Saturday, September 12, 2015

May Day Camping Chaos 2014

If you want something done right, do it yourself... right? That was the thinking behind this camping trip. I was doing an unpaid internship and was supposed to be finished by the beginning of May. Somehow, they convinced me to stay another month at the last minute, but I agreed only under the condition that I would get a couple weeks off!

Photo Credit:

I was originally going to go somewhere new, but no one else was feeling adventurous. I can't really blame them... the last time I picked out a random new place to camp for the group, there were a ridiculous amount of snakes, and we ended up having a walk-in with a baby rattler. So, icehouse it was - that easy spot that I had been going to my whole life. I say it's easy because there is lots of land for dispersed camping, and also lots of camp sites if you want to spend time with people who don't know how to camp. 

Photo Credit:
This is usually what pops in my head when I think of one of those camp 'sites' with showers and toilets.

I'm a bit of a camping elitist. I'm sure there are people who are more elite than me, and would consider my camping (next to a car, with no hiking, not in complete isolation from humans) to be wussy stuff. But for me, camping means no running water (unless you're by a creek/river/stream), no electronics (except maybe a radio once in a while), and no trailers/RVs.

I wanted to go camping for the beginning of my 'vacation,' but none of my friends seemed to be able to time it for that. SO, instead, I decided to go visit my High School friend in Reno. There honestly wasn't a whole lot that we did there. We caught up, did arts and crafts, cooked amazing food... best friend stuff. It was super relaxing, and I had a bunch of fun going out drinking all night into the morning with her and her boyfriend.

After that, I was expecting to go to the woods, and celebrate my birthday and Beltane (which had both already passed at that point due to the aforementioned scheduling conflicts) in nature, together with my lovely friends.

Photo Credit: 

Naioka Gray-Sheavly

Somehow, once I got there, it was like I had barged in and interrupted someone else's camping trip, however. 

Two of my good friends, we'll call them the Vintage Girls, were already there, and they had a lot more bud than I did. As I had stated, I was near the end of a 6 month run of doing an unpaid internship, so I was scrounging for cash, and didn't have enough money to buy a bunch of weed for the trip. When the fact that I was packing bowls so much less frequently seemed to cause some tension, they just started smoking by themselves... It's not that I felt entitled to weed on my birthday; I just felt like they were probably the only two friends I had that would ever do that. I loved them, and I didn't want to judge them... but it definitely affected me. This trend of exclusion just seemed to intensify after both of their boyfriends showed up. 

Eventually lots of others showed up. One friend got everyone to sign a card, which was so sweet. She also gave me a nice smelling bar of soap. One of the friends of friends who came (who I didn't really know very well) gave me a bottle of good tequila. That was what I focused on drinking that night, and it lasted until the middle of the next day. A friend that was growing at the time had a big jar of weed he donated to the camp, calling it the 'free jar.'  Thus, the bud-based tensions eased.

The guy who brought the Tequila also brought some party powder... Which probably got more people to come to the trip, but was also completely unexpected. I didn't know that people would use my birthday camping trip as a random excuse to do some partying... I felt kinda unimportant. Like my shit was totally overrun.

On top of that, our Techie friend brought something I had never, ever, EVER brought on a camping trip: An electric generator. I kinda felt like maybe this wasn't a camping trip anymore... maybe it was something else. The camping elitist in me was very unhappy. The reason for the generator was to run the massive speakers he'd just bought and wanted to try out. I liked his taste in music, and they were amazing speakers, but it just seemed weird for them to be there during my camping trip. Maybe if we were doing some kind of music festival in the woods, that would be fun! But I was starting to wonder what kind of twilight zone I had stepped into.

It was stupid, and frustrating, and I was old enough now to be able to identify what was going on before things got too out-of-hand. I was feeling sorry for myself already because of the weird vibes and possible tension between me and the Vintage Girls, and now I was starting to take everything personally. I knew I shouldn't have. How many parties had I been to where I knew that so-and-so's birthday was just an excuse to party? This was karma, bitch! My shit was being taken over - turned from the sweet, calming Beltane celebration I had been looking forward to - into an actual COOL raging party. The powder, the sound system, the group of people, the booze. It was a good party. I had fun, in spite of myself.

Photo Credit:
After living in an all-vegan household for 6 months, I was kinda weirded out by the mac n' cheese and things. Then, I was totally mortified to see a steak grilling on the fire right in front of me, smelling the searing cow flesh. Cows are my personal mascot (as a Taurus), and here was a hunk of a dead one burning up right in front of me. It was probably supposed to be some kind of proof of manliness, but it only reeked of greed and gluttony to me. Now, I have been re-desensitized to seeing and smelling these things - but then, this was outrageous. Especially since (my Leo-ascending sign said) this camping trip was supposed to be about me! So, I said something that was really rude, but really funny to me. I am still impressed by my wittiness, but... it was very rude. "Why not just let it finish cremating?"

Photo Credit:
Where I personally feel like beef belongs when it isn't on the cow...

Despite me feeling sorry for myself, and not really observing Beltane in the way I'd imagined, I still had fun, and my friends totally showed me their true colors by throwing a kick ass party for my birthday. When all was said and done, I couldn't really ask for more. The only reason it seemed chaotic and irritating was because I had a certain image in my head that I was stubborn about creating. Instead of accepting things as they were happening, and going with the flow, I was trying to make something happen that... just wasn't going to happen. I had a choice to enjoy myself or be upset, and I almost let myself have a bad time. A good lesson for any occasion: Go with the flow and enjoy yourself. Don't be so obsessed with the vision in your head that you refuse to see what is right in front of your eyes.

Photo Credit: Kay Steventon

Monday, September 7, 2015

Autumnal Equinox 2013 - Dark, Twisted, Exposed Roots

My Libra Friend wanted to have a camping trip with a few close friends for her birthday. This friend had been to Burning Man before, but didn't get to go to in 2013. She had lots of camping and nature experience. She was very familiar with and involved in psychedelic culture, but had never had any psychedelic experiences before.

My Libra Friend and I both identify as witches, and therefore we both celebrate the Autumnal Equinox, also known as the neo-pagan/ Wiccan/ Celtic holiday called Mabon. The equinox marks the end of summer, and the beginning of fall. The days are of equal length, just as they are during the Spring Equinox (aka Ostara, for Pagans). Mabon is the middle harvest, a time to gather what we have planted that year. The Sun God wanes in the sky, and will die at Samhain (pronounced 'sah-when', not 'sam-hane'.)

Photo Credit:

I owed another friend money for clothing she made for me for Burning Man that year, and she was one of the friends who was also invited on the trip - So that was how I ended up giving my Seamstress Friend and her Loverboy a ride. I also covered their food costs. The trip was planned for 2 nights, 3 days. 

The first day, we didn't take off very early like we had wanted to. My seamstress friend was having some emotional difficulties with getting prepped for the trip. She is an awesome person with some emotional issues which are really difficult for her to function with. The preparation seemed to trigger a sort of cycle, or maybe a downward spiral. She had been working on a sewing project ALL NIGHT, and literally had gotten no sleep. She was having financial issues (me paying their trip was how they were able to go), so she had been too stressed to put off the sewing project until later. So she hadn't even started to pack by the time I got there to pick them up. Her Loverboy did a great job of taking care of everything he could, but there was some stuff she just had to compose herself enough to do.

Finally, we met up with the rest of the crew: My Libra friend was bringing The Mad Scientist friend, and The Drummer friend. There was a Fairy friend who was supposed to come the next day. The weather report said there may be rain, but we headed up anyways. We went East on I80 to Tahoe National forest and camped there. Pretty immediately after we left paved road, it began to snow.

Photo Credit:

We found a camping spot before the last of the light went away. My Libra Friend found an enormous uprooted tree. It looked as if it had been burned. All the twisted, exposed roots were black. We both felt so much energy pulsing from the area of the roots and underneath. It was like a small, not-as-threatening portal to the underworld. Perfect for the observation of the beginning of Fall.

It continued to snow through the night. I had decided not to camp in my tent, but to sleep in my car so I didn't have to worry about the tent. I had done this before, but I hadn't counted on it snowing. The fact that it was supposed to rain was what had prompted me to decide that in the first place. 

It was miserable. I didn't really sleep. My car was too small for me to build up a warm air pocket. I was too close to the sides of the car - it was like a huge freezer. As dawn was just starting to wake itself up - I tried to open a water bottle. It was a glass bottle, which probably became pressurized as the journey led us upward. As I picked it up and opened it, the water must have become depressurized and started freezing before my eyes. I was afraid the bottle would shatter right in my face, so I set it down on the floor of the car, sat up, and waited. Eventually when I was convinced it wouldn't explode on me, I picked it up and tried to drink from it. Not a drop.

Video Credit: Sick Science
This is basically what happened.

This is something to be aware of when camping in places where it could potentially snow on you. This could happen. Being a native of Sacramento, I've never had to think about snow or my water freezing. I don't go camping in the snow because I don't know how to handle it. Luckily there was plenty of water that hadn't frozen outside of the car. As dawn shown herself, I found that it was actually warmer outside the car. I tried to warm myself up by walking around. 

There was no one else in sight at that point. Just me and a bunch of forest. The little micro-climates seemed a bit more diverse than at Icehouse, where I had often camped, but with the same types of plants overall. Eventually, the sun began to warm us up, and the others awoke. I was very tired, but others had gotten better sleep than me. The Drummer friend hadn't brought a sleeping bag or any blankets, somehow, but luckily someone brought an extra blanket for him. I don't know how that guy survived sometimes. I once saw him fall asleep right on bare, open playa - without a sleeping bag, without a pillow, without a tent, just clothes - face in the dust. He always pushed the limits. 

After he woke up, Drummer Friend decided to make pancakes. He accidentally confused a bag of ginseng powder for a type of flour (he mixed several types of flour together to make the pancakes), and so added a great deal of ginseng - a powerful stimulant herb - to our breakfast. He informed us after we finished eating it of his mistake. So, then I wasn't tired anymore at all! It was easy for me to stay up all day even though I had barely gotten enough sleep the night before. It was an happy herbal accident. I should note, though, that too much ginseng like too much of any herb can be dangerous, and herbs are nothing to trifle with. Know what herb you're working with, as well as what doses you're working with, whenever you use herbs!

Photo Credit:
American Ginseng

The fairy friend arrived, and we did some daytime exploring. My Libra friend set up an alter at the pit under the uprooted tree. I packed my beverages (kombucha, mostly) inside a tree stump with a slightly hollow space. It was full of snow, and I kept packing in more snow as the snow slowly melted. Not quite all the snow was gone by the time the sun started sinking that night.

We got a fire started and decided to take the magical trip we had planned for my Libra friend's birthday. I gave one dosage of the magic to my Seamstress friend, someone else gave one to her Loverboy, the Libra friend took one since it was her first time, as did the Fairy friend and myself - to be on the same level as her. The Mad Scientist didn't take one, and went to bed instead. He thought he might be coming down with something, so he didn't want to chance it. The Drummer friend took two. That wasn't an unheard of amount, but in hindsight now it seemed like it could have been indicative of his lifestyle. He pushed the envelop, and saw this as a chance to go crazy in the forest. The Libra friend was on more of a quest for self-discovery. The two goals may have been different, but we all went through our own journeys that night just fine together. 

In my opinion, one dose of the magic was plenty. Our Seamstress friend went to bed, still having a headache and not feeling social after the initiation of the trip. We went walking around the woods, and I felt like I was a wolf - like we were wolves, prowling over our territory together. I had a brief thought that we were, in actuality, the intruders. Eventually, we realized we didn't know which way was back to camp, and that we had lost the Loverboy. Eventually, we found him, trying to find the way back to camp - and then a few seconds later we were back at camp. It was all very whimsical and strange. We were so, so cold away from the fire. I could feel myself losing body heat more the longer I was out. Usually I don't feel cold as much on those types of trips, so I suppose it must have been worse than I could even tell. 

We got back to the fire and stared at it for a while. The Loverboy went to bed. I played some music. The Drummer friend was just... on a whoooooole other plane of reality until the next day. At one point in the night, the fairy friend was using a stick to try and extinguish part of the fire that was creeping out of the fire pit. The end of the stick that she was using, however, was also on fire. I laughed: "You're fighting fire with fire!" I saw firsthand that this technique doesn't work at all literally, and vowed to keep this in mind whenever I felt like doing it metaphorically.

Photo Credit:
This came up when I searched "fight fire with fire" in Google images.

Eventually the Libra and Fairy friend went to bed in their respective vehicles. It was too cold for me to go to sleep, I knew from the previous night, so there I was, in the cold, ego all tripping, waiting for the sun. And yes, I'm sure I played that doors song at some point, it's one of my favorites. But I also enjoyed the deep silence. It's something I don't get back home in the city. I did notice, though, a few times when I went to pee, that I could hear people - not too close, but not too far away either. So, while it's a good place to go, just know that it is not by any means secluded, even at the end of September.

When dawn finally started showing up, I tried sleeping in my car for a while. Eventually I gave up on this idea and slept outside on my ruined yoga mat instead. I had put it down for people to sit on while it was snowing the first night, and it got trampled and covered in snow-mud (thus defeating the purpose of keeping people's butts dry). Once most of the snow was gone the mud was dried on the mad in a way where only a good pressure washing might help it come clean.

Eventually, the Fairy friend and I went to a small nearby lake to bathe ourselves (which I highly recommend after any magical psychedelic journey). She started yelling some Sanskrit chant and the wind began to suddenly pick up, and was really strong. We decided to get clothes on at that point because we were freezing in the wind chill.

After that, we packed up and went back home. My Seamstress friend was still sick, and actually threw up right before getting in the car to leave. Luckily that helped her feel better, and there were no mishaps on the ride home. 

Monday, June 1, 2015

Burning Man 2013 - That Year I Took Pictures (PT II)

Art Car awesomeness

The night before the Burn: I went over to my friends' other camp - I'll call them the first-timers, just because all three of them at that one camp were all there for their first time. The rest of the camp was composed mostly of veteran burners, though, so they were in good hands. :)

They were friends I'd been camping with before, friends I hung out with all the time in the default world, but I was finally seeing them in this extreme, liberated atmosphere. They were seeing me topless, in ruffled rainbow booty shorts now. It was a totally different me than they were used to. It's not that I don't like to show off my body other times of the year, it's just that I don't often get a chance to do it where it is considered socially acceptable and downright normal.

So, later that night, I came back and they had a special treat - some psychedelic paper, and another great mood enhancer. I went all over the playa and was so overstimulated by all the lights, the people, the energy, the parties, the madness, the happiness... I could feel it all, the thousands of people around me! It was all so beautiful!

I stayed up until flatlight - the first hints of dawn that begin to illuminate the desert - and eventually was able to fall asleep - until my Tarot-Reading friend came a few hours later and woke me up. That was the day of the man burn.

Waiting for the Man Burn
So, I was sleep deprived, and on some trippy tea - and our camp was headed out to watch the man burn. I schlepped one of my 2.5 gallon bricks of water in my bike basket - for when people got thirsty later, in the heat of the burn. It seemed like it took FOREVER until his arms came up, but I think that's because we were smart and came early.The anticipation was tangible in the air.

When he finally went up, the tea had already kicked in, and I felt like I could see all the authority in my life, all the bullshit expectations and people and places and oppressive systems in the Man - and all of it just blew up before my eyes. The Man burned down! Now it was time for a rebirth! Time to go find and do whatever I wanted without the burden of "The Man" looking down on me.

In 2011, after the man collapsed, people rushed in, and began running around the man like some primal, ancient ritual. Later, I met my friends in the middle of the chaos, along with a bunch of other people. I told random people to "Love Everyone!"

This year, I was already exhausted. When the crowd ran up, I of course ran up with them. But then everyone sorta just .... Stopped. I and some others tried to squeeze through the crowd, and people were pissed off because of it. I heard someone complaining "why the fuck would anyone want to run in all this smoke?" They don't understand the primal ritual, or participation, they just understand spectacle. *deep sigh* I felt defeated that the people were not moved to move by the amazing liberation I had just experienced.

I wandered around, starting to feel weak in the knees, trying to find center camp so I could navigate my way back to my fucking bike. I didn't even have the sense to just leave the water on the ground and brought it all the way back to camp with me. I guess my poor mind assumed it would be MOOP, and wouldn't think it through any farther than that. Another life lesson learned.

The next day, we were preparing to leave to watch the temple burn, thinking we'd be there WAY early, when we saw some fire and smoke on the horizon. By the time we got there, it had already collapsed. I was really sad about this. I had delivered a drawing to the temple for a friend who couldn't go that year. And I didn't see it go up in flames. It felt weird. One of my campmates started crying.

Packing up to go home

The next day, Fire Demon and I packed up and left, and I, for one, was weary and ready to leave. Days of drinking, other substances, and lack of sleep had finally caught up with me. I wasn't hung over, just tired. It was like my soul was tired and cranky. I'm sure leaving Home also made me a little cranky. And because there was SOOooooo much stuff, it was more difficult to pack back up. It is a Burning Man skill to pack as little as you can while still having enough to share. This year I was better prepared than my first year, 2011, but I had too much stuff.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Burning Man 2013 - That Year I Took Pictures (PT I)

I had an awesome, amazing time in 2013. I think it was the most fun of any burn yet, with the least amount of set-backs - and also the only year I've ever really taken pictures of the things I saw at BRC. I took those pictures for YOU guys, for this blog. But then life laid down little things, and these little tasks and distractions soon scattered over the surface of my mind, until I couldn't get anything done because I didn't know what I had to do. My blog got buried. I've never been very regular in my updating, but I got myself TWO YEARS BEHIND! If you've ever had this problem, I really suggest reading the book Getting Things Done. It helped me organize my life.

I could just start from my more recent journeys, but instead, I've been catching up my old entries. I want to record these for myself too. When I first started this blog, it was just to share about a place I really love, and about the way it changed me for the better. But, now, I see it as a recording of my adult life. My first year at Juplaya was right before my senior year of college. What I share, the behaviors of my friends, the strange situations I find myself in, these all really happened, and I write it all the way I remember it. The closer to the dates of the events I can get to writing the blogs, the closer I will be able to get to how I really felt at the time, before memory was tainted by time. This is getting more important to me.

And part of that is because of how, almost two years later, I find it harder to piece together the memories of BRC2013. And it was SO AWESOME! The first year (2011) was nice, but not bringing a bike was the worst decision I could have possibly made. There were also problems with campmates, and I was stuck in culture shock.

I missed Burning Man 2012. In fact, on the day that the man burned, I got fired, and my boyfriend at the time broke up with me. It was a bad year all around, and I felt so out of place in my hometown.

SO, I went at 2013 with enthusiasm. I got a ticket early in the year, like I did in 2011. I had money at the time from working a stupid cashiering job all holiday season long. Starting immediately after buying my ticket, of course, they started cutting my hours. Eventually, I was making the 45 minute commute (one way) for a four-hour shift, and paying around $8 round trip to do it. Then they started giving me those shifts only a couple times a week. I wanted to quit - I was making less than $30 per shift after factoring gas into the equation, and that seemed like it really wasn't worth almost hours of my life... but I was a stupid money whore and wanted to wait to as close to Burning Man as I could so I could get all the money I could before I finally did quit. But I waited too long, and got fired. It's not worth it to work at a job you really want to quit that isn't even paying you that well. Life lesson learned.

I ended up giving my friend the Fire Demon a ride. He has a huge bike with a crazy impressive sound system, powered by a car battery. It's a massive, heavy bike. He actually took it apart into two pieces, and attached each piece to the bike rack that was getting bent because of it. I had people from a different camp take my bike in their UHaul.

My poor little car did great, but I'm sure it's much more weight than she should carry.
We basically both were of the mindset that we should bring as much stuff as possible to make life easier while we were there, and to have more random stuff to offer people. We went to Wal-Mart a night or two before and went a little crazy - we bought lights, rope... I don't even remember everything, but I know I spent somewhere around one or two hundred dollars. I hate Wal-Mart and its associations with Burning Man. It's horrible and it should stop... and yet I do it too. It's like some kind of crack. I feel guilty for shopping there when I know it's such a horrible company. But, there was nothing really that either of us needed or forgot, and we only had to go to one store for our non-food supplies.

Speaking of food, this year I decided to get a pressure canner and pre-prepare my food. I got tired of having the same things all the time, so this time I'll plan things out better, trying to can more stuff throughout the year so I can pick and choose my menu easily, and without additional cost. I made vegan chili and soup made with farmer's market veggies. It was time-consuming, and a bit intimidating, but as long as you look up the guidelines and FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS, everything should turn out just fine. Some of the benefits to having a bunch of canned food on the playa are a) no ice needed, b) no plates needed (you can eat it right out of the jar), and c) easy cleanup. I just closed up the lid, and put them back into the flat of jars. It isn't the most space-efficient option, nor is it the lightest, but it's easy. Of course, you can always re-use the jars after they're clean, but you have to buy new inner lids, to be sure it has a proper seal. All in all, it's tried, true, and low waste. Plus, you know exactly what you're eating, and you don't have to worry about how cold your cooler is(n't).

Pic of the back seat - full up! (trunk looks just the same, but more organized)

Waiting in line to get to the gate.

Getting closer to the gate...
One of the gifts I gave the playa in 2013 was some Rune readings in Center Camp. My Tarot-Reading friend did tarot readings. There were so many people there, that it didn't take very long for me to get burnt out doing it. But the readings gave things that were critical for these people to hear. It was as if these people had been directed to this nexus of energy just as I had. It's a hub! I've heard similar stories before of people 'just running into' people at Center Camp, who later reflect back and realize they were meant to be there. Then, of course, I took a bunch of pictures of the art there. Here are some of my favorites.

Center Camp Art!

Center Camp Art!

Center Camp Art! By one of my camp-mates.

Center Camp Art! Complete with my friend's hand

I was pretty much drunk the entire week. I had been training for this: I religiously drank at least one alcoholic beverage every single day for a month before the event. I didn't want the alcohol to make me sleepy, like it usually did, but I wanted to be very drunk. As my tolerance built up, the sleepiness faded away. It worked. And I was able to stay hammered the whole time. An interesting side note: I have never seen or heard of anyone having any kind of hangover from any intoxicant of any kind on the playa. Tiredness still happens, but I've never heard of anyone having an actual hangover. If I've thrown up on the playa, it was when I was too drunk to remember it (and I don't usually black out...)

On a drunken romp around, I saw the following notice on a building, saying it didn't pass code:

After bringing so much attention to it, someone came along with a sharpie and edited it. After that, someone else came up and passed the building. Yay! I helped! *cue the cheesy grin* *stumbles out*

Art Car Amazement on the Esplanade
Never a dull moment

The spaceship in the background, underneath the Coyote, was what the Man was standing on.

I blame the thumb being in the picture on me being drunk the whole time. :P
The Man!

Drunk me: "Ohmahgurd - I gotta take a picture of this one!"

I don't remember what camp this was, but I met up here with a few other friends to see Beats Antique play (for the first time).
So, before we went to see that Beats Antique concert, my campmates and I went to go see this guy who home-brewed a special Andean-inspired elixir based with some sangria, and shared some with us. It kept me going alllllll night long, especially in combination with the special tea my campmates shared with me. The concert was amazing. Afterwards, my Tarot-Reading friend and I went dancing all night long along the esplanade. She also got me to go inside the Tesseract, aka mirror box. It was amazing, and I highly recommend it. I ended up camping with the camp that brings it to the playa the very next year.

Blurry pics of Art Cars from atop a CORE structure

Art Cars from above

Art Cars from above

My Favorite Panel from the awesomely-creepy Photo Chapel.

CORE (Circle Of Regional Effigies) Burn


Saturday, May 2, 2015

4th (or 5th) of Juplaya 2013

Juplaya has been a yearly tradition for me since the year I first went (The First Time: Juplaya Journey). This time, though, I was working - and didn't really know of anyone else who wanted to go. I asked my friend (I'll call her Sunflower) if she wanted to go with me. She was interested, but as a fitness instructor, she was limited to a strict diet, and she didn't know if she would be able to make it work with raw foods in the desert. But we took a week to prepare things like kale crunchies, and simply didn't eat a whole lot of big "meals." We mostly just sustained on little snacks throughout the day. It worked out totally fine.

Kale Chips, Kale Crunchies - easy to make and an awesome desert snack whatever you call them, but be sure to put in a box or hard container so they don't turn to Kale Dust.
Photo Credit: The Chalkboard

Our schedules didn't allow us to get out to the playa until the 5th, so I brought 'a fifth for the fifth.' I didn't really come for 'Juplaya' this year. I just went for the Playa herself. I wanted healing. I wanted to prove to myself that the playa wasn't all that bad. That it wouldn't cause everyone misery and suffering.


At least it didn't cause ME any misery or suffering this year.

First sign something would happen - having to work on the 4th of July but deciding to go anyways
Second sign something would happen - RANDOM THUNDERSTORM ON THE PLAYA! Complete with flash flooding. That was on the 4th, the night before we had gotten there. Driving along the long desert highway, we could clearly see the signs of flooding that had already dried up, leaving the road caked and crackled.

A picture of some of the fun I missed. Double Rainbow!!
Photo Credit: flint

I was really worried about getting my car stuck in the mud, since we were only in a one-car camp. We would have to wait for help in an immense desert if we fucked up somehow. That is the kind of radical self-reliance I believe Burning Man is talking about in their 10 principles, but Burning Man does not require that kind of risk. Everything is laid out and made nice.

But the rest of the year? The roads aren't maintained. They're just curvy lines in a sea of other curvy lines. The dirt under them is packed down from years of use, but I kinda had to get the hang of the layout of the place before they became apparent to me. Now, I knew I could identify the mountains, the roads, and I was also able to identify the spot where we camped every year.

Actually, I identified the spot so well that - after some wrestling with our excuse for a shade structure - I suddenly saw a figure with outstretched arms running towards me. I hadn't even seen her car, but it wasn't very far away. I hadn't even talked to her about whether she was coming or not this year, but my dear friend - and Juplaya campmate every year since the first - was suddenly camped with us.

That night we went to frog pond, and it was fun. Sunflower got too hammered, though, and didn't have her flashlight on her. She ended up slipping on the slippery edge of the frog pond, and twisted her knee badly. She was able to walk, but it hurt. This would affect the rest of our desert vacation, but also her career as a fitness instructor.

One of the cool ponds at Frog Pond
Photo Credit: Eddie Codel

But it also helped me to have a really mellow rest of my Juplaya. Juplaya is waaaaaaay more mellow than Burning Man - mainly because there are less people. It seems to me like there is still no shortage on what to do, though, because you then have a whole desert at your disposal. Everytime I come, it's new. The whole landscape looks different except for the mountains, calmly holding space so we humans can find our way around the vast flatness, towards the waves of brush that crest the shore.

Photo Credit: Scott Hernandez

The fireworks are awesome, but I believe they are mostly illegal there and I know nothing about fireworks, so I usually just watch the fireworks brought in by the more daring. And I'll go drive, walk, or bike to their camp and offer them a drink or something. It's still fire bringing us together, just in a much more reckless way. BLM already knows this goes on. They bust some people. They kick people out of frog pond sometimes. But for the most part, they are way more chill and low-key than they are at BM. And there are way less of them. This year, though, I missed all the fireworks on the 4th. We saw a few on the night of the 5th that must have been left over.

One thing that didn't work was trying to keep soup overnight with no ice. Everything else we brought was fine, and we just brought the dry ingredients for soup. I hadn't wanted my portion that night, and so I hid it under the car, covered, in the cooler we had never put any ice in. It's not that we forgot, or that we were necessarily planning on getting ice. I guess we just decided to put stuff in there for insulation. Either way, at the point we had made the soup, the ice would probably be melted. I don't like bringing stuff like that to the playa because I don't usually bring coolers or ice. I usually just mooch off of space for a few beers in someone elses cooler - always one for me, one for them if they want it. It's not a trade, just one of the things I have to offer my beloved campmates, A symbiotic relationship. Anyways, the soup tasted gross and sour the next morning, even though I got to it before anything started warming up, as the sun was still rising. Oh well, lesson learned. Eat the soup while you can, or don't bring it.

This time, instead of beer, I just brought a fifth. No refrigeration required. But my other campmates weren't into getting drunk on the gin I brought, so I just sipped on gin and pineapple juice the whole time by myself. The juice stayed good, even if the soup didn't.

And after a day of getting there, then spending a full day there, unfortunately the next day it was time to pack it all in and head back. This was undoubtedly the shortest and most mellow Juplaya I'd ever had - which was exactly what I needed after the fiasco of Juplaya 2012.

And yet, as I said, the playa still took its toll on Sunflower. Her knee continued to hurt her for months afterward. She was still able to complete the function of her job, slowly incorporating more and more physical activity with the injury.

So, I guess it's as they say - the playa giveth, and the playa taketh away.

Photo Credit: flint

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

San Francisco Gay Pride 2013

2013 sucked a lot. I was (still) single. I had started out the year working for a company I didn't really like. It was a huge warehouse store that sold liquor. I hated that cashiering job. During the holidays, it was constant rushing. After that, it was mostly standing in one place, waiting for people to come in. Shelving the tiny mini sized bottles.

Photo Credit: The Cork and Bottle

I wanted to go do as much stuff as I possibly could. Why else, I reasoned, was I putting myself through that hell? But the hours they gave me kept decreasing. One thing I could do was go to SF Gay Pride.

My sister was cheerleading for a competition team that performed at the parade. My mother was buying a hotel room for herself, my sister, her friend, and for my friend from high school. He was the 'superhomo' on campus. Flaming gay. In the GSA. I was openly bi, but not flaming. In fact, most people still don't usually believe me. -_-

Mom invited me to come along, but I didn't want to have to deal with parking in San Franciso. So I worked it out that my friend in the Bay Area would car-sit for the night, and we would take the bart to the City. She had a date, and I went to the pink party. I met up with Superhomo, and we went out on the town. He had a few friends there that he knew some way or another, but they were all men and they all kept going to gay male bars. I really wanted to find a woman to at least make out with. But Superhomo has never cared about getting anyone else laid but himself. I have known this for years.

He and one of his old friends developed some drama, and so he walked off to the hotel room. His other friends didn't really care at all, so they just went off by themselves. I just went along on my own. I went to a wine bar and ordered sangria, which was a mistake. The only woman I met had a boyfriend and wasn't poly, and I had a horrible hangover the next morning.

The girl looked like some kind of psychonaut fairy. She had magical green eyes, and pink ribbons in her hair. I roughly remember her talking about how her and her boyfriend were staying in an abandoned house like 5 blocks away. I was so very intrigued. We had a bunch of interesting charecters come stop by to see us. One person informed us that he was an electrical wizard who was 'connected.' Dude. Totally. *nods head*

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Eventually the Psychonaut Fairy went back to her boyfriend, leaving me to wander in and out of bars drinking more and more. Eventually I had to find my way back using the map from the hotel. I didn't have a smart phone at the time, and the battery in my 'dumb' phone was actually dying. This was bad because I also didn't bring the charger. And I had to call my Bay Area friend the following day to have her pick me up at the BART station near her house. so I turned the phone off. I wandered around the streets drunk off my ass figuring out my way in a city I was pretty unfamiliar with. I asked a homeless guy for directions. I gave him a cigarette. The advice lead me in the right direction, thank the Gods.

I passed out on the floor of the over-crowded hotel room. I didn't even get to see it in the light because it was after 2am by the time I got back, and I didn't want to wake anyone up who had to be up early tomorrow.

When everyone woke up, I felt horrible. My head was pounding from the too-sweet sangria I had drank after drinking so many gin and tonics at the gay guy-bars. The others left and let me stay until check out time - 8am. The earliest check out time I've ever seen. But I also didn't want to miss the parade. I soldiered through it.

As soon as I was back in the fresh air and got some food down (avacado on a bagel from a coffee shop), I felt more invincible. I found interesting things to fill the time while waiting for the parade to start. Last time, I was watching the parade with friends. I went off by myself just to satiate my attention deficiency, but I had something ancorhing me to one place for the majority of the parade. This time, though, I kept wandering up and down the streets, finding the best place as circumstances changed.

There were a lot more people this year. And there were a lot more people on the sides of the street selling alcohol or jello shots who clearly did not have a liscence to do so. I saw people selling weed fruity-pepples treats. It was very similar to what I saw at 420 on Hippy Hill. It's like a little cottage industry pops up around these types of activites in SF simply because the cops don't seem to hold them accountable for breaking the laws.

The crowds grew and grew. After the parade, people were still doing lots of stuff. I took myself out to several different restuarants. It was like the best date I'd ever taken myself on! It reminded me a lot of Buring Man, but with money. It was probably just my state of mind that made that happen. I went to dance areas, and at once such place even saw two co-workers dancing together. I thought they were both just friends partying, but eventually found out from a mutal friend that they were actually lesbian lovers. So sweet.

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I took a trip to leather alley, watching anxious and excited at the demonstations they had there of different sadomasochistic scenes. It called to me so very much. I wanted to be dominated so badly. I am very masochistic, and seeing it embraced in that little corner made me feel so very alive. I asked one of the booths if I could get whipped. They paired me up with someone, who went over the basic stuff - like safe-words, my lack of experience with this-kind-of-thing, and what kind of experience I wanted. I was kind of unsure about that, but she gave me options to chose from, which helped a lot! For the first time, I went topless in front of a large crowd. So empowering. And I felt the excited tingle on my back for days afterwards. It was so fucking new and scary and exciting and hot.

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One of the restuarants I went to was an all-vegetarian thai or vietnamese place (I can't recall which), that didn't sell alcohol, but was right next door to a liquor store. They allowed you to go buy a beer next door and drink it. So that's what I did. When I was in line there, it was so hot, and I could finally smell the result of my walking in the California heat all day. This extremely drunk girl (who would have been much hotter if she were more composed) was in line in front of me. When she was done with her purchase, she turned to leave and, seeing me, stopped dead in her tracks. She looked me up and down, then leaned in slightly and gave an audible sniff.

"Girl, I ain't gonna lie, you stinky. You pretty cute, though."

She walked out the door and groped my ass as she passed by. I was so shocked I just laughed and paid for my beer.

All day, I knew I had to eventually meet up with my mother. She would be my only option to get back to my car, at my Bay Area Friend's house - since my phone was totally dead by then. But there were SO MANY PEOPLE, that it took a long time before I ran into someone else who knew my mother and texted her for me.

By the time I met them at the hotel, the crowd had gotten unimaginably huge. You couldn't walk anywhere without having to completely squeeze through. The streets were literally packed like sausages. That's where I learned that something horrible had happened. Someone had fired a gun into THAT CROWDED of a place, not too far away from where my sister, her cheer squad, my mother, and Superhomo were all conviened. They were all in a post-traumatic state, and so the crowded trip back in the car was a bit tense. Especially since I did stink so badly. I had even tried to rinse my sweaty pits off, but that didn't seem to do me any good.

Photo Credit: virgosveryowndaily

It was such a relief when I got to my Bay Area Friend's apartment, and my car was in the parking lot, and she was in her apartment, having been worried about me. It filled me with the sentiment that "all's well that ends well."

I was looking forward to the upcoming 4th of Juplaya, but was still unsure if I was going to go. I didn't have anyone to go with, and work kept getting in the way of my plans - which, frustratingly, was the whole reason I was working! To fund my adventures!

But after this trip didn't turn out as planned, but still turned out well when I 'went with the flow,' I decided that I would figure out a way to go to the playa twice this year. Maybe it was greedy; but after the last time I had been to the playa for Juplaya 2012 had ended up disasterously, I wanted to give it a chance to redeem itself. I wanted to give myself a chance for redemtion. That trip seemed to be the catalyst that tore my life apart. It made me realize that things were not working. A few months after that fateful trip, I had no choice but to rebuild what I thought about myself.

This year needed to be healing. It needed to be a contrast from last years. It had to show me that I could carry on. I could keep going. I didn't want to give in to sorrow and give up my traditions. The playa had several times freed me! I had faith that it could help me feel free once again.

I was still too nervous to meet other people. I didn't really know how to initiate a conversation with people. No matter how comfortable I felt around people, I didn't feel comfortable getting to know them. I supposed that they would have no reason to want to be friends with me. But Gay Pride helped me enter the right headspace for the playa. I had fun, was independent, and adventurous.

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