Burning Man: Saturday & Sunday
Black Rock City, NV
Words By J-man
Photos By Carly Marthis, Murray & J-man
I opened my eyes and looked around... Massive confusion and spaciness were the result of the previous evening's antics. To think that we would do it all again that night was something that I couldn't think about at the time. The heat in the tent was too much to roll over for more sleep, so we unzipped the tent and re-entered the world of Burning Man.
The morning sun brought a renewed energy as one by one everyone crawled out of their respective tents and motor homes. Tattoos, sunblock and body paint were applied, breakfast was consumed and drinks were prepared. We once again found ourselves walking towards Center Camp. The Playa seemed no worse for wear from the previous night's insanity. In the distance, the flags of Center Camp came into view. Throughout the weekend, it never became any less impressive. In we went to find the typical non-sense. A few drinks were purchased at the cafe (one of the only places that recognized currency) and we were back out on the Playa.
One of the first stops was just past Information at BMIR 94.5; Burning Man Radio. It was interesting to see the set up as I, as well as many thousands of other individuals had been streaming it on-line all week. Just past BMIR, our friend Murry climbed into an egg made of stuffed animals. To our left was Thunder Dome. It was a stark contrast to the evening scene, though there were a few stragglers climbing on the structure. A man in a top hat with a megaphone approached the dome and yelled, "You're not supposed to be able to climb that high on it. Get down! Those spikes should have impaled you..."
We laughed and continued past various art installations while people parachuted in just over the top of us onto the open Playa. Murray brought along a plastic jug/bottle filled with fruit and vodka. It was quite a treat for the senses to bite into a piece of vodka infused fruit.
At some point we came upon a piece of art that I really enjoyed. It was a pier protruding out onto the Playa. The dock was equipped with a little stand to get poles and life jackets. We walked to the end of the pier, which unfolded into an incredible view of the Temple, where some folks were doing performance art. From the pier, we also saw a few sizable "dust devils" (tornadoes of dust).
We continued on along the edge of the Playa, where some really interesting non-sense was taking place. We turned in past a large white sheet blowing in the wind, past "Disorient," a large bass blasting bus, to a booth distributing popcorn. It was a classic scene, with folks waiting in line for fresh popcorn. In front of the booth was a tall table providing a variety of seasonings. On another table were several bottles of nail polish. A little further down the road we came upon an incredible camp. The camp was multiple stories high with ladders leading to the upper level. The second floor provided a great view of Burning Man, with the option of sitting on a bench or laying on a large, circular bed/swing suspended from the peak of the structure. We hung out there for some time while Murray misted everyone with a spray bottle.
Eventually, we climbed down and continued into the ring of camps, down one road and past a trampoline to a large tent structure/bar. We approached the tent where the friendly bartender served us up a delightful hot tea. Eventually we made our way back towards our camp. As we were walking, a dust reducing water truck passed by. My initial reaction was to move out of the way, however Murray went into wook-mode and dashed into the road, chasing the truck to bathe in the water.
Then, there was one of the more bizarre camps that I played witness to, "Barbie Death Camp." There were hundreds of Barbie dolls hung on crosses and being lead into ovens by Nazi toy soldiers. It was a mind fuck. We continued on past several more incredible camps (a small Saloon, a Ranch on wheels, etc). The creativity and madness seemed infinite. Constant stimulation.
We refueled and refilled at camp, got into our costumes and made our way back to the Playa as dusk fell. The evenings on the Playa were the best. The temperature decreased significantly resulting in even more activity and mayhem. We once again made our way through the darkness, towards the Octopus. There were a ton of folks partying and watching several incredible art cars in action, shooting fire, blasting beats and all sorts of other stimulating happenings.
After pouring a glass of wine, my focus was quickly directed towards the Man, who's arms were rising up into the air. The Burn was in progress. There were fireworks of epic proportion as well as a fire hoola hoop/tribal style show that led to the crescendo of Burning Man. With the partying came an overwhelming amount of federal rangers raiding group after group, confiscating all sort of items and doling out tickets repeatedly. I had never seen such a massive sting in my life. It really took away from the experience of the Burn. It would later come out, following the festival, that they were using night vision goggles and a variety of other law enforcement tactics.
Then it happened... The Man began to burn. It was a breathtaking scene. Everyone was focused on The Burn as more and more folks flocked to The Man. After being fully engulfed in enormous flames the structure began to fall. The inevitable, desired, full collapse came to be and we made our way back into the darkness...
After some aimless wandering, we found ourselves sitting in front of a large, white metal tree with LED lights raining down in an array of colors. We were enjoying some cigars and conversation, when all of a sudden there were flashlights on a girl sitting about twenty feet from us. She was being overrun by federal agents who immediately started going through her backpack as she sat shocked in horror. We decided to relocate, stood up and headed back into the darkness across the Playa.
The evening began to blur...
At some point we made it to the Temple where the scene was incredible. The bells of the Temple chimed as folks laid on their backs in it's core. We made our way to the second level where we were able to step onto a balcony overlooking the crowd of people. It was a powerful experience; unlike anything that I had felt before. Nobody said a word. We later witnessed three folks atop a large structure playing the Earth Harp, a massive string instrument that was apparently connected to the Temple and created the music. Folks looked on in amazement.
Somehow, we made it back to camp. All I remember was a long walk of lights, fire and the purist of insanity...
We awoke Sunday, feeling the direct result of two days of partying in the desert. We collected ourselves for what would be our last day at Burning Man. We once again dove into breakfast and hydration before heading out for one last walk around the Playa. I fell into deep reflection about Burning Man. I was blown away that a place like Burning Man could exist in our modern world. Its morals and principles seemed to align deeply with a lot of folks. It felt free, as if there were no expectations and no preconceived notions that could interfere with what you were experiencing in the now. It was in many ways Utopian, but in many ways a facade.
We knew that evening the Temple would burn. We also knew that we had a seventeen hour drive back to Denver the following day. Additionally, we knew that the lines exiting Burning Man are insanely long due to traffic control and the staggering of cars for departure in phases. We made the decision to pack up and head back to Carly's home town of Lovelock, NV. As we packed up a police truck went flying by at a high rate of speed nearly running over some folks walking, then it fish-tailed and almost drove into a camp where ten or fifteen people were sitting. The situation was extremely dangerous and could have been deadly.
We said our goodbyes, hopped into the car and made our way to the exit.
The wait was under an hour, though we heard in the following days that it took up to six hours to exit. With the Playa behind us, we re-entered back into reality. It would be a long road home...