While waiting in line at the porta-potties, I spoke with a girl in a green shirt. She said she wasn't very prepared for her camp, having had only one hour to pack for the week-long event. I had come prepared for another toilet paper shortage, but the porta-potties were much better stocked than they were in 2004. As a result, I had TP out the wazoo. When J.C. wanted to borrow some toilet paper, I didn't have any problem giving him a supply. That was also the morning I got to take my one and only shower of the whole burn. The shower was inside a cleverly-built tent with a zippered door. Several people were having a discussion right next to the shower about how good it was to have it all covered up, so that people could have some privacy... except, they kept talking right next to the shower all the time I was inside. It felt great to get my hair good and clean for the first time since leaving Ely. I was all clean and refreshed and catching up on my notes when I met Jennifer, an impressive lady from the "And then There's Only Love" camp down the street. She was curious about all the police cars the night before, and I told her about the guy who basically shot off his mouth about assaulting a girl. Jennifer invited everyone in the bar to a fire dancing event her camp had scheduled for after dark. I found her to be dynamic and articulate, and I gave her one of my beaded necklaces.
Pamela spent the day clad in a red silk robe. She had great abs. At Pigmalion, the camp across the street from Hair of the Dog, they had a special running every day. Each morning at 11 AM, they would serve fried bacon to anyone who showed up. They must have had a ton of bacon, because there was a crowd every day. For drinks, they made bloody Mary's for everyone, which were really good. (Their secret ingredient: horseradish.) I think that was where I met a buxom blonde called Dragon Lady, as well as a charming pony-tailed blonde girl called Boink. While I was sitting at Pigmalion eating bacon and drinking a bloody Mary, a guy came by carrying colored pens and pads of paper. He was asking people to draw self-portraits, which he would collect and display at his camp. I drew a picture of me in my Utilikilt, which, albeit cartoony, seemed to come out okay. I never found his camp or his collection of self-portraits after that; I hope it came together for him.
Right about that time, Mark served up an amazing breakfast. Mark could cook, fix things, build structures, play different instruments– he did it all. If he had been one of the characters on "Lost," those folks would've been rescued by the third episode. Francie brought news that the La Contessa, recently returned to the playa after a year's hiatus from Burning Man, "ran aground" in the night. It seems the ship took some special guests on "a 6-hour tour"which ended up venturing outside the Perimeter fence, beyond the limits of Black Rock City. In the darkness, they found the part of the Black Rock Desert that isn't completely flat, and going over a bump too fast cracked an axle. It had to be towed back to the playa, where it ended up out past the Esplanade.
Francie, who came to Burning Man from New York, talked about meeting friends from all over the country, and indeed the world. She called the scattering of friends "the diaspora of Burning Man." The continuous parade of people past the bar made people watching a fascinating endeavor. I met a guy named Rob, who may have been a movie star. There were rumors of several celebrities on the playa attending Burning Man. I know Sting was camping on the playa that week, and Joan Baez sang on Sunday afternoon. I met a pretty girl named Katie, who was from Portland, Oregon. She had a painted belly. There were a bunch of folks from Oregon there. There was another girl from Portland named Lexi, who wore a white top with a tutu. Her friend was very nice. The two of them left suddenly because they didn't want to miss pole dancing lessons at a neighboring camp. There was a guy from Canada named Marty, and I talked to him about the difference in violence between the United States and Canada. He said that when people in small Canadian towns don't like you, they don't shoot you, like in America –they just burn your house down. It's called "burning people out."
The delightful Star arrived, and gave me a big, very welcome hug. I had something for her: a CD I'd recorded of every picture I took at Burning Man the year before. I'd been having trouble with CD's, and warned her it might not read well, but she had access to 20 computers back home, and said, "I'll make it work." She approved of my new goatee. I met an outgoing girl called Anna. She wore a polka-dot top and played with the megaphone. The delightful Deidre rode by and said hello to everyone. It was always nice to see her. The water truck came by, spraying the roads to help keep the dust down, and suddenly Pamela ran out into the street behind the truck. She ran under the spray, getting throughly drenched. Back in camp, she sat down at the bar until she dried off.
Towards sunset, I headed out past the Man to the Temple of Dreams. That was where Evacado had announced she was going to get married. On my way, I passed the becalmed La Contessa, it's hull shattered and headed for some drydock/garage somewhere. The walls and steps of the Temple were already covered with memorials to deceased loved ones. I was pleased to see a little memorial to Star Trek's Jimmy Doohan, who just passed away a couple of months before. I actually met him a couple of times at conventions, and remembered him fondly. The steps and decks of the Temple were crowded as the ceremony started... and then I realized, I was at the wrong ceremony! Evacado was getting married in an art car in front of the Temple. There was a big crowd of family and friends around the car. Evacado was all dressed up, and the groom wore a tux. One of the Rangers climbed up on the hood of the art car and performed the ceremony. They were pronounced man and wife just precisely as the last rays of the sun were disappearing behind the mountains. As they kissed, there was a tremendous BOOM as a fire cannon shot a billowing cloud of smoke into the air. The cloud churned and rolled in upon itself, turning into one of those perfect black smoke rings we'd been seeing in the sky all week. It was a magical moment.
I began my long walk back to camp. Halfway to the Esplanade, I passed the Lamplighters, solemnly marching out in formation to perform their nightly duty of illuminating the way for wayward burners. I took my time. It was a beautiful evening. I walked alongside my bike instead of riding. As I went, I passed a bunch of couples –and a few trios– cuddling together in the gathering dusk, their arms coiled in tender embraces. I admit I felt a little lonely. It's funny to think you could feel lonely in the middle of a campsite 30,000 strong, but there's a big difference between "lonely" and "alone." Just then, I saw something lying on the ground ahead. I figured it was a candy wrapper or some such trash. When I picked it up, it was a twenty dollar bill. I got on my bike and rode over to Playa Info, where I turned it in to their Lost & Found. I figured whomever lost it would probably be needing it. The veil of night descended quickly after that. I walked my bike down an unfamiliar street, and a voice cried out, "Would you like some candy?" It came from the N*U*D*E 4077th Camp, where they were giving away Twizzlers to people passing by. I met an enchanting lady called Sugar. She said, "I can tell you're a good person." We got to talking about why people act the way they do, or in some cases don't act the way they should. Sugar said that people's actions aren't dictated so much by religion or law or other factors so much as our genes –we respond to the world and do the things we do because it's hard-wired inside us. It's our way of doing things. Sugar thought I should go back and claim that twenty dollar bill for myself, to do something for myself, "for a change." She gave me a big hug and a kiss as I left. A sign at one camp asked, "Have you forgiven yourself today?"
Back in camp, supper was beef stroganoff, and very delicious.
The stage was completed, but the music wasn't starting just yet. Curly,
the house band for Hair of the Dog, had agreed to a midnight showing at
the Whiskey & Whores Saloon. The plan was for them to play a set, then
come back and start playing on the HOTD stage. Down the street, the fire
dancing at Only Love had attracted such a crowd that their bicycles were
blocking the street. Rangers had to come by and ask them to move the bikes.
I rode across the playa, way out past the Mousetrap, to see the gig at
Whiskey & Whores. The bar there served only whiskey, and they had a
ceremony everyone had to do to get a drink. They had to give a loud rebel
yell, down the shot in one swig, and then slam the shot glass down on the
bar. (For obnoxious people, it was much more elaborate.) Curly played a
fun set of songs. Billy wore a zebra costume as he played, and Lisa wore
a nun's habit. Parisa sat at the table with me, but left early. There were
not nearly as many whores in Whiskey & Whores as I'd imagined there'd
be. When the show was over, I rode out beyond all the camps and artwork
and people, and just looked at the lights and colors and swirling images
all around me, the beat of the music, the thumping of the drums... and
I just had to shake my head at people who so casually dismiss Burning Man
as some sort of hippy gathering or drug party. It was all so, so much more.
|All original content (c)opyright 2005 by Tim Frayser
Last Updated: September, 2005