august, 2011

Mon, 01 Aug 2011 18:22:11 -0700

The Milky Way was luminescent up in Saratoga Springs this weekend. I noticed it first as I lowered myself slowly into the hot tub Thursday evening, focusing on the sensation of the warm water on my thighs against the cooling night, and then tilted my head back to put my hair out of the water's reach. I gaped, frozen half-submerged and mid-ponytail, at the sky. It was also visible in the wee hours of Sunday morning from atop a picnic table, in a clearing through bushes and up the hill, the lights from the full-throttle dance party below visible over the trees but still earthbound enough to not spoil the galaxy's speckled glow.

Costumes are easier each year -- I now truly have accumulated the fabled costume bin at which I so marveled when visiting Tessa & Christoph's apartment in 2005, so it's now only a matter of washing the pieces out, and maybe throwing in one more tutu or pair of striped stockings for good measure. TQ organized matching vinyl corsets this year; mine stayed on through Saturday's dinner and opening ceremony, but had to come off (along with the platform boots) to be able to properly flail myself around the thumping dance floor that night. I paraded around earlier Saturday afternoon in my white knee-high go-go boots and polka-dotted bathing suit, carrying ice on my head back to chill my little coolerful of Tecate, then lounging poolside under a cotton-lace parasol. Jinnah handed me a spicy Bloody Mary; the music cranked higher and stronger all afternoon: A pool party for grown-ups, even as their children splashed adorably around the shallow end, wearing aviation-quality soundproofing earphones.

The communal food went smoothly (or at least dramatically more so than last year). The round-the-clock coffee was smooth (albeit pungent in my office and then my house, 50 pounds of fresh ground giving off such an aroma that I stuck it out on the front landing for the night before I drove up). The music and lights -- well, this is why one comes to an event like Friends & Family, isn't it? To witness what the collective passion of a bunch of grown-up ravers can do, when concentrated and put to the common good? The music and lights were off the chain, to use the vernacular. And the dancing, on a small dusty area with enough gear for a crowd ten times that size and a sixty-kilowatt generator, was nonetheless intimate -- you knew everyone there, even if you didn't: The boy with the fauxhawk and gold pants you saw poolside earlier in the afternoon; the DJ whose eyes you recognized through his 3D-printer-generated mask; the girl with the blue EL-wire wings; the cute Oakland raver you just met in the dinner line that evening, when your platforms made you taller than him. It was not a question of "could have danced all night" -- oh, but we did.

Tue, 30 Aug 2011 18:56:16 -0700

I swore last year, as Shawn, Cynthia, & I struggled to put up our eleventh-hour tensegrity structure in a rainstorm, with its canvas smelling of motor oil, and eventually succumbed to the neighbors' gin and shelter, that I wasn't going in 2011. Swore again sitting that night at the base of the Man, unable to find the friend who had said to meet him "by the marching band" (of which, of course, there had been several), annoyed and alone in a white, furry bolero jacket, until a group of lovely men carrying synchronized LED white children's umbrellas offered me conversation, a cocktail, and the comfort of their blinking toys. Swore again tacitly as the virtual gates for tickets opened in January, and I didn't queue, didn't buy one. Felt validated in late July as Burning Man itself sold out -- sold out! For the first time ever! -- and I remained resolutely ticketless. Had to swear every time thereafter that I mentioned it to a friend, an acquaintance, even a stranger after Cody's trolley party, a friend of his French neighbor at their new house (he and Ellie closed escrow a mere day before me), promised me an extra ticket at what must have been 2, 3am, implored, camp with us! --No, I had to say over and over, I'm not going this year.

And now it's Tuesday of the week of the burn, and lo and behold, I haven't gone. I'm on the shuttle home from work, having resolved a few bugs, finished a lingering bit of maintenance, helped a new guy through some hairy corners of our configs, gone to the weekly team meeting, had a beer in Jinnah & Astrid's office. I'll pick up our weekly coffee order at Ritual tonight, maybe also a library hold, have a glass of wine, some leftover gazpacho I made from my CSA tomatoes. It all sounds so quotidian -- remind me why I'm not there, again?? Walking home from Beretta last night (Laurence convinced me that the 50,000 people who descended on the Black Rock Desert every last-week-of-August would mean no line for cocktails and margherita burrata pizza in the Mission, which proved -- yet so early in the week, at least -- a lie), I passed the hot breath of Amnesia, the vocalist between sets cradling a glass of whiskey at the mic; passed the last seating at Delfina lingering at outdoor tables on 18th St., nursing the last sip of Carménère and counting out a tip under the eaves' heat lamps; passed a girl who leaned out of a van and asked directions to Valencia, and, having gotten them, yelled "Thank you! You're hot!" -- and I could almost see the dusty streets and the rising moon, the flicking on of headlamps and EL-wire, hear the sound of hammer on rebar and the first low-wattage glimmer of a rave that would become full-throated by the end of the week along the Esplanade. The veil between 18th St. and the 6:30 radius blurred; I reached across it with my heart and gave the girl in the van directions to Valencia.

I go every year because, as I remember these things, my pulse quickens. Excuses of binaries to deploy, money that were better spent elsewhere, negative vacation time, never hold, because this isn't zero-sum: I will find the necessary money and time to answer the sirenic desert.

I did dust off my costume bins this last weekend, though, if only to move them into the part of my new garage I'm not leasing out, the part I can use as storage for old chandeliers, the coffee urns from FnF, the old suitcases I should have unpacked years ago, to make room upstairs for my new roommate Katherine to move in. And I felt virtuous and justified in so doing: In my unintentional resolution for 2011 to Behave More Like An Adult, I have not only bought a house, but have gotten a roommate to help me with the mortgage, stated my boundaries when boys have been unclear, and now -- or so I'm telling myself -- not succumbed to my annual Fear Of Missing Something ("FOMS," a compulsion so strong that Toby even used to have an acronym for it) by going to the playa simply because it's the best place on earth.

But my colors are showing beneath my resolutions. Next year. Next year, with a fonder heart...

all this Šnori heikkinen, August 2011

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