Ideas begin their existence the same way anything else does, as a seed. Most are discarded, crowded out before they can grow by deeply rooted ideals around them. Others take hold, beginning their metamorphosis into a thought.
The idea for this excursion blossomed somewhere between self-assurance and lunacy. Burning Man is an undertaking for any participant. A week in one of the planet’s most hostile environments is a test of survival and self reliance, or how much crap one can stuff into an RV. Many burners spend weeks, if not months getting ready each year. Planning and preparation should not be taken lightly.
Monday found me plodding down the right shoulder of the westbound lane of Interstate 90 outside Erie. The gates of Black Rock City opened in just under a week. 2,300 miles separated my location from the destination, with any luck four days would see Fallon, Nevada.
Hitchhiking laws vary from state to state. While not always exactly illegal, most states have a law on the books. The real question concerns how strictly local statutes are enforced. The fastest way to travel in this manner is our nation’s fabulous interstate highway system. Unfortunately several obstacles increase the difficulty somewhat.
The gall to suppose thumbing into the desert was possible, let alone a good idea grew from necessity. Burning Man is not inexpensive. Food, water, shelter and any other supplies necessary are imported by participants. You dictate your experience.
My sister bought most of the ticket. It would be difficult to haul a week’s worth of water into the city on one’s back so a camp willing to bring some for me was secured. I whored myself out to an online writing sweatshop to pay camp dues. Hitching was decided upon to cut costs as the price of gasoline and plane rides continues soaring.
A year ago three of us made the drive from New York, surviving the week in a minimalist manner. The brutality of the elements invigorated the soul. Experience supplied the confidence to attempt the preposterous. The broken down bike from a thrift store in Reno still sat in my sister’s garage in Fallon, only 120 miles from Black Rock. A confluence of circumstance opened a path and I managed to purchase one of the last batch of tickets before Burning Man celebrated its 25th anniversary with the first sold out show.
Tuesday dawned as I trudged up an on-ramp in Iowa through the mist. Three rides and Pennsylvania became the Midwest. Sherm, a trucker, let me sleep in his cab and dropped me another 100 miles up the road around dawn. A 70 mile ride started the day and ended the spate of good fortune north of Des Moines. The next 16 miles absorbed most of the remaining daylight.
Senior citizens glared, many drivers widened their eyes before quickly looking away, pretending no one was standing on the side of the highway. Children always stare and a few people waved. The waves are the most irritating for some reason. The pack proved heavy. The cover of an overpass or sign granted relief from the sun every so often.
The Interstate 80 westbound on-ramp in Urbandale, Iowa is a testament to the civil engineering prowess of the American government. Two spacious lanes, gently converging to one, buffered by a large shoulder and a wide, striped strip allowing extra room to check one’s blind spot while merging. Hiding beneath the sliver of shade cast beneath an overhanging upcoming exit monstrosity I flipped my sign over and printed “Go Hawkeyes!” Looked up to find a police cruiser with flashing lights a dozen feet away.
The all fearing populace of Urbandale felt a blonde backpacker in shorts and a Miller delivery work shirt (complete with American flag) posed a threat to their hurtling cages of plastic and glass. The fifth ride from an officer of the law made the fourth time someone decided they’d rather telephone the police than help a stranger during my hitchventures.
Carry your papers in your pocket. If the authorities show up you don’t want to be rummaging through your bag. Thank god we won the war so the Nazis wouldn’t monitor everyone. The officer ran my sullied name and asked if I would to harm him while opening the rear door. Eyes dropped to a belt burdened by a nightstick, pistol, magazines and whatever blinding spray they happen to equip in Iowa. “No, sir” and I was a willing prisoner in a human cage. Waved to the doe eyed highway cohabitants whilst we sped by.
An hour at the on-ramp where the polite police officer ended our time together before the highway was rotating beneath a pair of Nikes once again. A few rides: 10 miles, 20 miles, 7 miles. All from old hitchers or the working folk of America, no fancy cars. Everyone was sorry they weren’t going further. A VW bus passed for the third time while the driver yelled “Sorry!”. Hippies should confiscate the vehicle.
An electrical pole installer finally delivered Omaha. Clouds emitted lightning above as a sheriff passed the paused automobile. “You’re lucky I stopped,” the driver offered while I squeezed inside. After hearing about the day he chauffeured thirty extra miles to the bus.
Midwestern jingoism defeated faith in the kindness of strangers. Two years after managing the trip without too many issues, the toll of economic uncertainty was apparent. Black Rock City opened in five days and the decision was made not to spend them struggling across Nebraska. A previously issued warning ticket for hitching in the state further dampened the appeal of spending a moment or cent in America’s bowels.
The Greyhound is an unpleasant experience, but there may be pleasant people aboard. Exhaustion overcame until sunrise brought Denver, $6 steak and eggs for breakfast and a little person wearing a John Elway jersey. Number 7 will always be god in mile high.
Another day on the bus. Nebraska seemed a pleasant alternative. City became mountains, mountains became million dollar homes. Stories shared to pass the time. One planning existence off the grid in NorCal, another exiting prison to live with a cousin.
Colorado became Salt Lake City. Angry Birds proved a wonderful example of the stupidity pervading society. An hour layover turned into two hours for no apparent reason. The laws governing the desert changed a few hours into the ride as the bus crossed an imaginary line everyone agrees is real. Two hours behind schedule, my ride called into work, gathering me unto her charity in Lovelock. The American West is endless possibility.
This madness was made possible by the letter ? and my sister’s employment within the sphere of Burning Man rally points. A day on the couch and one getting ready. The box shipped with UPS made it intact. Further supplies and libations acquired. The bike was inspected and taken a few miles around town each morning (you need a bike).
We hadn’t been together since Christmas. My sibling and I aren’t quite 13 months apart. We’re still often confused for twins or a married couple. Reno for a day to replace the Nalgene lost on the Iowa highway. Thrift stores full of burners in preparation.
Saturday night in Fallon and Jack’s Place was packed. A claim on the pool table turned into beer pong and a free pitcher of beer. Years away from college negatively affected sis’s skills.
Sunday suddenly arrived. Everything neatly packed. Beside my pack sat a large black bag, filled to the brim. 10 pm, bike secured to the roof, heading north out of Fallon.
Currents trailed northward, traffic slowly thickening in Fernley. Gas stations jammed, the last one’s lines wrapping around the store. The turn onto 447 warned of the lack of gate sales for the first time.
Stars shining, the open range scrolled along until a trail of tail lights appeared in the distance. Nixon materialized within the Paiute Reservation. Flashing lights behind a stopped vehicle reminded travelers law enforcement continued their existence. The car in front swerved drunkenly every now and then, operator nearly succumbing to exhaustion just short of the goal.
Temporary stores littered the road sides, brightly lit in the darkness. Gerlach hosting as much as business as it probably sees the rest of the year. A hopeful sat on his gear near the park, a large cardboard sign stating “I need a miracle” in front.
Had sister park just past the entrance sign. Volunteers stood near the road, waving toward the right. One immediately neared our vehicle, informing us we couldn’t stop here. “They’re not going, I’m walking in,” I stated firmly. He looked me up and down quickly before inquiring about my ticket situation. “I wouldn’t’ve made the trip without one,” I replied before beginning to untie the bike. Glow sticks cracked (EL wire is better but expensiver) and we hugged our goodbyes, warnings to be careful for each.
Dust plumes wafted lazily, born of human action, trailing across the entrance to the portion of the Black Rock Desert referred to as the playa. An endless parade of motorized vehicles trundled along, rattling a mechanical symphony punctuated by bursts of music sliding from open windows as they passed. I walked home with a thousand stars to greet me.
A fellow in a golf cart named Cry Baby halted progress within five hundred yards. The first bit is only two lanes, a harrowing experience in the dark. Visual confirmation was required to proceed. 45 minutes later a man with a gun impeded travel again. Burning Man today is a heavily policed event. As the event occurs on federal land (you own it citizens), enforcement agencies from the national, state and county levels are represented. Papers were examined once again before I was thanked for my time. Paranoia about losing the small rectangular artwork permitting entry began setting in.
The bag balancing across the bike frame proved cumbersome. The walk from the highway to the gate is somewhere between three and four miles by guesstimate. Beside me the lanes of vehicles sat motionless. Calls of “welcome home!” and big smiles greeted me every so often. Mostly I was ignored. The ground revolved steadily beneath plodding feet.
Burning Man’s first sell out caused some consternation amongst the populace. An event where entry once consisted of showing up has steadily grown in the consciousness of the global community over the past fifteen years. “Tickepocalypse” led to frustration, expensive tickets out of line with Black Rock ideals and outright scams.
The girl at the first checkpoint yelled at me for not being in a vehicle. “This is how I got here,” shouted back above the collective murmur of engines and bouncing trailer hitches. She blinked for a moment before helping the next vehicle in line. A supervisor was consulted and I was told to find a vehicle to ride in. Her attention absorbed by the next car to reach the front of the line, I walked past, wheeling my bike around the circular movement of will call.
Consultation at the entry gate as well. A man who’d been doing this a long time decided he’d allow me to walk the bike into his city. Ticket torn and through the dust filled crowded gate. Almost home.
Alone on the playa a mile out, enjoying the darkness between the gate and the greeter stations, a moment was taken to laugh. The stars glimmered brightly overhead, shining in the light of a new moon. Endless strings of vehicles, red lights and yellow, stretched in either direction. On the far horizon the highway was just visible. Above the other, neon lights and occasional bursts of fire welcomed burners home to Black Rock.
Hugs from the greeters and the gift of knowledge. I plugged up traffic and almost toppled over. A pirate ship held residence just past the greeters for a time, bumping bass loudly while wind whipped up the dust.
The most important choice of the playa loomed ahead, right or left into the city? The decision predetermined, the choice was the same as the year before. Onward to 8.
A man on a bike stopped to chat, told me I was crazy after an explanation of what’d been done. I concurred. A unsolicited ride was finally offered, but with a mile or so left it was declined. Found camp deserted upon arrival sometime after 3 am. Stowed the gear.
Cars slowly rolled in, filling empty space with light and sound. Dug a cup from the baggage and the bike provided swiftness, a half dozen glow sticks shoved into the spokes.
The Duck Pond was the only place bumping, hosting their annual Welcome Home party. Booze, beer and electronic music providing cheer for early arrivals.
A man I’d never met awoke me Monday morning. Managed to make it back to the 32′ dome sometime around dawn. Bacon, eggs and introductions. Camp consisted of 70+ individuals, none of whose acquaintance’d been previously enjoyed. A hard working core providing relative luxury to an extended family. The tent squeezed nicely behind a yurt, adjacent to a U-Haul. The prevailing wind moves southeast to northwest. Military surplus tent stakes secured things.
Monday is the realization of a lot of hard work by many. Planning is over and it’s time to build. Structures grow while vehicles creep into free space, adding their presence to the burgeoning metropolis. The same stretch of city block may look completely different every three hours. Fortunately the street signs haven’t been stolen yet.
Mojitos and tightly packed strangers at Tissue and a Plan. Leaving camp with three neighbors left me alone within a slight movement of the sun. On Monday a week seems endless.
Across the playa the Mystical Misfits constructed a house. Entry involved a flight of stairs and a “Happy Birthday” stamp proving legality. At the top two rooms opened, a little girl playing video games on tv. Our host informed that his parents were out of town, thus a party in the basement. Down a flight of stairs into a silver walled space, complete with bar, stage, washing machine, and 70s disco tunes. Cold drinks, sun relief and a couch with introductions from Oregon, Australia and Idaho.
An hour into festivities the music cut off as the phone rang. “Shut the fuck up or the party’s over!” shouted our host, immediately silencing the room. An answering machine answered. A Minnesota mother reminded her boy about the casserole, just checking up on her little man. The band picked up where she left off.
The art across the playa is marvelous. More installations than ever presented artist’s hard work, love and vision, beautifying previously empty space. Some are massive, others human sized. Many incorporate flames and lights at night, illuminating the space around the Man. The deep playa houses dozens of installations stretching a mile and a half northward. Apparently a movie theater and zip line existed somewhere this year.
In order to use the imagery you are possibly enjoying, approval was required by the Burning Man Project. A fairly lengthy application and another for images resulted in approval and the first time someone’s rubber stamped my existence as media.
Cameras needed registration and media tags. The Media Mecca turned out to be an unassuming component of center camp. A small wall set out from the structure’s created a two sided entryway next to bike racks. Cold water was available as well as the time of day, a pair of important commodities. Three disposable cameras made the registrar laugh, saying “It takes all kinds,” as he tagged them. Two questions about the image agreement flummoxed him. A British supervisor cleared things up in a half dozen words.
Monday faded away and traffic died down a bit. Some windy weather but nothing absurd. Came to in the dark, legs stretching out the door of the tent. A few of the large sound camps were going with the rest half built, lying dark in the night. Large speakers until first light. More sleep after finishing the chores by sunrise.
Heat drove me from the tent sometime toward noon. Tuesday brought a popped bike tube. The previous afternoon a motorized scooter roared onto the street coming right for us. Slammed brakes propelled my vessel head first to skid down the street, dust grinding into everything. Emotion flared, angry words greeting the wide eyed speeder who’d stopped to help. The tire went unnoticed for a day.
The next six hours were spent walking the bike around town. Playa information listed a pair of bike repair camps. Wandering in circles and interruptions are never ending. People to meet and bars to greet, random events on every block providing diversion. Posed for the yearbook before a space filled with bikes in all conditions finally materialized. Helpful attendants taught the art of tube patching. An hour spent in repair.
The compassionate tire freed its captive air within the hour. No replacement tube present, sneakers provided transportation the remainder of the day. Lamplighters were out at dusk, volunteering their time to provide a service for Black Rock denizens. The city is first, and foremost a community. Burning Man exists due to the hard work of tens, if not hundreds of thousands of individuals over two and a half decades. Preparation for a week in the desert is critical. However, no one remembers everything. The playa provides if you open to the miasma of humanity writhing about your carcass. Each is asked to provide what they are capable of for the benefit and survival of all, no more, no less.
The tweaker camps (camp mate’s thought, not mine (although I laughed pretty hard)) converted gasoline into high decibel sound waves and visuals by Tuesday night. Mutant vehicles loaded down by venue quality sound systems thumped passed from time to time. Laser lights and bursts of igniting fuel punctuating the darkness of the moon cycle.
Ultramarathoners jogged by on the Esplanade around first light, surviving 50 km into the heat of the day. Twenty two regional effigies ringed the Man, representing groups of burners from all corners of these United States and the globe. Steep stairs and rope handrails led to a flat platform atop one. A Portlandian with the local boutique joined me a half hour later while the sky brightened. Conversation and sunrise brought warmth to the essence and epidermis.
The sun crested the horizon and we clambered a story down the opposite side. Champagne was hunted mercilessly throughout the week as only two bottles were hauled in. The accuracy of the book received upon entry is suspect. Most of the time the chosen event is never reached, something better appearing during the journey. This time an advertisement for sunrise libations with the Man proved spot on.
An art car loaded down with orange juice, coolers and cases of vodka and champagne blessed the morning. Chilled mimosas is as close to nectar as I ever wish to be. A crack about my knee highs turned into conversation. Newfoundland was present, along with Los Angeles. Two hours of drinks between the Man and the temple. Mentioning the busted bike tube to everyone encountered for eighteen hours finally paid off while the sunrise party suppliers shoved off. I remain grateful for the gift of transportation.
Chores, breakfast then bike repair. Hump day already. Time previously spent messing with the contraption wasn’t wasted. New replaced old thanks to consumerism and mass production. Center camp was nearby and hadn’t been paid a visit yet. Speakers, a band and exhibited art ringed an ongoing yoga dance. An empty space turned into a showcase for our artist with some stickers and a sharpie the playa had gifted. It lasted a day and a half.
Wandered through a few bars on the far side of the city. Heat is always plentiful, but the week’s weather proved mild in Black Rock’s realm of possibility. Searching for sounds brought a sudden realization. My camp was a day time sound camp. Meandering course reversed, reached home in a while.
The Black Rock Syndicate returned for a second year. The Las Vegas based crux allowed a far flung family to provide party people with the best progressive house and electro sounds on the playa. Fund raising and dues brought together burners from a number of states and nations. Two meals a day, an air cooled dome and solar showers pampered camp members.
Camps in Black Rock range from sole individuals to groups of 200 – 300 providing major services and experiences for citizens. Managing amenities in a community supported, naturally hostile environment involves an immense amount of planning and teamwork. Time distortion is a common subsequence of attendance. The week in Black Rock is a culmination of year long commitment from so many. Be sure to thank them.
Walking again, full cup in one hand, handlebars gripped in the other. One first timer was shocked when I explained why a cup was necessary. “Places just give away liquor?” “Of course,” I replied. “Where?” he asked. I shook my head and laughed. “I have no idea. I’m going to find them.” If you’re ever lonely or bored just ride toward the flashing lights and loud music. Odds are good lots of people are imbibing alcohol and dancing. They’ll share.
Feet directed me toward an establishment which accomplished two goals. Champagne bottles popped at the bar next to a thumping art car. A stamp received on the forearm pointed the way toward the only underground party of the event. The Rockstar Librarian compiles the lineup’s of an enormous array of locations, creating a guide of who’s playing where and when for the entire week. The second goal accomplished upon introduction, I got a hug, photograph and thanked her for everything she did. When asked about her celebrity status she shook her head and laughed. A veteran of twelve burns, Rockstar Kate confirmed my conclusion to the clue in her guide about the checkpoint for an old school affair. Barraged by those around her, I thanked the coolest rockstar on the playa for her gift of time and refilled the champagne. Always try to leave somewhere with a full cup.
Faded out. Lying down continued proving a mistake as day was suddenly night once again. Stiff legs, lurching from the tent, the neighbors laughed. “You’re just waking up? That’s too bad.” I shook my head, stretching toward the stars. “This is the best time to be up,” I replied. They informed Infected Mushroom was still up at Opulent, before disappearing. A rush to get there and a massive crowd. Only caught the last two or three but it’s nice to see actual instruments any time.
The absence of Root Society created a ripple effect amongst the major sound camps. Some flourished while others seemed oddly positioned. 10 o’clock already jammed with bodies in the middle of the week. One new venue bumped nonstop dubstep, white screened walls towering upward, visuals projected across them. The playground was missed, but the giant ball of fire returned as Nexus served up djs and drinks. DJ Shawna enjoyed a packed dome.
The moon was nowhere to be seen, stars enjoying the opportunity to light up the night alone. Black Rock runs 24 hours a day, but many save their strength for the laser lanced dark, avoiding the heat of the day. Sound and art abound, taking different shapes by night.
The first sign of light made the second sunrise in a row. Deep playa was yet to be explored in two trips. A brightly distant installation provided guidance and the bike trundled toward daybreak, artwork whizzing by in dim light. Some time later it became obvious the goal was no nearer despite the shrinking distance between myself and the horizon. The bright red lights turned out to be an art car. Progress halted, a suitable seat became the goal. A few minutes more and an oasis of couches appeared. An exquisite return by dawn.
Temperature dropped sharply near sunup. Laughed with a kindred spirit about riding out to meet today alone. A wedding party of thirty split apart after the service. When she asked if anyone wanted to ride into the playa, her friends didn’t understand. “It’s when you get on your bike and ride as fast as you can into the dark,” she’d told them, laughing at the memory. No one wanted to go. “It’s alright,” I told her. “I came out to meet you.”
Time for chores. Robot Heart and a sound car constructed of unpainted boards (looked great actually) bumped sunrise sounds. Managed to escape distraction quickly this time. As part of the deal with camp was for a water supply, I’d been elevated to the imperative position of Water Czar. Each morning three water barrels atop a 10′ platform (altitude allowed kitchen and shower water to flow downhill) needed refilling. Water was pumped skyward from an enormous tank on the ground. Today it was empty. Camp’s back up guy helped find enough hose to run the 100′ from the water cannon tank. Pump relocated, water began its migration thanks to modern technology. Alerted leadership of water status.
Forced myself to eat and take care of my body. Skin and foot lotion are essential. The playa is covered with an alkaline dust unlike anything seen elsewhere. An already extremely dry environment removes moisture even faster. Sun screen is a must every day for most skin tones. Pounding water constantly is even more important. Setting out alone, goal #2 was to not wake up in a Reno hospital. A helicopter ride is expensive. Saw medics about to stick an intravenous tube into an unmoving body before she suddenly sat upright, dazed. Other factors, such as alcohol, further speed dehydration. The fact that many objects are climbable creates other hazards. Take action with care, it’s a long week.
Left camp on the bike. Always enjoy festivals in the morning, most people are sleeping or docile. Ended up on the far side of the playa hiding from the heat beneath a sun screen for some reason. Consulted the guide for direction and laughter ensued. Diplomas awarded beside the Man from 10 to noon, they would not be mailed.
Affixed a sticker to the Man for sacrifice and gave a tie dye to a shirtless man. He liked it enough to accept. Chatted while the line inched forward. I recalled how long the other pieces of paper in my life took to earn and the wait disappeared. Met a middle aged Kentuckian who drove out all alone to be a part. A silent party next to us opened up. He rode out from Michigan with his aunt, but made the good decision to camp separately. Mid twenties, out of the army after four years and two tours of Iraq. Said all he saw was profiteering. He almost broke down when I told him it would be alright. This is home. You made it. He made a comment about the lack of wacky apparel, “but those are the clothes you came in,” I reminded. A light brightened within.
A desk, chair, box and pen inhabited the shade created by a structure below the Man. The conferrer of degrees made her fifth trip. Graduates needed to supply their name and field of study. Portraits were available thirty feet away. Sitting on the playa as she calligraphized my degree, she explained. Her brother died. Going through his things there were seven framed degrees, ascending the hierarchy of education. “What am I going to do with them?” she asked, reliving the emotion momentarily. I thanked her with a diamond.
Finally forced myself to attend happy hour in the Media Mecca. Made the bar, brandishing the media badge when skeptical eyes and questions ensued. Just turned to lean on the bar when a brass band danced into the room. Fifteen or so pieces including trumpets, trombones, saxophones, a flute, tuba and others forgotten, proceeded to flood the room symphonically.
The CORE’d been slated to burn Thursday night. The twenty two regional pieces would ignite simultaneously. Wandered out onto the playa after dark. Stopped by the lego tower to watch spinners prepare their routine. As I asked the young lady next to me about the burn the landscape exploded behind us.
Volunteers protected citizens from suicidal tendencies as flames destroyed art. The tree I’d enjoyed at sunrise one morning collapsed before my eyes. Existence is fleeting.
Realized I was lost sometime before dawn. The temperature continued dropping until refuge was sought. Fire in a stylized barrel and bed willingly for the first time. Rest is important before the weekend. Huddled for warmth until sunlight brought chores.
Awoke sore, worn and nutritionally deficient. Left camp after water duties with a need for vitamin C and conversation on the mind. A young woman from Switzerland asked after a light two blocks later. She offered an orange and a tarot reading. Always a skeptic, I’d never had one.
A simple campsite toward the outer edge, e-z up only half raised against gusting winds. She asked for questions and I asked her to simply share what she saw. An array of cards provided what I needed to hear after a space in time. Lasting gifts aren’t always physical objects.
Disposition improved, the Champagne Lounge was finally located after four days of fruitless searching. Bottles popped daily from noon to two. An Olympian gym teacher and a bay area Brit shared the space until time came to move on.
A desire for mindless distraction led to coloring and cocktails. Shade, colored pencils, crayons, dirty pictures and chilled drinks. Time to compile thoughts and analyze emotions. Burning Man is a torrent of energy and activity cascading through Black Rock’s streets and blank space. Each decision consumes your most precious resource and shapes the experience. Allow yourself to be swept away, but remain conscious of what’s going on around you. Listen to your body, mind and the greater power abounding.
Slept in center camp to escape the heat. Babbling voices dragged me back a few hours later. Ended up back at camp in time to dig evening wear out in fading light. Donated an unopened bottle of Myer’s to the bar down the street and waited around for the raffle. The Ashram Galactica built four deluxe hotel rooms and raffled them off to four lucky souls each evening. Inhabited a chair, enjoying excellent beats until it was too crowded to keep my feet on the ottoman. Didn’t win. Headed back to the tent for lighting and the bike.
Gave some glow sticks to a girl riding through camp. She had a water bottle full of Jameson so we headed out to watch the Trojan horse burn. Greek mythology recreated, the 50′ monstrosity twas hauled across the playa by slaves that afternoon. A ring of bikes, art cars and onlookers thickly encircled. Pyrotechnics ignited things finally. Fireworks shot off the beast while flames spread. Bailed as the head collapsed.
Fractal Nation coordinated one of the better electronic lineups available throughout Rites of Passage. Unfortunately the venue proved somewhat cramped for the demand placed upon it. Tonight a crane hoisted fire spinners 30′ in the air. They twirled high above as troupe members on stage and ground employed a number of fiery instruments to enhance the effect. Beats Antique took the stage afterward and did not disappoint. In a city of sometimes simplistic oscillations, some heavy bass plus craziness provided peace despite the tightly packed throng.
Saturday and the event’s namesake’s imminence means things are almost over. The end of the work week brings greater madness. The tourists start arriving late Thursday. A bar down the street put up a sign, “Weekenders Unwelcome.” Clean, racing around oohing and ahhing at everything while many Black Rock dwellers are more than a bit battered.
For some it’s an awakening. Others attend to see what the big deal is. A continued explosion of consciousness in popular culture coupled with the power of the shitternet helped create the first sell out. Many come to party. Some recognize there’s a lot more beneath the surface. People always ask if Burning Man changes lives. Certainly. For some. Others realize they aren’t crazy, the forces tugging and nudging exist. Spirituality is more than worshiping a name.
A fruitful morning led back toward the Champagne Lounge around noon. Next door a choir raised voices in praise. The remainder of 200+ bottles provided for the community came uncorked. Sociabilities decreased while the week moved on, interaction reserved for circumstance, confluence and individuals who sought time. Conversated with a character as dusty and bruised as myself about everything. She hadn’t bathed all week either. Showers waste time, water and energy. Heat and drifting dust ensure cleanliness lingers about twenty minutes once you stop hiding in that rented RV. Silly American.
Our gracious hosts refilled cups without concern and we partook of the final bottle popped. Hot tea and loud noises. Saturday proved wonderful while Hataris helped finish off the Syndicate’s lineup. Wandered for a while enjoying the sights while some already deconstructed their space in preparation for flight.
A final sunset and the streets emptied out, everyone in preparation. While the burning of the Man is the symbolic event that bore a city, it is only punctuation. The words “The End” scrolling upward across a screen in the dark. Found a fire hooper to remember things with.
Arms raised triumphantly, the Man withstood the conflagration before its gathered host. An assemblage unlike any other, tens of thousands gazing upward patiently. Triangular construction lent strength until collapse.
Did the Time Warp again some time afterward. Everything in full effect for a final evening in Black Rock for many. More art in flames. A lot of installations are built to burn. Dawn brought the beginning of the end. Yeah you know. Tonight will end. It always does. And the end is gone forever when the sun comes up. Basked in light’s return to sunrise wobblings.
Sunday is sadness, at least somewhat. Many large camps pack up. Spent the day helping load the moving truck and organizing gear for the walk out. Wandered off in the afternoon, shambling wearily through what remained of the city. A few establishments continued serving drinks and amplified noise.
Over the course of a week the temple is filled with the wishes, hopes and remembrances of any who unburden themselves. To close the event, the remaining citizenry gather in silence to burn the collected emotion of the temple. Reverence doesn’t require words.
Drank the last bottle of champagne and packed up in the wee hours. Decided against sleep. Lost some things in the dark. Walked through center camp to meet a young lady hitching to the Grand Canyon. Made the trip out together and decided against walking to the highway. DPW workers took pity on hitchers, powering up a portable light where the two exits merged into one. Vehicles streamed passed three of us endlessly. He was heading to New York to be part of the Wall Street occupation. My ride appeared shortly.
Woke up, sunshine streaming through the glass. The PhD who gave me a lift appreciated my exhaustion, allowing unconsciousness to take over after a short conversation. BMIR knew just what to play on the way out. Exodus took five hours. Got lost wandering, climbing onto someone’s RV to scan the motionless panorama. Stopped for an hour at one point, my ride dug out some cold beers from the back. The Wall Street protester ended up in the vehicle behind us. Laughed about paper collectors with a Macau native from LA. Sudden motion, dust swirling as wheels suddenly spun into motion. We embraced, hello and goodbye, the driver behind yelling “There’ll be plenty of time to hug next year!”
“So, what is Burning Man?” some may still be asking. This was a drop in the bucket of one person’s experience in the desert. 6,000 words didn’t cover much of anything. Black Rock City is a community in the absence of corporate commercialism and paper money. Its culture is ruled by kindness, spirituality, gift giving and self expression. It is survival against a hostile environment, loud music and art. It’s what you want it to be. Just before our cars escaped, a dusty virgin told me he didn’t know how he’d tell people about this. I told him he couldn’t. Some talk about the default world, make the trip to escape reality for a week. In the face of escalating challenges confronting humanity community needs fostering. The societal ostracism of difference needs an end. People need to talk again, face to face, not through little screens. There is still nothing to fear, but fear is winning the battle. Black Rock is reality that needs to reach the world at large.
Two weeks later life stumbles along. This transitional being continues working hopefully toward the future, nothing settled. Lost employment over the trip, but possibilities are boundless. Smash your television. Live the life you want. One girl said she loved all the “I used to be…” stories on the playa. Change is coming whether anyone likes it or not in every arena of life. Take a part in an incredibly exciting time to be alive and remember