THE MAN BURNS
As I may have mentioned before, the BLD is a camp full of veteran Burners, and not only are their structures solid (I spend the better part of my first hour there in a big beautiful blue dome visiting with an amiable group of BLDers) but the whole place oozes with calm. Reports come in regularly from Burning Man Independent Radio (BMIR) broadcasts that someone in the BLD [perhaps the camp watch officer? I mean, shit, these guys are seriously that organized] is monitoring.
And once the wind dies down, both the dust in the air and the plans for the evening become much clearer. The official word on BMIR is that the Man will indeed burn tonight, though somewhat later than planned and immediately before (rarther than after) the week’s largest performance of fire dancers. On a tip from Jewel, I wrap most of both of my feet in duct tape, which amazingly provides immediate relief! And suddenly we have climbed up a ladder into in the top floor of the “Hell in a Handbasket” art car and are riding with several other BLDers towards the Man. Remarkably, the afternoon’s epic dust storm seems now a vivid but strangely distant memory, and the climactic night has indeed arrived, slightly behind schedule but otherwise pretty much as planned.
However, as we approach the Man, the crowd is much thinner than we had all expected, and we conclude that a lot of people in BRC either havn’t gotten the news about the Man or are simply unable to get themselves out to the playa. As a result, our car is able to drive up quite close to the Man without much resistance, at which point we disembark, convivially remarking on our proximity to the Man. Big Cock heads out into the crowd – in his rooster mask and impeccable costume, replete with EL Wire and feathers, he is a celebrity on the playa, and we have agreed to meet him back at the BLD after the burn to grab some food and prepare for our night’s revels – while Jewel, Shoegirl and I stand around visiting for a while.
As usual, I begin to hand out postcards to random passersby, which eventually leads us into to an amusing comic interlude It starts when Shoegirl heads out into the crowd on a lark with some postcards to distribute. When she returns, Jewel asks me to demonstrate the proper distribution technique by formally giving her a postcard, during which she does a hilarious imitation of an overjoyed recipient. This is followed by a deconstructive analysis of the proper delivery technique, after which we descend upon a group of five or six with the postcards. After visiting briefly with these nice people, we regroup nearby and Shoegirl with a straightface asks for constructive feedback on her gifting performance and with an equally straightface I provide her with an assessment of both her strengths and of areas for improvement…(oh well, I guess you had to be there, but it was really hilarious, trust me)…
As we continue to wait, the crowd finally starts to swell somewhat. Then we wait some more. Normally the waiting thing just drives me insane, but jnot tonight: just as I have all week, I have a sense, as my friend Brad Newsham would say, of “being in the right place at the right time, thinking and feeling exactly the right thing” (no formal footnote, but I highly recommend Brad’s book entitled “All the Right Places,” which is where this quote comes from – I can lend you one of my copies…). It is nice to be here with these lovely ladies, wonderful new friends who were strangers to me before this week, and also to be among this community of self-selecting creative, crazy people who have made the effort to come to this place to be together and share this experience….
Jewel has a somewhat different reaction to the wait, equally beautiful and appropriate in its own way, when she she turns to me, totally deadpan, and says “Just burn the fucker already.”
And eventually they do, at which point there are fireworks and much rejoicing and a powerful sense of both ending (of the week) and beginning (of the night). I gaze in wonder around the playa, at all of the whacky cars and crazy costumes and open expressions of emotion and joy, and feel the power and energy of this place, just as I did that first night walking across the playa with Adam, just feeling the music and the lights and the open space and the stars and the grateful sense of “how the hell did I end up here?” (“What country, friends, is this?” said Shakespeare in Twelfth Night, an expression of wonder and admiration from a character whose life is about to be forever changed)
And then, just as quickly, our burn ceremony is complete. Jewel and Shoegirl and I have been joined by Big Cock, who has somehow appeared at exactly the right moment, and we head back to the BLD to eat some food, cover ourselves in light, and retrieve our bicycles.
It is well after 10:00 pm, and the the biggest night of the year on the playa is really just beginning.