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.


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