Burning Man Sketchbook: Thursday
 
The Sun was well up in the sky when I got up Thursday morning, August 28th. At the bar, a bunch of people were sitting around in camp chairs talking. I met Persnickity, a pretty redhead who reminded me of another pretty redhead from Missouri. A guy on a big tricycle rolled up and proposed a game. Someone started with the name of a famous person. The next person had to name another famous person whose first name started with the first initial of the previous famous person. It went clockwise until someone used the name of someone with the same first & last initials, then it went counterclockwise. Players had ten seconds to come up with a name, or else they had to do the “penalty,” which kept changing. It was an addictive game. The tricycle guy left to go to the porta-potties, and then never came back. It was like he figured My job is done.

A girl in orange with a nice smile sat playing with just one fake eyelash. When someone took it off for her, she yelped, “Ow! F*ck you!” She thought I did too well at the game. That morning reminded me of some of my favorite moments at Burning Man: sitting around in the middle of nowhere, talking with perfect strangers… and feeling completely at home. I walked Becka back to Pandora’s, where people were already lined up again to get their bicycles fixed. Pandora’s was at prime location, in a high-traffic area near Center Camp, so lots of people came by. It was already pretty hot out when I got back to camp, but I crawled inside my tent anyway to take a nap. It was a dry heat, I kept telling myself. I heard people walking by my tent, talking about how Mark had shown up. I slept through the Midwest Burners meet-up at the Man at noon, something I felt bad about missing.

The joint was jumping when I woke up. Music was playing and the place was full of people dancing. I spotted Mark playing drums on stage, and he waved to me. Gomer got up and played a long song based on his rejected suggestion for next year’s Burning Man theme: “F*ck Sh*t Up!” I sat and listened to music for a while, watching people come and go through the bar. Hair of the Dog was Silicon Village’s bar and music stage. There was someone playing music on stage pretty much all day. It was good to see Steph again, one half of the Twins, and Sweet. In between sets, I got on my bike and went for a ride out to the Man. There was some wind, but not much. The upper levels were packed, and there was a long line of people waiting to go up. So, I rode out to the Temple. I was impressed with all the metal decorations on the Temple that year, many doubling as wind chimes. The personal memorials were, as always, inspiring and heartbreaking. One read, “Goodbye Casey; I wish we could have helped.” Some messages looked written in Hebrew. I talked to one person who couldn’t understand why anyone would take photos of the memorials. It seemed rude to her. I rode my bike out to Babylon, the 11-story office building constructed out in the deep playa. I didn’t climb up. I tried to ride my bike back the Esplanade, but the ground was too unpredictable. Hard in parts, it went from solid to slushy dunes to rough, broken chunks. “You can’t ride a bike in this!” I’d heard Gomer say. So, I ended up walking my bike all over the place. I ended up at 2:00 and the Esplanade, pushing the bike across the uneven ground. I passed the High Chair, a bar built eight feet off the ground. (It was meant to service people on stilts.)

As I was walking past the camps, I noticed a pair of aircraft far across the playa. They were huge airplanes. I’m no expert, but they C-130 transports, buzzing the playa. I went by the Lost Penguin, and a camp with trampolines, and passed elaborate art cars. I went by Center Camp to give away some of the swag I brought. One camp was handing out margaritas—very salty. At Hair of the Dog, Michael drilled a hole in the bar and set up a tap hooked up to a beer keg. We had cold beer, on tap, in the middle of the desert. Yup, I thought, I’m at Burning Man.

Gomer was on stage performing, with Mark on drums and Emory, Michelle’s husband, on guitar. Michelle had to work and couldn’t make it that year. In fact, Hair of the Dog had to do without Spanky or D-Mo or Billy D. Lunch was a can of soup, heated up on the dashboard and very hot. Becka said she was going to stick close to Pandora’s that evening. In the bar, I met up with somebody from Iron Rose Camp that was a friend of Jenn. They said they’d say hi for me.

I did have a couple of disappointing moments that day. Every since appropriating a shot glass from the certain camp (which shall remain nameless) several years past, I’d tried to take them a fancy shot glass every year. So that year, I took them a souvenir Oklahoma shot glass, shaped like a boot. When I tried to give it to them, however, the bartender refused it. I’d only had one other person, in all the years I'd attended Burning Man, refuse a gift; it seemed rude... and a little insulting. So, I wandered off down the street and found a camp called Bordello of Dust. It had a comfortable, shaded area and a bar, so I gave them the shot glass. They appreciated the gift. I met a charming girl named Jeannie and had a great time there with a bunch of friendly people. The other disappointing moment came courtesy of another camp that shall remain nameless. Every year, they hand out medallions to people that donate bar supplies. I really wanted one of those medallions. The one time I’d tried to donate something was when I brought them a 6-pack of V-8 Juice. They said what they needed was juice, to make mixed drinks with, but the bartender appreciated my gesture and made me a drink to thank me for the effort. So, that year, I made an effort to get a big jug of juice and donate it. When I went by, however, it took the bartender forever to notice me. When I offered the juice, he glanced at it and said, “That’s really not worth a medallion. What we really need is ice.” And then he just walked away. The hell? The people in that get camp get medallions every year just for showing up, but I make an effort to bring them a donation and they just blow me off? Fine! I took the jug of juice by Pandora’s and donated it to them. They thanked me. And you know what? I had another jug of juice and donated that to Hair of the Dog. So there. I didn’t want a dumb old medallion, anyway…

I circled by Center Camp, and at BMIR the loudspeakers were broadcasting Barack Obama’s acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention. Dozens of people were standing around listening, occasionally applauding. Above, about 20 parachutists were descending silently out of the late afternoon sky. I forgot all about a wedding out at Shiva Vista Fire Enclave that evening. The couple had advertised beforehand for people to come and take photographs. As darkness fell, the Puritanica party was going at Hair of the Dog. It was a camp of folks dressed as Puritans, with tall hats and black cloaks. A fire was going, and they were cooking up a big stack of turkey legs.  There never seems to be enough meat on a turkey leg. Nevertheless, it was the best turkey leg ever! I got very sleepy after that. It may have been the turkey, or it might’ve been the fact that I’d been out in the Sun most of the day. Anyway, I crawled back into my tent to take a short nap. My chest had finally recovered from Death Valley, and it didn’t hurt to breathe any more.

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I awoke after what seemed an hour or so. People were sitting under dim lights in the bar, talking. I saw Anne, Lisa D. and Spoon. I went for a walk out on the playa. A huge art car passed me; shaped like a dragon, it even breathed fire. I came upon an art project designed to look like a big tree, with blue and white leaves strung with lights. An artist was handing out 3-D glasses, and they made the lights look magical. I went walking way out by 9:00. There were some camps I wanted to visit out that way, but I couldn’t find any of them. Everything was dark. Everybody seemed to be shut down for the night, which seemed odd.

I kept walking past the “K” street, beyond the perimeter allowed for camping, and out into the open playa. Beyond the lights of the city, the desert stars seemed even more dazzling. The Milky Way formed an arch almost directly overhead. I breathed deep the dusty air. Headlights appeared over on the outer street of the city. It looked like people were still arriving. I walked back into the city, and passed a couple of camps that had big video screens playing. One camp was showing the movie “Heavy Metal.” Down the street, a girl’s voice sounded upset. She was in the middle of the street, kicking a tangled camp chair. “F*ck you, chair!” she cried. She was really angry at that chair. A swift kick sent it flying against an RV, and when it struck and rolled back, the girl put up her fists. “Bring it, bitch!” she snarled. A couple of her friends stood by helplessly, possibly hoping she’d soon run through whatever it was in her system.

I saw a crowd of people at Pandora’s. Back at camp, Star was asleep in a chair. Lisa D. got me a beer from the tap. There was a lot of foam, so I joked it was a “beerachino.” The lights in camp were too dim to write, so I walked over to Center Camp and wrote for a while. I hitched a ride there on an art car that was playing a rock version of Ravel’s “Bolero.” In Center Camp, I found a comfortable place and listened to a woman on stage named Veronica. She was singing selections from the opera “La Boheme,” and even though it was a different language she was really singing well. People listened silently, enraptured by her vibrant voice. She was interrupted only once by a group of people marching through singing the “Ma-na Ma-na” song.
 
Two clowns sat talking. Nearby, two people kissed as the guy next to them stood on his head. The Ball of Pooh had returned. A girl rolled around on it as she chatted with a nearby friend. The breeze picked up, and it suddenly got very chilly. There were lights beyond the dome tents, far out towards the horizon. Back at Hair of the Dog, the beer keg messed up. So, Spoon and I rode down the street to get his keg. It was too big to fit on his bicycle, so he disappeared into the darkness for a few minutes. When he came back, he had a wheelbarrow! Where the hell did he find a wheelbarrow? We used it to bring the keg, and soon beer was flowing again. Music played from the loudspeakers, which was hooked up to somebody’s Ipod. I was looking forward to my Greeter shift Friday morning, and mentioned I really should get some sleep before I had to get up for that. “You’d better hurry,” the guy replied. “It’s almost five.” What? What??? “You’re kidding,” I said, but he showed me his watch. It was five minutes to five AM. It was… Friday???
 

 Wednesday 
Friday
 
The Journey West
The Sketchbook
The Journey East
Broken Arrow to Albuquerque
Monday
Black Rock City to Provo
Albuquerque to Las Vegas
Tuesday
Provo to Pueblo
Las Vegas to Beatty
Wednesday
Pueblo to Broken Arrow
 Beatty to Black Rock City
Thursday
 
 
Friday
 
 
Saturday
 
 
Sunday
 
 
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