)'( – The Return
I went back to Burning Man this year. I know I never quite finished the previous post series about it, because like most of my projects, my instinct to refine ad infinitum resulted in them never getting done. I do think my thoughts on this year might be concise enough to put onto one post. Might… let’s find out by the end of it.
I was part of the Fire Conclave, again, which is the umbrella term for all 26 groups of fire dancers, each of which perform their own choreographed routine on the night before The Man Burns.
Not only is our show the final event that occurs before the event’s namesake, but this year we got front-row seats. That is to say, as soon as we were finished performing for the audience, we gathered our gear, huddled together, sat down, and turned around to watch him burn. And what a spectacle it was.
But really, that’s the most mundane part of Burning Man, as spectacular as it is. It’s one of very few things in Black Rock City that everyone knows for certain is going to happen. The rest of the week was far more unexpected, and mine had a strange hodgepodge of qualities that contrasted each other weird ways. For instance, despite being wildly unpredictable and indeed having no plan whatsoever for most of the week (in part because I lost my events booklet on Tuesday), my time in Black Rock City this year was very, very calm. There’s no shortage of partying hard on the Playa, and as much as I wanted to and even intended to this year, I simply… didn’t feel like it. Let me walk you through my week…
The start of it was fairly bumpy; after six and a half hours of waiting in line (seeing the sunrise while waiting in line wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought), I got my camp set up right on Esplanade by noon on Monday and immediately began visiting friends I had across the city. This already sharply contrasted with the beginning of my first burn, when I spontaneously made friends with a couple of other first-time burners and we spent much of the week galavanting around the city together. This time, my camp was filled with veterans and I never really felt like I needed to ‘go out there’ to have extremely wholesome conversations and connections with people. Indeed, camping on Esplanade made me feel like I never had to leave; by night, I simply sat on the scaffolding to gaze upon the illuminated art and citizenry.
Tuesday and Wednesday were my ‘party’ days, if I had any. Alcohol, music, and merriment is kicked up with every grain of dust out there, and I certainly did partake. I danced with fire among friends and made a few new ones… but Wednesday night was the peak for me. Oddly enough, that’s when my body should have gotten around to acclimating to the environment, and my energy level should have gone up, but the rest of my week had, believe it or not, a rather consistent routine.
Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, I slept until maybe 10 or 11 AM, woke up, used the restroom and ate, then went back to camp, looked out among the Playa, looked back into the campsite and saw our camp’s cozy little tepee and fuzzy soft carpet, and curled up to nap until 4 or 5 PM. Then I generally wandered a bit around the city, talked to my camp mates, but very little else. In retrospect, maybe it was dehydration (ended up only drinking like 5 gallons the whole week… which doesn’t sound right), or poor nutrition (some day I might prioritize food well enough to plan… meals? nah) but ultimately I’m glad the rest of the week was so relatively relaxed. It made my personal best time on Playa this year shine that much brighter.
Thursday night, I found charisma! If you know me personally, you probably wouldn’t describe me as ‘charismatic’. I get unreasonably excited about very specific things and am extremely difficult to engage with or stimulate outside of those specific things, though not for lack of trying. Thursday night at Burning Man this year, however, must’ve hit one hell of an intersection of stimulation for me because I was stone sober while attending a wonderful interactive art piece known as the Tesseract. With unbridled enthusiasm I shouted at people “Introducing the latest in human transdimensional transport technology! The Tesseract will take you to the fourth dimension and if you are very very lucky, it will bring you back!” Despite my general distaste for excessive theatrics, it simply flowed out of me. Multiple people commented that my attitude improved their experience and for two and a half hours I was spewing more positive energy at people than I ever thought I had. And the craziest part? It was contagious! I would open up the Tesseract to let someone out and shout “YES, ANOTHER ONE MADE IT BACK!” often enough to be met with joyous laughter. Charisma… is it just… being happy at people? Because that’s what it felt like, and wow it felt great. I really hope I can wrangle that some day to use it at will.
And the art… honestly, to talk about the art at Burning Man feels like trying to talk about the heat after visiting the sun. I could describe the enormous LED spiral circles that were vertically stacked one night and rolling around the desert the next. I could tell you about what I thought was a huge statue being slowly set up and posed, only to learn it was the biggest marionette I now know exists. I could even describe to you the vicious, sharp metal humanoid figure of Killbot 3000, a statue built on the base of The Man: in its left outstretched hand was what appeared to be a Tickle-Me-Elmo doll that had been ripped to shreds and somehow bloody (for good effect), and it seemed so menacing and evil… until I walked around it and saw a message written on the back of its right arm: “I don’t want to kill anymore”, and even though he didn’t move, my entire perspective of the statue shifted drastically. The dismembered Elmo wasn’t a warning, but a plea.
I do have a small regret in not going out into Deep Playa at least a couple more times this year.
I haven’t taken the Wifey yet, so I’m not done with Burning Man at least until then.
Honeymoon 2017: Bletchley Park (Day 2)
Welcome back everyone!
Today, we went to the Bletchley. If you’re familiar with the movie “The Imitation Game” starring Benedict Cumberbatch, this is where it all took place. Bletchley is considered the home of famous cryptologist and father of the modern computer, Alan Turing, during WWII. I would say this is a must-see for any computer nerds, cryptologists, or WWII junkies.
On Sept. 3, we woke up at 6am, ate breakfast downstairs and headed off to the tube across the street. We took it from Gloucester Road to Green Park and transferred onto the Victoria Line all the way to Euston station. We got there at about 8:00 which is when we bought tickets for “National Rail System” Train where we took the London Midlands Line all the way to Bletchley Park (BP). That took about an hour and we arrived at 9:30 to the station, which was literally a 5 minute walk to the Bletchley campus.
BP was absolutely amazing. First of all, the estate is sprawling, which is interesting because it’s essentially an expanded farmhouse. Inspyre and I had anticipated there wouldn’t be THAT much to do there (we were still under the impression it was just a farmhouse), but we were sorely mistaken. We were there from opening to closing (5:30 pm) and I would argue we still didn’t get to see all the exhibits we wanted to. We did take a tour of the grounds, but the tours fill up VERY fast.
***A word of advice: Sign up for your assigned tour first thing in the morning, and then have lunch right after the tour is done.
You can spend the rest of the day seeing the exhibits on your own time. That being said, we were going from exhibit to exhibit so much, we actually skipped lunch.
***A word of advice: Don’t skip lunch. With all the walking, I only noticed when I almost fainted.
By the time we did notice, it was tea time, and the restaurants on campus had stopped serving entrees.
We left BP at 530, boarded our train back home, and I promptly fell asleep, pretty much not walking up until we got back to the hotel. I ended up taking a 3 hour nap until about 9:30, which basically killed the rest of the day. I recommend NOT doing that. Drink plenty of coffee instead.
Tomorrow, Inspyre and I go on our first planned day tour – Stonehenge, Bath and Strattford-upon-Avon!
Be sure to leave your comments below, or feel free to contact us with any questions! Thanks and see you next time!
Honeymoon 2017: London (Day 1)
Hello Lovely Readers,
So a few opening points. Firstly, if there’s something I think readers should absolutely be aware of, it’ll be demarked with “***A word of advice”. Be sure to read those for important tips! Additionally, on every trip we take, we download maps of the cities we’re going to be in in advance. The app is MAPS.ME. This is basically a MANDATORY app. It is SO important and useful. It’s basically the only way to guarantee you won’t waste ages of time getting lost. Please head my advice. Additionally, any photos, unless otherwise noted are my own. Please ask for permission before use. Moving on!
So, Inspyre and I left from LA to England at 8:30 in the morning on American Airlines. Overall, the flight was rather poor with no food or entertainment. There was a 2 hr layover in Philadelphia, at which point we got onto our second, international flight. There was at least in-flight entertainment this time, but the food was some of the worst food we’ve ever eaten. Neither of us could finish it. On the plus side, we did land an hour earlier than anticipated at Heathrow.
***A word of advice: Heathrow is known as one of the busiest airports in the world. That includes the security lines. Be ready for at least an hour of waiting in line, and bring some snacks.
Heathrow is well prepped for tourists and has an entire section after security ready for tourist-y type tickets. Most of the tickets we decided could be purchased through our hotel concierge, so we only bought Oyster Pass tickets at the airport.
***A word of advice: Oyster Pass is basically mandatory if you’re in London. It’s the cities transit system, but most importantly, their Metro. 99% of attractions are available by Metro. GET THE OYSTER PASS.
After getting the Oyster Pass, we immediately used it to take a metro to our hotel on Gloucester Road – Millennium Gardens. When we got there, we were told our room wouldn’t be ready for another 4 hours, which was incredibly inconvenient. We decided to use the time to drop off our luggage with the concierge and wander the city. We decided to wander in the direction of Kensington Palace, which we were a stones throw away from. However, Inspyre, who’s never been international, had jet-lag hit him like a bucket of rocks in about 30 minutes. We headed back to the hotel prematurely, without really having seen anything.
At this point, I informed the reservations desk that we were on our honeymoon, and Inspyre was basically hallucinating from jet-lag. They informed us they could have our room ready in an hour! I convinced Inspyre that we could get some food in the meantime. We went to a Starbucks across the street, and then went directly to Nando’s, which was right next door.
FOOD REVIEW: Nando’s absolutely lives up to it’s international reputation. Although the menu isn’t terribly complex, it has perhaps the best chicken I’ve ever had. Inspyre and I shared chicken thighs, garlic bread and mashed potatoes.
We then headed back to our hotel at 12:15 pm. Not only was our room ready, but because it was our honeymoon, the hotel upgraded us from a Standard room to a Superior room, complementary! Inspyre then proceeded to accidentally sleep for 4.5 hrs.
HOTEL REVIEW: Millennium Gardens was a PERFECT hotel. It is very centrally located, 2 minutes walking from the nearest Metro station, and absolutely beautiful. The staff are incredibly helpful, and in particular the concierge desk is one of the most valuable resources I’ve had on any of my vacations. Furthermore, they even serve breakfast downstairs every morning. Not only was it always delicious, but there was a wide selection in their buffet. 5 star review.
By the time he woke up, it was about 5:30. We went across the street to Nero’s, a very popular coffee shop in Europe, and continued to explore. The first thing we did was find a shop that would sell us a universal adapter for our appliances (laptop, phone, etc.). The store we found was a little hole in the wall, Kensington Communications, that sold it to us for 20 pounds instead of 22, because we paid in cash.
***A word of advice: Bring a universal adapter. Bring cash.
We were close to the palace grounds at this point, so we wandered to Kensington Palace. The palace is known as the last place Princess Diana lived, so the whole place is basically a memorial to her. Inspyre and I decided not to do a tour, as we would rather see one of the palaces that focus more on history than on a single person. Instead we wandered the grounds for hours. By the time we decided to stop, my feet were aching and I felt ready to collapse.
***A word of advice: Wear sneakers. Definitely wear sneakers.
We headed back to the hotel, where our concierge David makes his debut! David was one of most knowledgeable people, I’ve ever met in regards to London. He knew every restaurant, every travel tip, and even customized his recommendations based one what things we liked to do (he was the one who suggested Kensington Palace might not be up our alley). Inspyre asked David for a good Italian restaurant and David recommended Da Mario or Il Borno for Italian food or if we decided on Mediterranean food, MK Market. We settled on Da Mario.
FOOD REVIEW: Da Mario’s was fantastic! We started off appetizers with a buffalo milk Mozzarella Caprese, followed by meals of Inspyre’s pizza and my gluten free Rigatoni da Mario. They had gluten free options for everything on the menu! Inspyre also got some Rosé, and we followed it up with some great Chocolate Sorbet. The whole thing cost about 56 pounds. The restaurant is a little unusual in that theres an upstairs and downstairs level. To get downstairs, there’s a very cramped and tight staircase. But it feels like you’re going into a speakeasy, so it’s not terrible. If you want some authentic Italian food, this is the place to go! 4 stars.
When we got back to the hotel, we bought tickets for “The Big Bus Original Tour” and talked to David about how to get to Bletchley, which was the plan for the next day.
Stay tuned for Day 2, and be sure to comment below!
Travel: Honeymoon 2017
Hello! So this post comes a bit late, but as many of you are aware, Inspyre and I got married July 2017. In September of 2017, we went on our honeymoon! So if you need any ideas, or have questions about the regions in general, feel free to peruse below, or contact us directly!
The trip will be outlined in a series of articles, that will focus on each location. Inspyre and I left LA, California and flew directly to London, where we stayed for a couple of days. From there, we left for Rome where we began our 7 day cruise around the Mediterranean. The cruise concluded and we spent another couple of days in Rome before ending the adventure of a life time! With this introductory article, we’ll be releasing the London article, with a different location coming out every week!
Thank you to our readers as always and feel free to contact us with any questions. Don’t forget to leave comments in the section below!
)'(- The Setup
The next day was rough physically, but very odd mentally. We (me and five other conclave members) spent most of the day setting up a 30′ diameter PVC geodesic dome, which involved ladders that were quite precarious for me, but very easy for my roommate, who happens to have worked as a professional carpenter. He was able to help me steak down my tent to secure it against the wind.
We also set up a scaffold for climbing up to get a view; I took the liberty of photographing the view around our campsite:
On the left, the tents of some of our caravan. On the right, a large geodesic dome that we spent hours setting up in the desert sun.
Setting up that dome was quite a task, and in retrospect, really helped me feel at home. Putting work into building it helped me feel a sense of contribution and belonging that my mind is usually hesitant to accept. It was filled with couches, a massive bean bag, and carpets and rugs on the floor. It served as the central communal space for our 50-person camp.
And that trampoline was also a massive hit with numerous passersby.
The Playa was rather sparse at this point, two days before the festival starts; large holes gaps in the camping lots that were soon to be filled.
At this point, my mental subroutines (check social media, data feeds, daily tasks, etc.) had checked out, and my mind was clear, holding only what I knew was coming… which was, to be honest, nothing. I didn’t know what was going to happen the next day, or the day after.
What a strange feeling. I did nothing with respect to tomorrow; I didn’t know what I was going to do, whom I might meet, what I might see, or where I might go… nor did I even think about it. Tomorrow fell, from an amalgam of plans and intentions, back into an arbitrary word for when the sun rises next.
RB: Hi All! So as aforementioned, we’ve started a travel section to the blog. Our first entry is not a long one.
We went to FireDrums 2016, which was located at the Blue Mountain Event Center in Wilseyville, CA. The event took place from June 2-5, 2016.
We personally drove up to a friend’s house through Tuesday night, slept there Wednesday and were off for the location on Thursday morning! What is FireDrums, you may ask? For that, we should ask our fellow author, inspyred!
inspyred: Deep in the woods of Northern California, a mix of casual hobbyists, professional performers, students,and teachers gather to shed the standard mechanics of their normal lives, dust off the parts of our mind that we were told should be put away after childhood is over, and come out to play.
FireDrums is one of the biggest fire festivals on the U.S. West Coast, hosted by the Flow Arts Institute; 2016’s festival was from June 2nd to the 5th, and it was my fourth in a row. The primary focus of the festival is the learning, teaching, sharing, and celebration of Flow Arts. The flow arts which I personally practice are primarily ball and club juggling, poi, rope dart, and have recently assembled a pair of fire fans that are much harder to use than I had expected.
The daylight hours of the festival are filled with workshops featuring a huge variety of topics, from specific genres of prop manipulation to discussions of culture to group meditation sessions. I enjoy attending whatever prop manipulation workshops pique my fancy, though many people simply wander around sharing circus tricks, socializing, reading, writing, drawing, swimming in a nearby stream, exploring the forest, or whatever they may feel inclined to do at the moment. There are also a host of vendors of props for manipulation, as well as food, clothing, and various artistic creations. For me personally, the biggest draw of the event is the radically free social atmosphere.
At night, however, the main attraction shifts to the fire circle which is set up in a large clearing, surrounded by fire pits and volunteer fire-safeties holding fire blankets (a duvetyne cloth treated with fire retardant) focused on keeping everyone safe. The festival is largely free-spirited in terms of how you wish to enjoy it, but fire safety is one of few things taken extremely seriously. Any open fire outside of the designated areas are explicitly forbidden, and this policy is rigorously enforced, with the fuel dump of the fire circle being brightly illuminated and very plainly distinguished from the surroundings with bright orange partitions. Once their props are dipped, each spinner takes to the fire circle and joins in the collective celebration of fire, everyone deliberately dancing with the deep, primal instinct of aversion to fire, to the sound of various electronic music artists (as well as the Humboldt Drummers) played out of speakers with the bass often heavy enough to reverberate in my chest from anywhere in the campground.
Here’s a video taken of Nicky Evers (a.k.a. DJ Nevers) in the fire circle while Kevin Axtell announced the closing of the fuel depot on the final morning of this year’s Fire Drums. Many (myself included) stay up until sunrise on Saturday night.
I have found that, as much as I could develop my prop manipulation skills on that night with so many other incredibly skilled people (though I did spin some fire), my favorite way to spend it was walking around and simply striking up conversations with people, as well as keeping a notebook with me and writing whenever inspiration strikes… which tends to happen at fire festivals.
Most others seem to either alternate between spinning fire and watching everyone else spinning fire, or just simply hanging around, socializing, some painting, some writing, others simply dancing to the music… everyone so clearly happy to be there, in a very contagious way. I look forward to next time… hopefully next year for us.
RB: So over the duration of the trip, while inspyred was doing his workshops, I was exploring the area and lounging about with my book! Here are some photos:
By the time Day 3 (Saturday) came around, we were burned out (a good pun by the way), and decided to do some exploring! We went off the campsite, and hiked to a river, where we ended up jumping in with our clothes on! The water was frigid, but it was about 95 degrees Fahrenheit outside, so the cold was welcome. We explored the bugs in the area, learned about different kinds of larvae (dragonfly and mosquito), and then headed back to the campsite! All in all, a beautiful trip!
This is a new section we’re going to have! Anytime one of us travels, we’ll be posting pictures and talking about our experiences and where we went in that time! Look forward to it! There should be one coming out for FireDrums!