Saturday, September 20, 2008

2008 Burning Man Story




I have more thoughts on Addict's Mind that I will post in the next couple of days, but today (at long last) it's time to get the story of this year's Burning Man done! :-)

When we last talked, DB and Brooklyn had left for early arrival at Burning Man on Friday. Early Monday morning, I flew to Reno where I was met at the airport by a lovely couple who I had met on the internet and had offered to drive me the two and a half hours out to the "playa" (desert where Burning Man takes place). They had met there three years before. She is from California and he is from England. They married last year and now live in England...they turned out to be a lovely couple and even camped with us this year...

We had a jolly old time driving out to the playa -- getting more and more excited every mile -- sharing stories of our prior Burns. It was a beautiful day. Usually when you arrive, you are greeted by signs like this on your way in (keeping you amused while often waiting in line):


Unfortunately, as we turned off the road onto the playa, the dust storm we had seen from far away (these are wide-open Western vistas) enveloped us. To make a VERY long story short, it took us about 4 hours to go the two miles to our camp!! It was total whiteout conditions so you had to either go very slow or stop altogether. Punishing! I always like having a dust storm on the way in because it feels like you are entering another world, but this was a little much!

We were stopped at the Greeters Station for about two hours when the dust cleared for a bit and I could see the large tent at the center of our village...it was so close and my sweetie was there and I hadn't had a kiss in three days!! So, I was OFF. Unloaded one of the bikes from the car and without goggles or dust mask for my face, I road into the storm (which kicked up again soon after I left the car). This was not the smartest thing to do in a whiteout, but it WAS dramatic!

I got to camp and, of course, no one was around -- DB had no idea what time I would be arriving and I knew that. So I set about gathering up goggles and dust masks for me and my new friends in preparation to head back out to them where they were still stuck, unable to enter the city. Just as I was about to leave, through the dust came my sweetie!!! Yippeee!! I got my kisses. Turns out it had been whiteout conditions for two whole days...yikes. This was the beginning...



(And that's not even THAT bad. Seriously.)

My new friends finally made it to our camp and set up and we were all ready to go out for our first night. I realized this year that every year I'm hoping to feel the wonder I felt the first night I was ever there and went out to the middle of the playa (the middle of the city) and saw its vastness and the amazing lights and art that people brought out there. Art cars, bikes decorated with lights, people decorated with lights. It's really an amazing sight. This is us just...looking (it's almost impossible to get photos at night...sorry!):



The next morning, we got up and it was a beautiful, non-dusty day! We headed to Center Camp Cafe (one of the two things you can purchase there is coffee):



(you can also purchase ice):




After our coffee, I had to head back to our village because I had volunteered to help with the village tours every day from 11:01 to 12:01 (most days they actually took two hours this year because we had such amazing projects to show!). These tours would be a true highlight of my year -- I learned SO much about alternative energy: solar panels, wind generators, swamp coolers, solar blenders, solar ovens (everyone loved the one camp where they fed us quesadillas and fresh cookies every day!), and (what I now want for next year) an ebike. I also got to know a lot more of my fellow villagers and, because I love the community aspect of Burning Man, this was fantastic for me!! I did this tour every day from Tuesday through Saturday and I have ZERO photos of it, do you believe it?! Anyway...

After the tour, our mail delivery came...yes, there's actual mail delivery (from the Post Office, but delivered by volunteers) on the playa!! Brooklyn's husband (who couldn't come this year) sent us all mail:



(And DB sent me a beautiful card that I got later in the day too. For a girl whose dad and granddad worked for the post office, this was super cool!)

After the tour on Tuesday, DB and I headed out to the middle of the playa to see art/projects. This was really my favorite day this year. The art wasn't as great as in previous years, but there were some fun things. My favorite was McLightenment:


Yes, they had a drive-thru serving things such as Nirvana, Samadhi and Bliss. (This year's art theme was The American Dream and this was a perfect example -- don't we all want drive-thru enlightenment?). ;-)

We also came across some people who were taking down a piece -- someone had destroyed it the night before (yes, there are idiot yahoos even out there in paradise). So, in the true Burning Man spirit, we stopped to help them (we actually stopped to get some shade and they were under it working and THEN we started to help!). I had a BALL...I learned to use a socket wrench...what FUN!!


(That's me and my socket wrench.)

On Wednesday, I managed to get heat exhaustion. NOT fun. Luckily we had a nurse camping right next to us and she became a good friend over the week. She diagnosed me when I started getting cramps in my belly, doused a sarong in ice water and wrapped me in it. I stayed like that for a few hours until I felt better. I was totally bummed that this happened on Wednesday because that is the day I do Greeters -- the wacky people who stop everyone coming into the city and welcome them "home". This is usually my favorite thing of the week, but I couldn't start with the rest of my crew on nurse's orders. I did manage to put in my four hours but started an hour late...and with an icy sarong on my head:


(That's me in our "dome home" in my Greeter finery.)

I haven't mentioned yet another thing that made this year super difficult physically: the playa was HORRIBLE to bike on. It is usually flat and hard so very easy to get around the very large city (no driving in cars allowed unless you're in an art car):



This year there were huge "serpents" (snake-shaped sand dunes) and actual dunes themselves along with huge ruts. So either you would be bumping along ouchily or you would be biking along nicely and run into a dune and CRASH. Yes, lots of bruises this year. And virtually impossible to bike safely at night so we walked everywhere...this was not horrible, but not really that fun.

Thursday was more of the same: coffee, tour and killing time in dust storms:







One really cool thing on Thursday was that I had signed up on MoveOn.org to host a party to watch (well, really listen, no tv out there) the Obama speech at the Dem convention. People actually came! And it was the first time that Burning Man allowed any programming from outside the city to be broadcast on its radio station. Loved it!! During our party, our village mayor came over and played jazz drums with the speech...an unforgettable experience:


That night I went out looking for some friends who were supposed to arrive that day with their 10-month old baby...so I headed over to Kidsville and left them a message. They came over later than night to our camp and we had fun visiting with the littlest Burner. ;-)

Friday is usually the day when I lose it. I am tired, dirty, cranky, ready to GO. Well this Friday morning, we were sleeping in our tent and I heard a voice that I thought I recognized...but no, it couldn't be! Brooklyn's husband had flown in from Virginia on the red-eye to Sacramento to surprise her/us!!!! We were thrilled. Things just weren't the same without the four of us together this year and he came and we had our foursome as usual...yay!!!

A friend of ours from home who is an artist also arrived on Friday for his first Burn...so my Friday was FUN.

Friday night we dressed up and headed out...


And I ended up going to sleep on my cape out on the playa while everyone else looked at an art project. It was just so comfy! ;-)

Saturday is Burn Day and it ended up being such a huge whiteout dust storm day that they almost cancelled burning the man. So we had another day at "home dome"...playing music, hoping for the storm to end so we could go out for our big night:




About 9 pm, they finally announced that the Burn would happen so we all rushed to get our finery on and headed out...it's a good mile walk to The Man so we skedaddled. And we pushed DB's drum cart with us...DB and I ended up staying back from The Man with the drum truck (a/k/a Rhythm Jism) and watched The Man burn from afar. It was cool. (Again, sorry, no photos, but you can find them on-line pretty easily if you look.) And here's the Rhythm Jism:


Sunday is packing up day, then The Temple burns (the Temple is a beautiful place where people put their memories and remembrances of past loved ones and things that they want to let go...then it burns on Sunday night...I love the Temple burn). We knocked ourselves out packing and had to rush to make it out (farther than The Man) to the Temple...but it was an absolutely beautiful sight. This year, the Temple was made of "basura sagrada" (sacred trash)...all recyled materials...beautiful windchimes of reused metal, etc. Truly special.

Unfortunately, after the Temple burned, a huge dust storm came up and we were all trying to walk back to the city and got lost. DB and I had a huge fight and I ended up struggling home alone. NOT a fun way to end the week...but emotions are very much on the surface out there...it's brutal...and sometimes not-so-fun stuff happens.

Anyway, in the middle of that night Brooklyn and her hubby headed out to Reno since it started to rain and they were afraid to get stuck in the mud (and he had to be back to VA for work on Tuesday). We got up at 5:30 and managed to get out and to Reno in 3 1/2 hours (a record...usually it takes 3 hours to get to the road from camp!). Yay! Brooklyn and Hubby? SEVEN hours to Reno. There was a terrible accident on the road on the way out. Sad.

We picked up Brooklyn in Reno and headed to our lodge in the eastern Sierras for showers, gambling and cooked food. YUMMMY!! We went to sleep at 9 pm. And got up the next morning for the drive home...beautiful:

4 comments:

Vickie said...

I believe you when you say it is fun and that you love it - and I am so glad that you post about it every year - this year it is a little hard to see the fun through all the dust - I am so glad that you made it home in one piece!

Cindy...154 said...

WOW..I really want to go to this. It sounds like my kind of thing. You look great, by the way, in all the photos. I think I am going to get me some boxers. I already have quite a collection of bras. I am serious about this. I feel I must experience it. Thanks SO much for telling the story each year. Sounds incredible..

LG said...

Oh my god, you guys are the cutest! You look so awesome (and so does the DB). I definitely am motivated to get my money problems together and come out there. What fun! Your photos are awesome!

Laura N said...

Holy cow. What an adventure. You are tough, woman. I would never be able to go through that! The last picture of the two of you is adorable.