Thursday, September 4, 2008

Burning Man 2008: The American Dream in the Land of Oz

By Captain Tuesday

For me, this year was yet another learning experience. Unlike my last burn in 2005, I had a much better time. I had a ridiculously good time. I think I had more fun than is allowed by most state laws. Good thing for me that it was in Nevada, where you can get away with things like that. And now, I will begin my AfterBurn Report

The Man Burns in 5 Days

Driving through Nevada in the wee hours of the morning, we kept looking to our left, waiting to pass the low hills, trying to get a view from the city, looking for the monolithic structure that is The Man. We were still 12 miles or so away, so when we finally got a glimpse of him, he was just a slightly tallish looking speck just below the horizon. One structure was clearly visible, but we didn’t find out about it till later. At the time, I thought it was some industrial building far beyond the city limits. Driving through Empire and Gerlach we passed many burners taking one last break, and picking up very-very-last-minute supplies. I had to laugh at them, because the residents of these last two towns on the way to Burning Man are making a killing at the registers. The towns are small enough that everybody knows everybody else, so spotting a burner is pretty damn easy, although being covered in fur is kind of a dead giveaway. Quite frankly, I feel that the residents should absolutely charge a higher price for last minute supplies, for two reasons. Firstly, as burners, we are supposed to practice Radical Self Reliance. We should already have everything we should need or want at the burn. And secondly, these towns are small, and don’t have the infrastructure to handle 50,000 tourists buying up all their drinking water and gasoline. Those poor burners will probably have learned their lesson after paying over $5 for a gallon of gas, and about as much for water.

Once we turned off the highway, and on to entrance road, things started to get a little surreal. One lane split into two, and then into three, and ultimately into 8 lanes, plus two bus/RV/camper inspection stations. They aren’t inspecting for contraband, but instead for stowaways and people trying to sneak in without a ticket. Some people didn’t get the memo about no ticket sales at the gate anymore. Some people (who had tickets presumably) got out of their vehicles and were walking around talking to and entertaining the other drivers. For awhile, I was the only person in the truck, sitting behind the wheel, waiting for the line to move, and everyone else was out wandering around, talking to people, making a short hike to the porta-potties, and one had to make a nice long hike to the will-call booth to get the ticket he purchase online shortly before sales ended. There were other people riding on the hood of their car, drinking beer and enjoying the excitement of not falling off when the car moved. One guy was in a camp chair, on top of a huge RV. After about an hour or two in line, we made it to the greeter station, got our maps and our what/where/when guides, and the three virgins got out and rang the bell, as tradition, and The Captain (me), demand.

Up next was finding a good campsite. After two false starts in spaces reserved for theme camps, we finally settled in at 8:00 and Dart, right next to the porta-potties, and miraculously, right next to COFFEE camp, the self proclaimed social hub of the universe. We all unloaded the truck, set up the tents, did a quick organization of stuff, and then lost all visibility in one hell of a dust storm. Guess it’s a good thing we stopped for more goggles on the way out, since two of us (not me) forgot to get some. For me, it was a first. In 2005 there was only one wind storm, at 70mph, and carried mostly dirt, not sand and dust, so you could still see a bit. This dust storm came with a vengeance.  40-50mph winds, fine-grain dust and sand covered everything, and reduced visibility to about 5 or 6 feet. You could be standing right next to someone, and not be able to see them. Well, me being the adventurous type, I gathered up the Colonel, Bumper, and KB from COFFEE camp, and we all went to see The Man, in the middle of the dust storm. Ipod and Mr. Pete, when asked if they wanted to join us in our first visit to The Man both said “In this? Are you fucking crazy?” to which I responded “Yes. Yes I am.” We had fun, saw lots of cool art, and climbed to the top of the obelisk, atop of which stood The Man. Once we finished with that, we made it back to camp in one of the few calms of the storm, and had some White-Out White Zinfandel. Then I took a nap, and learned that napping in a dust storm still requires goggles.

Evening twilight proved to be quite nice. The temperature dropped to what I’m going to guess was around 60 degrees, and the dust went away. As soon as the sun set behind the mountains, everyone in the vicinity let out a primal scream, and that’s when the parties started happening. We gathered the camp mates packed up some water got our cups, and went in search of beer and booze. Being a Monday, not too many people were set up yet, so it was quite a trek to find an open bar, but eventually we succeeded. Apparently, the beer of choice for Burning Man, is none other than that cheapest of beers, Pabst Blue Ribbon. I like it at home because it’s cheap, doesn’t taste too bad, and gets you drunk. Well, on the playa, it tastes downright awesome. We finally ended up hanging out at the Duck Bar (so named for the giant rubber duck on top of a mast which says simply “BAR”) listening to the DJ spin some tunes, and generally having a good time. Colonel Mongoose, the famous drinker, decided to go wandering off, and I decided that I was still pretty damn tired from the long journey and the no sleep since Fresno, even after my nap, so I went home and went to bed, and slept like a rock.

This concludes my Day 1 report, and there will be more to follow, so keep checking back. As usual, if you have any questions or comments, click the link below that says (gasp) Comments

Because it’s not Monday anymore,

Cpt Tuesday