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Archive for September, 2010

Burning Love

What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.
But I didn’t go to Vegas, so here it goes…

Two weeks ago I headed to the Utopian underworld of Black Rock City, the third most populated city of Nevada (albeit for just one week a year) for the Burning Man festival. The major difference between Las Vegas and Black Rock City is this: the former makes you want to black out all memories of what happened (it never happened!) while the latter imprints itself on your mind and you want to hang on tight and remember everything.

Burning Man encourages free love, free booze and suggestive clothing and/or nudity. This makes for a very intimate meeting of open body and souls. And I was not excluded from the scenario. I had been forewarned that kissing was prevalent at Burning Man, but that was fine with me. My sister nicknamed me “The Kissing Bandit” years ago, due to my love for stealing kisses from strangers. Kissing is fun and relatively harmless. I say relatively harmless because sometimes a kiss with the right person can suddenly become a bit more dangerous. I was also forewarned that it was too hot, dirty, sweaty, and public to even consider sex at Burning Man. That was also fine with me. I had come to Burning Man to spend quality time with my good friends, and not to stick to some random guy in a steamy, muddy tent.

What was not forewarned to me, however, was the possibility that I could open my mind, body and (little girl) soul to a complete stranger. I hadn’t come well prepared in terms of shelter, food and clothes to keep me warm. And I most certainly had not come prepared for love. But as everyone told me, the playa provides.

I was incredibly surprised to discover that a good percentage of the 50,000 or so Burners were fairly young and attractive. My first couple of days at Burning Man awakened the Kissing Bandit and I innocently enjoyed little kisses here and there with funny men dressed in costumes. Whether it was to get a drink at the bar, or pre and post-nuptials to a drunk, fairly obnoxious but funny man that asked the Heavens to bind our love, my kissing needs were being more than met.

And then I met my Burning Man lover, who unintentionally put an end to my kissing escapades. He was a friend of a friend of a friend, and a fellow first time Burner taking refuge in the RV parked besides us. If I’m not mistaken, we first met at the bar of Distrikt, our camp and also one of the biggest day parties at Burning Man. I do not remember our conversation (I was engrossed in pre-birthday celebrations and the spiked smoothies were killers) but I DO remember asking his name a second time once he told me we were neighbors. I hardly remember people’s names and only try to make a strong effort once I know I’ll be seeing them again. I’d like to change that. Every person we meet is important. Whatever else we discussed in that first intoxicated encounter is beyond me. But I do remember having an innate attraction to something kind in his face and spirit.

He had me at Happy Birthday. My concept of time from Burning Man is mushy. It all blends in to one long day and night for me, but a good marking point is my 30th birthday, which was Day 3 of the week. I guess at some point during my drunk conversation with my Burning Man lover the day before I had mentioned my birthday because while we were eating scrambled eggs à la Morgan, he came over to give a quick hug and to say “Happy Birthday.” It was just a small gesture, and one that many other people gave me that day, but when you are keen on someone it’s just those small gestures that make your stomach twirl.

Later that day Ashley and I were watching the sunset from the roof of the RV when my Burning Man lover climbed up to say hello. He made a sweet comment about my eyes. Men, if you don’t want a girl to give you that special look, never, never compliment her eyes. As he crawled back down the ladder, one of my best friends and my soul mate from the past twenty or so years looks at me and says, “Um. What is going on there?” My response was something along the lines of, “Um. You pick up on it too?” “Go for it,” she told me.

That’s all it took. Suddenly all those naked men in fur boots dissolved and the Kissing Bandit, unbeknownst to her, set her eyes on her birthday booty. I just had to convince him to come out to celebrate my birthday with me and my friends! It did not take so much convincing…

photo by Krystal

The night of my birthday was magical. First of all, I was reunited with my best friends and they were all dressed in white. Secondly, we were at Burning Man and I was in complete awe of the night light. Thirdly, I learned how to hula hoop. And last but not least, I got completely lost in a kiss.

We were on the long, difficult adventure of trying to find the mythical white party in a large group, when suddenly my Burning Man lover planted a kiss on me. I’m not sure how long we kissed, but it was long enough to lose all my friends. We opened our eyes and our friends were nowhere in sight. Getting lost at night on the playa is like a five-year old getting lost at Disneyland. And apparently, trying to find the infamous white party is like trying to chase your shadow. Part of me was anxious because I really wanted to spend my birthday night with my friends. And another part of me whispered, relax. You are in good company.

And that’s how it began. A kiss so mind-blowing that I got lost. I lost my friends (we eventually found them, which was quite the adventure in and of itself.) But more importantly I lost my sense of logic. I lost my insecurities. I lost my worries. I lost the what if’s and the how’s. I lost my inhibitions. And I lost the facade I normally put on when I like a guy.

Let me say now that I am blessed by amazing friends. Sometimes I look around and wonder what I did right to have such stellar, unique, creative, loving, interesting, caring people all around me. Not only are they around me, they would move the world for me. And they constantly ARE moving the world for me. I feel so lucky. I’ve slowly learned that this is not pure chance. I acknowledge that somehow I have attracted these people into my life and that I deserve them. Hopefully I have moved the world for them too and if not, they know I would. So when my friends ask me constantly, “Why are you not attracting an amazing guy that loves you like we love you?” I just shrug my shoulders and wish I had the answer.

But I think I have the answer now. I am not myself with men. I change.

When getting ready for a date, my old roommate would tell me repeatedly, BE YOURSELF. She was one of the first people to point out that I change radically in the presence of a guy I like. My pocket-sized friends Emilie and Kate, for reasons unknown to me, like to remind me every day how amAzing I am (which is why I call them pocket-sized friends…I like to carry them around with me wherever I go). They too are always telling me to relax and just be myself. They say that these guys are so unfortunate to not know the real Regan!

Man. What would I do without my friends? Seriously. [sigh]

ANYHOW. Back to Burning Man. And my Burning Man lover. And our kiss. And all the following kisses and embraces and conversations we shared throughout the week. And the way that I allowed myself to connect with someone in such a healthy, honest and positive way. It felt so good.

My Burning Man lover somehow saw through all the charades I normally act out. He found the things I was most self-conscious about and encouraged them. I’m a quirky girl. There is no “I” in “Normal”. But I felt safe letting down my guard with him. I released the bizarre, at times incoherent, playful, serious and untamed Regan for him. The same Regan that attracts all the beautiful friends I have. And I saw a sparkling reaction in his eyes and smile whenever he caught my wild moments of vulnerability. While I got completely lost, or tried to hide, he found me. And held me tightly. I think he liked the real Regan, fully exposed. And to tell you the truth, so did I.

I feel so incredibly grateful for meeting him. My heart is still smiling and my little girl soul will always remember how he peeked through the curtains to watch her dance obliviously. He may have thought she was dancing alone, but behind her closed eyelids, he was right there dancing along with her.

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I think it’s safe to say that I’ve lived through some pretty crazy and remarkable experiences, but few compare to Burning Man. I cannot define Burning Man. But to set the scene a bit for those unfamiliar with the event, 50,000 people meet in the desert of Nevada to camp in a creative, communal and dusty environment for one week. There are art installations and djs. Pimped out bike riding and topless teeter-totters. The only things available for sale in this city are ice and coffee. Besides that money is prohibited. Lots of love and very very very little clothing during the day and tons of fur at night. 1,500 art cars that you can hop on and off to ride through the desert sands. And on the last days they burn a huge wooden structure of a man and a temple.

Got it? Probably not. It’s just too hard to explain. I think each person has his or her own experience and I don’t feel the need to classify or reduce the experience into a conceptual heading. What I can do, however, is share my own experience of Burning Man with you.

The best way I can describe my experience of Burning Man is by comparing it to the blind man scene in the movie Amelie. I imagine myself feeling something similar to the blind man when Amelie spontaneously takes his arm and leads him through the streets of Paris describing all the things around him he can’t see. For me Burning Man was all about the random acts of kindness from strangers. And how these acts and these strangers create a new sense of clarity. And not to mention an overwhelming, breathtaking rapture of the senses. It was just a moment. A whirlwind in time. But after it was done my soul glowed new colors and I’ve spent the last week with eyes closed trying to relive it all, to somehow keep those memories, sights, sounds and tastes all present.

Bliss: my favorite art piece and the perfect portrayal of how Burning Man makes me feel

For some people Burning Man is a giant rave, an art festival, or a hippie thing. But for me, Burning Man is simply generosity and kindness. I should now mention that it was not just kindness from strangers. It was also extreme kindness and goodwill from amazing friends of mine that wanted to make my first Burn experience comfortable and memorable. Without them I would not have been able to fly to the event from Spain in the first place. Without them I would not have had a tent or sleeping bag to take 1-2 hour power naps every evening/morning (a dj set starting at 10am keeps you from getting any more sleep than that). Without them I would not have had wheels to move freely around the playa, one of my most favorite things to do. Without them (and their spare fur coats and leg warmers) I would have frozen my ass off. Without them I would have completely forgotten to eat. Without them, I would have cried and laughed alone.

I am so grateful. I went to Burning Man with the idea to actively participate in the gifting tradition. But once there I realized it was not possible. All I could do was soak it all in. I was so overwhelmed by it all. All I could do was say thank you. Next year I plan to be much more participative and will do my best to help a virgin Burner. I want to be not just the blind man, but also Amelie.

Not only did I see shooting stars every night (real ones), but according to the stranger that now calls himself my husband, shooting stars shoot out of me in broad daylight. Although he was drunk and licked my witness post-(fake) nuptials on the 4th floor of an art structure, I think he was on to something. Internally I was glowing and glittering. And the beauty of Burning Man is that you let your insides out. I was lucky to share some of these shooting stars externally with friends.

photo by Dave Adams

To make this particular event more significant for me, I turned thirty during Burning Man. I cannot imagine a better way to bring on this new decade than wearing a costume and dancing beneath the stars in a neon-lit desert with some of my closest friends. And not to mention watching the sunrise over the desert horizon with my best buddies sitting directly above me, their furry feet swinging from the rafter as I tried to hide out below them in the embrace of a guy that encouraged me to let go and be myself. He may actually deserve his own separate blog entry. Maybe he’ll get one. We’ll see.

Now let’s talk about sex. I live in Spain, a country where sexuality is pretty open and nudity is normal. We go to topless and sometimes nudist beaches and people make out for hours on street corners with zero shame. But Oh My God, I’ve never been in such a sexually charged environment in my life as Black Rock City, Nevada. The combo of really hot people wearing little to no clothing, mixed with the tradition of leaving all inhibitions at the door, made for a seriously hot and tempting gathering of free-spirited folk. I behaved fairly well, all things considered. But I still feel some of this energy dripping from my pores and can’t help but look around to see if someone’s ready to lap it up. I wonder when it will wear off? Until then, watch out Barcelona. This Burning (Wo)Man is on her way home!

My final anecdote about Burning Man concerns hula hooping. Burning Man has a way of making hula hoops stay up around your waist. I’ve never been able to hula hoop, no matter how hard I’ve tried over the years. But at Burning Man on my 30th birthday, I just picked one up and went for it. I remember screaming, “Holy crap! How is it staying up?” I invented the side-crab crawl, running horizontally back and forth all the while still incorporating the hoop. I almost died of laughter. Over the days I sought out hula hoops everywhere. They began to fall less and I learned to dance a bit and move my arms around more freely. There was no magic involved, but it sums up Burning Man perfectly for me. If you stop worrying about and over thinking something or trying too hard, it usually just works itself out. Being that I showed up to Burning Man with a huge bucket full of worries, I’d say this was my biggest lesson learned.

I was given the playa nickname, Hula Hoop. And I think it’s the perfect name to explain how I felt out there. Playful and sexy. Worry-free and in constant state of surprise and awe. My goal is to buy a hula hoop in Barcelona and to practice in the park. And not necessarily to learn new tricks or because I want to grow armpit hair. Just for no other reason than to remember how to be completely free and smile uncontrollably.

Thank you to my friends for making my first experience and my birthday so memorable. I am SO grateful. This is just the beginning…

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