Wednesday, March 31, 2004

I Can't Believe It

It finally happened. Sketchy Bill 2 was just lost. God damn. I'm so mad at this fucking thing I could smash it.

But it's late. My head hurts really badly, I'm sick, and I don't want to fuck anything up worse than it already is. It was good, though not as good as it could have been if I didn't have this godawful sinus infection and a job that grinds every last speck of creativity out of you.

Sigh. I may put off any meaningful blogging til the weekend. I know, that normally means I no meaningful writing til Tuesday or Wednesday, but if I keep feeling like I do now, you may have to have the rest of this sucker dictated to you via Ouija board.

Feel sorry for me. Oooooooooooowwwwwwwwwwwouuuuuuuuuu!

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Sketchy Bill 1: The Phone Call

The weekend after I thought everyone in the country had gotten back to their respective cities, I dug through my playa-encrusted belongings and came up with the collection of business cards, slips of paper, and cosmic debris containing people's information from Burning Man. There weren't many, but I called them all twice, anyway.

It had been a long, long weekend, kids. I didn't sleep much in those days, because I was spending so much time a) telling the previous story and b) sucking down all the drinks people would buy me for a). As it stood, I had gotten next to no sleep on Friday night, then spent Saturday night in an intense but ultimately disastrous romance with a woman from Muskogee who was at the State Fair showing her Arabians. Just when I was about to fall asleep in her bed, she had to get up and prepare her horse trailer (I know you don't believe this, but it's true), so I was in the awkward position of having to call my own house to get one of the people I'd ditched the night before to come get me from some sleazy horse motel down on I-40. This was even more comical because I had to use the room phone, which was, of course, nailed down, and you couldn't see the motel sign from the window. The upshot was that I kept having to put the phone down to look outside, and she kept hanging it up. If she didn't obviously loathe me at that point, I'd say she was trying to keep me there.

All this was ultimately resolved when, loaded up on cheap beer and trucker speed, John Osborn rode in like the cavalry in his (again, you won't believe this) 71 Buick Skylark, off of which he had cut the top on some long ago Sunday afternoon, mostly because he was bored. This made riding around in it pretty exciting, because of all the sharp metal edges where the door posts and other attachments used to be. It also held water pretty badly, so he'd had to drill holes in the floorboards, which made an interesting whistling sound and ported a lot of the exhaust through what you might be able to call the passenger compartment, if you had that sort of sense of humor.

Back at the house, I found the pretty sorry dregs of Saturday night rubbing their eyes and searching for car keys, which was fun because most of the lightbulbs in my house were burned out, and it's easy to fuck with folks who are hungover when you're still good and drunk.

At the ungodly hour of 11am, people started showing up at the place, some looking for something (or someone) they'd left, others ready to drink beer and grill some food. By 3pm, I was regretting ever coming back to OKC, for various reasons--so I sneaked on out into the garage and dug through my Burning Man debris.

By 6:30, I was the center of a group of half a dozen new people who all wanted to hear the Burning Man story--some of them for the first time, which, of course, means you can't skimp on the embroidery. Or the props. So out, at the appropriate moment in the story, came the half-disintegrated book Sketchy Bill had given me. _The Beat Reader_, it is called, and I've never really been able to get into it, especially after the events I'll try and portray in this story.

The important thing was that it had Bill's phone # inscribed on the part of the flyleaf that wasn't...well, wasn't gone. So after I kicked these well meaning but hopelessly sheltered people out of my house (or rather, after all the beer, drugs, and steak ran out), I picked up the phone and called him.

He immediately knew who I was. There was a brief, joyous reunion, and after rehashing some memories that weren't even old enough to be stale (yet were already taking on the sparkly texture of Burning Mans past), I heard a young boy's voice in the background.

I suck at dialogue, and it's late, so I'll skip it. Turns out that Bill had two young sons, ages six and eight, and they were visiting him that weekend. Still thinking in Burning Man fashion (the type of thinking that finds you on your lawn naked picking up the paper), I asked to talk to them. I only got one of them, asked his name (which I completely forget), and told him "kid, your Dad is one of the best men I know." Or something to that effect. He gave the phone back to Pops, and I forgot all about it.

A week or so later, Bill called me again, and asked me if I'd be interested in coming out to visit him over Halloween. He was having a big party, and while he couldn't pay for my plane ticket, he'd have all sorts of "things I'd be interested in," especially if I could procure some more LSD.

This gave me pause, ladies and gents. I was slightly...wary...of this guy, even though he'd been nothing but friendly and open about his life. There was something about him I didn't trust--not something bad, per se, but I knew he was from a very, very different time and place.

But after yet another rehash of BM 2000, and another invitation, I made up my mind. I thought "hey, I didn't think I could pull off Burning Man, either, and look what happened." In short, how weird could it get? I'd already gone through all sorts of psychic and physical trauma a few weeks ago--so how dangerous could a weekend in Los Angeles be?

Well, that's not exactly what I said to myself. What I actually said was "Jeff, you're a badass. You've just proven that. Don't tell me you're scared of doing something!"

I booked my flight the next day.

Monday, March 29, 2004

Next Up: Sketchy Bill

I've been giving a lot of thought to what story to tell next. There are several ideas, one of which I think would work very well in blog form, but unfortunately it's, uh, a little racy. I'd have to figure out beforehand how I could avoid coming off like a self centered jerk, which is difficult even under the best of circumstances, I know. So I'll think about that, and start the strange and twisted tale of the Billmeister later this week. That is, unless he comes gunnin' for me.

I did a little bit of practicing on stilts this Sunday, but since TLJO was around, I didn't do much. Beer + Stilts = Injury, at least this early in my career as a circus freak. I'll keep you posted.

This has been a good month for new media for me. First, I get the Grey Album from Todd/Josh, then Rowland leaves me a couple of Decemberists albums and a New Pornographers album (which I'd probably like a lot more if I was ever able to get past the first Decemberists CD in the stereo), then the Uncle Fucker thing, and just now I heard from Wayne's blog that the next Splinter Cell game is out for Xbox. I was just thinking the other day about how I was bored, and there were no new titles out that piqued my interest. I mean, what ever happened to fucking Doom 3? Or Halo 2? The last decent sequel to come out was Unreal 2, but I haven't been too impressed by that one, frankly. I'm probably 2/3 of the way through it, and just sort of lost interest.

It's a rough life, I know.

I finally got my VCR to work, although it's still mono, and thus had a screening of Robert's version of the Laughing Volkswagen story. You really do miss some of the madness if you can't see him do it in person. Catherine was also kind enough to leave me a tape with her stripper story on it, which was actually even better than the LV story. Maybe I'll watch that sucker tonight, if I can't come up with a copy of Splinter Cell instead.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Burning Man 34: Epilogue

Oh yeah...never thought I'd be able to use that word. Forgive me if it sounds pompous.

When I woke up the morning after whatever night it was I got back from the Burn (I think it was Thursday morning), I was disoriented. The first thought that comes to mind when you open your eyes the first week or so after returning from the desert is "why are all the walls of my tent square? How cool and completely inefficient that is!"

Then it hits you: you're going to have to get up and go outside and (if you're lucky) go to work to get more useless little scraps of paper that you can give to people who actually have something of value to you.

That's hard.

What's also hard is remembering that it's not OK to go out into your yard and get your paper completely naked. In fact, doing anything outside the confines of your house without lots of clothing is frowned upon.

The money thing was hard too, but I had it back on track well before I quit waking up in my bedroom trying to figure out what sort of tent I was in.

Strangely enough, I know a number of people that report the same sensations after Burning Man. It lasts anywhere from two mornings to a week, and it's completely bittersweet--because let's face it, square corners are a ridiculous luxury in a high wind, with flimsy materials. That's the sweet: you must be back home, because only some complete lunatic would make a complete replica of someplace back home way out in the middle of the desert.

The bitter, of course, is realizing that you're stuck back at home, and that your senses won't be dazzled as soon as you walk out your door--and if you choose to act like many people do out on the playa, you probably won't make it very far before you get arrested, or at the very least seriously questioned.

But the bitter is transient--and here I'm going to sound like a hippie dipshit, but so be it. Because when you pick up your cellphone (I mean, I didn't have a cellphone in those days, but that's not the point), or check your inbox, something magical happens: all the moments I've written about, and you've read about, come back every time I see the name of someone that was there with me. And you know, if you stick it out and stay in contact with these folks (and it's impossible not to--I've still got Canadian Lori's email, and I haven't seen her in three years), you'll meet people that you didn't know at the time, but can relate to because of Burning Man.

It's Friendster on acid, maybe. Or on some sort of weird, long lasting steroids. I don't know.

There's really no way to end this with any pithy statement on the nature of humanity, or What It All Really Means. I just don't have that in me, kids. Maybe if I'd made the trek last year, I'd be unselfconscious enough to say things like "it changed my life," or some other slightly creepy superlative...but I didn't, and I've spent a lot of time since then curbing my evangelism.

So I'll just cut it short. Go here:


That's how all this got started.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Burning Man 2004: The Return

Got you, you monkey! It's not really the last installation of the Burning Man 2000 story, it''s....The First Installment of the Burning Man 2004 story!

Or not. Once I buy a ticket, well, then I'll be doomed to go, and...well, hang on...

I'm doomed to go.

I don't know where I'll camp, or what I'll do, but there's too many good reasons not to go, and some of you have been way too encouraging (not to mention sensible) for my own good. So now you're stuck with me.

I start a project this weekend--I've got my ideas, which some of you know about, but I can't say where I'm going to start first. I don't have much time, come to think about it, but this means even less time worrying about where I'll be in a year. There is plenty of time for that. Now, we have to begin laying in supplies.

Love, Jeff

PS 163 Days!

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Burning Man 33: Departure

I awoke relatively refreshed, surprisingly, and found Dan in an unhappy mood because since he hadn't crashed, he'd sampled the delight that was Burning Man Sunday before those goddamn Temple structures made Sunday night worth staying up for (but that's another story).

It rapidly became time to depart-Ethan and Cosmo had something like a 13 hour drive ahead of them, and I figured our alternate route would be somewhere around 26 or so. We all agreed that in order to get out in good order, E and Coz would grid the camp while Dan and I did the obligatory 2 hour open playa cleanup EVERYONE SHOULD DO upon leaving. However, since the BMOrg hadn't been terribly clear on the issue, we weren't sure if we needed a total of 8 man hours (that is, 4 people x 2 hours), or if each camp was asked to donate a total of 2 hours. We compromised--Dan and I did two hours, which is about half of what I suspect we should have done but twice what we really felt like we had to give, energy-wise.

Let me just say that if you're not planning on driving anywhere on Monday, playa cleanup is the place to be, especially if you look like a DPW nut and/or have an official Earth Guardians Moop Bag on (MOOP is a whole different story, too, and I'm feeling pressured to get this over with). Beer and food and other interesting things practically get shoved in your face--I think it's part encouragement from people who are leaving, part leftover gift economy, and part "empty the cooler."

Anway, I was about half buzzed by the time we decided enough was enough and headed back to deliver our MOOP bags. The Boyscouts departed shortly before we did--Ethan's lovely Canadian squeeze (when will I learn to stick close to him during BM?) had to fix their vehicle, which was fun to watch: this half naked young girl was crawling around under the hood while the two Boyscouts just stood around and looked embarrassed.

The moment was upon us. I can't remember who drove--I suspect I made the first leg, but it was pretty brutal stuff.

The plan was to head back the way we'd come, then cross I80 and continue south on state highways, through Vegas and out to Kingman AZ, which is off of I-40. And, if you know Oklahoma at all, it's just a straight shot from Kingman AZ to Oklahoma City. We didn't know how long this was going to take, but then unlucky Dan had to make ANOTHER eight hours to Houston. However, any route had to be better than another run back through Wyoming and Utah. Right?

I gots news, kids. There is no good way to get out of Nevada, if you're going points east. Reno is close, and once you're there, you're only a few hours from San Francisco, but it's the wrong way for pretty much EVERYTHING in the country.

So we got to visit "rural" Nevada, which would actually have been pleasant had it been about one third the size it is in reality. Our first stop: Burger King.

Now, there's two things I'd like to point out here. First, if you've never been to Tonopah Nevada, it's not like there were scads of restaurants just crowding around the highway, throwing veal cutlets and baked potatoes out in front of the truck, vying for our dollar.

Second, until you've lived for a week on MRE's and a chicken leg from Sketchy Bill's fridge, not to mention forty something hits of acid and god knows what else, you can't know how compelling Burger King is. I wonder if Wayne had to deal with the same unstoppable cravings when he (and Big K, if he's out there) got off the carrier?

And really--we were in (what we thought was) the backwoods of Nevada. Turns out Tonopah was the biggest and sanest town we'd see until dawn--and even then, I'm still not sure Vegas counts as saner than Tonopah.

I kind of liked Tonopah, actually, and it's not just because they served this crazy, filthy, blue haired guy the best double Whopper Ever Made In This or Any Other Universe. It reminds me of where I sort of nominally grew up (if you presume I grew up at all, and if I had to pick a town, it would be Duncan Oklahoma).

Gosh, I'm doing a pretty half assed job at keeping this blog impersonal, aren't I?

Ah well.

This was also a pertinent time because it was our first commercial transaction in a week and a half, or so. You can't really relate to how it feels to hold what is, after all, worthless paper in your hand and give it to someone for something that actually has value (remember, Buckminster Fuller points out that the only things which really have value to humans are things that contain energy). Also, remember that it's just not enough to hold American Dollars in your hand to get the true feeling of weirdness--the whole concept of calculating worth for an item gets washed away by about day 3, and you're just left with "how much do I like this person, and can I ascertain how much they like something I've got to make it a worthwhile 'gift'" scenario. So, needless to say, we got a lot of strange looks in Burger King, as we simutaneously ogle the menus, look rapacious, and eye the employees like we want to know everything about them.

But frankly, they're probably used to this behavior. Although we didn't see any other Burners in the parking lot or restaurant, I know there's a pretty good train of them that are in the area for a few days after the event.

Things to squint out the window at while driving at dark from Tonopah to Kingman:

1) there's a really beautiful lake out there somewhere, which I'd like to stop and visit if I wasn't always either driving to get home or to get Home, so to speak. It's big-as big as most lakes are here in OK, and it's really weird seeing it after driving through what's basically arid desert for a while.

2) there are a number of military bases, and a number of rather worrisome signs like "all trucks carrying live ammunition take alternate route." Area 51 buffs will most likely point out that we were on the wrong side of Nevada to see that shit, but it's still rather creepy. I mean, what are they DOING out there?

3) The occasional house of ill repute. I'm not even going to mention casinoes, because those are too common to mention, but I've never really gotten used to them, especially since they're always about five miles off the highway, rather drab looking (except for the huge, well lit sign), and (to this rather straitlaced Oklahoma boy) just generally unappetizing. Those of you who know John O will not be surprised to learn that I had huge trouble keeping him from visiting these things on our way back out in 2001...but that's not really a part of this story.

4) Vegas, of course. But if you're not going to spend the night, just don't even pull off the highway. They don't give a shit where you've been, or what you say. They don't have no bathroom, bubba, and sometimes they don't even want to sell you beer.

But the lights are pretty, I guess, although I was hard pressed to look at them and drive at the same time. Dan, of course, slept through the whole thing. I think. Or maybe it was me?

I'm thinking of the rest of the trip back home--the only even marginally interesting thing for me (except when we got accosted by some bikers looking for crystal in some gas station in Tucumcari NM) was driving through western Oklahoma on the way back, trying to speed up the ridiculously long last hours of the journey back home. Dan did most of the driving back home, bless his black little heart, because otherwise we would have wound up in a ditch somewhere around the Continental divide. I was just fucked, and he did a stellar job of picking up the slack.

But ultimately, we arrived back at my place, at some ungodly hour like 10pm. Dan got himself a shower and helped drag my stuff off of the back of the truck, and left with no further fanfare.

I was left to try and sum all this up to a small welcome home party.

Ladies and Gentlemen:
This is the penultimate BM 2000 blog entry. I'll try and write my thoughts on the whole experience in one go, definitely this week, and hopefully tomorrow night, but congratulations--those of you who read this from the beginning traveled vicariously over 3000 miles in about a two month period (although I disremember the date this fool's errand first made its appearance here).

And really quickly, let me just say that I wouldn't have come this far without people's comments and questions. I just wouldn't have kept it up if I didn't think people were interested--and you've helped me immeasurably in that regard.

So, go grab a beer. Or pat yourself on the back. Or masturbate. You deserve it, constant reader. You really do.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Burning Man 31 1/2: The Laughing Volkswagen

Todd was kind enough to point out to me this afternoon that I completely left out the most disturbing part of our collective Burning Man experience (since he never saw the Portuguese cross-dresser). It's the story of the Laughing Volkswagen, and I'm a total moron for leaving it out. Truth be told, I suspect I was blocking it out, but whatever. Here we go.

Upon capitulating to Robert and joining him in his fools errand regarding his shoes, all three of us decided it would be smart to visit the porta potties before wandering out into no man's land. They'd taken the ones closest to us that morning (for some reason), so we walked a couple of blocks to the next nearest set (go back and read the installment "Epiphany," if you like. It's the same set).

These potties were set in a squared off horseshoe shape, with doors facing inwards. The legs were about 15' apart (this is important). When us acid head(s) rolled up on the queue, there were only two people in front of us.

Now, at Burning Man, weird things can happen to you in the line for the bathroom. You almost always make conversation with someone around you, because invariably there's something around worth commenting on. On the rare occasion that you're really alone waiting, something will drive by, or someone will walk by, to entertain you just long enough that you don't feel like you're missing anything.

Furthermore, Burning Man has always been a very non-aggressive place for me (up until 2002, when I realized that fucking with people can be considered art, if it's done right). I think all of us newbies had been lulled into a sense that everyone was happy and good and generally pleased to just do their thing and receive what accolades the crowd felt like giving them. In other words, we'd spent a week performing for people (at least, we tried), and having other people perform for us. The New Yorkers had even relaxed the New Yorker rule of never ever looking anyone in the eye on the street, which is a completely valid rule if you're in NYC.

So we'd fallen into this sort of mellow Alice-in-Wonderland place where everything, no matter how weird, could just be walked away from if you didn't like it. And fear? You could find some fearsome shit, but it stayed in place and you had to wait in line for it.

Furthermore, I've neglected to give Art Cars their space in this blog. Art Cars are (obviously) mobile pieces of art, ranging from huge sculptures like the Chromazoom to roving performance stages like Dr Megavolt's truck to moderately "interactive" things like roving motorized couches, flying carpets, and small boats on wheels, most of which had some sort of bar apparatus attached to them.

On any given year, there are probably a hundred or more art cars running around, from marginally tricked out golf cars to the aforementioned couches to double decker Pyrot buses and giant white whales.

And then there was the Laughing Volkswagen.

Back to the narrative:

As we waited behind three other folks for our turns in the "facilities," we began to hear (very faintly at first) this maniacal laughter. It was, by all accounts, a very disturbing laugh, and I can't figure out whether it being obviously a sort of maniacal laugh-track made it better or worse. It wasn't quite constant, or regular, but it was there, and getting louder.

A plastic door slammed. Some lucky bastard walked out of there without a second look, unscathed. One of the three in front of us headed to the newly empty stall.

At that moment, we were simultaneously spotlit by glaring headlights and subjected to the aural force of both the previously described insane laughter and the unmistakable sound of an unmuffled VW engine revved beyond the redline. All three of us were stunned.

The Laughing Volkswagen approached, slowly, gloatingly, like a snake that had transfixed its prey and was savoring the moments before it struck.

Something like that.

It actually approached us like a Brahma bull on acid--lurching from one side to the other, revving, leaping forward and braking...and all the time screeching laughter to high heavens.

As it approached, I noticed several things:

1) the substructure was what used to be a VW Beetle. Glued to it in strange patterns were all manner of objects that I couldn't make out, but looked very painful to be thrown upon (say, if you bounced up instead of being run down).

2) dead center at the front of the hood was an actual toilet. The toilet, I recall, was shiny and clean, whereas the remainder of covered with dust and unmentionable stains.

3) there was some sort of...thing...atop the whole rig, but I couldn't make it out from that far away.

All three of us were well past ignoring it, or thinking it was cool. We were not to the point of running for dear life (not yet), but I recall nervous looks all around.

The two strangers in front of us, though (actually behind us, if you're thinking in terms of the Laughing Volkswagen, which I certainly was at this point), were actively cheering on this monstrosity. As it lurched forward, like a drunken but still dangerous hippo, the two behind us actually began jeering at the thing. The words I can't recall, but they obviously enraged the critter to the point where it made a run at us.

We broke--we didn't run very far, but we certainly got the hell out of its way. I saw things then that only HP Lovecraft could adequately describe to you, at least as far as my horror and denial are concerned.

First, the two people who had provoked it into charging where still jeering at it, beating on the windshield in front of the driver's seat, yelling, and cheering.

Second, the thing behind the wheel was a mannequin dressed like a clown. Imagine the worst clown dreams of your childhood (don't tell me you didn't have bad clown dreams)--imagine a clown simultaneously wooden and bursting with malevolence, grinning with sure knowledge that soon you'd be just so much mush between the treads of his tires.

Third, the thing on the roof was actually the driver of the car, under some sort of canopy or camouflage. It was from there that the mad laughter was issuing (although no one ever disputed that it was a loop or recording)...but I saw the madman steering and shaking his fist at us.

Fourth, and most horribly, I saw that the thing actually driving the car was ALSO a clown, and a very angry clown at that.

The Laughing Volkswagen eventually tired of the two maroons it was taunting, and, unable to locate any of MY party (we had all assiduously hidden ourselves while it was otherwise occupied), did a drunken 3 point turn INTO the bathroom horseshoe, and began intimidating the people in the bathroom stalls. The acoustics in those stalls are terrible, kids, and you can't see outside for shit, so you're doubly fucked.

Imagine. You're on ecstasy, or acid, or whatever your preference is, and you have to visit the little boy's/girl's room. There you are, either facing away from the 4" x 6" window in the door, or sitting about two feet below it...when you hear this car motor roaring...and over the top, this warped, screeching insane laughter. Further investigation, if you didn't try and flush yourself down straight away, shows that you could probably get the door open, but you'd have very little room to maneuver between the door/other stalls/screaming tire fodder/laughing Volkswagen fenders.

But to stay inside? With that lurching, diabolical clown behemoth revving and lunging at those poor bastards in the end row? What kind of choice was that?

Luckily, we weren't in there. We fled like ants from a firecracker, kids, and I'm not ashamed to admit it.

The worst part about the whole thing was our ungovernable fear every time we thought we might hear it creeping around. After all, it was last sighted close to our camp, but that didn't mean it wouldn't range farther. And woe betide us if it caught us in the open desert. All I could think of was how I could throw one of my friends into its path and make my escape to some sort of tall landmark, while it gnawed his bones and howled diabolical laughter to the cold, brilliant, uncaring skies.

OK, well, maybe that last bit was too much. But Lovecraft is one of my favorites, and ol' HP would never put in one descriptive when four would fit.

But that's the Laughing Volkswagen story, at least my version.

Burning Man 32: The Crash

I was quite successful in staying up all night, but as dawn began to lighten the eastern sky, the New Yorkers began getting antsy and thinking about having to leave. I just ate the last of my LSD, which wasn't even having an effect any more, except helping me keep awake. We were all exhausted--depleted but content.

That's when Sketchy Bill burst out of his RV again. He was adamant that I come with him to some sort of trance show that was being thrown by some Canadian girls he'd met the night before. I climbed down from the top of the RV, mostly to get him to shut up, but partly because I was still intent on getting laid, and I was hoping against hope that maybe my bed-of-nails cutie (her name is Lori, I recall now) was one of these mysterious Canadians.

Bill was just as amped as I was by the evening, but after a short time of wandering around I realized that he had no idea where he was, or where he was going. That is, the odds of me finding my Canadian sweetheart were nil, unless blind luck intervened.

Blind luck gave me the finger. "What do you want," screeched blind luck with enough vehemence to coat my face with a light sheen of blind luck spittle, "I found you the fucking shoes already! Find your own Canadians!" Away Bill and I wandered, twitching and dejected, respectively. We wandered through dance parties, but no cute Canadian girls. We wandered past a guy towing a bicycle behind his bicycle, the towed bike holding an effigy of the Man, cleverly jointed so that the feet could be affixed to the turning pedals, then set on fire. We wandered past a bunch of people burning PVC pipe in burn barrels, who didn't really cotton to us, and weren't soft, sweetly accented Canucks with penchants for 16 penny nails (ringshank, if I remember right). We wandered til the sun was up, then, bedraggled, we trudged back to camp.

I'd like to say there was some point to the whole maneuver, or even some point to me writing about it. I guess the whole incident reveals just how willing I am (was) to believe in the Bigger Better Party. Or how fascinated I was by this whole Sketchy Bill guy. Maybe I was unwilling to let the night die a quiet, dignified death. But regardless, that's how my first Burn Night ended: staggering around with Sketchy Bill, searching for Canadian girls in the back lots of the big camps on the Esplanade.

Bill bolted as soon as we arrived back at camp--his RV was gone as soon as I turned my back, it seemed. Don't worry. If you're curious about him, I may wind up writing about my visit to see him in October 2000 once this is finished, if I can ever get it all edited and linked to my satisfaction.

The New Yorkers were starting to re-energize and prepare for departure as well. This was a sad time for everyone, which most people dealt with by being very brusque and businesslike as they broke down camp. I helped, mostly picking up trash and carrying bales of stuff around, because, well, I was gonna miss those guys. All of 'em. It worked out for the best, though: someone gave me a hit of ecstasy, which I promptly gobbled, and thus became completely useless to everyone for further cleanup. In fact, I think I started the hugs goodbye a full hour before they were ready to leave.

Finally, they were off. A brief photo op, which I think Robert still has (but I probably won't link to), and then Ishkabibble was out of our life. At least for the forseeable future. Loopool numbered four once again.

The lovely and talented Vardit and Maya showed up shortly thereafter, and invited us back to their camp for a bit. I guess they could tell we weren't that interested in hanging with the Boyscouts. We had a great time walking over there, although it might have been the (e), because I don't remember much more than that. Because shortly after arriving there, I completely shut down.

And I mean completely. It scared the others, since I basically went from talking idiocy (I'm guessing-it might have been English, but I doubt it) to slumped over and unconscious in the blink of an eye. Dan, however, knew better. He kicked me in the head, which usually rouses me, and then threw me over his shoulder and carried me back to camp. Which was no mean feat in itself--camp was fairly far off.

Well, maybe he didn't kick me in the head (although I'm not discounting it-he's a sick bastard, and I certainly wouldn't have felt it if he had), and maybe he just slung my arm around his shoulders and half-dragged me. But he took care of me all the same, and I appreciate that. I'm also sure Vardit and Maya appreciated him getting me out of their camp, but we'll just chalk it all up to Dan Doing The Right Thing.

Sunday, then, was a waste. I remember V&M coming back to give me a hug goodbye, for which I managed to bring my torso off the air mattress about five inches, then fell back into a deep, dreamless sleep. I don't think I've ever been so completely depleted in my entire life, before or since.

The next day was Monday, the saddest day of all.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

New York Thanks

To all y'all who let me sleep, kept me awake, fed me, bought me drinks, picked me up, steered me through subway stations, and got me in free:


Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Burning Man 31: Post Burn Madness/The Opera

For those of you joining us late, the last installment climaxed with the actual burning of The Man, and I was tired when I wrote it, so it wasn't very good. I promise I'll fill it out if I do something serious with all this afterwards. Once I get the new computer, maybe.

So, post Burn, I ate a few more hits of acid and wandered (with accompaniment, but just who I can't recall) over to the area reserved for the Sex Opera.

Robert tells the story of the Sex Opera better, and can probably remember the NAME of the Opera, but I can't, so you're stuck with "Sex Opera." I'd been hearing about this thing all week, and frankly it sounded like a bunch of New Age metaphysical crystal healing bullshit, but Robert was actually IN it, so we felt obliged to attend.

But not for very long. I think that most staged events at Burning Man generally happen much later than expected because it's so hard to get everyone organized beforehand--and that goes double when you're dealing with volunteers, or conscripts, which was the case for this specific event.

UPDATE: I found a daytime picture of the Temple of Atlantis (Home of the Moon Bulls!) here. I think you can just make out the Head Moonbull, too. And here's a picture of their nemesis, the Giant Lingam.

In essence, I was ready to go before anything got started, but stood around watching naked (or nearly naked) men painted blue (these, we were informed later, were "Moon Bulls") stomp around and act like bulls, while various women (painted orange-"Sun Snakes") belly danced around and did their best to emulate snakes. No Robert (thank the lord, although I'm not sure that what he was actually involved in was much better). And, since I'm generally suspicious of the crystal healing crowd, I couldn't get into it. Since my attention span is about 30 seconds anyway, I didn't stick around long.

As I've said before, it was all fairly anti-climactic. I'd gotten a pretty good rush of belonging and togetherness during the Burn itself, but now I was cold and hungry and in a weird way both lonely and wishing I could be alone. I wasn't dwelling on having to leave, since we didn't plan on leaving til Monday, but I wound up spending a couple of hours gridding the camp and tidying up what little was left of the equipment.

After realizing that the last four things I'd picked up off the ground were, in fact, the same rock, I decided that maybe it was time to close my eyes and grab a beer. Various people came and went, mostly from (or for) Ishkabibble, and while I greeted them kindly I didn't really have much to say. I had a rather queasy feeling that I attributed to the creeping certainty that this was all about to be over, with a good measure of worry about whether this would all be half as cool in memory as it was at the time. In reality, it was probably more sadness, bad diet, and too many drugs.

Eventually, people I knew started showing back up, and warning me that I was missing something really great out on the playa. I couldn't move--so they all left, except for Todd, who I think is cursed with the same ambivalence as me regarding the actual Burn. We sat and I drank beer and he smoked, and we were alternately contemplative and gregarious about things. I thought it was curious how similar this was to our first evening on top of the RV. We sat and ruminated. Then Robert showed back up.

Robert had by far the most interesting story of the evening (thus far). He hadn't been one of the lucky (?) Moon Bulls to dance like primal gods with the willowing Sunsnakes. No, Robert had been back in the back, with a lot of other conscripts, and his job had been to help push a giant lingam through a giant yoni at the climax of the dancing, at which point theoretically the whole papier mache mass of conjoined genitals would burst into flame.

If you think this sounds an awful lot like a scene from Spinal Tap, I'm getting it across pretty well.

Unfortunately, the folk who made the giant lingam didn't really get with the people whose job it was to go around and recruit Moon Bulls during the event, so a few minutes before the very well attended Climax Of The Opera, the head Moon Bull found that his group of gamely sweating blue dudes just wasn't making any headway moving this giant penis around. If I remember the story right (and I truly do feel bad for telling it, but Robert hasn't taken the hint and written it down for me), they actually had to hastily induct a few more Moon Bulls directly from the audience in order to get the thing moving, and ultimately through the giant stylized yoni a few dozen yards away. No word on whether the bursting into flames bit had actually gone off as planned.

After we finished rolling around on the ground laughing, Robert pointed out the very real problem confronting him. While in the midst of working like mad to help move this giant penis (yes, I'm going to point that out as often as I can), he'd removed his shoes so as to get better purchase on the ground with his feet. His original story was that they had then been sort of sucked under the lingam as it made its progress, making them most likely the only set of flip-flops ever to be destroyed by a giant pudenda. And yes, I'm also enjoying coming up with different words for penis.

Whatever the method of his losing his footwear, it was now gone. And since certain member(s) of the crew under the shade structure at the time were on massive doses of various drugs, we tried to convince Robert that the $5.00 sandals were Gone Forever. This worked for some time, but after an hour or so he couldn't stand it, and had to go look for them.

Since we couldn't very well let Robert go wandering about the desert, in the dark, alone, Todd and I agreed to accompany him. Todd even produced a pen light, so we could look more efficiently.

I hope you have your silliness meter all revved up, kids. Here's what we were up against:

1) At least one of us was having trouble keeping the tattoo on his arm from crawling up and strangling him when he wasn't looking.

2) The ground was dead white, and the sandals were at least covered in white dust, and possibly actually ground into the desert floor.

3) The actual Burning Man site is (I think) about 3 square miles. Even if we limited our search to the area inside the Esplanade, I think we still had about 1 square mile of possible hiding places.

4) It was dark.

5) Every big landmark other than Center Camp had recently been burned down, and weren't really visible.

6) We had a single LED penlight, which really did nothing more than dazzle and distract us from our search, which we really needed no help with.

7) There were 25000 other people out there doing their damndest to distract us as well. Everything from HUGE lasers to Dr Megavolt. And a big pirate ship full of loonies from Denver, which we'll get to when I tackle BM 2002.

8) Did I mention it was dark, and we had an LED flashlight?

What was in our favor?

1) Our razor sharp wits.

2) My promise to the other two that if we DID find the shoes, we would all eat six hits of acid. Which at this stage of the game was just enough to keep me mobile and wide eyed.

After an hour or so of wandering (maybe more--it's hard to say when you spend half your time watching lasers knock stars out of the sky and the other half dodging elwire kangaroos and pirate ships), it finally occurred to me that maybe if I asked Robert, we could actually find the area where this whole lingam-hauling activity had occurred. For some reason just finding the area, instead of the actual shoes, took loads of pressure off of us. However, even just getting in the right vicinity was difficult because as I've said before, everything of landmark size had been burned down hours ago.

But somehow we found the area. I don't know HOW, and I don't know what distinguished this specific plot of playa dust from any other specific part, except maybe the psychic scars Robert had recently been dealt by having to push a giant pecker around with a bunch of nearly naked blue guys, but we found the area.

And suddenly, there it was. A shoe. One of The Shoes, as a matter of fact.

I think we were all stunned. I certainly was, and not just because I was going to have to delve deep into my drug bag. My first thought: this is the worst of all possible situations. HALF of a set of shoes. That's half a story kids, which as we all know is no story at all. I think we all three handled that shoe, though, as if to ascertain in some sort of low-level way that it was actually real. Remember, I was on a lot of acid here.

Then, a few minutes later, the Other Shoe. We had done it. Found a pair of blue flip flops, on drugs, in the middle of the desert, at 2am. With lasers and pirate buses and firebreathing dragons and people on bikes being followed by elwire kangaroos. We had found the shoes.

The night was young. We were blasted. Everything on the playa regained all of its magical characteristics, because we had (against all probability) Found The Shoes. And, for me, some leftover kick of MDMA.

But that might be the best part of the evening, after all. We wandered from side to side of the entire city, watching the lasers (I'm looking for pictures, I'll post a link later if I find one from that year) and listening to music and just taking it all in.

I can't do it justice--I'm not sure anyone can (although there are people that can come a hell of a lot closer). To live all week with your senses heightened, every hour seeing something you never thought you'd see, meeting people you wanted to spend the rest of your life talking's stunning. I spent a lot of time just trying to grasp what was going on, the scale of it, and whether it could possibly be true.

Then, on the last night, to see everything just cut loose, and realize that all the happiness and intensity and lust for life you'd been barely able to absorb was only an average day, whereas this night was what happened when everyone came together and partied as one community...that, Gentle Reader, is awe.

I can't describe it. I won't try. One of the favorite games of many Burners is sitting around at home and reminiscing about the craziest thing you've ever seen out there. It sort of scratches an itch, but at the same time it get pretty damn boring for one of the uninitiated--plus, we've got to be exaggerating, right? Friends get tired of being evangelized, and I get tired of seeing that look of amused disbelief in their eyes. You can't blame either one of us, really, but no description of art pieces or events will ever take the place of actually being there.

Until you slough off the skin of modern society, accept and are accepted by the Burning Man community, get jaded by that same community, and then recognize that you've fooled yourself yet again, well, you're just lookin' at pictures.

That's all for now. The rest of this should go fairly quickly. I plan on taking this all the way back to Oklahoma, so we're not out of the woods yet, but I spent a good deal of the trip back sleeping, so I can't really add much. Maybe Dan would like to post something about the Arizona desert. I don't know.

Sunday, March 14, 2004

Here in Bushwick

The trip has been great, thus far. Mad party last night, got to hang out w/lots of cool people (thanks Josh!).

Tonight is my last night, and since I'm borrowing Todd's laptop to post this, I'll wait til tomorrow night or Tuesday to fill y'all in on everything.

All is well, in other words. And only one bad dream about Liz, which would be surprising if I hadn't gotten a total of seven hours of sleep since Thursday morning.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Burning Man 30: Burn Motherfucker Burn

I ate six or seven more hits of acid before we left camp, since I suspected things were going to get hairy once we got out on the open playa. Everyone but Sketchy Bill was gone from camp by the time we left. Bill was shouting at someone that his monster RV was, in fact, an art car, and thus should be allowed a space out there to see the show. Didn't work out, obviously, although I'm surprised he didn't just drive it out there anyway.

We arrived and managed to worm our way up fairly close. The Yoni Kids were behind us, playing a really cool (or was that the (e) coming back up?) didgeridoo loop, which went on until it became apparent nothing was going to happen til silence reined. Or as much silence as you can have with 25k wasted free thinkers and artists hanging around waiting for something to combust.

We waited. After a half an hour (I think), the arms were raised, which is the signal that things are actually moving forward.

There was a production of some sort, but no speeches or anything like that. It seemed to take an eternity--but in the years following I realized that we'd gotten off extremely light in the waiting department. It was rumored that there was some sort of malfunction in the pyros that year, and I concur, because the fire just sort of started up on one arm, with no apparent reason...

Everyone went ape. I had just been reentering the zone of my mind where I start contemplating spiritual love, and brotherhood, and what These People Meant to Me, and, like the Scene in Breakfast Club, what we were going to do after we got out of there, too. You could feel the crowd energy. A lot of it was directed at the climax which was burning on the platform in front of us. A lot of it was directed just....out....

The Yoni Kids kicked out the jams again right before the Man went down, which added to the madness as some people started doing their own little dances to whatever those crazy fuckers were throwing around...then, as the Man went down, there was a surge into the circle, as the entire group had a weird psychic orgasm.

It was the signal. I realized at that point that what I thought was a party was only a community of people who liked to party a whole lot. I saw that these folks had been having minor get togethers all week, but had mainly been focused on their art. Tonight, it was different. Everyone in town was celebrating what was for many a life changing event. I celebrated, too, because I really felt like I'd come home, and that was something worth raising a glass to.

I know. I'm cheating you. There's got to be more about it, right? Well, yes, there is, but I'm tired, and not thinking very well, and I've got lots of stuff to do before skedaddling tomorrow night. The bones of it are out, though, and I promise you I'll flesh it out a little when I get back. I'll warn you, brothers and sisters, there WAS no huge epiphany for me, so while I'll give you more detail and description, there won't be much in the way of revelation for you. A big wooden man burned, and people lost their minds.

See some of you soon. Those I don't see, well, I'll see you when I get back.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Burning Man 29: Epiphany

I'd been carrying around a bag full of drugs all week, and by Saturday night Hunter Thompson would have been proud--not least by the fact that not only had I forgotten where most of them had come from, but also what they were.

There was even a bud of marijuana that had broken up into fragments, and those fragments had then been coated with a dusting of pill residue, crumbled up acid paper, and probably the leakings of a tiny bag of crystal meth that some genuinely degenerate guy had given me for no explicit reason. There was also a hit of ecstasy that someone had given me.

Come to think of it, all the acid was in there getting coated with shit, too. Maybe that's why it retained most of its potency.

Anyway, things were in complete chaos from sundown onward. Groups of people came and went; there was a side trip to the Thunderdome to see Todd and Dan sort of duke it out with foam rubber sticks, which was also sort of a proxy battle between the Todd faction of Ishkabibble and the Josh faction of Ishkabibble, the irony of course being that Dan wasn't even IN Ishkabibble. I missed that whole side affair, although I took great care to warn folks that Dan was pretty worn down, and harbors a huge amount of rage that could conceivably come out if he got whacked by Todd with a hundred cheering desert rats looking on. Turns out that didn't happen, but I certainly wasn't going to be around if it did. I had my own cats to skin.

Thus far I've tried to pare down the narrative, but it's getting harder to do as I remember more and more of what was going on. And Saturday afternoon was a weird time, and maybe by giving you an aside, you'll have a better grasp of just what goes on out there, when nobody's looking.

Todd had introduced me to a couple of very lovely young ladies named Vardit and Maya. They were (are) sweethearts, but I realized shortly after meeting them that I was not of their world. Not to say we didn't talk or hang out, but...well, it's hard to say what didn't click exactly...

Regardless, Saturday afternoon Vardit and I spent some quality time walking up and down the Esplanade, seeing the sights and trying to communicate. Vardit has a lovely voice, but it's very soft, and being an uncultured ruffian I had trouble with her (mild) accent. Oh yes, and I was also drunk. I'm not sure how this happened, but it most certainly did. I wasn't really aware of this until we came upon some sort of live bluegrass/C&W combo playing live, with a deserted dancefloor.

A warning I'm sure you guys think I'm silly for even bothering to type: If you don't know how to two step, DO NOT attempt to teach someone who's a foot shorter than you how to do it, especially while drunk and excited. I stepped on that poor girl's feet at least four times, and probably more than that. She we still had a really good time, I reckon.

So, ladies: stay away from me if you want to two step. I've been shown a few times, but I've never been too inclined to pick it up for real, and...well...just don't.

Back at camp, I loaded up on LSD, just to start the night out, and also to cut into the big stash that I had left. I also wasn't sure how strong this stuff was still going to be (dusting of other drugs notwithstanding), so I wanted to give myself plenty of time to pursue other avenues if that didn't work out.

Somehow I found myself keeping company with Carrie (remember her?), who reminded me that I had a couple of big fat hits of (e) in my bag. We each took one, and I promptly forgot about it.

It was madness. You could feel the sand running out of the hourglass, as the light faded from the horizon and the temperature dropped. We cobbled together my hair as best we could, secured camp, made completely fruitless plans to meet at various places, and split.

Carrie and I found ourselves visiting the porta-potties. The bastards had moved (or re-moved) the ones so conveniently located just out of smelling distance of our camp, so we had to actually walk to the rapidly deteriorating ones a few blocks away.

If I decide to tell the Laughing Volkswagen story (and I don't see how I'm going to be able to avoid it), it's important to note that the potties Carrie and I visited were placed in a horseshoe shape. Don't let that keep you up at night, though. It's for the next post, if not the one after that.

Anyway, Carrie and I were wandering around after 'doing our business,' and decided to take a slightly different way home. Not a longer one, per se, but different. The quilt I keep mentioning had pretty much attached itself to me like a remorah at this point, and I recall a pleasant walk of a couple of blocks with her socked up under my arm and blanket like some sort of pink-haired shotgun (know this: remorah quilts don't like girls, which means it's safe for them to be under one). She was warm, and pleasant, and just chatty enough to go well with the sundown. I thought she was perfect. For a moment, I dared to dream (yet again), that it might be....but then, out of nowhere, she looked up at me, and said (again, ladies, take note):

"What do you do in the real world, Jeff Franklin?"

(Except, obviously, that's not my real name. I'm using it as a placeholder, you know. My real name is Robert.)

I don't know what her intentions were. But by asking me about myself, she caused me to become completely flustered and self-aware, because I'm the literal sort, and didn't for a couple of days think that maybe she didn't want a dissertation on what it was I actually did out here in the bad ol' real world, but instead wanted some sort of convenient e-friendly factoid that she could deal with.

But while I completely lost my focus on one level, I was completely at peace, and happy, and in love with everything I could see or feel or hear. I (finally) had a warm, friendly, intelligent girl beside me (very close to me, I felt), the white roads were pulsing with the colors of sundown, and we were about to burn something very big down, with about 25 thousand other motherfuckers. And then, we were going to party like Smoove B on a payday.

I was content. We walked, and talked a bit (I was preoccupied with just what I should tell this vision of womanhood about my life that wouldn't be a lie, per se, but wouldn't cause her to extricate herself from my remorah/blanket, either), and after a few minutes, I realized:

Hey, this is what it's like to be on ecstasy!

It was great. A feeling of contentment, geniality, and happiness, uncut with any sort of harsh chemical feeling, anxiety, or speediness. A mild feeling of anticipation, and an incredibly calming sensitivity to the movement of her shoulders and hips under the blanket, as we walked. I attribute the colors and visuals to the first big spike of LSD I'd previously taken, but I immediately understood that with the advent of ecstasy, I'd opened a completely new realm to explore. Not consciousness expansion, but maybe spirit expansion.

Then, the realization that stopped me in my tracks. Remember how I'd been jealous of that guy all week for his initial experiences with hallucinogens while at Burning Man? Yes?

It struck me then that I had just eaten a hogleg of an MDMA pill, for the very first time in my life, and I was going to be in the midst of this (e) trip when we all (every soul who'd experienced what I experienced for the entire week) gathered out at the Man and burned him to the ground. Every one of my closest friends would be there, and thousands of people that might have been my closest friends had we been placed next to each other way back on Sunday.

Suddenly, in other words, I understood that this poor bastard who'd been off chasing (with good reason, mind you) intellectual stimulation and logical happiness all week couldn't hold a purple lightstick to my impending spirit-meld with the ENTIRE BURNING MAN EVENT.

Petty people will say I'm being petty and one uppish. Fuck them.

I got this very weird visual of the dendrites of my brain catching fire like a line of black powder, sparking and smoking as they tried to fathom the endless train of possibilities that had led me to that specific spot, on that specific drug, with the specific set of outcomes that might come from having met the people I'd met during the past week.

In essence, Constant Reader, my epiphany was that no matter how jaded I was in the realm of blinking lights, breathing curtains, and Psychedelic Windmills, I was still about to enter a whole new realm of awareness: human interaction. What I mean is that all that time I'd spent eyeballing someone over HIS experiences meant simultaneously very little (because, after all, I was a small person to begrudge him that) and very much (because I wouldn't have acheived such an earth-shattering epiphany if I hadn't been so worried about it). Does this make sense? Or am I channeling The Great Sloppy Primal God of Ecstasy?

Never mind.

Back to the narrative: I forgot about everything around me, including all but the very most necessary parts of Carrie (that is to say, what she was talking about, because I loved her and didn't want her to think I wasn't paying attention to her).

Turns out, the whole experience took place in the span of about a block and a half. By the time we arrived back at camp, it was time to go, and by the time I had been spun around half a dozen times by the general disorder of camp, I'd completely lost Carrie. And everyone else.

Because truth be told, folks, I don't remember who I experienced the Burn with that year.

I know Dan was there. I know Robert WASN'T, because of a completely different side project I'd like him to write, but he refuses; Ethan and/or Cosmo may have been there, but I'm not sure. I think I remember one of the Boyscouts, but not the other. That seems weird, though. Todd? Yes, but then again I remember NOT seeing him til we all coalesced back at camp later. I rely on a highly evolved comment system to get his opinion. That, or I'll fly to NYC and beat his UGLY ASS til he posts it.

That's enough for tonight, kids. I don't want to make these posts too long, and I'm on my fourth beer, and well, it seems like as good a place as any to stop. If you haven't noticed, I've been updating this daily, so check in again tomorrow for another round. I'll try and get a lot of this resolved between laundry and packing.


Burning Man 28: Wait For It!

I'm going to try and convey one more really important item to you, before this is all over with. That item, naturally, will be told in the next installment, which will detail the actual Burning of the Man.

The problem is that there's a lot of background on me that you'll need to even come close to the revelatory climax of the story. Furthermore, I'm having to change the story a bit because of my earlier promise not to rat anyone out w/r/t drug use. Let's just say that there was a relative neophyte to hardcore hallucinogen abuse among us, and I'd been tinged with green all week, or ever since the Tuesday night incident with the butterfly girls, because his experiences with certain substances were much more fulfilling and fun than my initial encounters with those substances.

But that's for another story. Let's just say the first time I tried LSD, I made the paper.

Since that time, I've done my damndest to try every possible way of getting high or expanding consciousness, with the following exceptions:

1) I've never huffed gasoline or scotchgard. No one's ever been able to prove to me that these two substances offer anything unique in the way of either of the above. That, and I've always been able to procure other, more pleasant, things.

2) PCP and heroin just aren't readily available down here. Five or six years ago, I would have jumped right in, but now that I'm old and slow (and have a lot more to lose), well, I'll just call 'em misses. Can't do everything, you know?

But yes: I've done just about everything else you can imagine, most of it before BM 2000. I've done some things I'm not proud of, yes, but all in the name of being a well rounded substance abuser. And I'd narrowed the playing field quite a bit, even before 2000. I've done all the rolling, in other words, and now I'm just touching up the trimwork.

But none of that was at Burning Man, you see. It's like your first kiss--you can kiss different women (or men), you can kiss them in different places, and you can kiss them under the influences of many drugs. But you always remember your first time, and while you may have better or worse kisses (or acid-fueled rampages, to keep on topic), that first one is unique. Same goes for most other mind altering drugs, IMHO; hell, I remember the first time I ever smoked pot.

It made me a little jealous to hear this newbie talk about which drug he was likely to try that night, and what wonderful experiences he'd had the night before. To make matters worse, he was articulate about it, but by no means overly verbose. I could have handled someone prattling on endlessly about "the colors," but this guy was hip, and seemed to have himself well under control. So, while I was certainly good friends with him, I couldn't help but envy his whole situation.

To summarize: I've done a lot of drugs. A LOT of drugs. 99% of that is in my past now (and thankfully so), but I didn't feel like there was much left for me in the way of consciousness expansion.

Maybe I was approaching exhaustion. There comes a time when you're overloaded by input, and all the rest just slides off of you. There's a good chance that I had reached that point, and was even (wonder of wonders!) tired of tricking my mind into thinking something was new.

But I'm an idiot.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Burning Man 27: The Day of Reckoning

Saturday morning was a morning to sleep in. I figured that as soon as it started raining, because even walking became a chore. It's a dry lake bed, for the third time, so after an hour of rain, you've got MUD. White mud. Mud that sticks to everything. For those of you in Oklahoma, imagine Oklahoma red mud, only white. And, if possible, worse. It's completely within the realm of possibility that you'll gain a couple of inches in height, if you insist on walking around in shoes.

But it's white mud, and, after all, it's a desert in August, so I just laid up and tried to sleep til it all dried out. Which it did, before too long.

The windstorm of the night before had done in our shelter completely. Dan and I had managed to keep our heavy tarps from blowing away, but that had required taking our shade structure down and stacking all of our belongings on it. Our once proud camp now consisted of two pickups and two tents, and a lot of wreckage. Sunday morning, Todd filmed a nice panorama of our area of Center Camp. There was camp after camp of weird, crazy people...and then what amounted to a crater, which was us. It wasn't even LIT UP, by Saturday night.

But that's getting ahead of ourselves.

As soon as it was dry, I crawled out to get some sun, warm up, and do a quick moop sweep. However, before I had a chance to do much more than stretch and locate my sandals, Sketchy Bill bounded from his RV and began what I guess he would think of as "chatting me up." He was talking noticeably faster than he had been the day before, and seemed really...excited...

In short order we were back in his RV, me reading yet another book by Ginsberg while he searched fruitlessly for a beer (in case you haven't figured this out, it's really easy to get me to go places-just tell me there's beer in there). He didn't do a very thorough job, I thought, and after a few minutes I saw why.

Let me just say that I'm a sheltered Okie boy. I mean, I've done pretty well for the hand I was dealt, but let's call a spade a spade. I'd never even seen Scarface. But I knew the scene, as do you, and that's what Bill suddenly reminded me of.

See, Bill was actin' all gitchy and weird because there was a pile of cocaine the size of a magazine on the table. And not just any ol' magazine either: Rolling Stone magazine, which is a pretty damn big waste of pulp.

I'd never seen real cocaine before, much less something that Al Pacino would have thought twice about tangling with. I was shocked, and a little worried. I mean, you all know what happened at the end of Scarface, right? I'm certain there were guns aboard that RV, and I began to get uncomfortable thoughts like "who saw me come in here? How long before they start looking?"

Even weirder, he was using a playing card to scoop up big doses and shovel them into his nose. He offered, I refused, we talked for a while--and eventually, I noticed something even scarier: this man wasn't even paying attention to what he was doing! That is to say, he'd done this before. A lot.

I'm not ashamed to admit that I was slightly frightened. The guy was a time bomb to begin with, and that's before I gave him a bunch of acid on his first night at the Burn. He didn't look like he had gotten much sleep, either, and he was getting less and less coherent as time wore on.

I still liked the guy, don't get me wrong--but that was a LOT of coke, and it was being treated rather cavalierly by a guy who barely seemed to be aware he was doing it. I sensed, in short, that I was out of my league. As soon as I could make my break, I did so.

I confess, I envied him. To do acid for the first time actually AT Burning Man. Wow. There is no better place to take hallucinogens, IMHO.

All day long, I envied him. Even in the porta potties (which were surprisingly clean, even at this late date), I envied him.

I realized shortly after my morning constitutional that I still had a shitload of drugs to give away, or take, by tomorrow morning. I figured that things would really start to spin up around sundown, so I set out to visit the few people I'd met and talked to previously, namely, CAMP TEXTURE.

Camp Texture was a crazy bunch of kids from Vancouver, whose entire shtick seemed to revolve around letting people lie down on a bed of nails. Good peeps, and one specifically was very nice to me. I'll be goddamned if I can remember her name, though, but I could tell from our brief encounters that a) she wouldn't be offended if I gifted her with several doses of mighty fine LSD.

I was right. They were good peeps. They let me lie on the bed of nails. It hurt.

But the crux of this story, which is already sort of dragged out past what I really liked, is that they loaded me up with COLD Guinness in a can. COLD! Guinness! I can't tell you which was more refreshing. I'd been drinking lukewarm Coors Light from the Boyscouts all week, when I hadn't been slugging Dan's Jack Daniels, or drinking plain ol' water. It was worth the awkward shoehorning in of this story just to think about bolting that first cold can, then being handed another, cheerfully, by a leggy, if slightly desert-worn, Canuck.

Maybe even more importantly, they gave me a film canister full of lip balm. My lips, as I'd mentioned before, were falling off my face, and I guess it showed. So we parted, me half drunk with joy and Guiness, they with gleeful grins for having scored enough A to fuck up the entire camp for the most important of nights. And kids, we still had a lot of acid to get rid of.

But it was getting close to time, or at least close to time to start worrying about what time it was. I headed back home, and found the entire crew hanging around the Boyscouts' grill, where Bill was presiding over a veritable feast of cooked animal flesh.

You don't really think about how much you miss real food until you actually get something fresh. I'd been eating stuff out of packages for nearly a week now, and the day before had come to realize that I'd underestimated how much food I would need, so I'd started to skip the occasional meal just in case. MRE's are great stuff: convenient, fairly cheap, and slightly constipatory, which kept me out of the bathrooms a lot. What they are NOT is appetizing. I mean, you get hungry, you eat one, you're not hungry any more. But I can't think of anyone I know who's said "man, you know what I wish I had right now? a great big ol' envelope full of that chicken tetrazzini stuff."

And to be confronted in short order with a bed of nails, a sultry blonde bearing cold Guinness, orange flavored lip balm, and finally what appeared to be a whole cow and half a dozen chickens...well, it was almost too much. I collapsed into a chair, drank my beer, and made very small talk with the Alabanian girl, who wanted me to help her rub gold glitter all over her body. Which I declined to do--visions of Scarface kept bubbling up out of the fog of my mind.

Monday, March 08, 2004

Burning Man 26: Rain Storm

Elisa, Todd, Cosmo and I wandered around, quite aimlessly, for most of the evening Friday. Not much memorable happened, except I became increasingly enamored with Elisa. If she hears me say this, she'll kill me, but I thought she was cute as a button, with her guitar and stuff.

I thought I'd seen it all, friends. I mean, huge winds, psychedelic windmills, and a Santa Claus clone sleeping in a Studebaker. Never mind giant dominoes and as good an example of serendipity as you're ever gonna find.

But then it started raining.

I had taken to wearing a quilt when it got cold, so we walked back to Center Camp, picked out a nice couch, and huddled underneath it. Cosmo got us all hot coffee or chai, and we sat for a few minutes laughing and trying to ignore the fact that we were getting rained on.

See, the roof of Center Camp is made of shade cloth, which is a relatively efficient way of collecting rain so that it drips in HUGE drops, instead of just regular sized ones. And I couldn't handle it. Remember, I'd taken a lot of mushrooms a few hours before, and I sat there trying to both smile and be witty while trying to anticipate the sudden large, cold drop of rain hitting my head. It gets hard to concentrate on being witty when you're on hallucinogens and can't think about anything but the next wet, cold SPLAT on your blue hair.

Which, by this stage of the game, was looking pretty ragged. It was blue and WHITE, from dust, and blinked (and beeped) rather morosely whenever I turned it on. I really thought I was going to have to cut it off when I got back, but that's unimportant.

The rain got worse, and it was COLD. All the worst times in my life I can think of were wet and cold related. This would have been among the worst, except for the company.

And the fact that we were still welcome in the RV. Where we shortly traveled, sans Cosmo, who decided he wanted to volunteer in the cafe, which should surprise no one who knows Cosmo.

The RV was warm. EVERYONE was in side the RV, because it was warm and dry. It soon became apparent, though, that the people who actually lived in the RV were preparing for sleepy time, which meant (given the # of people who slept in the RV) all available sitting areas would soon be needed to support snoozing people.

Sweet, button-y Elisa had meanwhile fallen asleep with her cute little head on my shoulder. I felt a warm, fuzzy feeling about this, much more so than usual--but then again, there was the matter of several grams of mushrooms running around in my system. I was into the happy, physically disconnected phase of that there mushroom trip--I couldn't imagine doing anything as gross or focused as kissing her, but I sure did like her head on my shoulder. It was at this time that I realized what the phrase "I just want to be held" really meant. Annnnnd...she'd made it clear that with the weather as miserable as it was, and her lack of a ground sheet under her tent, she didn't really want to trek back out to her place.

This was my chance. Maybe, just maybe, I'd meet a girl at Burning Man after all. And maybe, just possibly, once I could quit seeing out of the pores on my face, I might get to experience playa sex. Maybe.

All of these loopy little half-formed plots eventually met up at one specific bottleneck: Dan Pugh, and his lack of shelter. He'd been really good at sleeping elsewhere (I presume he was sleeping-you never can tell with him), mainly in Center Camp, but we'd just experienced rain in Center Camp, and it sucked, so there was no telling.

It came down to a choice of tents: my tent, with all its commensurate blinky-haired delights (aside from the mushroom trip, the whole 18" hair thing would make getting froggy in a tent awkward at best), or Todd's tent, which definitely had less to offer in the way of DNA haired acidheads who would go get you coffee in the morning, but did offer the distinct advantage of no awkward roommates.

As the people in the RV gradually became more agitated about going to bed, I braved the wet and cold (I swear, it had to have been 40 degrees, and raining) to viddy the tent situation. Now, let it be known that I had every right to boot Daniel-san out of the tent, should I feel the need. We'd discussed it--and again, he'd made every attempt to be gone. However, as usual, fate conspired against us.

Even before I hit the door, I knew he was in there. It was dark, and muddy (after all, it IS a dry lakebed, so it doesn't take much to make things impassable), and I'd caught my hair on a guy line (WHY did I ever do this? WHY didn't we bring more lights?), so I was in no mood to dick around. I was mad, Gentle Reader, because deep down I knew how things would go. Even IF Dan wasn't inside, I just didn't have the focus (or, frankly, the charisma) to talk ol' girl into bed with me. But I wanted to, so badly.

I unzipped the tent flap. Shined my light inside. There was Daniel, fast asleep, a smudge of drool on his chin. It was cold; he was balled up under a big blanket, but still far enough to one side that I could get in there with him.

I knelt there for a moment, contemplating the situation. Coming to grips with just how unresolvable it was with what I wanted it to be. It wasn't an option to wake up that poor silly bastard and kick him out in the cold and the rain. It wasn't. Kate Moss couldn't have convinced me to do that, and what was funny was that I spent more time shining my light in his face out of spite than I did making a decision about what to do.

I reentered the RV, still tripping balls and wet (and very lonely), and told them the bad news. I was sleeping with Pugh tonight.

Five minutes later, I was in my (our) tent, gritting my teeth and trying to sleep, while having to listen to half muffled giggles and rummagings-around in TODD'S tent, which was situated about 5 feet from mine.

Luckily, an hour or two later, we had another huge windstorm which completely did for the remains of our shelter, as well as the rest of the Jack Daniels, which some fool had left out with the lid open, and resulted in some JD flavored white mud. By sunup, the only things standing in camp were two tents and a couple of cars. And I woke up to Dan Pugh crawling over me to go puke. As far as the eye could see, there was white mud, and people covered in white mud. And, incidentally, no folk-singin' cute-as-a-button New York girl who would fall asleep on my shoulder.

Loss. Utter loss. A feeling of foolishness, to have thought that any of this would work out. A huge feeling of homesickness, and a taste of the dread that comes when it's time to pack up and go home. But still, anticipation. It was Saturday morning, the last day, and no one had anything to lose. The Man burned that night, and no one knew what would happen.

Friday, March 05, 2004

Tamar: Conclusion

Well, kids, I confess I tried to cheat. And got busted for it. I'm a loser, I know.

So, Tamar, that lovely epic poem of Robinson Jeffers. She's the one who fucked her brother, got pregnant, then fucked another guy so maybe she could pass the child off as the other guy's. Instead, though, she takes her aunt, who channels the dead, and her other aunt, who's retarded, down to the seashore, after (and this is important) setting the house on fire. There, aunt #1 (Stella) channels the voice of Tamar's dead aunt (on her father's side), whose name is Helen. Turns out, Daddy had been fucking both his wife (Tamar's mother) and his own sister (dead Helen).

Somehow, a bunch of Indian spirits come up on Tamar and rape her, right there on the beach. Dead Helen gets pissed off because ol' Tamar's gettin' lippy, so she causes T to abort the fetus right out there on the beach. There's a weirdly gratuitous seaweed dressing scene, but we won't go into that.

So, when Tamar wakes up, Dad has found out what's been going on between her and her brother, and of course isn't very pleased. The brother keeps trying to go off to war (WWI), but keeps coming back and arguing with Tamar, who's by this time completely lost it. Obviously, the house didn't burn down, but no one knows who set fire to it, so she implicates the other guy she fucked, the hapless puppy who's been appearing only to emphasize how stupid and blind people can be when they're in love. Ahem.

Odd interlude (yes, another one), where Stella urges Jinny (the retard) to look through the walls and see what's going on in the next room. Turns out, Dead Helen had also been diddling Jinny! Man, it just keeps gettin' weirder.

Climax of the poem, Brother whips Tamar with his riding crop as he's attempting to leave the house for good. Tamar's b/f shows up, they get into a fight, Brother stabs B/F.

In the other room, Jinny gets left alone with a lantern. She starts dicking around with it, falls in love (literally) with the fire, and coaxes it out of the lantern, thus burninge herself up and setting the whole house on fire.

The end of the poem, of course, is Brother attempting to leave the house, but Tamar holding him close, whereupon everyone (dad, dead b/f, Helen, Stella, Jinny, Tamar and Brother) go up like The Man on Saturday night. End of story.

Jesus. And I've still got several hundred other pages to go. Once again, I find that I don't have the patience for the short stuff, but I think I'm back into another of his "epics." There's already talk of whiskey and gambling, and losing one's wife for three days as a result.

Indecency! Decadence! Loose morals! Yes, this is California...

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Burning Man 25: Sketchy Bill (b)

Upon crawling out of my stupor on Friday morning, I was immediately accosted by Sketchy Bill, who offered me a beer and a place to sit down and talk. In the air conditioning, or at least in the shade. Not being a rude individual, and also being a bit curious about the guy, I accepted.

Inside the RV, I met his beautiful Albanian "girlfriend," whose name I can't recall, and his incredibly well muscled bodyguard/driver, a French Moroccan guy named Gabriel. Gabriel was just "saying goodbye" to yet another young lady. Since his bodyguard duties were light, and his driving duties nonexistent, he'd taken to just sort of wandering around and flexing his pecs. I don't know how, but he always seemed to be freshly oiled, as well. To paraphrase Monty Python, you could tell he was a king because he didn't have shit all over him.

But Gabriel didn't speak any English, just French, and the Albanian girl was nice but a little stupid, so it was mainly just Bill and me. Bill was seriously pleased with the A I'd given him the night before (which I really had forgotten about), and wanted to discuss, of all things, Beat Poets.

Now, I feel about Beat Poets pretty much the way I feel about Elvis, to wit, history would not have been the same without them, but history didn't begin or end with them, either.

That is, I don't place Allen Ginsberg or Jack Kerouac on some sort of pedestal. I'll admit to being a big fan of Bill Burroughs, yes, but I'm pretty anti-intellectual about my intellectuals, and any whiff of ordination I get from people regarding them is enough to put my teeth on edge.

/beat rant

But I liked this guy, and I could feel he was genuinely trying to get what was going on, although I truly suspect it was too little too late.

So we chatted a bit, and traded his dogeared copy of "The Beat Reader" for my even more trashed copy of Bukowski's "Love is a Dog From Hell," which isn't my favorite, but it's such a good title that I feel more comfortable giving it to people. There are half a dozen books I feel compelled to introduce folks to, and I hadn't finished reading my newest copy of "The Wasteland" yet.

When I do finish a book like these, if it's a light one (like "The Wasteland") I'll just throw it at someone when I'm driving down the street. If it's heavier, I'll just leave it lying around the house and eventually it disappears. Oddly enough, this results in a hangover for me the next day.

So we traded books, and inscribed our phone #'s and emails (I was shocked at how many people out there had emails-even the people who didn't appear to own clothes had an email address), drank another couple of beers, and parted ways for a while.

Friday afternoon. Things were starting to get exciting-there was some sort of "sex opera" this night (which I'm still perfectly willing to let someone (ahem) guest blog about), and of course Saturday night was the climax of the entire event. I wandered into and out of camp, talking to folks and fiddling around with the cubes (yes, I'm nothing if not persistent).

Friday evening, I was (re)introduced to a lovely young lady named Lisa, who was a folk singer of a sort, and exceedingly interesting to someone (like me) who hadn't really met or talked to many women from other parts of the country. Somehow or another I'd run across a small bag of mushrooms, as well, so you must color the rest of this fairly pedestrian story with lots of little flashes of colored lights. And maybe a complete misunderstanding, too.

On second thought, this story requires its own heading. You'll just have to wait. I'm not sure how long you'll have to wait, but since I'm trapped in this office for what looks like the rest of the afternoon, it might not be too long.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Burning Man 24: Meeting The Man

I wandered for some time out into the desert, tripping my ass off and enjoying the big installments. The huge clothesline-lookin' thing I'd seen my first morning out turned out to be some sort of huge wing, or rather it transformed from clothesline full of rags to a horizontal array of frighteningly loud...somethings. I don't know. I was too scared to get close to it--it was really singing, and I figured since most of OUR shit had already blown down, I'd be smart to stay well out of range of any snapping cable. If any of that canvas (or whatever it was) came loose, it'd wrap me up and tumble me into the fence, untold miles away.

OK, that's an exaggeration. I think the whole event is in an area of about 5 square miles, but it's hard to grasp size when you're in the midst of a flat white plain.

My next stop was The Man. I hadn't seen him at night from up close, so that seemed appropriate--after all, two nights from now I'd be witnessing his immolation.

The amount of engineering that goes into that thing is really hard to grasp until you've at least tried to build a seven foot PVC cube that will withstand winds like we saw that year. Imagine a wooden structure, about 45 feet tall, balanced on two points. Maybe they weren't points, exactly, but they sure as hell weren't snowshoes. Now imagine this entire thing is covered in neon, and has to be somewhat articulated (the arms stay down during the week, then get raised above his head on Saturday night), and absolutely CANNOT fall over.

As a side note, I've got some friends in Reno that want to sneak in and burn the thing down a couple of nights early. There are times when I think being a part of this would be the high point of my life, and there are times when I cringe at the thought--mostly because the thought of those crazy bastards from DPS on the hunt for us out in the desert (their desert, let's face it) is genuinely scary.

I don't know. The Man is a little anti-climactic, in a lot of ways. I mean, he represents a lot of things to a lot of different people, but it's hard to stand out there in the cold and be consistently awed by a big glowing matchstick. So I headed out to the fence.

Being out at the fence at night is probably the most impressive thing you can do, except maybe being out at the fence at night on the top of Daud's bus. Or being out there with the love of your life, and...well, never mind. That wasn't this year, at any rate, and getting out to the edge and seeing just how huge and crazy the whole thing had gotten in just two days was enough to make me sit down crosslegged and spend a few minutes fumbling around for some more LSD. Which I found, then had to wait another hour before it kicked in.

Words can't describe it. At least I can't use words to describe it. It's dark (obviously), and directly to the west is a huge, glowing, sprawling, raucous city that you could spend an entire night examining from a couple of miles away. You can't see the entire thing up close in a week--and I've learned it's not wise to try.

But at the same time, you're in the midst of a huge white plain, a plain that completely dwarfs the 25,000 person city you live in. From out at the fence, you can see the luminescence that moonlight lends to the dry white floor. If you look carefully (especially if you look over the fence, away from camp, the whole dry lakebed glows slightly. And if you're on enough acid, you can imagine what it was like when all of it was underwater.

I sat out there for a while, pondering time, the nature of human society, and whether I was going to get laid out here (I didn't). Some people rode by on bikes, shooting roman candles at each other, and I watched the colors zip along the ground beneath them. No one seemed to notice the fella with the blue helix hair, even with the soft beeping still emanating from somewhere behind my ear.

Eventually, everyone went away, and even some of the bigger lights back in camp started to go dark. I saw that the wind was coming up, and realized I was cold, and eventually found myself headed back to camp. More out of loneliness than anything--that and being afraid of mushed by some out of control art car that wasn't looking too closely for passed out hippies on the far edges of camp.

So I walked, back past the Man, back past the still madly flapping Wing (or whatever), past a big maze, and back onto the Esplanade (the innermost street in the horseshoe). I hadda pee.

After locating a suitably clean bathroom, I noticed the winds were still really bad. Somehow this hadn't been too much of a hassle out on the open playa, but back in town, I really didn't like it.

Thus, an error. Instead of plodding back down the Esplanade to the entry to Center Camp, I cut out through some tents in some sort of feebleminded attempt at a shortcut.

I know, I know. We'd nearly been baked to death under the Nevada sun not five days ago, because of a shortcut called the Jungo Road. All I can really say is that I was tripping, people. Cut me some slack.

I soon found myself hopelessly lost. I was in the midst of this hellaciously well designed grid of streets, most of which were plainly marked. How I got lost, I'll never be able to tell. I know the wind picked up, as did the dust, and shortly it was a choice between having my goggles on and being able to see everything but the street signs and having the goggles off, which stung my eyes but allowed me to squint and read those signs.

It didn't matter. I wandered aimlessly for some time, until finally the wind settled down and I was able to orient myself by the flags at Center Camp again. I was bone-weary, and stupid from booze and drugs, and nearly decapitated myself upon arriving back at the camp. Thankfully, Dan wasn't around to take up space on the mattress, so I had a luxurious three or four hours of sleep before the sun came up. The last thing I remember that night was pulling my boots off and stuffing them behind my head to support my hair. And then, after a few minutes, turning off the beeping.

Burning Man 23: Sketchy Bill (a)

I've tried to write this a couple of times now, but keep getting interrupted.

So, here we go:

The Boyscouts' plans had pretty well fallen through before they ventured out to Black Rock City that year. Their friends had bailed on them, sticking them with three tickets and no RV. At times, this was good (more room to drive around those RC cars, more beer to drink), and at times it was bad (six hundred dollars in unused tickets). So Thursday, they hit the front gate and sold them. They were fortunate: they found a HUGE RV with exactly three people in it, who had just been up in the area (camping at Pyramid Lake) and decided to come check the place out. Newbies, in other words. Or, as we call them now, tourists.

You can always tell the tourists at Burning Man. They're clean, first of all, and they spend a lot of time pointing at things (and people). I don't like 'em, but I don't go out of my way to mess with them, either. Don't get me started about tourists. Suffice it to say that I was a bit bemused by these clean and well fed people who'd just shown up.

When they all happily arrived back at camp, I was in the midst of another futile attempt to reassemble the cubes. It wasn't going well, and I wasn't happy about that. I was even less happy to be pestered by the Boyscouts about the acid everyone knew I had, in the name of the new people. But eventually, I gave up on the cubes and told the Boyscouts that in order to part with any of my precious hoard, I needed some lipbalm.

Note to folks: that's all you really have to do if you want something from me. Just keep pestering me. Eventually I'll give in. The downside of that is that I might never speak to you again, of course, but you never can tell.

Boy, did I need me some lipbalm. This was one area where I just completely spaced in preparing. I'd brought sunscreen (although I didn't use it much), but sunscreen doesn't go on your lips, especially once those lips start to crack and bleed. Ouch. Mine felt like they were in danger of falling off of my face, and had for a couple of days. Do NOT venture into the desert without Chapstick, Gentle Reader. Take it from me. It was bad enough that my favorite playa gift that year (other than the ice cold Guinness Draught that I'll get to before this is all over) was a film canister full of homemade chapstick (orange flavored). And it got bad enough that my lips didn't fully heal until I arrived back home in Oklahoma.

Within 15 minutes, a squat, middle aged, hairy, wise-guy looking dude burst out of the RV, collared me, and began waxing poetic about the lipbalm-like qualities of a small bottle of...aftershave. This was my first meeting with Sketchy Bill.

Bill was probably about 40, very wealthy, and reminded me of nothing so much as some New Jersey mobster who still didn't get Southern California, but really liked what he saw. Picture Sonny Corleone minus 57 holes, plus a pot belly and a hairy chest. Maybe not. Maybe Michael Madsen's character out of Reservoir Dogs, only a lot louder and more fun. A guy who lived to have fun, except when he was working, and then you'd better stay out of his way. Perhaps "a man of large appetites" would be better.

I couldn't help but like him. He was as out of place here as Dan and I were in SLC, and we both knew it. But he was here to party, dammit, and I could respect that. So I took his aftershave, whacked off six big hits of blotter, and sent him on his way. Then I ate three or four myself, and forgot all about him.

The rest of the day was pretty normal. Towards evening, we got together and decided to make a daring Loopool raid on Center Camp, and after nightfall we loaded up the projectors and some sound equipment and set up a pirate a/v station under one of the awnings. That went well for quite a while, but it wasn't some place we could really set up and get comfortable in.

Later that night, I actually ventured out with a group to go see things. I hadn't really spent much time wandering around, so this was a good opportunity, I felt, to see some more of the event (it was, after all, Thursday already). Unfortunately, the people I was with stopped at the first big dance camp and disappeared inside for what felt like hours. Ultimately, I wandered off into the night, and promptly got lost in a huge dust storm.