Day Four of Burning Man (read all Burning Blog posts here)
BLACK ROCK CITY, Nevada — The Mexican Wrestling guy contorted his head and a voice came down from the sky.
“I know where I can get a drink,” the voice said.
Everyone in the group began looking at each other quizzically.
“I'm serious,” the voice asserted. The words sounded like they had been spoken into a bucket. “It's right up here.”
With that, the Mexican Wrestling guy pointed and we realized the voice had been his. He wore a lucha libre
mask and there was just a small slit where his mouth should be. He wore a wrestling singlet, red boots and a cape that read “Boner Libre.”
He pointed into the darkness, and his tone was so convincing that we followed. Past the roller rink, past the fire, past the space shuttle, past the massive pirate ship, past more fire and into the night. As the bass thump of large outdoor rave camps began to fade into the background, our convictions began to waver. But Boner Libre's purposeful stride pulled us into its slipstream. Then, a light flickered out of the blackness. We came upon a theme camp that had been punished by a day of high winds. Its dome was deflated on one side and sign face down in the sand.
Boner Libre put his hands on his hips as his cape caught the wind majestically.
“This is it,” his disembodied voice averred. He spun and walked inside. We followed slowly. We were way off the beaten path and now as some denizens of the dome eyed us, we wondered if we were welcome or if we were intruding on someone's camp.
“Mexican Wrestling Guy!” the woman behind the bar yelled. “What can I get you?”
Boner Libre contorted comically. “Oh yeah!” he answered, flexing his arms outward as only a wrestler will do. “What do you got?”
Everything is here, but you still have to find it.
My most miserable day at Burning Man was saved by a spectacular night—even if it was marred by unusual playa behavior. As a journalist, I was obligated to check in at the only place full of more miserable souls than the medic tents: Media Mecca. Located at center camp, Media Mecca was full of guys dressed like they were covering a dirt bike race and desperately lamenting the havoc dust was playing with their camera equipment. These people actually wore press badges as if they were going to have to pass checkpoints or get into locker rooms.
Getting to the press tent was the hard part. After I carried my broken bike back from the playa, I placed my wounded vehicle into a large wagon and pulled it about three miles through white-out, high-wind dust storms to the bicycle repair camp. Unfortunately, they could not fix it. Depressed beyond reason, I headed to the media tent where they offered me fact sheets and tutorials. I told them I didn't need them. Then they dropped the bomb.
“OK, give me your camera and I will tag it,” Nova explained.
Physically, my camera was three miles back from whence I came. The idea of walking an extra six miles just to get a tag affixed to my camera—after I had already been posting for several days—was too much. Nova sensed my pain, and I explained my bike was twisted.
“I can help you,” she said, excitedly. She pointed me in the direction of her camp and gave me the name of a bike wizard. I trudged onward until I found Sam. All of 125 pounds, Sam knows more about how bicycles work than I know about anything useful. He turned my 10-speed into a one-speed, tightened some spokes, bent some things and sent me on my way. I hugged him before I went. I still wish I had something cool to give him.
THAT is the way Burning Man works. There is an unforgiving karma wheel here. Sometimes it spins for you. Sometimes against.
held its first party last night. It was a smashing success. I am in charge of music. My playa DJ name is not printable. Everyone is excited today because word of our party is already buzzing through the neighborhoods this morning and we expect more people tonight. Unfortunately, I can't print most of the photos without massive amounts of release forms and violating every decency law Willamette Week
The party ended on a down note when one guest refused to leave and then started getting into our RV's. He became aggressive when we asked him to go until Tammy used her feminine wiles to outsmart him and send him on his way.
“I'll come back and kill you,” Angry Guy said as he left.
It took time for the men of our camp to chill their adrenaline rush. We were all shocked and somewhat saddened by the situation and it cast a pall over the rest of the evening.
We are all prepared for the well-known personality shift that will occur later in the week. That is when the fat moms in fanny packs and roving bands of frat boys with backwards caps arrive to impose a very different vibe on the event. Those people usually come to see what the fuss is about or simply to look at ubiquitous tits. The early part of the week, however, is reserved for hardcore burners wishing to make Burning Man last as long as possible. But people on different sides of the city have noticed an uglier, angrier class of citizen this year.
“It's too early in the week for people to be acting like this,” Emile said. He was one of the friendly people at the Duck Pond across the street. While most large camps remained in construction, the Pond had the biggest day party on the playa—easily serving 500-600 people during an eight-hour marathon.
“People are effed-up this year,” Medack said. He is a MeDIC for the Department of Public Works. They are the angry lot of city builders, who spend up to three months on the playa and always feel underappreciated. His testimony was incredulous. “We already had to ‘med-evac' two people out and it's only Monday. One girl broke her leg in a bar fight.
“A bar fight!”
It is a perversion of the culture. If everything is free and readily available, what is there to fight about?
“I've been to concerts back in 1968 and 1969 that were as big as Woodstock, but this is different,” said Quotient Quote Me. He was a dentist from Manhattan and he looked just old enough to have been conceived at said concerts, not to have attended. “Those events were about music. This is just about hanging out. The environment here is so severe that you just cannot introduce hostility. It has no place.”
And so the karma wheel spins. Angry Guy was eventually kicked out of another camp and left his bike in the street in front of our sign. During the night, my bike had broken down again. Faced with a moral dilemma I could not conquer, I persuaded a campmate to bring Angry Guy's bike inside. One quick wheel swap later, my bike worked and we placed his bike where we found it, repeating lines from The Big Lebowski
For the more sensitive readers, I'll tone it down:
“This is what happens when you (expletive) a stranger in the ass.”