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The Assless Chapel Newsletter #38: Decompression Edition

The Chaplain’s Screed

This newsletter is going to be a bit different than the rest. It is mostly my discombobulated ponderings.

I don’t know how you are all doing, but my Decompression has been bewildering. I went from being the Assless Chaplain to reviewing resumes for the next principal of my kids’ school. I went from wild behavior in the rain and mud to explaining at Back to School night how chill this Burn has been. Instead of figuring out how to maximize shade, I’m figuring out how to maximize vineyard cash flow. It’s downright schizophrenic.

So, how do we deal with decompression? I’ll keep busy for a while with laundry, cleaning, organizing and putting away Burning Man gear. I’ll go to SF Decompression: Black Top City in October. I’d encourage you all to find your local decompressions, too. But for me, the biggest thing is to take the next couple of weeks and just feel who I am and how being a burner is part of that. Then it’s time to make my New Year’s commitments.

I loved that our friends, the Dusty Mules, treated Burn Night as New Year’s Eve. I’ll make my Burn Year commitments in a few weeks. Some will be about how to be physically, mentally and morally better. Some will be about burning year-round. And I’ll stick to all of them pretty well (unlike my build week commitments, which I continually failed to stick to.)

We can’t do Burning Man year-round. But we can practice the principles, live a bit more radically and be the little stone that, thrown into the pond of the default world, ripples out to have its own little effect on the rest of the pond.

How to Describe the Mudburn

Remember when we kept telling Curtis that his sticker “Nothing is Fucked Dude” was a lie? Well, I was wrong about that. Nothing was fucked. But how to explain that? Well, I’ve got a couple of canned responses for you. Here is a decent article from the New Yorker to share.

And, if you don’t have Facebook, here was my half-delirious Facebook post from my first day back in the default world:


I just arrived back home from Burning Man several hours ago. I need several more hours of sleep and several more showers – and a burrito from Taqueria Guadalajara. But I wanted to just quickly unspool a few thoughts from my brain.

Thank you everyone for your concern, but know that the news reports were, by and large, disconnected from reality. There were no life-threatening conditions, no rationing of food or water, no desperation. Yes, there was an unfortunate and, as of yet, unexplained death. But that still puts the City’s mortality rate at something like 40% lower than the average for the US.

There was rain and mud. Lots and lots of mud. In Black Rock City, that makes things really tough. Great. The first of Burning Man’s Ten Principles is Radical Self-Reliance. And since most of us have that down to a science for normal Burning Man conditions, it was a prime opportunity to practice that principle. We also got a chance to up our game on Civic Responsibility and Communal Effort.

The rain brought our camp closer together. It brought us closer to our neighbor camps. We huddled together in wet tents and made our own entertainment. We sheltered each other in whatever dry spaces we had left. We taped bags around our feet and trudged over to our neighbors for cocktails, dancing and karaoke. We marveled at the supermoon and the double rainbows.

Best of all, we kept to our mission: officiating meaningful marriages at Burning Man. One couple trekked miles through the mud, in their plastic bags to find us. We planned and officiated a profound ceremony, popped a bottle of prosecco and issued a beautiful wedding certificate.

Some of our camp had to leave before the Man burned. But everyone helped break down our chapel, clean up and haul out trash. I read all these reports of “heroic” efforts to “escape,” including some celebrities who walked out. I don’t condemn any specific person, as everyone is in a different situation, but my first thoughts were “who is going to clean up all the stuff they left behind?” I guess it’s good that the rain separated the Burners from the tourists.

Due to delays from the rain, I didn’t get to see the Temple Burn, but I and much of my camp did see the Man Burn. It was the greatest fireworks spectacle I’ve ever witnessed, and the air was full of shared victory and love. It was a grand party of epic proportions to cap off an epic week.

The next morning, we finished breaking everything down. And when all that was left was a field of broken, dried mud, we did a grid sweep to pick up every last, lost sequin and tuft of faux fur. And then we did another. And then we left.

In a couple of months, the Playa will be devoid of mutant vehicles, art, theme camps and any other evidence of Burning Man. But my heart and memories will always be thankful for this Burn, one of the greatest of all Burns, where the rain put me to the test and brought me new friends, new experiences and placed a new and unexpected item on my Burning Man packing list: muck boots.

The Man burns in 360 days...

But Really, It Was About the People

My first burn, I was insanely shit-hammered the whole time, was camping on the outermost street and didn’t have a bike. So, I didn’t see a whole lot. But I still fucking loved it so, so much. I fell in love with Burning Man.

This year I was getting serious FOMO the first few days of Burn Week. Just couldn’t seem to fit much in. And then it rained. And everything changed. No more FOMO and so much happiness. Like my first time.

What was the common thread? What brought things full circle? People. All the art, all the mutant vehicles, all the depraved games, the Ten Principles, the bars, none of it is anything without the people. What makes Burning Man special – as opposed to just maintaining a Burning Man mindset year-round – are the people. It attracts interesting and amazing people and gives everyone a forum in which to be their greatest.

And the rain reminded me of that. It highlighted how important the friendships and relationships are to me. For that, I thank the rain. It made my fucking burn!

Upcoming Tasks

Yes, I have a couple things I’m asking of you.

  • In a previous email, I sent instructions for picture-sharing. Please read those and send me your photos and I’ll create a private repository for us to share.

  • One last, important thing. This is the time of year, I cull the email list. I need your help. You must be on the email list to camp with The Assless Chapel. But you don’t need to camp with The Assless Chapel to get the newsletter emailed (and the redacted versions are always available on the website.) Whatever you decide to do, is ok with me. I will not be upset – your burn is your burn! So please send me one of the following messages (or something along these lines):

o I plan to camp with The Assless Chapel next year. Please keep me on the email list.

o I might want to camp with The Assless Chapel next year. Please keep me on the email list.

o I don’t think I’ll be camping with The Assless Chapel next year, but I’d like to stay on the email list.

o Please remove me from the email list. If I don’t get an email from you, I’ll just assume you want to be removed from the list – which is fine, I still love you!

Closing Thoughts

Next week, I’ll likely follow this newsletter up with one that reviews how things went and suggests a few things we decided on for improving the camp. After that, I’ll probably share my Burning Man New Year’s resolutions. I’m also experimenting with a new Playa dust removal formulation. If it works, I’ll report back to you all.

But before ending this newsletter, let me just say thank you. Thank you all for making this weird-ass dream of mine come true. Thank you all for your contributions. Thank you each and every one of you.

· Thank you Red for being such a competent and constant workhorse. You are my right-hand man, on the Playa and in the default world. I don’t know how I’d get by without you.

· Thank you Mo for your unwaveringly good Burning Man sense and your endless ability to generate fun, so often in the form of tiny cocktails. We are so lucky we – literally – found you.

· Thank you Stupid Seamus for your daring dive right into your first Burn, your roll-with-punches demeanor and all your hard work. You showed all of us old-timers how to fucking do it.

· Thank you Katie and Clayton for sharing your love with us in the form of the wedding, for getting all the gear out to the Playa and for all the music, especially Katie’s rolling giggles and thundering burps. Also, thanks for that poop bag thing you left me. When things got rough, I did use it.

· Thank you Tanya and Kate and Santi for throwing yourselves into this crazy idea and always being there to help, whether fixing solar, sharing a smile or providing a way for us to contact our loved ones.

· Thank you Sia for making me laugh, for your unbridled exuberance, for showing Peaches what real feminism looks like and for showing me how a caring and loving person like you can take what she learns at Burning Man and evolve from it.

· Thank you Peaches for all the help with photography, for your playfulness, for educating me in The Things Younger People Know Nowadays, for assisting me in my depravity and for a great night out with Red on whatever day that was. I adore you forever.

· Thank you Kayla for being such an easy fit into this camp, for doing your part with no hassle and total willingness and for gracing us with your youth, beauty and, more importantly, your merriment (extra points for the great flower girl solution.) I hope to see you at my place next time you’re in NorCal.

· Thank you Jennifer for hitting the ground running and doing your part with a spirit of volunteerism. I’m sorry that we didn’t get to hang more. I hope you’re doing well.

· Thank you Fresh as Fuck (Becky) for the very tedious de-MOOPing you took it upon yourself to do and for showing us how it’s fucking done (you know what I’m talking about). You are a queen and a goddess and I bow to you. So happy we found each other and I’ll see you at Decompression SF.

· Thank you Curtis (Smart Seamus) for everything. For helping mold me into a Burner. For being the guy that, if he’s there, I know it’s all going to be OK. For all the infrastructure, love and creation you bring to the camp. For being a great friend, campmate and Burner.

The Man Burns in 355 days!

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