The first words I said in 2011 when I realized it was 4th of July, at sunrise, was "Happy Freedom." Well, maybe freedom isn't always happy.
The playa teaches you something every time you go (or try to go) - if you listen. We humans create a wonderland from the harsh, barren blank canvas that the desert provides us. It is our art piece. It manifests what we feed it. And if tensions are already high, the intensity of the environment magnifies these tensions. It's like how energy is intensified on a Full Moon. On this Juplaya trip, on the day where the tensions were the highest, there was a Full Moon that hung for a while on the opposite side of the sky as the Sun. It was like they were both hovering, charging us up. I couldn't fight off the urge to howl. With no one around to hear you, you can sing to the moon as loud as you wish, in whatever way you like. There are coyotes there, though, so just be a little cautious.
Around May, I planned out who I'd be giving a ride to. It was her first year, and a crazy one at that. I asked for the time off. We were going for a whole week this time. I wrote my name of the request off calander, but didn't write what date I requested it off. No one else did.
Then came the first camping trip of the year. It lasted less than I'd wanted and left me yearning for more. It also left me hopelessly attached to my significant other who I'd gotten to know on that camping trip. Due to certain people who would also be on the July trip, he decided against going, leaving me feeling a loneliness I wouldn't have felt there if I were single. It's not like we had an exclusive relationship, not like I was restricted from enjoying the pleasures of the flesh at that hedonistic wonderland - but I had become far too used to having him around to be comfortable when we were suddenly apart. It made me wonder if, in fact, freedom and love are at odds with each other. Or, did it take something special to be free to love? Was there a such thing as "free love?"
|Something like this enters my head when I think of the phrase "free love."|
The playa was what made me believe in "free love", and have the confidence to seek it. It was the first place I was comfortable in limited clothing around a large group of people. I didn't feel like I was in danger. I didn't feel like I was being objectified. I just felt like I was free to do as I pleased. And I even went totally nude in front of a smaller group of people in order to bathe in the cold springs one year. Now, I can go to a hot springs and be nude around complete strangers and be completely comfortable with it. The summer desert in the day time is hot enough to feel comfortable in nothing but your own skin. The warm, dry air keeps you comfy, and less clothing makes the breeze better. Don't forget the sunscreen, though.
Before I knew it, June was almost over. I noticed that a co-worker with a ton of seniority over me requested the same week off of work. She wrote the date she made the request, making mine suspect. Sure enough, the day of the last shift I was supposed to work before my vacation started, a few hours before I was supposed to come in to work, my new boss called me and left a voice mail informing me that I could come pick up my last check. No one had told me I was doing a bad job. They said they were laying me off, that they had to "make some cuts." Then they ended up hiring even more people a month after I was gone. I still don't know what to think about it.
At least I had another paycheck to help me out with what would be a relatively expensive camping trip. 'Fuck everything else,' I thought. "I'll just get ready for my week in the desert. The playa will fix everything.' I was certain I'd come back reborn, okay with everything.
|Photo Credit: Alex Grey|
It was a whole different kind of rebirth that took place. Then I found out that the friend I'd made last year wouldn't come this year, probably because of personal drama with several other people attending. Ridiculous amounts of drama. I was left wondering if we were all actually adults, or just old high schoolers.
Two men I cared about not coming, my financial stability in question... Definitely time for vacation.
One of my friends, in preparation for the event, bought copious amounts of cheap booze. Now, this seems to be a staple for all of our playa trips, but especially at Juplaya, since there aren't a ton of camps trying to give away excess booze. Honestly, you can go to Burning Man without bringing a single drop of alcohol and stay drunk the whole week. Make sure you're giving back in some other way, though. This trip wasn't like 2010, where a Juplaya enthusiast had spent quite a lot of money on cheap beer and spirits to intoxicate a large group of people for days, along with any wanderers that made their way over. This trip had a significantly smaller group of people to share alcohol with, and pretty much everyone had brought alcohol for their own personal consumption. Bringing enough to share is my custom, but apparently if everyone brings the same type of thing with enough to share, there ends up being too much of a good thing. This is a good thing to remember when planning a playa trip. Have a meeting earlier than the night before you're going to leave. Discuss what all you're going to bring. If someone is already bringing enough rum, don't go out and buy more, lower quality rum. And if that does happen, don't sit and drink the whole plastic handle to yourself because everyone else prefers Bacardi.
And so, I was ready early the morning we were supposed to leave. I was going to lead a small, two car caravan out of downtown sac, all the way into the desert we loved so much. My passenger wasn't ready when I was, so I looped around her neighborhood.
A block away from her house, I got a bad feeling while I waited for a light to turn green. It changed, but someone a few cars ahead slammed on their brakes, causing the car in front of me to slam on their brakes right as I accelerated into it.
My car was totaled, had to be towed away, and I had to be towed away to the emergency room to have my hand stitched up. My finger got pushed sideways, and the web of skin between the fingers split open. It was first time I'd ever had to get stitches. My phone shattered into a million pieces. It had been sitting on my lap so I could call the other caravan driver once I parked.
Since it was a Saturday, I had to wait until Monday morning to get to my car to collect the majority of my possessions from it. Otherwise there would be an outrageous fee for getting the gate opened early. The rental car company also wouldn't be open until Monday. So my vacation was pushed back. I was shocked, devastated, blindsided. Nothing like that had ever happened to me before. I've lived a lucky life, but a sheltered one. Suddenly, now, I was living life closer to the way I wanted; and the safe little bubble where nothing goes wrong and everything is stable was ripped from underneath me like a rug.
|Photo Credit: BookLov3r|
All things considered, I still got out of everything with minimal damage. my car and phone were the only things that were destroyed. I lived, and that's all that matters. At the time, though, all that mattered was that I got to the playa. I didn't listen to the universe trying to stop me. I'm a Taurus. I'm stubborn.
My mom let me borrow her car, and used the rental car provided by insurance while I was gone. I wrapped my hand up in gauze until it looked mildly mummified. Then I put on a mitten that had half cut off fingers over it. I wore the same shirt I had worn when I got into the accident - I hadn't even bothered to wash off the blood stain.
Monday morning finally came. I was crazy with anxiousness and anticipation. There was glass things in my trunk. Did they all break in my trunk? Were all my clothes soaked in gin and moldy from sitting in my trunk all weekend? Was my glass lantern shattered and scattered dangerously over my possessions? No, it turned out. Everything was perfectly in place, just as I left it.
It was extremely unnerving to be stripping everything away from my beloved car as quickly as I could so that I could leave the state as quick as possible. It was all hastily re-placed into my mother's car, all jumbled, not really organized.
I dropped my mom off at home, picked up my friend, and took off. We were finally on our way! For no good reason at all, there was apparently phone service out on the playa. The friends who were already there called and made shopping trip requests. Reason #1 of why I am against phone service on the playa.
PART II - Separation / Anxiety