THE DAY THAT WOULD NOT END (II)
It’s now 6:30 pm or so on Thursday, my first full day on playa, and I haven’t slept since 4:00 am on Wednesday morning, so I’m a more than a little punchy. Upon arriving back at the Blue Light District, hereafter referred to as “the BLD,” I meet up with Jewel and Shoegirl, who are close friends of Big Cock. Off playa, Big Cock is a real-world friend of mine, an engineer/executive with a company that has this really cool water de-salinization technology, a member of our all-dads book club, and an all-around great guy. On playa, dressed in public at all times in a large rooster costume with a wide array of accessories, he is a complete Rock Star (see below)
I had met Jewel a couple of weeks earlier when she was visiting Oakland, and liked her immediately as she had both an edge and a sense of humor, a difficult combination to come by and one that is highly valued at our house. Her story: about five years ago, she was Connecticut housewife who somehow managed to find her way to Burning Man without quite understanding just how “out there” it was. Despite a near-complete nervous breakdown on Day 1 of her first Burn, her life has been transformed as a result. She’s now a divorced mother of four kids who makes jewelry. Shoegirl is an old friend of Jewel’s – I later learn that they met in a new mom’s group many, many years ago – who lives out near Boston (it turns out one of her kids is in school with my good friend Rana’s daughter) and she’s also been coming to BRC for several years – her story is similar except that she is still happily married. Both of them are extremely cool, mid 40s, thoughtful, smart, attractive, and also seem to share many other significant personality traits with my lovely wife..
Anyway, at this point, I’m so exhausted that I cannot stop talking, telling stories about pretty much any/every topic imaginable. I keep apologizing for talking too much but they deny being bored. Big Cock keeps stopping by to talk with us and he’s clearly in a good mood and keeps talking about “how well this is all working out.” Meanwhile, I keep threatening to go home and go to sleep, but the company is terrific and before I know it, night has fallen and we are out on the playa (somehow, I’m once again in a borrowed costume, this time a red suit coat belonging to BC, but by this point I’ve got lots of BM bling so I’m not feeling totally underdressed…).
We have set out from the BLD (5:30 and D, just behind Center Camp) on foot, and one of our early stops is First Camp, where the founders and muckety-mucks of the Burning Man Organization llive. This is a notoriously difficult and unfriendly place to visit, but we wander in boldly. Anyway, it isn’t clear to me what we are doing there, pretty much no one is visible around the camp (which is really a bunch of trailers organized to be as confusing-looking as possible), and still there seems to be some determination, mostly on the part of Big Cock.
The reason that we are there, I learn on the fly, is because Shoegirl has a common friend from Boston with Marian Goodell, who has been the Executive Director of BM for a long, long time and we are using this as an excuse to hassle the local celebrities. And then it hits me: I have an actual and legitimate reason to be there! Earlier in the day, I had been asked to deliver a postcard to someone c/o Marian Maiden (turns out it was supposed to be “Maiden Marian”). Almost as soon as I have figured this out, Marian appears and, with the urging of my newly-consituted crew, I approach her with the message. She is surprisingly friendly, pointing me across the courtyard to the actual recipient who is thrilled and a little bit stunned to get the note from some friends of theirs who are also camped at the BLD. We visit for a while, mostly just agreeing madly about how cool our mutual friends (the ones who sent the message) are.
By the time I get done with my delivery and go back across the way, there has been a significant development: Marian Goodell, who talks to almost no common Black Rock City citizens, has taken a seat on a bench with Shoegirl and Jewel and is talking to Shoegirl like they were old friends. I don’t quite know what is going on, so I just sit down at the far end of the bench next to Jewel and smile dumbly, whereupon Jewel and I smoke a joint and she promises to explain it all to me later. Big Cock, meanwhile, is out looking for other celebs and he appears a few minutes later, just as we are all getting up…
I really have no idea what had just happened – remember, this is only my second trip to Burning Man and I haven’t slept in a long, long time – but when we got out of First Camp it is high fives all around, and it is then and only then explained to me that (a) this kind of reception at First Camp just doesn’t happen to mere mortals; (b) my silly-ass postcard delivery had sort of gotten the ball rolling for us; and – this is the kicker – (c) we have been graciously invited by Marian Goodell, Executive Director of Burning Man, to come for cocktails after the Man burns on Saturday night. Even Big Cock, who is quite a celebrity when out on the playa – the number of people who yell some kind of cock-related jokes, give him a high-five, and/or want to take a picture with him is astronomical – finds this to be a quite a coup. And a couple of minutes later, we run into Larry Harvey himself, the founder of Burning Man, and Big Cock manages to engage him in conversation, dazzle him with some kind of funky-colored lighter, and blow his mind by casually offering it to him as a gift.
“I am now in the presence of playa greatness,” I announce to the group. And somehow it is settled, right then and there, that the four of us will spend Burn Night together, that we will honor the invitation bestowed upon us by the high-class citizens of First Camp to join them for cocktails, and that we will probably need to do this under the influence of special substances.
I’m not making this up.