Monday, October 24, 2011

Burning Blog 1

This entry has been a long time coming. Long time in the making. Too long for me to keep taking my sweet time writing and re-writing and editing and changing, and really, who cares anyway? So it's going up with all its lacking and imperfection. Much like myself, so I guess it works.  Anyway, here we go:

Oh, also, it's really long, so it's being installed in sections. So if you have any interest in reading, be prepared.

Mad Max was brought up a lot, mostly by my new-found Irish friend. Tron came to mind. Star Wars. Star Wars was used as a descriptor a lot. Particularly anytime the Death Star car was in view. Blade Runner was offered a few times, as was Firefly, in an attempt to find anything that similarly, seamlessly integrated seemingly contradicting cultures. All were accurate analogies for pieces of the Playa. But none came close to describing the whole. Nothing does.

Lexie and I arrived around 2:30 or 3, default desert time, to Black Rock City. We had left Reno sometime around 7 or 8, I think, and had stopped in Gerlach to browse through the store, get acquainted with fellow Burners, check out a gorgeous, if more in spirit than in looks, 65 Mustang convertible, and buy goggles. Then we hoped back in our Big Red Pickup Truck (nicknamed Dusty, by that point) and continued on through Gerlach and onto the entry road. The long, dusty, slow-moving, life-altering entry road.  Vehicles are strictly limited to 5-10 MPH, and even at that pace most of the time we were blinded by dust. At some point, after some time (the only measurements I was capable of by then) we stopped our 10MPH roll and joined the already long queue for the entry gate. It was then that it hit me: I was at Burning Man. I was Han, about to make the jump to hyperspace. (Because, I'm a nerd). I was in and amongst and a part of a very specific group of people. And I was PUMPED.

Once in the queue, you move even slower. So most people start hoping out of their cars, trucks, buses, campers, etc. And hop on their bikes, or their unicycles, or their pogo sticks, or their stilts, or hell, they just hop. And they take off--off of the road, onto the desert floor, to dance, to run, to meditate, to swirl, to watch, to make friends, to be alone. To do whatever. Some people start building their art cars. Putting on their costumes. Giving gifts. Making friends. Extending invitations. Fly kites. In our case, blowing bubbles. I had planned to stay in the truck until we were through the gate. I lasted for about 3 songs on the BRC radio and a whole lot of rambling by the DJ. Then I decided it was time. I hoped out, and headed off the road and onto the sectioned off desert floor. I stared at the BRC mountains. I took pictures of the queue, now extending well past our Dusty truck. I watched the Burners. I watched a hot pink and gold art car being built. I made friends with an Australian fellow named Jason, who wandered out in the roped-off part of desert to investigate the same little scampering critter that I had wandered out to investigate. I hop our little friend, the little lost field mouse, found a home for the week. He was a friendly fellow, and, Jason and I decided, a good omen for the Burn. After our mouse friend continued on his way (presumably to Gerlach, but perhaps he made it into someone's camp), Jason told me about past Burns and asked me about life in Chicago (his favorite movie was Ferris Bueller. A second good omen). It was one of the easiest small talk, get-to-know-someone conversations I have ever participated in. We exchanged desired campground info, and invited each other over to our camps for...whatever. Water? Food? Conversation? Knitting lesson? And then parted ways. I had made a Burner friend before even getting into the city limits. Not too shabby.

After that it seemed to not take very long to get up to the gate. A greeter came up and confirmed that we had water and tickets and told us which lane to pull into for official entrance. My excitement grew. This was it. We were entering the point of no return. Once inside, nothing was ever going to be the same.  Nor would anything ever again be dust-free. Ever, ever, again.  We got to the gate. A beautiful, pigtailed, cowboy hat clad woman greeted us with a genuinely excited, warm "Welcome home!!" and big, big hug. Lexie alerted her to the virgin in the car (me). We were told to pull through the gate, over to the side, park, and run back for my initiation ceremony.  We followed orders, and as I made my way back to the gate I tried to take everything in while trying not to get killed by incoming vehicles, which didn't work very well, so I focused on not getting killed seconds after my arrival. We reached the gate again, and our lovely greeter gave me my instructions: pick up the metal pipe, bang the bell/gong thing as hard as possible, and yell, at the top of my lungs, the initiation statement. I picked up the pipe. I harnessed all the knowledge I could remember from all the baseball documentaries I'd ever watched, and as I took my swing, I screamed, at the top of my lungs: "I'm not a virgin anymore!" And we went to find our camp.

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