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THE ASSLESS CHAPEL NEWSLETTER #40: The Everything Ever, Interminably Long Edition

The Chaplain’s Screed


Well, everyone, it’s been a while since you’ve heard from me and I hope you’re all the better for that. Much has transpired and there’s a lot to report. So, here we go: it’s going to be a long Assless Chapel newsletter (there are a lot of pictures, links and videos.) For those of you who haven’t gotten this newsletter before, this one is a different style and format than you’ll get in the future, which is slightly more practical.


Perhaps the biggest news is that Burning Man announced the theme for 2024: Curiouser and Curiouser. From BORG:


“The 2024 Burning Man theme celebrates puzzles without answers, embraces the irrational and the absurd, and invites the unknown over for tea. Because it’s in those timeless moments of not knowing, when we’re consumed entirely by curiosity, that we experience our most profound learning, growth, and creativity.”


For their full introduction of the theme, see here. (The name is a reference to Alice in Wonderland). Whereas Animalia was a theme that was accessible and easy to appreciate, like a big, high-alcohol, fruit-forward Zinfandel or a pole dancer, Curiouser and Curiouser is more amorphous. Like a bottle of high-grade ether or avant-garde modern dance, it’s disorienting and keeps you guessing as to what it will bring. Animalia was easy enough to understand that even those of us, like Red and I, who haven’t visited Neverland for a long time and have great difficulty activating our inner-child imagination, can come up with something: fur, ears, tails, etc. Curiouser and Curiouser could be everything or nothing. It’s the type of theme that sparks something special in artists but leaves many of the participants to just say “Fuck it, I’m not doing anything for the theme.” I like both types of themes and all those that fall somewhere in between. I’m glad BORG mixes it up. Curious to hear what you all think of it and to see what art it brings to Black Rock City.




News


Lots of news for the group, starting with the makeup of the group! If you’re getting this newsletter, but don’t read or want it, please let me know and I’ll take you off the list. If you know someone else that should be added, have that person reach out to me. I’ve done my best to include those who have affirmatively indicated that they want to be included and limit the newsletter to that group. If I’ve gotten something wrong, it is not intentional, just let me know.


Group

Since I’ve added a few more folks to this group. I’m going to go through some introductions about everyone and how we’re each feeling about attending next year’s burn with the Chapel.


The Californians


The Assless Chaplain has been called by life events and the Burning Man gods to do this thing and so, he’ll be there, barring death or disaster. I think you all know my story, so I’ll say no more about this freak.



Red actually lives in Upstate New York but, because he flies out to help pack and drive the trailer, I’m calling him a Californian (and hoping he, his lovely wife and his darling baby son move here.)I first met Red not long after he was born, because we’re cousins.Red is our “straight man” at the burn.He’s probably our hardest worker, best driver and most skilled trailer-packer.He’s planning to weird it up a bit more this year.You would be hard-pressed to find anyone so willing to do anything to make The Assless Chapel happen.Oh, he also might have the kindest heart of all of us, but don’t tell him that.He’s planning on coming back.This will be his fifth burn.





Sia cannot be cloned. God must have made Sia with her own hands for, when scientists tried to make another Sia in a test tube, it failed. She is a fount of joy, uncensored advice and mind control. She’s the little sister I never knew I needed – but am better for having found. She fears no one and nothing and when, in a future year, the Burners turn to cannibalism as predicted by the great oracle Chris Rock, stay close to her. She is a sorceress who will bring all the warlords to heel and elevate the Chapel above all other camps in the power structure that rises from the mud. I actually met Sia on a Facebook group but was lucky to get to host her at my home shortly thereafter. I think this will be her fourth burn.




Stupid Seamus is Burning Man, gets Burning Man, does Burning Man, lives Burning Man.Last year was his first year and he taught all of us how it’s fucking done!Like a prototype from Larry Harvey’s own workshop, he builds, he breaks, he bonds, he burns bright.And, lucky for me, he lives really close by.He’s also planning to come back.I met Stupid Seamus around the way over 10 years ago, though neither of us remember how, when, where or why.




Fresh-as-Fuck, aka Becky, continues to amaze the rest of the group by always looking fresh as fuck. I first met her at Burnal Equinox 2023, and it was, in my opinion, Campmates at First Sight. As of SF Decompression, I think we’ll have the joy of welcoming her back in 2024. She’s coming to us from the South Bay Area and brings with her brains, grit and inspiration for managing major life transitions. Also, I think she might be the wisest of us all. This will be her third burn, though she truly burns year-round.




Kayla, our flower girl, is the world’s most self-sufficient and useful Gen Z-er and one of the most fun and comforting humans to be around (just ask Stupid Seamus about the day he was stuck in a chair due to a bad back).I’m calling Kayla a Californian, but I think it would be most accurate to say that she plans to live between the Bay Area and New York City.Kayla is likely not going to be camping with us but is keeping her options open.I met Kayla on a Facebook group.This will be her third burn.




Mojito Molly was found wandering the Playa.We liked her a lot; she thought we seemed not dangerous.So now she’s part of our camp.She makes the best and smallest drinks on the Playa.Animalia was her 9th burn and she’s a repository of Burning Man skills.She’s one of those burners who burns bright and weird.Mo lives in lovely San Diego and has assured me that, if she comes to Black Rock City in 2024 (which isn’t certain), she’ll bring her Tiny Bar and park it and herself at the Chapel.




The Salidans


Until now, all our Coloradans have hailed from a small, vacation town called Salida. From what I can tell, it’s full of artists who go to Burning Man and old rednecks who don’t. If you look closely on Google Maps, you can see the fissure in the ground where some odd, primordial ooze leaks out of the earth and congeals into cool-ass people. This year, however, we’ll be adding someone new: Nurse Nikki from Lafayette, Colorado (but more about Nikki later.) If you camp with us, you should also be prepared for the appearance of other random Salidans.


Curtis, aka Smart Seamus, will be joining us for his 20th (?!) burn next year. Curtis is a magic man, who laughs in a soft rumble and whose golden taint is known far and wide for its beauty. He’s an artist and restauranteur who can build, break, massage and probably gives great face; he’s patient, vibrant and his greatest super power is his ability to sleep when necessary and heal up to go hard when the time is right. According to last year’s campers, if I’m the camp dad, Curtis is the camp mom. Curtis was at my first burn and my Burning Man wedding. He is one of those people who inspired me to be a better burner and can tell you stories of how unlikely that looked to happen when he first met me. Curtis plans to join us again this year.



Linda didn’t make it out last year, but hopefully, we’ll get her back this year. She’s a no-nonsense nonsense-maker. Her hobbies include whiskey-soaking peaches, serving ice cream and running fart machines (especially with Sia around). I first met her in 2010 and she’s been to several burns by now, though I don’t remember how many. She’s got a great sense of humor and discovered the booty song that really should be our theme song. So, Linda, you in for this year?




Katie is an accomplished artist who paints pictures of animals and is a fan of the toad.Katie designed the theme graphic for our wedding certificates last year.She has the best laugh on the Playa.She is our top burper and has been to several burns by now (6?)I met her in a Zoom call, after Curtis put us in touch by email.She stays sober, so that someone is.Last year, she married her love, Clayton at The Assless Chapel.Katie, I haven’t heard from Clayton, does he want to be on the newsletter list and/or plan to come back with us next year?




Peaches taught me everything I know about flags.She likes karaoke and naked people.She’s an utterly amazing wedding photographer and I had such a great time with her in Mo’s tent, at a burlesque karaoke camp, at the Alabaman wedding and, more recently, when she came to visit San Francisco and Healdsburg for SF Decompression.I have her old diva cup and she taught me that my back is hairy.I met her on Zoom when we started learning how much we love the same obscure music.This will be her 6th (?) burn.Peaches may be bringing a very sexy young man named Peter with her this year.Peaches, you let me know when to add him to the newsletter list, if he’s still down.




The Most Prepared Ladies of All Time


Last year we had the pleasure of welcoming two birgins: Tanya and Kate. I met them on Facebook in a little bit of lovely kismet. Tanya’s daughter Santi also joined us. They showed up early and got us placed and, in general, made our burn better.




Tanya can and will fix anything that no one else can. She’s a general, Victorinox badass who can repair your solar array, bring in people off the street to get married or help a bride pick out her clothes. She also rolls with mead and chap stick from her own hives on a self-sufficient farm she built herself. She’s our tall Texan who told me she probably won’t be back at Burning Man next year but will camp with us next year if she does return. Tanya, I haven’t heard from Santi, but let me know if she still wants to get the newsletters and/or possibly burn with us next year.


Kate married Tanya last year and is like a warm breeze of calm and comfort. She gifted the camp WiFi, which was pretty useful during Mudmageddon. She is fun and sweet and in a constant state of volunteering. Kate has a great touch with our couples, her fellow campers and our panicked neighbors. And she makes a lovely bride!


New Additions


We’ve got a few new folks who want or may want to camp with us this year.


Mirit will be joining us from Israel. She has wanted to join us since last year. She couldn’t get a visa in time but, several months ago, the US waived visa requirements and, well… it’s on! I first met Mirit randomly in Rishikesh, India in 2005. We’ve been close friends ever since. This will be her first burn, but she’s attended Israel’s regional, Midburn, in the past. She was born to burn and she’ll be a great campmate. She’s sweet, friendly and useful. She loves to dance and stays sober-ish.




Ellie has been a friend of mine since I was pinching her tush in 3rd grade (which I know now is very not ok and does not conform with our agreements about consent.)Ellie was the good girl when we were growing up and while she still has that vibe, she’s branched out a lot in her life and collected a bewildering array of life experiences. This will be her second burn, though she was able to join our crew of degenerates for SF Decompression.Since her and I were doing the Bar Mitzvah circuit together in Indiana, she’s moved around a bit and currently resides in cold-ass Minneapolis.




Nikki did her first burn with our beloved neighbors, The Dusty Mules, last year.She finally took the leap into Black Rock City and it’s become her home.I was blessed this past year by getting to have some great conversations with her about Burning Man, life and the role the burn plays in our journeys.Until recently, just a regular old nurse, Nikki is now transforming herself into a psychedelics nurse.She loves doing creepy-ass shit with dolls and lives a generally burner-y life out in Lafayette, Colorado.She’s considering camping with us next year.




Website


I’ve updated our website. I put in a couple new pictures up from Animalia. I took down info on Animal weddings. I’m thinking that, for this year, we should change our Married ‘Til Monday ceremonies and certificates to Marriage Curious. Let me know if you like that or not and I’ll update the website to reflect that.


Also, I’ve only gotten around to putting up a few of us on the About Us page. Let me know if you want to be added or not and send me a picture you’d like.



Acculturation

This is especially geared toward our newbies. The Assless Chapel has its own micro-culture. I’ve attached our Agreements. I’ll probably re-work them a little bit this year. At some point, everyone will need to email me saying that you’ve read, understood and agreed to them. We also require that you read the newsletters, but unlike the Agreements, there’s no verification of this, which means I’m mostly screaming into the void. Finally, I try to do 2 all-camp Zoom calls a year and have each person do a one-on-one with me. Or something like that.






Admin Stuff


I’ve already gotten in our first report to Placement.At some point, there will be more and I’ll hit everyone up for input.A few of us will be doing a Zoom with the Dusty Mules sometime soon to talk about doing a HUBS so we can be placed next to each other.I also asked Kelly’s and Brasa if they wanted to do a HUBS but haven’t heard back.






Decompression Weekend




Wow was Decompression weekend fun! Peaches and Peter enjoyed a Chaplain-curated, self-guided tour of the Castro until I and Stupid Seamus could arrive. We went out in the leather district where, of course, Stupid Seamus made friends with everyone and I was disappointed at the low level of sexual harassment I attracted, despite my very, let’s call if playful, outfit. We did get to see three guys in each other at the same time and buy booze and food for strangers. Also, we found a glory hole that was too small for me to fit into and too high for me to reach, so I took a chance and put my eye up to it and saw that a horrible inside joke about my campmates afflicting me had manifested itself as a sign (literally.) And none of us stepped in poop.




The next day we got breakfast with Sia and unleashed a slew of juvenile tomfoolery that I’m hesitant to elaborate on in a public forum. Let’s just say it involved jumping in front of cars, VCR head cleaner, an unused Burning Man tail, a strategically-placed sock and some goodies from a shady smoke shop. Sia presented me with a gorgeous faux-fur coat you all got me for my birthday! I felt really special and appreciated, so thank you all so, so much! That is literally the fanciest piece of clothing I own.


Then Ellie found us and we did up our outfits and hair and went out to Decompression. For some reason I can find no pictures of it. Every last human at Decompression fell in love with Stupid Seamus. We got to shake our bones quite a bit and ran into the guy we married to the streets! I got my butt pinched by some old ladies and practiced what little Yiddish I could articulate. We found Fresh-as-Fuck who was, well… looking fresh as fuck! Ellie made sure I ate something and then her and I went back to the hotel room to remove my braids and hair adornment, chat and send her back to the default world.


Stupid Seamus, Peaches and Peter then showed up at my room and we hung out until 3a and then Stupid Seamus and I hung out until 3:30a and he still wanted to keep going, but I reminded him that we needed time to sufficiently die before morning.


That night, we visited the winery where Seamus’ wife Kaitlin makes literally the best wine in the world. We drank so much great wine and had an amazing time, despite the ladders. Peaches and Peter went canoeing the next day and then we took it easy-ish. Lots of memories you’ll all have to tolerate hearing about this burn.


Read This, Watch This!

Here’s a big aerial shot of the city, in detail. For the life of me, I can’t find us there (was it all a dream?)


A couple updates from Burning Man Journal:





For the Coloradans, especially Nikki since she’s close by, here’s the Temple of Tranquility that you can visit in Boulder.


My New Year’s Goals


As some of you know, I’m not so big into the calendar New Year. Instead, my most important new years all come together around the same time: end of Burning Man, my birthday and Rosh Hashanah. I was so excited this past Burn Night when Steven Danger started wishing everyone a happy new year! Burning Man truly is a more important start of a new year than January 1st.

I’d like to share just a few of my resolutions with you all, as it makes them more real.


· Last year, I made Immediacy a resolution and I’ve been able to reduce my phone usage significantly. This year I’m making Participation my new resolution. I actually volunteer a lot, but my resolution is to shift my perspective on my volunteer work from thinking of it as something I give to something I do – that is, not to see it as something I do for others but to appreciate the process as something I do for myself.

· Go from speaking workable French to speaking fluent French.

· Improve the Chapel (see newsletter #39 for my first thoughts on this.)

· Wear deodorant at the next burn (I heard you all loud and clear; I’m on it.)

· Keep things more organized at the next burn by prioritizing the organizing of our stuff when we arrive and when we break. It always takes me a bunch of time to re-organize when we get back, so this should save me a bunch of time overall. It will also make us more efficient, since we’ll actually know where things are! We’ll see how successful I am.

· Be able to do 40 consecutive push-ups by the end of the calendar year.

· Do a 1-mile tricycle ride once a week to the taco truck to get a buche super burrito, but eat only half of the burrito and save the other half for later (that’s harder than the trike ride by a lot.)


Closing Thoughts


One piece of advice people give for decompression is “don’t make any drastic changes in your life.” Fuck that. Make drastic decisions. Don’t wait to fall back into your old comfort zone. Don’t wait for the things that get in the way of you being you to feel normal again. Don’t lose to the creeping, comfortable mundanities of life what you’ve explored at Burning Man: your passion to do, make, give, improve and help.


What’s that, attentive reader? You’re pointing out that at the top of this newsletter I spoke about overstepping upon my return to the so-called Default World? Well, first off, let me just say, as I have before, that we shouldn’t emphasize this false barrier between Burning Man and not-Burning Man. We should burn year-round, and we must acknowledge that Burning Man is in the real world (as this comedienne can affirm.)


But Burning Man, like all forces of personal change can send us on two different paths: evolution or revolution. In 2021, when I decided to return to Burning Man in 2022, that provoked a revolution in my life. After the Burn it provoked another slew of drastic, revolutionary changes and I’m better for it. It also pushed me toward some slower evolution which has been great. This past year, it sent me down those dual pathways yet again. Sometimes our decisions end up being bad ones, whether they were generated from our burn experience or otherwise. Sometimes we need evolution, but fuck things up through revolution. Sometimes we need revolution, but fuck things up through evolution. To quote Teddy Roosevelt (our most Peter Pan of presidents, with all the ensuing puerility and misogyny, but also a truly indomitable spirit): [credit to the one] “who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat…”


So, kudos to those of you who cast aside your day jobs to pursue your dream jobs; to the one of you who is buying a restaurant; to you who have bravely embarked upon a path of self-discovery and self-improvement; to you who have set out to find the love you want, not just the loves you get. And kudos to you, also, who have embarked upon a slow process of improvement; who have made small tweaks in your life. Never stagnate, never stop doing good, never stop loving, never stop burning. I love you all!


This was the ticket for Burning Man 2009: Evolution


“It seems to me that, given the problems we’re facing on every front—economical, environmental, political—what’s needed is a kind of ethical, cultural revolution.”


-Larry Harvey


The Man Burns in 304 Days!

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