disengage.ca a quest for the technomadic lifestyle



my (ex-) house in Vancouver

goodbye, little house. maybe I'll miss you.

Today is the closing date for the sale of my house in Vancouver.

Yesterday I signed the last of the documents with the notary public and dropped off the last of the keys with the realtor, and apparently Monday I should see the mortgage accounts disappear from my web banking.

The sale represents both the severing of my biggest physical tie to the sedentary world and the un-shouldering of the single largest source of stress in my my life.  My priorities and goals have changed, and while I know that real estate in Vancouver is a sound financial investment in the longer term, I also know that I'm not interested in settling down into a life on land right now. As long as I owned a property I would always have to be a landlord, something that I am neither good at nor enjoy.

The emotional fallout from the sale has been slow to manifest - the house was the last relic of a failed relationship and a terrible downward spiral through the second half of my twenties; a dream that, once achieved, proved to be a huge disappointment.  I am incredibly thankful that I was lucky enough to learn reasonably early the folly in living one's life by others' ideas of success.

my old studio

the thing I'll miss most: my techno studio

At age twenty-eight, I figured I had won the game - I had a cute, successful fiancée, a great, high-paying job and a gorgeous home studio in my own house.  I literally had the proverbial white picket fence!  By all conventional logic, I should have been on top of the world, but instead I was falling deeper and deeper into depression. My relationship was failing and I was drinking far too much. I was rapidly becoming overweight and unhealthy.  I was miserable at my job, and it showed in my work. Still, when I stepped back and looked at my life, I couldn't see anything wrong with it! My ambition hit an all-time low - if the game is won, why bother continuing to play?

Fortunately that relationship fell apart in early 2007, and in the very same month the company I worked for was purchased and dismantled by the new owners.  We received severance packages and pink slips and I watched, shellshocked, as my world crumbled around me.  I spent the next few months fumbling about aimlessly, rented out the upper half the house and moved into the basement, and about a year later I started this blog.

onward, technomad

onward, technomad.

The nearly four years since the collapse of that world has been a period of intense personal growth and discovery, of purging and change, much of which has been documented here.  The house was the last reminder of the former life, and selling it has been both exhilarating and terrifying - not only was it a memento and an investment, but also a safety net should this crazy living-on-a-boat adventure turn sour!  I think I've proven to myself over the past two years the value in trusting my instincts and following my dreams, and I have no intention of stopping now.

As it turns out, personal happiness has very little to do with the ideas portrayed in the movies - everyone knows that once the prince rescues the princess and carries her off into the sunset on horseback, they live "happily ever after".  So why wasn't my 'success' a source of unending joy? Life is defined by struggle, by working toward goals - but when all of those goals are achieved, then what? How many women look as much forward to the six months following their wedding as they do to the wedding itself? What was Ward Cleaver really thinking?

In the past four years I've learned many lessons about the pursuit of happiness. I've learned to actively appreciate beauty, and that the time and energy spent to experience fleeting moments of intense beauty is not wasted. I've learned that while acquiring possessions stimulates a similar part of the mind, real happiness doesn't require anything material. Most of all though, I've learned that happiness is subjective to each person individually, and that it is the sum of emotion and experience. For me, happiness is a combination of freedom, beauty and opportunity.

So! It is official. Apart from six tupperware bins in a storage locker and music equipment and furniture "stored" with friends and family, I have severed my physical ties to the land.

As for what's next... that post will come soon.


January is a Whirlwind

I'm realizing that I'm slipping into the old habit of not writing, which is especially irritating given that it was one of my unwritten (see?  argh.) New Years Resolutions.  For posterity, the list - I might as well get these down now, to help break the cycle:

  1. write more,
  2. develop and trust my emotions,
  3. procrastinate less (see #1), and
  4. seize any opportunity to gain new skills.

The first of the four is pretty obviously failing so far, but that is because #4 has been taking up a lot of my time.  I've become involved with the Vancouver chapter of the Bluewater Cruising Association, a support network for offshore sailors who are either planning to head off into the great blue yonder, who are currently out there living the dream, or who have "been there, done that" and returned to tell the tale.

Miya with sparklers

Miya on New Year's Eve

So far, I've been mostly taking advantage of the education offered through the BCA - I've enrolled in two classes, one for offshore meteorology and another for ham radio operations and licensing.  Both classes are proving to be well worth the time and money spent - the more I learn about ham radio, the more it interests me!  The world of amateur radio - and more specifically, 'packet radio', or computer networking over the airwaves - has a distinctive feel to it so far, one that strongly reminds me of learning about the world of modems and dial-up bulletin board systems, back before the internet gained popularity.

Furthermore, my day job has increased in responsibility, so now I am working very nearly full-time hours during the week.  Part of me is tickled to spend my days working in cloud computing and my nights learning how to interpret cloud formations!  Still, with full-time hours and courses five days per week, I'm not left with much free time to socialize.

Miya sadly had to move back to Seattle this week - her day job was only willing to allow her to work remotely for two months, and those two months flew by faster than either of us expected.  Given that I spent a lot of time paring down my possessions and footprint to make room for a second human aboard the Tie Fighter, her moving off has left the boat feeling somewhat cavernous and empty.  We'll still be together moving forward, with her moving back onto the boat in a few months, but that's a subject that could (and will) make an entire posting itself.



false creek sunset

a lovely farewell evening on the Creek

It is January the 26th 2010, one day past my due date to get the heck out of False Creek - but here I am, still about two hundred meters from the Cambie Bridge.  I've had visits from the VPD two days in a row, but since I haven't been able to start my engine there hasn't been much I can do.  Yesterday I managed to get my engine started again, and today I blew a large portion of the day working on day-job stuff and reprovisioning Tie Fighter for an extended stay where there isn't a grocery store a block away.  I'm still here, but I'll be leaving in the morning.  Tonight is my last evening in the Creek for a while, so I figured I'd relax and enjoy it.

I thought I'd update the blog with a few notes on what has changed in the neighborhood over the past month - besides the constant visits from the VPD, that is.  As I write this, there is a massive inflatable boom across False Creek, about ten meters west of the Cambie Bridge.  There is a gap of about thirty meters across, and that gap is currently being patrolled by no less than four RCMP boats.  Still, I'm getting ahead of myself, so let's start from the beginning.

bike path closure

denied access to my favourite bike path!

Southeastern False Creek is home to the newly-constructed Olympic Village.  The Village will be home to all the athletes during the games, so of course security is a big question - but the sheer amount of money being spent on this project is astounding.  The most recent roadblock to go up, a block or so from my boat, was being staffed by seven people at last check, including three uniformed police officers and four people in VANOC jackets!  As far as I can tell, there is a similar roadblock on every road adjoining the Village.  The entire area is surrounded by tall steel fences.

Still, this is all stuff you can read elsewhere.  This is my blog, and so I will tell (and show) you what I am seeing from the water. For instance, my favourite bike path - the one from Cambie Bridge down towards Science World, past the shiny new Olympic Village buildings, over the boardwalks and sculpted bridge, past the immaculately landscaped gardens and artificial peninsula built for the wildlife - has been blocked off.  To get downtown I have to skulk my way through five blocks of alleyways and several blocks of fenced-in sidewalk.  I hate riding on the sidewalk.

CFAV Glendyne placing the buoys - intimidating!

CFAV Glendyne placing the buoys - intimidating!

Anyhow, about a month ago, a large, scary-looking navy tugboat pulled into False Creek.  I did a bit of research and found the tug to be the Canadian Forces Auxiliary Vessel (CFAV) Glendyne, a Glen-class tugboat based out of CFB Esquimalt, near Victoria.  The Glendyne put a pair of large, orange buoys in place just short of the Cambie Bridge, complete with orange flashing lights on top.  I knew that this would be the beginning of the promised 'boom' under the Bridge, but I still hadn't seen any documentation about what the end result would look like, and so I watched with interest as they set the buoys in place.  I figured they'd be back in the next couple of days to finish the job, but once they were finished they motored slowly away and never returned.

Off-topic, one of my neighbors has mentioned that he expects to see at least one military gunboat in the Creek, paired up with the RCMP zodiacs and whaleboats currently patrolling the boomed-off area.  I am not convinced, but given the focus on security I wouldn't be shocked if there were some kind of small, fast Canadian Forces gunboat deployed here during the games.

holy crap, a hovercraft!

Anyhow - a few weeks went past without any change to the buoys, but one morning last week I awoke to the sounds of something very large cruising past me.  I popped my head up out of the hatch to see a Department of Fisheries and Oceans and/or Canadian Coast Guard (both were painted on the hull) hovercraft making its way slowly down the creek!  The hovercraft - which later research found to be the CCGH Siyay based in Richmond - was outfitted with a crane and a large cargo of cement blocks.  I figured they were planning to work on the boom somehow, but instead they spent the day lining both sides of False Creek with smaller, lighted channel buoys, indicating the shipping channel in the center of the Creek.  This of course was followed by several days of the VPD visiting any boat anchored too far out into the middle of the Creek, issuing warnings and referring everyone to the notice that anchoring within the commercial shipping lane is banned by Transport Canada.

Personally, I think the buoys are actually a nice touch, and I hope they stay past the Olympics.  It's nice to pull into a bay and have your way clearly marked - it makes everything feel a little bit safer, a bit more professional... dare I say "a bit better-managed"?

mmmm, sausages

Anyhow.  Sequential Circus 7 was this weekend - it was excellent, thank you for asking - and as such I didn't spend much time on the boat.  When I returned, I found that someone had been busy, and there were now several large black inflatable sausages stretched across the Creek!  They're about two and a half meters in diameter and appear to be made of a thick rubber, with webbing straps every three meters or so, tie-down grommets on those straps, and large metal rings at the end to fasten the sausages together, or to the shore.  In other words, the sausages are clearly designed and built to do one thing only: to operate as a boom or blockade over water.

One question we'd be bantering about on the Creek was what exactly they were planning to use for the boom.  One guy thought large logs, another thought a very thick rope - I had no ideas, but apparently the answer was easier than we thought.

While rowing back to Tie Fighter yesterday, I made a short detour out to the opening in the boom, where an RCMP whaler was sitting.  As I approached, he was quick to lean out the window and let me know that the area past the boom is now restricted waters - as an aside, I have gotten similar warnings from the people manning blockades as I approached them on my bicycle.  Seriously?  The huge black barrier, the orange flashing lights and the menacing police boat - or in the case of the roadblocks, the seven people in official-looking uniforms, the flashing lights, the pylons, the big orange-striped barrier sawhorses and the police car parked perpendicularly to the road - do other people really not understand these signs?  Or maybe it's just that the barricades are so universally unpopular that anyone approaching them must be some kind of threat.  I don't know.  Anyhow.

The officer, once he understood that I was just there to ask questions, was quite friendly and explained that the boom would be closed to all boats except official VANOC-approved vehicles.  The boom is apparently scheduled for removal at the end of March, but the officer did not know whether or not the shipping lane buoys would be removed.

Speaking of speaking with officers, I've spoken with two different sets of VPD in the past two days, both of whom were somewhat interested in the fact that my anchoring permit had expired.  Each time the R.G.McBeath shows up there are at least two officers onboard, and often more.  Yesterday there were four officers, none of whom I recognized, and when I explained to the officer doing the talking that I was planning to leave as soon as I could get my engine started, he answered "I'll believe that when I see it.".  He then pulled slowly away without saying another word to me.  In contrast, when they came by today, it was another batch of officers I'd never seen before, and when I showed them that I'd just gotten my engine running again, the officer in charge said "It's almost 5pm, why don't you wait until morning before pulling out, it'll be dark very soon.".  Nice!

Anyhow.  I've only blown my deadline by two days, but it's definitely time to go.  The only thing I know to expect is significantly rougher waters - False Creek is very protected, and I'm really not looking forward to just how bad the February weather can be out in the open.  Rest assured, I'll blog about it as I go.


It Starts…

(alternate title: "Served!  Served!  Served!")

Ok, so I figured I'd write this "tomorrow", but that "tomorrow" was Christmas Eve and well... you know how it goes.

official notice from the VPD

official notice from the VPD

So!  December 23rd, I got a visit from the Vancouver Police Department, in the R.G.McBeath.  They were quite friendly, as they often are, but they explained that unfortunately the court battle between the city and a False Creek liveaboard had come to a close, with the judge ruling to uphold the 2006 Vancouver addendum to the Canada Shipping Act.  The Act, translated to layman english, says that no person or group can "own" a navigable water - ie anywhere that the tide goes in and out.  Navigable water is public land, and anyone can anchor in any navigable water for as long as they like as long as they're not blocking shipping channels or in military areas.

...or as the Addendum states, "or if it's False Creek, Vancouver, in which case all bets are off.".

Anyhow, the officers told me that they were now under orders to enforce the anchoring bylaws, and that I would have to get an anchoring permit if I wanted to stay in False Creek.  They gave me an informational pamphlet detailing what to expect in the Creek during the Olympics, and they served me with an official notice saying that I must have said permit by January 4th, or that I'll be towed from the creek at my expense.  That's not an insignificant expense, either - the towing includes a haulout, which requires a special mobile crane lift to pull the boat out of the water and up onto land storage.  Usually a haulout costs around $200 per trip, and the officers made sure to point out there would be added storage fees racking up daily while the boat rests on their land.

Just as an aside, I wouldn't be surprised if the VPD marine dry storage place didn't actually have the capability to lift a boat of Tie Fighter's size out of the water - she's about 7.5m wide, and most travel lifts can only handle a boat about 5m wide...  not that I have any inclination towards putting that theory to the test!

the outside of the VPD's pamphlet

the outside of the VPD's pamphlet

There are folks around in the Creek who have their hackles raised by the ruling.  Honestly, I must confess there's even a little anti-authoritarian anarchist part of me left over from my teens - that part of my mind has built a mental barricade from a burning, flipped over Prius, and is screaming "WE WILL FIGHT THIS!" - but the reality is, I have no intention whatsoever of fighting it.  I'll go.  Frankly, I kind of needed the kick in the ass; if you're going to live in an apartment that can travel around but you don't actually take advantage of that fact... well, you might as well be living in a trailer park.

If you're reading this and you're not from Vancouver, you might not realize that False Creek is pretty much ground zero for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics.  I am currently anchored just west of the Cambie Bridge, about 300m from the Olympic Village, future home to the illustrious athletes while the games are ongoing, and future snooty yuppy condo village for decades after that.  It has actually been a real pleasure to watch the Village rise from the unused industrial plots over the past few months, and the bike ride around the seawall from the Cambie Bridge down towards Science World has become a tour of some the most beautiful architecture in the city.  I will deeply miss calling this neighborhood my "permanent" home.

pamphlet, inside

pamphlet, inside

Of course, with the Olympics being a huge political and financial debacle, forethought is critical.  I can certainly understand the need to crack down on anchoring given the situation; hotel rooms are pushing up to $5000/night during the games!  Anyone within boating range would/should/will jump at the chance to come and spend a few days staying on their boat free of charge, anchored pretty much directly in the downtown core of Vancouver.  There's a serious potential there for chaos, with hundreds or perhaps even thousands of boaters of various skill levels attempting to anchor in the notoriously foul weather of February.  A single dragging anchor can mean many thousands of dollars of damage to a boat... or more importantly, to other boats or property nearby.  The city would be crazy to stand by and let it happen, which is why I've been saying for months that there'd be absolutely no way they'd allow us to stay on, unfettered, through the Olympic games.

So what does it all mean for me?  Well, when I first heard the news I took it as bad.   After reflection, I have now I have come to realize that it's just the change of a chapter for this lifestyle; sometimes you get to pick when the next chapter begins, and sometimes you just have to roll with it.  I've grown very complacent in the past few months, settling in to the easy life here in downtown Vancouver.  There are groceries, laundry and many coffeeshops and restaurants within an easy walk.  If I want to go to Canadian Tire, it's a hundred-meter row followed by a three-block bikeride - anchoring anywhere else that could be a two-kilometer row followed by a five-kilometer bikeride, or even much further.  I'm already in decent shape, but I suspect that I will be in much better shape by summertime.

When I get my anchoring permit on January 4th, it will be valid for twenty-one days, meaning I will have to vacate False Creek on or before January 25th, 2010.  Normally I wouldn't wait until the last minute, but I have obligations here in town on the 23rd, and I am hoping to travel a bit earlier on in the month.

To be clear, this isn't the end of an era - the permit only really says that I have twenty-one days in which I can stay in False Creek out of any sequential forty days.  I can return to anchor False Creek in March, ideally just after the Olympics finish, but at that time the forces-that-be will have switched over to the summer permit rules.  In the summertime one can anchor in False Creek for fourteen days out of any consecutive thirty days with a valid permit.  Anchoring permits are free; the only thing that really changes here is my stable, unmoving spot, where I have been squatting at anchor without a permit for the past five months or so.

So now, on top of my usual pile of duties, obligations and stresses, I have a half of a month to finish all of my maintenance tasks, tie off any loose ends in town and find a new place to live for a month or so, and my ability to stay in one place for months at a time has been more or less permanently removed.  As of January 25th, I will officially be a nomad!


Back from Burning Man

Well, I'm back to bobbing around in False Creek after a spectacular week in the Nevada Desert.  Actually I've been back for a week now, but I'm still trying to decompress - funny how the "default world" can seem so surreal.  I've held off on posting this so that I could edit it slowly as the memories came to me, and so that I could sort out some photos to go along with the anecdotes.


The Man: Just This Guy, You Know?

Rather than evangelize, let me just say this:  maybe you've planned go to Burning Man but something got in the way, or maybe you've seen images or TV shows about it and thought it sounded interesting.  Maybe you've just seen the deranged, happy looks in the eyes of folks who've recently returned from the desert, and noticed the lasting changes in the way they look at the world around them, and maybe that made you wonder just what the whole thing is all about.  Do yourself a favour and just get there.

It's not too difficult; the trick I've used to great success several times now is to get a ticket when they first go on sale in February, then stick it somewhere that you'll see it regularly, like on your fridge.  If you have the ticket and it turns out you can't go, you can easily bounce it on Craigslist pretty much right up until the day the event starts, for as much as you paid for it - so there's almost zero financial risk.  Drop the $250 when the tickets go on sale, and your life will mysteriously get out of the way and allow you to go to the desert.  However, if you tell yourself you're going but wait until August to buy your ticket, your life will conspire to prevent you from going, be it work-related problems, or financial or whatever.

Anyhow.  After a few frantic days of last-minute preparation (ok, I admit it, mostly costume shopping), Carrie and I loaded up her truck with a huge pile of camping equipment and headed down to Seattle to meet up with our three-RV convoy.  After being denied a border crossing back in February, I didn't want to take the chance of having our whole RV turned inside out - or worse yet, having the whole RV turned away - just because of a little black mark on my record.  We made it across with zero hassles, and spent the night in a Super-8 before reconnecting with the rest of the motley band at the Seattle REI.  Interesting fact(*): the Seattle REI is the second most visited tourist attraction in Seattle, after the Space Needle.

(*: by "fact" I mean that someone working the door at the REI told me this, so take it with a grain of salt.)


Carleigh and Bayrock in the Monday sunrise

We drove looooong through the night and arrived at the Black Rock Desert at approximately 2am, where we had to wait in a long, dusty lineup of RVs, trucks and cars for the next three hours.  When we finally arrived at the Greeters Station, all the first-timers ("virgins") were pulled out of the RV to roll in the dust, ring the welcome gong, and receive a certificate good for one spanking at the Greeters Camp.  I thought the certificate was pretty lame, personally - in previous years the spanking was administered promptly and with great enthusiasm shown by both spanker and spankee, but apparently there have been complaints.  *sigh*.

Setting up camp while the sun rose was gorgeous, and went smoothly - we were all far too excited to sleep, so we broke out the costumes and ran giddily around the playa all day, hitting up bars and checking out art.  Most of the big sound stages weren't yet setup, so Monday night was by far the quietest of the week, but that didn't stop us from tracking down bar after bar and partying as hard as possible.

Tuesday was much of the same.  The first 'real' day of Burning Man; wake up, struggle into consciousness, clean up with babywipes, apply sunscreen, don your most fabulous, anticipated costume and stumble out into the blinding white desert in search of adventure.  Of course there was no shortage of adventure, and the day was mostly spent riding from art installation to art installation, making new friends at the Man, gathering and subsequently losing a posse, and drinking fabulous martinis at Martini Village.  Sleeper hit of the day: Lollipop Shot Camp, where we were served shots of Ketel One vodka and Tootsie Roll Pops in custom take-home glow-in-the-dark shot glasses, on lanyards for easy access of course.  The procedure - dunk the lollipop in the shot glass, twirl it around for a minute, take the shot, repeat - was both fun and dangerous, and we all agreed we needed to take a break from drinking shortly thereafter.

Drew and new friend 'Ja', at Lollipop Shot Camp

Drew and a new friend at Lollipop Shot Camp

By Tuesday night the Opulent Temple was up and running, and the throbbing house music could be heard from one end of the playa to the other.  Shortly after we met up with them the crew decided to head for the other side of the playa to catch DJ Dan at another stage, and Carrie mentioned being tired and planning to head back to camp.  When she left, I decided I'd had enough of house music and headed off to find some dubstep, eventually meeting some folks who told me that DJ Mimosa was playing at the Space Cowboys stage, so I took off like a shot to get there.  Mimosa was hands-down my favourite act from the Emrg-N-See festival in Oregon earlier this summer.

As I arrived at the stage, I rolled up on my bike at a reasonable clip.  I wove in and out of the hundreds of bicycles lying on the street, aiming to drop mine as close to the stage as I could to make it a more undesirable target for a bike thief, should any be around, and managed to make it within about twenty feet.  As I approached what looked like a good spot, I swung my leg up over the bike and rode on a single pedal, unravelling my long skirt and adjusting my hat while riding with one hand, and then gingerly stepped off as the bike reached the drop spot, allowing the bike to fall gently to the ground.  A nearby group of three girls, unnoticed until that moment, began a round of polite applause.

"That was the best dismount I've seen this year!", said one.

I took my top hat in hand and bowed low in acknowledgement, and at the lowest point of the bow I was startled to see that I had dropped my bike directly next to Carrie's - nearly on top of her bike, in fact.  I guess great music is universal; I spent the next half-hour tracking her down in the massive crowd, letting her know that it was just one of those quirky Burning Man coincidences, and that I wasn't in fact stalking her.

My custom-built Rad Playa Cruiser™

My custom-built Rad Playa Cruiser™

Wednesday I parted ways with my crew to meet up with Miya, whom I hadn't seen in a few months, and we spent the day riding double on my Rad Playa Cruiser™ which I had equipped with stunt pegs for exactly such an opportunity.  In four years of Burning Man I have yet to see a single other bicycle with stunt pegs, which confuses me somewhat - mine cost me a grand total of $6, and have come in handy numerous times each year.  What better way to meet cute girls?

"You're looking for Root Society, hey?  Hop on, I'm heading that way now..!"

Just as an aside, my Rad Playa Cruiser™ has now seen three Burning Man expeditions, and currently resides with my friend Dan Ross as his primary bicycle.  She began life as a $25 junk store bicycle and underwent massive reworking to become the jewel that she is today - please click here for a photo of her in the "before" state.

Rocking 'Hair of the Dog' with an impromptu band

Rocking 'Hair of the Dog' with an impromptu band

Miya and I ended up bouncing from bar to bar, eventually finding ourselves drinking at 'Hair of the Dog', an open-mic bar a block or so from Center Camp.  Miya noticed a whiteboard behind the bar, listing things the bar could use as donations, such as orange juice, tequila, baby wipes and... "little people".  Apparently one of the bartenders had a thing for dwarves and/or midgets, but this entry spawned a furious row ending with Miya standing on a barstool and berating the bartenders mercilessly, arguing that her 5'4" frame certainly qualified her as "little".  She was quite convincing, and soon found herself working behind the bar helping random burners take the edge off the day.  I seized this opportunity to take the stage, and played and sang several songs with an impromptu band.  We were pretty bad, but considering none of us had ever met before, much less played together, we weren't terrible and the crowd was quite appreciative.

Thursday was much quieter during the day than the previous days, spending most of the time taking it easy and recovering from the past three days of lunacy.  Most of our camp napped intermittantly, and I had an excellent guitar and mandolin jam with Glyn and a few random folks that wandered under our shade structure throughout the afternoon.  Thursday night on the other hand, Carrie and I got into our most dressy costumes and headed out for a night of dancing.  We made our way to the enormous Root Society dome to see Bassnectar, which was apparently also the plan of about seven or eight thousand other burners.  The dome was packed wall-to-wall, and they'd configured soundsystems outside as well, with spillover crowds extending well out into the streets.  The bass could be felt from blocks away!  We danced well into the night, and I didn't get to bed until well after sunrise.

Miya attempting to make breakfast crêpes

Miya attempting to make breakfast crêpes

Friday I met up with Miya again, who had had a very rough morning dealing with a medical emergency involving a member of her camp.  We spent the afternoon and evening just talking and wandering around from art installations to bars, spending an hour or so watching a terrible italian caveman soft-porn flick in the Bad Ideas Theatre and eating popcorn.  We ended up crashing reasonably early, in preparation for the festivities of Saturday.

Saturday, the day of the burn, felt like it arrived far too quickly.  Our camp, 'Team Gong Show' (a subset of the 'First Republic of Slacking') had planned a three-hour party in the afternoon and I had been elected bar manager.  In preparation for this, we had stopped at the Rite-Aid pharmacy in Alturas, California to purchase alcohol - the ridiculous prices of booze in the states never cease to astound me.  We purchased a grand total of twelve gallons of vodka and rum for just over $120, and in three hours of serving heavily-sauced smoothies to a crowd of about a hundred or so we went through it all.  The theme of the party was, unsurprisingly, "The Gong Show" and after buttering up the crowd with drinks and house music for an hour or so, the gonging began.  I went up to play and sing A-Ha's 'Take On Me' with my mandolin, to much acclaim, though I was gonged when I returned to the stage an hour later to perform Britney Spears' 'Hit Me Baby One More Time' on the acoustic guitar.

in the Deep Playa, surveying the land

in the Deep Playa, surveying the land

The burning of the man was spectacular, with phenomenal fireworks and a huge fireball erupting from the base of the man to start the blaze.  The man himself was particularly well built this year, and it was a solid forty minutes or so before he finally fell.  I had plans to meet up with Miya at midnight, but I took a short nap after the burn which turned into a three-hour stretch, and I woke up at 1:45am, groggy and faded from the day's heavy partying.  Fortunately, I subscribe to the theory that every Burning Man meetup plan should have at least one backup plan, and so I had also made a plan to meet her at 2am at Center Camp should we miss out on the midnight meetup.  I raced over to Center Camp, losing my third set of goggles of the week on the way, and waited - but she never showed.  When I made my way back to her camp to see if she was there, I found her fast asleep in her tent - it turned out she had also partied way too hard during the day, and had slept right through the meetup times as well.  We ended up napping for another few hours, intending to wake up for sunrise, but we even missed that by about an hour.  The early morning was spent riding around in the deep playa, checking out the furthest-flung art installations, talking and enjoying the morning sunlight.

Overall?  Amazing.  Very much a different experience from the previous two years, but that's pretty much always how it is - you go in with expectations of how things are going to be, but you can never really predict what will happen or how it will affect you.  I was a lot more 'crew'-oriented this year, instead of heading out solo like the previous years, and I stayed a lot more sober.

I will most certainly go again.