This one time at Burning Man

What follows is a transcription from my journal of my Burning Man 2010 experience. Most of it is mundane, some of it is profound (to me anyway). Enjoy!

30 AUG 2010 12:14 – Fueled up @ Sams and heading North

30 AUG 2010 17:25 – Stopped at Bitter Creek Rest Stop

The Three Flat Smileys at the Bitter Creek Rest Stop

31 AUG 2010 02:39 – Leaving TA truck stop in Tooele, UT

31 AUG 2010 06:35 – Beowawe Rest Stop: Dawn is breaking in my rear view window.

31 AUG 2010 10:42 – Leaving Love’s Truck Stop in Fernley, NV.

On Hwy 34 North Toward Gerlach
The playa off in the distance
On Gate Road!

31 AUG 2010 17:20 – Black Rock City 7:45 & J (mountain side back alley): Sitting down in camp for the first time. Setup is finally complete. The farthest I’ve ventured is to the Blue Room and back. I need to eat something and decide whether to shower before venturing beyond 7:45 & Jakarta.

Map of the city
my camp pic 1
my camp pic 2
my camp pic 3
my camp pic 4
The 3 Flats chilling in camp

31 AUG 2010 20:13 – Holy shit! What a completely beautifully absurd cacophony I just saw. I went touring just before sunset. Dropped off some stones for the wishing well project in Kidsville, and posted four of my ‘Keep Calm And Burn On’ posters in the two public plazas on 9:00 & 3:00. I’ll need to find the BRCBC camp. I think they may want some. The deep playa conditions are pretty crappy. I’m going to have thighs of steel or another hernia by the end of the week. Night is falling and the lights are coming on. After a cookie & cocktail break at camp, I’m heading back out.

Sunset on the playa
The man at night

01 SEP 2010 09:26 – I was exhausted when I arrived back at camp last night. I headed out to deep playa and found myself slogging through several inches of thick playa cruft. Lesson learned. My neighbor, Tom, says the late side of deep playa isn’t as bad as the right. I’ll go see. My solar Christmas light beacon wasn’t on when I got back, but there’s no way to troubleshoot without taking down the whole shade structure. Not happening! The weather has been fantastic ever since I arrived. I could not have asked for better conditions for setup. I modified some of my hanging ornaments on my bike this morning to be less jangly.

01 SEP 2010 some time before noon – I’m at the Temple and the emotional energy is palpable. Fucking unreal. I’m trying to let some catharsis flow out before I have a guardian shift lest I melt down and need assistance myself. I wrote my memorial to James, Corry, and Kat on the right most dune of the Temple where the rising sun will kiss it each morning until it is ashes Sunday night. This is a sacred space. A profound space. A beautiful space.

My inscription on the Temple
Temple of Flux (from the East)

01 SEP 2010 first guardian shift (between 18:00-21:00) – I saw a unicorn silhouetted by the setting sun on the side of the Temple writing a memorial. A real fucking unicorn.

screen cap from by mastahnick

You blink, and the thing that was just there isn’t anymore. The sunset weddings add so much happy energy to compensate for the sorrow. The big canyon, though, whoa. So much intensity. It’s like a magnifying glass concentrating the rays of the sun. — Oh shit! It’s there again — a splendiferous long string of purple balloons attached to the back of an art barge.

Guardian shift was amazing. I didn’t do much for others, but it did so much for me. In the 8 o’clock hour, I took a seat on a bench in the big canyon and let the moment fill me. The internal lights came on, and shortly thereafter, the man next to me began playing a double ocarina in the most perfect way.

02 SEP 2010 morning in camp – There’s more to tell about last night, but I was too exhausted to write another word. (Neighbor Tom just gave me a hard boiled egg!) Back to last night: I had my first drunk bicycling incident. Thankfully I didn’t run into another person. I was the only dumbass involved. I realized that one of my glow sticks had turned off, so I reached down to turn it back on only to find that it had fallen off. I look up – shit – back corner of an RV – sudden stop. (Going on an impromptu art ride with Tom.)

City Park
Trash fence near 12:00 (with child playing in the sand)
Trash fence also near 12:00
Bus Stop
Bliss Dance
Bliss Dance
Bliss Dance

02 SEP 2010 14:20 – Back at camp after a morning art tour with Tom (Until 12:00) and then Halcyon’s Pink Ride and Hug Nation at center camp. We also took part in the human peace symbol around the man at 11:41 for the satellite photo. I was next to a naked man.

Peacetropolis as captured by GeoEye
Gnomonosity (sun dial)
Gnomonosity (shadow detail)
Mant Farm
View of the playa from the top of Mant Farm
View of the man from the top of Mant Farm
Better view of the man from the top of Mant Farm
Fishing trawler captures giant fish!
The Pink Ride

Speaking of, a different naked man just walked by my camp with a plush green dinosaur. Much more dust plumes are blowing across the playa today, but my camp is up wind of 99% of them. When I got back to camp last night after the incident, I found a monstrous RV had nudged its way into the alley and parked it’s nose between two of my guy ropes. Nice people though. Naked dino man just walked back through.

02 SEP 2010 17:05 – Had a nice sit down with the neighbors. Back to Tuesday evening for a quick note: When I rode out onto the playa for the first time, there were these incredible kites up in the sky — just like I saw in my dreams.

Another view of the man at night

03 SEP 2010 14:10 – Just got done reinforcing the rigging on the shade canopy. We’re finally getting some wind today, and when I got back from a juice gifting run, I found the PVC hoop all askew between the guy ropes. I brought out my spare rope and secured the PVC hoop on the windward side to the guy anchor to prevent it from blowing up the guy to the mast. Then I found one of the hoop joints had come undone, so a gorilla tape repair was in order. Now, as a reward, I’m trteating myself to the cold, fresh squeezed (frozen then thawed) orange juice gifted to me by Joy, Abby, & Enrique. So fucking refreshing! I need to get my post cards to a post office. I’ll go do that right after I finish my juice and take some ibuprofen. The knees are starting to hate me.

03 SEP 2010 17:27 – The post office desk clerk was exceptionally nice. I dropped the cards off at BRCPO2.Oh in the 9:00 plaza. Guy recommended I read Ken Wilber’s A Theory of Everything. I’ll have to pick it up from the library. I really over extended myself earlier today on my second juice gifting run. I rode out to the trash fence at the same time the wind was picking up. My vector of travel found me at the trash fence with a stiff headwind and shitty, shitty soft playa for much of the way back to the city. Lesson learned.

Story from this morning: I was sitting in the Blue Room finishing my daily business when I hear a whomp outside followed by a gal saying “eewww!” and a guy saying “it’s not so bad – just wait until it dries”. I thought it was a complaint by a hoverer about the wet conditions in the Blue Room since they had been recently serviced and hosed down inside. So I roll back into camp to find Abby disgustingly flicking playa mud off her thigh and arms. Turns out that she had stepped out of a Blue Room and wasn’t looking where she was stepping and walked directly into a giant mud puddle left by the servicing truck. Was it black water? Was it potable? Who knows! In any event, playa mud is disgusting. Being the gallant gentleman that I am, I offered her the use of my solar shower after learning they didn’t have any shower facility. Abby and Joy both partook of the baby pool and solar shower at the side of the truck, and no, Heather, I didn’t watch. I carefully sat my ass down out-of-sight around the corner. What kind of gallant gentleman do you think I am?! After they got cleaned up, they invited me to bring my breakfast over to their shade and Rebecca and Tom joined as well. Hilarious conversation ensued until such time as a giant, copper colored sea dragon art car drove down Istanbul and disbanded the gathering as we all got up to get a better look and some took a quick picture.

About 75 minutes until sundown now when I can get the dirt of the day off of me. Oh solar shower how do I love thee! I’m planning on hanging around camp for awhile tonight to let the knees rest and to keep an eye on the canopy until the wind dies down a bit. I’ve had to seal a couple more joints, and I’m sure there will be more. I need to start a page of notes for how to pack differently when I come back. (OH SHIT! Did I just commit to the universe a return trip to Black Rock City?)

03 SEP 2010 17:27 – Well, I was clean. For about an hour. Then the wind picked up again, and every square inch of me is covered in dust again. I was inside the Temple when conditions really changed. Thankfully I had forethought to change the lens in my goggles from gray to clear before leaving. The ride back to camp was beautifully surreal. Thank Jah for the lamplighters. Without the promenades being lit, there’s no way I, or anyone, could find their way to anywhere in these conditions. I did make it back to camp without hitting anything or anyone! Praise Jah also for my batting dust closures working inside the tent. The air inside is relatively clear compared to the outside, though the tent walls are a’shakin’! I checked with Tom, and he said that I indeed had made it to Burning Man in the current conditions. Going to listen to BMIR for awhile now.

04 SEP 2010 03:12 – Woke up just after 2 AM and the wind had stopped. I thought it wise to get out and inspect camp for any needed repairs before the wind kicks up again. Whenever that might be. To my pleasure (and surprise) the hoop was intact and nothing was dangling or awry. Then I took a ride over to the Blue Room, which is considerably less blue at 2 AM, and after that I rode the back streets for a bit to see what the vibe is at this hour of the day. Much, much quieter on the back streets. I did ride by this incredible camp that was playing some Native American flute and drum music and had beautiful lighting. I wouldn’t mind stumbling upon that again, though the odds of me finding are slim to none. Queen Mab calls again, so I’ll sleep until the sun wakes me.

04 SEP 2010 11:18 – It seemed like the sun hugged the horizon extra long this morning making shade a precious commodity during the breakfast hours. I made bacon and coffee and had tuna salad on crackers. Joy brought everyone more juice, and Enrique brought out a flat of danish rolls! Awesome second breakfast! We all sat around Rebecca’s place until about 10:45. It was nap time for the all-nighters and the wind and dust from exodus are really picking up. I’ll probably be in dust goggles most of the day I’m guessing. I think I’ll go find a bar to unload some more juice and soda.

My camp in the wind

04 SEP 2010 16:13 – I remembered how much I’ve enjoyed the live music put on nightly by camp HOTD on the 8:00 radial, so I left them the rest of my Kern’s and Squirt. I came back for a bite of lunch, and then I went over to Don’s camp (5:25 & I mountain side) to pass a few hours in conversation. The dust has been pretty persistent all day (so far) as I thought. The shade canopy is performing like a trooper though. Not even any more failed joints today (knock on wood)! I believe all of my camp family is packing up with intentions to leave tonight — some before and some after the man burns. It’s going to be a virtual ghost town tomorrow at 7:45 & J.48,915 was the population at 5 PM yesterday according to Radio Electra. They say it’s easily over 50,000 now. Jack ass in a neon green Borat banana hammock just took a leak on the playa in the rear wheel well of his neighbor’s pickup. What an ass! I’m getting hungry, and I need to get ready for my Temple Guardian shift tonight. Need water too.

Chilling at Don’s Camp

04 SEP 2010 18:41 – On Guardian duty, saw Mario Valenti using his Zero Image 4×5 pinhole camera.

A love token I left on the Temple
Temple at dusty sundown

05 SEP 2010 00:32 – I can unequivocally say that this has been one of the best experiences of my life, but at the same time I cannot recommend it to anyone under any circumstances.* (see note at the bottom) These are the most inhospitable conditions known to humanity save for outer space, but fuck me, it’s the BEST. IT’S THE BEST! I need to go take down the shade canopy I just inherited before the RV that Claes is driving takes off. It will kite as soon as the RV is gone.

The man burns
Man on fire

05 SEP 2010 01:07 – Task complete. As well as shade structure remediation. But let’s start at the beginning. I left for guardian duty in a dust storm and had to use the promenades to navigate there instead of a bee line. For most of the way there, visibility was … limited. There was ample activity at the Temple. I think I’m suited well for the sunset shift. My shift ended and I planned to watch the man burn from the Temple, but the desert had a different idea. The wind. Jesus, the wind! I was afraid that conditions would prevent the burn, but someone said “fuck it, let’s’ burn some shit” and so they did. The dust was so thick that the man was hidden from view from the Temple. I scooted my bike along the 12:00 promenade until I was close enough to see without being in the morass of crazy. There were some Jedi also stopped in the middle of the road, so I felt protected. I forgot to mention that I was sitting next to Buddha, my playa buddy, when I was leaning against the front facade of the Temple. I’m sure Shakyamuni could see through the dust and all that. I eventually decided that walking my bike was the best option for me and anyone else who may cross my path. I navigated through a sea of art cars and revelers trying to pick up the 9:00 promenade. Well I found myself at 6:00 & Esplanade. Better than 3:00 I guess! I then began the task of winding my way through the now severely deconstructed back streets of Black Rock City. I cannot even begin to describe my circuitous route other than to say at the exact moment that I was well and truly lost, I was, in fact, HOME! My playa miracle, and not a bad metaphor for the whole trip! “All who wander are not lost.” (Anonymous inscription on the Temple). I’m anxious to get back to Heather and the boys, but I have one more obligation to the Temple and the citizens of our fine Metropolis. Tomorrow will be devoted to packing and preparing for the Temple burn. For now, I am exhausted.

Sunday sunrise (with crescent moon)
Sunday sunrise (money shot)

05 SEP 2010 11:44 – Remember to visit to see some of the images captured this year.

05 SEP 2010 13:37 – Rolling out of camp.

05 SEP 2010 14:07 – Arrived at first stop point on gate road. As I was packing up this morning, my heart was calling me back to Colorado. I didn’t want to be away for one more hour than necessary. Shortly after 11 AM, my head told me that for my safety and sanity, I needed to not work the Temple perimeter. My driving/rest timing would be ass backwards and not conducive to a power nap in Salt Lake City which would inevitably compound the bad times. So I resolved to continue packing up and head out during the afternoon. Yes, it’s possibly the worst time for wait times during exodus, but I’m working the solar clock – not a logic clock. I couldn’t bear the thought of getting as dusty as I did on Burn Night. I’m all for some dirty fun, but I have mud in my ears and caked on every sinus and throat surface I have. That and it’s starting to smell and my playa hands are screaming for me to get off this lake bed and back to a more normal pH situation.

05 SEP 2010 14:26 – Just got to the second stop point on gate road. I think I’ll have a bite to eat.

05 SEP 2010 15:54 – Had some tuna salad and a bag of chips. We’ve moved and stopped a few times more. Too hot to count. There was a couple asleep in their car in my lane, so we had to drive around them. Probably best to let them get rest instead of causing an accident later. I think I can see the final staging for everyone to get on 34 in single file. I’m now questioning my choice of time in leaving. I think I’m fucked by all options at this point. Moments like this are discouraging prospects of a return trip. On the other side of the coin, I just need to have my shit in better order next time! Ahh! I see the car cache in final queue is clearing. I hope we’re in the next batch. Just remembered I have 2 cans of champagne that I was gifted. I’m going to have them with Heather to celebrate my homecoming.

05 SEP 2010 16:21 – “If you have wood four feet or longer, take it to the man.” (heard on BMIR) Apparently the man needs a good dicking.

05 SEP 2010 17:13 – “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. I planned to fail a while ago, but I had a fucking great time.” (via the Snap, Crackle, & Pop show on BMIR)

05 SEP 2010 21:29 – Stopped in Mill City, NV for a nap. After a week of radically illuminated nights, the reflective guides on I-80 kept morphing into BRC fare to my fatigued eyes. Goodnight.

06 SEP 2010 02:12 – Woke up from power nap. Going to fuel and void and get rolling again.

06 SEP 2010 02:42 – Rolling out of TA truck stop in Mill City, NV.

06 SEP 2010 11:42 – Echo Canyon, UT, rest stop. Riddle: Does playa smell like shit, or does shit just smell like playa now that so much of it is inside all of us?

06 SEP 2010 15:15 – Somewhere in the middle of Wyoming. Jesus. These last 300 miles are killing me!

06 SEP 2010 21:00 – HOME SWEET HOME!

Heather had to take a pic of the scruffy before I finally got to shave it off!

* The subtext to this statement is this: If someone thinks they want to come to Burning Man, it cannot be based on the account of my experience. That is a responsibility that I disavow. It must be a calling inside of themselves that will enable them to surrender to the conditions and endure what may come in order for them to find their own ecstasy in Black Rock City (the double rainbow kind, not the MDMA kind).

3 thoughts on “This one time at Burning Man”

  1. Hi Wade! I loved reading your beautifully written account of your experience at Burning Man! The way you layered and staged your experiences was fantastic – you are really a professional in disguise! Good job – you are extraordinarire!

    Soooooo glad to have met you and lucky to have camped by you. I love the photo’s of the sunshine scarf in your camp, and feel soo priviliged to have it as a gift from you. You great starburst burning man icon – muchas gracias!!!
    Love Rebecca

  2. @Rebecca: Like I told you on the playa, I saw that scarf at Goodwill and knew I had to get it, but I wasn’t certain of it’s ultimate use. I once read somewhere that “the gift you give already belongs to the person you give it to.” Thus, it is so! I too feel lucky for having camped by you, Tom, and the golden girls. My experience was immeasurably improved being in your company!

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