A Tight Ass in a Busted Landscape

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by Shutterbug Studio

As a nude model specializing in outdoor shoots, I do a lot of posing in traditional desert landscapes — dry lake beds, slot canyons, sand dunes. But my most popular locations are ruins — abandoned buildings, old mines, the abandoned waterpark, the old cement plant. There is something about decay that really seems to appeal to many photographers; the juxtaposition of succulent nubile flesh vs. rusty old ruins is a time-honored trope that will probably never go out of style. Dudes will always have an inexplicable hardon for a tight ass in a busted landscape.

The deserts of the southwestern US are a real bonanza of postapocalyptic ruin– thanks to our vast empty spaces and sunny climate, old shit tends to linger longer out here than in other areas of the country. With a little exploring, you can find some truly exceptional wreckage to photograph….and when it comes to ruin porn, the area around the Salton Sea is pretty much the gold standard. It’s like a Disneyland of tetanus and despair!

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by Shutterbug Studio

If you’ve never heard of it, the Salton Sea is this giant lake in the southeastern corner of California — a sun-nuked, dusty, forgotten part of the state that is as far removed from Hollywood as Uranus. It’s the biggest lake in California, but few have even heard of it because the entire area has basically been forgotten and abandoned due to its being a malodorous environmental catastrophe and architectural eyesore. Have I sufficiently whetted your appetite?!?!

The Sea was created by accident back in 1905, when irrigation canals fed by the Colorado River overflowed and flooded the Salton Sink — a vast dry lake bed separated from the Gulf of California by a godforsaken stretch of desolate borderland. Over a period of about two years, the Colorado river basically poured straight into this desiccated basin, and the Sink became a Sea.

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The deceptive beauty of the Sea

In its early years, the Sea was an astonishingly beautiful anomaly — a vast, brilliant blue lake in the middle of the sun-drenched California desert, not far from Palm Springs and within jaunting distance of L.A. As such, it soon became a popular recreational getaway, and before you know it scores of motels, resorts, marinas and housing developments had sprung up all along the shore to meet the needs of fishermen, boaters and water-skiiers.

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by Shutterbug Studio

Over time, however, the Sea deteriorated into a stinking morass of dead tilapia and existential despair; because there is no natural drainage, and the only incoming source of water is agricultural runoff, municipal discharge and industrial dumping courtesy of a couple of heavily-polluted Mexican rivers, the salinity of the water has increased over the years. The fertilizer in the agricultural runoff adds massive amounts of algae and bacteria to this foul soup, to the point where few life-forms can survive in it; mass quantities of tilapia die off in periodic waves, perfuming the air with the unmistakable stench of failure. Abandon hope, all ye who enter here!

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the reality of the Sea’s beach

But from a distance, the Sea is beautiful. Its immense glassy surface reflects the region’s amazing desert sunsets, and sparkling white beaches beckon like a travel brochure; it’s only upon closer inspection that you realize the beaches aren’t sugary sand at all, rather acres and acres of crushed tilapia teeth and bones. Far out!!!

Anyway, as mentioned there are tons of abandoned settlements dotting the perimeter of the Sea; once the stench grew unbearable, the various motels, resorts and housing developments gradually shut down, and nowadays everywhere you look it’s nothing but crumbling, graffiti-covered cinderblock walls and busted-up trailers strewn with broken glass and the indomitable plastic detritus of crushed lives: scratched CDs, unspooled VHS tape, World’s Greatest Grandpa license plate frames.

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by Shutterbug Studio

Jarringly, amid the chaos you’ll spot the occasional well-maintained home — there are still people living on the shores of the Sea, hanging onto whatever semblance of normalcy they can salvage; either they sunk their life savings into the property they’re tenaciously clinging to, or they simply can’t afford to live anywhere else, so they’ve dug in their heels. These poor souls water their plants and mow their lawns and wearily tolerate the crowds of ruin-porn tourists and looky-Lous intrepid enough to wander the streets of their mostly-abandoned developments; to them, this is home…so if you do venture out here, please respect them.

My own history with the Salton Sea area goes back to 2010, when an ex-boyfriend and I stopped in a for a couple days. We checked out all the usual sights — the abandoned housing developments, the tilapia-tooth beaches, a nearby Arts & Crafts religious monument called Salvation Mountain and the neighboring permanent-itinerant encampment known as Slab City. On the last night of our stay, the miasma of doom took its toll and we ended up having a horrible argument and breaking up; beware! The Salton Sea is that kind of place.

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by Shutterbug Studio

I went back a few years later with my sister, but had not returned since then — and had never done any photo shoots out there, though I’d long wanted to. So when my friend Randy a/k/a Shutterbug Studio informed me that he had some time off work and wanted to go on an adventure, I knew exactly where to go: to the Sea!!!

From Vegas, the best approach to the Salton Sea is through the Mojave National Preserve, so we started our trip cruising through that barren wonderland, stopping off at one of my favorite abandoned farmhouses along the way. This farmhouse was especially poignant for both of us, as we’d done one of our first-ever shoots together there back in 2008 or 2009; we made a point of reprising some of the exact same poses we’d done there back then, as most of the decay was sitting there baking quietly in the sun exactly as it had lain seven years ago. Like I said…..shit lingers longer out here!

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by Shutterbug Studio

From there, we continued south to historic old Route 66, stopping for a few photos at the iconic, über-Instagrammable Roy’s Motel before heading on down to the Sea via my all-time favorite kooky corner of the desert, Wonder Valley. We didn’t really have enough time to stop in Wonder Valley, but I’m sure I’ll be back out there in the spring when and if my friends Käpt’n Rummelsnuff and First Mate Christian come out from Berlin for their annual desert retreat at the Cat Ranch.

 

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by Shutterbug Studio

Anyway, thanks to our lollygagging we didn’t roll in to the Salton Sea area until sunset — with barely enough time to find a suitable chunk of wreckage at which to exploit the fabulous light of golden hour. Thankfully, you can’t walk 100 feet without tripping over a fantastic location out there, and we got some amazing shots in Salton Sea Beach before heading up north to nearby Palm Desert, where our hotel was. We grabbed some dinner and hit the sack early, in order to be up in time to fully maximize the following day’s planned itinerary of shooting at Salvation Mountain, Slab City and Bombay Beach. So much to see…so little time!

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by Shutterbug Studio

So the next day we headed off to the eastern shore of the Sea, toward the little semi-abandoned town of Niland, where there was said to be an International Banana Museum, with amazing banana milkshakes. Alas, however, apparently the proprietor was in Costa Rica or something…and according to the lady at the adjacent liquor store he’s hardly ever around anyway. Boo!

But our disappointment was short-lived and tempered by our subsequent discovery of an amazing abandoned warehouse just down the road, which was full of creepy old dolls and fabulous graffiti, and which in and of itself would have made the entire trip worthwhile. That place was amazing, and we got some really great shots in there! Now completely fired up, we continued east through Niland toward Salvation Mountain and Slab City, where I knew from personal experience there were plenty of cool photo ops.

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Salvation Mountain

We ended up bypassing Salvation Mountain, which as mentioned is a sort of ginormous Arts & Crafts monument built of plaster-coated hay bales covered in colorful latex house paint to reflect a variety of hippie-Christian ideals — God, Love, Jesus Saves, etc. It just didn’t seem very respectful to pose nude around there; say what you will about me and my lack of class, I do have restraint when appropriate! But I have toured this astonishing monument in the past, and I highly recommend stopping here, if you’re in the area. The wonderful kind old man who built it has since passed away, but you can still drop in for a tour from one of the volunteers who work to maintain the space. It’s a really, really neat place.

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Yuck

From Salvation Mountain, we continued eastward to Slab City, also bypassing the local hot spring pond — which, even for a hotsprings fanatic like me, is simply too gross to consider wallowing in; first off, the bottom is carpeted (?!?!!), and secondly, the pond is basically the town bathtub for all the filthy hippies and off-grid methheads squatting in Slab City. Shudder!!

 

 

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by Shutterbug Studio

Instead, we tooled on into Slab City itself, which as mentioned is a sort of permanent-itinerant encampment of hippies, bums, RVers and on-the-lammers who have built an unofficial community on the concrete slab foundations of a long-demolished and abandoned Marine base. The land technically belongs to the state teachers’ retirement fund, but since it’s so remote, bleak and inhospitable, no one wants anything to do with it, and squatters basically have the run of the place. There are tons of unofficial ramshackeldy compounds scattered about, including an internet cafe, a library and a main stage area which is apparently host to a Saturday-night open mic jam that I have always wanted to check out; aside from these rickety structures there is little else out there but RVs in varying states of driveability dotted among creosote bushes and piles and piles of trash. There’s no running water or electricity, but people live out there for months or even years at a time, for free, with no fear of government interference. It’s really the final frontier of the old Wild West!

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by Shutterbug Studio

Shutterbug and I dicked around Slab City for a bit, but our real interest lay on the northern outskirts — a little enclave of found-object/mixed-media artists known as East Jesus, which is basically like a giant, permanent Burning Man camp with all kinds of the most astonishing art strewn about. I mean, there is some really, really cool art out there! When I visited with my sister in 2014, one of the residents gave us a tour, and even showed us the “backstage” area where the caretakers live, and it was actually amazingly nice; they had a solar power setup, raised beds where they grew veggies and whatnot, outhouses and a really gemütlich common lounge area (for TONS of photos from that visit, click here).

This trip, we didn’t take too many photos as the midday lighting was pretty unforgiving, so we mostly just looked around for awhile before continuing on. A friend had tipped me off to the existence of some supposedly amazing graffiti murals on the side of some water tanks on the backside of Salvation Mountain, so we headed south a few miles to see if we could find them. After passing the outskirts of Slab City, we continued on along a fairly well-graded dirt road before ill-advisedly turning off onto a less well-used dirt road into the desert, where we could see the water tanks off in the distance.

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Bogged down again

Now, a word about my friend Shutterbug and his off-road cred: he normally drives a Jeep, and in fact is the one who eventually came out to extract my truck from the mud where it had gotten bogged down on a “dry” lakebed outside Vegas a couple months ago. But his Jeep was in the shop, so on this trip we were driving his backup car, a 2WD Pontiac Aztek (basically sort of a crossover-SUV-type car made famous as a hideous failure; a metaphor for the Salton Sea if ever there was one). Anyway, the Aztek doesn’t have the Jeep’s capabilities when it comes to driving on uncertain ground…..and sure as shit, wouldn’t you know it, just when we had decided to turn around and go back, we got stuck in the soft sugar sand. And I mean stuck! The front wheels were sunk in up to the axles — it was hopeless!!!

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by Shutterbug Studio

So there I was, stuck in the middle of nowhere for the second time in 6 weeks. I know what you’re thinking — what a dumbass!!! But in my defense, at least I wasn’t driving this time! In any event, this situation was much more dire than my previous jam, as the dry lake bed I’d gotten bogged down in was only 45 minutes from Vegas; the place we were stuck in now was hundreds of miles from ANYwhere!!!

Well, no use sitting around fretting — might as well get to work trying to dig ourselves out! The worst part was, we were just far enough from the Slab City outskirts that there wasn’t even any of the ubiquitous garbage laying around; if we’d been closer to “town” we could have grabbed some old carpet or something to get some traction. As it was, the only thing for miles around was creosote bushes and a few spindly tamarisk trees; we gathered branches from those and tried to jam them under the wheels along with the floormats, but it was no use. Despite our best, sweaty efforts, we only managed to dig ourselves in deeper.

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by Shutterbug Studio

Now starting to get worried, we considered our options. We were miles from a paved road, so roadside assistance wouldn’t help….and we didn’t feel like shelling out hundreds or even thousands to a tow company in the area. Vegas was 5 hours away, so calling any of our friends for help was also pretty much out of the question. Slab City was about a three-mile walk, but the residents we had interacted with that morning were either prickly and irritable, or reeked of booze…so neither of us really felt like throwing ourselves on their mercy, either.

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by Shutterbug Studio

Meanwhile, my sister had just moved to the L.A. area, about 3.5 hours away…so one idea was to have her drive out in her 4×4 4 Runner and maybe try to pull us out. To her credit, she was willing to drop everything and come on out….but that whole plan was super-iffy anyway, as her rig is only a V-6 and as mentioned, we were stuck up to the axles. What to do?!?!

 

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SOS

Thankfully, at least we were in cell range; there was a tower nearby, and in fact I had full 4G reception. So in desperation I did what I always do in times of need: I turned to my vast network of Facebook “friends,” on the slim chance that someone would know someone in the area who would be able to offer some assistance.

Now, I put “friends” in quotes because I know how it is with Facebook; people who are your friends on there aren’t necessarily real friend-friends; for example I personally have close to 5,000 Facebook friends, but still usually end up driving myself to the airport. You know what I mean! Just as the ancient Greeks had multiple words for “love,” I feel that modern times call for the coinage of a new word for a “friend” of the Facebook variety.

 

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Digging

But I’ve had great success in the past when calling upon my Facebook network for help, so I figured I’d at least try. So I put up an SOS post….and then went back to digging. Shutterbug and I took turns scooping out sand on the sunny side of the car; it was in the 70s that day, and kind of hot. In no time at all we were both sweaty, filthy and had sand in every crevice (thanks to being mid-photo shoot, I was just wearing a loose sundress with no underwear or anything, so my ass and pudenda were out for the world to see).

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by Shutterbug Studio

After digging to the point of exhaustion, I stopped to take a brief break and check my SOS post to see if there were any leads. And would you believe that by some astounding miracle, it turned out that one of my Facebook friends was actually in Slab City at that moment, less than 3 miles away?!?! Even better, this guy had just gotten stuck in the sand himself the other day, so he was sympathetic to my plight. And even better, he happened to be driving an immense 4×4 F-250 with a tow strap at hand!!! Hallelujah!!!!!!

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by Shutterbug Studio

Best of all, this was a person I had actually met in person on several occasions, so I knew he was good people; many of my FB friends are people I’ve never actually met in real life, and that can go either way. But this guy used to work for a certain famous magician at whose show I used to take souvenir photos, so we had interacted in real life back in Vegas. Nowadays he runs a zipline operation out at the Sturgis bike rally every summer, and had traveled to Slab City to help out a family of hippies who had worked for him at Sturgis as temp labor refurbish their schoolbus home.

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Rescue!

Anyway, my friend and the bad-ass mom from the hippie family came out in his truck to help pull us free. The hippie mom had spent a lot of time at the Slabs, so had quite a bit of experience extricating vehicles of all kinds from the sand; apparently it happens all the time out there. And sure enough, in less than an hour they were able to free us completely from our hopeless predicament . YAYYYYYYYYY!!!!!

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by Shutterbug Studio

Let it never be said that social media is a waste of time; in my experience, time and again it has proved its worth as an invaluable resource — sort of like an online village. Sure, all the villagers might not know each other personally…but when crunchtime comes, they’re generally willing to help each other out. And as I have learned the hard way by now….it takes a village to be me!!!

After we were freed, we gave my friend a wad of cash to thank him for his efforts, and followed him back over to the hippie family’s schoolbus encampment in the Slabs. It was amazing — mom, dad, kids and something like 4 full-grown Great Danes and a puppy were all living in this converted school bus. Meanwhile, my friend had this badass new 5th wheel travel trailer he’d just gotten at an auction, which is what he uses to stay in at Sturgis, and he invited me to come up and work his zipline operation next summer — apparently the RV sleeps 6 people, so there’s plenty of room. Hmmm!

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The Ski Inn

Anyway, we hung out bullshitting for a while, basking in the glow of adrenaline and relief, and then took off to celebrate with some food and drinks — we were starving after all that!! We had planned to wrap up our day of shooting with a sunset session in Bombay Beach (another one of the deserted settlements along the Sea shore), but we were both too dirty and tired to even think of shooting any more photos…so instead, we headed to the legendary Ski Inn — a quaint little watering hole serving the remaining locals in Bombay Beach, Niland and the surrounding areas. OMG was that place amazing!!!

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Here’s to survival!

The Ski Inn is one of those picturesque little local-color bars you see at the side of every lonely desert highway, like the Palms in Wonder Valley or the Bagdad Cafe in Newberry Springs — full of interesting locals, walls covered in signed dollar bills and other passing-thru-tourist memorabilia. And I am pleased to report that just like the Palms, the Ski Inn definitely delivers!! We had a couple of really good cheeseburgers cooked to order by the owner’s awesome wife, and enjoyed a couple celebratory cocktails served by a super-nice bartender named Steve. I’m not just saying that because I’m happy to be alive; those burgers were amazing, and Steve was one of those people with whom I felt an instant affinity — someone I really liked on a weirdly deep level. If you’re reading this, Steve, know that a shameless hussy named Sarah Jane in Vegas thinks you’re amazing, and will definitely be back to visit and talk longer! <3

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Our dollar bill

After finishing our food, we signed a dollar bill, stuck it to the jukebox, and hauled ass back up to Palm Desert to soak in the Jacuzzi and decompress. I had a glass of wine and a pot cookie, and never felt better — what an amazing day! I still couldn’t get over my insanely good luck; I guess all those deposits I’ve been making into the Bank of Karma finally paid off. Maybe the $150 I lost in Ballarat ghost town last month tipped the balance in my favor; who can say?

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by Shutterbug Studio

In any event, the day hadn’t gone as expected, but still turned out wonderful…an incredible adventure, and we got a shit ton of amazing photos to boot. In retrospect, it’s probably a good thing we got stuck in the sand; as it was, Shutterbug was busy editing photos for the next two weeks with what we’d already shot…he couldn’t have handled much more! Plus, on the way home we stopped off in Joshua Tree, at the Noah Purifoy outdoor art installation,

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by Shutterbug Studio

and shot a bunch more pics…so it all worked out perfectly. We rolled back into Vegas late that afternoon, tired and sore and with a few grains of stray sand still in our asscracks (well, at least in my asscrack)…and chalked it all up to another fantastic chapter in the Book of Wonderhussy.

It’s a great book…and I hope it never ends 😀

 

 

 

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Fear is the Mother of Shame

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photo by Shutterbug Studio
graffiti by Aware/Indecline

People are often ashamed to be seen with me.

Don’t get me wrong — people enjoy hanging out with me, because I’m attractive and charismatic and fun as fuck. But because I live such an openly unorthodox life, many are skittish about being publicly associated with me: they don’t want me to post about them, they don’t want to be in photos with me, etc. I totally understand that not everyone lives by my policy of radical transparency, so I always honor these requests, but…sometimes it gets lonely, being me.

The irony is, many are attracted to me because of my freewheeling existence; I am often told “I admire your honesty so much!” and “I live vicariously through your adventures!” Well, guess what? Vicarious is so 2014!!!  Why not tell society to fuck off, and put your money where your mouth is??

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My mouth
by Scott Krammer

Well, recently, one guy did put his money where his mouth was — but in an unexpected way; he actually paid me for my discretion. To honor his request, I am purposely fudging the dates and have waited a considerable amount of time to blog about my experience with him…but, now it can be told.

Several months ago, I received a booking request from someone with an anonymous hush.com email account. According to their website, for as low as $34.99/year Hush.com provides “Secure email with built-in encryption, no advertising, and unlimited email aliases.” Hmmmmmm.

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I’m just a model
by Marshall Bradford

As a freelance model, this set off alarm bells — the email address I was contacted by sounded very swinger-y/cheating-on-my-wife-y…and despite public opinion, I really am a MODEL; nothing more, nothing less. I am not a prostitute, I am not a swinger. I just pose for nude photos, theoretically in the name of art. I do not have sex with photographers.

But over the course of our email exchange, I came to believe that this person (who called himself “Steve,” which I have since learned is not his real name so I feel fine using it here) was legitimately interested in booking me for a photo shoot — no more, no less. So I agreed to shoot with him on two occasions one weekend — first, I was to pick him up at the airport on the afternoon of his arrival, and take him out to the desert for a sunset shoot…before stopping off at Walgreens so he could buy V8 and such, then dropping him at his hotel (what am I, an Über driver?!). Then, two days later, we would shoot together for a full day, after he had completed an athletic competition for which he’d traveled to Vegas. For the second shoot, he had also hired my fellow Goddess Collective member Lolita…so I felt comfortable knowing there would be someone else onboard who had my back (even someone who only weighs 98 pounds, lol).

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by Mike M.

But when I picked this fucker up at the airport, things were tetchy from the get-go. When I pick up a photographer to go out on one of my desert location shoots, it can sometimes be kind of awkward at first; I’m in the car with a complete stranger for up to an hour, but I’m pretty good at making conversation, so things usually warm up after a few minutes. Not so with this guy!

I started in as I always do: “So, where are you from?”

“Ehmmmmmm……..” he sort of hemmed and hawed in his distinctive European accent, finally coming out with “Perhaps I pay you for discretion??” What he meant was, he didn’t want to tell me anything about his personal life, as apparently his entire world would be shattered if it were to get out that he was photographing a nude model…even for Art’s sake.

Well all right then. I thought I recognized his accent, so I tried again: “Well, where are you originally from?”

“Ehmmmmmmmm…….”

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I don’t care
by Shutterbug Studio

Stymied again! The most I was able to get out of the cagey fucker was the country and region of his birth; I have no idea where he lives now — I forgot to snoop on the baggage claim tag dangling from his suitcase. In any event, between his nervous paranoid giggling and his Über demands, I was starting to get annoyed…so I basically gave up trying, and left the conversation up to him. Honestly, WTF do I care? As long as your money’s green, I don’t need to know your life story — I’ll drive in silence, if that’s what you want. And this guy paid me CA$H, up front.

Fortunately, he was actually a fairly personable, intelligent guy, and we were on the same page politically speaking…so in a real switcheroo of the usual, politics turned out to be the one thing we could talk about. And he really wasn’t bad to talk to — so long as you didn’t try to pry any personal info out of him! I’m telling you, out of all the photographers I’ve shot with, this guy was the most paranoid ever. He had several friends in town that same weekend, and apparently if they found out what he was up to, his life was over…so we basically had to sneak around like we were having an affair or something. It was creepy and kind of depressing — I’m already sensitive about not being a “real” model, and this only exacerbated my sense of self-doubt. But my bills have no such existential qualms — they need to be paid, by hook or by crook. So to speak.

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by Scott Krammer

So after dropping his cagey ass off that first evening, I came back to his hotel a couple days later for our full-day shoot. In the interim, he had not only completed his athletic engagement, but also sent me a text or two asking if I could go buy him a battery charger, as he’d forgotten his at home (I didn’t have time, so said no). Jeez!! His sense of entitlement led me to believe he must have been well-off, and used to having people do his bidding (he must have been well-off to hire both me and Lolita for a shoot — Lolita doesn’t work for cheap!). Now I was getting curious about this guy — what the fuck was his deal?

To his credit, like I said he ended up being a pretty cool dude; he mentioned more than once that he’d read and enjoyed this blog, so I knew he couldn’t be a total dumbass. Indeed, once I was safely in his room, away from the prying eyes of his other friends that were in town, he loosened up considerably. Because the weather was shitty that day, we decided to just stay in the room and shoot there; he had some far-out ideas he wanted to try with lighting, etc, so it worked out fine. And as the day progressed, he let his guard down a little — he still wouldn’t divulge many personal details, but when I went to the bathroom I saw his name on his toothbrush (HA!), so I felt I knew him a bit better.

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My back
by Shutterbug Studio

The shoot went on in a fairly typical fashion; he was really into musculature, and in particular my back (I do get a lot of compliments on my back), so we mostly did art-nude bodyscape-type poses, against this super-funky backdrop he had fashioned out of athletic accoutrements.  Curious, I asked him what he planned to do with the photos; since he couldn’t display them anywhere without shattering his reputation, what the fuck was the point? He said he might release them in 20 years…but until then, they would be locked away on come encrypted hard drive somewhere that could only be seen by someone with a subpoena (his words)! I’m telling you, this guy was paranoid!!!

In any event, after awhile I inexplicably warmed to his weird nervous giggle and paranoid shtick, and started to feel sort of sorry for him. I’m sure whatever he had going on that would be ruined by his association with me was fabulous — family name, professional reputation, jealous wife, whatever — but I’ll take my life of open transparency any day of the week over whatever it was. I may be broke, directionless and single…but I’m free. 

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Fill me with your puke
by Mike M.

And interestingly, as I warmed to him, apparently he also warmed to me. I don’t judge, and I can be very discreet when needed…so I guess that’s why people (often total strangers) tell me their deepest, darkest secrets; I can’t tell you how many weird personal details people in the community (sometimes semi-high-profile people) have confided in me. It’s like I’m a safe place for weirdos — for better or for worse, I’m basically a trash can waiting to be filled with the puke stream of any given id. And so it was that finally, even this cagiest of all cagey motherfuckers warmed up enough to tell me what he really wanted to do — and surprisingly, it wasn’t have sex/suck my toes/have me kick him in the balls…or anything sexual at all, for that matter!

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by Stenstrom

All he wanted was to be naked in a photo with me…and he asked if I would be OK with that.

Now, I’ve seen so many naked bodies of all types at hot springs and Burning Man and places like that, that being naked around other naked people doesn’t faze me at all — women or men, young or old, fit or fat. It makes no difference to me — it’s just flesh! Moreover, I’ve actually been shot by at least two other photographers who were also naked at the time, and everything was totally cool — no hanky panky, no weirdness. Some people just like being naked!

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by GW

Just to clarify, however, before agreeing I asked him to specify exactly what type of poses he had in mind — I wasn’t into any kind of romantic/erotic stuff. But all he wanted to do was stand next to me naked — in his weird, ultra-nervous, paranoid way, he was trying to make some kind of artistic statement about physical beauty and nudity, and in fact trying to desexualize nudity. So, why the fuck not? I saw no harm in it. I mean, I’ve posed nude with male models before…so what was the difference?

Before he took his clothes off, he warned me not to be alarmed by a certain distinguishing physical characteristic he had (he made me promise not to mention it here, as it’s very identifiable) — and I wasn’t, but it was a very noticeable characteristic that some might find embarrassing. But apparently not this guy! As nervous as he was, he was oddly confident in his nude state; as an athlete, he was fairly fit, so I guess that might have been part of it.

Anyway, he tried to take some photos of us together doing really weird poses like making funny faces, pretending to box, flexing our biceps, etc. but it was too hard to do it in the mirror. So when Lolita finally arrived for her part of the shoot, he asked her if she would take the photos!

And so it was that I ended up being party to one of the (if not THE) weirdest photoshoots I’ve ever done — me and this paranoid, giggling bundle of nerves, flexing our biceps naked, while one of the most beautiful nude models in Vegas photographed us. Bizarre — and not wholly unenjoyable (it was a little creepy, as I was constantly expecting him to try and cop a feel or something…but I kept a polite distance, and nothing ever happened).

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by Marshall Bradford

Now, I know many of you reading this probably think there is no way this guy had no ulterior motives, and that he must have gotten off doing this; but if he did, it was not apparent in the least, and he displayed no outward symptoms of arousal. I think he just genuinely enjoyed the freedom of being naked in front of a camera, in front of people who wouldn’t rat him out or mock him. I mean, this guy was goofy!!!

Anyhow, the shoot went fairly quickly after that — after our joint nude session he put his clothes back on and shot Lolita and I together for awhile, and then we all three just sat around talking; he had apparently really warmed up at this point, and let slip a few more tantalizingly vague details about his apparently high-profile life. But I didn’t press him, and he never offered up anything concrete…so I still have no fucking idea what the fuck was going on there.

Afterward, I went to the ATM and deposited my cash, and went on about my business living my life of radical transparency. Sure, I’ll never be a teacher, a mainstream sitcom star or an elected official of any sort….but who gives a flying fuck?! I’ll take an open life over all that bunk any day! I always feel so bad for those poor assholes at Burning Man who freak the fuck out whenever someone busts out a camera; apparently the “Ask Before Photos” policy up there is in place because many Burners would lose their jobs if a photo of them in a tutu were to get out. I would hate to live my livelihood hinge on something so innocuous as a tutu!

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photo by Shutterbug Studio
quote by F Nietzsche

And really…why all the shame? What is so evil/dirty about a naked human body? How the hell has this fucked-up society evolved to a point where it’s perfectly acceptable for people to know you shoot African rhinos/drink whiskey/believe that a talking snake gave a magic apple to a woman made from a man’s rib……but people seeing you without clothes is a LIFE-ENDING DISASTER? Whence the baseless shame?!

I’ll tell you whence: FEAR. As good old Nietzsche said, fear is the mother of shame. I guess people are afraid to be seen stripped bare, without the protective armor of clothing. Afraid of being judged, afraid of being laughed at. Afraid of being vulnerable.

Well, guess what? I’m as vulnerable as the next person. Ever since I was 13, I’ve been self-conscious about my flat chest — when all the other girls were developing, I was sitting there frantically stuffing Kleenex into my bra and doing pectoral exercises: “I must — I must — I must increase my bust!” But try as I might, my tits never did grow beyond a 32AA.

Despite my mosquito bites, years later I somehow ended up pursuing work as a nude model — against all odds. Now I was even more self-conscious about my breasts — but the nice thing about modeling is, it makes you insecure about all your body parts…so my proportionally short/stumpy legs took some of the heat off my tits. I’m really not built to be a model…but I have succeeded (more or less) by dint of sheer determination.

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And now, after modeling for 7 years, I find myself constantly scrutinizing my face and body for signs of decay. Each and every new wrinkle, dent and pockmark impacts my saleability…a reality of which I am fully aware, and which makes me more vulnerable than ever before.

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photo by Shutterbug Studio
quote by C.G. Jung

But per my m.o. of radical transparency, here I am…admitting my vulnerabilities to the world, because I will not let fear rule my life! Fear of getting old, fear of being mocked, fear of someone seeing me in a tutu…or in a porno movie…or standing naked with some giggling paranoid freak in a dimly-lit Vegas hotel room. I will not be afraid, and I will not be ashamed.

Because as another famous Teuton said… shame is a soul-eating emotion 🙂

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 24 Comments

Death Valley, Barker Ranch, Friday the 13th: What Could Go Wrong?!

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The fun starts where the road ends

As you know, I love exploring all the funky little corners of the desert. And one oddity I’ve been wanting to check out for years is Barker Ranch, a/k/a the last hideout of the Manson Family — an EXTREMELY remote cabin on the western fringes of Death Valley where law enforcement officials finally apprehended that rascal Charles Manson. For whatever reason, I’ve long been fascinated by the story of Charlie and his family of killer hippies… so Barker Ranch has long been high on my list of places to check out.

The main thing stopping me from going out there all these years has been the road — all the websites and books agree that Goler Wash (the main access route to Barker Ranch) is super gnarly, and should only be attempted by an experienced off-roader with a HARDCORE 4×4. Since my little truck is only 2WD, I just kinda figured I was shit out of luck….until one night last month, when — against my better judgment — I got high and decided to post on social media:

“ALL YOU ASSHOLES WHO ARE ALWAYS SAYING YOU WANT TO GO ON AN ADVENTURE WITH ME — HERE’S YOUR CHANCE!!! WHO WANTS TO CHECK OUT BARKER RANCH?!?! MUST HAVE SUPER-HARDCORE 4X4, GOOD OFFROADING SKILLS, AND ENOUGH INTEREST, TIME AND MONEY TO GET THERE! NO FLAKES!!!

Or something like that.

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Ruins at Ballarat ghost town

As predicted, the next morning my inbox was flooded with responses from interested parties….around 90% of whom were total flakes: “I’d love to, but I don’t have a 4×4” and “OMG I wish I could get the time off work/gas money/permission from my mom.” This kind of dumb shit was exactly what I’d expected, so I immediately deleted the post…but fortunately, there were a couple legit responses in there that I was able to salvage. And so it was that I made plans with two total strangers to meet up at Ballarat ghost town one chilly November evening, and head up to Barker Ranch from there.

Now, you might find it weird that I would agree to meet up with two total strangers in the middle of nowhere with a half-baked plan to head up a super-gnarly road to a murderer’s hideout. But for me, that’s just a Wednesday! You have to take a few chances in life, if you want to have any fun at all. Like my Starbucks cup once said:

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Besides, they weren’t total strangers — they were Facebook friends! And as I only have around 5,000 Facebook friends (add me!), I felt that was credibility enough for this kind of trip.

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My fellow adventurers, features obscured to protect their identities (my own features blurred because it was an unflattering photo)

My two fellow adventurers — the only two respondents who ended up not flaking — were a guy from Southern CA, and a girl from here in Vegas. I had never met the Vegas chick in person or even really interacted with her online, but a quick perusal of her Facebook profile proved her to seem pretty cool; I’d met and hung out with the guy for about 15 minutes at that Burning Man campout I went to in San Diego, while I was high on mushrooms, and he seemed legit, too. I won’t say too much more about either one of them, since the Vegas chick works at the front desk of a very swanky Strip hotel and could get in trouble for the stuff we did, and the guy works in a VERY cool outdoorsy capacity with kids, so he could get in trouble, too. Guilt by association! Normally I get kind of offended when people don’t want to be mentioned in my blog…but in both of these people’s cases, I completely understand. But at the same time…..I’m glad I’m ME, and don’t have to kow-tow to any bourgeois moral code. I YAM WHAT I YAM, MOTHERFUCKERS!

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The Ballarat General Store

Anyway, the Vegas chick and I headed out from Vegas last Wednesday afternoon, headed for Ballarat, a tiny ghost town on the western edge of Death Valley that was sort of near the entrance to the dreaded Goler Wash, where we had arranged to meet the guy, who was coming from Santa Barbara. The plan was to meet up and camp out overnight at Ballarat, then head out in the morning for Barker Ranch, and camp out a second night up there before heading back home.

Of course, we ended up getting a late start out of Vegas: I had ill-advisedly agreed to play Secret Agent Hotpants in a scavenger hunt that morning, and when I was finally done, the other chick had to go see her weed man in front of Bally’s before we could finally set off into the desert. So by the time we rolled into Ballarat it was almost totally dark.

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Ballarat “campground”

Having never been to Ballarat, I was unsure how to proceed; I knew from online research that there was supposedly a campground onsite, but despite driving around the desert in the dark for 30 minutes I was unable to find it. I finally went into the “General Store,” which is more a creepy collection of dusty artifacts than an actual store, and which was completely dark and deserted, despite the front door having been left wide open with an “OPEN” sign hanging crookedly nearby, creaking eerily in the night breeze. I tiptoed cautiously inside and deposited the $3 camping fee into a rusty coffee can provided for that purpose…and then sort of drove over to an area where a few RVs and toyhaulers were parked, and found a spot with a picnic table and a fire ring. I guess that’s what they meant by campground! It was pretty rustic — no bathrooms, just a single port-a-potty about 1/8 mile away — but I’m used to camping in the boonies, so it was no big deal.

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Another view of the “campground”

The other chick and I set up camp and built a fire, and waited for the guy to arrive. It gets dark really early out here at this time of year — around 5pm — so it seemed like we sat there in the dark forever waiting for him, her getting baked off her freshly-scored weed, and me drinking hot cocoa with peppermint schnapps. Around this time I mentioned to her that we were probably the only two chicks in Vegas who would do something like this — go camping at a ghost town in the middle of nowhere, alone, next to the cemetery, no less. And it was probably true!

But around 8pm we saw a pair of headlights coming our way, and our guy finally rolled in, true to his word. I couldn’t then (and still can’t) believe that two people actually stuck to their word and went on this adventure with me! I’m so used to people flaking out on me (remember my Saline Valley trip last month?!) that it was really a bizarre experience to have TWO PEOPLE — strangers, no less — actually follow through!! Maybe my luck is changing 🙂

Anyway, we all hung out by the fire and engaged in semi-awkward getting-to-know-you-type chit chat — remember, we were all basically total strangers! But we pretty much hit it off OK, and after a few hours we were fairly comfortable with each other, and went to bed with the intention of getting up early and heading off toward the ranch. It was really cold that night in Ballarat — in the 20s — so I shoved HotHands in my sox and wore a knit cap, but still ended up freezing my ass off. That’s just the way it’s gonna be until spring, I guess :-/

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The Liberace of Death Valley

In the morning, we broke camp and piled all our gear into the guy, who we’ll call Shaggy’s, car — a 4×4 Toyota 4Runner with fairly rugged tires, which he seemed confident could make the trip. I decided to leave my truck parked down at the campsite, so went over to the General Store to put another $3 in the coffee can before we left. That store was even wackier during the day — full of random weird shit piled up everywhere, and an old-timey refrigerator which I assumed contained cold drinks for sale…but turned out to be full of someone’s actual food and leftovers 😮

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Charles Manson’s old truck

Also, in the desert out front of the store was this rusted out old Ford truck that legend has it belonged to Charles Manson himself…so I figured I’d better pose for a nudie or two with it. It was sunny and fairly warm by now, so I stripped off my clothes and went to town, hoping to have poor, beleaguered Shaggy bang out a few shots before the General Store proprietor came out and gave us hell. Unfortunately, unbeknownst to me, in my hurry to get dressed afterward I somehow dropped the wad of cash I always carry in my bra for emergencies — about $150, I reckon. D’OH!!!!!

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Fanboy art at the entrance to Goler Wash

Anyway, after getting dressed again we all three piled into Shaggy’s car and headed off for the Ranch. From Ballarat ghost town, you take the fairly smooth, gravelly Wingate Road south for about 15 miles, and then turn off to the east toward the Panamint Mountains onto Goler Wash Rd, which runs up a canyon, eventually leading over Mengel Pass and back down into Death Valley proper.

I had done quite a bit of reading on road conditions, and knew that Goler Wash and Mengel Pass were supposed to be über-gnarly routes that were often impassable by all but the HARDEST-CORE 4x4s — so I was well prepared for the possibility that we wouldn’t be able to drive up, and would simply have to hike in. Of course I was hoping we’d be able to drive up, as I really wanted to camp out at the Ranch but didn’t think I could pack all that firewood and booze in on foot — but I was open to anything, at this point.

Screen Shot 2015 11 18 at 8.23.55 PM 300x203 Death Valley, Barker Ranch, Friday the 13th: What Could Go Wrong?!Incidentally, the best route to take on this trip would have been from the east — inside Death Valley park. If you take Warm Springs Road up from Badwater, and approach Mengel Pass from the east, not only is the road much less intense, but there are also several abandoned cabins you pass along the way, which are open to camp in — FOR FREE! The Geologist’s Cabin in particular is supposed to be really nice, with a big stone fireplace and a fully stocked kitchen, with pots and pans dating back 80-100 years!!! There’s also an abandoned mining encampment along the way, with a warm spring swimming pool (!!!!), and you don’t even need 4WD until about halfway up the mountain. I really wanted to go in that way, and stay overnight at the Geologist’s Cabin…but alas, due to the recent heavy rains in Death Valley one of the access roads had washed out and was thus impassable 🙁 But, as Dog is my witness: I hereby VOW to return to Barker Ranch next spring via Warm Springs Rd., and I *WILL* stay overnight at the Geologist’s Cabin!! (As long as no one else beats me to it; it’s on a first-come, first-serve basis.) WHO’S IN??!?!?

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Goler Wash “Road”

So anyway, it was with no little trepidation that we set off up Goler Wash toward Barker Ranch that morning. At first, the road was gravel and washboard, and not all that burly. But once the canyon walls started to close in, conditions became much worse — loose sand and gravel, with ginormous boulders strewn about here and there for good measure. I knew from my research that this super-gnarly portion only lasted about 1/2 mile or so…but getting through it was a real challenge. I kept thinking back to how the wacky Manson Family somehow got a freaking school bus up there (!?!?!) — I guess the county or the Park Service does occasionally grade the road, and back then it must have been in much better condition. And the recent rain storms must have adversely affected conditions, too. Either way, it made the road into Saline Valley look like the Las Vegas Strip!!!

Anyway, Shaggy kept doggedly driving his 4Runner up the wash. I reminded him a few times that he didn’t have to impress anyone; the other girl (who I’ll call Velma) and I were perfectly happy to hike up if we had to, and it would still be an amazing trip. But Shaggy is a real hardcore outdoorsman, and he took it as a challenge, figuring out ways to navigate each difficult portion as it came along. I learned on this trip that many offroaders simply enjoy navigating difficult roads, viewing the experience as a problem-solving adventure! I don’t totally understand it myself….but I’m glad there are people like that out there.

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the road mellows out after a bit

I was especially glad about 5 minutes later, when we finally hit a portion of Goler Wash that was so burly that even Shaggy conceded that we’d have to turn back; it was basically a vertical stair-step situation with some giant slippery boulders in the middle where his tires simply couldn’t gain traction. But, wouldn’t you know it — WAY OUT THERE in the middle of nowhere, there just happened to be a retired couple in a super-hardcore offroad Hummer that had a winch on it! And we just happened to encounter them right at the difficult part!

It was really astonishing — if we’d been just 15 or 30 minutes later, we’d have missed them altogether, and would have had to turn back. But as it was, they were more than happy to winch us up over the difficult portion — in fact, I’d venture to say that helping us out made their day! Again, I don’t fully understand it myself…but apparently these hardcore desert off-roaders really get off figuring out these tough roads, and helping their fellow man triumph over nature.

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Big Brother is watching you…even way up here!

In any event, we got over the last bad section and the road mellowed out — somewhat. We followed Goler Wash up into the mountains another 3 miles or so, passing all manner of abandoned bull dozers, mine shafts and other weird desert detritus including a bathtub that had somehow gotten wedged into a ravine (how the hell this shit gets up there, I have no idea — this place is REMOTE as FUCK!). And finally, we crossed over the Death Valley National Park boundary. It was kinda surreal to pass an official sign like that after traveling through such desolate, rugged backcountry…but there it was!

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Old junk pile near Barker Ranch

From the park boundary sign, it was only another mile or so to Barker Ranch. The last part of the turnoff road was pretty steep, and Shaggy felt unsure about trying it in his 4Runner, so we decided to just park there and hump all our gear in the last 1/4 mile or so, past this giant pile of rusted-out old garbage: cars and tin cans and old soda bottles, and all kinds of crazy old junk that looked to have been there for at least the last 50 years. Far out!!!

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Barker Ranch from above

So Shaggy, Velma and I carried all the firewood and camp gear and booze and whatnot to the Ranch, and set up camp in the afternoon. I had heard that the Ranch had burned down back in 2008, and was afraid I’d missed all the really good stuff — and while much of the building had indeed been burned, there was still plenty of stuff standing. The original cabin was half stone anyway, so the walls and foundations and stuff were still there, and it was really fascinating.

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Entrance to the Ranch

Of main interest to me was the bathroom, which is where Charles Manson was finally apprehended, some two months after the famous Sharon Tate murders were committed. Ironically, the cops who arrested him and the rest of the Family didn’t even realize they were responsible for those murders, which were as yet unsolved; they were raiding the cabin for something completely unrelated — the torching of a bulldozer way on the other side of Death Valley! It was only after they brought these Earth-defending vandals into custody that all their other nefarious hijinks came to light.

Moreover, Charles Manson himself very nearly evaded being caught during the raid! 5’2″ Manson had hidden himself in a tiny cabinet under the bathroom sink — which was so tiny that the arresting officer later said that he never would have even looked in it, if not for a single lock of Manson’s hair that was accidentally hanging out the door. D’OH!!! Just one more reason not to be a long-haired hippie!

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Look Ma, I’m Charles Manson!

Anyway, the infamous cabinet where Charlie hid was long ago stolen by enterprising souvenir hunters/fanboys, but you can still see the corner of the bathroom where it stood — and you can still crouch down there as Manson himself did in October 1969. Trippy! We all took turns doing so, and went around the grounds taking photos and stuff until we decided it was time to really get the party started. Shaggy started a campfire, and I busted out my baggie of mushrooms!

Let me tell you, there is nothing like eating mushrooms at the top of a remote mountain pass in the middle of nowhere at the site of a murder’s den on Friday the 13th Eve with two strangers! It was magical! We took our medicine at golden hour, and the shrooms kicked in just as the sun began to set. We sat there marveling at the beautiful autumn sky as the colors all came to life, and then when the sun sank below the horizon we hunkered down around the fire, and talked and talked and talked late into the night. It was amazing.

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What remains of Barker Ranch

I’m here to tell you, there is no DishTV or anything that can compare with real life stories! As you might guess, I have few doozies myself….but my camp mates had some amazing tales to tell, too. First Shaggy regaled us with an ultra-dramatic near-death experience he once had while hiking in the mountains one winter’s day, and it felt like I was watching the Travel Channel. Then Velma started in with an amazing story from her high school dropout hoodrat days, when she and her little thug boyfriend stole cars and sold drugs and ended up living with a generous tweeker down in Tijuana. That Velma was a real enigma: she looked like a little gangster chick, but she was one of the most astonishingly well-informed, well-read, progressive people I’ve ever met! I mean, she had to have been pretty progressive to volunteer for this fucked-up expedition in the first place…but it just goes to show, you never know who you’re dealing with. She was absolutely wonderful — and a bad-ass hiker/camper, to boot. She never complained for one second about anything, even when carrying a heavy load up a steep hillside. Now that’s a badass bitch!

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Informative Park Service plaque at the site, LOLz

And Shaggy, of course, was equally amazing. He really was one of the best possible people to go camping with, as he’s one of the most seasoned outdoorsmen I’ve ever had the pleasure of hiking with, and he was full of fascinating, useful information about the backcountry and nature in general. Super cool people, both of them!

Anyway, we talked late into the night, until the mushrooms wore off and it started to get REALLY cold. The plan was for everyone to bunk in Velma’s tent, but I have a really hard time sleeping so I kind of killed the party by sleeping by myself in my little Boy Scout Walmart tent, off to the side. But I had my mom’s old 1975 down mummy bag, with HotHands in my socks and a warm knit cap, and shockingly I stayed very warm and cozy, and slept reasonably well.

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Jeepers creepers!

In the morning, we woke up pretty early and broke camp, and set about the slightly daunting task of getting back down Goler Wash to Ballarat, where (hopefully) my truck was waiting for me and where I was also hoping to find my missing $150, which I had only just then realized I’d lost. Of course if I’d had my druthers we’d have continued on eastward over Mengel Pass to the Geologist’s Cabin, and spent another shroomy night camping out there…but as it was, I had to be back in Vegas by a reasonable hour for a photo shoot the following day. So I was really hoping we wouldn’t have any problems like a busted tire or broken axle getting down Goler Wash!

Fortunately, gravity worked in our favor and we made it down the wash just fine — it was MUCH easier going down, in fact! Along the way we encountered a group of Jeepers heading up the wash — apparently that weekend was Panamint Valley Days, a sort of offroad rally that takes place near Ballarat every year, where all kind of crazy 4x4ers take their rigs out exploring in the desert. Ballarat campground was FULL of them!

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My money was long gone, eaten by a burro or snatched up by some lucky offroader

My truck was still there, unmolested….but alas, my $15o was nowhere to be seen 🙁 Oh, well — I wrote it off as a sort of Adventure Tax; $150 is a small price to pay for the fun I had on this trip. Although when I think of how freezing f*cking cold I probably was, laying naked on a rock to earn that $150….arrrrrghhh!!!

Anyway, back at Ballarat we all said our good-byes, Shaggy going on his way down to Southern California while Velma and I headed back to Vegas via this weird, desolate sort of sun-nuked town on the southern edge of Death Valley called Trona. OMG, was that place WEIRD!!!

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Where the Trona Tornadoes play football

Apparently, Trona was once a thriving mining town situated on the edge of a vast dry lake bed on the most desolate, arid plain this side of Tattooine. The mine has seen better days, and the town is about 3/4 deserted…but there are still people living there, hanging on by their toenails with that hardcore desert determination you see in towns like that. The town itself is basically a cluster of cinderblock shanties in the shadow of a giant sulphur-belching factory, and the local high school has the distinction of being the only high school in the country whose football team plays on a dirt field — they can’t even grow enough grass for a football field out there, it’s THAT arid! It was fascinatingly grim.

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The Trona Pinnacles

Then, on the outskirts south of town are these astonishing natural formations called the Trona Pinnacles — giant tufa spires, similar to those at Mono Lake…only instead of poking out of water, these jagged peaks rise out of a dry, barren moonscape of a desert. It’s truly surreal, and in fact the area has been used as a backdrop in movies like Planet of the Apes and Star Trek and whatnot. What a great place for a future shroomy campout — I totally bookmarked it 🙂

Anyway, Velma and I finally rolled back into Vegas around sunset, exhausted but exhilarated from a fantastic few days. This little adventure may have been a little chilly and a bit uncertain, but it taught me one valuable lesson: it’s definitely worth it to take a chance, and meet up with strangers for a bizarre campout in the desert. You never know what might happen! Sure, you might get murdered….but you might also make some really bitchin’ new friends!!! 😀

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 29 Comments

Old Man Winter

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Ass-deep

Just the other week I was ass-deep in Death Valley sunshine, hiking around naked with a rum & Coke in one hand and the other firmly on the throttle of life. My truck had made it down the 50-mile washboard “bullshit filter” road to Saline Valley Hot Springs, I was with *both* my sisters (even the sister who never comes out for anything)… and everything was A-OK.

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Old Man Winter forcing me close to the fire

Then overnight, it changed.

I remember the exact moment: we were sitting in the Wizard Pool one night, shrooming out of our gourds. The moon was full, and cast an eerie light on the scene as sudden gusty winds rustled the palm trees, blowing in ominous scattered clouds from parts unknown. “Old Man Winter is a-knockin’ at the door,” I intoned shroomily. I may have been high….but I could still read the writing on the wall.

My Saline Valley sojourn was the last gasp of summer — a four day interlude of sunshine and nakedness with both my sisters at one of my all-time favorite spots: an ultra-remote natural hot springs oasis out in an extremely remote, barren valley on the western edge of Death Valley (for more info, click here). We were joined by our friend Dr. Kildare, who camped with us there last year around this time, and by the one friend from Vegas who actually came through and made the trip. Side note: my PET PEEVE is people who whine about wanting to go on an adventure with me, but then puss out when crunch time rolls around. I invited several people who claimed to be interested in this trip, but every single one of them flaked except for my wacky friend Lenny — an ex Bikram yoga instructor and BDSM enthusiast who works as a lighting tech at one of the titty revues on the Strip. He’s always a good time!

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With my sisters

Anyway, as mentioned my truck made the 50-mile washboard road into Saline Valley just fine; I take the South Pass, and at the time of my trip that road was in excellent condition! How excellent? Well, I was able to travel at speeds up to 30mph on much of it; contrast that with my first time to Saline back in 2010, when it was so bad I could only go 5-10mph the entire 50 miles!!! (It rained in Death Valley right after I left, though, and I hear the road is bad again. Check before you go!)

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My poor tires have been through a lot lately

In any event, it was really lucky for me that the road was so good, as unbeknownst to me I was riding on a tire with a slow leak the entire time! It’s basic dogma that Saline Valley Road should not be attempted without two cans of Fix-A-Flat and a full-size spare…but that whole fiasco with my truck getting bogged down in the mud right before my trip fucked things up so that I didn’t have time to take care of my tire situation before leaving to meet my sisters in Panamint Springs. I had intended to get my tires checked before leaving, but ended up having to just kinda keep my fingers crossed and hope for the best. I was following my one sister in her 4×4 anyway, so it’s not like I had zero backup…but still.

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Saline Valley showdown

And as it happened, I was fine — at first. We met up with Dr. Kildare, who had already been at the springs for a few days, and commenced partying. One of the regulars at Saline, a sunbaked bosomy blonde named Florida, invited us over for a fish fry one night — she had just been fishing up near Yosemite and had caught a mess of ginormous, delicious trout which she was willing to share. YUM!!! She cooked it over a fire with just butter and salt — all of her other spices had been lost when a latch on her RV busted open coming down the North Pass Road — and OMG it was one of the best things I’ve ever tasted. Granted, I was baked at the time (Dr. Kildare loves edibles, so I had brought a bunch)….but it really was fantastic.

We were joined at the fish fry by a couple of other boozy regulars, and they filled me in on some of the Saline Valley gossip that I never knew: apparently, there’s a sort of friendly schism between the regulars who camp at the Lower Springs and the regulars who camp at the Upper Springs. At the big Presidents’ Day weekend get-together every year (when hundreds of people show up at Saline), they even have a golf tournament and a softball game between the two factions. And the distinction between the two factions is very interesting!

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With one of the many wild burros at the Lower Springs

The Lower Springs is the original oasis, where most of the trees are — there’s a nice shady lawn, a shaded pool for day soaking, a couple other tubs, an outdoor shower, a communal bonfire, a little kitchen area and even a lending library. The (un)official host of the springs, Lizard Lee, lives in a charmingly ramshackeldy compound down there, and according to my (admittedly boozy) source, the Lower Springs is where the old-timers like to camp — and the vibe can be a bit New Agey and sanctimonious. Either way, I’m a huge fan of the Lower Springs — it’s where I stayed the first time, and I just really dig the environment down there.

But Dr. Kildare prefers to camp out in the desert up closer to the Upper Springs, so that’s where we’ve stayed on my last two trips. The Upper Springs are fantastic, too — according to my source (and in keeping with my own observations) the crowd up there is slightly looser: boozier, slightly rowdier, friendlier. It actually makes perfect sense for me to camp there, because I am all of the above — and then some!

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COME BACK SUMMER
ALL IS FORGIVEN
photo by PacificNW Photography

The other thing the Upper Springs has going for it is the Wizard Pool, which sits near a small grove of palm trees but has an unobstructed view of the nighttime sky, so you can look up at the moon and stars while you soak. It was built by a guy called the Wizard, who sort of broke off from the Lower Springs faction back in the day and started the whole schism. There’s a second pool up top as well, but the water isn’t as hot, so it’s better as a daytime soak…but in any event, both Upper and Lower springs are fantastically beautiful, and we spent plenty of time soaking at both.

Anyway, everything was going great until Tuesday morning, when Lenny rolled in…and pointed out that one of my tires was totally flat!! I hadn’t noticed, what with all the boozing and getting baked…so now of course I went into panic mode: YIKES OMG WTF HOW AM I GOING TO GET OUT OF HERE ALIVE?!?!?!  I’d been so busy, I hadn’t had time to get a full-size spare, and all I had with me was my emergency donut…and that wasn’t likely to get me very far — certainly not down 50 miles of rugged washboard:/  Thankfully, earlier this year Dr. Kildare had given me one of those air compressors you plug into your car battery; we hooked it up and filled the tire, hoping the leak was slow enough that I’d be able to get out on it….and then with the aid of shrooms, pot and booze, I was able to more or less forget about it and resume partying.

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Ominous skies over Saline Valley

So I ran, did some writing, took a few hikes, and even did Bikram yoga on the lawn down by the Lower Springs….and all in all, it was such a great few days that none of us ever wanted to leave. The weather was warm and kind of overcast most of the time, sort of blanketing the valley in an eerie stillness broken only by the screaming afterburners of the occasional F-18 fighter jet (Saline Valley is a designated low-level flight corridor, and Navy pilots buzz the hot springs all the time, sometimes coming down really low) (probably to perv on all the naked people out there).

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Unrelated pic from a recent shoot
by Marshall Bradford

But on the last night of the trip, as we sat around our campfire eating Frito Pie, an ill wind blew in from the west. It got so gusty that I had to drop everything and pack up most of my camp ahead of time — Old Man Winter had arrived, bringing with him chilly temperatures and even a few drops of rain. It was actually kind of fortuitous, because the change in the weather made it easier to leave — in fact it was so windy the following morning that we were actually glad to go!

Meanwhile, my tire had lost a little bit of its air since we’d filled it…but I just topped it off again and took ‘er easy on the road, and was able to get back to town just fine. (It turned out I had a nail dead-center in the tread, which was easily plugged when I got home.) But ironically, one of Dr. Kildare’s all-terrain tires blew out and was totally shredded on the way out!! Luckily he did have a full size spare with him, though, so we managed to get out OK, and celebrate over burgers at the Panamint Springs cafe. Yum!!!

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The Last Night Fremont Street Was Cool

From there, Dr. Kildare went on his way back toward Georgia, and my sisters and I headed back to my place in Vegas for Halloween. We had planned to go downtown to the annual Las Vegas Halloween Parade, which is normally a big affair full of Burning Man art cars and tens of thousands of people partying…but for whatever reason it was cancelled this year, so instead we just took mushrooms and went down to the perennial shit show that is the Fremont Street Experience, and walked around looking at all the freaks. OMG, it was epic! That has to be one of THE greatest places to shroom, hands down; we had a blast!

Unfortunately, however, that was the last night you would have been able to have that amazing experience; the very next day, the city enacted some bullshit new regulations regarding the buskers (a/k/a street performers). If you’ve been to downtown Vegas in the last few years, you probably noticed the proliferation of freaks and weirdos in costumes, standing around posing for photos with tourists in exchange for tips — everything from Rick James and Mr. T look-a-likes to contortionists, drummers and the occasional half-naked fat-ass in a nun’s wimple or Cupid costume. I personally loved it; I felt the buskers added quite a bit of outlandish ambiance to depressing-ass Fremont Street with its shitty old smoky-smelling casinos and crappy kiosks selling overpriced plastic tchotchkes.

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Downtown Vegas

But apparently, people complained about the buskers “ruining” the “family-friendly” experience (?!?!?!?!), so the city enacted new regulations that took effect Nov. 1st, limiting the number of performers and the types of performances, and also requiring that all buskers register for a permit. So now all that’s left are a few assholes, a bunch of sad alcoholics and the usual gaggles of ghetto-ass hookers. LAME!!! (Fortunately, the Strip has no such regulations….so if you’re looking for a shit show, you can probably find all the evicted buskers down on the sidewalk in front of Planet Hollywood or Bellagio.)

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Freezing my ass off at a nude shoot the other day
by Marshall Bradford

Anyway, my sisters and I were lucky enough to enjoy the last night of magic down there, and it really was something special. The weather was even fairly mild; Old Man Winter was apparently still hanging around Saline Valley, and hadn’t made his way out to Vegas yet. But all that changed a couple days later, after my sisters left — a cold front blew in with a vengeance, and I’ve been chilled to the bone ever since. I had to go out and buy a bunch of jeans, hoodies and boots, and even then I froze my ass off; you can’t exactly wear jeans, a hoodie and boots at a nude photo shoot 🙁

So the weather is turning, and it’s a real bummer…but I’m trying to be positive about it, and instead of cursing Old Man Winter, I’m trying to embrace him — or at least just live with him. I have a camping trip planned to the Manson Family’s old hideout in Death Valley tomorrow, and even though the overnight lows are projected to be

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Late night munchie regrets

in the 20s (!!!!!@%^&$#!!!!), I’m packing up my Hot Hands, my peppermint schnapps and my down jacket, and heading out anyway. I’ll tell you all about it soon — if I don’t freeze my ass off, first.

Bah!

 

 

 

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Bogged Down

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Perfect weather
by Pacific NW Photography

Remember how I was bragging about all the outdoor shoots I’ve been doing lately, as the weather is perfect this time of year? Well, apparently “perfect” is too strong a term. We may get 350 days of sunshine out here in the desert…but guess what? It also rains sometimes. And when it rains…it pours!

When a big rain falls in the desert, the dry, parched earth is unable to soak up all that water, which ends up rushing down through the canyons and washes toward Lake Mead, the lowest geographical point in the region. Along the way, the flash floods wreak all kinds of havoc: cars are washed away, trees are torn up by their roots, and backcountry roads can get washed out. Water also pools up in the center of our beautifully cracked dry lake beds…and they become actual temporary lakes.

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Sometimes the dry lake bed is a lake
Photo credit: ByWinslow.com

This type of weather is most common in the summer monsoon season (July-September), but apparently, while I was zonked out of my brains in San Diego in mid-October, it rained fairly heavily out here. The weather had mostly cleared by the time I got back on Sunday, so I figured I’d be good to go for my next photo shoot, which wasn’t until Thursday.

Now, this was one of my all-day desert adventure tour specials, where I pick the photographer up in the morning and drag him all over the desert from fabulous location to fabulous location, posing nude along the way. Sometimes we take the photographer’s car and I just navigate…but sometimes the photographer doesn’t have a car, so we take my trusty Ford Ranger pickup truck. This was one of those occasions.

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by Gary L. Hansen

My client this time was a tall, taciturn Texan who was staying at one of the hotels in downtown Vegas; I picked him up, he somehow folded his 6’7″ frame into my passenger seat, and we were off. Like I said he was the strong, silent type and didn’t talk much…but thankfully, I never run out of shit to blather on about, so the drive to our first location passed quickly. We shot out at my favorite red sandstone location, and it was fantastic: there were big, fluffy white clouds leftover from the rains earlier in the week, adding texture to the normally solid-blue desert sky, and the temperature was absolutely perfect.

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By Gary L. Hansen

The photographer had brought along a decent amount of lighting equipment, including a strobe flash and battery pack, and I was curious as to what the hell he was doing with all that gear on a blindingly sunny day. Well, I’ll tell you what he was doing: shooting bad ass shit!! I don’t know what he did technically, but the effect was very dramatic…and the results were unlike anything else I’ve gotten at that location. That’s one of the things I love so much about that location, though — no matter how often I shoot there, each photographer’s eye is different, and the results are always unique!

Anyway, after getting some amazing shots at the red rocks area, we climbed back into my truck to continue on our way. But before we headed back into town to shoot some nighttime stuff with the neon lights, Tex also wanted to shoot sunset at a dry lake bed.

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El Dorado Dry Lake, by Cam Attree

Now, the lakebed I usually shoot at is the El Dorado Dry Lake just outside Boulder City — it’s close to town, and generally the most convenient. But I knew it had recently rained, and when it rains, the rednecks like to go out there in their 4x4s and go “muddin’;” i.e. drive around in circles tearing up the pristine surface of the lakebed, so that when the rainwater eventually dries, the ground is scarred and rutted with redneck tracks. So I figured a better bet would be Apex Dry Lake, since it’s farther from town, and was more or less on the way back to Vegas.

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Apex Dry Lake, by Michael Quan

Apex Dry Lake is north of Vegas, off I-15 where it intersects with U.S. 93. I hadn’t shot out there in a few years, but from past experience I knew it to be a huge, mostly unmarred lakebed accessed via a severely rutted dirt utility road. I’ve seen people drive low-clearance sedans and stuff out there, and it had certainly never been a problem in my pickup. As we approached the lakebed, I could see from miles away that it was filled with water to an astonishing degree, and had become a lake — but I also saw that the northern reaches had already dried out, providing a small area where we could shoot. So I pointed my truck in that direction, and we made our way out to the dry area.

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by Gary L. Hansen

We got out there just in time to bang out some amazing sunset images, the kind with super long shadows and beautiful warm golden light. Then the sun went behind the clouds for awhile, so we sat on my tailgate waiting for it to pop back out. We had a brief window between the time the sun dipped below the clouds and before it dipped below the horizon — maybe 15 minutes max — but again, Tex really knew what he was doing. He had a very methodical, measured approach, and when the sunlight came back out he was able to get the precise shot he wanted, with little fuss. I really have great respect for that man’s skill!!

Well, I wish the same could be said for my own dumb ass :-/

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Stuck!

After we got the shot Tex wanted, we climbed back in my truck for the 37-minute drive back into downtown Vegas, and I headed back across the lakebed surface toward the dirt utility road that would take us back to the pavement. But somehow, I veered off course from the way I’d come in — I thought I might find a smoother path, I guess, by veering slightly south. Unfortunately for Tex and me, I ended up veering too far south…and drove straight onto a not-so-dry part of the dry lakebed. And before I could steer back over to a dry patch, I found my truck tires mired in soft, mucky mud. We were stuck!!!

I tried backing up, but my rear wheels spun uselessly in the thick muck, unable to get any traction whatsoever. Shit!!! I tried going forward, and it was the same story. I was bogged the fuck down!

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I always bring these cowboy boots
photo by Footeprints

As it happened, I had a bunch of sawed-up firewood logs in my truckbed…so at first I got out and tried to wedge some of the smaller ones under the rear tires, to give them something to grip. It was no use, and all I ended up doing in the process was sinking my flip-flops ankle-deep into thick playa mud and making a terrible fucking mess! Fortunately, I had a pair of cowboy boots in my suitcase (I always bring a suitcase full of props and wardrobe with me to shoots), so I was able to clean off my feet and put on the boots before becoming a complete disaster.

So I got back into my truck, where 6’7″ Tex was jackknifed into the passenger seat, eyeing me sidelong with a very skeptical look. “I’ll just call my emergency road service,” I assured him. I’d been towed out of the sand at the Five Palms Warm Well down near Brawley, and also at Walker Lake up near Hawthorne…and neither time had been a big deal. I figured they’d send someone out and we’d be on our way in an hour or two.

WRONG!

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stuck in the sand outside Brawley in 2014

First of all, I was more than 50 feet from a paved road, so my emergency assistance refused to cover the tow — apparently most tow trucks’ tow lines are 50′ long, so for safety’s sake that’s the limit. Arrrgh!!!! I remember the same thing happened to me in Brawley, but the tow truck driver only charged me $150 in exchange for my taking a photo with him. I didn’t want to shell out $150 again…but I figured I had no choice, if I was to salvage this photo shoot.

But come to find out, none of the tow companies in town could even be bothered to come get me — they all refused to go onto the dry lake bed at all, regardless of the price!! Finally one company said they could send someone out, but for safety’s sake it wouldn’t be until morning. D’OH!!!!

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Gathering gloom

Meanwhile, the sun had gone down and it was getting gloomier and gloomier in the cab of my truck. Poor Tex was still sitting there all crumpled up, because the mud on his side of the car was super soft and thick, and if he’d gotten out he’d have sunk down to his ankles. I’m sure he was wondering what the fuck he was doing stranded way out in the middle of nowhere with this ninny nude model, but to his credit, he didn’t complain. He just sat there quietly as I made a series of frantic Facebook posts asking for help.

You see, I have all these badass desert-explorer friends who are always commenting on my photos, advising me on offroad driving and offering to help me with shit…so I figured now was their big chance to ride to my rescue and save the day. Surely someone had a Jeep and a winch, and could come tow my sorry ass out of there! But timing is everything — no one with the necessary equipment was available and able to come out and get me just then :-/ One guy advised me to go to the airport and rent a 4×4 to tow myself out! Another guy advised me to call the police — surely they would find a tow company willing to come get me, although the bill would probably be at least $900.

$900!!! Shit!!!!!

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ByWinslow.com
taken by “Wayne” in 2008

Finally, I called this one friend of mine who has a huge F350 and a tow strap — and he offered to come out and try to save me. Yay!!!! This was another photographer friend of mine, a guy I used to shoot with all the time back when I first started modeling in 2008 and 2009; we’ll call him Wayne. I hadn’t spoken to him in years, but he had randomly texted me a week or so previously, and we’d started talking again. He’s one of those backcountry types who really knows the desert, so I figured if anyone could help me, it was him.

So Tex and I sat in the dark, gloomy cab of my pickup truck, waiting for Wayne to come save us. Poor Tex didn’t say more than 100 words the whole time, and I was acutely embarrassed and apologetic. I kept fiddling with Facebook, reading all these horror stories people were posting about the times they got stuck in the mud, and had to pay $1,000 or even $5,000 to be towed out!! I was really freaking out, let me tell you.

Finally after an hour or so,  I heard the rumbling of Wayne’s Diesel engine and saw his headlights bumping along the utility road, coming towards us. He stopped a good distance away, and I ran over to meet him — the mud on my side of the truck was pretty firm. I figured I only needed to be yanked out about 10 feet, and I’d be back on solid ground (I literally fucked up by only a few feet :-/).

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Rescue me!!!
by PacificNW Photography

Well, Wayne looked around with his hi-beam flashlight and determined that the mud was too patchy and unpredictable to attempt a rescue in the dark — he was afraid his truck would get bogged down, too, if he got any closer to me :-/ He offered to give me and Tex a ride back into town, and I could come back in the morning and try to get out then.

Arrrrgh!!! I hated to cut the photo shoot short, but by then it was already almost 9pm, and the dream was over. Worse, I had full-day shoots the following day AND the day after that, so I wouldn’t even be able to come back out and get my truck for almost three days!! I’d have to leave it sitting out there in the middle of the mud, in the middle of nowhere, and hope no meddlesome rednecks came out to shoot it up in the meantime.

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It’s a desert, after all…
PacificNW Photography

But the more I thought about it, the more sense it made — the shoots I had on the following two days were with a photographer who was bringing his own car, so I wouldn’t really need my truck anyway….and even better, the forecast was for 80 degrees and sunny all week, so by the time I finally had time to go back out there, the mud would likely be dry enough anyway that I could just drive out FOR FREE!!! Duhhhhhhhh!!!!! And there I’d been, seriously contemplating a $1,000 tow bill. Pshaw!!!!

So my friend Wayne drove us back into Vegas. We dropped off poor Tex at his hotel, and then I took Wayne out for a drink to thank him, and to catch up on what he’d been up to since I’d last seen him a few years ago. I mean, we used to be really tight friends…so it was nice to hang out again…even though in the back of my mind I was acutely aware of the fact that I had to get up early for my shoot the next morning, and really needed to get my ass home to bed. No rest for the wicked…or the desert dumbasses!

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Kimber Collins and I at the abandoned cement plant
by PacificNW Photography

Anyway, Wayne finally drove me home and I passed the fuck out. Don’t ask me how I was able to sleep at all, worrying about my poor truck stuck way out there in the mud, all alone…but somehow I did. I got up early and plastered on makeup and a smile, ready to do it allllllll over again with the next photographer — a really nice, accomplished guy from the Seattle area with whom I’d shot in the forest last summer, on my Pacific NW modeling tour.

This photographer had brought another model along: his muse, Kimber Collins, who turned out to be a really cool, bad-ass chick. The three of us got along really well, and for the next two days, I basically shot non-stop with them: first we hit the ancient bristlecone forest in the Spring Mountains, and then we shot at Big Dune, out by Amargosa Valley, at sunset. We didn’t get back into town til 9pm, so I had no time to worry about my truck — I basically had to go straight to bed, so that I could be up and at ’em for our sunrise shoot the following day!

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PacificNW Photography

The following day, they picked me up at 6am and we headed back out, hitting an old silver mine near Searchlight, a Joshua tree forest, my favorite red sandstone spot and that fantastic abandoned industrial site I just blogged about — which come to find out is an old cement plant. It was a long ass day, and we were all pretty well wiped out by the end of it. I wanted nothing more than to just go home, take a shower and pass the fuck out…but there was still the little matter of my bogged-down pickup truck.

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Randy digging me out :-)

So instead of going home to crash, I had the photographer drop me off at the Love’s truck stop at the intersection of I-15 and U.S.93, out by Apex “Dry” Lake, where my friend Randy had agreed to meet me and help get my truck out (the photographer I was riding with had a Mustang, which might not have been able to navigate the utility road). I probably could have just hiked out and gotten the truck myself, but Randy was nice enough to come out and drive me to it in his Jeep — and he even dug out some of the mud around the tires to make sure I could get out 🙂

Then it was time for the moment of truth: would it work??? The mud was definitely drier than it had been, but it was still pretty mucky and soft out there. I was really hoping I’d get out, as I was supposed to meet my sisters in Death Valley the following day for a trip out to Saline Valley Hot Springs. Both my sisters were coming out for it, and I really didn’t want to miss any of the fun! I got in the cab, stepped on the gas……..

And I was free!!!!! FREE AT LAST, FREE AT LAST! THANK DOG ALMIGHTY, I’M FREE AT LAST!!!!! I’ve never been so euphoric in all my life, I tell you. It was incredible.

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YAHOO!

To thank Randy, I stripped off my clothes and hopped up on my truck for a few cellphone nudies….and then I got the fuck off that motherfucking lakebed, very carefully!!!!! It was actually a pretty simple matter of avoiding wet patches, and the road out wasn’t that bad at all. But when my tires rolled back onto the pavement, it was a sweet, sweet moment of relief 😀

Anyway, that’s the story of how I got mired down in the muck. Fortunately for me it ended up having a happy ending: I drove home, got cleaned up, packed for Death Valley, and made it all the way to Saline Hot Springs and back despite the fact that I had a nail in my tire the whole time all this was happening! I didn’t have enough fucking time to get it fixed before heading out in the morning, but thankfully, my friend Dr. Kildare had given me one of those air compressors powered by your car battery, and since it was just a slow leak, I was able to just keep filling it up as needed….and it got me there and back safely, so I was able to enjoy a fabulous week naked in the sunshine with my sisters — about which I will blog later. But after that, the first fucking thing I did upon returning to Vegas was get my tire plugged — at my friend Randy’s tire shop, no less 🙂

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Fuck yeah!

So now I’m plugged up, out of the muck, and ready to roll again. Bring it on!!!

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It’s a Fine Line Between an Art Festival and a Fuckfest

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photo by verynakedphotography.tumblr.com

It’s been two weeks…and I still feel like I was run over by a bus!

A ginormous, double-decker, furry LED-covered bus with a 100,000-watt sound system blasting acid house, no less. But before you start feeling sorry for me…if you’ve never woken up feeling like you were hit by such a bus…then you haven’t lived!

The name of this bus was Youtopia, which is what the San Diego locals call their annual Burning Man regional campout. In Burning Man culture, each major city or region of the country has its own community of local Burners, and many of the bigger groups host officially-sanctioned regional campouts, sometimes attracting thousands of partiers. We had our own regional in Vegas back in May, which drew about 900 people, and was a total fucking blast.

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photo by verynakedphotography.tumblr.com

Since regionals are on a smaller scale than the real Burning Man, they are marginally less exhausting — and if you’ve ever wanted to go to Burning Man, they’re a great way to get a taste of Burning Man culture without going to all the hassle and expense of driving all the way up to the Black Rock Desert. In fact, many people never even bother going to the real Burning Man — which in many Burners’ opinion has already jumped the shark, and has become little more than a douchebag-infested rave. The regional Burns are considered by many to be more authentic.

The San Diego campout is one of the bigger regionals (around 3,000 attendees), so when a friend from the area invited me to come along and camp with his friends, I shelled out $180 for a ticket and headed over to see what it was all about. I was curious to see how it compared to the other regional events I’d been to in Vegas, Arizona and San Francisco…and I am here to report that it was fantastic!

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photo by verynakedphotography.tumblr.com

Unlike Burning Man, which is held on a stark, treeless desert playa, Youtopia takes place in the beautiful, forested hills of an Indian reservation out near Temecula, far from the prying eyes of Johnny Law. People set up camp in little ravines and gullies among the scrub oak, and in the mornings the mountaintops are blanketed in coastal fog and mist, making for an otherworldly, mystical vibe. After dark, the landscape twinkles with colorful lights strung in all the trees, and you sort of wander around through the forest from camp to camp, like some kind of psychedelic-drug-fueled game of Dungeons & Dragons. It’s actually pretty magical!

But the location is a blessing and a curse — It can be kind of hard to walk up and down those steep hillside trails when you’re wearing platform boots and shrooming out of your gourd. Also, apparently last year a few members of the governing Indian tribe got drunk and stormed onstage at one of the dance camps to cuss out all the stupid white people flailing around in tutus and furry boots, making for a really uncomfortable scene what with all the guilty liberals in attendance. Unfortunately, nothing like that happened this year 🙁

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Higher than a kite

Anyway, I’m glad I went — I met so many cool people; mostly from the San Diego area, but also many from L.A., Arizona, Utah and a few familiar faces from Vegas. But most of the attendees were locals from San Diego, including the group I camped with, who called themselves the Spillage Village and who were super welcoming and friendly. That San Diego Burner community is legit as fuck!

Spillage Village was camped on a hillside in a little forested valley, and we had some really interesting neighbors. On one side, we had the Frauditorium, who erected a full-on performance stage and hosted a talent show and an acro-yoga class taught by circus performers. Then on the other side, we had the Angry Brown Girls Bar, which was pretty much what it sounds like: a bar staffed by (understandably) pissed off women of color. Anyone was welcome to come in and have a drink, as long as you were willing to be enlightened…so of course I went in and sat down.

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Making new friends

Well, things got really interesting when a group of well-meaning hippies set up a stand right next to them handing out slices of chilled cantaloupe and watermelon! One of the Angry Brown Girls stormed out and asked them to move, as they considered it insensitive to host a watermelon stand next to a brown girls’ bar. The chick who was handing out the melon was totally taken aback, as she truly didn’t mean any offense (handing out chilled melon slices is common at Burning Man)…but the Angry Brown Girls were pissed, and insisted she leave at once.

Unfortunately, the melon girl only made it worse for herself by sarcastically quipping, “Fine, I’ll take my blackface elsewhere!!”  Oooooh!!!!! It was pretty tense there for awhile, let me tell you.

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Love Guru Halcyon

Fortunately, there was plenty of feel-good lovey-dovey shit on the third side of our camp: a ginormous, obnoxiously pink heart-themed Goddess-worshipping compound run by a love guru named Halcyon. Halcyon has hot pink hair and a pink RV with giant wings airbrushed on the side and the legend “HUG NATION” emblazoned on the back, and he travels around spreading love and hugs all over the USA. Come to find out, “Hug Nation” was the name of a webcast he used to co-host every Tuesday with his 90-year old ex-Baptist-minister grandfather; apparently they touched a lot of people, and when his grandpa died, Halcyon mixed his ashes into the paint used to airbrush the wings on the side of the RV! You can see the whole story at GrandpaCaleb.com, and it’s actually pretty interesting.

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Making vagina coladas

Now, I had seen some of Halcyon’s videos on YouTube (he does a lot of stuff about Burning Man, which I watched when I was preparing to go up there the first time), and I kind of expected him to be a self-absorbed twat. So imagine my surprise when he turned out to be one of the coolest people I’ve ever met! I felt an instant connection with him, and we hit it off right away. One thing that particularly resonated was his theory about an “Optimism Tax,” which basically says that trusting people is OK, even if you get taken advantage of from time to time — it’s better than being a suspicious hater, and anything you lose is basically just a “tax” for being optimistic. Now, living in Vegas all these years has made me very cynical….but I do still believe most people are basically good, which is why I’m not afraid to do half the shit I do — go out to the desert with strange men, meet up with random strangers at hot springs, etc. Sure, every once in awhile I suffer a blow like the Jack Johnson debacle…but it’s a small price to pay for living an open life with an open heart. Sign me up, and pass the pink Kool-Aid!

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Thanks to the Art Bar for hosting me!

Anyway, aside from all the interesting characters, there was also a lot of cool art at Youtopia; I made my own contribution to the scene by whipping up several ultra-dramatic batches of Vagina Coladas with my Electric Vagina-powered blender at the Art Bar one afternoon. But I also wore my Electric Vagina at night, with a silver space suit and a ray gun plugged into my crotch, and went around bathing people in gentle rays of estrogen, neutralizing all the testosterone and even bestowing temporary 48-hour festival sterilizations on the nutsacks of all the men: “Go ahead and fuck anybody you want — starting NOW!!!” Let me tell you, my services were extremely popular.

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WHAT IS LOVE?

Because let’s face it: these Burning Man events are always a fuckfest thinly disguised as an art festival. Between the Orgy Domes, S&M dungeons and “Goddess Pampering Stations,” you can’t walk two feet without drowning in lube and pheromones; I guess that’s what happens when a bunch of half-naked people get fucked up on booze and drugs and lose their inhibitions. I don’t experience that effect personally… but then I run around naked on the regular, so it’s not such a big deal to me. Tits and nutsacks have lost their magical powers over me….ya know?

Not so for everyone else!! I had barely woken up the first morning there when one of my campmates came over with a pot of warm water to give me a sponge bath; I went along with it and laid back naked, tampon string dangling seductively from my twat, and listened as he told me all about this thing he practices called Orgasmic Meditation. Basically, it’s a sort of highly regimented cult-type thing where women lay back and let strange men with rubber-gloved fingers massage their clitorises in a very specific fashion for exactly fifteen minutes, with no eye contact and no emotional or personal component. Then both parties describe the exact feelings and sensations they had during the process, and some sort of enlightenment is apparently reached. Interesting!

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making drinks in the forest

Then there was this other guy camped across the way, who had set up a giant body-art pavilion where he would cover your naked torso/ass/tits/whatever in neon paint, and you would then roll around on a piece of butcher paper, creating “art” with your painted body. Now, the last fuckin’ thing I want to do at a three-day campout with no showers is get paint up my asscrack, but the guy was so earnest and persistent that I finally agreed to let him coat my nether-regions in paint, including my tampon string, so I could make an artsy imprint to hang on my wall. My intent was to make a sort of feminist statement, with the tampon string slashing between my labia…but the string didn’t end up making much of an imprint, and all the whole process ended up doing was getting him riled up to the point where he commented that this was “only the second time” he’d gotten aroused doing this. Remember what I said? It’s a fine line between an art festival and a fuckfest!!!!!!

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drink it!!!

I mean, you couldn’t get away from it! I was walking around one afternoon with a couple of my campmates when we stumbled on a Banana Blowjob Contest — whoever gave the best blowjob to a banana won some sort of prize, I guess. The contest was being emceed by a chick I know from Vegas, so when one of the scheduled contestants was a no-show, she called on me to fill in. Fuck!! I had no game plan — I mean, one of the other contestants had peeled and sucked her banana using only her toes, and another chick placed her banana in a crotch of some hippie and dry-humped him to much hooting and hollering from the crowd. How the fuck was I supposed to one-up that?! I ended up seizing my banana in a vise-grip, crushing out the innards in a gooey pulp, then flinging that pulp at the judges like an orangutan flinging its own shit at a zookeeper. Take that, ya oversexed perverts!!!!!

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Fun with new friends

But lest you think me a frigid, humorless killjoy, dig this. Another camp called Porntopia or something like that had a party one afternoon, with all kinds of sex-themed hijinks going on (shocker!!): vibrator races, bobbing for dildos — silly stuff like that. But they also had a dome way in the back with a couple of Sybians inside.

If you don’t know, a Sybian is a sort of upholstered sawhorse with vibrators embedded in it, which women are supposed to ride, hands-free, until they get off. They’re popular with the Howard Stern crowd, and I’d always been curious to try one. So when a malodorous half-baked hippie kid came up to me and asked me if I’d go into the dome with him (you had to have a partner to get in, so he was desperately asking everyone who walked by), I actually agreed.

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At camp

What a weird experience!!!! I didn’t even know this kid’s name, but we went into the dome and sat on this sawhorse together, facing toward one another, each of us astride our own personal vibrator with our own controller….and we fired them up and went to town. The kid kept trying to hug and kiss me, but I wasn’t about to get into all that; like I said, I didn’t even know his name, and I wasn’t attracted to him physically in the least. I’m just there to try the fuckin’ Sybian, bro!!! It was WEIRD — I felt like how I imagine it must be for a fuckboy; I got off pretty much right away, but out of politeness sat there sort of letting him manhandle my back and buttcheeks while he went on and on and on. He took so long that I ended up getting off again, and still had to sit there as he flailed about, trying (unsuccessfully) to kiss me between gropes. Meanwhile, the sun was going down and I still had to lug all my vagina colada gear back to camp, which was quite a distance away, so it was like, “Hurry the fuck up, kid!!”

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drinking!

Finally I’d had enough, and I guess the kid realized he was never going to get any nookie from me, so he gave up, too….and we dismounted and walked away, never to see each other again. WEIRD! I’ve never been one for casual or anonymous sex, and this only reinforced my conviction. NOW HEAR THIS!! All you swingers who constantly email me, inviting me to “play” parties and shit like that— I’M NOT INTO IT!!! I want love, dammit — or at least fondness.  And if I can’t have that…I’m not interested.

Anyway……….considering all this attempted kissing and groping and drink-sharing and pipe-passing, it wasn’t really a surprise when I felt my tonsils starting to swell up toward the end of the weekend — I was getting sick. That campout was one big Petri dish of bacteria, and it finally got to me. The Miso Horny camp was there doling out homemade miso soup, so I drank a bowl or three of that to try and stave it off….but it was no use. Three days of running around a drizzly forest half-naked and hopped up on shrooms and cheap wine is bound to do it….ya know?!

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At my camp

In the interest of not getting sick, I tried to hit the sack early on the last night… but when my campmates and I got back to Spillage Village, I accidentally set off a raging afterparty when I queued up Milli Vanilli on my cellphone, and everyone crawled under my shade canopy for a two-hour late-nite singalong, mostly to the music of Abba, of all things. Come to find out, everyone likes Abba! The worst part was, I’d been getting ready for bed and had already gotten undressed, so I was sitting there doing all of this in nothing but a microscopic piece of Victoria’s Secret buttfloss, surrounded by affable drunks and rainy forest. It was actually a total fucking blast….but like most fun things, it wasn’t good for my health.

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NO WONDER!

Aaaaaanyway, that’s how I came to find myself limping back across the Mojave Desert to Vegas, feeling like I was hit by a furry, blinking bus. Just like the real Burning Man, Youtopia was an amazing party — but exhausting! Enlightening? Not really. Boundary-pushing? Not so much of that, either. But it was totally fucking fun….and I will probably go again next year.

And it’s not just because of the Sybian!!!!!!

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A Fabulous New Discovery in the Desert!

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Stargate
by Shutterbug Studio

I have a lot of unique desert locations I use for my artistic nude photo shoots; if you hire me for a shoot, I can take you to places like rustic old wooden buildings, dry lake beds, Joshua tree forests and red sandstone wonderlands. But to keep things fresh, I am always on the lookout for interesting new places! And since the desert is full of weird stuff, all it takes is a little exploring.

 

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inside the tube
By Kimber Collins

 

With that in mind, last Wednesday my friend Randy Fosth a/k/a Shutterbug Studio and I went out adventuring, scouting for new photo shoot locations — preferably within an hour’s drive from the Strip, to keep things feasible for visiting photographers. We meandered around the Mojave Desert all day, stopping here and there at an abandoned motel, a hot spring and an old town site…before finally stumbling upon an amazing find: a GINORMOUS abandoned mine, rusting away in the baking desert sunshine less than an hour from the Vegas Strip!

 

 

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what was it??

The scale of this place absolutely took my breath away: it is GIGANTIC! I have no idea what they used to mine (or mill, I’m not sure) here…but whatever it was, they did it on a pretty grand scale. The remains of the rusty old machinery is huge, on a scale so large that it can be overwhelming to a photographer, at first. But upon closer inspection, this is a fantastic place to shoot!

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Rusty pipeline
photo by Shutterbug Studio

The first thing you notice is this ginormous rusty metal pipeline, cut into two pieces, that dominates the landscape. The rust patterns on the outside are beautiful at golden hour, and the inside is lined with beautiful fire brick, infused with gorgeous filtered light coming in from each end. It almost looks like the Roman catacombs — if the Romans had sent them into Outer Space!!!

There are huge sprockets at the ends of the pipes, which are very easy to climb up on, and make for a surreal, Stargate-like portal. The variety of photos that could be taken here is endless — Mad Max/post-Apocalyptic, Steampunk, rock bands…and of course, art nudes 🙂 Very versatile!

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the lounge area

Aside from the giant pipes, there are also several concrete outbuildings scattered about; most of these house the remains of computer mainframes and control panels, and are not overly photogenic. But there is one building with a bunch of old sofas inside, and some fairly decent, colorful graffiti on the walls — and since one of the walls has been knocked down, the light is pretty good. There is also some interesting honeycomb-patterned sound-proofing on the doors.

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photo by Kimber Collins

There’s also a huge old electric transmission tower, long defunct, with the ceramic insulators all shot to pieces, laying in broken chunks on the ground (this area is apparently popular with target shooters and other local rednecks, as there are shotgun shells everywhere). Since it’s no longer electrified, it’s a great structure for climbing!

The tallest building at the site is this silo-like rusty metal tower, that apparently used to house some sort of super-loud generator or something — there is still a sign on the outside, warning that ear protection is required. Inside, you’ll find a bunch of exposed plumbing that is excellent for industrial-type art nudes. The only downside in here is that everything is covered in a thin film of white dust that will get all over you; in fact, the entire area is pretty fucking filthy, and you will feel the need for a boiling-hot bath or shower after rolling around naked at this site.

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Pipes inside the silo/tower

I’m not sure what was mined/milled/processed here, but whatever it was, the remaining debris and dust is undoubtedly bad to breathe — so beware! You don’t want to wind up with a case of silicosis, all for the sake of shooting some arty T&A. One of the huge pipes in particular is lined with a thick layer of this fine white silty stuff…so be advised. But I don’t think there’s anything overly toxic at this site, since there are no warning signs posted and the property is not even fenced. In fact, the only signage indicates that it’s on public land, and is open to target shooters — as long as they clean up after themselves (which they do not; as mentioned, the ground is littered with shotgun shells) (SHOCKER!).

 

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All they ask is that you clean up after yourself

So basically, other than dirt and possible contamination, you don’t really have to worry about shooting nudes here. On both my visits the site was totally deserted, and it’s far enough from any town that the likelihood of your being bothered is pretty slim…even though the access road is fairly easy to navigate, even in a regular car (it’s paved, but in severe disrepair…so just drive slowly and you’ll be OK).

Overall, this is my new favorite shooting location; it’s remote, bizarre, and beautiful in a very unorthodox way. I love it!! Hire me for a shoot…….and I’ll take you there 😀

 

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No Better Meat

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YOU should be afraid of ME!
pic by CJ Photo

As a freelance nude model, the two questions I get asked most are: “Isn’t it dangerous to go out to the desert with all these strange men?” and “Do you have any modeling horror stories?”

Sorry to disappoint you bloodthirsty fuckers, but the answer to both is…not really.

I have been doing a ton of photo shoots lately, with people from all over the world. Mostly, these have been full-day bookings – I offer a $500 deal where, over the course of an 8-hour day, I take you around the desert to shoot at red sandstone rocks, a dry lake bed, rustic abandoned buildings, Joshua trees and lonely desert roads. I’ll even drive, if you want me to. And because the weather here in the desert is perfect right now for outdoor shooting, I have been booked solid!

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come fly with me!

I usually meet the photographer in the morning — at his hotel, or at a pre-arranged meeting spot convenient to both of us — and either I get into his car, or he gets into mine, and we head off out of town to the first stop on my itinerary.

As mentioned, many consider this super sketchy…but I don’t just shoot with anybody; I have a pretty decent vetting process. In addition, I have a businesslike demeanor, concrete balls…and a hidden weapon 🙂 And anyway, realistically the photographer has just as much reason for concern as I do — for all he knows I could be a psycho killer, or even just an unscrupulous con artist who will drive him out to the desert, steal his cash and expensive gear, and leave him for dead.

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CJ Photo

Thankfully, I’m an honest person and a legitimate model – which I think most photographers can tell from my site and my Model Mayhem bio. And so far, I have never had one single bad experience with a photographer — other than being stood up a few times (YOU know who I’m talking to, jerks).

When I admit to a lack of modeling “horror stories,” people almost seem disappointed — apparently, the general perception of the amateur modeling biz is that it’s nothing but pervs, rapists, and murderers…or a thinly-veiled front for prostitution. Well, again — sorry to burst your bubble, but this really isn’t the case. Most of my clientele are professional types from other fields who simply enjoy indulging their artistic side as a avocation. They just want to take beautiful photographs; that’s all!

That being said…my tolerance for pervy shenanigans is much higher than most models’, and what other girls probably would call horror stories, I just chalk up to being amusing anecdotes; I have had some pretty gross experiences, but to me it’s just great blog fodder! Like the time that photographer asked me to kick him in the balls repeatedly, or the guy who jerked off while I was in the room. The humanity!!!

In any event, those kinds of shenanigans are very rare, and most of the photographers who hire me are super cool and very professional about their work; usually the worst that happens is a little initial awkwardness when we first get into the car together and drive off. But I can talk to just about anyone, so usually after about 15 minutes we are chattering away like old friends. I have met some really interesting people this way — I’ve spent hours driving around the desert with doctors, lawyers, mining engineers, software programmers and all manner of other professionals….and only a few pervs 🙂 It’s actually very interesting, and I’ve learned a lot.

Of course, sometimes there’s a language barrier; the other week I shot with a super nice Japanese man who spoke somewhat limited English, but we were able to communicate just fine, and ended up having a great shoot…especially at the end, when he broke out a traditional Japanese yukata for me to pose sluttily in, along with a weird Japanese fox mask and a towel from some Japanese girlie metal band called BABYMETAL. Whatever you say, boss!

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In the desert

Then another day, I shot with a South African couple who was traveling around the U.S. in a giant motorhome, photographing landscapes for five weeks. They, too, hired me for a full day desert tour…and they were absolutely enchanted with the locations I took them to. I love watching the expressions on peoples’ faces when I show them my beautiful locations — I really do love the desert, and I enjoy sharing it with others. I love showing tourists that there’s more to Vegas than just slot machines and shitty shows!

Anyway, that shoot was particularly interesting because both of them shot me — and they had two cameras apiece! So I ended up posing for literally thousands of photos that day; their style was to just let me do my thing while they blasted away.

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Just do your thing!

As a model, the first few minutes of any photo shoot are always interesting in that you have to sort of suss out the photographer’s shooting style — are they the type who likes to carefully compose each shot, with attention to light, shadow and geometry? Or, as is the case with many beginners, do they just get nervous and start blasting away, giving little or no direction? (I prefer the first style, as “just doing my thing” non-stop for 8 hours is pretty exhausting.)

Also, you have to figure out your posing — are they the artsy type, preferring anonymous bodyscapes, downcast eyes and wistful expressions? Or do they prefer more glamour-type cheesecake, with direct eye contact and toothy smiles? (The former is more in line with my personal aesthetic, but I enjoy shooting both.) I usually figure all that out as I go along, and do my best to cater to the photographer’s preferences….which generally ends up being a mix of styles, so I never get bored.

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Photo by J. Patton

Speaking of getting bored, you might wonder if I ever tire of going out to the same locations over and over again — I mean, last week I shot out at my red sandstone location four times in one week (and on two occasions was there for the full day, without hitting any other locations)! But the answer to this is no — because every photographer has a different eye, and each shoot turns out different from the last in one way or another.

In fact, one of my recent shoots was really different from the others in that is was pissing rain the entire time — and I don’t mean drizzling, I mean dumping. I messaged the photographer the day before, noting that thunderstorms were in the forecast, and offering him the option to reschedule or just shoot in his room, instead. But this crazy motherfucker was Ukrainian, and scoffed at my wussy Western ways — what’s a little desert thunderstorm?! Clouds just mean beautiful, diffused light!

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Rain

So I sacked the fuck up, threw on a rain poncho, and headed out to the desert anyway…and along the way, the weather got even worse. At one point, I had my windshield wipers on overdrive, and I could still barely see 10 feet in front of the truck. Yikes!!! To make matters worse, the temperature had also dipped freakishly into the 60s — a full 30 degrees cooler than at my shoots earlier and later in the week. BRRRRRRRRR!!

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Rainy desert

But I had to give that crazy motherfucker props — even as thunder and lightning split the desert sky and rain literally poured all around us, he crouched in a red sandstone cave directly across from where I was huddled miserably/seductively in another red sandstone cave, and proceeded with the shoot. Every once in awhile the rain would let up ever so slightly, and we’d make a mad dash for another couple of caves — and so it went, from cave to cave and then from location to location. We couldn’t even shoot at the dry lake bed, because it had officially become a lake — I mean, this was a heavy-ass rainstorm, setting a new rainfall record and causing all kinds of damage. There was even half-dollar sized hail coming down near one of the locations we shot at; fortunately, this kind gentleman took pity on me after awhile and we headed back to town. (He really was a super nice, cool guy…I don’t mean to make him sound like a monster or anything.)

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I’ve spent a LOT of time here lately!

Anyway, that freak storm passed, and the rest of my shoots proceeded without incident. The worst thing that happened was that I cut my hand pretty badly on a splinter at the abandoned building location, and my ass got a little scratched up from all the climbing/scooting around on sandstone (I spent a total of 18 hours over 4 days shooting at the red rocks site, a personal record)! But I consider myself lucky……because things almost took a much worse turn.

You know how earlier in this blog I was bragging about how I’ve never had a bad experience with a photographer? Well, I should stop that kind of talk right this minute, so that I don’t jinx myself like I did on Wednesday.

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The previous titleholder for Scariest Thing I’ve Seen At a Shoot

I was hiking along at the red rocks site in my bare feet or my flip flops — I don’t remember which — talking to the photographer about how I’ve been lucky in all my dozens and dozens of desert shoots, and had never once seen a rattlesnake, scorpion or black widow. (The worst I’d seen was a ginormous hairy tarantula that lumbered into the shot once — which was creepy, but harmless.) Anyway, no sooner had the boast left my lips than what should I spy slithering into a pile of rocks just ahead of me but a snake!!!!! YIKES!!!!!

Neither the photographer nor I thought it was a rattler — it was a sort of mottled brown and on the small side, just chilling there peeking out at us non-aggressively. So like an idiot, I started talking baby talk to it (“Awwwwww…..who’s a cute little snakey-

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My new m.o.

wake?”) and tossed a pebble at it to get it to move. And when it turned tail to skedaddle, sure enough there was a rattle on its tail!!!!!!!! Y I K E S ! ! ! ! ! ! Did I mention I was wearing flip flops?! From now on I’m wearing BOOTS in all my nude photo shoots!!!!!

Anyway, despite the close calls with flash floods, lightning strikes, rattlesnakes and Hantavirus-covered splinters, I survived all my photo shoots this month — and indeed survived another year of living fabulously, as my birthday came and went while I was on yet another photo shoot, out in Death Valley with the guy with whom I’ve been working on that ass-trophotography series.

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photo by CJ Photography

This was something like our 7th shoot, and each time our work gets better — I mean, check this shit out!! It has to be one of the most beautiful photos ever taken of me…I <3 it. Bathed in the glow of the Milky Way…ahhhhh.

The best part about shooting with that guy is, he always gets a room in Shoshone or Tecopa (little desert towns on the outskirts of Death Valley), and we hang out boozing and smoking weed all day in the pool or the hot springs, until nightfall, when we head out to a lonely spot in the desert nearby to shoot. He always has super-trippy music playing, like William Orbit, and truly exceptional wine and cheese for craft services. Now, that’s class!!

This time, we celebrated a little bit extra because it wasn’t just my birthday — it was his, too!! So on the morning after our shoot, we both ate some mushrooms and spent the day lazing about on the porch of our room at the Shoshone Inn, watching the Mojave desert tortoises crawl around as the sun slanted lower and lower. Finally, around sunset, we headed over to Tecopa to get something to eat at the new Death Valley Internet Cafe (I’m sorry to report that my beloved Pastel’s Bistro is no longer in business…but the good news is, a really cool artist couple is taking over, and it will eventually reopen under another name, but with a similar vibe).

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Tecopa

Meanwhile, there’s this new Internet Cafe — which is amazing!! It’s run by another couple of Vegas refugees who enjoy cooking up fresh, healthy, delicious foodie-food-type meals with innovative ingredients and plenty of style. The cafe itself is full of funky locally-produced art, and they even host live music on a little stage in the dining room.

The windows in this place glowed cheerily in the dusk as we rolled in from Shoshone, and the beauty of everything on the drive over just made me bawl my eyes out — I think I was still worn out from Burning Man, plus it being my birthday made me melancholy, I guess, because the gorgeous pinks and purples of the desert sunset were all too beautiful, just like in the song “Itchycoo Park,” and I just wept from the overwhelming magnificence of life! There is so much I look forward to seeing and doing in life — I never want it to end. There are so many adventures to be had!

Anyway, the best part about all this is that to pay for these adventures, I get to roam around the desert with interesting strangers…which in itself is something of an adventure! So, my life is something like an self-fulfilling prophecy, or positive feedback loop…or maybe I’m just a hamster running on a wheel in a cage made of my own shortsightedness.

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Mary Jane

In any event, one thing’s for sure — even when I’m not running around the desert with strange men, making my monthly nut is always an adventure. The variety of gigs available to a gal here in Vegas is endless — just looking back over the past few weeks, I worked as a marijuana showgirl at the grand opening of a medical marijuana growers’ supply store, as a product demonstrator at the bicycle industry trade show, and as a hot dog server at the convenience store owners’ convention.

This last one in particular was a hoot — it was the proverbial sausagefest! Something like 30,000 convenience-store owners converged on Vegas to stuff themselves on free samples of pretzels, jerky, beer, nuts, donuts, Hostess cakes, Tastykakes, Little Debbie cakes, Oreo churros (!!!), soda, taquitos, pizza, sliders, nachos and of course delicious gourmet Chicago-style sausages and hot dogs. There was a huge contingent from Brazil this year — apparently, the C-store business is booming in Brazil. But there were people from all over the world at this show, and it was really interesting.

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Slinging wieners

One of the funniest things about working these shows is the other models you end up working with. As a general rule, the lower-brow the show, the more scantily clad babes you see on the tradeshow floor; the convenience store expo is chock-a-block with hired T & A. Fortunately, the client I was working for was super nice and fairly low-key,  only needing four babes to serve their sausages — no skimpy outfits required, just wholesome attitudes and friendly smiles. I mean, we were serving freaking hot dogs! But you’d never know it from the attitude of some of these girls.

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I don’t take myself too serious

This one chick in particular was a real piece of work; I’ve worked with her before, and while cute as a button and twice as pert, she’s secretly a huge stoner, so we sort of bonded over that. She’s trying to break into professional spokesmodeling/TV hostessing, so I told her she should become the face of the legal marijuana industry, which as we all know is booming/soon to be booming. But when I suggested it, she was all “I don’t know…I wouldn’t want to jeopardize my title.” Title?! Turns out she was Miss [insert hillbilly state here] USA several years back…and apparently that honor is such a career-booster that she can’t risk being associated with marijuana. Meanwhile, the bitch is slinging wieners at a fuckin’ Kwikie Mart expo. SMH!!!!!

Then there was this little ninny I worked with at the bike show. She had just turned 18, and this was her first tradeshow ever; to her credit, she was very attentive and pretty damn sharp, and picked up the sales pitch and everything really fast, so she was great to work with. But in our downtime, we started chatting about modeling. She does some Model Mayhem shoots, but she won’t do any nudes with strangers — “I’m going to be famous,” she explained, totally serious.

For that same reason, she refused to sell her underwear to some guy who had offered to buy them off her; she didn’t want that kind of scandal coming back on her future Academy-Award-winning career. Then in the next breath told me how she actually did shoot some nudes last month for submission to Playboy, and was waiting to find out if she made the cut….and then when she found out I’d done extra work for those porn movies, she was all over my nuts for the casting lady’s info. When the tradeshow ended, she was giddy with joy because the casting lady had texted her back saying she could definitely use her in some scenes……so, you tell ME how this story’s gonna end!

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I’m a realist

Meanwhile, there’s realistic bitches like me — short on self-importance, but long on my savings account, my IRA and my home equity. A dollar’s a dollar, and fuck you if you don’t like the way I earned it! The way I look at it is, the more uppity bitches there are in this world, the less competition I have for the really interesting gigs. Like these freaky fucking vore videos I shot the other week.

If you don’t already know, “vore” is a genre of fetish involving devouring/being devoured; in the past, I’ve done videos where I ate little tiny men, chewing them up slowly, swallowing them, and then digesting them with my sexy little stomach acid. But this particular vore site was different; La Vore Girl features giant monsters eating sexy women!

The guy who runs the site is a really nice, down-to-earth Everyman who stumbled on this bizarre way of making money by chance; he made a few “monsters” out of upholstery foam, set up a studio in his dad’s basement, and now he’s on his way to fame and fortune — someone’s even making this awesome documentary about him:

Anyway, he hired me one night to come over, strip naked and get eaten by a couple of his monsters. How could I say no to that?!?! The setup was a classroom; in one video, I brought my pet monster to Show & Tell, and showed the class how I like my monster to eat me. In the other, I was a bratty schoolgirl who was trying to convince my monster teacher to change my “F” in Algebra to an “A:” “Isn’t there anything I can do to convince you, Mr. Cy-Eye?!?!?!?”

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Being eaten by a monster

Unfortunately for me, I had to stretch my comfort levels a little and pretend the monster was actually having sex with me; I guess I’m not as free-spirited as I claim to be, as that kind of content kind of skeeves me out a little. But it was all very tongue-in-cheek (GET IT?); as Mr. Cy-Eye is giving it to me on his desk, I look back into the camera and deadpan: “This better get me an A!”

Besides all of that, the shoot was fascinating for another reason; the filming took place in this bizarre sort of kooky, sprawling compound just northeast of downtown Vegas owned by

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https://ballbustinfootlovin.fetlovin.com/

none other than the king of ballbusting, Mr. Bryan Balldacious…a man who makes his living having his testicles abused by sexy models. To that end, his home studio is filled with all kinds of crazy furniture with holes cut into it for his nutsack to dangle thru; the chicks then box it like a punching bag, or otherwise attempt to destroy it, and he sells the videos on his website, BallbustinFootlovin.fetlovin.com. Say what?!! I’ve never worked for him myself because his stuff is very adult; the chicks usually end up blowing him. But as seen earlier in this blog entry, I have done some softer-core ballbusting videos in my day…and I have to say, I find them mildly therapeutic 😀

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Weird shit in the dark
pic by CJ Photo

Anyway, when that crazy shoot was over I packed my bag and got the fuck out of there. As I was climbing into my truck in the front driveway, four Mexican cowboys came cantering down the street on horseback, drinking beer and chattering in Spanish in the dusky twilight. Considering all I’d just seen, I was sure they were the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse…but in reality, I was just in one of those weird, funky old neighborhoods in Vegas that are still zoned for horses, even though development has crept up around them on all sides. (Get it…..neighborhoods?!) And that, my friends, is one of the reasons I still love Vegas…even after all these years.

So to thank Vegas for all it has done for me, I decided to do one last gig…pro bono. You know, just to give a little something back to the community that has given me so very much!

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SpyOnVegas.com

This was the weekend of the annual Life Is Beautiful festival; one of those annoying music festivals featuring multiple bands, overpriced drinks, food trucks and hordes of chicks wandering around in high-waisted acid-wash shorts. Shudder! Worse, they hold this festival in downtown Vegas, not far from my house…but they fence it off from the rest of the neighborhood, in order to keep out all the poor people who live down there, and sort of pretend they don’t exist. Because Life is Beautiful…not Difficult/Scary/Sad, you fool.

But this year it was actually pretty cool; they had turned this shitty old no-tell motel down there into an art space called the Art Motel, with each room being curated by a different artist or art crew. I was invited to participate as part of the Intimately Female group exhibit in one of the rooms; the director was this super-progressive gallery owner here in town who dug my Electric Vagina shtick, and she gave me a free festival wristband in exchange for performing at the Art Motel.

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I’m Art!!

OMG, legitimacy at last! I’m not even gonna pretend to be blasé about it; I’d never been presented as an “artist” before, and it was super exciting to be taken somewhat seriously. I dithered for weeks over how I was going to perform; I couldn’t really bring my blender and make Vagina Coladas, since I’m pretty sure that would have been a) a violation of the health code and b) a conflict of interest with the overpriced booze vendors onsite.

In the end, it didn’t matter; show management booted us out of our original room and into this tiny little broom closet under the stairs, almost completely hidden by a giant 3-D painting, and there was no room for me to perform anyway — so I became a mobile exhibit, free to roam the festival grounds in my costume and fuck with/ pose for photos with/ educate people about the Powers of the Feminine. It was awesome!!

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Viva La Vagina!

Because they had moved the festival up to September (it’s usually in October), the weather was super fucking sweltering hot, especially because of all the asphalt, and I couldn’t wear my gold spandex bodysuit; at the last minute, I came up with a sort of Electric Showgirl costume to wear instead, that actually kind of tied in perfectly with my whole shtick about how Vegas commodifies women’s bodies — which, incidentally, I’m fine with…so long as I can go topless in public if I want to!!! It’s a two-way street, motherfuckers.

So for three days, my life went like this: I packed my Electric Showgirl costume into a messenger bag and rode my bike down to Fremont Street (parking was impossible during the festival, and it’s only a 10-minute sweltering bike ride from my house). I changed into my costume in the El Cortez bathroom (there was no bathroom or air conditioning at the Art Motel), and then spent the rest of the night hanging out at the Art Motel or just wandering around the festival grounds talking to people.

Most of the time, it was pretty straightforward: I had on a showgirl headdress, and people wanted a photo with me just because it was Vegas. But then when they noticed my outlet, that’s when the conversation got interesting! I had a dramatic little spiel I would go into, about The Power Of The Feminine:

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SpyOnVegas.com

“For centuries, THE VAGINA has been IDOLIZED… FETISHIZED… DEMONIZED…  and MONETIZED. But its power has never been fully UTILIZED… until now.

Presenting the solution to the global energy crisis –THE VAGINA! The ONLY truly renewably resource we have on this planet.”

 

Then I would hold aloft my power drill, with a little pink flag that read “VIVA LA VAGINA” waving from the end of my 11″ concrete drill bit…to mostly polite applause. It was great! I even actually made a positive impact on a few young chicks, by impressing upon them how much power they really do have — and I’m not talking about pussy power in the traditional sense, where some asshole buys you a car or some Louboutins or whatever in exchange for sex. I’m talking about real power!

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SpyOnVegas.com

Because it’s like this: let’s face it, men rule the world. Something like 85% of all the heads of State, Congress, Senators, whatever around the world are men — and many/most men spend their entire lives completely bewitched by/ chasing pussy (I should know; I spend my entire working life lazily milking this weakness). Careers have been ruined, families have been destroyed, fortunes have been pissed away because of this fascination.

Meanwhile, we as women own one hundred percent of the commodity men want — ONE HUNDRED PERCENT — but somehow, we’re still second class citizens who can’t even walk down the street without a fuckin’ shirt on — or vote/take birth control/drive a car/etc in many parts of the world. How the fuck are we letting this happen? WAKE UP, GIRLS!

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Preaching!

I mean, Aristophanes addressed this theme in Lysistrata 2,426 years ago…and yet here we are, still bumbling along like idiots in stupid showgirl costumes, getting eaten by foam monsters, tripping over rattlesnakes and basically doing whatever we can to avoid facing the real issues. Sometimes, I’m really ashamed of myself. *Sigh!*

Aaaaanyway, astonishingly I managed to effectively communicate all of this to many girls and women over the course of this festival; but lest you think it was all hardcore feminist Sturm und Drang, rest assured — there was plenty of hijinks, too. I watched a few bands play, had a few drinks, met tons of interesting people in the Vegas arts community (yes, there is one)…and smoked plenty of weed.

One night, I got baked off a friendly passing stranger’s joint, and then met up with a food critic friend who tipped me off to some free tacos being passed out in one of the VIP areas; I was all about some free food, since by that time I had already blown my personal food  budget on a $12 Jack & Coke (remember, I wasn’t getting paid for this, so I had to keep a strict rein on my spending).

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Doing a podcast with a Creationist magician, his nude-snake-handler girlfriend and assorted other local kooks

So I followed my friend into the VIP enclave, where all the bougie motherfuckers were swanning around sipping cocktails safely apart from the great unwashed masses, and stood in the darkness off to the side watching this semi-well-known chef demonstrate how to make pig cheek meat tacos. It was surreal! Remember, I was high as a kite, standing there in the night gaping at a brightly lit stage where a man in chef’s whites held aloft a glistening golden-brown bisected pig’s head, while a crowd of bougie white and Asian fanboys stared slavering in awe. “I’m here to tell you,” the chef intoned matter-of-factly, “there is no better meat than the meat on this pig’s face.”

He then proceeded to take the sous-vided fatty pig cheek meat and make tacos dressed with mayonnaise — three of the foods I despise most in this world: pork, fat and mayo. Shudder! But, alas…I was so high, so hungry, and so budget-minded that I ate no less than four of those fuckers. Sometimes, I really am ashamed of myself.

I know…I just said that two paragraphs ago. Don’t think I’ve forgotten; I’m just reminding myself to be a better person. Because when all is said and done, that’s all I really have.

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Vanitas vanitatum omnia vanitas
by CJ Photo

Beauty fades, asses sag, and there comes a day when no one wants to pay you to run around the desert naked. Eventually, not even a monster made of upholstery foam wants anything to do with you — fuck; sooner or later, they won’t even let you hand out hot dogs.

So, I’m working on cultivating my inner beauty. Because I’m here to tell you….

There is no better meat than the meat between this idiot’s ears.

 

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The Fabulous Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest

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photo by Randy Fosth/ Shutterbug Studio

As the #1 Google result for “Las Vegas nude model,” I do a TON of outdoor photo shoots in the desert around Vegas. I have a few locations that I use for this — dry lake bed, abandoned buildings, fabulous red sandstone formations — but I am always on the lookout for new spots to shoot at. And the other day, I found a humdinger: the ancient bristlecone pine forest up in the Spring Mountains, just northwest of town.

Bristlecone pines are the longest-lived life forms on Earth — over 5,000 years old in at least one case — and over the millennia the winds have blasted them into gnarled, twisted shapes. The dead ones are the most visually striking, as they have lost all their bark and have these beautiful, whorled striations on their trunks and branches. The trunks are almost the same color as my skin in some cases – although they photograph most dramatically in black-and-white.

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photo by Randy Fosth/ Shutterbug Studio

These amazing ancients are found only in Nevada, Utah and eastern California (other less long-lived species are found in Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona) and I first discovered them several years ago, while hiking to the Raintree. The Raintree is this massive bristlecone pine in the Spring Mountains up near Fletcher Peak that is said to be 3,000 years old — making it (allegedly) the oldest living thing in Nevada…now that Joan Rivers is gone (ZING).

Anyway, the Raintree hike is one of my favorites in the Vegas area — after going about a mile and a half through a Ponderosa pine forest, you reach this amazing barren plateau overlooking all of the Las Vegas Valley and the surrounding desert; you can even see the Strip in the distance! It’s a huge flat area, and someone even built a little shanty out of fallen branches at the base of one of the bigger bristlecones. It would be an amazing place to camp out and have a drum circle or something like that!

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photo by Randy Fosth/ Shutterbug Studio

But what’s really striking about this plateau are all the gnarly, dead bristlecones up there. Because it’s a windblasted ridge, they have taken on some really cool, twisted shapes…and I always thought they would make for some amazing art nudes. IF I could ever convince a photographer to hike up there.

Alas, however, I probably won’t be bringing (m)any photographers to this location. Although the trailhead is less than an hour from the Vegas Strip…the hike to the plateau itself is about 1.4 miles uphill with 1,000 feet of elevation gain, starting at 8,439 feet and ending up at 9,331 feet. And that’s just to the plateau — if you want to go all the way to the Raintree, it’s another 1.3 miles and 700 feet of elevation gain. The trail itself is technically fairly easy (I do it in flip-flops)…but it’s relentlessly uphill. You’ll have glutes of steel by the time you’re finished — did I mention I can crack a walnut in my ass?!

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photo by Randy Fosth/ Shutterbug Studio

Anyway, most of the photographers who hire me aren’t up to the challenge…but I did convince my friend Randy Fosth a/k/a Shutterbug Studio to come with me the other day. And though he almost died doing it, we got all the fantastic photos you see in this blog…so I guess it was worth it!

Anyway, if you’re an adventurous sort, in moderately decent shape, and want to hire me for a shoot up here, I’ll be glad to

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photo by Randy Fosth/ Shutterbug Studio

take you up on it. All you need is water and a camera — I’ll take care of the rest! As an added bonus, because the elevation is so high, you can shoot here even on the hottest day of summer — it might be 100 degrees down in Vegas, but up here it’s generally at least 20 degrees cooler.

But even if your physical limitations won’t allow for this hike, don’t worry: all my other locations are very easy to drive to, with minimal walking/hiking 🙂 We can still take beautiful photos…I got your back!

 

*Hike information taken from Jim Boone’s fantastic site birdandhike.com. Directions to trailhead can be found there as well…or see my video below:

 

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Is That All There Is To Burning Man?

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Hunkered in my trailer

There I was, hunkered miserably in my flimsy pop-up camper as 50mph winds battered the canvas and rattled the chassis, insidious puffs of alkali dust sneaking in through every little crack and cranny, coating my dishes, wigs and even eyelashes in a fine white film of existential angst. I was tired, hungover, sleep deprived and pissed the fuck off — WHERE THE FUCK were all the perfect sunny days, languorous golden hours and pink-and-purple sunsets I’d been led to believe were my birthright? How the fuck was I supposed to cavort whimsically about the temple in my feather headdress and furry platform boots?! I WANT MY MONEY BACK!!!

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Let this dust-caked Fleshlight speak for itself…

That’s right, friends, it was Burning Man…and this year, Burning Man was a bitch!!!

I’ve been lucky; in the 7 years I’ve been going to Burning Man, the weather has been pretty good, and I assumed all that talk about day-long dust storms and whiteouts was just hippie hyperbole. Every year, I dutifully tied and re-barred everything down…but secretly wondered why the hell I was bothering, when the most catastrophic thing I’d ever experienced was a ruffled wig.

Well, now I know.

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Before my camp was destroyed

And it wasn’t just the weather that got me down — this year, every little thing seemed to conspire against my enjoyment of the Greatest Party on Planet Earth™: wind, weather, Eurotrash, mechanical troubles…and a general sort of malaise that had me wandering around the playa asking myself: “Is that all there is to Burning Man?

“Is that all there is?”

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Let’s break out the booze and have a ball!

Well, if that’s all there is….then might as well keep dancing.

I’m no weak-willed pansy; every time the playa knocked me down, I got back up again. When relentless blasting winds destroyed our camp, my sister and I swept away the sand dunes and built it back. When my usual mushroom truffles made me sick, I took whole dried stems and caps, instead. And when whiteout conditions blasted dust into every crevice and orifice…I threw on a niqab and my strap-on, and went to town. This is the party of the year — let’s break out the booze and have a ball!

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most practical gift ever

What’s a niqab, you ask? Well, it’s one of those creepy fucking black veils worn by women in some Islamic countries, where every part of the face and head are covered except for a narrow slit for the eyes. It covers everything down to about mid-chest, and is often worn over another full-length creepy black garment so that the entire body is covered…but I skipped the body part and simply accessorized it with a black rubber strap-on, a pair of Frankenstein boots and a clown nose. A fan had given it to me early in the week…and whatever your personal beliefs about the misogynistic heritage of these garments, I’m here to tell you — they are great for Burning Man!

And not just for dust protection, either — wearing the niqab prompted many interesting discussions, of a deeper nature than the usual conversations I have at Burning Man (which tend to be drug-addled ruminations on matters of little consequence, like “Have you seen that amazing light installation in Deep Playa? It blinks in time to the rhythm of your farts!”).

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conversations

The niqab provoked far more in-depth discussions on gender and religion, with people I met from all over the Middle East — including several oddly aroused Israelis (Israelis are thicker than dust at the Burn; they love EDM and psychotropic drugs, and are used to the harsh conditions of the desert). Although there was a tense moment when we visited my sister’s ex-husband and his all-Israeli camp, and I accidentally left my backpack behind when we rode off 😮 Other than that, though, people responded very well to the ensemble.

In fact, some responded uncomfortably well; one of my all-time greatest Burning Man experiences EVER came about as I was wandering the playa in that getup.

Battered to the point of exhaustion by the wind and dust, one afternoon my sister and I retreated to the protected confines of Center Camp (Center Camp is this giant circus tent in the middle of Burning Man, sort of a central gathering place full of art and sleeping hippies). We found a quiet corner with a few cushions to lay back on, and sat down to enjoy some good-old-fashioned people watching…which is excellent at Center Camp.

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Everyone wanted to play with my dick

After awhile, a pudgy, bearded Deadhead came shuffling along, and asked if he could sit beside me. Noticing my strap-on, he also asked if he could play with my dick. Of course, I said yes to both.

By now, having men fiddle with my fake penis had actually become fairly commonplace; because it was on a cute girl, the ersatz phallus was apparently a safe way for guys to indulge their latent bicuriosity, without fear of judgment….and just about every guy I encountered wanted to touch it. But this Deadhead took it to a whole new level!! After manually futzing with it for a few minutes, he mentioned that he could put a condom over it and actually suck it, if that was cool. Cool?! How much cooler can ya get???!!

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suck my dick, hippie!

So, as I lay there in my hungover stupor, not moving at all and looking for all intents and purposes as if I were unconscious…this hippie slipped a condom over my fake black penis and proceeded to go to town fellating me. FOR OVER AN HOUR!

And I’m not talking about a half-assed job, either — he really worked it, with astonishing gusto. I don’t know his personal story, or what what going on in that hairy head of his…but that motherfucker did not give a fuck. He sucked and slurped and deep-throated me, literally for over an hour, in broad daylight, and in view of many cameras. And I loved it!!

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45 min later, still going at it!

The best part was, I had on my big black stunner shades, so I could observe the reactions of people walking past without their being the wiser. You know these Burning Man types — blasé as fuck, like, “Is that all there is?” Well, guess what? Apparently, the sight of an unconscious woman in a niqab having her dick sucked by a bearded hippie with a hairy belly poking out of a tie-died Grateful Dead t-shirt is enough to make even Peggy Lee put down her gin-and-Valium and take note. For extra impact, I made sure my hairy armpits were on display (I have taken to not shaving unless I have a photo shoot…so by the time this went down, they were pretty furry).

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This man gave zero fucks. Kudos to you, sir!!!!

After about an hour, the hippie’s jaw got tired, so we invited him to join us over at the nearby Hair of the Dog bar for a drink. He agreed, and we all went off to get our bikes…but when my sister and I arrived at HOTD, the hippie was nowhere to be found. Like all truly surreal visions, he had disappeared into the mists of the playa, never to be seen or heard from again. If anyone recognizes him from these photos, by all means please tell him I’m looking for him. His stamina was amazing!!

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that niqab came in handy during dust storms

So anyway, that niqab was one thing that saved my Burn from being a total writeoff. Another lifesaver were these little powder-filled baggies I had ordered from Amazon.com called TravelJohns — basically, you pee into them, and the powder turns your urine into an odorless semisolid gel, which you can then throw away in the trash. They’re made for coal miners and lady truck drivers, but I’m here to tell you that they are INVALUABLE at Burning Man. You’ll never have to leave your cozy trailer in the middle of the night to pee again! (And that was an especially big deal this year, when a freak cold front blew in and brought temperatures down to freezing on at least one night. Yikes!!)

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Boo Ya!
photo by DPH LLC

But the niqab wasn’t the only amazing playa gift I got this year — this was actually an exceptional year for me in terms of playa gifts. I amassed a collection of scarves, necklaces, weed and mushrooms that astonished even me, but the most exceptional of the lot was this package that arrived for me via USPS — that’s right; they deliver on the playa via a P.O. box in nearby Gerlach, to which a fan had shipped me a care package full of all kinds of useful things ranging from trail mix and vitamins to Sno Balls, a fabulous purple dashiki and a $1,000,000 Zimbabwean dollar bill. You know…all the things you never knew you needed at Burning Man. A volunteer member of the Black Rock City postal service delivered it right to my camp, too. AMAZING!

But each time I decided to just keep dancing, break out the booze and have a ball…the playa would test me again. Like with poor Dr. Who.

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my brother, the UC Davis-educated engineer, made this bong out of a rubber ducky!

Now, you may remember that Dr. Who is this wonderful, kindhearted kindred spirit I met at last year’s Burn, when both my sister and I became very close friends with him. We stayed in touch all year long (I even visited him at his beautiful home in Hawaii, and he came to see us at our mom’s house in the forest of Northern California), and we had all three been looking forward to spending some quality time together in his ginormous, luxurious RV. He had stuffed the RV with gourmet foods and liquors, and had even spent a good deal of time pimping out the ceiling with tassels and fringe.

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Fun times at Dr. Who’s camp

Well…apparently he should have spent more time pimping out the engine, too, because the RV broke down en route to the Burn, and poor Dr. Who, who had looked forward to this all year long, ended up missing the first few days of Burning Man — and spent the next few sleeping at his camp in a rental car, with all his gourmet foods and costumes rotting in the trunk, until he was finally able to return to Reno and pick up his repaired rig halfway through the event. D’oh!!!!!

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BARF!
photo by Soul Thief Vision

But that Dr. Who has an indomitable spirit, and despite all his setbacks he was hellbent and determined to have fun. And if Dr. Who was able to have fun despite all HIS problems, then certainly I could! To that end, on Monday night I shoved a fistful of mushrooms in my face, and set off for a night of hijinks. But wouldn’t you know it; the playa still had it in for me…I had eaten one of my usual chocolate-mushroom truffles, which have never before given me problems, but this time made me super nauseous…so much so that I had to bail out and to go to bed early 🙁 I HATE MISSING A NIGHT OF BURNING MAN!

tumblr lrb4cipOY41r22325o1 500 300x225 Is That All There Is To Burning Man?Worse, because the shrooms were still zinging around in my system, I spent a very restless, shitty night tossing and turning in my bed. I knew my sister was OK out there — she’s a super sharp chick, and in good company with Dr. Who — but for some reason I still had this weird dream where I was in an old-timey steampunk-type two-seater rocket ship, bound for the moon…but she wouldn’t get on board. In my dream, it was the saddest thing — I waved good-bye to her as I blasted off into space, knowing I’d never see her again 🙁 WTF?!? Damn shrooms!

Anyway, after tossing and turning all fuckin’ night, I finally gave up at 7:30am (!!!)…an hour at which I rarely see the playa. I felt like I’d been hit by a giant fur-covered schoolbus, but there was nothing for it but to sack up and soldier on, and try to salvage the day. I threw on my stunner shades, purple dashiki and a pink Afro wig, and shuffled down the street for a cup of coffee at Dr. Who’s camp, where they serve coffee brewed from his plantation in Kona…trying to drown out the ennuyée voice of Peggy Lee echoing once again in my head.

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Let’s keep dancing!

But you know me — let’s keep dancing! While slouched on a sofa nursing my life-saving brew, a photographer friend who was camped next door came over and invited me to join this photo shoot he was about to embark on with another model (he’s one of those insane early-riser types you see out on by the temple at daybreak, photographing Goddesses frolicking about in feathered headdresses, etc). Now needless to say, I was NOT in photo-shoot-ready condition — remember, I was wearing a fucking purple dashiki and a pink Afro wig! But despite my miserable hangover and sleepless night, I decided “Fuckit! Let’s break out the booze and have a ball!!!

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a more fabulous wig and outfit
pic by MG Imagery

I dashed back to my camp to don a more fabulous wig and outfit, and we all three rode out to the playa in the beautiful morning sunlight, to commence shooting a series of irreverent artsy nudes among the fantastic art pieces out there. There was some really cool art this year, and three of us had a grand old time.

But, just as I was starting claw my way back to the aforementioned boozy ball…wouldn’t you know it, my resolve

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blasted away by another fuckin’ dust storm

was tested again; yet another miserable whiteout dust storm came blasting through the playa, and before you know it we were lost in an endless, choking cloud of alkali dust, cutting short the shoot and destroying my wig and very nearly my willpower in the process. I got on my bike and pedaled furiously through the howling, blasting grit, completely clueless as to where I was headed in the dusty void. Somehow, I eventually managed to navigate my way back to camp, where I tore off my filthy wig and collapsed in a heap of frustration. Damn you, playa!!!

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this weather SUCKS!

By this time I was tired, hungover, my camp was in ruins again and I was very seriously considering approaching one of the many law enforcement agents at the event and offering up my entire shroom collection in exchange for being carted off to a nice, air-conditioned jail with hot meals and no fucking wind; as an added bonus, they could seize all my property and save me the hassle of trying to pack up the fucking mess it had become — I had serious doubts that my poor long-suffering pop-up camper would survive the blasting 50mph winds, and I had the sinking feeling I’d be unable to crank it closed at the end of the week. GOOD RIDDANCE!!!

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my outfits were skimpy and not suited to cold weather

Seriously, this weather was the pits. I was being mildly facetious when I said I’d never experienced less-than-perfect weather at Burning Man in the past; I did suffer a nasty gash in my leg during a violent storm in 2013, and had been caught in a few whiteouts over the years. But never anything as relentless as this. Not only was it windy and dusty as fuck, but as previously mentioned it was also cold as fuck — dipping into the 30s on several nights. As luck would have it, this was the year I had decided to “pack light,” and not be a sparkle pony with 1,000 coats and costumes — so I had stupidly neglected to bring a big warm fur coat. D’oh!!!

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I had to ruin the effect of my silver spacesuit with Dr. Who’s blue fur coat

Thankfully, once Dr. Who was able to retrieve his RV from the repair shop in Reno, his exuberant relief was infectious. Now I had not only a safe refuge from the miserable weather, but the chance to borrow one of his furry jackets, as well. So around mid-week, things turned around dramatically — to the point where I was finally able to dance, break out the booze….and have a legit fucking ball!!! It’s hard to be truly miserable at Burning Man…if you are, you have serious problems!

Now, you’re probably wondering why, if we spent so much time hanging out with Dr. Who anyway, my sister and I hadn’t just camped with him. We’re weird like that –Dr. Who stays with a big group, with organized meals and showers and camp dues and other commie bullshit, but my sister and I like our privacy, and prefer to have our own setup off on the fringes, where we can set up a little sanctuary of our own, and be our own bosses. I guess you could say we’re control freaks! We usually just invite a few friends to stay with us, and sort of cobble together our own freaky little camp…like we did last year, with the Goddess Collective and all the other sparkle ponies.

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Goofing around with my friend MG Imagery

Well, alas….this year our own camp kind of sucked ass. We had cool people, but the infrastructure wasn’t there; because not one of our campmates had an RV to act as a windblock, our setup was repeatedly destroyed by the wind. Worse, none of our immediate neighbors had RVs either — we somehow ended up in a section of Black Rock City that was full of nothing but Millennial Eurotrash in tents and Jucy vans, who only returned to camp to sleep, eat and leave their garbage all over the playa. Apparently they hadn’t read up on the “Leave No Trace” thing; the porta potties in our part of town were reprehensible (even by Burning Man standards) — despite all the signs and exhortations that “If it didn’t come from your body, don’t put it in the potty,” they were sickeningly full of old champagne bottles, tampon applicators and beer cans. Our neighborhood was like the Black Rock Youth Hostel…lame.

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During a rare sunny moment, I ran into this friend from Vegas

And the only major camp in our area that wasn’t run by Eurotrash idiots was even worse — they had a 500,000-watt sound system blasting horrible music at random hours of the morning, waking me up at 5:30am with the theme song from “Cheers,” followed by a rousing program of Rage Against The Machine. I fully expect to suffer 24/7 loud music up at Burning Man, so I always sleep in earplugs…but earplugs can only drown out so much, ya know? It’s fairly easy to ignore the monotonous thump of EDM…but the theme song from Cheers gets your mental gears going, trying to remember dumb shit like the name of Ted Danson’s character (Sam Malone). And don’t even talk to me about Rage Against The Machine — that band sucks ass any time of day!!

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Huddled around a burn barrel at Dr. Who’s camp with a lady sexologist, my sis and a new friend

So understandably, as mentioned my sis and I spent almost the entire week hanging out at Dr. Who’s camp, and will probably stay there next year, commie infrastructure be damned: he camps with an AMAZINGLY zany collection of kooks, freaks and pornographers, mostly from L.A., and they were among the most diverse, amazing group of people I have ever met at Burning Man: porn actors, actresses, production crewmembers, hippies, Republicans, at least one virulent Obama-bashing Libertarian, art car builders, doctors, lawyers and a fantastic bevy of boozy, busted sparkle ponies shoving their tits into the faces of one and all. Say what you will about people in the industry; these were some of the most genuine, creative, wonderful people I’ve ever spent time with. I loved those crazy fuckers!!

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Caught in a blasting whiteout on the Mugwump

In addition to providing a comfortable bar and lounge area to chill in, they also had several art cars to ride around on — the elegantly-designed/inelegantly-named Penetrator, a Day-Glo Frankenvehicle called the Mugwump, the sleek LED-covered Mirage and even a fur-covered rabbit-shaped Studebaker one of the camp members had built for a client who turned it down last minute — so we were never without a fun way to see the playa. Oh, except for the fact that the fucking dust storms often ENGULFED the playa to the point where you couldn’t see a fucking thing, anyway!!! We went out one afternoon on the Mugwump and ended up stranded in Deep Playa, unable to find our way back due to a FREEZING COLD, BLASTING whiteout dust storm that obliterated everything and left me hunkered down behind my niqab and a bunch of fuzzy pillows. D’OH!!!

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on the Mugwump, Penetrator in the background

But, somehow…dust storms notwithstanding, thanks to the astonishingly hardcore ebullience of this dedicated band of ragtag partiers, it became easier and easier to just keep dancing — those motherfuckers know how to break out the booze and have a ball!! My sincere, heartfelt thanks to the crew of Sunset Lounge, for helping me see the folly of my wussy ennui 😀 You guys are awesome!!!

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my barrister merkin

Besides their positive effect on my attitude, there were other reasons I should have camped with them — mainly because I was involved in several events they were hosting, and I wasted a lot of time running back and forth from my camp to theirs. One afternoon I was scheduled to adjudicate Playa Divorces — temporary, 24-hour divorces meant to give romantic partners a break from each other on Burn Night, and the opportunity to go fuck around, I guess. To that end, one of the campmembers had gotten me a judge’s robe and barrister’s wig, and I even made a little barrister’s merkin to match (astonishingly, when I Googled “barrister merkin” while I was prepping for this, I was unable to find a single website using that word combo. I guess I win the Internet!).

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co-hosting PornStar Dating Game at Sunset Lounge
photo by Soul Thief Vision

Then another night I co-hosted the Pornstar Dating Game — a version of the old 70s TV show “The Dating Game,” but with real-life porn actors choosing dates from among the audience members! Now that was a shit-show; my co-host wore a powder-blue tux and quizzed the gentlemen, while I needled the ladies in a psychedelic-print 1967 Jantzen swimsuit and beehive wig. GOOD TIMES! The porn actors and actresses all chose dates, took them out on the playa for an evening of fun…and I’m pleased to report that most resulted in the proverbial happy endings. Yee-haw!!

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blending up Vagina Coladas at Sunset Lounge

But the main performance I had to take part in was all my own; just like at our Vegas regional burn last May, I had brought all the trappings to make my world-famous Vagina Coladas. In case you’ve forgotten or haven’t heard, Vagina Coladas are delicious, frosty piña coladas made with kegel power, using a blender I plug into my Electric Vagina. I dump in all the ingredients, then bear down and squeeeeeeeeze…with much theatrical screaming for extra flavor. Guaranteed to quench the thirst of even the hottest, dustiest playa denizens!

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Vagina Coladas for al!

I blended up Vagina Coladas on two occasions at the Sunset Lounge, and then another day I took my shtick across town to the Hair of the Dog camp, where my friend Fritz had even arranged to book me a slot on their stage, with music and everything. To the pounding strains of Iggy Pop’s anthem “Pussy Power,” I blended up pitcher after pitcher of delicious Vagina Coladas, making many new friends in the process. It was amazing! I really liked that camp (Hair of the Dog) — not only are they the oldest continuously-operating bar on the playa, they’re also just a really fucking cool group of people. I spent many afternoons hanging out at that bar, and had many truly stimulating conversations.

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Blending Vagina Coladas at Hair of the Dog

Now speaking of my friend Fritz, he also had an RV and was more than willing to offer me shelter during the frequent dust storms. He also cooked a couple of amazing dinners for my sister and I — that guy likes to cook, and does it exceptionally well! One night he made mushroom risotto, and another night some amazing pasta fagioli — in addition to all the hot meals I got from Dr. Who and his camp as well, I actually ate better this year than I had ever done at Burning Man…weather be damned! Thank you, Fritz <3

So, after all of the wind, dust, Eurotrash and angst…against all odds, it actually turned out to be one of my better Burns, after all. SHOCKER! Apparently, I’m not ready to throw in the towel quite yet — in the words of the immortal Miss Peggy Lee, “Oh, no…not me. I’m in no hurry for that final disappointment!”

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beat-up and exhausted, looking like Carol Channing

But either way, by the end of the week we were EXHAUSTED and drained — moreso than usual, and I was really looking forward to our planned group decompression at nearby Sierra Hot Springs, nestled in the pine forests near Truckee. Last year, my sister and I spent a few magical days there with Dr. Who, and we were all three looking forward to a repeat; plus we’d be joined by several of the pornographers and kooks this year, so it was shaping up to be a great coda to an often-miserable week. One guy in particular was joining us; we’ll call him Johnny Cum — the exceptionally entertaining star of 1800 adult movies, an irascible, fiery Jersey goombah with chiseled muscles and a penchant for telling filthy stories. I was really looking forward to sitting around in a hot spring with a cocktail, listening to him ramble! 

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Time to get to work, hippies!

But before I could leave the playa, I had to help break down the Soul Train. For the past few years, I have been assured a Burning Man ticket and an early arrival pass (thus missing all the traffic) by virtue of my helping out with the assembly of this art car built by a friend of mine here in Vegas — a giant, lumbering replica of the old cartoon train at the beginning of the Soul Train TV show. It’s a monstrous project that takes about two days to complete, both before and after the event…but I don’t mind helping out, usually.

This year, however, my friend who owns it had accidentally booked a gig in Indiana on Burn Night (he’s a professional puppeteer, who performs at halftime shows and stuff like that), so he had to fly out of Reno for work, and miss the whole culminating weekend. In his defense, Burning Man fell much later than usual this year — it’s always the week before Labor Day, but this year Labor Day fell later in September than usual, and it threw him off, so he’d accepted the gig, thinking Burning Man would be well over by then.

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playa selfie

Anyway, to make up for his missing the Man Burn and the Temple Burn, he planned to throw a party on the Monday night after the Burn, and not pack up til Tuesday —  by which time I’d hoped to be long gone on my way to the hot springs with my merry band of freaks. Instead, I had to stay on the playa and help out. D’oh!!! Oh, well — at least the weather had finally settled down and turned nice. (After the event was over — IT FIGURES!!)

So, my sister and I packed together our own disastrous mess (my camper barely creaking shut), then helped my friend pack up the Soul Train as quickly as possible…and then finally escaped to the loving, wind-and-dust-free embrace of Sierra Hot Springs. Only to my dismay, it wasn’t so much an embrace as barely-tolerating arms-length highway robbery — the smug fuckers gladly took our $30/night per person, but let us know in passive-aggressively veiled terms that Burners were not really welcome there, and that we’d have to leave by Friday. Well, fuck you, too, ya sanctimonious hippies!

20150910 134120 e1442875862861 169x300 Is That All There Is To Burning Man?That hot springs has problems, let me tell you. Their facilities aren’t equipped to handle hordes of dusty hippies; they only have two hot showers, and their tolerance for people who enjoy talking and drinking alcohol is basically zero. Yet their greed compels them to welcome all Burners anyway, take their money, and then bitch about them passive-aggressively, as seen in this note posted prominently on the office door.

The staff was so rude to us, in fact, that my normally law-abiding sis and I actually did something utterly loathsome: we skipped out on paying the last night’s fee. We had already paid a total of $120 for two nights in our little camper; we didn’t feel like giving them any more, especially when they were such assholes. Because of this, we are both now officially banned

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banned for life

from ever returning. I think the ban might also have something to do with the rowdiness of the rest of our crew; despite the “no alcohol” policy at Sierra, the picnic table at our camp was openly covered in booze bottles and beer cans, and we were all up late into the night, every night, talking and laughing and probably ruining the peace and quiet for all the other soul-searching campers. Apparently, Sierra Hot Springs does not subscribe to the Peggy Lee School of Dealing With Life’s Challenges…no dancing, breaking out the booze, nor having a ball allowed. It’s all about pious introspection, apparently. Oops :/

Before they could run us off, we packed up our shit and got the hell out of there…the pornographers back to L.A., Dr. Who back to Hawaii, and the others back to their respective towns and countries. Except for me; I couldn’t go home and start the arduous clean-up process yet…I had one more party to arrange: my mom’s birthday! As completely exhausted and worn-out as I was, I could not miss it; it was a milestone birthday, and I’d have felt really shitty. So I mustered my remaining strength and got to work one last time.

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Dr Who and a friend trying to fix my busted camper

First, I had to figure out where to stash my trailer. My mom lives on a really narrow gravel road in the forest, with extremely limited parking; there’s nowhere to park it up there, and besides…I didn’t feel like hauling it all that extra way, since when I’m towing it I can only drive 55mph, and it would take forever!!! So I found a place on the CA/NV state line that only charged me $20 to park it for a few days, and left it there; I’d pick it up on my way back. It meant adding a few hours to my trip home, but I really had no choice. Half of me just wanted to list the fucking thing for FREE on Craigslist and be done with it; as I feared, it’s jammed shut and won’t crank open anymore…the gears are clogged with playa dust. But I figured I should wait until I wasn’t so tired to make that decision, and try to fix it first — it might still have some life in it yet.

So, I dropped off my camper and joined my sister in the forests of western Sonoma County, to plan this surprise party. We had less than two days to get it all together — the party was Sunday evening, and we didn’t get there til Friday evening. But somehow, we pulled off our plan….and it was F A N T A S T I C ! ! ! Finally, after a long week of battling shitty luck…things went our way!

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the pavilion

Our execution went off exactly as planned: in the afternoon, my sister dropped me off on a sort of island in the Russian River about 5 minutes downstream from my mom’s house, and I spent the afternoon setting up a magical medieval-style party pavilion, using all the dust-caked flowers and tapestries and cushions and whatnot from our ill-fated Burning Man camp. When the stage was set, around sunset, my brother put on a formal suit and drove my unsuspecting mother down to this little beach by her house, where my sisters greeted her with a crown of flowers and an old-fashioned lantern, and helped her into a two-person kayak that they’d festooned with more flowers and frippery.

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lanterns

Then, as my brother slowly paddled the kayak downriver through the gloaming dusk, my sisters hauled ass in their car back over to the island, where we were all dressed in fabulous colorful robes, Christmas lights and paper lanterns hung to help guide my brother onto our little beach. We had old-timey Renaissance music playing and a veritable feast laid out in the pavilion, with a throne for my mom and everything. And boy howdy, did she love it!! My brother beached the kayak by this little red carpet we’d laid out, and we helped her disembark, then led her to her throne for the feast.

It was so amazing, I can’t believe how well it turned out. A million different things could have gone wrong, but not one thing did — I guess we’d used up all our bad luck at Burning Man, praise Jebus! But the best part was yet to come — after we’d eaten, we had rigged it up so that her birthday cake came floating down the river on a little raft covered in flowers, candles shining in the darkness. I hate to use this word, but it really was MAGICAL! We reeled in the cake, pigged the fuck out, and then my sisters escorted my mom back home while the rest of us packed up the mess. We finally all straggled home around 11pm, and collapsed into bed from sheer exhaustion — but it was a happy sort of exhaustion 🙂

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Wearing a scarf for a shirt…note armpits

And then, the next morning, FINALLY I could start limping home to clean up. By now, everything I owned was destroyed and/or filthy; I didn’t even have one single clean shirt left to wear, and had to drive all the way back to Reno and then on to Vegas with just a scarf wrapped creatively around my torso (another amazing playa gift I’d gotten). It took me two days, but I finally made it. WHEW!

So anyway, here I sit, bone-weary, with a dusty spirit and a busted camper, reflecting on my Burning Man adventure with a rueful sense of wonder: wind storms and whiteouts, sleep deprivation and existential angst, dusty crevices and severely chafed inner thighs…is that really all there is to Burning Man?

Is that all there is?

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If that’s all there is…..

Oddly enough…I already find myself looking forward to next year’s Burn 🙂 Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right? And the weather can’t possibly be that bad two years in a row….right?!?! Either way, hopefully the weather this year scares off some of the half-assers and Eurotrash next year, and we’ll have a crew of people who understand what the fuck Leave No Trace really means.

We’ll break out the booze, and have a ball…if that’s all there is.

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