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I went to my first beach burn at Assateague Island this past weekend (April 27-29, 2001). I was fortunate enough to have been invited by some friends, who happen to be on E2, and met some more E2 folks that I've been in contact with. Lucky me! I didn't know anything about what this event/happening was, except "It's like Burning Man, but it only lasts a weekend instead of a whole week." So I was expecting a giant party, basically.

It's a bit more than that. Quite a bit more. I unloaded my gear (why did my friends pick the campsite farthest away from the port-a-potty anyway?) after a really lovely drive down alone from Baltimore. It was now time for lunch, so I broke out the organic vodka and proceeded to show everyone what a lightweight I am when it comes to drinking.

I met many, many beautiful people that afternoon. I met knarphie again, and this time I remember! (The last time was at a party at a friend's house and I was trashed.) I met the inspirational deeahblita, whom I've been dying to meet for a while now. She's simply the most huggable, adorable, and beautiful woman. Introductions went all around, and she said, "You mean this is drummergrrl?" and ran over to me and gave me a huge giant hug. I can't explain it rationally or even emotionally but I could just feel her soul and how genuine and sweet she is.

My friends who had come down earlier were SlightlyMadman and anomaly. It was practically an officially sanctioned E2 gathering! Well, except for the other 95 people who were there. I can pretend for five minutes, can't I?

OK, on with the show. Some of the main points (from what I gathered) are pretty simple, but very powerful, and to me, this beach burn was sort of a metaphor for how I want to live my life. First, we live on a fragile, beautiful and powerful planet, and we're just a small part of the entire system. As we are so good at destruction, the first thing we should try to do is leave no trace. The second, but to my mind, equally important in my life, is that there are no spectators. Everyone participates, and gives what they can.

All day and all night, there was random drumming and guitar playing. It was very windy, and the music would sift through on the breeze as you went about the beach. This contributed to the feeling of community and camaraderie, which grew and grew through the weekend. I had brought two of my drums, but was feeling incredibly shy and awkward, and then I got really, really, really drunk. So the drums didn't leave my tent. (boo hoo!) Some folks had made a scuplture in the sand that looked like a representation of the sun with about nine rays sticking out, and the ends of the rays were bigger than their starting point. Sorry to bring this image to your mind, it was so full of life, but sort of like the cingular icon plastered all over the billboards in Baltimore. There was a lot of drugs and alcohol floating around, but also a lot of people who were sober. All were enjoying the beautiful island and each other.

All day long ten people walked around in green monkish robes. When asked what was up, they merely stated that "all would be revealed," building up more mystery. Many people had brought sculpture to the burn that was beautiful and haunting. There was a game in the afternoon, just a silly thing, where judges were picked, and gender-specific contestants lined up: to give the best one-liner. I was a female contestant, but lost out (only a 9 out of 10!) with my line of "Hi. I'm Brad Pitt." I then became a judge for the men. The judging was done from sitting inside the sand sculpture. It was so cool, like a sand cocoon! I was halfway cocked by that point, and although I laughed my ass off the whole time, I can't remember a single other line. (If anyone who was there remembers, /msg me and I'll put them in.)

As afternoon became evening, I got more drunk. And stoned...

Everyone (well, a lot of people) went on to the beach, which was a lot colder than the campsite, and settled around the gigantic bonfire which was in a big pit. In addition to this big bonfire, there were three neon statues of "man". (One had an erection that blinked on and off, tee hee).

There were several dj's, monk-e was the best. Hey, if anyone knows when/where monk-e is playing again, I'd love to see him. He spins some serious tunes. So I danced and danced and danced while the spinners spun. The spinners were people who I had seen practicing earlier that day, with a strangely shaped ball on 3 foot lengths of chain. That night, they set the balls on fire and spun intricate circles and danced with the fire, all night long, apparently. It was a beautiful sight.

The 15 or 20 foot statue of a man was dragged down closer to the water's edge, along with the pony statue, and I think a third statue, I can't remember (sorry). Late in the night, the wooden statues were set afire. .

I really wish I could tell you exactly what happened then, but I had passed out by then. Which is why I am berating myself still for being such a lightweight, and not knowing when to slow down or stop. I will go again, as soon as I can find the next one, and bring art, and participate more soberly, and bring more friends (who have gotten more than two hours of sleep the day before and don't pass out from sheer exhaustion. Poor babies.) It was an awesome experience. I expect the next time to be even more so.

A tip from the wise: do not, I repeat NOT wear your hair in pigtails if you're going to be out all day in the sun. The cuteness points you earn are just not worth the pain you experience washing your hair in the shower when you get home.

That said...

I arrived late Friday night after a long, cramped car ride. It took us 20 minutes to get out of our SOHO parking spot, and another 30 to make it to the Holland Tunnel. Mind you, had there been only minimal traffic this leg of the trip would have taken not even 10 minutes. The car essentially had a walking escort to the tunnel, much to the amusement of onlooking New Yorkers. I don't think anyone has ever walked to a beach burn before, and we were glad not to be the first as the tunnel entrance neared and traffic picked up. The ride was otherwise uneventful, save strange comments about snorting chicken and a reasonable discussion about polyamory. Found knarphie, set up the pink flamingo I had decoratively punked out the night before, checked out the neighborhood, met some people whose faces I couldn't see, scratched an itch, and passed out curled up in the arms of my long-distance lover after 60 entirely sober waking hours, a new personal record.

Woke to the much missed feeling of baking in a tent under the sun. Crawling out of the womb was my first mistake, as the warmth of the sun didn't quite match up to the chilling wind that kept all our clothes on for the duration of the weekend. Met more faces, but the people I wanted to get to know were running the show and were constantly buzzing about. Wandered over to the other side of camp to leech anomaly's kickass cold sesame noodles. The souring of my stomach with stories of gobs of vomited-up donkey cum (yes, some things gross even me out) were calmed upon realizing that the cute blonde I had been introduced to was none other than the drummergrrl who seemingly had avoided my /msgs for "doing coffee" on several occassions. I'll have to dish out spankings next time, grrl. You know this. ;) Hug her when you get the chance, noders, she knows how to give it her all.

Sobriety erased in a tent with kinksters from back home, I sat outside our temporary suburban home and began to draw. I was crazed when onlookers asked for a flip through my sketchbook without commentary, as I always feel the need to explain each and every piece, and I didn't feel that anything in my current book is representative of me. They seemed to like it, nonetheless...and the experience minorly encouraged me to keep on drawing. We'll see if I ever find my language.

Spent a bit of time in communion with the beach. Stood before an ocean that numbed my feet in .03 seconds and attempted to let the water and wind cleanse me. Felt raw, rather than healed, and wandered back to camp stopping to say hi to familiar faces along the way only to be rerouted for the pick-up line contest. My grand contribution to that was: "It's kinda cold out here...you know, there's room under my dress..I mean, my poncho, for two" which earned me an average score of 27 on a scale of 11. I was beat out, though, by a cute girl on her knees asking if there was "room in that hole for two" as the judges were seated inside a sculpted sand squid. Contemplated taking a nap, but the meat orgy symbolic of suburban excess soon started, kicked off by an unexpected and amazing sushi orgy. Vegetarians? Who are they?

The rest of the night was a blur, but ticked by incredibly slow. The park rangers shut our sounds down at 10, and having been in awe that DJ Monk-E remixed Amazing Grace earlier, I was heartbroken. We even had to silence the drummers. :( At about midnight, we gathered around the fire fearing high tide and the park's sudden insistence that the fire go out along with it. Fortunately, the rising water only teased the edge of our fire pit, and the ranger that had been a prick all weekend took mercy on our freezing appendages and let us keep on burning. I don't know how we would have survived the cold, cold night otherwise.

At this point there were three fires...the main one, one that the New Yorkers had set up, and a smaller, more intimate one set up by the Baltimorians after an effigy of Steve Martin had kicked it off. As I had not had much success finding kindred spirit (or locating the ones I had resonated with earlier) I lingered by the NY fire for a bit and became quite disenchanted with my fellow cityfolk. Part of what I had liked about the Burning Man community was the friendly faces, even among strangers. Sitting amongst them by the fire, though, I had little inclination to share myself with them, as the attitudes felt a little too much like home. People who seemed neat in words on a mailing list showed a different face, and I'm disappointed in them for that. This isn't the whole NY community, mind you, there was a really cool bunch who reached out in the darkness and drew me in, and I thank them for letting down their guard like warm human beings.

After my storyteller got lost getting a beer, I wandered back to the tent, lonely. I didn't expect that he would be at the smaller fire, and he didn't expect that I would have gone back home, so I layed there for a cruel amount of time in a ball of psychadelic weep, feeling lonlier than I ever have in my life before. The voices outside only drove the pain in deeper and I reached for my discman, but Robert Miles couldn't even save me. Thoughts of being comforted by the good energy people in my life only hurt more, as the pain could only currently be soothed by the one I'm well on the way to falling in love with. After much hellish less-than-ecstatic trippy torment, I found my way to the potty and back up the hill to the beach, and dragged knarphie back caveman style to the tent for some soul-soothing, stopping along the way for a potty break and a few more tales told in the parking lot, until knarphie brought the conversation full circle.

*sigh*

Life is poop, I said, and for once he was the optimist. I welcomed him back to crawling his way out of the hole after being perked up by a minor moment of icky sweetness ("You showed up") from him. Not even fifteen minutes pass, though, before the alleycat was itching to escape the emotional intimacy of the moment. He goes to pee, comes back...itch, itch, itch...after the worst rolled smokes to ever hit my mouth, I agree to head back up to the fires. I'm feeling a little less raw having spent a few moments in his company, but am not quite up to socializing just yet. One of us had to find some strength, and so I compromised, as always. Can't help but wonder if I'm beginning to compromise myself in all of this, actually, but that's another story for another node.

Found myself sitting at the small fire for the first time that evening among names and faces that are familiar to me from stories and mailing lists and writeups. The spirit of comraderie and energy and unconditional giving friendship that the Baltimorian crew has never ceases to amaze me. Unselfish by nature, REAL by nature...where do I sign up? At that point, though, I was too drained and lost in my head to communicate with them, though, and instead sat quietly by the fire watching their dynamic. The keystone of the group I had yet to formally meet yet, and as I sat beside her I couldn't help but feel I was seeking approval of my lover's parents. I was afraid to talk to her because I know I would have ended up driving the conversation into someplace I've been told she doesn't want to go, so I stayed silent. I would not have been able to deal with opening that can of worms. So I sat by the fire and listened for a change.

The tides turned and turned and crashed and flowed. The sky lightened, my sneaker melted, the small fire burned on, but all but one had moved on to find warmth elsewhere. Near dawn, heads spinning, hearts wanting but needs stifled, we passed out in the cool confines of the wonderful hypocritical facade of happiness we had recreated on the beach called suburbia.

Awoke the next morning after missing breakfast with little time to pack. Poked my sleepy head out of the tent to meet lillianvalencia, who graciously offered me a smoke to start off the day. I just started smoking again 2 weeks ago and forgot just how much one smokes when intoxicated and was ill-prepared for the weekend, anticipating surviving on one pack which was gone mid-Saturday night. Sorry I didn't talk more, but as anyone who knows me will tell you, I'm not very functional for the first hour or so of waking. Forced interesting food into my system, packed up leaving as little sand behind as possible, and hit the road after saying a few farewells.

All in all, I now stand a little more needy with a little more hope at the same time, if that makes any sense. Also, having met the community behind-the-scenes in a weekend at the beach, I now want to get more involved with the heart of it all. We'll see where this energy takes me. All I know is that I have a bit of grounding to do. But fear I will no longer.

I would have to agree with drummergrrl that this counts as an E2 gathering of sorts considering we had somewhere around 15 noders there. Roll call off the top of my head (and I hope others will fill in the blanks): knarphie, drummergrrl, deeahblita, vees, anomaly, SlightlyMadman, protozoa, jonlasser, Ground Control, lillianvalencia, and um, well, I know there were more. Again, please fill in the blanks. :)

A hearty thanks to the Baltimore crew for a weekend with spectacular energy.

I spent Friday morning packing most of my remaining stuff into the car, and around 10am, Protozoa finally arrived in a taxi from the city. We packed up the rest of the gear into a my baby, tanked up and headed out the Beltway to the 150 miles along I-97 and Route 50 between us and the beach. Let me tell you, a 6x20 roll of astroturf might not seem like much in the store, but try to fit it in a mid-sized sedan along with two crates of food, supplies, a tent, canopy and -40 degree sleeping bag, and you'll understand what a pain it can be.

On the way there we did most of the drive in a single clip, except a quick stop at the supermarket and the Dollar Store to hook me up with some new sunglasses and a gallon of water. Protozoa spotted some tiki torches on sale in the Food Lion, and it was just too good a deal to pass up. I'm glad we did, because later that weekend, when the sun went down and I realized that my power inverter was busted and the Christmas lights around the tent were not to be, they were the centerpiece of the suburbs. But, more on that later.

Everyone keeps saying that this was some sort of E2 gathering, but, I mean, I see knarphie, anomaly, protozoa, jonlasser, ground control and lillianvalencia about once a week whether I need it or not, and I talk to seaya practically all the time on AIM. To me, this was just a fun gathering of my core friends, people who also happen to use E2 once in a while.

Set up camp next to Ranger Clay and Beautiful Greeter Rachael after the embarassing faux pas of not remembering her from a million parties at L'Hotel de Lasser. Protozoa and Knarph joined the line of tent suburbs shortly after. I had hoped that elaD (who I had planned for this theme camp with) would show up early, but unfortunately he had some car trouble, and had to set up in the next group campsite over by the time he got there around midnight on Saturday.

My camp was Sub-burnbia, also known over the course of the weekend as Sun-burn-bia and my nickname, "the suburbs." I had picked up the idea over at Protozoa's house watching some Burning Man intro videos and decided to make the investment in a large shade canopy and some $25 astroturf. The end effect was awesome. I'm glad I told Knarphie about my idea a few days before because he brought along some spare turf that he had lying around, and dee brought over a decked out flamingo for his front yard.

Dee called it a "hypocritical facade of happiness", but that wasn't what my suburbia was about. It was real happiness, to be sure, what Seaya likes to sarcastically call my "happy bubble." Maybe it was even a sanctuary for the few that cared to enter and sit on the porch with a pipe and a beer. Even Lil was impressed with my ability to bring my quiet suburban life out into the middle of the beach with such amazing accuracy.

This was the first beach burn where I came without a date, but it was fun to not be tied to anything in particular. My ex showed up there with one of my best friends (who was also rather busy over the course of the weekend), but we all had a good time together.

I was a Playa del Fuego Ranger. Mostly that means that me and a couple other beach regulars got together with radios and some cool looking milspec floppy hats and help people who get in trouble, or help them keep out of trouble before the real National Park Service rangers got there to give them a ticket or fine.

On the Playa they call the Ranger uniforms costumes, and that's what I was in. I got to carry around my big ass radio, spent a lot of time walking around seeing everything, pointing out potential problems and helping people have a good time, and being one of the mediators to the National Park Service rangers there to keep an eye on us. What can I say? I'm most comfortable in a role where I can be the envoy from the order enforcement professionals to the group.

After working for the UMBC police for a year, it was fun to be in a role where I didn't have to be the hardass, and still had the chance to make sure that things went smoothly. Thanks to the fact that a couple of the NPS rangers were being real strict about the rules, I got the opportunity to be the good guy that kept anyone from getting in trouble. When the drum circles kept playing after the head ranger had asked for all the drumming to stop, I had to go over there and say, "You know, I'm not going to do anything, but if that big, bad ranger comes back, you're going to get nuked with noise violation tickets."

My tent and camp also wound up being the PDF Rangers home base, which also became known as "Camp 420" or "HQ 420" for a number of obvious reasons. The black 420 numbering on my white mailbox out front made it obvious that for many gathered there, this was Mecca.

Around 10pm on Saturday night, one of the partiers had an unfortunate run in with some 2-CT-7 and cough medicine on some already unstable receptors. I stood with him, his girlfriend, and EMT Lizard for about an hour while the ranger took down all the relevant information and the local fire and rescue company came along to take him out to Atlantic General Hospital. Between that and the two $250 citation tickets for CDS on Saturday morning (for some dumbasses smoking a J outside of their tent), we weren't making very many points with the local police. But that's another story.

Meat at Knarphie's on Saturday afternoon had to be the crowning moment for the suburbs. Thanks to mokedat, we had this huge pile of great meat, which Knarphie and Moke flavored with all manner of different seasonings, until all who showed up were full and happy. A big sushi platter had appeared about an hour before that, which had everyone gathered around in a similar fashion, but I hardly noticed that.

The Beach Burn always relaxes me, because I'm in the role I like, taking care of things and being on top of all the situations, and making sure everything goes according to plan. The fact that nobody else on the beach has a plan doesn't stop me, as long as nobody gets kept from having fun and doing their thing. Lately my life has been revolving around giving and sharing with greatful friends. Although it doesn't always work out so well in real life, out on the beach people really respect that spirit and give just as much as I do, and respect the roles that everyone is playing (with or without drama).

I liked not having to feel awkward at this burn, because it was finally my territory. I knew the answers to the questions, and I was glad to help people learn and understand, and keep them from feeling like they were at all out of place. Of course a few people went out of their way to go against the grain and make things difficult for others, but that attitude didn't last long. Everyone who I meet there is meeting me either on the level or sought me out by my reputation. I wasn't there to meet any chix0r, impress anybody, or deal with any sort of relationship with anyone besides my self. That felt good.

The only thing was having to tell the random fire-setters to put them out since they were setting them up above the high tide line. That was a big no-no according to the NPS rangers. It wouldn't have been so bad if we weren't at an event called "the burn." It just made the NPS rangers more comfortable to have one central fire location they could keep an eye on and we were cool with helping them feel more relaxed.

I missed the majority of Monk E and elaD spinning on stage, since the only change I had to be around the DJ booth had the ranger at my side telling them to turn down the volume about 30 dB. Once the music and the drums were gone, though, the burn was like it was years ago. People had to just sit and talk by the fire, and enjoy the company of each other without worrying about the music and the rangers. After the medics arrived and left, the NPS ranger (strangely enough) was considerably more chill, realizing that we were taking care of our own troubles and he didn't have to step in to fix everything.

My first burn, I stayed up all day and all night, not wanting to miss a thing. This time around, I knew my job was done, and turned in just a few minutes after midnight each night and woke up bright and early with the sun around 8am to do my part and never felt like I was missing anything, because I wasn't.

The day after was an amusing chorus of sunburned people. I can't grasp this because except for the first 70 degree, mostly windless day on Friday (which I lathered up completely with SPF 30 to prepare for), I couldn't take off my jeans or coat all weekend, and my ranger hat and sunglasses kept everything off of my face and out of my neck. So besides all the stuff running through my system, I was just happy to be home with an exeperience like this to add to my memories.

Let me tell you, the beach brings out the best in everyone. Forgetress was actually relaxed, lillianvalencia looked like she was born to live on the beach, Knarphie was the true crabby old man ("Get off my grass, you sumbitch kids!") and Protozoa was living it up in major fire spinning style (and has been an absolute mega-affectionate doll ever since then, if I do say so myself). And that's not even counting the three dozen other of my friends who made this a burn to remember.

Thanks everybody!

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