May 12, 2014

Ejecting from Gateway Ranch...or...Careful what you manifest

Deer Valley, AZ 

Its been since last September shortly after returning from Burning Man 2013 that Jana and I moved to Phoenix from Gateway Ranch in Northern AZ. For people new to this blog Gateway Ranch is an 80 acre off grid ranch 30 miles NE of Flagstaff that we used to visit during Burning Man regional events. The ranch became unoccupied and the owners invited us to come live there and caretake the place and host events and workshops. I have attempted to write this blog several times over the past few months but I was still so damn pissed about how things went down that it showed in the writing. It was always too long and I kept holding back what I really  wanted to say. I am still having a hard time finding a way to explain what went down in a respectful and humble way. I considered not writing anything at all and just letting it go... but fuck that. I need closure. I can't think of a better way to kill it dead than airing some of the shit out on the infernets.

Fear and frenzied desire drove us onward.

We had to get out of there.  Nothing good comes from diagnosing people publicly, so to put it simply, promises made to us by the owners of the ranch (verbally and in writing) were not kept. ...and they were cuckoo heads. Damn! See?  

I had to keep telling people (including my family) that it wasn't an art colony or a cult! It really was just Jana and I living out there. "Everything is perfectly normal I tells ya."

Ranch doggies Daisy and Duke. I miss these pooches.

For the record, before we moved in, the owners told us that all of the systems in the houses were in complete working order except for a water heater that we may have to help their plumber carry into the house. Just remembering that moment right now makes me want a time machine so I can go back and slap myself... Hard.

We spent 9 months trying to be patient dealing with the owners excuses for not PROFESSIONALLY fixing what was supposed to be working before we arrived.  Instead of sitting around waiting for something to happen, we brought our skills to the table and ended up fixing EVERYTHING ourselves. All of the systems at Gateway were damaged and in disrepair. Water pipes would burst at random times, the power was constantly shutting off, toilets would clog up. Because the owners couldnt bring themselves to pay professionals to do the job, Jana replaced all of the wiring on the solar system, re-did the plumbing, the hot water, and went through a couple of vacuums in an attempt to get the dust, cinders, and dead bug parts out of the carpets. We fixed the wood burning stove so it stopped smoking out the house, we live trapped mice and their little mice families daily, we went days without showers or hot water, I got sprayed with human shit while snaking the toilet. The list goes on, but I need to keep my cool here. Oh did I mention I paid rent? We were supposed to caretake and have time to make art, write novels, become one with nature... Dammit!

Jana is a problem solver and can learn to fix anything. We were the perfect suckers for the job. Here she is redoing the plumbing after the numbskulls that the owners hired totally botched it. They used all of the wrong sized pipes so they leaked immediately and they got glue (solvent) into our water supply. That was just the half of it. This is me restraining myself AGAIN from going on and on.

The way things were half assed put together in that house (before we moved in) was mind boggling. Water is precious out there. We would have to have it hauled in or collected from snow melt or rain. SO WHY WAS THERE SHITTY PLUMBING BURIED IN THE WALLS LEAKING SEVERAL GALLONS A DAY? So the mice could have something to drink. Obviously.

Daisy munching on a rabbit she just caught.
At least it was beautiful outside. Yeah... It was like this or better every day.

This was supposed to be my art studio. I was offered art shows in Phoenix and Vegas while we were there and because the studio never got cleaned out I had a hell of a time making art in that mess. 80+ mile an hour winds made it impossible to do much outside. I tried to paint in the kitchen but had to put everything away every time we had an event which was nearly every other weekend. ONE OF THE MAIN REASONS I MOVED THERE FROM VENICE FREAKING BEACH WAS TO MAKE MORE ART NOT LESS!!!

Just when everything (plumbing solar power etc.) was fixed and working at the same time the owners put pressure on us to leave.  They "changed their mind" about what they wanted the ranch to become. Nice timing on their part. 

In the end they (the owners and the mice) got their ranch back in WAY better condition than it was in before we moved there. We wasted a bunch of time and money.  Looking on the bright side I'm thankful we didn't get hantavirus.  

Jana found a perfectly intact Bull snake skin the day we were moving. Thats Owen on the right. He pointed out that the shedding of skin is a symbol of transformation. 

A different type of Gateway. 

At least now I know that I can live of grid and survive for at least 9 months fending off half bear half hyena monsters with a a knife and an X-box game controller attached to my wrist while riding a 1990 Sims snowboard.

When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.
Not in this case mofo's! Shortly after we got the hell out of Gateway new doors started flying open like Jack Nicholsons zipper! 

 Now that I've finally gotten a little bit of that Gateway exodus b.s. off my chest I can start blogging again. This is me all excited back in November because I just got a new 900 Sqft art studio in downtown phoenix in a building that was once a pie factory.

(and thanks for letting me vent)

Bill out

Oct 9, 2013

Burnier Than Thou

El Pulpo Mechanico by Duane Flatmo.

Burning Man. (sigh) If you've never heard of Burning Man or if you were expecting sublime pics of beautiful people in sexy road warrior attire with just the right amount of dust on their bodies to make it look all romantical and shit, please watch this video and come back. 

Welcome back.

There is an unbelievable amount of work that goes into creating this event. Months before the city opens to the public people max out their credit cards to build giant theme camps and artworks, the DPW (Department of Public Works) builds the infrastructure including roads, buildings, and many of the larger structures. There are 2,000 volunteers as well as year round full-time employees that deal with everything from legal issues to port-a-potties. Ever thought about where 70,000 people in the desert take their dumps? 

"Bathroom Beacons" by Starpony Arts. ©Jana Davis

Imagine that you are wearing an elaborate costume with an oversized synthetic fur coat and your back pack. It's 2am, you're out at the temple or at an art car dance party and you've got to poo.
  • First you have to locate the potties in the chaos of millions of blinky flashy lights that decorate the city. The shitters are generally not lit up except for two very tiny blue lights on the end of 12 foot poles. Most likely you'll have to get on your bike and ride to find them. You know what streets the potties are on but you don't want to ride all the way back into the city. 
  • You spend about 20 minutes getting your friends together to come with you. You'll need somebody to hold your coat or your stuck taking it inside that tiny box with you. If your friends don't come there is about a 90% chance you may not see them for the rest of the night. If they don't camp with you there is a 50% chance you wont see them for the rest of the week. 
  • On your way to find the crapper there are hundreds of distractions. Stay focused, make sure your friends are still with you. 
  • You finally spot the nearest bank of potties. You better have a headlight. It is dark in there and you never know what could have been left behind on the walls. You DON'T want to find your way in there by touch! 
  • Now, how do you get your costume down around your ankles without letting it touch anything? Depends. Not those kind of depends...haha... 
  • Ok, after you finish up you are ready for your grand exit back into the city hoping that you got your costume back on right. 
  • No hand sanitizer in the pump outside? Well that is what your back pack is for.  
  • Find your bike, find your friends and get back out there!

We had early passes and arrived five days before the event actually started and set up a sweet little dialed in camp for six people. It doesn't matter if you have a large camp, an air conditioned RV, fly in on a jet to the Black Rock City Airport, or go in the gate by your self naked with nothing, not even a water bottle, you will endure a few hardships. Some people more than others, but at some point during prep and set up all of us will ask ourselves more than once, "Why the fuck do we do this?" I wish I could answer that in a few short sentences. Instead I will do as I do and show you some pics from our last adventure to Black Rock City. 

Our group consisted of Jana, myself, my brother Steve, Dat, Ingrid, and our friend Quincy.
Burner translation: Our camp was called "Escargot Cult' on 6:20 and F. Janabanana, Foo, Anomaly, and DryHump drove up. Dusty Crusty Wendy and Horseshoe flew in and took the Burner Express into Black Rock City.

We planned to leave Flagstaff at 11pm Tuesday night. We got on the road around 3am. Ask any burner, four hours late packing is pretty damn good. I strapped four bikes to the top of the rental van while trying to ignore the stickers that said, "DO NOT STAND OR STRAP OBJECTS TO THE ROOF!!! Or it's a $2,000 dollar fee."
Every square inch of the rental got stuffed with gear for 5 people and anything we could think of that someone might have wanted to play with. There is always room for one more hula hoop or fire toy. Once we got to the first gas station we had to unpack half of it to get the ice chests out and fill them with ice then re-pack it. First World problems. I know. 

I swore I would never bring my mini. After living at Gateway my poor little car got so rattled and filled up with volcanic dust on that dirt road that a little "playa dust" was nothing.

After 17 plus hours on the road we finally made it to the single road that leads in to the city. The trailer in the photo above was in line with us. On it was a disassembled seven ton "Coyote" by Bryan Tedrick.

They caught a few people sneaking in with out a ticket so they made the vehicle searches more extensive and time consuming. We actually lucked out. Our greeter told us that the city had shut down twice that day due to rain and standing water on the playa. 

Dat asked me last year, "Is it a blessing or a curse if it rains at Burning Man?" My answer was, "Everything at Burning Man is a blessing and a curse." If there is water on the playa your car or bike will be stuck. No question.

We arrived around two am the next day, staked out some land and slept in the vehicles. It was dark and we were too tired to set up camp. Thanks to Sweet thing, Sturdy, El Weso, Bravo, Purple Bean, Gravity and E. Sugar we were given the Center Camp Cafe Annex reasonably close to where we were going to be painting our murals. 
There was a different band up there all day, all night, all week long. It was cool, but getting there early means we could make sure not to camp by it. 

This was a luxury. During the first week we could drive over and get ice at Arctica. Once the event started we had to strap bags of ice to our bikes.

DryHump woking on the evap pond and Anomaly adding the finishing touches to the shower.
Anomoly taking advantage of a dust free spot before it becomes smelly water. That's our shower. Burning Man is a leave no trace event. We can't let our dirty water go into the ground. If it doesn't evaporate we would have to take it home with us.

Inside our tent we have room to get ready. Up in the left corner is our washing station. It's important to wash your extremities to keep from getting "playa feet" or "playa hand" or even "playa face"!

Camp life.
It's encouraged to block out any advertising. Even though every single one of us had been to Bowel-Mart, Home Desperate, Q-haul and Fudget at least 10 times before we got there.
The theme this year was Cargo Cult. An early shot of the man. The pavilion (UFO) was designed by Lewis Zaumeyer.
The Temple of Whollyness under construction. Designer Gregg Fleishman.
"Xylophage" under construction. By the Flaming Lotus Girls
"Helix" under construction. By Charles Gadeken
Assembling "Thunderdome". Watch this battle. Two men or women or furry creatures enter one leaves. ©Jana Davis
Our section of wall for our murals. ©Jana Davis
Sweet or Sour?
Foo and DryHump painting. Anomaly Photographizing. ©Jana Davis

I thought it was interesting that DryHump hadn't seen the art in the city yet but his painting felt like he had. "The Kazbah" (Soundcamp)©Jana Davis
Janabanana and I collaborated on this painting of a two-headed alien snail worshipped by one-headed snails.
It was our take on the theme "Cargo Cult".

After a long day of working I needed to relax in my "arm chair". ©Jana Davis

One of the perks of volunteering is getting to eat in the commissary. We ate re-heated food at our camp most of the time so we savored the brisket and mashed potatoes.
Rawr! Janabanana ready to go out and play.
This is the coyote that was on the trailer on our way in. The head used to spin 360 but they bolted it in place after the wind picked up and almost decapitated someone. ©Jana Davis

The event officially starts on Monday when Crimson Rose (one of the founders of Burning Man) does a ritual of lighting the fire in this cauldron that will burn down the man in 5 days.
Art car.
Ready to hit the streets. ©Jana Davis
Our friend Danzilla really wanted to ride this 2-seater from the back seat. We made him some harnesses. Watch this video to see his maiden voyage. It's funny. ©Jana Davis

Octo Bar. Danzilla's camp. ©Jana Davis

Janabanana says, "Show me buck teeth!"
But someones not playing. 
©Jana Davis

Take two. Horseshoe, Dusty Crusty Wendy, and Foo. ©Jana Davis

New drinking game. Spin the pointer and who ever it lands on has to be a baby bird to get a shot. ©Jana Davis
Baby birding involves chewing up a Redvine licorice and regurgitating it into the baby birds mouth.  ©Jana Davis

Ok God I gotta go play flaming skee ball. ©Jana Davis
Risky Ball. flaming skee ball.

"Flame thrower shooting gallery". By Matisse Enzer.

The man. Looking up at him through the UFO.
Our home for 2 weeks.

Our good friends Supersize and Dusty Rez in the spam mobile.

They offered to haul our ice back to our camp. Their camp is on the other side of the city. So nice!
You don't even have to leave your camp to see wonders like this.

One of my favorite moments this year was getting invited off of the street into a tea ceremony. 
These guys came all the way from Hong Kong and provided traditional private chinese tea ceremonies. He is counting the beads so he knows how long the tea has to steep.

This was the camp next to the tea ceremony.
To read more about what people do to inflatable toys go here. 

Composting. It's so dry out there it doesn't smell.

The aliens have finally arrived! their car? 
I knew they wouldn't really come this year once they realized that we were burning a full sized UFO.

Inside the temple was a basalt inukshuk. Rumor was that it took 900 hours of polishing to get that sheen.

She shape shifted into her power animal right before my eyes.

Whatever you want to do is there. Mile marker for the Black Rock City 50k run.
Art car.

I wish I could have seen this thing in action.

Back to work on Saturday night. Janabanana's fire group Pyroklectic was chosen to be sentinels for the big fire show before the man burned down. I got to hold a torch. ©Jana Davis

Before he burns his arms go up. ©Jana Davis

Boom! ©Jana Davis

It's hot inside the circle. ©Jana Davis

Waiting for it to fall. ©Jana Davis
Another favorite moment. Sunrise at the temple.

Getting ready to see the temple burn on Sunday. ©Jana Davis

All was quiet while she burned. ©Jana Davis

In the flames stands the inukshuk. ©Jana Davis

At our sentinel orientation the speaker said, "Don't jump in the fire tornados they are really hot". Um, would have never crossed my mind. ©Jana Davis
We tore down our camp so we could leave early Monday morning.

Burning Man is full of hardships.

Nine hour line to get out of the city on Monday. There was rumor of rain and our friends needed to get to the airport in time so we braved it. ©Jana Davis

Foo and Banana wish you adieu. Have fun at Decompression!