Thursday, December 07, 2006

the nature of friendship

it’s taken me quite awhile to write this because I don’t know if I can truly do my friends and the importance of them to me justice.

in 2002 I went to my first burningman. it’s a weeklong arts festival in the nevada desert that means something different to each person that goes. self expression, self reliance, undefined art, music, dancing, community are some things many people get from burningman. it’s meant to be a gift society where people give freely without expecting compensation. for me in my first year the biggest gift I got was what I lost.

I was urged to go by my friend sean. he had gone the previous year and was moved by the art cars. you see when you arrive at this 30,000 plus event you are not allowed to drive your personal car. you bike, walk or whatever else you can think up. but you don’t drive. unless your car is considered a moving piece of art. after 2001 sean started making his first sculpture – an illuminated purple seahorse. with the help of many of his friends he made a seahorse art car. three tall seahorses lead out front as he drove atop a van that had two giant hearts on either side. soft squishy passionate music that he carefully chose gently reached out from the sides of the car. this was Love & Seahorses.

sean built that car as a thank you to the ones he had seen the year before. they had truly changed his life. it was made for and by his friends and that week we spent each night on top of his underwater chariot.

from 1971 to 2002 I was a shy internal person. truthfully I held back precious pieces of myself – too scared to let them into the light of the world. afraid that no one would notice them or not even care if they did. but worse than that – I believed all that time that those pieces were garbage. that I wasn’t worth loving.

but in august of 2002 deep into one night as I sat on sean’s seahorse car I felt a change. something in me told me that my fears about my little sis asha, my troubled mom, myself – they needed to leave.

I turned to sean and patrick (one of sean’s friends) and timidly began to speak. I felt uncomfortable about talking about serious things and possibly bringing down my friend who had worked so hard to make his art. I remember sean, generous and giving, stopping his car – what he had labored for a year for – and saying “hold on man, I want to hear this”. and patrick intently making eye contact with me as if to not let me crawl back and hide. it took some time but it all came out. about myself and how undeserving I felt of anything good. I remember feeling black chunky weights leaving my back and shoulders – floating up into the desert night. I remember the glowing purple and gold and blue lights of the seahorses and the soft cloud of hope filled music. when all the words I needed to say were gone the only thing I found left was the truth. the truth that I learned that night was that everyone is capable of doing anything.
and with good friends we are more than capable. I believe this and it can never be unlearned. even on my worst days I can still play one of sean’s seahorse songs (sugar plant’s ‘happy’) and remember.

my lessons weren’t done there but merely begun. since that time I have become more confident. life became alive. I have traveled the world and experienced emotions that I never let myself before.

now it’s 2006 and things are different. sean is a well known sculptor and both patrick and he were funded by burningman to bring art cars out. patrick’s were two 90’ tall driveable flowers (a daisy & a venus flytrap) and sean was bringing out another van this time surrounded by an illuminated sea dragon, dragonflies and a 25’ long two headed dragon with green laser eyes. as before two hearts leaned on either side of the van. this was Love & Dragons.

it was difficult this year. things didn’t flow and move as easily as 2002. all of my friendships got tested out there in the desert heat but in the end they became stronger. I realize now that the one common quality in all of you is how uncommon you all are. none of you are letting your life pass you by and I want to thank you for sweeping me up in your currents. you are the love in my life and everything good in me is because of and for you.

here are some personal highlights for my 2006 with you:

the french toast and hugs gang in new york city and at burningman (under patrick’s amazing flower!). our gang fed at least 500 people this year (and ftx santa monica will be happening early next year).

grace, my 1972 chevelle, at burningman. (patrick, who nothing seems to be impossible for, was able to get me a pass to drive my car out there even though it wasn’t registered as an art car. one of my favorite moments was when I stepped back one night as the 90’ tall daisy flower and the dragon car bookended my grace. I overheard two older guys talking and figured they were marveling at my friends’ work. but no, they were arguing whether grace was a ’71 or a ’72!)

patrick, sean and myself posing in front of our legendary vehicles.

I want to thank patrick, mez, donna rose, derek, aaron, justin, donna sobczak & dave for graciously allowing me to have a memorable dinner.

finding true love (in a pizza) at difara’s pizzeria (Be there December 17th!)

learning to drag race and shoot guns with my friend andrea (on separate days!) and help her with a short film. Turns out it DOESN’T matter if you’re cross-eyed dominant when you’re firing a submachinegun.

my friend leslie rents a house that has a whole bunch of gigantor avocado trees! from time to time she has an avocado pickin’ party where you just show up and pick cados. I’m telling you, I’ve never felt more like a man than after a freshly bagged crop of cados. (although I took so many this last time that I may be benched for the next event).

leah hardstark’s punch –n- pie party. she also did a grace photo shoot with mez and myself at an auto body shop called ‘funk bros.’

a coney island pilgrimage with the orphans (my 2nd gang).

bull lee
I’ve been friends with J. Dissed since college and have been fortunate enough to get to listen to him play guitar in a bunch of different styles. his current outfit is punk band ‘bull lee’. I imagine that watching him and his friend - bass player / horror film maestro BC - rock on stage to be like watching the ramones if the ramones had actually been brothers.

I was able to catch up with college friend jorah for a day. the result of which was a 3 page digital comic about grace complete with talking car voice and red switch for warp drive.

FINALLY getting to see in a theatre the double feature of mad max and the road warrior (the best movie ever made). I pull up to the theatre to meet mez and sure enough there’s my parking spot – right under the marquee.

it had been 4 years since my last visit to san francisco. there I met 1 year old barry (the son of kimery and arj). barry likes toys, the park, his cat. barry also likes chevelles. he has the honor of having the first kid’s seat in my car. who can really say if it was grace who rocked him to sleep or the exhaust.
does it matter?

my wonderful friends mary and christian got to adopt baby boy luke. luke is the 1st ftx toddler and represented his gang colors at the ocktoberfest in germany .

my friend daisy mertzel invited me on a short northern california road trip to walker, ca. there I watched my first rubber duck race as a 1000 rubber ducks were sent down a river to raise money to benefit local fishermen. if you don’t know daisy (ftx 5!) then now here’s your chance. she is an amazing person and started a non-profit called ‘send-a-hug’. through her time and love she has created a way for people to give a hug to a stranger. she collects stuffed animal donations as well as a Polaroid photo and letter from the donor. she then travels in her rv with her pup percy (ftx 4!) and finds people in need. she gives them a hug and a stuffed present with a note and a photo. they then write a thank you note and take a picture which is promptly dropped in the mail back to the giver. it seems simple and like good things it really is. it makes the world a bit smaller and a lot friendlier as you see the face of the person you helped smile on that day. daisy started this when hurricane Katrina hit but has much much bigger plans. her birthday is december 8th and I was happy to drive around southern california picking up send-a-hug donations to surprise her with. we closed in on around 100!

if you scroll down a bit my friend henry (ftx 38) wrote a bit about his young son jack’s grover donation:
jack’s send-a-hug experience

henry also has written about ftx and send-a-hug here:

these are daisy’s sites for send-a-hug. feel free to pass them on so that more people can learn about it!:

my new friend erica and her pup bailey introduced me to the wonders of a dog beach! am I the only one that never heard of this???

bel, one of my closest friends, will be having a baby girl next march. she is the first friend that I have been able to watch first hand as she grows and changes during her pregnancy. I love to document life and she has been kind enough to let me photograph the growth of her belly alongside grace. belen I am so proud to be your friend. you are one of the strongest people I know and have never looked lovelier.

dear sarah I want to thank you for the note you wrote me. it is full of friendship and hope in the future. I have never gotten anything like it and I will hold it close always.

all this and the year isn’t even over yet. I will be seeing my little sis asha soon (for a rocky 1 – 6 fest!) and my east coast friends Jamie, Linda, Jimmy, Trish, Debbie, Angela, Braden and Ken.

in closing (I know I know, but it’s been a full year!):
my favorite moment this year didn’t happen out there on the burningman playa. it was on the drive home. my friend messrob and I were hoping to drive grace up to the event at scorched-earth speeds but instead we needed to follow the truck holding the dragon sculptures at a dismal pace of 55mph. at one point I woke up to mez at the wheel (the first person I’ve really let take grace out) and heard some new sound. it was driving growling music from a band I’d never heard of – ‘the black angels’. the chorus for the song simply went “kill kill kill kill”. I listened to that song and then 2 more. they made me think of speeding into the night – with my car on fire! needless to say i loved it! I turned to him and said “if we’re gonna listen to music like this then I have to drive.” he laughed and let me take my girl out for a bit.

a week and a few days later it was just us three – we were coming home. mez, grace and i road down the black 5 fwy hitting the grapevine at 100mph.

road kill. road killers.

the black angels screamed and grace rumbled as mez and I spontaneously burst into laughter. it was a mad (max) crazy laugh. finally, at maximum velocity, my own art car around us, perfect music pushing forward and a great friend beside me I had finally found my seahorse moment for this year.

but this time it wasn’t me that opened up – it was grace.

to look at the photos that go with this story please go here:

Back to Dashboard


Post a Comment

<< Home