Monday, September 27, 2004

Burning Man 2004 5: Camps

I did better this year than any year before, I think, as far as getting out to see things. This still doesn't say much, and I'll bet I haven't walked the full Esplanade since 2000, but it's a damn sight better than sleeping in the genny shack and lookin' like that engineer dude from Das Boot. 2002 had also resulted in a diaspora of Noders into other camps, with positive results for everyone concerned, I think--especially since now I could easily visit a lot of cool camps that otherwise I might not have seen.

Disorient, of course, is top of the list. They were down at the far end of camp, out where the large sound systems are, and Josh has an RV, which really helps out if it's a) hot, b) raining, or c) windy. Sure, a tent will help out for two of those, but it's nice to get in out of the elements once in a while. I mean, it's nice to see Josh and the Ishkabibble crew too, and hearing their travails this year was most comforting, but really, there's something comforting about grabbing a roll of trashbags from under the sink.

I confess I've never really spent much time in Disorient other than in his RV--I walked up Tuesday or Wednesday night, but kind of got the fisheye and brushoff from various folks. I was bemused by this, but chalked it up to people being busy. Which, when I finally hooked up with him, turned out to be the case. They had three generators burn up (at least one of which actually caught on fire, which scares the shit out of me), various campmates disappear, and a lot of stuff just sort of get spaced on. It was really nice to look at, from the outside, but hearing what went on behind the scenes kind of reminded me of the driving force behind the event, and every camp--people. Questions about what form they'll take next year about, but it's early yet.

Catherine split and camped with a great bunch of people called You Are That Pig, who had a big dome covered with pink, with pig ears and possibly a pink snout for an entry. Their whole schtick appeared to be giving away beer, which as you can imagine I was all about. I wonder about how this got Esplanade placement, unless they got placed near the folks who did the placing...

UPDATE: Catherine has informed me that these folks had a lot more going on that I just didn't see, given my focus on beer--apparently there was a put put golf course, a pool table, and much more stuff than I actually encountered. So, if that sounded denigratory, I didn't mean it.

But they were good people all the same, and I was over there several times during the week.

One long night that turned into a morning, probably whatever night I drank most of a bottle of tequila with Twin C (I bleev it was the first night the Dendrites played in the dome, but I can't say for sure), I walked out to the portapotties around sunrise. Actually, I was shooting for the fence, but it's a long ass walk out there, and my ferret nature was distracted by a large steel frame supporting three porch swings. This seemed like a perfect way to meet folks, so after I did my bidness, I grabbed a seat, reeking of tequila (and most likely paraffin), and entered the conversation.

Now, this isn't something I'd normally do off playa, but your inhibitions tend to get lowered quite a bit while you're out there (and yes, tequila helps in that respect), and so I wound up talking to a couple of women whose name I totally space on. None of us knew each other before walking up at different times to the swings, but before I knew it I had invitations to visit both Dustfish (which I never managed to do) and Muhammad's Martini Bar and Erotica Camp, which was a really laid back place that was exactly like it sounds--a low purple Arab-style canopy, with plenty of shakers and martini glasses and a really weird looking leatherbound book of erotica for you to peruse, if you were into that. Since I spend a lot of my life in varying degrees of sexual frustration, and the woman I met on the swings was married, I elected to give the erotica a pass--but the martinis were outstanding. I could have visited there quite frequently, had I the presence of mind to bring a bottle.

Turns out the girl from Dustfish remembered where I camped, and also remembered that the Muhammad's woman made very nice fake fur arm and leg warmers; so she came by, snagged a piece of fur from me, and dragged me along to get some made. This because while I'd forgotten about the fur thing, I DID remember where Muhammad's was, so between the two of us we got ourselves some fur armwarmers. Which work great, actually, thanks for asking. I'm tempted to make a whole costume out of fake fur for next year, although I worry about its flammability.

Earlier that night, I wandered around with Catherine, breathing fire behind her and a couple of other fire spinners at a camp called Hippocampus. Now, technically, you're not supposed to have open flame within 50' of a structure, which is a long damn way when your whole camp is only 100' wide, but as usual some rules get subverted and we didn't have any trouble. I did well, they say, and got to do my stupid fire shit in front of probably 50 strangers. Perhaps the tequila helped, but I didn't think about being crowd shy for a second. Maybe it was the three fire people in front of me, which I felt took the metaphorical heat off of my performance as well. I tried to feed off of what they were doing, not distract the audience but still be a part of what was going on, which is interesting to do when your primary focus is not setting yourself or one of the other performers on fire. It's a totally different gig, actually--going from just blowing it out there as hard as you can, to actually trying to direct or control where your fireball is going to end up. Not something you want to try at home, kids. Much better you learn while half drunk on tequila, half naked, and surrounded by very flammable tents and strangers. You either have it or you don't.

The crowd loved it all, though, so much so that we fired up and did the whole thing again. And again. I HAVE to learn how to spin, kids. It's so much safer than breathing, or eating, which once I get some spare cash I'm going to buy the torches to learn with.

I also spent a late night next door at Lost Penguin, which had an open mic and a fire barrel. It's apparent that to be a man in Lost Penguin, you have to be completely naked all the time, which is odd, and have a perfectly tanned penis, which is even more odd. Unfortunately, a lot of the open mic people were pretty bad piano players, which suited the air of a cabaret pretty well, but ultimately got on our nerves since our kitchen and chill space were right next to this area of their camp.

Next year, CLOSE to Lost Penguin, but not NEXT TO Lost Penguin.

I was also less than impressed with the folks at Videogasm, who were at best taciturn and unhelpful. That's all I'll say, because after my first encounter with them I avoided them as much as possible.



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