Tigger believed in us

I have a Tigger condom. A condom with a picture of the character “Tigger” on it.

It was a playa gift from a Burner named Tigger. A long-time Media Team volunteer organizer, a rock on whom the whole place depended. She gave it to me ‘cause she liked me. She didn’t give one to Polaris because she liked him even more.

We lost Tigger to cancer yesterday. We knew it was coming, she’d been fighting it for years. She was in hospice care. Media Meccans had been rushing out to New York, where she was a fixture in the Burner scene, to say “hello” and try to work around to “goodbye.”

But we thought we’d have more time. We always think we’ll have more time.

I don’t want to write this. So many people knew her so much better than I did. I was one of the people who didn’t handle her illness well. Se was so goddamn full of life – one of the most lively, energetic people I ever knew – that I simply couldn’t picture her sick. Couldn’t really process it. And so I was more quiet than I should have been during the last parts of her life.

Apparently death has loosed my tongue. Now I can’t help myself. Now. Fuck me.

Back at Media Mecca, I liked to call Tigger “the competent one.” Her shit gone done. Amazingly well. Done better than you or I could do it. She was intimidatingly good at whatever job she put herself to, and nothing seemed to faze her. She had this way of looking at you that asked, without her saying anything: “are you phoning it in? Even a little?” And then she’d smile.

I imagine that every camp that lasts for very long and does something at least moderately difficult has “a competent one.” More than one, if they’re lucky. But rarely is “the competent one” also “the party animal.” Over and over again, I saw volunteers meeting her go through the same transition: once you stopped being scared shitless of her she was a never-ending good time.

She led art tours. She ran marathons. She camped in two places every Burning Man, because sometimes you want to bring someone home who you don’t want to bring home – except when she was camping in three different places, because sometimes you bring someone home who you also don’t want to bring to your home-away-from home.

I could never keep up with Tigger, and I could never understand why she spent so much time torturing me. Which she did. For a number of years she had a tradition of sexually harassing me during work shifts, starting with not respecting my personal space and quickly escalating to crude groping. And then getting creative. “There’s just GOT to be a point where you’ll tell me to stop!” she said after one particularly awkward clinch.

Oh Tigger.

She was a successful … successful … um, something … as her day job. She explained it to me, but I never really understood. Coordinating project management between clients and house developers for tech companies? Or some such? Honest-to-God I don’t know. She’d sometimes invite me to work parties when she was in San Francisco, but Tigger wasn’t the kind of person you spent much time talking about work with. She had real life stories the way the rest of us have playa stories. And she had playa stories the way Jim Henson had puppets.

She’d been coming to Burning Man since the 90s. She believed in Burning Man. One night, at a San Francisco jazz club, we got into an argument about whether Burners are actually any better than anybody else. I said no: every subculture thinks that they’re unique and special, smarter, more open and more accepting than everyone else. Burning Man doesn’t appeal to an “elite,” we’re fun for everybody.

Tigger said no. That Burners are the best damn people she knew. The best people in her life. The people she wanted to surround herself with. She believed in us. She believed that we have something to offer, and she didn’t want us to rest until we were giving everything we could. She was always, always, giving. It was the connection between her incredible competence and her constant fun. She knew just how much she had to give, and never settled for anything less. Never wanted us to settle for anything less. That stare she gave you when your work wasn’t up to stuff – it wasn’t superior, it was her way of asking “do you KNOW how much you have to give?”

She believed in many people more than they believed in themselves. She believed in me more than I believe in myself.

Of course I never told her to stop. Of course she never did. Except, of course, now that she has. I think the only rest she ever knew was her final one.

This one late night at Burning Man, we were out at the trash fence in a golf cart. Just Tigger and me. We were staring at Black Rock City, its fires and its lights and its legions of art cars ferrying dancers over the open desert … a halo surrounding the temple …

And it was freezing out there, but so beautiful that we didn’t want to leave. So we huddled together for warmth and just watched the city move under the stars.

“You know what?” she said, laughing, “you’re a very cold person,” and she pulled me even closer. “Warm up.”

I wished then, as I wish now, that I was better at taking her advice.

But I will try, I will try, I will try, Tigger, to be more like you, and never phone it in again.

About the author: Caveat Magister

Caveat Magister

A member of the Burning Man Project's Philosophical Center, Caveat served as the Volunteer Coordinator for Media Mecca from 2008 - 2013. He is presently working with Burning Man's education department on a cultural studies curriculum for Burning Man culture. Caveat is the author of the short story collection A Guide to Bars and Nightlife in the Sacred City, which has nothing to do with Burning Man. He has finally got his email address caveat (at) burningman (dot) org working again. He tweets, occasionally, as @BenjaminWachs

39 Comments on “Tigger believed in us

  • Corvus says:

    Outstanding eulogy, CM. She sounds like a damn fine person.

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  • Polaris says:

    Beautiful words, Caveat. Thank you.

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  • Magorn says:

    Tigger was also one of the essential elements that helped the East coast Burn Playa del Fuego evolve from a cook-out on the beach to what it is today. She had the kind of charisma that just made people naturally want to like her, and each other. She build communities as effortlessly as most people build fire stacks. I did not know her half as well as I would have liked. But I am grateful for the time we spent together

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  • cherie says:

    thank you so much for this. tigger was an amazing person and i am so sad abt the empty gaping hole she has left in the world and the community.

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  • Daveious says:

    Incredibly touching to read this HERE and TODAY. I am told that it was announced at the funeral this morning that a lock of her hair will be in the Man when it burns.

    Nothing could be more right and appropriate, except to have her still around… *sniffle*

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  • Jesse says:

    Thank you for writing this.

    I met Tigger many, many years ago (80s), but never knew her through Burning Man. She was always open and friendly and you are right – damned competent. I miss her…

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  • Grahamaphone says:

    Gigsville, where she would pitch the “second home” mentioned above, has/had a reputation of a being the black hole of the playa, where no one did anything to contribute to the event. Anytime anyone said that, we would point to Tigger’s tent and tell the naysayer “um…..no”. While there are plenty of folks in G-Ville who make massive contributions to the burn, Tigger was in many ways our pride and joy. She was the example none of us could get close to emulating. Her mortal body is thankfully no longer in pain, her spirit and soul lives on in anyone who was lucky enough to call her a friend.

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  • Wild Blood says:

    So much love for Tig “…she had playa stories the way Jim Henson had puppets.” Amen.

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  • Sean says:

    WOULD YOU RIDE YOUR BIKE THROUGH YOUR LIVINGROOM?!?!?!
    Thanks for the great words Caviat.

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  • Roycroft Jones says:

    Wow, this kinda threw me. Tigger was there when I first volunteered at Media Mecca. Tough but fair also describes her, and generous as hell. RIP

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  • Oh Caveat, this is beautiful.

    I feel like I failed, or was too busy being grumpy to give all I had to Media Mecca; this will be my forth time and I really don’t know anyone well.

    I didn’t know Tgger well, but I recall she was one of the few grown-ups who could answer questions without being annoyed with the new guy. She was a good one.

    I failed because I didn’t give enough, I didn’t get to know her (or anyone eslse in Media Mecca.

    Thank you for writing so beautifully what was probably very difficult.

    Sometimes I wonder why people like Tigger who give so much are taken from us, while some like me who does so little is still here. I know … life isn’t fair.

    This year we bring Alistair (the Australian from Journeylizm) and Tigger to the temple.

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  • Andie Grace says:

    Oh God, thank you Caveat. You nailed it. Proper love for an amazing woman who leaves behind a giant hole in our hearts, and on the team that loved her.

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  • Djinnaya says:

    Wonderful words…

    She was amazing, and no matter how heavy my heart is to have lost her, it is even more deeply full of gratitude to have had the chance to cause trouble with her, to be schooled by her, and to laugh with her. I wonder if I’ll ever stop finding these places in my life where she was and now is not.

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  • Amani says:

    Thank you, Caveat. A lovely tribute to an (almost) unstoppable force of nature, our beloved Tigger.

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  • Kanizzle says:

    Thank you Caveat, so much. Can’t wait to give you a hug, and have a drink in the name of Tig. <3

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  • Dennis says:

    There’s a big old hole in Media Mecca that can only be filled with memories; thanks for your brilliant additions.

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  • iD says:

    I’ve know her for years. Years before Burning Man. We bumped into each other in the mid-90s as the dot.com industry was blowing up in NYC. She was massively great at her work. She was incredible to hang with. Her stories before and outside of Burner culture are just as good as those inside Burner culture.

    In the late 90’s I told her about Burning Man and how I had gone and would go again. I told her it was made for a person just like her. I had no idea how well that would work out.

    I’m gonna miss you old friend. I’m gonna miss ya something terrible.

    And I leave you all with her favorite toast: “Here’s to being single, drinking double and sleeping triple!”

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  • Evil Pippi says:

    So well done, Caveat. Tigger came to the Media Mecca team after I left, but I got to know her by hanging around AG out there. She was severely smart, in control, and commanded respect- key qualities for a leader on such a sprawling team. She welcomed me to her home in NYC, and shared deep personal stories on late night walks across the playa with Yomi. That is how she connected. Again with Yomi, and Hellga, we were so lucky to convene in NYC and have a tasty jerk chicken dinner at her apt that Yoms is famous for making when in the US. This was just two months ago. She was scared, but strong, and still extremely giving and glad to have us. Cherishing those moments. Major hugs to those of you hurting now. See you at the Temple.

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  • TwistedCat says:

    Fuck. Thank you. That was beautiful.

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  • Admarz says:

    Jesus, Caveat, Tigger sounds like an amazing woman. I’m so sorry for your loss, and everyone else she touched on Playa… Sounds like we lost a GREAT one!

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  • Coyotegoth says:

    I remember Tigger from the NYC scene from back in the ’90s; reading this makes me wish I’d known her at Burning man, as well. Goodbye, Tig.

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  • Cathleen says:

    Thank you, Caveat. You’re right. Tigger scared the shot out of me. But when she warmed up to you… When you realized she liked you… It MEANT something. I have emails she sent a few days before her passing. She worked til the end. For Burning Man. For us. It was her pleasure to do so. I will miss her every day.

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  • Judge says:

    Tigger and I saw each other for many years. I visited her several times in NY and we always ran into each other on the playa. She was my date at Flipside at least one evening every year. I knew her business side and her playa side. She had a way of being serious and direct about how she felt about things that would tend to dig in to the point of annoyance. And then she would do something silly or funny and have one of those little evil giggles. I cant get that little giggle out of my head. I dont want to.

    I’m not going to lie and say that this has been easy to deal with. She didnt want to tell me originally that she had cancer. Then when they discovered that the chemo wasnt helping, she asked me to come out to NY. She told me that my plans to come out there was what was keeping her going. That was heavy.

    The last thing she said to me was that she was looking forward to me coming out to see her. Then her friend emailed me and said things were going downhill. I knew from past experiences that this was the beginning of the end. She told her friend to tell me not to come out. She didnt want me to see her in the end stage. That was also heavy. I reluctantly cancelled my flight and 24 hours later she was gone.

    Now my Facebook feed is awash of her photos and memories and stories like this one about her. In a way its painful to see, but in another way it helps to know how special she was to so many people. My eyes well up in painful pressure when I think about that goddamn giggle of hers. Her smile. Her love.

    The wonderful thing about Tiggers
    Is Tiggers are wonderful things!
    Their tops are made out of rubber
    Their bottoms are made out of springs!
    They’re bouncy, trouncy, flouncy, pouncy
    Fun, fun, fun, fun, fun!
    But the most wonderful thing about Tiggers is
    SHE was the only one.

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  • Lisa lefler says:

    I knew Tigger by another name in another life in the halls of kindergarten and the tragedy of high school in NJ. Was very happy to reconnect with her at our x0 high school reunion when I crashed her room. Still the same old smile and character. Burn on my friend. Burn on. Your sentiment was beautiful.

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  • SMASH says:

    Deep Gratitude to you Caveat for saying so perfectly what I have been thinking and feeling.

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  • Buttery says:

    So very beautiful (Tigger and your words). I keep thinking I will run out of tears, but they just keep coming. Just like her love and her spirit, they seem endless. Thank you for putting your heart out here like this. Every bit helps in comforting all of us that were lucky enough to know and love her. xo xo Buttery

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  • DoctorSarah says:

    I came quite late to the party that was Tigger’s life. I knew her as one of the light-up-the-room, larger-than-life figures in the New York Burner scene. She welcomed me in so generously, and she was always surrounded by love and beauty in all their forms.

    We have had an outpouring of love and grief among my fellow New Yorkers, but it is so immensely gratifying to see those thoughts and feelings echoed here.

    Tigger, we New York Burners love and miss you so much! You will be remembered fondly in the hearts of many, and all your hard work will be reflected and magnified in those you have taught.

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  • 'stina says:

    I knew Tigger through Burning Man, but more through Flipside. It seemed that her tent was always right next to ours, and we would spend hours and hours and hours together. Though she managed to spend hours and hours and hours with everyone else too. She sent me tutus, and I gave her the inside scoop on my corset sources. We talked and wandered and rampaged and made assjackery together. She lent us her apartment in New York one weekend when we were there for a wedding. The last time I saw her was at the ass crack of dawn on the last morning of Flipside 2014. My husband and I were quietly packing to go home, and she was stumbling back to her tent after singing “Rainbow Connection” to welcome the sun to a new day with the rest of our crew. It’s a perfect last memory to have of someone.

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  • Yoms says:

    Thank you, CM. Huge respect for this.

    Here’s what I posted on FB:

    Angels have taken Tigger away to a place of peace. No more pain, and now her radiant smile will now be shared by others.

    A bright light has gone out, but her heart emoticon, friendship, and warmth will be remembered by all who were fortunate to know her.

    Mecca will never be the same, New York will never be the same, life itself, will not be the same.

    Miss you Tigger, sorry I didn’t get to say goodbye. You knew my plan to return in October, and take you out of the city was a pipe dream – yet you humoured me and promised to consider one final road trip.

    I remember vividly how upset you were at not having time to visit Australia and New Zealand, so I’ll do it on your behalf. You may not be there in person, but I’ll take you in my heart, and will leave a something of yours there. You see, dreams can sometimes come true.

    With a very heavy heart.

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  • Blackthorne says:

    This story, the kind of people that it takes to make them true, and the kind of person Tigger seems to have been a shining example of, are what motivate us to do better, and do more.

    Sometimes we might wonder – what’s the point? Why bother making something people may mock? Why bother helping others do the same? What does it all add up to?

    These people slap us on the ass, smile, and point us at the path. It’s so important.

    Thanks for the motivation Tigger, and thanks for passing it on Caveat Magister.

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  • Asstrid says:

    What a fitting tribute to a caring and funny and beautiful Tigger. We all will miss you. And we will remember you, Next Day as it comes to pass. Thank you, Caveat Magister.

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  • Rodney Mayers says:

    That was indeed the finest eulogy anyone could have written. I worked with Tigger these past 3 years and your story captured her spirit to the tee. She worked through the past couple years during her illness as if nothing was happening. I was a hot mess and in the back of my mind kept thinking she would win…because she always won. It wasn’t until earlier this year she said to me with dead pan serious – “…it’s terminal.” I sat silent on the phone and searched my brain for meaning as if terminal was a computer screen and I misheard her. I got to spend time with her a few weeks before this moment and she made sure I took a picture of her blinged out walker…complete with eyes, flowers and lights. We miss her terribly here at that place that is hard to describe. What I always loved about her was that wicked twinkle in her eye. No matter how I felt that day, when I saw her coming, I’d start to laugh and then she’d start to laugh and for no damn reason. God I’ll miss her but you must have needed her really badly so take care of her.

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    • The Brother says:

      To all of you, those that have posted, commented or just read the above, please know that Tigger LOVED YOU ALL and loved everything about her Burning Man experiences. Over the course of the last 2 plus years of her illness, she and I had the opportunity to become closer then we ever were, and I am blessed to have learned so much more about her and those (you) she called her Chosen Family.

      For those of you that new her, even peripherally, you know that she was more then happy to tell you exactly how she felt, what was on her mind, and would offer advise or support if you were ever in need. The Tuesday before she passed I was again spending the night with her in her apartment, and as always we ended up talking about the future. Her future, my future, and what I HAD to do, which was getting myself out to the playa to experience what she experienced and so deeply loved for the past many years (albeit at a significantly lower intensity level and “involvement” then my sister I suspect) Thus I will be there for the 2016 event because there is no arguing with my sister.

      Thank you all for the love and caring and well wishes. You have shared your collective love with me and my family, and as one of you said to me last night, you are now a part of our family. See you all on the playa.

      RIP Tigger, Love you Sis.
      -The Brother

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  • JC says:

    I’ve been a burner for several years, and one of her coworkers. It was great to have another burner at work, and she was awesome to hang out with when she was in SF, or on the playa. Two years ago, she had to back out for medical reasons, but was able to make it home again last year. We knew it was going to be her last year back home.

    That was as close as I ever came to saying goodbye. When she went on leave, I never said anything. I didn’t know the words. I kept telling myself I would. I was going to send her a postcard from the playa.

    And then I get into the office to see an email. She’d passed away. We knew it was coming, but… damnit :(

    I’m still going to be sending her that postcard. Just now I’m going to have to mail it via the temple.

    She’s will be missed. She left her mark on everyone around her.

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  • What a great tribute!!

    Tigger gave me my NY playa Name Bobby THE virgin… I’ll never forget her… My friend, mentor, guide and ball buster :) Love you TIgger….

    Here’s a slideshow I made for tigger… as you can see, she was unlike anyone else :)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jkrjkzRZMHY

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  • Muppet says:

    Tigger gifted me a Burning Man ticket in 2012, after learning my sister had cancer. Mind you, at the time she barely knew me. I was invited into a wonderful camp (her other home, NYC Container) and taught how to burn *right*. She really did take me under her tutelage, and I was taken care of by a group of kick ass doers, who showed me what community is all about. It’s that same community that has showed me the awesome power of friendship, and love. Agape. Holy. An though I’m glad she is no longer in pain, I’m going to miss annoying her on playa next year, I’m going to miss putting in innane requests for fruit (which she would reluctantly honor), I’m going to miss that laugh, I’m going to miss the sticker shwag she would bring to camp…I’m just going to miss my Burning Man mommy.

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  • Mark Nyon says:

    I can only echo what others have said; Tigger was a one of a kind person who I’ll miss greatly. While at Container Camp, her boundless energy (and multiple coms) provided a lot of entertainment. She introduced me to a woman I fell in love with, and that was just one connection among many she made during her time here.

    RIP Tigger, and we’ll take care of your brother next year.

    Also, take the time to tell the people you love that you care while you can.

    Mark Nyon

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  • Handy Orten says:

    If everyone around you acts as though something is dangerous elevators, certain neighborhoods, novels depicting racism then you are at risk of acquiring that fear too. One of my biggest concerns about trigger warnings, Roff wrote, is that they will apply not just to those who have experienced trauma, but to all students, creating an atmosphere in which they are encouraged to believe that there is something dangerous or damaging about discussing difficult aspects of our history.

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