Friday, November 7, 2014

Proud Daddy - Scene Night

I am one of the luckiest people on the face of the earth.  I have two sweet angels for little boys.  They make me smile every day and I am proud of them.  I love them more than skittles and unicorns.  Even when they behave like total shits, which can be quite often as they get older and wise-assy (ages 9 and almost 12), they warm my heart and remind me why life is grand.

They do little things that they probably don’t realize how much I cherish.  Like when I drop Will off at school in the morning he will lean the top of his head over for me to kiss. He won’t leave until I get him and sometimes I stall just to enjoy the moment.  Drew’s latest school drop off ploy is to be the last to say goodbye, no matter what.

“Have a great day Drew, I love you.”

“Love you, bye.”

“Adios.”

“Bye.”

“See you later.”

“Goodbye!!”

“Buh-bye.”

“Bye!!!!” And he starts walking away quickly.

I yell, “Bye Drew!”

“BYYYYYYYYYEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!”

Every parent has countless moments like these and every parent is proud of their children.

My bigger kid is in 6th grade.  He worked his ass off last summer to prepare for auditions to get in the Denver School of Arts theatre department.  He was successful and that was a fantastic accomplishment. 

Last night was a proud parent moment on steroids. Will had his first performance on stage in front of a few hundred parents and classmates.   It was called Scene Night and every kid does a five minute scene from a play with one or two other kids.  The night opened with a short group number by the 6th graders and Will was in that too.  He did great.

Will was scheduled for after intermission so his scene was nearly three hours after the start of the night.  I took Drew out to dinner (sushi – another proud Daddy moment!!) and when we got back, there were five scenes to go before Will’s performance.  As I watched these super talented kids ranging from 6th grade to seniors in high school, I began to get really nervous.  None of the kids were bad and plenty of them were incredibly awesome.  I laughed my ass off at two 6th grade boys doing a funny scene from Blood Brothers.  They were four scenes before Will and it made me wonder how Will could be in this tribe of creative thespians!! 

I mean, I helped him with his lines one night, but we spent like fifteen minutes on it.  Will he remember his lines?  Will he be acting or reciting? Will his partner be good? What is that shiny thing over in the corner? What meetings do I have in the morning? What is that smell?  Okay, I got distracted during a scene from a Neil Simon play.  One more to go before Will.

Oh man, the scene before Will was by two seniors, one of which was a lead in Hairspray.  They were singing and making wonderful facial expressions and interacting and bonding and delivering lines with perfect timing and emotion.  Who are these people? And my kid is in this school? The last bit of drama I saw Will do was freaking out at Drew for touching him with his foot on the couch while we were watching Uncle Grandpa.

I found my heart beating faster than when I used to pitch in baseball or take the court in basketball.  It was going faster than when presenting in a new business meeting.  I was fucking nervous!!!!!!!!

Will and Sophia took the stage.  He nailed his lines, as did Sophia.  He was animated.  He was into the role.  He was a little man up there on the stage.  He was doing his passion.  He was living his dream. 

I fought back tears with overwhelming pride.  I took a deep breath and looked at Drew shoving sour skittles in his little pie hole.  I looked at Will’s mom and could see her fighting back tears as well.

I watched Will triumphantly walk off the stage with Sophia and thought, who the hell was that kid

He’s mine.  My little man.  My joy.  My angel.  My heart.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Burning Man 2014

I attended my third Burning Man in a row this past August.  As with the first two, I traveled from Colorado to Black Rock City, NV (the name given to the temporary city that is Burning Man every year) with my buddy Rich.  We camped with the Movement of Jah People (MOJP) art car folks again, although every year it has been a significantly different camp.  But Burning Man isn't about our camp or an art car.  It's about a lot of things and is unique to each individual.

To me, Burning Man is about love, art, giving, community, freedom, creativity and a helluva lot of fun! By experiencing those things, you pretty much automatically gain participation which is a key principle of Burning Man.  Of course you can actively engage in participation, which is part of the fun too.  And then when the man burns, it's about starting anew.  Letting go of the past, whether its been good or bad.  Life is temporary, as is the man and all of Black Rock City. So live in the moment, take nothing for granted and take action now.  There may be no tomorrow.  Rage rage against the dying of the light!

Trying to explain Burning Man is like trying to tell a blind person what the color green looks like.   The best way to understand is to go.  But since it is 10-1/2 months to the next burn, I'll provide a photo recap with brief narration here.  There are tons and tons of photos and videos online from professional photographers that do a much much better job of showing BRC, the art, the people and the overall vibe than I can do with my iPhone camera.  Here is my favorite link to over 500 pictures in a very easy to scroll format.

And now for some of my personal experience at this year's burn:


This is Black Rock City.  The dust tornados are at 12 o'clock.  The big round dot (are dots anything but round?) is Center Camp and is at 6 o'clock. The city is very well organized by using a clock and alphabetical street names after the interior street of Esplanade.  I was camped at 4 and A this year. So that is one block in from Esplanade at 4 on the clock.  If I met someone at 10 and K, I'd know they are way up there to the left of the dust tornadoes, eleven blocks in from Esplanade.  The middle of the city is called the playa.  Well, all of it is really the playa, but for explanation purposes, consider the middle the playa.  Dead center of the playa is the man.  At 12 o'clock hidden in the dust tornadoes is the temple.  Beyond the temple and the city is more playa.  It's about five square miles if BRC were square (it's actually laid out as a pentagon).  Anything out there past the temple is considered the deep playa.  Most of the art is scattered in the interior of the playa, but there are installations all over the deep playa as well.

Every year there is a theme attached to Burning Man.  This year was Caravansary.


Caravansary is based on the famous Silk Road that ran through Asia and Europe back when nomads would travel great distances to trade and sell goods such as spices, textiles and grains.  Great theme for Burning Man.  These people would travel with their life possessions and often have horses, camels, goats and other livestock.  

There is an awesome Proverb of the Caravan of Dreams that states: "If you have no troubles, why not buy a goat?" 

Rich and I took this Proverb very seriously and set out to buy a goat of our own.  Here it is!


After renting an RV the first two years, we decided to buy our own transportation to Burning Man and hope to get some extra trips out of it with our families every year.  This has already proven an excellent investment as the trip to Burning Man worked out great and we let our friends and family borrow The Goat anytime it is free.  Yes, our RV is known as The Goat - we had no troubles so we bought a goat!  It even has its own Facebook page.  Like The Goat here!  The Goat has not only been a reliable vehicle for Burning Man, but it has taken my ex wife and kids to Yellowstone, Rich and his family to Mount Rushmore and my buddy Corby to his kids' baseball tournament.  The Goat also does charity work!


The Goat served as the stage backdrop and green room for the bands at a charity concert this past weekend.  Clearly we got into the goat thing.  And we aren't even from Wyoming!!  

Did you know the goat represents luck, prosperity, longevity and happiness? Since we got our own goat, we decided to bring goats to our family at BRC as well.  So we made these bracelets highlighting the goat and also sporting a tassel representing the Silk Road.  Notice our goat is Rocky Mountain ram style as a symbol of our default world home of Colorado.


Now that we got our goat, it was time to load it up and hit the Silk Road to Burning Man!  We meticulously planned our cargo by prioritizing the most important goods.


It is important to stay hydrated on the playa and we figured we better stock up on beer flavored water. With no offense to our ride mate Alison's dancing skills, our other priority was to have some non stop dancing by a hottie to keep us entertained.




Meet Lafawnduh jamming to Born to Run. We are all born to run, aren't we? Classic road trip jam! The guy next to her is the man, by the way.  Lafawnduh made us happy.


Another hot chick that makes us happy is Dawn, the Vapid Vixen. Click on her link to read her take on our annual tradition of stopping in Salt Lake City to kick off our trip.  The first year was a quiet, nice breakfast.  Last year was a little more rocking with drinks at Piper Down and dinner at Red Iguana, but it was still under control.  This year?  We never made it out of Piper Down and this is really the only picture I'm able to show you.


I think Dawn was a little scared.  I base that on her deer in the headlights look she had as she watched the antics going on around us, particularly by some of our other friends that joined us.  I think there were ten of us making Salt Lake City a little bit like Vegas for the night.  Luckily amongst the debauchery, I was still able to spend some quality time with Dawn and I will forever be grateful to this crazy weird blog that I barely touch anymore because it is how I met the Vapid Vixen in the first place. Things happen for a reason right?  Like when Rich and Dawn agreed that Dawn will come to Burning Man next year and she sealed it with a pinky swear?!  Pinky swear Dawn!!  You are so in!  By the way Dawn, say hi to your mom for me.  Wink wink.

After two long days of driving, the last few miles are on the playa to get to the gates of Burning Man which can take hours to get through. This year was no different.  Until the rains came.  We were probably 80% of the way through the line, after hours and hours of creeping along when the rain and hail pelted the playa. They closed the gates and sent cars on the highway back to the nearest town. We were stuck in line with a few other thousand burners and were told it would be a full day before the gates reopened.



The muck was like wet cement.  Vehicles couldn't move and if you walked in this stuff, it was best to put bags on your feet.


So what do you do if you know you are going to be stuck all day in the mud with a ton of other burners?


You make ravioli!  And get on top of The Goat!


Just like the DJs did a few RVs down.


Creating an instant dance party that went all day long and was attended by people like this:


Why yes, yes that is a nipple.  There are worse places to be stuck in line, right? 

The good news turned out that they decided to open the gates for us around 6p that evening instead of keeping us there in line all night.  At Burning Man, Black Rock City is considered your home while wherever you live the other 51 weeks of the year is called the default home.  When we finally got to the gate, the first thing the greeter does is welcome you home.  We had a virgin in The Goat so we got to enjoy Alison having to roll around in the playa dust before finally making our way to camp. 

In the morning, we finally got a closer look at the man.


Per this year's theme, he was surrounded by a souk. Of course there is no money or sales at Burning Man, so it was kind of a farce and fully just giving, but it played off the theme really well and was a very cool way to present the man. As you can see, he was huge! That's what she said!

The other flagship landmark is of course the temple. Remember, the man is in the center of the playa and the temple is at 12.



The temple definitely has a different vibe to it than the rest of Burning Man.  There is happiness there and in fact every year some couples get married there and people have wide smiles at the glory that is the temple.  But mostly people go there to meditate, think, mourn and go somewhere deep in their mind that often is frought with pain or sadness.  It becomes a shrine to loved ones passed, addictions left and demons still lurking.  It is a place of immense beauty and power and despite much of the loss, it really is a place of hope and good.  I spent some time in the temple thinking and appreciating what I have in this world.  I wrote some messages to loved ones and left knowing that on Sunday when the temple burns, my thoughts and messages will forever be put out there in the universe despite now being gone.  My heart always swells with love and gratitude in the temple, even while there are tears from moments in my past and longings for the future. 

It is nice to contrast the emotions of the temple with the pure joy and fun of the reggae art car we have been camping with all three years.  Movement of Jah People (MOJP) has it's own Facebook page too and is quite the work of art built by our friend Ian.  It is always fun to cruise around the playa on the MOJP.



There are over one hundred art cars at Burning Man.  Our camp actually squats on the corner of a much larger group called Camp Walter.  They now have four art cars! Here are the three main ones - The VW Bus known as Walter, Heathen and Kalliope.




The Kalliope also has its own Facebook page and is becoming a national presence at music festivals. Don't get me wrong.  Burning Man is NOT a music festival by any means.  However, there is non-stop music 24/7 and the Kalliope is a really fun centerpiece, especially at night.


The DJ is actually above the Kalliope letters.  Crazy stuff.  



When the sun goes down, Black Rock City becomes a whole other animal.  Many of the things you see during the day look completely different at night.  Like one of my favorite art installations:


Art is everywhere and it all has some sort of lighting element so you don't die smashing into it on your bike or in an art car or just walking.  Ironically, the danger of running into something is often way less than the danger of climbing on it.  This is nearly impossible to see, but it was a giant gator and I decided it would be smart to climb fifteen feet up to the jowls of the beast for a photo.  You can see light hanging around my neck and wrapped around my leg.


Another fun night time activity is to find the rare live music.  We went to Crossroads at 9:45 and A a few times for the 19 piece band.  This picture does it no justice.  There was a tower of dancing platforms behind the main stage.  And an awesome bonus was they gave out grilled cheeses during the show every night.


My favorite way to explore Burning Man is by cruiser bike.  Its a big city with 68,000 residents and no matter how much ground we cover, we probably see less than half of everything, particularly all the cool camps.  One night we were cruising around the city and were invited over to Donuts and Porn camp for some freshly baked sweets.  Sure enough, they were showing old black and white pornos while serving piping hot fried donuts.  It was hilarious!  And then just down the street, there was a huge dodgeball tournament going on.  This is all after midnight!


After more cruising around, we realized it was just a couple hours before sunrise.  Normally this would mean I'd say, "Holy shit, I need to get home to bed."  At Burning Man you say, "Cool, only two more hours to sunrise!  Lets bungee cord chairs to our bikes and go to the temple to watch!"


So that's what we did. Rich managed to fall asleep sitting up. As were dozens of other people around us. I spent most of that time talking to a Ukranian woman and then a guy from Argentina. Finally the sun began to rise.



I'm not a morning person, but I have to admit I was feeling pretty damn good and happy that sunrise. Burning Man is like being on another planet and the playa is like magic. It does things to you.



Most people would agree the flagship art this year was Embrace.  Check it out as we rode past during the sunrise.  They burned it down Friday morning.


So what else do you do during the day at Burning Man? You live in the moment. You visit the souk and the man.


You check out the teacups art car.


You visit the Barbie Death Camp.


You grab buddies and ride to the Distrikt.


You find an old friend at a German beer party.  Hard to believe Rich and Eric are fathers, husbands and successful business owners.  Look at these guys!



Old friends find you! I don't know who the random hot chick is with Don and me.


But she makes it a better picture than with Rich, don't you think?


You laugh at Hooooooooooowwwwwwwse as he does countless picklebacks, the unofficial official drink of Burning Man (a shot of whiskey chased with pickle juice).


If you don't like whiskey or pickle juice, you can always go to the annual Reggae and IPA party. Rich didn't think it sucked. The guy behind Rich is holding a car buffer.  He was using it to give quick back massages.


If a big dust storm comes up, which they often do, its nice to take shelter.  I spent an hour in an art installation that looked like a mosque.  It was called the library.  It had hundreds of homemade books in it.  All the pages inside were blank recycled paper.  I wrote stories, read other people's stories and made a poem alternating lines with other burners.


Sometimes the best thing to do is lay down on the playa with a bullhorn.  In a tutu.  As did one of our campmates, Nikki.


Our camp also had a Lori and a Go Lauri to hang out with. I lifted the former for exercise and visited a witch doctor with the latter.


The girls definitely helped our Burning Man street cred, yo.


Burning Man is whatever you want it to be.  It is open like your mind.  It is bigger than just an event. It is life.


Its also a place where I like to pose with my arms spread wide.  This shot has become a tradition after a photo in year one was taken with the "I'd rather be here" sticker unknowingly being in the foreground.


Where else can I wear my Mary pants and heavy metal boots (besides maybe to Vegas and your mom's house)?


Protection from the sun and dust is also an opportunity for more costuming.



Speaking of costumes, of course there is also the annual Pink Party where I got to sport my thrift store shirt I got in Nashville while hanging with the Minxy.


It was all fun and emotional and silly and difficult and wonderful and loving and frustrating and out of this world.  There were so many incredible moments.  One of my very favorites was when Rich and I went to the souk with our goat bracelets and gave them away for a couple hours.  We met people from all over the world and they were truly touched by the thought and meaning behind them.


Plus it was a good place to hang with the man.  He burned down two days later.


A man by the man, right?  I have video of the man burning.  It starts off with better fireworks than any 4th of July celebration I've ever been to.  Google it.  The Blogger doesn't seem to want me to add video here.  So I'll sign off this photo album of a blog with the best part of Burning Man.  Hanging out with like-minded people that don't judge you but rather they add substance, creativity and value without even trying.  They give.  They listen.  They challenge.  They love.  For that, I am grateful to have so many wonderful people in my life.  Particularly this dude.


Next year Rich and I are starting our own camp.  I don't think we will be themed the first year, but that's not what is important anyway (although we have thrown around ideas).  We just want like-minded people that want to be part of a little community while still having their own burn.  Our goal is to live in the moment.  Dawn is in.  She pinky-swore.  That means we need reinforcements.  Hopefully some of our old campmates will join us.  What about you?