I got up too early this morning. I think I'm just excited about Burning Man and worried about this hurricane. I couldn't sleep knowing it was such a threat to so many people, to New Orleans -- that beautiful city that we all love so much and feel such a strong connection to -- not that I don't care about any of the other towns and cities that are threatened as well, I just happen to feel a strong connection and love for the people and city of New Orleans. I'm wondering if my friend Mary and her husband are safe.
Since I really couldn't sleep I got up and went in to Mara's house really early this morning. Phil was getting ready for school, and Mara had spent the night at her boyfriend's so she wasn't home yet. I sat on the couch and turned the TV on. I haven't seen any television in three days, which sadly, is rare for me. I was so much happier that way, the TV sucks me in, grabs my feelings, and takes over.
While Phil was getting ready for school Mara came home and made him a big red meat sandwich, yech. Then she made lentils and rice for us, and we had some kind of red herb tea, which I enjoyed. I took a shower that felt so good, so nice on my skin and super refreshing after a long, dusty, messy pack and drive. This is the last real shower I'll have for the next week or so. I'll miss being clean, miss the water, how soothing and invigorating it is, but it's a small price to pay for the unique challenges I will meet out there, challenges that will change and enrich my life in profound and indefinable ways.
Mara and Phil's property is littered with rocks that the old man (he was ninety-eight) who lived there, until he died and Mara bought the place, pulled out of his mine and brought home. Phil gave us one of the many big green boulder rocks to bring with us to Burning Man to use to weigh down our ground covers and carpets. We'll pick up a few more along the trail -- they're nicer to have than rebar -- and don't hurt as many people stumbling around in the dark. Rebar -- even covered rebar -- can be treacherous out there. And we'll be able to bring this beautiful crystalline, mineral-rich rock home and use it in our garden when we're through.
I like to find and bring home rocks from our travels. I wonder what this rock is made of -- being able to put a name to and identify it would add to the experience of having it. It definitely has crystal in it. The crystal and mica glint in the sun. Then there's the green, so much green that it looks a little like a far off satellite shot of the earth from space.
Mara's neighbor-horse-friends and the burro are used to the carrot, grass, and veggie snacks that she feeds them daily through the back wire fence. They gathered there this morning, waiting for carrots -- the burro making snorts and sounds to let us know they were there. We took carrots out to them and fed them through the fence. They were so friendly and eager with their warm breath, big furry mouths, and teeth. I learned to hold the carrots in my palm so I wouldn't get bit by horses mistaking my fingers for carrots. Dust, dirt, and horse drool, happy horses, a happy donkey -- fun.
Mara and I ate one of the mangos we bought that were on sale at her local market. It was one of the juiciest, sweetest, best mangos I have ever eaten.
We filled the RV with cold, fresh well-water. Mara has a pump that pumps water up from two hundred feet down deep in the earth beneath her property. How wonderful to have your own fresh water.
I put my hair up in a kind of Swiss maid sort of style -- added lots of red and purple ribbons, a pink Hello Kitty furry head thing, a tiara, and snap on mirrors and rhinestones. It took a while and was fun to do. I want to dress up to go now before I get there and get so tired, dehydrated, and heat-strokey that I'll just give up and end up walking around with my lightly dyed pastel pink and purple hair tied up in a rubber band. I wish I'd gone for my usual mass of dreads or braids but at least this way I'll be able to take everything out and sleep at night. In past years I've had my hair woven in so tight I had tension bumps, headaches, and couldn't sleep comfortably.
I'm dreading having to back this big machine out of their steep driveway. I have to go and buy some three-dollar-a-gallon gasoline for our trip. We also need a bike lock for our bike rack.
Mara just gave me a bag of fresh basil to "lift my spirits" and in a way it does. Sniffing the fresh green basil leaves does pull me up a bit, makes me smile. Then she spritzed some Prosperity Oil on us, which smelled awful. I think I may be allergic to patchouli since everyone I know loves the smell of it and I hate it so much.
How is New Orleans?
On our way out we stopped and bought some fresh baked pies and jam at the sweet Happy Apple Kitchen. They own acres and acres of land and cultivate their own fruits and berries that they use for the pies and jams and things they serve at their little roadside restaurant and farm stand. I bought some to take for potluck dinners and to give away as gifts.
I walked in their back garden a bit, looked at the berry canes and grape vines growing along the fence, and the orchard of apple trees. I'll miss all of the fresh fruits and veggies when I'm away from here. Out there in the desert, or back home in LA, we never manage to get enough fresh, live, foods. I'm going to do something about this -- make it a priority to eat better.
I've been feeling so upbeat and happy. I always feel like this when I get away, especially when it's to someplace green and natural, filled with animals, plants and trees. I was smiling so much my facial muscles hurt. I told the chef at the Happy Apple Kitchen that I loved Grass Valley. She said sourly, "You wouldn't like it so much if you had to live like this every day." Okay. But it would sure be nice to be able to buy a huge newly built log cabin home on fifteen acres with two streams, two ponds, a beach, two barns, and be able to have horses, donkeys, goats, cows, cats and dogs without living in fear that someone will haul them off and murder them, for half the price of the home I'm living in now.
I'm missing Scott already and it's only been three days. This is going to be hard.
We had to wait a while at the local gas station because there was a pickup truck parked in front of us that was blocking our way. I was getting angry -- feeling my shoulders rise -- because the people standing around behind it were so completely oblivious to the fact that we were just waiting there for them to move. There was a kind of sunburnt broken down looking man holding something that looked like a weed whacker and a woman bending down holding something that looked like it could be a part of it. I just couldn't get why they wouldn't move their car and do this off to the side.
I hate honking. I think it's really rude, so I got out to investigate. Turns out the man was a prospector, (there are mines all over The Sierras, some of them still have gold beneath them but the cost of mining the gold is more than the value of the gold itself so they've been shut down until the price of gold rises, and at least a couple of them have been turned into museums with tours and shops), with a bad case of gold fever. A woman who had found a rock with substantial traces of gold in it, had spotted the tools in his truck, and asked him if he'd let her know if her rock had gold in it. She was so excited when he said that yes, it did. The tool he'd been holding was not a weed whacker at all but one of those metal detector wands. I asked her where she found the rock and she said, "In my driveway." Her husband, who had been standing a ways off to the side, looked over at me wearily and said, "You know what that means. Now she'll be diggin' up the driveway." "No, I won't!" she snapped.
After they left I stayed and spoke with the miner/prospector for a bit. He was much younger than I originally thought, probably only thirty-one or two years old. But his face was weather beaten and sunburned. He told me that he had had a landscaping business but that he'd started finding rocks and had to give up everything to look for more. I wished him luck as he was leaving, and meant it, and he said, "Thank you. If I find anything, I'll share it. God bless you!"
For all the charm of the old country buildings, the fruit stands, the lake, the trees, and the many animals here, there is a kind of white bread conservative yahoo vibe here that might be a bit scary to live with on a daily basis. I'm told that Nevada City is cool and artsy though. Hopefully we'll get a chance to visit before we go home.
Passing a truck filled with cows, presumably on their way to be slaughtered, really upset me. I felt such hatred for the driver and everyone who contributes to this mass murder -- this cold, cruel, brutal farming of living beings. They all had colored plastic tags stapled to their ears and they looked so scared -- wide eyed and panicked. How can packing sentient animals in double decked metal trailers and hauling them up rumbling roads to their deaths be humane? How can anyone feel good about themselves for being a part of this? How can I love a man who eats their flesh? It's so horrible and confusing.
I looked into their eyes and sent love to them. I feel such a strong knowledge of the wrongness of this; it's so so wrong it hurts. It took every little bit of energy I had left to keep myself from flipping off the driver. Knowing there was nothing I could do for these fellow beings, and filled with fantasies of somehow hijacking his living cargo, I changed lanes and passed them. But it really, really, hurt.
We went to Ralley's market in Reno like we always do to stock up on any last minute provisions we may have forgotten. It's one of our very last shopping (will it ever end?) stops before Gerlach. I saw at least three or four wildly decorated art cars and more RVs like ours there. Young women with wild hair were cart surfing their way down the sloped parking lot to their trailer -- waving at us as they passed. For the first time ever we have a painted RV that lets everyone know where we're heading. It's so great being identified with this migration of loving creative people. People are so kind and friendly -- everyone waves and gives you hugs and kisses when you stop.
In the market there were more fellow burners buying their last goods for a week or more. The people who worked there were very clued in to our situation and were friendly and helpful. I imagine they make a lot more money this week as forty-thousand new customers make their last stops here. They had everything you could think of, cases of water, juice, beer and wine coolers, dry goods, sunscreen, wood, coolers, ice, and dry ice. I made my way to the champagne aisle and bought seven bottles of cheap champagne -- I hate giving cheap champagne away but they'd been cleaned out so I made the best of it, and I know people will be grateful for a free ice cold bottle of champagne. It's all about gifting, so as long as you mean well, people will be happy and grateful for pretty much anything you have to offer, well, except for maybe dust which there is already plenty of out there.
In the fruit and vegetable aisle there were some young first time burner boys kind of looking to scrounge up whatever they could -- they looked a little underprepared and lost. One of them grabbed a bunch of carrots and said, "How about carrots?" Knowing he wouldn't want to hassle with trying to wash and skin them on the playa I butted in and said, "I think you'd better get the baby carrots, they taste better and they're already peeled for you." Then a man behind them who obviously agreed with me said, "They're over there," and pointed to the shelf with the baby carrots where another man grabbed a bag and tossed them over to the guy who'd been about to buy the other carrots. It was a simple thing, but so heartening because of how cooperative and helpful all of these strangers were together.
If only the non-Burning-Man-world were just a little more like this, with people coming together, sharing their little knowledge generously and lovingly with others. No one is a stranger, everyone is family. It's so lovely, I wish I could share this feeling with you, this feeling of belonging to this big community of people from all walks of life and from every corner of the globe. In just our little camp/village alone I have met people from Finland, Switzerland, Australia, England, Germany, Japan, Russia, South Africa and from all over the United States. Who knows where people will be traveling from this year. I just know that I can't wait to meet them.
Waving good-bye to the many smiling people in the Ralley's market parking lot we headed out for our last commercial gas stop and then on to Gerlach, on three -- four hours of sleep. I'm so tired I doubt I'll do more than pull in and limp back to my bed where I'll collapse until morning when I'll have to get up and unpack everything that has taken weeks of our time to gather and pack. If only there were a magic genie or a big strong man, or woman, around to help unpack and set everything up for us. This is where being a single parent gets a bit tricky, and hard on my back.
About thirty -- forty minutes past Reno, after winding through mountains, and counting numbered turn offs, we turn off the main highway and head north to Empire and Gerlach. As we travel through Wadsworth and the Pyramid Lake Reservation region we always like to stop at one of the many Native American (still called Indian but gradually changing to names like Native American/Indian and NDN) taco stands along the way. I feel that since there are so many of us traveling through their reservations that the least we can do is stop, be friendly, chat a little bit, and contribute something.
We usually stop at the same place and meet up with the same family who are members of the Paiute tribe. Beau, who had been wearing his full bunny costume jumped out first and frightened a man who had been sitting beneath and umbrella, waiting with "his woman" while she made fry bread (delicious) tacos. He was handsome, weathered and drunk. He said, "Lemme get my bow and arrow so I can shoot this big rabbit." We hugged everyone and ordered tacos, then sat down to chat. Beau kept his rabbit head on. The man, whose name I don't recall, told us that he was a Paiute and Beau, proud of his Mexican heritage said, "I'm part Indian." This interested our new friend who then insisted that Beau take off his bunny head. When Beau took off his costume the man said, "Mmm, now I can see. You have the hair all right." He also told us he had been in 268 fights, something I don't think his partner was too happy about his telling us. He needed help with his little boom box -- there was some kind of short in the cord and he'd been holding it just so, to make it work. I went to the RV, got some duct tape, came back, and helped him fix it. I liked him, he looked strong and sensitive. I thought about how my Mother would have said something like, "Indians can't drink, neither can the Irish, and Beau has both of these in his genes. He's really going to have to watch it when he starts drinking. We don't want him to become a drunk." Poor man, poor Mom, poor everyone.
After leaving our new friends, (or old really since we remember them even if they can't remember us given the numbers of people who will stop over the next few days), we made our last phone calls, since we knew we wouldn't have cell phone access until we leave. No one seems to know anything more about the hurricane. Curly Girl isn't doing well and has to go back to the vet. Good-bye world for a little while.
Gerlach and Beyond
After seventy-five miles of desert and scrub, with the odd cow or donkey spotted off in the distance, the radio signals faded to one country station, I began to pick up a very fuzzy Burning Man station. My heart jumped in my chest and a surge of adrenaline let me know that I was almost home where I belonged -- with this tribe of people I belong to. We stopped in Gerlach for our last gas that we will use to run our generator and get us out of there at the end of the week. We met a handsome couple and their kids who just happened to be headed for Kidsville as well -- they saw our painted RV -- yeay.
When Beau and I spot the city, our city, in the distance, we get so excited, despite the long journey, despite the exhaustion and worry, we're joyous and over-the-moon happy, knowing we will soon be somewhere where no one cares how we are dressed or even if we are dressed, where we will be loved and celebrated for how much we express who we are, and what we have to give of ourselves, where we will see old friends and meet new ones, where everything is turned on it's head, and so surreal it's hard to know when you're awake and when you're dreaming. First we see the painted sign, then we pull off the paved highway and onto the dusty rutted road that leads to Black Rock City. Everything that hasn't been tied down shakes off shelves and counters, cabinets pop open and things fall from places where you'd forgotten you left them. The whole motor home sways and rumbles and bumps it's way along. We line up behind our fellow pilgrims and wait our turn to be searched for stow aways by the tough gate workers whose main job is to collect tickets and wave us through. These poor people are battered by the sun and winds and choked by dust. They look so awful that as gruff as they can sometimes be, you understand what they're going through, are grateful to them and just want to hug 'em. Our first greeter was a young dusty, (of course), guy in fatigues, who asked if he could search our RV, then came in, lifted the bed, checked the shower, the bath, and the bunk, then welcomed us home and wished us a safe time. He moved us along to a pretty brunette who covered a few basics before saying, "Welcome home princess," to me. I didn't know why she said this until I remembered I was wearing a tiara, then I smiled and felt relieved and happy to be back.
Next up are the greeters. The greeters are a small volunteer army of enthusiastic and often very wasted people who take the time to stand in clouds of dust from trucks and cars in order to welcome us all back, go over the basics again, (drink water, drink more water, piss clear, don't litter, watch out for the sun, if it wasn't in your body don't put it in the potty, get lit before you go out at night etc.), and haze the newcomers. These are the people who give us our map, our event booklet, and give and receive hugs and gifts. We always have something on hand to give them. First timers, or virgins, as everyone calls them, are made to do silly things like roll in the dust, ring a bell, trade clothes, anything to kind of shake them up and get them in the mood. It's harmless, fun, and nothing like the kind of hazing that goes on in colleges and high schools back home.
I have wanted to work as a greeter for years but haven't wanted to do it without Beau who hasn't been up for it. Maybe this year, you never know.
I am so happy and glad to be here, but so tired. We got out and hugged all of our friends who are already here. I took some beer and chocolate to our mayor Zaphod and then I came back and have put myself to bed for the night. Our cute new neighbors, who just happen to be the sweet family we met at the gas station in Empire, are out there in the dust, pounding rebar. I wish I had that kind of energy, but my back is hurting, and with no one to relieve me at the wheel I'm beat. Plus there is so much dust and wind it doesn't make sense to try to set up in this, even if we could set up now, who knows if it'd blow away. We'll start setting up in the morning.