Mojave Mystical Tour

It was pure comedy gold.

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What happens here, stays here!

In one corner: Wonderhussy…armed with 100,000 watts of Def Leppard, four bottles of cheap champagne and a stack of red Solo cups. In the other: a stretch limo full of dour Indian executives in town for CES. Some destination management dipshit had booked them a one-hour Vegas Strip tour, and my mission as hostess was to make sure they had FUN — of the “Vegas, Baby!!!” variety. Wooooo!  

Talk about a challenge! I guess that’s why they called me — they knew there was only one woman for the job. And sure enough, despite the polite protestations (“Thank you but I do not drink!”), obvious lack of enthusiasm and probable exhaustion of my charges, I made sure those fuckers had fun — without blowing a single one of them. Mad skills, I tells ya!

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Having Fun in Vegas a few months ago

Seriously though, I find this kind of manufactured merriment depressing as fuck: go to Vegas, get in a limo, blow out your eardrums, poison your liver — that’s Fun™! Disneyland, cruise ships, Hawaii…it’s all the same: Fun Places™ where people go to have Fun™, as dictated by the media and the Fun Industrial Complex; it’s more of a parody of fun than actual fun. And guess what? Your Fun™ is really just some douchebag corporation’s bottom line. Enjoy your McFun, fuckers!

New Year’s Eve is the worst for this. Most years, I cynically capitalize on the Fun-seeking masses by hiring myself out in some capacity — last year I served cotton candy to high rollers at a party at the Bellagio. But that turned out to be super depressing, so this year I opted to remove myself entirely from the equation, and get the fuck out of town. New Year’s Eve in Vegas is total amateur hour — 100,000 belligerent mooks and underdressed skanks coating the Strip in a sticky layer of piss, puke and pheromones. Screw that! Instead, I packed a bag and hauled ass into the hinterlands to spend the weekend far from the madding crowds…in one of my favorite lonely desert outposts, Tecopa.

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Winter sunset in Tecopa

If you’ve never been, Tecopa is a sunbaked collection of trailers and shanties clustered in the middle of a windblasted, lunar landscape just across the California state line, on the eastern edge of Death Valley. Thanks to a proliferation of natural hot springs in the valley, a few shabby little resorts have sprung up over the years, and people come from all over to take the “healing” waters and drink the mud, which is said to have one of the highest mineral contents in the world.

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Tecopa mudhole

I don’t know about all that…I usually just go out to soak and party; the all-natural mudhole on the outskirts of town is one of the best places in the Western Hemisphere to shroom out. The water is hot, the mud is thick, and the sky is a ginormous bowl of stars; you can lie naked on a blanket and astral project from here to Uranus and back, all night long.

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Delight’s

This time of year, however, it’s too chilly to really lay around naked in the desert…so my sister and I booked a cozy cabin atDelight’s, one of the resorts in Tecopa. A cautionary word: this is no “resort” in the Fun™ sense of the word. The rooms are shabby, the kitchens are decrepit, the mattresses are saggy and the bathrooms are spartan, to put it charitably. But the heaters work, the sheets are clean, and in my opinion the place has a quaint Bonnie-and-Clyde vibe. It’s as good a place to spend New Year’s as any — especially since it’s 90 miles from the idiocy afoot in Vegas.

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Across from the Internet Cafe

The plan was to take mushrooms and party around a bonfire or something — several friends had ventured out for the night as well, so there was a sizeable group of us. One faction had signed up for the New Year’s Eve steak-and-lobster soiree over at the Tecopa Brew Pub, and the hippie contingent was across town at the new Death Valley Internet Cafe, streaming the Phish concert live from New York. I started out my night out with the hippies, since I don’t like beer — I’m not into Phish, either, but I am into the excellent fucking food they serve at the Internet Cafe! Two young guys from Vegas recently opened that place, and despite the unassuming name, they serve up the most amazing, high-quality foodie-food; the special that night was an amazeballs Beef WellingtonSeriously, if you’re passing thru eastern Death Valley, you must stop here for a bite; it’s that good, and the ambiance is unparalleled — totally Georgia O’Kesey, if ya know what I mean.

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Road thru Tecopa

Anyway, around midnight all the various factions congregated around a bonfire for a few glasses of champagne and several tokes on the old pipe…but it was really a pretty mellow happening and not all that exciting, to be honest. I felt kinda bad, since my sister had driven all the way out from L.A…and it ended up being as anticlimactic as every New Year’s Eve, ever. But fortunately, things got way better!

The following morning, I woke up groggy as fuck, still high as a kite from the pot cookie I’d eaten the night before to help me sleep — that’s the trouble with edibles; you never know how long the effects will last. I hate being high first thing in the morning (especially on New Year’s Day), so I brewed up some black coffee to try and clear my head…but no sooner had I taken the first sip, when my friend Jag burst into the room asking if I wanted some mushroom tea.

Welllllll…..why not??? A group of us had planned another trip to Barker Ranch that day; sobriety wasn’t exactly essential. This time, we planned to approach via the eastern route, thru Death Valley, where we could attempt an overnight stay at the Geologist’s Cabin — an old stone volunteer cabin open to campers on a first-come, first-serve basis. This cabin is said to have a huge stone fireplace and a fully-stocked kitchen, full of 100-year-old pots and pans…and I’ve been dying to check it out!

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At the Crowbar last summer

So we packed up all our gear and headed eastward, intending to stop for a breakfast planning sesh at the Crowbar in Shoshone. Alas, a group of 10 European bikers had arrived just ahead of us, and the harried waitress informed us matter-of-factly that it would be an hour’s wait; I’ve never been impressed with the food or service at the Crowbar anyway, so this was really no surprise or disappointment, and we decided to just grab some muffins and coffee across the street at the Chas. Brown gas station and market, instead.

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Shoshone

But astonishingly, that place was jam-packed as well — this was when the Powerball lottery jackpot was getting up there, so every half-assed Social-Security-sucking-senior-citizen from Pahrump had driven out to buy a ticket. (It’s true; despite the plethora of legal gambling options in Nevada, we have no lottery….so hordes of NV residents make the trip out to the CA stateline to buy lotto tickets whenever there’s a big pot. It’s truly bizarre; there are little quickie marts that cater specifically to lotto players just across the border in California, Utah and Arizona.)

Anyway, we finally got our meager breakfast and headed on our way. But no sooner had we turned off into Death Valley, than we were stymied again — this time, the main road we needed to take was closed off due to flood damage!! (Death Valley had historic rains back in October, which also screwed up my November Barker Ranch plans. D’oh!! Looks like I’ll never get to stay in that fucking Geologist’s Cabin!!)

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the first of MANY roadside planning seshes — planning is half the fun of off-roading!

So we all pulled over and had another planning sesh at the side of the road: me and my sister, my limo-driver friend Jag, and his neighbors — a super-cool off-roader couple who were driving an adorable little Suzuki Samurai, which they had hauled out from Vegas in their RV. Jag pulled out the first of many maps, and we all huddled around for a consult and a toke; since it looked like we wouldn’t be able to make Barker Ranch after all, it was decided we might as well just spend the day tooling around the backcountry, high as fuck!

Time to break out the mushroom tea, then! We passed around the bottle, taking a healthy swig or two apiece, and piled into two cars: Jag in the lead with my sister and I as passengers, and his neighbors following along in the trusty Samurai. We turned off the pavement onto the nearest dirt road, and headed deep into the heart of Nowhere for a leisurely Mojave Mystical Tour.

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Teatime!

I’m here to tell you — driving around Death Valley in the winter sunshine, high as a kite, with the Beatles’ White Album playing on the stereo is nothing short of fan-fucking-tastic. A desert shroom cruise beats a Vegas Strip party limo ANY day of the week — if I’d have been able to take those Indian executives on this tour, they’d have enjoyed themselves 1000x more, guaranteed. In fact, if there was some legal way of starting a business where you gave your passengers drugs and then spent all day driving them around the desert in a minibus full of cushions and pillows with floor-to-ceiling windows and the Beatles playing on the stereo, you’d make a million bucks — GUARANTEED! Screw those Grand Canyon helicopter tours — this is the way to experience the desert.

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‘Murica

We spent the entire afternoon cruising around dirt roads in the middle of nowhere, stopping every now and then for a powwow to consult our maps and to take another hit on the pipe and/or swig from the tea bottle. Jag had also brought along his old rifle, so some of us also took turns firing shots off into the desert: part Charlie Manson, part Zabriskie Point, part Happy New Year — 100% ‘Murica. Fuck yeah!

 

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Sunset at the Amargosa Opera House

Sunset approached just as the shrooms were hitting their peak, and as luck would have it we happened to be right near the tiny little desert outpost of Death Valley Junction — home of the Amargosa Opera House and Hotel, this bizarre, supposedly haunted old building where a 90-year-old ballerina from New York performs every Saturday night (she even painted murals of a fake audience on the walls of the opera house, in case no one shows up to watch her performance) . It’s a fantastic place — I’ve stayed there a couple times; and I definitely recommend it if you’re into weird desert shit.

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My fabulously witty and entertaining friend Jag — gourmand, raconteur and adventurer extraordinaire!

I also recommend it if you’re shrooming out of your brains — especially at golden hour on New Year’s Day, with a bottle of Veuve Clicquot in hand. My friend Jag is classic Vegas, from an old school Italian showbiz family with excellent taste (his father was in Louis Prima’s backup band; his mother was a showgirl and one of the first female maître D’s in Manhattan, at the Windows of the World restaurant atop the World Trade Center) so he has excellent taste in food and drink, and only Veuve or better would do; we cracked open a bottle on the front porch of the Amargosa Opera House, and toasted the first fabulous sunset of 2016 in mad style. Viva La Vida! Viva Everything!!!

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Death Valley Junction

After polishing off the bottle, we wandered around the ruins of Death Valley Junction awhile — there’s an old abandoned Epsom salts processing facility, as well as a roadside Peter Lik pop-up gallery — and then finally piled back into our cars and convoyed back to the Death Valley Internet Cafe for another fantastic dinner, followed by a healing soak in the hot tubs at Delight’s. I had intended to drive home that night, but ended up bunking with my sister in the back of her 4-Runner — cozy as fuck, despite it being 30 degrees outside.

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Jag takes the reins

In the morning, I definitely intended to head straight home…but then Jag started talking about whiskey and coffee — a hardcore cowboy combo I’d somehow never really tried, but was now suddenly very thirsty for. Well, shit; it was only Saturday, and no one in our group had to work, so….it was all too easy to give in to the siren’s song of the desert, and keep the Mojave Mystical Tour rolling. So we packed up camp and headed back to the Internet Cafe for one more fantastic meal and a cup or two of whiskey-laced black coffee, and before you know it, Jag had laid out another fantastic itinerary for the day. I swear, that guy should be a cruise director!

Jag proposed we take the leisurely route back into Vegas, stopping along the way at Cathedral Canyon, then the Mountain Springs Saloon for one last drink, and then at a friend’s art studio on the outskirts of Vegas in Blue Diamond, before hitting a phở joint for dinner and finally, officially calling it a day. My poor sister was supposed to be heading the opposite direction, back to L.A….but found herself seduced into following the Pied Piper, at least for a little while longer.

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GypsyTimeTravelers.com

Leaving Tecopa was hard enough; the Gypsy Time Travelers were wintering in town, and had their fantastical rig parked nearby, with a performance scheduled later that day which I would have liked to check out. Even worse, as we were heading to our cars we stopped to pose for some photos on an old stagecoach, and a gregarious and oddly charismatic local methhead happened along, tipping us off to all kinds of local wonders including a secret hidden bathtub-sized hot spring out in the desert, and a mountain shaped exactly like a 3-mile-long “corn-fed” woman — “ya can’t miss it!” This guy was amazing — I wish we’d run into him earlier, like maybe when we were shrooming! He would have been a great addition to our squad!

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Cathedral Canyon

But finally we did break away, and all piled into our respective cars to convoy back toward Vegas. About halfway to Pahrump, just past the state line, we pulled off for a toke break at Cathedral Canyon — this decrepit old religious monument built back in the ’60s as a memorial for some poor guy’s dead daughter. Back in the day it was a real showpiece, lit by colored floodlights, with statuary and bathrooms and an Astroturf-covered suspension bridge spanning the canyon…but these days, the statues are mostly gone and the place is basically ruins. It’s still an eerie, evocative place to stop and drink a beer/smoke a bowl, though…so that’s what we did. It’s also the site of Quehoe’s grave; Quehoe, according to his grave marker, was the Last Renegade Indian of Nevada; he “survived alone” until 1919. As a half-breed, he never quite fit in himself, and was doomed to life as an outlaw, terrorizing the white settlers of the area; his grave was marked with decorative stones and a big, fat spliff. Far out!

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It’s THAT kind of place!

Next on the tour, we continued along the Old Spanish Trail Highway and took the main road back to town, which goes up over the Spring Mountains before descending back into the Vegas valley. At the summit, we stopped in at the Mountain Springs Saloon — a sort of Wild-West biker bar in a small Ponderosa pine forest, just 20 minutes outside Vegas but a world apart. It’s one of those biker bars with dollar bills and bras stapled all over the walls and rafters, but they had a roaring fire going in the stone fireplace and the place was packed. What a party! We ordered up a round of whiskey and coffees, and before you know it we were back in the groove. Jag cranked up some David Bowie on the jukebox and I started chatting with some of the regulars; come to find out the bartender was a fan of my writing back from when I had a column in one of the local alt-weeklies. Small world!

Finally, my sister had to leave — it was faster/less traffic for her if she went back the way we’d just come, through Tecopa, so she very reluctantly broke away from the Mystical Tour and headed back home. The rest of us saddled up and continued on with our itinerary. Next stop: the tiny bedroom community of Blue Diamond, hidden in the canyons just outside Vegas, where Jag had an artist friend who’d invited us over to hang out in his studio for a while.

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Blue Diamond

Holy hell, what an amazing place!!! I’d been to Blue Diamond before, but had never fully appreciated it; a collection of funky little houses right outside Vegas, but totally hidden from view by a low-lying mountain range, so it feels like you’re out in the middle of nowhere, tucked between Red Rock Canyon and Mountain Springs. It’s gorgeous; I need to get a place out there!!

 

 

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Blue Diamond Phillip had this poster on the wall of his studio, which is where I got the name for this post

Jag’s friend had a badass little studio with floor-to-ceiling views of the dramatic canyon escarpment, so we lit a fire in his potbellied stove and then lit a pipe, and spent a happy hour or two jamming away on his collection of musical instruments. The artist, whose name happened to be Phillip (Blue Diamond Phillip…get it?) played an acoustic guitar, and the rest of us took up drums, glockenspiel — whatever happened to be handy! I myself jingled my keychain, which made a really cool rain-stick-type sound, and we all danced around in the fading light, watching the sun set in the canyon. Blue Diamond Phillip and I bonded over our love of old-school physicist/bon vivant Richard Feynman — who, incidentally, would have been an excellent addition to our squad. If there’s one person from history I wish I could have met, it’s Richard Feynman; not only was he a mind-bendingly brilliant physicist, but he was also a concert-level bongo player (no joke) who had a lust for adventure and a fondness for drawing nude models. Plus, he was hot as hell!!

Anyway, the sun went down and we finally piled into our cars to cruise back into Vegas proper. What a great two days! I didn’t want it to end, but we all had to get back to the real world: Jag had to be up at 5am for his shift driving New Year’s revelers to the airport from a certain upscale Strip hotel, and I had to get ready for CES — the Consumer Electronics Show, the biggest and most loathsome tradeshow of the year, where I’d been booked to work as a booth model for a Chinese tech firm. The others had to get back to real life, too, so we made one final stop for a delicious Vietnamese dinner, and then said our good-byes.

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Leaving a Wonderhussy sticker on a signpost in the middle of nowhere….let me know if u find it!

But what an amazing way to start off the new year! Since coming back into town I’ve been mired in tradeshow hell pretty much every day; it’s the busy season for that type of work, so I’ve been making hay while the sun shines, so to speak — socking away cash while I can, biding my time until I can finally get away from the shitty fluorescent lighting and canned air, back out into the wide open spaces of my beloved desert. I can’t wait to resume the Mojave Mystical Tour!

And if you yourself are interested in such a tour, contact me for booking 🙂

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Treasure Hunt

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the silver mine
by PacificNW Photography

One of my favorite photo shoot locations used to be this fabulous old abandoned silver mine out in the desert — all weathered wood and beautiful rust patterns, with nothing but Joshua trees and cactus for miles around. It was the perfect complement to succulent naked flesh, and every photographer I brought there absolutely loved it.

But over the years, the place has been steadily declining, slowly and surely falling apart — the facade is sagging, gusty winds have blown off most of the roof panels, and one of the walls is completely gone. What was once charming dilapidation has now veered perilously close to total collapse; sooner or later, I was bound to drag some poor photographer all the way out there to find nothing but a pile of rubble.

Don’t think I don’t see the symbolism!

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the cement plant
by Shutterbug Studio

But you know me; I’m proactive as fuck. Between punishing sessions at the gym to stave off any personal dilapidation, I also took the initiative to scout the desert around Vegas for a replacement location to that old silver mine — which is how I discovered the abandoned cement plant. Screw the silver mine — this new site has proved to be something of a gold mine for me personally; everyone wants to shoot there!

When it comes to my favorite locations, I usually keep them pretty close to my chest, only sharing them with clients who have hired me for a shoot. The last thing I want is every half-assed bozo on Model Mayhem cluttering up my workplace; before you know it, some dumb nitwit will trip on her stripper heels, fall off a rock and break her neck…and my beautiful ruins will get torn down for being a hazard.

Thus, I’m pretty cagey about sharing these favorite locations — and can you really blame me? After all, I’m running a business here! Take a quick look at the Las Vegas Area Nude Photography Location Guide on this very website — I already give out a TON of free information; why should I give up all my hard-earned trade secrets?

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Infrared
by Stenstrom

Alas, however, I underestimated the craftiness of certain dogged motherfuckers in town.

One recent afternoon I was out at the cement plant with a really cool client who was shooting infrared film. Mid-shoot, I had just climbed up on top of a ginormous section of the old rotary kiln, when off in the distance I spotted another car approaching. Shit!

In my past experience, on the rare occasions other cars had stumbled onto the site, they had usually just been curious looky-Lous who drove around, gawked, snapped a pic or two and then continued on their way without really interrupting my shoot. Assuming this would once again hold true, I advised my client to just pretend he was taking photos of the industrial wreckage, and I would stay put, sort of molding my body to the top curve of the kiln, camouflaging myself like a chameleon.

Well, imagine my consternation when the car drove in, cruised around as expected…but then pulled right up and parked directly underneath where I was hiding! Holding my breath, I peeked over the jagged edge of the kiln and watched as a guy in a ball cap got out and started snapping photos with a small point-and-shoot. Come on, man!! I thought to myself. Get outta here and let me finish this damn shoot! I’m freezing my ass off up here!

Then, he looked up.

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hiding

Peering over the edge, directly at him, I had to laugh. Not only was it someone I knew from town — it was a photographer I’ve shot with many times, and consider a friend.”Hiiiiiiii,” I drawled, dangling one leg over the edge. Well, at least I didn’t have to worry about being reported to the police for public nudity! “How the hell did you find this place?!”

It turns out this motherfucker was even more determined than I — he had taken what scant information I’d made public about the site, and had logged six solid hours on Google Maps, scanning the desert in all directions around Vegas until he’d found it. Now, that’s dedication! I had to hand it to him.

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in the kiln
by Marshall Bradford

To his immense credit, after chatting for a few minutes, this classy gentleman got back in his Jeep (which I thought I’d recognized) and drove away, leaving me to finish my shoot in peace. But, dammit…..the cat’s out of the bag 🙁 Now it’s just a matter of time before every Tom, Dick and Harry starts bringing every Barbizon dropout on Instagram out there for edgy portfolio shots.

Anyway, I didn’t have much time to fret over it because soon afterward the weather grew too cold for outdoor shooting anyway, and the 2015 Outdoor Nude Modeling Season basically came to an end. I don’t usually shoot outdoors at all in December; not only is it too fucking cold, but most guys have more important things to spend their money on that time of year than photographing naked ninnies in the desert. So I generally end up taking most of December off.

This year, however, instead of just sitting around guzzling spiked eggnog and stuffing cookies in my face, one of the readers of this very blog alerted me to a competition in which I might be interested: the annual hunt for the $10,000 Jingle Bell Rock!! Apparently, every December for the last 13 years or so a local radio station has hidden a giant rock with their logo on it somewhere in the desert within the Clark County boundaries…and the first person to find it wins $10,000!!!! OMG — how have I never heard of this contest before?!?

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the actual rock, from the jinglebellrock.info website

Because I had all this time off, I decided to devote my energy to finding this fucking rock. It’s been a while since I won any big money — my last windfall was at the end of 2012, when I won $10,000 in that Downy fabric softener scavenger hunt. I teamed up with my friend Shutterbug Studio — what with all the remote outdoor shooting we do, the two of us know the desert around these parts better than most. In fact, it was with Shutterbug that I discovered that damn cement plant!

I just knew we were gonna find this fuckin’ rock — I could already hear the voice of the radio DJ announcing it: “A nude model and photographer with a long shared history of exploring the desert are this year’s winners of the $10,000 prize!” What a great story it would make! And what a great blog!!!

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Shutterbug and I are always poking around the desert

The way the contest worked was, every day for three weeks they would read clues on the radio at certain times, plus post additional written clues at various sponsor locations around town. Shutterbug and I listened religiously, writing down every clue and driving ourselves crazy trying to figure out what they meant. The clues were intentionally very vague, but at first we thought we had it narrowed down to somewhere in North Las Vegas (which is a separate city from Las Vegas). One of the clues was “in friendly surroundings,” and Shutterbug had seen an Internet meme where a sign reading “Welcome to Friendly North Las Vegas” was juxtaposed against a photo of the North Vegas police beating the shit out of some guy — aha!! Another clue was “circle gets the square,” which we figured referred to the old Hollywood Squares TV show; Hollywood Blvd. is a street that lays partly in North Vegas…so we just knew it had to be around there somewhere. Especially when another one of the clues was “let’s spoon,” and we found a place called Spoon Exhibit Services up in that same area.

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you never know WHAT you’ll see in the desert

Shutterbug works a full-time job, so most of the actual searching fell to me — I spent my days running, walking and biking every damn trail and park in North Vegas; any public area where a rock was likely to blend into the surroundings. But aside from gaining a newfound appreciation for the astonishingly nice and sorely underused trail system in northtown, I came up with nothing. Another clue showed a bowling alley in an Elks Lodge, so I spent quite a bit of time searching around the northtown Elks Lodge, too…probably freaking out the old people. But after awhile, I gave up looking….aside from sitting on my ass at home poring over Google Earth (I should have called my other photographer friend, haha).

As the contest wore on, the clues now seemed to start pointing south, toward the Hoover Dam: there were clues like “row, row, row your boulder” (Boulder City is the town by Hoover Dam — and it has its own Elks Lodge) and “power to the people” (the Dam, of course, generates a shit ton of electricity). Many of the clues also referred to writing and ink — so I started focusing in on Hemenway Wash, an area of open desert down by Lake Mead just west of the Dam.

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A spoon!!!!!!

I thought for sure I was on the right track when I went down there one morning and saw several other idiots out hunting around the same area; my heartrate skyrocketed and my blood pressure went through the roof as my insane competitive instincts kicked in. I had to find that fucking rock!!!! Then it got even worse — as I was casually bumbling around the desert pretending to be “jogging” (have to throw those other fuckers off the trail, ya know) I saw a metal spoon stuck in the ground!! And it was right next to a broken section of chain-link fence — other clues had been “the weakest link” and “back on the chain gang.” HOLY SHIT! The $10,000 was so close, I could taste it!!!

Alas, though I searched around for hours that day, I came up with nothing. When Shutterbug got off work that evening, even though it was pitch black and freezing fucking cold outside, he insisted we go back down there with flashlights, and search some more!! We were stumbling around in the darkness like idiots when a security guard came up to us: “Can I help you??” Apparently, we were near some kinda storage facility for Hemenway Harbor, and he thought we were trying to rob the joint. “No, we’re just looking for the Jingle Bell Rock,” we assured him.

“Oh, was that you guys down here last night, too?”

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I thought for SURE the rock was hidden near this abandoned power substation in Hemenway Wash

So others were onto this area!!!! Now we knew for certain we were on the right path, and our efforts became even more frenzied. I actually got up the next morning at 6am (!!!) in order to get down there by daybreak, and beat any other fuckers to the prize. I had to find that rock!!!!!!!

 

 

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It was so cold, my Electric Vagina froze and I becamse Jackie Frost: Ice Pussy! I queefed frigid basts of Arctic air…making what happened to that kid who got his tongue stuck on the flagpole look like NOTHING

But curiously, when I got down there the following morning, I spent all day searching around…and didn’t see another single person looking. Hmmm! Had someone already found it? Or…was I looking in the wrong area, after all??

Unfortunately for me, I couldn’t dedicate as much time and energy to this treasure hunt as I would have liked, since I kept getting interrupted by photographers wanting to shoot with me! In December! As previously mentioned, I don’t usually shoot much at all that time of year, let alone outdoors — but this fucking cement plant was proving to be so alluring that I ended up going out there what felt like every other day!

And boy, was it cold!! You might not realize it, but despite its being in the middle of the Mojave Desert, Vegas gets chilly in the winter — there’s no moisture in the air to hold in any warmth. Daytime temps get down into the 50s and 40s…which may not sound that cold, but when you’re standing or lying around naked, I’m here to tell you — it’s fucking freeeeeezing!!!!!

 

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Latex gimp selfie

One guy hired me to wear a latex gimp hood while he shot me on some kind of weird, super-arty large-format film….so with the latex at least keeping my nose cozy, that wasn’t so bad. Then another guy hired me to wear a sort of slutty Russian scientist getup while he backlit the crumbling Chernobyl-esque scene with eerie red light — and again, the scraps of sexy clothing helped insulate me somewhat. 

But then this other guy rolled in from Minnesota, with three other models in tow who were from Michigan, Wisconsin and Denver. Uh oh!!!! I thought I was totally fucked, hanging with this crew of ice-people from the frozen tundra…but fortunately for me, naked girls from Wisconsin get just as cold as naked girls from Nevada, so we were all equally miserable. And the photographer was very cool and very understanding, and didn’t torture us too much 🙂

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the Ice Girls

Anyway, with all those lucrative interruptions in my hunting schedule, I didn’t have as much time as I wanted to search for the fuckin’ Jingle Bell Rock….and next thing you know it was the last day of the contest, December 21st. No one had turned in the rock yet; it was presumably still out there. And to make matters worse, they released a final clue: a photo of a bag of Blue Diamond almonds. Blue Diamond is a major highway on the southwest side of Vegas, and also the name of a small town on the outskirts of Red Rock Canyon– about as far away from Hemenway fucking Wash as you could get. Dammit!!!!!

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Another shot of my Ice Pussy to numb the pain

But since I hadn’t been concentrating on that area, I had no clue where to even begin looking; worse, I was supposed to drive up north to my mom’s house that very day for Christmas — a ten-hour drive, so I really couldn’t leave too late, as we had planned to celebrate the Winter Solstice the following day. But how could I give up hunting now?!?!?! With my truck packed and ready to leave town, I wasted a few final hours tooling around Blue Diamond in a vain, last-ditch attempt to find that fuckin’ Jingle Bell Rock…before finally, über-reluctantly giving up. I hate giving up on stuff; I hate losing!! ARRRGHHHH!

As I made the long journey north, I kept checking the radio station’s website — and sure enough, a few hours out of town, it turned out that someone had found the rock — the previous day!! @#$#%#$#%!!!!!!! I knew I’d been wasting my time, dammit. To make matters worse, because I’d needlessly pissed away so much time hunting that morning, I was really late getting to my mom’s house, and almost fell asleep at the wheel.

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I had OTHER things preoccupying me at Christmas

Thankfully, once I got to my mom’s and started celebrating the holidays, all the wine, cider, eggnog and assorted other booze helped ease the sting of my miserable defeat. Still, for a while there I didn’t think I’d be able to even write about the whole mess, at all — I hate losing that much. If I’d won, it would have made an awesome blog — but who wants to read about some idiot losing a contest?! No one!!!

But when I finally sat down and looked back at the events of the past month, I realized something: the real treasure wasn’t the Jingle Bell Rock at all. Sure, it would have been nice to win half of that $10,000 — I could have bought a new camper for Burning Man, and paid for the $700 worth of fillings that my dentist claims need replacing. But I was trying to be all forward-thinking and Zen, and look at the journey as the reward in itself: I got a lot of fresh air, sunshine, and exercise, spent a lot of quality time with Shutterbug, and discovered a lot of fun new trails around town. That in itself is a reward…right?

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the real treasure
by Shutterbug Studio

Um, yeah….sure. Zen, I am not; I’m not talking about the fucking journey, I’m talking about the cement plant! That fucking location is the gift that keeps on giving; the goose that lays the golden egg. Every photographer wants to shoot there; if I can only keep all these other meddlesome motherfuckers out of the way, I should be able to milk that location at least until next summer….by which time I will have made more than my half of that paltry $10,000 prize. Fuck the Jingle Bell Rock; Shutterbug and I had found the real prize months ago!

As with many such greed-crazed harebrained adventures…the treasure had been under my nose, all along. And I’ll be happy to share it with you…..if you hire me 🙂

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments

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 😀

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 11 Comments

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 🙂

 

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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!!! 😀

 

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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!!!

Posted in Uncategorized | 15 Comments

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!!!!!!

Posted in Uncategorized | 13 Comments

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 😀

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

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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