I’m writing this for the benefit of those considering undergoing Brain Training, a/k/a Brainwave Optimization, a/k/a neurofeedback, as a treatment for insomnia. Brain Training is an expensive procedure, so it bears careful consideration and research before committing to it…but when I was researching it, I was unable to find any firsthand accounts of the process (other than testimonials on Brain Trainers’ websites). So, here is my own firsthand account.
I have had insomnia for 4 years. It started when I took some illegal party drugs that were likely laced with some kind of speed — I’m really susceptible to that stuff, and it sent me over the edge, giving me permanent sleep issues that were compounded by my hectic, irregular lifestyle. We won’t go into all that, because I’ve already blogged about it ad nauseum…but suffice it to say, I never had sleep issues until I ate those drugs. D’oh!!!
As with most insomniacs, I tried many different pills, herbs, oils and therapies to “cure” my insomnia (again, I’m not gonna bore you with all the details). Then I heard an ad for Brain Training on a local radio station, and it piqued my curiosity. Brain training/brainwave optimization is basically a form of neurofeedback that is supposed to “rebalance” a malfunctioning brain, and put it back in harmony, curing everything from ADHD to depression to drug addiction to insomnia. It sounded too good to be true, but you know how it is…when you can’t sleep, you’re desperate and will try anything.
Then I read about a study out of Wake Forest Baptist University where brain training was shown to be effective at improving insomnia, and that really made me want to try it! Even though it was kind of a half-assed study (not double-blind, no control group)…like I said, I was desperate! The only thing holding me back was the price — it’s around $1800 for a course of sessions.
Fortunately for me, I have a wealthy friend who is also an insomniac, and he tried it out on my recommendation…like a sort of guinea pig. He underwent the treatment at a clinic in Nashville, TN, and after the full course of treatments he claimed it had helped him — somewhat. But he hadn’t followed the program strictly — he drank alcohol and smoked weed during the course of treatments, which is not recommended. So there was still a nagging doubt in my own mind that maybe, if I tried it myself, and followed the recommendations to the letter, it might work for me.
After a particularly miserable bout of sleeplessness earlier this year, I finally took the plunge, if only to assure myself that I’d really tried “everything.” The recommended course is ten 2-hour treatments, 2 per day, for 5 days. Each session is $175, so a total of $1750 for the full course. Ouch!!
The name of the company behind the actual technology (computer program) is Brain State Technologies…which if you go to their website, appears to be a sort of franchise program where interested parties can get licensed, for a fee, to administer brain training. The woman who did mine said she had been really sick herself back in the ’90s, from some undetermined illness, and nothing worked for her until she tried brain training. It changed her life to such an extent that she became a licensed practitioner.
This all sounded very Jim Jones to me, but like I said, I was desperate, so I really went in with an open mind, I swear. They do a preliminary assessment for free, where they attach electrodes to your scalp and have you do math problems and visualizations and shit, in order to draw a “map” of your brain and see where the imbalance lies. Surprise, surprise — it was revealed that I had a major imbalance between my hemispheres — I think it was my frontal lobes that were out of whack or something (I don’t remember exactly; she rattled off a bunch of pseudo-scientific mumbo-jumbo at me). Brain training could definitely help me…so of course I signed up.
Now as mentioned, I was there to follow instructions to a TEE. This meant that for the 5 days of treatment, and for three weeks thereafter, I was to drink no alcohol or smoke any weed (I have a medical marijuana prescription, which is pretty much the only thing that helps me sleep). So I cut all that out beginning the day before my first treatment.
You don’t have to do all 10 treatments in 5 days — it’s very time consuming, if you have a regular job. Since I don’t have a regular job, however, I was able to devote 5 solid days to the procedure — which is supposedly the most effective way to do it, anyway. I went over to the brain trainer’s home office from 10am-noon for my first session, and then again from 1-3pm for my second. For 5 days straight.
Each session basically consisted of me laying in a comfy recliner with electrodes on my scalp, while the brain trainer ran a software program that read my brainwaves and then played them back to me as a series of weird musical tones. Somehow these musical tones were supposed to gently re-align my imbalanced brain.
The tones were broken into segments, during some of which I was told to visualize different things (walking on a tightrope, watching a ball bounce back and forth, etc). During others, I was free to doze off…which I did, more than once. Yay, sleep! Was I cured?!!
At the end of each 2-hour session, my trainer showed me a sort of video game-type computer graphic of a horizontal bar, that I was supposed to attempt to control with my brain, forcing it down as far as I could just by thinking about it. I wasn’t all that good at it, but I did improve somewhat over the course of the 5 days.
Now meanwhile, I wasn’t drinking or smoking, so I was really afraid my sleep would be terrible. HOWEVER, since I wasn’t drinking/smoking, I didn’t really go out and socialize much (I live in Vegas, and most social activities revolve around booze). Since I wasn’t going out at all, I was in bed by 11pm every night, watching Mad Men DVDs and falling asleep by midnight. It was a depressing, old-ladyish lifestyle….but the regularity of the routine worked, and I slept well the entire 26 days I was sober.
Additionally, after my second treatment or so, I started dreaming again — this after years of having no dreams at all. It was like I finally entering that stage of sleep where you dream — did the brain training really cure me? Or was it just the fact that I wasn’t drinking??
I posit that it was neither. After the 5 days of brain training and the following three weeks of sobriety, I had to travel out of state for work, and sleep in a room with a bunch of unfamiliar people. Despite the fact that I still wasn’t drinking or drugging, my sleep went right back to the shittiest it had ever been. It was as if I’d never spent $1,750 on brain training at all.
Brain training, shmain training: my feeling is that my temporary “cure” was due to nothing fancier than plain old-fashioned routine. All the insomnia websites tell you that first thing — the most important step in combating insomnia is to wake up at the same time each day, and go to bed around the same time as well. This no-brainer technique is boring and unsexy…but is also FREE and EFFECTIVE.
Because I was going to bed early every day and not having much of a social life, my excitement levels were way down, and my stress as well. My life was BORING AS ALL HELL, but I was sleeping. It appeared that routine was the key to good sleep. But in my opinion, that’s not a realistic cure at all — and here’s why:
At home, I sleep alone, in a dark bedroom outfitted as per Sleep Hygiene 101 — no clock, no light etc. But the minute I had to leave the safety of my cocoon, and travel for work — my insomnia returned in FULL force, worse than ever.
Am I really supposed to stay home and sleep alone in my own bed every day for the rest of my life?! That is completely unrealistic — and devastatingly depressing. Besides, when I returned home from my business trip, even back in the confines of my comfy familiar bed, I was still unable to sleep (unless I used marijuana). I had interesting stuff going on in my life again, which apparently revved my engines too much for me to sleep well.
So I gave up.
I was supposed to go back to the brain trainer for a post-treatment assessment…but I never did. Why bother? I had the feeling she was just gonna tell me I need “just a few more treatments…” and at $175 per session, I simply cannot afford to throw any more good money after bad. $1,750 was ENOUGH cash to piss away on some new-age hocus pocus…which is how I feel about the whole thing, at the end of it all.
The bottom line is, brain training did not work for me. The only REAL difference it made for me was it did cause me to start dreaming again…which is cool, but I’m not sure it was worth $1,750. My sleep is no more restful or any less fragmented than before — I just remember a few dreams here and there. Big deal!
I have the sinking feeling that there IS no easy “cure” for insomnia — I can either lead a quiet life of regularity and routine, or I can live a fabulous life of adventure and awesomeness, and suffer shitty sleep here and there. I sort of split the difference now — I try to keep to a schedule when possible, but I don’t let it dictate my life. I gladly suffer the occasional sleepless night in favor of having an interesting life.
Meanwhile, if I really need a good night’s sleep, I eat a marijuana brownie — eating THC works amazingly well for sleep. If I’m out of brownies, or I’m traveling, I can always get 6 hours sleep from 15mg Ambien if I absolutely have to (I’m pill-averse, so only take them as a last resort).
If you are considering brain training to combat your insomnia, I hope this personal account helps you decide. Of course everyone is different….but I’m just telling you what happened with me. No bullshit, just my honest experience.
Every year around this time, I get majorly bummed the fuck out. It’s my birthday today, which coincides with the first day of autumn…a/k/a the season when everything starts withering up and dying. No wonder I’m such a melancholy bitch! It’s in my blood!
The main cause of my annual malaise, however, is the fact that Burning Man is over, and I have another 340-odd days to go til the next go-round. I know my life shouldn’t revolve around a party, but fuck! I was there long enough that I started to get used to running around high and naked all day, every day, with no more important decisions to make than which bindi to wear, or what to drink for happy hour. It’s really hard to leave a magical wonderland of sunshine, drugs and freedom and get back to the “real world.” Because the real world sucks ASS!
Or, my melancholia could just be due to the fact that I dangerously depleted my serotonin levels by eating all those mushrooms. I think that’s actually more likely the case…because MY real world has been pretty fun, actually!
I mean, two days after getting home from Burning Man, I was already naked again, in a studio, being bodypainted for a reality show that will air this fall on the SyFy network. I can’t really give too many details, since I did sign a non-disclosure agreement, but suffice it to say I spent 10 hours being painted by a friend for a very small segment on a show they’re working on about Vegas bodypainters. It was fun….for the first 6 hours! But as soon as I washed off the paint, it was back to Reality again. Boosauce!
Fortunately, I have a pretty sweet reality. The next day, I was powering through a soul-killingly miserable workout at the gym — my first in 3 weeks 🙁 About halfway through my workout, I checked my phone and noticed it was First Friday — the day of the monthly arts fair in Downtown Vegas. I knew a lot of my Burning Man friends would be there, so I thought I’d finish my workout, go home and put on a sort of crazy outfit, and go down there to dance my blues away. But THEN I noticed that not only was it First Friday — it was also the day of the Vegas Gay Pride parade!!
Fuck, yeah!! If there’s one thing that can chase away the post-Burning-Man-Blues, it’s a GAY PRIDE PARADE! I totally blazed through the rest of my workout, then dashed home and put on my fucked-up, playa-dust-coated Marie Antoinette ensemble, hopped on my bike (also still covered in dust and lights), and rode down the street to the parade route. I got there just in time to crash the parade, riding along with my lights blinking and flashing, and had a fabulous time. Between the lights and music and half-naked gay boys, it was basically like being at Burning Man, anyway!
That parade was really sick, incidentally — Vegas really gets behind its gay community (gay tourists have a lot of expendable income, coincidentally). There were some really elaborate floats sponsored by major hotel-casinos and shit…plus there were delegations from the Vegas Transwomen, the Vegas Furries, the Vegas Gay Rodeo and the Vegas Leather Uniform Club. Really impressive!
I ran into some friends, and we hung out until the parade was over, at which time we decided to head back down to the beginning of the parade, at the Arts Factory, for some drinks and dancing. But the cops wouldn’t let me ride my bike back up the parade route, since the street had been closed off. D’oh!! Thankfully, this one cop was amazingly bad-ass and cool, and not only lifted my bike up over the crowd barrier so I could ride on the sidewalk…he also lifted ME up and over! What a gentleman!! The cops at Burning Man weren’t that cool, I can tell you that for sure!
Anyway, after partying awhile with many fellow Burners at the Arts Factory, some kid gave me a flyer for an afterparty going down at this freaky old mansion nearby — the Hartland Mansion. I’ve always wanted to go in there, so my friend Fabian and I headed over at once to check it out. IT WAS AMAZING!!
If you’ve never heard of the Hartland Mansion, it’s this tacky monstrosity in a sort of dumpy part of town…right down the street from my own house, haha. A family of gospel singers bought it back in the day, and covered every square inch in fake jewels and mirrored tile and shit — and now they rent it out for events and weddings and stuff. You can read an amazing New York Times article about it here. It’s an incredible place, but I’d never been inside…although I’ve certainly tried! I even went so far as to attend a church picnic on the grounds once, but the interior was locked up so all I was able to do was hang out in the courtyard with a bunch of Christian kids playing in a bouncy castle.
Well, this time, the DJ for this afterparty was setting up in the same courtyard area, out by the pool…but when he wasn’t looking, my friend Fabian and I were able to find an open door and sneak into the actual mansion itself!!
OMG!! It was exactly as freaky as I’d imagined! Especially because all the lights were off, and we had to wander around in the dark, except for the little purple LED lights in my wig, which cast an eerie glow over the checkered floor, mirrored spinet and massive collection of Christmas nutcrackers on the imposing fireplace mantelpiece. It was fucking awesomely creepy — better than any art installation at Burning Man! But we had just started filming a creepy little travelogue video when the DJ came in and busted us, kicking us back out into the night. Boooooooooo!
So I only got a tiny taste of the mansion…but it totally just whetted my appetite to see more of it! I hereby solemnly vow that one day, I will explore the entire Hartland Mansion — if not move into it myself!!! I can think of few more fitting places to live in this fair city, I’ll be honest with you.
Aaaaanyhoo, the fun didn’t stop there! A few nights later a good friend of mine came into town, and took me to dinner at several swanky hotspots at the always-glamorous Wynn Hotel, where he always stays. (He likes it because he comes from a dusty, dogforsaken cowtown, and the elegant opulence of the Wynn is like his Happy Place.) We had quite a few drinks in his favorite bar, which is now one of my favorite bars — the Tower Suites bar, at the base of the elevators to the VIP enclave within the Wynn, where all the real ballers stay.
If you like watching nouveau-riche poseurs and douchebags get drunk, then you need to check out this bar STAT! It’s incredible!! It’s basically a lobby bar, in the finest tradition of hotel lobby bars — you can watch the VIPs come and go to their hotel rooms (Pele was just one luminary who passed by), and also hang out at the bar and enjoy the barbed, gin-soaked camaraderie of the rich and powerful…all in an impeccably genteel atmosphere. One night, I watched this boisterous, drunken redneck songwriter henpeck a trimly mustachioed black lawyer, repeatedly calling him “Sidney Poitier” with ominously fake-chummy good-old-boy gusto, as the bartender guffawed politely, dancing on the razor’s edge (as all good bartenders do) between offending either party. It was exhausting to watch!!
Speaking of exhausting, I could never work at that hotel. (I could never work any customer service job, truth be told…my 12 years as a photo girl taught me that much!!) I learned that if you work at the Wynn, you’re not allowed to so much as mention that fact on any social media — the Wynn supposedly has a dedicated staff that sits around and does nothing but monitor Facebook, Twitter etc. for any mention of the Wynn or Encore, and if it’s found out that an employee posted something, they are summarily fired! WTF! Meanwhile, the poor barback had to run around with a giant flesh-colored plug in his ear, where his earring was supposed to be…because dog forbid a barback has an ear piercing!!! That kind of behavior is enough to make a society matron vomit up her Pimm’s No.1, for chrissake!!! SHUDDER!
All of this reminded me once again of how glad I am that I don’t work for some bourgeois asshole who makes me kow-tow to convention. Although before I start tooting my own horn…if I were really a woman of principle, I wouldn’t even deign to frequent a bar that treats its employees like that. Unfortunately, however, that bar is far too fascinating for me to boycott….and I hope to return many, many times, just to see what the poseurs are up to!
Anyway, all this swankiness was a real drag, because I had to jam my nasty hippie feet back into high heels again for the first time in a month. Thankfully, my friend didn’t just want to hang around the Wynn — one night we also went out to a local pub for costume karaoke, where I was able to put on my Space Disco Babe ensemble and belt out some dreadful karaoke numbers (I did “Pussy Control,” by Prince, if you must know).
Since I had my Space Babe wig out
anyway, I made good use of it another night as well, working a gig as a cocktail waitress at this airbrush artist’s birthday party. He painted me to look like a sexy RoboCop, and I basically schmoozed around the party all night serving drinks and generally having a pretty good time. Most of the partygoers had just returned from Burning Man themselves, so as far as “work” goes, it was actually pretty sweet. They broke out the S&M gear after awhile and things got kinda hairy, but thankfully I was able to escape unmolested.
So “reality” wasn’t really as bad as I expected, and I pretty much got over my post-Burning-Man-Blues after a week or so. I even got a sunshine fix one day when I hiked down to the Goldstrike hot springs with a couple of friends — a killer hike with a lot of therapeutic soaking, down near the Hoover Dam (you can read more about it in my desert adventure guide). But I couldn’t really enjoy myself wholeheartedly, because I knew I had to get up at 4am the following day for a gig…and knowing I have to get up that kind of early always puts a damper on things for me.
That’s right, friends, it wasn’t all fun and hi-jinks — I have been working quite a bit lately, socking away cash toward my next adventure! In less than two weeks I’ll be cruising up to San Francisco for a few days, heading up into the forest near Lake Tahoe for an insane psytrance rave in honor of legendary psytrance DJ and electronica pioneer Goa Gil’s birthday! I can’t wait. The forest is sure to be chock-full of crazed Israeli kids whacked out of their minds on acid, and I can’t wait to join them. So I gotta make some cash for that.
Toward that end, I put my nose to the grindstone and got to work. First, I had a What’sYourPrice? date with a very personable TV producer who runs a sort of Home Shopping Network for womens’ sex toys (women feel more comfortable ordering that stuff from the privacy and comfort of their own home, you know). He took me to this amazing old-school Italian restaurant called Piero’s, right across the street from the convention center — a place I had long wanted to visit because it seemed very mobster-y. Well, I’m ecstatic to report that it turned out being less Rat-Pack mobster-y, and more ’80s mobster-y — like if Sophia from the Golden Girls ran a mob joint, and let Blanche and Rose decorate it. Fantastic!!! I will most definitely be coming back here — not only is the vibe to die for, but the food was amazing, too. And wait, there’s more — Pia Zadora just started doing a lounge act in the bar!! At this rate, it’ll be the most amazing place in the entire world in no time!
I had another What’sYourPrice date lined up for the following week, but the dude cancelled on me. I didn’t sit around and cry about it, though — ain’t nobody go time for that. One afternoon, I went over and modeled for an art class at the Veterans’ Village Thrift Store, and then I also had a bunch of liquor store samplings to conduct, pouring shots of that delicious girly liqueur I wrote about in July, only this time I was able to drink some myself. It is delicious, just as I expected!! I tried not to drink too much, though, because it’s a cream based liqueur and very high-calorie, and I’m trying to stay fit and trim here.
Then another day, I got a gig as a production assistant. I didn’t get many details for the shoot, other than that it was a 5:30am calltime, and that I was supposed to dress “sexy.” Sexy??! At 5:30am?!!! The guy who hired me assured me that “When you see who the talent is, you’ll be glad you did.” HMMM! Now I was really curious, and got up at 4am to make sure I looked halfway decent for this momentous occasion.
Again, I can’t give too many details away…but suffice it to say the gig ended up being a bunch of press interviews with the star of a new action drama that was premiering that very night. This star is widely considered to be a heartthrob and sex symbol, although I’ve never personally been a big fan of his…and besides, as a lowly PA I didn’t have any real interaction with him, anyway. I pretty much just hid in the corner, fetching coffee and whatnot…although I’m glad I wore makeup and stuff anyway, just because I like to look my best at all times, even when hiding in a corner of a conference room at a hotel at 8am, ya know? Besides, one of the co-stars of the movie, an up-and-coming wacky black guy, kept calling me “hot chick,” so I guess I made a good impression on someone.
The best part of the whole 14-hour day was that evening, when they shot the red carpet interviews at the actual premiere. I’ve never been to a premiere of a major Hollywood movie before, and it was amazing. All the schmoozing and elbowing and ass-kissing and fake laughing and shouting and flashbulbs popping and fans yelling…it was nuts! I was right up in the thick of it, too, assisting a cameraman for one of the cable networks, just inches from all these major A-list stars.
But what really made the whole thing fascinating was, under friendly duress from one of my employers, I’d had a split of champagne and a puff or two on a joint just an hour before…so I was high as a kite and in kind of a dreamlike state throughout the whole experience!! I’m here to tell you, you haven’t LIVED until you’ve watched some monkey-faced anorexic hag from EXTRA! interview a bewildered Meat Loaf on a red carpet. Incroyable!!!!! It was like “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: Hollywood Edition.” WEIRD!!!
Another interesting thing was noting the mechanics of the whole red carpet experience: they hand out these “tip sheets” to all the paparazzi, with photos and descriptions of all the major players who will be on the red carpet, so you’ll know whom to badger with questions. At this particular event, there were three or four legit A-list stars…and then the usual roundup of D-list Vegas losers they trot out for every half-assed Vegas premiere: Holly Madison, Carrot Top, Marie Osmond, Meat Loaf. It was interesting to note who made the cut for the front side of the tip sheet (Marie Osmond and Meat Loaf, astonishingly) and who was relegated to the back side (Holly Madison et. al., of course). How embarrassing to end up on the B-side, eh? But even more embarrassing were those poor saps who meandered down the red carpet, smiling hopefully….but weren’t really important enough so no one bothered to take their photo or interview them at all. OUCH!
Anyway, once the stupid-ass movie started I got the hell out of there, home to pass the fuck out in preparation for the next day’s gig. This was a hum-dinger, too: a group of guys were coming in from back east to celebrate a birthday, and had hired a girlfriend of mine as a sort of event planner to set up the whole crazy shindig. She rented a sick mansion, hired a bunch of chicks to come hang out and party with them, arranged for a caterer and some DJs and party favors and even rounded up a goat to hang out onsite (the guys are obsessed with that Robin Thicke video for “Blurred Lines,” where the naked chick is cuddling a goat).
Knowing I’m a shameless hussy, my girlfriend had hired me for a couple specific roles. First, I was to surprise the one guy whose birthday it was by waiting in his bedroom topless, with a tray of party favors, to welcome him to Vegas. So I headed over to the mansion on Thursday morning, and basically spent most of the rest of the weekend there, in one capacity or another.
This mansion, incidentally, is amazing!!! They call it the Parisian Palace, and it’s even more incredible than the Hartland Mansion, if you can believe that: an 8-bedroom, 9-bath party mansion that looks to have been decorated by Gianni Versace on crack! Everything is gold-plated or bejeweled in some way, and every ceiling and wall is painted with gaudy murals and frescoes in a fake-Renaissance Italianate style. Chandeliers, gold-lamé settees, marble tile floors…it’s ridiculous. There’s also a resort-style swimming pool, an indoor “cold” pool, a bowling alley, nightclub and theater.
Charmingly (in my opinion), the place is kinda run down and tacky — not all the lights work, and the a/c is kinda fucked up, and some of the gilt shit on the walls falls off at the slightest touch — but I loved it! It’s the kind of place I should live in, I tell you. Over-the-top and fabulous, in a totally awesome Miss-Havisham-goes-to-Vegas way!
Anyway, I waited in the master bedroom with my tray of favors and a stuffed pig (to stand in for the goat, who had to stay downstairs), and surprised the birthday guy with an enthusiastic “WELCOME TO VEGAS!!!” The others sort of shoved him into the bedroom and slammed the door behind us, so it was kinda awkward, like, what am I supposed to do next??! But the guy was a total gentleman, and just sat on the bed with me and chit-chatted as he enjoyed his party favors. Super nice man. But then he goes, “Can I ask you a favor?” Uh-oh!! But it turns out, all he wanted to do was enjoy his party favors off my asscheek…harmless enough, when you consider the other shit I’ve done in my day. Why not?!
After that, I mostly just hung around the pool and in the nightclub, boozing and dancing and entertaining and whatnot. I had to leave here and there for other gigs, and to go home to sleep, but for the most part I was there all weekend. Friday we all took a monstrous Hummer limo over to the MGM for the iHeartRadio concert, and then Saturday I was booked as the naked sushi model in the formal dining room. I lay on the giant dining table, naked except for a thong, pasties and some banana leaves, and the sushi chef covered me in delicious sushi. YUM!!
I had just spent an hour lifting weights before the gig, so I was starving the whole time I was laying there. Thankfully, it was a pretty relaxed party so no one cared if I ate sushi off myself — and I ate a lot!! Guests fed me quite a bit, too — so that by the time I got off the table at the end of dinner, I was stuffed. But they were having an ’80s theme party in the nightclub that night, so I had to stuff myself into my skintight zebra-print leggings and legwarmers and shit and go dance — which was actually the best thing for me, in my bloated state. Ugh!!!
I’m here to tell you, that girlfriend of mine who planned the party really knows what she’s doing, though. She did an amazing job with that whole thing — she even made little legwarmers for the goat to wear at the ’80s party, lol! She had amazing DJs and a sick laser light show, professional go-go dancers, specialty acts, bartenders, live music, and a model dressed up as a Baywatch babe who popped out of a giant birthday cake! If you’re looking to set up a sick-ass birthday party, look no further — she’ll hook it up! I don’t know how she did it, though — I was exhausted after just spending part of my weekend with those guys. She must really be a wreck!!!
Anyway, I was so tired out after all that craziness that I spent the following day, my birthday, in bed. I didn’t do SHIT…except run 5 miles at the gym, and write this blog. I guess when every day’s a party, a birthday is really no different. Unless you’re a baller, that is, and can afford to hire my girlfriend!!! Maybe next year……………..
Because I worked my ass off at Sturgis, I was able to pretty much take the rest of the month off and party non-stop. A well-deserved break…but wouldn’t you know it, the partying wore me out more than the working did!!
Once I got back from Sturgis, I only had a few days to unpack, do laundry, pay bills and do all my writing…and then it was already time to head out for the next adventure. I planned to meet my family in the forest up at Lake Tahoe for a few days’ camping, before heading over the mountains to Reno and Burning Man…so I had to pack up everything I’d need for both.
Normally it doesn’t take me long to pack for Burning Man, since I’ve been enough times to have it down to a system, and besides my camper is always packed up and ready to go, year-round, with most of my camping supplies already in there. All I really need to do is load up my truck with my bike, pack some costumes, grab some drugs and buy some food. Easy enough…but I guess I was distracted somehow, because I did an exceptionally poor job of clothes-packing and food shopping this year. I know I said the same thing last year, but this year I really mean it!
Anyway, I loaded everything into my truck and left Vegas on Friday morning, Aug. 16, headed up to Tahoe. Normally it’s a 7-hour drive, but I was hauling so much shit, and could only go 60mph on account of my little bitty trailer tires…so it took forEVer. Worst of all, I forgot to pack my iPod, so I had to rely on my truck’s shitty factory stereo…which consists solely of an AM/FM radio. If you’ve ever driven up central Nevada, you know how there are HUGE empty stretches with nothing whatsoever but sagebrush and brothels — well, these areas are so remote that they don’t even have cell coverage or any radio stations, either! It was rough!!!
Fortunately, there was some kind of kooky long-distance off-road race going on throughout the entire state, so at least I was semi-entertained by the sight of all these crazy rednecks barrelling around the desert on all kinds of jacked-up tricked-out crazy off-road contraptions. The race course stretched all the way from around Beatty clear up to the Yerington area — a vast fucking expanse of high-octane sausagefest craziness, the likes of which I’d never seen. It reminded me of “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” when they go to the Mint 400! Nuts!!
Anyhoo, I rolled into Tahoe around dusk, met up with my family at the campground and set up camp, and then commenced to drink, smoke and carry on in my usual dissolute fashion. We sat around the fire bullshitting by night, and spent the days on the beautiful beaches of Lake Tahoe (which, if you’ve never been there, is an astonishinglybeautiful lake…both in summer and winter). Everything was going along great, until……
One night, I ate a pot cookie before bed. I’d been having low-grade menstrual cramps all day, as I was expecting my period at any minute…which was fine with me, since I wanted to get my Aunt fucking Flo out of the way before Burning Man. Well, in the middle of the night I was woken up by the worst cramps I’ve ever had in my entire life!!!!!!!
I lay in bed moaning and groaning for awhile, but then they got so bad I was afraid I might vomit or soil myself, so I thought I’d better get up and drag my ass down to the campground bathrooms. But when I tried to stand up, I was in so much pain (and so high from the pot cookie) that I passed out, alarming my mom (who was sleeping in my camper with me). I told her I was OK, but she insisted on helping me walk down to the bathrooms. While waiting for her to get her boots on, I passed out again — I’m telling you, I’ve never been in this much pain!! Once I got down to the bathrooms, I sat on a toilet for around 50 hours, moaning and groaning like an animal, literally out of my mind with pain! If you think I’m being melodramatic, consider this: at one point I moaned “HELP ME JESUS!!!!” which, as an avowed atheist, I would normally never say. That’s how I know I was literally out of my mind!!
This went on forever, and my mom was understandably alarmed. She asked if I wanted her to call an ambulance, but I demurred, afraid of the cost. I didn’t even really want to go to the emergency room, for the same reason, but finally it got to the point where I didn’t even care, I just wanted to be knocked the fuck OUT by whatever means modern medicine has! So my mom went back up to camp to get the car, and my brother came with her for support.
Of course, by the time they loaded me into the backseat, my cramps had already begun to subside…so I considered scrapping the adventure. But every once in awhile the pain would come back with a vengeance, so we forged ahead, getting to this sleepy little emergency room in the middle of the night. I felt like a royal idiot going to the emergency room for something as silly as menstrual cramps, but I was still in enough pain that I didn’t worry too much about what other people thought. Although my vanity was still strong enough to cause me endless shame when this super-cute staffer came over to take my info, and there I was all scruffy and makeup-less with my face wrinkled in agony. I’m telling you, everyone at that hospital was super good-looking…it was weird! Like a fake soap-opera hospital or something!
Anyhoo, there was really nothing they could do for me but lay me on a bed and give me 2 liters of IV fluid, since apparently I was severely dehydrated. I was also freezing fucking cold, so they kept layering me with warm blankets from this weird blanket oven they had…but no amount could stop me from shivering. To make matters worse, my cramps were pretty much gone by now and all I could see in my head was a little mental calculator adding up how much all this shit was gonna cost me. I have insurance, but it’s shitty, and you know how those fuckers are. I tried to dissuade them from giving me the second liter of IV fluid, trying to save some cash, but they insisted I needed it. Meanwhile, every blanket they laid on me probably cost me $50. Oy.
By this time I was pretty loopy — not only was I high as a kite from that pot cookie, but I was also feeling the euphoria one experiences after severe pain subsides. I was so cozy laying there on that gurney with all those warm blankets, that I commented to the doctor that it was like being in a spa! “You’ll really feel like you were at a spa when you get the bill!!” my mom noted, causing us both to crack up hysterically, and the doctor to bite his tongue and slip out the door without comment. Fucker!
Anyhoo, I was basically fine after that, but they insisted on doing an ultrasound just to make sure I didn’t have any cysts or fibroids or whatever. Part of me was skeptical that they were just trying to milk more money out of me — which is a sad fucking reflection on the state of American medicine, that a patient has to worry so fucking much about care costs that they try to skimp on possibly life-saving procedures! But I went ahead with it, just to be on the safe side. Ya never know!
So now I was wheeled into this other room for a “pelvic ultrasound…” which turned out to be nothing less than the fabled trans-vaginal probe you hear so much about in the news!!! (I think some states want to force a woman to have one of these before allowing her to have an abortion). CRAZY!!!! The nurse whipped out this GINORMOUS FUCKING WAND, which in my addled state looked no smaller than a vacuum cleaner attachment hose (!!!!), slipped a condom on it, then shoved it up my vagina so far I could feel the end of it bumping against my lungs and spleen and shit!!! OUCH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Actually, it wasn’t really painful so much as just uncomfortable…the nurse was cool, and did her thing with a minimum of ado. All the time I was in there, I kept thinking how I wished they would at least let me film the process, so I could sell the videos to some medical fetish freaks and at least recoup the cost of a few of those warm blankets. But they made my brother and mom stay behind, so no photos were able to be taken, alas. I had to settle for describing the whole thing to my mom and brother, and when my mom heard how big the probe was she exclaimed, “Mercy!!!” in an old Victorian lady voice that caused us all to crack the fuck up!
Speaking of photos, despite my agony, all along I was still clear-headed to have my brother take all the pics you see here…for posterity. I’m always thinking about this blog, I tell you!!!
So anyway, the trans-vaginal probe turned up nothing out of the ordinary…and around 7am they let us go. They wrote me a prescription for some painkillers, but by then my cramps were gone, so I never filled it. But now I’m scared as shit for my next period…I hope it doesn’t happen again!! I don’t think it will; I had really bad cramps one or two other times, about 15 and 3 years ago, so it’s not like they’re a typical thing… just an “every once in a while” treat from my uterus. Fuckin’ uterus!!!
After that fucked-up night, the rest of my time at Tahoe went on fairly uneventfully, and soon it was time for everyone to head back home to the Bay Area, and for me to continue on my way to Burning Man. It was now August 22, and I had an early arrival pass to help my friend C. assemble his art car, the Soul Train. I drove over the mountains to Carson City, where I did all my food shopping and checked my propane tank and stuff before heading onward toward the Black Rock Desert, where Burning Man is held…about 2 hours north of Reno. I didn’t want to stop in Reno because that’s where everyone shops on the way to Burning Man, and even though I was six days early, you never know. My sisters stopped there on their way up later in the week, and said the WalMart was a disgusting zoo of ravers, hippies and idiots grabbing bikes, water and beef jerky in a mad orgy of consumerism before heading to the “de-commodification” event. Glad I missed that!
The only thing worrying me at this point (aside from my looming emergency room bill, which I still haven’t gotten) was the weather. At Tahoe, my jackass brother-in-law kept gleefully advising me that storms were expected on the playa, and that I might not be able to get in (when it rains, the dry lake bed/playa turns to clay/mud, and they freeze all traffic until it dries out). Well, all along my drive from Tahoe to Black Rock, I could see thunderheads on the horizon, and it was freaking me out. But I made it over there around 6pm, and it was fine. They let me in, didn’t even check my car for drugs or anything, and I cruised in to look for a good camping spot.
The way it works at Burning Man is, they grid out a city in the shape of a semicircle around the wooden effigy of the Man. The concentric streets are lettered A-L, and there are also streets bisecting the semicircle numbered like hours on a clock, from 2:00 to 10:00. The big established camps get priority placement by the event planners, and people like me just have to roll in and grab the best spot they can find.
Well, my brother-in-law and two sisters and a bunch of other friends were coming down later in the week, so I had to reserve a HUGE fucking spot to accommodate all their RVs and cars and stuff. My brother-in-law drew me a diagram up at Tahoe, showing me exactly what space we needed. So I found a giant plot of unclaimed land near 8:00 and G street, and marked it off with cones and flags and caution tape and shit, then went about setting up my pop-up camper. The weather was still holding, but I made sure to stake the fucker down WELL, with rebar and a billion guylines, just in case….and boy, am I glad I did!!! I had a similar camper blow completely over once at a local Burning Man campout, and I didn’t want that to happen again, ya know?!
Then I put up my shade canopy, my porch swing and my Aluminet shade cloth, and pimped everything out with Christmas lights and whatnot. My plan was to get a good night’s rest, then get up bright and early and ride my bike down to the Roller Disco camp, where my friend C was camping with the Soul Train, so I could help him put it together. It’s about a two-day process, and he had to get it done by Friday, because he had to fly out to Kentucky for a gig that weekend before heading back to Burning Man on Sunday to party (he’s a puppeteer, and had to perform at some baseball game out there).
So I got in my camper and got ready for bed, taking a few hits off my pipe…nice and cozy. But then the storm blew in. The wind got crazier and crazier, and my camper was swaying and rattling and creaking like a rusty dinghy on a stormy sea — freaky!! Meanwhile, I could hear my shade canopy and swing and stuff blowing around knocking into stuff outside, so I figured I’d better get out there and take it all down before it blew away. I opened the door, and it was sheer mayhem — 70mph winds, rain, darkness, shit flying everywhere!!!
As best I could, I disassembled my swing and took down the Christmas lights…but by then the damn shade canopy was completely destroyed. The rebar stakes held it into the ground, but the wind caught the canopy cloth and blew it so strongly that the legs bent hopelessly and it was useless. So NOW I had to cut off the duct tape holding the legs to the rebar, and figure out a way to crumple up the frame so that it would fit in my truck bed and not blow away — all of this in the rain and dark and blasting wind. NOT FUN! I cut the fuck out of my leg on one of the pieces of rebar, but eventually managed to get everything under control, bandage my wound and crawl into bed. But I barely slept a wink, since the wind was blasting so strongly that I feared my camper was going to blow away — literally! At the very least, I figured the jacking struts would be bent the fuck up beyond repair, and I wouldn’t be able to close it up to get it home!
Somehow I managed to doze off a little, and in the morning all was calm and bright. I went outside to survey the damage, and it was pretty ugly. Still, I sacked up and made the best of it, rigging a sort of ghetto shade awning out of my aluminet and the porch swing (I left the shade canopy off the swing, in case the wind came back, so it looked extra ghetto). Then around noon, I rode my bike over to check on the Soul Train.
All across the playa, people were feverishly working, trying to fix the damage caused by last night’s storm. Shit was royally fucked! One of the Soul Train wheels blew away off across the playa and was never found; plus, the giant plywood sheets that make up the Roller Disco skating floor had been blown around like playing cards and bashed into people’s cars and stuff! It was intense!!! We spent all day cleaning up and getting shit together, but the threat of another storm loomed ominously in the distance. In fact, people kept driving past the camp warning us that “another storm is coming…and if last night’s was a 1, this is gonna be a 3. Batten down the hatches!” Yikes!
Fortunately, all the fuss was for naught, as it only ended up raining a little and being a bit windy…so we managed to get everything put together in two days. On the second day, someone even came driving from all the way across the playa with the missing Soul Train wheel — it had turned up clear on the other side!! So everything was OK in the end, and the weather cleared up beautifully in time for the official beginning of the event on Sunday.
Meanwhile, all this drama and sleeplessness had really worn me down, and I felt like I was getting sick again! So I made sure to take ‘er easy, and just lay low in my camper for a few days drinking Emergen-C and eating Pho and stuff (I got all these awesomely authentic noodle cups at the International Market here in Vegas). Thanks to my diligence, by Sunday I was feeling much better — ready to RAGE THE FUCK OUT and PARTY! Just in time, too, since my family and friends were due to arrive that evening.
***This is the part of my blog where it’s like the Wizard of Oz, when it goes from black & white to FULL BALLS-OUT TECHNICOLOR***
Once my people rolled in Sunday night, it was ON! From that moment onward, it was basically a crazy mad 24/7 electric Kool Aid acid test of exhausting amazingness! Dancing, drumming, biking, hooping, skating, drinking, shrooming and running around in a blissed-out state of near-nudity under the wonderful desert sun, surrounded by fabulous freaks and friendly strangers! I never wanted it to end!
This year, my camp consisted of my two
sisters, my Israeli brother-in-law, some Israeli friends of theirs, and my fellow blogger Tatiana from the Fargo Sisters blog, who came up from Vegas with a guy she’d met on the Vegas Burning Man Facebook group. In addition, a few more Israelis and friends showed up unexpectedly, which wasn’t accounted for on my initial diagram, so there wasn’t enough room in our camp and they had to set up across the street. Bummer, because these guys turned out to be cool as hell and they had a bad-ass dome we could have used as a chill space. Oh, well!
We called our camp Camp ChakaLaka, which is supposedly Hebrew slang for “flashing lights,” and it was a very solid group. We set up a big shady communal lounge area in our camp, and everyone hung out there together like a big disgusting hippie commune…like the Manson Family, basically. Fabulous! Two of the guys were really into electronic music, specifically a genre called psytrance (psychedelic trance), so we always had crazy music playing in the background. I had never really heard of psytrance before, but apparently it’s what they play on the beach in Goa, which is on my bucket list, so it was a real eye-opener. In fact, they told me about this amazing crazy old DJ named Goa Gil, one of the original founders of psytrance who DJs on the beach for like 30 hours at a time (no exaggeration). Come to find out, every year he has these insane birthday parties in a forest in Northern California where all these psytrance fans come out and eat drugs and dance for 24 hours in a state of ecstatic transcendence — several Israelis in our group have been to these parties, and they tell me I must go to the next one on Oct. 5th, since Goa Gil is retiring after that! I guess I better get the fuck on it!
In addition to the psytrance constantly playing in the background, I also hung up all these psychedelic 3-D tapestries I’d gotten at a tradeshow, so we could lay around in the heat of the afternoon and get high and stare at them in a sort of languid haze. Amazing! I think I was only sober for about 20 minutes that entire week — if I wasn’t eating mushrooms, I was smoking weed, eating pot brownies or drinking booze. My poor liver!
Once it got late enough in the afternoon to go out and about, we would get dressed and go exploring. Every year at Burning Man they print up this event guide booklet, with all the different camp parties listed, like: “Miracle Fruit Tasting Party! 3pm Tuesday, 4:00 & B” or whatever. In past years, I’ve looked through it and noted all the events I’d like to attend…then proceeded to get so baked, I forgot all about ’em.
Well, this year I tried a new tactic: I went through the book on Sunday, before the party started, and wrote up a little itinerary for each day of the things I wanted to do. It was a good idea…but it pretty much failed, since the book is a two-way street: half the camps in there get so baked themselves that they forget to actually host the party they’ve advertised! I learned this the hard way, first fuckin’ thing Monday morning when I went over to the Barbie Death Camp to see this giant Kaleidoscope they supposedly had out. No one there knew anything about a giant kaleidoscope, though!!! Argh!
Still, I did manage to attend a gong meditation class, where they banged all these gongs and chimes while you lay there peacefully. It turned out to be a bit of a bust, though, because I got there late and there was nowhere shady to lie down. I also went to a laughter yoga class, which ALSO turned out to be a bust, because only one other guy showed up and the instructor got high and you could tell he wished he hadn’t signed up to do it. It still ended up being fun, though. Then another night we got all dressed up and went to this Colonial party, which ALSO turned out to be a bust since we got there late and the bar was already closed!!! LESSON LEARNED: ignore the book!!!! It’s easier and more fun to just randomly wander around and stumble upon cool stuff.
The only thing I REALLY wanted to find was a good drum circle. I participated in this EPIC one back in 2011, and ever since then I’ve been searching for the elusive wonder that is a fan-fucking-tastic balls-out raging drum circle…unsuccessfully 🙁 The book had one listed on Monday night, out by this Israeli art project that had drums built into it…so we all loaded up our drums and rode out there. But it never caught on — people would drum, but it always kinda petered out before it really got full-bodied. BOOOOO!
No worries, though, because I found PLENTY of other fun stuff to do. One day one of the psytrance guys and I rode out to the Ashram Galactica, to visit a friend of mine who was staying there. We couldn’t find him, but one of the other camp members gave us a tour of their amazing setup. WOW! They have this full-sized Mongolian yurt to hang out in, plus they have these beautiful little honeymoon-suite tents they raffle off every night , so you can stay in one of them. They are all lavishly decorated inside according to various themes, ranging from Himalayan to Asian to Olde English, and they come with a free breakfast, too. We wanted to enter the raffle, but it wasn’t until 8pm that night, and our camp was clear across town.
Then another afternoon me and the same guy (we’ll call him Zen) went over to Spanky’s Wine Bar, for this crazy marching band parade. While waiting for the parade to start, we hung out at the bar….which was one of the most perverted places I’ve ever been! And that’s saying a LOT! In one corner they had this “groping box” with holes cut in the sides, so you could reach in and blindly grope whoever was inside. In another corner, a guy was chained to a spanking apparatus, while some chick blew him right then and there in the middle of the afternoon, in the middle of the party! And in another corner, they had these massage tables laid out where you could buff each other with these soft electric buffers, like for floor waxing…only these fucking people were using them for other things. This one guy was buffing away at some chick’s crotch, going to town! The scene was insane, like Caligula Does Burning Man!!
Another night, our camp was riding our bikes around the Deep Playa (what they call the furthest outreaches of the lakebed, beyond the area where people camp, where all the really cool art is) and we found this Fur Forest — basically a maze carpeted with thick white fur, and tons of long white streamers hanging from the rafters so that it was like swimming through a sea of kelp. It was easy (and fun) to get lost in there, but if you followed the beat of the music to the source, it led you to a ladder climbing up to a furry crow’s nest high above the playa!! We all climbed up there with about 10 other people and everyone hung out like it was a big fur hot tub. We were all higher than kites, and it was amazing for about 3 hours. Ahh, the simple joys of being high.
While we were up there, I was talking to some wacky Guyanese dude in a turban who was tripping balls. I asked him if he’d ever heard of Goa Gil, and he said “YES!!!!! I saw him DJ for 24 hours straight, one time!!” That settles it– I am definitelygoing to see this Goa Gil’s birthday bash. Then the Guyanese guy started telling me about another crazy Israeli windsurfer named Zvi, who lived and windsurfed in Hawaii until the INS rolled up on the beach one afternoon and deported him. I don’t really know what this story had to do with anything, but it was one of those fascinating stories you hear when you’re baked out of your mind in a fur crow’s nest in the desert!
Now you’d think with all these high people running around, the cops would be on fire. Well, there was an extremely heavy police presence, but as long as you exercised caution and didn’t smoke weed in the open, you were OK. There were all kinds of rumors floating around, though, about undercover officers entrapping people and stuff. In fact, there was said to be a decoy art car cruising the playa, which if you got on it, all these undercover cops would offer you drugs, and if you said yes, they busted you! I’m not sure if that’s true, but seriously!!! Get a life!!! There were 68,000 people at Burning Man this year, and I guarantee you at least 65,000 were high. It was like watching the coyote try and catch Road Runner — WTF!
Now, I know the podunk county where Burning Man takes place needs revenue…but this was super lame. They even pulled over some acquaintances on the way in, because their bike rack was partially obscuring their license plate. Supposedly, the cop told them: “I know you have drugs; do you want to hand them over or should I get out my dogs?” Well, the girls had a ton of drugs in the car so they had to think fast, and ended up “sheepishly surrendering” some pot brownies, like, “Aw shucks officer, we won’t do it again.” He took the brownies, issued them a $500 ticket, and let them go….with all the rest of their bounty of drugs!!!!! It’s a funny story, but…did he really have probable cause to search their car? I mean, does the very fact that you’re going to Burning Man constitute probable cause?!
Another acquaintance was smarter, and baked a lasagna, stuffed all his drugs in the middle of it, and then froze the lasagna solid!! Now that’s using your noodle…pun totally intended!!! Good thing Garfield didn’t get ahold of that lasagna…he’d be baked out of his mind for about a month!!
Now speaking of art cars, there were some really impressive ones out there this year. People spend tens of thousands of dollars on these things, pimping them out with outrageous sound systems and flashing lights, dancefloors and stripper poles and whatnot, so that they are basically giant floating nightclubs on wheels, slowly cruising the desert from dusk til dawn. Our neighbor across the street was an art car designer — he did one called the Playa One, a takeoff on Air Force One, which was a 15-foot-long airplane with hydraulic wings that came down and turned into dancefloors. SICK!
He also designed another, smaller car for an opthalmologist from Florida who was camped with him, and this car was amazing. It was a total custom welding job, with a lounge area, dance floor, stripper pole and this amazing rocking swing-type cradle in the front. When you sat in that cradle and the car drove you around the playa, it was heaven — like being pushed around in a giant baby buggy, with a front-row view of all the manic shenanigans, while tucked into the pilows and blankeys all nice and
cozy. The design of that car was so amazing, but when we asked the designer its name, he replied “The Penetrator.” LOL!! It was just like in Spinal Tap, when Nigel Tufnel plays that beautiful piano piece he’s written, and when they ask him its name he replies “Lick My Love Pump.”Seriously though, the Penetrator is so named because it was built to penetrate Deep Playa. We had some goooooood times on that car!
As mentioned, the owner of the car was an opthalmologist…and I’ve met other doctors out there as well, over the years, including a pediatric neurologist in a pink furry hat and some other guy who checked out my rebar gash for me. Everyone enjoys Burning Man (hell, even P. Diddy, the Duchess of York Sarah Ferguson and Gen. Wesley Clark were there this year)…but I always wonder what it would be like to run into your own doctor out there, high on acid and dancing around semi-nude. Awkward?? Or AWESOME????!!!! 😀
Speaking of rich people, I happened to spot two myself one morning. A friend of mine was volunteering at the Black Rock airport (a tiny little airport at the festival where one-percenters and bad-asses fly in little Cessnas, avoiding the traffic) and he met a pilot who said he would give us a ride over Burning Man at 8am Friday. Woo hooooooo!!!!!!!! Even though it meant getting up at 6:30am (!!!!!!!!!!!!!), I sacked up, made some coffee, and rode my bike out there with my friend and his girlfriend, totally excited.
Alas, the pilot turned out to be a real douchebag — a swaggering ex-Air Force fighter jet pilot from the Vietnam era, who had a real sort of Crocodile Dundee/Rick from Casablanca shtick he used to impress all the sparkle ponies out there. In fact, that’s all that fucking airport WAS — rich douchebags and wannabe flight groupies, hanging out in slutty outfits trying to score a ride from a pilot. It was like being backstage in the green room at the lamest rock concert you’ve ever been to — the atmo was thickwith poseurs. To wit, I snapped a pic of these uber-douchey Abercrombie-type frat-boys waiting for their flight with their Tumi bags on a cart…and I later saw on Twitter that it was none other than the Winklevoss bros. — the twins who tried to sue Mark Zuckerberg for stealing the idea for Facebook from them! Remember them from the movie?? LOL. (Incidentally, Mark Zuckerberg was also at Burning Man, but I didn’t see him, alas.)
Aaaaanyhoo, Dog Pilot (the guy who was supposed to give us a ride) kept blowing us off — despite the fact that we were there at 8am, he kept bumping us in favor of French sparkle ponies and other chicks. He kept promising we’d be next, but then he’d find someone else who he had to take first. He was supposed to take us down to Winnemucca, so he could get gas, but then he found some other chick who was taking flight lessons who he took instead. After about 2 hours, I got sick of waiting around in that poseur-ass atmosphere (it was worse than any Vegas nightclub) and left……but come to find out, right after I left, some other pilot came around asking if anyone wanted to fly to the hot springs with him!!!!! D’OH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WHY?!?!?!?!?!?!!!!!
I went back to camp and tried to take a nap after that, but I was sure pissed. But I didn’t let it get in the way of my fabulous time!!! Aside from riding around the playa tripping balls, we also had quite a few solid parties at our own camp. One evening we had a fabulous wine & cheese soiree, with champagne and caviar and everything, and Zen put some Serge Gainsbourg on the boombox for ambiance. Then another night, we had a dome party in the psytrancer dome across the street, with margaritas and drinking games. All these parties ended pretty abruptly, however, when the drugs kicked in and we wandered off into the night. We would always reconvene at camp later on, though — usually baked and famished and ready to cook up everything in sight. We had some pretty serious midnight feasts at our camp.
Then one afternoon I decided we should do portraits of everyone in camp. I had this one 3-D tapestry that made an excellent backdrop, so using all my various wigs, costumes and props we took some AMAZING portraits of everyone in our camp, plus some people from across the street. SO MUCH FUN! The portraits came out GREAT. We did my one sister as Marie Antoinette, the other as a sort of Tangerine Goddess, Zen as a Military Dictator and another guy as a Space Priest. When it was my turn, I left it to the group to decide my costume….and they chose a burqa!!!!!!!!!! D’OH!!! The pics were pretty funny, I’ll admit….but then I made them do another one of me as the Empress from the NeverEnding Story, because I wanted something fancy 🙂
Now meanwhile, one night Zen got super high and woke up in the middle of the night with this vision of a movie he wanted to make. I was into it, but no one else really was…and honestly it was more of a vanity project than anything else, since we kinda had a little playa romance going on and he made me the star. But he dragged his video camera around with him all week, getting all kinds of super trippy footage of stuff…so hopefully he finishes editing it someday and I can show
it to you!
Aaaaanyhoo, the carousing and tripping and laughing and dancing went on until Sunday morning, when my sisters and brother-in-law and most of the camp all had to head back to the Bay Area. My plan was to stay on, eat shrooms one last night and watch the Temple burn, then spend all day Monday helping disassemble the Soul Train, break down camp and leave Tuesday morning. That’s what I did last year, and it was great — I found all kinds of cool shit abandoned on the playa Tuesday morning, and scored a bad-ass throne! Zen and the other psytrancer were going to stay as well, so I wouldn’t be alone.
Well, of course nothing worked out as planned. Half the camp got up at 7:fucking30am to pack up, so I
couldn’t sleep, and was really out of it all day. Zen’s psytrance campmate was totally zonked out of his mind on acid from the night before, so he was basically out of commission. After the others left, Zen and I rode around filming more scenes for the movie and just sort of hanging out, but everyone kept talking about this big storm that was supposedly going to blow in Monday at noon, and wash everything out. The radio kept saying to “LEAVE NOW!” Having been through that other storm the previous week, I was kinda worried, even though it did seem a bit like fear-mongering.
My friend C. was nervous enough about the weather to decided to pack up early as well, so I ended up having to spend most of my Sunday helping him
break down the Soul Train. We finished just in time to see the Temple burn, but barely — Zen was kind enough to wait for me, and he made this amazing picnic dinner that he brought out with a blanket and stuff to have a picnic on the playa, watching the temple from a distance. Awww! Then we smoked a joint for dessert…and then he said it would probably be a good idea if I packed up my camp that night, so I could roll out in the morning when he left, before the storm. He offered to help me, but still!! It was dark, I was high and sleepy and in no condition to pack shit up!! I wasn’t even sure my camper would close, as previously mentioned!!!
Somehow, we made it back to camp and true to his word, that amazing guy helped me pound out all my rebar, break everything down and hitch up my trailer so that I was ready to roll out in the morning. Then he let me use his camp shower, and I spent the last night at his and his psytrance friend’s camp, clean and cozy.
In the morning, it was sunny and beautiful — no sign of a storm at all!!! WTF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! One of my neighbors gave me a bottle of Veuve Clicquot champagne, and I scored a jar of weed off someone else…and I wished so bad I hadn’t closed up camp so soon. But it was too late. Anyway, another storm could blow in any minute up there, so better be safe than sorry.
After Zen’s friend left, and everything was packed up and ready to go, Zen and I decided to film a couple more scenes for our movie before heading out. It was only like 11am, and I had no reason to be back in Vegas anytime soon, so why not? We needed some other actors, though, and since all our campmembers were long gone we went over to the Snow Koan Solar
Charging Camp down the street and rounded up some participants there. It was GREAT! Despite the fact that they were all in the middle of cleaning up camp, they stopped and took the time to participate in this half-baked movie…and what’s more, they took it seriously. So Burning Man!
Finally around 12:30 we very reluctantly headed out. It was like leaving Disneyland — I didn’t want to go!! But we joined the loooooong line of cars waiting to get out, making the best of it.
A word about traffic at this event: IT SUCKS ASS! The festival is on a huge dry lake bed about 7 miles from the highway, so you have to cross 7 miles of playa just to get to the freaking asphalt. When you first exit Black Rock City, three’s 6 or 7 lanes of traffic…which gradually merges down to two lanes at the end. Two lanes of school buses, 70s RVs and assorted other rattletrap driving machines that look like they’re on their last legs already, and which constantly poop out and create even MORE backup.
Add all that to the fact that the radio was creating the panic about the weather, telling everyone to “LEAVE NOW!!!!” and you have something like 30,000 people trying to get out all at once. IT. WAS. A. CLUSTERFUCK! The stoner geniuses at Burning Man devised some half-cocked system of “pulsing,” whereby they would let a certain number of cars go at a time each hour, allowing you to turn off your engine between pulses and just “relax.” RELAX?! That’s all well and good if you’re not driving — if you’re a passenger in some hippie-packed commune bus, you can drink and smoke and party on the roof of the bus while waiting. But some of us had to stay sober, because we had to drive all the way home after!! ARRRRGH!
It was HELL. Zen was in line right in front of me, and we waited NINE FREAKING HOURS just to get to the pavement! They closed the fucking gate for TWO HOURS because it started to rain again (??? who cares??? Let people out!), and it was hell. We tried to keep ourselves amused by napping and playing games and eating snacks and stuff, but it was rough. We had planned to celebrate the end of Burning Man by having cheeseburgers in the nearest town, but by the time they finally let us out it was too fucking late, and
everything was closed 🙁
Worse, it was so late by then (midnight) that we were exhausted, and I almost fell asleep at the wheel a few times. The Burning Man guide tells you to “Pull over if you’re sleepy,” but there was nowhere to pull over!!! It’s a two-lane road all the way out, and there were already so many people pulled over it was impossible to find a spot. That’s what happens when 30,000 people are coerced into leaving at the same time, fuckers!
Zen and I had planned to eat some shitty Jack in the Box in Fernley, just off I-80, but we were both sooooo exhausted that we couldn’t even make it. Instead, we stopped in this shitty little town on an Indian Reservation called Nixon, at a roadside “Indian Taco” stand. I see these stands up there every year, all along the highway, and they always skeeve me the fuck out — who knows what the hell they put in those things?! But this time we were soooo sleepy and so hungry, we stopped and ate. YUCK!!! If you’ve never had an “Indian Taco,” you’re not missing out. It’s basically just a big puffy piece of “frybread” (exactly how it sounds; disgusting) with a few taco condiments on top.
After that, we parted ways. Zen had to be in San Francisco for work the next morning, and I booked a room in Fallon, NV (40 min away) to spend the night before going the rest of the way. If that fucking exit line hadn’t taken NINE HOURS I could have saved the money…but as it happened, it was nice to take a shower and wash my hair and get a good night’s sleep — which I most definitely DID!
Incidentally, speaking of showers, I actually took THREE up at Burning Man — I’ve never done that before. I normally just stay clean using baby wipes and Puerto Rican baths, but this nearby camp had a full-sized shower stall with double sliding glass doors and all, up on a platform so that guys could perv on you while you showered. At first I thought it was lame, like, “I’m not giving these fuckers a show!!!!” but when I got there, this busty blonde French babe was soaping up her tits and no one was even looking! They were all too busy eating bacon and drinking Bloody Marys; the shower was totally incidental. So I had a Bloody Mary and a good shower, and it was awesome! I think they were called the Dirty Cowgirl Shower Camp or something.
On a related note, another camp nearby had a full-on goddess pampering station. Normally, I avoid anything using the word “goddess” at Burning Man because I figure it’s a sex trap…but this guy was wholly legit. He would wash your hair, massage you with cocoa butter, give you a pedi, whatever….and he said it was all because he’s too shy to engage with women in the real world, and this is good practice for him. Awwww!
So anyhoo, I spent the night in Fallon and then cruised leisurely home to Vegas — about a 6-hour drive. I stopped for a cheeseburger (FINALLY) in Tonopah, and was making good time back home, when of course, shit got fucked up.
Despite the fact that I was going barely 65 mph the whole way, one of my trailer tires blew out. No biggie; I had two spares, and I can change it very easily; this was about 90 minutes outside Vegas, so I was almost home anyway. I got out, got my jack and wrench, and set about loosening the lug nuts, then jacking up the trailer…when some asshole came screeching to a halt: “Ju need help?”
“No, I’m OK!” I replied politely. “Thanks though!”
“Ju need help?!!!”
“No, really, I’m OK, I can do it myself! Thanks! I like to do it myself, thanks!!!!”
“No, I help ju!” This poor fucker insisted on helping me, so I gave in and let him. I was just coming from Burning Man, you know, where everyone helps everyone with everything. It seemed rude and
callous to refuse!
So as he worked, he tried to chit-chat with me, but his English was really bad. He said his name was Pancho, and I think he asked if I’m from Vegas, how long I’ve lived there, if I had a boyfriend and if I was a dancer. Then he asked me if I like “buh lye.”
“Ballet? What???!!” “Buh lye!!!” “What????!!!”
Come to find out, he meant “Bud Light.” “Ahhhhhhhhhhhh, no, no thanks! Appreciate it!”
By now, he was done attaching the new tire, and I wanted to double-check that he’d tightened the lug nuts enough, but didn’t want to offend his manhood, so I just thanked him and gave him a hug (remember, I just came from Burning Man). He liked the hug waaay too much, and asked for another…which I reluctantly gave…and then he asked for another!
Now I was a little freaked out — we were in the middle of nowhere, and I did have two stun guns in my truck but they were buried under mounds of shiny fabric and beef jerky! So I gave him one more hug and got the fuck in my truck, ignoring him when he asked for my phone number. “Thanks again!!!!!” Have a nice night!” I said, and took off, Vegas-bound.
But this creepy fucker followed me! I was only going 60mph, but he stayed right on my ass. He was headed to Vegas also, so it was no surprise that he would take the same road as me, but….then he pulled up in the lane next to me, keeping pace with me. For like 30 minutes!!
He kept trying to get my attention, but I ignored him, pretending not to notice — fiddling with my radio, etc. Meanwhile, I posted a status update on Facebook asking for ANY and ALL male neighbors to come to my house and pretend to be my boyfriend in abut 20 minutes, just in case this crazy fucker followed me all the way home. In about 5 minutes I had three “boyfriends” lined up, so I finally looked over at Pancho to see what he wanted. He just waved and said something incomprehensible, then took off — FINALLY!!!
Whew, right?!!! WRONG! The second I exited the freeway near my house, I heard a clunking sound. “NOW what???!” I pulled into a gas station and looked, and sure as sugar, that dumbass Pancho hadn’t attached my lug nuts properly and I had lost THREE of them!! My tire was barely hanging on by one nut!!
“ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRGHHHHHH!!!!!” So close to home, and now I gotta fuck with THIS. I got down and dirty again, removing a lug nut from the opposite tire
— I only had to go about another mile, so I didn’t need much.
But now, here comes another asshole on a motorbike: “Do you need help?”
“NO!!!!!!!!!! I’M FINE!” If you want something done right, do it yourself — if I’d have changed that tire myself, I’d still have all 4 lug nuts, dammit!
But this poor fool insisted on getting off his bike, leaving his poor long-suffering girlfriend on the back, and helped me tighten the new lug nut. While he was at it, he informed me that “God” was the only reason I’d made it this far. I let it slide, because I didn’t need to get in a religious debate right then…but, really.
So I limped home the last mile and made it to my driveway around 9pm — about 33 hours after I left Burning Man. WHAT THE FUCK!!! I think those poseur-ass One-Percenters who fly into Burning Man have the right idea, after all….shit!
And now…even though I’m burned out, exhausted, covered in scars and knee-deep in laundry….guess what?