Fortune favors the confused

      No Comments on Fortune favors the confused

Several weeks ago, I noticed a new magnet had appeared on my fridge unannounced, a simple plastic card with the quote, “Fortune favors the brave.” I had two immediate reactions; “Where did this come from?” and “Uhhh, isn’t the expression ‘Fortune favors the bold’?”

Eventually the rest of the household came awake and I started asking, “Did you do this?” and Melody quickly fessed up. I wasn’t aware of it, but apparently it’s an expression I use often enough for her to remember, so when she saw the magnet she snagged it. Totally sweet.

I mentioned my uncertainty about the proper quote, so we did a quick Google search and concluded the more common expression is indeed “Fortune favors the bold”.

An ambiguous number of days later, I was the first awake (again), making the morning coffee (again), and my eyes passed across the magnet. “Fortune favors the bold.” Waitaminute… didn’t that used to say…? I was pretty sure I remembered looking it up and concluded the magnet was wrong, but here I am looking at it and now it looks right and… am I misremembering which expression is right and which is wrong? Is it possible one sounded “right” in my head a few weeks ago and now the other feels “right” this morning? I’m sure I looked this up, but now I’m looking at it again and… I’m so confused!

When Melody came upstairs I asked her, “I know this sounds crazy, but… did you change this magnet?” At which point she busted into the biggest grin and started giggling. Yes. The wench went into a photo editor, matched the font, size, and colors, printed it out, had it laminated and taped it over the previous magnet. Just to fuck with me. Brilliant.

And then a delightful coda to the story:

Last night I got curious about the source of the quote. I maintain any quote in English must come from one of only five sources; the Bible, Aesop’s Fables, Shakespeare, Mark Twain, or Oscar Wilde. Period, full stop, there’s the entire Bartlett’s Quotations right there. Well, it turns out this expression is from Latin; Pliny the Younger (a Roman politician) attributes the quote to his uncle, Pliny the Elder. The occasion was when Pliny the Elder was commanding his ship sail closer to Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD, an action that led to the Elder’s death as Vesuvius was erupting!

Which is to say, the entire expression should be loaded with irony! Fortune favors the bold, indeed, just like it did for Ol’ Pliny! It should be the Latin equivalent of “Hold my beer…” Sheesh.

Stay tuned next week when we discuss how Bugs Bunny single-handedly changed the popular meaning of “nimrod”.

Bunny’s Gonna Burn

      No Comments on Bunny’s Gonna Burn

This year I attended my first Pagan Bunny Burn, an event which is not a Burning Man regional, but might look like one if you squinted.

Wednesday, 3/16/16

Leaving town was hard. I got up early and had coffee and morning time with Michelle, like normal. I tried really hard not to spring into action until she had left for work. Once she was out the door, I started packing my bag of “normal” clothes, filling bins with burner clothes and gear, pulling a cooler and various bins from the attic, and fretting endlessly about what I might be forgetting. One last run to Fred Meyers for food and ice, filling the cooler and loading the Element. Somewhere in there, I decide it would be okay to let Bonkers outdoors, which wouldn’t have been bad except that an hour later I was ready to leave and she still hadn’t come back home. After a lot of deliberation, I finally said something to Michelle about it and she gave me her blessing to leave and let Bonkers “endure” being outdoors until Michelle came home.

I drove to the RV, got it loaded, moved it out, parked my Element in its place and finally got on the road. Since my route went through Bend, I took a gamble on seeing if Anita was available for happy hour, and she was! We got to talk a little, I saw her house, we walked Jambi, she saw the RV and then I was on the road again (less than a 2 hour stop).

As I left Bend, dark fell pretty quickly, and some light snow flurries started swirling. I paused on the side of the road to look at state parks, only to find even the earliest one didn’t allow camping until after April 1. I ended up parked in an rest stop north of Crater Lake and camped there for the night, in 3 inches of snow. It got to 28 degrees that night. I ran the heat at a very low setting, but I was super happy to find the new duvet was comfortably warm.

Since I had a bit of internet on the phone, I spent some time chatting with Michelle and Melody online, and then watched the last episode of American Horror Story on the laptop. Weak ending, hardly worth it.

And in the middle of the night I recalled I had left the gold, lighted hoodie at home. D’ohh. I have to have some kind of jacket at this event.

Thursday, 3/17/16

I slept okay, but still woke at 5:30. A very brief whore’s bath at the sink and I was driving again by 6. I stopped in Klamath Falls to visit a coffee shop, use a flush toilet and mooch some wifi for a quick check in with Michelle and Melody and to send my email to Anita. Back on the road. My heart sang to see Lake Shasta (because of the houseboat trip I did with Dan, Melody, and Owen, back in the day) and Castle Crags state park (because of camping and hiking I’ve done there solo and with Michelle). I’d love to do new versions of both of those trips soon.

In Redding (the nearest thing to a “big city” on the remaining route) I visited a shopping mall (!) to look for a jacket or hoodie or something. Moving in cliched “hunter gatherer” mode, I visited every likely store in the mall in 30 minutes and finally identified the best option. Nothing Burner flashy, but it would do. Whoosh, back on the road.

I finally got to the event site by about 2 pm. I breezed through Gate, and found a place to park, high on a cliff right next to a stream below. One advantage of the RV is that it takes very little time to “set up camp”. I put on my green sparkly kilt, blue sleeveless t-shirt, and sandals and headed out to do a quick lap through the still-half-empty site.

I found a couple of guys struggling to assemble a large peaked circus tent structure, and stopped to help them for a bit. Ian was tall and improbably thin, Key was a smaller asian fellow, both very nice and grateful for the assistance. We got the tent assembled and positioned and I took my leave of them. I also stopped by a camp that had an enormous smoker going with epic pounds of chicken, ribs, beef, pork shoulder. I met the pit master, a fellow named Freddie who hailed from Texas.

I checked in at the “Hind Quarters” to ask about volunteer opportunities, meeting Admiral Dot who was staffing the station. There wasn’t much, but I decided to hike back out to Gate and see if they needed extra hands. I took a “short cut” through some small hills that paralleled the dirt path, and happened to find the skull and mandible for a boar. I carried them with me and mounted them atop traffic cones at Gate. It turns out that two people had failed to appear for shifts, so yes they did indeed need help. I stepped in and did a vollie gig from 3-6, getting people to sign policy waivers (no dogs, no firearms, no fireworks, no dogs shooting fireworks, no shooting firearms at dogs, yadda, yadda.) and orienting people to the map. If the folks were with a theme camp, I radioed ahead to Placement (a fellow named Chuckles) to let them know the theme camp people were coming. I quickly developed a spiel “Please to be observing our lovely site map, oooh, ahh” and a routine with my other Gate folks. A woman with a sea green wig and the most lovely dress, Judith, was checking tickets and IDs and a guy in a kilt and enormous black platform boots, Bounce, had people sign waivers and gave them wrist bands. A couple of times the line backed up to the road, but mostly we kept things running. Oh yes, and the head of the whole event, Sunshine, dropped by occasionally to review assorted ticketing snafus. I handed out a few of my new “browse” stickers and generally enjoyed having the context for socializing that didn’t feel forced or awkward.

It was interesting working a shift at Gate. My local regional seems (to my external eye) to embrace a certain curmudgeonly attitude towards the role. “I love working Gate; it lets me indulge my inner asshole” is a direct quote, and the whole “Gate doesn’t hug you hippies / Gate only hugs Gate” seems to be a very consciously held pose and embraced pretty enthusiastically. I just can’t get myself into that space. I tried to be happy, bouncy, helpful, charming, and offered hugs to anyone who was receptive to them. I later posted to Facebook about it and how I was #doingitwrong.

At six I handed off my duties and walked back to camp with Judith. When I got to the RV I did a little more set up; I got out the fire tray and prepared it for burning, opened the canopy, and strung EL wire on the canopy stays. I was sad to see the canopy was stained with black mold and reeked of mildew. I’m gonna have to attend to that once I’m back home.

The RV at Pagan Bunny Burn

I got out camp chairs and sat outside eating a bowl of tabouleh salad. A couple of neighbors came by, Special and Ron, two graybeard RVers, and we fired up the fire tray and chatted. People passing by paused to look at the fire tray and make complimentary noises. One group passing by were Rangers, one of whom had tons of fire experience. She looked over the pit and said it looked very well done, though she said a 10’ hose would really have been better. After the conversation started to wane, I decided it was time to check out the theme camp space. I turned off the fire tray, disconnected the bottle and stored it in one of the RV compartments and headed deeper into the event. I took lots of pictures and chatted with a few folks. I met a woman who camped at Poly Camp on the playa and we talked about the Human Carcass Wash and how incredibly moving I found that entire experience. I bumped into a couple of people I knew from Gate, Bounce and Bobbers, and said Hi and exchanged hugs. I stopped at one camp that had a replica of Brion Gison’s (check name) Dream Machine and stared at it for many minutes, but failed to have any transcendental experiences. I invited myself into a bunch of camps specifically to look at interesting lighting, thinking about things I might do for the RV. I definitely need some strip lighting in the RV, and would like to have a laser shining on the underside of the canopy. Which probably means I need to get serious about a solar panel on the roof to power all of it.

Around 11 I headed back to camp and the fire expert Ranger, Tahoe, stopped by and chatted for a bit. Her boyfriend is a major pyro and she talked about the Spire of Fire he hopes to bring to playa this year. It turns out she knows Dex (a Portland Burner and metal worker and another pyro) and we talked about him a bit, even touching on the massively rough year he had in 2014/2015. It finally got too cold and I didn’t feel like suiting up even more, so I shut off the fire tray and stashed the bottle and headed into the RV for the night. Got undressed, filled my water bottle, and fell into bed. Achingly felt the absence of enough internet access to touch base with my loves. Felt insanely aroused and wished I had a willing partner to take out my enthusiasm on. I fell asleep in reasonably fast order, not even listing to any music, audio books or watching any video.

I barely ran the heat at all, and eventually turned it off altogether. The duvet was too warm (low of 40°F) and I shed it for the chenille blanket instead. Dang it, that may mean moving the duvet out of the RV altogether. That’s kind of a shame.

Friday, 3/18/16

I woke with the sun (7-ish?), lazed in bed a bit and finally rolled out of the covers. I tidied up some of the mess I left out from the previous night, washed the dinner dishes and made coffee. Flossed, brushed and whore’s bath, made coffee and put on my heavy black cloth kilt and my green tuxedo shirt and poked my head outside. I said Hi to a couple of passerbys, answered a few questions about the fire tray and not for the first time appreciated how wonderful it was to have something that invited people to initiate conversation. Must have more of that! I got out the tape measure and measured out all of the curtains in the RV with an eye towards beginning to make replacements. I need to give some thought to how opaque they should be. Dark is great for blocking the light, keeping it cool in hotter environs, and letting you sleep in. But thinner curtains let in a nice filtered light during the day.And of course the space is too small for a double rod with sheers and heavier blackouts. On that note, man the RV is … compact. Two people will take some effort and three will really require some coordination. I’m not sure what that means for SOAK. Maybe the three of us can do a weekend trip to hike Castle Crags and see how the experience feels. I really have to get the cab-over space converted to bin storage. If nothing else, the cushions up there are slippery and can allow bins to slide in a precarious fashion.

I ran the generator for a bit to charge phone, laptop, and camping battery, and to update this blog. I walked through camp a bit and said Hi to a couple of people I recognized. I decided to climb a high hill, in part for the sights, to take some photos of the site, but also in hopes of finding a smidge of phone signal. I succeeded and had a bit of talk with Michelle and Melody, which was very welcome. I also cleared out my inbox and even made a quick post to Facebook. I sat under a tree and watched a tree about ten feet away with several lemon-sized holes in it, with birds flittering in and out of it. I described them to Melody and she suggested they might be flickers, but they looked fairly wee to me, and a slight blue hue. I thought I would be the only person crazy enough to climb the huge hill, but several others came through over the course of an hour, taking in the view and sitting quietly. A fellow came up and somehow struck up a conversation with me. His name was Steve and we talked about his experiences on the playa, the direction the Borg is moving, the size constraints inevitable in the event. We compared notes on various regionals, I told him about the World Naked Bike Ride in Portland, and described the overwhelming experience of the Fourth of July fireworks in Long Beach, WA. I finally decided it was time to leave, and just before I departed I ran into a family and asked if they were birders and showed them the tree hole nests I had found, to their apparent delight.

I came back down the hill and strolled back to the RV. The day was warming so I shifted to my green spandex shorts and silver vest and sandals. I sat outside and ate a serving of meatballs and rice, and read my book a bit. Several times people paused to admire the fire tray; even turned off, people stopped to ask what it was. At one point, I heard a faint sound of children singing, and soon saw two little blond girls, maybe five years old, clad in panties and colorful rubber galoshes, holding hands and singing in unison, “Two beautiful ladies, walking to the bathroom, two beautiful ladies, walking to the bathroom”. Down the road they went, swinging clasped hands and singing their song. Ten minutes later, here they came the other direction, “Two beautiful ladies, walking back to camp, two beautiful ladies, walking back to camp.” So cute I nearly threw up. And how wonderful to be in a space where something like that can happen in such a unguarded fashion.

Ian and Key wandered by as I sat outside the RV and they recognized me and gave me big hugs. They introduced me to their pal Glen and I offered them cocktails and we sat and chatted briefly. Tahoe strolled by and had a scale model (non-working sadly) of the Spire of Fire project, which apparently has a propane budget of $15000 for one week on the playa! I believe she said the burn rate was something obscene like 30 gallons per minute. Feck!

The afternoon rolled around and I made the long walk back up to Gate to do another unscheduled shift, 3-6. I worked with Weasel and Friday, doing the same role I had the previous day, using almost the same practiced spiel. Oddly enough, the anticipated rush never came and it was a very easy (almost too much so) shift. Still it’s nice to occasionally be spotted by someone who says, “I recognize you from Gate!”, especially if it’s a cute girl. After my shift ended I caught a ride on an art cart that rolled me all the way back to the RV.

A few clouds had emerged and a wardrobe change was called for. I spent some time with baby wipes, cleaning my feet and the footbeds of my sandals, both of which were dirty and ripe. I swapped into the swirly colored tights, a tuxedo shift and my multi-colored shoes for the first stage of the evening. I finished my left over lunch meatballs while I sat outside and read my book. A few people wandered by and asked about the fire tray, and I gave them my usual patter about it. In the process, I bumped the nozzle on the bottom, which lifted the copper gas line up just enough to rest it atop all the glass beads. And pushing it back down through the beads wasn’t really working, grr. I had to dump my shoes out of one of the plastic bins, so I could dump the beads into the bin (spilling many on the ground in the process), then I could resettle the copper gas line, pour the beads back in (finding several broken ones in the process), and wash the soot of my now filthy hands. Whine, gripe. I’m just thankful that nothing was really broken and the pit was soon restored to working order. By that time, it had gotten dark and I hooked up the gas and fired it up.

I sat outside with the fire tray and spent some time updating my journal. By about 8 o’clock, I decided it was time to shut things down and wander the theme camps again. I extinguished the fire tray and decided to try the last remaining mushroom capsule that had flopped so thoroughly for Melody in Mexico. I went on walk about, and as usual I stepped into several camps to ask about fun lighting features. I sat on an art car and chatted with a pair of women about the exploding cost of living in the bay area; one of them was spending 80% of her salary on housing, and still only paying for an in-law quarters with no kitchen. I watched a bit of fire performance, but couldn’t seem to break out of my introverted space. By about ten o’clock I came back to the RV and sat with the fire tray for an hour. And yes, the mushrooms were a complete dud. Womp, womp. A fellow stopped to chat who I had watch perform with a flaming bull whip; his name was Major Blaze. I told him about Michelle practicing with the group in Portland and he was enthusiastic and encouraging. Another fellow, Tim, stopped by and we chatted about the regional burn in Sacto. At 11 I started getting too cold for comfort and shut down the fire tray and went to bed for the night.

Saturday, 3/19/16

I slept in a little late, not really getting up until about 8:30 or so. I made coffee, tended to my morning toilet, finished reading The Plover (++, would read again) and even noodled with my harmonica just a bit. I did a lap through camp, but things were still subdued. I hiked up the hill and found my spot from yesterday, where I could watch the birds and listen to the bees hum. It turns out that having bees buzzing -right- next to you is a good mindfulness exercise. “The won’t bother you if you don’t bother them.” Easy to say, harder to practice, but I managed. I checked in with Michelle and Melody, which is always a great joy. I am missing them both something fierce, but I’m still glad I came.

As I passed through the theme camps, I saw that Freddie had the pig off the smoker, as well as six individual pork butts that were made into pulled pork. I stepped in line and got a big plate of the pulled pork and a generous amount of sauce. Heavens to Betsy, Freddie knows his pig! I gave him a big hug and wandered back to my RV the slow route, stopped several times to offer different groups of people a PSA about the available food.

IMG_0359

Sitting at the RV, finishing my plate, a fellow walked by with some kind of stringed instrument hanging off one hip and two play/practice swords off the other. I asked him about them and he hung around and chatted for a bit. Nick showed me the instrument, and told me the name which I promptly forgot. It had a small, cylindrical, wooden tambor at the base, a long slender neck and only two strings. It was played with a horsehair bow and the hair of the bow was threaded between the two strings. So with a subtle shift of angle, he could bow against one string, the other, or both at once. Within seconds, he made it sound like some folk Asian music, a gypsy violin, or a cello. I happened to mention Andrew Bird, and it turns out Nick was a huge fan so we geeked out about his music and technique. Nick had the most colorful accent and when I asked about his heritage he said his mother was American Indian and his father was Irish. Nick resumed his stroll and I decided to break out my chainmail juggling balls for a bit of practice. The very first jug I did I got 28 in a row. Then 14. Then 8. This is improvement? But I stuck with it, tried to be attentive to what was working and what wasn’t. I had a couple of moments where I got into enough of a groove that I could watch and critique -while- I was juggling, which was a new experience. I got three or four jugs of 30+ tosses, which felt really good. The really delightful thing was the reaction of people passing by. Several times someone would ask me to juggle for them and I quickly told them I was really weak and inconsistent, still teaching myself. Each time, they insisted, I would manage an awkward 10-toss jug or some such weak sauce and each time people were really sweet and encouraging and enthusiastic about it. A couple of times people asked to see the balls (chainmail balls are apparently a bit of a novelty) and then dove into a very smooth and polished juggling routine, but still they were very nice and encouraging about my efforts. To paraphrase Jake the Dog, “Sucking at something is the first step at being kinda not bad at something.” I’d really like to find the time and discipline to do that 20 minutes a day. Sheesh, I want to find time in each day to run, juggle, practice guitar, practice harmonica, and… I’m sure there’s more I’m not thinking of. The browse self-improvement routine. I’d be talented at something, if only I could narrow my focus and stick to it.

A guy from the adjacent camp stopped by, a long-term Burner and psychoactive traveler. He suggested some hair dye that I might like, that is the same hot pink but fluoresces in black light, and then he shared his thoughts about combinations of various psychoactives.

After he left, I decided it was time to wander about a little. As I left camp, someone told me that a zip line had been strung from the cliff edge over the creek to the far side. I strolled over to check it out. As much as I would like to try a zip line sometime, I decided to wait for conditions more conducive to the beginner. But, walking down to the creek had great appeal. I ambled down the slope and looked for a smooth rock suitable for sitting, removing my shoes and soaking my feet. I found one on the fringe of a small group of people. As I settled in, I realize the tall naked guy in the middle of the laughing group was Ian. He gave me an enthusiastic hello and introduced me, “Hey everybody, this is browse! He helped assemble the circus tent you’re all sleeping in!” Note to self: volunteering pays off in so many ways. I got my shoes off and waded about in the creek in my leather kilt, ideal water wear. Once I was sitting I regretted not having brought a cocktail, and then remembered I had my pipe in the mansack. I fished it out, had a hit (my first of the trip) and passed it to the left. About four people away it was cashed, so I crept over on tender bare feet and showed the girl where the secret stash was on the pipe and reloaded it. The girl next to her had the most amazing blue eyes, and a deep accent. I asked what her accent was and she said “Arabic, I think?” I quizzed her about the “I think”, but didn’t get much of an answer; English and Arabic were the only languages she knew. Ian’s group (Camp 380) invited me to join them on the hills for sunset, and then wandered back to their camp. I enjoyed sitting alone in the creek for a bit and took some photos.

Wading in the creek

Another couple came wandering down the slope and I recognized Steve, who I had met on the hills on Friday. He was wearing black, latex, assless pants and a fishnet top, and we laughed about how we were both dressed so inappropriately for the creek. As I packed to head up the slope, I found a towel that had been abandoned and so I toted it up to lost and found at Hind Quarters.

I made my way back to camp and as I settled in, a Ranger came down the road with a megaphone, repeating a message to the camp as he walked. Apparently rain was due to start around 11 pm, and the dirt track we drove in on would likely become impassable to heavier vehicles, like RVs and trailers. We were being encouraged to pack up and move to an upper field near Gate, about a half mile away. Being just a bit altered and lazy, I thought about delaying action until after the Bunny Burn. How long could it possibly take me to pack up, right? Admiral Dot showed up to ask if I had a corkscrew (Of course I do; we’re not savages!) and as I opened her wine bottle she oohed and aaahed over the RV. (I gotta name this beast. The Barge? The White Elephant? The Nautilus?) As we chatted, I convinced myself not to dally and to proceed with packing up. I did everything I could think to do off the top of my head, then I reviewed my checklist (of course I have a list!) and did the two things I had forgotten. Packing everything and getting ready to roll took about 45 minutes; I bet it will get faster with practice, but slower with more people.

I fired up the RV and crept down the road. The road is barely wide enough for one vehicle, so I had to wait a bit for a car coming the other way to clear the road before I could head out. And wait, and wait. It’s an authentic Exodus experience! Finally I got the go ahead and started to creep. As I was rolling, a little girl suddenly came around the left side of the RV on her tiny bike and pulled right in front of me. I was creeping at 3 mph and stopped in time, but several people nearby cringed visibly and then thanked me for being so aware. Whew. I got to the upper field with no further drama, where Sunshine was directing traffic. She directed me to drive behind the existing row of RVs and start a new row, and then gave me a big grin and shouted “You’re killing it out there, browse!” I’m pretty sure she meant that in a good way. I joined a tight array of another 30 or so RVs. I didn’t particularly unpack, but I changed into warmer clothes, made a cocktail, and wandered back into the event for the evening festivities.

As I came into the tent camping, people started wolf howling at the sunset and I climbed the hill to find the Camp 380 folks. We chatted for a bit, talked about other regionals, and how different the experience must be of visiting an event from overseas. I shared my story about watching an Israeli team assemble an art project on playa and how radically different their process was from ours (Portland’s). The group decided to head down the hill with the last bit of light and write messages on the single-purpose temple/effigy. One of the group had brought a spectrum of permanent markers and I borrowed one and wrote my note. “I came here alone, which is/was really hard for me. Here’s to pushing past your comfort zone!”

Temple writing

They headed back to their camp and I wandered just a bit. I found myself back at Freddie’s camp and he encouraged me to take another plate of pulled pork. Twist my arm. Just to be clear, it’s not like I was eating -only- a massive mound of meat. I took a slice of cantaloupe too; a balanced meal! Well, balanced on my knee. As I approached the incipient burn, Sunshine was moving four painted playatech benches out of the temple and sat them at the red rope lights that marked the perimeter. Grateful for my timing, I took a front row seat and ate my plate of pulled pork as the fire performers were getting ready. This is really roughing it!

There were perhaps ten performers, cycling in and out so that five or so were in action at a time. Poi, torch juggling, staff, pin wheel staff, fans, and bullwhip were all on hand. I’ve grown spoiled with the stellar fire talent in Portland, but these folks put on a really fun spectacle. The crowd was festive and appreciative and I relished the show. The crowd started to chant “bunny’s gonna burn, bunny’s gonna burn”, and Master Blaze (the bullwhip performer) came out and ignited the structure. The temple had been decorated all along the outside with dried eucalyptus branches, and once the benches were moved out it was filled with a stack of wooden pallets, so the structure lit easily and burned fast.

Burning Bunny Temple

A sizable cheer arose when the bunny atop the temple finally fell. Eventually, all that was left standing were several vertical support posts. Chuckles, (Sunshine’s partner, the property owner, and co-event producer) drove out in some kind of mini earth mover and pushed those remaining posts into the center of the fire. The burn perimeter was released and the crowd closed in on the bonfire. Bon fire, heh. I wonder if that’s the derivation? I circled the fire for a great while, and strolled through the site a few more times. I walked through the now mostly-empty RV field and before I knew it midnight had come, I made the long hike back up to the RV, stripped off, inserted earplugs, and fell fast asleep.

Sunday, 3/20/16

I woke as the sky brightened; it feels really nice to cycle with the sun like that. Two large mugs of coffee, updating this journal and thinking about getting on the road. As I review my writing so far I’m amused to see that, in typical browse fashion, it is almost all straightforward narrative and virtually zero thoughtful reflection. That’s me, all plot and little characterization. I’ll consider that more as I drive, but off-hand, here are some of the lessons that come to mind.

– Volunteering really works for me. Whether it’s in a formal sense like Gate shifts or informally like helping someone who is struggling with erecting a tent, it gives me a context to meet people, chat with them as we work, and establishes goodwill and camaraderie. You never know when and how (and if) it will come back to you later.

– Having the fire tray encouraged people to initiate conversations with me, which was so welcome! I need more things like that, that attract attention and encourages people to linger and chat.

– I talked to a lot of people at this event. I don’t know that I made any pals that will linger beyond this event, and I’m still hopeless at hitting on cute girls. But I did better than usual at introducing myself, starting conversations, and making small talk. It’s a step in the right direction.

– I have some fear around appearing incompetent in front of people with various activities (guitar, harmonica, juggling, you name it). If this event is any indication, I worry about that way more than I should.

  • Assuming this becomes a regular event, I should plan on coming back.

Country Music?!

      No Comments on Country Music?!

Last Summer, I had a couple of relatives come visit me from my birthplace in Tennessee. As I drove them about town, blasting tunes from my phone, I asked what kind of music they liked. “Country music”, came the reply. Of course. I asked them to name a few artists they especially liked and I didn’t recognize a single one they cited.

Inside, I cringed. I can remember Saturday nights being stuck in front of a TV watching Hee Haw while my grandparents played poker with their friends in the dining room. Minnie Pearl. The Grand Ole Opry. The Beverly Hillbillies. Compared to my contemporaries, I never had an especially thick accent, but when I finally escaped Tennessee, I made a concerted effort to strip the remaining drawl from my voice. So you can perhaps imagine the knee jerk reaction I had to the prospect of country music.

Being a dutiful host, eager to please, I dug through my music library looking for what might work. I found that pair of country musicians that seemingly everyone likes; Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson. Oh, and a few of my Chet Atkins tracks have an awful lot of country in them. As I dug a little deeper, I was surprised by what I found. My relatives had never heard of “The Devil Makes Three”, but there’s no disputing that it is thoroughly country. Leftover Salmon. Lyle Lovett. There’s a great (and thoroughly improbable!) album by Edie Brickell (former New Bohemian) and Steve Martin (yes, that Steve Martin) that is straight-up country. Susan Werner. Asleep at the Wheel. Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys!

And I recently rediscovered Jerry Reed. I had been looking at YouTube clips of Chet Atkins and stumbled across a duet with Chet and Reed. To the extent that I had remembered Jerry Reed at all, it was primarily as Burt Reynold’s sidekick in a few movies; he was the truck driver in “Smokey and the Bandit”. I was astounded to discover/recall that Reed was also a hell of a musician, a staggeringly talented guitarist and an enthusiastic and playful singer. I put an album of Reed’s on my Amazon wishlist and was rewarded when my brother gave it to me for Christmas (thanks, Bill!).

It turned out that my self perception needed a little updating. I like a fair bit of country; just not the sort of stuff they play on the radio. Which is about the same place I’m at with pop music, rock, jazz, etc.

A few links, for those who wanna hear more:

Jerry Reed & Chet Atkins – Jerry’s Breakdown

The Devil Makes Three – All Hail

Edie Brickell & Steve Martin – Love Has Come For You

Susan Werner – City Kids

SOAKed to the skin

      No Comments on SOAKed to the skin

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.

Friday:

– 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.

Saturday:

– 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.

Sunday:

– 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.

taj

Monday:

– 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™.

Haunted

      No Comments on Haunted

Yesterday was a hard day, the sort of day where I was haunted by mags at every turn. It seems like I can put together a string of days where I hardly think of her at all, and then something happens and I am laid out flat.

It started in the morning. Apropos of nothing, Bobo turned to me and said, “Sometimes it’s impossible to imagine mags isn’t in the next room, sitting quietly on her laptop, petting a cat.” That hit me like a punch to the gut.

Later in the day I was at a build party for a Burning Man art project, the sort of event mags and I went to together so many times. And of course I saw tons of people who knew mags and I could feel them looking at me and very specifically not asking.

As evening fell, Bobo and I helped with a glow-in-the-dark Easter egg hunt, a whimsical fun event that mags would have loved.

Then I came home and walked up to the attic alone and her presence was damn near palpable. I teared up for the first time in ages.

There’s such a jumble of emotions rattling around in my head. Mostly, I want nothing but good things for mags. I want her to find the sort of joy and peace that seemed so elusive for her the last few years with me. But there’s also a (small, petty) part of me that hopes she has days where she is utterly wracked with sorrow at what she had and threw away. Days and days. In some ways I miss her like mad. There are so many things I see or do that I wish she could be right at my side experiencing with me, sharing with me.  But then I recall vividly that things were never that simple with mags, and the path towards finding something that would make her light up was so often littered with a string of incidents that seemed to irritate and exhaust her.

I was talking with Taj about time she and I and mags spent on playa in 2013. I described it as “exploring open playa at night and looking at pretty things,” and Taj said, “What? That never happened. There was a night we biked around looking for places to fuck…” I’m sure that description was entirely valid from her vantage point. Taj is blessedly straight forward and direct about such things. And heaven knows I was open to the idea, hopeful and enthusiastic about it. But you never could tell in advance what mags might or might not be up for. The best you could do was to set the stage where something could happen, sort of slide up to it sideways and see if she would warm to it or not.

It took mags leaving for me to became so vividly aware of how much “walking on eggshells” I was doing, unconsciously, all the time. I said that to a friend, and she very quickly agreed. “It’s always been eggshells with mags. It’s so hard to get a read on where her head is really at. On the other hand, I felt that way about you for years, too. Until I learned to ask. But asking doesn’t work with her.”

So in the end, it’s not so much that I miss mags. I certainly don’t miss the uncertainty and the drama and the eggshells and the opacity and the torturous communications. There is so much in my life right now that absolutely would not be possible if mags was still here. I move and act with a freedom and a grace that was never possible when I was trying to accommodate her utterly unpredictable responses.

But I miss the best of her. On those (too rare) occasions when she could open up, when she got past overthinking and self-doubt, when she fully relaxed, she could be utterly incandescent. I miss who she could have been. I hate that she could not let herself be vulnerable enough to accept the love that was all around her. I resent the hell out of her for not being strong enough, not being healthy enough.

Happy Ether!

      No Comments on Happy Ether!

Last night I helped stuff plastic eggs with glow sticks and hid them for a nighttime Glow-in-the-Dark Easter Egg Hunt in Laurelhurst Park, hosted by Taj.

As I was hiding the eggs, a couple came walking down a footpath about twenty feet away. One of them called out in a dubious tone, “Are you… are you hiding glowing eggs for a nighttime Easter egg hunt?”

I paused before answering with a hesitant rising inflection, “… no?”

She laughed, “Yeah, I guess the glowing eggs should have been a full clue.”

I told them, “If you want to join in, I think they are just getting started over at the bathhouse.” And then followed up with, “That sounded dirtier than I intended. Ooops.”

After I had left and the hunters had found all (we hope all) of the eggs, Taj snuck into my backyard and hid the eggs all over the yard and deck. The view from the hottub at midnight was pretty epic.

My life does not suck.

egg huntersBobo eggs browse eggs

Ch-ch-changes

      No Comments on Ch-ch-changes

Maybe everyone saw this coming except me, but mags and I finally ended our relationship in December. We had been having a rough time for some months, but were making a concerted effort to talk through issues and I thought we were making some headway. Apparently she thought differently.

To the very end, I was still enthusiastic about fixing things. I said explicitly that she could name her terms, that we could do this however she wanted. That didn’t seem to make a difference. She moved out and I spent days, weeks even, in a pretty dark place. After 18 years together, it was incredibly hard to imagine what my life would look like without her. I couldn’t even fathom it. With little warning, I would be wracked with sobbing.

Through it all, Bobo was simply amazing. She held me when I cried, listened to me vent my frustration and confusion, and soothed me when I couldn’t rest. This is all the more remarkable to me, considering that this change had a massive impact on her as well. The three of us had built a real family together. As much as the fighting between me and mags took a toll on Bobo, the dissolution of our family really hit Bobo. As if December in Portland isn’t dark enough, the big house felt emptier and grayer than ever.

But I’m sitting in Portland in February, staring at bright blue skies. I can’t remember the last time I cried about the changes thrust upon me. I have found love and support I didn’t know I had. I’ve had some amazing new experiences opened up to me, things that I never could have imagined in my prior life. And most amazing of all, I seem to have reacquired the “drama-free” life that is so important to me and was missing for so long!

Relationships have bloomed and evolved, in ways I never could have anticipated. My bond with Bobo is stronger and deeper than it has ever been. My general level of fitness continues to improve. And I have some wonderful adventures in store for 2015.

I was talking with a friend recently, and expressed a little surprise that I seem to have turned the corner so quickly, given the length of the relationship. She smiled ruefully and said, “Maybe it’s been longer than you think. Sounds to me like you’ve been breaking up for nearly two years.” Ooof. Maybe so.

The saddest, most hurtful thing is that mags has cut me so completely out of her life. The last words she said to my face were, “Even seeing you is more painful than I can stand.”

2014

      No Comments on 2014

2014 has been… a year. I managed to do some things that I’m really happy about:

  • Started (and finished) a series of hikes that covered all 80+ miles of trails in Forest Park.
  • An epic tree burn at Kelley Point State Park. I rented a U-Haul truck and brought approximately 30 trees to the event. It was most excellent!
  • A trip to Todos Santos, to celebrate my birthday. A massage conducted poolside, rolling in the surf, and lazy days rocking in the hammock.
  • A road trip to central Oregon to explore the mundanely named Hole-in-the-Ground, Crack-in-the-Ground and Fort Rock.
  • Attended my first “Brides of March”, which involved buying and hacking a wedding dress to fit me.
  • Attended the Rang Barse festival in Beaverton.
  • Started seeing a personal trainer once a week.
  • Went to Breitenbush with Manda for her Spring Break.
  • Went to Cirque du Soleil when they came through town.
  • Hiked Smith Rock again.
  • Volunteered with the World Naked Bike Ride. Did some site setup and cleanup, and started running the web site for selling WNBR swag.
  • Hosted a “Rang Barse Ride of Colors” during Pedalpalooza.
  • Assisted with building the Portland Souk project (the Cascadia Trading Post) for Burning Man 2014.
  • Attended SOAK 2014, volunteering with the Greeters.
  • Went mountain biking in central Oregon with our friends Chris and Lori.
  • Explored Oneonta Gorge for the first time, and loved it so much I went three more times.
  • Started dating someone wonderful.
  • Attended Burning Man 2014, volunteering with the Portland Souk project, the Retrofrolic Camp and with Arctica.
  • Started practicing massage more regularly again.
  • Taught a class on making your own floggers (using upcycled bicycle innertubes)
  • Started attending personal training twice a week.
  • Volunteered with Sepia for Placement for the Burnout event.
  • Resumed a relationship I thought was dead and gone.
  • Started doing “Couch to 5K”.
  • Spent Xmas at the coast with Dan, Melody, Anita, Owen and Ed. So good for my heart, and so hard at the same time.
  • Was stunned to discover new depths and previously unexplored places in a relationship that I thought was settled and defined. Positively revelatory!
  • Maintained the weight lost in 2013, and even lost a bit more.
  • And last but not least, I maintained and deepened my relationship with Bobo. Over eight years now, and my love and appreciation for her only continues to grow!

 

And several things that sucked:

  • Ended a relationship.
  • Ended another relationship.
  • And then ended the biggest, most significant relationship of my life, 18 years long. Excruciating, devastating.

How do you summarize a year like that? Lots of new events and growth, and then lots of “another fucking opportunity for growth.” In the grand scheme of things, way more pain than joy, way more heartache than I’m built to take. And that comes on the heels of a 2013 that was almost as bad. Over all, 2015 can only be better. It fucking well better be.

A better me

      No Comments on A better me

The start of 2014 felt like one old-man injury after another; my low back would be sore, or I’d have a crick in my neck, or a sore shoulder. Nothing debilitating, but a constant low-level annoyance. Grrr…

So in April I started going to a personal trainer once a week. This is the same trainer Bobo has been seeing, and I really liked what she had to say about him and how much stronger and more confident in her body she seemed. During the first meeting, the trainer asked what my goals were. “I’m already reasonably active with hiking and biking; mostly I want to be able to do that longer, farther, more often. I want to be fit enough to sustain the life and activities I already enjoy.”

So we started a routine of what he calls “cross-core”. Lots of work with cables and pulleys and elastic bands, natural body movements, mostly using my own body weight and leverage for resistance. And the results have been good. I’ve maintained the weight loss of 2013, and have even lost a smidge more. The nagging old-man injuries have dramatically decreased in frequency. My clothes fit better and I look better naked. But mostly the changes have been gradual enough that it’s hard for me to notice them from one week to the next.

 

But this year at Burning Man, something lovely happened. Mags and I were biking through the open playa and came across the ePOD, an open-truss sphere about 7 meters in diameter that spun on its vertical axis. Multiple people were perched on the top and sides of the sphere already, so clearly I needed to join them, right?

With the sphere already rotating at a good clip, I walked up to the base of the sphere and reached overhead to grab two struts and pull myself up. Because the sphere was spinning, my feet left the ground immediately and I kicked my legs forward to try to catch my ankles in the truss so I could pull myself up. And I failed. My feet didn’t make contact and the apparent centrifugal force swung my legs out away from the sphere.

In that brief second, a dozen thoughts and emotions went through my head. “I can’t do this! How embarrassing. I’m an old, fat man and should bike away and find something more my speed. What was I thinking?!” And in that second of shame and embarrassment and failure, I realized I was still hanging on. And had enough juice to hang on at least a couple more seconds. I swung hard again, pumped my legs forward… and this time I hooked the truss with my ankles! From there it was easy to monkey my way inside the sphere and start climbing up. I made it! I fucking did it!

browse on the ePOD Sphere, Burning Man 2014.

browse on the ePOD Sphere, Burning Man 2014.

And I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have been able to do it, prior to starting personal training. So yay! Let’s celebrate growing, changing and becoming a better version of yourself!

PS: Since October, I’m now going to training twice a week. Hell yeah!

Ruminations from the playa

      No Comments on Ruminations from the playa

At Burning Man this year, I had one especially rough day, and I think the people I was camping with could tell. As evening settled in, I was standing near the street watching the crowd roll by and the head of our camp came over and said, “Tell me what you think. What do you make of all this?”

I hesitated and said, “You’ve caught me in a pretty cynical moment; I’m not sure you really want to hear what I’m thinking.”

He said, “No, go right ahead, lemme have it.”

I took a deep breath and plunged into it. “Well, I’m thinking about all the time and effort and money it takes for me to come here. And then I multiply that by the 80,000 (more!) people who are on the playa this year. And I can’t help but wonder… really? Is this the best use we can make of all that focus and intention? Surely there’s something bigger and better we could be doing with all those resources.”

He nodded thoughtfully and said, “I hear you. That’s a totally valid question, and one I’ve pondered before.” He paused before continuing, “Here’s the answer I’ve come up with to that question, for myself. When you think about how much time and effort you put into attending the Burn… well, I’ve run this camp for several years now, and there’s a lot of gear and planning that goes into it, so I can assure you I spend a lot of time thinking about whether it’s worth all the hassle.”

(Editorial note: This guy runs a theme camp that is the biggest, baddest BDSM play space on the playa. He constructs a huge public play space, with all manner of associated furniture, gears and toys. Epic in scale.)

He continued, “Each year at Burning Man, I see people come into the camp who have never even considered anything in the realm of BDSM before. And their eyes get as big as saucers. And they end up discovering something about themselves that they never even knew existed, a whole ‘nother side to themselves that they had never even considered before. Something they never had to opportunity to explore, or never felt safe enough to explore, and they found it here. I find that to be pretty amazing. For me, that makes it all worthwhile.”

 

That thought has really stuck with me. I had already been thinking a lot about how much easier it is being a Portland Burner; we’re physically so close that simply getting to playa (including all your camping gear and toys and art projects) is vastly simpler than it is for someone who lives in Indiana. Or Toronto. Or Israel.

 

But this is yet a different issue on top of that. I live in Portland. I live in a city that has an annual bike ride of ~10,000 naked people through the heart of town, and it barely makes the papers. I live in a city that has a guy who rides a unicycle, while wearing a kilt and a Darth Vader mask, while playing bagpipes, which also blow flame. And we’re so used to it that we shrug and say “Oh yeah, him.”

 

The Unipiper

 

Which is to say, I think it’s easy for me to take for granted how much freedom, how much personal liberty I have to express myself in this town. All things considered, Portland is a pretty supportive environment for radical self expression. And so many people do not have that same confidence about where they live. I met a number of people on the playa who spoke openly about how the playa was the one place where they felt like they can truly express themselves, the one place where they can meet like-minded people, the only place where they can “let my freak flag fly”. It’s good for me to remember that I am in a really fortunate place, compared to such folks.

 

Oh jeez, did I just write a blog post about “Portland privilege”?