Monday, November 27, 2017

Through the Looking Glass


A chain and a single foothold are the only thing keeping me from plummeting a quarter mile to my death. My hands are starting to sweat and I think I have to vomit. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m having a panic attack or because I’ve been drinking for four days straight. I’ve jumped out of planes, off of bridges and into quarries. I once took 10 shots of 151 in 5 minutes on a 10 dollar dare.

The Angels Landing hike is the most scared I’ve ever been in my life.


I haven’t gone home for Thanksgiving in a few years. I typically go to Sacramento to terrorize the Bird family or maybe Chicago as an excuse to rip it up with some old college friends for a few days.

This year, my family wasn’t even celebrating Thanksgiving and I decided I didn’t need to finish the entire back stock of Jager at San Francisco’s Bar None for the third time in four years. It was looking like I, like many LA transplants would be celebrating the holiday here, perhaps with some other misfits who were too lazy (or poor) to make the trip home.

My roommate had planed to go see his family in Salt Lake City and had extended a cursory invite to me, but after doing a 1000 mile road trip with my dad the previous December, I wasn’t too keen on driving 1400 miles to Utah and back.

But then my roommate suggested we make a journey out of it, add in Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks. The trip started to become a bit more intriguing, and maybe I could do a day at Snowbird? The place I learned to ski 20 years ago. After a beer or two, the idea of spending almost a full week in Utah sounded appetizing. Fuck it, I’m in.

 

4am Wednesday morning came shockingly early as with the anticipation of the trip I was only able to fall asleep a couple hours before, but it was paramount to get out of Los Angeles before the traffic situation became unbearable.

Seven coffees, a five hour and 40 mg of Adderall later we arrived in Bryce Canyon. After eight hours in the car, the last thing you want to do is hit a long hike in a National Park. Fortunately, at 36,000 acres Bryce Canyon is one of America’s smallest National Parks.

Even better most of the vistas of the world famous Bryce Canyon Amphitheater are easily drivable and if you have only a couple hours you can take a quick hike to the bottom by way of the Queen’s Garden trail that begins at Sunrise point. It’s a fairly easy 1.5 mile down and out (3 mile RT) that displays lots of beautiful hoodoos that were created by very specific geological conditions that occurred over millions of years.

 

After a quick sunset at Bryce Point we got back in the car en route to sunny Ogden, Utah. We arrived around 9pm determined to find a place to celebrate black Wednesday. I realize the whole night before Thanksgiving thing is a little pathetic at 30 years of age, but I was more so curious of what type of people we would find in a largely Mormon area. Turns out, it’s a bunch of people that don’t take too kindly to Cali bros treating their place like a playground, and they don’t think it’s funny when you call their 3.2% beer Mormon water.

 

Thursday morning my roommate’s father Dudley and his sweetheart of a wife Kristina cooked us a Thanksgiving feast that was served at the uncharacteristic hour of Noon, which I now realize is a heroic move as it maximizes the potential of grazing throughout the day. After four plates and maybe two dozen Mormon waters my roommates and I decided to head out into Ogden to find a karaoke bar. We were three of eight people (including staff) in the entire establishment, we went on to treat the night as a personal concert for the help. They were only slightly amused.


 

Friday morning I woke up with grand plans of driving to Snowbird and getting first tracks but shockingly after drinking constantly during the preceding 36 hours I wasn’t feeling too motivated. Instead, we decided to do what anyone does in a shithole town, hit up the local b dubs for four hours then come home drunk and shoot music videos in a basement. Look for The Dudley Sessions EP coming soon.

 

Saturday, while experiencing what I can only hope was food poisoning, I piled into the back seat for the six hour trek to Zion. As much as I love camping, the idea of it sounds much better when you’re fresh and you haven’t been sleeping on the floor for three nights and chasing around Weber State chicks asking them if they want to touch my hair.

Alas, after twice driving in the wrong direction for an hour and realizing we hadn’t actually reserved a place to stay, we happened upon the Zion River Resort, which was essentially a fancy RV camp, replete with a pool, hot tub and bar. If I grow up to be an RV guy, I don’t think I’ll be mad about it.

 

Finally, Sunday we made it into Zion, I was feeling…ok. Ok enough that I thought I could attempt a hike. I grabbed a guidebook at the Visitor’s Center and saw the listing for Angels Landing. It is rated at 5 stars – Extremely strenuous and ‘Half Day’ 4-6 hours.

There is also a warning about the 6 deaths since 2011. To which I replied FUCK THAT I CLIMBED WHITNEY. (Which is what I say to justify ANY activity even though I did that when I was A. In much better shape due to triathlon training and B. Not on the tail end of a 4 day bender.

Alas, with a liter of Smart Water, a stick of Beef Jerky and some 20 dollar Reeboks I got at Costco I started trekking up the trail.

 

The first mile isn’t too bad, there are some easy to moderate switchbacks that are more annoying than anything else. The views are pretty solid throughout, I generally hate switchbacks so I try to run up them as fast as possible and then reward myself with a break. 

 

Mile two I got to this hell on Earth, sprinted up the whole thing and proceeded to with great effort NOT vomit on a 13 year old girl who offered me some water.

Around the third mile marker you get to a plateau called Scout’s Lookout. It provides a beautiful panoramic view of the park and is probably where I should have stopped.

BUT FUCK THAT I CLIMBED WHITNEY.

I left the roomies behind as I started climbing up the chains, with no gear or real energy left mind you. I saw scared hikers spinning around by the dozen, others slipping and just grabbing onto a rock or chain to avoid becoming the seventh such fatality in as many years.

 

As I said in the intro, it was scary AF.

I finally ascended to the top, pulse pounding, and really too nervous to take any real pictures at the top. I just wanted to get down fast.

And I did, completing the hike in 2 hours and 40 minutes. (Still got it)

 

As we departed Zion I reflected on what I’m thankful for. Friends, family and health sure…But my God what a gorgeous country we live in. I say it all the time, but I really need to get out more, especially with so much of it my backyard.

Nearly ten hours later (Sunday Vegas Holiday traffic…kill me) we pulled to the front of our Venice Beach condo. In five days we had put 1700 miles and 30 hours in the car. In addition I had probably gone through 14 bags of gas station chips, 19 Rock Stars and God only knows how many bags of beef jerky. I limped into my room and collapsed into bed, my eyes shut before my head hit my pillow.

And today? Today was a struggle. But would I do it again? In a heartbeat.

 

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Surviving Thanksgiving

You've let down your family many, many times. Maybe it's the DUI you got back in high school, maybe it's the fact that you briefly dated a non-Jew. It's definitely the fact that you aren't married yet and haven't given your parents any grandchildren. Regardless, the knives are coming out this weekend.

Of course this will all be exacerbated by egregious amounts of alcohol. Your mom will knock back enough Pinot to kill a small horse, your dad will be screaming about "the wall" in between aggressive swigs of whiskey and your cousin's new boyfriend is going to keep excusing them from the dinner table to do more coke in the bathroom.

I wouldn't want you to be unprepared though, so I have put together a handy guide on what the hot button issues will be at your dinner along with analysis and some non-committal responses that will keep you neutral enough that you should remain generally undisturbed while you drink beer and watch football.

DONALD TRUMP 
Donald Trump is the 45th president of the United States of America. He won a shocking victory over Hillary Clinton and is quite polarizing because of his penchant for speaking his mind and not really knowing much about running a country.

What you probably think: HE'S A MONSTER. He's racist, he's sexist, he's driving the country into the ground.

What your parents (who secretly voted for him think) : He's inappropriate but we have a combined family income of over $400,000 a year and the economy is doing fucking great.

What your crazy uncle thinks: It's about time we took our country back from those libcucks and Mexicans! Did you see Trump CRUSH Lavar Ball on Twitter? LOL drain the swamp #MAGA #pede

How to stay completely neutral:
Well Trump did release those JFK files, who do you guys think did it!!!
(it's obviously better to argue conspiracy theories when drunk even if this conversation organically reveals a distant Aunt to be a 9/11 Truther)



HOLLYWOOD SEX SCANDAL
Over the past couple weeks a gigantic sex scandal has unfolded in Hollywood taking out a number of men accused of rape/sexual assault/harassment. The list includes but is not limited to: Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Jeffrey Tambor, Charlie Rose, Al Franken, Louis CK and many many more.

What you probably think: There has long been systemic abuse of power by men in this industry as well as many, many more. As devastating as this is, the silver lining is that it shines a light that we need to put more women in high ranking roles to shift the power imbalance in the industry.

What your sister who married her high school sweet-heart and now has seven kids thinks: I knew LA was fucking disgusting, this completely validates my decision to settle for a man with a job and a house in the Castleton neighborhood of Indianapolis. I'm perfectly happy being a stay at home mom.

What Grandpa Joe thinks: I knew those gays were up to no good.

How to make a hard left off this topic: Deflect by putting the family cat in this costume!

 
Full disclosure: We put my roommate's cat in a Halloween costume and she hated it so much she ran away. Maybe just tell Grandpa Joe to shut the fuck up and pass the potatoes.

NFL PROTESTS
Over the past couple seasons several NFL players have started kneeling for the anthem or raising a fist in solidarity to fight police injustice against the African American community. As you might imagine...people have thoughts.

What you probably think: Hey whether I think they are going about it the right way or not is largely inconsequential to the issue at hand, the players have a platform and they are trying to use it for good, police injustice is a human rights issue that we should all be concerned with.

What your mom probably thinks: That Colin Kapernick was so handsome before, why doesn't he cut his hair?

What your step-dad thinks...actually let's not check in with him because a hard N is possible if not likely.

How to stay completely neutral: Suggest a game of real football! Similar to children, a sneaky trick with adults is that they tire out easily! Go kick the shit out of everyone over 40 and under 10 on the gridiron and then you and the sensible cousins can keep partying while everyone else nods off on the couch for 8 hours.

 

 Immigration/Travel Bans/Health Care/Net Neutrality/Anything else

What I think: Oh my God can we just go see Justice League now or something?

What nephew Braden thinks: I heard that our family basically pays everyone's taxes and kids only don't have health care if their dads don't have jobs.

What Great Grandma Cheryl thinks: WHERE IS MY VODKA?

How you can completely diffuse the situation: Well we can all agree that Lena Dunham sucks, right? Cheryl pass the vodka and let's play some low stakes Euchre.

Enjoy the turkey everyone, and remember even if your second cousin twice removed Mikal is a nazi, listening to him talk about David Duke still beats going to work!


Thursday, November 2, 2017

What do you want to do?


"What do you want to do?"

It's such an innocent question that has violently different answers depending on when it's asked.

As a kid I wanted to be a ninja when I grew up, despite the fact that 'ninja' isn't so much an occupation as it is a cool Halloween costume.

Ninja transformed into Major League Baseball player then lawyer, ad guy, stock broker and then for a while it was just 'party.' For the moment I think I've settled on 'uh, something creative.'

If asked for a specific vision right now I suppose I would say something like "I want to sell a television show to Netflix that is a coming of age, single cam comedy that runs for 6 years. I want to take my money from that and purchase a house in Manhattan Beach so I can send my kids to public schools and save myself $50,000 a year in Crossroads tuition and instead spend that money on travel and a cabin in Park City. Dibs on the production company name AWOL Films."

But other days I wake up and think that maybe I should focus on blogging. I've been doing it for 10 years, I could be a culture writer for The Ringer. I even have a fancy scheme on how to get noticed! I could start a blog called 'Dave to The Ringer,' eventually someone over there would catch word of it and I would be brought in as an editorial assistant or a PA where I would toil away until finally one day Bill Simmons brought me on a podcast and the world fell in love with my irreverent personality. People on Reddit would fight about whether I was a douche bag or not, it would be great.

Or shit maybe, I should lean into my degenerate past and go work for Barstool. I could rant about PC culture and do lists that rank the bathrooms of Manhattan bars from hardest to easiest to do drugs in.

The truth is, I'm 30 years old and I still don't know what I want to do when I grow up. Really I just want to live by the beach and eat Sugarfish once a week. I don't think it's too much to ask.

If there is any solace I can take from my current predicament, it's that I know I'm not alone. Half the people my age are experiencing some degree of disillusionment in whatever it is that they're doing. The LinkedIn easy apply button is the new 'posting pictures of international travel' for people 25-34.

While dinner parties used to be full of talk about how Donald Trump is ruining the world it seems people have gotten sick of bitching about that and now want to focus on how they are no longer creatively fulfilled in their current position. I suppose this is only natural because growing up we were told how special we were, how we could change the world some day and we came to find out that growing up just means having slightly more responsibility and longer hangovers.

I've spent the last few months temping at a variety of places and every time I show up to a cool company for a couple of days I think to myself 'these kids don't realize how good they have it. They should be thanking their lucky stars that this all worked out for them.' 

And of course they're always friendly to me, but friendly in the way you are when you feed a stray cat. Of course I want to shout at them, I'M NOT A STRAY FUCKING CAT! I WENT TO COLLEGE AND PEOPLE THINK I'M SMART AND I COULD DO YOUR JOB TOO I PROMISE I'M NOT BITTER! But instead I just smile and take a deep breath.

It's become increasingly clear to me in 2017 that even when I'm feeling down it's tough to thrive when you have a negative worldview. My biggest embarrassment might be that deep down I actually still think I have a chance at accomplishing greatness, I'm like the little kid that still thinks the Dodgers were going to win last night down 4 runs, with 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th.

But even if I don't, life is about the journey, not necessarily the destination. Even if I don't ever buy that house in the South Bay, I still live by the beach. And if I skip breakfast three times a week, I can still afford the Trust Me light every Friday. So maybe I'm the one that needs to thank my lucky stars that this all worked out for me. I'm chasing my dream in LA and for many the chase is the dream. Besides at 30, I'm only in the 3rd or 4th inning, plenty of time to turn this around.


Friday, October 13, 2017

We'll Always Have Kilroy's


"We'll always have Paris."

It's one of the most famous film quotes of all time. Uttered by the protagonist Rick in the final scene of Casablanca to his former lover Ilsa, the quote represents a form of acceptance. Things will never be the same, we will never be together again but we will have the memory of a time and place we were happy together, and no one can take that away.

I've always been told I lack passion. I don't find that to be true, I just think I have a hard time discovering what I am passionate about. I like to write, I like to travel and I like to party. That's about it. I mean I enjoy other things, but I don't get bent out of shape the way a lot of people do about things going on in the world today. I don't spend every waking minute thinking about how Trump is destroying America, I don't go into a state of depression when one of my sports teams loses a big game. I'm more likely to pitch a fit if a party is cancelled, if someone bails on a trip or one of my favorite bars is closed.

"But aren't you sick of it?"

Sick of what? I always counter, but I know to what this person is referring: day drinking, shotgunning beers, making jokes about Four Loko, watching the sun rise and sleeping until noon.

When are you going to grow up? The party is over.

It's an interesting sentiment. This idea of adulthood is thrust upon us and we're supposed to trade in the bar stamps for farmer's markets; the late night Taco Bell runs for Yoga Class.

I get it. Some people are ready to move on from a sophomoric period in their lives known as 'their 20's.' The thought of laying on a couch all day Sunday watching Red Zone is possibly not appealing anymore to some of my contemporaries. That said, I'm probably not the best torch bearer for this topic because I could be used as a case of a Peter Pan who never left college mentally, but if you'll indulge me, I would like to make the case that the slow eradication of The Greek System is bad.

I woke up this morning to find out that Sigma Nu had been kicked off campus. A fraternity getting booted isn't particularly noteworthy. In the past 12 months alone long time Bloomington staples Tri Delt and Delta Tau Delta were summarily dismissed. My own fraternity was shown the door a couple years ago. What's interesting though is that Sigma Nu was always thought to be untouchable due to the fact that Herman B Wells, possibly the most influential man in the history of the university, was a brother at Sigma Nu.

And for what?

Hazing? Drinking?

Let me let you all in on a little secret. All college kids drink. They do not drink to get a little buzz, or loosen up socially, they drink to set records on BAC machines and see what kind of interesting place they can find to pass out. Perhaps that is indicative of a larger problem with our country writ large, but I assure you, destroying one of America's oldest social institutions will not solve this problem.

As for hazing allegations, sure fraternities haze. I did some push ups, had some trash thrown at me, it was generally unpleasant. But the biggest 'hazing' task I completed during my time at IU? Soberly driving drunk kids around. With the advent of Uber and Lyft this might not be as big of a deal anymore, but I assure you of the thousands of students that received sober rides when I was a pledge in 2005 I assure you, some would have gotten behind the wheel had it not been for this service. I legitimately feel comfortable saying that sober rides provided by pledges saved lives. As a pledge I was instructed to always make sure anyone I dropped off was safely in their building before leaving, this is something that taxis and ride shares are not required to do and it has been an issue that has led to tragedy recently in Bloomington.

And let's talk about sexual assault. Up to 1 in 5 women experience sexual harassment of some sort while in college, this number is absolutely staggering. I will concede that sexual assault has happened at fraternities in the past but I would also counter that according to The Campus Sexual Assault Survey conducted by the National Institute of Justice fewer that 40% of 'college rape' cases take place on campus AT ALL. So would shutting down fraternities and moving all non-Freshman into off campus housing solve this problem? I'm inclined to argue no.

It's strange to me that at 30, I'm still as passionate about the Greek system that I was while actually living in the house as an undergraduate student, but being in a fraternity had a profound effect on me, one that I would hope that future generations have the OPTION of experiencing.

I came from a fairly homogenous town of WASPy rich kids and I got the privilege of living with a wide variety of men: white, black, hispanic, Asian, gay, straight, Jewish, Muslim, Christian...this was all new to me. This was important to me and 10 years later, I have a lion's share of these relationships still active in my life and I wouldn't change any of it for the world.

And don't let my soap boxing get in the way of the reality of the situation. We also partied. A lot. There were boat parties I don't remember. There were formals in which I barely evaded arrest. There were a thousand memories in a shitty courtyard, surrounded by an even shittier house.

And of course, there was Kilroy's, my tender bar. Home of dollar shots, $10 bottles of Cooks and if Kevin or Josh were feeling generous 65 dollar bottles of Grey Goose.

I knew every Kilroy's employee by name, almost every patron too. It was the one place we would swallow our egos and just be friends despite our fraternal allegiances. I had a strong community of both Greeks and non-Greeks alike that would come to one place where we felt safe and could forget about the world and just live in the moment. You could dance on tables, cheers with strangers and you could find a girl on the dance floor and create a memory that would last into eternity.

Of course the night would typically end at Qdoba, face first in a burrito, or walking home with a co-ed imploring your Pizza Express delivery man to drive faster. Perhaps you would get home and find a couple friends still awake with just enough beers to go sit on the roof and talk until the sunrise.

Perhaps I have fallen victim to nostalgia, that I'm looking at the past through rose colored glasses, but I don't know a single man or woman from that period in my life who would have changed a thing. President McRobbie is trying to murder the Greek System, a lot of non-Greek journalists are going to help him and to be honest they'll probably succeed.

I understand why people hate certain politicians, I even understand why people hate the Yankees, but I'm not quite sure why so many people revile an institution that they were never personally affected by. As one of my friends said to me earlier today "Let these kids live." It appears though that this won't be the case.

The Greek system will likely die and with it communities like the one I established at some shitty dive bar at the corner of Kirkwood and Dunn. Kilroy's will survive of course, but it will never be the same.

The positive is that these memories and bonds we forged during a brief four year window in our lives will be forever. Nothing can change them or take them away. So as I tell you "We'll always have Kilroy's" please raise a Vegas Bomb with me and cheers to a bygone era.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Part 3: Over the Rainbow



How to survive Burning Man, A life-saving guide.
-Don't drink a lot of alcohol, it will dehydrate you.
-Get at least 6 hours of sleep every night
-Eat three full meals every day, snack intermittently.
-Bring a more substantive sleeping structure than a tent, an RV or yurt is best
-Listen to your body
-Don't try to do everything at your first burn
-Don't mix multiple chemicals in your body 
-Take naps
-Take a day off
-Make sure to take a multi-vitamin
______________________________
0 for 10...F

Darkness consumes me.

I roll over and look at my sleeping bag, it is soaked in sweat and despite the fact that it is quickly approaching 95 degrees I am shivering in my tent.

I start doing the basic math in my head, this is now my 6th day in 100 degree + temperatures, I have been averaging three hours of sleep per night, drinking heavily and eating next to nothing. I peer into our supply tent and grab an MRE, the physical exertion from standing up is too great and I crumble down. I am finally able to pull some pesto chicken out of a bag but it's too late. I can't eat, can barely keep any water down. I try to smash some electrolytes and quickly vomit everywhere.

I am going to die out here.

My mind goes to the gutter. Why didn't I listen? Why did I start drinking at 10am every day? Why did I break up with that girl four years ago, maybe we would be married with kids and I would have never come to this god forsaken place.

I spend portions of the next 12 hours drifting in and out of consciousness.

I have been hungover before, it is uncomfortable.

I think I have even experienced early symptoms of withdrawal before, but that was in the comfort of my own home.

You never want to be sick in a 5 person Coleman tent in 105 degree weather while a bunch of Icelandic models are throwing an Alice in Wonderland themed rave next door.


It was a comparable feeling to dying, yet instead of visits from family members and friends wanting to make their peace with me I would typically get an Eastern European who had stumbled into the wrong tent wondering if I was the guy with the acid.

24 hours I intermitently sat in that tent questioning every life decision I had ever made, weathering the category 5 storm attacking my conscience. I even dragged myself to a concert for a few minutes, laying face down in the dirt while Diplo played a Sunset show. Many people probably thought I was on mushrooms having a vision quest of sorts, I was merely focusing on breathing.

Thursday was not a great day.

I thought about giving up, I considered walking to the med tent and asking for an airlift to Reno. One of the Aspen kids had done that, fallen off a slide at the playground fracturing his ankle to little pieces. My parents would be upset about the $40,000 heli-rescue cost but they would probably get over it, maybe. Actually that might be a deal breaker.

Some guy brought me over a slice of pizza, he could tell I needed it, but the cruelest fate was that my body wouldn't let me consume it, just a worthless carcass of a human rotting away in the Nevada heat.

I promise if I survive this, I will never drink again.



And now a brief treatise on story structure from someone with no formal training in screenwriting.

Most stories follow a general three act structure, there is a beginning, middle and an end. In the romantic comedy or coming of age space there is typically some sort of road block near the end of the second act; a speed bump of sorts to keep our protagonist from his or her goal. Think How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days when Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey realize their budding romance was based on a bet. Or perhaps 10 Things I hate About You when Julia Styles realized that her romance with Heath Ledger was part of a bet. Or even more famously She's All That when Rachel Leigh Cook realizes...HER ROMANCE WITH FREDDIE PRINZE JR WAS BASED ON A BET!!!

Now, one can deduce the following from this. A. It is easy to write a bet-based romantic comedy centering on attractive white people in their 20's and B. story structure demands that something go wrong before an inevitable happy ending.

This is accomplished in several ways, typically the hero learns something about him or herself and then makes a 'desperate act' usually over a Gin Blossoms song or something and everyone lives happily ever after.



A coming of age story (and I suppose this is a coming of age story) follows a similar structure. Something bad happens, the hero (that's me!) overcomes adversity and learns a valuable lesson, take Sandlot for example. They lose the ball and spend a full week trying to get it back only to learn that they should have just knocked on the door and asked James Earl Jones if they could have it back.

I guess that lesson is honesty? Not to be a coward? PF Flyers are an underrated shoe? Unclear.

What would be my lesson?

What would be my learning moment?

I believe it was the great poet Katy Perry that said after a hurricane comes a rainbow...let's see how our hero responds.



PART 3: OVER THE RAINBOW

How to survive Burning Man, A life-saving guide.
-Don't drink a lot of alcohol, it will dehydrate you.
-Get at least 6 hours of sleep every night
-Eat three full meals every day, snack intermittently.
-Bring a more substantive sleeping structure than a tent, an RV or yurt is best
-Listen to your body
-Don't try to do everything at your first burn
-Don't mix multiple chemicals in your body 
-Take naps
-Take a day off
-Make sure to take a multi-vitamin
______________________________
5 for 10...still an F but better than 0.

I woke up Friday a new man, the birds were chirping, the clouds had parted, God smiled down on me. Today was my last day and I was going to learn from the mistakes of my past to make sure I had an enjoyable time and finished my burn on a positive no-

"Hey you!"

Me?

"Ya, you with the hair!"

Uh, what's up?

"Are you from California?"

I am.

I am on my way to the restroom when I am accosted by a man that appears to have been drinking for 3 hours, it is 9:58 in the morning. He is holding up a white board full of places and tally marks.

There are 21 tally marks next to both Ireland and California.

"Hey man, I'm Harry. Whichever place gets the most tally marks I am moving to for a year, until next burning man. I don't want to move to fucking Ireland. Ireland sucks. Will you please save me?"

Sure, what do I have to do?

"Beer bong breakfast!!!!"

Fuck, so much for that promise and a leisurely day of sobriety.

I look at my opponent, a young man from Dublin named Liam, he has a stamp on his forehead that declares him a virgin burner.

Even at 50% I know that Liam is no match for me, he looks scared, he looks like he wandered out for a corned beef hash and got bullied into chugging some premium American Kirkland Lights.


"GO!"

I take a knee and finish the beer before Liam has started, he spews unfinished lager all over the playa ground and the bros of 'Camp F*cking Awesome' start a MOOP* chant. Sorry Liam, welcome to the frat.

*Moop stands for Matter Out Of Place, it basically means don't litter at burning man, but some heroes think this translates to water and beer, these people are losers, if you spill your beer in the desert don't worry about it.

I've consumed a beer before 10am, but fortunately Harry won't have to spend a year in Ireland, I've done my good deed for the day.

I continue on to a sweat lodge at a nudist camp, hoping to remove all negative toxins from my previous day's battle. I am showered in eucalyptus and rose petal and by the time I leave that lodge I am ready to climb a fucking mountain. Last day of Burning Man, I am ready for you.

I scoop Andrew and we begin our day at Transfoamation, a group shower/foam party hosted by Dr. Bronner's organic soap. I fall in love with a Reno girl named Angela who is in a sake theme camp. I am clean for all of 15 seconds after the foam party, but I have a renewed vigor for life.

From the foam I am ushered into a hut where I am ordered to strip naked and am slathered in gold glitter paint by three strange women. I can tell you now that dirt will come off clothing, stains will come off clothing...glitter is forever.

Post bedazzling Andrew and I find ourselves at a White Trash Camp featuring bartenders from Hawaii that have created a drinking game involving dice and quite a bit of sexploitation. Matt the bartender walks up to the cutest girl at the bar and puts two dice in front of her, she rolls and no matter what the numbers say, be it 7, 12, 6 or even 2...UH OHHHHH BOOB LUGE.

In 30 minutes at the White Trash Camp I saw Matt do no less than 15 boob luges, I wonder if he made it back to Maui.



Next stop was some 3D Twister at a board game camp. Let me tell you, when you are expecting settlers of catan and you are instead granted 3d twister and vodka squirt guns, that will catch up with you.

The next thing I knew I was half naked playing Red Rover with a bunch of strangers from Calgary hoping I didn't break someone's arm,

When I look back on my experience now, it's hard to pin point the exact moment when I realized I was home. Was it when I was handed my guide book upon entry? Was it when I was swinging from a ring in a Pikachu onesie at Camp OKNOTOK belting out the lyrics to "I Just Can't Wait to be King" or was it when I decided on a whim 6 months ago that this might be a journey I should investigate.



The last night out in the Playa I wore a spaceman onesie. Either Jack or Nick wore it for Halloween seven years ago as part of an Armageddon costume. I remember walking by a camp that was throwing down a major party, everyone inside was likewise wearing spaceman costumes.

"Come in." Said a young woman in NASA get up, "We're about to take off."

Where are we going?

"Why the moon of course."

Of course.

I walked into the space party which was presumably on the moon and boarded a electric bull (because apparently they have electric bulls in space) I looked at one of the women operating it and told her that I thought I was losing my mind.

"That's ok. We all are. Just lean into it...and let go."

You can do anything or be anyone in Black Rock City. You can create a new name, new identity or just assume an exaggerated version of your true self.

You can do orgies, you can jump out of planes, you can participate in the literal boner jam at SLUTgarden. (20 naked men with personal fluffers compete to see who can get the first erection) you can run the American Ninja Warrior course, you can beat the shit out of someone, you can fall in love, you can sprint into a burning structure to go out in a blaze of glory.

I chose to bum around for a week with a friend and see what I could learn about myself, this world and the people in it.



Here are my findings.

People are good.

I forget this sometimes because it's easy blame other people, places and things for our own failings. It's LA's fault I'm unsuccessful or this person dicked me over and that's why I'm unhappy. A stranger cut me off on the freeway, a friend didn't return my call.

The truth is we are all responsible for our own lives, the cavalry is not coming to bail us out, the choices we make inform the realities that become.

Among those choices however are the people we choose to surround ourselves with, the communities we decide to join.



I cannot change the fact that a certain population of Los Angeles is shallow and will stop at nothing to get ahead. I cannot help the fact that others may feel me or my work to be inadequate. What I can do however, is in the face of adversity remain positive.

I had a shitty year. I lost a job, my show got cancelled, everyone in my family got sick, like REALLY sick, my bank account hovered around 0 plus or minus a couple hundred bucks and I had every excuse in the world to curl up in a ball and just fucking give up.

And for six months I thought the only light at the end of the tunnel for me was this stupid party weekend in the desert where I would find God and a miracle would happen that would change my life forever.

But this was untrue. What got me through the past six months was the power of friendship, the power of love; the people all around me and their unwavering support, the people that never stopped believing in me even when I quit on myself. What I traveled to the desert to learn was something that had been right under my nose the whole time, I was just too stubborn to see it.

Bad things happen to everyone, people go through rough patches and when it's happening to you it seems like no one in the world could possibly understand. Sometimes all we need is a little kick in the ass to remind ourselves that everything typically has a way of working itself out.



Burning Man didn't necessarily save me, but it very may well have saved me from myself. It's entirely possible that I will never work again, but you know what? I think I'm learning not to judge the entirety of my self-worth about my own personal elevator pitch.

"So Dave what do you do?"

I live in LA, I try to be a good friend, I love to write and go on adventures.

That's a far more accurate portrait of me than I'm a staff writer on some web comedy you probably don't watch.

My last day on the Playa I went to the Black Rock Post Office and wrote a letter to my future self. I can't remember exactly what it said, but it was something along the lines of 'Don't forget how you felt in this exact moment. People believe in you and love you, at least 80,000 strangers in the desert, and they don't even know how great you can be. Don't give up.' 

I promise I felt the same way you do now. It's a bunch of hippies in the desert doing blood sacrifices, it's a cult. I was mainstream, I was a conformist, I voted Republican in every election until 2016.

I'm glad to be a member of the community now, a group that doesn't care where you come from, what you look like, or what you're about. They'll welcome you with open arms. I look at the ten basic principles of Burning Man and, ya, I kinda roll my eyes, but also every idea has to be built on something.

I'm still not sure what I'm chasing. I'm not 100% sure what I'm looking for, but I think I'm on the right path now. I'm going to keep trying and I know I am going to be exactly where I'm meant to be.

I'll be back on the Playa next year, will you join me?



EXT. A DIRT ROAD IN NORTHERN NEVADA - SUNRISE

A black Mazda crawls down a dirt road as the hot desert sun begins to peak across a distant mountain range. Dust is kicked up as the car slows to a halt at a checkpoint. The driver rolls down the window and a weathered face looks in.

GATE AGENT

Coming Back in?

DAVE

Next year.

GATE AGENT

We'll be waiting for you.

The Mazda rolls up its window and accelerates onto a desolate two lane highway. It's 600 miles back to Los Angeles and nothing will ever be the same.

FADE OUT

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Part 2: Lost and Gone Forever



There is a 747 in the desert right now. I imagine it’s partially disassembled at this point, but I have to imagine that jumbo jet based art projects take several days to strike and remove.

I’m in the TSA line at this 747, I consider making a joke about having global entry but I think better of it. There is a German man in a full security outfit carefully examining each person that boards this plane. Finally it is my turn.

“Do you have any insecurities you want to declare?”

I had assumed this was some sort of performance art, a play on the security checkpoint, but I quickly realized he was asking me something far more personal. I saw a sign of things not allowed on the plane: fear, stress, hopelessness, inadequacy, dread.

I looked up at the man and told him what I was feeling.

“I’m afraid I’ll never measure up. I’ve spent the last ten years watching my peers zoom by me while I seem to be stuck.”

He waved a metal detector across my shoulders.

“Ah yes, I found your insecurities. They’re right here.”

He waves the metal detector at my heart.

“So what I’m going to do is take these from you. Then I want you to board the plane and check your emotional baggage, write down where it is you are trying to go and don’t worry about the bumps on the ride, you will get to your destination ok. But all your stress? I’m throwing it in this garbage can behind me and we’ll just leave it there OK?”

And like everyone else in Black Rock City, he gave me a hug, told me he loved me and to enjoy the rest of my burn…then I stepped inside a German 747 that someone had transported to a remote portion of desert about 50 miles from the Oregon border.


PART 2: LOST AND GONE FOREVER

Well we survived…

The dust storm was pretty violent but I kept my eye on Andrew’s back tire the whole way and followed the sound of his voice back to our camp. The British tea camp right next to us had completely collapsed and our tent was attempting to blow away, but the 12 inch rebar held.

It’s surreal watching a shade structure fly over your head into the deep abyss like a scene from 1997’s Twister, but the storm was as short as it was strong. The camps that were destroyed were rebuilt and before we knew what had hit us, the music began pulsing through the city again and a rainbow appeared on the horizon, some deity’s promise that we had been tested and we had passed. It was still early in the week and the worst was behind us, a beacon of hope moving forward.

In my newbie orientation, the instructor tried to give us a non-exhaustive list of things that can kill you in the desert.

-Dehydration (too little water)
-Water Poisoning (too much water)
-Exposure (the cold kind)
-Exposure (the hot kind)
-Death by art car
-Falling off something high
-Something high falling on you
-Fire
-Bad drugs
-Too many drugs
-Alcohol Poisoning
-Flying debris
-Lightning Strikes
-Heat stroke
-Cardiac Arrest

They gave us that list and stressed that this environment is actively trying to harm you, almost like the Fire Swamp in The Princess Bride: not on that list, wandering off.

I am a wanderer.

My first script I ever wrote was called ‘The Wanderer.’

My favorite OAR album…The Wan- you get it…like a feral cat, sometimes I just start walking in a certain direction. I could be following a song, or a light structure, a smell or anything that seems interesting.

On this particular night, while out with the Aspen kids at a bar at 4:30 and F, I was in search of…a bathroom.

Normally when you are on a night out with your friends, the bathroom is in the bar. Burning Man is not a normal night out with friends, and the bars while prevalent, tend not to have bathrooms.

I walked out of the bar and took a right, or maybe it was a left. Someone had given me a pie earlier in the day and told me it was special, but now HOW special. Next I saw some girls taking Jell-o shots at a small camp, they asked me if I wanted to join them. Now I don’t live my life by many rules but if you are far from home and a group of young women offer you Jell-o shots, you say yes.


It was probably 30 minutes before I realized I was roaming around aimlessly again, I had lost my friends, the Jell-o shot girls and still hadn’t managed to find a bathroom…but I suppose at Burning Man you are never truly lost until you are found.

“Dave!” (or honestly maybe he was just saying 'Hey!')

I look up at someone that seems vaguely familiar. He’s standing on a bus, or is it a boat? It’s a large structure with wheels and it is so bright that it can probably be seen from space.

“Get on the bus!”

I didn’t ask questions, I didn’t worry about my bike or the bathroom or my friends where I was supposed to be…I am where I am supposed to be, this bus. So I got on.

I sat on a bench next to two guys and two chicks and one handed me a drink.

“We’re going on a bass crawl.”

I looked around the bus, it had a full dance floor, a fully functional bar, a DJ booth and 40-50 people hanging out at small tables on the fringes.

A captain of some sort yells ‘All aboard’ in an old timey voice and the ship sets sail for port. The art car makes its way toward the Esplanade toward the deep playa where the legendary sound camps Questionmark, Robot Heart, Distrikt and Mayan Warrior.

I don’t remember what we talked about on that ship/bus for five hours. I know that at one stop we pulled parallel to a giant ball pit and I did a Scrooge McDuck dive off the top of the bus.

I know at Distrikt someone handed me a Super Soaker full of beer to hose down the crowd from the stage. I know that at Camp Questionmark I told one of the schedulers that I was a famous Drum and Bass act known as Fuck Buttons and that I was trying to get a last minute set time. He told me that he had heard of me and to come back tomorrow night and he would get me in.

We ended the night at Robot Heart, I was dancing on top of a cage with a beautiful woman from Hong Kong and she looked into my eyes and simply said ‘you can kiss me if you want.’

As the son began to rise my new friends and I exchanged names and camp locations but we all knew that this was the end. That is the magic of burning man, a relationship can burn so intensely bright and then be lost and gone forever.

Suddenly I was alone again, staring off into the distant horizon of which my campground waited for me a solid three miles away.

Not ready to begin the long trek home I found a camp called Hugzilla. It’s a camp full of trampolines and 6 foot teddy bears, I crawled onto one of the trampolines and cuddled a couple bears; it just felt right in the moment.

A couple hours later the hot sun started to pour over me and I summoned the energy necessary to make the odyssey back to 315 and H. I walked through the deep desert past the likes of the Trash Fence where there was a Daft Punk party going, or who knows, maybe this year the people in the costumes actually WERE Daft Punk performing together for the first time in 10 years and I was just too zonked out to notice.

I zombied past the temple, the Man at center camp and even a Tycho sunrise concert that was full of people who looked like they had been up for 48 hours straight, but they didn’t seem to mind.

When I got back close to camp, a group of runners blew past me, I couldn’t help but sit down and laugh. Of course, this was the day of the Burning Man ultra marathon. Some people come here to party, some people come here for polyamorous love and apparently some people come here to prove that they can run 50km in the desert heat. Suddenly my drunken stumble home doesn’t seem so daunting.

I lay my head down at about 8am knowing full well that it’s going to be too oppressively hot to sleep in about an hour, but I crawl into the tent anyway and close my eyes. Andrew is there already so I can rest easy that there isn’t a search party out looking for me. I think past a certain point out here you just have to let people find their own way. I close my eyes and I see nothing, but the music still pulsates throughout my soul. I survived another night at the burn.

 And now a multiple choice test to get you in my mindset!!!

1.     After waking up and realizing that you have just partied for 24 hours straight, slept for 48 minutes and haven’t eaten a full meal in two days you…

A.     Decide to take it easy today, listen to your body, don’t overdo it.
B.     Find a nap camp to spend your morning, misters, a hammock, shade, that sounds good about right now!
C.     Find a camp that is serving a hearty breakfast, all that exploring on an empty stomach can catch up to you.
D.    Any combination of A, B and C.
E.     Holy shit is that a camp doing morning beer bongs?!?!?!

2.     You drunkenly lost your Burning Man mug last night, this was both the cup that your drinks were poured into while visiting camps AND the device that held a photocopy of your ID. Naturally you…

A.     Find that mug!!!!
B.     Find another copy of your ID and attach it to an old Gatorade bottle or something, BOOM! New mug.
C.     Stop worrying about alcohol facilitation, you should be in search of bacon and a good nap.
D.    There is a wiffle ball bat in your tent, saw off the end and Louisville Chugger every drink the rest of the weekend, strangers will think you’re awesome. Tape your actual ID to your backpack or something.

3.     Finally, what are we going to do about that missing bike? It’s locked up at 430 and E, about a mile away.

A.     Walk by yourself to go get it, a morning stroll could wake you up.
B.     Wait until your camp mate wakes up and walk with him, you don’t want to get separated again.
C.     Take your campmates bike to get your bike and then ghost ride one of them back. WHAT COULD GO WRONG?

Well, if you answered literally anything other than E, D, C you passed! But you already know what I did right? When a camp jokingly asked me if I was trying to steal a bike on my way back I flipped out and went down, leading to a badly mangled foot.

Bonus Question: What did I do about that mangled foot?
A: Treat it with first aid ya dummy.
B. Throw a sock on it and forget about it.

How did I survive this trip again?

Ok, where were we?

Wednesday. It is Wednesday, halfway through. Only half way? My God…time both flies and drags at Burning Man. I simultaneously feel like I just got here and I’ve been here all my life.

As much as I draw out certain experiences for comedic effect, it’s important to know that the best part of Burning Man often lies in the quiet moments; it’s the moment a 35 year old Ukranian woman figures out that she has eliminated you from NeverSleepAgain’s Connect Four tournament, it’s the time you dominate a foosball table at a gay bar called Playa 54 for a full hour, it’s that time that you’re walking home and you stumble upon a mini golf course called ‘Slut Putt’ and decide that your life simply cannot continue without playing a full round.

I shot a 31, Andrew show a 27. For my troubles I had to do a naked lap around the course and then allow one of the ladies of Slut Putt to paddle me three times.

THWACK!!!!

Nothing.

THWACK!!!!!!!!!!!

Nothing.

THHHHHHWWWWWWWWAAAAAACKKK!!!!!!!11!

“Jeez dude, I feel like you’ve been paddled before.”

Maybe once or twice.

As fun as it is to throw bananas at the Mario Kart camp, or to climb the Thunderdome and feed your inner bloodlust…as cool as it is to find the American Ninja Warrior course set up at 9 and B and prove once and for all that you CAN CAN’T actually do what you see on TV…as much fun as it is to throw yourself from an Australian rope swing carousel and laugh as you let go skipping across the playa dirt, hoping you didn’t suffer any broken ribs; the one thing I will always remember from Burning Man is the people.

I’ll remember Angela and her sister from Reno whom I had a perfectly normal conversation with in the nude during a group shower. It’s their 7th burn, they brought their parents last year. Angela is gorgeous and I can’t help but wonder what would happen if I did accept her invitation back to her Sake theme camp. Maybe we would take a bunch of sake bombs and exchange numbers. Maybe some day she would come to Los Angeles and I would take her on a date, a totally normal activity made slightly less normal due to the fact that we met naked? I think I have a newfound respect for the Martin Freeman subplot of Love Actually.

I’ll remember eating Jambalaya with ‘Mama Bear’ who told me she came to Burning Man to spread her mother’s ashes. What a fitting tribute.

And I’ll remember Hamish…Oh God Hamish….

So Wednesday night, we find ourselves in the deep playa at a Table Service bar. We were there to witness a 10 million dollar art car called Mayan Warrior (allegedly funded entirely by drug money) when we stumbled upon a night club in the middle of nowhere.

A Frenchman asks for our names…

“I’m Big Wave and this is Drew”

Ah yes, I see right here on the list. Your table is almost ready.

After waiting 10 minutes or so we are sat with three Australians.

“We’ve been waiting for you guys all night,” They crow.

*Note: We have never seen these people before in our lives

They introduce themselves as a rag tag group from Melbourne, tell us camps we need to hit the next day. After an hour or so of pleasantries it comes out that Andrew and I are from Los Angeles and work in entertainment leading Hamish to give us his film pitch…and let me tell you, you have not lived until you have workshopped a film treatment with a tripping Australian in the desert for three hours.

We head back to our camp around a quarter til 6 and Andrew looks back at me.

“It’s not that bad of an idea you know. Think he’ll actually email us?”

I dunno if he will, but if he does I already have an outline saved on my computer as EDM Fantasia.DOCX.

Halfway through the burn I was totally in, I was already making plans for next year. I’ll bring an RV, perhaps run a simple bar, a Fireball bar! Come to Dave’s Fireball bar and tell stories about stupid shit you did in your 20’s or 30’s for that matter.

What I do know is that I have become a believer, in people, in positivity, in love. I don’t know who I will be when I return from this trip but I know exactly who I am now, and it’s approaching the best version of myself. Out here I do not worry about my shortcomings, about the fact that after my pilot crashed and burned I’ve been basically wallowing in my own misery and relying on the charity of others for the past 9 months.

No out here I’m just a happy-go-lucky guy with hair so crusty I’m afraid it’s about to literally start breaking off. But I was thinking about cutting it anyway, right? If that’s the worst of my worries, everything is going to be ok…that was until Thursday of course.

Because on Thursday everything changed…