A Facebook friend, whom I could call a real friend because we actually know each other in real life, posted pictures of her visit to the State Fair. It reminded me I’d like to go see the State Fair. I haven’t gone since I had someone or other’s children to take. But I don’t want to go alone. That reminded me I have no one to go with.
I’ve not cultivated any friendships. I don’t have the gene for it, or something. When I was with T, I had someone to go see things with. When I was with S, I had someone to go see things with as well as groups to go see and do things with. Now, I have no one to go see and do things with, and it suddenly becomes clear that my entire life’s social exposure has had to do either with whatever woman I’m connected to or, when I was young, my job.
But then I think, no, not entirely. I did not meet any of them on my own. I met S organically at a big party where I knew a bunch of people and we got to talking and it was amazing. I met T organically at a small gathering (a BDSM meetup, it always amuses me to say) where I knew a couple people and we got to talking and it was amazing. But they are long gone and this subsequent era of living and working alone has created an entirely different mode of living.
I’ve read that lots of people, men in particular, find it hard to make adult friends. I’ve read that to lots of women, a guy having little or no male friends is a red flag. Well, I have no reliable male friends. So I guess I have a red flag. Understandable, but I don’t know what to do about it.
Thinking out loud here: Answers do exist. When ideas arise that are uncomfortable, we deny them. But step out of the box a minute. Think of someone you don’t really know and just ask. Turn it around: If some guy I don’t know very well except through the online medium wrote me and asked if I’d care to go to the Fair, I’d be pleased. I might not go but let’s be honest, I’d be pleased. So I could do the same. Scan the list and pick someone who doesn’t bother me somehow and take the leap.
Yeah, right. One thing about having no social life is you get to put your energies into getting things done. I have a camping structure to repair for an upcoming event (aha! social life!), I have a creative project for same, I have countless things to do to my house so it can be the environment I want, and I have to work as much as I can stand to.
So suddenly the thought of reaching out to grab someone semi-random and going to the State Fair looks like a great waste of bandwidth (i.e. both time and energy). The Fair isn’t THAT interesting. After a few minutes of looking at things, the main reason to be there is to be there with someone you want to be there with. That sort of energy doesn’t much exist between men. I only have it with men I’ve known since childhood, of which there are two, and neither is what you might call available.
So-o-o, I’m back today to using my new circular saw on some plywood, and busting up the old wood that I replaced with a new section of fence so it will fit the fireplace (it’s not treated wood — and rebuilding a section of privacy fence was a fun 103° afternoon, I do not jest, working outside is always a pleasure if you have shade and water nearby), and designing the pendants I wish to make and give away at the above-mentioned event, and repainting AGAIN some part of the bathroom (how the hell do you get paint to match the color of the paint that came out of the same can? it doesn’t, at all), etc. Who needs some old State Fair anyway?
AFTERTHOUGHT #1 — People actually do these things alone. I’ve done such things by myself. I forgot because I saw pictures and thought, aw, I wanna do that. But I don’t really, not at the State Fair. But I also wonder if this thought process arose out of my not yet being accustomed to being so single. Could be. That’s not a problem.
After the Supreme Court of the United States revealed its reconstruction into a radical activist court, there was a lot of anger in social media, a lot of sharing of feelings about no longer respecting and protecting one of the most fundamental liberties anyone can have. And we’re not talking about saving babies’ lives here, because most aborted growths are not babies, nor does the Bible say they are (if that matters); and besides, it’s clear most of the “pro-life” are not pro-life at all in any real meaning of the term. So fuck ’em. My plan was to join the conversation and write up my own experience with abortion. After some thought, though, I decided not to share it. A man’s experience of it is weak compared to a woman’s. I’d just be going hey look at me and that sucks. Pure ego.
So since it’s pure ego I’ve decided to put it here. Note that until now, only one other person on the planet has known this story. But keeping it as some sort of secret is no longer important to me.
I was with my high school girlfriend from 10th Grade into 12th, when sometime late in the year we broke up. Or not. She dated another guy for awhile. Then me. Then someone else. We were back together after the summer, then went our separate ways. Then lived together. Then dated other people and moved apart. Such are the lives of the young. But at some point in that confusing intercrossing of paths she turned up pregnant.
I had no conception of children and couldn’t wrap my head around them. Parenthood was a completely foreign concept to me. I hadn’t seen it role-modeled much, and never as regards small children. Occasionally as the high school boyfriend I’d go where the girlfriend was babysitting. There I’d see children. The little creatures were sort of like cats only more annoying. And they always liked me, which made it worse.
So when she was pregnant I had a feeling sort of like when I first entered a college calculus class some years later and found out trigonometry, which I had barely heard of, was a prerequisite. I found myself in another world, a world that made no sense, a world where I had no idea what I was supposed to do or think or feel. My attendance just sort of faded out. So when she was pregnant I sort of faded out: Did and thought and felt nothing.
She, on the other hand, had no such luxury.
We had no discussion of marriage. We had little discussion of creating a child and putting it out for adoption. She was an adopted child herself and had gone through hell with it. We agreed tearfully it would be a beautiful and intelligent child. We agreed tearfully that adoption as she’d experienced it was no place to consign a child, especially one who wasn’t all white. I felt relief, and not just a little guilt about feeling relief, when she announced she was just going to abort. Through enormous hard work and self-direction – she had gone to court to become a legally emancipated minor her senior year in high school – she was now succeeding at nursing school at San Francisco State. There was no question of interrupting her tenuous momentum. A new biological feature was growing within her, but not yet a child. Ultimately the biggest question about getting an abortion was how I was going to scrape up half the cost. Seriously. For both of us – not saying for her, but between us — that became the biggest question.
Years later when each of us was a parent we agreed that it would have been a wonderful child. And I have at times wondered what this person would have been like, half me, half her, probably well-known by neither of us. They’d be in their early 40s by now, with stories to tell I cannot imagine. But people who never existed don’t demand much in the way of speculation.
Access to abortion doesn’t affect just women. It affects men too. The difference is that it affects women to the limits of their being, but only affects men to the limits of their selfishness. I am grateful that we lived where my selfishness and her self-determination could be in alignment but such alignment cannot be taken for granted. Were the procedure unavailable I may have just kept quiet, and tried to look loving while I started the internal process of making distance, of trying not to look like I was running too fast. And then, in my panic, run as fast as I could. We know how easy it is for men, despite court orders, to run. She, on the other hand, would have entered an incalculably difficult time with no partner, no family, no escape. She was already on her own, with no one but me, sort of, and whatever friends she had made in college. That was it. Her high school attempt at suicide was because of feeling so alone. There’s no certainty what feeling so alone again would have led to.
I’m grateful for every child a woman chooses to have. I’m grateful for every choice a woman can make to control her life. There’s a lot to say about the philosophies and the politics now swirling about and I’m angry enough to dive into them. But people a lot smarter than me are doing that already. I can add nothing to that. I can just hold the ground, hold space for others, be ready to vote and do whatever else normal people can do who love their fellow humans … and their country while they’re at it.
I went back, just for today, to the job of a year and more ago where we worked on emergency vehicles. It was 103° and we had the rollup open but it was fun to be back in the shop. A year ago the business dropped precipitously and full-time staff was reduced to one. I figured out what else to do and continue to do so. But this was a good break from that, hot or not.
The Police Department of the City of Stockton has an armored car. We took it to replace the old cameras that were in the windows and add new ones. I strung CAT6 cable through it and crimped RJ45s onto them and that sort of thing. When done it will have ten new cameras and a new multichannel video system the police can monitor from wherever they are, plus a brand new solar power and battery system to keep it going however long.
This armored vehicle is clearly marked City of Stockton Police Department and UNDER VIDEO SURVEILLANCE and has cameras mounted on the roof and visible in the windows, all looking at whatever and whoever is around. The police park it in areas of high drug trafficking. They catch people all the time doing deals in plain view of the cameras. It’s been so successful they’re fixing to get another one.
Drug dealers are so stupid. No wonder they can’t get a job at Taco Bell.
All that social life nonsense aside. Are we not all really struggling? I am. But one gets the impression from very few other people that they are. I have maybe a small handful of friends who open up with their troubles on Facebook. They get huge amounts of support, of course. Surely a reason why they do it. There may be other places people open up but I don’t see them. Why open up? Well, of course, we need to be seen, to know we’re not as alone as we feel, to get affirmed in some way we have a hard time affirming for ourselves.
Well, I’m not going to do that. The expressions are temporary, for one thing. I could blast something out but within half an hour it would be an embarrassment. Still, there’s a bigger picture that doesn’t shift.
Sometimes I look around this house and feel it deep within that I didn’t buy it for me. I didn’t get it for me. I don’t really want to live in it. I can describe what a good house it is — and it is — but that’s mostly cover for the fact I don’t have the option of selling it. I have to live in it — no other option. And so I see the walls she painted. I remember a hundred different versions of interior deco which wasn’t deco, just countless art projects in progress with the lives of children interweaved. I see the girls running around chasing each other when it was their new home. Friends over to make art or just party (usually both). The two of us quietly playing cards and getting drunk and laughing uncontrollably. All that great shit you get maudlin about and no one wants to hear about.
So, yeah. Big house by myself. I like living alone but it’s a six-bed three-bath with a pool, for God’s sake. It’s a fixer-upper for which I have dozens of ideas. If I could retire I could do nothing but the house and be busy for years. Instead I use all that work as a barrier to the creative work.. Way behind on arts engineering now, that I was doing with her and then afterwards a little bit. All set aside now, nothing going on. The writing lurches off and on but at present it’s going nowhere, clearly just a hobby I use to justify not getting a real job.
What am I whining about here? Not sure. Lack of purpose, or lack of drive / energy / focus to have a purpose. Like that.
Covid sucks, by the way. It’s no joke. I didn’t bother to test until after the fever broke. From there I spent two weeks being tired and coughing a lot. I’m pretty much over it now. Test negative. But still coughing and that wears a person out.
So the depression is relentless but I do have support (yes I do, here or there) and it’s nice when the BP2 cycle goes into one of its brief happiness phases for no reason. Always a good reset.
This is the sort of shit I write sometimes and then shitcan because I’m only writing it to myself and I know no one else can relate or give a shit. But fuck it. This one goes out into the world while I go wash the car or something.
It’s about the house. That’s the bigger picture. Memories I seem obsessed with only stick around because I’m in the place where they happened and they aren’t yet exorcized. If I could have just sold and moved I would have. I’d have set this house aside and traded it in for a smaller one. I even know more or less where., just based on what parts of this city I like. Failing that, I need to keep working on making the place my own. that in turn impedes my progress as an independent creative engineer whatever. There are a lot of other factors without which this wouldn’t be much of a problem but those are different subjects.
I wonder how many more addenda will show up as I get embarrassed about having written this shit?
There are no maudlin associations with the lady who lived with me here more recently. That’s because there are no regrets. It was beautiful when it was on and it was beautiful as we transitioned. Also she helped me kick into high gear the process of making the place my own. So there are just no emotions associated with her time here beyond gratitude — and of course the good memories, though we were a very quiet couple and the memories are few.
This is like a diary entry or something that I just keep adding to. Well, I’m having a hard day. Which most days are tbh but wtvr.
I also have days when what I talked about yesterday — ethical non-monogamy, polyamory, play parties — don’t resonate at all. What I really want is not a light touch of sex with assorted people on a broad spectrum of age, as fun as that could be here and there, but a partnership. Someone about my age who has all the features and is about my age, a companion to walk with on the next phases of our respective journeys. Yes, I said that twice. The community alluded to looks great for people comfortably and safely and ethically exercising their inner sluts, and they do range from 20s to 60s and some are married and some never will be. There is constant testimony about how this safe and loving community has allowed them to find a space in which they can be happier than ever, and not because of lots of sex either, it’s about how they’ve come to love themselves and their communities and the planet in general. It’s no coincidence that there are no conservatives to be found, since conservatives are increasingly the paranoid and the non-trusting and the controlling in our society. (Yes, there’s a lot to be said about that, especially given my conservative instincts, but I’m not going there today.)
So back to my point. My point was that on the one hand I have issues to explore and hopefully close on that dovetail nicely with what this sort of community offers, while on the other I don’t want to misuse my time and energy where I won’t ultimately be going. I’m launching into my 60s and 70s and 80s as an actual writer, one hopes, and a grandparent, and I can’t tell if an unconventional sideroad will help with that by putting restless parts of myself to rest, or if it will turn out a great waste of energy and time.
The One went and the The Next One went, and I remain, still getting used to being single. I like it for the most part. Now and then I want a Nice Lady to do things with but that doesn’t last. I like living alone.
You know, when I write here I don’t think about it ahead of time. I just do it, maybe or maybe not do an editing pass. Hit Publish. Walk away.
I still grieve losing The One but what am I grieving really? I don’t miss who she is or who she was but some years-made construct that somehow serves to keep me in place. I don’t grieve The Next One so much but I miss her a lot more, the person she actually is. Now I’m done with girlfriends.
Except, I dunno. Sometimes I create a dating site profile and browse around but those things are stupid. You have to pay to play, for one thing. And they ask questions — create a “profile” for matching purposes — questions that are sometimes really stupid. So I go in and poke around and do the ego thing of describing myself and then I go, what the hell am I doing, and that’s that. Except for the sudden flood of notifications that people looked at my profile but didn’t leave messages, the illiterate twats.
I have covid. That really improves my mood. I got it, I think, on the SW flight home from PHX. I was in AZ for two reasons. The unplanned reason was the sudden death of my niece. First cousin once removed, to be technical. Without warning she suffered a ruptured cerebral aneurysm. She screamed, was put under, flown from Yuma to Phoenix, responded to hand squeezes a little while, and then was gone. I went down to be with family who’d come in from all over: her parents, her siblings, her aunt, myself. There was a lot of crying, a lot of stunned silence, and a lot of sick humor. Life goes on and you can’t live without a sick sense of humor. She was 31.
I was going down anyway, this just altered the logistics. The Next One, as I’m very rudely calling her (she deserves much better but it’s what I said above so I’m sticking with it) bought property outside of Show Low and is henceforth going to live in the high desert. I was going to drive down with her son when he moved to join her, but this happened, so I flew down early and then rented a car and drove over the mountains. My favorite reader and I went to the same area a little over ten years ago to attend a Burning Man-like thing. Now I was in an odd sort of Trump Country peppered with liberal Native American herbalists. Hard to explain. My friend is one of the latter. It was odd, though, to go into an actual town and see an actual Trump Won flag. What the fuck, people. He lost. Grow some common sense, read your Constitution, and get over it.
Anyway, helping out with the move at 7000 feet above sea level didn’t help my immune system prepare for a planeload of randomly infected humans not wearing masks. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad not to be wearing masks. But I did get sick and it’s destroying my already very weak finances (I don’t get sick pay).
Back to the beginning of this. Experiments and a Nice Lady to do things with. I don’t want a relationship. I’ve been in one or another my entire life with few breaks in between. Done with that. Time to get to know myself. But that doesn’t mean I turn monkish. I live within an hour and a half of the Bay Area. Particularly Oakland, which seems to host several different styles of open relationship communities. It’s like the world center of clear and complete love. I joined a group a friend recommended that stresses consent to an incredible degree (hence the misadventure described in April when I was just starting my homework) and believes in sex as communication. They host play parties. I haven’t been to any yet. It’s still weird to me. But I went to the annual weekend retreat and though I was way too unaccustomed to the culture to actually enjoy myself it was a hell of an eye-opener in what the options are to fill out a good life. Plus there’s no downside to hearing some woman or other make the forest ring with the intensity of her orgasms. People love to make fantasies come true. And get their own if the energy so flows. I dunno. It’s a vast experiment. Life is for experimenting. I won’t describe my adventures, should I have any. I’ve had adventures aplenty already, just not in this context, and I didn’t say a word, So, there we go. Why am I even writing about it?
Because I found myself getting all maudlin about The One and decided to write it out and it went its own direction, as such writing will.
You absolutely didn’t ask so here are a couple of my current self-delusions / descriptions.
I’m the sensual gentle sort whose main craving, to be simple about it, is affection. I’m experienced with an ENM life in addition to long-term monogamy and have decided to return to the ENM outlook for this next phase of exploration. Now after my somewhat circuitous journey I feel very much like a babe in the woods again, just an old babe in new woods. Oh, and my inner child really wants to learn to play as a grownup!
You can guess which one that’s for. The explicitly ENM (ethical non-monogamy) / polyamory one (NOT swinging, that’s a whole nother beast, ick).
I am creative and physical and curious and quizzical. I am amazed by my adult children. I live alone in my own home. I “retired” but am not rich so my next ambition is to be a starving artist. I’m not in any hurry. I love to explore. I love the smell of jet fuel in the morning. I love classical music and I love house music and if there is a spectrum in between them I am on it. My favorite cities are San Francisco and New Orleans. I did not write this to music. Maybe I should have.
I forget which one that’s for. But if I ever went out with anyone (which seems unlikely) it would be on me to disclose the ENM thing beforehand. If not, I wouldn’t be living the E part. No one deserves a lie of omission.
Well, I wrote this quite impulsively and will now go make dinner. And then I’ll get back to setting up my library. I have never had all my books on shelves. I’m looking forward to getting it done so I can stand back and admire my handiwork. They’ll be against one wall. I don’t believe in having too many books.
Been thinking I might start a blog. There’s a lot that goes with that, so I dunno.
Meanwhile I just broke my pickax. How the hell does that happen? Fuckers are meant to last a while. I’ve only had it a few years.
I had my palm tree removed a couple years ago but the stump, if you can call it that, is still in place. I let it die and dry and decided today to see if it was ready to bust up. The portion that had spread over the sidewalk looked like it had shrunk a bit so I jammed my pickax under that and used body weight and leverage to see how it rips. Cra-a-ack. What the hell was that noise? The haft had started to split.
Fu-u-uck. Now I have to go to Home Depot and see if they’ll pretend to sell a quality product and take care of me, or buy another one, or tell the universe to fuck off and do something else. In fact, the latter sounds best. I just got covid-tested because I’ve felt like crap for a full week now and I don’t feel like going anywhere. Bad enough I can’t work. I don’t need to go out and give the gods of chaos any more chances at amusement.
Somehow and unfortunately that thought led me to see I’ve had two close deaths this year and that some people always say things come in threes. Of course that’s nothing but human-brain pattern-matching, but sometimes it’s the thought that counts and so now I need new thoughts. Thoughts such as …
Well, the woman I bought this house for has been gone over three years but what have I really done with it so far? Once I got over the whole thing — which should happen any day now — I hoped to have transformed it into a place of my own with few if any remnants of her hard work and artistic sensibilities remaining. But that process has barely begun, in truth. Only yesterday I moved my bookshelves into what may be their “permanent” location. And the wall behind them is still in one of her characteristically creative colors.
Which colors the previous occupant of this burgeoning office of mine — the next girlfriend in line — had grudgingly to admit she actually sort of liked. In fact they went really well with her decorative furnishings. Since those were typically Native American, you could say the colors were — are — earthy but very bright. I rather like them myself. They’ll be colored over eventually but this room is well down the priority line for that.
Anyway. Blog. A guy from my high school keeps one on Patreon that I look at now and again. I didn’t know him then. He’s an interesting guy, his arc having gone from fatherless inner-city-hood through leading gangs and leading bands and doing I don’t really know what for all these decades until now he writes on matters topical to our East Bay with great energy and no small amount of talent. I think, well, I journal a ridiculous amount. I could do that. Pull together the various matters pertaining to the tall white cis-male life I lead that absolutely drips with privilege and see what might coalesce that’s actually interesting to read. Of course, I already know what’d be worth reading. I keep it in this box right here: [ ]
Not one but TWO, count’em, TWO parties to go to. Not everyone likes parties. I didn’t used to so much. But now that my inner introvert is turning out not to be such an introvert after all, I love ’em. Been wanting to get to some. Meet people. Maybe even meet someone or other in particular (that’d be nice).
But this morning I developed severe muscular aches and a blinding headache and a 101° fever and realized, God DAMN it, I won’t be able to go to either of them.
One of them is where I had my epic 60th birthday party four years ago, a poolside party jammed with arts / BMan (Burning Man) friends, pool, food, DJs, beautiful happy people. This is the party where I stripped naked and jumped dancing into the pool and a bunch of other people noisily did the same. The one where I found my face jammed between two pairs of naked titties and was too drunk to drag both wimmins away somewhere and lost ’em. The one my son attended and was introduced to the fact his dad is even weirder than he thought.
This one wouldn’t have been quite like that, obvs, but I looked forward to some sort of re-entry. I’ve been mostly out of that crowd since I embarked on a four-year relationship with someone who had zero to do with it, plus the pandemic. Everything is different now and I really want to go in there and find out how.
That was to be Sunday. Saturday I also had a poolside party to go to. Swimming, dancing, food (catered!), DJs, beautiful happy people. This crowd has practically no overlap with the previous crowd and is a chance for me to branch out away from the old BMan people. Old friends and re-entry or not I’m not sure I really want to have much to do with BMan people anymore. This poolside party was for a completely new direction.
But I gather you shouldn’t go anywhere until at least 24 hours after your fever has broken and that ain’t gonna be possible in the next 36 hours. It ain’t gonna break that soon.
I’m just bummed and writing about it. Weekend with the shortest nights of the year, beautiful ochre skies, warm breezes, people new and old. Looks like I’ll be staying in. Writing, maybe. Awesome.
Now and then I try to see what friends on Facebook have friends who are also friends of friends of mine. In simpler terms, if my friend F1 has a friend F1.1, and I have another friend F2 who has a friend F2.1, and F1 and F2 have no discernible connection between them (say one is from the Flaming Stick festival and the other is from Berserkley Low School), it’s cool to find out that F1.1 is friends with F2.1. Yes, that was simpler. Trust me, I’m an engineer.
How do you do this? Why do you do this? I know that’s the better question. Anyway, how you do this is to choose some friend with whom you have very few shared connections and look through their friends list, if it’s visible, and see who among their friends is labeled as having not one (F1) but two or more mutual friends. They will turn out to be F2.1. Or dot x or dot n or however you want to generalize the equation.
Example, when a friend of mine recently passed away and after I had done my communicating with his widow, I idly looked through her friends list (why I don’t know, being idle I guess). Suddenly I found someone I didn’t know with whom I had a dozen mutual friends. The friend and the friend-friend lived in Arizona. I looked and sure enough, the friend-friend-friends were from my high school and/or home town. Right, that’s not very unlikely, really, we’re all urbanites somewhere here Out West, but it was cool to see. She had another friend with lots of mutuals too, but I don’t remember if they too were Bay Area or if they were Burning Man. Both are likely enough.
Neither of those were a great surprise. It was just fun to look and see that we all really are close. By we I mean all humans.
It’s been speculated that every person on Earth is no more than six degrees of separation from anyone else. I don’t think this estimate was arrived at scientifically, but when they do look scientifically the number turns out to be lower. Facebook has of course a huge database and when they bother to run a process to see how it shakes out, they find all Facebook users are connected by an average of 3.57 degrees of separation:
What does this mean? It means that one of your best friends in college knows someone who knows someone who either knows or knows someone who knows this random little kid in Nigeria. You’d think the odds would be astronomical, but they are not.
Intuitively this might seem odd but I believe it. I believe it because I performed my own database search:
My mother (1) knew her grandfather (2). He worked for Mrs. Bidwell (3) when he worked as a handyman at the Bidwell Mansion. When she married John Bidwell (4), the attendees included such luminaries as General Grant (5). This is why I am 6 degrees at most from Abraham Lincoln.
Wait, no, 5! Annie Bidwell met Grant at her wedding. Du-uh.
It’s also why I have a typically Victorian fancy-ass bookshelf that used to be in the Bidwell Mansion. It’s rather useless because its intricacies give me no confidence that it could hold anything heavier than a large teacup collection. Never the less, Mrs. Bidwell had it thrown out and my great-grandfather retrieved it from the junk pile and repaired it. He was after all a carpenter by trade. No doubt she threw it out because someone put a book on it and it collapsed.
(Names, only used to make the narrative easier to write, may or may not have been changed.)
Sometimes Burning Man people have had enough of the desert and the dust and the distance and create their own local version. My favorite, and the one I would go to if I went to no other, is held a couple hours north of Sacramento on a cattle ranch among the oak trees and green rolling hills that rise west of I-5. It’s held the weekend before Easter, so of course it’s called Pagan Bunny Burn. As with its inspiration, a great wooden effigy is burned the final night, only instead of a man it’s a big dead bunny.
It’s so beautiful not just for the setting – the grass is green, a creek runs along the border, and some years you can see snow atop the Coast Range – but for the people. They bring a desire for the open-hearted love and trust that organically manifests a sort of universal love and trust – a phenomenon I cherish at Burning Man before the partiers and bucket-listers show up mid-week – and they bring not only their food and drink and their music and their visual arts and their flow arts and their whatever arts … but they also bring their children. The place is almost overrun with children, their faces painted like as not, playing games the various theme camps have constructed, running around, riding bicycles, shouting and laughing. Between the dance music and the fragrant breeze and the springtime palettes of colors and the laughter of children, the place is hard to beat.
A quick primer on BMan type stuff. There’s no buying or selling. People love to bring food and drink and give it out to whoever wants it. People make things to give away. People bring their music and their face paint and their clothing like nowhere else and their campsites strung with lights or set up with whatever creative thing – e.g. this year at the bunny burn there was a lamppost competition – as gifts to the community. Every camp, every article of clothing, is a personal expression, a visual feast, a gift. There are no true spectators. Everyone is part of the show in some way. For me, one of the greatest discoveries was how much more fun everything is if you go ahead and dress ridiculously.
And a lot of people call it “home.” I believe this, often subconsciously, is because the experience throws us if we are ready for it into a deep remembrance of what it’s like to play, to resurrect innocence and trust and, for the joy of it, just play. There is a lot of inner child work done subconsciously at Burning Man, and the place where that part of you that has been struggling with whatever trauma you internalized as a child can find a little healing in a lot of play becomes home to you; in some ways, for some people, more than any other.
After I got back I reflected on a few of the experiences.
1 I made a couple dozen bunny pendants to give away, complete with crossed-out dead bunny eyes. They were fun to make. I designed them from the PBB logo, ran some mirrored acrylic through the laser cutter, and assembled them with chains, jump rings, and clasps.
I went across the street to a camp where I knew some of the people. I thought it would be fun a and silly thing to sneak up behind Frida and slip one around her neck from behind. She did not think it was fun. Not at all.
“Who is this person violating my space without consent?” she asked loudly, and threw the pendant back at me. I suddenly realized what I had done. What I had done you just don’t do. It’s profoundly disrespectful to invade someone like that. To just say sorry and try to forget it would be equally disrespectful. I’ve learned all these things the usual way. So I took the moment as a lesson, and in front of the whole group apologized and thanked her for the reminder. I felt no end a fool. When I asked if I could give one to her she was still mad and said, “Maybe later.”
Hours later I came back and asked if I could give her a pendant. She accepted. I thanked her again and said I thought I was just being silly and totally fucked up on that one. She understood and agreed but her lessons are given in love and all was now well. Two days later as I was leaving I spoke to her again to express my embarrassment at doing something I knew better than to do and that I hardly ever do (I’m still mortified). I said I had chosen the wrong person to do it to. She agreed, then said maybe she was actually the right person.
I have heard from herself and others that she is the one in that camp who is most hypervigilant. This, I believe, is a trauma response. We all have trauma and trauma responses. Hypervigilance is (one of) hers. Therefore, yes, she was the right person with whom to violate consent. This being so, I probably set up the exchange subconsciously as a needed reminder lesson for myself. These things don’t really happen by accident.
In all these exchanges she smiled and looked me in the eye. She was a deep-hearted person and her eyes spoke it as they met mine. I think that by my error and my effort to correct it our bond was deepened just a little bit. I told her that she said something to my former companion Marie once that she had occasion to reflect upon several times. She asked what that was. It was, I said, that sometimes in an interaction with a new person, you suddenly realize you yourself are the accidental predator. After years of Marie believing her predator days were long over, that fucked her up. She immediately knew it was true and that she had to keep working on it. Frida was clearly moved that something she had said had a profound effect on my former companion. Our inner predator is something to remain conscious of and to look out for. I have it too, whether or not I’ve ever acted on it, and that’s not been easy to admit.
Overcautiousness over my theoretical inner and somewhat passive predator informs my limited initiative with interesting women, in particular a new acquaintance of the weekend who obviously did not have a problem with predators, passive or accidental ones anyway, and was something of one herself. I decided this overcautiousness of mine comes from a lifetime of usually attracting women who have been prey to too many predators. I created the safe zones they needed, but then their needs, in a codependent sort of way, overwhelmed my own. This pattern repeated in various forms from my high school girlfriend to my wife to Sunny. It is a dynamic I am well on the way to healing and, God willing, will never repeat again.
2 I was taking an accidental afternoon nap in my octahut when voices just outside woke me. I heard my name. I came out to find the Captain and six other people playing bocce ball through my camp. Miles said he needed a teammate and so I joined them. I was given a red wooden ball about the size of a grapefruit. The rules were easily explained: the winner of the last round pitched a tiny white ball, the jack or boccino, somewhere and we all tried to land our balls closest to it.
One by one they tossed their balls down the road. At my turn I couldn’t at first see the little ball, it was so small and blended in with the gravel. But I threw, others threw, someone’s ball bounced back and forth between the rocks to land closest, they won, tossed the little ball further along, and off we went.
We didn’t stay in the street. Mostly went through camps. Hit a tent or two but no vehicles. Went around the porta-potties. Crossed the most crowded intersection where bounces on the uneven ground contended with bicycles for interference. Rolled through Murga’s Ravine, that separated regular camping from theme camps. Here it was a shallow depression but closer to the creek it becomes a crack in the earth, and it was there one year that Murga tried to cross it in the dark. His leg dropped into a hole while the rest of his body was still moving and his leg was fractured in several places. Hence the name.
At Jackalopes – a theme camp with UV art and a keyboard where the artist sings and plays songs he’s written while the audience eats and drinks for free – a small child found the ball and picked it up. He was in fact the nephew of a friend of mine. I met his parents some years ago at the Edwardian Ball. The rule is that whoever’s ball is nearest the white one when the last ball comes to a halt wins. This did not change just because the little white ball was moving around in the clutches of a small child. The kid went all over the place, the camp having other games set up and plenty of grass to walk around in. The little boccino went all over the place. Our bocce ball tosses went all over the place. It would have been against the rules for any of the players to say anything to him, but someone else did, or distracted him, and he dropped it. Someone won the turn. As always, a toast was called for.
Given the unpredictable nature of the terrain, the bad hops, the weeds and tree trunks, the people walking through who didn’t know where that ball at their feet came from, the tents to roll under and the chair legs to carom off of, it was a very small matter of skill, if any at all, by which Miles and I won the game.
Thank God for friends who drink the last of your beer.
3 I was in my camp regrouping, perhaps fresh from another unintended nap (old age or just odd hours?), when a parade came down the street. I knew some of the people in it and they were shouting out that it’s Trouble’s birthday. So of course I joined them. Trouble is a relatively close friend who lived in my house in 2015/2016 taking care of Sunny’s kids, and then moved on to phase after phase of his life. Currently he lives in a van. He’s a talented costume designer and is now displaying talent as a fire spinner. The parade was a couple dozen friends and whoever else wanted to join in. It was spur of the moment so I went too, without even getting my utility belt and camera etc. People were as usual dressed in every manner of costume and waving flags. By way of illustration, I was by default wearing necklaces and a colorfully striped vest I got somewhere and loose brightly-colored cotton pants – because the wind was up and the skirt that serves as a daytime substitute for my heavy kilt just wasn’t going to do. If not for the wind I would have gotten through the entire weekend without wearing any pants.
We had music from the boom box Sunny’s new husband was carrying, a house dance mix of his own (everyone’s a DJ, I swear). We went down one street and back another, gathering smiles and greetings and occasional join-ins from the folks we passed. The streets were gravel-strewn dirt roads between the short grass where people were camping, temporarily reclaimed from the tenant cattlemen. Almost all evidence of the cattle had been cleared out, of course – almost.
One street posed a challenge. It was separated from the rest by a barbed wire fence that seemed to go an infinite distance in both directions. That was the turnaround point until I informed the crowd that a friend of mine had bridged it with a ladder. “This way!” I shouted and this way they followed. The Captain had put a ladder over the fence that formed an ‘A’ perfectly sized to cross over. I climbed across and stood on the far side to help people who wanted help, usually on account of uncertain balance, or flowing garments that might catch on the barbs. Kitten was in the full ball gown she had made for the Edwardian Ball so a bit of skirt-hiking added to her need for extra hands. We passed through the camp the Captain and eight or ten other people I knew had put together but no one was there for us to annoy. Down we went the street that parallels the cliff hanging over the creek, gathering more hellos and smiles.
By now we had split into a slow group and a slower group. I stayed between them with hopes of slowing down the lead group so the trailing group could catch up. Sunny had the same thought and for a moment the two of us were alone. I really hadn’t had much opportunity over the past few years to talk to her.
”It’s beautiful,” I said to her. “It’s beautiful that all the grieving and sadness can be turned into gratefulness and joy and how happy I am for you.”
She smiled and we embraced. I don’t know when we last really hugged one another.
”I love you, Don,” she said.
”I love you too. Always will.” I was choking up at this point. “All I ever really wanted for you was to be happy, to live and succeed on your own terms. And you’ve done it.”
”You got your wish,” she said, flashing her brilliant smile.
The moment passed. She went up towards her Don — the other Don, whom I learned some people call Don 2 — while the lead group stopped and the slower group caught up. I watched her and her husband stand close together, smile at each other. Her smile, looking up into his face, was so radiant, so beautiful, as beautiful as a sunrise. I saw perfect happiness, a complete joy in living. I remembered when she looked at me that way, once upon a time, and my heart (and my eyes) filled. Eyes filled and emptied. Every tear is a step forward.
It’s deeply bittersweet, to see her married to such a good match. The bitter isn’t truly bitter, though. I’ve mostly passed through the grieving and can be happy, sometimes unbearably so, for the memories of the joy we had, the years when we were perfect for each other, as she and Don 2 are perfect for each other now. As they follow their own journeys, two people can only be perfect for one another for so long. It’s truly beautiful when you can love and be loved so much you will let each other go to follow, as best you can, your truest paths. I learned this when yearning for her while in the arms of in some ways an even more remarkable woman, Marie, who shared with me the adventure of teaching and learning and loving and letting go while I passed through and away from that earlier pain, and in fact let go of the man I had been, making room for the man I’m now trying to become.
Our parade left the camping area and wound through the theme camps where gifting and games are the norm, and where a lot of the parade people were camping since they had brought something to share. At the far end, one of the bars had a DJ setup and the music was thumping as it almost always was, and we wound up dancing as our feet kicked up the dust and the wind swirled it around, dancing in a dust storm, just like in the desert, just like at home.