back from the burn '08


I actually got back Tuesday morning around 8:30 AM—having hitchhiked from the gate to Eugene, bribed a waitress at an all-night Mexican restaurant to let me sit at a table with some chips and salsa reading Final Crisis: Rogues’ Revenge #2 until the train station opened, and caught the 5:30 AM train back to Portland—but it’s taken me this long to write up what I was up to because a) I had over 2700 email messages to get through and b) as soon as my immune system realized it was safe, I immediately developed a massive cold. This happens every year, doesn’t it? Some notes:

*This was by far the most physically challenging Burning Man I’ve ever been through—not just that it was roasting hot every day except Sunday (when we finally got a little cloud cover; I spent a good deal of time every day in shade, frantically slurping down water) and two days had ferocious dust storms, but the surface of the playa was terrible, bumpy and dune-y. My favorite thing to do out there is going biking in the deep playa, but that was flat-out impossible this year. A couple of times I biked out to the Temple and walked beyond that, but that took a really long time, and made it less rewarding to bike up to little blinky lights.

*Some friends told me that if you ask the playa for what you want, you may get it, but you have to ask out loud and you have to be very careful how you phrase it. I attempted this. My mistake was thinking that the playa could understand metaphor. The playa is appallingly literal.

*My best outfit, I think: short gray wig, WWII-era tie-on-style aviator sunglasses, fluorescent orange mesh muscle-T (courtesy of the Black Rock Boutique), Podbelt (lots of people asked where I got it; there you go), pastel paisley bell-bottom see-thru tights that left very little to the imagination (courtesy of my campmate Bethany), pink fuzzy PlayaFur bag. It was… effective.

*Most fun interactive thing: probably the Snack Food Glory Hole. Put your mouth up to the hole, get a piece of guaranteed 100% snack food. I asked for vegetarian, and got a canapé that… my best guess is it was a Triscuit topped with half a Starbursts and a little bit of molé sauce. Not bad at all!

*Most entertaining performance: the Evolution Control Committee at Center Café. Despite, or maybe in part because of, the very high young woman who jumped up on stage during the immortal “Rocked By Rape,” grabbed the mic, and started freestyling, accompanied by frantic throat-cutting gesticulations from TradeMark G.

*I wandered out to the esplanade with my ukulele to sing sad songs a few times. That was fun, despite what I once heard the late Tom Cora call “anti-tuning weather.”

*Advantage of camping with BMIR, right next to Center Camp: very easy access to all sorts of stuff. Disadvantage: on the opening Sunday night, around midnight, to motivate or celebrate finishing the Café’s decorations, they started out by playing The Wall in its entirety at about 120 dB, then followed that with a few hours of New Jack Swing hits of the ’80s. Earplugs help with cacophony—actually, I can sleep through cacophony just fine—but they don’t help with a single, very loud sound source.

*BMIR campmates: I can’t even tell you how much fun it was to camp and DJ with all of them. An astoundingly nice, friendly, helpful, outgoing, nearly totally drama-free bunch of cool people.

*Dept. of It Was Worth a Try, Anyway: my reading from Ovid and the Kalevala at Center Café’s spoken word stage. Only 15 minutes, but it was amazing how fast people managed to peel off. Not really suited to that venue, I guess.

*Note to self: never mock ANYTHING in the What Where When, because it is inevitable that you’ll bike over and find yourself dancing to Electronic’s “Getting Away With It” and then realize that you’re having a really good time at precisely the event you were mocking earlier. That said, I was glad the What Where When printed a couple of my fake events, most notably Oonsh Oonsh Oonsh, the ultimate Burning Man techno party, featuring every famous DJ in the world, three miles past the trash fence…

*BMIR also managed to pull off a couple of amusingly evil fake PSAs, especially one for Bukkake Camp’s “Facial Expressions” party, at 3:15 and Prius, starting around 11 but if we’re not there just hang out, guys, you’ll get your turn…

*Visual-art highlight: no contest, the Basura Sagrada Temple, hands down.

*Heaven on the playa: the Steam Bath Project.

*People cook a lot of tasty stuff out there (my favorite thing I ate was probably the Viking pancakes at Vinland, the Viking camp, which also had Viking board games). People also don’t wear a lot of clothes out there, necessarily. Still, I think the woman who was deep-frying delicious pumpkin pies while naked was probably tempting fate.

*Yes, the theme this year (“The American Dream”) was awful, and I think it hurt the overall quality of art. (The deep playa was pretty much a wasteland—the weather can’t have helped with that either—and I thought Babylon was one of the worst pieces of large-scale art I’ve ever seen out there.) But my “rights and responsibilities” project was pretty lame too: I realized once I tried it on a few people that it was really badly formed, since it required people to have two unrelated serious thoughts in the space of two minutes (while overheated, dehydrated, distracted and occasionally high). Not really easy to enjoy, not much of a payoff; I gave up on it after a few days and settled for giving nice people Polaroids of themselves.

*I had really, really wanted to try flavor tripping, but couldn’t find anyone to do it with. Perhaps I’ll have to organize a little flavor tripping event here at home.

Can’t wait for next year… and the theme (“evolution”) is better, too!

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This page contains a single entry by Douglas published on September 5, 2008 8:50 PM.

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