Burning Man Notes [Before & After]

2005 — Notes From My First of Twelve Journeys to the Desert

PROLOGUE

This year I am preparing to go to Burning Man for the 13th time. Little did I know in 2005 when I set off on this adventure for the first time that I would be doing this crazy trek across the continent almost every year. Perhaps someday I’ll put down my thoughts about what it has meant to me, what joys it has provided and what difficulties it has entailed, but for now a glance back at that first time and the thoughts and feelings I experienced then.

__________________________

As I prepared to leave for Burning Man in 2005 I jotted down some personal notes, sharing them on my blog.
Likewise, when I returned, I posted a few brief excerpts from my journal and some thoughts about my experiences.
The following is a mix of both.

• • • • • •• • • • • •• • • • • ••

For anyone who doesn’t know what Burning Man is — here’s the quick view from wikipedia.

Burning Man is an annual event in the western United States at Black Rock City — a temporary city erected in the Black Rock Desert of northwest Nevada, approximately 100 miles (160 km) north-northeast of Reno. The late summer event is described as an experiment in community and art, influenced by ten main principles: radical inclusion, radical self-reliance, radical self-expression, communal effort, civic responsibility, gifting, decommodification, participation, immediacy and leave no trace. The event takes its name from its culmination, the symbolic ritual burning of a large wooden effigy (“The Man”) that traditionally occurs on the Saturday evening of the event.

The Man — Burning Man 2005

__________________________

Unlike now, the internet was not flooded with a gazillion articles and photos and videos in 2005. Not knowing anyone who had gone before it took a lot of detailed research to plan the trip, which, while challenging, was also very exciting.
This was that ancient time before cellphones. I was living in Vermont.
__________________________

BEFORE

“…be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now … Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”– Rainer Maria Rilke

10 July 2005–2:00AM EST

As I write this it is 55+ days until The Man burns.
As you read this — it will be (click HERE) days away!

A lot of rambling thoughts in my head right now that I would like to share.
As the days go by I will add updates — if energy and time allow.

At this point the trip to Burning Man is all about mental and physical preparation — getting mind and body in shape — gym, riding bike, reading.
An amazingly major project in itself — the careful planning, studying of logistics, and of course searching for the ever-evasive spondulics.

“A certain amount of opposition is a great help to a man. Kites rise against, not with, the wind.” — Lewis Mumford

For perspective: in my 53 years on the planet, I have done surprisingly little traveling by myself — never flew by myself, never rented a car — and camping, only once by myself and certainly never in the middle of the desert.

Pyramid Lake, Nevada — on the way to Burning Man

I had looked at images and read descriptions and had vague thoughts about going for a few years — but somehow always from that detached distance with which one looks at travel books — perhaps a bit of daydreaming, but no leaps towards any kind of action.

This year the images opened as if for the first time — demanding attention — and behold — I saw myself there! — and from then onward it was just a case of how to make it a reality.

I’m a native New York City kid — playfully arrogant with the glow of Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx in my bloodstream. Even as my earth dramatically shifted on its axis earlier this year — oh! you didn’t feel it? — it still didn’t completely shake off the dream to someday move back there. While I delight in spring peeper frogs and the magnificence of the stars and even occasional Aurora Borealis here in Vermont, of all of nature’s creations I am most interested in humans. I love the roar, the splendor and churn of human activity. (Besides, unless you can find time to head into the woods, Vermont is mostly television-consumer-culture suburban sprawl life — which I never understood/appreciated, with no real urban center nearby. Thank goodness for Montreal a hundred miles away.)

My favorite things about my visit to this planet have been human beings and some of the things they create — the music, art, words, architecture, foods, films, et cetera. Of course the opposite is true also — the worst things I have seen, from gods to wars, are also human creations.

in the desert it is not unusual to see a camel.

I love my Solitude — time to work, create — later, to share. It is something I can find here or in a city (there is plenty of space for anonymity and a very different kind of solitude in walking down a city street filled with people). But alas, solitude’s dark twin — Loneliness — that painful silence which also has no geographical restraints — comes around regularly too.

I went to New York the weekend after the buildings crashed to earth. Walked the pain streets until my feet blistered, lost a toenail. I have this little canister at home of ashes I picked up off the street — next to a little bottle of water from Lourdes, from a rambling trip around Europe some 20 years ago. What miracles would mixing the two together bring? Nothing that wouldn’t be outdone by buying a ticket to the Burning Man festival.

I will be looking for the solitary moments — just me and gravity hanging out — endless horizons in all directions but down — stars above, desert to the left and right, back and front. I will also be looking for the magical connections — through individual words and eyes, the roar of music and art, human flesh, fire — exposing my heart — taking in — some of it just to absorb like a gorgeous wine, some to reshape and hopefully give back.

And yes, bring some of it back, dust in blood — fiber clearing the veins to keep open the heart dams. I have another canister of ashes — in my mind — from personal things that went up in flames and crashed to earth — perhaps I can mix them with the playa dust, maybe some spit and tears and piss and semen, make a clay, build something new. I’ve made some peace with Surprise — learning to breath deeper when she’s doing the rug-pulling thing, accepting graciously when she delivers Joy — and am available for Grace and always … Awe.

“Art is a form of catharsis.” — Dorothy Parker

Maybe rather than thinking of the creativity, the art, as something that will come later — that will grow out of this journey — maybe this whole preparation process, and then the trip itself, are part of a new creative act — this being the willing into existence of a canvas, and these words some of the program notes — perhaps I am working on making available the space for whatever-it-is to happen in, an opening to the Muses, if there be such critters.

Start by drawing a horizon line: beginning of any studies of perspective.

“Resolve to be always beginning — to be a beginner!” — Rainer Maria Rilke

Right now it’s all about logistics, reading about survival, and money gathering: selling some art and stuff ebay and CafePress. Making time for some creativity by compiling one of my music compilations for friends.

Two weeks ago a wrench was thrown into these works when, while going to pick up my kids, my car’s transmission ate itself. Instant fear response was: cancel trip. But a day later, more calmly analyzing the situation, listening to friends who, knowing me, said “but you have to go!” — I decided to take out a loan to fix the car and keep the mad savings and accumulating going for the Burning Man trip. Where there’s a will.

Yes, yes, dear friends all around, supportive in all kinds of ways — it helped me decide that yes that I could do this, to say yes to the desert expanses and draw it close to me and smell the dust perfume yes to the travel and the art and my heart is going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes.

Anaïs Nin — Author, Diarist

According to the internet map I will be traveling 2943.1 miles. Probably an airplane from Burlington to Chicago to Sacramento, California.

Current plans: leave crack-of-dawn Saturday 27 August — spend day in Sacramento buying the things I need that I can’t be traveling with. Rent a car in Sacramento rather than Reno — where the rental folks are not too happy to rent cars going into the middle of the desert. A 130 miles drive to Reno (booked a room at the Fitzgerald Casino Hotel). Another 120 miles to Gerlach (pop. 200+)—and then the last dozen miles to Black Rock City (pop. 35,000+ — a city of which no trace will be found a month after the event). I will set up my campsite at the PolyParadise theme camp I have joined online, help out in the camp in any way I can, and make this my home for about 8 days. Leaving Burning Man early on Monday 5 September, flight back late afternoon/evening. Tuesday 6 September, decompression at home. Then back to work at my job at City Market in Burlington.

I’d like to try to go to NYC once before then — to touch base with my other home — just in case I don’t get back because some crazed Southern California Athiest Left-Wing Hippie Sex Cult conscripts me. Maybe a bon voyage pot-luck party at my house on August 13th or thereabouts. . .

“It’s a dangerous business going out your front door.” — J.R.R. Tolkein

Mutant Vehicle transportation in Black Rock City

____________________________________________________________

AFTER

midnight, 2 october 2005

Here it is, a very hodgepodge rhapsody about my trip to Burning Man — with chronology yo-yo’ d all over the place.

The words are derived from memory and a few pages of a journal I started upon departure, which I slowly abandoned as the days went on, finding it necessary to stay in the moment, unable to sit and record the events on paper with pen anymore — from which point on I relied on the camera to do any capturing.

So these words are mostly about the very beginnings and the very end of my trip — the rest lives in stories I’d be happy to tell you over a beer — and in the photographs I took .

___________________________________

yesterday, 1 october 2005

The trip on every level was many layers deeper than I possibly imagined. Profound, magical, beautiful, inspiring, and outrageously fun — words fail — the pathways from the sources of words in my brain seem altered and all definitions seem unsure — and how many times can I say “amazing”.
For all of it “awesome” for once is a worthy adjective.

Getting there: My kids (Noah, Martha and Aaron) and their mom (Katherine) took me to the airport at 4:30 am on Saturday, 27 September. I flew to Philadelphia, then to San Francisco, and onto Sacramento where I rented a van for the rest of my journey.
___________________________________

(from the journal) 27 august 2005–6 am

I never could write a journal. Didn’t make sense to write down my thoughts for myself. As with art, when I write I feel I create, and its value is in the interaction with another.

As the plane takes off a pink and gold edge on the horizon, sunrise, I become very aware of the solitary nature of this trip. This is for me very different from anything I ever recall doing. I can look at what got me here in a new light. A trajectory forward — a life-saver tossed outward to hold onto. Some kind of instinct has emerged — and the luck that some call fate had provided a direction: Burning Man — and with it a way to learn and live inside the new parameters of me.

The sun is just starting to rise and below are small bodies of water and the lights of small towns. I have no idea of where I am, what we are flying over.
I guess if you do this often it can slide into routine disinterest — for me it is all little-kid amazing, magical and scary.

And so I’m writing words in my notebook, not sure for who or why. Maybe I’ll figure it out as I go along. I will be in Philadelphia in less than an hour. I hate it when the plane bumps or dips in any way. A little sleep is called for after my canned orange juice over ice ringlets in a plastic cup.

___________________________________

Sculpture at Center Camp

yesterday, 1 october 2005

Getting back: I left burning man at 11:30 am Monday, September 5. Took 2 hours car-crawling to get out the front gates, another 3.5 hours (with detours due to accidents along the way) on gorgeous mountainous desert roads past Pyramid Lake to get to Reno — another 3.5 hours of freeway to Sacramento (due to bad traffic) — then an hour and a half cleaning the car inside and out to return to car rental place.

A flight at 11:30 to Chicago and from there to Burlington where I arrived Tuesday at 9:15 — picked up by my friend Kate, and was greeted at my front porch by the amazing display of morning glories I had planted. I then slept for most of the rest of the day — and much of the following — I returned to work on Thursday.

My kids came over one night with their mom — I loved sharing the photos and endless stories with them — reconnecting with them from a new place in my heart — With all my inner turmoil I had felt that I was not there for them most of this past summer.

In my head and heart I felt good — the waves of loneliness still came with a cold snap, but no longer as high or furious, no longer the ability to pull me deep down with their undertow…

___________________________________

(from the journal) 27 august 2005–11 am

The things you see from this high up. Before, coming into Philadelphia: From the squares of farmland — then the planned large suburban developments with their predictable lay-outs, circular dead ends and little blue box pools next to most — then rows of more cramped developments — eventually to rows of apartment buildings, taller as you get closer to the center where the skyscrapers live.

But now where are we? Instead of second rate mass-market movies — from drop-down screens which the plugged-in passengers laugh to loudly, in unison, like electrically controlled automatons — they should be telling all of us what all that stuff is down below. That farm is growing something yellow — what is it? Why circular fields, what kinds of industry and factories with huge parking lots? Those bodies of water, rivers and tributaries. Things that look like huge water processing plants.

I love the familiar shape of neighborhood baseball diamonds everywhere. Most of it right now like an enormous quilt, basics squares as far as the eye can see, each square with circles and triangles within it, all different colors. Tell me what all this is! Who are those people down there? Tell me about the absurdity of borders and how power centers so far away control the work done here, how they plant fear in the hearts and minds below to get their bidding done. But instead, the movie over, the screens projects some television sitcom reruns, and the synchronized laughter drones on.

Just thought about a clip in a Burning Man movie I saw just before leaving, about the people who parachute jump down onto the event. From a height like this, open a door and jump. I sat here for a few minutes stretching my imagination to try and feel what that would be like — and in my imagination is where it will stay — my fear of heights will keep me away from that hyper-realism but at the same time here I am in this bizarre surrealism: up here in a metal canister, sitting with all these other captured over-behaved passengers, huge engines soaring us through the air while bad movies play on little screens. But I do really want information on what it is we are flying over.

___________________________________

yesterday, 1 october 2005

The Friday night after I returned I had made plans for myself — to further unpack, make some art and watch a movie… I missed it all! I fell asleep after eating at around 6:30 and woke up at 9:30 am Saturday. I’ve been in this body a long time and it has never acted as it had that first week back. I went to a doctor on Saturday morning — her opinion was that I was just suffering from over-doing-it-itis — but I chose to have a bunch of blood tests anyway to cover it all — mono, hepatitis a, liver function, red/white count, HIV (the latter which I have tested regularly, the earlier batch of which all had symptoms on-line that fit my hypochondria/alarmism). The tests all came out okay.

It concerned me… But I also began reflecting — that I have never done anything like what I did the week before. Five airplanes in one week plus hundreds of miles in a rental car alone. New altitudes, new geographies, new temperatures — near 100 degree blazing sun by day and near 50 degree breathtaking stars at night. Non-stop exposure to art and amazing individuals, lowered hygiene and poor eating practices.
Perhaps, just perhaps, I simply over did it.

___________________________________

(from the journal) 27 august 2005–1 pm

I just can’t get over the sights out the window. The pilot has said a few things but they were typically pathetic — where ski resorts were and where some large air force base was. How sad. Everything eaten up in commercialism wrapped around consuming and war. At least he once told us when we were near Denver and Boulder, Colorado.

And now these huge white expanses — they look like lakes, made of salt — yeah, I put it together —Salt Lake City is in Utah — pilot is not helpful — the gaps in my geographical knowledge are big enough to fly this plane through. So much below is barren and mountainous. And yet everywhere small towns and roads. What are people doing down there? This trip across the country would be worth it just for what it is — and the brain would be so much more satisfied — with some detailed information to match the endless things visible out this window. I recommend glass-bottomed airplanes! I would like to look more closely at my return route to see what I will fly over— Sacramento to Chicago to Vermont — but, alas, much of that will be at night.

___________________________________

yesterday, 1 october 2005

I have always burnt my candle at both ends. It provides much stronger light.

My candle burns at both ends It will not last the night But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends — It gives a lovely light!
Edna St. Vincent Millay

Colossus — Zachary Coffin

___________________________________

(from the journal) 28 august 2005–8 am

The trip from Sacramento to Reno in my silver rented mini-van was fascinating. I have never rented a car by myself before. The landscape so different from what I’ve ever seen, never having been out west except California decades ago, along the coast from San Francisco to Los Angeles. The shape and size of the mountains reminded me of the familiar New Hampshire White Mountains, but the brown burnt mixed with the evergreens created a much more diverse pattern of colors. Gorgeous rocky terrain as the road wove its way through the valleys. Donner Lake and Pass were majestic.

A train weaving its way along the side of the mountain on the opposite side of the river made me aware of the cultural imagery of this area that I had absorbed through movies — the westward rush, the gold — how difficult a terrain this was for people to explore and populate — before casinos and mountainside suburban sprawl and roads that cut through and over every mountain.

I am writing this over a styrofoam cup of hotel room coffeepot coffee. There is less resemblance to real coffee than a watermelon candy has to a fresh piece of watermelon. Gotta take it down like medicine to help open the eyes.

My very limited glimpse of Reno has B movie edge to it. A sleaziness ever-present that I had only encountered in smaller doses elsewhere. I had expected something more bizarre—in an interesting over-the-top way — (maybe Vegas would be that) — but instead it had the elements of a urban bingo game — the cigarette smoke, the desperation, the sense of defeat that an addiction to the gambling drug brings to faces over time.

The neighborhoods near the flashy casinos were poor and run down; questionable characters working the edges. Every little store had at least a one or two gambling machines for those who need a quick fix. The flashing non-stop lights everywhere were a cover up, a facade — like sequins on the dress of the beaten down and drunk street worker. Sadness thick as smoke — lots of couples, many quite old and dressed up, slick like characters from some old cowboy television show — making the rounds from machine to machine, with coins and credit cards. Not an appearance that spelled winners.

The blackjack tables seemed to be more single people, and there it seemed more sombre, like serious work was being done. Happiness was not on display, no apparent joy, not even much playful fun. After a while the non-stop persistent blinking lights joined the chorus of the churning and binging machines to create an unpleasant assault on my senses. Maybe I missed it — maybe that’s where the excitement lives — in that buzz that hovers in the rooms above the games.

And while I had thought that while in Reno I would do like the Renoites do — inject myself into the stream just a little — I ultimately had no interest in even taking one snort of the gambling narcotic, not even in sticking one quarter into the mouth of one of these machines.
Tom Jones was in town — I should have bought tickets — thrown my underwear up on stage.

I am having a hard time with food. The roar of grease and junk-food add to my hellish sense of this town.

This bed is my planning board. I have everything laid out and getting sorted for the rest of my journey.
Must locate and get to Walmart for last minute stuff — Trader Joe’s for food — a camping store for a few items — and maybe a thrift store. Need a bike.
I took only one photo of the bright-light marquees last night — looked at it today and it said “corrupted data” — how appropriate! — all the other photos are okay. I just took one out my hotel window — there is a massive satellite dish on my, um, terrace. Oh well — Onward!

Besides being slightly brown, coffee really should be required by law to have enough taste to overcome the flavor of the styrofoam. Yum — gotta love that powdered “creamer” also.

They have nickel slot machines here. There was one next to the dreadful internet gizmo I was using — which looked much like a gambling machine — and I watched a woman feeding nickels as fast as she could into two machines simultaneously — every so often one of them would “win” a bunch of nickels and she’d run back and forth between them feeding the coins. It looked like some Pavlov experiment and I hope she comes out ahead a few nickels in the end.

I went to a gay bar downtown — it promised “dancing”. It was 11 on a Saturday evening and ten men sat alone, quietly staring off into their pasts. One guy near me — about 40 — by his tone I’d guess he’d been drinking for a while by his tone — started talking to the guy next to him, loudly, about how his body is all achy and beat up and he feels like he’s 60, while in his mind he feels 13. He translated what it means to be that young by saying that he still wants to look under the rock to see what’s there — to touch the squishy worm he finds underneath.
I went home to get some rest and to prepare for my trip to Black Rock City.

___________________________________

yesterday, 1 october 2005

In the second week following my return from Burning Man I finally admitted to myself that I did run my body down. I came to this realization by putting the events in comparative terms.

If I had done what I did in just one day at Burning Man on any given Saturday in my regular life — up at 8, bike riding in scorching head-toasting heat all day to explore the city, the art, the people…
Then after dinner right back out walking and bike riding, some beer and additional inebriates, high energy dancing for hours, sex on occasion — all of which ended by 4 am usually — after a day like that I would usually spend the next day sleeping into midday and recovering — but no — I was up at 8 or 9 and at it again — about 7 days in a row when it started to show — a sore throat on the last day there which I attributed to high-alkaline playa dust eating my throat — to this other flu-like symptoms were added as I was heading home on airplanes — and after a few days back and not bouncing back I went to the doctor because I didn’t believe I could feel this way from mere excess — after all, William Blake is selectively quoted as saying “the road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom”. One of the rooms in the palace of wisdom was in the shape of admitting that I had overdosed on experience…

___________________________________

(from the journal) 30 August 2005 — Black Rock City

Sitting in the car waiting out a dust storm. I was starting to put up my tent. Slept last night in this van — woke up many times, cramped, achy, confused, looked out window — it was dark, windy — but also elated — i was here!
Yesterday was a long very frustrating day. Shopping in Reno. Maybe I need not say any more. I think I was in 3 different Walmarts. Eventually I got everything I needed — including a bike for $53 — but in the process, assisted by many poorly given directions, I had wandered for about 6 hours amidst the truly endless suburban sprawl.

I wanted to be here by 5 or 6 and ended up at 10 pm. The dust was wild — nothing the articles I had read or photos I’d seen had prepared me for. The greeters at the gates were fun and friendly and just amazing fun amidst the raging wind and dust. I found out that as a “virgin” I should have been spanked (or given a certificate for a spanking), or made to roll in the dust (kinda glad I missed that one), or otherwise toyed with — but I didn’t. I guess the dust storms — someone said among the worst — set some limitations. I want a refund.

After arriving and meeting a few folks I went for a bike ride with Trouble and Stroke Greg. Absolutely magical the amazing sights and sounds. Unless I spent this day writing I could not capture it all. The sky alone — the big dipper bigger than I had ever seen it, dipping right at the horizon. Adjectives fail me. And there, illuminated green neon like a flashy diner, in the center, was The Man.

My evening came to a dramatic crashing halt — as I was heading back towards camp — when I ran into a fence post. Punctured my front tire — I did buy a spare tube — and scraped myself up. I had blinkie lights on me and my bike so others could see me but did not wear my headlamp to better see where I was going. Lesson learned. Got distracted by something — wonder why. I want to explore, to play — but must first make my home and organize a bit. Even with the occasional blinding gusts I am going out of this car and get my home up — that will help. As always—Onward!

home for the week

30 August 2005 — Black Rock City — a little later

The tent is set up and open to catch as much dust as possible. Way too windy to put up the reflective tarp — it turns into a kite each time I try.
Costello and DCLynn — they’re from Pacifica near San Francisco. He is our camp’s “bike czar” and has put in the new tube for me. Plan to ride off and explore in a while. Maybe a short nap first — if I can relax and find a suitable spot. The car is way too hot. With the wind and dust you can only see things about 20 feet away. Must decorate my bike also.

30 August 2005 — Black Rock City — end of day

Finding it harder to sit and write and recollect. Would much rather be collecting new experiences. It was a relatively low-key day — meeting all these people at the camp, talking — setting up my camp, which does not have that stability, that sense of home that tents have had on past camping trips — seems more fragile and no real escape from the heat and dust.

___________________________________

transportation for the week, with Dali Dolly my traveling companion

yesterday, 1 october 2005

With varying degrees of conviction, quite a few have friends expressed interest in going to Burning Man sometime in the future… I am gathering my thoughts and experiences so I can share with people what it would take for someone to go. How to truly be prepared.
At it’s best it is not an escape, a vacation, but a really very intense mind and body trip—Not easy—I will probably go alone again (if I can afford the money and time) — that really worked for me. But I would be thrilled to help others accomplish the journey — to share the difficulties as well as the joys — the very necessary preparations as well as what to expect. I feel myself having been very deeply touched by the experience in ways I will only begin to discover as I move forward. If you are reading this and are interested, let me know.

___________________________________

(from the journal) 31 August 2005 — Black Rock City

Spent last night riding my bicycle as far and wide as I could go — up and down the streets — stopping into dance places — looking at the artwork. The lights and sounds, bicyclists and people with all manner of clothing and light decorations — so many sexy and pretty people at the dance places — the pulse of the music — body energy. So far not quite able to jump into it all — feeling some distance, aloneness — need to let go of brain debris and relax into my body.

Got additional bedding supplies — pillow, mat and cover — from my new exploring companion Foxy Goddess today and now have a more comfortable place to sleep. Camp Daddy Scotto and his dear WildChild have been so amazingly welcoming and supportive, and they run a beautiful tight ship here at Poly Paradise. Bike riding with Diana looking at art was so very pleasant. Enjoying meeting all the new people — wish I could remember names better. Kingsley, Anthony, Mark from New Zealand, Steve “Waterlog”, Kennita… Still feel very distracted… overwhelmed… not knowing where and how to jump in.

Am very much feeling a need for touch — so what’s new. Getting lots of verbal touching and nice hugs from people — extremely supportive and friendly. Off to take a shower then back to bike riding around.

being gifted an ice pop from an bicycle ice cream cart in the blistering hot desert is how life should be

___________________________________

(from the journal) 30 August1 September 2005 — Black Rock City

To find time to write is getting really impossible. No answer has come to me to the question as to why and for whom am I doing this.
Last night was a very difficult one for loneliness. But I do hear it in the conversations of others and somehow, sadly, find it reassuring not to be alone in being alone. I saw a man stopped on his bicycle in the middle of the playa, weeping. I have been there also. And I have felt comradeship and support — I have seen creations that lifted my heart with joy — I have reveled in seeing people expressing themselves so freely… As anywhere else, there is much joy and much sadness in Black Rock — as in any other city. We bring it with us.
First thing today — to the post office to mail my little mail-art project.

1 September — Black Rock City

Rode out on the playa to the very distant isolated places. Amazing to ride on this hard sandy surface and at points being able to close my eyes and ride knowing I won’t run into anything in any direction. Photographs will have to take over from this point on. My ability to return and record in words has run out. I took a lot of photos today.

Alas, there on the edge of the playa my tire blew out again. I didn’t mention it yesterday — but it has been one every day so far.
Walking back towards the city I came across an art project that was a bunch of refrigerators in a circle — a sign asking people to take a gift and leave a gift inside. Someone left a gallon of water in one, from which I gratefully refilled my half empty dehydration pack for the intense long walk back — the sun an amazing ball of fire overhead.
Even while feeling dragged and a bit depressed — anxious at times — I continued to find amazing art pieces along the way which I found worth looking at, delighting in, photographing.

This time I brought the bike to the bike repair camp (yes there is one, where people gift their repairing skills). Fixed again. They think I probably hold the record for 4 days in a row.

More people arriving at my camp. Nice connections of friendliness occurring. Went again to the Human Carcass Wash which my camp organizes daily. First you take a turn spraying soap on people, then a turn spraying rinse water, then a turn squeegee-ing people — the you get in line and have it done to you — always asking people and stating your own boundaries. Quite an opening experience. As always, amazing to see the range of shapes and sizes of men and women bodies. Been going to the Poly High Tea almost every evening — skipped tonight. It’s a group discussion of polyamory with a wide variety of people and perspectives.

Had an up and down moment last night. Went to Snowflake Camp’s Speed Dating. It was a heterosexual thing. Which is okay with half of me. What-the-heck certainly fit my frame of mind about life at the moment and so I pushed myself through the process even though the women were 20/30ish. It went well actually — quite fun, but no date. Meanwhile another gent from my camp walked off into the evening with two women. I of course utilized my insecurities and compared by loneliness with the fantasies of his success. Today I heard from him that they hung out together for a while and then all went their ways. Reality check.

Burning man attendees Reverend Billy and Joan Baez share the news and sadness of the nightmare that is at that moment occuring in New Orleans (Katrina).

___________________________________

yesterday, 1 october 2005

Me, I’m getting back to what I referred to this past summer as “BMT — Burning Man Training” — eating well, exercising, and finding ways to make money — this time, with much more time available, it is more of a 3 part super-fund: I hope to get out of the debt that my car has put me into (new transmission, engine and computer), I hope to take a vacation with my kids to New York City next summer (we’ve done that every two years and this past summer we didn’t really do anything together), and yes, Burning Man 2006. From selling some of my collage art (a show coming up at the cafe gallery of the store where I work in December), selling some treasures on ebay, doing free-lance graphic design, some car and house cleaning gigs, and any other odd jobs that come my way. Where there’s desire. . .

___________________________________

(from the journal) 3 September 2005 — Black Rock City

It’s the day of the burning of The Man. So much so much so much. No time to record beyond the photos which I am taking many of. The windmills burned last night, spinning from the fire and heat. Hanging out with Foxy Goddess, Liz, a lot — a bold soul who charges into life. We love this place, this art, these people, this experience, these shared touches… the dancing!

I saw the sunrise this morning. It is now noon. I am going for a ride through the camps — look at things — meet people — experience things — take photographs. Then back for a nap, shower, dinner. At least that’s the plan. I like to be able to dress any way the mood strikes, radically comfortable or sensual/sexual… mostly that’s been a vest and shorts, leggings in the evening, or a skirt. How will I readjust to the Default World?

I started these writings by saying I never before could write a journal — but that maybe here I would finally discover that voice. Instead I am finding I am too interested in keeping both flames on the candle going too much to sit here in written reflection. This notebook needs a fire to send it up into the sky.

Exodus

___________________________________

midnight, 2 october 2005

It turns out I didn’t burn the journal — hence why its few entries are transcribed here. Liz is traveling east around Thanksgiving to visit family and is coming to visit me for a few days. Maybe a little Burning Man in Vermont if I can find a place to do it. Then I can toss into flames this absurd little journal which on the inside cover — along with my name and starting date, 27 August 2005, had its one wisdom, its proposed “title” — “Onward…!”

___________________________________

The Man burns

EPILOGUE

Since 2005 I have gone back to Burning Man another eleven times (skipping 2015 & 2016), and am in the process of getting the plans in place for #13 this year.

In 2010 the theme for the event was Metropolis. It was the first year I brought my art for the Center Camp Gallery, a piece entitle “Urban Anatomy”. I have done so every year since.

My partner in life and art, Tammy Remington, started going with me in 2011. She is preparing to go with me for her seventh sojourn. She has written short stories to go along with the art that have been gifted in the form of small booklets. In 2014 the theme was Cargo Cult and her short story “Wares” can be read here on Medium.

“Urban Anatomy”— AleXander Hirka, digital collage, Center Camp, 2010

________________________________________________

© AleXander Hirka 2017. All Rights Reserved.

If you enjoyed this post do 👏 , share, or comment.

Tempest Tossed in New York City — writing and art and life in New York City

Writer, visual artist, philosopher, autodidact, curmudgeon. More than half of what i do is make believe. https://alexanderhirka.nyc

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store