Thursday, September 20, 2012

Readjustment to the "DEFAULT" world (part 1)

I wish I could tell you that any of the photos in this post are my own. Unfortunately, the exact location of our camera is currently unknown. It did not return with us in our checked or carry-on luggage, so our most hopeful scenario is that during the insanity of breakdown I packed it somewhere in our bins on the PEX shipping container and I will find it sometime after this Sunday when we get them back. Worst case scenario is that the silly little dust-proof, water-proof camera I bought only a couple months prior is lost. Either way, I'll find out soon enough.

For now, here is a brief synopsis of Burning Man 2012; Fertility 2.0, illustrated in part by several collected photos and video from the lovely folks that shared this epic week with us. May I present: Readjustment to the "DEFAULT WORLD", part 1.

Oh, what fun.
Putt Putt Playa, featuring Frank's Kitchens and DJ "Cardboard" Lee Mayjahs,
Burning Man 2012, Black Rock City, NV
(Photo courtesy of Bill Wynes)

The thing about this particular place and it's adventures is that chances are, if you do it the way we do, you're out in the desert for quite some time. The environment is harsh - dry, intense heat during the day and freezing temperatures at night. If you don't know that you should be drinking ridiculous, almost vomit-inducing amounts of water all day long, you will probably become dehydrated. Even if you do know this, chances are you'll have a day here or there where you aren't feeling so hot and are possibly in a not-so-great mood. The event of Burning Man spans such a length of time that you end up running the whole gamut of human emotions and physical conditions as you adjust and adapt to the weather, environment, and temporary constructs of this giant little city. Everyone, for the most part, who is there for an extended period of time, has a bad day — usually once you're at the end of your rope, the one tethered to "reality" and the rest of the normal functioning world. Here you are, in the middle of the god damn desert, the middle of nowhere, incredibly far away from home, eating a can of Spaghetti-O's for breakfast. It's 110 degrees out (dry heat, so your sweat evaporates before you know you're sweating) and your tent is a nylon greenhouse, entirely too hot to sleep in right now, you stayed up too late the night before partying, and dang: you kinda feel like shit.

But you take care of it, or yourself (or someone else does), and you recover. Then once you're back home, maybe you choose to remember all your amazing, fantastic moments from the 7 days you were part of Black Rock City and all it's glory, instead of the day you got too hot or the morning you couldn't sleep thanks to Bubbles and Bass and their 5am - till - noon champagne dance party. Oh, the bass. I hope you like bass (the musical kind of course, because BRC is a little dry for the aquatic variety)... and if you don't, I hope you remembered Valium and earplugs.

But then there are all the wonderful things. Here are some of mine, illustrated through the eyes of my camp-mates' cameras and more, plus my wordy commentary, the extended version...

Welcome home! Look how happy we are. And still so clean. ;) 
(Photo courtesy of Miss Andria Key)

Vegetarians for bacon! At Burning Man, that is. Normally, my ideal diet is primarily plant-based, augmented by fish and other sea creatures on occasion. (I'm from Florida; I've tried the actual vegan/vegetarian thing and it's not my bag. I love fish too much.) However, two years prior, I cracked after 4 days in the desert and eating bacon made me feel human again. Burners do love their bacon. This go-around I didn't go out of my WAY to eat bacon... but if it was offered to me I took it. Just ate the pigs, wasn't really interested in birds and can't do red meat just like that out of nowhere. (That's a sure-fire recipe for a tummy-ache and maybe much more, which is very unpleasant without running water and flushable toilets.) This shot is from Andria, the lovely cherry-clad lady on the right, as we make a Shari sandwich immediately after I was handed a spicy, strong Bloody Mary during our Monday morning camp set-up, within which there was a delicious, protein packed morsel of bacon-wrapped shrimp floating about. Breakfast and cocktails, all in one. (Thanks Cameron! That bevvy made it all happen.)
  The shiny ladies showing off the goods at Gold Bikini Cocktail Hour. 
(Photo courtesy of Miss Patty Rice.)

I did not bring a gold bikini. That means my fabulous golden outfit was pulled out of NOWHERE. A mish-mash of pieces of other outfits meant for some other moment; I did well, I thought, save for the red and black bandana. (Should have switched it out for a black one, but it went with my previous and following outfits for Thursday, which was also "red" day in my outfit planning schedule, apparently.) I was only able to make it happen with, of course, a little help from my friends. Thanks, Geri, for the sexy, see-through, golden bikini top. Option from Geri number two was golden pasties, which I was actually going to wear first, but I lacked the proper tape (which did NOT come in the box, thank-you-very-much.) So, see-thru glimmery teeny bikini it was. That is officially the closest anyone got to viewing my nipples. Luckily the golden spectacle was well-documented, so you can almost see my nipples forever, etched in digital film. (Cue obligatory CSI/SVU techno joke - "Now for that special, magic fantasy button that clears up shoddy low-res photos...zoom in, now  ENHANCE. Yes, now ENHANCE again. Perfect.") 

(Of course these are probably all amazing resolution, this is 2012, but I just couldn't help making an "enhance button" joke that references a grainy photo and my own boob.)

 Makin' faces at Bill (during Gold Bikini Cocktail Hour at Rat Camp. Feelin' saucy.) 
(photo courtesy of Bill Wynes)

So I will take full responsibility for the following "pants accident" that occurred the sunny, golden Thursday afternoon of Gold Bikini Cocktail Hour. Hosted by our friendly frisky neighbors, this was evidently a pre-planned Cocktail Hour (of the golden variety) and was a very brief walk or ride just on the fringe of PEX Village (I'd say the suburbs, maybe) and took place roundabouts 5pm on Thursday afternoon.  Alex, pictured next to me above, I think was also not aware of the event prior to our hurried pre-Playa packing, and also did not bring a gold bikini. He did, however, have a smashing silvery-gold vest (very nice, not too expensive, vintage and sexy enough to go with the ladies gold bikinis and the men's golden spandex) which paired well with white sailor pants (the pre-worn variety) from the army-navy store here in Philly, I-Goldberg, and which have accentuated many an outfit since their purchase.

Fritz, of our Golden Bikini hosts (Rat Camp/Theme of the Moment Camp, and whatever else they happened upon during the week) was in his usual over-excitable, happy but kind of devious form that accompanies such pre-planned Playa activities. Because participation out there is half the experience, but you can't expect everyone to have planned ahead as well as you have, Fritz happened to be running around with, just in case, a can of gold spray paint, offering to spray anyone's ... well, anything ... had they come to Gold Bikini Cocktail Hour unprepared. Little Krystena had sacrificed a well-loved boot to Frtiz's golden mania, and now sported a single flash of gold, emerging from the dust caked on her once-black Playa boots, and seemed pleased with herself and its results. I, finally coming back to reality from my mid-week low days of dehydration and lack of proper sleep/food/etc, had a flash of "genius," no doubt tainted slightly by the sparklingly sweet golden bikini cocktail I had already began consuming. Alex's white pants, I thought excitedly, were altogether too white! Too white for Gold Bikini Cocktail Hour, indeed! Wouldn't they look smashing in another shade?? GOLD, perhaps?? 

In my mind, four days into this Mad Max adventure, this gorgeous city covered in sparkles, rainbow LED's, leather, feathers, dust, dust, and more DUST, I convince myself quickly that this stroke of genius is indeed a smashing idea and grab my hubby, start gesturing wildly and harassing our golden-inspired host to make my husbands pants GOLD, not white but GOLD! You must, they are FAR too white, and this is Gold Bikini- Freaking Cocktail Hour, god freaking golden dammit. We're all so bloody GOLD that this is like the end of the double hippie rainbow in Emerald City, what does it all MEAN (??!!) and everyone that's been there at least 3 (if not many more) days is well on their way to losing their minds. I most certainly am. I learned the first go around that strange and amazing things happen on Thursdays in Black Rock City, but you have to crack first. And possibly make some bad decisions, like convincing someone to spray paint my husband's white (absorbent poly-cotton blend) sailor pants gold. Especially when he turns him around and in an only half-amused haste, decides to only paint part of his pants gold. The part right around his ass. Two hastily sprayed golden circles , one for each butt cheek.

Needless to say, the pink-mohawked husband was not amused, and it took his tipsy, golden-tittied wife awhile to realize she had just thrown his wonderful white sailor pants into the belly of the beast, tossed them under the golden bikini bus, never to be the same again. This caused some tension and later, sincere apologies on my part, for it really (as so many things do) seemed like a great idea at the time.  (No matter, for I have promised him new white sailor pants and I intend to hold up my end of the bad-idea bargain.)

Long live Wiener Camp!
(photo courtesy of Randi Sether)

 Within Putt Putt Playa, my home away from home on the Esplanade at Black Rock City - was a smaller, more intimate camp that developed throughout the week. Our little compound became henceforth known as Wiener Camp, due to our propensity to dispense wieners, usually of the hot-dog-flavored variety, to visitors, friends, passersby, and the like. The wieners were brought to said camp by its inhabitants, and once these were consumed, more and more weenies of all varieties were brought to Wiener Camp by its friendly neighbors. Wieners were happily scarfed, by all, on the regular. Even veggie wieners were enjoyed by those who do not normally consume regular weenies (myself included, and possibly exclusively). One of the most enthusiastic Wiener Camp members, Randi (who may or may not moonlight occasionally as the heathen known to some as BAD BUNNI) discovered the above "Art piece" somewhere in deep playa and tried to bring it back to Wiener Camp to its inhabitants, in true weenie camp spirit (considering the consistency)... but found herself unable to do so. If only Bad Bunni had been there to assist her, perhaps the mission may have been more successful. 

 Hey, where is everybody? 
(Photo courtesy of Patrice Caron)

This shot, included simply for reference, is a strangely empty shot of our camp (must be before we got there...before the real party started) from one of my PPP camp mates (Meg perhaps?); the infamous, the easy, the never-ending, the around-the-clock sets by world class DJ's (Cardboard Lee Mayjahs) — just set-it-and-forget it, fun for all ages, mini-golf extravaganza that was Putt Putt Playa.

That's us! The epic fire conclave performances around the man right before the big burn.  
A crazy night for the rest of the population when the performers are sometimes just about done, or haven't yet gotten started. As it is, I've only ever watched the burn quite sober, but that's what happens when people trust you to throw
around flaming toys for their entertainment, I suppose.  

(Such gorgeousness is the sky in the desert, sunsets and sunrises and moonscapes and stars... 
so unlike anything we have here or anywhere else I've been but "out west."
Inspiring artists since the beginning of time, there is nothing quite like the light out there. )

Yea, bitches. That's a freakin' full moon hovering above the fiery spectacle. Pretty much, anyway. This is burn night, Saturday, the night after the full moon (which was hidden from us thanks to a crazy, insane dust storm the evening before) but it was beautiful just the same. My participation this year was that of a performer, naturally, as Philly's own Aish Tamid fire conclave was the ONLY East Coast conclave to be accepted. 

Here's the deal with conclave: if you want to be part of it, to get a chance to perform in this sacred circle in front of 50,000 people and, equally importantly, to get a discounted ticket to the big beautiful burn in the desert, you really just have to show up. By showing up it's assumed that come August you will have then logged enough practice time to actually know what you're doing, even if you didn't when you started out. A lot of beginner fire spinners start off doing conclave, learn a lot, and then move on. So in general, especially in the past, conclave performances can be rather... boring. The one time I was a part of the safety crew, no offense guys, the whole shebang was pretty uninteresting. Then again, I do this all the time - organize large groups of people and put on just long enough of an exciting performance to keep a crowd. The crowd is NOT moving here, because you're just the preview for the main event (the "Man" burning to the ground). Problem is, what with the population explosion at this particular event, they've had to tighten the reigns a little bit and not accept everyone who applies. Some small but specific rules for 2012 made it a bit more complicated, and as it was, Philly was the only East Coast conclave to make the cut. Then again, I heard once we were out there that of the 23 conclaves accepted, some ridiculous number, 17 perhaps, were from California. 

Now I understand that a great deal of people who attend this event are from Cali. It makes sense, considering the culture out there and the culture of Burning Man, not to mention its proximity to where the event is held. (But 17?? Out of 23?!? You've got to be kidding me.)
Regardless, everyone in our Philly conclave really, really wanted to go to Burning Man this year. No surprise there. If you don't really really really want to go to Burning Man you probably won't begin to bother because it's such a freaking pain in the ass to prepare for, pay for and simply survive that you'll stop while you're still ahead. Poor Philly kids, have to travel so far, what ever will we do if we can't save $150-200 out of the grand we'll be spending to get out there by purchasing a performers ticket?? Philly did what Philly does, and we took it up a notch -- (several notches!) Some of our Philly people that usually perform with other groups, international conclaves, stayed with Aish Tamid this year - truly contributing some of the best choreography of the show, which of course had been developed and perfected way before we all started meeting and practicing together as Aish Tamid this past Spring. Same thing with my Lux Arati girls and me - with tons of choreography borrowed from our performances and combos, the fan section (that'd be me) of conclave was almost more technically advanced than some of its participants could handle. (Sorry girls, but we, uh, did tell you to practice.) There were definite leaders and followers, of course, some of us more experienced with our tools than others (some of us still drop our fans even though we know the choreography and moves like a second heartbeat)... but in general, nearly everyone who performs regularly in some professional fire troupe or group act in Philadelphia was involved somehow.

Burners being as they are, and most of you knowing what I do performance wise - any asshole with a hula hoop or a pair of poi can make a big deal out of spinning fire, even poorly, to the right audience. Common as it may be in some circles (like "Burning Man," perhaps you've heard of it? I know, too much), once you get past the spin-jam style performances, it is well-rehearsed, excessively-drilled, and utterly-perfected choreography that stands out in this kind of setting. (We can't all have solos, especially when there are 18-25 people and 15 minutes of performance time - plus, that's rather boring.) So it would make sense then to take all the people that are doing that stuff anyway, gather them together, have them teach a few other people the already-developed choreography, simple or complex as it may be, and then you have a cohesive show to perfect in only 5 months, with a massive learning curve and range of skill levels among the participants. With the right teachers, with proper direction (thank you Terry and Vinny, organizing any group of that size can be frustrating and near impossible) tossed with a splash of blind faith and sprinkle of luck, it can work. And it did, we I'm proud to say that Philly kicked ass. We did it, we got there, we represented Philly and the East Coast with the kind of city pride usually reserved for organized sports, and we all don't even do this together year long. That is, except for those of us that do -- in different groups, with different names.

It was said after the burn that while Aish Tamid isn't a regular cohesive troupe beyond Burning Man (its leaders and members tend to change from year to year, the leaders passing the torch to the next in line and a new crop of eager virgin burners waiting their turn for a discounted ticket and a guaranteed spot around the circle), that our group was an accurate representation of the best performers and troupes in Philadelphia. And though I'm newer than some of my peers in these leadership roles regarding organized fire performances, I proudly agree. (I think my cherry-clad, Putt-Putt sista Andria was that voice of reason.) Cheers, kids. We made it there and back. Almost all of us, anyhow.
I must confess one point of shame from my trip and coveted performance spot. I must preface this confession by noting that while I'm not the best fire fan spinner in the world, nor Philly, nor Aish Tamid (by any means), I walked into this performance opportunity with confidence in my skills and was not intimidated by any of the choreography or technical skills with my preferred tool. I got this, and most certainly did. Plus, it helps that I regularly dance with both of the ladies that were planning my portions of the choreography, so I know how to follow and dance with them no matter what crazy music we happen to be moving to this time. (Three drummers, maybe? Some psytrance? World fusion?? Throw it at me, Mutant Vehicles, you janky Art Cars, give me what you've got.) I'd rather burn myself than drop my fans during a performance. The fire fingers were a learning experience, but I was more concerned with perfecting my bellydance moves than tangling my flaming finger appendages.

However, Butterfingers McGee over here, as luck would have it - four years of performing in front of audiences with fire and I absolutely totally f*cking (excuse my french) dropped one of my fans during our final, #1 super important on-stage moment, right there, into the dust, in front of the soon to be flaming man-building on burn night, Saturday night with that big beautiful full moon in the background. The big kahuna, the climactic moment... 50,000 dusty, dirty burners hooting and hollering... 50,000 tripping hippies, flashing farting art cars on lifts, guys in big fuzzy orange tiger top hats in elevators dispensing questionable consumable items (what?), sarcastic and/or fucked up assholes waiting around for our dumb asses to finish so they can set that big wooden building on fire. You know, the big one in the middle. With the guy on top. (Or was it a female this go around, on account of the fertility thing?) Who knows, because I will never forget that big effing oops. Seriously though, I knew that move inside and out... but things happen. I guess that's a lesson to you beginners, even the people who taught you the move can f*ck it up, including that important moment when everyone is actually watching. Obviously I'm still kind of pissed at myself for doing so. (At Burning Man? The culmination of EVERYTHING? Yep, shit happens. *Raises hand* Even professionals, ahemm, occasionally slip. This was my time.) My conclusion for this major slip up? Nothing... moving on. I'm not the only one who fudged something -- Terry burned himself slightly, as usual. Who doesn't? Andria singed her hair a bit... I forget, there was more. But who can you see drop their tools? Oh just me, right in the middle. Thank you, I just needed a little cheese with my whine, I'm over it and thanks for listening. ;)

Other than that, everything else was lovely. I say that with only a slight twitch in my eye. Better a giant audience with an overwhelming spectacle that you are only a small part of than an intimate one with all of their eyes on you and you alone.

Oh, here's the video btw.

Alright, dear friends. This is long enough of a post for one that doesn't even contain any of my actual photos. To update you, I began writing this pre-container load-out, when our camera was still MIA. It is over a week later and post-container load-out, and we have (most) of our large awkward camping/bicycle junk back in our possession. Although I have already appropriated, and nearly written a friggin' novel about my dusty week via my friends photos, I am happy to announce that we have since located the missing camera and are in the process of recovering and editing its contents. In retrospect I had felt like we hardly took any pictures compared to some, but after completing this post I realize that there are oh, so many more stories to tell. I've just barely begun, barely scratched the surface of a wealth of dust-filled adventures, yet I already can't wait to go back next year and do it better. AGAIN, and with more gusto!

Stay tuned for Readjustment, part 2.