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BMEFest 2005

In 1994, when I first joined AOL, I met a guy in a chat who introduced me to the rec.arts.bodyart newsgroup (RAB). On RAB, I met a bunch of jerks... and some really special people. One of them is Shannon Larratt. Before I learned better than to put my emotions out on the web, Shannon provided some honest emotional support for me. I could open up to him without fear of him spilling my secrets. Indeed, he was a constant source of reassurance. I don't think that Shannon knows how much he has done for me. Imagine being the fat girl your whole life, the hanger-on, the one who always gets picked last for sports and who gets picked on for being smart. Then imagine being given a place to call Home. That home is BMEZine (BME), a web site devoted to all aspects of body modification. It's almost surely the largest such site in the world,; It contains photo and written documentation by professionals and by amateurs, and includes a blog space with over nine thousand members. BME is not just a space but a community with peers who, for the most part, don't judge you for how you look except when they're admiring you. It can still bring me to tears. People who regularly frequent BME know that, within the community, there are regular "events" hosted by different people and groups. There are get-togethers at tattoo conventions and private barbecues. There are events at which the media shows up, and events that the media couldn't begin to handle. Perhaps the most anticipated is BMEFest, an annual event hosted by Shannon and his wife, Rachel. Shannon and Rachel moved to La Paz, Mexico at the end of 2004/beginning of 2005. Therefore, that is where the 2005 BMEFest was held. Rachel and Shannon (according to Shannon, almost entirely Rachel) found a lovely beach area and prepared the best party in the world. For a nominal fee (once one got one's self to La Paz), there was round-trip bus/shuttle from a central meeting place to the beach ... where there was an all-you-can-eat buffet and open bar (beer and frozen drinks!), T-shirt, and wrist band. Entertainment was not only provided in the form of a fire performance by HÃ¥vve (http://www.painsolution.net), but also the opportunity to spend time with people one might never have had the chance to meet otherwise.
For a second (also nominal fee), Rachel had chartered several boats to take us on a boat tour before the BMEFest official start time. The boat tour wasn't a simple ride around the islands. We were all silenced by the beauty of the rocks that Nature had taken millions of years to create. The water was a pure, true green -- not a reflection of the sky, and not murky and slimy like a swamp. It was like bottle-glass, and clear enough that we could see schools of fish swimming alongside our boats. At one point, the boats stopped so that we could snorkel with sea lions. I, and a few others, didn't snorkel for several reasons. (I can swim a little, probably enough to have had a great time, but was petrified that I'd lose my eyeglasses at the bottom of the Sea of Cortez.); The gentlemen running the show brought starfish onto the boat for those of us who didn't get out of the water; one young lady and I played with them while eating fresh oranges. (Click here for a picture of the starfish I held. Tattoos on my left arm by Jay Crockett.) As people returned to their boats, the crew prepared to take us to an island, where we frolicked in the water and had fresh fruit and cold
(nonalcoholic) drinks. Time had no meaning, but soon it was indeed time to return to our boats to go back to the beach at which our adventures had begun. I leaned back with my head out of the boat's canopy, and let the sun and wind kiss my face. I was reminded of the scene in Mask in which Rocky explains the sky and clouds to Diana. He does a great job, but his explanation of "billowy" was nothing compared to that soft breeze on my skin. Stiff neck or not, I could have stayed there forever. Perhaps an hour, and several lovely dreams, later, we arrived back at our starting point, where BMEFest truly began. There's something damn special about not having to be afraid to be one's self. Some of us are students. Some are performers. Some of us have mainstream jobs, and some of us are body art practitioners. We were able to leave our lives behind and just be ourselves, for several hours (until the bar ran out of beer). The weather was perfect, the wait staff was attentive, and the company was absolutely fabulous. Shannon had advised that those of us in town a day or two early should say Hello to anyone who looked as though they might be in town to attend BMEFest. Shy though I am, by the time BMEFest began, I'd already made some friends. By the time the buses took us back into town, I'd probably spoke to a hundred people, many of whom I'd only met online and many others whom I'd never met. Some were old friends, and many became new ones. Some are jaded; some were delightfully unmarred by society, and they retain an incredible outlook on life. I am not going to link to every person with whom I spoke -- not just because I know I'd forget some, but because I'm not in a popularity contest. However, there were two people whose presence particularly struck me. Barry Blanchard runs Anatometal, a company that's been designing body jewelry for well over a decade. He's well known for his attention to detail and his fabulous designs. His jewelry is known as some of the very best in the industry. Barry was also nice to me years ago when few others were. We sat next to each other on the boat and we talked and talked. I learned a lot about him, and hope to read more as time goes on. Barry is a fine man, and I am honored to have met him. Mari, also known as Dita on the IAM blogsite, runs BMEJapan. Our paths first crossed when I joined the IAM blog, and she wanted to talk to me about a major modification I'd had done. We lost touch, but I checked out her page from time to time... I followed her increased fluency in English as well as her marriage and the birth of her daughter, Chi. I was delighted when, by the luck of the draw, I was her
2004/2005 Secret Santa. When I heard she was going to be attending BMEFest, I decided that there was no way I'd miss it. When would I get another opportunity to meet her? She, her husband, and her daughter and I went out for Chinese dinner. (I was too stuffed from lunch to eat; the restaurants in La Paz served about double what I could get in New England for half the price.); Mari told me about wanting to learn more about body modification, and meeting other people in Japan who shared her interest but not her knowledge of English. What an absolute delight to be able to finally meet her! Had I only met Dita and Barry, people I'd known online for several years and admired from afar, I think the trip would have been worth it. Every additional conversation was just icing on the cake. In four days (with the exception of service staff), every single person with whom I spoke was someone I know from either RAB or BME. Thanks to both Shannon, for getting us all together, and to Rachel, for putting everything together. As a member of your community, I am grateful to you both.

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submitted by: Anonymous
on: 04 July 2005
in Culture

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