Friday, November 11, 2011

Burning Blog 2

Driving through the back streets of Black Rock City, you'd never know that we were arriving on the early side of the day. Thousands of people were already there, having arrived precisely at midnight and ever since to make sure they got their coveted camping ground.  Lexie had a spot picked out for us somewhere near 4:00 and something. (Streets went by clock placement and alphabetically to L). We got pretty close, setting up camp at approx. 3:20 and I (named Initiation for this year's Burning theme--Rites of Passage), right next to the Godzilla art car, which never ceased to amuse me. We spent the afternoon setting up camp, building our daytime dome, pitching our tents, and unpacking our gear.  Now arrives the first time I struggle to describe my experience. I know how I felt as I built my tent--my home--for the week. I know how I felt swinging the sledgehammer and pounding the rebar hooks into the ground (I mean, aside from out of shape and exhausted). There was something about it that was so satisfying, I was earning my time out there. This was how people were meant to live. They were meant to build, to create, their shelter (really, all their stuff). And do it while getting COVERED in dust. I'm not sure why, but that definitely made it better. Setting up camp made me feel better than I had felt in some time, and being surrounded by other people doing and experiencing the same thing made it all the more profound. There was an immediate, inherent, shared understanding with these people, and before even meeting our neighbors, we were a community in a way I had never before experienced. I mean, we were already anyway because we were Burners. But it was another affirmation that more so than I had been in a long time, I was exactly where I belonged.

After we had finished setting up camp and had a little dinner, we decorated our bikes and ourselves, and headed out to explore the deep playa. The sun was just setting as we readied ourselves, and the city was beginning to light up. Everywhere I looked, where moments ago had been dust covered tents of olive green and navy blue, washed out palettes and random sticks pointing into the air, there were now glowing, twinkling, sparkling lights of every design and color. 14 different songs from 12 different safariing art cars floated on the air and swirled around us as we wove glowsticks through our hair and bike wheels and wrapped them around our arms and ankles.  Godzilla lit up. Twinkle lights exploded into life all around us. Lexie and I oohed and aahed over each others' wardrobe creations. And then, we were ready.

As we rode down the dusty, bumpy 3:15 street, I tried to take in everything I possibly could while trying not to kill myself on unseen dips and bumps, while also trying not to kill anyone else wandering the street. It was a feat, I must say. I examined, with awe and a dopey smile on my face, the camps we passed, the outfits on people walking by, the art cars. (More on art cars later). Being completely dark, all I could really see well was anything lit up, but it was enough. And it was fuckin' cool.

As we continued up 3:15, the light grew. Like the Sun peeking over the horizon, or Vegas, in the middle of the desert.  Out of vast darkness was a glowing orb, out of place but perfectly placed, guiding burners to its center like moths to a flame. We approached Esplanade (the main drag of the playa) and the city opened up. Camps stopped and the unbridled dust floor of the playa began. And. We saw the man. In the center off everything, taller than any other structure, lit up red and blue and yellow, standing tall and proud on his wooden mountain, taking a step into...whatever his Rite of Passage was.

I'm pretty sure I was grinning like a jack-o-lantern.

Lexie and I rode around the playa checking out different effigies and art installations. Some were still being built, and while I was already impressed with what was out there, Lexie confided that it wasn't half of what would be there by the end of the week. There was a wall of TVs--operational--showing different programs (or whatevers) on each one. There was a fire tree. (I don't know if it was a tree. It could have been a cactus. It could have just been a big metal tube with metal tube arms that shot flames every 30 seconds. It doesn't matter, it was there). There were art cars and people in tutus EVERYWHERE. And there was me, still grinning like an idiot.

We went to the Temple. The Temple, I found out later, wasn't as old as the rest of Burning Man (25 years), The Temple was started about 13 years ago, and originally was a tent. It had since evolved. The Temple I saw was a massive, two-story, three-towered structure of intricate design. It was absolutely beautiful. While nearly everything else on the playa was multicolored, the Temple was bathed in white flood and spot lights, and glowed like a happy moon. There were beautiful planks of wood hung as decorations all the around the temple--carved with swirls and celtic knots and geometrical patterns. The closer you stood to the Temple, the calmer, more at peace you felt, instantly. It was, in the truest sense of the word, an awesome sight.

After we rode away from the Temple, we rode up to the Man to say hello. It was crowded with people basking in his light, admiring his structure, and just enjoying being near him. After the man, Lexie headed back to camp and I continued on, visiting the Great Lakes Core effigy--a lighthouse, and a few others. I happened upon my favorite installation that night--a huge, glowing willow tree. It was made out of intertwined metal rod curved into a tree trunk and supporting branches, and the hanging branches were tubes looked to be filled with fiber optic cables, changing colors every few minutes. It was powered by big solar powered orbs that hung strategically throughout the tree.  Please sat perched happily between branches while others climbed, took a look around, and came back down to give someone else a turn. I climbed up and enjoyed looking at the tree branches so much I don't think I remember to look around elsewhere. Oh well.

I rode around a bit more to see the giant pirate ship built from an accordion bus, and on my way back towards 3:15, met a fellow named Wolverine who had been to the Burn many times and was there this year on his own to experience it in a new way, which I found to be very cool. We chatted a bit and then parted ways, and I headed back to camp. By some not-so-small miracle I found my way back quickly and without wrong turns (although, what would I have found if I had veered off course, I wonder?) I climbed into my tent and as I lay there, replaying my day, the music from the arts swirled around me, the memories and images wrapped my up like a burrito, and as I shut my eyes Lexie's words danced around in my head.

"Mac, you were born to be here."

As I drifted happily into sleep, smile plastered on my dusty face, I figured she was right.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Burning Blog 1

This entry has been a long time coming. Long time in the making. Too long for me to keep taking my sweet time writing and re-writing and editing and changing, and really, who cares anyway? So it's going up with all its lacking and imperfection. Much like myself, so I guess it works.  Anyway, here we go:

Oh, also, it's really long, so it's being installed in sections. So if you have any interest in reading, be prepared.

Mad Max was brought up a lot, mostly by my new-found Irish friend. Tron came to mind. Star Wars. Star Wars was used as a descriptor a lot. Particularly anytime the Death Star car was in view. Blade Runner was offered a few times, as was Firefly, in an attempt to find anything that similarly, seamlessly integrated seemingly contradicting cultures. All were accurate analogies for pieces of the Playa. But none came close to describing the whole. Nothing does.

Lexie and I arrived around 2:30 or 3, default desert time, to Black Rock City. We had left Reno sometime around 7 or 8, I think, and had stopped in Gerlach to browse through the store, get acquainted with fellow Burners, check out a gorgeous, if more in spirit than in looks, 65 Mustang convertible, and buy goggles. Then we hoped back in our Big Red Pickup Truck (nicknamed Dusty, by that point) and continued on through Gerlach and onto the entry road. The long, dusty, slow-moving, life-altering entry road.  Vehicles are strictly limited to 5-10 MPH, and even at that pace most of the time we were blinded by dust. At some point, after some time (the only measurements I was capable of by then) we stopped our 10MPH roll and joined the already long queue for the entry gate. It was then that it hit me: I was at Burning Man. I was Han, about to make the jump to hyperspace. (Because, I'm a nerd). I was in and amongst and a part of a very specific group of people. And I was PUMPED.

Once in the queue, you move even slower. So most people start hoping out of their cars, trucks, buses, campers, etc. And hop on their bikes, or their unicycles, or their pogo sticks, or their stilts, or hell, they just hop. And they take off--off of the road, onto the desert floor, to dance, to run, to meditate, to swirl, to watch, to make friends, to be alone. To do whatever. Some people start building their art cars. Putting on their costumes. Giving gifts. Making friends. Extending invitations. Fly kites. In our case, blowing bubbles. I had planned to stay in the truck until we were through the gate. I lasted for about 3 songs on the BRC radio and a whole lot of rambling by the DJ. Then I decided it was time. I hoped out, and headed off the road and onto the sectioned off desert floor. I stared at the BRC mountains. I took pictures of the queue, now extending well past our Dusty truck. I watched the Burners. I watched a hot pink and gold art car being built. I made friends with an Australian fellow named Jason, who wandered out in the roped-off part of desert to investigate the same little scampering critter that I had wandered out to investigate. I hop our little friend, the little lost field mouse, found a home for the week. He was a friendly fellow, and, Jason and I decided, a good omen for the Burn. After our mouse friend continued on his way (presumably to Gerlach, but perhaps he made it into someone's camp), Jason told me about past Burns and asked me about life in Chicago (his favorite movie was Ferris Bueller. A second good omen). It was one of the easiest small talk, get-to-know-someone conversations I have ever participated in. We exchanged desired campground info, and invited each other over to our camps for...whatever. Water? Food? Conversation? Knitting lesson? And then parted ways. I had made a Burner friend before even getting into the city limits. Not too shabby.

After that it seemed to not take very long to get up to the gate. A greeter came up and confirmed that we had water and tickets and told us which lane to pull into for official entrance. My excitement grew. This was it. We were entering the point of no return. Once inside, nothing was ever going to be the same.  Nor would anything ever again be dust-free. Ever, ever, again.  We got to the gate. A beautiful, pigtailed, cowboy hat clad woman greeted us with a genuinely excited, warm "Welcome home!!" and big, big hug. Lexie alerted her to the virgin in the car (me). We were told to pull through the gate, over to the side, park, and run back for my initiation ceremony.  We followed orders, and as I made my way back to the gate I tried to take everything in while trying not to get killed by incoming vehicles, which didn't work very well, so I focused on not getting killed seconds after my arrival. We reached the gate again, and our lovely greeter gave me my instructions: pick up the metal pipe, bang the bell/gong thing as hard as possible, and yell, at the top of my lungs, the initiation statement. I picked up the pipe. I harnessed all the knowledge I could remember from all the baseball documentaries I'd ever watched, and as I took my swing, I screamed, at the top of my lungs: "I'm not a virgin anymore!" And we went to find our camp.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Inception (NOT conception)

My angst-filled ramble re: I can't believe I'm blogging will not be the basis of this, my first article. ...Blog. Whatever. But I do need to get this out of my system: I can't believe I'm blogging. I'm a blogger? What? Ok, done.  And now, an explanation of how this insanity came to be.  Of what drove to put the thoughts running rampant in my brain out there for all the internet world (that gives a damn) to read.

A few days ago, I was at my yearly gyne. exam. (Worry not, there are no gross details forthcoming). I was there, aside from the annual check-up, to get my birth control (BC) prescription refilled. My doctor is nice, I like her well enough. Even now. But....but.

Well, after the usual pleasantries and questions, my doc confirmed my preferred BC method and proceeded to ask: "You want it refilled? No plans for babies soon?"

Not phased by the question, as I have become accustomed, as a 27 year old single woman, to several varying forms of "What the hell is wrong with you?" (read: 'You're not seeing anyone?' 'Oh, you're not married?' 'Well don't you want to get married?" 'What, you don't want to have kids?' What do you mean you don't want to have kids?') I answered in stride.


The exam proceeded, and thankfully was over quickly. And then came round two.

"OK, I'm going to write you your prescription, but you know, you should start thinking about it, start making some plans. You're ovaries are getting older, you know, so...I'm not worried, you're still in your prime time, so I'm not worried, but you know, you should think about. Ok, see you!"

As she closed the door behind her, I let the polite, amused smile fall from my face and rolled my eyes so far I was actually afraid I snapped an eye muscle. Or whatever. I promptly texted my two best friends and decided that a bottle of wine was in order for the evening. Because if my ovaries were getting old, than by god (or whoever) they were gonna fuckin' get drunk too.

Now. I get it. Nice, older, traditional OBGYN/GYNE probably assumes everyone with a uterus plans for and wants kids. I guess. But, my question is, why? In 2011, in Chicago, IL, U.S.A. why is this still the expected norm?

For one thing, I get I was asking for BC, and so she could assume I'm having any, if not regular sex. That I'm not, at the moment, is knowledge she didn't ask for, and so didn't have. So I can see why she may think I am even CAPABLE of thinking about having kids. Just, logistically. But there are 1,000 other things she didn't know. Even if, for example, I did have one steady partner, who is to say that is a person I would want to have a kid with? What if I'm broke because I work mopping floors at McDonalds? (I don't) What if I'm broke because I spend all my money on travel and records? (I do). In that case, do I have ANY business, whatsoever, entertaining the idea of bringing a new, completely dependent person into that knuckleheadedness? This list goes on of things she, and hundreds like her, never bother to  ask.

I wasn't angry about it, but I am bemused by it. And maybe it's partly my fault. Coming into my 20s in a post-Sex and the City world, I guess I mistakenly thought a road had been paved for women that said--"some of us don't want marriage/kids (or at least, it's not our main goal), and we've told everyone else, and the social norm expectations have changed, so now you young'uns don't have to deal with this nonsense." I thought, being 27 in 2011, when I said "I don't want to have kids" I would get an "Oh, OK." as opposed to  "Ohh," with a connotation of "You're one of those" or "Oh. Well you'll change your mind."

Granted, I might. I'm 27, what do I know? But at the moment, I'm not. And I haven't for several years, it's something I've put a lot of thought into. And it is, ultimately, my decision and no one else's. But I'm straying from my real point.

Which is, WTF? (To use that technically lingo? Whatever.) Why is it that, theoretically, I am going to have to spend some portion of my life justifying my life choice? Who am I hurting? (And that is a rhetorical question--we all know by now that NOT polluting the earth with more people is actually HELPFUL to everyone--the planet, the people already on it, and the person you're saving from being on it).  How is it that in 2011, on some level, I'm still met with the same expectations as women in 1951? And 1931? And 1871? If the top hats are gone, why isn't my societal requirement for pregnancy gone?

Maybe, it occurs to me, because I have to help get rid of it.

Next year, I'm telling her that I've thought about it, and all things considered, my aging ovaries are pretty happy as they are.

The only baby I'm interested in. "Little Baby Bear."