T&A headed to Reno this weekend to get our stove for Spark the Dark (Sacramento Decompression) on Halloween. It was a fun road trip, and since we weren’t in a hurry, we finally got to enjoy some rest stops and scenic outlooks on the way. This time we got a hotel room instead of van camping, and that was a pleasant change. Unfortunately I forgot the storage keys back in SF (whoops!) so we had to get the lock cut. Then we emptied the unit of our old carpet that’s full of playa dust and going to get tossed. Now, there’s room in the storage unit to walk around and move things as needed. Before we left Reno, we checked out the Peppermill casino, a cool spot that we may consider for next year’s burn.
Lady Burner PSA: I am SO in love with these shoes and since I've gotten so many compliments on them, I want to share with erryone ;) I found them from ah-mazing kostumer Eliza Spear before the burn and bought two different pairs because they were so cool. The best thing about these boots is they come in a bunch of colors and have a zipper for easy on/off. The SECOND best thing is they have a zipper POCKET in each foot, which lets you hide all kinds of goodies while you're on the go. I got a short boot in blue and a combat boot in purple. I had the hardest time picking colors so I'll probably buy a few more before the year is over ;)
The man burns in 25 days…. Are you ready?!??! There isn’t much time to start new art projects or make an obscure purchase from China, but there is still time to get inspired by this year’s theme! As I finish up art for my theme camp, it’s beginning to dawn on me that this year’s Burning Man theme: Da Vinci’s Workshop, is going to be an exciting and amazing thing to experience!
When it was announced, I was already giddy because our theme camp, The Hangry Bishop, was “founded” in the Middle Ages and would fit right in with the Renaissance-inspired Burn theme.
The Hangry Bishop is my grilled-cheese-slinging theme camp, voted the best Medieval Diner in Black Rock City. Our household was started in 1300’s England, around the same time and place that Cheddar Cheese was invented. We serve Grilled Cheeses and Virgin Mary’s every day for wandering playa pilgrims.
As a first year camp in 2015, the Medieval inspiration didn’t exactly translate from concept to reality. We had grand plans, believe me, but most of the work in year one was to cover the basics like setting up shade and serving grilled cheese. We told people we were from the Middle Ages, but no one really guessed it without the pre-amble. There was no elaborate decor or period-realistic costumes.
But now in 2016, the year of Da Vinci’s Workshop, you’ll bet your dusty butt that The Hangry Bishop is stepping up the Medieval inspiration. In preparation, over the past year I’ve been saturating my burner brain with Middle Ages entertainment, from books to TV shows. It started with The White Queen, which is a TV series based on a book with the same title.
I wasn’t much of a reader, but I took on a very boring, graveyard shift desk job and had the chance to read for hours a night. After a free book find about the Black Plague, I went on a Medieval reading spree! I found a few authors who wrote historical fiction, and they focused on the lives of noble women. Noble women in the Middle Ages is a ridiculously interesting topic, because despite having money and status they were very much imprisoned by their families. I’ve raced through about 15 Medieval fiction books in the past year, and those stories will definitely reflect in look and feel of our 2016 camp.
So while you’re making lists and packing this month, you’ll probably need some entertainment. Here are five shows that I’ve been obsessing over in the past year. They helped me feed my Medieval & Renaissance inspiration, maybe they’ll give you ideas, too!
The White Queen on Amazon Prime
The White Queen is the British TV series that got my Middle-Ages fascination in-gear. I found the 10 episode show on Amazon Prime a year ago, and gulped it up in a single weekend.
The thing I like most about this show is the story line, which shows several women in 1300’s England with various positions and life outlooks. One is the elderly mother to the king, the other a wife who becomes queen through a wildly unusual love marriage. Some females are simply pawns in their families political machinations. But regardless of status or position, all the women must live within the bounds of a male-dominated society. The show feels realistic and gritty, covering ten years of battles for the throne.
After finishing the TV show in a short weekend, I followed up by reading all five books in Philippa Gregory’s Cousin’s War Series. Each book is told by one of the women introduced in the TV series. I thought I’d be bored to read the same story told by different people, but Gregory was wonderful at creating strong characters in each book. It was nice to read more detail about the women’s individual philosophies and strategies. While the book series isn’t on this TV show list, I definitely recommend it.
Vikings on Amazon Prime
I wanted to love this show, with the intense intro, intruiging premise about the clash between Vikings and Christians, and the always-gray Scandinavian visual backdrop. The story itself was a little slow, with simple storylines and a few twists. There are a few anachronistic elements that made me cringe. I highly recommend Vikings as background TV, which is what I call any show that I can watch while doing other things. You may want to binge watch while you’re packing!
The show is about Ragnaw Lothbrook, an intense historical character who lead Viking raids in the 1000s. He is married to a shieldmaiden, interesting because the Viking females could fight alongside the men in battle. The first cringe-worthy part for me happened in the first episode, when the husband and wife fought while discussing if their son was old enough to fight in battles. It felt like a conversation plucked from modern life, and kind of lost me.
What I do love about Vikings is seeing the comparison of Viking Pagan and European Catholic cultures. The Vikings often talk about the many gods, and which god may be angry based on what events are unfolding. They also offer sacrifices and eat psychedelic mushrooms when fighting battles. Meanwhile, the Catholics have strict views of what’s right and wrong, and are completely surprised when the violent Pagans come running through their villages. It’s a part of history I’ve always been enamored with, so I’m glad there’s a show where I get to explore that.
The Borgias on Netflix
The Borgias was my guilty pleasure, a show inspired by history but not-quite showing it realistically. The series is about the church (and state) of corruption in Renaissance Italy. Corruption in the Medieval Church was always a favorite topic after studying religious history in my Catholic high school, and certainly one of the inspirations for The Hangry Bishop.
The show follows one family, the Borgias, after the patriarch becomes Pope through dubious methods. Throughout the show, the Pope and everyone surrounding him acts in treachery, deceit, and an unquenchable hunger for power. His only three children are bastards (common for “men of the cloth” in the era, since they were not allowed to wed) and he lives with a young mistress alongside the mother of his children.
In portraying the corruption of the Catholic church, the show is pretty accurate. But in the modern way people have sex and otherwise live their daily lives, the show drives me a little batty. Luckily the show throws in a bit of actual history, like the invention of double entry bookkeeping in Florence and the growing popularity of the fork in 1400s Italy (because pasta is better with a fork).
So many story elements seemed out of place when they came up in the show, that I was always running to Wikipedia to confirm they were accurate. It seems like many story lines, especially about members of the Borgia family, are rooted in history. For instance, Lucrezia was considered a femme fatale because of a handful of husbands reaching an early demise. Also, her brother Cesare was burdened by his desire to be a soldier rather than his birthright as a Cardinal.
One thing that drove me crazy: the Roman characters in the Papacy have British accents. (while the French characters, inexplicably, have French accents...) I could not get over the accents… Don’t even get me started on the recurring line “….I’m a Borgia”, it made me laugh every time! While I understand that it was it was a creative decision made by the producers of the show, it seemed wrong. The dialog tries to sound fancy and old, like how people may have actually spoken in the time period. Instead it draws attention and feels like a modern script adapted for an older time period.
The Borgias is a guilty pleasure, and I certainly made fun of it despite binge watching it in a couple weeks time. The clothing, castles, and other visual treats are wonderful. The dialog, storyline, and accents can be laughable. But if you’re looking for inspiration from the Renaissance, it’s a great place to start.
World Without End on Netflix
Since I’m only two episodes into this show, I can offer an early opinion. Of the shows I’ve watched, World Without End shows the most realistic and gritty view of the Middle Ages. In the first episode alone, there was one murder by poison, three examples of corporal punishment, and two attempted or successful rapes. I definitely had to turn my head away from some of the bodily injury happening on screen. Nonetheless, the show feels realistic in a way others fall short. I’m looking forward to seeing more of the twisted Medieval world in Kingsbridge.
Tales of Irish Castles
This show is a little different than the rest. In six episodes, it covers stories of castles and Irish history from Medieval - Modern days. It’s intriguing, especially because I don’t know much about the English ruling Ireland and all the effects of that. There are stories of battles, parties, sieges, and kidnappings. If you prefer a documentary to a ridiculous show like The Borgias, this will be your jam!
Now that I’m thoroughly de-compressed from pre-compression, I’m ready to write a short re-cap of the event.
I have to start by saying that (as a burner), I really appreciate the concepts of pre- and de- compression. These are two events that happen in relation to (before and after) TTID. To understand why any type of “compression” is a good idea, and all you need to do is attend Burning Man.
I actually met my husband Trevor at NYC’s Pre-Compression in 2011. I wasn’t paying too much attention to Burning Man at the time, although I was starting to realize what it was. Trevor was getting ready to go to the burn, and scored a free ticket to Pre-Compression because he volunteered for an art collective that had a piece on display. At the event, I was floored by the art piece. It was a giant honey comb that people were sitting in and climbing on. This was exactly the kind of art I loved, participatory, and activated by the user. When Trevor told me he helped build it, I was definitely impressed. When he described the process and I told him I knew what a jig was, he was equally impressed. He went on to go to Burning Man two weeks later, while I stayed home for work and school, but we remained a couple to this day :) It turns out, Burning Man is a lot of the reason we met in the first place, and also a reason for us to work and play together.
I decided to volunteer our theme camp to participate in SF’s Pre-Compression at American Steel this year because I wanted an event to bring our theme camp together before the burn.
Burners know that there’s a lot of preparation going into that one week in the desert. Those with theme camps and art cars are quite familiar with weekends spent at storage or in a truck, moving dusty and unwieldy things, just to PREPARE for Burning Man. But it’s safe to say that the majority of people don’t know anything about THAT aspect of the burn. Many don’t realize that running a theme camp, attending regional events, and getting ready for TTID, is like a full time job. It’s akin to running a business, with none of the monetary profit! But we do this job because we love it…. And I’m still trying to decide if we do it IN SPITE of the hard work, or BECAUSE it’s hard work.
In May, Trevor and I made the first trip to our new Reno storage. Our friend Wendy had some items she was storing in Reno so they’d be there for the burn every year. (She was coming from NYC and didn’t want to transport bikes, tents and other supplies back and forth each year) Back in December, she decided she didn’t want the burden of a storage unit, or the commitment to attend Burning Man every year. She was looking for someone to purchase the contents of her unit and the storage agreement. Since we were building up our theme camp, I decided to purchase the items and storage unit from her. Although this all happened in December/Jan, last weekend was the first time Trevor and I could go check out the storage unit in Reno.
The plan was to get a bigger unit in Reno and move the items from our Oakland storage to Reno, closer to the burn. We’ll be doing this in several trips throughout the summer, until eventually we can get rid of the Oakland storage unit and keep all our supplies in Reno.
The project started on Friday in Oakland. We packed the car up and slept in our apartment Friday night, then woke up early Saturday morning to drive to Reno. It was slightly panic-inducing since the storage offices in Reno close around 5 pm, and we would need to find a new, bigger storage unit and move in as soon as we landed in Reno. While Trevor drove, I called different companies to see what was available and get quotes.
When we arrived at Reno, there was a clear winner - a 10x12 unit (about 3 times the size of our Oakland unit) costing 95/month. First, we went to Wendy’s unit to see what was inside. Then, we went to the location of our new unit to rent our space. (Like most storage companies in the area, this one only had one unit available) With a 10x12 room, we’d have square footage to spare, which is definitely a plus when it comes to storage.
While we were waiting for someone to show us to the new unit, I idly opened Facebook and saw a post in the Burning Man Theme Camp Organizers group. Someone posted that their theme camp was at THEIR storage unit moving things in and out, and getting rid of a bunch of items. Their storage was in Gerlach, the tiny town right outside of BRC and two hours from Reno. They posted a photo of what they were giving away, and my eye caught the one thing our theme camp needs - Carpet! Trevor and I decided we had to make the trip out to Gerlach to get on this free carpet that another theme camp no longer needed.
So after loading up our brand new storage unit, we hit the road again. This time we were heading into the deep desert, far from Reno. The drive was absolutely beautiful. It was the first time we had made the drive when NO ONE was around. Usually, we’d be going for Burning Man or Juplaya, when there are plenty of other cars on the road and a sense that you could be rescued in an emergency. But for THIS trip, we we didn’t pass a single vehicle on the road. We did see a pack of dogs hanging out on in the street in Pyramid Lake, and that was super cute. They smiled at us and we went on our way. Other than that there were very few signs of life on the entire drive.
When we arrived in Gerlach, there were about 20 campmates unloading a shipping container, and piles of the familiar camp infrastructure sprawled on the ground. The stack of carpet I saw in their photo was as big and wonderful as expected. We took a lot, but not all of it. In half an hour we loaded our van with about 15-20 rolls carpet, which would be all we need for this burn and all we could transport. Thanks to Camp Orange, we now can have carpet in our public and private camping areas, and we will save some $$ from buying new!
After this random side-adventure, we drove back to Reno and found a place to eat dinner. It was about 9 pm, so we went to Jonny Rockets in the Grand Sierra. This hotel turns into burner central after Burning Man ends and people slowly trickle back into civilization. We’ve only seen the hotel full of dusty burners trying to get showers and keep the playa magic alive at the pool. But tonight, it was full of families walking around and enjoying casino nightlife. There were groups of kids exploring and playing games, and parents walking around with beers. It was very surreal to see people hanging out in a casino like that, but it was the first time I’d been in a Reno casino. The meal at Jonny Rockets was amazing - since we were working pretty hard and hadn’t eaten a meal since 10 am back in CA. I can’t be sure since I was so hungry, but I think the burgers were better at the Reno Jonny Rockets than the one near our apartment in San Francisco Fisherman’s Wharf.
After dinner, we found a truck stop and were sleeping by 10:30 pm. I was too tired to brush my teeth OR change into pajamas, so it wasn’t surprising that we both fell asleep immediately. The next day we returned to the storage unit and loaded it full of our free carpet, which we were sleeping on top of the night before.
Somehow, this weekend full of driving and loading and unloading was FUN to us. It felt like we got a lot of work done, and we also had some great adventures along the way. Hopefully by doing slow and steady work over the summer, we’ll prevent burnout from cramming all that work into August. We are already planning our next Reno trip, since there’s plenty more things to move and many more adventures to have.