No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.
Heraclitus, 544 B.C.
….and so it is with the Burn – though it takes place in the same Black Rock Desert every year, all other variables are in play. During my first Burn in 2013, I had a moment where I knew that some day, I would show up at Burning Man in a role of service – to help facilitate the Burn of many other people. I figured that would mean some day in the far off future I would lead my own camp or something like it. As is the case with most great opportunities, that knowing was realized before I felt ready for it. All of my other burns had been all about me – my experience. My healing, my agenda. In those past Burns, that was completely appropriate. I had experiences that shaped who I am for the rest of my life. This year was different – I didn’t have any traumas to heal, I wasn’t seeking any kind of personal evolution – I came to the 2018 Burn feeling good and whole, which set the stage for serving as our village’s placement lead.
The Burning Man Organization (BMORG) assigned our village to a prime spot of real estate in Black Rock City: We were given a 150′ x 400′ plot of playa in which to construct our village, which would contain every tent, camper, RV, vehicle, supporting infrastructure for 120 people, in addition to our playground area that is our participatory gift to Black Rock City. Every single square foot had to be accounted for if we were to make everything fit. It proved to be a big job for 2 months prior to the Burn – countless hours of phone calls, emails, messages, revisions, coordinations – it was like a giant game of Tetris, where the pieces had feelings and individual needs to accommodate. The job proved to be consuming on playa as well, and it was a pleasure. We executed a harmonious village. People regularly commented on the great vibe that was present at Cosmiquarium. We had a great team, that praise goes to all of them.
I begin all of my days with coffee and journaling. Pouring myself onto a page every day is one of the most important parts of my life. It keeps me sane and to the extent I’m creative, it comes from that practice. I kept that practice up every day at the Burn. I wrote an incredible amount of …stuff… every day…. too much to share. What follows is a collection of photos and excerpts from my journal, along with the video that Steve Conlin and I made of our experience at the Burn. It will be organized as chronologically as possible, beginning with the drive from SLC to Black Rock City. I hope you see something here that makes you smile or feel inspired to make something beautiful in your own life.
With duct tape and drywall screws.
Thur 23 Aug 2018: departing for Black Rock City
2:30 pm trailer begins self destructing at 70mph on I-80 Just barely passed Tooele. Put wall of trailer back together with duct tape and drywall screws on the side of the highway.
9:17 pm: We’ve already had the camper trailer start falling apart on the highway, had to rebuild its wall on the side of the freeway with drywall screws and duct tape. It literally started tearing apart due to the wind. This trailer is 50 yes old and revealing its age in disconcerting ways.
Steve is driving and we passed Winnemucca about 30 min ago. Translation- we are in the middle on nowhere, Nevada. This is the challenging part of the journey.
Good news- the weather is absolutely pristine. A crystalline night sky is adorned by luminous jewels- nearly full moon and Mars. The forecast for all of the days of Burning Man- low 50’s at night and mid 80’s in the day. Perfection.
Steve and I are going to make a video this year – I’m sure that will be a really fun, gratifying experience. I really like making videos with Steve. He’s the one who is responsible for me getting into video production in the first place.
I will arrive at my dusty home in gratitude for the richness it’s brought into my life. I am sure there are things for me to learn this year, epic experiences to have, and story worthy adventures awaiting. It feels like Christmas Eve as a kid!
Upon my return I’ll take a week out of my life to edit and share the photos, videos, and essays that I create out there.
Ok this moon and Mars are really calling to me. I’m going to wrap this up and give them their due attention.
Much love –
Paul Duane )’(
Fri 24 Aug 2018
Sat 25 Aug 2018: first day on playa
Sun 26 Aug 2018: getting camp ready for opening day
It’s Sunday morning in Black Rock city.
The Duane Desert Domicile is a 1967 Fireball 16’ trailer. The wood in the walls is rotting, the electrical doesn’t work, and the bench / foldout bed on one end is broken and barely sleepable. Three cases of booze from Ogden’s Own Distillery and two cases of Mexican beers block the small stove. My armpit itches – as my fingers return from scratching, I notice one of the many miracles of the playa: they don’t stink. I haven’t had s shower since Thursday. This is one of the many mysteries of the Playa. Some really groovy, atmospheric electronica plays from a bluetooth speaker via my iPhone. I’m nearing the end of my third cup of coffee from Alysson. The trailer is shaking from the gusts of wind outside. Forecast yesterday was for gusts up to 70mph, today’s forecast seems to have been modified for something closer tot 20mph, for which I am grateful. 70mph winds out here would be near catastrophic. I can taste playa dust in the air inside the camper right now, indicating that a sizable dust storm is materializing outside. I am content as I’ve ever been in this moment – being able to pull out my laptop and sit at a real table and write, in the midst of these most unhospitable fo conditions. The sound of air compressors, generators, and the occasional throbbing bass from a nearby sound system adorns the otherwise austere quietude of the desert. “Just Hang On Beautiful One” by AU4 soars through the trailer as I write. My heart is full and complete and calm and happy in this Mecca of creativity. I’m grateful for this space to write every morning, to keep up my routine that is so central to me being a creative being, here, in this most wild and wonderful and sacred of spaces.
The past two nights I’ve slept wonderfully in this trailer. Yes, it’s on the verge of self destruction, yes, it was dangerous on the highway, but still – wow – it has improved my quality of life immeasurably here on the playa. Being able to sleep to completion is a beautiful. thing.
I even have a little dining table in here. The past two days the trailer has been so full of junk that it’s been difficult to have space to sit down and do my morning routine. Last night I did a lot of housekeeping and reconfigured a lot of storage so now this table is fully functional as my table and, it folds down into a good bed at night.
Placement has been going great. I’ve had to make a couple of small modifications, but everyone has proved cooperative and everyone seems happy. Chase arrived yesterday afternoon, so by the time he got here, the truck was mostly unloaded, most of the playground and camp infrastructure was unloaded and placed, and about half of the village had been placed.
The past two mornings, Alysson has made me coffee and brought it to me while I walk around with the map in hand, greet everyone, see how everyone is doing, answer questions and help. Though it is but a small taste of it, it feels really good every morning to have Alysson make and bring me coffee as I begin the day’s work of the village. There is something to be said for feeling supported, even in a cup of coffee. Side note: Aly is taking very well to the experience so far. She’s mellow and curious and happy and making new friends.
People are starting to call me “Mayor”. Perhaps not coincidentally, I am situated where Stevie always was. Stevie would be very proud of how Cosmiquarium is coming together.
I wish for my kids to see and experience this place. I don’t think Makinley ever will. All she’ll ever know of it will come from what I bring home from the Playa and what she chooses to see and hear.
Makelle – the tragedy here is that as much as this is her spiritual home, it will also be a very challenging environment for her, not only because she’s a bit immature in the department of making good decisions, but because of her seizures. She seizes when she becomes overstimulated and that’s about all this place does – overstimulate. I long to bring her home.
10pm – I go looking for Chase to check in about finishing our work on A street. I end up hanging out with Aaron Billingsley and talking about food. He taught me some cool things about sous vi de cooking. We nerded out over the finer points of cooking well. It felt really good to be having a good, respectful conversation with Aaron. This is not always the case. I’m not sure who changed – me, or him, but it’s really nice and chill now. Sarah offers up a vape pen, Aaron offers bourbon, and after a few hits of each, I’m high as a kite. OF COURSE, not long after that, I have more placements to do. Of course, this new addition to our village needs to leave early and my original design had her boxed in. Thank god I left some extra spaces on the RV lane to work with. Nice job on the foresight, bro. We used it. They were thrilled, they are placed perfectly, and somehow, I was able to not only rework the layout while high as a fucking kite, I was able to direct her trailer maneuvers with total precision. I’m again astounded at how good I really am under the influence. The secret is to just slow down, take on step at a time, and think things through logically. Don’t panic. You aren’t as high as you think you are. This is the mantra.
Mon 27 Aug 2018:
6:00am: Aaron Billingsley is knocking on my door to help get Nate Humphries placed. I got Nate placed and went back to bed. To my utter suprise, I slept until 10am. I rarely do that at home and almost never at Burning Man.
10:30pm Headed out dancing with Lee & Olivia. Every time he goes to the bathroom or steps away otherwise, we are making out furiously. We discover a couple of really fantastic art cars, sound stages, and bars playing a variety of music from super groovy electro to Sinatra. At some point Olivia says, “I am so turned on for you right now” and not too long after that, I emerge from a porto to find that she’s asked Lee if she can just do her own thing tonight. Ie, hang with me and most likely fuck.
Lee took off immediately.
We find our way to another cozy little dome on the playa filled with sofas, pillows and a mellow vibe. We cuddle up, begin making out, and soon she finds a dusty blanket to cover us with. Immediately, hands roam with total abandon. Soon she’s unbuttoning my shorts, pulls out my hard cock, and starts going down on me, right there on the Esplanade. I was getting lost in the pleasure. Soon I notice what seems to be a head of a person creeping up on us. Just as I become aware that it is, indeed, a head of a person, the head said, “Maybe you guys should go find a more private place for that”.
Tue 28 Aug 2018
It’s Tuesday in Black Rock City.
So far so good! Camp is going well. Everyone seems happy, mellow, enjoying the situation. It has been remarked that camp is less cliquey than it has been in years past. Placements are going great. The weather has been absolutely perfect. I spent all of yesterday except for the cool night running around without a shirt on and somehow I didn’t sunburn.
I’m tempted to get up in my head about being self conscious about my body, but I also know that if there’s a single time and place to just enjoy being in one’s skin, it’s here at Burning Man.
There’s nothing like giving myself permission to feel good.
Yesterday Olivia asked me about my dating life. I told her some of the broad strokes, that I was dating consciously, that I had a list, etc. This spurred a conversation about knowing who you are, about purpose, etc. Her vagarities about her own situation were a reminder that I have been given a very rare gift:
I know precisely who I am and exactly what my work is.
Almost nobody else really knows that kind of thing.
I’m impressed, again, with the importance of living fully and in the largest terms possible, and of the opportunity to help others find their purpose.
3:00pm been working hard all day on camp issues, yet it doesn’t feel like I have a lot to show for it. That being said, I did install lights on the slide and monkey bars, two very large pieces of equipment that had no light on them. When I asked Chris about the lighting scheme, his answer was,
“ I did everything I was told to do”.
Such a weak cop out.
Never put a technician in charge of a project that is ultimately artistic in nature.
I doubt if we are given Esplanade placement again.
I’ve gained a new confidence out here – that I am capable of managing a large project and a large team. A few observations about that:
Solid team leads who have a sense of accountability are the key to succeeding.
It is the leader’s job to select and manage those team leads.
I don’t need to know how to do everything. I simply must have a team of people who do.
I can trust my instincts.
Leadership is about supporting those who are doing the front line work.
I wake up to a mom and her kid playing on our seesaw. A couple of Rangers are out there teasing them about how sketchy the playground equipment is.
“It’s not funny if it’s not dangerous!” One of them boisterously, and wisely, commented.
It’s not funny if it’s not dangerous.
Laughing happens on the edge of danger because laughter is the breaking of tension, the common acknowledgement of the danger and the possible safety, though unguaranteed.
What is the laughter of those who are obsessed with safety?
9:45pm: we watched arial display put on by 700 drones. It was absolutely magnificent. I even got teary eyed for a moment, at the beauty of it all. What magnificent, beautiful things people can do. The display was a kind of abstract art in the night sky, as if watching a cell reproduce into two. It felt like an amalgamation of something incredibly organic and primal, with the most cutting edge of technology.
Following the drone show, we follow Chris’s lead to find his roommate’s art car. We roll up on a pink bunny with a small dance deck on top, parked and audio paired with a really cool fire breathing dragon – though this dragon’s sound system is distorting, taking the music from bland and shitty to supremely irritating. I humor the situation for a few minutes but then ultimately declared that I’m bored and that I’m moving on. Though it’s still a scene from another world, here in black rock city, these are the basic white bitches of burning man. I’m immediately bored by the predictability of it and crave something a bit further on the edge.
“Guys, you know, we live next door to one of the biggest sound camps at burning man, if not the biggest”. I see no sense in going on long rides when Camp Walter is next door and a variety of other oddities are nearby. We return home, park our bikes, and walk over to Walter. Though it’s not my favorite music the party scene is positively delightful. Look, if you are going to listen to, and dance to, the most boring predictable music, at least do it with some grandiosity at a big sound camp.
We stayed for a few minutes and then walked around the corner to Bat Country, the Hunter S Thompson themed bar. We found and octagonal shaped bar with room enough for one bartender in the center of it. A pipe ran around the center of the bar, creating a ring of fire that she stood and served within, the ring of fire separating the bar preparation area and the patron area. The bartender on the inside was a surly 30something year old woman called “Ubiquitous”. You had to come at her the right way to get a drink, otherwise she’d just challenge you or ignore you. The few lemons and limes out on the bar were cut and prepared using a rusty machete, which, would be restored to storage by stabbing it violently into the top of the bar.
Finally, something interesting going on at Burning Man.
For the next hour or two, the regular cast of characters at the bar included some dude that looked like a cross between that one pudgy white actor who died recently and HST ala Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Ubuiqitous, the bartender, some guy from Pittsburg who was blurringly inebriated yet still a kind gentleman, and myself. Otherwise people came and went. One guy knew Logan well because he is in an industry that provides parts to the space industry, of which USU is a big part. Ubiquitous had two was of serving drinks to you: if it was a cocktail, she’d mix it up, taste it out of your cup, and declare, “It’s barely palatable.” As she hands it to you across the ring of fire. Ordering a shot? She’ll take a big swig off the bottle, kneel up on the bar, and pass it into your mouth in a kiss.
I like her style.
Wed 29 Aug 2018
Incoherent drunken ramblings about appreciating the ephemeral nature of life:
Fairly drunk in the middle of a margarita party. I realize, I’m not interested in the temporary for the sake of the being temporary because I realize everything is inevitably temporary. So I find value in things you might last for at least a sweet semi short while.
At some point tonight, I started connecting more with Charlotte, aka, Red Cross, the 40yr old nurse from Australia. We spent some time making out behind the bar at center camp, probably giving people quite a show.
Later on I took the Frog Prince out for a very brief ride down to 3:15 and Esplanade. Before leaving, she did this thing that I’ve observed before in girls, in women.
Jessica “Huggie Bear” has long been observant of me at camp. She always says HI, she has given me some nice compliments. She has a boyfriend but I can tell there’s something going on there. (As it turns out, she is finishing up her dissertation on shame, I’m excited to talk more with her). I digress. Before Red and I took off, she and Jessica communed together for a moment, excitedly putting their foreheads together and exchanging energized blocks of girl code between one another – a primitive pep talk, one that’s encoded onto the second X chromosome and instinctually exhibited by the possessor of such.
She was extremely tired, which persuaded a return back to camp. Upon returning, we found a Fire Tribe performance happening, and Stevie! Somehow, someone gifted Stevie a ticket, his roommate was able to care for his dog, and he came out. It felt good to be able to show him a well functioning camp. After what seemed like a hundred delays, we ended up in my trailer, getting naked. She was an enthusiastic lover.
Thur 30 Aug 2018
Burning Man – Thursday. The Man burns in 2 days.
This morning while in the middle of my morning shit in the Portos, I was thinking about my experience thus far out here. I remembered that there was a part of me that thought I’d bring out some nylons and a heel to place and burn in the Temple.
I’m not sure what kind of shit was going on there, but that’s been the last thing on my mind. In fact, I look forward to getting home, having a proper shower, cleaning up, putting on my best, and going out for the night.
I’m still feeling awesome about Patreon and the Soul Anarchists. In fact, I am thinking bigger thoughts.
Perhaps the Soul Anarchists deserve their own Burning Man experience. Our own camp, or at least, our own corner in Cosmiquarium.
Upon returning home, I’m going to get that motorcycle handled so fast, and so completely. I’ve built a fucking camp. I can get that bike running. It’s high time to get on with that part of my life.
I’m not sure what was going on before, but there was some kind of fear, some kind of lack of initiative to just fucking get my hands dirty and get the job done. I’m super ready for that now. I feel the road calling me. It is time to embark on the back of that beautiful bike.
I start the day with a bit of orange juice and quickly refill with a margarita. Our camp bar is overflowing with tequila and mixers., even after our margarita party. Hell, we are at burning man. When else is it socially acceptable to begin the day with a nice big cold margarita?
11:00am: Charlotte comes to my trailer. “Would you like to take a shower together today? I have this soap that’s non…. (Everything),has a cool tingly feel, and NOT TESTED ON ANIMALS!, it’s the best shit.”
My initial reaction is that feels like a big commitment. My reluctance is understated, and I agree. I get back to my journaling.
11:45am: Drinking a big, rich 8% IPA with Xander and Jessica. Charlotte joins. We drink another round. A joint gets passed around, and I become surprisingly stoned off of two puffs.
One of the features of our camp is the Rain Bubble – a sauna built and ran by Zafod, one of our campmates. Jessica “Huggie Bear” invites us to join her and some others in the rain bubble – naked. We are both reluctant, as we’ve found an incredibly comfy vibe cuddled up together in a hammock. Jessica beckons us a few more times, becoming nearly insistent that we join – naked. I finally realize that this is something I’d regret passing up, so I run back to my camper, get naked, grab a towel, and head over. I find Charlotte in their already, along with 10 or so other people, most of which are naked. I can’t help but check everyone out – the ladies, and the guys. I’m sizing up my penis, because I’m sure the women are too. My dick is, by far, the smallest and most shriveled up. I don’t care too much, though a part of me wants to publicly announce that I’m a grower. I like to think that I didn’t think about this, but I absolutely wanted everyone to know I’ve got a decent dick. Oh well. After 20 min or so in the bubble, we get out, and soon it is proposed that Charlotte return to read her erotic story to the inhabitants of the rain bubble. I put some clothes on, grabbed a cold beer and returned to listen to Charlotte tell the story, hoping to see her words inspire a full on orgy which I’d hopefully either voyeur or join.
What does happen, is that Jessica and Xander return to their tent and soon begin having very audible sex. Charlotte and I cheer for them at the appropriate time. Shortly thereafter, Jessica comes out and tells us that was the first time she’s ever had sex at Burning Man. Her and Xander have been to several burns together as a couple. I begin wondering if they are weird, or if I’m just a whore, or very fortunate, or a very fortunate man whore? Burning Man 2013 is the only burn I’ve had where I didn’t have sex at least once.
The afternoon was spent pretty low key – I made fajitas for a big group of people. They were quite delicious, and it felt good to be feeding the Hammonds, Steve, Aly, Alma, Bobby, etc. In years past, I’ve always been the recipient of people’s cooking. I love being able to bring my cooking A-game out here and give.
There’s nothing quite like working a hot cast iron pan with cartelizing onions and peppers in it while looking out over the Esplanade and drinking a cold drink. This is the apex of cooking, if you ask me.
As the evening wore on, I went out on a very brief trip on the Frog Prince with Steve at the helm. Zafod had Bon Jovi playing while we slowly weaved through art installations and art cars, all of which blasted various flavors of EDM. I think about HST’s love of the weirdo, I think about Larry Harvey being the ultimate weirdo. Though this city is supposedly a city of weirdos, the fact is, a great many of them work very hard to fit in. There’s something truly weird and rebellious in Zafod’s music choice. I’m into it. “I’m a cowboy… on a steel horse I ride…. I’m wanted… dead or alive”, blasting over a small speaker on this frog prince art car.
I like it.
I have big plans to shoot a lot of footage tonight. As we get back to camp, I am feeling a bit tired and cold – I lay down on my bed for “just a moment”. That moment soon somehow became 3:30am. I’ve missed all that’s worth seeing tonight, with one exception:
The Temple. I haven’t made my trip to the temple yet, and decide this is probably as good of a time as any for such pilgrimage.
In years past, I’ve had deep spiritual moments in the Temple. Every time I’ve walked in, I’ve felt a deep presence of The Divine. Though I did not have any specific goals, needs, to bring to the Temple this year, I made my visit anyway.
Upon entering, I found it to be very pretty – gorgeous, in fact – and that was the limit of my feeling and experience there. I was not overwhelmed. I was not moved. I appreciated it for what it is, and hoped others found the peace they sought there. Last year was Dad’s temple. This year, it is nobody’s, as far as my world is concerned. I found myself feeling that I OUGHT to be having some big major experience there, and I was tempted to be disappointed at the absence of it. Something tells me that this year, my honest appraisal of the situation – and the sharing of it – is probably what really needs to happen.
Unremarkable magic – the way of the sorcerer, the wizard.
One thing I’ve learned about this magical city is that whatever needs to happen, does. I trust that magic abounds, even if if feels unremarkable in the moment.
It is unremakalble because it comes from expected, and unexpected places. I know this.
I wrote a small tribute and listed the names of all of my tribe who have gone before me, an on the other side of the beam, I wrote a small message to my Dad, though if I’m to be honest, I did not feel him there with me. If anything, it was an act just for me, a small act of sentimentality – a nod to the time and place, and setting forth the next major manifestation of my life:
The road trips.
This is where I will commune with My Father again.
I don’t cry at socially appropriate times.
I know the temple was supposed to bring me to tears tonight. It didn’t. It was beautiful yet it didn’t take my anywhere.
I’m highly suspicious of socially dictated times and places of spirituality. My next encounter with the divine will be on the road.
The prevalence of the corner look, I’d call it a costume , but let’s be honest – everyone is just taking cues- leads me to wonder if Burning man has jumped the shark.
There’s a fine line between a city of misfits and a city of people who are so lost that they quickly jump in the line of compliance. Two different kinds of misfits: those who know who hey are and realize they don’t fit in to the herd of lemmings in society, and thos who are misfit in regards to truly being lost as to who they are. All of my he stories and lore of this place have attracted the Allyson’s of the world.
I returned home just before sunrise and eventually went back to sleep for a few more hours.
I spent most of Thursday night asleep – and realized that this is typical for me. I always hit a wall at burning man, and it’s always around Thursday. So be it.
Fri 31 Aug 2018
Today I woke up fantasizing about eating at a restaurant after having a shower. I guess this is what one week on the Playa will give you.
We are all searching for something bigger.
Burning Man is a tribute to man’s innate desire for communion with something bigger than one’s self.
That’s how Larry talked about it, and the point grows increasingly obvious with every laser blasting, fire belching, bass thumping art car.
Though this place is supremely entertaining, it doesn’t inspire the awe in me that it used to. I’ve found the bigger thing. Hell, even whispers of it dwarf this place. Don’t get me wrong. I’ll be back. This city is my second home.
I woke up this morning to the sounds of people yelling and laughing, at what seemed like 2 feet distance from my window. As it turns out, the Pirates are all up on the Fuck Shit Stack yelling and heckling passers by, which they’re ‘e been doing since sunrise. I can only imagine what drugs are fueling their good time.
Alysson announces that she wants to leave. She’s done too much cocaine, too much ketamine, too much Bobby and Alma, really. I try to persuade her to just drink more water, lay down, drink even more water, and stay for the Man Burn. I do all but plead. It breaks my heart a little to think that she’s going to tap out this fast. On some other level, she’s really shown who she is out here. She has no idea who she is. She is so lost, she got caught up in the Bobby and Alma world and it essentially ruined her burn. She doesn’t speak all of her truths – to anyone – and so she ends up in compromises on all fronts. Furthermore, she quits early.
Aly leaves. She’s off to Reno, a hotel room, and to answer all of the half truths she left at home.
2:00pm troubleshooting the GoPros with Steve. I lost a bunch of footage from the previous night. Very displeased about that.
3:30pm Finally got out to take a few photos on playa. Charlotte joined me for the ride. She’s such a spunky, fun human. Got some great captures.
4:45 return to camp. Begin setting up for the potluck dinner. Charlotte gives me another dose of moly. Soon after, Megan Allen has hit her head on the Cosmiquarium sign. Charlotte goes into full nurse mode, sends me out to get a medic.
“Tell them she’s a GCST 15, they’ll know what that means.”
I show up at the medic tent, and they are just chill as fuck. I tell them what happened, and after conferring amongst one another for a few moments, they decide come to consensus on what GCST 15 means.
“It means she’s normal”, one of the medics tells me.
At this point, I’m starting to feel the effects of the Moly kicking in.
The guy in charge -and I use the term “charge” loosely – is a smiley half asian half Mexican guy from LA with a big smile and not a care in the world.
He calls out to the mobile medic team every few minutes, no response.
Every now and then he reassures me, “they are going to be here any minute now”
“Hey, what channel are we supposed to be on?” He finally asks one of his colleagues, also thick in nonchalance.
“Uh, Channel 2, I think? I don’t know, aren’t you the boss?”
This is all so Burning Man.
He keeps trying various channels. Tries the Black Rock City main dispatch channel. He tries many things and eventually he finds the mobile medics and calls them back in.
After what feels like an other half hour, we finally have a team of medics en route to our camp. Upon arrival, a BLM agent is on site with his lights on, the medics soon follow, and then an ambulance arrives.
They take Megan away on a stretcher in the ambulance. I check in with her boyfriend (or whoever he is). Knowing that I’m about to dose some acid with Steve, and knowing that I’m likely to be completely incapacitated for the night, I get a solid word from him that she’s in his care. I can’t dose until I know there’s a plan in place to make sure she’s ok.
Steve and I take our doses of LSD.
Lark said this stuff is bat shit crazy – said that she took half a hit and it melted her. She does a lot of acid, so I trust that this shit is going to put us into another realm.
Dinner is getting underway, and I’m beginning to feel the effects of the LSD setting in. Steve is feeling good too. The flavors are richer, the colors are brighter, everything is feeling grand. We are seated at the most whimsical of dinner parties. Every guest a colorful character, everything a bit weird and tremendously pretty. At one point, I take a bite of food and realize that I can’t swallow it. It’s stuck in my esophagus somehow, and rather deep down. I try drinking some water. It’s not going down either. I realize that I’m in a degree of trouble. I run out away from the table and throw up on the playa, but it’s really just the water I just drank. I can still breathe. I don’t need to shout for help yet. I go into my trailer to try to just calm down, drink a little more water, get this down, and compose myself. The LSD continues encroaching on me. I am wondering if a little known side effect of LSD + Molly is esophageal paralysis. I’m realizing that if I can’t get any water down, I’m going to be in a very bad situation very soon out here in the desert. I drink more water. Still stuck. I gag on it and throw up. Try to swallow more. Still no progress. I’m becoming a hot, sweaty, tripping, vomiting mess. I go through several iterations of drinking some water, trying to swallow it down, and then throwing up. Each time a little bit of food comes up, ostensibly that which was stuck. Eventually, I’m able to swallow it all the way down. What a fucking relief. I promise myself that for the rest of the night, I will eat no food, will only drink liquids, and that from here on out I’m going to be incredibly careful about how I’m eating. Right after I get this food down and regain my ability to swallow, Steve comes over. “You okay man?”
I tell him what happened.
“Oh, that happens to me once a month. I’ve got running out of restaurants because of that. It’s called getting old. Welcome to old age, buddy. Be sure you chew your food really good.”
I return to our friends, and Charlotte, feeling a new lease on the night. We board the Frog Prince and head out to watch the Train Wreck.
Yes – a train wreck. Two wooden locomotives were built on a track, facing each other, and tonight they will collide into each other and erupt into a huge burn. I have known about this from the beginning of the week, but did not understand what a big deal this would be. As we approach the site, it’s reminiscent of a man burn. EVERYONE in the city is there. The desert is swarming with lights on people and bikes, like a massive swarm of happy fireflies in every color of the rainbow. Art cars are weaving their way into the area and setting up to gain a vantage point. Steve is in his gold suit and is smiling big. When he gets high on acid, he gets this playful, child like countenance that’s an unmistakable sign of his trip. I’m surrounded by campmates, and Charlotte, in her signature black feather mohawk.
I’m standing atop the Frog Prince, wearing my black boots, cargo shorts, button up shirt undone, flowing in the perfectly warm night breeze. I feel like an emperor rolling in to watch my courtly entertainment, with my crew all in tow on this desert vessel. Desert swells with joyful light and sound, Charlotte graces me with her kisses and touches, Steve is in the middle of a wonderful trip, and all is right in the world. Truly – this is one of the more magical nights of my life.
I can’t decide if it’s a shame or a fortune that Charlotte and I will probably never cross paths again. Either way, it’s an utterly romantic notion, and we have both decided to make the very most of this night.
Sat 1 Sept 2018
Tonight, The Man burns. I have brought no baggage or meaning to The Man. At the risk of being sacrilegious – I found The Man to be a bit underwhelming this year. I feel like they phoned in the design of the man base. It just housed a big projection mapped video screen inside that showed some abstract videos. Nothing participatory about it, unlike other years, where the Man base was incredibly interactive.
Nevertheless, Charlotte and I spent some this afternoon tooling around the Playa gathering photos of The Man and some of the other cool art installations out there.
Charlotte and her crew left today…. and what an interesting experience that was. “Interesting” seems too sterile a term for an emotionally poignant moment. From the moment we said “yes” to our chemistry, I knew it would be as short lived as The Man himself. I opened myself to the experience knowing full and well that it would come to an end in a few days, and regardless of how we may feel about each other, it simply would not happen, for a few reasons, chief among them being that she lives on the other side of the globe, and both of us are quite committed to living where we do. Up until the hour of helping them do a final moop sweep of their spot, I thought I’d be stoic about her departure.
She said goodbye.
I did too.
And why not? To choke back any actual feelings in that moment would be antithetical to what I came to The Playa to do: to fully experience my humanity, to be affected and moved by beauty. We experienced some supremely beautiful moments, which I’ll always be grateful for. She’s a fantastic woman, one whom I am honored to have communed with. I took a few minutes to walk it off, to let the desert air dry me out, and then returned to camp to get on with the business of the final few strokes of Burning Man.
Sun 2 Sept 2018
Today The Temple will burn. In years gone by, this was one of the most sacred moments of my burn, of the year. I have always been so deeply moved by the Temple burn.
This year… I am deeply moved by the idea of going home. I confer with Steve He’s feeling the same thing. We begin preparing to do something I never thought I’d deliberately and happily do:
Leave before the Temple Burn.
3:45pm: Our plan to evade the outgoing crowds has failed us somehow. An accident has occurred on route 447 which has backed up traffic for miles. What would ordinarily be a couple of hours of exiting Black Rock City, turns into many hours of complete stand still. Camp chairs are brought out, we meet our “neighbors” on the road, share snacks, and just…. wait.
Mon 3 Sept 2018
What would normally be a robust but doable drive home from Black Rock City has turned into a two day jaunt. We spent last night in a truck stop in some god forsaken spot in the middle of Nevada. The remainder of the drive home was pleasant and predictable.
Arriving home from Burning Man is always an interesting experience. I come home to find that nothing has changed at the house. Everyone is quietly and mindlessly cruising along in their status quo. To them, a week has simply passed without any consequence.
You know dreams can often feel like they last for days, even weeks? So it is with Burning Man. Though I’ve only been gone for 10 days, I feel like I’ve lived an alternate lifetime and woken back up into “reality”. Burners call it “The Default World”, and for good reason. It’s the place where 99% of people simply cruise along in default mode, never thinking or doing an uncommon thing. The world feels grey and muted after a Burn. Decompression is a real thing – it takes a while to adjust. Whether or not one SHOULD adjust is a topic every Burner wrestles with.
At any rate….
The Man burns in 362 days.