Tuesday, March 02, 2004

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.


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