why you might want longer falls versus shorter, wider falls versus longer. And finally I turned people loose on the supplies and let them get started. I wandered about the room (a fabric-covered dome, really) and answered questions and provided a third hand as people requested such. Every person who attended finished a flogger and seemed happy and enthusiastic about the results. Yay!

workshop 1workshop 2

– As the sun began to set, Bobo, Taj and I took blankets to the upper field and found a front row seat for the effigy burn. A circle of Rangers held the burn perimeter to prevent people from doing anything stupid. The Ranger closest to us said something about how the entire perimeter crew were remembering the regional in Utah last year (where someone successfully rushed into the burn and killed themselves), which was a terribly sobering moment. But that same Ranger soon began shimmying to the music and we dubbed her “Go Go Ranger” and a light, festive mood soon returned.

phoenix 1

– The effigy was designed by Sepia (also one of the senior leads on [dis]Placement) and was an egg with a bird inside. Before the burn started, the egg shell peeled open, the bird raised its wings and lifted its head. The fire was kicked off by bright red flares in the eyes of the phoenix, and a row of flares on the wings. After those glowed for a couple of minutes, an electronic ignition under the platform was triggered and the entire piece was swiftly draped in flames. It was lovely and glorious. Sepia and the entire effigy crew really outdid themselves!

phoenix 2

– After the burn we roamed about the site a little more, enjoyed the noise and the lights and the generally festive mood. We went back to the RV, but Bobo and Taj were both tired and we made a (relatively) early evening of it.


– In Portland there’s a burlesque performance every Sunday at noon called “Circus Church”. The ringleader of that show attended SOAK and did a version of it on site, which Bobo and I made sure to note as a priority. We watched over an hour of it, jugglers and dancers and poi spinners and acrobatics and all manner of silly shenanigans ensued.

– Once again, as the sun sank on the horizon, Bobo and I wandered to the upper field to grab a seat for the Temple burn. We found Taj and joined her. The sound camps in the upper field eventually killed their “boots and cats” electronic dance music and the largest of the camps, Tectonic, played some somber ambient mix as the first was ignited. The Temple theme was “Earth”, and the piece was designed to resemble a cave, with a pair of stalactite / stalagmite lights inside. This was the first time in three years that we’ve been allowed to have a separate Temple burn, so it was especially gratifying to all of us. Although there were some delays while our burn crew waited for the winds to die down, the burn eventually started and went off without a hitch. It was a suitably reverential moment, in true Burner fashion.



– And Monday was all about Exodus. I attended one last leads meeting, where everyone shared stories about how well the burn went, how well the entire event went, and the overall positive and welcoming reaction we seemed to get from the neighbors in Tygh Valley. By the time I got back to the trailer park (my nomination for renaming RV Parking), Bobo had already done the majority of work on packing up the RV and moving a sizable load into the Element she was driving home. She took off, and I followed her only shortly after. We even managed to rendezvous for a lunch at El Burro Loco before heading home. Followed by unpacking, cleaning everything, endless loads of laundry, returning the RV… Ahh, the Festival Life™.

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