Burn Day. The main event. Culmination of the yearlong burner countdown (any communication from the Burning Man team inevitably includes the line "the Man burns in [x] days"). The big day had finally arrived. Strap in kiddies!
We began the day with a ride out to the Temple of Basura Sagrada, an enormous structure meticulously constructed from burnable trash, recycled materials, and "the tossed-off detritus of American society." On the way, we passed by the Man, a flurry of pre-burn activity cordoned off by Rangers guarding the perimeter. The wind was starting to kick up, and it was getting hard to see. On the path between the Man and the Temple, we had to stop a few times until we could see more than two feet in front of our bikes.
At the Temple, the first thing I noticed was the din of myriad cans and metal sheets and hanging wooden pieces clanging together. Very different from last year's model, which was only appropriate because this year signified a new group of Temple designers and builders. It had a groovy double-helix spiral staircase in the middle, allowing visitors to climb up to the second level for a phenomenal view of the Man and the city. The ever-present tribal drums and chanting were taking place on the ground level. Palpable emotion filled the air as people brought items of tribute and catharsis, wrote messages on the Temple walls with markers, or just sat in silent contemplation. It's a deeply personal experience to contribute to this project, whether in celebration or sadness or a combination of both.
Plus the people-watching was stellar, as the dust storm continued to gather force. A woman with antlers strapped to her head. An entire family of bees -- mama bee and two little baby girl bees. All manner of bedouin sheiks and bellydancers and scarf-swathed travelers trying to shield against the elements. And more than a handful of brides and grooms in every variation of the traditional wedding garb. Apparently this was *the* day to get hitched at the Burn.
After about an hour of contemplation and people-watching, we descended the staircase and made our way back to camp. Taking a more direct route back, we passed right by the enormous "BUMMER" art installation, a supersized Humvee measuring 38 feet long x 18 feet wide x 16 feet high, painted khaki on one side and bright colors on the other. Well, you can't just pass by something like that without stopping to climb inside it! And while we were on the roof, an art car passed by blaring tunes. It deposited a few of its passengers onto the Bummer, which instantly became a Bummer Dance Party. What better way to epitomize the duality of the American Dream...
Another stop en route to home was Kaleidoscope Kamp, home of Alina and Elina who'd visited us yesterday. They beckoned us to come in and enjoy some fabulous Persian treats, including a stellar mint lemonade concoction that made me want to fall to the floor and weep with gratitude. (Did I mention it was hot out there??) Add a pair of accordion players, and you have yourself a party! They also had some kaleidoscope spinny thing out front, but I was far too overheated to consider such a thing.
Back at GBOF, Pringles fired up the Barefoot Bliss again, while I opted to chill out in the RV. I used cooking as an excuse to fire up the generator and wallow in the AC for a bit. There'd been some talk of a big communal dinner before the Man burned, complete with a birthday cake for Ember, so I decided to whip up a big batch of tuna pesto shells to contribute to the festivities.
And that's when all hell broke loose.
(In a good way.)
The dust storm cranked up into a total whiteout. Major. Freakadelic. A few people had already come into the RV, and bit by bit about two dozen more piled in before the end of the day. It was a full-on fest! We ate, we drank, we jaminated. We weren't sure the Man would burn that night. We didn't much care.
Highlights from that festive Burn Afternoon Whiteout:
* Oktapodi gets violated by Bitchezz and Forward (hey, *that's* not my Happy Place!)
* filling out the census... all day long...
* weird Kegelcisor people
* Heather wants Beatles. Lee wants Metallica. Pringles delivers: Beatallica!
* Mama Love luvvvvvvs on some Malibu!
* cake for Ember (and *damn* was it sticky to clean up the next day!)
* group primal scream at the end of "Won't Get Fooled Again" (yowwwwwwwwwww!)
* Lee lays on the horn and Solveig is miffed (but who sleeps at Burning Man?!?)
After listening to the exceedingly unhelpful Burning Man Radio all afternoon, the group decided to head out to the Man and see if His Dudeship might not burn this evening after all. By about 9pm, it was finally starting to clear up, and it turned out to be a most excellent night. We all scrambled to get our costumes together. I gave Lee half my crin, which looked absolutely stellar on him, and we all trooped out towards the Esplanade. Of course the group got completely split up, and we wound up hanging with a bunch of firefighters. (Actual firefighters, from SF, with a big red truck and everything.) As expected, there was lots of commotion, lots of drunk/stoned/high/just plain out of it people wandering around. I was busy trying not to have my flounce go up like a Roman candle because of the ash from some idiot's cigarette when I had the following Mensan conversation:
Drunk/Stoned/High Dude: Oh, hey, did you get married today?
Me: No, this is just a costume.
D/S/H: That's so cool, it must've been a beautiful ceremony! I saw one or two on the Playa today!
Me: No, it's not real, it's...
D/S/H: Oh, hey, is this your husband?
Me: No, we're not...
D/S/H: Congratulations, you two!
Riiiiiiiight. Party on, Wayne.
With little warning -- and, surprisingly, no fire conclave -- it was time to burn the Man. First his arms raised. And the Rangers and other volunteers assumed their position around the perimeter. And then the fireworks. Lots and LOTS of fireworks. Then a gigantic fireball from somewhere within the tower holding the Man aloft, and he began to burn. The whole thing took a while to catch, and then another while for him to fall over. And at that point the crowd rushed in and started dancing/drumming/chanting around the enormous bonfire. I had no desire to get closer... Not only was I attired in a highly-flammable ensemble, but the smoke from all the burning wood was wreaking havoc on my contact lenses. Honestly, by that point I was a bit over it. I was just happy to find a spot to sit down and observe the chaos raging around us. Art cars blaring musical cacophany. People dancing around the remains of the man. Cranes and lasers and more musical mishmash off in the distance. A bit of impromptu fire-spinning from the disappointed conclave members who never got to perform, despite a whole year of practice.
The full-frontal 7-day weekend was starting to catch up with us, and sheer exhaustion set in. We did try to find the rest of our GBOFers, who were supposedly at 11:00. But it's surprising how disorienting everything gets once the Man is no longer there to indicate which way is 6:00. After wandering around a bit, we opted to go home, try to warm up, and catch a few hours of sleep.