December 18th, 2002  |  Filed under Tales From The Playa

Experience

Tales From The Playa are dreams and memories of events that took place at Burning Man, as told by its participants.


by Robert Topping

Where to begin? It was such a mind-blowing experience in personal survival against the harsh environment and the cushion each one of us has around us. Driving slowly in so as not to kick up too much dust (it was a windless moment), reading the signs like falling down a rabbit hole and meeting a pixie girl at the entrance. Looking for friends in a Cirque Du Soleil set, everyone on stage (and off…), checking the board, finding my way, embracing my fried friends, setting up camp (and next time, damnit, I’m bringing a motor home!), gathering for a meal in Taco Tod’s (Playa Chicken) cramped RV, various stages of undress, getting ready for an evening out, traveling via glitter bike past temporary abodes. How strange we all are…

Next Time: A tribal throbbing intimate gathering of 13 under a canopy at dusk in the cold wind/rain/mud/j-johns, and just hold on ’cause it’s getting too intense to manage but we will. CYC?

SlabOMeat

October 8th, 2002  |  Filed under Tales From The Playa

6 AM

Tales From The Playa are dreams and memories of events that took place at Burning Man, as told by its participants.


by Julia Fishman

6 AM. I’ve been up all night, and a happy exhaustion blankets me as I look out at the pink horizon. I’m sitting on the edge of the fountain in front of center camp, watching night slowly turn to day.

Peace. A couple huddles together on the other side of the fountain edge. His shoulder is her pillow. I see the energy between them. I’ve felt it several times this week already. Honesty. There are no barriers or internal monologues driving these two souls apart. That separation has melted in the forever expanse of cracked playa floor and the shadowy mountains guarding it edges.

I can hear the drums behind me. People are still dancing. The fire they encircle rises up with the wind. How I danced tonight! With those drums, part of a frenetic mass. And later on, alone and smooth. I twirled and twirled on my dusty mosaic dance floor. The music was loud in this quiet spot. And I twirled and twirled. The mind-prison gate opened for a little while. My body’s heavy cloak fell down.

Earlier in the night, I sat on this earth with three friends. We brushed off the lies, the calm exteriors. We left only our true selves. Exposed, naked and glad. Our islands merged for that hour.

The pink sky turns crimson. A stray art car bounces by. I take a deep breath and sit up a little straighter. I’m preparing to stand up and walk back to my camp. I take a last look at the images before me. A bike is approaching. As it get closer, I see my beatific smile reflected back at me in the rider’s face. We reach out our hands simultaneously and give each other a hi-five as he whizzes by.

October 5th, 2002  |  Filed under Tales From The Playa

Cracks in the Darkness

Tales From The Playa are dreams and memories of events that took place at Burning Man, as told by its participants.


by Desert Wind

It was almost dawn by now. They awoke cautiously from a blind fuck. She lifted off him and her heart shaped face dripped with an ounce of tear. Salty was the taste and this was definitely no dog.

Nobody really knows how cold the desert floor really is…you see it as a puzzle piece cracked form and you can feel the dust gather between your toes and other spaces. But you never really know how cold the desert floor really is.

**** He had emerged

He had emerged earlier from the Brimstone of Fire Sermon delivered in a five-sided room. He entered through the Black door and exited thorough the White. They stripped his body dry and anointed him with sacrament. Captain Morgan and company danced bare in the darkness while the slithering god of creation and destruction declared “I am a Giant Penis.” and the congregation responded: “You are a Giant Penis.” Like an echo of voices though a sane mans madhouse; the voices did resonate… resonate…

Resonation was the word of the eve. Meeting was established among dancing and thumping spirits worshiping the blessed Buddha; hallowed be thy name and green be thy color. He coolly glanced across the playing field and adjusted his mothers scarf. At the very same moment but not at the same time, she coolly glanced across the playing field and adjusted her mother’s scarf. Their eyes met with the embarrassment of nations. And quickly turned away. And quickly turned away.

He left; there was no place for nonsense such as this. So he walked and sojourned through the cracks in the darkness with the 3rd voice ringing in his cortex of thought and memory. Tortured be thy name. He continued this ridicule until acquiring upon another safe place along the road. If you could consider what is safe. Here, the fairies were swarming like ever before and he achieved Lotus and waited. This was one of his primary skills. Waiting. For if a man knows how to wait. Then a man knows the path to victory. For most know how to fight. This is not as difficult as it seems. You lay down your life and strike and leave success to faith and destiny. The true warrior knows when to fight and when to wait. This takes the results of battle away from the demons that be named Faith and Destiny and into other hands.

So he waited cross-legged. Nations of incadesants passed in and out of his sphere in the moments that he sat. This thought and that down and this up and that thought. Inside out altogether. The final destination was yet uncertain. For the state of uncertainty is real and this may be the only thing that is certain. What monk is there that stood on top of his situation? NO! Its more like a fish finally peeking his head out of the water only to be assaulted by currents of thought leading to places both high and deep.

In this cyclone of an eve, the swarms we circling and levy was leaking. She appeared again. Again. This time. This time. She was the only that existed. The other forms were mercy haunts of those that once were. She is all that is corporeal.

He asked her for a light. She had none. She asked him for a cigarette. He gave her one. Each bolted into opposite directions to kindle their flame without embarrassment. They rejoined in the center and smoked into silence. Her eyes were sapphires and her scarf was blue. What is there to say?

He started walking. South. She followed. Through the moonscape of the barren land. Devoid of life as we understand. Silence is the word of the eve. They soon reached the center. The center of what? Electricity shot in seven directions. The generator of the silence. The source of that is where they stood. It begged to be touched, to be grasped and twisted and plodded and pulled. He could only love her. No more. He grasped onto the current and let it evaporate into his veins. Ten-thousand memories awoke and faded in the time it takes for a crow to ‘cah.’

…The time was Ancient India. Legends of Love and War. Flowing white robes and vibrating crimson scarves crafted by silk. Elephants and Tigers. An invitation to the banquet…

…The time was Medieval Europe. Castles that reach into the sky. Soft hands and softer kisses. A plot brewing in the Tower…

He released from the current with sigh of a sigh and looked at her one more time. Or maybe he did not look. The pains of memory still twinged through his body. And the face in front of him was beginning to look more familiar. They exited the center and began to walk due East in between the cracks in the darkness…

September 6th, 2002  |  Filed under Tales From The Playa

Burning Man 2002

Tales From The Playa are dreams and memories of events that took place at Burning Man, as told by its participants.

Thursday
I had been working so hard on the Airstream. Six in the morning until ten at night, gutting it out, installing new skylights, replacing the floors. The first smile came to my lips when the solar panel was connected to the two 10 Watt Halogen lights. Blue light filled the concave interior like a shower from the moon herself. The fridge was connected to the gas tanks and fired up. Today I’m finishing up the with the woodwork, which I can do in my sleep. I’m not humming yet.

We end up leaving late. Dina has to drive Kimia and Sema to Cindy, who will have six small children to take care of. She lingers to help. I’m exhausted, but extremely happy with our little mobile house.

We pack up the fridge, nice and cool, with wine and Non alcoholic beer and pre-made meals. Dina thinks the inside looks like our house: A big white room, unfinished pine panels, a black designer fridge and two Louis XIV chairs that have seen the world.

We’re on our way at 4:30pm. We have until midnight to enter Burning Man. I still manage to stop at Radio Shack to pick up a portable radio, a must in my mind. We take the windy highway 49 from Placerville to Auburn. It is the first time I’m driving with a trailer in tow. A twenty-two feet monster at that. But with the exception of a gentle sea-like rocking, it hardly manifests itself as a burden. We stop at Auburn to get gas, blocking up the entire station. The Airstream looks old, peeling paint, dented everywhere. It screams Burning Man.

Passing the Tahoe Mountains, into the Nevada valleys, the sun is fading fast. I realize the running lights on the Airstream are not working. Which means we could get pulled over by the reservation cops and that would be the end of our adventure. Every time we pass a cop, I break and gas at the same time to light up the back lights.

Finally on the highway 447 to nowhere. It’s close to 10 pm and there are not too many last minute visitors driving up. The desert is profound around us. As we come down the last hill towards Gerlach, an explosion fills the air, far far away. It isn’t thunder, but almost. Me and Dina smile at the same time. Time for scientific power in the hands of spirituals.

Friday
“So you’re our squatters” says a burly man with missing teeth. “Welcome to Camp Clutter. I’m Tony. And this is Tony. That over there is our central tent, we do yoga at sunset and tonight I’m roasting a lamb’s leg. Sick of my vegan wife. She won’t even use my knife on her bloody potatoes.”

The other Tony is wearing a blue dress with white pearls. We only saw him in dresses the whole time. Cheap polyester stuff, silk scarves. There was trouble at night, a couple of local kids tried to break into the camp without paying. When they were caught, they started shooting, but no one got hurt. We arrived late last night, parked anywhere and went out checking it out. The people is what I like best. Everyone kind, beautiful, well dressed (or undressed). We didn’t go very far, just up our street, Wheelhouse, to 135o, down to La Playa. Music coming from everywhere. Big domes burning with disco lights. I’m in a haze, directed from place to place. On the way back, I almost pass out.

Glorious morning, perfect weather. Got my heart pounding, running after the water truck, wrestling with two naked girls and three naked muscle men to get a hold of a quick shower, while the truck is still driving away. We all fall to the floor and get covered in mud. Much dirtier than before. We’re laughing and rolling, and promise to do this every morning.

Really the last day before the burn. Dina is wearing a see-through top, red shorts, a red cowboy hat and long black boots. She’s turning heads. They call her a desert apparition, and everyone gives us drinks. We’re sitting in a Mexican truck, drinking margaritas, talking to a lisping giant of a girl from Mehico and her boyfriend from Vancouver. She is loud, and drunk. The truck drives aimlessly through the flat white sand, heckling anyone in sight. An oriental girl is spotted and hauled in. She has the biggest nipples I have ever seen. They give her beads and a pair of underwear. She ties them to her nipples. They don’t need to be cold.

We get off at an odd construction in the middle of nowhere. It seems filled with optics. “The observatory”. It has a miniature model of itself, with a captain standing next to a fireplace, in a dark wood paneled study. On the fireplace is a picture of a girl. I walk in ahead. There is a back room, an exact replica of the model, with a monitor on top of the fireplace. People are staring at it and laughing. Whoever enters, cameras capture from underneath. Rude, but I’m laughing. Dina’s happy she didn’t have her period.

We walk to the cathedral. This year it is truly impressive. Much taller than last year’s. At least three stories up. It is the most ornate structure you ever imagined. Curves within curves within walls. There’s a huge pathway to the Burning Man, then to the central camp. This year everything is more architectural. Central squares, streets, streetlights (antique kerosene lamps). We sit in the patchy shade and listen to the wind. We look at the horizon and share our bottle with a beautiful African queen dressed in green feathers. She laughs deeply. We are intensely happy. For nothing.

Various installations on the way. Nothing is not impressive. Not even a small field of computerized lilies adorned with bejeweled dragonflies. We meander in the desert, I play an old organ for a small audience, repetitive riffs that carry far. Everyone sitting on wooden benches in the shape of whales. We’re near central camp. And it calls us in for the best Chai in the world. We’re exhausted already, the heat intense, and crash out listening to a young bass player with a white fuzzy hat, playing some of the best funk I’ve heard in years. He has so much class, and he’s so young and beautiful. Where do they come from. It’s as if, everyone to my liking, conspired to gather up and serve me. An older women approaches me and asks me if I want a head massage. She produces a battery powered instrument she’s made, with dangly copper extensions. I oblige and I’m immediately transported to heaven. The music is like honey and I’m melting away.

Friday Night
It is at night that the desert comes to life. As a prelude, the two Tonys rush to tell us they’ve just been at the most incredible party two blocks up. We should check it out. Just before, Dina asked me if I saw the Boob Parade. She said it was unending. Thousands of bicycles are parked ahead, the music is strange, not quite African, not quite fast. Green and gold bodies are swaying in a mini dust storm. A man dressed as a butler comes to us with a tray and champagne glasses. “Champagne?” Sure.. Dina disappears to get the camera, the dancing is so intense. By the time she comes back a real storm is brewing, and everyone is urged to leave because of the danger of thunder. The music is fading in and out of the howling wind.

Instead of coming back we head out. It is getting dark, and we walk to the Burning Man. There is an entrance at its base. You can get in only if you participate in the treasure hunt. Finding gold coins at specific locations. We have them, but I don’t want to give one up, they’re so pretty. Dina goes in. She’s gone for hours. She’s the most gorgeous tonight.

As I’m waiting at the base, and listening to two oddballs with megaphone calling for something over and over from various distances to each other, a woman in yellow transparent plastics says “Stunned” to me. I don’t understand. She says she’s bummed because she can’t get in. I give her my coin. She looks at me in surprise. She says have you seen it? I say no. She gives me a hug and goes in. I feel great. “You missed quite a sight.” Dina says, emerging and holding a love poem someone wrote for her. I feel even better.

We read the guy’s poem on the way to the cathedral. I feel compelled to write something and leave it. I write one on the future, and a sad one for my sister. We leave the guy’s poem with his coordinates there. Dina thinks it’s a mean thing to do. “Were you going to call him?” I asked? “No.”, “This way, someone else might. It won’t go to waste.” It’s a shame we won’t be around when they burn the cathedral. I keep returning to it. There’s a wedding in progress between two brides, dressed in wedding gowns. They are holding hands, and looking in each other’s eyes with such purity, such love, that I weep. They are shaking in the desert heat. Fragile little things standing against so much hatred in the outside world. The outside world. I want it gone, this instant.

We walk towards a great noise. The Thunderdome. It is a geodesic dome made of metal rods. People have climbed all over it so it looks like a dome made up of people. Inside, there’s a show going on. Something like a Cirque du Soleil. A kind of acrobatics and dance, done with ropes. It is great. I would have paid a hundred bucks just to see this one show. A woman dressed as a spider is flying, Peter-Pan-like, over her victim. The gestures are powerful and perfect. It follows a series of mock battles between fairies and mages with different kinds of power, fire, water, knives, hypnotic, and so one. Modern dance at its best. A little boy is crouched between our legs and watching it with wide eyes. I can imagine the experience. We must bring Kimia and Sema next year.

Tiredness, alcohol, hours and hours of walking, and we still can’t make ourselves leave the clubs, the shows, the conversations. I don’t remember much, there was so much. I remember waking up to a beautiful face inches from mine, while the roof was spinning overhead. We must have been on a spinning something. On and on. Until falling asleep in the Airstream, listening to the local pirate stations. And what stations! One was playing nothing but a weird stretched out version of “Dark side of the moon”, every thing laid out on the coolest rave rhythm, unending. I dreamed of the dark moon. I dreamed I was swimming in a silver lake, part of a school of fish. All reveling in each other’s company, everyone ready to sacrifice itself in the face of sharks, men, mines.

Saturday
The atmosphere is electric. The music is driving. Everyone is anticipating the burn. We get up early. So comfortable in the airstream. Such luxury to have cold drinks and a good size bed. I make brie cheese sandwiches for everyone in our camp. We have visitors. Russians and Israelis. The Russians are quiet. There’s a drumming circle going strong at nine in the morning. There’s a glance at me and David, the loud guy from Israel. I shake his hand, and give him a sandwich, to show no hard feelings, which I feel none. I am easy going, offering people portraits, making signs.

We separate to meet at central camp. I put the finishing touches on a couple of poems. So easy to write in here. I’m half asleep, listening to a man with long hair playing an electric cello. He has a sampling machine and overdubs himself, layer after layer. The effect is eerie, like waves. People are loving it. Dina joins me and off we are to the “Holy church of the Buzzard” where I find another gold coin. In a floating bed, we meet a young guy that I christen “The King”, for he’s the wearer of the King card of the Go-Gos.

Go-go is a game going on, based on a single tamper-proof set of cards. In order for you to obtain a card, you must do something for a person who has a card that you want. To have the King means you went through a lot. He is cool, with a calm stare, scanning the horizon. He’s going to meet the Ace, ready.

A man comes to Dina and asks for a kiss. He says today is his birthday and he’s soliciting kisses from pretty girls. He is at four hundred and twenty and by night fall he wants to be well over a thousand. He wants to see how far he can get. He’s carrying a booklet attached to a chain on his neck. We get out before a giant yellow rubber ducky. It has been recommended to us for having the most amazing drinks. But before we reach it, an old Russian motorcycle with a side car, in the shape of a mouse, kidnaps us for a ride. The guy keeps apologizing for its condition, saying he got ripped by the Hell’s Angel who sold it to him. Dina’s loving it and keeps taking pictures. She’s always been fond of old bikes.

We end up at a shrine surrounded by a professional light setup. We have an excellent and long conversation with the installer, a guy from Texas, who’s doing standup comedy in NY. We share Kids-in-the-Hall stories and laugh away. He’s telling us about his light installation, that it requires the flight paths to be diverted overhead. This is the flash we saw from far away. He has a gigantic diesel generator that produces 30,000 Watts, enough for a couple of city blocks. We promise to come back at night, but never end up doing it.

Too many other encounters, but on to the burn. Everyone is gathered around the Man at dusk, 35,000, in the shape of a star. There are thousands of fire jugglers in the middle and all kinds of fire hurling dragons and machines of all sorts. This year there’s a heavy duty fireworks happening before the burn. They raise the arms to everyone’s cheers and the fire starts. Really thick black smoke towards south, firemen in asbestos clothes running away. It seems out of control. The heat is so intense, there’s tornadoes forming around the Burning Man. I’m a bit afraid of the energy of the fire and the crowd, but it’s all good, the thing finally crashes and the real party starts.

September 4th, 2002  |  Filed under Tales From The Playa

Resolution and Peace

Tales From The Playa are dreams and memories of events that took place at Burning Man, as told by its participants.


by Bridget

Wow!

We entered Black Rock City after a 2-year hiatus and were instantly overwhelmed and enfolded in strong arms full of love and friendship.

It was so cool to be so many people’s favorite surprise of the weekend – kept hearing over and over, Holy Shit! It’s Shin and Bridget!

I was a bit heavy-hearted, but very glad to get there and to discover that Magic was alive and roaring in BRC. It was home.

Friday, the day of my Grandmother’s funeral, Shin and I walked to the Temple of Joy in the midst of a white-out dust storm, and I passed quite a while meditating, sobbing, reading the words of others on the walls.

Way down low on one of the center posts I wrote:

Gladys Mary Caroll Connelly 9/18/15-8/28/02 Rest in Peace, Be Free, LOVE.

On the other side, I wrote to Dan’s Grandparents (who are major inspirations and role models to us, even though I never got to meet them in this earthly plane ):

To Bertha and Doc, Thanks for showing us HOW.

Walked out sobbing hysterically.

A wizened older man with the most intense laugh lines I’ve ever seen began making a joke at me – I didn’t get it, and didn’t really appreciate the attention – and when I looked at him sharply, he apologized and introduced himself as Dave, the builder of the Temple.

My arms flew around him and I hugged him tight, still sobbing, and thanked him over and over for this beautiful shrine.

This Temple is Joy, you know? He said.

We talked a long time – all of us crying and laughing – about what called me there, about Gladys, about JOY, about Living Well being the best revenge, about being blessed with amazing, transcendent partnership, about Donald Duck. “You may have heard this before,” he said, taking my hand, and looking deep into my soul, “Welcome Home.”

He gave us both a gold doubloon (never mind I already had a pocket full of them within two minutes of arriving in the Bleu Anchovy) so we could visit the inside of the base of the man. “Hold this for me, for a minute, will you?” he said as he placed the coin in my hand.

After that I was free, my heart lightened. I was able to Let Go and enjoy the wonders of our magical home.

On Sunday, at the Temple burn, surrounded by friends amidst a hushed, reverent crowd, a soulful voice began singing Amazing Grace – the song she always told me she wanted played at her funeral – (my father held no mass or service for her at the burial in Hayward. I was pissed off to hear that, but let it go, as I had chosen not to be part of that ceremony), and, hearing those words, “I once was lost, but now am free. Was blind but now I see.”, I knew that my Gladys, the Grandest of Mothers, was singing to me through that voice, that she Understands, that I came to the only right place there was to give her this sendoff, and I knew she was thanking me and loving me for it. Shin held me and we cried together, moved beyond words.

And then the Temple burned. It was the hottest, brightest, most spectacular fire I’ve ever experienced. It touched us all. A million voices, souls, thoughts, spirits were released. The elements danced together – fire, earth, wind swirled around the base, creating dust devils. At the climax, seven birds – some saw doves, others ducks – flew twice around the pyre and off into the heavens. Gladys is Free.

Amen! Awomen!

September 3rd, 2002  |  Filed under Tales From The Playa

A Poem for Lee

Tales From The Playa are dreams and memories of events that took place at Burning Man, as told by its participants.


by Denise-Christine

Morning.
A blood-red ball
on the chill, jagged edge of the earth.
I squeeze my bladder
like an orange
into the playa dust
and recall a dream
of beauty and grace
in a neon-lit, throbbing
desert evening
that turned into night
but never turned into…
Morning.

August 31st, 2002  |  Filed under Tales From The Playa

Burning Man Virgin

Tales From The Playa are dreams and memories of events that took place at Burning Man, as told by its participants.


by Rob Orndoff

Well this year was my first burn. I heard about Burning Man about 5 years ago in Wired magazine. I was very interested and always wanted to go. So in 2001, I finally packed up, and moved out. Here is just a one day journey of what two friends and I did at Burning Man. Things you should probably know: I come from a pretty structured background (military) and have not experienced things of this nature before. So many things in this story may be nothing to your hard core Black Rock citizen, but to a GI from New Jersey, it is a life -enhancing, perception-changing, experience. So here we go…

I woke up about 8:30AM because the sun was baking the side of my tent and it was almost causing me to die of heat stroke. I rolled out of my sleeping bag and sucked down about half a gallon of water. I eagerly woke up my fellow camp mates so we could leave the tent for the first time in the light of day and could finally see the objects that where making weird sounds and bright flashes all night long. Now I could experience the wonders first hand that I had imagined for weeks leading up to Burning Man. It was worse than a Christmas morning for a 6 year old. When I finally unzipped my tent and stepped outside, it was awesome.

Like a post-apocalyptic world. I saw my neighbors with their bar-on-wheels doing a morning tequila shot to spruce them up. I turned my head because I heard the slight noise of a motor, only to see a man with a cowboy hat riding what appeared to be giant wooden black and white horse powered by a go-cart motor. I then noticed some techno music that was providing me with some nice background music, and tried to locate it’s direction and admire the people that would wake up and play my type of music at 8:30 in the morning, loud as hell. The only thing I could think was “beautiful”. I wanted to go play.

Our group got ready and we had decided to donate some physical labor to Burning Man since we had read that you must participate and build this event to make it all work. We headed out to the playa towards the man and heard hammering from what we later found out to be the maze. We went out the maze and found the first guy with a construction belt on and asked how we could help. He put us to work. From about 10:00AM to 1:00PM we nailed the walls of the maze in place. It was hot, sweaty, and dirty, but out here I would get my first lesson that nothing goes unpaid. I came upon a man that was working on the lighting system and started talking to him. I told him my story, he told me his and then he showed me the trick to getting around the maze. That really made my day. Try working in a maze you don’t know how to navigate or where you are, it’s very frustrating.

After securing the walls I found the foreman and asked him what else needed to be done. He was standing with a look of total shock on his face that took me while to notice. He asked ‘Did you see that?” “See what?” I responded. He then began to tell me about how a gorgeous girl decided to treat the maze workers to a show and brought her man to the center of the maze, in view of everyone, and performed oral sex on him. This impressed me and gave me more insight on how this event worked. I contributed to the maze, I was kindly shown how to navigate it. The beautiful female pleases the workers, she gets to use the maze. What a nice system.

So after depleting our water supply at the maze we decided to go back to our camp and fill up. When we returned to camp we see that our neighbors are building something pretty serious. We wonder over an ask what the hell is going on. They tell us about the vision they have of “Pinky’s Bar”. A bar shaped like a pirate ship, with a sun roof, a dance stage with a brass tripper pole and all the down home punch you can drink. Seeing how our first experience went on the maze, we asked if we could help. “No problem!”, they immediately gave us tasks to complete. Well, in the end it took two days to complete the bar, and it really look astounding. We were told that we wouldn’t have to barter a drink as long as we were on the playa. We only took him up on the offer a few times, but it was great knowing it was available and very much appreciated.

After working on the bar for about 2 hours that day we decided that we needed food badly. So we wandered the 50 feet back to our camp and cracked open our case of military style MRE’s, which stands for Meal Ready to Eat. These thing were great for this environment and I was glad I made the choice to bring them. We chowed down and rested until sunset because we were drained from the sun exposure. After resting, it was time to go out and enjoy some new company on the vast playa. We headed down to drum camp because we heard the loud rhythmic pound of… drums. After observing for a little while we saw that every day Joes were just walking up and pounding on a drum of choice. This was the first time I realized that if it’s there, you can play with it. My buddy and I got on either side of the largest drum there that was resting upright on a large stand. As we pounded away, we controlled the beat of 7 or 8 other drums that where playing copaceticly. That was truly awesome itself.

After handing my sticks over to someone else, I turned my attention to the large contraption that I will now do my best trying to explain. It was a large tripod stand about 15 feet high with a large horizontal wagon wheel contraption spinning on top. The wheel had about 6, 50 gallon drums on the end of each spoke that were filled with wood which was presently on fire. The large fire ridden barrels had designs cut out on them that looked like primitive cave art so that the fires from inside would poke out the archaic designs. I noticed I was also standing next to a contraption that looked like a large welding tank on wheels with a long tube poking out of the top at a 45 degree angle toward the barrels. The end of the tube had a pilot light on it. All of a sudden people ran around asking people to stand back. Once everyone was clear, the tank let out a large pop of liquid something or other over the barrels, that exploded like nothing I’ve ever seen before. It was so bright I couldn’t keep my eyes open. It was so hot I couldn’t help but turn around. It was day time, like standing on the surface of the sun day time, for a few seconds. After it was over, I involuntarily cheered like no other.

After the large display of liquid fire, it seemed a little dull there comparatively, so we moved on. We headed to a bar that looked like a large mason jar half buried in the sand. When we entered it seemed like a bar I frequented in NYC. Very nice inside. I saw the tenders making drinks and noticed a basket for bartering goods. I left them two glow sticks and got myself the best dam rum and coke I’ve ever had. After sucking it down, I turned around to move on, but an older fellow was standing behind me that was semi-conservative, resembling dear old dad. He had a large 1-gallon glass jug of pink juice. “What’s that?” I asked. “It’s home brew, you want some?” Well being an average guy I couldn’t pass up good booze when presented to me, I drank a few mouths full and then drank a few more. It was like nectar of the gods, it was awesome stuff. I drank more than I intended because a few minutes later I was pretty umm, drunk.

We then moved down to center camp. The journey there alone was worth the trip. On the way, I saw a truck with a man standing in the back with a bull horn screaming “BLOW JOB! BLOW JOB! BLOW JOB! BLOW JOB!” over and over. Then I proceeded to take 10 whacks on the ass from a spanking machine. I saw a glow stick in the middle of the road and reached to pick it up, only to find out it was attached to a string by some knave fellow and he yanked it away before I could grab it. I thought, “only at burning man.” I examined a to-scale wire frame buffalo and proceeded to check for it’s gender accuracy, and then I made a playa puddle.

Center camp didn’t impress me much. I thought, that like any city, the place to be was the back alleys, the underground. I wanted to check out what happened where the lights were lower. I walked around and found a large open box in front of a camp, and in every way it looked like a treasure chest. I looked inside and then someone behind me said “What do you want? You give, you get.” I said “Well I really want that bottle of gin, but I don’t have much to trade. How about a massage?” The young lady agreed. I gave her the best massage I had in me, she gave me gin. A win-win situation.

After housing some gin, I moved on exploring the “Give a plastic spoon, get a metal spoon” camp and also the thunder dome, where 2 volunteer contestants bungee cord themselves into a dome and battle it out with large sticks mad-max style. I found myself walking down a dark street with no one on it. A large scaffolding was standing before me, probably 50 feet high. I then noticed a bowling ball on the ground at the bottom with several ball imprints on the ground immediately around me. The proverbial light bulb went off. A young brave soul passed me and asked me about it. I shared with him my idea on the situation. We climbed to the top and he dropped the bowling ball off onto the ground. A very simple concept, but where else on this earth would you get to do such a thing?

While roaming to my next location I found myself out on the vast playa and really couldn’t see much due to the dust blowing around. I could hear what sounded like a marching band off in the distance. I stopped to see if it was coming or going. It was getting closer and then out of the darkness, a full fledge marching band, with uniforms and all, marched right on by. They came from darkness and headed right off into it again, just playing their hearts out.

I wondered around the rest of the night meeting person after person. Dancing in club after club and generally wearing myself out. I made it back to the Man probably around 4:00AM where it was packed. I talked to several people and we all watched the sun come up. That night set the tone for the rest of my time in Black Rock City. It took me a while to adjust to a world that had almost the opposite rules I had lived with all my life: E.G. If you DIDN’T dress up funny you are the weird one.

Burning Man to me was like starting a new job, only more fun. Let me explain that analogy: You know what your going for, but you don’t know exactly what to expect, who you’ll meet or exactly what is expected of you. There is certain lingo you have to learn quickly and doesn’t make much sense at first but becomes part of your daily vernacular: E.G. playa. Once you adjust to living in Black Rock City, it’s hard to immediately remember the rules of the other world outside of it. When I got back to the my old society, I, in some small way, had the same feeling I had when I first got to Burning Man; strange, different. I could feel myself adapting back to my old life. But did I really want to?

August 31st, 2002  |  Filed under Tales From The Playa

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Tales From The Playa are dreams and memories of events that took place at Burning Man, as told by its participants.


by Andy Taylor

Flame bearing firewalker
entering my dreams-
clad in leather garments-
clinging, revealing every seam so as to
be seen more fully naked for the clothing
which accentuates-
each rivulet of sweat beading in hair and dripping
down cheeks-

Intensity of jugglers set rhythmically to flame-

Dance for the man-
Dance while he burns-
Chant for the man as the crowd turns tight and
presses in to release life in strong thrown gestures-

Man made lightning striking-
heart burning-
rib cage slowly oscillating swing while we all
climb aboard-
drums banging into the night next to laser lit
streaming silk cocoon and the wind restructuring
environs to its will-

Invite me back barren plain- invite me back to dream-

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