Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Burning Man 17: The Show

Darkness fell, I was lit (in many ways), and people began to promenade. We ate, then everyone took their stations-audio, video, and film people began working together to create a sort of A/V collage. If it was thrown on your wall, I'm not sure you'd appreciate it. Every one of the visual people was completely different from the others, and the media was different. Imagine slides of space shuttles beside 16mm film loops from a Bonanza bar brawl beside video loops of people's faces sort of melting into one another...and then on top of that, imagine a really stripped down live electronica set by a guy who's as eclectic as they come. Imagine that none of these guys had ever worked together before that night. Now imagine you're on acid, in the middle of a desert, half naked, and there's this beeping you can't get away from.

Then people started coming up and dancing. Coming up and asking questions. Coming up and just taking in the performance. The guys who ran the radio station behind us got Todd to plug in his shit to their stack, so his music was being broadcast over the entire event--they'd interrupt periodically to advertise our camp, and what we were doing. I never even met those guys, dammit. I never had the chance--people would come up and ask the guys on the machines questions, and for some reason they'd get pointed to me. I guess no one knew how completely dazzled I was by everything, not least because I felt like I was a part of a Crew. And not just a crew of southside townies wahooing beer and getting in fistfights at the lake. These people were fucking Artists with a big A, and I suddenly realized that I was a lot closer to them than I realized. For the first time in the entire trip I felt like I could make this mine, and it was something new and fragile and beautiful simultaneously mine and everyone else's. Maybe like a child--something you made with someone else, but that didn't exist independently of the group. Something that you were a part of even if you didn't know the difference between 16mm and 8mm film, or who couldn't tell the difference between micro house and fucking breakbeat.

There's a Hunter S Thompson phrase that kept coming to mind: "They stomped on the terra." That's what I felt like we did, and I think everyone else there at the time will agree. I felt like we were at the center of everything that was happening--and at the same time I was awakening from a long sleep, and believing that the world was a much bigger and stranger place than I'd ever thought possible.

It lasted for hours, and I talked to so many weird people, and many who thought I was weird. When we finally shut down for the evening, I felt like we'd forged ourself into a group, a group that had to be one of the most impressive things on the playa.

That's what acid does to ya, kids. Among other things, it gives you a sense of being at the center of a universe, which can be a good or a bad thing. It also strips away a lot of your normal cynicisms and protections, and ultimately helps you believe that there is actually something that is fundamentally right about human beings, that maybe all those goddamn hippies had it right, they just had hygiene issues, and maybe you could get by on love after all.

I don't know whether to post this now. I don't know whether I've given this epiphany in my life the treatment it deserves, and I sure hope the rest of the folk who were there don't tell me I was completely wrong about everything.

But frankly, I'm stuck on this part--it's the best part of the whole trip, I think, though I hope you'll stick around and read the rest. To paraphrase HST again, I felt like we'd heard the high white sound of...human perfection...or something, and you can only really expect to hear about that once in any story, right?

So now I'm past it, and I'll get back into the narrative, and you'll get to read all about drama and (much more) drug abuse and (I forgot about this one) another, briefer encounter with that high white sound at the other end of the week. Not as powerful, perhaps, but maybe even more important to me in the long run.

Keep yer snickerin' to yourself. Y'hear?


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