8.2020

I didn’t forget you on the 20th. I was busy learning a new skill!

My landlord – you know, my problem child, Rich – is a home renovator. He’s working on the property a friend has neglected damn near to death. It’s in Bear Lake, so I figured while I’m unemployed I’d learn some new skills and earn myself a free vacation.

I invited Galen, to mitigate the sexual harassment I could expect from Rich, with whom I drove up Thursday night, in order to get a head start bright and early Friday morning. Galen would join us Friday, and play on the lake all day. I planned to wile away the hot hours of the afternoons there, and work again ’til sundown.

California’s fires blew into the valley and, I’m telling you, you could hardly see the lake! Galen decided against the two hour drive. If he was going to paddle around in smoke, he might as well stay close to home.

Oh shit.

Rich vacillated between begging, whining, groping, pouting, and the aggression we know so well, when I repeatedly said no.

He’s a full-grown raging man with the mentality of a 5 year old. He’s the biggest victim I’ve met in all my life. Besides incredulous, I’m beyond feeling. Well, irritation. This again? It’s such a hassle. It’s more work than painting an entire trailer!

I hate baby boomers. I didn’t understand that it’s pervasive. I knew only my father, a good Mormon, and Marko, an extraordinary exception who simply never saw anyone as anything other than equal.

I made a dangerous assumption that Marko’s friends were like him. I really did not understand that these men do not understand festival ethos and culture, and don’t care to learn. The open-hearted exchange of energy that builds there is not an invitation to bodies. For grizzled voyeurs, however, it’s precisely that: a panoply of scantily-clad bodies on display like a pastry counter, theirs for the choosing to tickle and niggle and grind and grab. These perverts cannot be made to understand that women’s bodies are not theirs to manhandle. No means no, not keep badgering me. Coercion is not consent. Women are not coin slots you put alcohol in and tits-n-ass come out.

Someone said, “The loss of privilege can feel like oppression. It isn’t.” These rapey, infantile men just scream. I hate them.

In fairness to Rich, he didn’t block the exit of a 14 year old girl and “talk her into” having sex with him. I have no doubt Zafod’s been doing so for decades. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. His rape charge was reduced to sexual misconduct with a minor, with a kidnapping enhancement. I know exactly why he chose a child. Grown women make noise or make an escape. Barely, in my case. In 2011, he got caught. Poor young girl. Probably affected her so deeply, she couldn’t hide it. Makes me so sad and angry.

(Incidentally, this week would have been Burning Man. As you know, I give myself a year off of my traumas. It resolved relatively on its own, a while ago. We’ve done a little work on it in therapy, but generally I’m interested in healing the deeper traumas that have led to the inability to trust my gut, build boundaries, or value myself. Not being raped and abused is not asking too much. How ’bout that?

It’s a matter of learning to listen again to my intuition and believe it, without guilt. It’s hard for victims of childhood abuse to trust their instincts. It’s too complicated to understand how your caregiver can attack you while claiming to love you, so a child turns off the ability to protect herself. The message is I’m not worth my safety.

EMDR has done a lot to heal my brain. I recover faster. Also, I had that satisfying experience last year of using my words and finding exactly the right ones. I owned that room! He couldn’t leave, and I didn’t require him to stay. I didn’t even raise my voice. My tone alone stopped him, dead calm and in charge. He didn’t say a word. I accused him face-to-face of lying, entrapment, and sexual assault. His shoulders slumped with a sigh and he nodded. And still, he remained seated. I excused him! It was so empowering.)

****

So Rich threw fits when I asked for instruction and feedback.

“I’ll just drop what I’m doing inside then and do this!”

“I’m not asking you to do it. I’m asking for guidance. I’ve never painted before.”

“You paint all the time!”

Art. Years ago. I’ve never painted a house.”

When I got the instruction I needed and got rid of him, I enjoyed great music and being outside. We only went to the lake once, for an hour. I told him I wanted to hit the water once a day. He wholeheartedly agreed. Not surprisingly, he lied.

I did not enjoy painting the minutiae. For three days, Rich had me on window sills and edge trim. I saw the trailer in its original state, when I went to Bear Lake in July with Zack. I made Rich promise not to paint the exterior without me. I really wanted to experience that exciting reveal. I had told Rich that I wanted to finish the entire exterior that weekend. Did he think that was possible with just the two of us? He said yes.

In other words, he knew darn well what I was volunteering for. It was on the drive that he informed me we’d paint only the deck side exterior wall. The rest would be back[neck]-breaking tedium. I expressed my concern, that that would take skills I simply didn’t have. Anyone can get the basics of painting a flat-ish surface and be trusted not to ruin it entirely. I am not a construction worker. I’m a volunteer. I needed guidance to do the job he roped me into, and I wanted the high of that WOW transformation.

I was anxious that I was making all kinds of mistakes. I don’t have a frame of reference for what “right” looks like, or even good enough. And it isn’t mine to experiment on! Mistakes are costly and time-consuming. I don’t know what I’m doing, so I continued to ask for reasonable progress checks.

“You’re doing fine!” he barked, angry.

“I think so, but I’d like you to double check.”

Annoyed as possible, he hardly glanced at my work. “It’s fine!” he shot back. “I can’t hold your hand!”

“I’m not asking you to. I want corrections. It’s not mine to ruin.”

I got punished for checking my work, so I didn’t. He can’t say I didn’t try.

I did the best I could, and unknowingly dripped all over the underside of the innumerable angles I painted. You have no idea how many! Oh my god, these tedious boards took THREE days to paint, and fix, and paint again. Do you know how much labor and time goes into sanding latex off of a long, fine edge? He’s such an idiot!

painting minutiae

Reco’nize what a Princess can do!

window sills 2
window sills 3
window sills

Finally, on the last day, I got the satisfying reveal I longed for! I’m so proud! I have to say… TOTALLY WORTH IT! I learned the hard stuff the hard way on someone else’s project, and have no doubt that I will be involved in the learning and labor of crafting my own someday home.

Next weekend, I will drive up with Galen so as not to get trapped with that old, angry, sexist, presumptuous manbaby. I will work in the cool hours of the day and play in the afternoons. I will paint the exterior, as promised, and assist where and when I’m able, if I desire it. I don’t care what he says. I told him all along I considered this a working holiday. We didn’t holiday at all. We hardly ate. (I didn’t lose a pound!)

I told Rich what I was available for. He tricked me. As for sexual harassment, I hold myself responsible for putting myself in any kind of situation with him. I know what to expect. He took advantage of me. It’s what he does. I can’t hope for anything else.

Free labor, for the love! Be gracious. In what way can you make yourself a victim in this? That’s entitlement for you. Stuck in permanent mindset of mine, mine, mine.

I adjusted. I made it an opportunity to confront fear of the unknown, flex new muscles, and gain new knowledge. We’d been unable to build a temple for Element 11 this year, since burn events worldwide were cancelled. I saw right away what this weekend was going to be, in spite of what I’d communicated and Rich agreed to, and saw an opportunity to gain confidence for the build crew next year. Maybe even come in stronger! It had been very intimidating to volunteer last year, when I had no skills.

And look what I did! IN ONE DAY! In the end, I’m glad I only painted one side. The juxtaposition with the janky remainder makes it all the more satisfying. Weeee!
exteriorpainting exterior

I love painting houses! I want to play with a paint spray thingy!

No Man Is An Island

How do we reconcile shortcomings in others with our boundaries? What’s the line between forgiveness and finally expecting our worth to be reflected in the way we’re treated? Unless I accept my people as they are, I’m not going to have any friends left! My circle is getting very small indeed.

I told my friend I was hurt when she and her husband rode Zafod’s art car after what he did to me. I hadn’t planned to. “She’s my friend,” I decided. “I can’t hold her as close as I once did, and I love her. Not every wound requires discussion.”

I gave it real thought. I knew that either way, I would continue to spend time and be her friend. I’d been hurt, and it was done. I harbored nothing. Not the end of the world; certainly not intentional. I knew that.

I know, too, that it’s unfair to demand the same expression of camaraderie that I offer. I see something in my friend now that’s hard to know. It’s still friendship.

But… We were hanging out yesterday. She wondered why I had stormed off one night at the burn. I hadn’t, but I understood why it seemed like I had. In truth, some plastic women boarded an art car we were on and threw shade at me. (I have no objection to cosmetic work, incidentally, until they look freakish. Even then, knock yourself out. But silicone, starved, filled, frozen, Botoxed, and bitchy? ‘Bye.)

I hadn’t worn makeup all week, until burn night. That’s normal for the day. (Sunglasses hide many sins.) You might think the face of a middle-aged redhead with faded eyebrows would be especially bleached-out and colorless in the bright sun. In fact, I look more washed out at night. Featureless, pallid, even sickly.

I didn’t care. I wore my cute outfits, but I was all about comfort this burn. I couldn’t be bothered with makeup. I will again. I love turning it out. This year, when evening rolled around, I just didn’t want to. Makeup felt like a chore.

It was similar to my first burn, when I hadn’t known to bring all my fabulous gear and wore gym shorts and tennis shoes the whole time! (Why I didn’t Google it when my boyfriend told me playa would ruin all my nice things is beyond me, haha!) In 2007, I was intimidated and uncomfortable. Slacks at a black-tie affair.

What I gained was the experience, for the first time in my life, of disappearing. No one noticed me! It was discombobulating at first. Then, it felt like a secret superpower. If I had a meaningful conversation, it was a meeting of people, not finery. Yeah, I was snubbed, but those I spoke with mattered in a new way. No angle.

Showing up with only myself was a humbling, powerful lesson that I cherish. (The next year, I’d already learned it. I brought the glamour.)

This year was like the first. The difference was I chose it, and this time I needed nothing from those who overlooked me. Twelve years ago, I was shaken. It took work to bring myself up when someone looked down on me. Now I’m bored of people who tear others down, so when those derisive bitches sized me up, I was out. (One sneered, audibly.) I wasn’t mad, not rattled, not interested.

“Do I look like I’m dying of cancer?” I asked my friend at the time.

She said yes! I needed eyebrows.

I knew. If I cared, I’d have drawn them on.

I sat it out for a minute or two, but I don’t like mean girls. Those chicks changed the vibe for me, so I left. Simple. (We were just sitting anyway, and I wanted to move! Ecstatic dance is something I only find at Burning Man. Wordless conversation is magical, especially for one so blessed and cursed with words. I had an awesome night.

Oh, what was the name of that camp? Multi-level dance floors and mini-trampolines! Anyway, the beats were going off at some unicorny location and I danced deeep for hours, woke up sore. “Ooh, I’m getting my legs on now!”)

Back at home, my friend told me that she and her husband determined then that I must have been offended. Reasonable. Wrong.

“That being said,” I teased her, “when your friend asks if she looks like she’s dying of cancer, the answer is always no!”

“No,” she disagreed. “I don’t want anyone lying to me. Be straight!”

“No, man! There are certain things the answer is always no! ‘Does this dress make me look fat?’ NO! ‘Do I look like I’m dying of cancer?” Always no!”

We drank for a couple of hours. I don’t know if that opened the door to the truth. I wasn’t so drunk, but maybe it emboldened me to confess what I was wrestling with.

What difference does it make? I asked myself, again and again.

Be straight with me, I heard her say, again and again.

If this sat on my heart unsaid, it was between us. I needed to share my feelings with someone I’ve considered a close friend for five years.

Did I, though? Do we have to get everything off our chests? If I don’t need her to answer for it, do I need to offload something that won’t stop me being a friend?

But isn’t that making allowances for people who don’t value me? I hoped she’d care, and we could close the first gap our friendship has known. I had to say it, or the new distance between us might grow.

I want authentic connections, not acquaintances and drinking buddies. I spoke my truth. I didn’t accuse or attack. I owned my feelings.

“I was hurt when you rode the art car after what Zafod did to me.”

“When?” she asked.

“Anytime after he kicked me out.” What did that matter? 

It devolved from there. She was defensive, deflecting. It didn’t happen to them. (It’s inconsequential, then, that he endangered me in the middle of the desert after harassing, deceiving, fondling, violating, and expelling me?)

Wow. Compassion matters to me, and that’s the definition of its absence. No amount of explanation could communicate why that hurts.

In the end, all I could say was, “If the tables were turned…” Over and over.

She came back every time with confusion, and no feeling. It didn’t involve them. Why should they stand by me and not hang out with my attacker?

Now I’m screwed. Now I know. The obstacle is real, and growing. Empathy’s important to me. Recognition of unintended injury. Basic concern for friend. “I can see how you feel. I’m sorry.” They’re not. They don’t.

I want a little loyalty. All I got was discomfort, her own. She was in trouble.

“I’m not mad,” I told her. “I just wanted you to know how I felt. I haven’t blamed you or yelled. I shared my feelings.”

“But you’re the one who got fooled,” she shot back.

Oh. My. God.

I gasped and walked away. “Oh! I’m getting mad now.

“That is victim blaming!” I turned back. “I didn’t do this. He did this. It was traumatic and scary, and it hurts that my friends don’t care.”

It didn’t happen to her, and I’m the idiot.

You think I don’t already feel stupid enough? Every victim of sexual assault hates themselves for it! Not an ounce of concern. Not a moment’s consideration. Not even his mugshot was enough to convince her. He’s a serial predator, but I’m an idiot.

I paused in the kitchen, grabbed a drink, and went back. We were going in circles. “I know this has been hard to hear,” I sympathized, “but I wanted you to know how I felt and you said you wanted it straight. Maybe it’s the beer,” I shrugged.

I get that others haven’t spent 30 years in therapy. I get that others haven’t had to focus their whole lives on restructuring healthy relationships, and learning effective, loving communication. But void of empathy? For a friend?

Today, I’m anxious. “Are we good?” I want to text. “Thank you for hearing me.”

But she didn’t, really, and I think, why am I worried about a friend I rarely see anymore, who’s married and doesn’t need relationships outside of her husband and her twin, and openly rejects the concept of caring about others?

Is that a friend?

She did say in the end, “I feel guilty,” and she actually said the words, “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t,” I rushed to her. “That’s all I wanted, for you to understand and care how I felt. I know you didn’t mean it. I feel closer to you if we can be honest about the hard stuff.”

Apologies matter to me. Not everyone will give that, so I respect it. Still, I’m sad and worried. No matter how fairly I handled a challenging conflict, now I’m “drama.” They think feelings and drama are the same thing. I don’t.

I don’t think it’s drama to ask a friend to care. They don’t want to be bothered. I can work with differences. Indifference to the pain of a friend, not so much.

My heart hurts. I can’t help that my regard changes, knowing this. They’ve stated their boundary. “What I do has nothing to do with you, and keep your shit to yourself.”

They can’t undo unintended consequences. Our choices affect others, and I can’t feel closer than I do to people who don’t care. I’ll enjoy their company  – can’t help that either; I like them – but I no longer feel close. I don’t feel valued.

Soon I’ll be happy that I expressed difficult emotions well. I was afraid of the possibility that she’d reject me, and she did. It’s the first time I’ve failed to get eye-to-eye with someone, but didn’t keep pushing. I accepted it and closed the conversation. It was relatively brief. I remained calm, respectful, and earnest. I’m getting better at this. I’m pleased with that, but today my heart hurts.

The Temple

I had some friends to take with me to the temple. I took pics of Jazzy, Ray, The Brothers Jones, and my little Cricket.
temple BRC 2019

I love the temple. It’s reverent. There’s an energy that’s so overwhelming. It really is sacred, blows my mind every time. It’s beautiful and loving, and unique to itself.

I put Cricket’s pics up first. Then I slowly walked the grounds, reading dozens of memorials, touching with my fingers those that touched my heart, adding my friends. After the week I’d had – I didn’t bike out ’til Saturday; the burn was almost over – it was a sanctuary. I sat down and drank in the quiet hush. Chimes, bells, singing bowls, sniffles, the low hum of voices, laughter.

Outside, I burned sage around the perimeter from my friends’ ranch, that I introduced who got married out there. (I put it out on the chain guard of my bike. I love the burn scar.) I was ready to leave then, but I wanted to see my Cricket once more.

Silly, I dismissed it. I have all of those pictures at home.

I started to leave. I turned back. I wanted to see my Cricket again, here.

I couldn’t find her. I was immediately panicked. I kept looking. I really couldn’t find her. I put her near another cat memorial fairly low, right inside the first entrance I walked in. I could not find her. I saw strangers’ pics that I remembered, but not her.

I was frantic. It was instant. I tried to tell myself that it belonged to my difficult week, some reverb stress bubbling up, but no amount of reasoning could calm me down. It didn’t matter that I’d see the pictures elsewhere. I had to see her, now. I was almost in tears, and not the appropriate, mourning kind. The unhinged kind.

Settle, Christie. She’s here.

I looked again and could not find her. I was flipping out inside and just about to lose it. I was standing in the middle of the temple with people all around me, barely holding it together. I closed my eyes and took slow breaths that felt like drowning.

You don’t have to see her, Christie. She’s here.

I did have to see her. I felt sick. I couldn’t leave without seeing her, and the fear I wouldn’t find her brought the panic up again, because I also wanted to get out of there!

I knew if I opened my eyes, I’d cry. Loudly. I didn’t want consolation. I wanted to disappear, to freak out without notice and search wildly. I didn’t want to pretend my tears were holy so my panic attack wouldn’t ruin the vibe. I just wanted my cat!

And there she was. I don’t remember opening my eyes. I just found myself looking up at an image so bright, I couldn’t imagine how I’d missed her my first time through. Someone had painted a portrait of their beloved kitten, and it was Cricket.

“I’m just here.”

It was as though she was showing me what she looks like now. I’ve asked!

She still has her cricky ear.

cricket in the temple resize

I stood motionless and sobbed. Dripping, silent tears. I could breathe.

She found me. I didn’t look for my pictures after that, just stood smiling, and crying a river of relief and awe. I closed my eyes again, and held her for the longest time.

I looked down. A man sitting beneath me was holding his hand up to me. I don’t know how long he’d been offering, but I took his hand and went back to my Cricket for a little longer.

When I was ready, I thanked the man, took one last look at my girl, and left.

cricket at the ER

The “crick” is a little different, but the fact that it was the same ear sold me. It’s my Cricket. “I’m here, mom,” vibrant, still gentle, and all heart. She’s so beautiful in heaven. I love her for breaking through my meltdown and calling me to her. I miss my kitty.

Leaving the temple, I knew the panic I fell into had nothing to do with the rough burn I’d had, and everything to do with losing my kitty. I was panicked then, too. I was with her.

I love Burning Man. It’s a crucible. It shoves all of you onto you, out of the blue and all at once, then holds you up while you heal.

I needed to have a panic attack in a safe place, in front of my biggest fear: witnesses. The temple wouldn’t let me go until I progressed through a barrier.

And my cat was there to help me grieve her death. I mean, come on! Fucking magic.

Meow >^..^<

Summer’s Winding Down

It got away from me. I’m glad I recorded my feelings on Cricket’s first anniversary. That was too big to miss.

I went back to the burn life, with mixed results. E11 – Utah’s regional burn – was amazing. I finally walked through the barrier of social anxiety that kept me from volunteering my time on a build crew. (It’s hard to show up with a desire to help and no skills. I feel like I’m taking time away from people on a deadline… to learn how to not break their equipment.)

I’m so glad I did it! It was like going to rehearsal for Jazzy’s hoop memorial in January. I felt inferior. I was met with love, and welcomed.

I learned a new word today: Atelophobia is the fear of imperfection, of never being good enough. Yep.

I’m enough. I’m worthy.

The title of this blog hints that I’ve felt quite the opposite in my life. It’s still my knee-jerk reaction to project flawlessness, but this year I’ve made big strides showing up, flawed.

temple

Temple To The Moon / Element 11 2019

I went to Burning Man on the crew of the Frog Prince. The sculptor is an acquaintance through long-time friends. I camped with him at E11. I used heavy machinery and logged countless hours to earn my place on his crew at Burning Man. It felt good to gain confidence at a new skill and work toward a common goal.

4th

Park City Fourth of July 2019

I was also aggressively harassed. For two months.

I used my words. I was direct. “NO.”

“I’m not interested in an affair with you,” I told him, right away. “Is this discount a gift,” I asked later, “or am I paying in other ways? I feel like I’m being asked to pay with my body. I won’t,” I went on. “Ever. I’m paying with work on our camp and the art car.”

“I’m not now, nor will I ever be available for a sexual relationship with you.”

“No means no, not keep asking,” I said finally. “This is sexual harassment.” A week before Burning Man, I offered to sell my ticket back to him. “I don’t want to go like this.”

He still wanted me to go. He persuaded me that he understood at last, that he would respect and observe my boundaries.

I’m equal parts ashamed and frightened that he fooled me. Actions speak louder than words and each time he promised to back off, he violated me again in new ways.

I should have taken him at his behavior, not his word, but he’s simply the most cunning person I’ve ever met. I was convinced, every time, that he would stop. To know that someone can so effectively trick me is alarming. It scares me, still.

I got to Burning Man a few days after the guys, and the full-press intrusion began, unlike anything before. It was so calculated and malicious. Pouting, tantrums, puppy eyes, outbursts, begging, insults. He’s a toddler! Arrested in infancy, plus hormones.

He knew exactly what he was doing: Say anything it takes to get her there, then force her into so uncomfortable a situation, she just gives in. I’m certain he’s done it before.

The night I arrived, Zafod, my attacker, and Larry, our campmate, were getting stoned and wasted. I busied myself setting up camp. I wanted to arrange my storage tent, so that when the sun came up I wouldn’t have to spend more time than necessary in an oven trying to find things. My main-use items would go with me in the camper.

Zafod smothered me, groping, offering drinks, coaxing drinks, demanding I drink.

“I need to set up before I can party. Let me get myself together.”

“Can I help?”

“I got it. If I need help, I’ll ask. Thank you.” This made him angry, and I began immediately to pay for rejecting him somehow.

He grew more and more irate as the night wore on. I tuned him out. Until…

They got onto the subject of criminal justice. He became more vocal, and menacing.

When Larry asked some clarifying questions, Zafod furiously shushed him. Til then, I was doing my best to ignore them, but his desperation to hide whatever it was Larry asked about alerted me to now pay attention.

I listened to the end of the conversation in horror. In my mind I asked Zafod, as if I were speaking, “Holy shit, are you registered sex offender?!”

I started to shake and felt faint. Not only had I been duped, this guy was dangerous.

I had no recourse. This was my camp. All of my resources were here. Radical Self Reliance. You provide for yourself and once in Black Rock City, you survive. No one could save me. I had to get through it.

I slept on the couch. That had been my plan, communicated before we left. He offered to share his bed, but I declined. This angered him more.

Two nights later, I had a dream that Zafod spit in my face and kicked me in the gut. It was real-time and followed logic; We were at Burning Man. I woke up sick with the relevance and feeling of it. I sat quietly reminding myself that it was just a dream. Though it accurately reflected what I was going through, it hadn’t actually happened. “Let it go,” I coached myself. “Don’t allow this energy to start your day.”

A voice, as though separate from myself, stopped me. “What is he actually capable of?”

“Am I really in danger here?” I asked out loud. For a split second, I thought of rape.

He heard my voice and came into the camper. Apparently, he’d been waiting for me to wake up… to evict me.

I looked him in the eye. “I’ve been truthful since we met,” I said calmly, repeating everything I’ve said to him. I don’t want an affair; Sex is not my commerce or my worth, and I’m not paying you with it; THIS IS SEXUAL HARASSMENT.

“I was direct,” I continued. “I was straightforward. I was honest with you, and you deceived me. I want to know that I know, you lied to me.”

For the first time in months, he was silent. At every previous objection, he was armed with more “reasons” than anyone I’ve dealt with. Now, he simply nodded.

“I’m gonna handle this,” I went on, “because I’m capable, and that’s what I do. But I see you,” I said pointedly. “It is unacceptable that you jeopardize my safety in the middle of the desert because you can’t bully me into bed.”

He just nodded.

In the end, I was grateful he kicked me out. I would have put my nose down and endured an abusive, miserable situation. I was. It’s the Taurus in me, and the do-it-yourself ethos of the burn. We bring our own supplies, not extras to make up for other’s inadequate planning. Space is at a premium and we value self-sufficiency.

I was ashamed to be in this situation. I was so embarrassed. I don’t like needing help. I was a problem. I was a burden. I was panicked. Duped. Defeated. Hurt. Scared. Angry. Traumatized. Robbed. He took my money and weeks of labor, and did this to me.

Instead, miraculously, I was able to carve out two good days on the playa. Two of eleven is hardly enough to feel worth it, but it’s better than nothing, which is what I was on track for. If I were to do it again, I wouldn’t. Except…

What I felt and saw in myself was so powerful and … badass!

It was a strange situation of feeling totally empowered and totally alone. I RULED that situation. I kept my cool. I spoke the truth with conviction, without apology. I called him out, then I cleaned up the mess he left me with.

He failed. He met the woman who would not be coerced. He calculated that the harsh environment and my investment in shared provisions would leave me without any option but to stay with him, where he could finally force himself on me. I think, being a coward, he counted on a similar lack of courage to make me dependent on him. He couldn’t imagine the fearlessness he met in me.

I knew I was tough, but never had I applied my strength in such a mighty way!

And the words came! The perfect words, at the right time. Precise, concise, incisive. I cut like a knife! No venom, just righteous truth, motherfucker. He could not argue. So often that ability fails and we’re haunted by what we should have said. I’m good with words, I am. I’m quick. I have the experience often of enjoying that keen response. But in cases of terror, we lose everything but the ability to survive. I kept my words! The right ones. The best ones. It’s so satisfying after the crime to feel totally satisfied that I could do no more and no better. I’m so grateful for… age and practice, hard work in therapy and real effort in life.. and some inquantifiable guidance. I do now feel that I was protected.

Then, I felt alone, and terrified. I feel alienated still, but I also experienced generosity, and myself accepting it! It was humbling, in the best way. I’m proud. I feel strong.

day before

The day before Zafod kicked me out of the camp I help build and pay for, because I wouldn’t consent to a sexual relationship with him. I hate the change he made to The Frog Prince’s paint job, but I’m still really proud of all my work on that regal amphibian! (*matchy, matchy* NOT PLANNED – unless the creeper saw my outfit and chose his accordingly, haha!)

(I didn’t ask for this photo. The guy with the camera did, and I didn’t really take many of this year’s burn. I struggled. I was proud of my work on the Frog Prince and didn’t have any pics of me with him. I mean, Zafod and I did work on it as a team. I guess it’s fitting to pose together with him, but I’m disgusted with how he shoved his leg between mine just before the shot was taken, and just disgusted in general. It’s so gross and invasive, and so Zafod! Just rapey, icky! He’s a predator!)

cooler water

Draining cooler water for a “whore’s bath,” we laughingly call it. I built our camp shower out there, an entire day laboring in the hot sun under real risk of heatstroke and sunburn. Zafod took it all away, because I wouldn’t obey the demands of my gender and give him my body.

****

I said nothing at the burn about my suspicions of his history with the law. Perhaps another day, I’ll write of my disappointment in an old friend, the founder of our village, who made it clear that I was to remain hush hush about what happened to me. (I haven’t. When you keep quiet, you’re complicit. I wrote to burningman.org and another member of village management. I know now. I have a duty to keep others safe.)

However, I was not about to disseminate potentially false information based on the tail end of a conversation I overheard. Upon arriving home, the first thing I did – before even bringing my gear in from the front porch at 3am – was look Zafod up online. Well, I looked up sex crimes in his rural Park City suburb. He has an alias, after all.

He’s it. In a town of 150, there’s one registered sex offender.

Zafod's mugshot

Richard Wayne Schmidt, aka Zafod Beatlebrox, was convicted in 2011 of sex abuse of a minor. Basically, charges of kidnapping and statutory were reduced. The kidnapping part I definitely understand. He pinned me down and blocked my exit for four hours! I could not leave until he finally gave up and accepted that I would not fuck him. Then he kicked me out, depriving me of the shelter I had helped build and pay for. He jeopardized my safety. He threatened me.

Utah Sex Offender Registry

I feel betrayed by friends who didn’t warn me. Hearing what happened, nobody seemed surprised or upset for me. “Oh, yeah,” they shrugged it off. “I wondered what you were doing with him,” another said. “Everyone knows he’s a horndog.”

I didn’t!

First, there’s a marked difference between a womanizer and a predator, but why didn’t they care enough to tell me even that much? How could they leave it unsaid?

I’m sick to death of people who turn a blind eye and disregard problems that don’t affect them directly. It’s the definition of privilege, and it makes me question my friendships altogether. We can’t solve every crisis, but we can look out for each other. I would never leave someone I love vulnerable to a risk I was aware of. I’m disappointed. I feel different. I feel distant now from people I trusted and held dear.

A close friendship has migrated from inner sanctum to arm’s length. She’s still in there, but one rung out at least. She and her new husband, an friend of ten years that I introduced her to, rode The Frog Prince later in the week. If the tables were turned, I would never! Anyone who treated my friend like he did me would get nothing from me but total disregard or contempt, and they hung out with him. This goes beyond hurt and betrayal. It’s that, too, but I’m disgusted. I lost a lot of respect for my friends that day.

(They got married at Burning Man. I was Best Bitch. I continue to cherish the memory of their sunrise wedding. It was beautiful, thankfully before my burn went sour.)

My friend  mentioned their ride, to gossip about Zafod’s behavior. He gets others to drive, so he can get wasted and molest women who climb onboard. It’s a mobile perp wagon. He relies on intoxicated, scantily-clad women to laugh it off when he grabs and sucks on their bodies, which he did. When my friends witnessed him violating women, they left – or so she reported – but why hadn’t it mattered when he violated me? I’m pissed.

Sadly, if it came down to any kind of query from Burning Man LLC, that’s her story, not mine, and she’s one of those who thinks silence is the high road. Whistle-blowers are “drama.” (To them, feelings are drama. In other words, shut up. We don’t care.) She wouldn’t report what she witnessed, and my retelling of it is hearsay.

*sigh*

It’s done. I’m left with a wound that’s far less debilitating than it would have been historically. It’s encouraging to know that I’ll recover quickly. This is his crime, not mine. I forgive myself for being tricked. Going forward, I’ll take behavior as truth, and never question it again. Three strikes, you’re out. Maybe just two, I don’t know. We’ll see. I’m creating my future as we speak. I have every reason to believe that this pattern is in my past. I’m making progress in real time. I’m learning.

I’m comfortable with betrayal bonds. Perhaps that’s why I haven’t noticed until it was an emergency. In the past, I attracted and blindly recreated relationships that resemble the dynamic I grew up with. More recently, I’ve made allowances for it, over and over.

I’m ready for better. I’m better. I’m ready for my life to reflect that.

I feel gratitude, satisfaction, and hope.

I so thankful for acquaintances who stepped up me for me. Above all, I feel proud of how I handled a punishing situation. I’m getting stronger every day.

Jazzy Blue Brite

Twelve years ago, a beautiful light of a girl caught my eye at Burning Man. I’d seen hula hooping before, even stop-in-your-tracks hooping, but never that. Jazzy Blue Brite is the quintessential picture of my first burn, and burned in my brain.

It was 2007, and I was afraid of the desert. As far as I could see, life was not meant to survive that ancient, desiccated lake bed, so I didn’t drink anything but water. I was dead sober, and Jazzy Blue Brite was the moment that trance entered my being.

We go to Burning Man for an altered state. It doesn’t take long. It permeates that city. But that night, that party, there she was. Magic. Light. Pure beauty.
jazzy blue brite burning man 2007I was transported, without a drug or a drop in my body.

I found out my campmates had taken me to Ganesh, a camp and artcar from Salt Lake. That makes sense now, but at the time I knew nothing and no one. I had only met the guy I went with a week prior to leaving. Everyone was a stranger.

They’re my own community now, but Jazzy eked out a special place in my heart.

I had been hooping a little that summer with Jeffrey, who had beautiful flow and energy, but I wanted lessons from her and signed up for a workshop as soon as I got home. I was so intimidated and nervous.

From that 6-wk course and a dozen years of festivals and festy parties, Jazzy and I formed a bond that is so dear to me. We never hung out one-on-one, but every time we saw each other we ran to hug on each other. It was so validating, to know that she was just as excited to see me, every time, as I was to see her. She loved me.

I loved her, too.

Jazzy died on the 4th of January. She had been in an accident almost 10 years ago that took her friend. She was on the back of his moped and sustained serious injuries herself, but it was her heart that never recovered from the loss and survivor’s guilt.

Her carefree partying morphed. We were losing her. She wasn’t as visible on the circuit as she had been. Then again, neither was I. But even I had occasion to see the change, a year and a half ago. She was wasted at an afternoon hoop jam.

In fact, a friend of mine said after we left, “What’s up with Jazzy?”

“Oh, nothing,” I dismissed her. “We’ve all been there.”

Frankly, I thought she was being judgmental. Lord knows I’ve been the drunkest at the party before, and will be again. And most of us have been sloppy, even embarrassing, in the company of sober friends a time or two. Big deal.

I confess I do feel a little guilty about that day. She was so obviously going downhill, I see now. Hindsight.

Anyway, I love her, that sweet Jazzy girl. She’s a great loss, to our community and to me personally. I’m pretty philosophical about these things, but losing her hit me hard. I cried quite a bit. I began to perceive that maybe I’m not so placid about life and death as I claimed, but used that belief to distance myself from loss.

I feel the loss of Jazzy, in my whole body. I feel a little punched in the gut, and I’m quick to tears about her. I was supposed to see her that afternoon!

She’d been in the hospital for weeks, with organ failure. First, doctors told her family not to expect her to wake up from a medically-induced coma, but she did! Her organs recovered, except for her liver, and she was on the list for transplant.

She had a long road ahead, facing mental health issues and the great heartaches she had drowned, and learning to live sober. Transplant, too, is never guaranteed. Even with the best immediate outcome, her body could reject it anytime.

As a community, we settled into a schedule of taking afternoon shifts, so her sisters could go home to their families. A friend and I were slated for 2pm, and then we got the announcement. She passed peacefully in the morning, surrounded by family.

I had a strange sensation of grasping for her, just missing her, but feeling simultaneously that I was with her. In that hovering between – especially right when they leave, I imagine – our friends and family must see our closeness to them in thought, love, and intention.

It was quite beautiful, honestly, but very discombobulating. Those of us who were on the roster for the day went to lunch (for hours) instead. I connected with old friends and strangers alike. It was truly one of my happiest days. Everything you can imagine about such a day: Laughing, hugging, sharing stories, holding hands, holding each other.

We’re having a big Celebration of Life on the 27th at Utah Arts Alliance, and the Hoopologists are putting together some choreography in memoriam. They want to include as many as would like to participate. For her, I really really do.

I’m terrified. I haven’t hooped at all since the last time I saw her, and hadn’t much in the years prior. I was never that good at my best. Another situation in life that I plateaued at a few fun tricks, but didn’t want to work for it afterwards. Taurus laziness, if-it-doesn’t-come-easily, familiar pattern…

But I’m doing it. I’m going to rehearsals with girls who intimidate me and I’m performing my part in the background. Think 1980s low-mid-high level aerobics, haha!

Jazzy inspired me 12 years ago and she’s doing it again.

Get up, Christie.

Live fully. Work through the hard parts and DANCE when you get past them!

****

Jazzy’s family is left with large medical expenses. If you’re in a position to donate and feel moved to do so, please follow the link to GoFundMe. Thank you!

Jazzy Blue Brite’s Medical Fund

jazzy blue brite

exactly who and how she is ❤

****

1.15.19 (payday 😉 ) ~ I don’t have much, but I figured 10 bucks every 2 weeks for a couple of months will add up, and it makes me feel great. I loved this girl.

Imagine my delight when I clicked on the donation page and realized that I needed only to up my bi-weekly contribution by $2 to get the grand total to date to my favorite number: 222, plus one for good measure.

2222 We love Jazzy Blue! 🙂 ❤
2222 i love jazzy blue

Eclipsed and Bitter

And tongue-in-cheek as ever. That’s a good sign.

I’m recording my thoughts in real time, to edit and add to during the day from my desk. My ugly, utilitarian desk in a warehouse in an ugly industrial complex in the bowels of Salt Lake City. I should be enjoying the TOTAL SOLAR ECLIPSE, complete with good viewing weather, and that amazing, once-in-a-lifetime solar corona, in my beautiful, mythic Western Idahome.

But I’m not. Because my family sucks. And I fit right in, ‘cuz I suck the hardest!

I’m getting my wicked sense of humor and strange spirituality back, the dance between naughty and nice I enjoy about my life, and I’m on the road to recovery. But make no mistake: This day is not easy for me, and I’m very cranky about it.

IT WAS MY BIRTHRIGHT, you bastards!

Bitter is easier than weepy. *sigh*

I’m drinking a 6-pack of cold Coronas with lime after work to commemorate missing the cosmic corona of my life. That’s something I couldn’t do if I’d experienced this day with my family, with God, and the Mormons.

So there’s that.

*SOUR!*

I’m quite enjoying full indulgence in this tantrum, if I’m honest. It’s fun, and a relief from pressure to call on the strength of my higher self. I’m actually doing much better emotionally, having given myself permission to just be a brat. I’m not adulting today.

****

Hashtag This Is Happening!

The moment I saw the eclipse beginning I started hooping in the parking lot of my ugly industrial building, and making a TOTAL FOOL OF MYSELF, in honor of the total solar eclipse I’m still furious for missing. We’re visible from a very busy road.

I’ve been laughing so hard! It feels good to lose it.

It’s been a long time since I did anything other than cry and rage. Hardest summer/romantic break-up/familial divorce/pet emergency of my LIFE!

Seriously, Universe? Why you gotta pile on? What else you got for me?! I can take maybe one more thing, and then you better lay off while I do the work of getting myself re-situated and well.

Let this partial solar eclipse – that I’m pissed as hell about – be that one more thing, the cosmic smack-down that I’m finally willing to listen to, and have done with it. 91% is NOT GOOD ENOUGH!

And guess what? I accept it. OK, Universe? I accept. I’m okay with that right now.

And I’m having fun! I’m so relieved.

*sigh*

****

Well, I just hula hooped for an hour in my parking lot with coworkers. I don’t even have jealousy in my heart for missing the TOTAL SOLAR ECLIPSE in my Idahome town.

91% ain’t bad, folks. Not bad at all. I’ll take it! … With joy, with zeal, and maybe even a modicum of humility for a minute.  

*sigh*

My mom always warned me, “Perfect is the enemy of good.”
Dare I say it? … Mother was right.

That really was cosmic, and I feel great.

bowing to the mother

warehouse meeting~ Supervisor Mark getting in on the ridiculous ~

When I learned my boss had gone to Burning Man one year, and came to know more about his wonderful wackiness, I said, “I KNEW this was the right job for me!”

He’s been a great friend. He’s retiring in December, and I’m sorry to see him go.

(I’m not the best hooper – won’t devote myself to consistent practice – but one thing I’m good at is getting the shy-folk to JUST TRY IT. I won’t take no for an answer, whether you like it or not, and I love this pic of my colleagues in the hoop.)

We’ve been Eclipsed.

corona

I ended a beautiful day with Corona-and-lime to commemorate the Solar Corona I missed not going north to Idaho. That’s something I couldn’t do if I’d spent the eclipse with my family, with God, and the Mormons. Perfect!

The Last Time I Fell In Love

… was three years ago. I remember, because it was the weekend of Burning Man but I’d gone to a different festival, a grape stomp, in southern Utah. I met Galen, and spent Autumn falling in love. We were together on and off until last October. I still love that man, but we were not a fit. We knew it early, we just couldn’t stay apart. I was happy to finally date one of the good ones, and that was one hell of a magnet between us! Galen’s earthy, active, sweet, fun, weird and wonderful. Just not mine.

There was Rhode Island in March. I mention him because that was the best crush I’d had in a while, and even though I got the dreaded phone call this summer (“I met someone”), he has, in fact, proven true. (“I want to stay friends.”) I didn’t think I’d ever hear from him again – It’s just something people say – but I was wrong. We continue to call back and forth and I’m just so glad we met. He was only here a week, but I was surprised at how much he came to mean to me. It feels good to know that I meant something to him, too.

I think I may have found another one. He loves his kids, served his country, sings beautifully, laughs hard, and thinks I’m so pretty there aren’t words.

As for me, my heart’s a’flippin.’ I feel like a teenager. We met on burn night, Saturday before Labor Day. Dalai-Mama is his mama, and I’d heard there was a party at her place. He noticed me, but… I’m loud.

I couldn’t tell if he found me obnoxious or was just doing his own thing because it was his mom’s house. Finally, we were standing side by side when Jordan announced, “The first thing I thought when I saw you was, ‘Now there’s Christie’s type!'”

She was right. I thought it, too, and said so. Jordan soon followed a laugh or a song, and it was just him and me. “I’ve always liked redheads,” he confessed.

I looked at him close to suss out the truth. A gal my color hears a lot of that. Doesn’t take long before she can tell if he’s a real red chaser or just saying the most obvious thing to the nearest girl. Sure enough, his ears turned red under a scrutinizing gaze. We were inseparable all weekend.

(Some can’t even make eye contact when they confess their preference, and I never get tired of that blush.)

So far, we’re both enjoying simply adoring one another, going on walks, snuggling during a DVD, eating in, and kissing kissing kissing. I cannot get enough of him! I can’t stop thinking about him. I love falling in love.