I have never thought that I’d go to Burning Man, let alone enjoying the whole experience. It’s one of those experiences that could change a person’s outlook in life. I went to BM this year with two of my friends. We constructed a hexa-hurt in the desert. We camped in the French Quarters with a group called the Sunset Supper Club. We volunteered and delivered playa news papers one day. We biked into the deep playa to look at art sculptures. For the most part, we wandered with no agenda and let whatever that interested us on a whim take us on to a new adventure. We found a mid-night movie shown in a secret movie theater in deep playa, ran into a wine and cheese party at a sculpture, a sunset Russian tea party, my most absolutely favorite bloody mary, out-of-the-world delicious crawfish boil at 3am in the morning, talked with artists that created some of the sculptures… the list goes on. Everyday was a different experience. I cannot forget, nor can I begin to enumerate all of the stories that took place, or the people that I met. It was then did I understand that one cannot define or describe Burning Man. “You get what you want out of it.”
The only one regret I had was not being to take as many pictures as I would have liked due to dust. I only managed to wake up one morning to shoot sunrise while my camp mates were snoozing in the yurt. To give them the credit, they did both try very hard to wake me. It was Wednesday morning. The air on the playa was clean and crisp. I hopped on my bike before I could see anything in a state of sleep walk. I passed many people dressed in all white walking towards the temple; they must have been part of the white concession. Some of the people had stayed up all night long.
The sky was already bright but the sun hasn’t risen yet. A sea of people have already gathered around the temple. I took time to shoot around this small group of temples that looked middle eastern but they were built out of cheap particle boards.
And finally, when the sun peaked out of the horizon, cheers and prayers rang through the desert. I rushed quickly towards the temple and captured the ray of sun light flooding through the gates of the temple. Bikes were abandoned everywhere. I had already done the same and gotten on foot. People were hugging, kissing each other, and dancing all around. The dragon art car drove into the sun filled with people dancing. I saw the long chain of balloons hanging across the sky over the playa. I was immediate overcome with the feelings of joy and hope. Perhaps this was what Burning Man is all about, I thought, without actual words.
I dreaded the thought of spending 8 hours in Las Vegas waiting for my companion to arrive for our canyon trip. I didn’t really have any agenda except for a dinner reservation for one at the CUT, a Tom Douglas restaurant that a friend’s brother works at. To be honest, I hate the air in Vegas. As I battled my apprehension of spending 8 hours in the city, I took my time getting from the airport to the casino strip. I took time to find a rental locker in an airport gym for my luggage. When I finally got to the casinos, the inevitable headache set in. An accidental walk into a fashion store with $1k shoes changed the day. My friendly sales person decided to play dress up with me despite of my constant pledge and excuse of I would never be able to afford any of the items. He insisted. At the end of the hour, I said to myself, maybe I could enjoy a little bit of Vegas now.
The highlight of the 8 hours was three hours in the restaurant CUT. Thanks to the chef, I ate to my heart’s content with bone marrow flan, a beef sashimie, a buffalo slider, and kobe beef. I have not had this much meat in a long time and nor have I been so much in heaven in a long time. The fatigue of having been traveling for a week prior melted away. My mini vacation to the SW started here.
I never said I was smart but everyone seems to assume that way. I am a late bloomer. After 10 years of twisting journey, I turned in my PhD dissertation and passed my defense last week. Mom is relieved and I’m happy to not have her nag at me about anything any more. From here on my life is mine. And one week after the whirlwind of events, I can finally sit down and reflect. I learned a few things about myself. One of them is that I am a late bloomer. I am slower than many of my friends at a lot of things in life, getting a job, learn to bake, getting married, traveling to a country, running a race, planting a garden, buying a house, building a business… I can’t help to be interested and distracted a lot. That may make me seem less goal oriented or driven. I know that’s not true. I am just a late bloomer.
We rented a Jeep so we could camp in the back of it even on nights when we couldn’t find a camp site. Little did we know that became the start of a trip filled with off-road driving. It started with a detour to a ghost town. Then we started looking for other off roads. This picture was taken through the Titus Canyon, which runs east to west (one-way) through the Armagosa Mountains that lies to the east of Death Valley. The sun was setting and I shot it hiding behind a rock. We were entranced by the experience of an ever changing scenery in addition to the thrill of the curvy and bumpy road. The exit of the canyon was eve more amazing. Little did I know this was just the beginning of more off-roading. Two days after, we found ourselves going through an even more threatening road that one of the rangers strongly suggested against. We thought we might not have come out alive that day. The desert offers limitless adventure. My heart yearns for its openness and sunlight. I blame it on the the Pacific NW winter. Or maybe it’s because that was when I was traveling with my love carelessly. In another week, I will be defending my PhD. I am already looking at tickets to San Diego. I can’t wait to see Joshua Tree NP as my next desert detour.
I am not a fan of weddings except for my friend Clarie’s and May’s weddings. I am getting jaded and cynical with age? That’s a distinct possibility. After a break up at the end of 2009, I become less and less disillusioned by the institute of marriage. I take a step back and re-contemplate my life. In the midst of that, I was asked to shoot three weddings, in the span of a month in August 2010 (the month that is almost guaranteed to be sunny all the time in Seattle) The first one was a friend, the second one a friend’s friend, and the third one strangers. The recurrent theme is family and community. The couples celebrated their life together and the consummation of their love witnessed by people in their lives. I couldn’t relate to them at the time. Taking these wedding photos felt like a chore. Half a year later, when I have to put together a small wedding photography portfolio, the pictures made me realize that I have been afraid to really create the community and friendship that I desire. I have grown and changed quite a bit in the past years. It really means it’s time to also develop a new community that fits and speaks for who I am. I know it is hard to say good-bye to those that you love even it is for the right reasons. However, I cannot fight the current of these changes. Only a month after I made the new year resolution to make more new friends, I am already seeing the universe at work. This year, I will give myself the task of finding out what marriage means to me. It is not nothing! I will go to weddings, take pictures, and learn from those experiences.