Dust and flame: My Burning Man 2013

As usual, I didn’t see or do nearly enough, but I had a grand time anyway. If anything, I made my patio TOO comfortable, so I spent a bit too much time there, especially on the really dusty days.  My neighbors loved my shade too, which prompted several long, beer-infused afternoons of conversation.

I still didn’t spend enough time enjoying the night life, but I did more of that than last time. And surprisingly, I didn’t actually see much art this time. I missed some good pieces by not getting around the playa more. But I did finally get to the trash fence, the airport, the Core burn, the nighttime art car lineup at DMV, and several other things on my list.

I met new friends, went to a couple of parties, did some volunteer work at the French Quarter Bakery, did a bit of dancing, saw the Soul Train, and tried to ride my bike into the deep playa one night. That was kind of a bust, because I never got to the fence, and I kept running into playa dunes. They are a lot harder to avoid in the dark, because you can’t see them until you are almost in them. I got so tired from riding through the dunes that I didn’t stop and look at art on the way back. Except the ichthyosaur, which you couldn’t miss because of the light display. And while I was riding back, a spring on my bike seat rotated, causing a slight drop on one side. I thought I had broken it, so I was focused on not sitting too heavily on it, further tiring me out and taking my focus off the art I was passing. Better luck next year. Deep playa in the early morning, like I had planned to do this year.

All in all, I had a wonderful time, but kicked myself for not pushing harder to do more. Ah well, I’ll make another list for Burning Man 2015, of things I just can’t miss. Back to focusing more on the art next time. A different volunteer job (the bakery was too chaotic and messy for me). More dancing. The damn Roller Disco that I missed again. The deep playa. A ride on an art car. More dancing. Take more beer (I ran out).

The chronological account below may not be as chronological as reality actually is, because some of the days and events blended together after a few days. I began to lose track of things by Thursday. I think that is a good thing.

So, I arrived at 7 a.m. on Tuesday morning. No waiting on the road or at the gate. I got busy putting up my camp, because I had a party to go to in the afternoon.

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DSC01693Like I said, it was a really nice patio.

DSC01723And I have a very nice tent.

The party was fun. I stayed a couple of hours.

DSC01680The next morning, early, I rode to Center Cafe for coffee. Nice and quiet there at 6 in the morning.

DSC01681I love looking at the sky through the ceiling.

DSC01682I relaxed with my coffee while this guy twirled something. Then I listened to some live music over at the cafe stage for a bit before heading out to see the Man.

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DSC01687I almost bruised my tailbone sliding down the spaceship slide.

DSC01688I took a picture of the temple from the Man. I waited until the following morning to visit the temple, because my memorial items were back at camp and I had a workshift in the early afternoon.

My workshift at the bakery involved washing dishes for two hours, without soap and with almost no water. Next to two hot ovens. Oh joy. My own fault for volunteering for clean-up.

I spent the rest of the day hanging out on my patio, staying cool. The next morning I stopped at Center Cafe for coffee again and then went to the temple.

DSC01689The temple was much smaller this year than in 2011.  The one in 2011 was as much art as it was temple.  The one this year, while lovely, was really all about the temple vibe. My new friend and neighbor, John, said that this year’s temple made him feel uncomfortable and out of place, because he wasn’t visiting it as a memorial.

DSC01701It was very intimate, and there was a lot of intensity.

DSC01702It was also quite beautiful.

DSC01703I love that many installations at Burning Man use the sky as a foil.

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DSC01710The big altar gave the temple a focal point.

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DSC01708But as a geologist, I enjoyed the piles of rocks even more.

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DSC01712Back into the world of the living.

DSC01714Some morning chamber music. Big chamber.

DSC01716Self-portrait in front of the temple.

DSC01717The Truth is Beauty woman was nearby.

DSC01720Some people were trying to get their remote-control balloon into the air.

DSC01718The Man looked out over the busy morning scene.

DSC01737Back to my patio to hang out with the doll bar.

DSC01740My foot was on vacation and loving it.

DSC01738My two new friends and neighbors were camped right over there.

DSC01695This is why I don’t bring a mirror with me. Playa hair.

DSC01786The doll bar was in full swing.

DSC01727The bar had its own Mini Man, who was two-fisting PBR.

DSC01749Mornings were about the only time I noticed the smoke from the Rim Fire.

DSC01757The red sun gave the place an otherworldly feel.

DSC01759I rode my bike out to the airport.

DSC01762There were more planes than I expected.

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DSC01764Looking back at the city from the airport.

DSC01769I took my friend John’s advice about starting at the airport for my tour of the trash fence. Much easier than heading for the fence randomly out in the deep playa with the dunes.

DSC01771Airport thataway.

DSC01777Deep playa thataway.

DSC01770I parked my bike and enjoyed the view. I talked to some writer out there who insisted that it should be called “the edge of eternity” instead of the trash fence. Sorry dude, I LOVE calling it the trash fence. No woo woo names for me.

DSC01774I took a panoramic shot of the city, from the fence. Still learning my new camera.

DSC01781I needed ice, so I timed my trash fence ride to get me to the 3:00 plaza about 20 minutes before opening time at Arctica.

DSC01782They didn’t open on time, so I enjoyed some people watching.

DSC01779Always lots going on at the plazas. While we were all waiting in line, one of the camps started playing morning songs.  They started with “Oh what a beautiful morning….” People stopped walking and riding their bikes to dance in the plaza. I was laughing too much to pull out my camera.

DSC01780That’s the French Quarter. They have a farmer’s market, smoothies, tea, coffee, bakery, gumbo place….

DSC01784I took my ice back home and had more good visiting with my new friends.

Later, Brian and I went downtown to watch the Core burn. We were running late and missed the beginning, but there was plenty of flame. Sparks were raining down on the spectators. I couldn’t see very well because I am short, but while I was craning my neck to see, I suddenly heard Christopher start one of his sermons from the top of his Soul Train, which was parked behind us. Damn, forgot the camera!

Brian and I wandered off to see some reggae band that was supposed to be playing. The starting band hadn’t even started yet. Damn playa time. I was getting tired, so we wandered until we found some DJ music and did a bit of dancing. When I was pooped, Brian and I parted ways. He’s much younger than I am, with more dancing stamina. I headed home to bed and left Brian to enjoy the nightlife.

DSC01750Another smoky morning. On Friday I didn’t get out and about in the morning. Brian was planning to leave that day, so I cooked up my steak and lamb chops and hot dogs and shared my breakfast with Brian and John.

I ended up gabbing on the patio most of the day. I wasn’t keeping track of time and almost missed the brown bag beer tasting party I was invited to. I told my friend “omg I’m late” and pedaled off to the party. My friend had contributed a barleywine for me to take, along with the beer I was taking. The party was great fun, but I was most definitely quite buzzed when I left.

I went to another camp with a new friend and had snacks and yet more to drink. Met a young woman who had just arrived and was hiding out from her husband and father. It was strange. I finally wobbled my way home.  Brian and John went out on the town that night, so I sat on my patio in the dark and sobered up a little before I went to bed.

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The doll bar was still going strong (dolls don’t sleep), so I took some pictures with my green headlamp.

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DSC01745You can see that it was a dusty day.

DSC01756Saturday morning was beautiful, and I was hung over.  I shared spicy virgin bloody marys with John and spent the morning recuperating. I had another work shift that afternoon but wasn’t much in the mood for it. Saturday ended up being a really hot day. I misted myself more that day than the rest of the week.

Just after noon I headed to the bakery for my shift. The bakery was in the process of shutting down. No communication among the people. I almost walked out the first five minutes because I couldn’t find anybody in charge who could tell me what was needed. Finally one of the people in charge wandered through and got me started packing up utensils and pans. I was well into my job when this incredibly annoying German guy came through asking all kinds of questions. Somebody who was NOT in charge let him start making something, when they were supposed to be packing up. He promptly started asking me where things were, which of course I didn’t know. He then started wanting all of the utensils I had already packed. I kept giving him items and telling him I was supposed to be packing them. And I told him I wasn’t washing and repacking anything he used. He kept saying he would do the dishes. I kept saying he was missing the point, because the stuff was coming out of an already packed bin and I knew he wasn’t going to repack them (much less wash them). After about the fifth time he asked me for something in my bin, I threw up my hands and said, “that’s it, I’m out of here.” I put on my daypack and left. Yay! Fuck that German dude.

Since I was right by the ice place, and there was no line, I ran in and bought a block of ice and headed home. As I was wobbling through the now very rutted and deep-dusty streets, a guy leaped out in front of me and yelled, “Spritz and stab?” I yelled back, “sure!” He squirted me with his mister and then stabbed my thigh with what appeared to be a plastic retractable knife, while saying, “stab stab stab.” I laughed for a whole block.

When I was almost back to my camp, I stopped at the friendly camp down the street for a hot dog. They had a big misting station and let me get full body misting twice on Wednesday when I gave them hot bread from the bakery. The bakery manager had given me two mini baguettes for washing dishes. Anyway, this day, the camp was trying to get rid of the rest of its hot dogs, so I helped by eating one.

I spent the rest of the afternoon staying cool and waiting for the Burn. When darkness rolled in, I packed my camera and a beer and headed for the Man. I was going to try to get close enough to see the fire dancers and other entertainment, but as I approached, the loud chaos and teeming masses made me too claustrophobic, so I found a spot near a cluster of lit bikes, well behind the line of art cars, where I had a good view of the man. Having missed the Man burning last time because I was so frantically packing up to leave, I didn’t know what to expect.

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DSC01803The bass from hundreds of art cars, flames erupting from many of them, the flashing, strobing, intense lights, the voices of cheering people…it all reminded me of that scene in King Kong when the natives tie up the girl to give to King Kong. It was primitive, visceral.

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DSC01805Suddenly, a roar rose up from the crowd and I realized that the Man was raising his arms. I had forgotten that, having not seen it before.

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DSC01814Then the fireworks went crazy, as did the crowd.

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DSC01828And after a few minutes of fireworks, the Man suddenly burst into flame, and a great cacophony erupted.

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DSC01839When the spaceship caught fire, another roar arose from the crowd.

DSC01840Another roar when the Man’s arms fell off. The roars intensified as the great ball of flame devoured the Man and his ship. I took some movies and waited for the entire structure to crash down before I headed back to camp.

The city was alive with departures. People rushing to get out ahead of the crowd. It felt sad, as I knew it would. But the city is all about impermanence. Very Buddhist that way. Impermanence is an important lesson for humans.

I went off to bed amidst the lights of departing vehicles. My friend John was planning to leave about 3 a.m. after a couple of hours of sleep. I was very surprised the next morning to find him still there. It turned out that his Jeep battery was dead. He waited until he was sure I was up and then came over to ask for a jump.

I had to do some maneuvering to free my truck from my shade structure, but eventually we got the vehicles lined up and started trying to charge his battery. It was very dead. We were making headway but still no starting, and who should drive by but the AAA truck. They screeched to a halt and asked if we needed help. You bet. John didn’t have AAA service, but I do, so we were good to go. The AAA guys actually hooked both my truck and their truck up to John’s battery to get a faster charge. His Jeep finally started and it was time to say goodbye. I was sad to see John go, because I had a marvelous time all week with him and Brian. There’s that impermanence thing again.

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While this was all going on, I noticed that there were some dubious clouds rolling in. The AAA guys mentioned that there was a storm coming. I started to worry that my 4 a.m. departure after the temple burn was going to leave me stranded in rain. Since I was already packing up to leave, I started packing MUCH faster. I tried to decide whether to stay with my original departure time, leave immediately after the burn, or leave before the temple burned. The clouds kept getting thicker and more  moist-looking, so I packed even faster. I saw a major uptick in departures, as other people made the same decisions. I finally finished loading my truck a little after noon and immediately headed for the gate. I apparently got out right before the biggest part of the crowd. It still took 3 hours and a couple of pulses to get out, but compared to the wait times for people who left even a half hour after me, that was nothing.

It was still slow-going on the county road until we got to the highway. Luckily, most of the cars were turning left, and I was turning right. And the turn for my super secret spooky desert route was just seven miles up the highway, so I was only on pavement for a few minutes. Once I turned off the highway, I got out my phone, and, sure enough, I had cell coverage. I called my husband to tell him I was ahead of schedule and planning to camp overnight on the Lassen plateau. I asked him about the impending storm. He said the weather people were all waffling about actual precipitation, but that the farther west I went, the less chance of rain. HA! That was a load of crap.

For the three hour drive to Susanville, the clouds continued to look undecided. I gassed up in Susanville, grabbed a quick sandwich, and headed up to the plateau. Guess where the rain was? Yeah, directly over the place I planned to camp for the night. With my tent all packed, all I had was a pad, pillow, blankets, and a tarp.  It was raining hard enough when I got to the rest area that I decided to doze in my car at the trailhead parking next to the rest area, hoping that the rain would abate. About three hours of pretzel sleeping later, it did seem to be done, so I headed down the nearby dirt road to the little camping spot my husband told me about. I threw my bedding out on a nice soft pile of duff under a big pine tree and got some good sleep. It started dripping in the middle of the night, so I pulled the tarp over me and went back to sleep.

When I got up in the early morning, it wasn’t raining, but just moments after I threw my bedding in the truck, it started to rain again. Good timing. I had a bottle of coffee drink, so I caffeined up, stopped at the rest area, and then headed home.

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3 thoughts on “Dust and flame: My Burning Man 2013

  1. Seems your ankle wasn’t broken after all. I’m glad you were able to go. Sounds like it was very therapeutic for you. Wonderful photo journaling project! Thanks for sharing.

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