Black Rock City- Evolution

It’s hard for me to write about Burning Man. I tried it last time I went in 2007, and I was never quite happy with what I wrote down. It’s hard to describe something so big, so encompassing, and so different for each person who experiences it. It’s hard to write about the fears that it is changing into something commercial and mainstream, while only being a newcomer myself. It’s hard to describe how it can inspire the most spiritual and religious feelings that you’ve had all year, without being preachy, exclusive  or hypocritical.  And it’s hard to explain how your best friends can be people you’ve only met once.

Welcome home!

Welcome home!

I think this is what those who had high hopes for Woodstock were trying to create, and I’m guessing it’s the kind of atmosphere that was present at Haigh-Ashbury before the utopian ideas collapsed. It’s a community of like-minded people, here to celebrate life, love, art and peace. Or for those who love anarchy. It somehow has space for everyone. It’s a society where you don’t need money, you can let out your inner drag queen, and no one minds if you walk around naked on acid. They might even love you a little more for being yourself. There’s a job for everyone to do, if you want to, and you can give just about anyone a hug just because you feel like it without anyone looking at you strangely. You’ll come across people playing, everywhere you go- old people, young people, married people. There’s laughter, merry-go-rounds, roller-skating, and an unbelievable amount of talented people that are dying to show you their talent and help you learn how to hula hoop, do acrobatics, walk on stilts, or cross-stitch. Someone might randomly walk in front of your camp, singing a beautiful song they made up right that moment just because they’re happy. And everyone who hears it will clap, because they appreciate it. You might meet a woman who’s just learned she’s getting a divorce, and you will give her a kiss and take her hand and not mind if she starts to cry in public. There’s a lot of crying here too- tears of release, regret, and joy.

Inscriptions on the temple

Inscriptions on the temple

This year was very different for me. My first year was more about walking around with my mouth open, amazed that such a place really existed, and that so many people’s imaginings and fantasies came to life here in the middle of the desert, in the heat and the dust. This year, there were things I was supposed to be doing, places I was supposed to be, and people I was supposed to meet. In some ways it only made me dig in my heels and refuse to do much at all. I did volunteer at the Black Rock City Post Office, which I highly recommend to anyone that has the inclination. Yes, you can really send mail, yes, the employees are disgruntled, and it’s rather shocking to see the amount of mail and packages that are delivered to and from this little hub of activity. Postal employees will go out and find your camp to deliver your mail, in dust or rain, asking your neighbors where you’re located- and they’re not even union! Some people send mail to friends they can’t find but are trying to meet up with, then follow the postal employee to the camp. Pretty amazing!

The man- Evolution 2009

The man- Evolution 2009

Meeting the Roads Scholars was a great experience. They turned out to be such a diverse group of people full of light, inspiration, and grand ideas. Pat the Digital Vagabond was also fun to get to know. He’s an interesting fellow who I advise you get to know through his blog , which showcases his stories and photos from his life as a real vagabond. Ed Buryn, author of 1973 cult classic Vagabonding in America, was our dean of ceremonies at the Roads Scholar graduation event- there are some great pics on Pat’s blog. I believe I gave an acceptance speech, but I have no idea what I said or why. Days of no sleep will do that to a person…

I also enjoyed meeting the Technomads, a very nice couple who travel the country as well, roaming free and wirelessly. We camped with a group of nomads in Camp Nomadia, where I met so many people who reminded me that it’s possible and wonderful to be free without being tied to a certain geographic space. I was heartened to see them living in exactly the way they wished to live, and loving every minute.

The line to get through the gates

The line to get through the gates

The weather this year was rough, and the dust was out of control. The more use the playa sees, the dustier it gets, so it’s only going to get worse as numbers grow and people insist on driving giant RVs into campsites. As a tent dweller, I was jealous of the RVs and resentful of the amount of dust they subjected the rest of us to. Our first two days seemed to be dominated by dust storms, and that can wear you out quickly. Dust permeates your bed, your dishes, your food. My campmate Khristina was awed by her first Burning Man, but understandably tired and exhausted from the heat, so we mutually decided to leave before the burn and headed home, our heads and hearts filled with new experiences and new family. Maybe one of these days I’ll actually get to see the Man burn.

 

More photos here:

https://alannaroethle.wordpress.com/photographs/black-rock-city-2009/

Of clown motels and moonscapes

Headed down to Tucson

Headed down to Tucson

Though these posts are coming a bit late, I’m still out there, in my head at least. I wish I was! After leaving New Mexico, which I really didn’t want to do for some reason, I took the winding road through Mule Creek Pass to Tucson. This treacherous, beautiful section of road is always empty and feels as if you’re descending from a much higher altitude, if only because you’re headed to hot, flat desert.

I got a call almost to Tucson from wonderful Enterprise Rent a Car, they’ll pick you up didn’t you know! I will never rent from them again- the guy told me if I wasn’t there in half an hour, they were closing and I wouldn’t be able to pick up my car. They call me the same day I’m supposed to pick up the car, not a day before so I could make alternate plans.  Awesome. I should have learned my lesson from the last time I rented from this place (on Grant Road)- my brakes fell out of the car halfway to Austin. I mean, the brake pads FELL OFF. The towtruck driver said he’s only seen that happen once in the past 20 years. Well, I learned my lesson good. I advise you avoid this partifular rental shop if you want to live.

I headed out to Fatal Arabian ranch up near the mountains in Tucson to meet up with my travel buddy, my BFF Khristina. She was very, very excited. I wish I could post the video clip of her reaction…but am not currently able to embed files. Imagine a 6 year old who’s had several shots of pure sugar and is equipped with 26-year-old vocal cords. I love her 🙂

We loaded up with groceries and energy drinks. Preparing for Burning Man is unlike packing for any other trip you’ll ever take. Along with your normal survival essentials, you’ll need dusk masks, goggles, all the water you’ll use for a week, crazy costumes, blinky lights, cold weather clothes, hot weather clothes, rebar stakes to hold things down, and lots and lots of baby wipes. Trust me, you’ll need lots of them. There’s a little condition known as “playa crotch” that experienced Burners can tell you all about. Baby wipes will help you alleviate this troublesome ailment.

And did you know that they are making it impossible for bums to steal shopping cards these days? Not having tried to steal a shopping cart before, we were hauling ass at a good “ha ha we’re taking a cart” kind of clip when a bum yelled at us that we were in trouble. Not understanding, we hit the invisible wall that now secures shopping carts to the parking lots of their respective stores. Ouch. It’s really like hitting a brick wall at full speed. Now we know. Thanks, bum. Too little too late.

We set off way before reasonable daylight hours, somewhere in the vicinity of 4 am, after emergency stops to get bungee cords and propane. The car creaked under a ridiculous load, we said some prayers, and started off on the 16 hour trek across some of the loneliest, creepiest country in the U.S.

Nevada is full of people hiding out from the law/family/bill collectors, brothels, empty roads, and cows. It’s a moonscape, and while beautiful, has always struck me as horror-movie fodder. Take this place, for instance. Of course pets are o.k.! They taste great!! Muah ha ha ha ha hahaaa!

This place is not a joke. Tonopah, Nevada.

This place is not a joke. Tonopah, Nevada.

As the sun went down and it got darker, we were glad to reach our final resting place before Black Rock City- Fallon, Nevada. We’d learned a lot about each other in 16 hours. Road trips will do that to ya. Note to self: pack more CDs. And traveling with someone that hasn’t been through these places makes it all look newer, and more exciting. One more chance to stock up and then we’re incommunicado!

On the road to Burning Man

 

Have you ever noticed how long it takes to drive across West Texas? It’s an endless drive full of barbed wire and tumbleweeds, and if you’re not careful all of a sudden you’re moving at 105. Lead foot can creep up on you real quick-like in Texas. I had a basic plan for this trip, which involved spending the first half helping my momma with some hard physical labor, and the the rest full of seeing a few friends that I’ve been missing, 30 hours worth of driving, alkaline playa, and nudity. Other than that it was all about being open to whatever happened.

I took off from Austin at 9 at night, planning to drink a six pack of energy drinks and book-on-cd my way through the next 10 hours or so. I just had to make it to Las Cruces, where I visited one of my very best friends from high school and an old college buddy. Well, he’s not old. And I’m not old either. Just sayin’.

I listened to “Gods Behaving Badly,” by Marie Phillips, which took up just about the whole night and was surprising, funny, and a damn good listen. It’s read by an English-woman with a cute accent, and it’s about the gods from Mount Olympus living in present-day London in a dirty little flat with weakening powers. It’s also got a nerdy love story and some great plot twists, and manages to not be corny while being very sarcastic. I highly recommend it.

With my head buzzing from too much taurine and whatever the hell else is in energy drinks, I rolled through El Paso around 4 in the morning. El Paso looks its best late at night when you can’t see the apocalyptic waste that makes up the anus of Texas.

El Paso at 4 am

El Paso at 4 am

 

An hour later I was transported back to my college days, and strangely enough the same music is still on the radio from 5 years ago. The Organ Mountains are as beautiful as ever, and I had serious flashbacks for the day and a half I got to spend in the town of my alma mater. Bittersweet memories, and I had some serious nostalgia that made me miss New Mexico and almost want to come back. Almost, until I went out the next night after sleeping off my night-driving-hangover. And remembered that there’s seriously nothing to do, and that nothing ever changes. There are some things that can be great about that, but not if you ever plan to grow or change at any time in your future life. But, hey, impromptu rave party!

Check out the self-professed best DJ in the LC

Check out the self-professed best DJ in the LC

I didn’t get to spend enough time with my highschool buddy Mona, but thanks for letting me stay with you! I enjoyed the puppies, and seeing your beautiful new house.PupBigger pup

 

 

 

On the way out as I headed for the Gila to visit Momma, I smelled the smell that most reminds me of New Mexico- roasting green chile! If you’ve never smelled this in the fall, you’re missing out. I made a pact with myself to pick up a box on my way back.

The next several days I spent helping out the Moms, but we took a break to visit the pretty little ghost town of Mogollon, a remnant of silver and copper mining days that’s still tucked away in the mountains around Glenwood.

Main street of Mogollon

The people who still live here are hardcore mountain men and women. We found a blackberry bramble and fought off the locals to collect enough for blackberry-apple cobbler. YUM.

She scared away the bears

She scared away the bears

I ate more than I picked

I ate more than I picked

The time flew by, and far too soon it was time to say goodbye to New Mexico and head for Nevada.
I love this country...

I love this country...

 

Burning Man- part 1

So I’ve yet to develop my one roll of film from Burning Man- yes I shot film with my old Nikon- but it’s going to be done this week. Stay tuned for tales from the 2009 trip to Black Rock City!

It’s not a sex club..that’s a bummer

I like to be hip, so that means on the occasion that I’m the first person I know to hear of a place, it’s cool to go there. Cuz then I’m hip. I discovered Lustre Pearl accidentally while walking past in the evening- don’t ask why I was walking in this area I probably couldn’t find any parking closer than I-35. At first it looked like a house party. Then I saw the hula hoops on the walls and the lack of signage, so then I thought it might be a scandalous private kind of club. Obviously I had to go there immediately. Walking around the front, it’s still not apparent it’s a bar, but the sign  “Lustre Pearl” gave me enough to go on.

Lustre Pearl at night

Lustre Pearl at night

Back when I first checked it out, their website just said temptingly “We’re open.” Now, in the busy part of the waning summer, it’s a happening place with a huge backyard and a very austin food truck parked outside. It’s a little like partying at a friend’s house back in college, with plenty of places to sit and a welcoming feel.

Lustre Pearl's backyard feel

Lustre Pearl's backyard feel

The owners are developing this area into the next “hot spot” of the downtown scene, probably much to the chagrin of the people that still actually live here. The bar is a renovated old house, with most of the rooms made to look intact, a nice bar, and decent drink specials. Try the “oldest beer in Texas”, Pearl. Or not. It’s like PBR, cheap and nasty. Plus, hula hoops!

Oldest beer in Texas...try at own risk

Oldest beer in Texas...try at own risk

 

My hoops skills

My hoops skills

I’m afraid this place is soon to be a 6th-street-type college bar, but check it out now. It has great potential as long as it attracts great clientele.

Mexicans are great

 You’d think the cops in Mexico only hassle the tourists. Funny thing is, I’ve never gotten hassled until I started hanging out with actual Mexicans that live in Mexico. It probably didn’t help that this one was drunk at noon and almost drove directly over a bike cop who was already pissed off, fat, and ugly. The other lesson I learned was that it’s all in how you talk to the cops. First, tell them that you aren’t going to pull over. No. No! You pull over! Then, proceed to tell them that you aren’t that drunk, and that that beer does not belong to you. In fact, you’ve never seen it before in your life. Then blame it on the güeras sitting next to you. It’s their beer, they’re drunk. And why are you cops hassling the tourists down here shopping? You see that big goddamn mirror in the backseat? Yes, they’re spending money here and now they’re never going to come back! Plus, I know the mayor!

 I was sure we were going to jail, but I just sat back and watched the show. And spank my ass and call me Sally, but it worked. The cops took off, and we headed back to the drive-through liquor store to get more beer and drive around some more. Wearing luchador masks. Ok, maybe we got hassled because it was noon, we were drunk, and also we were wearing Mexican wrestling masks. Maybe we looked suspicious. Also, our driver did NOT tell the cops that he had actually kidnapped us. He doesn’t speak much English, so he said that he “shininged” us. I am still not quite sure what that means, but kidnap me any time you want if you are going to force me to drink all day.

 

They have holes for straws!!

They have holes for straws!!

 

Me and my BFF Jen, also my favorite roommate ever—I can never top her, seriously—went down to Laredo, Texas, and Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, to drink, party, and go shopping. This is because I’m broke and need housewares, her family live down there, and because we needed a girl’s weekend. We are not the type to have girly-girl weekends, though, instead usually opting for passing-out-drunk weekends or heading to the beach, also to drink. But we are not alcoholics, I just make it sound that way because it’s more fun. No, really.

 Head to Laredo for some good food, man, we had a killer breakfast/lunch after hiking over the border. With all the border violence, now is the time to shop! We found some great deals and only got ripped off a little. I count that as making out pretty well. Another tip—go upstairs when you’re in the mercado. Those shops are cheaper, and less people go up there so you can find better stuff. And do not try to run over cops, even if they are on bicycles. They hate it.

Riverwalk- like riverdance but less Irish

What do I say about San Antonio? It’s like a much prettier El Paso, with clearer air and definitely more water. I hadn’t been to the Riverwalk since I was a kid, so it was like seeing it all for the first time again. The guy turned 30 this month, so we went down to celebrate a little and spend some time together. He’s been working too hard and I’ve been…well, I’ve been working hard too.

We wandered around, looked at the fake Alamo- did you know they rebuilt it after it was destroyed, it’s not even the real thing! I felt kind of gypped, but I’ve never been a history museum type of person. I’ll walk right by to go listen to some music or check out art, but Texas history just doesn’t do much for me. Yep, Mexicans, yep, Texas Rangers, cowboys and Indians. And what’s-his-face Davy Crockett was found hiding under a bed I heard…which is why I tend to discredit stories from history that were written by the forces left in power- which happens to be a large part of them. The grounds are beautiful, and the shady trees and landscaping hide the fact that you’re right in the middle of downtown surrounded by tons of tourists.

Nathan is pissed that it's fake too

Nathan is pissed that it's fake too

We were in town on a Dallas Cowboys training weekend, so there were lots of people lined up for hours in the hot sun hoping to catch a glimpse of the big guys. I was not one of them, but it would have been cool. I am a long-time Dallas fan, even though I’m just barely becoming a fan of the actual state of Texas. I guess I always had a thing for cowboys as a girl…Instead I watched them from our 28-th floor Marriott room.

No don't look at the ghost in the window

No don't look at the ghost in the window

We did the couple thing, wandered in circles around the waterways and watching the flatboat tours and held hands for a few minutes (too sweaty ick). I wanted to tell the tourists in the boat could walk the whole thing faster and that we’d probably beat them to the end of the tour but people don’t walk these days anyway. That’s called exercising.

No trolls under there. Only on top.

No trolls under there. Only on top.

 

Nathan's "leaning on the rail" pose

Nathan's "leaning on the rail" pose

We ate, we drank. It was good. It felt like we were traveling, and that was good enough. Economy, blah blah, staycation, blah. We’re broke, and weekend excursions are gonna have to cut it for a while. Until we buy our Airstream and hit the road like old times. I’m thinking that isn’t too far away.

I'm flying away

I'm flying away

Riverwalk at night

Riverwalk at night