An Update From Wonderhussy

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pic by Mike and Kit on Vimeo

I’ve been getting a lot of emails from people lately, asking if I’m OK…because I haven’t posted any new blogs in awhile.

I am definitely still around, but I’ve been having SO MANY ADVENTURES lately that I haven’t had time to write about them! I went on a 3-week cross-country road trip, hiked to a plane crash site in Death Valley for a Canadian scavenger hunt, played a nagging pregnant yoga wife in a porn movie, went to Disneyland and am now working on a new performance of my Electric Vagina at the BEquinox festival in Joshua Tree next week. Whew!

 

 

Laissez les bons temps rouler

Laissez les bons temps rouler

Additionally, I am working on a sort of quirky, NSFW web series with my photographer friends Mike and Kit, who have already posted a bunch of stuff on their Vimeo page. If interested, check those out here. The official web series episodes aren’t up yet, but will be soon — and they wrote a REALLY bad ass theme song about me for it ūüėÄ

But really, what I’ve been spending most of my time on is my YouTube channel! Ever since I realized I could make money off it last fall, I’ve been focusing more on vlogging than blogging. It was somewhat of a bummer to realize that most people prefer watching video to reading scathingly well-crafted diatribes…..but that’s the reality, and I needs to pay my bills! So I’ve been spending most of my blogging time vlogging instead.

 

thankfully it wasn't real!

thankfully it wasn’t real!

Most of my top-earning videos feature my exploration of abandoned buildings, ghost towns, mills, mines and factories. This genre of video is called “urbex,” short for “urban exploration,” and I had never heard of it until I uploaded that video at the abandoned mineral resort up near Jackpot, NV last July. I got such a great response from that video, it made me start to think I should make more videos, and…..here we are!

I also post a lot of videos featuring me wandering around different interesting places in the desert and the world in general. If interested, you can subscribe to my YouTube channel and follow me there…..

 

Or, if you want to stay up to date with scathing mini-diatribes, you can also follow my Facebook page. I know everyone’s not on Facebook, but it’s the easiest platform to post stuff while on the go, so that’s what I’ve been using.

On my cross-country trip, in Marfa, TX

On my cross-country trip, in Marfa, TX

If you’re not offended by my nude photos, then you can also follow me on Instagram, where I upload censored/PG-13 stuff several times a week….and on Tumblr, where I post my uncensored nudes.¬†

Anyway, I can’t WAIT to blog about my 3-week roadtrip and my Canadian plane crash adventure — both are GREAT stories! But in the meantime…..

…gotta go make some new videos ūüėÄ

 

 

 

 

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Navel-Gazing is the New Black

There I sat, glumly¬†gobbling glop in a silent mess hall full of¬†equally¬†glum glop-gobblers, a knit watchman’s cap pulled down over my makeup-less face and¬†nothing to look forward to¬†but my¬†daily walk in the yard. Re-reading the fine print on my lemon-ginger herbal tea bag for the 1,000th time, it occurred to me that there’s a fine¬†line between glum¬†and pious…and that though we were all¬†here voluntarily, this meditation retreat¬†was¬†basically just¬†a¬†minimum-security New Age Prison for White People. Navel-gazing is the new black!

Of course, I’m being facetious — my fellow glop-gobblers weren’t¬†all¬†white; there were a few east Indians among us, an Asian or two, and at least one Mexican. But the overwhelming majority of those seeking peace at this silent Buddhist meditation retreat were whiter than almond¬†milk, and the irony was not lost on me. Enlightenment¬†is classic Stuff White People Do!

Where's the party?

Where’s the party?

This was, of course, my long-awaited Vipassana retreat in the mountains of Northern California: ten days of¬†nothing¬†but meditation from the time they gong you awake at 4am until they finally let you pass out in bed around 9:15pm, and all in complete silence. No talking, no physical contact, no eye contact, no communication of any kind whatsoever. No reading, no writing, no cell phones, no laptops. No sex, no drugs, no rock-n-roll —¬†nothing but meditation!

Vipassana is actually a really interesting meditation technique in that they don’t try to sell you anything or make you chant corny catchphrases or anything like that. It’s more or less grounded in reality and science, and the people who teach it are basically squares¬†— no beards, beads, loincloths, etc; in fact, the guy who introduced Vipassana to the West resembles nothing so much as your typical east Indian Silicon Valley H-1B software¬†engineer. It’s basically just a technique which helps one to focus on the reality of one’s body — no spiritual mumbo-jumbo, and minimal psychobabble.

Moreover, the Vipassana retreats themselves are¬†free of charge — aside from teaching and guiding you in the meditation technique, they also provide comfortable, heated accommodations with hot showers and 2.5¬†fantastic¬†vegetarian meals per day…for free! At the end of the course, they almost casually mention the fact that your retreat was paid for by the students who came before you, and that if you want to donate toward¬†the next students, you are welcome to¬†give what you can. But they definitely don’t strong-arm you — there’s no need, as there is no shortage¬†of¬†enthusiastic graduates¬†plenty eager to spread Vipassana to as many people as possible.

Those who undertake a 10-day retreat must surrender all their tech devices (they secure them for you), and agree to abide by five principles for the duration of the course:

  1. to abstain from killing any being (hence the vegetarian meals)
  2. to abstain from stealing (there are no locks on any of the doors except the bathrooms)
  3. to abstain from all sexual activity (males and females are strictly segregated, and are asked to dress modestly)
  4. to abstain from telling lies (you can’t talk anyway, so this one is easy)
  5. to abstain from all intoxicants (I had to leave my pipe and cookies at home, boohoo).

You also agree to observe¬†what is called Noble Silence (no speaking or otherwise communicating with other students, though you can talk to a teacher or course manager if you have a problem with anything)…and you agree to stay within the boundaries of the course property for the¬†entire ten days. Of course they can’t¬†force¬†you to stay — if you have a medical or family emergency, you can leave. But they really, strongly encourage you not to leave until the entire course is complete…and to that end, it’s a bit like being in prison — or more aptly, pri-Zen.

And of course even¬†more¬†aptly….pri-Zen for White People. I mean, what other prison feeds you tofu steaks and saut√©ed kale??

My friend and I just before the retreat began

My friend and I just before the retreat began

Anyway, I enrolled in the course¬†hoping it would help me chill out; as you know I lead a very high-octane life, and as a result have problems sleeping. My sister¬†had taken a¬†course before, so I had an idea of what I was in for and wasn’t¬†fostering any unrealistic expectations —¬†but I did go¬†in with a positive mindset, thinking to give Vipassana¬†a fair shot. I loaded up on cozy knitted ethnic ponchos, jammed¬†a fair-trade kombucha-hemp suppository up my ass and carpooled the 10 hours from Vegas in the Mini Cooper of¬†an NPR journalist¬†friend who was taking the course for his second time. We blew¬†through the desert and the red-state part of California, up into the misty, majestic vineyards of Napa Valley; nothing but moss-covered faux chateaux¬†and the smell of Enlightenment wafting from the quaint stone chimney of every Michelin-starred restaurant we passed. So far, so good!

To stifle¬†my inner cynic, from pretty much the moment I set foot on the retreat property¬†I pulled my aforementioned watchman’s cap¬†down low over my eyes — as low as I could while still being able to see where I was going, but low enough to where I wouldn’t be tempted to peek at the other students’ faces and make cynical judgments based on their appearances. And to avoid being the subject of their¬†cynical judgments, I topped the utilitarian dollar-store beanie¬†with a colorful and funky but structurally inefficient knitted ethnic coverup cap — when in Rome, etc!

Either way, of course,¬†it didn’t work. Though I could only¬†see my fellow students from the waist down, you can tell a lot about a man by his shoes….and $150 Uggs, furry leg warmers, Lululemon leggings and North Face jackets tell you all you need to know. Additionally, Noble Silence didn’t start until a few hours after arrival, so I had already gotten¬†quite an earful as everyone was signing in: “OMG, you’re a yoga teacher too?!” “I’ve been living on an ashram in Grass Valley.” “Excuse me…are these bean patties gluten-free?”

With all¬†that¬†going on, it was a¬†blessing when Noble Silence finally descended like a cozy, knitted fair-trade ethnic pair of earmuffs; I pulled my cap even lower, and prepared to enjoy the silence. ¬†Prior to my departure from Vegas, many of my friends had commented “LOL how are¬†you¬†gonna shut up for ten days?!” as I’m usually a very outgoing, social, life-of-the-party-type person. Well, I’m here to tell you that shutting up was¬†amazing!¬†

I found it wonderfully therapeutic not to have to b.s. or kibbitz with anyone; no laughing at stupid jokes, no “Grass Valley? How interesting,” or¬†“Oh wow these photos are¬†great!”¬†I am actually by nature kind of an introvert — growing up (and in fact until I started drinking alcohol at the age of 23) I was bookish and almost painfully shy, so in a weird way it was kind of a treat to be able to regress for awhile. And I was really good at it; though I heard other hens nattering in hushed tones throughout the course, I maintained total silence for the entire ten days. (I was forced to whisper responses when the meditation teacher asked about my progress every few days, but I kept my answers to an absolute minimum: “It’s fine,” “I’m feeling tingling,” etc. I also had to ask for an alarm clock at one point…but all in all, I probably spoke fewer than 50 words all week, and those in a hushed whisper. And I certainly¬†didn’t chant “Sadhu, sadhu, sadhu” at the end of the meditation sessions like many of the other students; supposedly it just means “Well said” in the ancient Buddhist language of Pali…but like those Chinese characters people get tattooed on their persons supposedly¬†meaning “TRUTH,” how do I know it doesn’t really mean “I’m a white dumbass and my privilege is choking me?!”)

Soaking at a hot spring after the retreat

Soaking at a hot spring after the retreat

Aside from keeping my mouth shut, I was also really good at not peeking at the other students; the idea behind¬†Noble Silence is that you’re supposed to create the illusion that you are alone, in isolation…so though I couldn’t avoid seeing the others’ feet and legs, I managed pretty successfully not to look at anyone above the waist. I didn’t even know who was sharing my own bedroom¬†until the end of the week — and those were close quarters! Also, though the male and female students were segregated for the duration of the course, we all meditated in the same hall, so¬†it was possible to catch glimpses of the men as they walked through the woods to and from their sleeping quarters to the meditation building….but I didn’t try to spot my NPR friend the entire ten days, and in fact had no idea if he was even still there until the 10th day. (I had a feeling he might have left after a few days because he seemed out of sorts on the drive up, but since my mom lives close enough to this retreat to be able to come rescue me¬†if needed, I didn’t try to keep tabs on him.)

Meanwhile, I had come here to fix my sleeping disorder — so how did that go? Well, the accommodations at this particular retreat were less than ideal for someone with sleep issues; the facility used to be some kind of summer-camp-type resort¬†made up of several small cabins arranged around the mess hall and the meditation hall. Some of the cabins¬†were configured into¬†dormitory-style bunks; the cabin I was in was divided into¬†three bedrooms ¬†— one solo room, one two-top, and one three-top. Lucky me, I scored a bed in the three-top…but as it turned out, one of the beds in our room remained empty, so it was just me and one other woman. Meanwhile, one of the chicks in the two-top bailed after the second day…which meant that the other two lucky ducks¬†in my cabin had private rooms. (I’m sure if I’d spoken with course management beforehand and explained my problem, they might have¬†given me a private room…but I was trying to be low-maintenance and just go with the flow…ya know?)

It was actually a blessing that we had two empty beds in our cabin, as there was just one shower and 2 toilets/sinks for all of us. I grew up in a fairly large family full of women, so I was sort of used to jockeying for bathroom time. But negotiations are tricky when one is observing¬†Noble Silence — so to that end, there was a dry-erase signup sheet posted outside the bathroom where you could write in your name each day and reserve a 15-minute block. Bathing opportunities¬†were limited to the short periods of free time allowed after meals, plus¬†a small window first thing in the morning and another just before bed. I ended up jumping in first thing each morning at 4am, right after the gong mistress came in¬†to¬†gong us awake, just to get it out of the way before anyone else got any ideas. And it worked out fine; nobody else was insane enough to argue.

After showering, the gong mistress would come around again to remind you that it was time for the¬†4:30am meditation session. Throughout the day, students are expected to meditate a total of¬†10-11 hours; three mandatory one-hour sessions in the hall, plus several chunks where you could stay in the hall or do it¬†in your bedroom. Fortunately, the 4:30-6:30am chunk was one of those where they let you stay in your room…so after showering, I would bundle up warmly in all my cozy knitted ponchos and shawls, and “meditate” on my bed. For the first couple of days I did this early session in the hall…but after a couple of days my butt¬†was¬†so sore¬†from sitting on the hard-ass cushions in the hall, that I wussed out and started doing most of¬†the non-essential sessions on my¬†bed, in the interest of saving my ass and lower back for the mandatory stuff.

Now, I wasn’t a total slacker — I tried to meditate. But it was 4:30 in the freakin’ morning, in deepest, darkest December, with freezing cold rain (and even snow) pouring down¬†outside…and there I was on my comfy bed, bundled up in cozy ethnic crochettery, all nice and warm and drowsy. What would you¬†do??? That’s what I thought! Hey, at least I made the bed first and sat upright while dozing ūüôā

Besides, I was severely sleep deprived! The entire ten days was like being in a sleep-wake fugue state; as exhausted as I was, I slept unevenly at night, tossing and turning and coughing and probably driving my poor roommate nuts with all my getting up to go to the bathroom, etc. And since they only allowed us 6.5 hours in bed in the first place…is it any wonder I dozed off here and there throughout the day?

Ironically, my sister had advised me that based on her experience (at a different facility down near Yosemite, where she had a semi-private cell divided by privacy curtains), if the meditation didn’t work out for me I could just sleep through most of the ten days; apparently she’d slept right through the 4:30-6:30 session every morning, and napped here and there in the afternoon. But such is my weird sickness that my brain wouldn’t¬†let¬†me cheat like that; in addition, rightly or wrongly I felt the judgmental eyes of my roommate, who attended every session in the hall with a ramrod-straight back the entire time,¬†watching me. I was half afraid she would report me or something — so I continued to pretend, and sit up while I dozed. What a farce!

Anyway, after the 6:30am session it was breakfast time, and when the gong went off we all shuffled silently down to the mess hall. It was the same thing every morning: a huge vat of oatmeal and a huge vat of stewed prunes, raisins, apples and oranges; plus yogurt, cottage cheese, dry cereal, granola and toast. In addition to cow’s milk and sprouted-grain bread there was soy milk and almond milk for the lactose-intolerant, and¬†of course gluten free bread for the glutards. There was also a huge bowl of bananas, apples, kiwis and oranges…plus sunflower seeds, almonds, honey, jam, peanut butter and butter/vegan spread. To drink, it was either herbal tea or instant Folger’s — I actually went the entire ten days with just tea, as instant Folger’s is pretty much the worst thing I have ever put in my mouth (and I have had some¬†nasty things in my mouth). I also developed a fondness for buttered toast with miso paste — some freaky health-food concoction made of fermented garbanzo beans that was really awesome on toast!

No nudity allowed at the retreat -- this was afterward

No nudity allowed at the retreat — this was afterward

After stuffing my face, there was still plenty of time before the mandatory 8am group sitting, so I would go for a walk in the woods behind the women’s cabins, to digest my breakfast, get some fresh air and stretch my legs before the physical torment ahead. As mentioned, these retreats are strictly segregated, so the men had their own seperate walking path on the other side of the mediation hall….but us lucky gals got to endlessly meander around a maybe .5-mile labyrinth of trails up a gentle hillside through¬†a pine and oak forest. I got to know those trails¬†very well — I pretty much spent every allowable moment, rain, snow or shine, day or dark, wandering around on them.

Then the gong would go off again, and it was time for the first mandatory meditation sitting of the day. From 8-9am we all meditated together in the hall, which was the size of a small-ish church, but with no pews or anything, just precisely arrayed square cushions assigned specifically to¬†each student — women on one side, men on the other. It was dim and warm and cozy in the hall, and they had a whole bunch of extra cushions of all shapes and sizes so that each student could build up a sort of pillow fort to suit his or her level of comfort. It took a few days to figure out a workable system, but I ended up sitting on a sort of moon-shaped beanbag, with a square of super-squishy foam atop that, and then a stack of more¬†beanbags on each side to support my knees when I crossed my legs. It was fairly comfortable for up to an hour; after the first three days they ask you not to shift your position during the mandatory one-hour sessions, which they call periods of Strong Determination. But during the unstructured periods, you were permitted to shift as needed. And if you were¬†really¬†suffering physically, you could sit in a chair along one of the walls. That was another cool thing about Vipassana — they don’t¬†force you to sit cross-legged or anything fancy, they just tell you to find a comfortable position that you can hold for one hour.

I am in pretty good physical condition — I run, hike, lift weights, etc., have no physical ailments and am not overweight — so for me, it was pretty easy to sit still for one hour. More difficult than the physical aspect, however, was the mental part!!

For the first few days, all you do during the meditation sessions is observe your natural breath. That’s right — for 10.5 hours per day, you’re supposed to think of nothing but the sensation of breath¬†coming in and out of your nostrils!! They don’t teach any weird breathing techniques — you’re just meant to observe it¬†as it naturally occurs. These first few days are basically to get you to calm down, focus, and take notice of the reality of your body, so focusing on an area as tiny as your outer nostrils and the area directly beneath them is meant to fine-tune or sharpen your mind. Well, I really tried…here and there. But I was very easily distracted, and before you know it I was thinking about Burning Man, or what kind of drugs I was going to do when I got out of this place, or that one time I¬†hiked Half Dome and posed naked at the very top.

Here’s another cool thing about Vipassana: you’re not supposed to get mad or depressed when you find your mind wandering — you just accept that it wandered, no judgment, and put your attention back to your nostrils. Well, I did that on and off for the first two or three days…but I was admittedly¬†very¬†lazy about it, and spent most of my meditation time thinking about¬†all kinds of crazy shit.¬†I mean, I basically went back and relived my entire life, year by year, from as early as I could remember up through the present day. I remembered every Christmas gift, every camping trip, every mushroom trip, every job I’d ever had, every car I’d ever driven, every movie I’d ever seen, every book I’d ever read, every game my sister and I used to play with our Barbie dolls, every hot spring I’d ever soaked at. I mean, I really cleared out my storehouse of memories!! Thank dog I’ve had a full and interesting life, or I’d have gone¬†bonkers. (Or maybe succeeded at meditation, haha. Could it be the same thing?!)

After three days of just focusing on your breath, however, on the 4th day they teach you the actual Vipassana technique, which is sort of a body-scanning thing: you start at the very top of your head and slowly scan down your entire body, from scalp to skull to ears to face to throat to shoulders and all the way down to your toes, taking note of any sensations you feel on each individual body part. Do you feel a tickle? A prickle? A pain? You are simply to observe each sensation, taking note of it without judgment — just sort of objectively identifying and studying the sensation, breaking it into components and then moving on to the next body part. This is¬†supposed to cultivate absolute equanimity with regards to pleasure and pain — the great Buddhist doctrine of “anicca” (pronounced aneetcha) asserts that all of existence is impermanent, and change is constant, so it would be silly to get upset by pain or suffering. Instead, just observe it and let it go — anicca, anicca, anicca.

Easier said than done!! Most of the time I got distracted before I even got to my throat — and would have to refocus and start all over again. But I did eventually get to the point where I could force myself to do at least three full-body sweeps in an hour — in between which I would allow myself to think of cabbages and kings, Antony and Cleopatra, the cast of¬†Family Ties¬†and the lyrics to Pete Seeger’s “Die Gedanken Sind Frei” (heh heh). What a treat! Like I said, it’s a good thing I have such a rich inner life. I had plenty to keep me busy!

After a few days of the body-scanning technique, you are meant to reach a point where you can just let the sensations flow through you in a continuous¬†wave of energy from top to toe and back again — at which time you can sit and allow this continuous pulsing wave of energy to flow through you non-stop, as you sit and bask in the glow of coming Enlightenment. Unfortunately for me, I was never able to attain this level of proficiency…and so I pretty much figured I was a total failure at Vipassana. I was too lazy to keep refocusing my attention on each individual body part, so¬†before you know it I was wallowing in childhood memories, thinking back to all the things my mom did for me growing up, all the weird shit I went through, all the poor decisions I myself made in my adult life. Every miserable¬†trade show I’ve worked, every impractical pair of high heels I’ve bought, every regrettable penis I’ve had in my mouth,. Sitting with those thoughts for 10.5 hours a day for 10 days was intense,¬†and more often than not made me really depressed…sometimes to the point where I’d start crying a little.

Bad decisions...like going in this abandoned house after the retreat!

Bad decisions…like going in this abandoned house after the retreat!

Then I’d remember I was supposed to be body-scanning, and I’d get even¬†more¬†depressed at what an absolute¬†failure¬†I was at meditation! Here I was, way up in the mountains and woods with nothing to distract me but a roomful of supportive, encouraging people…and I still couldn’t fuckin’ focus on my bodily sensations, just my thoughts. What was¬†wrong¬†with me?! Why was I wasting everyone’s time and resources doing this, when I clearly wasn’t applying myself??

After thinking about all of this and discussing it post-retreat with my sister and friend, however, I’m not sure I¬†was¬†a total failure. On the last day of the retreat, after they let us start talking again, I picked up a book in the mess hall about a Vipassana program they ran in a maximum-security prison down in Alabama about 10 years ago. Many of the students in that course were big, tough, nasty dudes — but by their own accounts, many of them wept openly during their course, as revelations came to them about their behaviors and past transgressions. They ended up unearthing and coming face-to-face with all kinds of terrible junk hidden in their psyches…and that retreat¬†was considered by all to be an unqualified success; totally life-changing for most of the students. Well, if they had only been focusing on bodily sensations, I wondered how all those painful memories had come up and been dealt with?? I was under the impression that thoughts were just a distraction…but maybe thoughts and memories¬†are¬†considered sensations, to be dealt with just like itches and aches: with equanimity. Anicca, anicca, anicca…even shitty thoughts¬†shall pass.

There¬†was an opportunity after lunch each day to speak privately with the two Vipassana teachers who sat at the front of the meditation hall on little wooden platforms, ostensibly guiding us in our practice but not saying much. These two were a Zenned-out looking married couple in their 50s who looked less like the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and more like a heavily sedated Gray Davis and Ellen DeGeneres — right down to the button-down shirts and Dockers they wore. They seemed enlightened enough, but these private interview sessions were limited to 10 minutes each, and I didn’t feel like I could really figure anything¬†out in 10 minutes…so I never even tried. Another failure….arrrrghhhhh!

But failure or no, the fact remains¬†that I¬†was¬†able to sit perfectly still and perfectly quiet for one-hour chunks and beyond…so I guess that counts for something. I even remained silently immobile¬†halfway through the morning sitting on the seventh day, when the meditation hall was rocked by a 5.0 earthquake! If you’ve ever been in an earthquake, you know that’s a pretty decent magnitude…but though most of the other students started laughing nervously, and one wag quipped “It’s just sensations,” I did not budge. Anicca, anicca….just plates in the earth moving. It did occur to me that what we’d felt might have¬†just been the long-distance effects of some major quake down in San Francisco, and I worried for my family members down there….but the retreat staff posted a notice in the mess hall afterward to let us know that it was just a 5 pointer epicentered about 8 miles away, that had caused no reported damage. Whew!

Anyway, back to logistics: after the mandatory 8-9am group sitting, you have two hours to meditate on your own before lunch. At first I would go¬†back to sit on my bed/doze off for this session…but towards the end of the course, I started staying in the hall, for the simple fact that I was so fucking sick¬†of staring at the four white walls in my bedroom!

Then the lunch gong went off at 11am, and everyone would again file silently into the mess hall for the main meal (and basically, the highlight) of the day. As mentioned the food was all vegetarian…but it was¬†really, really¬†good! The menu was different each day: lentil soup, saut√©ed¬†kale, burritos, coconut curry, macaroni and cheese, roasted potatoes, fresh salads…and always enough sprouts and nuts and seeds to feed a flock of seagulls. They even had chocolate cake and cookies on a few occasions! I think the meals are pretty much the same at all Vipassana retreats, no matter the location, and are prepared¬†by volunteers from a master recipe book — once you have completed a Vipassana course, you have the option of returning for any additional courses and working as a server in the kitchen. As a server, you still get to meditate several hours a day…but you also spend several hours in the kitchen, prepping and cleaning so that the other students get to enjoy delicious meals. It actually sounds like a nice way to break up the days, which in my experience got pretty monotonous. Doing¬†anything, even scrubbing pots and pans and dicing tofu, would be a welcome break in the monotony!

Anyway, partly¬†because it was the only highlight of my day, but¬†mostly because I have minimal self-control when it comes to bomb-ass food, I ate¬†waaaaay too much at every meal. Consequently, thanks to the massive amounts of fiber and sprouts and whatnot, my stomach made the¬†weirdest¬†noises during¬†the after-lunch meditation sitting! It felt like I had one of those Jiffy Pop pans in my gut, with kernels exploding and popping one at a time…until I wised up and dialed back on the harder-core accoutrements like sprouts and chickpeas. I mean, I didn’t want to distract my fellow meditators…ya know?! Meanwhile pretty much everyone in the hall was gurgling and farting at one time or another, so it wasn’t the end of the world…but still.

Angry mug!

Angry mug!

Meanwhile, the hardest part about¬†lunch was sitting there in silence, glumly masticating without conversation or even being able to read a friggin’ book. All I had to read were tea bag labels and the stickers covering¬†my travel coffee mug, which I had brought along so that I could take hot tea back to my room afterward — and which unfortunately consisted of a bunch of crazy Burning Man and smoke-shop-type slogans, many of which weren’t exactly pious.¬†One day I noticed that a particularly egregious example reading “FUCK YOU! I WORK FOR PYRO PETE” in bright red capital letters was facing directly out to the room…so I quickly turned the mug around so as not¬†to offend anyone. Alas, the opposite side had a sticker featuring Buddha and the slogan “ZEN AS FUCK,” so it wasn’t much better. I mean, in my normal day-to-day life I think nothing of such language — but in this atmosphere, it felt like I was wearing a Nazi armband and goose-stepping around the dining room! So from then on, I left my travel mug in my room.

Mushrooms!!

Mushrooms!!

After lunch, we had a free period of an hour, during which we could talk to one of the teachers (which as mentioned I never did), take a nap, or walk in the woods. On a couple of occasions I had bathroom-cleaning duty (there was a dry-erase signup sheet in our¬†cabin for that as well), but most of the time I just endlessly wandered that same labyrinth of trails in the walking area — over and over and over again, rain, snow, frost or shine. Because I had my hat pulled down so low I focused mostly on the ground, and it was amazing the kinds of stuff you notice when you’re forced to walk the same earth over and over. It being the tail end of autumn, there was a carpet of beautiful oak leaves in all shades of brown, yellow and orange, and an astonishing array of mushrooms sprung up here and there among them. I’ve never seen so many different types of mushrooms! There were little brown fairytale-type caps, creepy white ghostly-looking ones, slimy black evil-looking clusters, and big soft yellow ones that were apparently really tasty to the¬†deer, as I went out¬†one morning and found they had all been eaten! Boy, that was the social event of the week, let me tell you — well, except for the one morning after breakfast when I went out and actually saw some deer creeping through the forest. Woo hoo!!! It was better than Netflix. Let me tell you, I felt like Henry David fuckin’ Thoreau, wandering around those woods.

As I walked, I also got philosophical, thinking about the course and the Vipassana teachings. A contrarian by nature, I started to wonder how strict these Buddhists really were about the five precepts — for instance, the one about not killing. I knew they were pretty hardcore about it because of the little plastic Tupperware tubs in each cabin labeled “BUG RELOCATOR;” you weren’t even supposed to squash an insect, apparently. But at the same time, there were¬†hand sanitizer dispensers¬†everywhere reading “KILLS 99.9% OF GERMS.” OK, so germs aren’t sentient beings — but then neither are worms, and those were¬†definitely¬†not OK to kill. So maybe they just mean don’t kill anything in the animal kingdom; obviously plants were OK to kill, as I was massacring an impressive amount of those every day at lunch and breakfast.

But then one day I switched out my sleeping bag (which was having issues) for some of the spare blankets they had in our cabin, and felt a bit itchy the next day…and found that I had a small welt on my ribcage. Bedbugs!?!!

It turned out not to be bedbugs (thank dog), but that got me wondering if even bedbugs¬†were not to be killed — and by extension, lice and fleas and all manner of other bothersome parasites. For that matter, what if I was at the retreat during summertime, and found a deer tick embedded in my leg?? Was I supposed to allow the tick to feed peacefully, possibly transmitting Lyme disease and whatnot? Thankfully none of this happened, but it gave me an interesting philosophical quandary to ponder and fill some of my many lonely hours. Maybe it was OK to kill beings that had no purpose other than to harm us — but that seemed like a slippery slope to me, as the same argument could be made about child molesters and crackheads, if one were so inclined. What a puzzle¬†— and not the kind that could be solved in 10 minutes, so I didn’t even bother asking the teacher about it.

The other puzzle I briefly considered asking the teacher about was the whole¬†equanimity thing. The purpose of Vipassana basically is to accept that Life is Misery, but that “anicca, anicca” — change is constant, and nothing is permanent; not the greatest suffering, nor the greatest pleasure, so you are not to put too much stock in anything. Do not form any aversions to pain, nor any cravings for pleasure — just observe them objectively, with absolute equanimity, for what they are: temporary sensations.

Well, that seems like a shitty kind of existence, in a way; like my sister pointed out, it’s like being on Prozac, which dulls your senses and levels out the highs and lows. I can see letting go of pain and anger, but am I to understand that¬†all¬†cravings should be dispensed with as well, and that I should form no attachments to enjoying a delicious meal, a beautiful hike, the touch of a lover’s hand, etc? What then of the profound enjoyment and satisfaction they spoke of experiencing when one performs acts of dana (giving or charity) — as when they encouraged us to consider taking our next course as a server? How could serving others be so intensely rewarding, if one is not to enjoy rewards in the first place?

Anyway, these were the kinds of things I thought about as I meandered around and around and around the forest, eventually being gonged back to my meditation practice after lunch from 1-2:30pm in my room, and then from 2:30-3:30 in the main hall with the others. Then there was another solo session from 3:3o-5pm, and then it was time for evening tea — the last meal of the day being nothing but tea and fruit.

Now, I ate so much¬†at breakfast and lunch that I usually wasn’t even hungry for tea, and would mostly just slice up a banana with honey drizzled on it, with a cup of chai to keep me alert for the after-dinner sitting. But some of my fellow pri-Zen-ers would go nuts, madly chopping up mounds of apples, kiwis, bananas and oranges, dousing the piles of diced fruit in honey and cinnamon and then shoveling the sticky lot into their gaping, Enlightenment-seeking maws. All that sitting around on your ass really works up an appetite, I guess! In any event, the men’s dining room was separated from the women’s by a thin curtain, and many’s the time I snortled to myself at the sight of all us miserable crones furiously chopping up bananas in stern¬†silence while on the other side, the poor celibate men were probably sniffing the curtains and dreaming of pussy, blissfully unaware.

Little Red Riding Hood

Little Red Riding Hood

After evening tea, there was usually about a half hour of free time before the final 3-hour session in the meditation hall. Because I knew I’d be on my ass for three hours, I usually tried to go for one last walk in the woods, even though it was pitch black out¬†by that time and I ended up stumbling around alone in the dark¬†forest like some deranged character from the Brothers Grimm. It didn’t help that I was wearing a red hooded coat through all of this, like Little Red Riding Hood; I half expected some gnarly wolf to come raging out of my psyche at any second and gobble me alive — which, in a sense, I guess it did (see above vis-a-vis miserable sense of failure and tears). But even when I walked all the way to the end of the trail and back in complete darkness, feeling my way along the path in the spooky, silent woods using just my feet and hands, I never did come to any harm. The worst that happened was the gong would go off while I was still halfway up the trail, and I’d have to cheat and switch¬†on my headlamp, and go running to the meditation hall like that flibbertigibbet Maria in the Sound of Music, ever late for vespers.

The final three-hour block of the day consisted of one last hour-long group meditation session, followed by an hour-long DVD wherein the guy who introduced Vipassana to the West, the aforementioned H-1B software-engineer-looking guy (whose name was S.N. Goenka), would ramble on about Vipasanna and its various nuances, techniques and applications. Occasionally he would bust out a funny story or parable, and we were all so starved¬†for entertainment that even the weakest joke always provoked roars of howling laughter in the hall.¬†But in all seriousness he¬†did¬†come off as totally unpretentious and completely likable, so I didn’t really mind sitting there watching and listening to him. He struck me as a genuinely good and caring person who sincerely wanted to spread Vipassana far and wide — from the miserable stinking prisons of Mumbai to the misty, forested vineyards of the Napa Valley and beyond. Enlightenment is enlightenment…and people are miserable everywhere!

After the evening discourse (as the DVDs were called), we did one last quickie meditation session and then we were free to either ask the teachers questions or go to bed. I always made a straight fucking beeline for bed — if I was really on my game, I could be under the covers with the lights out by 9:15, and hopefully asleep by 9:30 — thus allowing me 6.5 hours (give or take, minus nighttime tossing and turning and peeing and fretting) of precious sleep, before being gonged awake and doing it all again: SHOWER MEDITATE BREAKFAST WALK IN WOODS MEDITATE MEDITATE LUNCH WALK IN WOODS MEDITATE MEDITATE MEDITATE TEA WALK IN WOODS MEDITATE DISCOURSE MEDITATE BED¬†SHOWER MEDITATE BREAKFAST WALK IN WOODS MEDITATE MEDITATE LUNCH WALK IN WOODS MEDITATE MEDITATE MEDITATE TEA WALK IN WOODS MEDITATE DISCOURSE MEDITATE BED¬†SHOWER MEDITATE BREAKFAST WALK IN WOODS MEDITATE MEDITATE LUNCH WALK IN WOODS MEDITATE MEDITATE MEDITATE TEA WALK IN WOODS MEDITATE DISCOURSE MEDITATE BED ….

Freedom Day!!!

Freedom Day!!!

Arrrrrghhhhhh! By the 7th day I was going¬†nuts,¬†but I somehow made it through that day, and the next, and the next, and then…..finally, it was Day 10. Freedom Day!!!

All week I had been thinking about this day, and how exciting it would be to finally raise up my hat and look my fellow students in the eye, to finally look over and see if my friend was still there, to finally open my mouth and utter¬†words out loud. The way it works is, you get up and start the day as usual, and then Noble Silence ends after the morning meditation session. I stayed in the meditation hall right up until lunch, and when I finally went into the mess hall it was overwhelming! All the women alongside whom I’d silently, glumly, morosely munched kale and chopped bananas with an air of resigned piety — now were nattering and giggling and shrieking and howling! The curtain separating the men had been thrown back, and the guys were there too, guffawing and yukking and staring earnestly into each other’s eyes…and it was just all too much!!

As previously mentioned, I was very shy and introverted growing up, but ever since I discovered booze around the age of 23 I have worked diligently, patiently and persistently to force myself out of my shell, and have genuinely turned myself into an extrovert over time. Most anyone who’s ever met me would agree that my transformation was a total success — maybe too¬†much of a success, haha, as nowadays I rarely shut up. Well, walking into that loud, buzzing, crowded mess hall was like stepping into a time¬†machine: I felt like I was right back in junior high, at yet another new school facing yet another roomful of new people, all of whom were gabbing and chatting with each other like old friends while I stood awkwardly¬†to the side, not sure what to do with myself.

Just like in the old days, my eyes lit on a stack of books on one of the tables, and I made right for the sweet refuge of the printed word — something I had sincerely missed the last ten days, as I’m a¬†huge¬†reader, but also a convenient escape from the social hubbub of the mess hall. Thank dog they had put up all these little displays on tables around the room — the history of Vipassana, the history of that particular facility, the history of Vipassana in prisons. It gave me plenty to look at by myself, and then I discovered that book about the Alabama prisoners who did the Vipassana course (which is really, really a cool story) and I ended up sitting there reading that for the entire break period. Saved yet again by books, wonderful books! OMG, I am such a total nerd at heart.

But still, I was freaked out: had all those years of hard work conditioning¬†myself to become an extrovert been undone over the course of this 10-day retreat? Had all my soul-searching and navel-gazing somehow wound back the clock, so that I was once again back to square one: a shy, scabby, nervous kid in the corner??¬†Say it ain’t so!!!!

After the initial shock of entering the barnyard¬†full of squawking hens and crowing roosters, I did eventually acclimate, and finally cast my eyes and ears around to make friends with my fellow students. There was my NPR friend — still hanging in there, smiling through the¬†glow of enlightenment and a 10-day crop of stubble. There was my roommate, with whose shoes and ankles I was intimately familiar, but whose fresh-scrubbed, rosy-cheeked face I’d never laid eyes on until then, along with a smattering of other fresh-faced, rosy-cheeked sparkling-eyed young white hippie chicks I’d last seen struggling under the weight of massive backpacks at registration. All these adorable little white girls heaving¬†their worldly possessions up and down the state of California, voluntarily locking themselves up in a minimum-security retreat in search of enlightenment! What is wrong with white womanhood these days that we are so unfulfilled? Can’t we just get knocked up like we used to and call it a day? Aren’t toasters enough anymore???

Looking around, I matched up shoes to faces — ahhh, the Uggs go there;¬†the furry leg warmers go there!¬†Then, my ears finally began to untangle the knot of voices babbling furiously all around me, and I made out¬†distinct threads of conversation:¬†“OMG, you’re a yoga teacher too?!” “I’ve been living on an ashram in Grass Valley.” “Excuse me…are these bean patties gluten-free?”

And I very happily returned to my book.

All snarkiness aside, I did gradually re-acclimate to the real world over the next 24 hours. After lunch, there was another silent meditation session, followed¬†by a complicated ride-sharing meeting (“Is anyone going to Berkeley?”) and evening tea, and then one final meditation session before bed. Bedtime was different in that my roommate and I actually said “Good night!” to each other, but after that it was the same deal: pass out immediately, only to be gonged awake one final time at 4am for the final group meditation session in the hall. After that we had breakfast….and then we were free.

At Orr Hot Springs

At Orr Hot Springs

Part of the reason my friend and I had carpooled to this retreat was that we wanted to decompress together at a nearby hot spring resort afterward, to share our experiences and talk over what we’d learned. My sister and a few friends had also planned to join us, and I¬†was really looking forward to comparing notes with her, as well. But the hot spring was only about 90 minutes away, outside Ukiah…so before we left, my friend and I volunteered to pitch in and help clean the kitchen, which we did for about an hour and a half — him washing dishes and me sweeping up every stray lentil and grain of rice, until that kitchen was clean enough for the next crop of students to eat off the floor!

Then,¬†finally, we were done. I picked up my electronic devices and turned the old cell phone back on, facing a deluge of email and messages that made the post-Burning Man flood look mild…but I made my way through them over the next several days, diligently, patiently and persistently. My friend and I stopped for our first cup of real coffee in 11 days at a little cafe, and by the time we arrived at the hot spring, I felt pretty much 100% re-acclimated to the Real World.

The hot springs decompression was a¬†great¬†idea. The place we went, Orr Hot Springs, has a peaceful, Zenlike ambiance…but they do allow you to talk, so long as you keep your voice hushed, as in a library. So it was the perfect place for three white people to sit in a steamy pool of hot water, blathering about their experiences seeking peace, quibbling over the nuances of Buddhism and endlessly rehashing the exact types of lint they’d found whilst examining their¬†navel. Lucky for us, none of us had to work until after the New Year…so we had plenty of time to sit around yakking in all our naked, self-important glory. ¬†Like I said…enlightenment is¬†classic¬†Stuff White People Do.

Washing the stench of enlightenment out of my poncho in my typical blue-collar fashion

Washing the stench of enlightenment out of my poncho in my typical blue-collar fashion

But, as I also mentioned….not everyone at the retreat had been white; there was a decent representation of east Indians and Asians sprinkled throughout, and a few Latinos as well. So we weren’t all white…..but we did have one thing in common: we all had¬†plenty¬†of time on our hands; there wasn’t a paycheck-to-paycheck retail worker or a migrant fruit¬†picker¬†among us. Maybe those guys do stand around between harvests talking philosophy and the finer points of bug vs. germ-squashing…but I have my doubts. If there’s one thing I learned from this Vipassana course, it’s that although it’s technically free, the quest for enlightenment is a (relatively) rich man’s game¬†— who the hell else can afford to take 2 weeks off work?

Of course, I’m being facetious again….that wasn’t all I learned. I also learned that Stash Teas will gladly send you a free catalog if you write to P.O. Box 910, Portland, OR, 97207.

Namaste!

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Peace Party

Hee haw

Hee haw

For a peace-loving hippie, I sure have a tough time finding peace.

I’m what you call a hyperactive type — I like to go, go, GO! Hiking, camping, exploring, shrooming, boozing, dancing…..I do it all. And while that kind of lifestyle makes for a great¬†social life and lots of laffs….it also really wears on you. I’ve been exhausted since around September 2009!

I keep meaning to just take some time off and¬†relax. But every time I try to just stay home and chill, someone calls or emails with some irresistible offer of adventure: “Come see Charlie Daniels in Nashville!” “Come to Taos for New Year’s!” “Let’s go on a cross-country RV trip!” How do you say no to any of¬†that???

Thinking I’d split the difference and compromise, I recently went out to my favorite hot springs in Death Valley to chillax for a few days. Going out there is always an adventure, but once you arrive, there’s no cell service or Wi-Fi — so I’d be¬†forced to relax. Right???

If only that were ME soaking in a tub, reading

If only that were ME soaking in a tub, reading

This is the same springs I went to last October, and the October before that; the regulars out there go ballistic if you say the name of the springs online, so I won’t name it now. But it’s a favorite place because it’s VERY remote, very rugged, and very beautiful in a harsh, lunar sort of way. I packed a bunch of books, and planned to spend my days lounging in the sun, catching up on my reading and sleeping between therapeutic soaks. Peace at last!

Unfortunately for me…it didn’t quite work out that way! Last year, I invited a bunch of friends¬†to join me, and all of them flaked except one… so it ended up being¬†a nice, mellow time.¬†This¬†year, I once again invited a bunch of people to join me — but this time they¬†all¬†showed up!!

A ragtag band of intrepid partiers

A ragtag band of intrepid partiers

I’ve never seen anything like it — besides my sister and Dr. Kildare, Bongo Bennie came with his new wife, a pot farmer friend came down from Humboldt, my friend Jag cruised in from Vegas, and another friend from Napa came down with a bunch of liquid psilocybin (!!!). Meanwhile, a nudist from San Diego¬†I was friends with on Instagram but had never met also came out, along with his beautiful blonde nudist friend from Michigan, and a photographer friend from Flagstaff cruised up with one of his sexy model pals. And to top it all off, my sis brought along the Hungarian guru from the Sex & Ego Death workshop we attended in Hollywood earlier this summer (he’s become our good friend in the meantime, LOL). It was a crazy crew!!

Suffice it to say, I did not get much rest or relaxation.

Hippie stew!

Hippie stew!

From the minute we rolled in, in the middle of a howling sandstorm, shit was¬†intense! The sand was blowing every which way, so hard that we could barely set up camp before making a run for the closest hot spring pool, which was already chock-full of naked storm refugees; something like 27 people ended up crammed in that pool! We all drank and talked and laughed and smoked until the wind calmed down enough to go back and finish setting up camp, and then I passed out in my tent…but it was a restless night, with the wind whipping my tent fabric and the howl of the coyotes haunting my dreams.

Partying at camp Photo by Dano

Partying at camp
Photo by Dano

In the morning, the weather calmed down and things were¬†fabulous. The Hungarian guru had brought a giant speaker with him from which electronic¬†music blared incessantly; he’s one of those people who can’t live without music, even in the middle of nowhere! We erected a shade structure and set up a bar on the tailgate of my truck, and the party was on.

Steel Pass cabin Photo by SurferD

Steel Pass cabin
Photo by SurferD

Between all the dancing, drinking, smoking, drug-taking, soaking and running around naked, we managed to squeeze in some naked yoga (Bongo Bennie used to teach Bikram, and he led us in a few¬†poses) and a couple great hikes. One day, my Napa friend and I hiked up the wash a few miles to an old abandoned cabin. And then another day, we all piled in the back of his pickup truck and drove down the road to Beveridge Canyon, where we explored another abandoned cabin. We had planned to hike up the canyon all the way to this √ľber-remote ghost town said to be hiding way up in the mountains…..but alas, the route proved too technical for a bunch of high/drunk hippies. So we just partied in the cabin, to the faint, tinny strains of electronic music emanating from our guru friend’s travel boombox (he even brings music when he’s hiking, LOL).

Par-taaaay!

Par-taaaay!

But the real party was planned for Thursday night; we thought it would be a hoot to take psychedelics and drive out to the nearby sand dunes for¬†a sunset nomad dance party! I packed up my colored paper lanterns for ambiance, the guru loaded up his ginormous speaker, we threw a bunch of blankets and cushions in the back of my Napa friend’s truck, and we all piled in and headed out. Unfortunately, we left a bit too late to make the dunefield by sunset….and by the time it got dark, the drugs had already kicked in to the point where we just parked the truck at the side of the road and wandered out into the open desert to party, right where we were!

I hung up my lanterns on creosote bush branches, and we all scrounged around for twigs and started a rousing little bonfire to sit around. Well, most of us sat around it — the guru was high as fuck on acid, and wandered off into the desert where he hallucinated he was in a vortex, and spun around and around in circles until the Earth drew him down into its embrace (aka he fell on his face). The rest of us sat around the fire, high as kites, talking and laughing to the beat of the faintly insistent music coming from the giant speaker in the back of the truck. Gooooooood times!

At the undeveloped upper springs one afternoon Photo by SurferD

At the undeveloped upper springs one afternoon
Photo by SurferD

Good times, but not very restful; the only night I really got any decent sleep out there was the night my pot-farmer friend passed out some of his special cookies after dinner. We all ate them, and HOOOOOO BOY! I got so baked I had to go to bed early; I checked the time as I was snuggling into my sleeping bag, and it was 8:18pm!! But it was¬†great…I¬†love¬†to sleep ūüôā The guru was the only one who didn’t eat a cookie, and he was pissed: “Vy is everyvone so¬†lame¬†und¬†boring?!?!? Vere’s¬†ze paaaarty?!?!?!?”

Nudies on the salt lake!

Nudies on the salt lake!

Somehow, I made it through the week, and we all packed up and left Friday morning. My sis, the guru and my Napa friend were all headed to L.A…and I had to haul ass back to Vegas, to perform at the Fetish & Fantasy Ball the following night. No rest for the wicked! But on the way out, we all stopped off to check out this old abandoned mining operation on a salt flat near the springs…and then stopped again for burgers at the Panamint Springs cafe, before finally heading our separate ways.

Photo by Marshall Bradford

Photo by Marshall Bradford

Like I said, I had to perform the following night at the Fetish & Fantasy Ball at the Hard Rock Hotel in Vegas; it’s an annual “naughty” Halloween party that is pretty much strictly the provenance of mooks and squares, but I had agreed to help out my friends from the Black Room German Fetish Shop here in town, by wearing one of their fabulous latex outfits. At the last minute, they informed me that not only was I supposed to wear the outfit and hang out, I was expected to perform an¬†act¬†as well —¬†what?!?!?!?

Photo by Roger Talley

Photo by Roger Talley

After some quick brainstorming at the Dollar Store, I cobbled together a fetish version of my Marie Antoinette champagne-pissing act: I came out all in black latex, with my strap-on concealed in a piece of cake on a silver tray held at dick-level. I sashayed around a bit, then stuffed handfuls of the cake into my mouth, revealing the dick. Then I jerked off with the frosting, spurted champagne into my wineglass, and toasted the crowd. Enchanté! 

Alas, the fabulousness of the act was wasted on the drunk-ass crowd, but it was all good. I ran into a friend in the crowd who gave me a microdose of MDMA, so I had a pretty good time with or without the crowd’s approval ūüôā

Newberry Springs Photo by Mike and Kit on Vimeo

Newberry Springs
Photo by Mike and Kit on Vimeo

Anyway, after that I headed out to Newberry Springs, CA for a 3-day photo shoot with these two kooky artist guys who like making weird little movies of me for their Vimeo channel….and then after¬†that,¬†I had a bunch more photo shoots lined up in Vegas. Before you know it, it was Thanksgiving, and I had to drive 500 miles to my mom’s house in Northern California and party with the family, too! At least up there I was able to wear pajamas most of the time….but it was still exhausting! And no sooner had I driven the 500 miles back to Vegas, than I was on a plane headed for Nashville, to party at the Charlie Daniels concert.

Basically, I keep¬†saying¬†I need to relax — but everytime I try, something comes up. So I was finally forced to take drastic action: I signed up for a ten-day silent meditation retreat at a Buddhist compound in the mountains of Northern California, which starts tomorrow.

This is the Vipassana tradition of meditation — you basically do nothing but meditate all day, from the minute you’re gonged awake at 4am until the minute you fall into your pallet bed around 10pm. They teach you some body-scanning and mindfulness techniques, but you’re pretty much on your own all day. Talking is forbidden (not to mention cell phones/laptops/pen and paper), and you’re not even supposed to¬†look¬†at anyone else — you just keep to yourself, in silence, not thinking about or doing anything.

I just want some PEACE!

I just want some PEACE!

Now, you might think I’m crazy for wanting to do something like this…and you might expect it to be extraordinarily difficult for someone as active and social as I am. But to be honest, I think it will be a¬†wonderful relief to not have to talk to anyone, look at anyone, wear makeup or act a certain way — not having to be funny or entertaining or witty or “on” for 10 days sounds fantastic!! And since I’ll be locked up in a monastery in the middle of nowheresville, Northern California…I’ll have no choice! I’m even carpooling up there with a friend of mine from Vegas, who did the retreat last year and has nothing but great things to say about it. Since we’re taking his car, I’ll¬†really¬†be trapped ūüôā

Sooooooo, anyway, I’ll be totally off the grid until the retreat ends on December 18. Hopefully, I will emerge from the retreat a changed person — ten days of reflection, with no booze or drugs or bothersome distractions; hell, I may never go back down that path of ruin! I might be changed for good!

Photo by Marshall Bradford

Photo by Marshall Bradford

But…..after¬†the retreat ends, the plan is for my friend and I to decompress at a nearby hot spring resort for a day or two, where we will meet up with my sister (who did the retreat in March, and thought it was OK), my liquid-psilocybin buddy from Napa and my pot farmer pal from Humboldt…….

……and the circus¬†will start allllllll over again.

Arrrrrghhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!

ūüėÄ ūüėÄ ūüėÄ

 

 

 

 

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‚ÄėMurican Pie

Howdy!!!

Imagine you’re a kale-munching, pot-smoking, peace-loving Blue State commie nudist, and a good friend invites you to join him at a country music extravaganza down at the hockey arena in Nashville, Tennessee, where every local luminary and legend from Luke Bryan to Larry the Cable Guy will be taking the stage in celebration of Charlie Daniels’s 80 years of unprecedented perseverance in the face of prostate cancer, high blood pressure, stroke and clinical obesity. What do you do?!

Say yes and eat some mushrooms ‚ÄĒ that‚Äôs what!

Sulking in a teepee in a snowstorm is not an option ‚ÄĒ in this day and age of unprecedented political divisiveness, it‚Äôs more important than ever to cross the streams and brave the Heartland in search of good times and common ground. Though I’m as liberal as they come and twice as godless, I don’t want to exist in a vacuum; I like to cross the Rockies every now and then just to keep a finger or two in the ‚ÄėMurican pie (spoiler alert: it‚Äôs still as sweet, warm and tight as ever‚Ķ.except for loose old Florida, flapping off the mainland down there like a piece of leathery roast beef hanging out of a stale Wonder Bread sammich).

I'm on my way!

I’m on my way!

So I took my friend up on his generous offer, packed my bag and headed for Nashville. Despite being afflicted with an untimely flu, a tequila or three at some of the Honky-Tonks‚ĄĘ on Broadway and a plate of Jimmy Buffett‚Äôs finest Cheez-Whiz-covered corn chips had me back on top in no time. My friend still had a See‚Äôs Candies box of magic mushroom truffles I‚Äôd given him for Christmas one year, so just before showtime we popped one apiece and headed into the fray.

Whoa Nelly!

Whoa Nelly!

The drugs kicked in as I entered the arena, and in my fevered state it was like walking into a Cracker Barrel franchise operated by Hieronymous Bosch: a seething, cavernous expanse packed to the rafters with 20,000 fat-assed god-fearing blondes in plaid shirts and puffer vests hooting and hollering and double fisting Coors Light tallboys to the timeless comedy of Larry the Cable Guy. Though we had, alas, arrived too fashionably late to catch the ghost of JonBenet Ramsey belting the Star Spangled Banner‚Ķwe did arrive in time for the real National Anthem: ‚ÄúGit ‚Äėer doooooone!‚ÄĚ Hell, yeah!

Rare, indeed!

Rare, indeed!

Now, my friend doesn‚Äôt fuck around ‚ÄĒ he‚Äôs a huge country music fan, and nothing less than second row would do. We loaded up at the bar and headed down front to our floor seats, which were fabulous and allowed for an unobstructed view of every bead of sweat and spray of spittle, every Swarovski sparkle and Skoal stain. After hee-hawing to a few rounds of Larry the Cable Guy, we were treated to a set from new-outlaw-on-the-block Chris Stapleton, followed by the mellifluous musings of Kid Rock. A show with everything but Yul Brynner!

Next on the bill was ex-outlaw Travis Tritt, now 15 years sober, who trotted out a very special guest: his teenage daughter, all growed up and tricked out in a black leather sausage casing like a Dixie dominatrix.¬†‚ÄúThis is why I keep a shotgun at home,‚ÄĚ her daddy drawled, turning her loose with an almost perceptible smack on the ass to bray soulfully into the mic along with him in a heartsick duet about love, loss and Loritabs. Far out!

Hey now!

Hey now!

By now the shrooms were in full swing ‚ÄĒ but they weren’t the only thing swinging! Next up was bro-country superstar Luke Bryan, latest in a long line of hunky corn-fed John-Deere-come-latelies, known as much for his instant classic ‚ÄúCountry Gal Shake It For Me‚ÄĚ as for his impossibly tight jeans. I mean, I‚Äôm from Vegas ‚ÄĒ I‚Äôve seen some tight-ass jeans in my day, but these were astonishing!!! I will say, though, that he fills them out well ‚ÄĒ I‚Äôm not generally a fan of beefcake, but his quads and hamstrings were out of control. In my drug-addled state, all I could do was stare open-mouthed while holding my cellphone aloft, trying to get a good shot of dat ever-shakin‚Äô-ass.

Apparently, I wasn‚Äôt the only one to notice them jeans ‚ÄĒ next thing you know, some hillbilly heckler¬†had sneaked down onto the floor next to me, waving a huge day-glo sign reading ‚ÄúI CAN SEE YOUR CAMEL TOE.‚ÄĚ I guess it’s considered gay and/or unamurican to wear jeans that tight…or maybe he was just jealous that Luke Bryan gets¬†all the girls with all the teeth. Who knows; who cares? Haters gonna hate!

Alas, however, come to find out Luke Bryan isn‚Äôt exactly what you’d call¬†laissez-faire when it comes to haters; no sooner had security ushered out the sign-waving heckler¬†than there came a new commotion directly in front of me: this time Luke Bryan jumped off the stage to punch another audience member in the face ‚ÄĒ¬†a middle-aged weaselly-looking Florida Man-type who had apparently flipped him the bird! Jeez, whatever happened to Christian values, Luke? Turn the other cheek, already!! (And then the other‚Ķ.and then the other again‚Ķbasically just keep shaking dat ass in my face, boy!)¬† ¬† ¬†

Screenshot from TMZ.com! HI MOM!

Screenshot from TMZ.com…arrow pointing at Florida Man, I’m at upper right

Unfortunately, Florida Man and his wife were quickly ushered out by security, and the skirmish did not escalate into a full-blown brawl‚Ķ.which is a real shame, as I understand there is a great deal of bad blood between Luke Bryan fans and Charlie Daniels fans over some perceived slight on the part of Luke Bryan, who made some comment in an interview about not being a Country Outlaw; ‚ÄúI don‚Äôt do cocaine and run around,‚ÄĚ which was enough to start World War III among butt-hurt¬†Outlaw Country fans.

Boy, they talk about liberals being too politically correct ‚ÄĒ if you ask me, country folk get their bloomers in a bunch like no other! In fact, Luke Bryan‚Äôs people had to issue a statement the following day after this whole face-punching incident, lamenting the fact that a fan would have the poor manners to make an obscene gesture at a noble event benefiting Our Heroes‚ĄĘ (I guess it was a veterans‚Äô benefit as well as being Charlie Daniels‚Äôs birthday party and a windfall for the shareholders of Coors Light, Jack Daniels and Jimmy Buffett). Holy pandering, Batman! Talk about a camel toe; them country panties get¬†more twisted than a trailer park in a tornado!

Anyway, also talk about the best shroom trip ever ‚ÄĒ I‚Äôve never seen anything like it! For a peace-loving hippie I sure do love a good old fashioned ruckus ūüėÄ And the best part was, I was able to puff away the whole time, watching the melee through a sweet cloud of vaporized marijuana thanks to the discreet little vape pen I had hidden in my bra. I’m here to tell you: it really doesn‚Äôt get any better!

Ya never did think that it ever would happen agin...did ya?

Ya never did think that it ever would happen agin…did ya?

And indeed, all that fussin‚Äô and feudin’ would have been hard to top ‚ÄĒ if it hadn‚Äôt been immediately followed by an 80-year-old Charlie Daniels waddling out onstage with a fiddle and a Jesus belt buckle the size of a pancake nestled under a pannus of astonishing proportions, launching into a rousing all-star rendition of ‚ÄúThe Devil Went Down to Georgia‚ÄĚ along with Kid Rock, Chris Stapleton, Travis Tritt, Travis Tritt‚Äôs Dixieland Dominatrix daughter, and some poor off-key anorexic big-haired blonde up-and-comer in a Swarovski microdress. They even let Luke Bryan come back from timeout; it was the Hoedown at Appomattox!

The rest of the show was a whirlwind blur of Charlie Daniels’s arch observations on the subjects of guns, God and the Greatest Military on the Face of This Earth, plus a few feisty admonitions regarding the consequences of taking said guns, which got a good rise out of the crowd. Veterans were praised, the flag was fetishized, beer was swilled…but above all, the band killed it!

I‚Äôm not kidding ‚ÄĒ Charlie Daniels has an amazing backup band. It may have just been the shrooms, but one of my favorite parts of the show was this long, drawn out jam session they did where every band member got a chance to solo, from the keyboard guy to the drummer to the bass player. It was incredible! I don’t know when I‚Äôve danced so much ‚ÄĒ it was just a great groove. Not everyone felt the same, though ‚ÄĒ at one point during the jam sesh I turned around to look at the crowd, and what I saw was the opposite of Hieronymous Bosch: 20,000 bored, befuddled boozers sitting there¬†twiddling their thumbs, probably praying for another brawl to liven things up, or at least for Charlie Daniels to resume making incendiary statements. Shoulda had a shroom, folks!¬† ¬† ¬†

Randy Travis

Randy Travis

Anyway, the band finally shut up and the 5-hour marathon concert concluded with a very special appearance by poor old creaky stroke-ridden Randy Travis, who mumbled a few words before everything melted down into a giant bubbling fondue gangbang of pickin‚Äô, grinnin‚Äô, strummin‚Äô, wailin‚Äô and fiddlin‚Äô to that classic staple of folksy faith, ‚ÄúWill the Circle Be Unbroken.‚ÄĚ Yeeeeeeeeeeee HAW!

Phew!!!! By the time it was over, I was exhausted¬†— and¬†not just from all the dancing. The shrooms had finally worn off (did I mention it was a¬†five hour show?) and so had the tequila and nachos, so my flu symptoms were once again conspiring against my continued enjoyment of the spectacle of life. Thankfully, my friend¬†was just as worn out as I was, so he called his Ethiopian¬†taxi driver to come pick us up and take us back to the house, where we passed out cold and dreamed of tight jeans and fistfights (well, I did, anyway).

It really happened

It really happened

The next morning I awoke, wondering if it was all a dream — but then my throbbing headache kicked in, assuring me that Yes Virginia, There Is a ‘Murica…and I’d been elbow-deep in its pie. I laid there in my friend’s guest bedroom reliving the memories of the previous evening, watching cellphone video of Luke Bryan going rogue on TMZ.com, honking bucketloads of mucus into wads of Kleenex, wishing I could hook up to¬†an IV bag of tequila and that magic Margaritaville cheez whiz — it¬†seemed to be the only thing that had gotten me through the¬†night. Hell, it was cheaper than Obamacare; maybe the new President will appoint Jimmy Buffett as his Secretary of Health, and there will be cheez whiz for all.

On second thought…maybe it was the shrooms. TERENCE McKENNA 2020!!!

 

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Adventures in Mormon Country

I'm an American by Mike and Kit on Vimeo

I’m an American
by Mike and Kit on Vimeo

Poor Nevada!

Them California kale-munchers have infested our state to the¬†point where the¬†recent election saw marijuana¬†legalized, new gun legislation passed…and our precious electoral votes go to Hilary Clinton!!

Around 99-100% of them commie bastards live¬†in the Reno and Vegas metro areas — but the rest of Nevada still eats¬†bullets¬†for breakfast, like real Americans. Which is why I spend as much time as I can exploring the rest of Nevada — or as I prefer to call it, the REAL Nevada.

screen-shot-2016-11-15-at-12-49-07-pmI’ve already documented my travels through the western¬†half of the state — up the U.S. 95¬†from Vegas to Reno by way of Beatty, Tonopah and Hawthorne. I’ve also spent a fair amount of time in the northwestern area around the Black Rock Desert, and this past summer¬†I ventured into the northeast as well, from Jackpot down through Elko and Ely. I’ve also explored central Nevada, from Austin down through Area 51, Delamar ghost town and Pahranagat.

But there was one chunk of east-central Nevada that I had never visited, and it was driving me nuts! So when my friend Dr. Kildare invited me to accompany him to that area¬†to check out an old hot springs resort he was interested in leasing…of course I said yes!

Kershaw-Ryan State Park

Kershaw-Ryan State Park

We left Vegas on a sunny Wednesday morning, heading north on U.S. 93. This is a really interesting drive because¬†after about an hour, the monotonous desert landscape shifts dramatically once you reach the lush, green Pahranagat Valley…and you feel like you’re in the midwest somewhere!

On our way up, we cut east across a 60-mile dirt/gravel road that winds through this amazingly beautiful country called Rainbow Canyon. Especially with all the fall colors, it was un-freaking-believable — and totally unlike how most people picture Nevada. We followed this road all the way into the little town of Caliente, which is where the hot springs in question are located.

 

the old Caliente depot

the old Caliente depot

Caliente is the biggest town in this¬†part of Nevada, but it’s pretty podunk — just a quiet little Mormon circle jerk¬†with lots of cute little houses with “NO ON 1” (background checks for gun purchases) and Cresent Hardy (Republican house candidate) campaign signs in the yards (this was a couple weeks before the election…unfortunately for the townspeople, 1 passed and Hardy was defeated, thanks to the big-city liberals).

The vibe in Caliente¬†is pretty square, and not really conducive to operating a hot spring wellness retreat — which is what the current owners of the property are looking to lease it out as. I’ve been to several “retreat”-type hot springs resorts, but they are usually in woo-woo hippie-dippie areas like Truckee, CA or Crestone, CO — not in square-ass Mormon towns where the closest available kale is 150 miles to the south. It would be a tough sell on both sides — I’m sure the locals don’t want a bunch of naked progressives¬†doing downward-facing dog on the lawn in eyeshot of¬†THE CHILDREN, either.

Rainbow Canyon

Rainbow Canyon

In any event, the owner wasn’t available to show us the property until the following day, so we decided to continue on north for the night, then stop by again on our way back down toward Vegas. But since we were there anyway we thought we’d at least go take a peek,¬†because we were¬†really¬†curious about the place — come to find out, polygamist cult leader Warren Jeffs used to conduct weddings between old men and underage girls there!

Maybe “cult” is too strong a word — the Fundamentalist Church of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS) is a Mormon sect that practices polygamy; you know, like on “Big Love,” where all the sister-wives wear long prairie dresses with puffy sleeves and even puffier hairdos. Their greatest concentration is in the area around Colorado City, about 150 miles to the southeast…but apparently they venture¬†up to Caliente for special occasions, like mass weddings. Our research indicated that Jeffs used to conduct his weddings in room 15, so we were especially interested in checking¬†that out!

All-American by Mike and Kit on Vimeo

All-American
by Mike and Kit on Vimeo

We drove over and parked in front of the resort, which is basically a low-slung motel style arrangement of stucco buildings, one of which houses three or four private indoor hot spring tubs. There is a grassy lawn shaded by cottonwood trees, with¬†a stucco wall surrounding¬†what I assumed to be an outdoor hot spring pool. We were trying to peek over that wall to see for ourselves, when a young couple appeared out of nowhere: “We’re not open.”

Apparently this young Caucasian couple was fixing up the resort, living onsite as they worked. They were polite, but their manner was oddly stiff: he had on the standard rural uniform of jeans, Ropers, Mossy Oak-type cap, and she hung behind him a step, silent. The end result was a¬†sort of Asperger’s¬†American Gothic: awkward as fuck! I let Dr. Kildare do all the talking, as this was his gig…but for whatever reason he didn’t say anything to them about having talked to the owners; he just apologized and we left.

open-carrying your vagina is not OK here pic by Mike and Kit on Vimeo

open-carrying your vagina is not OK here
pic by Mike and Kit on Vimeo

We got back in the Jeep and drove over to the market¬†to get some supplies, and were standing there on the sidewalk discussing¬†the weird situation when this biker lady popped out of a little antique store a few doors down. She was one of those super-gabby types, and invited us in to look around her store…and while we were in there, she gave us an earload of her personal history and all the latest town gossip. She herself was a Vegas refugee who had fled a bad situation with some bikers in Henderson, and the weird couple we’d seen at the hot spring were the son and daughter-in-law of the hot spring owners…who¬†themselves were said to be weirdo hippies. Interesting!

After extricating ourselves from the gabby biker’s antiques shop, we hit the market and then got the hell¬†out of there, headed north to the even tinier town of Pioche. I had been¬†dying¬†to visit Pioche for some time; not only does my friend Shutterbug Studio’s mom live there, so I’ve heard all about it from him…but another couple I know from Vegas live up there too, operating a little cafe that I’d been wanting to check out, and they had invited us to meet up later that evening for a drink at the local saloon, which is supposedly haunted. Neato!

Campsite outside Pioche

Campsite outside Pioche

Dr. Kildare and I found a place to camp on the outskirts of town, set up, and then headed back into Pioche, which is a¬†tiny little historic mining town perched on a hillside just west of the Utah border. Back in the day Pioche was the baddest of all the bad-ass mining towns; they say 72 people were murdered in town before a¬†single resident died a natural death! At one point the population was over 7,000…but these days only around 1,000 people live in the area; it kinda reminded me of Goldfield, NV…with a dash of Jerome, AZ. It’s a really cool place!

Anyway, we went into the saloon and ordered drinks; there was only one other customer in the place, so it was pretty dead. This was the night of the final Presidential debate, but the TV was tuned to a baseball game — and the bartender and the one patron looked at us like we were nuts when we asked about it. I guess they were trying to prevent arguments or bar fights! So we just sat there chatting with the bartender, a genial young white guy with almost¬†as many missing teeth as full-time jobs (the economy is tough)…until my friends showed up.

The old abandoned mill in Pioche

The old abandoned mill in Pioche

Now, these friends are people I knew in Vegas back in 2013 or ’14 — a rocker/photographer and his girlfriend, with whom I first went out to that abandoned water park outside Barstow. Really nice people; he used to be in a well-known rock band, and was best friends with legendary guitarist Randy Rhoades growing up…but now they run this amazingly funky little cafe in Pioche, out of a drafty old shack that used to be a blacksmith shop. In between serving up amazing burgers and lattes, they also make and sell¬†amazing art using all kinds of funky, rusty old artifacts that they find in the desert. It’s a really cool place! (It’s called the Ghost Town Cafe; check it out if you’re in the area!)

We spent a couple hours bullshitting with them, then headed back to camp, promising to come back in the morning for coffee and burgers. It was¬†really¬†cold that night, probably in the 30s, but the rooms at the Overland Hotel (where the saloon is) were sold out…so we had no choice. Apparently town books up fast during hunting season!

After freezing my balls off all night, we packed up camp and headed back into town. But first we stopped to investigate this amazing abandoned mill — OMG that place was¬†incredible!¬†Unfortunately it was locked up too tight to get into, but I had a lot of fun snooping around the perimeter:

After exploring the mill, we went to my friends’ cafe and had a¬†delicious lunch. The place was jam-packed with locals, tourists and hunters; the only other cafe in town is closed on Thursdays, so they were slammed. One party in particular really intrigued me: a young-ish couple and an older man, all dressed head-to-toe in camouflage, which indicated they were hunters, but the young couple both had¬†dreadlocks, and the guy even had on a camouflage dread-wrap! Now THAT is something I’d never seen — a true conundrum! I always love seeing someone or something that can’t be easily pigeonholed.

Anyway, we finished our burgers and then headed on our way back down south. Dr. Kildare had arranged to tour the hot springs resort officially this time, but before we hit Caliente we made a slight detour through Panaca, the only other town in the area. I’m sorry to report that there was nothing whatsoever of any interest in Panaca — just a bunch of little houses with “NO ON 1” and Cresent Hardy signs in the yards. The landscape wasn’t even very interesting; as far as I could tell, it was just a Utah border town full of Mormons. YAWN/YIKES!

A different bathhouse, long abandoned, in nearby Moapa by Shutterbug Studio

A different bathhouse, long abandoned, in nearby Moapa
by Shutterbug Studio

This time, when we pulled into the hot springs resort, the young couple was waiting for us — and they had dressed for the occasion! The guy was still in his basic rural bro uniform, but the woman had dressed up in a blouse, slacks and kitten heels, as if to make a good impression. They both made good eye contact with Dr. Kildare, but neither looked at me once, even when I spoke…and even though Dr. Kildare had described me as his “hot springs expert” over the phone.

Almost grudgingly, the young couple gave us a thorough tour of the facilities — they showed us the interiors of all the rooms, which were charmingly old but in better condition than the rooms at Delight’s in Tecopa; the indoor tubs had a weird institutional vibe, and we never did get to see what was behind that big stucco wall. They even let us tour the rooms where they themselves were living; the woman had decorated everything¬†in homey¬†Walmart Mainstays chic, and it was fairly cozy. Everything was clean….but creepy as fuck, in a way I couldn’t even put my finger on. Anyone wanting to operate a wellness retreat here has their work cut out for them!

Creepy-ass hot springs resort

Creepy-ass hot springs resort

Finally, they even showed us room 15…which was where Warren Jeffs supposedly conducted his group weddings. This was the only room that has a private hot spring tub¬†inside¬†the room, so I guess that’s what made it so special….but these days it just smelled of Pine-Sol and broken dreams, and was really creepy and depressing. I wanted to try and take some video footage, but the couple was there keeping an eye on us, and I didn’t want to make things even¬†more¬†awkward…so I refrained. I hardly even took any photos!

Before we were even done with the tour, I’m pretty sure Dr. Kildare and I were on the same page vis-a-vis that place being worth leasing: HELL, NO! Ain’t no way, no how, that a bunch of anti-vax, Monsanto-hating blue-staters would travel all the way out there to stay at that¬†place; they’d have better luck making it an elk-boiling resort for hunters.¬†Dr. K thanked the couple (I tried to as well, but they seriously wouldn’t even acknowledge me) and we got the hell out of there — back on the highway toward civilization, which to us meant Vegas, and that’s really saying a LOT!

Railroad bridge in Rainbow Canyon

Railroad bridge in Rainbow Canyon

Anyway, now that I’ve pretty much been to every part¬†of Nevada (with the exception of the far northwest corner), I can safely report the following about our great state:

  • There is a lot more to Nevada than casinos; we also have mines, brothels and Mormon churches
  • Most of Nevada is staunchly conservative; open-carrying a gun is welcome, but open-carrying a vagina will¬†get you into hot water
  • there is a TON of natural beauty in Nevada that puts the dumb-ass Mirage volcano and the Bellagio conservatory to shame
  • the only espresso for 100 miles in any direction is at the Ghost Town Cafe in Pioche

And that’s it! If you are interested in checking out this particular part of the state, I’d recommend getting a room at the Overland Hotel,¬†having lunch at the Ghost Town Cafe…and giving the Caliente Hot Springs Motel a wiiiide berth. If you’re on a budget, I’d recommend visiting between March-September, so you can camp out at one of the many beautiful parks (Cathedral Gorge is just down the road).

Maybe I’ll see you there!

 

 

 

 

 

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Hiking Half Dome

photo by Alec Dawson

photo by Alec Dawson

I had barely unpacked and recovered from Burning Man, when a friend invited me on another irresistible adventure: Yosemite, where he was planning to hike Half Dome with his soon-to-be-ex-wife!

I knew nothing about the Half Dome hike other than that it was legendary and probably an ass-kicker; added to the excitement of camping with a couple in the throes of divorce, how could I say no?!

If you don’t like to read, check out my vlog about the hike…..otherwise, keep reading ūüôā

Yosemite was¬†on my list of places to explore anyway; I grew up in northern California, so of course I’d visited the park¬†here and there over the years. But I’d¬†never really spent any time¬†hiking or camping there, and honestly didn’t understand what the big deal was; I mean, there are beautiful mountains¬†everywhere¬†in the West — what’s so special about Yosemite?!

photo by Alec Dawson

photo by Alec Dawson

Well…..now I know!

Having been to many National Parks — most recently Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons and Glacier — I can say with authority that Yosemite definitely IS something special! I guess it’s the way all those crazy sheer granite faces loom over the beautiful, forested valley; the landscape is exceptionally dramatic. And no crazy sheer granite face is more dramatic than that of Half Dome; at 8839 feet, it’s not the highest peak in Yosemite…but it definitely dominates the landscape!

Anyway, not really knowing anything about the hike or what I was getting into, I packed my gear and cruised back north up U.S. 95 and over Montgomery Pass to the Eastern Sierra — the same pass I’d just crossed a couple weeks ago, when I explored that abandoned brothel and that abandoned casino ghost town (both were still sitting there silently baking away in the high desert sun, but I had no time to stop; I was on a mission!).

YUM!!!

YUM!!!

I rolled into this little town called Lee Vining, just outside¬†the eastern boundary of the park, and hit up the Mono Cone for a delicious cheeseburger, fries and hand-made milkshake before heading into Yosemite —¬†it’s¬†bear country after all, so to minimize my risk I didn’t want to bring much food with me. After inhaling everything in about 30 seconds, I continued on my way and cruised¬†over Tioga Pass into the park, where my friend had reserved a campsite at the Upper Pines campground.

As it happened, my bear precautions were all for naught — when my friend and his wife got back from their day hike (thankfully, their divorce is amicable) he¬†grilled a tri-tip steak on the campfire…then devoured it with a Buck knife,¬†splattering bloody juices all over the picnic table anyway.¬†To distract myself from the fear of¬†a midnight¬†mauling, I whipped out my phone and started reading up on the Half Dome hike, which we were set to tackle the following morning.

photo by Alec Dawson

photo by Alec Dawson

I’d been looking forward to the hike ever since my friend invited me…but what I read that night got me¬†really pumped!! First off, the park guide rated it as “Very Strenuous” — always a chub-inducer! I get¬†so bored¬†on those regular-ass old hikes; I like a¬†challenge! For a day hike, I prefer a minimum of 10 miles roundtrip — plus¬†at least¬†1,000 feet of elevation gain (I like to work my glutes)! Well, the Half Dome hike is about 16.5 miles round trip — with 4,800 of elevation gain! In other words…..dream hike!!!

photo by Alec Dawson

photo by Alec Dawson

Second, there was apparently some kind of extra-burly steep portion at the end that required hauling oneself up steel cables bolted into the rock face. FUN!¬†I started reading all these stories about people who had slipped and fallen to their deaths…and that REALLY whetted my appetite to hike this beast ūüôā

My friend and I planned to set out at 6:30am the following morning; his wife had thought better of it, and decided to stay in the valley while we two fools climbed the mountain. So I hit the sack early, and the next morning awoke before dawn to prepare.

Now, I’m a pretty hardcore hiker; I’ve done the Grand Canyon rim-to-river and back in one day (a comparable 17.3 miles/ 4300′ elevation gain), as well as having summited our local beast, Mt. Charleston (16.5 miles and 4278′) a few times. So I figured Half Dome would be cake — all I packed was my kid-sized Camelbak with 1.5 liters of water, 2 Kind bars, a Coke, an apple and a small baggie of trail mix.¬†Just in case, I also strapped a headlamp and a pair of old tennies to my pack…but I wore my trusty Teva Mush flip flops, as I sincerely¬†hate¬†wearing shoes, and am a fairly accomplished flip-flop hiker (I recently did the Grinnell Glacier trail — 11 mi/1600′ elevation gain — in another pair of Teva flip flops).

I did briefly consider bringing more water — they recommend carrying 4 liters per person! But I am at least 50% lizard after living in the desert so long, and I have never needed the recommended amount of water at Burning Man — I always end up with way too much. And besides, my friend had a water filter with him…and assured me that I could use it to refill my pack along the way.

photo by Alec Dawson

photo by Alec Dawson

So, we set off from our campsite just after dawn — around 7am. It was chilly, so I wore a long-sleeved flannel shirt, which I later tied around my waist; I did not bring any other type of warm clothes, although come to find out the risk of getting caught in a storm is very real up there. I guess I was lucky!! It actually turned out to be the perfect time of year for this hike — the weather was mild, and the trail wasn’t nearly as crowded as it would have been in the summertime. (If you are planning to attempt this hike, I recommend coming sometime after Labor Day…but before Columbus Day, when they take down the cables for the season.)

Now, I am a¬†hardcore¬†hiker. I’m not the fastest, or the craziest — I enjoy a bit of bouldering, but¬†I’m certainly¬†not an adrenaline junkie when it comes to scaling sheer cliffs or anything like that. But what I¬†do¬†have is amazing stamina; I can hike at a pretty decent clip for¬†miles and miles,¬†even (especially) on an uphill climb. And so far,¬†I HAVE YET TO MEET¬†my hiking match — they ALL poop out on me sooner or later. ALL!!! (The last time I did the Grand Canyon, I thought my younger attorney buddy might finally top me — but I ended up smoking his ass on the ascent. The ONLY¬†person I have ever hiked with who truly¬†kicked my ass was a photographer by the name of MG Imagery, with whom I hiked down to Arizona Hot Springs once.)

photo by Alec Dawson

photo by Alec Dawson

Anyway, my hiking style is to attack the shit out of the difficult parts — just blast up the steep sections full-bore, so that I get my heart rate going and can take advantage of my momentum, such as it is. On this hike, if it had been¬†up to me, I would have hauled ass at a pretty good clip, with only one or two piss breaks, until I reached the base of the cables — I¬†find¬†that method¬†easier. Of course pretty much everyone I’ve ever I’ve hiked with prefers to take frequent breaks…and I hate that style of hiking; all those breaks chip away at the¬†momentum I’ve¬†worked up, and I feel that the hike is actually more difficult that way.

But the friend I was hiking Half Dome with was a special case: he had recently lost 80 pounds the old-fashioned way, via diet and exercise, and was¬†hell-bent¬†on summiting Half Done — it had personal significance for him, as¬†he’d failed his last¬†attempt; he hadn’t successfully summited since he was 17. Also, he just¬†happens¬†to be an excellent photographer………so if I wanted any cool art nudies along the way, I would have to stick to his pace ūüôā

the final ascent photo by Alec Dawson

facing the final ascent
photo by Alec Dawson

So, in between¬†overly frequent breaks for food, rest and nudies, my friend and I made our ascent. Along the way, we passed through some of the most magnificent scenery I’d ever witnessed; it was really a fantastic hike! Lucky for us, we were attempting this summit on a weekday at the very end of September; if you try hiking Half Dome on a summer weekend (or even a summer weekday), the crowds can be unbearable…and we would never have been able to shoot any nudes (as was the case when my sis and I hiked in Glacier and Yellowstone this summer). Also, when you get to the top there can be a 45-minute wait to climb the cables — the hike is so popular that it creates bottlenecks at the very top.

To alleviate these bottlenecks, the park service now requires every Half Dome hiker to get a permit for the cables portion of the hike, and they only issue a certain number of permits per day. As mentioned, my friend had secured permits for us…but there was no one checking for them along the way, so I’m not sure how hardcore about it they are. I do know that if you’re caught without one, it’s something like a $5,000 fine…so I’m glad we had ’em!

In any event, I can¬†definitely see why they implemented the permit system — those cables are¬†sketchy as fuuuuuck!!!! I thought I had brass balls…..but OMG, the last part of this hike definitely tarnished them.

the sketch-ass cables photo by Alec Dawson

the sketch-ass cables
photo by Alec Dawson

As mentioned, I’m fairly hardcore — but climbing these cables was probably the freakiest thing I’ve ever done!! Basically, the last 400 vertical feet of the hike require you to sort of hoist yourself up along a 45-degree slope of granite that has been weathered very slick by the thousands of people who have climbed it; the aforementioned steel cables are strung along each side, about 3 feet apart, so you can hang on for dear life while you pick your way up. Every 12 feet or so the cables are threaded¬†through steel poles jammed loosely¬†into holes drilled in the side of the mountain, and braced between¬†each set of poles is a very weathered wooden 2 x 4, very¬†loosely bolted to the base of the poles, which you use to step up on.

Now, 45 degrees doesn’t sound that steep, and in fact even looking at it from the side isn’t¬†that¬†daunting….but I’m here to tell you, when you are looking straight up a sheer, smooth granite mountain, it’s¬†steep as fuck!!!¬†

courtesy SF Chronicle

courtesy SF Chronicle

I had planned to wear my tennies for this portion of the hike…but upon further inspection, I felt it would be easier to just do the cables barefoot; it seemed much grippier that way. So I tied my flip flops to my Camelbak alongside my tennies, and hauled ass up the mountain…trying not to look down behind me. I just wanted to get to the top as quickly as possible and get it over with!!!

Alas, it’s not all that easy to haul ass on those cables — in addition to your fellow climbers making their ways up, there are also people coming down¬†from the top at the same time, and you have to pass each other by¬†letting go of one side of the cables. YIKES!!! Even barefoot, it was¬†really sketchy. In retrospect, I would recommend wearing some kind of really grippy climbing booties if possible — even regular hiking boots seem like the treads wouldn’t stick enough. I mean, this surface is¬†smooth!

Storm's a-brewin' photo by Alec Dawson

Storm’s a-brewin’
photo by Alec Dawson

Worse,¬†thunderstorms often pass through the Yosemite valley in the afternoons…making¬†the granite even slicker!! And even¬†worse,¬†the cables (and Half Dome itself, for that matter) act as a giant lightning rod; people have gotten fried to death multiple times while attempting to hike this trail during a storm!!!

Between the lightning strikes, slippery rock face and sketchy-ass cables, I was¬†astonished that a public park in a country as litigious as the United States allows any Joe Schmoe who comes down the pike to hike this trail. I mean, really!! It reminded of some sketch-ass hike in Mexico or Italy or some other place where if you fall, it’s your own fault and you’re shit out of luck. But here in the U.S., where people sue the park service for failing to trim tree branches¬†that fall off, occasionally killing hikers/campers?!?!?! I couldn’t believe it! I mean, they did have several warning signs posted along the trail….but that didn’t seem to stop any of the many hikers of varying age and level of physical fitness I personally witnessed climbing this beast. WOW!

photo by Alec Dawson

photo by Alec Dawson

Anyway, my friend and I eventually hauled ourselves to the top of the cables….and it was alllllll worth it. Standing there atop Half Dome was a pretty cool feeling! There’s this one sort of rock ledge¬†up top that projects out over the valley like a diving board, and if you walk out onto it, you appear to be floating in the void.¬†Of course I had to get naked and go pose for a nudie on that!!! Even better, my friend did the same — to celebrate his remarkable weight loss, he also dropped trou and posed for a triumphant nude on the diving board (technically I think they call it the Visor; the diving board is somewhere else on the mountain). It was really exhilarating!

But, as exhilarating as it was hanging out on the top of the world, there were clouds gathering in the distance that were making me kinda nervous….so I kept bugging my friend that we should get going. He blew me off repeatedly, assuring me that the clouds were too far away to hit us…but finally around 3pm he gave into my incessant nagging, and we began our descent.

YIKES photo by Alec Dawson

YIKES
photo by Alec Dawson

I found descending the cables to be much easier than going up — at¬†this relatively late hour, there was only one lonely guy climbing up (with his pregnant wife waiting anxiously at the base of the cables, LOL), and only one other guy coming down behind us. So the cables weren’t crowded; I was able to grab one in each hand, and facing the mountain, make my way down barefooted with relative ease.

Once we got back to the sub dome, I felt a¬†lot¬†better — but we were still above the treeline, which means we were still at higher risk of being struck by lightning. A few raindrops did fall on us, but we finally got back down off the subdome into the forest without incident — and now I just wanted to haul ass back to camp and beat up a second tri-tip and some wine that my friend had brought!! I had a headlamp with me so hiking in the dark wouldn’t have been the end of the world….but still, I just wanted to haul ass as quickly as possible.

One more nudie in the gathering gloom of autumn... photo by Alec Dawson

One more nudie in the gathering gloom
photo by Alec Dawson

Unfortunately for me, my friend wanted to¬†enjoy the scenery —¬†and of course we also had to stop a couple more times for nudies ūüôā Sure enough, it got dark when we were only at the top of Nevada falls, with another 4 miles to go! So we switched on our headlamps and hiked along in the dark, which admittedly was fairly treacherous on some of those steep stone stairs and switchbacks…maybe especially so in flip flops.

But astonishingly, along the way back down in the pitch darkness we encountered several other hikers coming¬†up!¬†One cute young backpacker couple claimed that “night hiking is the¬†best!”¬†(I guess it’s one sure way to avoid crowds), and a couple other guys were just hiking along in the darkness like it was no thing at all. Best of all, when we got to the stairs beside Vernal Falls, we encountered an adorable dad and daughter who were camped out for the night at the side of the trail — snuggled up in their sleeping bags, boiling water on a little campstove by the light of their headlamps. We stopped to chat with them for awhile, and they were so cool — their entire family assumed nicknames from Don Quixote,¬†moved into an RV named Rossinante, and now they chronicle their adventures on¬†a Facebook page called Chasing Windmills RV Living!¬†Awwwwwww!!!!! Why can’t I have a family like that?!!?¬†

night hiking photo by Alec Dawson

night hiking
photo by Alec Dawson

Anyway, we¬†finally made it back to our campsite around 9:30pm…by which time we were just too exhausted to cook any tri-tip, so I had to settle for a partly-moldy Trader Joe’s chicken wrap. This is an unfortunate pattern in my hardcore hiking experience — I usually get done too late or am too cheap to spring for a¬†really good¬†meal afterwards. This must change!!! The next major hikes I’m planning are Havasupai Falls, Mt. Whitney and possibly a third Grand Canyon rim-river-and-back, this time in flip flops…and as dog is my witness, I am¬†definitely¬†making plans for a SOLID FUCKING MEAL after each of them!!! Too bad the Mono Cone was so far away from Yosemite Village — I would have¬†really¬†enjoyed that!

atop Lembert dome photo by Alec Dawson

atop Lembert dome
photo by Alec Dawson

As it was, I had to wait another 2 days before returning to Mono Cone on my way home (which I did, and it was fabulous). The day after hiking Half Dome, my friend and I did a shorter hike up Lembert Dome; we wanted to stretch our muscles, to keep from getting stiff — and it totally worked; I never really did get sore at all, except for a bit in my calves. Anyway, while up on Lembert Dome¬†I figured I might as well pose for some more nudies — and wouldn’t you know it, there was another chick up there who was a nude model as well, and she whipped off her clothes and posed for my friend too! Far out!!!

After that, we finally went back to camp and had our steak and wine, and it was fantastic. We happened to be camped next to a really cool guy named Greg, and he joined us by our campfire and we all had a fine time. I’m not really a fan of these √ľber-popular tourist campgrounds where you’re jammed in cheek-to-jowl between¬†other groups, but in this case it really worked out, cuz he was cool as hell! (I’m not sure our neighbors on the¬†other¬†side felt the same way though, LOL.)

nudists in Yosemite?! photo by Alec Dawson

nudists in Yosemite?!
photo by Alec Dawson

The following morning¬†I packed up my gear to head back to Vegas — but before leaving, my good old frenemy Alex (with whom I used to hike and camp back in 2014, and who used to work at Yosemite) tipped me off to a secret nudist swimming hole up in the hills behind the Majestic Hotel (formerly the Ahwahnee, but some douchebag concessionaires who lost their contract claim they own that name). Alex said that if I asked the valet attendant, they would point me in the right direction of this secret trail.

So my photographer friend and I drove over to the hotel, and I asked one of the valets for directions. At first he wouldn’t tell me: “Ahhh…that’s a locals’ secret. I can’t tell you.” “Come on, man!! I’m a nudist — I wanna soak naked!!” “Uhhhhh it’s a really dangerous trail, I wouldn’t want anyone to get hurt.” “Awwwwwww come on; I just hiked Half Dome in my flip flops!! I¬†promise¬†I can do it!”

secret nudist spot

secret spot

Finally he coughed up the info, and my friend and I headed up what was indeed a very steep trail, which led to a little rock outcropping a few hundred feet up the side of a mountain. This clearing is one of the few private places in the Valley that gets full sun, so is a popular sunbathing spot for employees and locals…and indeed there was another kid snoozing there on his lunch break. The soaking pool, alas, was pretty dried up this time of year — but in July, supposedly, the waterfall that feeds it has a much heavier flow, and as the water splashes allllll the way down from the top of the mountain it is warmed by the sun-beaten rock face, so that by the time it fills the pool it’s the perfect temperature for a summertime soak!!¬†Fantastic!

Anyway, it was really hard to leave this beautiful place — especially as the leaves were just starting to change, and I would have loved nothing more than to hole up in a cabin there for another month or so, and watch the show. But I had to get back to Vegas for an event the following day, so I headed out in the afternoon, stopping to grab some more delicious food at the¬†Mono Cone before making a sunset pit stop at the Ancient Bristlecone Forest in the White Mountains.

bristlecones!

bristlecones!

I had been wanting to visit this forest for years, because it is said to be home to the oldest known living thing on earth — a bristlecone pine tree¬†that’s over 5,000 years old! The previous record holder was a tree in the same area named Methuselah, around 4800 years of age —¬†wow!!! Unfortunately, both of these specimens remain anonymous and unmarked, to prevent them from being vandalized; back in the 1960s some ding-a-ling grad student chopped down another 4000-year+ bristlecone to study it, so they want to prevent anything like this from happening again, I guess.

Let me tell you, that forest is¬†fabulous!! It’s waaaay out in the middle of pretty much nowhere, about an hour or more east of Big Pine in this mountain range that straddles the weird no-man’s-land that is the California/Nevada border….way up at 10,000 feet! I got there just in time to haul ass around the 4-mile loop trail in search of the elusive Methuselah, before it got dark and I had to head back to Vegas. But it was totally a worthwhile stop…and besides, it helped me digest a few of the 10,000 calories I had just stuffed in my face while driving down U.S. 395 from the Mono Cone ūüôā

photo by Alec Dawson

photo by Alec Dawson

So anyway, that was my Yosemite adventure. I am now officially obsessed with Yosemite, and with the whole U.S. 395 eastern Sierra corridor in general — it’s a great place, and home to more hot springs than you can shake an incense stick at! In fact as I was hauling ass along the highway stuffing French fries into my mouth at a furious pace, trying to make the bristlecone forest by sunset, I passed the turnoff to Keough Hot Springs….and it took¬†everything I had¬†not to turn my truck off the road and go investigate! Arrrrrghhhh!!

But just like with not knowing the exact location of Methuselah, I guess it’s cool to still have some mysteries out there……..it just gives me future adventures¬†to look forward to ūüôā

 

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Champagne and Holy Water: Burning Man 2016

This was my 8th straight year attending Burning Man…and it was A-OK.

Photo by Surfer D

Photo by Surfer D

My mind wasn’t blown, my heart wasn’t grabbed and my soul wasn’t transformed or anything like that — alls I had were¬†the usual spiritually bankrupt¬†laffs: booze, drugs, dancing, gawking at art of questionable significance, insubstantial conversations about nothing with other high people…

The usual!

For those don’t like¬†to read,¬†here’s¬†a short video showcasing some of my Burning Man 2016 highlights. But if you want more information….continue reading below ūüôā

Now, I don’t meant to sound jaded — I still had a GREAT time at Burning Man this year. I guess it’s just that, after raising the bar steadily every year for the past several years…it’s only logical that the¬†experience would eventually plateau. But at least it was a beautiful plateau — with an amazing view!!

Hauling ass

Hauling ass

My sister and I left Vegas on the Wednesday before the event started — we had early arrival passes to help build a camp, and I wanted to make sure I had plenty of time to get there because it was my first time towing my new vintage camper trailer, and I wasn’t sure how it (or my truck) would handle the 500-mile drive. Luckily, it towed like a dream! I think the trailer weighs around 1000 pounds, which come to find out is well within the towing capacity of my 11-year-old, 180-000-mile transmission. (I only got about 15mpg while towing it, but still.)

We stopped halfway up and camped overnight at fabulous Walker Lake, and everything was great…except that I started my @#!$#%^!! period. I had a feeling that was going to happen again this year, so I had packed my trusty disco ball (the one I attached to my tampon string in 2014)…but I really didn’t want to milk that tired-ass shtick again; I like to keep things¬†fresh. For that same reason, I didn’t really want to wear my niqab again, either — I felt like I’d already been there, done that. Old news!

Building camp

Building camp

Fortunately, I have a very light, short period…and it was over before the actual event even started, so¬†the disco ball remained packed away with the niqab. Now the only question was…..what next???? How to set this Burn apart from all the others?

I did have a few Firsts this year: it¬†was my first time camping¬†in an actual hard-sided trailer¬†(I taped up all the old-fashioned jalousie windows on my trailer to prevent dust from¬†sneaking in, and it worked out GREAT!); it was also¬†my first time having access to a shower. Prior to this, in 7 years of Burning Man I had only taken one¬†shower (that’s right….one shower in 2013; the rest of the years I just stayed clean the old fashioned way, with a bucket and a washcloth). But this year, the camp that I stayed with provided a shower¬†and¬†24-hour electricity. That’s right — this was also the first year I stayed with a big camp, instead of just going rogue and camping with a few friends. Ooooh…fancy!!¬†

Little bit of everything in this camp!

Little bit of everything in this camp!

But lest you think I was camping with some douchebag Silicon Valley turnkey camp, rest assured….I haven’t sold out that much! This was just the rough-and-tumble crew of Playa flotsam and jetsam that my good friend Dr. Who camps with — if you read my blog last year, you may recall that it’s a mixed group of dedicated partiers, many¬†from the adult film biz. To be honest, I was a little apprehensive about joining their ranks — these are people who shit their pants and fall asleep in their own piss beneath RVs!! But since¬†I pretty much hung out with them all day, every day last year…¬†I figured I might as well bite the bullet, pay their $200 camp dues, and camp with them officially.

At camp

At camp

The $200 camp fee covered use of the shower (they provided the water), the generator (which ran 24/7, and allowed me to have an electric fan in my trailer — a wonderful¬†luxury), the bar…and also breakfast and dinner, prepared by different camp members each day. In return, I was expected to help with meal prep at one meal, and to serve one 4-hour bartending shift. Fair enough!

It was an interesting experience; like I said, in previous years I mostly just went rogue and had my own little camp out on the fringes, which was fine (I’m a bit of a control freak, and like my own space). If you’re considering going to Burning Man, but sweating the fact that you don’t belong to a theme¬†camp (which is what they call organized camps up there) — don’t worry about it! It is¬†perfectly doable to camp on your own at Burning Man, even if it’s your first time. The main challenge is rolling in and finding a spot to set up; once you find that, everything is easy. I’ve done it myself five times — and I’m a 95-pound weakling!!

Kona coffee!!!

Kona coffee!!!

That being said….there are some real perks¬†to staying with a theme camp. It was really nice to roll onto the Playa and have a spot already reserved, it was great to have access to a big communal shade structure/lounge area…and the meals, bar, shower and electricity were nice bonuses, too. But the BEST part was waking up every morning (or afternoon) and having a giant carafe of piping-hot Kona coffee from Dr. Who’s personal plantation in Hawaii waiting for you!! That alone was worth the $200 camp fee!!

Anyway, we’ll call the camp created by this lovable hodgepodge¬†of hooligans, heathens and harlots the Subset¬†Lounge; their contribution to Burning Man consists of¬†a huge, shaded bar and lounge area furnished with tons of comfy couches, tables and chairs, stocked¬†with the most¬†interesting¬†cross-section of humanity on the playa;¬†picture¬†the¬†Mos Eisley Cantina with glory holes, an onsite strip club and a gay alien whorehouse out back — it was¬†that¬†kind of scene!

My camp-within-a-camp

As mentioned, many of the 80+ camp members are in or on the fringes of the adult entertainment business — but those people weren’t even the freakiest camp members; there were doctors, artists, hippies, tradespeople, married couples and professionals among the ranks who were¬†even freakier! Like I said, I was kinda apprehensive about camping with this group, as my own freakiness is mostly shtick — but it all worked out great. My sis and I were able to stake out a little corner to ourselves all the way in the back of camp — a nice oasis from the 24/7 insanity in the front of camp, which was directly across the street from Distrikt (one of those ginormous dance camps with a crowd of thousands of bean-eating¬†sparkle ponies¬†rolling to¬†300,000-watt house music all day, every day). Our little enclave¬†in the back stayed relatively quiet, even though we were basically right on the corner of 9:00 and E street (I didn’t realize until this year that the 9:00 side of the city is considered the party area; for some reason I have always camped on that side, but now I’m kinda curious to see how the experience would be different around the 3:00 area).

Blending vagina coladas again

Blending vagina coladas again

So setup-wise, everything worked out great.¬†But like I said….this was no fancy turn-key camp! The shower broke after I only got to use it once, I missed half the meals, and the bar was down to nothing but Fireball and low-cal margarita mix by Friday. D’oh!!! That’s Burning Man for ya….you just have to adapt. Lucky for me, I wasn’t really used to having those niceties anyway…so going without them was no big deal.

And besides….whatever was lacking in infrastructure at our camp was more than made up for with interesting personalities!

As mentioned, it was a really diverse group. The camp leader and patriarch was this louche, genial ex-Deadhead, porn producer and three-time winner of the Slutgarden’s “Speed Boner” competition; his beautiful British porn producer wife served as de facto den mother. But rather¬†than a traditional mom and dad, they were more like that one¬†friend’s valium-soaked¬†swinger parents who let all the neighborhood kids smoke pot in the basement — they took a very laissez-faire approach to governing the camp!

Fishing

Fishing

Aside from those two, we¬†also had an ultraconservative surgeon who runs a side business renting out beater RV trailers to Burning Man¬†attendees;¬†a gaggle of beautiful Israeli first-timer sparkle ponies; a 7-foot hippie art-car builder¬†who resembles¬†nothing so much as a Viking Jesus; a pot-farming DJ who used to be a private pilot for Saudi royalty; and a depressed veteran porn actor in the middle¬†of an existential crisis. Tired of people judging him for his work, he renovated¬†a ginormous Army-issued troop transport truck and turned it into a playa bachelor pad, complete with a rooftop viewing deck overlooking the Distrikt dance floor and a 50-foot fishing pole with a life-size rubber replica of his dick attached as a lure. And guess what?? It worked — he ended up embroiled in¬†a “Leaving Las Vegas”-style playa romance with a beautiful but clinically depressed¬†sparkle pony, and at least one other drunk chick ended up passing out on his rooftop, rolling off the edge and landing safely in a puddle of her own drunken piss on the tarp covering his outdoor personal shower setup. LOLz!

One art piece I did visit

One art piece I did visit

With all this entertainment going on at camp, it was honestly kind of hard to leave…and that was the main downside about staying with the Subset Lounge: I spent most of the week just hanging around camp, and didn’t get out to see as much art and stuff as I’d have liked to.¬†But I was also pretty busy with my own art; I had several performances lined up throughout the week, which also kept me busy.

In addition to reprising my role as co-host for the annual Porn Star Dating Game show on Wednesday night, I also brought back my world-famous Electric Vagina and whipped up a batch of Vagina Coladas that same afternoon. It was actually really cool; a guy who had watched my show last year came by wearing a t-shirt with a photo of us at last year’s performance — and he said he wears the shirt to festivals all over the place! Better yet, we re-created the¬†photo this year, with him wearing the shirt — how meta is¬†that?!

Photo by Surfer D

Photo by Surfer D

My sister and I also had a couple engagements as the Cock Sisters, debuting our fabulous champagne-spewing golden cocks. That went¬†really well! We did it one afternoon at¬†the Subset Lounge, and then a couple days later on the stage over at the Hair of the Dog camp. The only problem with¬†the Hair of the Dog performance was, I was¬†reeeeally¬†hung over that day, so I¬†had a trusted friend dose me with a small amount of ketamine beforehand, as a sort of goose (ketamine is a horse tranquilizer, but in small amounts it works as a fun party drug). Unfortunately, my friend dosed me¬†just a tad¬†too much….and by the time I got to Hair of the Dog I was high as a kite, and had to sit in another friend’s RV for an hour until

Photo by Jon Killz

Photo by Jon Killz

I sobered up! It was like Judy Garland back in the day; people kept knocking on the door: “Are you guys ready?!?” “GIVE ME JUST A MINUTE!!” But my friend made me a cup of coffee, and after awhile I was good to go.

It was fabulous! My sis and I pranced¬†onstage with themed music blaring from the P.A., showering the crowd of dancing peasants in the golden runoff of the 1% — and I do mean literally showering; one naked man¬†stood in front of my sister,¬†slowly rotating in the spray of her cock with his eyes closed and a blissful smile on his half-baked face. Thankfully, all of this was captured on HD video by our friend Surfer Dave; I’ll be sure to post it here when he finishes editing the footage!¬†I can’t wait!!¬†Meanwhile, there’s some footage of our performance in this video, around the 1:20 mark:

Anyway, after two performances as the Cock Sisters and making¬†Vagina Coladas, I was pretty worn out; thankfully, after the Hair of the Dog show I had no more obligations to entertain, and was able to get just get fucked up and enjoy the show.¬†Unfortunately¬†for me, I was sitting in camp one afternoon trying to wake up when another friend from Vegas rolled up in his camp’s fish-shaped art car, Sebastian, and offered to take my sis and I for a ride…but rather than just hop on in my street clothes,¬†I remembered I had¬†one more¬†trick

Holy rolling

Holy rolling

up my sleeve. “Hang on!¬†Let me just get dressed real quick….”

I slipped into a nun’s habit and my golden strap-on, and since we were out of champagne I filled the reservoir with drinking water — excuse me,¬†holy¬†water! My sis grabbed a megaphone and we rolled off, me splay-legged on the front of the car spewing a baptismal fount of salvation from my cock, my sis on the megaphone spewing a stream of furious invective: “YOU WANT TO BURN?! YOU WILL BURN — IN ETERNAL DAMNATION, UNLESS YOU ALLOW THE LORD TO COME UPON YOUR TITS WITH HIS HOLY GOLDEN LOVE!! GOD HATES RAVERS!!!”

 

Sinner!!

Sinner!!

Oh my gawd, it was a riot!!!! Out of anything I’ve ever done at Burning Man….this was possibly the most fun thing (except for having that hippie suck my dick last year). And there I was, hungover with no makeup —¬†a totally impromptu performance. But it was¬†great!!!

What made it especially great was the fact that I got to be honest¬†without seeming like a total hater — because LOL OMG LMAO, I was just performing! I marched right into the thick of the ravers and sparkle ponies on the Distrikt dance floor, cursing one and all: “FUCK YOU AND YOUR FEATHER FAUX HAWK! FUCK YOU AND YOUR STRIPEY PANTS!! GOD HATES DISTRIKT!!!” And the raver kids literally lapped it up, lining up to drink from my cock. Ahhh….talk about¬†therapeutic!!

This photo put me in Facebook jail until Oct. 7th...

This photo put me in Facebook jail until Oct. 7th…

Alas, I got so swept up in the fun of the moment, I failed to realize how offensive this shtick might seem to people in the “default world” (what they call everything outside Burning Man)…so when I got back into cell service, I posted a photo of the performance and incurred a 30-day Facebook suspension ūüôĀ 30 days!!!!! I can’t post anything on my personal Facebook page until Oct. 7th, and it feels like one of my limbs was cut off; I didn’t realize how big a part of my life my Facebook network was ūüôĀ The struggle is real!

The Penetrator

The Penetrator

Anyway…..besides my little jaunt on Sebastian, I also spent a lot of time riding around on one of our¬†camp’s art cars: the beautifully-designed-but-vulgarly-named Playa Penetrator. The convenience of having a bad-ass art car in camp made me lazy; I barely even bothered to ride my bike anywhere, it was so much easier to just ride along on the Penetrator, wherever it ended up! Although sometimes (OK, often) it ended up at some rave waaaaay out in Deep Playa at 5am…and one could easily find oneself stranded miles from camp unless one wanted to dance until 9am.

Tap light titties

Tap light titties

Our camp mate¬†Viking Jesus is the¬†brains behind¬†the Penetrator — he designs and¬†builds art cars for a living, and is¬†actually quite accomplished. He rented out another of his creations — a giant jet plane called Playa One with hydraulic wings that become dance floors — to a camp of rich Mexicans for the week, and after the Mexicans left at the end of the event, he picked up¬†Playa One and brought it over to our camp. We rode it to the big Monday night afterparty, where anyone left on the playa burns up all their leftover propane, and it was a blast! That Monday party is one of my favorites of the entire week — by then, everyone is so¬†faded that there’s no cute costumes, no fancy headdresses, no posturing¬†like you see on Saturday¬†night. By Monday, everyone is¬†tore the fuck up¬†and¬†RAW!!! I myself stuck two tap¬†lights in a nude body stocking and called it good — it’s¬†that¬†kind of party!

Fuccck yeah!

Fuccck yeah!

That being said…I actually had more fun this year at the big Saturday night Burn¬†than I ever have. Normally I’m not a fan of Burn night — I find it kinda aggro and frat kegger-y. But this year I had a¬†blast —¬†probably mostly because a friend¬†gave me 2 grams of liquid psilocybin.¬†Liquid psilocybin!!!¬†I don’t know exactly how they extracted the psilocybin from the mushrooms,¬†but it was in some kind of alcohol solution and it was¬†fan-fuckin’-tastic — I got¬†higher than a kite and danced all night wearing a

Burn night, high as a kite

Burn night, high as a kite

silver space suit¬†with¬†two LED-lit balloons stuffed into the¬†cleavage, and even figured out a way to light up one of my Electric Vaginas with LEDs so that my whole body was glowing. I have¬†rarely¬†had so much fun, period — and have never had that much fun on Burn night ūüôā

Even the following night, when they burned the Temple, was more fun than usual — after the burn was over we had a dance party back at camp, with actual music with¬†words.¬†Since it was Sunday night and most people were already leaving or packing up to leave, we were one of the only parties in the area and it attracted quite a crowd — even the trannies across the street came over with laser lights and bubble blowers! (I say “tranny” with relative impunity as one of them, Ms. Shavonna Starr, is a friend of mine…and that’s how she refers to herself. I definitely don’t mean to offend!)

Ready to roll out

Ready to roll out

But eventually all the parties finally did die out, and we packed up camp to head home. The plan was for several of us to meet up at a hot spring in the woods to decompress for a few days, as we did last year and the year before…but unfortunately, as of last¬†year we were banned from our usual spot (Sierra Hot Springs near Truckee) so I’d been tasked with finding a new spot. I came up with a¬†beautiful¬†doozy, in the woods off U.S. 395 near Bridgeport…but it was rustic forest camping with no bathrooms or anything, so before you know it everyone had pretty much dropped out except my sis and I, Dr. Who, and one other guy.

Dust in the wind, dude

Dust in the wind, dude

Whatever!¬†I was still down to soak in the woods for a few days, so on Tuesday morning we all packed up camp and headed out, leaving the playa for our triumphant return to civilization. Dr. Who had to drop off a few other camp members in Reno (most Burning Man attendee decompress after the event at the Grand Sierra in Reno, which becomes¬†a total shit show), but he planned to meet us in the woods afterwards. UNFORTUNATELY, my dumb ass fucked everything up ūüôĀ

Some of the people in Dr. Who’s RV wanted to stop for Indian tacos on the way out from the playa; the road from Burning Man passes through all these economically blighted Native American reservation towns that try to capitalize on the stream of spendy hippies passing thru in any way they can, mostly by selling $6 gastronomic abominations called Indian “tacos.” As a connoisseur¬†of real¬†tacos, this is an unforgivable misnomer¬†— basically, all they do is throw ground beef, iceberg lettuce and canned olives onto a puff of greasy “fry bread” (basically white flour and lard).¬†How dare you call that a taco, Sir?!¬†

with another campmate

with another campmate

But apparently people like them, as¬†there are “taco” stands churning them out all along the road from Burning Man to Reno. Our caravan stopped at one on the shores of beautiful Pyramid Lake, but I refrained from eating anything as I preferred to save my calories for¬†a different kind of Indian food — the kind they sell at the 76 gas station in nearby Fernley, which is Indian food from¬†India! For the life of me I cannot understand why anyone would spend $6 on a puff of grease and canned olives when just 19 miles down the road you can get¬†freshly baked naan with tandoori chicken, palak paneer and mango lassi…not to mention Middle Eastern nomnoms such as couscous, beef kebab and tzatziki — in a freaking gas station,¬†for the same price!!!¬†I’m here to tell you, the 76 in Fernley is where it’s¬†at — it’s run by a super-friendly Indian couple, so if you happen to be passing through the area, stop in and give them some business! You won’t be sorry!

Wide load

Wide load

Anyway,¬†after the others finished their grease-puffs, we all got back in our cars to continue on the road. The parking area at this taco stand was pretty tight, so my truck and trailer were parked really close to Dr. Who’s RV — and when I pulled out to get back on the highway, I guess I accidentally clipped his side-view mirror with my trailer, knocking it clean off the side of his RV ūüôĀ The weird thing was, I didn’t hear or feel a thing — I continued cruising down the road for about 10-15 minutes, blisfully unaware, until I noticed I had about 15 text messages, and checked my phone. D’OH!!!!!

OMG, I felt¬†horrible —¬†they tried to re-attach the mirror with duct tape, but it was one of those ginormous class A RVs with giant, 10-pound side view mirrors, and it was¬†tough to keep the mirror upright when traveling at highway speeds. Poor Dr. Who already had to drive into downtown Reno to drop off¬†his passengers with this severely limited visibility;¬†driving down a winding mountain road into the Eastern Sierra forest for the night was out of the question, so he wasn’t able to come to the hot spring with us ūüôĀ Booooo!!¬†I ruined Christmas ūüôĀ ūüôĀ ūüôĀ ūüôĀ

Boooooo

Boooooo

Of course Dr. Who, being the classy and generous gentleman that he is, refused to take any money from me and insisted my sister and I enjoy the hot springs without him. It really sucked on so many levels, not least of which was that I had really been looking forward to spending some downtime in the forest with him, away from the hustle and bustle of Burning Man….and I fucked all that up. Also shitty was the fact that before finding out what happened, my sis and I had already stopped off in Fernley and bought $40 worth of Indian food for a feast that night. Now we were stuck holding a bag full of delicious Indian food…with no one to help us eat it ūüôĀ

Fortunately, however, we found someone.

The hot springs we were headed to are at the side of¬†a clear mountain stream¬†in a beautiful pine forest, just off U.S. 395 not far from the town of Bridgeport. The area around the 395 is known to hot springs enthusiasts as a sort of hot spring heaven, as there are¬†so many¬†of them — and they are¬†gorgeous! I won’t say the name of this one, as a new friend I made up there asked me not to advertise it…but take my word for it, it is¬†awesome:

 

Rinsing playa dust from my hair

Rinsing playa dust from my hair

Anyway, my sis and I rolled into¬†a big, flat area in the forest where people can camp for free. There are no toilets or running water or any services whatsoever, and¬†restrictions had just been put into effect so we couldn’t even have a campfire….but it was¬†wonderful!¬†The springs are down a short, steep trail¬†at¬†the bottom of a ravine at the edge of the forest, so it’s very convenient.

Still feeling shitty about what I’d done to Dr. Who’s RV, I was moping around setting up camp when a friendly vandwelling hippie who was camped nearby came over…and turned out to be one of the coolest people I’ve ever met! Not only did he know everything there was to know about the hot springs (he’s been coming for years, and is the one who asked me not to reveal the name in this blog)…but he is also from Bolinas, this super-cool little hippie town on the coast just north of San Francisco. Whenever I meet¬†anyone¬†from Bolinas I ask them about the Holy Grail of hot springs, Steep Ravine: these legendary, mystical tidal hot springs that are only soakable during¬†certain inconvenient phases of the moon, and which are said to be super tricky to find. Not only that, but the local Marin hippies are said to be very territorial about them, and unwelcoming to any interlopers!

Waterfall cave!

Waterfall cave!

Despite (or honestly partly¬†because¬†of) all that rigamarole, I have been¬†dying¬†to soak in these tantalizing hot springs — but it sounds like the kind of thing where you pretty much have to know someone in the area to get in. I almost had it worked out last summer, when I met another vandweller from Bolinas at a hot spring in Oregon…but that fell through, and I had just about given up on ever soaking there until I met this new guy — who just happens to be the guy who originally¬†discovered¬†them in the first place!!!!¬†What?!?!?!?

 

Camping in the forest

Camping in the forest

My sis and I¬†invited our new friend over to help us eat all the Indian food we’d loaded up in Fernley, and the three of us enjoyed a lovely dinner party in the open air under the pine trees, with colored lanterns and Miles Davis playing on my iPod, plus a bottle of wine our guest¬†brought. So much fun! Then after dinner, we all went down the hill for a wonderful, relaxing soak in the indescribably beautiful springs. The hot water at this spring basically spews from a¬†rocky outcropping high above the creek, then flows¬†down an overhang into the creek, where volunteers have built little pools of rock and sand to mix the cold creek water with the hot water from the spring. The rocky overhang creates a sort of waterfall, which you can pass through into a shallow cave. It’s really, really beautiful, and we spent quite a few hours in there soaking away the playa dust from Burning Man.

At the springs

At the springs

But eventually, it was time to pack up yet again and head home — back to the “real” world again at last. My sis continued south on the 395 to L.A., but I turned off to the east at Lee Vining, to continue on into Nevada, where I planned to meet up with the 95 south to Vegas. I gassed up in expensive-ass Lee Vining, but just enough to get me to Tonopah, where gas is like $1/gallon cheaper; from there, I could make it back to Vegas on one tank.

Unfortunately, along the way to Tonopah I kept passing all these¬†amazing¬†abandoned ruins, and had to keep stopping to take photos and record videos for my YouTube channel…so I guess I used up more gas (and time) than expected. To make matters worse, my GPS routed me through Fish Lake Valley instead of Tonopah — but I checked Google Maps, and it was only 93 miles to Beatty, where I knew I could gas up for relatively cheap. My gas gauge looked like I had¬†juust about enough to make it, even with towing the trailer…so I took my chances and headed south.

Not much gas in the boonies

Not much gas in the boonies

But I failed to realize that, unlike on the way north, I was carrying additional weight in the form of gray water, black water and two more bikes I’d picked up for free, just before leaving the playa. (Rich douchebags go to Wal Mart and buy these beach cruisers for Burning Man, then abandon them on the playa because they can’t be bothered to pack them up and take them back. What the fuck?!?!?! Anyway, I got a bad-ass brand new pink Huffy, plus a men’s mountain bike, both of which I plan to keep in my garage for visitors to use.)

Old and new friends on the playa

Old and new friends on the playa

Anyway, because of all the extra weight I was carrying, my gas light came on when I was still 23 miles from Beatty. So I pulled over to the side of the highway and unhitched the trailer, intending to drive the rest of the way with just the truck, get the gas, then come back. It was a huge pain in the ass and it was already getting dark…but what are ya gonna do? I cruised at a fuel-efficient 50mph, a/c off and windows up, but even then my gas gauge was¬†so low I though for sure I was gonna have to pull over¬†again,¬†and ride my new Huffy cruiser the rest of the way down the 95 to get the gas!¬†What a pain in the ass!!!!

Was it all worth it?

Was it all worth it?

Thankfully, I had¬†just enough gas fumes to coast into Beatty, and was able to top off, then drive back north 23 miles, re-hitch my trailer, and continue¬†home…where I somehow managed to back my trailer up my narrow-ass sloping driveway before unhitching for a final time, unpacking all my crap, hosing off my personal filth in the shower and passing out cold into bed.¬†What a day!!!!

photo by Mike Cee

photo by Mike Cee

Just writing about all this makes me tired — I mean, here it is two weeks later, and I’m¬†still¬†dragging ass from Burning Man! That event really takes a lot out of ya…but guess what?! I’m already starting to dream up plans for next year ūüôā Disco ball, blow job, champagne, holy water…. I haven’t figured out¬†the details yet,¬†but this I swear to you: some way,¬†somehow,¬†I *will* figure out a way to up the ante next year.

As dong is my witness!!!!

 

 

 

 

 

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Abandoned Casino Ghost Town!

20160908_154148On my way back down to Vegas from Burning Man, after¬†stumbling upon the fabulous ruins of that sprawling abandoned brothel near the California/Nevada state line, I got back in my truck and continued on my drive home. But I didn’t get very far, maybe 5 miles, before I had to stop again — because of even more, even BETTER abandoned ruins!

 

This time, it was an entire abandoned TOWN!!!

20160908_151941There is a cluster of maybe 20 abandoned buildings on either side of U.S. 6 as you head over Montgomery¬†Pass. At one time, it looks like there used to be a casino, a restaurant, a motel and a lodge, plus a bunch of little cabins and houses…but everything is now shuttered and in a charming state of decay ūüôā

20160908_155754Poking around the ruins, it looked like there was a fire or something in the restaurant/casino…and the rest of the buildings were just abandoned because of who knows what. Maybe the fire at the restaurant killed the town’s business, and everyone just moved away. I can’t imagine there was ever that much business out there anyway — it’s VERY remote (the closest “big cities” are Tonopah, NV and Bishop, CA, an hour away in either direction), and U.S. 6 isn’t very heavily traveled to begin with.

screen-shot-2016-09-14-at-2-57-29-pmA brochure I found inside one of the buildings said “Soper’s Montgomery Pass Lodge,” but a Google search revealed very little information or history on the place. Apparently it was a popular stop for sportsmen on their way to/from the Eastern Sierra, its claim to fame being¬†that¬†at 7,167 feet, it was the World’s Highest Casino — 1000 feet higher than Lake Tahoe.

20160908_152846A¬†fire burned down¬†the restaurant/casino in March 2010…but going¬†through the wreckage in some of the little cabins, I found a lot of newspapers and magazines dating from the late 1990s-very early 2000s, so some of the buildings appear to have been abandoned long before the fire. Maybe business was already dying out, and the casino owners¬†intentionally set the fire to¬†cash out and start over somewhere else — who knows?

20160908_152616In a way, it’s kind of cool that there isn’t much information available online — that way you can draw your own conclusions, just from what you find in the ruins. One of the houses had a huge vanity area in the bathroom with lights and everything, which led me to concoct¬†a cockamamie fantasy¬†about a beautiful showgirl who married a rich casino boss¬†that¬†dragged her out to the middle of nowhere to run this lonely mountain resort. As the resort’s 20160908_152139business dwindled day by day, with fewer and fewer visitors passing through, she still sat at her vanity every day for hours primping and painting her eyes and lips, wandering around the semi-deserted facilities like a beautiful ghost, with no one to appreciate her efforts¬†but old keno machines and tumbleweed. Hell, maybe¬†she¬†was the one to set the place on fire — she figured it was her only ticket out!

20160908_152453Maybe she lit the place on fire one night in a three-martini-fit¬†of melancholic rage…but her plan backfired horribly when her casino-magnate¬†husband was trapped inside the building!! Maybe he burned alive, and in her despair the aging showgirl packed up her feathers and makeup and fled to Reno…where she changed her name and now lives out her days¬†giving perms and rinses to the bluehairs at Circus Circus.

20160908_152314Or…maybe the showgirl was so bored living in that podunk little town that she took to secretly hitchhiking down the highway to nearby Janie’s Ranch! While her preoccupied husband was busy tallying profits in his 2nd-story office, unbeknownst to him his beautiful wife was turning tricks at the brothel, where at least the long-haul truckers and miners appreciated her beauty!! Then one day¬†a loose-lipped¬†trucker inadvertently tipped off her enraged husband…who then¬†lured her to dinner at the casino under the pretext of making amends, then locked the doors and burned it¬†down with her in it!!

Who knows?!?

20160908_152243There’s a thousand stories you could make up about this spooky, fascinating place¬†— made even more haunting by the extreme remoteness and the beautiful high desert surroundings. I’ll bet it’s really beautiful in the wintertime; they get snow up there, which makes the relatively good condition of the ruins even more impressive.

I was there for an hour or longer, and did not see one other person, other than a few cars passing on the highway. Although there was a newer-vintage satellite dish behind the motel…so maybe there is a security guard or caretaker or something who looks after the place. If so, I saw no sign of him or his personal dwelling. Still — be advised!

20160908_152410Also, there looks to be some sort of highway maintenance yard or offices nearby, so be mindful of that — at the time of my visit, it looked to be operational…although again, I didn’t see anyone coming or going. But the buildings, fences and trucks were definitely new(er) and in current use.

In any event, the worst thing that happened to me was stepping on a rusty nail — a¬†classic rookie mistake, since I was wearing flip flops and was definitely not dressed for urban exploration. But fortunately I had a tetanus booster a few months prior…so I think I’ll be OK ūüôā

 

 

 

 

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Exploring an Abandoned Brothel: Janie’s Ranch

Holy cow!

I just got home from Burning Man, and I’m waiting for the photos to come trickling in before I blog about that. But meanwhile….on my way back down to Vegas from Burning Man, I stumbled upon the fabulous ruins of a sprawling abandoned brothel in the middle of N O W H E R E, near the California/Nevada state line. Photos and info here; video below.

Check it out!

 

 

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From Earth to Outer Space: 24 Hours in Vegas

Merry Christmas, motherfuckers photo: Max Koo

Merry Christmas, motherfuckers
photo: Max Koo

I’m leaving for Burning Man tomorrow, and my house looks like Santa’s fucking Workshop: Space Priestess helmet in progress, champagne-pissing-dick just finished, LED-lighted Electric Vagina to be continued….I’m in the middle of a million projects! AND I’m making last-minute improvements to my fabulous¬†vintage¬†trailer, which is¬†finally¬†finished —¬†IT’S CRUNCHTIME!!!!

With the creative jizzstorm going on all around me, you’d think I’d be smart enough to tune out the rest of the world…if only for a few weeks. Alas, not me! Though I¬†knew¬†I needed to buckle down and get to work on these¬†projects, the so-called “Real World” kept¬†banging on my door.

I mean,¬†some¬†calls you just HAVE to answer — like when your favorite porn casting director texts you “Hey are you available to be an extra next Monday?” How can you say no to¬†that??

I’ve been dabbling as a background extra in porn movies for a couple of years now, and it’s easy money. Not GREAT money (they generally pay $100), but easy — and fun. You may recall¬†my past exploits as an extra…and if so, you may understand why I dropped everything to say yes. Sure, I was ankle-deep in my Space Twat Suit — but ca$h is CA$H!

photo: Sean Taylor Images

photo: Sean Taylor Images

From past experience, I was fairly certain¬†it¬†would be an easy $100 — 3-4 hours tops, then I could go home and resume working on my Electric Vagina before heading out to the desert that night for the big Perseid meteor shower, which I had made plans to check out under the influence of hallucinogens with a good friend. And,¬†I really needed to replenish my coffers after my summer roadtrip — the old WonderBank was getting low ūüôĀ

So, I looked over the script, ascertained what it was that they wanted me to wear (I was playing the sister-in-law to a bride-to-be who gets cold feet last minute, and¬†ends up¬†fucking the tailor who came over to alter her wedding dress)…and then headed over to an anonymous suburban house, in an anonymous suburban cul-de-sac, for the shoot. Thankfully, my brainiac computer-programmer younger sister had just donated a bunch of her old clothes to me…and in that bag was¬†just¬†the right dress for this role. Yay!! I’m sure she never expected her hand-me-downs to be featured in porn…but hey. Life is strange that way!

photo: Sean Taylor Images

photo: Sean Taylor Images

Anyway, the shoot started out pretty much like any other: me and the other female extra sat around waiting for our scene, while the rest of the crew scurried about getting shit done. Not long after I arrived onset, lunch was served — catered from a Mediterranean kabob place! In my past experiences, lunch on these porn sets has always been pizza…but apparently this time, one of the crew stood up and demanded kabobs. YASSSS! I had been on a vegan/vegetarian kick for about a week, but all this free roasted lamb, pork, beef and chicken knocked me right the fuck off the wagon, and I totally beasted on it….probably to my own embarrassment. But I mean…really??? Who the hell orders hummus and kabobs on a porn set?! It seems like the worst food ever for people who are about to engage in intimate activity!!!

Well whatever — *I’m* not being paid to fuck anyone; I’ll eat as much stinky, gassy food as I like! ūüėÄ Which I did…..and then sat around allllll afternoon as the deceptively simple script was brought to life.

photo: Sean Taylor Images

photo: Sean Taylor Images

Now, this script really¬†was¬†straightforward: girl meets boy, girl freaks out about boy’s dick being the ONLY dick she will ever get for the rest of her life,¬†NEW¬†boy brings wedding dress over to girl’s house to be altered before her wedding, girl invites new boy back into her bedroom for a “private” fitting, girl sucks off new boy, and then new boy crawls up underneath girl’s taffeta underskirts to eat her out while girl’s nosy sisters-in-law (me and my fellow extra) come barging in and ruin everything. Easy-peasy, cut-and-dry — right?? I’d be home working on my Electric Vagina by 3pm!¬†Right???

Not so much!

photo: Shutterbug Studio

photo: Shutterbug Studio

We all did what the script called for, but there was one small detail holding us back: the male lead in this film, an adorably geeky young beanpole¬†relatively new to the scene, was having a hard time keeping up with the pace of shooting…so to speak. Now to be fair,¬†this kid resembled nothing so much as a willow sapling¬†with a Sequoia branch grafted on to it mid-trunk —¬†he¬†had the most¬†ginormous¬†penis I’d ever seen! No¬†wonder he was having a tough¬†time; all the blood in his entire circulatory system must have been going to feed that beast! It’s a wonder he didn’t keel over right in the middle of the room!!!

Anyway we were all pros; we politely took smoking breaks and/or went out back to check our cellphones while the male lead wrestled with his sleeping serpent. The shoot chugged along in that way until about 8 hours in; by then, most of us were ready to get the fuck out of there! As mentioned, I had a hot date with a friend to head out to drink mushroom tea and watch the Perseid meteor shower; I was trying to get the fuck out of that cul-de-sac and into the desert!!!

Thankfully, at the 8-hour mark the director finally decided to cut his losses: despite the fact that the male lead had been unable to consummate the scene, a propmaster stepped in with a few squirts of whitish Cetaphil face lotion, and the final scenes were shot; the male lead was paid a kill fee for at least trying, the female lead was released in time to make her flight back to L.A. (most of the cast and crew were from L.A, only working in Vegas to avoid the mandatory condom law), and the rest of us were paid and released to go home. I think the lead actors had to come back out the following day to try and finish the scene…but whatever; my part was finished, and I had bigger fish to fry.

The Tecopa mudhole

The Tecopa mudhole

As mentioned, I had plans that night to watch the Perseid meteor shower out in the desert; this was said to be one of the best meteor showers of the century, so I really felt I shouldn’t miss it. My friend Jag had invited me to go out to the Tecopa mudhole with him; we’d have some drinks, sip shroom tea, swim in the mudhole and then float around in the Milky Way.¬†Far out!!!

So I packed up my toothbrush, pillow and a blankie, and headed out to the desert with Jag. We had brewed the tea at my house, before leaving Vegas, but hadn’t drunk it yet; Jag wasn’t sure he wanted to, since he’d lost his wallet earlier in the evening, and though the wallet itself had been returned, the $400 cash he’d had inside it was gone ūüôĀ¬†So now he¬†was¬†afraid shrooms might¬†intensify his gloom.

Up, up and away!! photo: CJ Photo

Up, up and away!!
photo: CJ Photo

Thankfully, I convinced him otherwise. We drank the tea just as we were cresting the summit into the valley where Tecopa lies huddled in the middle of a vast desert moonscape…then saddled up a couple of meteors and blasted off into space!!!

Actually, it was more like we were Space Pioneers, driving a¬†Conestoga Space Wagon¬†through the Space Desert on a foreign planet we were colonizing: we¬†took the back roads into town, dirt roads, where we could turn off the headlights and drive into nothingness, with weird space music playing on the satellite radio.¬†Far out!!!¬†We stopped at the little concrete-lined bathtub-sized soak, huddled in a grove of palm trees in the moonlight like a secret oracle, but the water temps there weren’t hot enough for this unseasonably cool summer night — crazily, it was only about 80¬†degrees that night, which is not warm enough for me to soak in¬†anything¬†but the hottest water. Like the mudhole!

So we continued on up the road, to the natural marshy pond northwest of town where a drugged-out hippie can get naked, plop her ass into a donut-shaped pool floaty….and then just¬†drift¬†in the magical, warm healing waters of the hot spring, baked out of her mind, literally¬†swimming¬†in the vastness of the Milky Way overhead.¬†IT WAS FABULOUS!!!!!

Space Mermaid photo: CJ Photo

Space Mermaid
photo: CJ Photo

Jag and I laid out our towels and blankies on the rocky, miserable shoreline beside the hot spring, avoiding another group of star-gazing bros who had come out to¬†watch¬†the show¬†through a telescope, and just soaked it all in.¬†It was incredible!!!¬†Despite us only being about 90 minutes outside Vegas, we were far enough from the urban sprawl and its light pollution to where the stars were really¬†out of this world!¬†We saw meteors every 30 seconds or so —¬†non-stop!¬†It was really one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen!

Despite this being August in Death Valley, it got downright¬†chilly¬†overnight (!!), and Jag had to walk back down the 1/4-mile trail to his truck to get a sleeping bag to cover us; he thought about getting an air mattress too, but high as we were, it didn’t seem necessary; the stars were¬†so fucking amazing!!¬†The Milky Way was dense as¬†an undersea kelp forest, with little Space Dolphin meteors¬†frolicking throughout, and we just laid there on our backs,¬†looking for Space Mermaids, drinking it all in. I’ve never seen anything like it!!

Alas………..once the shrooms wore off, the ground proved to be¬†extremely¬†lumpy and uneven, and I suffered an exceptionally uneasy few hours’ quasi-rest before the dawn light¬†finally¬†woke¬†me. I was stiff and hungover and pissy from poor sleep…but OMG!! What a¬†fantastic¬†landscape¬†to wake up to.

Sunrise float

Sunrise float

The Tecopa mudhole¬†lies¬†at the bottom of a¬†vast,¬†totally desolate, barren moonscape-like valley, all bleak, muted shades of browns and grays. It looks¬†totally amazing¬†at sunrise! The magic of it all roused me from my pissy half-slumber, and I plopped my ass back in the donut-shaped pool floaty¬†to¬†watch the desert turn to gold. Meanwhile, another couple was camped just down the way from us….and it turned out to be two other Burning Man habitu√©s we knew from Vegas. Small world! The guy came over to chat,¬†his¬†naked blonde companion¬†swigging¬†a bottled margarita in the warm rays of dawn. Hippies!

Once the fierce desert summer sun started to come back up, our time¬†in¬†Tecopa was limited — it’s hotter than Satan’s ballsack out there from May-October, so the fact that we were able to spend such a pleasant night at the mudhole (and needed a sleeping bag, no less) was really a wonderful blessing. We quit while we were ahead, loading all our gear into Jag’s car and heading over to Shosone for some coffee and breakfast before cruising back to Vegas.

The market in Shoshone

Shoshone

 

In Shoshone we skipped the Crowbar, opting instead for coffee and a date-nut¬†muffin¬†from the Chas. Brown convenience market, which we enjoyed while sitting out back watching the resident Mojave desert tortoises blunder around their enclosure looking for treats. It was a¬†fantastic¬†way to start a summer morning with little sleep; despite my exhaustion, the adrenaline of the past day’s and night’s events, and now this morning’s wonders, got me going better than any nutritionally balanced breakfast ūüėÄ Talk about your LIFE cereal!!!!

 

 

It's time to combobulate! photo: Shutterbug Studio

It’s time to combobulate!
photo: Shutterbug Studio

Anyway, despite my lack of¬†sleep, I now felt fortified and invigorated enough to cruise back to Vegas and resume tackling the mountain of preparations I had before me for Burning Man. It was a strange and wonderful 24 hours….but¬†I have a feeling it was¬†not¬†the strangest I will see before summer’s end ūüėÄ

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