adventure, Android Jones, art, art festival, Backpacker, Backpacking, blackrock, blackrock city, BM2015, BRC2015, Burner, burning man, burning man 2015, carnival of mirrors, conclave, death guild, Deathguild, deathguild thunderdome, dust storm, El pulpo Mecanico, Festival, Fire, Fire Arts, flaming lotus girls, mayor monday, photography, Ranger, reddit, reddit meet up, Road trip, serpent mother, Thunderdome, Travel, traveling, white out
My last few days in Boulder were spent gathering supplies for the biggest venture of the trip; the Blackrock desert and the city that buds within!
Burning Man 2015 was on the horizon. The desert happening has brought so much change, so many people, so many events and learning into my life just through its influence, yet I never experienced it myself, I’ve never journey out there. Until now.
The drive from Boulder was significant, (considering we had just driven from New Jersey to Denver it wasn’t THAT long) but still something to contend with. 18 hours of more cornfields and emptiness, although come Utah, the landscape finally started to change.
Finally we arrived, and by arrived I mean we made the last turn out of civilization. No more stores/gas/stops outside of a tiny little town a ways away. We got maybe five minutes down the road before we hit the back of the line. I’ve heard stories about the gates taking upwards of six hours, so I pretty much knew we would be greeted with brake lights.
The combination of a car accident, gate pulsing, and 70,000 people trying to get into the same place at once left us on the road for most the day. We made the best of it, all part of the overall experience, right? The crowded cars soon expelled their humans and the roadside pre-parties started popping up. Every time the caravan started moving the crowd would scurry away toward their cars, only to reemerge a few minutes up the road.
TWELVE hours later….
Exhausted, disgruntled, and hungry, we dropped out things in the sand and dust, and set up camp in the darkness. As much as we wanted to explore, the bed was much more inviting. After my years of local burns I’ve learned that pacing is absolutely key. Don’t burn yourself out on day 1, because you’ve got way more to do! And so, we face planted into our mattresses and passed out.
Now, before I get into this, let me preface by saying this:
One of the greatest challenges I faced after returning from Peru was trying to find the words to fully encompass everything I had experienced, especially to my eager friends/family who wanted to hear every detail. My ayahuasca ceremonies just felt lacking when I tried to attached words to them, so empty for such a powerful and life changing experience. I tried to put things down on this blog, I really tried, but I still did them no justice. Here I find myself again trying to find the words to describe Burning Man.
So instead of forcing my numerous experiences into hollow casings, I’ve decided to just let my pictures tell the tale. I’ll review some highlights, but I’ll leave this entry mostly to the pictures.
Unfortunately, my camera took a serious dive and the focus/lens never recovered (and my phone ended up breaking on the drive in! Lesson in being present much?!? ) Please excuse my blurry photos, but I hope you enjoy them all the same.
The Temple of Promise
The temple is always one of my favorite places at the local burns, but finally seeing the grand scale of The Temple of Promise was like a tragic dream come true. The Temple warps in shape every year, and means a lot of different things to a lot of different people, but the respect for the structure seems to be universal. Nestled away from the high energy radiating through the rest of the desert, the Temple is where one goes to let go, to mourn, to grieve, to pray, to reflect, to forgive, to express whatever it is they need to express (before it all goes up in flames on the final night).
The walls may be made out of wood, but the structure itself is infused with so much raw emotion that it’s a challenge to step inside and remain untouched. I made it a few steps passed the threshold before my eyes started to well up with tears. The stillness is the first thing I noticed. In a work of art filled to the brim with people, only silence and the occasional whimper, cry, or whisper filled the air. Along the walls, writing utensils hung freely for those who had something to add to the walls. Messages were written, pictures of loved ones hung, whatever it was you wanted to express, the Temple is the place to do it.
With tears streaming down her face, I watched from afar as an older woman wrote a message to her mother who had passed away recently, finally saying the things she never got to say in life. Behind me was a scathing message written by a woman to the man who had brutally raped her in the past. On the bench next to me, a man sat in quiet meditation, holding a picture of a young child. Stories of love, hate, encouragement, loss, sadness…I could go on. Everywhere. Every story, every makeshift shrine was different, but each one was laced with powerful emotion.
I wrote my own message, a personal something to myself, and I silently cried my damn eyes out…
-Write in the Temple of Promise
Wednesday some dear friends arrived at camp. For any long time readers, you may recognize them from one of my very first entries. We unloaded their car, helped em setup and made our way back to the playa.
The DeathGuild’s Thunderdome was my kinda place. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the house music, the burners and all the oneness with the universe and what not, but the Thunderdome stole my heart. Hard rock/industrial, people fighting, girls in revealing black leather and the guys suited up in some badass wasteland armor! When I arrived they were blasting some of my favorite songs by Manson, Rammstein, and Mindless Self Indulgence. MSI on the Playa!?!? I loveeeee my MSI!!!
The goth kid in me came out in full force! I found myself at the top of the Dome, shouting for the combatants to tear each other apart many, many times throughout my week.
Warning – The video has strong language and sexy people in black leather NSFW
I love you Thunderdome!!
Finally see the Thunderdome in person
The Serpent Mother
Created by the Flaming Lotus Girls, this monstrosity of fire and metal has earned its place high on my list of all time favorites. I’ve seen a lot of fire performances and fire art, but this was…this was something else. The serpent writhed back and forth in the sand, lifting her head and opening a mouth lined with flaming daggers. The metal body of the serpent gleamed in the night, illuminated by the the plumes of fire hissing from each one of her segments. Within her coil, the Mother protectively wrapped her flaming tail around a massive copper egg.
I stood within the Serpent’s grasp, surrounded on all sides by the roar and heat of the fire until the crowd was ushered a safe distance away. A safe distance from what? I wasn’t sure, but I was about to find out.
With all the flammable humans at a safe distance away, the egg she so carefully guarded over, bloomed like a lotus. The hatching egg remained quiet, until a hiss louder than anything its Mother had produced up until then, came screaming out of the top of the egg. What burst forth was a plume of fire unlike I’ve ever seen before. One, then two, then three at once. These spires, these spears, these swords of fire tore through the sky, spouting flames of nearly 50 feet. The bright red flames bled into a blinding orange, then to a burning emerald green.
This was something to behold, truly. Words do little justice…
Radical self reliance is high on the list of Burning Man principles. You must bring everything you need to survive, and you must be capable of surviving in the first place. This is definitely not just some music festival (much to the disappointment of some girls I found sobbing in a dust storm, complaining about how terrible everything was and it was nothing like they thought). As fun as it all is, if you’re not prepared, you’re in for a world of trouble. Of course people won’t let you die, but you should do you best to not be a burden for anyone else. Whether it’s food, water, or weather, be prepared. And we had quite a bit of weather…
The white outs are a common occurrence out on the playa. Huge dust storms that blow in and drop visibility to zero in a matter of seconds. I prayed I’d get to experience one, and I think I prayed a little too hard! As my friends said, the intensity and frequency of the white outs was the worst it had been in a handful of years. Structures fell, tents were destroyed, I watched people smash their bikes into one another when their sight had disappeared.
For the first day or two I really tried to keep the dust out of my tent, but by the third day I realized how futile the battle was. Falling asleep and waking up in INCHES of playa dust took some getting used to but, hey, I enjoyed it. How comfortable does one need to be anyway?!
The art, the structures, the builds were all so beautiful to experience. But like all things, nothing is permanent. Everything must burn…
In Conclusion, Burning Man was as incredible as I thought it would be. I got to spend it with some of my favorite people, got to see some of the art I’ve only seen in pictures, and now I’ve got a ton of stories to tell! Like I said, words do little justice, and as much as I did the entire week, I still missed so much more! This is but a glimpse!
But it wasn’t all fun and positivity, unfortunately I’m coming away with a few regrets. Regrets due to a symptom of a larger internal issue. Under the microscope of a the big burn, it’s easy to see such things. Now, to fix it. Things to work on.
Always evolving right?
Regrets aside, this was truly one of the favorite experiences of my life.
Dance on an Art Car -View the best fireworks display I’ve ever seen in my life when the man burned Live in the desert for a week -Finally see El Pulpo Mecanico -Spend time with my Philly friends at BM2015 -Sit in for many BM workshops -See Android Jones’ work in person -Finally make it to Burning man!!!! Burning Man 2015: Carnival Of Mirrors!!
Cheers to the possibility of Burning Man 2016!!
“Onward!” he screamed from the mast of the war rig. The day was upon them and time was running short. Our heroes gazed at their route; the stretch of travel before them was daunting, but they did not falter! They COULD NOT falter! “Onward!” he screamed again. “Bring us the West!”
Stately welcome signs rose and fell as the crew pushed on. The road was as desolate as the landscape surrounding them. Stops were limited, and so, with only the clouds above to keep them company, they continued.
Nothing could stop them! Not even the seething rage of our Mother Nature gave them pause, try as she might! The speed and hubris in which the crew dominated her lands was taken as an absolute offense. No human should be so lax when crossing an entire country!
In her fury, she showered them with blinding lightning, doused them with rain and tried to shattered their defenses with hail. She lashed out once again with a ferocity unmatched, threatening them with a potential funnel cloud on the horizon.
But the intensity of the weather didn’t last long. Nature had opted not to destroy the rig. Instead, she granted them safe passage and formed a new host of clouds to float above their path.
Mountains appeared!! They did it!
I made it! Time to add this one to the list up there with the Alaskan road trip and the drive down to New Orleans (Entry Coming Soon)!
I’ve been here for a week now and I’m really enjoying things out here. Boulder is a beautiful!
Now, Boulder isn’t a permanent stop for me. No, no, no! It’s merely a pause, a yield before a longer trip. Tomorrow I mount back up and continue toward Nevada. My birthday celebration and a most daunting “First” awaits me the Blackrock Desert.
Cross the US heading West Spend an entire birthday in a car, driving West Explore Boulder
adventure, Alaska, Amazing Race, Backpacker, Backpacking, Cali, California, Cliff diving, Fanastic Race, Getty Museum, graduation, Hollywood, Los Angeles, Los Angeles Race, Party, photography, photos, Retreat, Road trip, SoCal, The Getty, The Getty Center, Travel, traveling, trip, Venice, Venice beach
(Ok, I’m back. Time to finish this story and catch up with the Firsts!)
Before I made it to California, I had another unfortunate run in with the Denver airport. Thankfully however, it wasn’t for another 9 hour layover.
At least I knew the airport by heart and revisited my comfortable corner. During the height of my boredom the first time around, I wrote this note to myself since I knew I would be coming back. I wanted to see if it would still be where I hid it, tucked away behind a phone kiosk, and alas, it was. HA!!!
California, how I missed thee. I hadn’t been to Cali in a few years, but once again, I found myself walking through the familiar lengths of LAX. I had a few weeks to kill, had some plans, had plenty of free time, so I wasn’t sure what I was going to get
into, but I trusted myself to cause some laughter inducing mischief.
First on the list and the heart of the trip: my cousin’s graduation.
Attend my cousin’s graduation
Also got to meet my new baby cousin. New boy in the family! Finally!
Highlight #3: The Getty Museum
I’m not one for museums, never have been, I’ve never really found the level of engagement I need to enjoy a museum. With that said, the Getty did house some exhibits that I found interesting and I absolutely loved the garden grounds. The building itself was my favorite part to be honest, it was like a beautiful fortress resting high above the clouds and the world below.
Highlight #4: Clubbing in Hollywood
My sister’s wanted two things for her birthday. Fishbowls and to go out in Hollywood. We accidentally made them pretty strong, but they were still delicious!
Later that night we made our way into Hollywood. Some of my sister’s friends showed up and recommended a spot we decided to check out so we made our way over there. 600 dollars for table service? SIX. HUNDRED. I nearly told the group I’d wait in the car! Mathematically though, considering we had a small group with us, it kind of evened out to a regular cover charge. “This is pretty much what you’re going to run into out here, even if we go to another place” said someone in the group.
Before we walked in, we all huddled together for a quick pep talk. My sister’s friend jumped into the center of the circle like some rabidly enthusiastic football coach “Ok. We just spent a lot of fucking money. So we’re gonna go in there and do this proper! Readyyyy break!”
The venue was actually pretty cool. We were greeted by a fireplace lined outdoor courtyard filled with a large rectangular fountain running through the center of it. This fountain was overflowing with bubbles, while a beautiful young lady was seated on a swing mounted above. She smiled as we walked passed and gave a light kick to the foam, littering the air with glistening bubbles.
We got our table, neat little spot actually. Food, drinks, mixers, fruit. It was honestly a nice spread, and my sister seemed happy so it all worked out. The group wandered the venue and we eventually ended the night on the dance floor.
In rare form, I ended up drinking too much and got myself a pretty potent case of the spins. I guess that’s what I get for accepting shots from the costumed woman sitting on the shoulders of a man on stilts (even if most of it got in my eyes)
Go clubbing in Hollywood Dry Heave until the sun came up
Highlight #5: Venice
I’ve been to Venice beach many times, but every time I’m there the beach is a playground for photos.
Highlight #6: Cliff Diving
Go cliff diving in California
Highlight #7: The Amazing Race
I would highly recommend this one to anyone with a competitive group of friends/family. This was easily one of the best things we ended up doing while in Cali.
The race was a mixture of a scavenger hunt, puzzles, riddles, etc that sent us speeding through the streets of Hollywood. We solved puzzles while weaving through crowds at the Chinese Theater, ran through subway stations to catch trains with moments to spare, wracked our brains at the Disney Orchestra building and burned through the streets of Hollywood while police were yelling at us to slow down.
There was a moment there, when a series of cars exploded in the background, that left me feeling like John McClain in Die Hard 3. (The explosions weren’t part of the Race, they just happened to be filming a commercial in the area, but it was still really friggin awesome).
The creators were rather brilliant in their design. Not only were you playing a game, but the race led you to city hotspots with an intention, rather than just milling around in the tourist crowd. You can also make it as intense or relaxed as you want. We just happen to be rabid competitors so we sprinted most of the way.
Like I said, I would highly recommend. This was simply incredible AND they have races opening in more areas. Check it out!
#1 Cupcake ATM We were dumbfounded. “What? That doesn’t exist” we said. We were wrong.
And they came in neat little boxes too. LA can be a strange place.
Eat a cupcake from the cupcake ATM that really does exist
#2 Dinner and Piano with friends
Have drinks at a piano bar in Hollywood
There’s plenty I’m leaving out, but this entry is already long enough! California was a fantastic as always, and it served as a perfect end to my extensive trip.
Alaska to Canada, Canada to Minnesota. Minnesota to California, California back to Philadelphia. (Start at the beginning here: Things I’ve Never Done:31 Returning to Depart)
Good times, good memories, and some great Firsts!
I didn’t want to open my eyes. Not yet. Let me stay here for a little longer. The morning sun had already blanketed my room in light and warmth, countered occasionally by the cool mountain breeze slipping in through the windows. “Not yet…not yet…”
There I lay, a little tired from being up all night, but I could feel the adrenalin slowly welling up inside of me. “In a few hours I’ll be on my way to the airport…”. My heart sped up until I lost my desire to remain in bed.
“…I should probably pack”. O shi…I forgot about that whole packing thing. Eyes open. Eyes open and peering at the MESS of clothes and stuff I had thrown around the room. “Oops. Yeah well, it’s about that time…”
Pack ALL the things! I didn’t have TOO much stuff, but I did have enough to keep me occupied for a substantial amount of time. There was some stuff I still wanted to do, some goodbyes and pictures I still wanted to take.
The original idea was to pack, then when my car arrived, finish off the second bottle of champagne in back of the taxi with the girl from the night before, laughing like the eccentrics that we were. Would have been a lot of fun, but she went back to the city early, and I’m quite glad for that, since I got to have more time to myself and with my friends.
Back to the situation at hand….
I was rolling my clothes quite quickly and jamming them into the suitcase like a hasty game of Tetris, in an attempt to maximize my space. “Carry-on items over there, laptop over here, and…did someone call me?” I paused my packing for a moment and stepped out onto the balcony, looking downward into the main room of the house. There stood everyone’s favorite gypsy companion, singing to herself and lighting up the world as she seems to do. I leaned over the balcony as she called my name in her fantastic British accent. “Morning! I’d like to sing to you before you leave” “Sing? I’d love that! In fact, I’d like to request that moment of your time I mentioned last night during the party” I responded. (Fun Fact: I asked if I could have a moment of her time the night before).
She ascended the stairs and we stepped into the organized chaos of my room. I did have a request, a question really. It was one I had asked about 19 times before, but she would be the last. She sat across from me as I reached up and untied the rope knots of my crystal necklace. The necklace itself and our friendship really, was an unintended, but beautiful product of my journeys with the medicine. The crystal is a physical representation of an obelisk that came to me during one of my ceremonies. (The ceremony of pure horror which I haven’t written about, but those who were there with me, will know the one I’m talking about. Chills, I just got them. Fun fact: The ceremony of pure horror was pure horror)
As I made my way through the journey that was Peru, and came in contact with people who really, really meant a lot to me, or helped me in some way, I would ask a moment of their time. I would ask that they hold the crystal in their hands for just a minute, nothing fancy, just a physical interaction with it. The idea was that, not only will I have my memories of our times together, but I will have something that has physically come in contact with said person, something physical that I can cherish, that I can look at or reach out and actually hold.
After I told her the purpose of the necklace, she smiled wide and took the crystal in her hands. The stone has passed through the hands of about twenty different people, and no two interactions were the same; one person held it to her heart, another whispered something to it, another held it high in the air, each was unique to the person and hers was no different. She held it in both hands, vertically and raised it to her lips. Out came her that stunning voice of hers, and as she sang to the stone, I was bombarded with such a spectrum of emotion; I couldn’t even begin, to attempt, to describe how I was feeling. (If anything, I’d equate it a little to Tennant’s “I don’t want to go”).
After she finished, she held the necklace in her hands for a little longer before handing it back to me. And what a beautiful conclusion it was…
I finished packing my things and we made our way downstairs. I had a little bit of time left, and I wanted to get some pictures before it was too late. I threw my camera around, juggling it from person to person, as I snatched up as many people as I could before I left! My housemate, a fellow Flame Keeper (Previous Entry: The Flame Keepers), a fellow traveler from the area. I ran across the way to my dear sweet neighbor, but much to my dismay she wasn’t home. Le weep! (<3 Meredith)
It wasn’t a solemn goodbye, we were all too busy laughing and hugging. Well, that was until the taxi pulled up and the realization of the day returned in full force. “Your taxi is here”. “One minute!!” I bolted around my house and knocked on every door, tackling the residents inside with a hasty hug. Thanking and praising my friends one more time.
And that was that. I turned toward the road, and there it was in the distance, my taxi. I walked the dirt road I traveled every day to get to town, only this time it seemed to take forever. The driver greeted me with a smile and helped me put the rest of my things in the back. One more round of hugs for those who followed me before I found myself inside, peering out from behind the glass. “See you soon!” I shouted as the taxi pulled away, hoping to put enough desire into my statement to make it true. I leaned back in the seat, took a breath and composed myself. “See you soon….”
I leaned my head on my hand and stared out the window, watching the familiar landscapes pass me by.
On the run way, I stared out the window, over the airport, to the city, to the mountains, to the sky. This was it. The journey I so desperately wanted was over. I DID it.
I dug the ipod out of my pocket and scanned through my songs. I had one for such an occasion, one of the two songs that acted as my catalyst for this trip. Music that penetrated deep and allowed me to open up and send that message to my brother which led to the eventual push toward this destination. May as well end on it too.
(Fitting name too)
By the time I clicked play, the plane was already moving. We weren’t at max speed, but we had just taken our final turn onto the open run way. The final minute was such an intense experience, I couldn’t have timed it better. As the music rose, so did our speed, and so did the overwhelming feeling of “you’re leaving this place”. My eyes welled up; my body was wracked with this anxiety, this panic, as if I had made a terrible mistake, as if I was leaving behind something extremely important. The intensity of the song continued to fuel the panic, as the plane shook and the landscape screamed by outside of the window. The wheels left the ground at very moment the crescendo peaked. My breath stopped for an instant, and by the time I took another, I nearly choked on it. Regaining my composure, I fixed my eyes on the city disappearing beneath the clouds. “See you soon….”
Leave the Sacred Valley
An hour later and I’d find myself doing laps in the Lima airport. I wanted to scout the place out, since I now had six hours to kill. The food court held my attention for about an hour, but besides that there wasn’t much to keep me occupied. I couldn’t find a free Wi-Fi hotspot, so I grudgingly found myself in Starbucks. “Wifi is for customers only”. Yeah I saw that coming, now I pause, trying to justify buying an overpriced drink that I don’t even like. (Fun Fact: I hate the taste and smell of coffee)
At least there was a caramel macchiato on the chalk board menu. Not that I knew what that was, but at least it had some sort of cultural reference to a favorite movie of mine (“Caramel macchiato, for f—ing Scott Pilgrim”). Maybe I’ll give that a shot…if only for the caffeine.
Try a caramel macchiato. Fun fact, it tastes like coffee. Surprise!
At least I got the wifi password. Oh wait. The wifi is out!?! You slippery coffee swindling fiends! You’ll pay for this treachery, and the only currency I’m accepting, are beating hearts. ON GUARD!
Seconds before I lunged at the cackling coffee baron, the moment was shattered as fire alarms started going off all around the airport. My coffee rage was quickly forgotten as large groups of people were flooding toward the exit signs. Following closely behind them were armed security guards and fire fighters. “Hrmm, ok well, time to go” I grabbed my things and skirted the crowd, taking the stairs and following the line of officers herding the group to the exit. I wasn’t sure what was going on, but I wasn’t about to wait around for whatever was happening to happen.
I’ve never seen an entire international airport evacuated before, and from their bewildered faces, I don’t think the line of taxis did either. “TAXI?! TAXI!?” They screamed, assuming they just hit the jackpot of customers. “No thanks, I don’t want a taxi, I want a plane…”
We weren’t outside for too long before the expanding crowd paused, and seemed to be sucked back into the airport doors like a great wave receding down a drain.
-Have a fire drill at an airport
Back inside, back in my coffee chair, plotting the demise of the demon behind the counter. He shed his human suit and stood there with his arms crossed, flapping his wings impatiently as he stared and awaited my next move.
He was quickly forgotten when a lovely young writer asked if the chair across from me was taken. “Please do” I said with a smile. Time flies when you’re busy causing mischief with a beautiful, passionate stranger…
Back on the plane. This one would do it; this one would take me all the way home. The flight was long, but comfortable. We flew silently through the night sky, until I saw a small glimmer on the horizon. I’ve been on plenty of planes before, but this was the first time I literally, saw the sun creep up over the horizon. How beautiful…
Watch sunrise from a plane window
And there it was. The city in the distance, New York.
For the first time after a trip, I felt like time had actually passed. I felt changed, even though everything around me was the same.
Now for the hard part; to taking everything I learned and apply it back in life. To stay vigilant and not let the environment I fled from harden me back up. That’s the hard part. That’s the test…
My travel gloves have come off…and that’s the end of Peru.
Follow through, experience and survive the trip alone – Travel to Peru –