Once Upon a Pinkie Swear
In 2005, when I promised my friend Devin that I would to go to Burning Man, little did I know that I would soon be taken in by a community that would school me in the fine arts of friendship, performance, love and BACON. Up until I fell into the Burning Man community, I thought you needed a stage to perform. That’s not to say that this Lioness doesn’t love the limelight but over the course of the past few years, I’ve discovered that life is performance art and that the immediate moment is as good a time as any to act out your grandest gestures.
Once Upon an Airplane
Last Wednesday, on my five-hour-middle-seat-sour-forgot-to-check-myself-in-so-I-was-the-last-person-on-the-friggin-plane flight from SF to My Sweet Home Chicago, I clutched my beautiful Lakes of Fire ticket in my hands and was overcome with anticipation. I couldn’t wait to see the creative spirits with whom I’d performed in my first burlesque show and done my first roving performances and guerilla street theater. Of course I was also excited to participate in the event that my Midwest friends had been working hard for quite some time to create. After years of cross-regional planning and collaborating, the Regional Contacts and other rock star community leaders from the Upper Midwest and Ontario worked with local Michiganders to lay the ground work for the first Great Lakes regional burn that took place July 25-28, 2009 at Willow Ranch in Lacota, Michigan. I’d visited the Willow Ranch the previous year for the 2008 Chicago-Detroit Decompression, the trial run for Lakes of Fire. At Decom, I watched Libertine, a prolific poet from Detroit, recite her work to a group of supportive fans. I delighted then in seeing how the creative community that had nurtured the emerging performer within me before I moved to San Francisco was holding space for other burgeoning artists.
Once Upon a Ranch
On Thursday, armed with two separate yet equally important wardrobes — that of Franny Frolicious, my Disco Diva persona who “loves the Nightlife … and loves to Boogie” and Kandi, a sailor girl who was destined to sail the Lakes of Fire aboard the S.S. Bacon effigy — I descended upon Firetown, the soon-to-be weekend home to over 550 Burners. We presented our tickets at the gate, were warmly welcomed by the Greeters.Upon reflection, I am struck by the difference between this inaugural entrance into Lakes of Fire and my first “greeting” at Black Rock City back in 2005. Whereas both “greetings” felt warm and welcoming, this time around I felt so much more solid in myself. In 2005, when Devin and I first entered Black Rock City late in the evening, I remember being so awestruck by the mysterious costumed, goggled creatures of the night that I became tongue-tied. I think the Greeters’ comfort in themselves was intimidating to me at the time. Now, four years after that initial experience, I was the boisterous one in the loud outfit coming HOME but this time, it was a home full of familiar faces and memories. In fact, one of the Greeters at Firetown was a “newbie” in the Great Lakes community who had signed up for a volunteer shift. She was shy but funny and I saw something of myself in her. Throughout the weekend, I took her under my wing and introduced her to my friends and to some elements of the Burning Man culture. Things had truly come full circle.
Once Upon a Pig’s Belly
When we settled into our home at Camp Whet Your Whistle, our olfactory bulbs were tickled by the smell of homemade dough rising from the ashes in Downtown Dave and Shoebocks’ pizza oven and by the unmistakable odor of BACON being cooked next door by Lil Jen and the band of rogue Canucks next door! Later that weekend, the Canadian’s camp would be the stage for the most mesmerizing impromptu performance art of Lakes of Fire: Taymar’s bacon calendar shoot.
One thing that has not changed about me in these years in the Burner world is my vegetarian diet. Despite everyone’s best collective efforts to convince me that “bacon is a vegetable,” I know better, Burners! I know better!
As is the case at every other Burner camping trip I’ve been on, there seemed to be bacon everywhere I looked at Lakes of Fire. I mean, I know I’m a cute 20-something girl but does that mean I am condemned to be constantly surrounded by PORK?!? Apparently so.
On Saturday of the event, I visited my Canadian neighbors for a midday cocktail and they brought out massive plates of bacon. Before I had time to process what was going on, a bunch of ladies started fashioning bacinis (bacon bikinis) for themselves and posing in front of a white sheet for Taymar’s calendar.
January, February, March, April, May — all covered in meat to my dismay!!!
Though my virgin veggie eyes were initially a bit overwhelmed by this overt display of bacon love, far be it for me to miss this grand performance. Leave it to a group of Burners to turn even the act of eating meat into a brilliant spectacle.
Once Upon a Great Lake
Not only do Lakes of Fire attendees take their love for bacon so seriously that they are willing to pose in the buff with pig blubber (oh, my vegetarian eyes!!!), but the beautiful boat effigy in the center of the temporary city was named the S.S. Bacon!
Poochie from Chicago, Spotter from Kankakee, and their rag-tag team of effigy builders spent about a month and a half building a glorious nautical monument to BACON!
I was able to track down Poochie on Friday night. Years ago, I would have been intimidated by Poochie. He’s got that get-out-of-my-face-I-built-this-boat-give-me-a-beer thing going on. After some time hanging out with the DPW folks in San Francisco and the leather-wearing welders of West Oakland, I’ve come to find out that those tough-looking Burners are a lot softer than they would let on. Armed with this knowledge, I climbed aboard the S.S. Bacon as Franny Frolicious in my huge blond afro and walked right up to him, little notebook in hand, and asked him about his art. Moments later, he was holding his beautiful baby. What a softy!
A carpenter by trade, Poochie loves creating effigies because he gets the opportunity to put his skills to use and has creative freedom to express himself as an artist. Wanting to create something unique to the area, Poochie researched the historical ships and shipwrecks of the Great Lakes and found his inspiration in the US Brig Niagara. The Niagara played a pivotal role in the Battle of Lake Erie and the victory of Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry during the War of 1812. The Niagara has been reconstructed, still sails the Great Lakes, and is currently used to educate the public about the War. For more information, visit: http://www.brigniagara.org/.
I very much enjoyed my brief conversation with Poochie. I loved getting a closer look at this well-designed effigy replete with actual sails, a flag bearing a skull and “cross-bacon-strips” and wooden canons. I also came to find out that Poochie and I had a lot more in common than I would have imagined. When I asked Poochie what he felt about doing so much work on something only to see it burn, he told me that building effigies so that they look great when they burn is the most entertaining and rewarding part of the experience. Here was evidence that Poochie too was a fan of and participant in performance art. The actual burning of the S.S. Bacon turned out to be a stunning performance piece (second only to the bacon calendar shoot). The participants of Lakes of Fire stood together to watch the brilliant flames dance in the moonlight.
And dance they did…
Once Upon Burn Night
I had my own impromptu performance at Lakes of Fire. After the grand burning of the S.S. Bacon, I returned to my camp for some downtime with my friends. Greg and Barbara, the “roving Regional Contacts” from San Diego got me talking about the various performances I’d recently been doing in San Francisco. It didn’t take much effort on their parts to persuade me to sing. That glorious evening, I busted out an acapella version of “Bedlam Boys,” my favorite folk song. It felt good, amidst the glowing embers of the burn that still floated in the air, to cast my own dovesong into the wind.
Once Upon an “Ok, I will shut up now…”
Sunday, in the aftermath of a weekend full of laughter, love, and silliness, I was sharing a moment in the shade with my two Chicago friends, Bebop and Squirt. Squirt, in all her blue furry bear hat glory, turned to Bob and I and said, “We are all living out different versions of the same story.” I didn’t know back in 2005 that the threads of my story would connect in the ways they have thus far. I am grateful for this life, these friends of mine, and these, the grandest of stages.
This is one of my many stories. I invite you to share yours here. I am almost positive it involves bacon.