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.


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