Burning Man: The Man Burns (read all Burning Blog posts here)
OUTSIDE BLACK ROCK CITY, Nevada – In a fitting end to what was another spectacular—but ultimately frustrating and troubling—Burning Man festival, nearly all my equipment fell under the grit of a several-hour dust storm Saturday, and I watched my wi-fi connection pull away Sunday morning. Cameras and laptops need compressed air—which I had—AND a clean workspace—which I didn't. So I could not complete my final entry until leaving the playa.
The burn itself was beautiful. But the scene was strange—even for Burning Man. Weather and surly attitudes led some camps—The Duck Pond among them—to simply close up shop and hit the road early. The early exits and very sporadic new arrivals created a surreal calm around The Man until the fireworks finally began.
Afterward, the odd atmosphere intensified. In past years, post-burn Black Rock City has been choked with people. Saturday, however, parts of the BRC were a ghost town. Tammy and I expected to wait in line for our favorite post-burn party at Club Verboten, but found it nearly empty. We were back in our RV an hour later and saw that most of our camp had also retired early.
While thousands partied until the sun came up, apparently most of us were worn out. Black Rock City planners elected to make the playa much, much bigger, which made walking more time consuming. But Mother Nature elected to keep the sand soft, which made bike riding difficult. Getting anywhere without an art car became an ordeal. Couple that with rough weather and, by the end of the week, many campers were simply fatigued.
“I haven't even seen most of the art,” Stacy said. “It's too far apart.”
It was Stacy's first burn, and she vacillated between complaining and gushing about the people she'd met. Like many, she wandered into Slutgarden because she was intrigued by the name.
“That's why we chose it,” Tammy said, laughing. “But it's a Marilyn Manson song. I was working out one day and looked at my MP3 player and said, ‘Hey! That's a good camp name!'”
Stacy ignored the explanation and waxed on about how she wanted to “feel more sure” of herself and apparently our camp name had offered some inspiration. She thanked us and hugged us, and we gave her some cool clothes before she left.
On Sunday, we waited for a break in “Exodus”—the plodding line of RV's and cars trying to get back to paved roads. Compared with the massive activity of Friday, the city was barely recognizable. Massive structures had given way to empty lots and we huddled in surprisingly frigid temperatures with our last campmates before deciding to brave the long lines at 8 pm—precisely the time most of the remaining burners were watching the Temple burn, the event's final act—and drove straight through the night.
Right before we left, Tammy and I found our favorite Irish kids. They had been here all week and we suspect are a comedy troupe. We asked, but could never get a straight answer.
A tall blonde named Cory aimed an imaginary rifle at Tammy and fired.
“Boom!” she said with a lilt. “Now I will take your fur coat, please.”
Before Tammy could react, Cory laughed at her own joke and then did her best valley girl: “Feer Suurre!” Cory began petting the jacket obsessively before asking if we got the joke. She was dressed in camo and Tammy was dressed in fur. “I'm a hunter and I've come for your skin.
“Your soft, soft skin.”
Talon, so named for claw earrings, was their leader. He usually had his group laughing and carrying on, but his accent was so thick that I usually missed half of what he was saying. We first met him in a misting dome during a break in the storm Saturday.
“Oh, this is great,” he said. “I think this is the greatest camp ever. I come to Burning Man and the greatest camp lets out a fine, cold mist. It's like a bad shower. The only thing that could make it better is if there were tons of little purple robots all over the floor going beedie-beedie-beedie and running into each other.
"Don't you think that would be cool?
"That's Burning Man: It's the worst shower I've ever had, but I still have to say… best camp ever.”