Tag Archives: burning man

Bebe’s Health Insurance

I’m not typically one to be overly concerned about the physical appearance of my functional physical possessions so when my van, Bebe the Bimbo Box, was turned into a golf ball by hundreds of hail divots I originally wrote it off as an aerodynamics enhancement. It was only after I noticed the cracked windshield that I started seeing dollar signs and let my friends convince me that after throwing money into the insurance system my entire adult life, it was time to cash in.

Bebe on the road to Burning Man
There were so many cars waiting for inspection after the massive hail storm in Austin that I had to set up an appointment two weeks in advance. When I rolled it into one of the four inspection bays I parked next to a shining 1940s era pickup with no visible damage. Clearly the idea of cashing in was getting around. The next car I saw had received a bit less of a peppering than mine, but the car was much newer and nicer. The well dressed Indian woman who drove it away was aghast that they were quoting $3600 worth of damage. That’s when I started to get nervous. Bebe is only worth about $4200.

Bebe’s original role in my life was as a cheap ride to Burning Man. I had a crew of people eager to wander lost through dust storms in a waterless desert wearing tutus but none of them owned a car. When I looked into rentals it was quickly obvious that I could do a much better job buying a van, writing it off as a business expense (I planned to shoot more footage) and then selling it as soon as the tax year rolled around on January 1st.

When I found her Bebe was being sold off to earn money for a Cancer nonprofit. She just needed just a bit of spit on a rag and an alignment to be road ready. I looked no further. She’s a Honda Odyssey, the first model made in 1995, and so at almost 250,000 miles still had plenty of life left to get us to Nevada and back.

The adventure was executed perfectly, with only one brief gaff when the speedometer went out and I was lead to believe that we’d prematurely donated all of our transmission fluid to the barren texas landscape from whence it came. We got to Burning Man and back without a speeding ticket and on returning ripped out all of the protective plastic we’d carefully taped over the interior. With the playa dust out, she was beautiful and ready to sell. There was only one catch: I had fallen in love.

I mean, come on, Hondas have troopered me through thousands of road trips and, unlike my Accord, I don’t have to wake up in the trunk in a ball when I sleep in the back! Better yet, Bebe has a rear bench seat that folds completely into the floor. With a little mattress I can almost beat out a VW Microbus with 60X the reliability!

Bebe on the road to Burning Man

Bebe is also the ultimate stealth vehicle. The bumper stickers on the back are all about “jr. high honors student” and, “My kid is in the high school band”. This was, at first glance, all very amusing until we found the note in the glove box, the clue that revealed the truth about the van’s true role as a carefully crafted mob cover vehicle. The signed note read, “please excuse Sylvia from school today, she isn’t feeling well.” It was all a little too perfect.

At last the bouncing little inspector who had been crawling around my dear friend and tapping on an electronic tablet returned. “There are more than 200 dents in the hood alone. You’re looking at about $7000 in damage. It’s probably totaled.” At first, my heart sank. But the future isn’t so bleak just yet. Apparently if the cost of repair is greater than the value of the car, the insurance company will either buy the car from you for its value or give you some chunk of the money to get it fixed and refuse to offer comprehensive insurance in the future.

I’ve spent a lot of years and extra money sticking with State Farm based on their reputation for treating customers well when it was time for money to flow the other direction so I’m hoping this will work out for the best. If all goes well I’ll be able to fix the windshield, resign to the fact that I’ll never be able to sell her, and thereby justify turning Bebe into an outrageous art car!

Please feel free, dear reader, to flood me with suggestions for what that might look like..!

Flipside 2008

The flaming tetherball-induced burn blisters on my right arm are beginning to heal. A couple of rounds of cheap shampoo took care of most of my funk and the socks I wore have been properly disposed of. After an intense, relentless nap I’m ready to type out a few lines about Flipside 2008.

Flipside Effigy Burn 2008
“It’s like Renfaire. And hippies. But not at all. Much smarter. And also, dumber.” My friend Zekahh was struggling to use her first few hours of the event to crush it into an intellectual box as we floating naked in the creek during the hot afternoon. I’m always curious about how people see these things now. When I first went to Burning Man in 1996, it was the most incredible experience I’d had to date. People treated each other in a universally playful, intellectual, and loving way that I found astounding and helped break me out of a shell I’d put around myself. Being surrounded by so many people that felt like me made me feel much better about letting the weirder parts of myself out.

These days I’m immersed in that culture. Going to the desert is like going home and Flipside is a family reunion picnic. Huge fireballs thundering into the sky, crowds screaming, tesla coils surging webbed streaks of lightning overhead while singing in harmony… these are a familiar backdrop as I hug friends and catch up on their latest projects and romantic entanglements. It’s really hard for me to imagine what this would be like for someone new.

Every year’s event seems to have a personal theme. This time mine was about spending time by myself and figuring out who I am when I don’t have someone else’s needs and desires to concern me. Without a girlfriend and without having convinced anyone to come, I was responsible for no one but myself and it gave me a chance to remember that, hey, I’m not such a bad guy. I’ve been letting the fact that I wasn’t giving everyone what they wanted creep in and strangle me with guilt. I reminded myself, yet again, that I’m not responsible for making sure everyone around me is happy all of the time.

Of course I also got to ride a spring-loaded duck and a massive dinosaur hobby horse. I had far too much fun grabbing people in the fun house with sock puppets. I ran in sandals at top speed towards a radar gun to try to beat my friend’s record. I looked up at the stars. I counseled a confused man about women on top of a fire-spewing tower while swapping a bottle of whiskey. I ran in a giant wooden hamster wheel and rode it across a field. I had a slumber party with dear old friends who had scattered. I danced my posterior off to electric thump. I hugged strangers and was fed honey. I played Go on a dance floor later covered with beautiful belly dancing women. I loved. I was loved. I lived. It was good.

As always, click on photos to link to photographer’s Flickr page