Playa Del Feugo (PDF): My First Burn | Uncustomary Art
Art installation at the front of camp by “Ursula Sadiq”/Balls Camp

You’ve probably heard of an event called Burning Man, at least in passing. If you would have asked me about it a year ago, I would have only been able to tell you it was a huge event in the dessert for hippies, but that’s such an incomplete thought it’s basically incorrect. I still haven’t been to Burning Man, but I did attend my first burn ever this weekend, Playa Del Feugo.

Playa Del Feugo (PDF) is an event sponsored by the same people who put on Burning Man. There are tons of regional burner events across the country, and this is pretty much the closest one to where I live. A month after I met Joe, he headed off to PDF with his group of friends that I’ve grown to love over the past eight months. They told me I’d love the event, and I believed them, but I was still nervous about it.

Playa Del Feugo (PDF): My First Burn | Uncustomary Art
Joe and I right before we left PDF *

A burn is something you truly have to experience first-hand to fully understand, but now that I have, I’m going to do my best to really give you a description of what happens there and recommend it to you with my whole heart.

PDF happens in a giant field on the grounds of the Vietnam Veterans Motorcycle Club in Townsend, Delaware. It starts Thursday evening and everyone has to be off the property by noon on Monday. Lots of people get there Thursday night, but even more trickle in Friday and Saturday. It happens twice a year, on the weekends of Memorial Day and Columbus Day. Tickets are purchased in a lottery fashion, and are $50 a person.

Playa Del Feugo (PDF): My First Burn | Uncustomary Art
How Joe set up our tent the first night

You are expected to bring everything with you that you would need for the duration of your stay. It’s kind of like fancy camping. Everyone brings tents, but most people come in larger groups so there is a big communal space where you can spend time, make food, etc. Our camp is called Shut Up Dinosaur Stu, and we all have dinosaur onesies. Although our camp has a theme of dinosaurs, it’s not one of the official themed camps. There are a few registered theme camps with fun names like Camp Justice League (super hero themed) and Philly Phreaks (sideshow themed).

The only thing that can be purchased at Playa is ice. Everything else you either bring yourself or receive as a gift. Gift giving is one of the ten principles that are applied at burns like this, and it’s kind of intense. The idea is that everyone brings a gift to the community. That gift might be an art project you make and show off, like the tape art LED-lit dinosaur Joe made (Dino S. Thompson), a service you provide, like a Costume Camp that gives out free clothing, accessories, and props, or a meal you make, like the question-mark-shaped pancakes that Camp ? made for anyone who wanted one on Saturday morning. I brought “You Are Beautiful” stickers and my “Perfectly Adequate Performance” ribbons to hand out to people, and it was really cool to see people wearing them throughout the event.

Playa Del Feugo (PDF): My First Burn | Uncustomary Art
Joe’s tape art dinosaur, Dino S. Thompson, filled with 120 feet of L-wire

Gift giving is only one of ten of the principles at events like these, though. You can learn more about them here, but they are as follows:

Radical Inclusion
Radical Self-Reliance
Racial Self-Expression
Communal Effort
Civic Responsbility
Leaving No Trace

Playa Del Feugo (PDF): My First Burn | Uncustomary Art
A reminder about consent

Something that’s really wonderful is the idea that in a five-day period, a space goes from an empty field, to a fully operational city/ecosystem, back to an empty field. Once everyone scurries back home Monday afternoon, you would have no idea anything ever happened there, because all the participants have a great sense of self-reliance and leaving no trace of MOOP (“matter out of place”). There aren’t even any trash cans, you just take everything with you. More than that, though, there is this beautiful message of impermanence, where a temporary piece of magic exists and disappears. If you blink, you might miss it.

Playa Del Feugo (PDF): My First Burn | Uncustomary Art
Joe and I with one of the burned pieces of art, with the artist “Check” **

There are no judgments in this space, and all types of people attend. I saw people in elaborate costumes, onesies, and naked as the day they were born. There were stilt-walkers, fire dancers, and jugglers. Lots of circles came together in harmony, and most overlapped. There are no cliques, there are no stereotypes, there are no categories of people. They’re all burners, and they’re all there for fun.

Playa Del Feugo (PDF): My First Burn | Uncustomary Art
The best representation of the Naked Slip N’ Slide I can give since no photos are allowed there ;)

One of my favorite forms of self-expression was an event on Saturday called the Naked Slip N’ Slide, which is exactly what it sounds like. Anyone who wanted stripped down, ran 20 or so feet, and propelled their naked bodies onto a massive slip and slide. A giant group formed, cheering everyone on. I’d say that running naked is one of the most vulnerable positions you can be in physically, in terms of potential judgement. You’re not in control of how your body looks. There are no Myspace Angles, your cellulite and rolls of fat move freely, but no one cares. No one is judging you, they’re just cheering for you. Can you imagine feeling that free and being genuinely encouraged for it?

Playa Del Feugo (PDF): My First Burn | Uncustomary Art
Saturday’s burn (Pony)

Playa Del Feugo (PDF): My First Burn | Uncustomary Art
Running around the fire

Saturday and Sunday nights, as soon as the sun left the sky, we headed to the main field where a burn occurred. This is where burns and burners get their name. At these events, giant wooden sculptures, made and donated by participants at the event, are set ablaze while everyone at camp watches. The first night they burned two, including a pony with fireworks installed inside. The next night was the Art Burn, where they burned at least six wooden installations, many of which we were encouraged to write on throughout the event. For example, there were three massive letters (P, D, F) with different prompts, asking you to write your answers directly on the sculpture. (Example: D was for dream. What would you do if you won 100 million dollars? Write it down.) It was very cathartic to watch these collaborative projects be burned, and once they fell down, the firefighters there to ensure safety would whip their arm in the air, signifying that we could all run around the fire. It was primal and beautiful.

Playa Del Feugo (PDF): My First Burn | Uncustomary Art
One of the art burns on Sunday

Ultimately, this place was fantastic. A man dressed up as Santa on stilts, and pushed around a cart to deliver gifts to people at the camps, there were twinkle and LED lights everywhere, and one camp built a giant climbing sculpture that allowed you to see the entire event at once if you reached the top. Joe and I climbed it, and it might have been one of my favorite parts. There was even a basket for your stuff that you could pull up once you got up there! (That way I didn’t have to worry about carrying my camera on a ladder and could still snap a photo!)

Playa Del Feugo (PDF): My First Burn | Uncustomary Art
The tower we climbed

Playa Del Feugo (PDF): My First Burn | Uncustomary Art
Made it to the top! **

As I hugged everyone goodbye, Mike said something to me that kind of wrapped up the entire experience for me. He said burns are kind of the environment that I try to create every day with the fun, silly things I do, and he really appreciates that I do that in normal life. That’s when I realized that I belonged here all along, and it just took me twenty-six years to find it. My friend, April, told me finding the burner community is like the Blind Melon video for “No Rain” when the bee finds her people. I’ve always loved that song, but never saw the video, and it’s perfect.

Playa Del Feugo (PDF): My First Burn | Uncustomary Art
One of the two massive balloon arches that stretches across camp

I wouldn’t have had this experience without these fantastic human beings, and I appreciate each and every one of them. We babed so hard this weekend, and this is just the beginning.

Playa Del Feugo (PDF): My First Burn | Uncustomary Art
Our camp group photo **

PS – Here’s some silly video footage for you of us dinos destroying a city. We’re pretty cool.

If you have any questions about the event, please leave them in the comments. I didn’t really cover minute details like food, showering, specific events, etc. so if you want to know something for your own edification, please ask! I’ll do my best to answer. And please check out the website for PDF for more information. I hope to see you there in October.

Photo Credit: * Maura Housley Photography, ** Strangers

In guerrilla art language, there’s a lot of “bombs”. We yarnbomb, seedbomb, and eyebomb. Eyebombing is just the act of adding googly eyes to inanimate objects. It’s very cheap to get the supplies, easy to carry out, and produces fun and silly results!

Eyebombing Supplies

Googly eyes – You can purchase these at your local craft (or dollar) store. They come in extremely varied sizes from just a few millimeters to as big as your face.

Adhesive – Some googly eyes are self-adhesive, but not most. (The big ones are more likely to have a sticky back.) But if they’re smooth on the flat side, you can just get yourself some glue dots! They do the trick nicely.

An inanimate object – Anything will work! A recycle bin, food, a building. A stain in the sidewalk, a parking meter, an ad at the bus stop.

An imagination – Anything inanimate can come to life just by adding eyes! So what do you see potential in?

Eyebombing: Googly Eye Guerrilla Art | Uncustomary Art
Recycling bin in Patterson Park
Eyebombing: Googly Eye Guerrilla Art | Uncustomary Art
Bunch of bananas at a grocery store in Brooklyn
(As soon as I finished, I hid by the grapes. Soon, a young lady walked over, grabbed the bananas by the top of the bunch, looked around quickly, and power walked to the register to buy them.)
Eyebombing: Googly Eye Guerrilla Art | Uncustomary Art
Jungle Gym equipment by my house
Eyebombing: Googly Eye Guerrilla Art | Uncustomary Art
A friend’s mailbox
Eyebombing: Googly Eye Guerrilla Art | Uncustomary Art
A door out for the garbage men on a street in Baltimore
Eyebombing: Googly Eye Guerrilla Art | Uncustomary Art
A trash can in an alley in my neighborhood
Eyebombing: Googly Eye Guerrilla Art | Uncustomary Art
My boyfriend’s refrigerator

Eyebombing: Googly Eye Guerrilla Art | Uncustomary Art

You can also easily make googly eyes out of just paper and marker! I made some giant ones for this building, and they turned out just fine even though the black circles didn’t move and weren’t covered in plastic.

Eyebombing: Googly Eye Guerrilla Art | Uncustomary Art
A wall in Hampden

Googly eyes make everything silly! You can see more Eyebombing, or submit your own!

What are you going to eyebomb? Which of these is your favorite?

I haven’t done very much to accommodate your desire for “More Bug” on the blog (except the video footage I posted a few months ago), so today I want to show you his bed. I say his bed as if this is the only place he sleeps, but he honestly rarely does. Not because he doesn’t like it, but because all furniture is his and he sleeps wherever he wants.

Other places he sleeps: two different purple chairs, velvet love seat, my bed, studio couch, windowsill cushion in the studio, top bedroom bed, under my desk, under the studio desk next to the vent, in the sink, in the living room window.

This bed is made out of a suitcase that Cristen was going to get rid of when she was cleaning out her apartment. I put in a blanket, his toys, and a rainbow swirly thing that Karen sent me. I used Velcro strips to put up letters that say “Bug’s Bed”, but because they’re Velcro it can also say “Bed Bugs”, which is honestly just as accurate.

Bug’s birthday is coming up on June 1st. He is going to be 5 years old!! Can you believe that? He is accepting presents in the way of treats, toys, and death certificates of birds.

This is less than 25% of his toys. He’s spoiled as hell. Some of his toys are things that were once mine, but he stole, like the cute Ariel doll from Jaclyn. Also in his bed right now are the witch hedgehog, the iridescent bat, and the dinosaur that used to hang in from my rear view window. There’s also his wand that has some colorful ribbons and a crocheted eyeball on the end of it. He likes that.

Does your cat have a bed?

I’m having a regular conversation with a friend, and I say something about how it would be easier to find tops to wear if I wasn’t fat. They give me a sad puppy dog face and say, “Aw, Mary! You’re not fat!”, and the disappointment begins.

This isn’t a one-time scenario I’m describing. It happens all the time. It has happened with friends, strangers, lovers. It’s very very rare that when I use the word “fat” to describe myself I’m saying it in a negative whine-y voice. I’m usually just using it as an adjective because it fits what I’m talking about. I’m not saying I’m fat so you can disagree with me or compliment me, I’m saying it because it’s accurate.

Why It's Okay For Me To Say Fat | Uncustomary Art

You know how when your tall friends complain that it’s hard to find a dress because their legs are so long so everything ends up too short? Would you ever look at them sad and say, “Babe! You’re not tall at all!”? I’m gonna say no. It’s a descriptor, just like “fat”. The only reason we react differently to that word versus tall, short, tan, brunette, or thin is because it’s stigmatized. It’s bad in our society to be fat, so we assume that when that word comes up we have to defend the person’s honor?

One time, someone said “Aw, Mary. I don’t think of you as fat”, which was interesting. I don’t think of anyone as their physical status. I mean, if I have to describe them, sure. I’ll tell you what color their hair is, how tall they are, what their body is like, if they wear glasses. But in my mind’s eye, my friends are my friends. They are just their names and the spirit they generate, not their weight, and I hope that’s the case for everyone, because if all you can think about when you think of me is my size, then you have some problems of your own to work out.

I’m not saying being fat is easy, though. We live in a time where it’s not only stigmatized, it’s ridiculed. We’re getting better as a culture and slowly moving in the right direction, (as with a lot of things like the acceptance of other lifestyles like sexual and gender orientation) but it’s still not great. And being a fat woman is worse. It just is. It’s not even that it’s a double “minority” situation, it’s that it’s more accepted to be a fat guy! If a group of fat men wore speedos and did a car wash it would be hilarious, and if a group of fat women did the same thing in bikinis it would be either “gross” or “brave”.

Why It's Okay For Me To Say Fat | Uncustomary Art

Don’t tell me I’m brave for wearing a bikini. I’m wearing a bikini because I want to wear a bikini. I’m all for people dressing in a way that is “flattering for their shape” IF that is something that makes them feel good. But if you are told you can only wear A-line skirts to be attractive and you don’t want to wear A-line skirts, then DO NOT WEAR A-LINE SKIRTS. If you’re happiest in overall shorts or leopard print leggings then just wear those things, even if a modeling agency isn’t going to stop you on the street and hand you a card. Want a beach body? Take your body to the beach.

I don’t care what you think, though. If you’re going to judge me for my body type or what clothes I’m putting on my body, we wouldn’t be good friends anyway. I’ve been all the sizes. I’ve been anorexic. I’ve been clinically underweight. I’ve been overweight. I’ve been bigger than I ever thought would be possible as a teenager. I have stretch marks and a double chin, and I don’t care. It’s completely fine. Those stretch marks represent a time when I sacrificed a thin body for happiness (i.e. the side effects of taking medication that would drastically improve my mental illness symptoms), and I never looked back. I’ve maintained a healthy body internally, all of my numbers for sugar, cholesterol, etc. are completely normal, and it’s important to me that I stay healthy if only to live a long life on this fantastic planet, but that’s actually no one’s business but mine.

If someone is fat and upset about it, help them make a change. Be a support system for healthy eating and getting your body moving! But also let them know that they’re beautiful already. Never settle for something that doesn’t make you happy, including your body. But make sure that you really figure out why you’re unhappy with that body! Is it because you feel you’re supposed to look a certain way? If you were to spend a week all alone in your house, just by yourself, would your body bother you? Or are you worried about how you look in comparison to other people? There’s no right answer, and everyone is different. I just want everyone to be happy and love themselves, and sometimes it’s more important to work on self acceptance instead of self improvement. And for Pete’s sake, if your friend is describing herself as fat to you, maybe just let her say it. Let’s take back that word! It doesn’t have to be bad. It’s just different. And different is fabulous.

I want to hear what you think about this. What do you think of the word “fat”?

You may also like: PS – I’m Plus Size

Photo Credit: Cristen Hoyt

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