Thursday, October 28, 2010

Theme for an Imaginary Western - part 8

My gift to myself/Mara/and the Man burns

Today is the day that the man burns. This should be interesting:

During the day (as directed by my new oracle Reklaw) I head out to the temple one last time to scribe my kind thoughts to myself. This time, I feel I'm prepared to give myself something better. It doesn't come at all naturally though, and I've had to think hard and prepare myself for a fitting turn of phrase.

My angel reader told me to think of myself as God. "God is in the soil, the air, the sunlight.... and in youshe said.

Um, yeah, right.  Lets take this one step at a time…

Here's the best I can do at the moment, written in the precious little space that remains:



I sit down and meditate at the spot where I wrote the sentence, and as I'm doing it there are a lot of music makers in the nearby area. There is a percussionist playing lightly right near me, meditators sit around a man with a singing bowl:

...and a woman plays harmonium and chants over on the other side:

Far in the distance, you hear the rhythms of some techno.

In the midst of this beautiful sonic pastiche, I manage to hold a pretty quiet mind and remain there for about 30 minutes. Afterwards I wander towards the techno, where people are dancing, and in the middle of it all - in the middle of this desert - people are sitting on dusty cushions, hanging out and listening. I LOVE it.  It cleanses the palate for me.

The techno scene:

So, as it happens I've been hanging out at Alecia's friend Mara's camp a bit. As I leave in the afternoon, Mara kindly invites me to come watch the burn with them. It's a very nice and appreciated invitation, and although I want to join them, I'm scared I'll be imposing.

Finally, I decide I'll just show up - despite my misgivings. Plus, there are forecasts of 70 MPH winds, which gives me extra fuel to go over and inform them of the situation.  It feels good to be perhaps helpful, and not just be sponging all the time.

I walk over there.  It's not an insignificant distance (but of course it seems much shorter to people with bikes - which is basically everyone but me).  At the portopottie next to their camp, I run into Mara. "So, are you going home to get ready?" She says.

"I am ready", I counter.

"But where are your long pants?  There's going to be 70 MPH winds!"  (guess they heard) "When the sun goes down it's gonna get cold, do you have a flashlight? Where's your jacket?" All points taken, and I'm thinking it's overkill, but I've been caught unprepared before as you've seen, so I'm certainly not the person to argue.  Plus yes, it's sometimes cold at night - very cold.

As I return to their camp maybe 45 minutes later, they are all gathering for the walk out to the man. There must be 40 of us all totaled. Electricity is in the air throughout all of Black Rock City, and I am feeling the charge of excitement as I wend my way back. People are running to and fro, making last minute preparations.

At camp, a short perky woman named Tabatha is organizing things. It's decided that we'll have a kind of call for if any of us get separated. The call is "CHEEP, CHEEP, CHEEP!". You're supposed to answer back: "NANIE!".

So we get out into the sea of people, and we're all holding hands so that we don't lose each other. I've been talking to a pretty Portuguese woman and her family member, maybe her brother. She and I are hanging out together, taking pictures and walking amongst this large crowd. She seems to like me.

I don't get it...

Seriously though, I see her as a little off of my horizon, being that I'm a lot older than she is, and she lives away from New York, so we'll settle for walking around together tonight:

Nice girl though.  The brother/family member/friend is nice to me (but has limited English skills so we can't converse).  Hmmm, maybe he's not her brother after all....he doesn't seem to hate me.

As we're walking along I can see why the burn was seemingly in jeopardy...the dust is really blowing hard:

(note - top left of the following photo - the man's arms are now pointed skyward, a sign that the burn is imminent):

We get to the man, and where we're going to watch from is pretty close to the action, maybe about 10 'rows' away from front row.

The burn itself is spectacular, with lots of fireworks, and the man topples over and burns in a very hot fireball...

fireworks as the ceremony starts:

As the man is falling:

 Mara watching the burn:

At the end, the perimeter is released, and the feeling is sheer pandemonium:

...and people go running into the middle to dance naked, and just be, next to the fire:

Our group goes off to a dance "club", really a mutant vehicle on the playa that's playing music. People are dancing all around it, including everyone in our group but me -- especially Mara, who seems completely comfortable. At one point she sees how uncomfortable I am:

"You know nobody's watching you right?" "Don't worry about it!"

"I _hate_ dancing" I quickly answer back, without thinking. I know even as I'm hearing the words come out of my mouth that it doesn't bode well for future happiness (mine or anyone else who has to deal with me). Why does everything have to be not fun….for me to enjoy it, I wonder.

Later, I back off into the dark - and OK -  maybe my big toe's wiggling a little bit. Mara dances up to me. She's delighted - "I see you shakin' that ass!" She says:

Yeah,'ll have to be small steps and shakes for me tonight in the darkest part of the 'room'. I can't handle anything else it would seem. I admire people who can dance without compunction. The only other person in my shoes is the Portuguese woman's brother/family member/friend, who is still doing much better than I am.

I guess I have additional work to do...I gotta start making a list...

The call sounds out: "CHEEP, CHEEP, CHEEP!"…. looks like it's time to go.

We form a conga line and go around the fire. Sure enough, there are naked people all over the place taking in the warmth. It is just amazingly hot there, so much so that I am rubbing the side of my face that is towards the fire so that I can cool it off just a bit. A man gets in behind me, naked, and breaks our line. I'm not happy about that. He doesn't have the right vibe. He feels like one of the 'yahoo crowd'.

Either because of that or for some other reason, we lose the rest of the people, and we can't find them in crowd anywhere:

CHEEP, CHEEP, CHEEP?......................


CHEEP, CHEEP, CHEEP?????......................

Nothing.  So after a search we set out alone, first to find portapotties, and then to go to another place. There's just five of us left, Mara, two other woman, a guy dressed like the Indian in The Village People (...with less than a loincloth on, why is this guy not cold?) and me.

As we're walking through the open playa, I realize that I'm losing my energy in a big way, partly because we seem to be moving so slowly (the other two girls are seriously straggling and I'm a New Yorker....not a fan of super slow walks).  But, it is nice to have a moment to talk a little more in depth with Mara finally.

We meet - by chance - some folks who are friends of some of the others we lost, and it's looking like we'll be able to find them and rejoin our group...yet... momentum is slowing, I'm finally realizing I'm beat enough that I need to go home. I'm guessing they will be dancing all night.

Amazing spectacle - this burn. It seems to mean different things to different people, but the hardcore seem to be reveling in a kind of ritualistic ecstasy that is somehow elemental. That therapist from the last part might have asked "Where do you get your ritualistic ecstasy?" I don't -- no dancing, no rituals... I just don't.

The 'yahoo' crowd is just a pain in the ass.  Part of me thinks these are the same people who come in from New Jersey to scream at the top of their lungs directly under my window at 3 o'clock in the morning.  WOOOOOOO!!!

Serious folks, enough is enough.

…and it's hard to believe they let people get so close. It seems a little dangerous.  But dangerous in a cool way.  Burning Man is dangerous...I like that.

As I drift off to sleep, the city pounding it's rhythms out  - sounding like an perpetual, highly grooving earthquake, I think to myself that I'm looking forward to the temple burn tomorrow…

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Theme for an Imaginary Western - part 7

Part 7 - Mara's camp and the sandstorm.

As it turns out I've been hanging out at Mara's camp:

This is a real step forward.

It was an exercise in "Dr. Livingston I presume" to find these folks. I went to the approximate place where Mara would be found on 4 separate occasions. Each time I was unsuccessful.  Finally, Alecia told me in her Facebook post: "go to 5:30 and D, and ask the best looking girl you can find -- 'do you know Mara?'".   Once I did that, the first girl I asked led me right to her.

Mara was asleep in a chair however, and I didn't want to wake her.  So I killed a couple of hours and then came back -- and she hadn't moved a muscle. Tail between my legs, I went home to my humble abode.

The problem? I'm told Mara is notoriously hard to pin down, and sure enough, now that I've located her, I've been going back again and again and not finding her at camp.  From my place to hers is a pretty serious schlep by foot, so once I get there, I tend to linger.  Instead, I've been finding that the camp's other inhabitants - especially women - in her absence have been very nice to me, even though they don't know me from a bundle of sticks.

I can't figure out whether I just like women better, or if I actually relate to them better (or both), but the men and I look at each other like, "Who the hell ARE you?", and the women keep being sweet and offering me nice things.  Fortunately, even the men start mellowing out after a while.

The third time, they invite me in, and give me a nice margarita, and then the next time some food -- much better stuff than the tuna I have, so I can't say 'no' even though I feel like I should. I could get used to this...

They really have this camp together! There are wonderful shade structures, and a great kitchen setup.  They also have a little compost pile as well as a place where they capture grey water (like from the shower) which - in the spirit of 'leave no trace' - needs to be taken off the playa at the end.

I don't have a shower.  Several camps have offered me theirs, but I can't make myself take advantage of their hospitality.  I'm used to being the hospitable one in life.

The food they offered me was SO nice.  They had avocado for cryin' out loud!  AVOCADO!

Amazing.  A shower is one thing, but how could I say 'no' to avocado?

Yet, these obviously very nice people don't know me...uncomfortable.  It's mostly in my head though, no one else is noticing that I'm a leech.

OK, maybe a couple of the men...

One of the issues is that this is a so-called 'gifting economy'. The only sales that are 'allowed' in Black Rock City are ice and coffee, so it's weird to say to someone, "can I cover some of that expense?"… "let me give you a couple of bucks for the salad." Which I normally would do. I came so unprepared that I have nothing to give. Thus, it feels weird to just hang there, but ya know…..this is burning man.

I am SO gonna get my act together for next year!

Well, I am getting to know the folks in Mara's camp. Then, one day, I finally find myself seated across from her at dinner!

We talk a little at that point, but generally, it's me and someone else talking, or I sit and listen to them talk about stuff, much of which I have no knowledge of.  Mara heads out and does her own thing, of course, as well she should.  So, it does feel a little like I'm hanging by a thread, but how nice to be hanging out in a good group!

I am determined not to let my own head get the best of me in this instance, so I just keep showing up --  even though I'm not all that comfortable. In general - the larger the group - the less settled I feel, and this is a pretty large one.

One day I come by, just to say a quick 'hello', and I run into a kind of heartfelt scene. It's Seratonin holding court with Shepardess, Katya and Janet, and they are reading cards that Seratonin has given them.  Seratonin has a kind of playing card deck of - let's call them 'mystical' - short poems.  I've heard them talking about Seratonin before, and they have a respectful tone when they speak of her, so I know that this is big.

This would be my first and last meeting with Seratonin.

Katya is holding her card against her heart, and fanning her face in that 'don't cry, don't cry', kind of way, so it's clear that this is a moment that I shouldn't be torpedoing with my dumb antics.  I stop - and hold - in this scene.


She gives me a card....

.....and when I look at it I quickly say, "can I have a do-over?" (OK, so obviously my antics are hard to repress).  I'm kidding really, but everybody seems to take me seriously here in Black Rock City.
I'm funny...what's the matter with these people?

Anyway, realizing that I'm operating in a 'no-hijinx zone', I show the card it to Seratonin without speaking again. She says, "oh Four, that's obviously about women".


"Read it", they all say in a unison....

So I read Poem four aloud:

'Empty the glass of your desire
so that you won't be disgraced.
Stop looking for someone out there
and begin seeing within.'
Divani Shamsi Tabriz.

Well Janet loves this, because we had a long talk previously, and it's in harmony with the things I was saying about why I made the journey to Burning Man.

"That's exactly what we were talking about!", she says, excitedly.

I resist telling them it doesn't rhyme.  Someone will just point out that it's translated.  Must. resist. hijinx.

In deference to my protest about a do-over, Seratonin looks at my next card. She thinks it's interesting. She flashes a knowing look.  She declines, however, to surrender or even show that card. I don't press the point....

Later in the day, I run into Reklaw in center camp. Remember her?

I tell her about my temple writing and about the gratitude for friends that I had expressed, and she gently says in her best unintentional Meg Tilly impression: "you know know what you should do, you should write something nice about yourself. Or maybe set an intention...."

Why do I keep running into this woman? She's like the fucking oracle or something....

The big problem is, she's right.

…and she's given me my hardest assignment...

So, I make a plan to go out that evening to the temple. As I start out there the weather is nice, so nice in fact that I'm in shorts and a t-shirt, and I don't have my goggles, hat, particle mask, or water.....and night is falling....

Prescription for disaster.

During my journey out, a sandstorm is starting. As I'm walking out I'm trying to think of what I'm going to write, and nothing is coming. I guess I'm not feeling that great about myself tonight. I'm thinking I'll figure it out when I get there.

I get to the temple, and I'm feeling the agitation of the weather.  As I'm running around, I start writing random intentions -- all lame. I finish and leave, but as I get into the middle of the desert going back towards the city, I'm hesitating.  I'm thinking that I've let myself down. The sandstorm is getting worse but I don't care…finally, I decide: I'm goin' back, that's it.

As soon I start out to the temple again, almost on cue -- it's a total whiteout - in total darkness.

A less severe sandstorm on another day:

You can't see anything, and there's no way to know where you are. Soon, I realize I'm going in circles. I can't see the temple, the man, the city -- nothing. I finally happen upon a golf cart with three people.

The person that is on the back is a kind of a hot woman with a mad max look: the goggles, the vest with feathers, boots etc. She's got that raspy kind of Tara Reid voice. You can barely hear people over the wind, so we're shouting.

I hear her talking to the driver of the golf cart, answering a(n unknown to me) question he's posed.  ", all I have with me is cigarettes, condoms, and Tampons"... She then muses: "what's wrong with this picture?"

Obviously a colorful individual.

She turns to me and screams, "pull your shirt up and cover your nose, I won't look at your tits."

I say back, "don't worry, that'd be the most action I've had in 5 years."

"You need to work on that" she says.

Point taken.

Me: "Whats your name?"
She: [incomprehensible]
She (screaming louder): [incomprehensible]
"[exasperated] NO!"
"Spell it!"

I love these playa names!

Well, nobody can move at all, and the conditions are pretty tough. So we're hunkered down in the middle of this sandstorm, and Pippi and I are talking about various aspects of life as our conversation meanders.

I just love the serendipity of this place.

I'm telling her about my journey to the temple. She's telling me about her boyfriend (a playa virgin) and about seeing the experience through his eyes.  I didn't ask why the boyfriend wasn't present.

Finally, there's enough of a break that we can give travel a try, we both are standing on the back of this golf cart (registered by the DMV for some mutant qualities that sadly will not be appreciated by me in this weather).

I am loving the ride though, and the whole scene: this post apocalyptic costumed woman, the raging sandstorm, hanging on the back of this vehicle which is lurching and honking through the blacked out desert night...people screaming at one another, near misses with other vehicles.....It feels like a cool movie that I've dropped into the middle of. At this point I don't even care what happens, I'm home.

P: "Want to go to a party?"

R: "Well you are going with your boyfriend…what good is that going to do me?"

P: "You don't want to go to a really fun party and meet really cool people?"

R: "Well now that you put it that way…"

No sooner has the invitation come out of her mouth --  that we realize that we're actually in center camp by some stroke of fate, instead of where we thought we were going,

So this alleged party will not be attended by yours truly this night.

The good news is that I can get home pretty easily from here. I find my way through my usual route even though I can barely see where I'm going. So home camp is where my journey will take me now, hunkered down in my little tent - alone - eating one of my 12 cans of tuna.

Oh well...maybe next year...