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...

No comments: