Longtime Burning Man vets often speak of having had one “bad Burn,” i.e., the year they had a shitty time at Burning Man. It seems impossible to have a bad time at the Greatest Party on Earth, but it’s definitely possible — health, weather, mood and interpersonal drama can all impact one’s experience, turning a fabulous playcation into a shitty week of annoying, dusty hell.
Due to my many First-World Problems, I had been in a funk the first few weeks of August — shit just hadn’t been going my way, and I had a nagging suspicion that this was going to be my “bad Burn.” I tried to stay positive by burning sage and waving crystals around and whatnot…but the feeling just wouldn’t go away. Aside from already being in a funk, my usual group that I camp with had broken up…so I had agreed to form a sort of Playa Shelter for Unwanted Burners, made up from flotsam and jetsam I knew from various areas of my life…none of whom knew each other, and many of whom had never been to Burning Man before. Would this social experiment fail miserably? I had a feeling it would.
But ever the optimist/pragmatist, I packed up my shit anyway and headed up early. Burning Man officially starts the Sunday before Labor Day (Aug 24 this year), but for the past few years I’ve been going up early, to help a friend with his art car (you have to have a special pass to enter early, and basically prove you working on a project…not just going up early to party). This friend, C, is a professional puppeteer, and is usually booked for a gig somewhere on the Saturday before Burning Man starts…so he likes to go up early and assemble his art car on Thursday and Friday the week before, so he can fly out from Reno to do his gig, then return Sunday night with everything already set up and ready to go. I don’t mind going up early to help him, as it allows me to avoid traffic and also to grab a good spot for my camp, before everyone else gets there. And it’s not like I have to request time off from work or anything, lol.
It’s about 500 miles from Vegas to Black Rock City (the part of the desert north of Reno where Burning Man is held). The trip can easily be made in one day, but I usually break it into two — I can really only drive 55-60mph with my little trailer tires, and I like to get there during daylight so I can stake out a good spot for my camp. I usually stay overnight at a motel in Fallon, NV…but I’ve been broke lately, so I planned to camp out at Walker Lake instead. Walker Lake is this huuuuge lake in the middle of nowhere, near Hawthorne, NV, and it’s only $4 to camp there.
However, thunderstorms were in the forecast, so on my way up I pussed out and decided to get a room after all. There’s this creepy-ass old motel on the outskirts of Tonopah called the Clown Motel (!!), but when I checked hotels.com and orbitz, all that came up was this shitty casino in Hawthorne called El Capitan. So I booked a room there, for around $60.
CAVEAT EMPTOR! I always assumed Orbitz and sites like that offered the best rates on rooms…but as I was driving up, I saw tons of motels with vacancies at $35/night — including the Clown Motel! D’OH!!! Worse, when I checked into the El Capitan, I saw they were only charging $35/night as well. But Orbitz tacked on some kind of bullshit commission, bringing my total up to $60. FUCK THAT! I’ll never book a room using Orbitz again!
Anyway, I left Hawthorne and the miserable El Capitan the next morning, and arrived on the playa (as they call the dry lake bed upon which Burning Man is held) Wednesday evening. The weather was fine, although it had been raining the week before, so the playa surface was pretty soft and kinda beat up…which makes hammering in rebar stakes easier, but riding a bike difficult. I got to work setting up camp like a boss, reinforcing everything with rebar and guylines, so that nothing would get blown over in the often hurricane-force winds they get up there — especially early in the week, before most RVs arrive and there’s little to block the wind.
My two colleagues from the Goddess Collective were also supposed to be camping with me — my friend C had gotten them early-arrival passes too, to assist with his car (it’s a big project, putting that thing together). But they had some kind of issues with the trailer they’d bought to stay in — neither of them were able to/wanted to tow it up themselves, so they had to scramble around last-minute to find someone to tow it up for them. As a result, they didn’t get up there til Saturday morning!!
I hate when you vouch for someone and they make you look lame. Getting an early-arrival pass, and then rolling in on Saturday after all the work is already done, is pretty fucking weak — typical Sparkle Pony behavior! (Sparkle Pony is what they call cute-but-useless girls on the playa.) But, as it happened, my friend C was burdened with a couple Sparkle Ponies of his own this year, and didn’t arrive until Friday night himself because of their b.s. So it worked out, but…WTF! He could have called me to let me know!! I basically sat around up there for two days with nothing to do (I ended up helping the Roller Disco camp set up their roller rink, since I was there anyway).
But really, all this Sparkle Pony shit is so old — am I really the only person with a vagina who has her shit together? To wit: my Goddess pals rolled in (well, the guy towing their camper rolled in, anyway) and after they parked the trailer, they wanted to hang up a tarp for shade. “Let’s find some men to help us,” said one of them, in a sexy little baby voice.
ENOUGH ALREADY! If you’ve read even one of my blogs, you know I ain’t down with that kind of pandering idiocy. It’s a fucking tarp; it takes two seconds to hang! Thankfully, I had all those dicks with me from my friend’s sex toy warehouse that went out of business last month. I was using some of them as rebar stake covers (last year I gouged my shin pretty badly on an uncovered rebar stake, so I’m careful to cover them now), but I also had a few extra strap-ons, which I immediately handed out to the girls: “It’s time to sack the fuck up, ladies. Put this on, and let’s hang this tarp ourselves!”
Wowwwww! It was like the Wizard of Oz, when it goes from black & white to color — we slipped into the boners, and the change was immediate. Before, we kinda tended to slouch over in a concave fashion to protect our tits and wombs or whatever. But once we put on the dicks, our posture totally changed: shoulders back, pelvises thrust out confidently. DICK POWER! We hung the tarp in no time, and decided to wear the strap-ons all week. We called our camp Chix With Dix, and I even made a sign.
But alas, what started as an exercise in feminist self-reliance quickly devolved into slutty shenanigans: guys thought the dicks were funny and cute, and the strap-ons basically became meaningless flirtation devices. Ha ha hee hee, chicks with dicks, LOL!
Anyway, everything worked out great: the newly-badass Goddesses were able to help assemble my friend’s car after all, and we got it all done in time for Sunday night, when my sister finally rolled in. Laissez les bon temps roulez!
By this time, our camp had also grown to include one refugee from the Roller Disco camp — a guy with a bad-ass mobile karaoke rig on this crazy Filipino pedicab. He was the only guy among all us gals, and I don’t know how he handled it…but he made an excellent addition to the camp. He had an amazing sound system on his little pedicab, and thousands of songs in his karaoke book, and we spent many happy hours bawling karaoke in the street in front of our camp. It was a great way to engage passers-by! He even took it out on the open playa a few nights, just randomly finding singers among the drunk and high wanderers. Such a fun idea!
Now meanwhile, we happened to be camping in the part of Black Rock City known as the Gayborhood…because it’s where all the gay guys party (G street between 7:30-8:00). To that end, there was a giant, two-story purple satin penis in the plaza at the end of our street — you could climb up inside it and wave around these long white satin flags, like streams of jizz. I didn’t intend to camp in the gayboorhood — I just chose the closest spot I could find to where my friend C’s car was being assembled — but it certainly worked out well for us Chix With Dix…and we had a blast! The gay boys loved us, and I handed out a few more dongs as hospitality gifts. I’m telling you, that sex toy inventory really came in handy!
So pretty much the minute my sis rolled in, it was ON! I’ve always gone to Burning Man with my one sister, and we always have a good time together. She had barely arrived and started setting up her tent, and I was already feeding her mushrooms — so the minute she was done, we put fur coats on over our strap-ons (it was cold at night) and headed out to gorge ourselves on the psychedelic banquet that is Burning Man!
Now meanwhile, I was suffering a bit of personal discomfort: this was my 6th year at Burning Man, and every year thus far, I’d been lucky — I either got my period before the event, or after. But this year, it finally happened — my bitch-ass Aunt Flo decided to drop in right during Burning Man. Cramps! Anger!! Moodiness!!! Blood!!!! D’OH!!!!!!!!!
My period started Sunday afternoon, and I had two options: be miserable, or roll with it. Which do you think I did??! When life hands her lemons, Wonderhussy makes electric lemonade — before jamming in a tampon, I soaked that fucker in LSD, tied a disco ball to the end of the string, and partied my ass off!!! (OK, I’m kidding about the LSD.)
It was really funny, actually; I’d be dancing, and people would compliment me on my big black rubber strap-on: “Oh hee hee ha ha, nice penis!”
“Thanks!” I would respond, adding, “Hey, do you want to see something really fucked up??”
The answer invariably being a resounding “YES!!” I would then launch into my sad tale, pulling aside my dick and dropping my panties at the end to reveal the disco ball, twinkling merrily as it dangled at the end of the string: “There’s a party in my pants, and everyone’s invited!” LULZ! It was gross, but a nice way to cut thru the juvenile dick shtick, and really blow peoples’ minds. Even the guys were oddly fascinated by it — I expected them to be grossed out, but I had several men come up to me afterward and say how fucking awesome they thought the disco ball thing was. A real piece of feminist performance art, à la Annie Sprinkle! I had so much fun blowing people’s minds with that disco ball that for the first time EVER, I actually didn’t want my period to end! I milked that shtick to the max, wearing a tampon for a full extra day…which I would ordinarily never do. Super fucking fun!!
So we partied late into the evening that first night, then snuggled up in our cozy beds to sleep in the next morning. A thunderstorm rolled in early Monday morning, and it was fantastic — since I was already set up, I just lay in bed listening to the raindrops on the roof of my camper, warm and cozy. The thunderclaps were a little scary, and I heard that lightning actually struck the playa in a few places…but I was safe and snug. We got up and erected some more shade/rain protection, laying down a carpet and hanging up drapes, and then spent the afternoon drinking hot cocoa with Bailey’s in our gussied-up digs. My sis and I know how to create a comfortable fucking camp — people came from miles around to hang out in our shady living room. Mostly it was just guys sniffing for puss, since there were so many half-naked chicks camping with us by the end of the week…but many of them did compliment us on our homey setup.
Meanwhile, however, the rain really fucked it up for the poor souls waiting to get in the gate — because the rain creates such thick mud, they actually shut down the event, and wouldn’t let anyone in for 24 hours! Some people were turned back to Reno, and others ended up waiting in their cars for up to 30 hours! Can you imagine?!
Anyway, it worked out fine for my sis and I, since we had to let our serotonin levels recuperate before going out and partying again. I try to wait a day or two between mushroom doses, just for that reason. So we just boozed and got baked, and when the rain stopped we rode our bikes around looking at art on the playa for a couple of days, until the rest of our campmates arrived. As mentioned, our camp was made up of flotsam and jetsam from different areas of my life — my hottie friend Tatiana from the Fargo Sisters came down from Alaska with her boyfriend, and my attorney and his stunningly beautiful E.R.-nurse wife came up with her gorgeous Russian girlfriend. When all was said and done, we had more half-naked pussy running around my camp than you see at most Vegas strip clubs!!! Jokes aside, though, it was definitely good to have an attorney and an E.R. nurse on hand. You never know!
We went balls-out for our first night out as a full camp. I ate some mushrooms, and after a little street karaoke, we all wandered off to enjoy the moveable feast, starting with this awesome snuff emporium right down the street, where you could try all kinds of different herbal snuffs. I snorted this one eucalyptus blend, to clear the playa schmutz from my sinuses, and then tried a patchouli blend that made me feel like Stevie Nicks had just crawled up my nose. Fun!! After the snuff, we stopped in at this amazing tent full of mirrored boxes called Infinity Boxes, and goofed around there for a good while taking cool photos. High people are so easily amused!
By then the shrooms were in full effect, and we wanted to dance!! So our friend with the mobile karaoke unit started blasting house music on his setup, and we all rolled down to the Roller Disco, turning the rink into our own far-out dance party! My friend drove his Filipino pedicab with the speakers on it right onto the rink, and it was fabulous! We all had on crazy costumes, and it was like a DeeLite video or something. Far out!!
After awhile, we rolled the party along, off the rink and onto the playa, where we joined up with a dance party going on in the shadows of a giant pirate-ship art car. I was having an amazing time, dancing my ass off in my Marie Antoinette wig and black rubber strap-on (“Let them eat cock!”), when out of the corner of my eye I saw a strangely glowing white vehicle approach. It looked like one of those pioneer-days Conestoga wagons, only with colored lights coming from within, and some beatifically beaming men in robes standing around outside, exuding an aura of New Age Zen tranquility. Far out!!!
I went over and introduced myself, and it turns out this wasn’t any old mutant vehicle, it was a BE-hicle called the Grokit-ship — as in, “to grok” from Robert Heinlein’s “Stranger in a Strange Land.” How appropriate! The crew of this Grokit-ship was a far-out band of New Agers who run a sort of wellness center in the Santa Cruz Mountains called the “Be & BeWell” — a priestess-like Wise-Woman, her charismatic husband, and a white-bearded captain — and they invited us to come aboard and set sail with them as they roamed the playa, looking for a good spot to play “The Game.”
Game? Ooh, I love games! A bunch of us climbed aboard, and the Grokitship set sail…leaving the oonce-oonce-oonce of the dance party far behind, in a mystical quest for deeper understanding. You can’t just play The Game anywhere, you see — you need a nice quiet spot, away from the shroom-addled furries and their incessant house music. Some artist had installed a real, functioning observatory out somewhere in the Deep Playa (what they call the farthest reaches of the desert where Burning Man is held, way out beyond Black Rock City, where it’s only sand and dust and scattered art installations — in other words, my favorite place), and that’s where we were headed. The only problem was, no one knew exactly where the observatory was…so we drove around in circles for quite a while looking for it.
Meanwhile, inside the Grokitship it was warm and cozy. The back section was a lounge area, a big flatbed trailer full of cushions and colored lights, where an assortment of young Russian and Estonian truthseekers were snuggled up under the white covered-wagon roof. Moreover, at the time I met up with the Grokitship, there were no less than three women named Sarah Jane on board! What are the odds?! Destiny!!!
Round portholes had been cut into the sides of the wagon cover, so you could peek out at the playa passing…but the holes could be plugged with giant white inflatable balls, if you wanted to block out the world. The front part of the Behicle was some kind of heavy-duty pickup truck — the captain’s personal sleeping nest was in the truckbed, and a little stepladder led up to a platform on top of the truck cab that held a second, smaller lounging/snuggling area…and a sensory deprivation tank!!!!!
If you’ve never heard of them, sensory deprivation tanks are basically coffin-esque pods full of saline water, where you float in perfect silence and darkness. They are said to recreate the experience of being in the womb, or floating in Outer Space — you lose all sense of time and space, and floating in one is said to be a real life-altering experience. It’s been on my bucket list for quite some time, but the only place in Vegas that has one is at some random guy’s house, and I haven’t gotten around to checking it out yet.
Well, here was my chance! The only difference here was that the pod was full of cushions, not water…and it was a sensory EXALTATION tank, not a sensory deprivation tank (they do, however, have the real thing at the Be & BeWell). You got in, and then they gave you these weird headphones and goggles to wear. The goggles flashed all kinds of bright, colorful light patterns, and the goggles played weird pulses and tones, sort of like brainwave entrainment. The idea was to lie there and listen to the whole 15-minute track, keeping your eyes mostly closed to only let a little of the light patterns in. By the end of the session, you’d be regenerated and refreshed. FAR OUT!
I climbed right into that tank and went to town, letting the lights and sounds wash over me and rejuvenate my soul. It was great!! After the program ended, I climbed back down into the main lounge area, ready to play The Game. It seems they never were able to find that observatory, so they had settled on a quiet spot at the very farthest apex of Deep Playa, right out against the trash fence that marks the boundary of Burning Man. This orange plastic construction fence is there to collect any loose trash that blows away, but also to mark the point where the party ends and the real world begins. Cop cars patrol this pentagonal perimeter, as foolhardy souls often try to sneak in across the desert and get into Burning Man for free. To combat this, there are infrared sensors and shit set up — if you try to sneak in OR sneak out, they will get you!!
So the Grokitship parked way the fuck out at the farthest point in this fence, around 12:00…probably the quietest spot on the playa, perfect for playing The Game. By now it was around 3:30am and most of my campmates had bailed, but my sis and I were still aboard, along with the Estonian kids and a few other intrepid playa wanderers the Behicle had picked up along its journey. We were curious about this fucking Game!! But before we could begin, first we all had to get out and play with these giant stringed toys called Windsingers.
Windsingers are kind of like swords with long rubber bands stretched from hilt to tip on either side, and when you swing them around in the balmy playa night, the rubber bands vibrate and make a haunting humming sound. They had this one jumbo-sized Windsinger, the size of a medieval bastard sword, and it took two hands to swing that fucker around — but when you did, it made the most fabulous dove-cooing sound. So before starting The Game, we spent a good hour or so swinging Windsingers around in the night. They had us hold them all up to let the wind vibrate the strings, so we could listen to the breath/heartbeat/soul of the playa, and it was fabulous. And finally, when we’d heard enough, it was time to climb back aboard the Grokitship and play The Game.
The Game turned out to be this super complex sort of talk-therapy exercise with a billion different rules and cards, and this huge gameboard mat decorated with pictures of planets and galaxies and whatnot. You start out by announcing a personal intention, and then you basically talk, and draw cards, and talk some more, and then other people talk back, and draw more cards, and talk some more. It’s not exactly what you call fast-paced, and by the time we finally got started, not many people were left. The Grokitship crew vowed to play until sunrise (they don’t sleep; they just periodically recharge in the sensory exaltation tank), but by this time I was starting to get sleepy, so when the first glow of dawn appeared on the horizon, my sister and I bid the Be-hicle and its crew a fond farewell, and set off on our long, lonely journey alllllll the way back across the playa to our camp — a journey of around 2 miles.
Walking across the playa at dawn is a really curious experience — the sound camps out at the edges of the city are all still going strong, with pounding psytrance and shit blasting away into the cold morning air, and strung-out bedraggled partiers are still raving on, only by this time sort of like robots whose batteries are starting to die. Meanwhile, hippie-dippie early-riser types are already up and about, heading out to do sunrise yoga and greet the Sun Goddess at the Temple or whatever. It’s a weird scene, and one that to be honest I don’t enjoy being a part of, since it means I’m still awake at 6am and will be virtually useless for the rest of the day. But, sometimes it happens…and you just have to go with it! I finally crawled into bed around 7, to sleep as long as I could before it got too hot inside my camper (around 11am). So yeah, I was pretty hungover the next day.
Fortunately, I didn’t have to go very far for a hair o’ the dog — the Sunset Lounge was right down the street, and I had some friends camping there. I met these people last year, when they were camped across the street from us, and they had the most amazing art car called the Penetrator — a welded steel masterpiece with a bangin’ sound system and a fantastically cozy swing on the front. It’s one of the coolest designs for an art car I’ve seen on the playa, and we rode around on it quite a bit last year.
Anyway, we all became good friends, and I knew I had to go find them this year…because the one thing a car called the Penetrator needs more than anything, is a bevy of Chicks With Dicks go-go dancing on it!!! I knew they were camping at the Sunset Lounge, so I headed over to see if they were around.
When I arrived, I spotted the leader of the crew right away — this guy called the Playa Slumlord, so called because every year he rents out a ton of shitty old trailers for Burners to use. He stores them on a ranch up near Black Rock City all year, then hauls them out and sets them up for your use during the Burn — for a small fee, of course. Genius business model, check it out: playaslumlord.com. Anyway, he and his girlfriend and his car designer (who also happens to be a toy designer for Mattel — how cool is THAT?!) and I all had a super happy reunion — I showed them my dick and my disco ball, and we had a laugh and a few mojitos, catching up on the latest playa news. Unfortunately the Penetrator was having mechanical problems, so we couldn’t go out on it yet…so we just hung out and partied at the Sunset Lounge…which was fine, because there was always something happening there!
The Sunset Lounge camp included a bunch of people from the porn industry — talent, crew, producers, etc. And not only was there abundant live pussy at the Lounge; they also had this creepy life-sized rubber fuck doll on a chair in the corner, as a sort of conversation piece. Apparently people want less conversation and more action, however…because by the end of the week, the poor thing was covered in dust, her twat jammed full of gummi worms and her head almost completely severed. YIKES! The scary subconscious truth beneath all that “love & light” hippie talk!!
Anyway, being as I was wearing a penis, I had to try fucking the doll myself…just to see what it’s like. Interesting!! I plowed that doll good and hard — vaginally, anally and a titty-fucking for good measure. (Interesting, how wearing a phallus can really bring out the misogynist in a gal — she was asking for it!!!) But after being photographed and making everyone laugh, I felt pretty dirty and gross…and the tip of my strap-on smelled terrible. I think people were sticking more than just gummi worms in that poor thing.
Anyway, like I said the Sunset Lounge was always hopping, day and night. Any time at all you passed by, the place was full of interesting people hanging out in the shade, drinking and talking and letting it all hang out…so I spent quite a bit of time there. I met this one fascinating veteran Burner lady who had been going for ages, and who even gave Larry Harvey (the Burning Man founder) a ride up there once. She confided some cool inside info about him and how he really came up with the whole idea for the Man, but alas I am sworn to secrecy, so I can’t share it with you here. But other than that, she was just a fascinating person to talk to: an accordion player who busked her way around Europe and the West Coast, living in a schoolbus for 7 years and having all kinds of fabulous adventures. I love meeting people like that, especially women who are ballsy enough to do shit on their own and not sit around waiting for a man!! Kudos to you, sister!!
But aside from all the porn people and the Burner Wise-Woman, the most interesting and fabulous person I met at the Sunset Lounge was this amazing doctor — we’ll call him Dr. Who. You know how you just hit it off immediately with some people? Well, that’s how it was for my sister and I and this doctor — for much of the rest of the week, we were practically inseparable; it was like Three’s Company! I don’t know what kind of masochist this poor motherfucker must be, but he somehow managed to stand being around us for extended periods…and it was great! Anyway, after meeting him and hitting it off, we arranged to go adventuring the following night, once our serotonin levels had repleted.
In the meantime, I was still pretty hungover, and too tired to do much of anything…even to put on makeup. My sister and I decided to ride our bikes over to Dr. Bronner’s FauxMirage — a big shower camp that trucks in thousands of gallons of water and Dr. Bronner’s soap, then provides mass showers for dirty Burners in this giant Plexiglas cage they set up in a dome. It’s a TRIP! They put you in the tank 20 at a time, then spray you with soapy water, and everyone rubs each other down and hoses off. Not having had a shower in over a week by this point, it sounded really good…but the line to get in was off the chain, around a half-mile long, and we didn’t feel like waiting that long. So we just kept riding around…and wouldn’t you know it, we ran into the Be-hicle again!
Now, there are somewhere around 70,000 people at Burning Man…so it’s really remarkable to run into the same people more than once. You can’t even find people when you specially go looking for them, most of the time — so it was actually kinda freaky that we ran into the Behicle again — kismet!! The crew was overjoyed to see us, and welcomed us aboard for another ride — they were supposedly headed out to some billionaires’ party, which sounded fun! This time we had our bikes with us, so if they ended up parking out in Deep Playa again, we could escape easier…but all they did this time was cruise out to some performance arts camp that was hosting a Vegas-style Cirque-type show, which I guess was full of billionaires but was kinda boring — if, like me, you are from Vegas and have seen every Cirque show ten times. We watched for a while, then cruised back to camp…but not before the Behicle crew told us about this amazing hot springs up near Truckee, which was supposedly a good place to decompress after the Burn. My sister and I decided to stop there for a day on our way out, to sort of ease our transition back into the Real World.
But in the meantime, we still had half of Burning Man to get through! The rest of the week passed in a sort of booze-and-drug-fueled haze: afternoons spent lounging in the shade at camp, interacting with the parade of dudes who came through sniffing for puss. I met guys (and gals) from Sweden, Denmark, Australia, Germany, Israel…all over the fuckin’ place! It’s amazing how international the crowd was this year — no wonder the event sold out; there’s only 70,000 tickets, and everyone wants to go!
Meanwhile, I barely saw any of my Vegas friends the whole week — but then, I don’t really drive 500 miles to the middle of nowhere to hang with people I can see any time here in town. When I’m at Burning Man, I want to hang with my playa friends — the people I only see when I’m at Black Rock City! I’m thinking of you, Ed and the Emergence crew…and Geordie and Doug E. Fresh, and all the rest of you crazy fuckers at the Roller Disco! I spent a whole afternoon drinking bourbon in the shade with my Long Rider friends from the Roller Disco, Big T and Big Happy. Big Happy is a huge, tall black man with a deep rumbling voice, and he told an amazing story about how his family actually held an intervention for him one year, after seeing photos of him wearing his tutu at Burning Man!! They thought he was gay…when in reality, he’s just one big happy fuckin’ man in a tutu. Get over it!!!
Anyway, once my serotonin levels recovered, it was back out on the playa for more mushrooms and more fun. Speaking of which, it seemed that ketamine was the drug of choice on playa this year — it seemed to be everywhere. I even overheard this doctor who was camped behind us talking about it: “I use it on my patients all the time…I can’t wait to try it!!” (Lots of doctors come to Burning Man…and lawyers, and all kinds of professionals. You’d be surprised who you might run into out there, running around in a tutu with dilated pupils.) I did end up trying a little ketamine myself, and I have to say it was pretty fantastic. If you take too much, you fall into a K-hole and it’s date-rape central. But just the right amount is magical! Just be sure you’re dosed by someone knowledgable….like a doctor!
Speaking of doctors, it was time for my sister and I to rendezvous with our new BFF Dr. Who. We headed over to his camp wearing matching “Clockwork Orange” type outfits, with strap-ons, picked him up at his RV, and headed out into the wilds to explore the night. We rode a few art cars and danced for awhile, then rode this little Ferris wheel some enterprising Burners had erected à la the Electric Daisy Carnival. Fabulous! I didn’t want to ride it at first because a) the line was really long, and b) do I really trust a bunch of coked-up Burner carnies to properly bolt together a Ferris wheel?? But Dr. Who talked us into it, and it was magical. Being at the top, with all of Burning Man spread out below, was truly awesome.
After the Ferris wheel we went over to the SlutGarden camp to dance. They had these platforms for shadow dancers — I’m not sure if it was the case there, but apparently at some camps they actually pay go-go dancers to come in and work for the week (with these millionaire “turn-key” camps, apparently lots of people are getting paid to come to Burning Man these days. Hmmm). Well, they let my sister and I get up and dance in their shadow boxes — basically, you dance in this little cubbyhole, and only your silhouette shows. Since we were wearing the strap-ons, it made for some bad ass silhouettes!
After dancing there for around 5 hours, we were starving…where to go at 4am when you’re hungry on the playa? Camp Miso Horny, where they ladle out delicious steaming hot bowls of miso soup all night long! After guzzling soup, we headed back toward our own camp, stopping to drop off Dr. Who at his RV along the way. He invited us in for a nightcap, then remembered he had this amazing burrito waiting for us, from when he’d made dinner earlier in the day. OMG! That burrito was manna from heaven — I’ve never tasted anything quite so amazing! Not only was it 4:30am and I was cold, tired and starving…I had also been subsisting on beef jerky and peanut butter all week! That Dr. Who was a real lifesaver. We sat in his cozy, comfy RV eating and drinking until just before sunrise, when we skittered home like cockroaches to hide from the sun.
So the cycle of party-hangover-party-hangover continued, but I fucked up on the timing so that when the big Saturday night burning of the man happened, we were on a downswing — hungover. I’m not really a big fan of the Man burn anyway — it’s just a bunch of high idiots hooting and hollering over a giant bonfire, like some kind of tribal frat kegger. So we spent the evening avoiding it. First, we rode out to the Temple, so that I could stash my 2014 Summer Adventure hat inside to be burned.
You remember my Summer Adventure Hat — the straw cowboy hat I wore around all summer, from Mexico to Canada by way of Deep Creek and Harbin? I added mementoes to it everywhere I went, and now that the summer was coming to a close, I thought it would be fitting to burn it in the ceremonial temple fire. Every year, a crew builds a ginormous beautiful wooden Temple in the Deep Playa, and all week long people go inside and leave mementoes and notes to their departed loved ones — dead pets, relatives, lovers, failed relationships, etc. It’s a very emotional place, and I always enjoy going in there to read the messages.
Sometimes, however, the atmosphere in there gets a little sanctimonious…so earlier in the week, when I was still menstruating, I thought about going out to the temple, sitting on the ground, solemnly swinging open my legs, slowly pulling my tampon out of my vagina and using the bloody end of it to write “R.I.P. DAD” on the wall in endometrium….just to see the reaction of the others present. Call me a shit-stirrer, I guess….I thought it would have been hilarious. Alas, however…I pussed out, and only went to the temple once, to hang up my hat.
After that, my sis and I got baked and wandered around the crowd gathered around the burning Man. On burn night, something like 68,000 people all come out to the center of the playa to watch — it’s one of the greatest parties on the face of the Earth! Every art car drives out and blasts its sound system, so it’s a crazy fucking scene — lights and flames and music and high people packed a hundred deep in every direction. Since we were baked, we wandered through the crowds like ships passing silently through troubled waters, just observing everything through half-lidded eyes.
And then — who should we run into for the third time but the Grokitship!! Those crazy New Age space-sailors were getting ready to ride out to the trash fence again to play The Game, but we ran off before we could get sucked into their crazy wormhole…although we did all agree that it had to be fate that had us run into each other three times. First there were three Sarah Janes aboard, then we met them three times….what next?! I’m almost afraid to find out!
So, now the Man had been burned, and the party was basically over. Many people pack up and leave either directly after the Man burns, or the following morning…but my Goddess pals and I had committed to helping my friend C disassemble his art car, so we weren’t leaving til Tuesday. And besides, they burn the Temple on Sunday night…which was something we all wanted to experience. The Temple burn is much different than the Man burn — quieter, more spiritual and reflective. To that end…my sis and I planned to eat mushrooms one last time, and go out with a bang!
So the next day we rode out to inspect the ashes of the Man, and on the way we ran into the Funeral Procession for the Man — a New Orleans-style brass band funeral procession playing “Amazing Grace,” with people getting up to say a few words about the dearly departed Man. It was awesome, and would have been a nice way to wrap up the week’s shenanigans…if the week’s shenanigans were over! But we still had enough serotonin reserves for one more big blowout, before heading back to the miserable real world.
Around sundown, we took our last dose of hallucinogens, and headed out to see the Temple burn. Now, I’d been eating mushrooms all week, and the taste of them is so fucking foul that I really didn’t think I’d be able to stomach another night of them — this despite the fact that my source bakes them into little chocolate truffles. Honestly, the chocolate just makes it worse, so I usually have to choke them down with red wine and/or Goober Grape, or something equally overpowering. And even then, I sometimes feel mildly nauseous for a few hours after taking them! Well, tonight I planned to take a double dose, to make sure I got good and high. How would I ever manage to keep them down?!?
Thankfully, I remembered Dr. Who advising me to take some Prilosec with them, to help with the nausea…so we stopped by his RV on our way out, to see if he had any: “Take two and call me in the morning,” LOL!
Well, wouldn’t you know it…that crazy motherfucker was home, and invited us to come in his RV for a drink before heading out. We sat down at his little dining table…and didn’t come out of there for five hours!!! We missed the entire Temple Burn, and pretty much the whole last night of Burning Man, spending the entire evening bullshitting with him in his RV. Summer 2014 Adventure Hat? What Summer 2014 Adventure Hat?!
I don’t know how to explain it; Dr. Who’s RV was like a time warp, or the Hotel California: you you can never leave! First of all, Dr. Who is a fascinating, well-traveled and well-educated man with the greatest stories ever. You could sit around listening to him all night, every night! My sis and I are fairly witty raconteuses ourselves, so between the three of us, our get-togethers usually ended up being all-nighters.
Secondly, my sis and I have both had an RV fetish for quite some time — we have long dreamed of traveling around the U.S.A. in a giant Class A RV, much like Dr. Who’s. We’ve had this dream since the late 1990s, at which time we decided we’d also need to hire someone to drive us around, so we could sit in the back in our jammies, eating sugary cereal and playing Connect Four. For some reason, we decided way back then that the ultimate person to drive our RV would be Tom Bosley, the actor who played Mr. Cunningham on “Happy Days” — he has this awesome avuncular quality, like the 1970s suburban dad we never had.
Well interestingly, Dr. Who has a sort of Tom Bosley quality himself (OK, more like Tom Bosley on acid)…and hanging with him in his RV was like making our RV dream come true! Sure, we weren’t actually going anywhere — the RV was just parked in the dust behind a camp full of empty booze bottles and a torn-up rubber fuck doll. But in our drug-addled minds, we were sailing the Seven fucking Seas!!! I’m here to tell you, the times I spent in that RV were among the most fun times I’ve ever had at Burning Man — astonishing, but true!
As much fun as we were having in the RV, after five hours we decided we really ought to go out and see some of the playa for the last time, before it was all burned up or packed away. So we emerged from our warm, safe cocoon, and wonder of wonders — the Penetrator was up and running, and the porn kids were just about to take her out for a final spin around the playa!!! “I call the swing!!” my sister shrieked, running and jumping into the cozy cushioned cradle-like seat on the front end of the car. I jumped up next to her, and Dr. Who got in between. One of the friendly porn kids ran and got us these awesome cozy American Airlines blankies Dr. Who had “borrowed” on a flight once, and tucked us in nice and snug. Then the rest of the porn crazies jumped aboard behind us…and off we sailed.
The Penetrator cruised the dark, smoldering playa like a giant neon-lit shark, blasting ’70s soft rock as it prowled up and down the streets of the post-apocalyptic wreckage of Black Rock City at 5mph (the max allowed speed in BRC)– everywhere you looked, dusty, burned-out partiers were packing up, disassembling their toys and loading up their bikes into trailers and shipping containers for next year. Tons of people leave after the temple burns on Sunday night, so by the time of our voyage, half the city was already gone. It was like cruising around the ruins of Mogadishu — piles of rubbish and building materials everywhere, with smoke rising from fires all over the playa, and only a few shell-shocked-looking survivors milling about. They were totally fried and exhausted, but still mustered the strength to smile and wave when we passed by.
I’m sure plenty of people were already in bed, hoping to get up early and leave Monday morning…but the Penetrator cruised up and down every street, blasting soft rock into every quiet neighborhood, like, “WAKE UP! IT’S NOT OVER YET! DON’T LET IT END!” And a few wild-eyed die-hard partiers were still out there, and came running up to climb aboard and set sail for one final voyage before reality kicked back in.
We watched all of this go by at 5mph, cozy and snuggled up in the swing in all our furs and blankets with Dr. Who, the drugs gently fading away…simply a magical way to end the week. Elton John’s “Rocket Man” was playing, and it was just perfect: “And I think it’s gonna be a long, long time til touchdown brings me round again to find…” Of all the hokey fucking music to be cruising around the playa to, that 70s soft-rock playlist was perfect.
When the Penetrator returned to camp, we got the fuck out of there fast before Dr. Who could invite us in for a nightcap — I had to work the next day, helping my friend with his car and then breaking down my own camp. And I knew that if I set foot in that RV, I’d probably never leave!
So, the next day was like the day after Christmas — sad, letdown, cleaning up messes, fun’s over. Booooo! I spent all day in the sweltering sun helping C take apart his car, then helped my sis break down our own camp a bit. Dr. Who had invited us over for a potluck dinner his camp was having, to get rid of the rest of their food…so around dark, we rode our bikes down there to see what was happening. The potluck was already over, but he had saved us a plate of delicious food, which we paired with some champagne I’d brought to celebrate our last night on the playa. Yum!! And guess what…..we ended up hanging out in his damn RV for another few hours, until I finally broke the spell and left. But the party wasn’t over — Dr. Who had decided to join us at the hot springs near Truckee the following day.
So, Tuesday morning we got up, packed up camp, cleaned up every last bit of MOOP (Matter Out Of Place — what they call litter up there; they’re very hardcore about Leaving No Trace), peed in the nasty-ass port-a-potties one last time…and then left. Good-bye playa; see you next year!!
Because most people had already left, there was virtually no traffic, and we pretty much sailed across the desert and onto the pavement again. From there, it was only an hour and a half to Sierraville, tucked away at the edge of the Tahoe National Forest near Truckee. What a fantastic place!
I’d always just gone straight home after Burning Man, but let me tell you — soaking at a hot spring with a bunch of other Burners is the way to decompress, and ease yourself back into the real world! Sierra Hot Springs is managed by the same people who run Harbin (from my tragic June blog), and it’s a beautiful facility, right on the edge of a beautiful alpine meadow, in a sort of pine forest. There’s a big old lodge in the center where you can hang out, check your email, play piano, play board games, read books, or just chill out by the fire…and then the surrounding woods are dotted with soaking pools.
After checking in, we cruised over to the camp area to find a spot…and wouldn’t you know it, there was the Be-hicle crew!! The Grokitship had broken down in Truckee, but they were spending a couple days out at Sierraville to relax before dealing with it and heading back to Santa Cruz…and when they saw us, they were overjoyed! DESTINY! We set up camp right beside them, and had a joyous reunion. The charismatic leader and his wise-woman wife invited us to come to the lodge later where they’d be playing The Game (!!), and then we went off to soak.
But first, to shower — the BEST part of the post Burning Man experience is taking a long, hot shower, and getting all of that fucking playa dust out of your hair. I keep my hair wrapped up in turbans and wigs while I’m up there (the alkaline dust is very drying), so it was a pretty gnarly mess when I finally took it down. There were only two showers at Sierra Hot Springs, and the line to use them was pretty long — it’s a common post-Burning-Man stop, and the place was jam-packed with dirty hippies. But it was so much fun just standing in line anticipating, listening to the groans of delight coming from within, that the wait passed quickly. Ahhhh, cleanliness really IS next to godliness!
After showering and soaking, our BFF Dr. Who rolled up in his RV and set up camp nearby, and joined us for a second soak. That water felt so good…but was admittedly filthy. No matter how many showers you take, there’s still a little playa grime left somewhere…and right after Burning Man is probably not the best time to come to Sierra, for optimal water clarity. Still, it was pretty sweet — they have three main pools: a meditation pool out in the woods, plus a lukewarm social pool near the showers and the super-hot, silent Temple Dome pool inside a geodesic dome. There are cold plunge baths inside the dome as well, so you can do the cold-hot rotation, like I’d done at Harbin.
The only bummer was, we three like to talk, and silence was encouraged or mandated at all the pools except the social one. So after awhile, we dried off and went over to the lodge for dinner — they have this super commune-y type cafeteria called the Philosophy Cafe that serves one healthy hippie-type dish every night, and you either order the meat or vegetarian option. For around $12 you got a huge plate of delicious hippie dippie food — grains and lentils and whatnot — and we took our food outside to sit on the lawn and eat in the balmy night air, with all the other hippies. It was just like being at a commune — far out!
After dinner (and a magic brownie for me), we sat and watched this amazing fire dancing performance, with crazy white kids dancing around in tribal masks, drumming and shit. And then we all crashed out pretty early, since we were all exhausted and I had to get up early to pack up and drive home to Vegas. But first…we stopped in the RV for a quick nightcap, and you know what happens when you enter that RV — before you know it, Dr. Who had convinced us to stay another night. Well, why not — I can postpone returning to the steaming shitpile that is Vegas one more day, right??
So the next morning I got up and made coffee, and sat there in the woods chatting with the Grokitship crew. Meanwhile, another RV had pulled in, and it was this photographer I recognized from Santa Cruz — a real doozy of a New Age perv. I had shot with him in Santa Cruz back in 2009, and during the shoot he’d mentioned that my legs were ashy, and needed lotion — which he of course would be happy to apply. So he lotioned up my legs, and thighs, and started telling me about how he’s a tantric massage therapist, with a specialty in sports injury. Well, at the time, I had a pulled muscle in my groin…which I stupidly told him about, because now he started massaging my groin, all the while babbling on to me about the seven chakras, and how the most sacred of all the chakras is the yoni — a/k/a the vagina, which he then started to massage as well!! He even put his face into my yoni, commenting “Now, just tell me if any of this makes you uncomfortable!”
“I’m uncomfortable!!” I said, and to his credit, he stopped immediately, and we proceeded with the shoot and got some fabulous photos. But it was still weird, and it did irk me — especially because he was a total dick when I met him at Burning Man later that year (he photographed me and my sister, then refused to send me the pic unless I made a “donation”). Fuck you, ya fuckin’ pervert!
Anyhoo, that guy rolled up, and came over to say hi. Come to find out, he already knew the Grokitship crew, being as they’re both from Santa Cruz — small world! But he didn’t hang around. It was just me and the charismatic leader sitting there — he was wearing jammy pants with 8 balls on them, I had on one of my psychedelic caftans, and right then and there he asked me if I wanted to play a quick version of The Game, which he happened to have a mobile version of on his iPhone. “Sure!!!” I said, and so it was that I was introduced to the full wonders of The Game at long last.
Basically, it was a 30-minute talk therapy session, with me blathering on about what I wanted in life, and then picking cards and interpreting what they meant to me in relation to my intention. FUN! To be honest, I don’t really fuckin’ know what I want in life, and it was too early in the morning to think about it much…so I kinda ended up just telling him what he wanted to hear, although I did really try and make it meaningful. Either way, it seemed to work out OK.
Then the Wise-Woman priestess came over and asked me if I could take out my bag of dicks and give a little demonstration about the variety in shapes and sizes of the human penis. It seems that she and her husband had lived a celibate life on an ashram for many years, spending all their time focusing on moving their sacred energy up from the yoni to the heart chakra. They had only just now left the ashram and started back in with the sex thing, so they were out of the loop and wanted to know what was up with dicks today — and I was more than happy to oblige!
I’d given many of my dongs away at Burning Man, but still had several left to illustrate my point — that these were all commercially available dongs, made in all sizes from the Li’l Chubby to the huge, floppy schlong. The fact that they were all commercially produced proves the point that there is a market for all sizes of penis, and in the words of the Wise Woman Priestess, “A vagina for every penis.” It was a very informative lecture, and for the second time in a week I felt a lot like Annie Sprinkle!
After that, the Grokitship crew people finally packed up and left, and we all hugged and promised to come visit them soon — I want to try the flotation tank at the Be & BeWell, dammit! I’m planning a trip out that way at the end of the month…so who knows??
After the Behicle people left, Dr. Who came over, and I put the dongs away so we could go for a morning soak in the meditation pool with my sister. Afterwards, I headed for the lodge to do some work on my laptop…and then the three of us all went for a bike ride, around the beautiful countryside outside the resort. That is a gorgeous part of the country, and that bike ride was straight
out of Mayberry — we saddled up our Burning Man bikes and rode around the town of Sierraville, stopping to pick apples from a tree, and pet a horse, and poke around the cemetery and the rodeo grounds. I still can’t understand how a nice man like Dr. Who could handle being around two pessimistic cynics like my sis and I for that long, but somehow we all got along like a house afire, and had the best afternoon ever!
My sister was planning on leaving after
the bike ride, but we somehow wheedled her into staying another night — we stopped off at this Mexican restaurant in town for a margarita or two, and got to talk-talk-talking again…and before you know it, she agreed to stay. Dr. Who announced he was making us coconut-lime squash soup for dinner, so we rode back to camp and climbed aboard the RV again. Ahhh….my happy place!
So after a fantastic dinner (that Dr. Who can really cook), much talk and a few glasses of wine, my sis fell asleep, and Dr. Who and I headed out to soak in the meditation pool in the moonlight. We were the only two people there at first, and it was truly magical — surrounded by the forest, with the croaking of frogs in the background. A few others joined in later, and I fell asleep, floating naked in the water with Dr. Who’s arm around me. Almost better than a floatation tank!!! And no, you pervs….Dr. Who did not molest or take advantage of me. He’s a class fucking act!
But all good things must come to an end, and all magical spells are eventually broken — even the spell of Sierraville, and the spell of the RV. We finally went to bed, then got up in the morning, packed up camp, and went for a final soak. None of us wanted to leave at all, but I was facing an 8-hour drive back to Vegas, and knew I had to leave by noon-ish. Still, I dragged ass. After soaking, I even got back in the RV one last time, though I knew it was dangerous to do so.
Once in the RV, it was like being sucked back into a safe, cozy womb — a womb with rose-patterned upholstery, and cushy recliners with seat belts on them. Just like being at Grandma’s house — safe as milk! I wanted nothing more than to stay in that fucking RV forever — just keep traveling.
Dr. Who made it even worse. It was breezy that day, and I commented that it would be cool to fly kites — to which he replied, “Oh, I have kites in the RV! Let’s go fly them in the meadow!” Shit!! I would have enjoyed nothing more than getting baked and flying kites in a field with Dr. Who and my sister, but somehow I resisted. “No, I really have to get home to Vegas.”
Then somehow the topic of Umpqua Hot Springs came up — the hot springs in the forest in Oregon that I went to last month. “Let’s go there now,” Dr. Who suggested, totally serious. ARRRRRGHHHH!!! Again, I would have enjoyed nothing so much as running off to Oregon in that fucking RV with my sister and Dr. Who….but again, somehow I resisted. It really was like trying to break a magical spell.
Finally, my sis stood up and said she had to go — and that did it. We all climbed down from the RV one last time, and that was that — I headed back to Vegas, my sis headed back to the Bay Area, and Dr. Who went back to Sacramento, where he planned to sell the RV. Boooo! My happy place, sold like a common whore 🙁 I hope whoever buys her, treats her well. I had some happy times in that damn RV!
Anyway, it was around 3pm by the time I finally left…and boy was I sad to go. I got on the 95 and headed south back down through the desert, toward Vegas, and didn’t roll into my driveway til like 1am. I was exhausted…but happy. That was one of the best Burning Men ever for me personally; instead of just getting high and wearing silly costumes, I managed to meet some really cool people this time — and get high and wear silly costumes 🙂 Win-win!
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- Sarah Jane Woodall Wonderhussy