JUST ANOTHER NIGHT ON THE PLAYA
After the chili has been eaten by the gang at the Post Office on Friday night, an ad hoc crew assembles together to head out onto the playa. The cast of characters includes:
- Chris, my friend from Silicon Valley, who is having some kind of anti-burn experience. I graciously set him up with a costume to wear (and as you all know I’m not exactly the king of costuming J) but he continues to be uncomfortably subdued
- Tania and Margaret – two young ladies (sophomores-to-be at Hampshire College in Western MA) who had come by for chili. Tania’s father, who had gone to the Police concert with me earlier in the summer, had asked me to serve as an adult point of contact for them and I was doing my best to be helpful.
- Ian – “friend” of Tania and Margaret. Nice guy, very quiet.
- Brian – legendary BRCPO staffer and all-around good guy from Reno [like me, roughly twice as old as everyone else in the group]
I am the de facto leader of the gang, and we set off on foot planning to catch an art car to cruise the playa. Twenty minutes later, I have abandoned my group, seduced into the back seat of a very cool art car by two lovely older ladies
To be fair, there was room on the car for all my friends too, but it wasn’t clear when the car was going to start moving and no one else wanted to wait. So I bid them a kind farewell and almost immediately felt immense relief at not being responsible for holding the group together).
The ladies in the back of the car are Bonnie and Dana. Bonnie quickly explains (a) that her husband is driving the art car and was going to be pissed that I was sitting up there with her and Dana; (b) that she had over the past few years come to understand that her husband was a wet blanket and “when you throw a wet blanket over a woman you end up with a concrete vagina” and (c) that in addition to being a yoga instructor in Ukiah, CA, she had also found a man with whom she was having an intense and joyful S&M relationship. Dana is almost comatose but confirms all details of her friend Bonnie’s story – I later learned that a) she was the original creator of the Bone Tree and b) her partner was an old-time Burning Man legend named Flash, who among other things had once been shot by an ex-girlfriend in Gerlock.
I have found my companions for the night. Flash and the wet blanket husband showup a few minutes later, and off we go, with me sitting in the passenger-side front seat. It is my first-ever art car ride on the playa.
Over the next four hours, we pick up and dropped of dozens of passengers, including a family of five that is having this really, really positive and joyful trip together and a 19-year old girl who jumped on the hood and told us that this was her 18th trip to Burning Man, that her Mom was an original Burner (Flash knew her, of course) and “in my next life I’m going to be calm and shit, but in this life, man, it’s fucking Burning Man all the way for me” and then promptly jumped off the car. We drive slowly and stop often, we dance, we see fire exhibits, and every so often Flash passes me a flask of scotch and ask me in his crazy big broad east coast voice whether I really think this country is ready to elect a black man president. Around 2:30 am, they drop me off near the Blue Light District where I find a few late night companions to kibbitz with. Someone throws me a blanket and I crash on a couch for a couple of hours.
As the light started coming up, I get up and straggle on back to my home at the 9:00 plaza, desperately committed to getting the chili pot back to the Texans before breakfast. For my troubles, I was rewarded with great quantities of brisket along with some faint praise for my cooking (“I mean that stuff was really pretty good, you know, for chicken chili”). Mission accomplished, I crash for a couple of hours in my now totally chaotic tent.
The Man burns tonight.