Day 5: Black Rock City 

I woke up about 4 AM Friday morning freezing! The temperature must have dropped to the 40's or so. I bundled up in my hooded sweatshirt, made a quick run to the port-a-potties, closed up the windows, sealed myself up in the sleeping bag and went back to sleep.  

I woke up right at the crack of dawn to utter and complete silence. Ever since I'd arrived, there had been music or drums or singing or something in the air, but right at that moment the world was as quiet as I'd ever heard it. There wasn't even a breath of wind to flap the tarp. The silence didn't last, but for a while, it was genuinely peaceful. When I got up, I took stock of my supplies. My water was holding up very well, and I still had plenty of MRE's to eat. I'd also brought a case of V-8 Juice, to help hydrate myself and replace the vitamins and minerals I was sweating out. Actually, I wasn't sweating that much. I had been expecting extreme temperatures in the Black Rock Desert, and I was prepared for ranges of 110 to 120 or so... but the whole time I was at Burning Man, I doubt it got over 95. (It was 102 in Tulsa the day I left.) It was still hot, but nothing I couldn't handle. Of course, for the people from up north, 95 degrees was murder. 

For breakfast, I had V-8, beef jerky, and a chili mac MRE. As it cooked it, I sat in my comfortable van with my bare feet sticking out the door, no place I had to be, no jobs I had to do, a light breeze cooling my toes, and I thought: I love this. Walking through Center Camp, people were doing yoga, reading poetry, doing massages, playing music, drinking juice or coffee,  and painting various body parts. A sign at the Playa Info booth said the census at 4 PM Thursday was over 25,000 people.  I saw people stirring at HOTD, so I brought them the rest of my sack of beef jerky. I met Deidre, a charming blonde lady with a great sense of humor and a hearty laugh. I also met her boyfriend Gibbon, a musician from San Francisco. Deidre told me the two of them had met at the previous year's Burning Man, and they just celebrated their 1-year anniversary together.  

I was wearing my American International Rattlesnake Museum t-shirt, which caught the eye of a lovely girl who I'm going to call Astron. (Not her real name--that's just what I'm calling her.) (She went by several names, depending on the venue.) Astron said she'd found a snake when she arrived in Black Rock City, and showed it to a friend of hers, a girl that had "the world's most perfect breasts," and the harmless, little snake had taken up residence in her friend's bosom. It wasn't a desert snake, she said, and must have stowed away when some stopped on the way. Astron wore a pink corset, which matched her body hair, and had piercings in her ear, upper lip and lower lip, all joined with a little chain. I asked Spanky how he was doing, and he shook my hand. He said nobody ever asks him how he's doing. While I was talking, Saysay rode by on her bicycle, in a hurry to get somewhere. Someone gave me a chunk of ginsing root, which I was told to suck on. It's supposed to open up your bloodstream and let oxygen get to your brain easier. It had a bitter taste, but after a while I did feel a little refreshed. Speaking of taste, someone brought by a big jar of olives stuffed with habanjero peppers. He was challenging people to eat one, and when a couple of other people ate one without dying, I tried one. It was good. Hot, yeah, but not nearly as fatal as I was expecting. I ate two. It made me want to pick some up on my way home. 

I rode my bike around the playa. A camp just down the street advertised "homebrew for homebrew." If you brought some of your homebrew, they'd trade you some of theirs. Their cooler was a real, life-sized coffin. A sign on the Esplanade read "Sin, Forrest, Sin." Some camps would host one event during the week, and others had something going all week long. One bunch of folks built a Thunderdome– just like in the Mel Gibson movie. It was as big as a house! They invited people to go inside and spar with each other, springing around on bungee cords. It was incridible. They fought with foamy, SCA-ish weapons, and really whacked at each other. I tried to find the G-Spot again, but no matter where I went I couldn't seem to find it, and I felt a little awkward asking people if they could help me find the G-Spot... Lots of camps had themes. Another group, the Bear Posse, had a campful of guys dressed in bear costumes.  

Gomer Hendrix, one of the HOTD house band members, was going to do a show on their stage that afternoon, so I went back for that. He came on as "Jerry Springer," and picked people out of the audience to "share" their innermost "secrets." One girl played along, saying she was sleeping with her stepfather's priest (or something like that), and suddenly Ally got into the act, jumping up and yelling, "You slut! How could you?!?" They wrassled on the ground and it was a lot of fun. Then they opened up the stage for music, and a band called Seratonin got up to play. Besides being really good, they put on an entertaining show, jumping and dancing all over the place. While they played, a stunning brunette girl showed up at the camp. She sat in the middle of the audience, sipping a drink and enjoying the show. I heard her say she was from northern California. Before I could say anything to her, or even take her picture, she disappeared, and I never saw her again.  

Janice, one of the people camping at HOTD, let me have half a can of beef stew that someone else didn't want, and it really hit the spot. I didn't realize how hungry I was. That was really nice of her. After Seratonin, a band called Hot Dog Pizza played, but they didn't play for long, since they'd only been together a couple of days. About 5:30, I got dressed and reported for duty at Gate Camp. I met a girl named Jeanie and a guy named Chuck, who was the brother of one of the Gate people. I waited, and finally about 6:15 the head guy showed up and said the Gate was "really slow" and they wouldn't need me. He told me to go enjoy the rest of Burning Man, and maybe they could use me "next year." I have to admit I felt a little disappointed at not helping out, but I guess it was good to know they had plenty of people on hand. Since it was my first Burning Man, I concluded, maybe I should just sit back and enjoy it. At least they know I tried. (Actually, I did help out in a small way. Wednesday evening, right after I arrived, I was out at the Man when a guy asked me for some help. His scarf had gotten jammed into his bicycle gears. I tried to get it out, but it was hopeless. It had to be cut out. Luckily, I had my Swiss Army knife with me, and I had him going in no time. "Thanks," he said, "You just saved Burning Man for me." So, for a first-timer, I guess I did my bit.)   

Friday afternoon was the 8th annual Critical Tits parade. Hundreds of topless women on bicycles. Oh. My. Goodness. 

Walking back from Center Camp, a guy came up to me and put a feather boa around my neck. "This is for you," he said. So, I gave him one of my bandanas, and he was so was a bandana of a color he didn't already have. Way out on the playa, between Center Camp and the Man, something happened, and suddenly a bunch of black smoke filled the sky. I had an awful feeling–Had there been an accident? Did one of the planes go down? Emergency crews responded, and a truckload of rangers headed out to investigate. It turned out to have been a fire art exhibit gone terribly wrong--fortunately, nobody was hurt. I spoke to a middle-aged topless woman who'd had an accident at Burning Man years before. They had airlifted her by helicopter to Reno, at a cost of $9 thousand. Luckily, she was okay, and the insurance took care of it. 

Back at HOTD, Astron was back and helping out at the bar. When some guy got fresh, she slapped him across the face. I mean really slapped him–hard. Astron was a little drunk, and was amusing everyone by wandering between the tables, talking on a megaphone, insulting people as they walked by. "Hey, you ! You suck!" She was the center of attention. Astron was having a wonderful time. In fact, she was having such a good time she ended up passed out in her chair. We put her in a recliner chair with her head facing her shoulder, so that if she threw up she wouldn't drown. Her friends came by later on to take her back to their camp, and someone said it would be a lot easier if they had a wheelchair... and son of a gun, somebody brought a wheelchair! They took her back, and just as they were putting her to bed, Astron wakes up long enough to yell "Bartender..!" 

I wandered out to the Man after dark to try to get some pictures, since it would be my last chance before the burn Saturday night. Within 24 hours, I thought, it would all be gone. There were lots of people out and about, taking one last look. A nice girl took my picture in front of the Man. I ended up with a really goofy look on my face. Happiness was in the air. Standing way out there alone on the playa, the carpet of stars expanding above me, the surrounding horizon ringed with lights, sounds, colors, smells, laughter, dancing and the vibrations of hundreds of drums come at me from above and below and from all directions, my spirit soared, expanded, became transcendent... the feeling was overwhelming, exhilarating. I was giddy with wonderment.  

I felt so alive! 

The Green Tortoise: the daily bus back to the world
Art Car
Me, grinning like a goof at the Man Friday night
The amazing La Contessa
Dust devil on the Playa
The Valhalla Lounge
Visiting the Man
Fire dancer
The Man at night. Laser beams went from the Temple of Honor, straight through to Center Camp
Prologue --Day 1 --- Day 2 --- Day 3 --- Day 4 --- Day 5 --- Day 6 --- Day 7 --- Day 8 --- Day 9 --- Day 10 -- Epilogue
Current weather conditions in
Gerlach, Nevada
Last Updated: September, 2003
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