“#BucketAndDoIt.” That coined phrase got me in trouble when I did my live talk show about online dating. There I sat, making my #douchebag of the week comments: “Look at this guy with his shirt off. Don’t guys know by now that taking a selfie in the bathroom mirror is such a douche move?” As I was checking my incoming e-mails I came across one that stopped me in my tracks. My co-hosts Michael and Jessica laughed as I read the message from this shirtless guy, “WifredoSacramento71” asking me: “Will you be my date to Burning Man?” Jessica squealed with excitement, saying I should go! I just sat there, sandwiched between my two co-hosts, staring at the camera, biting my bottom lip. I was wishfully thinking that one friend would be an angel on my shoulder. Jessica, the little devil that she is, would be poking me with a red-hot pitchfork… right in my jugular. I just wanted to hear one of them say: “Don’t do it… He will expect dirty raunchy SEX!” Anything to keep me from saying yes. Nope! That didn’t happen. Jessica was going herself, and of course, wanted me to go with her to the biggest party of the year! Michael then pressured me: “GO TO BURNING MAN!” with a complete stranger… from a dating site… who was shirtless in his profile! I was breaking my own rules: “Never date a man who is shirtless in his profile pic!” We own a “bucket list” concierge company and were quickly reminded that I started a social media trend. I always end my show with the saying, “Whenever in doubt, ask what Tiffany would do? #BucketAndDoIt!”
48 hours later, I was being picked up in a brown 1972 Winnebago. I walked outside and hugged my new Burn Mate (aka the partner in crime you stay with in this pop-up city). He stood there with a hopeful grin like a Cheshire cat. One could not help but laugh and feel the positive energy from him. “Hi! Wow! Ummm. Let’s do this!” I shouted like a cheerleader. I mean what else was I going to say to a man I hardly knew that I was about to spend 10 days with in the scorching hot sand desert? May I also add that it’s full of naked party people? I’m imagining men with butt-plugged horsetails being whipped and ridden by Lady Godivas. Yes, Wilfredo and I had countless phone conversations, first with me telling him that I was not going if he expected sex or for me to partake in any illegal activity. I think I got that pretty much drilled in his head. Despite these conversations, I wore three layers of clothes looking like a good Christian girl, including a giant cross on my neck that I had only worn with my 80’s Madonna costume, (he didn’t need to know that). I struggled to climb over boxes and generators to make my way to the passenger seat of our 4-wheeled humpty heaven. As the city lights faded away in the rearview mirror, he informed me that there would not be any air-conditioning for the 10-hour drive and he was going there to work. Oh, great! Apparently, I was going to be a “Segway delivery girl”. NOTHING in life is free! Wait, I’m working for a Segway company? Phew! This definitely means I’m not putting out! The RV couch had my name written all over it.
At 9 a.m. we pulled up to the much-anticipated gate, when a purple-haired, middle-aged, butt-ass naked man waved his arms and yelled, “Welcome home!” That’s their motto at Burning Man? “Welcome home?!” Right then and there, I decided my Amstel Light beer was not hard enough and it was clearly time for a swig from a bottle of ice-cold tequila out of the cooler sitting between my legs. It was way too early for this shit!
Black Rock City is built in 10 days with a population of over 75,000. This event is described as a community experiment that started in 1986. It’s an art show and test of one’s willpower to survive, all the while having self-expression. Most importantly is to “Leave No Trace.” This means whatever you bring there you must take with you when you go. It takes months of volunteers to make sure not one pin drop of oil from a car will be left behind.
I prepared to enter the city with a great attitude and was happy to help find an empty
lot for the stay, since we weren’t a part of a group camp. It was just the two of us, so the right location would be important, in order to make new friends. After a few twists and turns, I chose to build our home at 5:30 G. Address (in what turns out happens to be the 5th largest city in Nevada!). As my luck would have it, a man wearing nothing but a tutu offering a melon to share with us greeted us. His name is “Ranger Subway”! We were parked next to a volunteer cop! Of course, also just my luck, the site I had so carefully chosen was on the corner of AA and Kids Camp. Seriously? God didn’t have to explain anything to me on this one. I was going to reap my own punishment.
Every morning I watched naked people walk by to the port-a-potty line. Deep down it bothered me that little kids were across the street witnessing the craziness going on. They were bouncing up and down on the trampoline, not noticing these old men walking by with their balls dangling down to their knees. Didn’t anyone care? One night, I had the opportunity to interview a mom when she knocked on the door to our camper. There she stood, in her green and yellow tie-dyed shirt, holding a little girl’s hand. “Sorry to bother you,” she timidly said. “But I have been noticing you outside every day.” Wilfredo and I had set up a coffee shop every morning handing out cappuccinos. The smell of freshly ground espresso was quite titillating to the parents and the sober people going through withdrawals. They must have gotten their high from our caffeine. In my opinion, a drug is a drug, so it was devilishly entertaining to see that I could corrupt them in some way. It was equally satisfying, knowing that I could sit outside under the shade sucking down margaritas without guilt. “Excuse me,” she asked. “Do you have any feminine pads?” Immediately, in my head I’m thinking, who wears a fucking maxi pad these days? How gross. You aren’t even allowed to put wet wipes in the public restrooms here. What was she going to do? Carry her diaper back to her tent? There wasn’t one trashcan in a five-mile radius! “No, honey, I’m so sorry. I don’t have periods,” I lied. Wilfredo was in the kitchen slicing up fruit, so I was also trying to bring up any subject away from the thoughts of him remembering that I had a vagina on board. “What’s it like at Kids Camp?” I asked the mom. She went on and on about how the kids grew up there and they are naked inside the camp, too. They teach their children to live without stigma. Most of the couples were polyamorous and set up times to watch each others’ kids in a conservative area, where they painted and played little kid games. This is all while the other parents would go do activities like the “ORGY DOME”. She had plans that evening to go to a beginner’s rope bondage class. She found it sensual and was interested in learning how to cross more boundaries in her 15-year marriage. I was only picturing three things: Balls snugged hard into a cock ring, a leash to drag a man around with, and an argument later where he tries to hang me with it. I had absolutely no interest in accepting her invitation to join.
After a major flood and four dust storms later, I was quickly getting over the happy newness of Black Rock City. Thankfully, we had the top-of-the-line Segways to play with. During the day, temperatures would reach 110, so we would jump on our little battery-operated saviors and go for a spin. We had also dropped these off for the rich and the famous attending private camps. It made it a way more cool of an experience to know that people like Leonardo DiCaprio, Snoop Dog and Will Smith were among some of our Segway tribe. Whenever we rolled around, people on bikes would yell at us calling us “cheaters!” I loved it when my burn mate would yell back, “Haters!” and wink at me. One night we dropped off two Segways to an amazing camp full of New Yorkers. They had the right idea. They lined up their brand new luxury RVs in a square and built a camp in the middle. The plush covered lounge had daybeds, a bar, and full-time chefs. I had just met my new best friends!!! Then, a goddess appeared before me, wearing a designer costume she must have had made straight from a fashion week runway. DJ Scarlett greeted me with hugs, welcoming me home. They took their Segways and placed a designer box over the top of them. They had made her Segway into art! The playa (the desert center where all the big art is placed, including the Man, himself) is full of the biggest and best art cars in the world. Many had music and shot flames of fire into the air. DJ Scarlett knew exactly what she was doing! On her way to her stage performances she traveled through the crowd of thousands on a beautiful dragon. She and her Segway were simply jaw-dropping. I immediately went back to our trailer and whipped out every single tutu and blinged-out boot cover I could find. Tin foil and battery lights from my Christmas tree I had brought from home now turned my Segway into moving art that would have made every 20-year-old at an Electric Daisy Carnival jealous. X-bit would have been proud at how I pimped my ride.
One time I drove my little chariot during the day wearing a white bathing suit. It was annoying that people were yelling, “Congratulations!” thinking I just got married. Yikes!!! My attitude couldn’t be any further from wanting to be married, especially after I saw so many of these couples swinging cocks around. Each camp had signs and times you could come in and participate in activities they had planned. I was too shy to go to yoga, chakra cleansing and body painting, let alone getting my ass crack hosed down. I believe the sign for that said: “TAINT WASHING!” The drugs were prevalent at night and I wasn’t so sure about drinking the tea they offered that was supposed to be “finding the animal within” meditation, but it wasn’t long before I found my personality had started to change as the days went by. I could understand people going for a three-day rage, but I was already over the late night DJs there and the traffic out on the playa. By the weekend, the population had grown to 75,000. My patience was stripping thin and so were my clothes. I found myself wearing less and drinking more. I body painted myself in camouflage and duct taped my nipples. I was now in the mood to get into this war ground. It felt very much like a Mad Max movie. “If you can’t beat them, join them!” became my motto. Now all I had to do is go find the drugs. I had a pocket full of all-natural erection pills in my backpack to gift. Surely someone out here could use these and trade with me. First stop was Party Naked Nude Camp, from none other than Las Vegas, of course!
“Hi! I’m Tiffany Masters,” I said cheerfully to the bartender standing there with a rhinestone cock ring. But it wasn’t around his balls. His was worn like a wedding band. He must have gone to the “Glam Your Clam or Pimp Out Your Penis” workshop I saw listed on the WHO WHAT AND WHERE events book. “What can I get you, Miss Masters?” he answered. Ugh, those words rang in my head and gave me a flashback to Vegas. It was a big mistake blowing my cover. Many people drop their real identity and use “Playa ” names. Damn! I wish I had remembered that. I would have invented a name like “Stardust” or “Shroom”. That way it would have been a hint right off the bat that I was interested in a party. Instead, I sat at a bar wondering what naked sweaty balls had been sitting there before me. I had a skirt on and was terrified that they were going to tell me it was a rule to take it off. I quickly looked around, paying attention to where each exit was in case I needed to escape. “I’ll have a rum please,” I replied with an innocent grin. This was a large square bar where it
was easy to people-watch and stare at the bartenders’ firm asses as they bent over to put ice in your cup. Clearly, everyone was coupled up and making out and on some form of substance. I’m usually the most outgoing person I know, unless I’m sitting alone needing to make friends with strangers. My partner in crime, Wilfredo, had met a girl and was off on his Segway, riding tandem across the desert under the stars. I sipped slowly on my rum and decided to make conversation with a younger guy smelling of weed next to me. He wore nothing but an Indian butt flap. “Hello, are you staying at the camp?” I asked in such a loud voice to be heard over the even louder dance music. His smile was bright as he motioned me to come outside. “Wait!” I stopped him. I didn’t mean for that to be a hookup line. “I was wondering if you were from Vegas.” Oh my God! Was it that easy to pick up pussy in this place?! He then asked if I was a virgin. Even though his dreamy eyes made the hair on the back of my neck stand up, I was offended and wanted to slap him. “I think you are getting way too personal. How rude!” I exclaimed. There I was in my GI Joe outfit with duct tape x’s across my nipples, trying to act like I was prude and classy in a nudist bar. He laughed and explained that a “virgin” meant anyone who was there at Black Rock City as first-timers. It didn’t mean anything sexual at all. I obviously had a lot to learn and needed to leave my ego behind me. “What’s your name? Sorry for being rude. I’m very nervous here,” I said, as I follow his lead outside the front door where we could hear each other better. “My name is Magic. I’m from Northern California,” he replied with a calm voice, making direct eye contact with me. His name was Magic. He was not from Vegas. That was my chance to say my name was Mushroom. It was my big chance! “Why do they call you Magic?” I asked. This was my opening line! I was ready to go for it and have the name “Mushroom” drop from my lips. He answered, “Magic fingers.” Even better. “Hi, I’m Tiffany.”
The next morning I had a bit of a hangover and was sipping on Vodka coconut water. There is nothing worse than being dehydrated and hungover at Burning Man. We didn’t have air-conditioning or a toilet I could go throw up in. The last thing I was going to do was go vomit in a port-a-potty, looking at dozens of people’s shit. I had no other choice but to keep drinking. I sat there while getting my buzz on, making costumes for me and Wilfredo. I was braiding daisies in my hair when my new friend Magic pulled up on his bike. Apparently I had given him our address and we discussed that he lived right down the street from us. This was awesome. I also apparently confessed that I wanted to “take a journey” that evening. This was code for none other than doing acid. I have never done anything like this before. In Bali, South Indonesia, I had a legal mushroom shake once. I’m not going to lie. Staring at Buddha’s beard grow was a ton of fun. You know when they say “When in Rome”? Well, I may not bend over and take it Greek-style in Athens, but I accepted the invitation to go on this journey later that evening during the Burning Man, with over 68,000 ticket buyers. As long as it didn’t come with a hangover, I was OK to try it. I watched as Magic peddled away on his bike, once again thinking, “What was I getting myself into?”
Meanwhile, Wilfredo came outside and sat down reading the events calendar. “Would it be too much to ask for you to fist me?” he asked, out of the blue. My eyes protruded from my face a good quarter-inch, looking at him in shock. Was he serious? He then shook his head with worry and said, “Oh no!” Phew! He was joking! But he continued on with, “It’s for women and transvestites only! Hmmmm… do you mind? You’re really good with makeup. Can we dress me up like a woman?” Oh My God, he wasn’t joking! I grabbed the “Burning Man Events Calendar” out of his hand and nervously mounted my Segway, pretending this conversation never happened. I spun around on my two-wheeled horse like John Wayne and demanded, “Let’s go partner. I think it’s time we check out the Holy Temple.”
The Temple of Grace was my favorite part of Burning Man. It’s intended to be built for spiritual reasons. It’s a sacred place where visitors may come from all over the world for temple, alone. They may never partake in the parties and just come for the spiritual meditations, to reflect, to celebrate and honor the memory of a loved one that has passed. I personally paid my visit to the wooden temple that was far out into the Playa to commemorate my life transitions. My Bucket List goal at Burning Man was not to party, but to “burn” the pain from my past. When I walked in, there were people lying on the ground, meditating, sleeping, kissing and most of all, crying. The silence was eerie. You could hear footsteps and their boots scratching against the hard sand floors, trying to tiptoe over the bodies. A symphony of breathing, coughing and most of all sniffling filled the air of hundreds of people. The walls were full of mementos and tokens of their loved ones that had passed. Photos of dogs and cats, their collars, and artwork made for them were also there. It felt like I was overcome with a flu syndrome within five minutes of being there. I was nauseous and chills came over me. I had to sit down, and found myself next to a woman weeping as she stapled photos of her and actor/comedian Robin Williams. He had so many photos in there with messages from friends and fans. I couldn’t help but wonder if that’s why Will Smith was there. I sat there in a fetal upright position for what seemed like an eternity. I prayed and read what others had left behind, written on the wood pillars and walls with a black Sharpie pen. “I forgive you, dad, for the humiliation and the pain you caused me,” signed by “once your 5-year-old girl.” I got chills and started to think about my own past from being a victim of molestation. Next, I saw the photo of a beautiful blonde girl in her twenties hugging her best friend in a cap and gown. Her college friends made a huge poster of memories and signed farewells to their best friend lost in a car accident. The energy in the room was so heavy that you either had to leave the dome temple to sit outside or you found yourself on the desert floor sobbing and smelling the sage burning. I opted to sit there for what seemed like forever and wept. Was I crying over the past or the unknown future? I looked above and saw a flag that had the word “Believe” on it. That has always been MY WORD. I stared down at the tattoo on my wrist that I got in Bali that represents the word “Believe” and remembered the one epiphany I had on the beaches there while I was meditating. I discovered the meaning of my life and it was simple. “ONE LOVE”. I looked up at a photo of a baby with an air tube in her nose that said R.I.P. The tiny soul was only 1-month old. I choked and began to cry. I sat again in a trance of fellow humans feeling “one love” in that room. We had all come together to grieve. No matter what the pain was and even though we had never met them, we all felt it. It was the first time I felt that I was inside of an energy vortex. I was in “one love”.
Outside, I picked up a shared Sharpie and wrote down a list of all the friends I could remember that I lost in Vegas. My roommate came into my mind, so I sat and had a conversation with him, asking for forgiveness for not being there the night he died. I still play the blame game “what if” to myself for not going to dinner with him. Next was a beautiful girlfriend that had recently taken her life from us. I placed my hand on my list of several of my friends that died and said a prayer, telling them goodbye. Next was my granny. I smiled then and thought about the best memories I had as a child. Lastly, I took a note out to my mother, wishing that we were closer, another to friends I felt that turned their backs on me and another one to my son who had left me. Earlier that day I had cut a piece of my son’s favorite scarf out and folded it in the paper, forgiving him for running away. I dropped the papers full of pain in the cracks of the wood and waited for the night of the temple to burn, to free me of all the hurting I felt inside. As I walked out, I noticed signs that people left for others who were also hurting. “Breathe.” “You will never be younger than you are now, now, now…. now.” “You are older NOW.” “You will never have another RIGHT NOW.” This was so true. I was concentrating on the past and I needed to live in the NOW and think of the future. The healing had already begun.
Photos: www.flickr.com/photos/jessicareeder (To Be Continued...)