Chaos Attraction

4th of Juplaya

2010-07-06, 4:33 p.m.

So this holiday weekend, I went to "4th of Juplaya", which is a pre-Burning Man event held in the Black Rock Desert during guess what time of the year. Mostly seems to be attended by BM staff so that they can have some fun (since apparently when you work it all the time, you don't have so much of it), and/or people who have heard of it and have the time to go up there.

I went along with Merry and her husband and kid--husband is a Ranger and Merry is applying to be one, so we stayed in their camp. Which was quite nice, not too far from Gerlach and the mountains, and even had some bushes on the ground. And thank gawd they had PortaPotties. Not that I am fond of those, but I don't have the flexibility and balance not to pee on my own clothes in the bush, no matter how much random strangers encouraged me to. Their Ranger friends are all very nice. I got to see tons of wacky outfits, as you'd expect. The weather was pretty lovely, not too freezing for a change and not too hot either. No dust storms either, which is the ultimate plus.

It turns out that there are other things to do on the playa when BM is not in session--there's a shooting range and some hot springs that are normally closed during the event, but are open if you come up the rest of the year. I had a great time in the hot springs at Frog Pond, a tiny little oasis (even had trees!) on the right hand side of the desert. Perfect temperature water there. I also hung out at the shooting range on the 4th. No, I didn't shoot a gun--I have no aim and this does not seem like a good idea. However, I did watch people shoot at a giant wooden frog with bat wings (Frog Bat) stuffed with explosives, and watched the kaboom for like an hour. Crazy good times, man. There were also a few people randomly shooting off fireworks here and there, though not like you'd see in a normal fireworks show. We actually got lost on the playa for about 20 minutes while trying to drive back home in the dark!

It was a lot of fun. It had the Burning Man feel without the crowds and the massive crazy. I think I'll be returning again.

My backstory with Burning Man is that I went to it in college in the 90's with my then-boyfriend and his friends who were putting up a theme camp. He broke up with me about a month later, so I lost my Burning Man hookup (as it were). I eventually got hired where I work now, and a few years after that, work hired a guy to run the place who insists on having a mandatory work retreat day on the Friday before Labor Day weekend...i.e. in the middle of Burning Man. Even if I wanted to go for a few days and then go back home (and then possibly drive back?!), that's pretty impractical and definitely annoying. And a few years after that, I met Merry, who DOES go to BM every year and I could go with her... but now I can't go.

This is irritating.

I've been kind of lackadaisical as to whether or not I'd return to Burning Man again. I will admit that my first year there I was a total bystander who had no clue what I was doing, other than to admire the weirdness. Since the non-driving thing made me totally unable to return again without someone hauling my ass up, and it's not exactly something that I think one should do solo anyway, I reasonably gave up on the idea as something that was never gonna happen again. And that's mostly still how I have felt in the last 3 years of hearing Merry's BM stories. Well, I can't go, so oh well.

But...having a refresher as to what it's like? Makes me wanna go.


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