Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Satirius 2: Descriptions of Madness

By the time this posts, I will hopefully be on day 2 of Burning Man setup, and having a wonderful time. You won't know til I get back, though.

So, here's post two from Satirius' series of emails about BM 2002:

As Ouchy’s vehicle approached, I estimate that there could not have been less than fifty clowns disporting themselves in every conceivable way- and there were probably more like seventy. And when they arrived, it was a headfirst plunge into what Ouchy is all about.

The word pandemonium is a nice, neat, latin word with traceable roots that logically tries to put across the concept it’s getting at. What word could describe the arrival of these people I don’t know, but it would probably have to come from ancient sanskrit. Never would I have believed that seltzer could have been wielded like this, or that clowns could be so terrifying. We’ve seen Ouchy’s website and all, but it in no way prepares you for the melee of clowns running around in outfits every bit as horrifying as you could imagine- not just modern stereotypical clownwear, but the creepy 19th century harlequin garb, all lewdly exposing the clowny parts you don’t want to be seeing, and the PA’s blasting a deafeningly loud rendition of Tiny Tim’s “Tiptoe through the Tulips” over the screaming and flagellations of other clowns and assault of lights and laughter. And at the center of all of this was Ouchy himself, lolling around in a specially fit chamber in the heart of the Ouchymobile, like some kind of sleepy pasha attended by a doting clown harem. I only wish I were making this up.

The din of the clownmobile eventually subsided into simple fucked-up calliope music while the clowns went about erecting “Clown Town”, which as far as I could tell was just a bunch of tents and an ominous shed painted like a Wonder Bread label called the “Grope a Clown” box.

[This is all as frightening as it sounds]

Twin B, John Osborne, and an eminent Pyrot named Todd Oliver and I all fixed up a flatbed trailer and headed out to the nether regions of Burning Man to get enough firewood to last our village for the week, which is about two truckloads full.

Dealing with the DPW is always interesting, since they’re the group of people who really form the backbone of the Burning Man Organization. They’re the ones who live out as desert rats on the BMO held ranch all year round, but for one week of the year work as a combination of social services and corps of engineers for a city of 28,000. The DPW people as a class are purportedly a throwback to the early days of Burning Man, fifteen years ago, when there were souped up mad max vehicles spinning out and playing machine gun target practice, people shitting on the playa, and probably a lot more outfits like Ouchy’s around. They’re still a bunch of drunken anarchist desert punks, but somehow it is they that form the civil infrastructure of Burning Man and they do incredibly well. They build the entire structure of the Man, a four story building that has to be built to code, in two weeks. And everything they make has to be able to withstand winds of a hundred miles an hour.

We are received by a willowy, fuschia-haired girl whose semi-nude body is one endless tattoo. Her name is Dementia, and she’s number 2 in the DPW, and seems bored by Todd Oliver, the head of our expedition.

Todd Oliver is the engineer for Pyrot. He works in real life as a welder, and as a sculptor in the rest of his time. He is missing eyebrows from throwing molotov cocktails into a nuclear missile silo, sticks pop-rocks into his butt at parties, and travels around with his weird electronic flame throwing sculptures as Daud’s point man. He’ll frequently be wearing a combination of men’s and women’s clothes, usually an absurd ass-baring pink thong or g-string, or a huge cloak made of ties topped by a teutonic helmet. Todd helped us put up our two domes with a device he created that serves as a giant crank hoisting the dome sections up level by level, eliminating the work of about four or five people.

Dementia refuses to give us our wood, citing that it has to be delivered by DPW or we can take it up with the next guy who gets in at 2:30, so we chug back across the desert while John Osborne and Todd Oliver ponder future means of creating bigger, and larger domes. Osborne claims that the secret to building a really massive dome is to create a giant air-filled structure that has a large, singular piece of fabric. The only fabric of the dimensions he’s envisioning would have to come from a hot-air balloon, or a cargo parachute- the parachutes used to drop Abrams tanks out of airplanes.

Osborne loves to have these kind of discussions. In many ways, he’s the closest thing we have to a politician at Image Node, of the good ole boy variety. Most people, especially Diablo, are unnerved by the appearance of Osborne, since his brutal appearance suggests the kind of man who would be inflicting physical violence or torment on the weak, the arty, the fruity, or the freaky. John Osborne weighs in at about 260 lbs, is balding, incredibly hirsute, wears a stained wife beater, is constantly drunk, is missing an eye, and broiled red as a lobster under the Nevada sun. He claims descent from a WWII era Austrian rocket scientist named “Osterheimer” and is a huge supporter of his state’s Republican party. Osborne is no law-abider though, [REDACTED]

Osborne is all smiles at Image Node, though, screaming “that was fucked up!” at the various sexual deviants he encounters.

[there's just some stuff there the statute of limitations hain't run out on yet]

After class, I decide it’s time to do some exploring of Burning Man proper, so I get M and I to come out on a bike ride with me. This is always a different experience for the people who are here for the first time, but many of the sculptures this year are new, and very beautiful. One of them was a lush, resodded forest transplanted out into in a perfect little square on the white playa. As we peddled further out, into the deafeningly quiet expanse of the ‘terra incognita’ as it was listed on the map, we encountered the Kraken.

This was an enormous octopus like sculpture the size of several parking lots. Each tentacle undulated above and below the playa, such that only the exposed parts were being built up out of canvas and wrought iron. To my surprise, I ran into Hackett of the Madagascar Institute, who told me this was their project for Burning Man this year (and he also mentioned that they had wanted him so bad that the BMO had paid him to do this), but that we should feel free to climb on it. I and M and I played on the sculpture for a while, and we rode further out, to the very outermost extremity of Burning Man, to the giant Rubber Duck bar- which was exactly what it sounds like.

We spent the better part of the day peddling around the semi-complete sculptures on our specially decorated Image Node bikes. The first light sculptures were in evidence as the day became evening; I remember the most beautiful was an expansive arrangement of metal water lilies hovering several feet above the playa for several acres. Beneath each lily was a wavering, ultra bright blue LED which, when combined with all the other lilies, gave an impossibly water-like effect to the huge patch of playa underneath all the lilies. There were small mechanical dragonflies here and there, the wings tipped with fiber-optic cross sections that glowed different color patterns along their metal and fibrous bodies.

We also rode out to the Man itself, and climbed along the four story lighthouse with all the other Burning Man pilgrims. There is always a solemnity to the Man, although nothing about the way this is set up would suggest that this is the only way it’s to be taken in. The design of the lighthouse is actually kind of whimsical. I and M seem to love it, and given M’s earlier reluctance about it all I ask her what she thinks.

M has been goofily grinning this whole time, hugs me and thanks me for bringing her out here. M thoughtfully put it this way:

This is a very... silly place- in a good way- and I’m glad that it is. That’s what I wasn’t expecting. What I’m still trying to figure out about all of this is that it’s not at all conceptual- it’s literal, which is I think what keeps it from being pretentious. Everything that happens out here is just happening at it’s own level for its own sake, without being attached to some kind of symbolic meaning.

At the same time back at Image Node, C had found two of her friends- Speed Levitch and the Chicken Man. Speed, on camera for some piece he is making, opined that this was a glorious “parody of civilization”- which for some reason had annoyed me until I thought about the way M had put it, which somehow feels more right.

[the giant rubber duck bar was actually called "Amazing Larry's Jazz Bar and Casino"]

The day took a definite turn for me when we arrived at the Sexually Deviant Body Painting camp. Here, actual rubberized latex body painting was taking place under a giant tent crowded with people playing with air-brushes and hoses and mini-rollers. My hair already blue, I thought it would be cool to get the rest of me painted blue also. Plus, this had the added benefit of allowing me to experience what it would be like if by some twist of fate I actually were a Blue Man. I had had good luck being blue two years ago. And then there was the added titillation factor of having two women roll liquid blue rubber on me, which I had never had done before. I feel this justified my decision at the time.

I and M decided they would be happy to see what I would look like blue, and set to work pulling these rollers all over my body- making sure to apply three layers so that the latex would peel off easily later. The phrase “peel off easily” set off a slight alarm bell in my mind, but I decided to continue with this plan since I really had no Burning Man costume of my own- it having been a lean year- and being shiny blue is such a cool thought.

By the time we were finished, I was completely blue from head to toe, hair included, and sprayed with a shiny non-adhesive so that I wouldn’t stick to myself. I tried to put my clothes back on but M and I told me that this ruined the entire effect, and that I would have to walk around naked for the rest of the day. I was a little unsure of that, not because it was a problem but because I wondered if that meant I was now one of those “naked guys” that so annoyingly walks around in an unnecessarily naked state- and they said that with my hat and bug-eye goggles, it seemed suitably weird to justify the whole deal. So google eyed, hatted and blue balloon coated/nude- we left the tent to met B and S at Heebie Jeebie.

Immediately as soon as we walked out I became an official “Burning Man thing to see”. People were running up to take my picture, have their picture taken with me, and I received countless entreaties to go with various people back to their camp so they could paint me more. I was “ticketed” by some pseudo-cop for having a cool get-up. S found this all hilarious and assured me I was a ‘rock star’- which is pretty much what I felt like. We got out to the Esplanade where I was able to introduce myself to the crowds as Mogambix from the planet Cobalt, and that I was running for BMO Congress on the Teal ticket. People loved it. Some guy festooned in red appeared, and our faux Manichaean combat enthralled the masses. Some interviewer asked me what my favorite color was, and ever ready to provide the mot just, I replied “yellow”. When asked about the latex I said something about believing really really strongly in safe sex.

The irony was that for all the accolades and notice I received, the thought of actually doing anything sexual while covered in latex was entirely out of the question. Any kind of physical arousal on my part would, judging from the pain caused to my arm hair when I moved my fingers, just not be a good thing. And the person who enjoyed touching me in this thing would have to be a closeted necrophiliac.

At camp that evening, my blueness caused much consternation to Twin A, who likely wondered what goings-on were happening on the camp excursions he was missing. Twin A was visibly grumpy towards everyone that night though, as the Image Node projections hadn’t gone so well the night before. Jefe hadn’t been able to keep al the generators running, and Mr. E had been unable to keep from overloading the plugs with too many slide projectors.

I went inside Space Station Prog for dinner, which was now replete with inflated furniture, exhausted Saturnalians, John Osborne and Diablo.

I broached a rumour I had heard from M:

Is it true that the reason you weren’t helping with the projections last night because you were passed out drunk at the clown bar?

In fact, what had been alleged was that Osborne was at points tending bar, pouring out rows of shots for Burners and somehow officiating a troupe of dancing women.

Osbourne replied:

Those clowns are weird people. I hung out with them some. They had some Russian girl up there who they spanked until she had an orgasm. Those clowns. Weird people.

[Satirius treads lightly here--but I won't say more, at this time.]


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home