The Shark Limo

Screenshot_20181005-161552.pngPer my party prep SOP, I perused the aisles of the nearest Goodwill, looking for outlandish dayglow pieces that would really pop under blacklight. They couldn’t just be regular glow-in-the-dark pieces of clothing – they had to be nonsense enough to stand out in a sea of people aiming to stand out. Pro tip: the children and women’s sections have better party clothes by a mile and change than the men’s section.

I settled on a highlighter yellow pair of boy’s running shorts, and a neon pink puffy vest. I barely fit into both, so they were perfect. On my out, I also spotted a neon green hat with “VIVA” printed across the front. After wriggling myself into my new outfit and some concerted effort on the inebriation front, I was ready to go.

On the way in, I went past the bouncers searching people at the main entrance, to the side of the building, and slipped what I had into my shoe. I saw a guy next to me put his hand to his ear as I went back around to the front.

“Throw away whatever you have in your shoe. I’m not going to argue with you – just make this easier for all of us and throw it away,” the large, suited man said. Clearly he had been on the other end of the communique I walked away from.

“Damn fine work, gentlemen. You got it.” I reached down to my shoe, and simultaneously into my pocket pink pocket (in the vest – get your head out of the gutter). I pulled out a cigarette wrapper and threw it into the trash as I palmed the contents of my shoe behind my phone.

“Thanks for being cool about it – you good,” he said with a nod.

Sucker.

At parties in club or bar settings, I go into autopilot. I bounce between the bar, the dance floor, and the bathroom with fairly reckless abandon, letting Whim guide me around at its leisure. It’s normally too loud inside to have conversations longer than, “I LOVE YOUR OUTFIT!” And I don’t always appreciate the amount of spittle involved in those close-quarter convos.

This party was no different, and I found myself on the smoking patio for much of the night. I preferred it there – partly because of my nicotine addiction, sure, but mainly because I actually got to speak to people and get to know them. I’m a glutton for conversation with strangers, and I was feeling particularly ravenous that evening.

2am came screeching in behind the veil of smoke and alcohol I had erected in front of me. As we were getting booted from the place, the guy I was chatting with said, “You seem cool. You wanna come with us to the after party in my limo?”

Why yes, I did. I went to the club with friends, but the allure of a privately owned limousine was too good to pass up, so I was a shitty friend, and I said goodbye to the people I came with. I was down on myself about that for as long as it took the limo owner to pull out a magnetic shark fin that he stuck to the top. “How fuckin’ cool is this?!” he shouted. It was really cool. My mood improved.

The ride to the after party was rowdy. The attractive couple that owned the limo also owned a champagne gun – like a squirt gun that you could affix bottles of champagne directly to – and I was immediately shot in the eye with it. But dammit what fun! Scantily clad and covered in sticky, bubbly goodness, we danced and slid around the back of the limo, randomly yelling at passersby out the windows (how else would they know we were enjoying ourselves in there?). I was glad my outfit only set me back ten bucks – money well-spent.

We poured out of the limo and into what can only be described as a party house. It was a dark labyrinth with a different theme for each room and cushions packed into every available space. There was a DJ booth in the darkest depths, and I vaguely recall dancing, but again, most of my time was spent on the smoking patio.

My voice tends to carry, and it might have contributed to the cops finally showing up to shut the thing down. They wandered in and did their best to kick everybody out. They were largely successful. I wandered away, but because I didn’t have a ride, I just kind of meandered around for a while, then the cops left, so I went back inside and continued partying. The windows were all blacked out, so I was surprised when 10am showed up on my watch.

The next time I looked at it, it was 3pm, and I was just waking up. There were very few party goers left, and I was underneath a large area rug that I equated with a blanket at some point. I stumbled around until I found the guy who ran the party den.

“Hey, can I use your phone to call myself an Uber?” I asked.

“I don’t have Uber on my phone, man.”

“Okay, well can I download it, then use my card to get myself an Uber?”

“Sure,” he said finally.

I squinted my eyes as I walked out into the afternoon heat of the San Fernando Valley. I don’t think that I audibly hissed, but I might’ve. I had 45 minutes to explain my outfit to my driver on the way to the house of the friend I abandoned at the club. He was enthralled, but I had a hard time sharing his enthusiasm because I was now quite aware of how much I needed a shower. When the ride was over I thanked him for listening, apologized for the smell, and begrudgingly stumbled back into real life.

In the Name of Art – Part III

I called my friend (the one I briefly fell in love with) to lament the nonsensical position I was in. After venting, I approached a number of vehicles coated in dust, and while everyone was very kind and said they’d drive me if they could, most had no room for a full-grown man without any luggage. I was on the phone with a friend from LA who was begrudgingly willing to drive the 6 hours to pick me up, when the artist called.

“I hope you’re happy!” she screamed at me.

“It’s pretty safe to say that I’m not.”

“I just got off the phone with [camp leader], who you know I view as a father figure! He yelled at me and told me I had to go back and get you!”

Unbeknownst to me, my fleeting love interest got off the phone and immediately contacted [camp leader], and explained the situation.

“You and your friend think you can come into MY camp – MY burner family,” she continued, “and get everybody to like you just because you build everything or whatever! And now I’m getting yelled at!”

“Well, at some point you’re going to have to acknowledge that their opinion of you is influenced by your actions.” Reasoning was maybe not the right choice in this situation, but how long could I keep that sentence in?

I got back on the phone with the friend who made the call and she told me, “Just keep your fucking mouth shut! I know how you feel right now, but you still need to get home!”

It was by-and-large, a quiet six hour ride back to her place, sprinkled with outbursts here and there, but not too many that I couldn’t weather them until we landed. Also, with frequent stops it was more like eight hours. We got there around 1am, and she implored me to stay the night. That didn’t sound ideal to me, so I got one of my bags out of the truck, and assured her I’d be back the next day to help her unload the rest into a storage space.

As it happened, my first day back at work was “Front Desk Appreciation Day” at the animal hospital. This meant we were all getting off early, and getting spa treatments at the Four Seasons. If I ever return to Burning Man (a likelihood), spa treatment will forever be a part of my decompression process immediately after.

I got a wonderful one hour massage, spent 30 minutes in the hot tub, another 30 in a hot shower, then went to the common area in only my robe to enjoy a glass of champagne with strawberries in it. I sat looking at the pool, and contemplating just how much I gave a shit about the $400 worth of camping gear that sat in the back of that truck.

I left my phone in my pants in the locker, as was the rule there (no electronic distractions allowed), and it was dead when I got back to it. I got to my car charger and once it was on, I was greeted by seven missed calls from the artist, and a text that read, “You’re a waste of a human being. All of your shit is in the trash!” There was more to the text, but I couldn’t tell you what it said. I was flooded with a feeling of relief when I saw it. “Oh good,” I thought, “now I definitely don’t have to help her unpack that truck.”

Was I in the wrong for not going back to help? Yes, absolutely. Do I wish I had left the most relaxing experience I had had in years earlier to be berated while getting dusty doing manual labor? No. No, I do not. We haven’t spoken since – and all I can think is, “Sometimes being wrong can feel so right.”