A Funny thing Happened the Other Day
January 8, 2010, 11:29 pm
Filed under: Internet, Internet Communities, Uncategorized

Not ha-ha funny, strange funny. I recently received a comment on this post I made many months ago, regarding my purported resemblance to Dorothy Parker. “Dottie and Me” received the most hits of anything I’ve ever posted, for reasons I have never fully understood but that nonetheless delight me to no end. I clicked the link to approve the new comment, entered my login information, and there I was, in my WordPress account.  That may not sound funny at all, but the last time I tried to log in with exactly the same information, I could not get in to save my life. Oh well, there was always Herr Machine when I desperately felt the need to share a figure of the United States made entirely of meat or a video of William Shatner performing “Rocket Man.”

I thought about contacting WordPress support, but there always seemed to be something more urgent to do.  For one thing I’m now selling books on Amazon in addition to eBay and Bonanzle.  I had considered dropping eBay, but the other funny thing is that my sales there have picked up and I’m still having fun.  These efforts are all very time-consuming but somewhat enjoyable, and if I squint real hard I can almost pay my bills.

I am also still  seeking a real job while doing some freelance proofreading work on the side. I’ve mostly applied to libraries and I do have my fingers crossed re: a position that is still unfilled, but I haven’t had a lot of nibbles. Looks like I picked the wrong time to start a new career, but I refuse to give up.  I know I’m a hard sell due to my lack of experience, but if I can just get someone to give me a chance, I will make myself useful.  I have always prided myself on my ability to find work when I need it, so this joblessness has been a great learning experience in all kinds of ways, some of them painful. I keep retooling and submitting my resume in true sisyphean fashion, because what other choice is there?

This has been a brief post just to say boy howdy and thanks for reading.  I never cease to be amazed at the persistence of Web content, and thank goodness for that. By all means do visit Herr Machine, but you know I’ll be back.


Multiple Bibliomaniacs


One of the best things about scouting for treasures in thrift shops is that I never know what I’ll stumble upon next or what strange and unexpected paths I may follow as a result of my finds.  Over the years I’ve found $1000 in the sleeve of an old all-weather coat (many years and several moves after I bought it), two first U.S. printings of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and the copy of local writer Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life that led me to become a Supremely Excellent Judge on her Beckoning of Lovely project.  And so it goes.   Although theoretically I am working when I’m scouting books, it does not feel like work to me.  When I pick up a book that has been rebound in a nondescript tan library binding and see it’s a copy of Shock Values by John Waters, I flip it open to the title page, where I hit paydirt (click to enlarge):


This made my (very hot and sweaty) day, partly because I knew I could get a few bucks for this book, but largely because John Waters is one of my heroes and Shock Values happens to be one of my favorite books of all time.  Not only does Waters have an endless supply of great stories to tell, but he also delivers them with self-deprecating humor, joie de vivre, and panache befitting a man with a pencil moustache.   More than almost any other book I’ve ever read, Shock Value serves as an inspirational tale for overachieving misfits.   In a society deliberately engineered to instill and positively reinforce conformity, one simply cannot overestimate the importance of witnessing the journey someone who paid no attention whatsoever to what he was “supposed” to do, but instead followed his own deepest creative urges to make a movie of a hot tranny mess eating dogshit.   Not only has Pink Flamingos made back its $10,000.00 budget many times over, but then John Waters got paid all over again to write about making it.  Is this a great world, or what?

I knew I should sell this book, but I was tempted to keep it because it had personal meaning for me and would fit so nicely into my collection, if not my groaning shelves.  Looking at the book more closely, I saw it had come from the Morris Library at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.   Via my tour of the Columbia College library for a class, I understood what sorts of books were most likely to disappear from university libraries.  This is just the sort of thing that gives hipsters a bad name, because when I looked up the book’s call number in the SUI online catalog, I found there had been two copies cataloged but both were now listed as missing.   Since I had been so torn as to what to do with this book, it was almost a relief to have the decision taken out of my hands.  As an MLIS I could not sell or keep a book I knew was stolen from a library, so I contacted Carbondale to see if they wanted Shock Value for their Special Collections.

I could see there was a gift inscription, but at first glance I thought it said “To Fred, Love From John Waters.   I assumed this Fred was the culprit who had filched it from SIU, but when I showed it to a friend, he pointed out that it looked more like “To Fred, Love Irwin,” with the signature in a different handwriting altogether.  Fred was hence exonerated, and now all fingers pointed to Irwin as the culprit.  I couldn’t help wondering what had happened to make the book land in a resale shop.  Perhaps Irwin and Fred had been romantically involved and had such a bitter breakup that Fred couldn’t stand to see Irwin’s name ever again in his life.  Perhaps Fred had a conscience and simply could not enjoy possessing a book that didn’t belong to him.  Perhaps Fred was no longer among the living, in which case I am very sorry.  Clearly this was not Fred’s fault, unless he put Irwin up to it.

I am picking on Irwin because it is fun, but these things sometimes pass through many hands and someone else altogether may have originally removed it from the Morris Library.   The best thing about this story is that in in true nonconformist fashion, Shock Value took an unconventional and roundabout path and and came out somewhat the better for it.   I don’t approve of taking things from libraries and I doubt the John Waters of now would approve of it either, but I know the book well enough to know that Irwin may have read this passage, from page 49:

I supported myself by selling diet pills and shoplifting.  My specialty was a Navy surplus store, popular with all the tourists in town.  I’d go into the store dressed in shorts and a T-shirt and put on layers of clothes without hiding anything and go apply for a job dressed in the stolen clothes.  The manager never expected that anyone would have the nerve to shoplift and apply for a jobat the same time.  We got so chummy that I almost got the job, which really panicked me.

Morris Library Rare Book Librarian Melissa Hubbard has assured me they would be delighted to have Shock Value back and would house it in Special Collections, where folks can hopefully absorb some of its gloriously filthy essence for generations to come.  I am equally delighted to have played a part in returning it, and I am publishing this story first and foremost in support of my belief that anything can happen.  I would also like to take this opportunity to remind folks that it’s not very nice to steal library materials.  If you really pay attention to Shock Value, John Waters says he quit shoplifting when he started worrying about theaters pocketing his receipts.   Being on the up-and-up seems to have worked for him, as he hasn’t done too badly for himself.

August 3, 2009, 3:01 am
Filed under: art, Chicago, hooping, Uncategorized

Here I come again, slinking back to WordPress when my account doesn’t even remember me anymore and I have to log in from the home page.  I do have a few good excuses for my absence, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t felt it like an ache of impossibility crossing my awareness as I’m doing something else.   For nearly two years I have had a new but unassembled desk in the garage, awaiting time and fortitude.  Last week I attacked my office/bedroom with a hitherto unseen vengeance, first removing many piles of books to make room for the new desk, vacuuming entire hutches of dust bunnies from corners, and in the process finding things I hadn’t seen in years.  The room is still a work in progress, but my books for sale are now reorganized and I can happily report that I now have room to spin my desk chair.  Now all I need is a poster with a picture of a chimpanzee and text that says I Don’t Like Mondays.  I’d much rather have a taxidermied squirrel lamp, but I can’t afford it.

Pushing fifty like a bulldozer in heat and having apparently had the good luck to survive a major illness, I am more aware than ever of how choosing to do one thing means not doing ten others.  My spouse first gave me a hoop almost two years ago, and with the exception of a retreat or two, it has mostly sat in the basement, leaning sadly against a wall.  I kept wanting to attend a class or hooping event, but there was always something else to do.  This happened so many times I began to question my own sincerity about learning, so when my spouse offered to drive me to a class on a weekday evening in May, I decided it was now or never.  It was the end of a day of parenting, I was exhausted and distracted, wouldn’t hear well, and would fumble my way through the evening and would thoroughly humiliate myself as the one complete loser in the midst of a roomful of lithe hooperinas.  I pictured myself repeatedly dropping the hoop and saying DOH! as they twirled and whirled around me in unison, but I failed to make that a good reason not to go.  Clearly it was now or never.  Fortunately I am just stubborn enough to value my existential authenticity, so I said what the hell and got in the car with my hoop.

The person who had made my hoop was Mercedes Gomez, who was also teaching this class at OCE.  There were only three of us there not counting Mercedes, making it four when one of the event organizers stepped in.  Frankly I was grateful the organizer was there, as it quickly became clear my worst visualizations had not been not all that far off the mark.  Everyone was nice as could be and no one whirled and twirled around me in unison, but the other two students both could do things with their hoops that I found inutterably impossible.  Obviously they had put in a lot more hoop time than I had, but for a moment I allowed myself to think that perhaps I just couldn’t do it.  Oh well, if I turned out to be an embarrassing failure, I would at least have had the guts to put myself on the line and do it publicly instead of rationalizing twelve million reasons why I couldn’t.

Mercedes noticed the hoop she had made for me was not only starting to unravel but was also a bit large for me.  That’s not hard, as I stopped growing at 4′ 11″.  She kindly offered to trade me a newer, smaller hoop for my old one.  The size seemed to make a difference, but I still felt like a clumsy schlub.  I now had a sense of what to work on, namely keeping the hoop up on various parts of my body, in various directions, going back and forth between right and left hands.  I could see transitions between moves were important, but I didn’t have a name for that.  The one thing that was eminently clear was that getting good at hooping was much harder than it looked, given how difficult I found it simply to waist-hoop to the left rather than to the right.

Before the class I’d been at a loss as to what to do with the hoop, but now I faced an entirely different dilemma.  Obviously I had my work cut out for me and I itched to try things out, but I felt to shy to fumble in my own backyard while my neighbors did their yard work and chugged beers.  I did manage one or two short sessions in my driveway, where I felt a bit less on display, but I still felt a million miles away from being able to control the hoop.  I felt so frustrated with my own pitiful lack of progress that I almost didn’t bring the hoop along when we drove up to Pewaukee Lake in Wisconsin to visit friends, but at the last minute we squeezed it into the back seat.

Aside from the scenery, the great thing about hooping at Lake Pewaukee was that I was among friends who had not only already seen me make a fool of myself in more ways than I can describe but also were complete hoop-noobs.  There was almost no way I could be worse than them, but more important, no one cared.  I spent more time hooping that day than I ever had before, because it was the perfect set and setting.  Lo and behold, the more I handled the hoop and practiced basic moves, the more comfortable I became.  This day was definitely the breakthrough I needed, as since then my hoop has been more or less constantly in motion.  Consequently, so have I.

Having broken the ice in Wisconsin among friends, I could now hoop barefoot in the grass in my ample if humble backyard.   Since I was having fun, I did it until the sweat ran into my eyes and hearing aids.   One day I reached my stopping point when I smacked myself hard in my right (surgery) ear, causing my hearing aid to pop right out into the grass because I was so slick from perspiration.  I was bruised from head to toe, one of the worst spots being for some reason my right heel.  But I was also muscular and more aware of my body than I’d ever been.  Even better,  I was following my doctor’s orders to do regular cardio workouts without even trying to.   When my nine-year-old daughter saw what I could do, her competitive instincts flared up and she started fighting me for the hoop.  My mother thoroughly approves and says she’d try it if she didn’t have a bad back, and even my spouse occasionally picks up the hoop and flails with one hand out in the “stop” position and ignores everything I tell him to do.

The strangest thing about this whole hooping experience is that after we returned from that trip to Wisconsin, I had a bodily-kinesthetic epiphany with a guiding visualization.  This may very well be the most whackadoo granola disclosure I have ever made, but I could suddenly visualize and feel the path of the hoop through a lift-up from the waist.  I had been completely clueless as to what I would need to do to bring it up, but now, bingo, I could see where my hands and body would need to be to keep the hoop in a continuous circling motion as I moved it from my waist to above my head and back.  This visualization put the “dance” in my hoopdance, as the more effectively I could control the hoop and keep it spinning, the more naturally and spontaneously my body responded to the music.   The distinction between knowing this and actually being able to execute it smoothly is indeed a humbling one, and so now you know what I’ve been doing with my time lately instead of slouching at my Macbook.

The transitions between hooping movements are referred to as “flow,” and indeed, it felt like my body was learning to flow with the hoop more intuitively as I progressed.  Flow is also a concept in psychology originated by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi that refers to a state of complete immersion in an activity, a way of being in the moment quite familiar to many dedicated hoopers.  I have felt somewhat the same thing in the course of my Pilates routines, but the effect is so much more pronounced when I hoop.  This is partly due to the exhilarating challenge of hooping to music, a form of creative improvisation that requires you to be fully in the moment.  For those of us who live too much in our heads and have difficulty staying grounded when we are overwhelmed, hooping provides a way to refocus our energies and stoke up those endorphins.  This biologically driven empowerment and sense of accomplishment then bubbles up and bleeds into everything else, and then I find I can do things that previously seemed overwhelming.  As coping mechanisms go, it’s a healthy one.

There are many things I love about hooping, one of them being that most moves are actually harder than they look.  This element of challenge makes it thrilling when you successfully make a move that has eluded you before, giving you an adrenalin rush without placing you significantly in peril in the manner of, say, downhill skiing.   It forces me to get outside and move, which can change the direction of a day and also gets me a bit of sunshine.  Although too much of this quantity is not good for someone with a history of chemotherapy and skin cancer, I was probably skewed in the opposite direction until I developed a relationship with a hoop that I named “SunFire” because the holographic tape sparkled when it caught the sun.   My favorite time of day to hoop is actually twilight, of which the bugs in our backyard thoroughly approve.  As much as I don’t care for the chemicals that keep them at a distance, it’s worth dousing myself with toxins to hoop in my own backyard when it’s cooling outside and the sun is sinking in the West.  I can fully understand why there are scads of YouTube videos of people hooping in every outdoor scenario imaginable, because it goes equally as well with nature as it does with music.   Now I just need a collapsible hoop so I can travel with it, and I’ll be in business, and perhaps an LED one so I can make trippy light patterns at night.  Whee.

If you are one of the people whom I haven’t emailed or responded to in some fashion, now you know what I’ve been up to.  I’ll try to be a better correspondent, but I was determined not to let another summer go by as a poseur d’hoop, with the durn thing sitting abandoned in the basement.   And speaking of the basement (which I like to refer to as my dungeon), I am now so hoop-obsessed that I have difficulty going down there without giving it a whirl.  This may finally be just the motivation I need to move that old, abandoned couch out of there.  If I clear the piles of debris away from the mirror, I could have a little hooping studio and try out moves too weird to risk in my backyard.   My vague hope is to perhaps put an (edited) video together by fall, but right now getting better every day is a blast and its own satisfaction.  I don’t know if you can hoop or even if you want to, but I do know I’m amazed and thrilled by what I’ve accomplished since I took that one single class with Mercedes.

If you are intrigued by any of this and are thinking about taking up hooping, here are a few suggestions to help you get started.  Apologies if any of this is old news, but I find a lot of people still have not encountered hooping as it currently manifests.  I am not providing detailed information as to how to do these things, but you will find a lot of such details at

Helpful Hooping Hints From an Old Hippie

  • Make sure you get an adult hoop, which is much larger and heavier than a child’s hoop.  It should come up to about the level of your lower chest.
  • Take a class, even if it’s just one.  You may not be able to process everything and learn the moves right there, but you will take a lot away from it that will help you as you progress.
  • If you take a class, make sure it is either mixed-level or for beginners.  Accept that you may look like a total klutz and it doesn’t matter, because at least you are out there trying to do something hard and not plopped on your couch like a lardass.
  • Practice, practice, practice.  Practice in different locations and in aesthetically beautiful spots, because it will inspire you.  Practice with people who are less advanced than you, because you will feel like a whiz.  Practice with people more advanced with you, because you will learn from watching them.
  • Speaking of watching, there are a million YouTube videos of people doing this stuff.  Tutorials, demos, festivals, you name it.  If you can’t get a move quite right, you just watch the video again or find a different one where someone is doing it more slowly, and you try again.
  • Don’t wear glasses while hooping.
  • Drunk-hoop at your own peril.

If you are one of those people who has watched someone hooping and thought “Gee, I’d like to try that,” what are you waiting for?  As with any emerging trend, some people will try hooping and move on to other things and others will delve deeply into their own psyches and capabilities to create striking works of performance art that reflect their unique styles.  I will leave you with a clip of my favorite hooper, Malcolm Stuart, who is quite unlike anyone else I’ve seen in an avant-garde and vaguely punkish vein.  Now here’s a man who knows how to have a good time:

Just for the contrast, here is Shakti SunFire, whose name must have subconsciously inspired that of my hoop and who is the most positively beatific hooper I have ever seen.  Waiter, I’ll have what she’s having:

10 Reasons to Love So You Think You Can Dance
July 17, 2009, 4:08 am
Filed under: art, Music, Pop Culture, Uncategorized, World of Wonder

Because People Like Lists, oh yes they do.

  1. Cat Deeley is not only nice and pretty, but also endearingly whacky.  This is a rare and appealing combination.
  2. Where the hell else on American prime time TV can you hear Bollywood, Rufus Wainwright, and African drum music on the same program?  It’s almost enough to forgive the mostly uninspiring musical guests.
  3. The physicality of it all just might inspire you to get up off your chair and shake your booty.
  4. Phillip Chbeeb
  5. It is just jaw-droppingly astounding and spiritually elevating to see folks rise up to such challenging creative tasks as learning partnering, killing routines in styles other than their own, and having to pick a new partner’s name out of a hat in midseason.
  6. Creative synergy is the best thing in the world, so to see what happens when the dancers are inspired by the choreographers and each other and vice-versa, and etc. is sheer magic when it works and pure entertainment even when it doesn’t.
  7. I have so much respect for so hard these people must have to work their bodies and the risks they take.  What gets me every time are the flips, because, damn.  I’ll never do that.
  8. The audience always sounds genuinely pumped, as opposed to the prompter-generated arm-waving that is fairly routine on American Idol.  You know what I mean, not that the audiences on Idol are never genuinely pumped.  Just that when they are, you can tell the difference.  It’s nice, because it gets me excited too and I like that.
  9. Wade Robson, Genius.
  10. Being the deeply snarky soul I am, I never get tired of snickering at the self-conscious artiness and self-importance of Mia Michaels and Sonya Tayeh, and by that I mean their outfits.  And just who the hell does that Mia Michaels think she is?  Well, I never.

I blame Marianne S. for all this nonsense, because I sensed this show would be trouble for me and hence managed to avoid it until she kept dropping little teasers about how much more better it was than American Idol.  Three hours a week she has stolen from my life, much of it eked out in frustrating little snippets in the midst of domestic chaos such as my daughter managing to shatter my L’oreal nail polish whilst using it to weigh down the shower curtain on the windowsill (I guess I wasn’t worth it after all).  I could of course download the damn thing, but I would then miss out on the excitement (and by excitement I mean commercials) of the live broadcast.  And let’s face it, if you wait to download there is always the chance of encountering a spoiler.  Life is hard.

Janette for the win!

Feeling the Burn, Part II
July 1, 2009, 5:21 pm
Filed under: art, Pop Culture, traveling, Uncategorized, World of Wonder
Prow of SS Bacon

Prow of SS Bacon

It seems I am so literal I am damn prophetic, as I made it to Lakes of Fire but I missed the historic burning of the SS Bacon.  Temperatures on Saturday were above ninety, about ten degrees higher than expected, and after very little sleep it was all I could do not to throw up or pass out.   At that point it was clear I was just a burden and I didn’t want to rain on anybody’s fire processional, so I wound up crashing at the Fairfield Inn while my spouse and daughter stayed for the festivities.  I am sometimes picky about my hotel accommodations, but I have never before in my life been so grateful for a room on the ground floor facing the parking lot.   There I showered, slept and nursed my sunburn, grateful to have met some lovely folks at Lakes of Fire and reasonably at peace with my own physical challenges.  I had no regrets for going, which became even clearer when I realized I was mentally surveying workarounds that would allow me to attend next year without bailing.   I had felt the burn alright, just not the one I asked for.

I’ve always been alternately fascinated and repelled by Burning Man.  The culture and spectacular art installations in the starkness of the desert landscape were enticing, but I’m afraid of camping, heat, and dust storms.  The cost of traveling to Black Rock is prohibitive and the size of Burning Man seemed overwhelming, but I thought a few days in Southern Michigan with several hundred people might just be doable.  As I’ve remarked already, I was intrigued to get in on the ground floor of a new regional event and hopefully help shape it.    For much of the time I was there I was not in any shape to do much shaping, but I was lucky enough to enjoy and hopefully contribute to the congenial atmosphere of the family zone.  One of several reasons I’d decided to go was frankly that I wanted to see what the experience would be like for my daughter.  The only bad thing I have to say about this was that my heart stopped when I saw her climbing trees above my head, but since that and the burn were her favorite parts of the weekend, I can hardly begrudge it.



I think one of the best things about this event was the mix of seasoned and new Burners, imposing enough of a structure to inspire those of us who were just figuring it all out for the first time.  I would suspect this process was infinitely more challenging for those of us with children on board, and I was pleased to see the event planners had obviously gone to a great deal of effort to accommodate families and anticipate their needs.  Within the spatial limitations of the property, they placed Hushville as far away from the loudest music as they could have.  There was also room for kids to run and play, although the terrain was just rough enough to mandate socks and sneakers.  The atmosphere was mellow and respectful, people shared, and the youngsters managed to amuse themselves with no Disney Channel in sight.   Who needs Hannah Montana when you can shoot water balloons or make sock puppets as you attempt to process the equally unsettling and intriguing information that your parents are not fazed by naked people walking around in public?

Speaking of naked people walking around in public, this seems like a good time to announce that I see Burner culture as  perhaps our best avenue to provide our daughter with a sense of community and spiritual foundation.  Since we are Atheists and our daughter is an only child, we have puzzled over how to nurture positive humanistic values in the absence of a church.  We want our daughter to learn to treat other people as she would like to be treated, but we also want her to learn self-reliance, cherish freedom of expression, and respect her surroundings.

Burning Man events are organized in such a way as to help and support parents who wish to raise open-minded children without exposing them to sights that will sear their eyeballs, because eyeball-searing should be reserved for those of us over eighteen.  They were also very strict about checking IDs and issuing wristbands for drinking.  As for drinking, there was plenty of alcohol around but I saw very few people who were visibly intoxicated.   The expectation that you will do basically whatever you choose within the three main ground rules of the event is paired with the expectation that you will not make yourself a sloppy nuisance to others.   Freedom and responsibility are two of the main tenets of existentialism, so perhaps that explains why it all made so damn much sense to me.

The short version of the Lakes of Fire rules were as follows:

1) Ask first

2) Protect the community

3) Leave no trace

Granny may not exactly have asked before he and his cohort quite abruptly but nonetheless endearingly reeled my spouse and I out of the woods into a Hunter-S.-Thompsonesque encounter I’ll never forget, but I’ll forgive him because, well, he was Granny.

From babes in arms to folks who clearly get the senior discount, everyone at Lakes of Fire was friendly as can be without crowding me.  I’m a hard-of-hearing classic introvert and was fighting the quease, so I struggled a bit to communicate and didn’t interact as much as I would have liked.  Nonetheless, I felt welcomed and I valued every opportunity I had to get to know these fascinating people who had all descended on this rustic space in the Midwest for the first time and created magic.   Folks around our camp gave me my space because they knew I wasn’t feeling well, but I knew they were there if I needed them.  Even when I felt to ill to talk or approach the fire, I just sat in my camp chair and took it all in.

I think everyone remembers the first time they saw day turn into night at a Burning Man event.   The premises looked a bit scrappy at first sight in daylight, but the magic comes at night when the lights transform the place into a wonderland.  I particularly liked the vehicle tricked up to look like a tent with lights on the outside, which I think may have belonged to rangers.   Watching it glide through the grounds in the darkness inevitably made me smile.  The lights also transformed many of the art objects and installations including the SS Bacon into sparkling oases of enchantment, with fire spinners further adding to the luminosity of the event.

If you are intrigued by Burning Man but not sure if you can handle the environment or the sheer sensory overload, I would highly recommend attending Lakes of Fire or another one of these regional events as a way of testing the waters.  I learned from this experience that my delicate constitution probably precludes my attending Burning Man unless I can afford an Airstream but when all was said and done I did not feel the aversion you would expect from someone who spent at least half of her time there trying not to hurl or pass out.  Instead, I found myself strategizing for next year, plotting workarounds that would enable me to participate more fully without unweaving into a basket case.  I’ve also found myself exploring some of the history and culture of Burning Man  and salivating over the stunning array of theme camps available on the playa this year.   Sometimes I’m not quite sure if I’ve liked something or not (like a first kiss) until I get some distance from it, and in this case the clear answer was a resounding yes indeedy.  Besides, where else am I going to wear my shiny silver pants?

Nothing is perfect, least of all a first attempt at anything as incredibly complex and labor-intensive as this event.  I did hear at one point that not quite as many tickets had been sold for Lakes of Fire as had been hoped, but in fact my only concern for the event is that I don’t think this space would accommodate a lot more people without feeling overbooked and cramped.   I could see the organizers did as much as they could to separate the family area from the camps playing the loudest music, but as I lay awake and felt the persistent bass thump vibrating in my absurdly skinny sleeping bag Friday night I couldn’t help wishing Hushville had been, more, well, hushed.  Folks have also suggested both more showers and a shuttle or a few to the Lake to cool down, both of which I think are fine ideas.  So, for that matter, would have been a Slip ‘n’ Slide or sprinkler system, but for that we would need running water.

I did not slink home from Lakes of Fire like a scurvy dog of failure who fled to a chain motel with her tail between her legs.  Once I’d showered, slept, and decompressed, I felt so energized I came home and did 90% of the unpacking before I even sat down.   I’ve been writing, thinking, dreaming, jotting notes on projects I may or may not ever get around to doing, all of which is as it should be.  Things may not always go smoothly when I stretch myself beyond my comfort zone, in fact they rarely do.  But like my literary totem animal Mole from Wind in the Willows, I am compelled to occasionally leave the comforts of my home to seek adventure in the company of other breeds.

Back in the safety of my lair, I feel stronger for having tested my limits.   Sure enough I bumped right up against them, but I’d rather barf in a tent than give up seeking new experiences and I’d rather brave a group hug in Tick Town with a wonky gut than be a poor sport.   The nausea passed long ago, but I’ll be chuckling about that hug for as long as I live.  Kudos to the organizers of Lakes of Fire, as your work and planning obviously didn’t go to waste.  I’m quite sure I’m not the only attendee who came home inspired and energized, and I look forward to seeing how all this collective energy manifests next year.  I may be a camping wussy, but I know a good thing when I see it.  I may not have been in any shape to contribute much to the community in real time, but perhaps my best contribution is to share these few thoughts and impressions.  Burning Man events are not for everyone, but these communities are about as close as we can get to Hakim Bey’s Temporary Autonomous Zone.  If you have a dream of being, doing, making, or just living in the moment with no golden arches in sight, here is your golden ticket to come and fly your freak flag high.


Kaplan’s Embraces the Krazy
June 30, 2009, 6:03 am
Filed under: art, Pop Culture, Uncategorized, World of Wonder

On our way home from Lakes of Fire in Michigan (longer post to follow in a day or two), we stopped to look at fireworks strictly for research purposes.  I had always loved the signs for Krazy Kaplan’s, so that’s where we headed.

I have been in stores that carried fireworks, but I have never seen one that had row after row of them and virtually nothing else.  The place was huge, with an overwhelming array of colors and graphics begging to be chosen and wheeled out in a shopping cart to those states where pyrotechnics are legal (click on pictures to see larger version):


I would have like to have gotten more pictures at Krazy Kaplan’s than I did, but my spouse and daughter were worn out from camping and I wanted to get home and unpack.  I will say that some of my favorite packaging featured U.S. political figures.  One of these featured an image of George Bush and was called Ambushed, the 436 Dollar Deficit Man:


Even better were the Area 51 fireworks that for some unknown reason featured an image of Bill Clinton:


I don’t quite get the alien connection here, but the visage of Slick Willie fits in amicably enough with warnings of flaming balls and reports.

Yet another favorite category of mine were the fireworks with adorably nonsensical names such as What Dat Do.  This rings even better as a statement as a question, so I’m glad they left the punctuation out for my entertainment:


A little copyright infringement is always fun too, as evidenced by these American Idol fireworks.  Simon Cowell eat your heart out, :


Having had our eyeful of explosives and then some, we made our way out and paid our respects to old Krazy Kaplan himself, just beyond the registers that we of course did not visit, seeing as fireworks are illegal in the state of Illinois:


I frankly don’t care much for things that explode, but in this world of sanitized politically correct discourse, it is somehow reassuring that Krazy Kaplan has yet to be bullied into changing his name and/or identity.  Emotionally Disturbed Kaplan has much less of a zippy ring to it and takes far too long to say, by which time you would miss the exit.   In the highly competitive world of Indiana fireworks, never underestimate the value of a crass and vulgar mascot.

Feeling the Burn
June 13, 2009, 2:15 am
Filed under: art, Pop Culture, traveling, Uncategorized

Those who know me know I do not do camping, so I struggled mightily to decide if I should grace Lakes of Fire (the first Great Lakes Regional Burning Man event) with my erstwhile presence.  Pros were the lack of sandstorms and the relative closeness of the event as compared to Nevada, weighed against my general intolerance of noisy crowds and my distaste for anything that might remotely be described as “roughing it,” given that my need to urinate tends to increase exponentially in relationship to my distance from the designated receptacle.  Having devoted serious thought and research to such urgently pressing matters, I think I have found a solution.  That is probably more than you need to know about the distribution of my biohazardous fluids, but I can’t resist a pun.  As it happens I also cannot resist the opportunity to be a part of great public spectacles and art happenings, so I shall brave the insects and other petty inconveniences in hopes of being moved and amazed.

Lakes of Fire is happening in Michigan from June 25 through 28, and registration has just been extended through 11:59 CST on Sunday June 14.  If you want to know more, the main Web site is here and the event also has a Facebook page.  I don’t know what to expect, but I do know it will be more fun if you and your monkey come too.