|Day 4: Black Rock City
...Or, at least, I tried to go to sleep. As close to the
road as I was, there was a constant stream of people walking past the van.
One guy even took the liberty to sit on my rear bumper. That wasn't as
bad as the girl that threw up next to one of the rear wheels. The first
time, I was understanding, but after the third time she threw up
I began to think my neighbors weren't very neighborly. It wasn't the sounds
so much as the lights that kept me up. The van parked right behind me had
a blinking green light that stayed on all night. Still, when you're tired
enough, you can sleep anywhere, and I finally dozed off.
I still got a pretty good night's sleep. Thursday,
Aug. 28, I woke up at sunrise. There was a very pleasant cool breeze
coming through my windows. The sun rose blazing over the Black Rock Desert.
I unlocked the bike and went for a ride out to the Man. The sun was bright,
and seemed to reflect off the surface of the dry lake bed. As early as
it was, it seemed like half the camp was already up. There were bands playing,
people were singing and dancing, and bicycles were everywhere. Of course,
they might have still been going from the night before.
I rode out to the Temple of Honor, a mile from Center
Camp and a half mile from the Man. The Temple was scheduled to burn on
Sunday night, the night after the Man. There were several people there,
looking it over and listening to David Best, the artist that designed it.
Someone asked him what was the point of doing art that was just going to
be destroyed. He replied that it was art that would never be devalued,
or go out of style, or get dumped and forgotten in some museum basement
forever; this was art that would remain art in people's memories forever.
The Temple had an almost eastern orthodox look to it, with high spires
and intricate Hindu decorations. Several little memorials had already sprung
up at its base, with more notes and messages written on the sides. Many
were very touching; notes to loved ones that had passed on, pictures, confessions...
it was hard to read them and keep from choking up. One was a note to a
deceased parent: "It's okay, you can stop worrying now." I couldn't stay
there very long at all.
I rode over to the Man, and climbed up into the highest
chamber. From there, you could get a panoramic view of the whole camp.
That's where I met Saysay, a very cute Ranger who was looking forward to
going off duty. Off riding around again, I passed a ring of dozens of flags,
off by themselves on the desert. The vastness of the Black Rock Desert
lent for some pretty dramatic art displays. I passed a very tasteful little
Japanese memorial. Someone went to a lot of trouble to build it. I looked
closer to see who the memorial was for, and it was in the name of ... Godzilla.
Back at my van, I cooked up a Thai chicken MRE for my breakfast. I took
out a 12 by 12 tarp, and secured it over Satori with carabineers and paracord.
It didn't cover the whole vehicle, just the windows-- and it made a big
difference. Windows are what turn a car in the desert into a passive solar
oven, but shading the windows brought the inside temperature down to a
manageable level. The closest portable toilets were just a block or so
down the street from me, and although I brought my own toilet paper some
generous person stocked all the potties already. (The company that provided
the portable toilets was called Johnny-on-the-Spot.)
There were several joggers out that morning, but one girl
jogged by wearing stilts. They were special running stilts, with
curved feet like the heels of a jogging shoe. Someone had poured some water
on the playa (a big no-no), and when she jogged up to it she exclaimed,
"Uh-oh! Wet spot!" and did a little stilted, mid-stride two-step dance
around it, then took off running again down the street. I still wanted
to volunteer for the Gate, so I stopped at the Black Rock Ranger station
at Center Camp to see where I was supposed to check in at. The Ranger on
duty told me to try out at the front gate. So, I rode out to the front
gate and met up with a lovely brunette girl called Bugbreath running dispatch.
She got on the radio, and suggested I check with Gate Camp. At Gate Camp,
I was given a schedule where I could sign up for a shift at the Gate. So,
I signed up for the 6 to midnight shift that evening.
One of the LiveJournal people, "Starweaver," had talked
about being at the Hair of the Dog camp, so I planned to look her up. As
luck would have it, I ended up camped right down the street from them.
Her real name was Star, and she was a delightful brunette lass helping
to run the open bar. She was really sweet. It was a real bar, there on
the playa, with a shaded canopy, couches, a dance floor and a stage covered
with a PVC pipe dome. I ended up spending a lot of time there while I was
at Burning Man. I met a very nice dark-haired girl named Michelle, who told
me the lesson of Burning Man was: Never take anything for granted, not
friends, or family, or comfortable beds, or food, or water or hot showers...
I also met Ally (short for Allison), a wonderfully outspoken redhead.
I rode around on my bike some more, and checked out the
other camps. One bunch had set up a roller rink, and brought dozens of
pairs of roller skates to play with. The art cars were something else.
Folks had spent a lot of time and money and imagination fixing up vehicles.
A couple of cars were made to look like big fish, and one bus was built
to look like a giant shark. It chased around another car, built to look
like a boat. Over the week, I saw lots of topless girls, more than a few
completely naked girls, and a little too many naked men. The atmosphere
was that you could do what you wanted, be whomever you wanted to be, as
open as you felt like being. Lots of people brought costumes.
Another camp I'd planned on looking up was the G-Spot.
The open bar there was serving "citrus orgasms," and if you had more than
one you, of course, had "multiple orgasms." They had a little wading
pool to cool your feet, as well as a trampoline. A topless girl was bouncing
on it when I arrived, and someone asked me what was better than a topless
girl on a trampoline. "A naked girl on a trampoline?' I said, and that
prompted a response of "Naked Catholic girls on trampolines!"
and then the conversation sort of went downhill from there. I met a very
nice blonde girl named Laura, who turned out to be from Oklahoma, of all
things, but she had moved to California. She liked it better out there.
Her playa name was Booty. While sipping citrus orgasms, I also met a pretty
blonde girl who called herself Glitter Pussy. (I mis-heard her, and thought
she said "Litter Pussy," which made her boyfriend laugh–I wasn't the first
to get it wrong.) Her purse looked like a big vagina. (Ingredients for
a citris orgasm: a dash of orange juice, a splash of Gagtorade, and
a gallon of vodka. Mix to taste.)
Planes, gliders and parachutists filled the sky. There
was always something in the air over Black Rock City the whole week. At
mid-afternoon, I headed out to the Man for another event I'd read about
online: Hands Across the Playa. (I had found their camp earlier in the
day, but most everyone was gone.) The plan was for a bunch of people to
meet at the Man and form a chain arm-in-arm across the Promenade from the
Real Plaza to the Absurd Plaza. At the Man, I met a nice girl from Albuquerque
named Julie. She was all bundled-up against the wind, and I couldn't tell
what she looked like. We held hands, and a bunch of other people joined
us, forming a human chain... but just then the wind picked up to hurricane-strength,
and the dust was so thick you couldn't see 15 feet in front of you. Maybe
we linked all the way across the playa... who knows? We couldn't see.
Back at the HOTD, I was having a drink when a couple of
topless girls came by with a friend. One of them was very friendly, and
didn't mind guys nuzzling up against her. She was a lot of fun. I helped
the HOTD folks set up a structure for one of the cars, which wasn't easy
in the stiff wind. I couldn't stay for the very end, however, because it
was time for me to check in for Gate duty. At Gate Camp, I hung out with
Timber, Moebius, and Juan (formerly Gringo). They were talking about Perimeter
duty, and trying to catch people that were sneaking in to Burning Man.
A typical gate crasher would drive within sight of the Gate, let his friends
out, and then go on in, meeting up with his friends later after they crossed
the desert. They figured about 50 people a day were sneaking in. Finally,
the team leader showed up and said they didn't need me that shift. A bunch
of guys called The Pirates of the Gonnerean were handling things (in sort
of a Thursday evening tradition for them), and he said to come back Friday.
So, I got the evening off.
Someone brought a remote controlled Hummer toy car, and
as I walked past their camp he started to have it chase me, giving color
commentary in a faux French accent. I got into the act, dancing around
it and dodging it like a bullfighter. Back at HOTD, Spanky, the owner,
told the bartender to make me a tequila sunrise. The bartender had never
made one before, so in trying to follow directions she proceeded to pour
a full liter of tequila into my glass. She had to get a bigger glass–there
wasn't room for the other ingredients! After that drink, I wasn't feeling
much of anything at all the rest of the evening. I met up with a very nice
blonde girl named Erin. She was a pool player, and claimed to have not
lost a game in 3 years. She even supported herself for a year playing pool.
When I told her I was a first-timer, she predicted I'd be coming back to
Burning Man for the rest of my life. After listening to a bunch of music
all evening, I turned in a little after midnight. The tarp over the windows
did the trick, shading out the lights, and I didn't have any trouble getting