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.
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
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 🙁
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
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! 😀 Which I did…..and then sat around allllll afternoon as the deceptively simple script was brought to life.
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
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
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 🙁 So now he was afraid shrooms might intensify his gloom.
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
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.
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 habitués 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.
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 😀 Talk about your LIFE cereal!!!!
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 😀
As a politically progressive iconoclast with a penchant for growing out my armpit hair and running around naked guzzling mushroom tea, I guess you could say I’m pretty much your classic blue-state liberal. Though I live in Nevada now, I was born in California, and have always identified as a West Coaster — I can’t imagine ever living east of the Rocky Mountains.
But a REAL coastal elitist I was talking to once took it even further than that: “I could never live east of I-5,” he insisted, I-5 being the main north-south Interstate running the length of the state of California…which also serves as an unofficial cultural divide between the new-Age nutters on the coast and inland rednecks. West of I-5 is Whole Foods; east of I-5 is Wal Mart. West of I-5 is Prius; east is F-350. West of I-5 is Sierra Nevada Pale Ale….east is Coors Light. Basically, east of I-5 is where what’s disparagingly referred to as “Flyover Country” (the part of the country only ever glimpsed while flying over it from New York to L.A.) begins.
While there are, of course, exceptions to this rule (mostly in big cities and college towns), for the most part I have found this cultural divide to hold true. My best explanation for it is that it’s fucking expensive to live on the coast — so you either have to have excessive amounts of money, education and/or ambition to afford living there. Those without, move inland — places like Tracy, Bakersfield, the Inland Empire. Housing is cheaper out there, as the elites prefer the kiss of coastal mist on their morning soy lattes.
Of course, as the coastal cost of living grows progressively higher, more and more people are being forced inland; not just your traditional rednecks but also artists, hippies, writers and similarly underemployed coastal types. I hypothesize that this influx is part of what’s turning states like Nevada from red to purple, politically speaking — there are more and more Trader Joe’s and Subaru dealerships popping up East of the I-5… whether you consider that a good thing or a bad thing.
Later that week…
Because of this influx, it’s no longer accurate to classify simply using geography; nowadays, someone living in Reno could either be a quad-racin’ God-fearin’ Toby-Keith-listenin’ Bud Light drinker…or a bicycle-riding, sandal-wearing, Leonard-Cohen-listening IPA fan. So I break my fellow Americans down into two rough classes, independent of where they actually live: Ocean People and Lake People. Ocean People (those who live or prefer recreating by the ocean) are generally better educated and make more money, and prefer sailboats, Teslas and the Tour de France. Lake People (those who live or prefer recreating on a lake or river) are into speedboats, muscle cars and NASCAR. Another hypothesis of mine is that Lake People use decibel levels as a way of compensating for a perceived lower socioeconomic standing — they’re into NOISE, whether it be motocross, ATVs or blowing shit up (with fireworks or drone strikes). Ocean People, being perceived as more refined, have less to prove…so quiet, pansy-assed pursuits like windsurfing, folk music and voting Democrat satisfy them well enough.
A blue state of mind in a red state
Considering today’s exceptionally contentious political climate, I wondered if these hypotheses would hold true as I ventured inland myself this past July, for my annual summer roadtrip. My sister and I had planned to head way east of the I-5, by way of Nevada, Idaho, Wyoming and Montana — traditional red states, one and all (Nevada only went purple once all the fucking broke-ass hippie artists started moving here, fairly recently). So it was, with open minds and open hearts…we walked off to look for Amurica.
After leaving our mom’s solidly blue-state digs in the coastal redwoods north of San Francisco, our first stop was Chico, CA — just east of I-5, but a world apart. Chico is basically a farm town with a local university with a reputation as a hardcore party school; we were there to visit our good friend Dr. Who. Now, Dr. Who actually lives in Hawaii and is a classic blue-state type, but he contracts out his services at understaffed hospitals in California’s Central Valley, and thus spends much of his time living in Residence Inns…so my sis and I stopped in to party with him for a couple days before heading farther east.
At the Tackle Box
Chico was definitely in a red state of mind. We went tubing on one of the rivers, had some burgers, and then stopped in for a nightcap at a bar called the Tackle Box, where there were three TVs playing: one set to a televangelist, one set to NASCAR, and the third playing a hunting show. Guys in Mossy Oak ball caps played pool while fat-assed blondes danced on a floor covered in peanut shells to a band playing Skynyrd covers, and there was a video game in the corner where you could shoot either deer, zombie deer or cockroaches in a cartoon kitchen. ‘Murica! But then the next day, we went to a tea shop for almond smoothies and hummus; apparently, the Blue Tide has made its way to Chico (or Blue Cancer…again, depending how you look at it).
White King, the largest polar bear ever hunted
From Chico, we continued east into Nevada. While technically a purple state, outside of Vegas and Reno Nevada is pretty much solidly hardcore red: ranchers, miners, prisons, Mormons. We headed for Elko, where the local WalMart carries an astonishing array of disaster-preparedness dehydrated meals, and the largest polar bear ever hunted stands guard in a glass case in one of the local casinos. But downtown Elko is also home to a tiki bar (!) and the headquarters for the Cowboy Poetry Festival…and there’s also a fabulous hippie paradise nearby in the form of a natural hot spring, just an hour outside town in the astonishingly gorgeous Ruby Mountains. The bottom of this hot spring is lined with thick, light-gray clay — perfect for doing an old-fashioned mudbath, which we enjoyed the following morning. Here’s a video:
From Elko, we continued on east to that bastion of red-state debauchery just across the Utah state line: the Bonneville Salt Flats, where a million land speed records were set, and a million redneck wads were shot. There’s a little playa nearby where you can camp, and you can drive right out onto the salt flats and razz around making as much noise as you want, if so inclined. But as classic coastal types, my sis and I were more inclined to just drive out a short ways and make margaritas with salt scraped up from the ground, which we enjoyed at sunset to the degenerate blue-state intonations of Nico. Here’s a video of that:
Utah was just weird. I guess Salt Lake City is less than 50% Mormon these days, but the rest of the state feels pretty white-bread conservative; every little town has at least 17 or 18 pointy-spired Mormon churches, and you can forget about buying booze after 7pm. Out of all the U.S. states with the possible exception of Mississippi, Utah is the last place in America I’d want to live…but it was definitely interesting to see. We checked out the big Temple in downtown Salt Lake City, then supported the local degenerates by having drinks at a downtown hipster cocktail bar. We even went into this amazing huge genealogy library, where all the Mormon moms go to research their family histories in search of heathen ancestors they can posthumously baptize into the Mormon faith. Far out!! We dicked around on their computer database for awhile, but didn’t know enough about our family history to go back very far. But it was still really interesting.
Skinny dipping in the Great Salt Lake
Also, to avenge a fellow nude model friend of mine who was fined $700 for being topless in a slot canyon down in southern Utah, I went skinny dipping in the Great Salt Lake; I’ll show you superstitious, misogynist haters!! But aside from making feminist statements, I don’t really recommend the Great Salt Lake as anything other than a weird curiosity; the water wasn’t even really that salty (at least not in the swimming area in the State Park), so I wasn’t any more buoyant than usual…plus it smelled really bad and there were billions of bothersome sand flies everywhere. But it was interesting to see.
Campsite overlooking Rock Springs, WY
By now we were ass-deep in Amurica, wading on even further east into Wyoming. We spent a few days cruising around the western part of the state camping and sightseeing, and from what I could tell, it’s pretty solidly red state. The first night we camped up on this beautiful but windy bluff above the economically depressed mining town of Rock Springs, and in the morning the litter we picked up around the campsite said it all: beer cans, fireworks, cigarette butts. How come it’s never kale chips and kombucha bottles? Hmm! (As classic preachy blue-staters, my sis and I made it a point to pick up litter at every place we camped, in line with the pious blue-state ethos of “Leave it better than you found it.”)
Giant hot springs in Thermopolis
Alas, despite an abundance of underground geothermal activity in Wyoming and Montana, there aren’t many natural hot springs where dirty traveling hippies can soak and relax — especially not naked! It’s a real shame, as Wyoming is home to the biggest mineral hot spring in the world, in the town of Thermopolis. Though there’s nowhere to soak au naturel outdoors, they do have a pretty cool state park with a bathhouse where you can soak for free for 20 minutes at a time (and there are showers in the attached locker room where dirty traveling hippies can wash their hair — yay!). I guess the State of Wyoming is forced to offer this free service, as a condition of the local Shoshone Indians selling them their sacred healing waters. Nice!
Salt scrub on the banks of the Yellowstone River
But even classic cowboy country is not immune to the Blue Cancer; thanks to tourism there were pockets of Wyoming, mostly around Jackson Hole and Yellowstone, where you could enjoy arugula and a nice Shiraz. Coincidentally or not, those were also the most beautiful areas; the scenery of the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone was amazing! I really wanted to soak nude in one of the many natural hot springs around Yellowstone, but because of all the tourists, it was pretty much unfeasible…so I had to settle for a broke-ass-hippie spa day on the banks of the Yellowstone River, mixing the leftover salt we had harvested from the Bonneville Salt Flats with coconut oil to make a nourishing, moisturizing salt scrub. We sloughed off all our dry, dead dirty-hippie skin, half-assedly attempting to shield our shameful parts from the passing white-water rafters and fishing boats. Here’s a video:
Up in Montana it was more of the same: tons of geothermal activity, but few natural hot springs where a dirty hippie could soak nude; outside of a few liberal enclaves in Bozeman, Missoula and Kalispell, it was a pretty no-nonsense state. In Helena, I had chicken-fried steak at a diner which had gotten a bad review on Yelp! for having an American flag flying out front that “has been mended to many times and is way out of spec,” and then in Bozeman we spent a delightful evening at the Big Sky Country State Fair, enjoying endless 4-H exhibits by children that went into excruciating, matter-of-fact detail on everything from artificial insemination to how to deal with a prolapsed rectum on a brood sow. No wonder those red staters hate us lefties; we’re over here wringing our hands over the ethical quandaries of animal husbandry while they’re elbow-deep in dairy cow vagina, trying to flip a stuck fetus so that we can enjoy our post-CrossFit Greek yogurt.
You never know WHAT you’ll find!
As with Wyoming, we only had time to really explore the western half of Montana; mostly the mountainous areas around Yellowstone and then way up north by Glacier National Park (which incidentally was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been!). There were pockets of leftiness in all these areas; we passed a hippie hot spring resort and an organic marijuana grow op, and had breakfast with a Bikram yoga instructor at a local co-op market. But the farther out onto the plains we went, the redder it felt.
Driving across the plains was a trip; as far as the eye could see, nothing but miles and miles and miles of golden wheat fields, waving in the incessantly blasting wind under the trademark Big Sky. We wanted to camp out on the prairie one night, but the wind was so intense that we gave up; despite the fact that we mostly tried to camp for free using FreeCampsites.net as a resource, on this occasion we had to admit defeat — there was nowhere on the plains suitable to camp in a $20 Wal-Mart tent. Driving off into the evening, we passed all these massive ranches and thought back to all those old traveling salesmen jokes — remember how back in the day before Priceline, the traveling salesman would stop at the farmer’s house and ask to stay for the night? Well, we briefly considered trying that…but then remembered how those jokes always involved the salesman having sex with the farmer’s daughter: “Sure you girls can stay here…but you have to fuck my son!” Uhhh, what?! So we pressed on, and coughed up the cheese for a night in a cheap motel instead.
My biggest fear
Aside from the wind, the other major downside to camping in a tent up there is BEARS. Luckily, my friend Tatiana had given me a can of bear spray as a gift last year, and I had brought it along just in case — but it was still pretty nerve-wracking, especially as I felt compelled to Google all these stories of grizzly bear attacks and read up on the various ways they will fuck you up. But, we did what we could; we kept a clean camp, stored all our food inside my sister’s SUV, and made lots of noise while hiking. My sister slept in her car every night, leaving me to fend for myself…but she always left her door unlocked in case I needed to get in, and graciously allowed me to squeeze in there with her on one or two occasions. In any event, we did see one grizzly from afar (up in Many Glacier park)…along with moose, elk, mule deer, mountain goats and bison. But none of them bothered us. Realistically, we probably had more to fear from rapists and murderers — you know how those amped-up red state rednecks are!
One of the top 5 hikes I’ve ever done, to Grinnell Glacier in Many Glacier park
Just kidding!!! In reality, everyone we met, pretty much without exception, was friendly, polite and welcoming to us — despite my hairy armpits and my sister’s California plates. Would our experience have differed if we’d been black women? Possibly. But as it was, we had a fine time exploring Amurica, and found people east of the I-5 (and indeed, east of I-15) to be pretty much the same as people everywhere: just doing what they can to get by. Despite our political and cultural differences, we all pretty much want the same things — food, shelter, freedom and a cold drink on a hot Saturday night. Whether it’s a glass of Chardonnay at a Diana Krall concert or a swig of Jack Daniel’s in the bleachers at a rodeo, it’s all basically the same…and you can find both ways of life pretty much wherever you go. I mean, one of the biggest rodeos I’ve ever been to was in San Francisco…and here I am drinking artisanal jalapeño moonshine and eating spinach and feta pizza in Montana. Go figure!
Skinny dipping in glacial melt!
So, did my hypotheses about red staters vs. blue staters hold up? Not exactly. I still maintain that there are two basic cultural identifications (left/right, red/blue, ocean/lake)…but I found that not everyone fits perfectly into one slot or the other, and often can’t be categorized based on appearance. This was well demonstrated at a hot spring we soaked at in Idaho one night, just across the border from Missoula, Montana.
Weir Creek hot springs
This was in the Clearwater National Forest — an astoundingly beautiful, mountainous semi-wilderness once scouted by Lewis and Clark, criss-crossed with gorgeous creeks and rivers and dotted with some of the most fabulously picturesque natural hot springs I’ve ever seen. We spent one day lounging at stupendously gorgeous Weir Creek hot spring in the company of a van-dwelling, pot-smoking bad-ass 60-something ex-crane operator named Stella who had once ridden her motorcycle from Kansas all the way up to Alaska with her 10-year-old son in the sidecar, camping all along the way for 11 weeks! (And here I thought I was ballsy — this woman laid me to waste!) And then after that, we headed down the road a few miles to soak at legendary Jerry Johnson hot spring.
Jerry Johnson hot spring
People have been telling me to check out Jerry Johnson for years — it’s said to be one of the most beautiful natural hot springs ever, and it really was gorgeous. Located along the banks of a creek in the middle of a beautiful, remote forest, a series of natural, rock-lined, gravel-bottom pools have been built up by volunteers for your daytime soaking pleasure (the springs are officially day-use only, to discourage partiers). These springs are super popular in the wintertime, when the ground is covered in snow but the water is piping hot — and while I’m sure that would be amazing (and I definitely want to check that out sometime), they are pretty damn awesome in the summertime, too!! My sister and I actually spent two evenings in a row soaking here, and both were wonderful. But the second night was particularly interesting.
Jerry Johnson hot springs
On this evening, we hiked past the first group of hot springs by the creek; father along the trail through a grove of trees there is a second pond overlooking a peaceful Garden-of-Eden-type meadow where deer come out to graze as you’re sitting there soaking. We went back there because we wanted to soak in the nude, and there were people wearing swimsuits in the previous pools. But we had this pool to ourselves, so we got naked, busted out some cocktails and settled in for a nice, relaxing soak.
Over the course of our soak we were joined by three different guys: first up was a totally hairless U.S. Army reserve officer with some kind of military tattoo; his look was all Amurican and he talked disparagingly about the overly restrictive Rules of Engagement imposed upon the armed forces. But he was also an ardent lover of the hot springs, and dropped trou with the ease of a habitual nudist…then told us all about some nudist 5k he runs in Idaho every year. Although he did make a remark to the effect that he would never bring his kids to something like that, so he wasn’t that progressive.
Whose land is this, anyway?
Next up was the most beautiful little blue-eyed hippie child-god you ever saw, with luxurious long blonde ringlets worthy of a Greek statue, and the chiseled body and finely-structured facial features of an Abercrombie model. He made his living, such as it was, by selling beautifully polished rocks and precious stones from a Crown Royal sack he carried around with him; when we told him we were broke, he gave me a few small ones for free. Awwww, hippies! But then, before you know it he was talking about growing up huntin’ and quaddin’ in Lewiston, Idaho, and the unfair advantages afforded the Indians by the U.S. Gov’ment which allow them to hunt more elk than the white man. Then it emerged that he was a Donald Trump supporter as well — far out! You just never know.
The last guy to join us was a Special Ed teacher from Portland, who was on his way to Missoula to see the String Cheese Incident. He was more or less true to form, drinking dark rum and ginger beer from a travel mug covered in festival stickers — finally, someone I could judge accurately based on his appearance. Whew! All these unexpected revelations were making my head spin; it was nice to see that some people still fit nicely into pigeonholes :-p
Kidding! Actually, I think it’s super cool when people aren’t easily categorized; I mean, look at me and my sis! My sister drives a 4-Runner with California plates and a cargo box covered in national park stickers, and runs around naked drinking wine and smoking weed…but is also an ardent Libertarian and a hard-assed conservative in many ways. Meanwhile here’s me with my pickup truck, cowboy hat, Stars & Stripes bikini and Mike’s Hard Lemonade…with hairy armpits, a bellyful of shrooms and the leftiest agenda since Karl Marx. And both of us ate pretty much nothing but Frito Pie the entire trip — which is basically the Official Dish of Red State America!
Frito pie cooked on a campfire
For those not in the know, Frito Pie is my sister’s and my preferred camping meal — it’s quick, easy and delicious, and you can buy the ingredients almost anywhere: Fritos, chili and cheese (although we like to blue-state it up a little by adding some kind of veggies, like okra or fiesta corn or something like that). No matter how many nights in a row we made Frito Pie on our campfire, I never got tired of it. We ate so much Frito Pie on our trip that I personally think the Frito-Lay corporation should hire us to travel the country on a promotional tour, making Frito Pie in all 50 states with quirky, regional variations: buffalo chili Frito Pie in Wyoming, Frito Pie topped with frysauce in Utah, lobster Frito Pie in Maine, Rocky Mountain Oyster Frito Pie in Colorado…Frito Pie spiced with a dash of bear spray in Montana. Are you listening, Frito-Lay??? I’ll even paint my trailer with the Fritos Logo if you hire us!!! #50StatesOfFritos
Frito pie with a dash of bear spray
Anyway, the point is that even hardcore dyed-in-the-wool loosey-goosey liberal blue staters like me have red state tendencies. Pretty much no one is 100% red or 100% blue — we’re all a delightfully inconsistent mix, and this unpredictable variety is part of what makes this country so interesting — even (or maybe especially) east of the I-5! So to celebrate the astonishing diversity of Amurica, when we were safely returned to the liberal bastion of my mom’s house in the coastal redwood forest, we prepared a special Frito Pie to celebrate blue state-red state harmony.
Blue State Frito Pie
It was the red state classic, beloved at county fairs and high school football games across Amurica…but with a blue state twist: along with the inescapably white-trash Fritos we used Amy’s organic tofu chili, locally grown fresh corn and peppers, and local raw cheddar cheese from the Cowgirl Creamery in nearby Petaluma…all topped off with a dollop of sriracha-lime mascarpone and bits of local green onions, and paired with a nice bottle of local Russian River Pinot Noir. Fabulous! If only Abraham Lincoln had access to this dish back in the day, countless lives might have been saved; food is a great way of bringing enemies together.
There I was, riding my bike naked through the streets of Chinatown, cars honking and pedestrians gawking as a chilly drizzle fell on me and 300 other intrepid fools who had braved the June gloom to wheel around downtown L.A. for the World Naked Bike Ride. Despite the weather and the pungent fug of wet nudist, the vibe was exuberant: we were FREE!
There was a Naked Bike Ride in Vegas that same evening, and while I probably should have been back home supporting my local nudist community…true to the square-ass nature of “Sin City,” you had to wear pasties and a thong at the Vegas ride — no nudity was technically allowed. LAME! So I went to L.A., and covered the ride for True Nudists.com, instead. Here’s a video I made for them:
After the ride, my sister and I hung around the finish line, just enjoying the diversity of the crowd. There was a solid turnout, and it was a pretty good mix of ages, races and demographics — and only 20 guys for every girl! There were the usual old white hippie dudes, old white surfer dudes, younger white alterna-dudes and one special dreadlocked trustafarian with an incense burner mounted on his handlebars, trailing a plume of Nag Champa. But there was also a decent number of African-American and Hispanic nudists (including one awesome pockmarked old cholo), and even a transgendered Asian beauty with a glossy curtain of jet black tresses cascading from his A-cups to her penis.
World Naked Bike Ride
Standing naked on that urine-soaked Skid Row street corner surrounded by such a bounty of new-era humanity, it struck me how blasé my sis and I have become. Most people would freak the fuck out in such surroundings, but we were too busy talking to this sinewy pan-sexual formerly-transgender Hungarian new age guru wearing little more than Helmut Newton glasses and a silver-streaked ponytail, who invited us to a workshop he was teaching on the subject of Sex & Ego Death later that month in West Hollywood. Far out — how could I say no? I’ve already jettisoned my self-respect and dignity; if I could just ditch my ego, too, I’d really be free!
So I went back to Vegas, wrapped up my affairs, packed my adventure bags and headed back out to the Left Coast. For the past few years I’ve been in the habit of taking July and August off for the sake of my sanity; the monsoons had just started to roll into Vegas, leaving the air thick, humid and around 150 degrees, so it was high time to GTFO anyway. And what better way to start my 2016 Summer Adventure Tour than with a good old-fashioned ego-killing?
at the workshop
Now, I’ll be honest: I secretly expected this “workshop” to be a new-Age fuckfest veiled in a thin guise of intellectualism. To that end, I considered wearing a chastity belt or at least some really complicated ski pants; unfortunately, I had nothing like that in my summer adventure bags and had to wear a caftan with no underwear or anything underneath. Fortunately, however, my suspicions proved to be totally unfounded — despite a conspicuous pile of condoms and lube on the table, it really just turned out to be an opportunity for 10 or 12 of us earnest festival types to sit around the rec room of a West Hollywood apartment complex listening to the Hungarian guru recite a luridly detailed litany of his past sexploits.
I wasn’t able to take photos at the workshop, alas…so here’s a pic by Shift Focus Photography
And what sexploits they were!! Role playing in Bangkok, trussed up in Saran Wrap and fucked anonymously by partygoers in Harlem…that guy gets around, although he’s currently celibate, possibly due to exhaustion or maybe total ego implosion — I’m not sure, he never really did get around to the “Ego Death” part of the talk. It turned out he’d been invited to give his workshop at an upcoming European festival, and was just using us to practice on…so it ended up being nothing more than a very interesting evening, with everyone retiring up to the guru’s apartment for aloe vera cocktails afterward. Our host put on some Tiësto and changed into a skirt and some strappy Japanese underwear, and I would have loved nothing more than to get fucked up on aloe vera and party the night away with this fascinating person…but alas, my sis and I were on a mission for ego death, and we had an appointment the very next day in Tijuana.
When I was in San Diego a couple months ago, my sis and I were walking down the street in Pacific Beach, headed to meet some friends for post-Black’s Beach food & drink, when this random guy stopped us: “Aren’t you Sarah Jane?” (He said he recognized me by my “drunk chick cowboy hat.”) It turned out to be a photographer I’m Facebook friends with, so we ended up inviting him to join us…and astonishingly, he ended up knowing some of the people we were meeting, too — I guess they’re all part of the local bondage photography scene. Small world! Anyway, this photographer was born in Mexico and enjoys giving National Geographic-style tours of the red light district in Tijuana…so he invited my sis and I on just such a tour, next time I was in the area.
Fuck yeah, Tijuana! I always wanted to go there — from what I’d read, it was nothing but donkey shows, cheap drinks, prostitutes and hellraising Marines. In other words, kinda like Vegas…without the bullshit! Even better, our new friend also promised to take us to the best taco stand in the world, which just happens to be on a street corner right in the middle of the red light district — so we arranged to meet up with him in San Diego the day after our ego death workshop, and bring our appetites.
It ended up being four of us: my sis and I, our tour guide and another guy from the photography scene who also happens to be a practitioner of Orgasmic Meditation — basically, a real wholesome crew. We all met up at our tour guide’s house around 5pm and headed for the border, parking in one of the little lots on the U.S. side and then just walking across. Despite it being a Friday night, there was no line at all; Mexico is easier to get into than even the shittiest Vegas nightclub, and there were no douchebag bouncers at the door, either. ¡Fabuloso!
photo: Alec Dawson
Once in Tijuana, our guide took us on a sort of walking tour around the main drag. Everywhere you looked there were crumbling, colorful old buildings housing shops, bars, nightclubs and restaurants, but a lot of them were shuttered and in various awesomely photogenic states of decay; apparently the U.S. military doesn’t let our San Diego-based heroes go down there anymore, and that combined with alarmist media reports has killed off around 90% of the tourist business in Tijuana. We were pretty much the only Anglos down there, which was kinda weird…but honestly, not that different from walking around my neighborhood in Vegas (East Charleston Blvd).
Hotel Caesar photo: Alec Dawson
To give us the full experience, our guide first took us into the swanky, glamorous old Hotel Caesar for cocktails; since this was supposedly where the Caesar salad was invented, we also shared one of those, and it was fucking amazing. The ambiance was clubby 1920s steakhouse chic, and you seriously could have been in any Vegas casino or hipster bar; it was that nice. Meanwhile out front, Hummer limos ferried shrieking Quinceañera parties up and down the street as leathery, toothless men sold gum and Chupa Chups from tiny alleyway kiosks, and an entrepreneurial hack photographed tourists next to a horse painted like a zebra. Except for a group of adorable Mexican punk rock kids being purposely shiftless in black leather jackets and Misfits t-shirts, everyone was busy and on the hustle — but all that was nothing compared to what we were about to witness in the red light district!
photo: Alec Dawson
Before we made our way a few blocks over into the underworld, our host took us into a couple of adorably gentrified little hipster areas so that we could see for ourselves that Tijuana is not just a den of sin and iniquity; like many other ravaged urban areas in North America, earnest, mustachioed Millennials are fighting to reclaim their city with an arsenal of artisanal soap shops, cafés, and craft-brewpubs — only somehow, what comes off as annoyingly pretentious in the U.S.
photo: Alec Dawson
struck me as touchingly optimistic down there. Talk about fighting an uphill battle — those kids have their work cut out for them! But it looked like they were doing all right; we went down this one little alleyway full of tiny shops, cafés and bars, and the scene was vibrant and bustling, with people of all ages sitting around little tables made of old wooden pallets as a troubadour played guitar on a makeshift stage bathed in the flickering light of votive candles. It was reminiscent of those art walks they have in most major U.S. cities on the First Friday or Third Thursday of every month; a hard-won little pocket of artsy fartsy introspection in a roiling sea of psychedelic, ear-splitting, unregulated, unmitigated chaos.
All of which was well and good…but I came for the chaos; ain’t no artisanal soap strong enough to kill an ego!! So we made our way back out into the exuberantly madding crowd toward the red light district. Along the way we passed a few fully-costumed 8-piece mariachi bands that just hang out on the street corners down there, musical prostitutes waiting to be hired by some passing baller in need of entertainment for his daughter’s Quinceañera or wedding or whatever. Our tour guide hired this one band to play us a couple songs right there on the corner, and it was fantastic — first they rolled their eyes through yet another performance of “Cielito Lindo” (my request; I can’t help it, I love that song and all it stands for), and then at our guide’s request they did “El Rey,” a macho anthem about a guy with absolutely nothing who still claims to be King of his world. Hey now!
As astonishing as I found seeing fully-costumed 8-piece mariachi bands just hanging around on the street waiting to be hired….shit got even more surreal once we got into the gritty part of town. We were walking down the sidewalk checking out all the various brothels, strip clubs and bars, headed toward the legendary taco stand, when we came upon another band of musicians standing around waiting to be hired. These guys didn’t have on fancy costumes or sombreros or anything — just jeans and t-shirts, clarinets and trumpets, a snare drum and a bass drum and one guy toting a duct-taped tuba; this was banda Sinaloense, an absolutely incredible style of music that can only be described as exuberantly ear-splitting cacophonous madness! I never heard anything like it — our guide paid them to play a song called “Las Mañanitas,” which is supposedly like the Mexican version of “Good Morning to You…” but fuck, if someone woke me up with this racket I’d probably have a heart attack!!! The band struck in with frenzied gusto, banging cymbals, braying trumpets, the shrill blast of madly tootling clarinets intertwining with the machine-gun/garbage-can-lid-rattling rat-a-tat of the snare drum….and all the while, this little banty rooster of a guy in the middle just standing there with his hands in his jean pockets bellowing mellifluously in a hearty baritone. Fucking madness! I LOVED IT SO MUCH!!
If THAT doesn’t kill your ego, nothing will! photo: Alec Dawson
We took a quick tour around the block, our guide pointing out this or that brothel, and then decided to have a drink or three at one of the more upscale strip clubs, Adelita’s. It wasn’t the most upscale club — according to our guide, those are boring (and I’m inclined to agree) — but Adelita’s was a nice, solid place to kick back and watch what I can only assume to be the Greatest Show on Earth. I’ve never seen anything like it!
On first glance, it appeared pretty much like any Vegas strip club — dimly lit neon interior, air thick with cigarette smoke and the smell of scented body lotion, half-naked chicks walking around in Lucite platforms clutching little purses, and a stage with two poles and an aerial hoop in the middle, surrounded by tables and chairs. The main difference was, there was no “sniffer’s row” (seats along the stage where the real pervs can get a close-up gander), nor was there a VIP room — there was no need. In free-market Tijuana, they cut out the middleman; unlike the U.S., a “strip club” here is basically just the parlor of a brothel. If you see a girl you like, there’s no need to beat around the bush with lap dances and elaborate tipping routines — you just hire her on the spot, and she takes you to one of the hotel rooms next door for a quickie.
To that end, there are little satin robes hanging by the door — like a boxer, the girl slips a robe over her stripperwear and leads her opponent into the rent-a-ring next door for a few rounds of the sweetest science of them all. The visuals down here in general were bizarre, but this took the cake — we even saw one chick wearing an Eyes Wide Shut mask with her robe, as if she didn’t want to be recognized on the short journey from the club door to the hotel. In any event, after she takes the guy up to the room and has sex, the girl takes a shower, freshens up, goes back to the club and hangs the robe back by the door for the next girl. Meanwhile, housekeeping comes in and changes the sheets — ready for the next guy. You want ego death? We got your ego death, right here.
500 drinks later
But remember, this was one of the classier clubs; just around the block, the sidewalk itself was lined with juicy, young, overly-ripe women shoehorned into stretchy minidresses, leaning right up against the brick walls looking bored. They were all perfectly made up, perfectly coiffed, and on the whole an astonishingly good-looking lot; I guess I expected a bunch of old beaters fucking donkeys, I’m not sure. But I’m here to tell you…you can pay for some really good looking puss down in Tijuana! (And incidentally, I’m sorry to break it to you, but the whole donkey-show thing is an urban legend.)
Proud to be American
Back inside, we hung around watching the show in fascinated awe. Unlike Vegas, they apparently pretty much let anyone into these clubs; a weatherbeaten, toothless little hunchback came around with a tray of gum and candy, a devilish old imp in wide-leg Jnco jeans with a bloated potbelly protruding from under his baby tee danced drunkenly around the floor, and a big fat slob dressed as Uncle Sam went around pouring booze into people’s mouths in honor of 4th of July (which was the following Monday — many of the club staff even wore t-shirts proclaiming “PROUD TO BE AN AMERICAN” in day-glo neon). Meanwhile, hordes of astonishingly beautiful, zaftig, lingerie-clad women lined the walls; according to our tour guide, the conservative culture down there prohibits the prostitutes from openly soliciting business; they just stand around waiting for some guy to hit on them. Weird!!
Another weird thing we soon noticed was that almost all the women in this club had amazing, firm, beautifully round asses — it was like being in a peach orchard owned by Monsanto, as they were all eerily identical. After seeing about 30 or 40 perfect asses, it dawned on us that they were all fake — thanks to the proliferation of cheap plastic surgeons down there (and the complete lack of crossfit gyms), I’d guess that 3 out of 4 women working at Adelita’s had ass implants. Far out!! Again, I’d never seen anything like it — totally surreal.
una mujer sin nalgas operadas, allegedly
So now our guide wanted to get one of the girls to come sit with us; the problem is, they don’t really do lap dances, they just want to take you upstairs right away. You can buy a girl a drink, but she’ll only sit at your table long enough to chug it; if you’re not into going upstairs, she’s gone. Still, our guide searched the club for a nice girl; he was looking for one with a natural ass, though, so it took him awhile…especially as he’d had quite a few drinks by this point, and was asking around for girls without “nalgas operadas” (which roughly translates to “operated asses,” and I’m not sure anyone understood what the fuck he was talking about). In any event he finally did get this one woman to come back to our table and sit on my lap for about 3 seconds while she shotgunned a beer; it was weird, as my sister and I had been watching that particular woman for the past hour, and she had just then returned from a trip next door with a guy she’d been manually stimulating at his table. All in a day’s work!
TACOS!! photo: Alec Dawson
All of that craziness had really worked up our appetites, so we headed back out to the street to this legendary taco stand that sits right on the corner of Calle Coahuila and Av. Ninos Heroes, serving up amazing tacos for around $1 apiece to a writhing mass of drunks, hustlers, prostitutes, intrepid tourists and even the occasional stroller-pushing suburban mom…24 hours a day, every single day of the year. I know I’ve already said this about 5 times in this blog, but….I’ve never seen anything like it!! Not only were the tacos legit as all fuck (I’m not exaggerating…best tacos for the price, ever) but the ambiance was to die for. The scene wasstraight out of Hieronymus Bosch’s most fevered nightmare — a seething crowd of humanity eating, drinking, singing, hustling, begging, braying, busking and basking in the mouth-watering aroma of asada and adobada, bathed in the fluorescent glow of the overhead streetlight. Meanwhile, that crazed banda Sinaloense was still banging away on their snare drums and trumpets just a few feet away — just another topping on the chaos-taco of life. Load ‘er up!
Keep in mind it was around 2am by this time — but people of all ages were gathered on this street corner, like it was 2 in the afternoon. While I was waiting for my tacos I struck up a conversation with a guy who asked me for a dollar to buy a taco. I said no, so then he tried to sell me this little pink Minnie Mouse bag for $1, which I declined as well. Finally he just offered to give me the bag, but I still didn’t want it — but next thing you know, a random old lady selling a box of candy came shuffling along, and he tried to sell it to her. Astonishingly, she seemed interested, rubbing the fabric between thumb and forefinger, brow furrowed: “¿Cuanto cuesta?” These people are always on the make — anyone who says Mexicans are lazy have a strange idea of laziness. To the contrary, the people I encountered down there struck me as manically, chaotically industrious.
Then I started talking to another local, who had grown up in the U.S. but was deported after his second DUI. His friend had passed him a cigarette while he was driving one day, but he didn’t realize the cigarette was laced with PCP. Whooooooops — the old switcheroo! Next thing you know he was demoted to living in Tijuana, hanging out on a street corner at 2am talking some drunk ding-dong in a paper cowboy hat. We actually encountered a few people down there who had grown up in the U.S. but were shunted back to Mexico, including this one poor teenage kid carrying a Hefty bag full of shoes from which he tried to sell us a pair of pointy-toed vintage 1996 ankle booties for $1. Interestingly, neither of these guys seemed bitter or resentful at the capriciousness of Fortune; they just rolled with it, getting drunk and selling shoes out of a bag and doing whatever it took to get by. They weren’t looking for pity or ego death or being made into a Saran-Wrap mummy for the pleasure of kinky New York party-goers; they were just trying to get some tacos.
Sharing street hooch
Throughout all of this, incidentally, I should mention that not once all night did I feel unsafe or threatened by anyone — to the contrary, everyone was friendly as fuck, especially the bums. This one leathery old boozer sitting on the ground by the taco truck even shared his flask of mescal with me — and when I say “flask,” I really mean half-crushed plastic tonic-water bottle (and when I say “mescal,” I mean moonshine or lighter fluid or some combination of the two). It seemed rude to refuse, and besides…if I really wanted to kill my ego, lighter fluid seems like a surefire way to go. Salud!
After stuffing our faces with tacos, we hit up one last club for a nightcap before heading back home. Our guide wanted to take us to the other end of the
spectrum from Adelita’s — some really shitty club full of methheads he’d stumbled into once — but alas, he couldn’t remember where it was, so we settled for a drink at the Tropical Club instead, sort of a mini, lower-scale version of Adelita’s where we watched this immaculately dressed narco-type baller in a Stetson and jeweled cowboy boots sip cognac with his hi-class wife while chubby prostitutes cavorted to the crooning of a ranchera balladeer. By then I was so tired I could hardly see straight — it was 3am, but even at that hour, people were hustling and bustling on the street, laying out tattered blankets with pairs of worn-out sneakers for sale on the sidewalk, trying to make a buck come hell or high water. It never stops!!!
The thin brown line
We finally crawled out of the chaos like primordial fish, leaving the red light district pulsing in spastic time to the strains of the still-banging banda Sinaloense, limping back through the tourist district with its loitering mariachis, back across the pungent canal with its unmistakeable perfume of seething human life, back across the border into the quiet, orderly U.S.A. — home of the civilized: 1099s, HOAs, business licenses and lap dances; it all seemed so ho-hum.
a worthy trade
We cruised back to my friend’s house in an upscale suburb of San Diego and passed the fuck out in his spare bedroom, and just as I drifted off to sleep, I realized that though I may have left my heart in Tijuana….I still had my ego. D’oh!! Well, damn — I guess I’ll have to go back down there and try to get rid of it another time. Maybe I can roll out a blanket, sell it for a dollar…and get a taco, instead. It would be a worthy trade.
Summer is here, and that means one thing: Burning Man is right around the corner!! And that means it’s time to fire up some fabulous new costume ideas — I’m not one to sit around milking tired old shtick, ya know? Gotta keep it fresh!
Sooooo last year
The only bummer with being a creative type is that you have to keep topping your own fabulousness — it’s a constant challenge! Two years ago I freaked people out with a little disco ball tied to the tampon string unfortunately hanging from my twat. Last year, I rocked the playa with the one-two punch of a niqab and a black rubber strap-on (which was memorably sucked for 45 minutes by a pudgy, bearded hippie). So what would my shtick be this year?
First, even though it is technically last year’s news, I decided to bring back the Electric Vagina and whip up another few batches of vagina coladas, since it went over so well last year (and since the blender cost over $200, and I might as well get my money’s worth out of it). To freshen it up a bit, I changed the costume from the old ElectroMom-pushing-a-baby-buggy, and made it more of an electrified Carmen Miranda — repurposing the outfit I made for that Jimmy Buffett concert I went to last year.
But I still felt like I needed a new concept. Thankfully, I had a humdinger on deck!
Last December, while hiking in the forest near Bolinas, CA with my sister, we started brainstorming possible future Burning Man projects. It was a beautiful, misty day and the trail was dotted with giant amanita muscaria mushrooms — the perfect environment for cultivating subversive new ideas. Sure enough, before long we hit on a winner: we would repurpose our trusty rubber strap-on dicks and turn them into louche champagne fountains, painting them gold and pairing them with fabulous Marie Antoinette costumes. Foreclosed homes? Outsourced jobs?? Fuck the poor —LET THEM EAT COCK! We’d spend the week pissing champagne all over the peasants, as a light-hearted commentary on the excesses of the rich….including certain Burning Man turnkey camps.
We discussed the idea on and off over the next several months, but didn’t get around to actually working out the details until this past May — for once, plenty of time before Burning Man, so we didn’t have an excuse to half-ass anything like I usually do. My sister came out to visit me in Vegas, and we spent three solid days immersed in an intensive Champagne-Pissing-Dick Workshop.
We need a STREAM credit: PhotoFM
My original idea was just to thread aquarium tubing through our dicks, and have one of those giant plastic water cooler jugs full of champagne perched on a barstool or something behind us, using the force of gravity to stream champagne through the tubing and out the tips of our dicks. But my sister felt the flow would be far too weak — we didn’t want a dribble, we wanted a glorious golden arc, splashing into the cups and faces of all comers!
Fuck Your Burn!
Finally we had the idea of using pressurized garden sprayers; we could load them up with a couple gallons of the finest champagne each, pump the handle a few times to get it nice and tight, then let loose with a mighty blast that would do the noblest thoroughbred racehorse proud. The flow would be controlled by squeezing the sprayer handle, easily secreted away in our layers of lace petticoats, and the sprayer jugs themselves could be painted to look like bottles of Dom Pérignon. I even printed out a custom label, with snarky 1%-er commentary. Fabulous!
Now that the storage and delivery mechanisms had been squared away, it was time to figure out the mechanics of the dicks themselves. Not wanting to destroy Ol’ Blackie, I ordered a brand new strap-on for this project — a 10″ squishy PVC marvel into the tip of which I drilled a hole, starting with a small wood drill bit and working my way up to the ginormous 1/4″ masonry bit I’d purchased long ago for the Pussy Power drill I plug into my Electric Vagina. It worked like a charm!
Next, I hollowed out the inside of the strap-on to make as much maneuvering space as possible; to enable actual penetration, this strap-on had a chunk of stiff foam rubber in the tip, plus a weird sort of inner lining of skin, which I pulled out and cut off (with a very satisfying *SNAP* at the end:
Now the dick was hollowed out, primed and ready to go, so I threaded a length of tubing from the old IV bag I used to wear for those fake-pee pranks, attaching a small plastic barb into the end to further restrict the flow/make it shoot out even more powerfully. I threaded the tubing through the shaft of the strap-on and shoved the plastic barb through the hole in the tip of the dick, creating a nice, snug seal. The other end of the tubing was attached to the garden sprayer handle, using plenty of latex plumbers’ tape to ensure a leak-proof connection there, too.
I found this chair on the playa after Burning Man 2012; a couple coats of Colortool turned it into a fabulous throne credit: CJ Photo
So now that all the mechanical shit was out of the way, it was time to paint the dicks a fabulous shade of shiny, lustrous gold. Little did I know this would prove to be the hardest part of the whole fucking project!!!
At first, it seemed simple: I had a can of gold Design Master Colortool from Michaels — I always keep some around the house, as it’s a great, versatile paint for making pretty much anything instantly fabulous. I used it on my throne a few years ago, and that’s still looking amazing, so I figured it would be just the thing for these dicks.
Thanks to all the mimosas we downed during the sprayer-jug testing, my poor dog was subjected to some emasculating hijinks.
And indeed, at first it appeared to work perfectly — it coated the dick with a beautiful, even coat of golden fabulousness. But after testing out the dick at our local regional Burn the following week (more on which later), it proved ineffective — the paint wore off in the areas where it was being handled most, resulting in an unsightly, blotchy flesh-and-gold vitiligo-type effect that simply would not do. Adding a second coat of Colortool didn’t help, either — two coats was too thick, and caused the paint to start peeling off like a sunburn, in long strips. What to do?!
At times like these, I turn to my vast, diverse network of Facebook friends; I have tons of craftsy types and artists among my friends and followers, so I posted a plea for help: “WHAT TYPE OF PAINT CAN I USE TO PAINT A PVC DICK?” I got somewhere around 80+ comments on the thread, but unfortunately the answers were all over the place. One guy would swear I needed to use an acrylic-based spray paint; many advised me to use a primer first; then another would insist that nothing sticks to PVC and my only option was to have it powder-coated or to have a gold strap-on custom made.
What to use?
Having already spent a bit of money on this project, I tried the cheapest route first: primer, plus a can of Krylon Maxx, which is specially formulated to work on plastics. (Colortool, though a far superior shade of gold, is mostly meant for fabrics, foam and floral stuff.) But that proved ineffective, as the paint never fully dried — it stayed tacky even after a week, despite sitting in the baking desert sun for part of that.
Aside from those who had recommended the primer, there were two main camps among the commenters: one group of car guys insisted that what I needed to was get a can of Bulldog Adhesion Promoter; a coat of this would get paint to stick to anything. Any Kragen or AutoZone has it, but it’s pricey — about $25 with tax! This camp also advised lightly scuffing the surface of the dick with a Scotch-Brite first, to facilitate the bonding of the paint even further. So, I creaked open my wallet, shelled out the $25, and followed their advice…bringing my total thus far to I Don’t Even Want to Think About It:
Alas, it was all a colossal waste of time and money — despite following the directions on the cans to the letter, the paint never dried fully, remaining tacky even a week after application…no different from when I’d used the primer. #$@%$!!!
All I want is a fabulous golden dick…is that too much to ask?
The other main camp of commenters had been equally vehement — what I REALLY needed was Plasti-Dip, this gross sort of rubber coating that is so toxic in its spray form, you can’t even buy it in some states. Fortunately, Nevada doesn’t give a fuck about the environment — but they didn’t carry the gold color at my local Wal Mart or Lowe’s; I’d have to order it online. But before I could decide if I wanted to shell out another $24 (including shipping), I got a private message from a local artist who swore up and down that HE HAD THE ANSWER. (I can’t believe how many responses and how much advice I got on this project, haha. I even had one prop maker offer to fabricate me a new dick entirely, and he would rig it to shoot flames, as well.)
This artist assured me that HE had the answer because he paints vinyl toys, and had the same exact problem I was having: the solution was Liquitex matte spray varnish. After 2-3 coats over top of any spray paint, the dick would be dry to the touch and ready to handle as needed! Come to find out, that shit is also around $25 a can (!!!)…but I happened to have a 50% off coupon for Michaels that day, so I coughed up the $12.50, went home, stripped the old paint off my dick with acetone (for the 3rd or 4th time, arrrgh), and started over. And guess what? This also failed miserably!!! Even after 3 coats of varnish, the dick was sticky and tacky a week later 🙁
PlastiDip “vintage gold” vs. Colortool Brilliant Gold :-/
My last recourse was PlastiDip. The PlastiDip contingent was so vehement, this one guy even sent me a video he made for me, showing him spraying some flexible PVC pipe with it, proving that it would work. So I shelled out another $24, waited a week for the shipment…and whaddaya know?? It worked! The only problem was, the “vintage gold” shade of PlastiDip turned out to be pretty dull — more like a tarnished bronze, which was
The metalizer finish spruced it up a bit
NOT very fabulous at all.
So, I had to shell out ANOTHER $17 for this PlastiDip Gold Metalizer top coat — and FINALLY, the dicks looked OK! Let’s see:
Phthalate-free PVC strap-on: $19
Spray paints/PlastiDip: $38
Primer/varnish/adhesion promoter/metalizer: $57
garden sprayer: $20
Having a fabulous golden dick that pisses champagne: PRICELESS!
And just to top things off, I also stuck a little squeaky toy inside the dick for good measure:
Anyway, once all that was figured out, I went to work on the rest of the costume. Having already spent around $140, not to mention the future cost of champagne, I really tried to keep to a strict budget, using shit I had around the house to decorate a $7 bra and some $22 shoes. Thankfully, I’m everyone’s favorite charity case when it comes to unwanted clothes, costumes and bullshit, so I had plenty of supplies laid in to work with…and I made a pretty cool outfit. (NOTE: everything was sewed and glued onto the costume and the wig, so that I don’t accidentally litter on the playa.)
When it came time for a fabulous wig, instead of buying something online, I repurposed the old platinum-blonde bouffant wig I’d bought at a drag queen shop on Hollywood Blvd. back in 2001 — it was trashed, especially after I wore it a dust storm at Burning Man last year, but with a little TLC, Elmer’s glue and $12 worth of titanium blonde hair extensions from ardawigs.com….it was good to go, and actually about ten times as fabulous as anything available for purchase online!
Altogether I spent about $200 and countless man-hours making this costume…but that’s Burning Man; people spend thousands of dollars on art cars, theme camps and interactive performances up there. $200 ain’t shit, and I’m happy to share it with my fellow Burners. Speaking of which…..if you’ll be at Burning Man 2016, be sure to come by and check out one of our performances! We are billing ourselves as the Koch Brothers’ wet dream: their Royal Highnesses the Cock Sisters!! Pissing on the poor since 1770…bring a cup and enjoy the golden showers. WE ARE THE 1%, BITCHES!! So far we have engagements planned for 4pm Tuesday at Sunset Lounge (9:15/E), 3pm Thursday at Hair of the Dog (somewhere around Rod’s Road/6:00) and possibly even Thursday evening at Spanky’s Wine Bar (location TBD; probably around Esplanade/9). It’s sure to be fabulous!!!!!
at Event Horizon
Now, as mentioned earlier, I did get the chance to try out the whole shtick at our local regional Burn over Memorial Day weekend. Across the U.S., many local Burning Man communities host their own smaller “regionals;” ours used to be called the Forgotten City, but for whatever reason they changed it to the Event Horizon this year…and it was all right. They hold it in this barren water-retention basin just outside Boulder City, only about 30 minutes from Vegas, and at night the jagged mountains surrounding the basin are starkly framed against the glow of the Strip, creating a pretty cool, otherworldly effect.
Anyway, the regional is a chance for people who either can’t afford to/don’t want to go to the actual Burning Man to experience a taste of BM culture — and it’s also a great way to test out your Burning Man gear, art and performances before taking them up to the real Burn later in the summer; sort of a dry run. Last year I tested out my Electric Vagina Coladas there, and it went over well, plus helped me iron out any kinks I encountered. So this year, I took the opportunity to test out the champagne-pissing dick. How did it go over? Let this video speak for itself!!!!
As you can see in the video, people were lining up to get pissed on. It exceeded my wildest expectations — I thought people would hold out their cups for me to fill, but these motherfuckers were on their knees, begging me to spray a load on their faces and titties!! It was absolutely fucking BONKERS!!!!
So, the world’s wettest “dry run” was a smashing success, and it helped me figure out what tweaks I needed to make to the costume, etc. — namely, that I needed LESS costume! It was so fucking hot at Event Horizon that I’m still suffering heat exhaustion a month later; the costume I wore out there had too much fabric, which is why I crafted the sluttier lace version shown above. But other than that, everything went really well….and I even won an award from the Event Horizon production team! I’m not sure exactly what category I won for (I was out of town, and unfortunately missed the award ceremony at a local bar), but I think it was something like Crowd Favorite or Best Participant, something like that. Yaaaaayyyyy!!!! I love participating, not just being a spectator. For so many years I just went to Burning Man and wore cute outfits — no more!
Check it out!
Anyway, it all went really well and I can’t wait to piss on the hippies at Burning Man later this summer. As a bonus, I also rigged up a nun’s costume with fishnet thigh-highs and a garter belt, with the golden dick attached to a 2-gallon jug of Holy Water…and I’ll probably roll around the playa offering baptisms, as well — maybe on Sunday 🙂
In any event….I’m ready!!
***UPDATE 7/5/16: I was wrong….the Plasti-Dip did NOT work out after all. After a couple of weeks, the coat of paint began peeling off…so I’m back at square one :-/
In the past, I’ve written about various abandoned places I’ve come upon in the desert, and readers of this blog have stepped up to fill me in on the history of those places — the abandoned brothel, an old silver mine I like to shoot at, and most recently the abandoned Royal Cement plant. Well, now I have a new mystery…and I’m hoping someone out there can help me solve it!
Earlier this year, a photographer friend turned me on to a fantastic new abandoned location. As a full-time art nude model, I’m always on the lookout for interesting new locations at which to shoot nudies — and deserted/abandoned ruins are especially prized, since guys seem to like photographing naked chicks against a busted backdrop of man-made decay. Abandoned ruins within an hour or so of Vegas are especially prized, since there really aren’t that many of them left after the rampant development which took place in Vegas in the 2000s.
This new location fit the bill in every respect: it’s picturesque — a collection of quaint, crumbling stone cabins hidden by a grove of tamarisk trees; it’s easily accessible — right off a NV state highway, with no 4WD needed; and it houses an astonishing collection of busted-up junk everywhere you look — from old cars to rusty oil barrels and a creepy, sun-baked old baby bassinet. Moreover, it’s just under one hour from Vegas — and always seemed to be deserted.
Who lived here? And how many Kotex did they use?? photo: DjwB
The first time my photographer friend took me there, I flipped out. I mean, this was as close to the perfect photo shoot location as you could get! Kinda like that lame-ass fake ghost town at Nelson….only better, since there were no rules — there weren’t even any “No Trespassing” signs posted! Just an eerily quiet little village of abandoned stone cabins in a grove of shady trees, in a beautiful valley overlooking the Virgin River, with a gorgeous mountain range towering in the distance. I spent a good amount of time just poking around in the various buildings, trying to figure out who had lived there and what kind of place it had been (I love doing stuff like that).
Looking on women with lust
Altogether there are about 8 cabins, and it seems like it may have been some kind of artists’ or hippie commune. One of the cabins was pretty clearly an artist’s studio; the floor is littered with old art supplies, art books and magazines, shattered bits of pottery and sculptures, and a fabulous oil painting/decoupage of Jimmy Carter presides over the whole scene from its perch on one of the shelves. There’s an entire set of “CERAMIC INSULATOR COLLECTOR’S MONTHLY” pamphlets strewn about as well — who knew there were enough people devoted to collecting old ceramic insulators to sustain a monthly gazette devoted to the hobby?!?
The other cabins look to have been workshops and one-bedroom bungalows with tiny bathrooms, and kitchens in two of them. The refrigerator in one of the kitchen buildings is still full of canned foods dating from probably no more than 10 years ago, though the busted-up old stove and deep-freezer look to be much older. All of the cabins’ floors are covered in junk and rat shit, and the pall of Hantavirus hangs over everything in a grim miasma. Like I said – the perfect shooting location! (This was part of the reason I recently got a tetanus booster….climbing around these places naked is a real hazard, let me tell you!)
Rock a bye
The cabins and outbuildings are all arranged in a sort of semi-circle around a little stone-walled courtyard, shaded by tamarisk trees. There’s a junkyard to the north, with all kinds of interesting rusty old bric-a-brac strewn about, and a couple of busted-up cars in the rear (east). Also in the rear is a giant, padlocked big rig trailer, with a bunch of old crap strewn about underneath it, including boxes full of old high school yearbooks from some town in Wyoming, plus the aforementioned supremely creepy faded white baby bassinet creaking in the breeze. You expect Miss Havisham to come around the corner at any minute!
What was this place?!?!
The grounds are very still, and very peaceful….but there’s a creepiness about the place, made ever more sinister by the sound of flapping American flags that hang all along the fence separating the property from the highway. The flapping of the flags sounds at times like approaching human footsteps, and freaked out more than one photographer that I brought down there to shoot.
Why all the flags? Well, adding to the creepy factor is the fact that these cabins are located just a mile or two down the road from the infamous Bundy ranch, where back in 2014 a bunch of irascible good ol’ boys engaged in a standoff against the U.S. Gov’ment — a standoff which soon devolved into a Tea Party circlejerk comprised of rifle-toting, camo-clad lard-asses, a sort of half-assed militia that had mustered to protest the BLM (Bureau of Land Management, the government agency that oversees all of the West’s vast public-use lands)’s insistence on collecting grazing fees from a local rancher.
Cliven Bundy photo: Oathkeepers.org
The rancher at the center of all this was Cliven Bundy, the Mormon patriarch of an area cattle outfit, whose herd roamed freely about the surrounding public lands, foraging in the sagebrush for whatever edible plants they could find, until he rounded them up to sell. In exchange for his cattle being allowed to graze on public land (and ostensibly destroy Mojave tortoise and sage grouse habitat), Bundy was supposed to pay an annual grazing fee to the gov’ment.
But Bundy felt that the gov’ment wasn’t holding up its half of the deal — they did a poor job maintaining the local roads, and apparently he and his family had made improvements to the local desert (building watering holes and cisterns and the like) that he never got any credit for. Maybe for this reason, or maybe for others, he stopped paying his grazing fees about 20 years ago…and thus racked up a great deal of tax debt which the BLM now decided it was time to collect.
The Amurrican Apocalypse
Well, Bundy wasn’t paying — he’s one of those old-school independent types, a sovereign citizen who feels that the the federal government has too much power over We The People. So he mustered up a bunch of his allies to join him in a good old fashioned standoff — and before you know it, every anti-gov’ment nutter in the area had come to his aid (including many half-assed whack-job shit-stirrers from Vegas and points beyond). Before you know it, the standoff was international news — TV crews from all the major networks descended on the area, where rifle-toting militiamen in cowboy hats rode horses onto the highway to protest the overreach of the feds. It was a scene straight out of the Amurrican Apocalypse!
Investigating an old truck at the site JCP Photo
I may be overly facetious in my description of Bundy; I do feel that many of his views are nutty and antiquated, but I also feel like he got a bum rap for some of the things he said, which seem to have been taken out of context. From what I’ve heard and read, he was just a peaceful, hardworking Mormon stud with 14 children and 60 grandkids, trying to enjoy his Earthly kingdom in peace out in one of the most beautiful high deserts I’ve ever seen. His followers, however, mostly came off as laughable — a bunch of posturing white guys in cowboy costumes and camo onesies — “Send snacks,” etc. (the 2016 standoff at the Malheur Wildlife Refuge was led by Cliven’s son Ammon Bundy).
The cabins are visible in the lower right
Anyway, if you watch some of the footage of the Bundy ranch standoff, in the background you can make out a little gathering of dilapidated stone cabins — my new favorite shooting location. There they sit, huddled in that tamarisk grove, languishing anonymously in the background of untold hours of CNN B-roll…just waiting to be discovered by a meddlesome nude model 😀
We the People
The Bundy standoff fizzled to an end in April 2014, when the Feds backed down in the interest of avoiding an armed insurrection by the Sam’s Club Militia…and to my knowledge, the stone cabins have sat there quietly baking in the desert sun ever since. The highway up above them still bears witness to the standoff — there’s a towering, faded sign reading “We The People,” plus the aforementioned multitude of weatherbeaten American flags flapping tatteredly in the breeze, and a sun-blasted quote from Thomas Jefferson presiding creakily over the whole sorry scene. But no one really goes out there anymore — the militia nutters went back to Sam’s Club, Bundy himself is in jail (arrested en route to the Oregon Malheur standoff) and the rest of his family has apparently scattered to the winds; I’ve driven past the Bundy Ranch several times over the last six months, and have never seen any signs of habitation or activity.
This land could be OUR land
And it was precisely because of this deserted vibe that I felt secure in shooting nudies at the cabins. Like I said before, there were no “No Trespassing” signs posted anywhere; the gate leading into the cabin area was padlocked, but the fence ended a couple feet to the right, and it was easy to just go around and disappear into the tamarisk grove, out of sight from the highway. Because of all the trees and the still-standing buildings, there was always plenty of shade to shoot in, no matter what time of day you were there; it really was close to being the perfect location. Even better, the land looked to be for sale — there’s an old, weatherbeaten realtor’s sign posted on the edge of the highway, marketing the acreage as prime land for a semi-rural housing development. For a while, I entertained the idea of buying the part of it where the cabins stood, for use as a private photography retreat; that is, if the seller was willing to subdivide.
But all my fantasies about the place came to an end one afternoon this past April. I had only taken 3 or 4 photographers out to the cabins to shoot since first being tipped off to their existence, and had never had a problem — we always kept a low profile, cleaned up after ourselves, and pretty much left things as we found them. But on this afternoon, my friend Photos By Frank and I had just arrived at the location, and had just hiked around the fence into the tamarisk trees, when we heard an angry voice.
“HEY! GET OUT OF THERE!!”
Like I said, it’s already a spooky, eerie place — so hearing an angry voice shouting out of the stillness came as a real shock. Fortunately, since we had just arrived I was still fully clothed — wearing a cowboy hat, no less — so with no little sense of trepidation I made my way back around the corner to see who was yelling at us.
It was a man who looked to be straight out of a time warp and/or an episode of the Twilight Zone circa 1959 — horn-rimmed black plastic glasses, khakis and polyester button-down shirt…buttoned to the very top. “YOU’RE NOT ALLOWED IN THERE,” he yelled. “GET OUT!”
I tried to play it off: “Sorry! I see that this land is for sale….I was interested in looking at it. Do you know anything about it?”
“I’M NOT A REAL ESTATE AGENT! I DON’T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT IT!” he shouted, angrier than ever. “GET OUT! YOU CAN’T BE IN THERE!”
Keep that dress on, missy photo: Mike M
I had no choice but to agree to his demands: “OK, we’re sorry! We’ll leave! We’re sorry!” Because of the twisted history of the area, I was half afraid he’d ride his horse down to WalMart and come back with every AR-15 in stock (actually WalMart had stopped carrying AR-15s about 6 months previously, but I didn’t know that)…and I wasn’t taking any chances.
The irate guy walked back across the highway, got in his truck and left….and for a minute, the photographer I was with actually proposed continuing on with our shoot there! Thoroughly spooked, I nixed the idea, suggesting we continue on to a dry lake bed instead…and I’m glad I insisted on leaving, as shortly after we hit the highway, the Sheriff passed us — probably headed toward the cabins to investigate the Twilight Zone guy’s complaints of meddlesome trespassers. If we’d still been there, we’d have been in a world of trouble!! (Despite all my outdoor nude modeling, I still have a 100% safety record of no arrests or injuries….fingers crossed!)
Too creepy to shoot photo: DjwB
Anyway, that was pretty much the last time I shot at those cabins. I did go back one other time, with another photographer and another model — this time, we parked across the highway down a little dirt road, where the truck was hidden and no one would know we were there, and hiked into the cabins on foot, under the overpass down by the river. But the sound of the flapping flags and the history of what had happened to me there proved too spooky for this new photographer to stomach, and after snapping a few shots he insisted we leave, and head for Buffington Pockets instead. OK, boss — whatever you say!
Tamarisk trees photo: Shutterbug Studio
That was last April, and I haven’t been back to those cabins since. It’s a real source of frustration for me, since like I said they were a perfect photo location — but what are ya gonna do?! This is the Wild West, and the Sheriff says No Women of Ill Repute Allowed. D’oh!
What happened here? photo: DjwB
But now, I’m really curious. What is the history of those cabins? I’ve talked to others who have shot there, and they also experienced a creepy vibe at the spot — like there’s some kind of sinister history there, other than just the Bundy standoff. Did a cult live there? Was someone murdered? Or was it just a peaceful artists’ commune? I may never know!
All I know for sure is, the cabins look to be pretty old — but not 1800s-old; maybe 1950s or ’60s-ish. Most of the old magazines and papers in the buildings date from the 1970s or ’80s, and in one of the cabins I found a distinctly 1990s-2000s stash of drug paraphernalia. One of the busted-up cars down there is a 2000s model, with CDs littered in the backseat…so I know people have been there fairly recently.
Another photographer I know drove by the spot recently, and said the some of the cabins were cordoned off with caution tape, and it looked like someone was digging for relics in the area. Hmmmm!
The crazy thing about all this is, all these tumultuous events went down in a place of astonishing beauty and peace! The road past Bundy’s ranch leads out to Gold Butte, Whitney Pockets and Little Finland — an amazingly beautiful landscape comprised of staggeringly picturesque rock formations and Joshua tree forests, with the northernmost reaches of Lake Mead visible in the background. It’s easy to see how someone could see this as “God’s Country” — and be willing to raise arms over it. Like I said, I can’t completely bash Cliven Bundy; I do feel for him.
After all, Bundy and I do share a few things in common: a love of the desert, a love of personal freedoms…and a checkered history of run-ins with the Man. You could call us compatriots of a sort; one of the faded old American flags that hung on the fence outside the cabins now rests on the dashboard of my truck, a reminder of all that was lost when that creepy fucker ran me off.
Howdy, neighbor! JCP Photo
And since we do have so much in common…I’m sure Bundy wouldn’t mind me moving in next door — buying the land down by the river, cleaning up those cabins and turning the whole place into a private nude photography retreat. Nakey Acres — on the shores of the Virgin River! Why not?
A new “park” just opened in Vegas. But in true Vegas fashion, there’s little greenery — just a concrete expanse paved with chain eateries and hi-fructose corn syrup, designed to funnel spendy schmucks into a new cash-cow with a giant, glowing vagina looming overhead.
But wait, this latest vagina is actually Art: a 40′ statue of a nude woman first exhibited at Burning Man 2010 called “Bliss Dance,” said to represent femininity at its free-est. Ever the hater, I couldn’t stand the fuckin’ thing back in ’10 at Burning Man (T&A in the guise of female empowerment…YAWN), and now that it towers over hordes of philandering middle-management Billy Joel fans and drunken frat boys, I find it even more tiresome. I understand that the artist built it with lofty ideals about reclaiming femininity without fear, but its current setting robs it of any intended significance. Here in Vegas, it’s just another giant, glowing Pussy For Sale.
Pussy runs this town Photo: Eric Minh Swenson
As a pussmonger myself, I know a little bit about the matter. Pussy — or the promise thereof — is big fucking business in Vegas (as it is the world over — but one of the things I love about Vegas is its transparency; we don’t even pretend). And I make no bones about it: I make my living selling pussy! Maybe not the actual pussy itself, but the dream of it — as a nude model, I flaunt my pudenda to all and sundry, for a price. And I have very little patience for women who shame me for it.
These are actual BILLBOARDS in Vegas!
The fact is,I am far from alone in my pussmongering. All I have to do is look around me at the gym — I’m surrounded by women in huffing, puffing, sweating pursuit of a tight pussy (and the rest of the pussy life-support system). Why shame each other, gals? We’re all in this together! The truth is, few of us are using our college degrees to make a living; most of us have chosen to use our bodies, instead. So let’s stop judging each other.
Photo: Shutterbug Studio
“Now wait,” I can hear some self-righteous balloon-breasted service-bot saying, “I’m a bottlewaitress, not a prostitute.” Don’t kid yourself, sister! If you’re working for tips anywhere on the Strip, you’re selling puss, just like the rest of us. We are all part of the Vegas Vagina Industrial Complex…some of us are just coyer about it than others. And since I have very little tolerance for coy, I’m here today to put it all out in the open. So to speak.
After years of wading ass-deep in the murky pheromones of the Vegas tourist economy, I have classified the five main subtypes of pussmongers in town. Don’t deny it — you know it’s true!!!!
Photo: the Explainer
Out of all the subtypes, this class earns the highest respect from me because they operate basically without pretense: pussy for sale, cash money accepted. I have zero sympathy for thieves and scammers, and minimal sympathy for those beholden to pimps…but to the rest of the hardworking Vegas prostitutes, I salute you (I’m not technically sure the “honest hooker with the heart of gold” exists outside of Hollywood…but sheer numbers insist there must be at least a few).
Photo: Billy Ward
This class earns the second highest respect from me. Again, thieves and scammers aside, an honest stripper works her ass off — both physically and with her mental skills, such as they may be — by giving guys exactly what they want: the promise of pussy, up close and personal. Why shame a stripper for her work? She’s only doing what the rest of us do — just more openly. Whereas other women on this list cloak their pussmongering in bullshit…strippers are literally dangling their carrots right in front of his stick. I applaud such honesty.
*Note: I basically lump myself into this category, since the only difference in much of my modeling is the label of “art” plastered on the transaction. But realistically…there are tons of female artists, yet I can count the number of women who have hired me on half of one hand.
Any kind of female performer in a Strip show — not to be confused with a strip show, though there are in fact several Strip strip shows — is basically selling her pussy as well, and I don’t care how many years of jazz/tap/ballet you took to get there. They’ll kick your ass to the curb if you get too fat — and why do you think that is? So that Joe Sixpack from Rustbucket, Pennsylvania can fantasize about railing you instead of the tattooed manatee of a wife he’ll be drunkenly laboring over later that nite. Even if you’re not parading around topless with 50 pounds of rhinestones up your ass, your pussy is still being used to sell show tickets — SURPRISE! Even those artsy fucking Cirque shows have that number with the hard-bodied split-legged Russian on silks. And I’ll give you one guess as to what most guys are thinking when they see a 90 lb. Chinese acrobat with her ankles behind her head.
Honk if you’re corny!
4. Promo/tradeshow models
This class is the worst in terms of judginess and denial, and their sour grapes stem from the fact that they don’t make anywhere near as much money as strippers and hookers. But, by golly, they’re nicegirls working for an agency!! (Not that kind of agency!) All dolled up in Bebe’s sluttiest interpretation of corporate attire, using puss to lure Willy Loman and the rest of the lemmings into buying one shitty planned-obsolescent widget after another. Do you think they’d hire you if you didn’t have a vagina? Ask all them male tradeshow models how much work they book!
Finally, the corporate-sanctioned cooze: casino employees. It seems like every bar, pool, blackjack pit and keno lounge on the Strip is staffed by pussy — although here at least it’s of varying vintage, as thanks to the Culinary Union they can’t always fire these broads once their juices run dry…which is why you get all these complaints about the cocktailsauri at Caesars Palace. Old pussy = ewwww = get thee to pasture, nag! But don’t worry, guys…the Vagina Industrial Complex is an efficient union-busting political machine as well. You won’t suffer for long!
me in college
Anyway, as a cog in the Complex, I’ve obviously spent a lot of time thinking about this. I didn’t intend to make a living using my vagina; I went to college and read a lot of books and made it all the way through pre-calculus before giving in and going the lazy route. Moving to Vegas seemed a no-brainer; this town, more than any other, is powered by puss. Literally! Without pussy (or the promise of it), Vegas probably wouldn’t exist — why else drive all the way to the middle of the desert to play poker with a bunch of balding sad sacks when you could do it in your own basement?
photo by Raymond Elstad
I made this point recently at the 12″ Inches of Sin IMMERSIVE art happening, where I was invited to perform as the Electric Vagina. In the past I’ve used my Electric Vagina to power drills, ice guns and blenders…but I can’t keep falling back on the same tired old shtick. No one likes a stale vagina — cocktailsaurus! It was time to devise something new.
And the idea came to me: a literal representation of pussy power in Las Vegas — the famous neon sign itself, plugged into my crotch. Why not?!
Photo: Max Koo
Without pussy, the Strip would go dark in no time — no tits, no glitz; no gash…no flash.
Loosest slots in town?! Pussy has always been the most powerful money vacuum on the Strip.
Paddling down the Colorado River from the base of the Hoover Dam in a kayak, stopping in at all the various natural hot springs, beaches and caves, is one of the most AMAZING adventures that can be had anywhere…..and it’s all within an hour of Vegas! If you’ve never done this trip, check it out…it’s a really, really amazing adventure.
If you don’t like to read, here’s a video I made about the trip:
Otherwise, here’s a rundown:
The trip starts at the Hoover Dam Lodge around 8am (!!), where an outfitting company shuttles you and your gear down to the base of the Hoover Dam. You have to pay the outfitters for the ride, and also apply for a government permit, because the area around the Dam is US Gov’ment property with a high(ish) security clearance. But the total cost of the permit and shuttle ride was only around $37 per person, so it’s not that bad.
We saved some money because we didn’t sign up for the return shuttle — normally, the outfitting company picks you up downriver at the takeout spot, Willow Beach, the following afternoon. But we wanted to spend two nights down there and take our time, so we arranged ahead of time to park our own vehicle at Willow Beach. Also, we saved money by bringing our own kayaks and gear — you can rent those also, but then your costs go up. Out total cost on this trip was $37 per person, plus food/booze/drugs/gas money. What a deal!
Once the outfitter drops you off at the base of the Dam, you have something like 10 minutes to load up and GTFO of there — they’re very strict about it! They encourage you to just throw everything in your vessels and then paddle downriver a bit to this sandbar that is not on government property….where you can spend as much time as you like sorting out and packing your gear into everyone’s boats.
This sandbar is a good place to stop, anyway, as it’s near the first point of interest on the trip — a sauna cave! This long tunnel bores way back into the cliff face on the Nevada side of the river, and a hot creek runs through it, turning the entire tunnel into a hot, steamy, pitch-black wonderland. The floor is gravelly, and the walls are covered in mineral buildup; it’s really fun to walk all the way to the back without using a headlamp or flashlight — just your sense of touch and your ears! My friends and I went all the way to the back of the cave and sat there in the darkness humming “OMMMMMMMMM” all together, until the entire cave felt like it was vibrating. It was awesome!
The sauna cave doesn’t have a very big beach, and depending on the water level at the time of your visit (they periodically release water through the Dam, so the water levels on this part of the river fluctuate greatly), you might have to tie up to a tree and just wade to and from your boat.
From the sauna cave, it’s a short paddle of a few minutes to the next point of interest — Goldstrike Canyon hot springs! These are a fabulously beautiful series of natural hot springs in a semi-lush, almost tropical canyon, and there’s almost always plenty of gravelly beach to drag your kayaks up onto while you hike up the canyon to soak. You could easily spend an entire day soaking here, but my friends and I only stayed an hour or so, as there were more sights we wanted to see before reaching our camp spot for the night.
From Goldstrike, we paddled along with the current, stopping in at several “rain caves” — huge, dripping caves lined with tropical moss and ferns, all along the Nevada side of the river (there are some on the Arizona side as well). Some of these caves are seriously tropical in feel, like a little piece of Hawaii bizarrely transplanted outside Vegas. In a kayak, you can just paddle into the cave and sort of hang out — my friends and I used these opportunities to smoke a bowl 🙂
The next beach we came to was Boy Scout Canyon — a good-sized beach and a great place to camp, if inclined. Similar to Goldstrike, a hot creek runs down through a slot canyon, and is shored up in places to create little soaking pools. Because they are less frequently visited, these springs are generally not as well-maintained as the ones at Goldstrike — at the time of our visit, there were one or two pools that were OK to soak in, but not as picturesque/not as hot water as with Goldstrike. Still, it was a great stop and a nice way to stretch our legs.
After leaving Boy Scout Canyon, our next stop was our planned campsite for the night — Arizona/White Rock hot springs beach (also confusingly called Ringbolt hot springs, because the beach is located across from Ringbolt rapids) (side note: there aren’t any hardcore rapids on this stretch of the Colorado River — it’s fairly smooth and docile the entire length of this trip). This beach is the most popular place for boaters to camp for the night, so it can get crowded — but it’s worth it, since the springs are FABULOUS and there’s plenty of level ground on which to camp. There are even a couple of pit toilets onsite — especially important now that the park service requires all river campers to pack out their solid waste!!
My friends and I rolled into Arizona hot springs beach around 5pm, and we set up camp in a little side canyon straight back from the beach; it was supposed to be kinda windy that night, so we figured we’d be more sheltered that way. Plus, it sort of isolated us from the other, more innocent campers who were there — boy scouts and nice, non-drug-taking-hippie-types. We were doing everyone a favor by camping back there, trust me!
After setting up camp, we went up to the springs themselves for a soak. The springs are off to the left from the beach, up a different slot canyon that also has a hot creek running down it. Follow this creek up the canyon, climbing up some mildly treacherous, slippery boulders along the way, until you finally get to a giant, 20-foot steel ladder bolted onto a steep ledge, over which flows a hot waterfall. This ladder looks SKETCHY AS FUCK, but trust me — it’s securely bolted on at the top, so just go slowly and carefully, and maintain three points of contact the whole way. You’ll be fine! I’ve done it under the influence of all manner of intoxicants, and I’m still here 🙂
There’s also a warning sign here about Naegleria Fowleri — a brain-eating bacteria that can live in warm water. It can only enter through your nasal membranes, though, so just be careful not to get water up your nose — you’ll be fine.
If you survive the bacteria warning and the ladder, you’ll be rewarded with one of the most beautiful, relaxing soaks on the face of the Earth — Arizona hot springs!! The hot creek running down this slot canyon has been dammed up with sandbags to create a series of 4-5 pools, ranging in temperature from HOT to warm, where you can soak in the shade of the steep slot canyon walls. It’s fabulous!!! The pools have nice, clean gravelly bottoms and the water feels very clean due to the rate of flow through. My friends and I soaked here all evening and well into the night — for two nights!!!
One note: my friends and I are mostly nudists, and prefer to soak au naturel; most of the time, this is fine at Arizona hot springs…you just have to suss out the situation when you get there. Obviously, if the pools are full of underage Boy Scouts, you should reconsider…but after dark, it’s basically a guarantee that most soakers are nude. Just use your judgment!
Now, I was lucky; most of my squad had kayaked downriver to the campsite with me, but a few of the others had rented a power boat down at the take-out spot, Willow Beach…so they were able to blast upriver to meet us with all the heavy stuff like water, firewood, etc. But I’ve done this trip before with just kayaks, and it’s just as much fun. Either way, if you can, I recommend spending two nights at Arizona — it gives you more time to just chill out. My friends and I took a lot of drugs (including copious amounts of booze), had some nice campfires, and went on a couple little excursions in the power boat. It was fantastic!
It should be noted that my people and I were sure to pack out ALL our trash; we’re firm believers in the “Leave No Trace” school of ethics, so we even picked up some pre-existing trash from the camp area as well. Also, it should be noted that we saw a couple snakes on the beach, one of which was a rattler! So be careful down there; watch where you step, cuz it’s a looooong way to the nearest hospital!
Anyway, my group and I all packed up to leave around noon on a Saturday. It’s another 8 miles or so to the takeout spot, so we wanted to have plenty of time; we were lucky that day, as the wind was at our back most of the way, and blew us downriver toward Willow Beach…but I’ve also done this with a miserable headwind, which I assure you is NO fun! Along the way, we stopped in a few caves and on a beach or two to smoke more weed and postpone the inevitable…but finally, around 7pm, we hit Willow Beach and took all our gear out. And after packing everything up, we stopped in Boulder City for a delicious burger at Dillingers — we earned it!!
This was the second time I’d done this fabulous trip, and it most certainly won’t be the last! Like I said at the beginning of this blog — it’s one of the best adventures to be had within an hour or so of the Vegas Strip.
I make my living going into the wilderness with strange men.
That’s my niche; some Vegas models specialize in trade shows, some are bottle girls at nightclubs, some do webcam and some do promotional work. There are thousands of beautiful women in Vegas; the only way a short, flat-chested snark like me can carve out a piece of the action is by capitalizing on my assets: no fear, a sense of adventure…and a dossier of amazing outdoor locations.
I call these my secret locations; of course they are neither “mine,” nor “secret,” but they are far enough off the beaten path that I rarely get bothered when shooting at them. And I enjoy exercising a little dramatic flair; “I’ll take you to my secret locations” is more alluring to potential clients than “I’ll take you to Red Rock Canyon and we’ll shoot between tour buses.”
By Bold Daniel from a set for Diverxity.com
Either way, my strategy seems to be working well — business is booming! Thanks to my cheesy YouTube commercial advertising my 8-hour modeling desert adventure tour, I’ve been swamped with work; I wish I would have thought of it years ago. Say what you will about its production values, it effectively communicates what exactly it is that I do — and how much fun it is. I’m sure there are still some people out there who think I’m a prostitute…but the commercial made it clear to just about everyone else.
Cheesy commercial aside, I’m usually pretty busy this time of year anyway due to the fabulous weather — this is one of the best times to shoot in the desert, with blue skies, balmy temps and blossoming cacti everywhere you look. There’s also a big photography convention that comes to town each spring (WPPI), so I usually get a few bookings from that crowd as well.
This year, my fellow Goddess Collective member and friend Miss Jill V happened to be in town as well, so I ended up doing a few shoots with her, which is always fun; she’s one of the kindest-hearted people you’ll ever meet, and exceptionally beautiful, too. One day our friend JCP Photography hired us for a shoot out in the desert north of Lake Mead, at one of the most beautiful locations I’ve ever posed in — a red sandstone slot canyon filled with beams of soft, golden light. Alas, this location requires a 4×4 vehicle to access, so I can’t make it a regular stop on my modeling tour…but if you’re in town and happen to have 4 wheel drive, let me know!
this ain’t no Samsung Galaxy SIII
This canyon is also in the vicinity of a few other breathtakingly beautiful rock formations of various shapes and colors, and one could easily spend an entire day shooting in the area — I shot out there last week with a guy who does large-format (8×10) contact prints, and he was absolutely blown away by the beauty of the landscape. (It was really to cool to shoot with this guy, incidentally — whereas most photographers use a DSLR and can blast away and sort it all out later, this guy had to carefully consider and compose each shot — so he only ended up taking a handful of photos over the course of the entire day!)
at a desert oasis
Anyway, I was lucky enough to shoot with Jill V on a couple other occasions as well. One guy hired both of us plus another model to travel all over the area for two twelve-hour days! It was exhausting, but fun — he basically tapped out almost every single location I know of in the area, from sand dunes to red rocks to an old abandoned farmhouse and my beloved cement plant. We even shot a bit at a construction site on the Vegas Strip, LOL.
We must have drove this poor man NUTS
The only stressful part of the shoot was, the photographer asked me if I minded driving. Now, I don’t mind chauffeuring a photographer around in my truck all day, but this guy was entrusting me with his personal SUV — yikes! Add to that the fact that when not photographing models he is a police officer, and I got really nervous — he made a few comments on my driving skills (“You don’t really stop at stop signs, do you?”) and it was definitely nerve-wracking. I mean, he saw my busted-up Ranger; I can’t believe he trusted me with his car and the lives of him and the other models! But I got us all out alive, and it ended up being two really, really fun days — he was a super nice man.
goofing around between shots
Now usually, for every additional model you tack onto a shoot, the drama increases exponentially; luckily Jill, Chelsea and I are all fairly low-maintenance, and got along well…but I still don’t understand how this poor guy didn’t go nuts dealing with the three of us for two solid days 🙂 And even crazier was another shoot I did with Jill a couple weeks later, where the photographer hired four models!
photo by 4 Horses Photography
This second photographer was also a class act — not only did he hire us for the day, but afterward he also took us to dinner at a very swanky French restaurant, and to the Cirque du Soleil show “O.” Besides Jill and I, he had also hired two very experienced traveling models — Candace and Jessamyne, both of whom were amazing to work with. We all went out to my favorite red rock area first, and then to a beach at Lake Mead.
I never really shoot at Lake Mead; most guys I work with are after more traditional desert-y landscapes, so I usually just stick to dry lake beds and such. But the area we shot at that day was amazing — the lake was an unbelievable shade of aqua-blue, contrasting starkly with the light-colored shore, making for some really dramatic photos. I would definitely consider shooting out there again…despite what happened next!
4 Horses Photography
As us models were all sitting there naked in the sunshine on the shore of Lake Mead, a big black dog wandered over from where his master was fishing nearby. Of course all us models are animal-lovers, and started petting and cooing to the dog, who ate it up. But on his way back around us toward his master, he stopped behind me and pissed all over the small of my back!!! Yuck!!!! Marking his territory, I guess — but I mean, jeez! What do I look like, a fire hydrant?!?
In the penthouse
I guess I should be flattered that out of all those beautiful models he chose me to piss on….but whatever; after that we wrapped the shoot anyway, and went back to the photographer’s hotel to clean up and get ready for dinner. The photographer had rented a beautiful penthouse suite at the Bellagio, overlooking the fountains, so we all enjoyed lounging around up there like 1%ers, and shot a few more photos for posterity. And then we went downstairs and enjoyed a fantastic meal at Le Cirque, followed by the show. What a great way to make a living, huh?! 😀
Now, lest you think I’m getting uppity from all the running around shooting large format/dining at Le Cirque /getting pissed on by dogs…you should know that I’m still the same humble hussy as always. Not all my clients are flamboyant and over-the-top; I also did quite a number of good-old-fashioned 8-hour modeling tours, with just me, the photographer and my busted-up truck. As mentioned, some of the photographers I’ve worked with lately were in town for a big photography expo — but I also typically shoot a lot with guys that are in town for other, non-photography trade shows and conferences as well. A decent chunk of my business comes from guys who just want to get away from the Strip for a day and go out to the desert — as was the case with this one photographer I shot with recently.
by Desierto Vistas
This particular photographer contacted me about doing a desert tour, but alas, I had already booked myself a trade show gig that week, and was unable to accommodate him. Of course I’d rather run around naked in the sunshine all day and make $500, as opposed to freezing my ass off in some boring-ass convention center making far less money for the same amount of hours…but I had already agreed to work the trade show, and I am a woman of my word. Besides, this particular show paid $350/day, which is pretty good for trade show work, and it was easy and somewhat fun, thanks to the other model I was working with.
4 Horses Photography
But funnily enough, when I got home from work on the first night of the show, I had an email from the photographer who had wanted to book me: “Hey, was that you at the trade show today? I think you handed me a t-shirt!” He hadn’t said anything to me at the show, as he is somewhat of a muckety-muck in his fairly conservative field, and can’t afford to sully his professional reputation by consorting openly with nude hussies. But LOL, what a small world!
I ended up arranging to shoot with him at his hotel later in the week, after the trade show ended, and he turned out to be a super nice man…so I forgave him his paranoia (he even asked if I planned to wear my mirrored aviator shades in the photos, as he didn’t want his reflection captured, haha). Despite myself, I sometimes take that stuff personally…but in this instance I totally got it: it was a very stuffy, professional conference, after all. But ironically, that stuffy, professional conference turned out to be a hotbed of covert hijijnks!!
The other model I was working with at the show, as mentioned, was super cool — and super beautiful, with a very marketable, classic trade-show-model look: blonde, big long-lashed eyes, white smile, etc. She was fresh from competing in a beauty pageant, so when I first saw her I thought she would be a total priss…thus I made no mention of my nude modeling. I try to keep things professional at trade shows, ever since getting fired from that one gig a couple years ago!
But on the last day of the show, things were a bit more casual…so I told her what I did, and she wasn’t fazed at all: “Hmm, I thought you looked familiar! I must have seen some of your photos somewhere!” “Yeah, maybe,” I replied. “They’re all over Facebook.”
However, that night she messaged me: “I knew you looked familiar!!” Come to find out, a few years back we had both worked for the same fetish website, LOL — back when I used to do those breath-holding videos!! Who knew?? Here was this fabulously beautiful, professional, well-spoken tradeshow model and pageant queen….and she used to do the same damn thing. Talk about a small world — and fuck, I bet at least 50% of the people at that “conservative” trade show had some kind of similar freakiness lurking behind their professional demeanors! In fact, that’s one of my favorite games to play when I’m bored at trade shows — try and guess who’s wearing women’s panties under their suit!!
Anyway, speaking of freaks and fetishes, I haven’t been shooting a lot of fetish lately; I’ve been so busy doing my artsy nudes that I haven’t had time! But recently, a guy approached Chelsea and I with an offer we couldn’t refuse: pop pool toys and get paid for it! Apparently there’s a huge fetish for women popping/slicing/destroying inflatable pool toys, and this guy had started a fetish website devoted to it. Hey, why not??
So one afternoon, Chelsea and I gathered up our sharpest stilettos (plus an assortment of other sharp tools) and headed over to a suburban house with a beautiful pool in the backyard that was brimming with inflatable pool toys — floaties, air mattresses, beach balls, a giant soccer ball, a 6-person raft; even a life-sized My Little Pony — and over the course of the afternoon, proceeded to shoot a series of videos of us methodically destroying each and every toy. Bwahahahaha!
The storyline was, we sneaked into our neighbor’s backyard while she was out of town, to swim in her pool — but when we saw all the toys, we freaked out and couldn’t stop ourselves from popping them all! After flattening everything, we were relaxing in the 6-man raft in the middle of the pool…when the lady of the house unexpectedly came home and found us there, surrounded by evidence of our destructive orgy!! Enraged, she stabbed at our 6-man raft with a butcher knife attached to a pool skimmer; we desperately tried to plug the holes with our hands, but our stiletto heels only ended up poking more holes in the raft, and we ended up sinking like drowned rats, cursing her all the while! OMG….it was so much fun to shoot these videos!!!! And therapeutic, too — all that stabbing 🙂
Anyway, the only unorthodox thing about that shoot was, we didn’t get paid up front — instead, we were to make 25% of all monthly sales, which according to the guy running the site are already through the roof. But there was some kind of hold up with PayPal, so he wasn’t able to pay us for quite some time; working in this industry, in Vegas, as long as I have has made me pretty skeptical, and I was already a bit leery of the guy’s motives, as after the shoot he messaged Chelsea and I, asking if we had fun — as in, FUN-fun, not work-fun….like, we would do it for FREE? fun. Now, why would you ask a question like that?? Unless you secretly have a pool-toy-popping fetish and figured out an ingenious way to get chicks to do it for you, for free???
by Desierto Vistas
I’m telling you, doing this type of work has made me cynical af!!!
As it happened, sure enough my cynicism was unfounded…and I finally got paid. I feel bad for giving the guy such a hard time — he kept asking me to refer other models, and I kept refusing until I got my money! Ack! Sorry, man….for the record, he is a true professional and I sincerely enjoyed shooting with him. It was a really fun experience, and I look forward to popping many, many more pool toys for his site in the future! It’s called Twisted Playdates; check it out!
In the meantime, however, shooting artsy nudes out in nature is still my bread and butter — and not just in the area around Vegas! In addition to shooting locally, I also traveled to Arizona a couple times recently for work — one day I drove down to Wickieup to meet a photographer who ended up getting some gorgeous shots, and then I did a two-day trip with another guy in a different part of the state, where I discovered this beautiful tropical oasis:
This oasis had been on my radar for a few years now — I read about it online somewhere, and had been meaning to check it out sometime, just never got around to it. And guess what?! It’s amazing!!! A turquoise-blue pool at the foot of a cascading waterfall, all surrounded by lush, green vegetation. In Arizona!!! Unfortunately, it’s not a very good place to shoot, as it’s right under a freeway in the middle of Mormon country, and is a very popular spot. Plus, the hike down to it is treacherous and wet. But it’s a fantastic place to soak!
“OMG WHERE IS IT!!!?”
Anyway, when I got home I posted some photos to Facebook….and was immediately inundated with messages: “WHERE IS THAT OASIS?!!! OMG I HAVE TO GO THERE NOWWWWWWW!!!” But just as I was in the process of revealing all in the above YouTube video, I also got some opposing comments. “DON’T TELL ANYONE WHERE THAT OASIS IS! IT’S A SECRET AND WE DON’T WANT IT TO GET F*CKED UP!”
What a quandary! I’ve been in this situation many times — lots of old-timers at many of the hot springs I visit hate the fact that I share photos and video online; they feel that these are secret spots meant only for the privileged few to hear about through word of mouth, I guess. And to be honest, I totally get their point of view; Deep Creek Hot Springs (one of my favorites) is almost totally covered in litter on the weekends, ostensibly from half-assed partiers who read about the springs online and then come down to piss on them.
A rare non-nude shot By Mike M.
But on the other hand, guess what?! This new oasis was also covered in litter! I picked up and packed out several pieces myself; as someone who “read about the springs online,” I actually left them in better condition than I found them. So, who’s to say that future visitors to the site won’t do the same?
When all is said and done, I am a firm believer in sharing these beautiful locations. Sure, the occasional asshat might follow your directions down there and make a mess, but on the whole, anyone who takes the time and effort to get out there will probably be cool. Thus, I have blogged/vlogged/photographed most every hot springs/cool spot I’ve ever visited….with the sole exception of one amazing spot in Idaho that is still to this day the most beautiful place I’ve ever been (a hot local fireman showed me some secret spots up there on the strict condition that I don’t blog about it…and much to my chagrin, I have honored his request).
OPEN THE POD BAY DOORS, HAL By Perfekt Photography
Anyway, ironicallyas fuck, I found myself on the other end of the argument last week — I was in the middle of one of my 8-hour desert tours with a photographer, and we had just arrived at my beloved abandoned cement plant; since finding the place last October, I have shot out there at least once or twice a week, and have rarely seen another soul out there, let alone another photo shoot. But last week, just after we arrived and started shooting, two cars full of models and photographers rolled up — a workshop!
In the kiln by Mike M.
The other group was cordial, and we all stayed out of each other’s way, so no harm, no foul — but still, I felt a twinge of regret; before you know it, everyone in Vegas will be shooting out there, and it won’t be “my” secret spot anymore. It was bound to happen eventually, and honestly I’m surprised it didn’t happen a long time ago…but that’s the way it goes with shooting on public lands; they’re PUBLIC! Eventually, word gets around.
When I got home that night, I ranted about it on Facebook: “Which one of you loose-lipped mofos let the cat out of the bag????!! Find your own damn locations, ya lazy fucks! RRRRROWRRRRRRR!!!!” I was just venting in my usual crude style, and certainly meant no harm….and if you had bothered to read the comments below, you’d have seen where I came around and admitted I was being petty and selfish. But no one reads the comments — and unbeknownst to me, some sneaky devil screen-shotted my rant, and forwarded it to one of the models who had been shooting with that other group!
Now everyone in that group despised me — all the photographers, all the models, and all the one model’s Facebook friends. I was called “conceded,” a “delusional hoe,” “crude” and a “bish…” plus someone chimed in with “oh finally someone else who dislikes her.” Wow!! It’s a real eye-opener to hear what people say about you behind your back. The truth hurts!
In any event, I feel sincerely awful about coming off like such a petty bitch, so I reached out through mutual friends to apologize to the one model. I should have thought to ask her to reach out to the others in her group as well, because the next day one of the photographers then took to Model Mayhem to tell everyone over there what a greedy bitch I am. Yikes!!!!
I ended up posting a public apology to all involved on my personal Facebook page, my fan page, the Model Mayhem forums and in a private message to the one photographer; of course no location is “mine,” and I definitely came off as petty and selfish by having posted this online temper tantrum. Those who I reached out to accepted my apology, and I learned several valuable lessons about social media and ego — and also got an interesting new perspective into the minds of those who oppose my sharing of hot springs, etc.
It’s basically the same quandary, at the end of the day: there are all these cool places — hot springs, abandoned ruins, etc. — in the world, and one impulse is to share them with your fellow humans: “HEY! Look what I found!!” But the other, equally compelling impulse is to keep them a secret, because let’s face it — humans can be pretty shitty sometimes. (That’s why the Forest Service won’t disclose which ancient bristlecone pine is the 5,000-year-old specimen known as Methuselah — they’re afraid vandals/well-meaning mush-brained hippies will deface it/build shrines on it.)
So, if you really want to keep a place “secret,” you can’t blog about it or do photo shoots there; you just have to go experience it alone. But what’s the fun in that? Like I said, I am a firm believer in sharing — virtually every single cool place I’ve ever visited, I’ve found out about online or in a book or something like that; the information is already out there anyway. So I feel like I’m paying it back by telling others in turn…although I try to be careful to include a disclaimer about being respectful and not littering in my videos and reviews, because even an optimist like me understands that sometimes humans are shitty.
In the end, it comes down to this tired old saw: THIS LAND IS OUR LAND. We’re all lucky enough to be here at the same time in history, so we might as well get along and share it; so long as everyone is respectful and cleans up after themselves, there’s plenty of room for all.
Photographers ask me about shooting in Death Valley all the time. And while it’s certainly an amazingly beautiful place…it’s really not ideal for shooting models. Not only is it a National Park (which means you need a permit, and nude photography isn’t allowed) — but it’s also an exceptionally popular destination, which means you’ll be battling crowds of tourists. Add to that the vast distances between attractions (DV covers over 5,000 square miles) and the limited services (no cell coverage, extremely limited Wi-Fi throughout, scarce water and scant gas/food/water)… and it all adds up to being rather unconducive to shooting models. And I haven’t even mentioned the extreme temperatures!
Badwater basin by Sheryl Hess
That being said, if you really want to shoot in Death Valley, I’m game…so when a group of photographers recently contacted me about modeling for a 2-day fine art nude workshop out there, I agreed, and drove out there to meet them.
This group was a class act — a group of upwardly mobile professionals who dabble in fine art photography on the side, and like to get together in exotic locales to shoot. Interestingly, there were more women in the group than men; this was one of the only times I’ve ever been photographed by a woman, let alone several women. It was a real trip!
by Sheryl Hess
This group was so classy that not only did they hire me and another art model to come out from Vegas, but they even booked us each a room at the motel in Stovepipe Wells, so we could stay overnight. The last time I stayed in DV for a shoot, I had to share a room with the photographer — which was fine, but honestly I really prefer having my own private space at the end of a long day, so I appreciated this new group even more.
Anyway, I drove out from Vegas the night before the shoot, to meet up with the group at Stovepipe and check into my room. The problem was, there is basically zero cell service in Death Valley, and the Wi-Fi isn’t much better — so when I arrived, I had no idea where in Stovepipe to meet up with my group! There’s not all that much to Stovepipe Wells Village — I poked my head in the cafe, the saloon and the motel lobby, but no one knew anything about it. And there was no room under my name at the motel.
by Sheryl Hess
Hmmmm! Had I been stood up again? As a freelance model, that’s part of the risk you take — last summer I went all the way out to Lowman, Idaho for a shoot, and to this day I still haven’t heard back from the photographer. But I hesitate to ask for a deposit for shoots, as most photographers would balk at hiring such a demanding “diva.”
In any event, I wasn’t really worried — a hippie friend from Burning Man, who resembles nothing so much as a 700-foot Viking Jesus, happened to be camping nearby at Furnace Creek, shooting the spring wildflowers — so I figured worst case, I would head over there and camp the night with him. In the meantime, I emailed the photographers to let them know I was there, ordered a drink and settled back at the saloon to wait and see what happened.
Tomiko and I in Death Valley by Sheryl Hess
After sitting there a few minutes, I saw a familiar face — Tomiko, the other model who had been hired for the shoot! I already knew Tomiko from past work I had done for her fetish websites — she runs a veritable fetish empire where she wrestles men and women, and shoots videos of girls being eaten by giant fuzzy monsters. Come to find out she’s also a highly accomplished fine art nude model, and we would both be working together the next two days. Fun!
Anyway, the photographers eventually found us in the saloon, and all was well — except the motel had screwed up the room reservations, and Tomiko and I ended up having to share a room (and a bed). It was OK though — we both got along, and didn’t mind spending the extra time together. Roommates!
So, starting the next morning at sunrise, our little group proceeded to travel all over the park, shooting undercover art nudes at many of Death Valley’s best-known attractions: the low, rolling Mesquite Dunes, the harsh white Badwater basin (lowest point in North America, at 282 feet below sea level), Salt Creek….and of course, the wildflowers.
By random coincidence, our shoot happened to coincide with a once-in-a-decade spring wildflower “Superbloom” — thanks to exceptionally heavy rains last fall, this spring the Valley floor was carpeted in colorful blossoms. It was absolutely beautiful, and really cool that our timing had worked out so perfectly — but it also turned out to be a huge pain in the ass, because thanks to all the national media coverage of the Superbloom(™), every asshole and their Aunt Mildred was out there with a tripod, trying to capture the beauty.
I’m not kidding — the park was jam-packed! Finding a quiet spot to shoot nudes was problematic — even at sunrise out at Salt Creek, we were stumbled upon by a surprisingly angry hiker, who bitched us out for shooting “those kind of photos” in a public place. (He was a 60-ish male, if you’re wondering.) Worse, there was a sense of entitlement with many of the visitors, as though they expected a show, goddammit — I went into the convenience store at Stovepipe Wells to get a cup of coffee one morning, and some Coachella-type chick was relating her disappointment to the clerk: “I’m from L.A., and I’m like, ‘Where’s these fuckin’ flowers?!'” I guess the Superbloom™ wasn’t as Super™ as she expected.
No wonder I can’t sleep! by rafferty_photographs
Anyway, despite the crowds we managed to get some quality shooting time in, thanks in part to my knowledge of the park; come to find out, none of the photographers had been there before, so it fell to me to act as location scout. Most of them were from back East, so of course they wanted to hit up a classic Western ghost town; there aren’t really any great ghost towns within the park boundaries, so I took them out to Death Valley Junction one afternoon, to shoot around the Amargosa Opera House…and then another day, I took them to Ballarat.
Ballarat…where time passes in a different way
Ballarat is a ghost town just outside Death Valley’s western boundary; I had camped there once before, when I visited Barker Ranch last fall, and knew it to be pretty half-assed in terms of ghost towns — a few busted up old buildings, some rusty old cars, and an assortment of weathered desert bric-a-brac. Its pièce de résistance is an old truck said to have belonged to Charles Manson — whether or not this is true, the Manson angle is pretty much the bread-and-butter of Ballarat; “CHARLES MANSON” is also carved into the wood above a doorway in the old jail building, allegedly by Charlie himself, and they get a lot of mileage out of that whole shtick.
me and Rock, caretaker of Ballarat and standup guy
In any event, our photo group ended up having a fantastic time in Ballarat — the caretaker, a local desert rat named Rock, came out and gave us a tour of the grounds, pointing out various points of interest and even letting us taste some home-brewed booze whipped up from corn feed sprouting in a wet burlap sack under an old sleeping bag. Yum!! You could tell hanging out in a ghost town drinking moonshine with desert rats was way outside the usual scope of these nice, bourgeois photographers…and they loved it.
Anyway, according to a hand-lettered sign hanging on the front porch of the “General Store” (a converted old gas station covered in anti-government propaganda and pinup posters, with a cooler full of sodas as its only inventory), Ballarat is a “Freedom Zone;” in that spirit, Rock let us shoot nudies all over town — on Charles Manson’s truck, in the jail, and on the charmingly dilapidated front porch of the Store. I even posed for a photo with Rock himself, and to thank me, he gave me a quart of moonshine and a bottle of Malibu Rum. Score!! It was a fantastic afternoon, and every one of us enjoyed ourselves thoroughly. I really, really liked that group of photographers — they were wonderful.
Before we left, Rock also gave me a stack of hand-printed fliers he had made copies of, advertising the upcoming “FREEDOM DAYS” celebration he was about to host at Ballarat — a sort of four-day libertarian blowout in the desert, where all comers were free to do as they pleased: camp out, shoot guns, blow up fireworks, run around naked and play music: “For those want to creat there own music festable. BringItOn.” FUCK!! How could I say no to that?! It sounded like something out of the early days of Burning Man, before all the ravers and douchebags took over; could this be the new Burning Man?! I vowed I would come back and find out!
But before I hit up Freedom Days, I had another Death Valley adventure on the agenda. Ever since I visited Barker Ranch last fall, I had been wanting to go back — but this time, instead of coming up super-treacherous Goler Wash from the Ballarat side, I wanted to approach from the Vegas side, up Warm Springs Canyon. At Saline Valley Hot Springs last October, an old hippie had tipped me off to the existence of some abandoned stone cabins out there — one of which, the Geologist’s Cabin, was said to be really nice, with a stone fireplace and a fully-equipped kitchen, including 100-year-old pots and pans….and a sound system! I found this extremely hard to believe….but my curiosity had been whetted, and I really wanted to find out for myself.
West Side Road
Alas, every time I tried to plan a trip up Warm Springs Canyon, I was thwarted by road conditions. But I finally got it together when a friend of a friend randomly emailed me proposing another trip out there — he’d read my previous blog, and was down to try the eastern approach. This guy is not only a pyrotechnician and stagehand for a famous bad-boy magician, he’s also a seasoned backcountry explorer with a 4×4 Jeep…so I knew I’d be in good hands. To round out the expedition, I also invited a few other people…who ended up inviting other people…and so it ended up that a group of 8 strangers met up one afternoon for this trip into the one of the most remote corners of the backcountry anywhere. But, hey — why not? A stranger is just a friend you haven’t met yet!
Disparate band of intrepid adventurers!
Seriously though, I was kinda nervous about how this disparate band of adventurers would get along. Aside from me and the pyro stagehand, I also invited my sister and this handsome, strapping kid from Montana I met at Deep Creek Hot Springs a few weeks ago, along with a brainy sometime-NPR journalist friend of mine and my hula-hooping acidhead travel companion of late, Ms. Firecracker — who in turn invited a stoner kid she knew from the drum circle, plus her pro-adventure-tour-guide friend, who travels around in a fully-outfitted Sprinter van, which he intended to drive all the way up the canyon to the cabins. I was the common thread, but even I didn’t know everyone — so it really was a group of strangers who met up in the desert that day.
the best adventures are down THESE roads!
We all met up at the Furnace Creek Visitor’s Center — my sis from L.A. in her 4Runner, the pyro guy in his Jeep, and the rest of us in the Sprinter van, packed in like a nomadic band of murderous hippies. After introductions all around (“Pyro, meet Sis, Firecracker, Stoner, Sprinter, NPR and Montana”) and a brief map consult, we headed down Badwater Road — past the Lowest Point in North America™, where Aunt Mildred and all her pals were still photographing wildflowers, and off onto the desolate dirt roads leading into isolated Butte Valley. Turning off the pavement onto the dirt of Westside Rd. was an amazing feeling — we left the madding crowds of the perfumed bourgeoisie in the dust, and careened forward into the wilderness, to meet our destiny.
Warm Springs pool
The road wasn’t too bad at first; after a bit of deep sand, conditions evened out and we were able to make good time about halfway up the canyon, to the abandoned, fabulously dilapidated Warm Springs Mine compound, where there are several old buildings still standing, some of which are in surprisingly good shape. There’s even an in-ground swimming pool filled with warm spring water flowing down the hillside from a mountaintop source — totally unexpected, and totally surreal!
Warm Springs source
After poking around the grounds awhile and hiking up to the source pool, we took note of the astonishing number of people around (for such an isolated area, it was pretty busy, thanks to the Superbloom) and figured we’d better get back on the road, so we could reach the cabins before they were all taken! We only had another 10 miles or so to go, but because the road was so shitty, the van couldn’t go very fast; the road got really rough after leaving the mining camp, but Sprinter didn’t want to leave it parked, so he kept inching on up the canyon.
And so our little caravan poked its way further up into Butte Valley, mile by mile, in the gathering gloom of a chilly, blustery Death Valley twilight. The road finally got bad enough to where Sprinter had to park the van, and we all piled into the Jeep and my sister’s 4Runner for the rest of the journey. Pyro had done a lot of research and was confident of the route, but the rest of us were getting kind of nervous — well, all of us except Firecracker and Stoner, who had dropped acid sometime after leaving Warm Springs.
It was getting dark in Butte Valley
FINALLY, just as the sun was setting we arrived at the famed Geologist’s Cabin — but it was already taken 🙁 There were cars parked out front, lights in the windows, and a plume of smoke wafting cheerfully from the chimney. Dammit, I knew it!! Would we ever find a place to shelter for the night?
Knowing that there were two lesser cabins somewhere ahead, we soldiered on through the dark…and just a half-mile or so past the Geologist’s Cabin, we came upon a gate — it was Mengel’s Cabin, a/k/a Stella’s Cabin, the least-nice of the three, but at this point we were just stoked to find shelter for the night! By now it was really dark, really windy, and really cold — we just wanted a place to stay!! We pulled into the front yard, closed the gate behind us, and started unloading our gear.
In our desperation, this busted up little cabin looked like the Ritz-Carlton! It was rustic as fuck, but met our needs: a wood-burning stove, a rudimentary kitchen with sink and (unplugged) refrigerator, some bookshelves, a table and a few chairs. Pyro set about building a fire and NPR whipped up some Blue State hors d’oeuvres in the form of tapenade- and avocado-topped water crackers, while Montana strung some Christmas lights, Firecracker busted out her LED hula hoop, and I broke out the mushrooms. The party was on!
We really did have a great time in that little cabin that night — we sat up talking and dancing and listening to music, reading the weird old magazines and notebooks that had been left behind by past overnight guests, trying not to be freaked out by the various accounts of sleepless nights due to the scurrying sound of rats in the attic. We knew there were rats around because of the poop pellets in the corners, and signs posted warning of Hantavirus — but we just tried to be careful, and not stir up any dust. (So far none of us has exhibited signs of Hantavirus…fingers crossed.)
Hantavirus cuddle puddle!
After the conversation finally ran out, we lay down a huge tarp on the cement floor and then piled all our blankets, sleeping bags and air mattresses into a huge sort of cuddle puddle in the middle — as far away from the walls and corners as possible. I hate to think what all kind of bugs, spiders and rats were running around that place all night as we slept…but we all woke up in the morning no worse for wear, so it was all good! Character-building, I guess you could call it 🙂
the beauty of Butte Valley
The morning sunshine revealed our little cabin to be just as busted-up as it had appeared in the firelight the night before — if not moreso — but the valley we were in was absolutely amazing. The Superbloom may have been at its tail end down in Badwater, but up here in vast, desolate Butte Valley, there were wildflowers everywhere! It looked like something out of the Sound of Music — you half expected Julie Andrews to come cartwheeling out at any minute. It was spectacularly, breathtakingly beautiful — way out in the boondocks, far from Aunt Mildred and the impatient L.A. hordes. Where’s the fuckin’ flowers now, bitch?!
Warm Springs Canyon Rd is pretty burly
After frolicking about in the morning sunshine awhile, we packed up all our gear (and trash — plus some pre-existing litter, in the spirit of Leave No Trace) and headed on. The original plan had been to either drive or hike up the rest of the way over Mengel Pass to Barker Ranch, which no one else in my group had been to…but because Sprinter’s van traveled so slowly on those mountain roads, we had to leave that excursion for another day, and reluctantly decided to just head back down to the Warm Springs Mine encampment for a leisurely picnic lunch, instead. There was goat cheese and a baguette and stuff waiting in the van, so that sounded pretty good to all of us!
the Geologist’s Cabin
But before heading all the way down, we decided to stop off and see if the Geologist’s Cabin was available; even if there were still people there, we wanted to check it out anyway. As it happened, the previous occupants had already left…and we had the place to ourselves. And O……..M………G!!! That guy at Saline Valley Hot Springs wasn’t kidding!!!!!!
inside the Geologist’s Cabin
This little cabin in the middle of nowhere is amazing — tightly chinked stone, with nary a rat dropping in sight, and a fully-equipped kitchen including well-stocked pantry, stone fireplace, sink and formal dining table and chairs in front of a picture window looking out over all of Butte Valley. A bookshelf holds books, games, knick-knacks….and sure enough, a solar-powered sound system!!! My Deep Creek friend hooked up his iPhone, and before you know it, the sweet sounds of house music were echoing through the cabin and grounds — there were also speakers on the front porch, by the firepit, overlooking the valley. Fantastic!!!!
Geologist’s front porch
The solar panel also powered electric lights — in the cabin and in the outhouse, which was the cleanest outhouse I’ve ever had the pleasure of pissing in. I’m telling you, this cabin was out of this world!!! We all got so excited, we started immediately planning a return trip — next time with the ingredients for a fancy, formal dinner at that fabulous dining table! Maybe a sort of Mad Tea Party, with mushroom tea!
It was really hard to tear ourselves away from the surreal luxury of the Geologist’s Cabin…but we finally did, and headed back down the valley to the Warm Springs Mine, where we all enjoyed a fantastic lunch in the sun. We were all abuzz with plans to return to Butte Valley ASAP — but you know how it is. Realistically, we probably won’t be able to get back there until the fall — but hey! It’ll be an amazing reunion, for sure 🙂
This is DEFINITELY Bat Country
After lunch, we cruised down the rest of the way to the paved road, and finally went our separate ways — my sis back to L.A., Pyro back to his place, and the rest of us back in the van to Vegas. We were sunburned, slap-happy and totally exhausted — but guess what?? Freedom Days in Ballarat was just around the corner. No rest for the wicked!!
Welcome to Ballarat
Now, I’ll be honest with you — I was so worn out, the thought of skipping Freedom Days did cross my mind. But then I remembered how much fun I’d had in Ballarat during my photo shoot, and I knew I couldn’t miss it! I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect — would it really be the new Burning Man? Or would it just be a bunch of cranky rednecks spouting anti-gov’ment rhetoric between rounds of target practice?? Only one way to find out — so I gathered up as many people as I could from Vegas, and headed back out to Death Valley.
This time, I was joined by the feisty Ms. Firecracker (who hates to miss a party even more than I do) and strapping young Montana; everyone else from the Cabin trip had to work. But a few other Vegas hippies from the drum circle crowd planned to meet us out there, including this fascinating dreadlocked, pierced, combat vet hairdresser/drag aficionado who I had somehow never met before. All in all, it was shaping up to be another good crew.
A zany crew
Firecracker, Montana and I got there first, and it was awkward as fuck — we rolled into Ballarat on Friday afternoon, and there wasn’t really anyone there, other than a few old guys drinking beer on the porch and some RVs parked off in the distance in the camping area. But the guys on the porch were super cool (probably because Firecracker and I were basically naked, celebrating our Freedom to do so) and we made friends in no time, setting up our tent in the little area beside the store next to all their RVs and toyhaulers. Still, you could tell my squad was like, “WTF? You dragged us all the way out here for this?!”
You are now entering the Freedom Zone
Fortunately, before long a bunch of other nutters rolled in — two gay guys on their way back from photographing the wildflowers, a couple of Marines up from Twentynine Palms, a group of artists from L.A. who set up camp across the way in front of Charles Manson’s truck, and a few assorted dirtbikers and off-roaders. Meanwhile, one of the old-timers who had been there when we arrived also had his young sons running around…so by the time the rest of the Vegas crew showed up, it ended up being a bona-fide party. An unconventional crew — but a party nonetheless!
Checking out the desert behind Indian Ranch with the kids
The first order of business, after making some drinks, was to take a ride out to Indian Ranch — come to find out, the guy who owns Ballarat used to come out there as a kid because his parents owned nearby Indian Ranch, which in those days was a true oasis-style sort of RV park/summer camp complete with swimming pool, cabins, clubhouse, bar and grill. Unfortunately, some years ago the local Native Americans demanded their land back, and the compound was dismantled…and now sits rotting away in the baking desert sun, abandoned and forgotten.
Anyway, we all piled into the one old-timer’s truck and headed down the road to check it out, me bumping along in the back along with a pile of firewood, gas cans, the little kids and one of the gay guys. What a fun ride!!! Those little kids were really cool, I have to say — even riding in the back of a truck with a semi-naked hippie freak and a gay guy didn’t faze them. That’s Freedom Days for ya!
Little bit of this, little bit of that
After we returned from Indian Ranch, we made some more cocktails, built a campfire, and a couple of the old-timers fired up their grill to make everyone cheeseburgers. Meanwhile, me and a couple of my squad ate some mushrooms — and before you know it, the party was on again! I’m here to tell you, no one parties like they do in Ballarat — we had moonshine martinis and maracas, fireworks and LED hula hooping, pot-smoking and mushroom-eating, beer-drinking and ass-shaking…with the nasally twang of Tom Petty presiding over it all: “YessssI’m FREEEEEEEEEE……..FREE FAAAAALLLEEELLIN’!” Ain’t no party like a ghost town party!
it looked better at night, but my camera couldn’t capture the low light
In true festival style, there were options — if you got tired of the Tom Petty jamboree at the General Store, you could walk across to the L.A. artists’ camp, where they had a separate campfire going in the shadow of Charles Manson’s old truck. Those artists had their own, totally distinct vibe going on over there — otherworldly music, moonshine-infused pineapple chunks, and a trunk full of costumes that the one guy was supposedly going to bust out at some point to take artsy Polaroids in. WOW!! I’m here to tell you, until you’ve danced by a campfire in the shadow of Charles Manson’s truck wearing nothing but a cowboy hat and a sheer kimono under a sky full of stars…you haven’t lived!!!
Naked in the firelight
Then the moon came up, bathing Ballarat in a silvery light, and it was even freakier! The General Store crowd put on some slow, old-time Louis Armstrong, and Ms. Firecracker danced to it with her LED hoop in the fireglow, while somebody set off fireworks into the desert night above us. At some point, a couple of the L.A. artists got into a squabbling match, broke my hand drum, and then one of the guys busted the other guy’s arm. Far out! It’s not a party until someone gets hurt…ya know?
Around this time all us hippies retreated into our 6-person cuddle puddle tent. We hadn’t put the rainfly up, so we could see the moon and all the stars right through the mesh roof… and we drifted off one by one, bathed in the magical glow. What a great night!
Ballarat General Hospital
In the morning, things were even better. One of the L.A. artists started a bluegrass jam on the front porch of the store with one of the locals, and the other two squabbling artists made amends, with the one guy bandaging the other guy’s arm with a cardboard splint. Awwww! Then Rock (the caretaker of Ballarat) lit a fuse around the neck of a beer bottle, breaking it off to make a bottleneck slide, so that
Making a bottleneck slide
the guy with the newly-splinted arm could join in the jam on his guitar as well. I joined in on maracas, and it was one of the best jams I’ve ever been party to!
Then, the Marines from 29 Palms brought out their AKs and ARs and whatnot, and we all went out back to the desert for a little morning target practice. There’s nothing like the smell of gunpowder in the morning, I tell you — there were half-naked chicks with guns everywhere you looked, just like the Manson days. That’s Freedom Days! We blasted off a few rounds into an old barrel, then marched around waving a Gadsden Flag singing the Star Spangled Banner. All of this, incidentally, still wearing nothing but a cowboy hat and a sheer kimono. What a morning!
Just like the good old days
Now, I know I say this about a lot of places I go to — the Cat Ranch and Deep Creek come to mind — but Ballarat is one of those places that’s really hard to leave. You can sit in the shade on the front porch out there for hours, just waiting for new people to roll up — even when it isn’t Freedom Days, all kinds of people from all over the world come through on their way into Death Valley, so you get to meet all kinds of interesting characters!
Gadsden Flag FTW!
On this particular morning, a guy rolled in to park his car for a run up Surprise Canyon to the Panamint City ghost town — a total distance of 16 miles there and back! He was one of those nutty fitness freaks who live for running; he sold everything to buy a camperized Sprinter van and is writing a book about summit running, which is the practice of running up and down mountains all over the west. Sometimes, he straps a paraglider on his back and simply flies back down the mountain — how about that?! He invited me to join him on this morning’s run (he supposedly had extra shoes for me), but although I’m fit, I ain’t that fit; instead, we made plans to go paragliding when he’s in Vegas later this summer.
Good times in Ballarat
With people like that rolling in all day, you can see why it was hard to leave! To make matters worse, more and more locals were starting to arrive for Freedom Days, bringing with them an assortment of drums and musical instruments for the big Saturday night jam sesh — one guy rolled in with a huge sort of glockenspiel he’d made from PVC pipe in the back of his truck, and another chick brought her congas. This being my first Freedom Days, I didn’t realize that Saturday night was the big night — the old-timers were planning to make steak and potatoes and homemade macaroni and cheese, and it was shaping up to be another fantastic evening! Alas, the rest of my crew wanted to go back to Vegas for a drum circle that night, so I had to tear myself away…but I vowed to myself that I’d be back.
An armed artist is a polite artist
Before rolling out, we all got together one last time for a big group photo on the front porch of the General Store — one of the L.A. artists took it with his camera, and I sincerely hope he sends me a copy, as it was a great testament to everything I think is right with this country TODAY. We were a really diverse, rag-tag band of kooks — lefties, righties, hippies, rednecks, kids, old-timers, gays and straights — but by golly, we all got along swell, and had a fantastic time partying together, celebrating our freedoms. And guess what?? I can’t wait to do it again next year! Now that I know what to expect, I’m already making plans for a comeback — in mad style. WHO’S WITH ME???
No one steals my sunshine!!
Anyway, I finally rolled out of Ballarat, and left Death Valley for the third time in recent weeks. In the rearview mirror, Aunt Mildred and her pals were still photographing the dregs of the Superbloom; the summer heat had already started creeping in, and the wildflowers were wilting one by one. Before you know it, they’ll be gone — and with them the crowds, and Death Valley will go back to doing what it does best: baking quietly in solitude and scorching heat. The kangaroo rats will take over Stella’s Cabin, the rattlesnakes will have the run of the Warm Springs pool, and out in Ballarat, Rock will sit sipping a beer in the shade of his front porch, waiting for the next tourist to come through: “Ya see that? That’s Charles Manson’s truck over there.”
Where’s the fuckin’ flowers, you ask? They are all over the place.
You just have to get out there and open your eyes!