Wednesday, 24 September 2014

The Ironic Flower Shop in Lawrence, KS

Just feeling whimsical.  A law office, and a weirdly named flower shop next door.  Coincidence?

Betcha New Hampshire Street law offices deal with Family Law a lot...

I'm far from Lawrence now, so this is a throwback.  In my travels I just haven't encountered many places that have consistent wifi signals and give me enough time to pick through it all, so you're going to see photos and stories trickling in dribs and drabs.  I'm lucky to be able to get *this* out, considering.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

The Claim to Fame of Memphis, TN

So I went to Memphis.

Memphis has a few musical claims to fame... but Memphis has one particular musical claim to fame.

I grew up mostly ignorant of Elvis Presley.  My mother told me that he was a big deal, and that sometimes when he was filmed on television they would only film him from the waist up, so that he wouldn't offend the delicate sensibilities of girls and (particularly) their parents.

Other things I knew about Elvis...  he got fat before he died... people ... uh... impersonate him?  Some music fans are absolutely ape shit over him for reasons I can't identify?

Once I got inside of Graceland, I almost immediately recognized two other things about Elvis.  Maybe it's partly the era he existed in, but he had terrible taste in decorating (although that stuffed monkey is kind of cute) and he tried to watch three televisions at the same time.

Considering the fan art that he specifically endorsed, I'm not at all sure that it was just the era that he existed in.

(Fan art, as selected by The King himself)

Directly after that, I walked into a dim hallway that was literally lined with records and singles that went gold and platinum.  It *lined* *the* *hallway*.

I learned that Elvis wasn't just a big deal, he was a bigger deal than damn near any other musical thing that happened within a span of decades.  He's the best selling solo artist in history, starred in more than 30 movies and...

Famous isn't the right word.  Successful is too timid an expression.  They had a whole other room with his outfits, lined with awards.  There was a poster that said "Before anyone did anything, Elvis did everything" - it would've been easy to dismiss before seeing the ridiculous number of songs and albums that he made (that he consistently made!) that sold like hotcakes and reached #1.

I became aware of music late, around 1995, since the only thing my family listened to growing up was CBC radio (which isn't really about music anyway, for the most part).  In the time that I've been paying attention there isn't a single band or artist that I can think of that produced that many pieces of music that were consistently successful.  I heard more Elvis songs during my visit to Graceland than I had during the whole rest of my life put together, and even if I'm not personally crazy about them, I can now appreciate why Graceland is a thing, and why calling Elvis "a big deal" just doesn't do it justice.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

"So... Why Lawrence?" (pt4) - Significant Dates, and the Hippie Shack

October 8th is a significant day, in my personal history.  Two significant life events took place on that day.  I was born on October 8th, and a year later my dad passed away (cancer) on October 8th.  Growing up, I thought that really meant something.  The idea I somehow arrived at was that the coincidence of those two things was not a coincidence, and was somehow connected to being sick.  In my way of thinking some cosmic force was either punishing or testing me, and the reason for either one or the other was totally lost on me.

In Lawrence, I was working part-time at a pizza place.  Late September J came into this pizza place on my lunch break and told me that a blood test told her that her T cells were dying and that she needed to go in for more tests to understand exactly why.  I have a clear memory of that moment, and a clear memory of the feeling of being sucked back into a vortex, reeling while I processed the implications.  T-cells get killed off by HIV.  A promiscuous, IV drug-using girl was at reasonably high risk of contracting HIV.  I was sitting across from a promiscuous, IV drug-using girl that I was in a romantic relationship with.  She told me she knew for certain that it wasn't HIV, and I bumped up against a firm part of the inside of my brain that absolutely did not trust that she was telling me the truth.

Planned parenthood.  Needles.  Swabs.  The whole gamut - "I've been sexually active with someone who's a promiscuous IV drug-user and I need you to test whatever you can think of."

They did exactly that.  I asked when the test results would come back, and they said "well it's late September, so come back October 8th.  We'll have the results by then."

October 8th is a significant day, in my personal history.  Significant life event #3 was apparently incoming.

I kept going to work.  I kept going home to the Hippie Shack.  I got an invitation to a birthday party in my honour, and J told me the cake would have a maple leaf on it.  I can't remember anything about how the time between the test and the results went past.  I remember only vaguely how offended J was that I was so scared.

In the afternoon of the 8th I went to get my test results.  They sat me down and gave me a clean bill of health.  I went outside and sat down on the sidewalk and burst into tears, the cicadas screeching in their metallic and harsh way in the background.  I felt the whizz of air from the bullet that I had just dodged.  The implications would have been staggering - the number of people she was at risk of transmitting to were equally staggering.

Back to the Hippie Shack.  I was the first one to arrive at my birthday party - sure enough there was a cake with a maple leaf on it.  There were also a half dozen bottles of various spirits on the kitchen table, and J was off picking up some LSD.  It was a hell of a party to throw for a straight edge kid.

Everyone got drunk.  One person took so much LSD that he sat still and didn't speak or move for the next several hours.  J took 4 hits of LSD.  I watched.  I didn't do much more than watch, and reflect.  The enormity of what had almost happened gradually settled into my shell shocked consciousness, and the fact that it was October 8th sat prominently in my silent contemplation.

J was soaring on her LSD trip.  We got in a small argument.  She went downstairs, to the room with the bare concrete floor and I followed her.  We made up.  We made out a little bit.

Maybe you can immediately identify what happens next because you're aware of some of the quirks of LSD, and maybe you're a stranger to that experience.  I was a stranger to that experience, so what came next was absolutely unexpected.

"You would have to ingest a ridiculous amount of LSD for it to even be present in sweat. A few drops of acid as metabolized into hundreds of drops of sweat comes out to a negligible amount leftover, if any."

She had ingested a ridiculous amount of LSD, and I came into contact with a fair amount of her sweat... or maybe I just had a psychotic episode, or maybe I don't have any meaningful explanation of what happened next.  All I know for sure is that something gave way inside of me, and something changed.  Describing the exact nature of the process is difficult enough that I won't attempt it right now.

1:30am, October 9th, J was asleep and something inside of me rang like a bell, loud and long and deep.  I knew I didn't need to have that experience anymore.  I didn't need to be sick anymore, and so I wasn't.

"When we have a toothache, we know that not having a toothache is a wonderful thing.  But when we do not have a toothache, we are still not happy. A non-toothache is very pleasant." -Thich Nhat Hanh 

13 years.

13 years since I had been "not sick" and I didn't remember what being "not sick" felt like until 1:30 in the morning on October 9th. 

It's not an understatement to say that Lawrence, Kansas made the rest of my life possible.  At 18 the best I could picture for myself was a lifetime of Person with Disabilities benefits, trying to find a way to contribute something meaningful to a world that I couldn't possibly belong to.  At 19 years of age, 90 minutes in, what was possible became suddenly and radically different.

A week later, I was carpooling with some of the other guys from the Hippie Shack.  They were going to New Orleans, I was going to the airport in Kansas City so that I could fly back to the Pacific Northwest, where I came from.  One of them asked, "when will you be coming home?"

I didn't have the heart to tell him that Lawrence wasn't home. 

As for when I was coming back...

Thursday August 4th, 2014.  Turns out that was the answer.

Today, when I walk along the sidewalk, my feet touch these bricks and I remember the fear and the blinding impossibility of what changed.  That's why I felt like I needed to come back.

Friday, 12 September 2014

"So... Why Lawrence?" (pt3) - The Hippie Shack, and Zen

By the time I got back to Lawrence, it was mid-September in 1999 and J had been gently asked to leave the co-op.  Fleeing the police and skipping out on rent doesn't make roommates very happy.  We took up residence in a building a few blocks away that was affectionately referred to as "The Hippie Shack."

Being chronically ill, I had also decided (years before) that mood altering substances weren't for me.  Despite growing up in BC I had always chosen not to smoke weed, and despite being a human being in North America I had always chosen not to drink.  I was worried that if I participated in something that dulled pain I'd be at very high risk of addiction, so it was fire I simply never played with.  Those decisions made me an unlikely house guest of the Hippie Shack.  One especially vivid memory is sitting on the porch with one of the other residents and talking about my decision not to use substances.  He took a big pull off of his joint and said "wow man I really respect that decision."

It's best to deal with these memories in fragments.  The bare cement basement suite where the window had been busted out - slugs kept crawling in through the empty window frame.  J waking me up at 3am, curled up in a ball and rocking back and forth, telling me about using cocaine and getting jumped by a group of guys, holding onto the pocket knife I had lent her - dried blood clinging to the blade and part of the handle.  Watching her inject "insulin."  Stories of her romantic escapades with people who weren't me - which at the time I wasn't sure whether or not to believe. 

Looking back, I was pretty zen about the whole thing.  I SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN ZEN ABOUT THE WHOLE THING.  I wish I could rewind and get mad - mad enough to walk away, mad enough to yell, mad enough to stop participating in the whole thing and storm off and never come back.  My zen, at the time, was not good for me.  Zen was the only reaction I had.

Zen could also be called learned helplessness.  Those two things look very much the same, from the outside.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Jayhawks and Bushwhackers - History and Present Day

The local University football team is called the Jayhawks.  This is a term that carries over from the U.S. civil war, when the anti-slavery guerrilla fighters of Kansas would make raids into Missouri and destroy infrastructure like... farms... and people.

"Confederated at first for defense against pro-slavery outrages, but ultimately falling more or less completely into the vocation of robbers and assassins, they have received the name --- whatever its origin may be -- of jayhawkers"

A lovely person I met through the Couchsurfing website pointed out to me that Jayhawker was a term describing people who went into Missouri and conducted raids.  We drove along a hill overlooking the stadium while the first Jayhawks game of the season was happening and she mentioned that when the Jayhawks win a game against Missouri the fans lose their minds and take down the goalposts and dump them in a lake, and that's just something that happens.  Winning against Missouri is a big deal.

Winning against Missouri is a big deal?  Those roots, and the roots of the term Jayhawk, have common ground.  A gentleman named Quantrill has a place in the history of Lawrence Kansas that takes up literally half of their museum, because he led a thing called Quantrill's raid.  This is where a bunch of the militia from Missouri came into Lawrence, shot a large number of civilians and burned down a large number of buildings.  They called these pro-slavery militias from Missouri "Bushwhackers." 

Kansas still celebrates its roots as a state of Jayhawks, they wear it proudly in blue and red, and the Jayhawk is definitely the mascot of the University football team (as well as the name of the football team).

This same girl from Couchsurfing mentioned that there are Bushwhacker celebrations in Missouri on a fairly regular basis, and you don't have to look very far to find them.  Apparently she grew up in Kansas celebrating the Jayhawks and also visited Missouri and attended Bushwhacker Day, and that both things were really fun parties.  She commented without irony that both celebrations were ultimately about crossing state lines and trying to kill each other.

Anyone who says that history doesn't have much influence on present day, I invite to attend the next game against Missouri.  It might encourage you to change your opinion.

"So... Why Lawrence?" (pt2) - backpacking, delinquency and troubled romance

My backpack was absolutely full of useless junk.  I had no idea what I'd need for road travel at 18.  I had writing projects I thought I'd sell as a roadside vendor, but they were jumbled and badly printed and out of order.  I had a big black writing book.  I had my black trenchcoat, rolled up in a ball.  I had a stack of books taking up space (and weight) that could've been occupied by clothes, or maybe a tarp, or maybe something useful.  The pack weighed at least 50lbs, and keep in mind I was only 130lbs myself.

A friend in Vancouver named Will (who's last name I've forgotten) gave me a copy of On the Road when he heard I'd be hitchhiking, and I was reading it on a public transit bus in the first major city that I went to - Salt Lake City, Utah.  A girl on the same bus with an equally large backpack was reading the same book - turns out her name was J, and she and I ended up crashing in a kind stranger's backyard for a few days.  We hit it off during that time, and she invited me to stay with her in... you guessed it... Lawrence, Kansas.

I had no idea what I was doing or where I was going.  Someone suggested I go somewhere and stay there for awhile, so I just said "yes."

I arrived here and we stayed in a nurse's spare room for awhile, then moved into a co-op for awhile.  J started classes at Kansas University and I... kept trying to figure out what to do with myself.  I "audited" a few of her classes (i.e. dropped in on them without the professor's permission) and poked around doing a bit of writing and wasn't quite sure what to do with myself.  It didn't take long for things to go pretty damn weird.

Within a week of settling into the co-op there was some family drama and her parents...  did... something?  I'm still unclear on details, but it involved something like denying her permission to live on her own, and there was apparently a real risk of her getting arrested and being in deep legal poop.  We both packed our hiking packs.  We both went hitchhiking, but she also was fleeing the police.

We went as far as Florida, did a brief stint on a renovation crew (which has its own story), and she got herself into all kinds of trouble.  I won't relate the specifics, I'll only relate the conclusions that I came to after the fact - she lied several times about being mugged or being the victim of random violence.  She covered a heroin addiction by claiming her needles were related to diabetes.  There was other bad stuff.  It feels like the details of that leg of the trip are best left for another time, but the short version is that she eventually smoothed over the issues with her family and went back to Kansas.  I stuck around in Florida to collect our last paycheck from the renovation crew and followed her back to Lawrence.

The wise move would've been to turn and walk away, leave town, strike out again by myself and hopefully meet someone less destructive or challenging.  I was romantically involved by then, though.  The idea of having some autonomy was kind of foreign, and leaving (or just leaving her) somehow never genuinely occurred to me.  If learned helplessness is a term that doesn't immediately make sense to you, the reason I stayed (and actively returned to Lawrence) might not make a lot of sense. 

But, I did go back to Lawrence.  I went back to Lawrence to pursue a girl who I suspected was using heroin, who I suspected was lying to me, who I suspected was cheating on me.  I went back because literally other possibilities didn't occur to me.

This is the rising action.  In retrospect it isn't surprising that the crisis that eventually happened was one I never would have seen coming.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

The Morning After University Football

One of my roommates at the Twin Pines co-op has a new pair of Ray-Bans.  They aren't really new Ray-Bans.  They were a gift, from the football-crazy town of Lawrence, KS.

Kansas University, first game of the season, and everyone is rooting for the Kansas University Jayhawks.  The streets fill up early with people intent on packing the stadium - Canadians lose their cool over hockey, but Americans flip right out over football.  No one has heard of the UBC campus going mental over their university hockey team, but Lawrence filled up with blue and red Jayhawkers tromping over to the stadium like it was game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals.

(Side note: There's a tidy cottage industry in the area run by people who have room in their yards - $25 for a parking space on game night, and the Twin Pines can turn $400-500 a night if they pack the cars in carefully)

I don't think it'll surprise anyone that booze is very culturally prevalent in the States - it's everywhere and it's cheap.  Comparing it to Vancouver, beer is about half the price just as a starting point.  This means there's a stadium full of people, and a very respectable number of them are drunk or getting drunk, and then when the game lets out all the drunk people swarm in a mass along the otherwise quiet residential streets of Lawrence.  They leave behind all sorts of things - shoes, jerseys, wallets, and the occasional pair of expensive sunglasses.  Taking a walk in the early morning just after a football game can apparently be a source of good quality accessories.

It also, so I'm told, is the source of some amusement.  Around 7:30 or 8:00 in the morning when the college kids who got drunk are just beginning to stir and experience their hangovers, there's a decent number of people who duck out of a nearby shared house and try to get to their vehicles unobserved.  A conversation on the balcony of the Twin Pines sounded a little bit like this...

"You see girls running to their cars in their underpants, trying not to get noticed, doing the walk of shame."

"Why the walk of shame?  Nothing wrong with staying overnight like that."

"It's not that I think they should be ashamed, but if you watch them duck and blush and run it's pretty easy to tell that they're ashamed."

One person suggested renaming it the walk of awesome, in case that would lift some of the embarrassment from the experience... but so far as I know the name hasn't really stuck.

"So... Why Lawrence?" (pt1)

No one in Lawrence knows who I am.  No one here is related to me, no one here has kept in touch with me, no one here knows my name until I tell them.  When I found a ride from Burning Man I looked for someone who was coming here - I told D "I'm going to Lawrence."  This place was the bulls-eye and I shot myself towards it from Nevada like an arrow.  Lawrence doesn't have much of a claim to fame unless you're attending the university.  I should explain why I'm here.  That'll take a few posts, so bear with me.

It's not an understatement to say that Lawrence, Kansas made the rest of my life possible.  At 18 the best I could picture for myself was a lifetime of Person with Disabilities benefits, trying to find a way to contribute something meaningful to a world that I couldn't possibly belong to.

From the time I was 5, I had a chronic illness.  I spent a lot of time in hospitals and had more diagnostics than I care to describe run on me over the course of the next 8 years.  No one ever diagnosed what was wrong with me.  The only symptom was pain, which tended to radiate about 6 inches around my navel.  I missed progressively more school and became less functional as I got older.  I stopped attending school regularly in grade 8, which I passed by a few inches, and didn't really progress in my education past grade 9.  I kept trying and managed to get a few credits from arts courses and things that didn't require regular attendance, but in all of the major subjects (English, Math, Science, Social Studies) I never progressed past grade 9.

The few people I know who are or were chronically ill have a strong consensus.  Chronic illness doesn't make sense to people who aren't chronically ill - it has a lot of similarities with mental illness, head and soft tissue injuries and other forms of "invisible illness."  If you haven't had the experience I can tell you that it hurt, and you can imagine pain, but the long-term changes it writes into a person are morbid to describe.  I won't spend too much time on it - that isn't the point of this post.  If chronic pain is something you've experienced, you probably understand what I mean.  If it isn't, I encourage you to reflect on this quote:

"When we have a toothache, we know that not having a toothache is a wonderful thing.  But when we do not have a toothache, we are still not happy. A non-toothache is very pleasant." -Thich Nhat Hanh

I was 18, it was the summertime, school had just ended.  It occurred to me that when I turned 19 I wouldn't be allowed back into regular public school.  I hadn't graduated, I was stalled in classes at the grade 9 level, and being sick dominated everything.  In addition to being sick, I was sickly - 6 feet tall and 130lbs.  The one place I was barely hanging on (school) was about to refuse my re-entry.  All of my available next steps looked like failure.  Something in me couldn't accept that. 

I did the only thing I could think of.  I got a big backpack, put my worldly possessions into it and crossed into the U.S.A.  I had no plan, no fixed destination, no idea how I would get by or make my life work.  This was a Hail Mary pass, a last ditch attempt to avoid a life that I didn't think I could live with.  I had no idea how it would work, no idea if it would work, no idea what working would even look like, but I couldn't just lean back and let things continue to disintegrate.  I lied to all my friends and family about having ambitions to make it to Brazil and have a grand adventure.  My honest ambitions had to do with trying the last desperate jailbreak strategy I could think of.

There are some hefty emotional parallels between that and what I'm doing right now... and honestly that's the point.  That's a huge part of the point of this whole adventure I'm taking. 

"There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered."  -Nelson Mandela

I was nervous about stepping back onto the road... stepping back into the unknown.  The process of travel hasn't changed.  I have found several of the ways in which I, myself have altered already.

Burning Man Roundup, pt 4 - the Final Chapter

Friday August 29th, Burning Man day 7

I bartended all day.  I was too tired to venture out on the playa, too tired to wear a costume, so after running a few errands in the morning I plunked myself at the bar, gave away Kimchi and got people drunk (and it was fun as hell).  I made caesars, Kentucky Punch, G&Ts, Apples and Oranges (apple brandy and triple sec, which turns out to be awesome), met interesting people, got amazing travel tips, exchanged gifts, made friends, and basically let the amazing people of BRC come to my doorstep.  I was told that we poured the best caesars on the playa, and the people of Apres Ski were a distant second.  Quote of the day - "Most bars at Burning Man pour warm shitty cocktails, you pour cold awesome cocktails."

As soon as it was dark and cold enough to sleep, I basically crashed in a heap.  Too many days of not sleeping caught up with me.  Friday was awesome while I was awake, and then I got a solid shot of badly needed sleep.

Saturday August 30th, Burning Man day 8

I think I was burnt out enough at this point that the day just didn't tickle my fancy.  I got some meditation and mindfulness time in hammock dome #2 which settled me down a little bit, but the morning was riding a rough edge pretty hard up until that point.  Out in the deep desert there was a giant sign that just said "LOVE" in giant block caps - one of my camp mates told me a story about someone who climbed up on the letter E, and when he tried to climb down he fell off and got injured... the paramedics came and asked what happened and he explained "I was coming down on E and I hurt myself." 

I love bad jokes.  I love bad jokes so much.

The same friend filled up my 1L water bottle with ice and water, and it was like drinking pure heaven in the middle of the bloody heat of the desert in daytime.  Difficulty turned into bliss every time I put that thing up to my mouth.  Something as simple as ice water, but it was so powerfully amazing after a week of everything being so damn hot.

At night, the man was scheduled to burn.  We got upwind of the thing and sat, watched, waited.  Before the performances started I found myself sitting next to some really amazing people who were surprisingly easy to connect with - L from the bay area who I hope to become penpals with, T who didn't say where he was from who looked a little rough around the edges, and who was so moved by me checking on him to make sure he was ok that he gave me a beautiful glass pendant.  The man took an hour and 45 minutes to burn, and I think they were using the new laminated lumber used in high-rise wood buildings to hold him up - hence the ridiculously long burn time.  We went dancing afterwards, but the encounters with L and T, the moments from Thursday night where connecting with people was the thing I wanted to do the most, it all drove home pretty hard that the thing that's the most interesting to me still is other people.  The lights, the dancing, the excitement, all of that's fun, but what makes it the absolute most worthwhile is the other people.  So, when one of our camp mates got sick of the music and wanted to go hang out somewhere quiet I was on that like white on rice.  There were a few faceplants though - the bikes were locked together, we eventually got them unlocked, and I had a bike failure just as they rode away.  We didn't really see each other again at all that night, so I had a solo night of exploring the desert floor.  The lights were just as beautiful, the costumes just as intense.  I was also just as tired, so after a brief stint with a broken cosmic ray detector mounted in a giant glowing LED lighthouse I went back to camp and pretty much turned in for the night.

Day 9, Sunday August 31st

Mostly, today was about taking the camp apart.  I woke up early and did dishes, took things apart, packed my gear, helped pack the camp's gear. 

Funny thing about my sleep cycle - I'm apparently hardwired to wake up early these days.  I was up and picking away at striking camp at 6:30, hours before anyone else even started to stir.  7:00 am, half a block away at the Minstrel C(r)amp, someone sat down and started to play the piano.  It's hard to describe.  9 days in the desert, pounding electronic music constantly vibrating the ground, neon lights and bright things and a constant forcible assault on the senses, the sound of someone sitting down and simply playing acoustic beautiful songs on the piano was so deeply moving and so deeply touching that when he played I just had to stop doing what I was doing and listen.

He went through a spectrum of classical and current music but I only remember the name of one song, he did "Clocks" by Coldplay.  Somehow just listening to something gentle and beautiful and acoustic and improvised was such a perfect balm to an overstimulated week.  I thanked him for adding something beautiful to the playa, and I meant it.  This seemed like one of the very few actual spontaneous acts of beauty that I encountered on the playa - moving, random, un-planned, and done purely as a form of play.  He wasn't trying for recognition or to get a party started, he just played because it was beautiful and it fit the moment, and it was one of the acts of artistic creation that made me hum inside the most deeply.

I was tired so I didn't contribute as much as I feel like I probably should've, but I rode my helpfulness edge the best I could.  The shade structure came down, we packed our boxes, the kitchen structure came down, and the patch of desert floor we had been sitting on started to turn back into a patch of desert floor.

At night we went to watch the temple burn.

This was my last act as part of Kimchi, after this I was to diverge and go to a place other than home.  My ride to Kansas with D was slated to go just after the collapse, so there was a lingering sense that this was the last time I'd be part of this little bubble of family that had formed around Kimchi.  The temple burned along with the goodbyes I had written for it... things too delicate, still too fresh and hurt to share here.  Lots of farewells that night.
We walked around the coals after the structure came down... a random, beautiful woman asked to be embraced and I set aside my pack so I could hug her properly and she melted into me like it was the most natural thing in the world.  That hug was amazing, and then she slipped back into the crowd and was gone.  Another moment that could only happen at the Burn.

We made our way slowly back to camp.  I said my goodbyes and tried (and failed) not to tear up, not to be scared by the emptiness I was stepping into.  I tried not to miss them already, and I failed before we had even parted ways... I still miss my Kimchi brethren.  It's a bit strange to have made such beautiful connections with other human beings and then leave them be like that.

The time had arrived though.  I met with D.  I got into his truck, and two hours later (a short exodus) we were on the road.  Burning Man was over.  The rest of that story is pretty much unfolding where you can see it.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Burning Man Roundup, pt3 - Crazy constructions, and the most meaninfgul BM art project I've ever heard of

Tuesday August 26th, Burning Man day 4

Woke up with the sun - it's hard to do anything else, the sun is so goddamn hot.  I get up, then go right back down for 2 hours from exhaustion while random, loud, often terrible music blares from the Lamplighter Bar.

Once I was up I started making Kimchi Camp caesars - which I started describing to Americans who thought of caesars exclusively as a salad as "a bloody mary only Canadian and better."  This was apparently the beginning arc of a good reputation that the Kimchi bar started to earn.  I co-hosted a talk on creating Kimchi with a camp-mate, bartended s'more, made negronis and spicy caesars and got a good number of people plenty drunk and plenty happy.

That night was the first "official" camp excursion into the playa.  Quite a few of the art projects on the playa had been set up, and one of our virgin burners had a letter that gave the advice "go onto the playa at night.  Pick a blinky light.  Move towards it.  Repeat."  We collectively decided to follow this advice.  OH MY GOD THERE IS A LOT OF BEAUTIFUL RANDOM WEIRD AMAZING ART OUT THERE.  The long strands of glowing plastic that looked like the tendrils of a sea anenome reaching 20 or 25 feet into the sky, the glowing cow skull that would pulse to your heartbeat, the grid of tiny little posts that would glow and twinkle when you went past them, the orb that threw blue twinkles all across the playa (that you couldn't see clearly until you were literally standing under the orb)...

The three most remarkable, to me:

The stroboscope showing an acrobat doing flips.  It was a metal structure, and was surrounded by little rowing machine benches where the seat slid back and forth.  At first I got really, really excited and coaxed about 15 people into climbing on with me and sliding back and forth on the seats to try to make the thing turn and light up and strobe... but after a few minutes of attempting this, it became clear there was absolutely no relationship between the seats moving and the structure moving / lighting up.  I stood up and laughed and pronounced the thing "placebo art" thinking that it was powered by a hidden generator that turned on at random times.  On one hand I was irritated by the illusion of interactivity, but on the other hand I was impressed by the piece's ability to show people how superstitions happen - you do something, and you see a result, and you think the two things are connected.  This art piece created the superstition that if you interacted with it the lights would light up and the acrobat would start flipping, and that was a total fiction.

Thing is, I was proven wrong.  One of the people who contributed to building the thing came up to me and let me know that there were some difficulties in construction and so there was only one seat that had a proper pulley.  It *was* properly interactive, and I had the odd sensation of my irritation going away and being replaced by disappointment - I kind of liked the idea of a falsely interactive sculpture that asked people to examine superstition.

The second was a thing called "Squared" - a 50ft tall structure made up of glowing plastic cubes.  20 feet away from the structure was a large wooden table with little white plastic blocks etched with symbols tethered to the table.   There were similar symbols etched onto the table itself, and when you touched the symbols on the table with the blocks, the very large structure would react.  One symbol would make the colours all freak out, another symbol would make the colours shift in a particular pattern, the whole thing was a really remarkable feat of enginnering, programming and creativity.  The designers talked a little bit about how each of the cubes was mapped with an individual IP address, and the programmer had an interesting time integrating with creative types in a non-standard work environment... but that it all got pulled together in a good way.  "Impressive" just doesn't cut it - in terms of the amount of effort that went into creating something beautiful, this art piece was my favourite.

The third was simple, and epic, and beautiful.  It was a large (20-ish ft tall) hollow metal globe set onto a spinning base.  The globe was made up of metal beams, so you could hop up and grab onto them and climb inside the globe, and then continue climbing up to the top of the globe.  In the center of the globe there was a bright, bright white light.  At the base, you could grab onto the structure and push it and spin it around - the spinning was all hand-powered.  It forms the most beautiful moment that I spent on the playa - sitting on top of the globe looking out at the brilliant glow of Black Rock City, neon and crazy intense art in every direction.  In the middle of the globe there was a couple casting a shadow out across the blank area of the desert immediately next to us, and as they leaned in to kiss each other their shadows kissed and spun across the empty whiteness of the desert floor.  They had no idea of the image that they were creating, the simple expression of inter-personal beauty surrounded by the complicated madness of Burning Man. 

We were out there all night, literally, until the sun came up.  The Lamplighter bar redeemed itself by killing the music temporarily, and inviting us up onto the balcony for champagne at sunrise at Burning Man.  The stars gradually receded and the sky became light, and a little piece of the eternal dance between day and night twinkled past.  I eventually made my way onto the playa just after sunrise and ended up at a different hammock dome halfway across the city and turned in for a bit... still not entirely asleep, listening to inspirational middle-eastern dance music and half awake in a hammock in a geodesic dome, dissolved and satisfied with the night's adventures and with the firm sense that this could only happen in Black Rock City.  That chain of experiences just wouldn't be possible anywhere else.

Wednesday August 27th, Burning Man Day 5

I was so tired from the all-nighter on day 4 that I don't have a lot of experiences to relate.  I slept in hammocks, realized that art during the day is mostly brown instead of multicoloured and glimmering, attended a workshop on the chemical composition of playa dust, and bartended a little bit more.  I was so tired that I wore mundane clothes and just couldn't be arsed to mirror the complex and beautiful costumes around me.

The short version of the dust workshop btw - playa dust is alkaline (ph 8.3) and isn't bad to eat or have on your skin, except that it dries out your skin.  It's only bad to breathe if you breathe a lot of it through your mouth - through your nose is fine since that filters the worst of it.  If you want to clean it off of clothes or belongings, rinse with water and vinegar and then rinse with water and sodium laureth sulfate (an active ingredient in a lot of bubble baths) and it'll be like the playa never touched your stuff.  Just use those two things one at a time, because apparently the acid in vingear also reacts with sodium laureth sulfate, so don't mix them or both will lose their potency.  Handy to know.

The full report, according to Jonathan Bean's handwritten notes, can be found...

Thursday August 28th, Burning Man day 6

4am wake-up call because the Lamplighters decided this was the perfect time to play the entire Creedence Clearwater Revival Greatest Hits album for as much of the playa as their sound system could reach.  Bartended again and made people cold "like bloody mary but Canadian and better" cocktails and (so I'm told) continued to gain a bit of a reputation as a respectable bar.

We also encountered the single most meaningful art project in Black Rock City, in my opinion, and it came to visit us at our camp.  A man in a trenchcoat pushing a shopping cart came up to our shade structure, and got a bit of heckling from one of the Kimchi crew... then he offered to explain himself.

He was a member of the Burning Man organization, and was in charge of the heavy equipment on the playa for quite awhile.  If he went to the staff they would recognize him, know him, and help him out, but he chose to come to Burning Man without food, water or supplies with only his shopping cart and trenchcoat and some cardboard to lay on.  He was there to draw attention to the incredible privilege that each person on the playa was exercising - no one who's genuinely worried about survival comes to Black Rock City.  The burn is predicated on having at least enough money and opportunity to get to the desert with everything you need, plus usually a hell of a lot more in terms of party supplies.  One man with a shopping cart wheeled himself from camp to camp and offered a tactile reminder both of how fortunate we are... and also forced us, at least a little bit, to look at the flip side of that privilege and the people who can't access it.  Philosophically I like the fact that he was asking people to take a look at a bigger spectrum of reality than the exclusive party we were all attending.  He pointed out the bubble that we were inside of, and invited us to remember that not only was there an outside of the bubble, but there are people who can't make it to the inside.  We are lucky, and we also have greater responsibilities.  No other art project moved me like he did.  I gave him a handmade leather bound journal as a gift.  I build those things to last, and I hope it lasts the rest of his life. 


Since a good number of art structures had only been set up on day 5 and 6, Kimchi decided to go for another outing.  This one was tricky for me, something in the food or water or experience got me feeling pretty sick, but I still wanted to keep up with the rest of my little tribe.  All of my most beautiful moments were with people, that night... the poet laureate of the Intention gathering, and realizing that I knew of him and his poetry before I ever met him in person.  Two friends from back home who were part of Kimchi Camp who went to lengths to look after me.   There were moments that were beautiful because of the art structures, but most of what I remember is the moments that I had with other people.

I was exhausted, but we stayed up until sunrise anyways.  I made macaroni and cheese but botched it pretty badly by using vanilla almond milk - ever had sweet mac and cheese for breakfast?  It isn't awesome.  Part of the reason for the long haul was that one of the major art pieces, The Embrace, was scheduled to burn at 7:00am.  The outside went up like a match, and was beautiful... the inside kept burning for more than an hour, and I was so exhausted I almost fell alseep on the desert floor.  I went back to camp before The Embrace collapsed and collapsed myself for a few hours.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Burning Man Roundup, pt2 - Lamplighters, Mud and Sexy Workshops

Sunday August 24th, Burning Man day 2

The Lamplighters represent an institution at Burning Man - one of the longest running theme camps, one of the best respected ones, and a ceremonial practice that literally lights the playa at night.  Kimchi Camp had Spatial Delivery on one side, and the Lamplighter's Bar on the other, and the Lamplighter's Bar played the weirdest and at times the most obnoxious loud music on the playa 24/7.  90's hip-hop, CCR, AC/DC and Rage Against the Machine blared until dawn came and went, and then kept blaring.  That's a backdrop for the rest of the experience, they almost never stopped playing that music.

We rode our bikes around at night, and the first thing that struck me was how everything was glowing.  In 2001 there was no EL wire and no LEDs, and incandescent lights ate batteries like they were candy (so no one used them for night lighting).  13 years ago the nighttime was dark except for fire spinners and burning objects, but now it was almost like a slice of Las Vegas - everything glowed neon.  I spent as much effort avoiding getting run into as I spent appreciating the art structures... and there were some really incredible art structures.

Monday August 25th, Burning Man day 3

Then... in the morning, before I had crawled out of my tent, there were loud-ass peals of thunder and the rain started pouring hard.  Desert rain pours HARD.  I bagged up my round-the-world backpack in case things started flooding and my tent got overwhelmed.  I got a bit nervous.  Eventually I crawled out of my tent to watch the light show - lightning hit a structure a block down from us.  I found out later someone got nailed by an arc of lightning off of a metal structure (and survived).  Nature was pissed.  3 hours later the rain eventually stopped the top 6 inches of the playa were mud, and stuck to everything hard. 

When I admitted to my camp-mates that I had killed the spider two nights before, there was a small angry mob hovering for a moment.  The rainstorm, clearly, had been my fault.

Workshops are a thing at Burning Man - I went to one that talked about making Bismuth crystals (on a camp stove using a stainless steel Ikea bowl), and then a workshop on sexuality.  Lack of sleep got me... I never thought I'd nod off when people were discussing sexy things, but to my amazement that actually started to happen a little bit.  Next time I start to nod off in a class or work meeting I will be very, very well equipped to say "trust me, I don't do this because the content is boring."

Directly after I crashed out in the "hammock dome" which is exactly what it sounds like - a giant, shaded geodesic dome filled with hammocks.  I think I slept a little.

While I was there, a random stranger came up to me.  She asked permission, then gave me a little scalp massage that felt really, really damn good... and then she started a conversation that surprised the hell out of me.  I didn't ask for her permission to write about it in here so I'm going to leave the details out, but she just decided I was a person she wanted to share an intensely personal story of tragedy and struggle with.  She related that story to something that she saw in me, at a distance, from across the hammock dome.  I felt really deeply witnessed, really seen clearly by a total stranger.  It moved me to tears a little bit.  I didn't see her again for the rest of the burn, but I found her encampment and left her a little postcard saying thank you, and left a way to reach me.  I don't know if I'll hear from her but that surprise was a defining moment of the burn for me.  She had one grey eye and one blue eye, and lived in Portland.  I hope that tragedy she went through never visits her again.

Later, I went to a friend's electro-swing set on his birthday, dancing my ass off in a koala onesie.  So that was awesome.  After his set we tooled around to other parties and I just couldn't find a vibe I really liked.  I hit center camp and tried to get some creative writing done (and failed), and eventually turned in.

The perks (?) of co-op life

I've been travelling mostly with a thermarest and thin sleeping mat.  They're comfortable and portable and get the job done, but I wouldn't say they're the height of luxury.

Part of staying in a co-op is that you share the responsibilities of the house - cleaning, cooking, dealing with trash and compost, and other day to day aspects of keeping a large shared house in decent order.  They had a "junk room" - the place under a Someone Else's Problem field and I suggested that as my contribution to the house I could clean it up and make it usable.

This house has lots of storage space, so I spent a few hours here and a few hours there moving the paint cans and solvents under the stairs, disassembling the large spare furniture, and tidying up.  At the tail end of the process I find there's a spare futon mattress, sheets and a quilt and I think "What a fantastic outcome!  I get to set up this room, but I also get to set up the guest room... which I'm sleeping in right now."  Packing away the thin sleeping pad sounded like a great plan.

Last night I came home and plunked down on the mattress.  I was dog tired so I promptly fell asleep...

but there's a catch.

At some point, an animal peed on this mattress.  Now the smell is so distributed across the thing that there's no escaping it.

So... stage 2 of my community volunteering hours equals baking soda, vinegar and peroxide.  Last night I was grateful to have a mattress to sleep on, tonight I will be grateful to have a futon mattress to sleep on that doesn't smell like pee.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Burning Man Roundup, pt1

Still in the pipe... reflections on Teen Journey (which I refer to as TJ), and more about Lawrence and why the hell I decided to come to this out-of-the-way place.  While the Burn is stil fresh, though, I'm going to tell you all about it.

Burning Man 2001 - The 7 Stages of Life. 

I won a ticket in a writing contest, on the theme of deliberately radicalizing myself.  I went out to the desert barely prepared and survived on pita bread and peanut butter supplemented by Cliff bars.  I went down with my brother.  I love him - also sometimes he's a bit like a cat.  He disappeared onto the playa and only came back to the tent to eat or sleep.  The camp next to us filled with scorn at our un-prepared Vancouver selves, and I floated like a cloud for the week.

It was powerful, still...  the art, the fire, the crazy sense of community of the burn that I could see but not touch, my meagre contribution to the event.  When I went home, a friend commented that I looked like my molecules had been rearranged and that felt accurate.  The intensity of the place was stunning, the beauty and difficulty laid me out flat, and standing in the base of the man looking out across a dark playa populated by fire spinners is a sight that I will remember forever.  I made no permanent connection to the place or the people - I came disconnected, and left disconnected.  My brother and I watched the temple burn together and then turned straight around and drove 15 hours back home in one shot.  It was 2014 before I decided to go back.


Fast forward to 2014.

Thursday August 21st and Friday August 22nd, Burning Man day 0

Burning Man seemed like the perfect way to begin a year of self-discovery.  It's jarring and difficult and beautiful and inspiring, and I felt the need to be kicked pretty hard.  10 consecutive years of office work with a relatively small dose of radical self-expression made me hungry for this.

Kimchi Camp, bless their souls, took me in.  I met a friend at random at an event and described my difficulty in finding a group of like-minded souls to go to the burn with, and they said "we have a theme camp, you should join us."  After frantic packing, my first step was getting into a car with 3 strangers for a 2-day trip to Nevada.  It was perfect.  It was better than perfect.

I volunteered to be the bartender, and with a definitive list of cocktails by spirit I taught myself a half dozen drinks and created a list of alcohols and mixers that would make up the bar stock.  I made up my mind that this was my contribution to the project, so during the drive I put my shoulder to it.  We did grocery and supply runs and tried to get as ready as possible.

Saturday August 23rd, Burning Man day 1

Burning Man is a tease.  It tickles you and fondles you but doesn't actually seal the deal until you're so pent up that you might burst at the touch.  We drove onto the playa and got a rush knowing we were almost there - then we got re-directed into the Will Call lineup for 2 hours.  At the front of the Will Call lineup, the network they were using crashed and also one of our members got mess-making sick.  Another hour.  After hour 3, the Will Call lineup was done and we got into the proper lineup.  Another hour.  After hour 4, we rolled up to the gates of Burning Man and the virgin burners were invited to make dust angels and receive a spanking... and I don't believe a single one of them took the invitation.  Even the virgins knew they'd get their fill of playa dust before the event was done.

We started camp set up next to the good people of Spatial Delivery, who were on the "virgin burner letter" project.  Each of our virgins got a letter that a veteran burner addressed to their past "virgin" selves with advice, suggestions, wisdom and (good) bad ideas.  At night, as a thank-you, I went over and shared a bottle of pear brandy I had picked up and got informed that there are letters written to sophmore burners as well - they handed me mine.

The letter, summarized: Burning Man isn't worth it just for the party.  There are parties that have running water and shade and temperature controls, where the air isn't full of silica.  The question that made Burning Man worth attending again was... what could you contribute?  What could you add to it?  The letter told me that it was worth coming back because of what you can uniquely add, not because of what you could take away.  I went to sleep, on that note.

Secondary info, which becomes important later - when I turned in for the night there was a huge-ass (3cm across) spider that had taken residence in my tent.  The slow death of playa dust seemed too cruel, so I crushed it.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

The kindness of strangers, the power of community

It's not an understatement to say that Lawrence, Kansas made the rest of my life possible.  I sometimes tell people in passing that the way my life is right now is far better than anything I ever imagined I could achieve when I was growing up.  There's nothing here for me but memories... but those memories are incredibly powerful.  This is where my life transformed.  This was where I was at my lowest point, my most injured and most powerless, and it is also where everything changed.  

Yesterday I pulled into the Amtrak station at just past midnight (September 4th).  I had found a cheap deal on a hotel in the area and thought that a little walk through Lawrence and saving $30 were both good things.

When stepping off the train near downtown Lawrence, the first thing I realized is that I'm in the midwestern United States.  That's the place where people say "it's not the heat, it's the humidity" and they aren't overstating it and they aren't kidding.  Combine humidity with exhaustion and a 50lb backpack, and then throw in a dose of a 38 minute uphill walk to the hotel.  I looked as if someone had thrown a glass of water over my body by the time I got there, and not a drop of rain had fallen - the hotel clerk looked at me like I was a mental patient when I checked in wild-eyed, exhausted and drenched in sweat.  I showered and immediately went to sleep.

The rest of that day, September 4th, was a total waste of a day.  Exhausted from Burning Man, exhausted from the 2-day marathon drive, exhausted from tooling around Kansas City trying to get to Lawrence, I went out just long enough to realize that this particular hotel was close to a single bakery (that only had donuts) and a few chain restaurants, and was otherwise in a suburban wasteland with no interesting things.  I went back to the hotel and tried to figure out my next move in Lawrence - couch surfing? Craigslist ads?  Give up on being inventive and just go for more hotel time?  The phone in the hotel room wasn't working, wifi was spotty, and mostly I just sat around feeling tired and tried to get some sleep (and mostly failed).  I felt overwhelmed.  I asked myself, in my head and on paper, what the hell I was doing here.

Lawrence is an overhwelming place for me.  When my feet touched the bricks that make up the sidewalks, I remembered making a rubbing at 18 years old in the thick of one of the most desperate and frightening times of my life.  The Free State Brewing Company brings me right back to the feeling in my gut of being powerless, broke, stranded away from home, physically sick and totally barren for other options.  Those feelings, 15 years old now, are like stale poison.  The intense potency has been lost with time, but my body remembers the risks and dangers.  While I was exhausted, especially, most of my feelings about travelling around within Lawrence were bad ones.  I wondered more than once why I was here.

I fortunately gave myself until the next day to actually answer that question.

September 5th I woke up at 8:00 and after struggling with the idea that I needed to be awake, dragged myself out of bed and got down to business.  I was warned I would pack too many clothes (I did), so I bundled up a bunch and sent them to storage with family in Vancouver.  After that my backpack felt impossibly light and well balanced compared to the day prior.  I made several more phone calls and finally arranged a meeting with someone who would give me a short-term rental very close to downtown Lawrence and managed to pass that milestone less than 10 minutes before I checked out.  I walked out of the hotel without knowing exactly where I was going to sleep that night, but feeling at least like I had made some solid arrangements.

Walking around Lawrence, I started touching those frightening memories more deliberately.  I went into the Free State Brewery, where J frequently snuck in and got college boys to buy her underage self enough beer to get hammered.  I had lunch and a pint, and some of the ghosts of this place were chased away.

There were a lot of moments like that.  The grocery store where J shoplifted most of her groceries had been torn down and replaced by a large brick pharmacy and a liquor store.  The Hippie Shack, dilapidated and sketchy as it was, has been renovated and rebuilt and now looks like a beautiful and quaint place where real people live.  The basement suite with the absent window and bare concrete floor has almost certainly been rebuilt into a beautiful part of a beautiful house.  There is no trace of the addict hippies who turned Asahi beer cans into bongs and sniffed cocaine off of the coffee table in the living room, or the drug dealer turned pusher who lived in the upstairs suite and profited from the inhabitants.  There's no trace of the sickly, nervous 18 year old who, 2 hours after he turned 19 in that basement suite, had a sudden profound realization that changed the rest of his life.  I've kept that fire going this whole time... 15 years later.

Now, I'm just feeling fortunate.  I'm in the basement suite of a co-op in Lawrence, connected because I dropped by a co-op I lived in briefly in 1999 and was welcomed by warm and lovely people.  I met someone who offered to help me out, who connected me with someone else who offered to help me out, who connected me with the person who does placements in this co-op.  I have a safe place to stay with a roof over my head and wifi until I decide to leave town.  I think I'm going to give myself until the 14th before I move on to the next thing.

That time of my life was scary.  Lawrence wasn't scary.  Lawrence, then as now, is filled with people who say hello to strangers and offer them a drink and good company.  The wall of fear that was in this city waiting for me has begun to recede, now that I've touched it.  The bricks are feeling less hostile.  The memories of being sick, lost and without options are reassuringly only memories.

This is where my last big adventure ended.  It is deeply appropriate that it is at the beginning of this big adventure.

And boy are my arms tired...

Written September 3rd, 2014

Somehow I can find people who snore.  I zero in on them unconsciously and make arrangements to co-habit with them.  Out of the 60,000 people in Black Rock City I found the one person who was a) going to Kansas and b) snores so loud that the ground-shaking quality of his bass is more bone shaking than the beat pounding from the large sound camps at Burning Man.  When he napped in the passenger seat, I could tell when he was sleeping by the way the entire car shook.  When we crashed in hotels for 5 or 6 hours, I slept only a percentage of the total time my eyes were closed - the rest felt like trying to sleep through an actively operating sawmill.

We left from Black Rock City a hair before 10:30 at night and were off the playa by midnight.  The procession of cars from Burning Man were obvious from the moment we joined the exodus - cars caked with fine white dust, stacked bow to stern with furry bicycles and pieces of lumber and metal jutting out of storage compartments. 

The signs of the playa are recognizeable for literally a thousand miles.  When we first left, literally every vehicle on the road was part of the exodus - a city of 60,000 gradually emptying of all life.  When we stopped in the morning on September 1st, the first 6 hotels and motels that we checked were 100% full and the parking lots were layered heavily with dusty RVs with men and women wearing fun fur dashing back and forth between their rolling haven and the hotel room where the hot showers lived.  The next night, 14 hours of driving and about 1500km later, the truck stop was again filled to bursting with RVs and trucks coated in familiar playa dust and sporting equally familiar furry bikes and outlandishly dressed people.  2000km later, nearing the end of the trip, we stopped to fill up the gas tank.  There was another RV, skin washed clean by a powerful thunderstorm as we approached Kansas City, driven by a man with piercings and tattoos and outlandish clothing.  We talked about the burn.  It was inescapable.  I suspect on the road tonight burners are a common sight as far away as the East coast.

When I first connected with my ride, who's nickname is simply "D," it felt deeply uncomfortable.  I was leaving the good company of a group of 12 people I had come to love over the course of an incredibly challenging, incredibly rewarding week.  I stepped into emptiness.  I was driving off the playa with him and committing myself to the inside of a metal box for 2000-ish km, even though I had only met him one time before.  It felt equally strange again to step out of his car and make my way to the Amtrak station in downtown Kansas - another human connection made, and here I am stepping away from it again.  I built a little bridge and now I've kept walking.  That bridge is retrospect.  I was D's vehicle companion for less than 2 days all told, and even so walking away from him felt abrupt and a little bit sad.

Now I'm raw...  three pit stops for less than 5 hours each, and sleep constantly interrupted by incredibly decibel-intensive snoring.  This combined with the lack of sleep starting months ago, culminating in 3-4 hours a night all through the burn.  I'm working the start of this trip on top of an absurd sleep deficit.  Maybe 10 days in Lawrence with nothing to do but write, eat, drink and reflect will begin to scratch the surface of that problem.  I'll let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

23 hours of driving in 36 hours

This will be a brief update partly by necessity.

I found a ride to Kansas from Black Rock City, the catch was that the gentleman I was getting a ride with was in a terrible rush - partly why he was looking for someone to share driving responsibilities.  This means that with three stops (6 hours for sleep, 7 hours for sleep and 3 hours for sleep) I've successfully travelled from BRC Nevada to Kansas City, MO.

And boy are my arms tired... along with the rest of me.

I'm syncing photos and putting together notes of the past week and a bit, and finding a place to settle in for awhile now that I'm at one of my destinations.  All of the events of TJ back in July/August, all of the events of Burning Man in late August/September, and the strange caravan that brought me out East, I'm giving myself about 10 days to get all of that written down.

Plus I've decided to air out why it is that I selected an obscure University town in the Midwest as my first stop in the North America tour.  Y'all get the stories of my life in here, as it turns out.

For now though, I'm sorting out a way to get to Lawrence from downtown Kansas City and have to run.  Time, tide and trains wait for no one.