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Drink Water will be going on a short hiatus. But fear not! New episodes will resume mid November, 2014. I have two painting exhibitions of new work opening next month here in Philadelphia, and there is a lot of work to be done. But stay tuned! As soon as the shows are hung, the episodes shall resume. November 2014!
I’m planning a print collection of Drink Water at the end of Chapter 7, which means that We have 2 1/2 chapters remaining in Book #1. We are currently about 150 print pages into our story, out of about 230 total (estimate). So there’s a lot more to come.
In the meantime, enjoy this picture from the archives. Neptune in Black Rock City, circa 2001. Photo courtesy of Christopher Rainone. Thanks for reading, everybody! Suckie fuckaye!
Photo by Chris Rainone, Black Rock City, 2001
Hello and welcome to Drink Water!, a brand new weekly webcomic chronicling the ongoing adventures of the citizens of Black Rock City. This story has been stewing in the back of my mind since the first time I set foot on the playa back in 99, and the time has now come to let it out! The first 50 pages are mapped out, so please check back as I will be updating the site regularly.
All of the characters and adventures chronicled here are true to the best of my recollection. They are my campmates and neighbors, and they are all just as bizarre and beautiful as you can imagine. The story is told as though it happens in a single week, although in reality the events transpired over the course of many years.
There will be several dream sequences woven into our tale, similar to the one that opens up our story. These are dreams that I’ve had on the playa over the years, and they may help to put the experience into context, especially for those who have not been there in person. And for those of you who have made the journey to the dust, keep your eyes out for a familiar face because you never know when you might make a surprise guest appearance.
Some may recall a print issue of Drink Water! from 2008. It told the tale of a dusty Wednesday on the playa, and those pages will eventually be woven into this narrative as part of the greater story.
So sit back, strap on your dust mask, and enjoy.
This is sure to be a wild ride.
I flew from Santa Monica to Black Rock City in a four-seater Cessna. The pilot was Bert from the VaporBrothers, Starchild provided the connection. I’d never been in a plane that small, and the word ‘turbulence’ took on a whole new meaning for me as we pitched and dodged through forest fire smoke over the Sierra Nevada Mountains. It was night time and the moon was rising.
The next day was much smoother. We buzzed over lakes and sailed through mountain passes. Bert showed us his fluency with zero gravity, shooting the plane straight up into the air, and then letting it free fall, slowly, back to the earth. Water bottles and cameras floated gently through the small cabin.
The flight took about six hours total. We touched down in the dust Monday afternoon at the Black Rock Airport. The city looked magnificent and unreal from the air. It was circular and about two miles across, surrounded by a pentagonal set of roads, or tire tracks in this case, as there are no roads this far out. I was reminded of cropcircles and alien landing fields.
The Black Rock Desert is a vast expanse of dried lakebed about an hour or so Northeast of Reno, NV. There is no life out there, no plants, no water, no animals. Only sun-bleached, dried out earth stretching to the horizon, flat as a parking lot.
We were greeted at the airport by a woman with green hair in a golf cart. She confirmed our tickets via walkie talkie and welcomed us into the city. All of our gear was set to arrive later that day in an RV that was trailing us on the ground, so we had a few hours to kill before setting up camp. We headed off towards the Woonami Village.
Pirate ships floated past. Some twenty, thirty feet tall with sails full and sound systems booming. A shark swam by, gnashing it’s teeth. It’s body was built from a train of vehicle chassis. Sea horses and jelly fish rolled and swam through the playa dust.
The Man loomed on a pedestal built like a light house. He glowed, neon blue, and seemed to claim our current illusion for us. “We are all underwater, and this desolate playa is our Sea, full of life.”
We hopped on passing vehicles and greeted the new guests. We made some sexy new friends from Vancouver BC who we set up camp with once our gear arrived. I was seduced that very first night by a sailor in hot pants who helped me pitch my tent. She wore a hip sack full of fragrant lotions and prophylactics.
My Sailor and I carried a plateful of peaches, bananas, & apples over to the Soft Rock Cafe to trade for pancakes. Our Israeli Soldier came along too. Our cook introduced himself as BaconFat. The DJ’s name was Flapjack. They were playing Michael Jackson’s “Wanna be Starting Something”… Mama-Say, Mama-Sah, Mama-Kusah. They rejoiced at our fruit and gave us tickets for cutting to the front of the line next time.
BaconFat makes a damn fine pancake.
I got a coffee at center camp, sunscreened up, strapped on my canteen, grabbed my goggles and headed off in search of the infamous Naked Desert Fire Goddess. She was the one who comped Neptune’s ticket, and she specifically requested I check in upon arrival.
Two naked red peple walked by pulling a little red wagon. A skydiver landed off to my right. A giant Cat drove by, and a mermaid offered me a lollipop. The shark prowled the seas.
I found Crimson at the Fire Conclave Convergence. She was multi-tasking, trouble shooting, and fielding questions from a swarthy looking bunch of flaming miscreants gathered around her table. I signed in. She pointed out that I was the only performing member of MagmaVOX in the city this year. I was a little worried . In previous years, MagmaVOX had an entire performance section reserved, and the crew usually amounted to about 25 people. This year, Eros, Seraphina, and Brianna had obligations at Seaworld, and Mason was lost somewhere in Europe. I was on my own, but at least I had Cory listed for fire safety. I just had to find him. I decided that we’d either join someone else’s group, or recruit our own.
The sun was merciless. We spent the rest of the morning and most of the afternoon setting up camp. Then I went out cruising the streets looking for my Peeps. Suckie Fuckaye!
I found Kiymbah, pregnant. Two months in, with a proud, smiling A-Dawg daddy by her side. Life unfolds in such unexpected ways.
I found Munkus.
He looked at me like I was an asshole, but I deserved it. Then he howled like a monkey and tackled me into the dust. We laughed and ran off through the city. A glowing white whale sailed along flapping his tail. The Pirates howled from the crow’s nest and told tales of the ducky.
We soaked up our wicks and headed out for the Cauldron. I found FireNinja there. He introduced me to Mr. Chucks, a Flaming Nunchuk spinner who had just lit up for the very first time that night. Mr Chucks has 25 years of Martial Arts training. He improved with every single spin, and stands now as the greatest Flaming Nunchuk spinner I’ve ever seen in my life. I recruited them both in on the spot. FireNinja told me where to find Greenwood, a former MagmaVOX member and a good friend of mine. He said that Greenwood and he had already comitted to the NW Conclave, but that I should consider them both in anyway.
We all took turns spinning around the cauldron and gathered a considerable crowd. A massive man in an ornate headress danced around the flames between our sets. Fire was in the air and in our blood.
Munkus led us back to Drift Catalyst where we filled our bellies with Pad Thai & Mushroom Tea. We sailed out into the city with Ursula, Kelly, & Lisa by our side. We talked with the Man and he sent us a Cat. We rode the Cat down the promanade, until Lisa and Kelly fell off. They tried to get back on but kept falling off again and again into the dust. Munkus, Ursula and I sat on the Cat’s tail laughing, howling, & singing…
Get on the Cat!
Get on the Cat!
Kelly and Lisa gotta get on the Cat!
Get on the Cat!
Get on the Cat!
Lisa and Kelly done fell off the Cat!
We all tumbled off the Cat’s tail into the dust and had a funeral for Munkus’s broken Cigarette. A man in a tuxedo crash landed next to Ursula. He lay in the dust, propped up on his elbows facing us.
“Hello.”, he said.
“Well helo there.”, said Ursula.
“Sorry to intereupt.”, he said.
“Not at all,” said Ursula, “won’t you have a seat.”
“But I’m already sitting.”, he said.
“Yes, of course.”, said Ursula.
The man told us a joke and I forgot it right away. We ceremonially smoked Munkus’s broken dead cigarette and my brain exploded into a pillar of light shining up into the darkness.
“We’re in the middle of the road,” I said, “Won’t we be run over by the cat?”
“Or the Pirate ship?”, said Lisa.
“Or the Whale?”, said Kelly.
“No, I don’t think so.”, said Munkus.
“No cat will hit us.”, said Ursula.
“Why not?”, I asked.
“Because your brain exploded,” said Munkus, “Remember? Everyone can see it but you.”
“My brain exploded.”, I said.
“Yes.”, said Munkus.
“It’s you headlamp.”, said Ursula.
“It’s pointing straight up.”, said Ursula. “Everyone can see it.”
Kelly and Lisa laughed.
“Don’t listen to them.”, said Munkus. “Your brain exploded, trust me.”
“Get out of the road!”, yelled someone.
“Get on the Cat!“, yelled Munkus.
“SuckieFuckaye!”, I yelled.
“You gotta get on the Cat!“
“There’s no road.”, said Lisa.
“She’s right you know.”
“Kelly and Lisa gotta get n the Cat!“
“It’s a promanade!”
Lobsters scuttled past.
Fishies ate Tootsie Rolls.
In the distance, something exploded.
I’m running, chasing the Dave Train.
“Suckie Fuckaye!!! That’s our ride!”
I hop the train and land on a cushy couch, Ursula throws her bag on lands next to me akwardly.
“An old freight train riding Hobo once told me… Never throw your bag on first! You might lose it!”
“Yay, Yay.”, she says. “I think I bruised my thigh.”
Larry is with us.
“Hello, Larry. Altoid?”
“I’d love one thanks.”
We’re riding the Dave Train off into the night, but there’s the Church of Funk! It’s calling! We shimmy off the train arm in arm singing…
We’re going to the Chapel
and we’re gonna get Funky!
Goin to the Chapel
and we’re gonna get funky!
Gee, I really love you
and we’re gonna get Funky!
Goin to the Chapel of Funk!
We approach the altar with our booties in motion. The House of Prince! The House of Kool & the Gang! The Funk s in my Butt and Yes I can feel it! And Yes I’ve got an Amen! And before I know it I’m up on the altar performing a Baptism in the Church of Funk and the people laugh and the Jungle Boogie hits me in the ass and the water hits the dust and this funk is blessed and we’re off again.
And this time it’s the Pink Pussycat Lounge. It’s all fuzzy and pink and Kelly puts her hand up to a big furry pink pussy on the door and says, “Respect the pussy.” And we do.
Inside it’s so pink and the walls are close and the fur is thick and Lisa is standing so close and purring, “Ohhh pussy pussy pussy!” and I want her but then she is gone… and there is a room that’s so so green and fuzzy and Kelly is there waiting in her garter with a whip and she says, “You deserve a spanking now get over here!” and I do because I repect the pussy and she thwaks me on the ass and it doesn’t hurt and people are watching and I say, “That didn’t hurt.”, and they all laugh so she tries again and again but she still can’t hurt me…. so we decide that she deserves a spanking for giving a bad spank.
I try once and she laughes, so I reel back and let her have it just as Munkus and Ursula walk through the door… The whip snaps, Kelly squeels, and the crowd quivers in delight. We flee the pussy and outside I hear a “Suckie Fuckaye!” from somewhere in the night … and I’m off running answering the call, yelling Suckie Fuckaye! Suckie Fuckaye!….. I reach the esplanade and find Michael Greenwood there spinning flaming poi to the delight of a gathered crowd.
“Suckie Fuckie! Just the Man I’ve been looking for!”, I exclaim.
His spin is complex and graceful and realize his skills have grown considerably since the last time I saw him. He has surpassed me easily and I want him with me for the Burn.
“Are you with us Saturday night?”, I ask.
“Fuck yeah.”, he says.
“Excellent. We have FireNinja, Mr Chucks, and Munkus with us too. Hopefuly we can get a stage.”
“I’ll work on that,” says Greenwood, “Let’s meet tomorrow night at the Cauldron.”
“See you then.”, I say. “Suckie Fuckie!”
Then it’s off again, out deep into the Playa to visit the Giant Ruber Ducky. He serves us drinks and exhibits his erotic clowns. Some one gambles their t-shirt and loses. Smeone else wins it back again. So it goes at the Duck. We pull up velvet stools around a fire and share the warmth. An old girlfriend of mine from Syracuse appears and tells me she lives at the Church of Funk. We swap stories until it’s time to go home and the sun is rising and I curl up next to Ursula in the Drift Catalyst Chill tent. Sleep comes softly to the sounds of Enrique’s amplified throat singing.
But, Oh, gentle reader. There is so much to report, and how could I ever hope to remember everything? The days were long and strange and every moment was jam packed with unbelievable, unprocessable amounts of stimuli. I’ve already lost track of the time line, and I’m barely on the third day….
I’ll do what I can, try to stay close.
It’s a blazing hot morning. I ride out to Arson Island in search of Cory and Tobasco. I found Cory and he told me that Pan was on his way with a fleet of Bhuto Dancers and a giant squid. They were planning to serve sushi dinners for sixty under the squid every night. Tobasco was no where to be found, and I was a little disappointed because I had been hoping to upgrade my conclave pendant to a 2002 model. I found him a few nights later and whipped out a prime cut of Neptunian flaming chains for his amusement, but he claimed he was all out of 2002 pendants. So I’m still wearing my old 2000 pendant.
Then Raven appeared.
“David Wilson,” she said, “I still have a pair of your goggles in my tent from last year.”
Last year, last week. It fels like we never left, like we’re picking up right where we left off, and in many ways, thats how it really is.
“Fantastic.” I said. “I’ll be by to get them.”
She told me where she was camped and I promptly forgot.
We hit the Cauldron again that night. In fact, we performed at the cauldron every night except Thursday and Saturday. The memories wash together into a grand orchestrated dance of flaming bodies, dust and sweat. The drummers came out in force every night to meet us. Munkus and I went in together. I lit my chains off the cauldron, and then lit his. We spun together and I dropped to my back, laying flat in the dust, spining hard to the beat, writhing, and he’s got his two chains in one hand standing over me orbiting slowly. The crowd is roaring and Mr Chucks goes non stop, one spin after another, and he’s only been a burner for abut two days now but he’s been spinning those nunchuks for 25 years and it shows. His hands are splitting and he tapes them up and jumps back in and his eyes are burning with the hunger, and the passion, and he screams and wraps that shit around his neck and down through his legs and he’s got the rhythm and everyone knows it.
And Jason & Justice…. Oh, Jason & Justice…. They are a gay couple and I don’t remember now which is which but one is a spinner and one is fire safety and they are both on extasy… I think Justice is the spinner…. And he’s good… so good… probably only about 21 yrs old, but so skilled… he’d give Eros a run for his money…. He flies through his moves like they’re nothing, smiling the whole time, backflipping, and rolling in the dust, holding the beat, and never disappointing… but spinning on E has it’s price and his hair catches fire but Jason isthere to put him out and they continue on, smiles intact….
And then we’re off to Drift Catalyst to spin some more. Greenwood is with us… and FireNinja, Munkus, Mr. Chucks, and Neptune….The DJ is floating, ambient and calm…. But we light up, and he reacts, bring up the tempoand growing with our intensity. FireNinja pulls out his flaming whip and CRACK!… A fire ball billows out and the Peeps scream with delight. I put on Neptune’s helmet and light my chains just as the DJ whips out Black Sabbath’s ‘War Pigs’… Generals gathered n their masses… I’m a little shocked… I’ve never spun to Sabbath…. But I love the song and the show must go on and I hit that shit with everything I’ve got, riding the rhythms and flashing on the accents… and I’m all lost in it the lyrics echo out in my head …in the fields the bodies burning…and the people are gone …. Just a fish and his fire left fucking on the playa…. Oh lord yes… and I drop to my back kicking dust up and around and the playa tears the skin on my back and the spin goes on and all that’s left of me is a pulsing flaming rhythm of focus and concentration balanced on the moment… this moment…. that echoes forever in my memory…. And then Munkus is there again and I’m lighting his poi… and we have a group… the team is established….we have a rhythm… and MagmaVOX is reborn on the playa in some new form with me as the seed…. and I miss my Eros, my Seraphina… but the spirit has been kindled and we are burning burning off and running ….life moves forward getting bigger and stranger all the time….
But the next night is Thursday, and that’s a big one. Thursday is the final rehersal before Saturday’s burn and the entire Conclave meets out at the Man at Sunset. Munkus and Chucks are nervous because they have to audition in front of Crimson Rose in order to perform with us, but we assure them it will be fine. I find the Peeps and we find our section. Michael Greenwood announces that he’s secured a stage for us and this is great news! Crimson has aknowledged our raggle taggle group as MagmaVOX and rewarded us with a stage. Cory shows up with a group of Chicago performers and we induct them into the tribe. I’m hoping we can get Jan, Dax, and Tex… they were with us last year.
Word spreads and talk floats about and before I know it, we’ve got bluce, bar_butterfly, and Azrae (who was a founding member of MagmaVOX to begin with, so everything is coming full circle)… We are strong and growing. By the end of the meeting, MagmaVOX is up to 17 people and we have our own Black Rock Ranger.
There are almost 500 Conclave members gathered around the Man when Crimson Rose, Naked Desert Fire Goddess, climbs the pedestal to address her troops….
“You will all treat this space with repect! It is an HONOR to be in the Great Circle when the Man burns! I wait all year to release him, and if any of you steps out of line I will throw you right out! No one enters this circle in an altered state! No One! You will be here, ready to go, at 7:00 on Saturday! When the sun hits those hills I want you here! The lamplighters will process out first, followed by our team of flame throwers! I still need to address the flame throwers seperately, so will you all please meet me at Conclave Camp tomorrow at Noon. You know who you are. Once the flame throwers have exited the circle, the art cars will come in from the 90 & 270 degree postions and make a full rotation. All Conclave members will follow the Art Cars out and process around the Great Circle to your assigned location! I will be in contact with your lead person only via radio!”
We elected Cory to be our radio bearing lead. He has been in the great circle since 99 doing fire safety, and since he was not performing, he would be freed up to handle direction.
“Anyone who still needs to do a show-me, gather over there at 90 degrees. I will be with you shortly! You will not all get to perform! There are too many of you. Only the best will be selected, so if you are just a beginner, you better be really, really good, or you’re not getting in!”
After Crimson’s address, about 150 newbies made there way over to90 degrees. Munkus looked at me worriedly. “I don’t know.”, he said.
“Just do your best.”, I said.
“Yes, I know you’re right.”, he said. “I need to do this.”
Mr. Chucks had not signed up for the show-me, and we were worried that he would not be allowed to participate this late in the game. I approached Crimson on the stairs of the Man to introduce him, and after waiting through about 15 minutes of other people’s questions, I was allowed to speak.
“Crimson, this is Mr. Chucks. He is a flaming nunchuk spinner who has not yet signed up for a show-me. He has 25 years of martial arts training and I really think you need to see him spin.”
“Is he spinning with you?”
“Do you vouch for him, and take responsibility for him?”
“David, if you vouch for him, I trust your judgement. He doesn’t need to do a show-me.”
“Thank you, Crimson.”
Mr Chucks howled at the Moon when I told him he was in. “This is the best!”, he said. “The best!” His eyes glowed. I felt bad when I realized that I could have vouched for Munkus at the same time, but he didn’t seem to mind at all.
“This is something I need to do.”, he said.
While Munkus waited for his turn, the rest of us tried to scheme our way into the Man’s pedestal. Our Ranger Nathan was guarding the door. FireNinja and Michael Greenwood said we could get in, but when we got there, our Ranger told us that Larry Harvey himself was surveying the city form the upper level.
“This is Larry Harvey’s hat.”, he said holding up a straw hat. “Now is not the best time.”
Munkus spun admirably. The pressure was on and he came through. Performing for an audience is one thing. Performing for Crimson Rose and a crowd of 200 fire performers is a different matter entirely. He even recovered gracefully from what we all thought was going to be a nasty tangle. He pulled it off like he meant to do it. When we asked him about it later, he said, “Well yeah, I did mean to do it.”
Our group was established and we agreed to meet at noon the following day at Center Camp to finalize our plans.
The fish and sharks and whales and jelly fish were out with a vengence. Every day the playa was crowded with new and different arrivals. The pirates were constructing a giant Pirate Ship at 230 degrees. The Dragon had arrived, and was cruising the streets blowing fireballs at the glowstick-wielding hippies. Thunderdome was fully operational, and the battles ticked off like blood dripping in the dust.
Steel plants and flowers bloomed great blossoms of flame twenty, thirty feet high. Lasers and fireworks, stars and UFO’s, filed the night sky. Black Rock City was alive and growing every minute. The city stretched a great glowing ring on the horizon, madness in every direction. Pyramids and domes. Beats from every side. Double-decker buses sporting nine piece bands on the roof, flame throwers in the trunk, and billowing orange sails over head. They cruise across the playa, sprinkling light all around, picking up travelers and dropping them off. … Life moves pretty fast… The Cat skittered past followed by Mermaids and whales, speed boats and crabs…. … if you don’t stop and look around… you might miss it.
Friday – White Out
We were talking with a dragon, a rubber ducky, and a trident-wielding mermaid when I noticed the dark sky on the horizon.
Munkus was on his way to the Temple of Joy (by David Best), I’d been there the night before and it was absolutely beautiful. Hand crafted and ornate, the temple stands three stories tall. It has a spinning heart and a matching bus. The Temple of Joy is perhaps the most heartbreakingly beautiful sculptural accomplishment I have ever seen in my life. Maybe matched only by the Temple of Tears… and they both burned… hot, bright, and to the ground. If you weren’t there to see it, you will never know.
Photo by John Garrigues
Such is life.
We parted ways then, as I was heading over to glitter camp to have my naked body rubbed down with aloe glitter by a team of naked trained female glitter professionals. After that, I was off to body paint camp for a mottled green spray down.
NOTE: Always visit glitter camp before you visit body paint camp. The glitter is rubbed on, and the paint is sprayed. If you apply the paint first, it will smear while you are applying the glitter.
We never made it to Glitter Camp.
The wind picked up and the air filled with dust. It was a total white out. I couldn’t see more that five feet in any direction. Our Israeli Soldier was with me and together we navigated our way blindly across the playa. Every now and then the air would clear just for a moment revealing the ominous masts of some beached ghost ship. The air was thick and breathing was difficult without a dust mask. I was lucky I had my goggles on. The Kissing Booth was still open, and pirates howled in the crows nest. We passed through Center Camp and carefully picked our way back to South Central Jesus where the VaporBrothers headquarters were located.
My sultry and sexy Sailor invited us into her RV for White Russians and Cream of Mushroom soup. We howled and laughed and waited for the rains to wash the storm away. A rainbow arched across the crimson, sunset sky when I stepped back out into the dust.
Time for dinner and off to the cauldron.
A banana bike peddles alongside a penis car. The Monkey Chanters cha-cha in Center Camp. An election for your favorite body part. I vote for tits.
We met at Center Camp to collect our laminates. These provided us access to the inner circle for Saturday night’s climactic Burn. Munkus looked a little let down when he got his. “Did I pass the audition?”, he asked.
Crimson provided us with a stage for the burn, but unfortunately she didn’t include stairs or a ladder to get onto the platform. We asked if we could use a trampoline instead, and she said if we could find one, we could use it.
We found a ten foot trampoline next to a 20 foot burlap sack slide on the East end of Center Camp. Munkus and I tested the slide, and found it frictionally challenged. Mr Chucks negotiated a deal with the propriator, and ten of us carried the giant trampoline on our shoulders out across the Playa to our station at the Man. A group of a thousand maniacs yelled at us as we stumbled into the crotch of a Man-shaped, arial photo shoot.
“Oh – Wee – Oh! … Ooooh – Oh!”, we chanted.
We spent the rest of the afternoon practicing mounting and dismounting the platform from the trampoline, and as the sun fell lower in the sky, I ran off to get glittered and green. To eat and prepare. The Burn is coming.
Being in the Inner Circle for the Burn is one of the most inspiring experiences life has to offer. I accidently stumbled in my first year, and have been there ever since. I can’t imagine any other way. The heat of the fire bakes your skin, even from 80 ft away. The Roar of the crowd. The bursts of flame throwers and fire cannons. The drums ravenously beat out the rhythms as 30,000 playa coated sets of hungry, hungry eyeballs burn into you, all lit with anicipation, all pulsing Burn! Burn! Burn!
Your heart beats in time with those thunder drums and action replaces all use of words, just Go! Go! Go! Give the Man everything you have, and live to tell the tale. Be quick, sharp, safe, and smart. Be passionate. Be alive. Breathe deep and give them your soul.
Fuck the undeniable, inconceivable reality of this moment and explode orgasmically with flames 100 ft high. It is a sensation to live for, riding on the edge of disbelief, the risk is there, we could all go screaming into a firey grave at any moment… I am alive! I am alive! It is a good day to die.
The sun is setting. Our wicks are ready. Our war paint is on. We are ready for action and the city is approaching from every side.
We will see you at the Burn.
Burning Man 2002 – Chapter VI
Saturday Night – The Burn
It all started with the Flame Throwers.
Cory is running around shouting out directions from Crimson Rose via Walkie Talkie. We are at 80 degrees, about 70 ft from the Man. The plans are changing right up to the last minute. I’m trying to dip a five foot trident into a one gallon can of kerosene. Two whipping boys in silver flame retardant suits are there, waiting to be fire whipped by our Chicago team.
I hear the blasts before I see them. A team of a dozen men and women armed with flame throwers and propane tank back-packs have entered the circle at 90 degrees. They fire streams out over the crowd, tracing patterns in the air.
“Cover the fuel dump!”, yells Adam.
We scramble for the lids. We have two gallons of kero, one of white gas, and one of lamp oil. The trident sticks out awkwardly. I feel the heat from their blasts. Each one sounds like an impact. They are so close.
Cory says we are to process all the way around the circle following the final art car. The drums are driving, building with the excitement of the flame throwers. I can see Dr. Megavolts’ tesla coil towering above the crowd.
The cars pull in, there are several of them, each a massive metal vehicle spouting fire. Road Warrior jury rigged desert attack cars firing hot blasts of flame. Rangers scramble to clear the path before them. We circle our fuel dump, covering it as best we can.
The final car rounds the turn and we are off. I grab my poi and spin out the excess fuel on the way. Munkus catches my eye through his face shield and smiles. The car bursts gas flames out over our heads. There are hundreds of us milling about, exchanging electric looks of anticipation, gripping our unlit staffs, poi, torches and swords with dusty, trigger happy fingers. We are the Fire Conclave. Cameras flash. The whole city is out, screaming, chanting, banging drums and lighting off fireworks. Tens of thousands of people are circled around the Man. Hundreds of gallons of open fuel. Fireballs erupt from all sides.
We follow the car to 270 degrees where we are met by a massive steel cauldron on wheels. It’s belly is full of red hot coals. It’s frame reaches 15 feet high, belching sparks and black smoke into the night sky. A tall robed man in an elaborate headdress reaches a forked staff into the cauldron. We all scramble around, lighting our toys and following him out around the Man.
He leads the way. I can see hundreds of flames igniting on the other side of the circle too, following another cauldron over at 90 degrees. I begin to spin and the flames whoosh in my ears. Muffled through the helmet I can hear the thunder of twenty-some thousand people errupting all at once. There is fire on every side, 500 performers burn simultaneously. I’m picking my way around the circle. We’re walking through fuel dumps and Rangers zip here and there attempting to keep the danger to minimum. I skirt to the outside and ride along the front of the crowd, spinning in time with the drums. My sight is limited by the bulk of the helmet, but I can see the faces of Black Rock City as I pass. They wear toothy smiles and primal bloodlust lit by a thousand flames.
By the time we get back around to the MV2 post, my poi are burned out. I grab the flaming trident, pounce three steps on the trampoline and land poised on the platform overlooking the crowd.
They cry out as one and I am Neptune, King of the Seven Seas, wielding fire over a city of thousands. The Burning Man looms behind me. He is the personification of fire, the essence of creation and destruction. He is the spirit and the inspiration, and today, I am the water. I am Poseidon, surrounded by sharks and whales, mermaids and jellyfish, seahorses, crabs, lobsters, and fishes of all shapes and sizes. We are the creatures of water, and we have brought this floating world back to his dried lakebed to celebrate and destroy him.
The trident swings arcs, trailing flames and raising Monique from the dead. I twist back and see bluce, Michael Greenwood, & Mr Chucks at the base of the platform holding their wicks in the air. I lite them with the tips of my trident and they are off.
Mr Chucks takes a moment to give respect,and then he is up, burning like a fiend, showering the crowd with the sweet rush of adrenaline.
I’m sweating and panting under the helmet. bluce sees me still on the platform and calls up, “Are you done yet?”
I grunt back at him indignantly, but he’s right, I’m hogging the stage. I lite bar_butterfly‘s fire fingers and leap to the ground. She climbs the platform and begins to dance a ballet, full of grace and life.
Things are moving, hot and fast. Munkus and I spin together. I drop into the dust while he orbits above me. The crowd screams and Rick eggs them on. Michael Greenwood spins his fire rope with lyricism and ease. FireNinja blows everyone’s mind spinning his flaming staff blindfolded on top of the platform. He’s quick and sure.
bluce hops on stage and unleashes an onslaught of Pyro Crack.
“Cover the fuel dump!”, yells Adam.
We scramble to get the lids back on the open cans of fuel as sparks shower down from the platform. The effect is brilliant and terrifying.
And we spin on and the energy is building and Michael Greenwood lites up just as Cory gets the word for us to ‘cease & desist’. I turn and see the Man’s arms rising. The energy is building to a climax, a thundering ROAR fills my ears and we scramble together up onto the platform just as fireworks begin spewing out from between his legs.
We howl against the night, our faces illuminated by multi-colored sparkling explosions reaching higher and higher until the flames begin to lick his feet and we know the end is near.
Black smoke billows in clouds over the crowd. Golden red sparks rain down around us and the Man is enveloped in flames. Giant dust-devil whirlwinds, 100 ft tall, march out of the blaze and charge into the people. Our silver whipping boy runs and throws himself to the mercy of the twisters. He is spun around and thrown back out.
The heat sears my skin. We’re passing a wine bottle, taking deep swigs, and toasting to a life that just seems to get stranger and more unpredictable every day. Someone said there are angels here, and as I look out at the bodies dancing through the red ash winds, I think that maybe they’re right.
The Man teeters and falls, crashing down into his own pedestal and throwing up a large plume of fire. Thick smoke blocks out the stars. The pedestal leans, sways, and collapses under it’s own weight. The crowd roars, exploding out from the barricades, rushing in like a sea of bodies toward the raging inferno.
And I realize that together we have destroyed our strongest common bond. The Man represented the core of our inspiration, the center of our civilization, and the spirit of our will to survive in this desolate environment… and we released him. Blew him away into wisps of smoke and ash. Together we raised and leveled our own god, and in doing so, we shared in a unifying experience that is beyond words.
and if you were not there to see it…
you will never know.
Burning Man 2002 – Chapter VII
Voodoo Mushroom Timeout
The Man is gone.
Dr Megavolts unleashes great purple bolts of lightning that crackle down into his metal cage helmet, setting 2 x 4’s ablaze and filling the air with the sharp scent of ionization. He jumps up from the steel platform. Electricity leaps from his metal boots.
His assistant challenges him to a duel. They face off, swinging flaming boards above their heads. Blue lightning shoots from their fists. The beat drives on.
We flip over our trampoline and abandon it there.
We rendezvous back at Drift Catalyst for food, water, and mushroom tea. Then its off again to The Church Of Funk, where we get on down and wait for our ride to appear. The Cat crawls by, but he’s dangerously overfull. Then a very bouncy bus stops, all glittering and flashy and we hop on. The shocks move to the beat and the whole bus is dancing. It takes us out to the Thunderdome, where the lights and dust are throwing my whole system into panic. Maybe it’s the mushrooms. Maybe it’s the the violence in the dome right before my eyes that kicks my endorphins into overdrive.
Two combatants strapped to bungee chords and armed with padded battle staffs swing at each other, reaching hard with fists and feet, lunging for the kill. They are not pulling any punches. This is real and there are no sympathetic televised referees stopping the fight this far out in the desert.
Munkus and I begin pawing the dust, acting out our match. The music is hard and fast and the blood thumps in my ears and I lunge for him, passing quick to the right. My reach is longer, but he has weight and brute strength. If he pulls me in, he could overpower me, but I am fast and I can hold my advantage for now.
He says we need body armour before we enter the ring. So we pass for now and eye each other brutally for next year.
There are trains and fish and pirate ships passing us on every side. I am off, chasing down each one, searching for our next ride. I hop aboard a shark, but he is too full. I hop off and I’m lost. It’s so hard to tell where you are without the Man there to orient you.
“Suckie Fuckaye!”, I yell.
“Suckie Fuckie!”, they respond.
We hijack a pirate ship but it is going the wrong way. The Yacht is a private party and they say there’s no room, but the whale takes us for a short ride down to Fire Island.
Fire Island’s Steel Garden is ablaze with flaming flora, and a tall majestic archway calls us over. At the gate we are stopped by a human Voodoo doll who hands us pins and asks us to skewer him in the name of our demons. He shivers and quakes all jerky in that ecstatic-amphetamine way.
“This one’s for George Bush,” says Anne, “because he’s fucking us all up and he needs a little needling to put him back on the right track.” She jabs a pin into the Voodoo Doll’s wrist. He has pin cushion padding woven into his burlap suit at strategic locations to protect him from the mortal dangers of his profession.
“This one’s a healing,” says Munkus, “for my little sister. She’s having a hard time, and needs an extra boost of love right now.” He gingerly inserts a pin into the Voodoo Doll’s heart.
“I can stick it anywhere?”, I ask.
“How bout the wrist.”, suggests the Voodoo Doll, “or maybe the heart.” He’s trying to direct me into the cushions.
“Give me a second.”, I say. I’m trying to think of just the right jab.
“What does that card mean?”, he asks, pointing to my conclave laminate. “I’ve seen a few of them around tonite.”
“It’s a fire conclave laminate.”, I say. “It granted me access to the inner circle for the burn.”
“Ahhh,” he says, wide eyed. “and who are you that you have a conclave laminate?”
“I am Neptune, King of the Seven Seas.”, I say.
“You look like Neptune.”, he says.
“Thank you.”, I say. “Can I feel around for just the right spot?”
“Uhm, yeah.”, he says nervously. I begin patting down his suit, trying out the different areas. I can’t help but think of Eros, and how much he would love this situation. If he were here, I think he would growl and bite this little Voodoo Doll on the neck. He loves to nibble on necks.
I’m feeling all along his shoulders, and up along his neck and he’s saying, “There’s not really any padding up there, it’s only in certain areas and the suit really isn’t that thick so please be careful!” His voice is wavering and his eyes are wide.
I can tell he’s nervous and Munkus is laughing, saying, “If you go around handing out pins to big green men on the Playa, you should be ready for whatever you get.”
I find a spot at the base of his neck on the left side and raise up the pin ready to strike.
“Please be careful!”, he says. “There’s no padding there!” He’s shaking all over.
“This one’s for Eros.”, I say. Munkus laughs.
“Don’t hurt me! Don’t hurt me! Don’t hurt me!”
I plunge the pin down and through the burlap of his suit, missing the skin entirely.
“Oohhhh!”, he exclaims as his whole body goes limp.
“Trust.”, I say.
We laugh and walk through the archway into the fire garden. The flora burns majestically everywhere. Every once in awhile a flower will let loose a burst of flame, startling everyone. Ursula stands entranced before a sunflower.
“The Playa breathes with this flower.”, she says, and she’s right.
Photo by Dan Coplan
Then we’re off again, hopping another ride through the night to a dance party in a wide circle. We enter the circle shaking our booties and there’s a vacant steel cage standing in the corner. I climb in and the music stops.
“Hey!”, I say.
“Oh! This must be it.”, says Munkus.
“Your Timeout.”, he says.
“Yep, looks like it.”, agrees Ursula.
It happened earlier… see, it went like this….
Munkus had reprimanded me for showing up to the Burn on my bicycle. Crimson Rose had specifically said that no one was to bring bicycles to the burn and I completely forgot. When I rode up to our platform, I found the entire group shaking their heads and looking at me like I was an idiot.
“What?”, I’d asked.
“Somebody needs a timeout.”, said Munkus.
“No Bicycles at the Burn!”, he said.
“Oh.” I hung my head, embarassed, and stashed the bike under the platform.
“So, this is your timeout.”, says Munkus.
“But there’s no tunes!?”
“No tunes in timeout.”, he says.
“Oooohhhhh!”, I say, rattling the cage.
“Hey!”, he says raising a finger.
I snort indignantly and put on my best pouty face.
“There’s our train!”, yells Anne, running off.
“Okay, timeout’s over!”, says Munkus.
“Yup, it’s over! C’mon! Hurry!”
We run out onto the esplanade and hop onboard a swarthy looking pirate ship. “Arrgh!”, they yell.
“Ahoy!”, we say.
“We gots no room for ya!”, they yell.
So we’re off again and there’s the Dave Train puttering across the Playa.
“C’mon!”, I yell, running after the train.
There seems to be plenty of room, so I jump up into the dance car where I’m met by a pair of amorous mermaids
”Well, Hello there.”, they say, “Welcome.”
“Suckie Fuckie.”, I say, “and thank you.”
We’re riding the Dave Train off into the night and I don’t see my Peeps anywhere.
“What’s wrong?”, asks the Mermaid.
“I think I’ve lost my Peeps.”
“We can be your Peeps.”, she says, with a sparkle in her eye.
“Okay.”, I say, smiling.
That’s how life goes sometimes. Peeps come and go and we keep movin on. The music is thumping and people hop on and off as we rumble along through the dust.
A Big Fuzzy Green Man in a Big Fuzzy Green Hat hops onboard. He has a fancy megaphone and more laminates than you can shake a glowstick at.
“How are my people!”, he yells through the Megaphone.
“Yaaaaay!”, yell his people.
He hops off and runs alongside the Dave Train, shouting something up to the conductor. We veer off the playa and into the city. We’re somewhere out by 270 degrees, and heading deep into town.
I hop off, and I’m looking up at the Lost Penguin. There are people milling around sipping drinks.
“So this is the Lost Penguin.”, I say.
“Yes it is,” says a cute little girl on my right. She eyes me mischeviously. She and her friend are talking with two older gentlemen, who look uncomfortable with the fact that I’ve entered their conversation.
“What are you drinking?”, I ask.
“Cocaine Cocktails.”, she says.
“… and blood.”, says one of the gentlemen.
“Blood?”, I ask.
“Yes.”, he says. “Would you like some?”
“For real?”, I say. “Lemme see!”
He swipes a little vile up past my neck and I can feel the blood trickle along my skin.
“Wow.”, I say.
“You are bleeding, you know.”, he says.
The girls laugh.
The other man shuffles his feet and says mopily, “I’m usually the one who gets the blood.”
They eye me icily and I realize I’ve intruded on their seduction. Apparently they have a system worked out that does not include a younger sparkly green man, and they don’t seem to appreciate the attention I’m getting from the Cocaine Cocktail Sisters. So I thank them for their blood and walk off across the playa.
There is a beautiful steel stage standing empty and alone far out on the playa in front of Drift Catalyst. It’s called The Circular Square. There are a pair of steel oil lamps burning on either side. Someone has staked a chair into the dust directly in front of it. I sit down and rest.
This is my forth year as Neptune in Black Rock City, and it just so happens that the theme this year is the Floating World. Finally, we are all underwater, and Neptune is at home in his environment.
‘For tonite’, I think, ‘this is my city.’
The stars are out and meteors streak across the sky. My city. All of my wandering, meandering travels have brought me here, and who would have thought? There are things that we cannot plan on. My wildest childhood dreams never imagined this night, but now that I’m here, I feel as comfortable as I do in deepest sleep.
I have been treated like a King all week, and I feel very fortunate.
I think of Crimson Rose. She holds the dream of Black Rock City deep in her heart, and through her passion, that dream is shared with thousands of others. She has dedicated years of her life to making this real, and there are very few who know this place as well as she does.
I wonder if one day I will feel the pride that she feels looking out across the Playa.
Some people say that Black Rock City is a festival. A party. But to those of us who have been there, who have lived the dream, it is much more than that. It is a City, real as any other. A city that only exists for one week out of every year. A mirage in the desert that disappears without a trace.
“Civilization is the repression of natural instincts.”, said Carl Jung.
Here is a place to let a little of the wild beast within you come out. We are all wild animals at heart, but logic tells us that it is much safer to keep these instincts at bay. Make no mistake, it is dangerous to live in the wild. If you are not careful, you will be killed…
but such is life.
I’m remembering my Mother back in Pennsylvania, and realizing that when she raised us, she had at least a glimmer of understanding about how wild the world can be. Our father believes in the sanctity of the corporate structure, but Mom knows the world can be much more than that. She’s a realist, and I think she would appreciate this moment.
A meteor streaks across the sky.
I feel like she’s with me. I turn around and there’s a woman standing directly behind me, perfectly silent and still.
“Hello.”, I say.
“Hello.”, she says.
“How are you?”, I say.
“Pleasently wonderful.”, she says. “You?”
“Fantastic.”, I say.
“I was admiring this stage,”, she says, “and thinking what an appropriate centerpiece you make sitting in front of it.”
“It’s beautiful.”, I say.
“It is.”, she says.
She walks past me, through the stage and off into the night.
Burning Man 2002 – Chapter VIII
The Last Peepshow
Munkus, Anne, and Ursula are shuffling around their tents at Drift Catalyst when I arrive. It’s very late on Saturday nite.
“Where have you been?”, demands Ursula.
“I was out at the Circular Square.”, I say, pointing. “Right out there.”
“How could you run off like that,” she asks. “…and leave me all alone with… with… KISSEY-FACE!!”
She points at Munkus. Anne is sitting on his lap making out with him. They giggle cutely.
“I was having my timeout.”, I say in my own defense.
“Well Timeout’s over.”, she says.
“There was room on that Train for everybody, I checked.”
“They didn’t want to run.”, she said, pointing to Munkus and Anne.
“Ohhh.”, I said. It all made sense now.
“Now, sit down and smoke this.”
“So what else did you do?”, asks Munkus.
“I found the Lost Penguin.”
“The Lost Penguin?”
“Yes, and he made me bleed.”, I show him my blood. Ursula inspects it closely and rolls her eyes. “Ooohhh, you’re sooo brave.”, she says.
I smile proudly.
Munkus is trying to find Larry via Walkie Talkie. “Larry. Come in, Larry. Over.”
“crackle… pop…. This is Larry … what the fuck is going on? Over.”
“Copy, Larry. You’re coming with us. Get yourself ready. Over.”
“I’m changing my pants. Over.”
“Copy, Larry. Give us the play by play on the pants. Which leg are you starting with? Over.”
We pass the pipe around. Ursula offers me some animal crackers out of a giant plastic bear. I’m already holding a water bottle, a hard lemonade, a pipe, a lighter, and now I have a giant plastic bear to contend with too.
“I have too many things for this situation.”, I say.
“Pass the duchee on the left hand side, yo.”
I pass the pipe and focus on the bear.
“This bear has a screw top head.”, I say.
“If Larry comes with us,” says Anne, “he should be responsible for the Screw-Top Bear Head.”
“Yes, that’s a fabulous idea.”
“That will be his entrance pennance.”
“His fee for joining our lovely group.”
“Larry will carry Screw-Top Bear Head for us and distribute these fantastic animal crackers to all the people we meet.”
“I have the right leg in. Over.”
“Copy, Larry. Move on to the left leg. Over.”
“What animal is this cracker anyway?”
“They’re all Llamas. I checked.”, said Munkus.
“See, look.”, he said, holding up a cracker. “Llama.”
“Left leg in. Over.”
“Copy, Larry. Have you met Screw-Top Bear Head yet? Over.”
“Pssst… crackle… What?”
Larry didn’t want to carry Screw-Top Bear Head, so we stuffed our pockets full of Llamas and got ready to go.
“Does everyone have enough water?”, asks Munkus.
“I could use some more.”, I say.
“Well I have some for ya.”, says Munkus. “Water is like love out here. Anybody else?”
We all filled our bottles before going out. This is essential every time you leave. Dehydration is a serious problem. To offer a friend some water is to show that you care.
Munkus has two bottles under his belt. He grips them like side arms.
“I am a Double-Barrelled, Hydrated Monkey of Justice.”, he says.
“A Double-Barrelled, Hydrated Monkey of Justice!”, he says.
We leave the camp, singing…
He’s a Double-Barrelled, Hydrated Monkey of Justice!
Said a Double-Barrelled, Hydrated Monkey of Justice!
Such a Double-Barrelled, Hydrated Monkey of Justice!
Dat’s our a Double-Barrelled, Hydrated Monkey of Justice!
We hop from one dancing dome to the next, sharing the warmth. It’s cold out, and exhaustion has crept into our bones, but the music pulls us on into the night. Party after party. Adventures that have all blurred together, indistinguishable in the murky depths of my memory.
We’re out by El Cirque (60 degrees) trading Llamas for cocktails on a pirate ship when the sky begins to turn red in the east. The air is still freezing cold, and we huddle together for warmth. Something large explodes off to the left and people run in from everywhere to huddle around the fire.
Ursula suggests we go and get pancakes, but our pirate ship is beached. It’s a long way back, and this thing ain’t goin nowhere. We hop onto the dragon and cruise across the playa toward center camp. The dragon only takes us as far as the Man, but the Man’s not there anymore, so we’re left scuffling about the 20 ft circle of his smouldering ash.
______________________________ _ _ _ _
There’s a gathering of people around the last of the Man’s burning embers. A woman is laying marshmallow peeps onto the coals. There are hundreds of them. Pink, yellow, blue, & white. She’s giving them out to everyone, and people are laying them into the flames. We stand for a moment and watch them burn.
“It’s a Peepshow.”, someone remarks.
“It’s the Last Peepshow.”, she says mournfully.
There are tears running down her cheeks. A man stands next to her holding a clear plastic garbage bag filled with marshmallow peeps. He’s crying too. I look around and notice about a dozen others in solemn repose. A man in a kilt begins playing a sad, sad song on the bagpipes.
I’m hit square in the face with a surge of emotion. It’s a funeral, not a funeral exactly, but a Wake. A moment to remember the dead.
“This is the Last Peepshow.”, she says again. She’s crouching in the ashes, surrounded by hundreds of melting peeps.
I think of Morgan. He died here in Black Rock City last year. He was drunk and decided he could walk, barefoot and naked, across a bed of red hot coals. It was a big fire. He only made it halfway. He dropped to his hands and knees, and by the time they got him out it was too late.
I look down and I’m standing on a ashy smouldering bed of dying coals roughly the size and shape of the one he tried to cross, and I wonder if this is where he fell. The woman hands me a strip of marshmallow peeps and I remember what Zonker said after the funeral.
“I’m comforted knowing that he died feeling free…. and alive. He was celebrating with his friends, and that’s beautiful.”
I can see him now. He was strong and proud, and built like a warrior. He had a confident smile and an easy laugh. Long curling locks of hair framed his face.
I lay one peep on a smouldering piece of rebar. Another into a mound of white ash. I drop one into the pit of hottest coals, and balance one on a wooden stake. The last two I throw recklessly at the fire. They bounce and land burning.
I hear people cheering all around and look up to see the sun peaking over the hills. The Peep Woman and the Bagpipe Player embrace and we’re hit with the first rays of sunlight. The chill is leaving my bones.
Life is long and strange and before you know it, it’s gone forever. There is no telling what’s going to happen, and no sense regretting it, once it’s past.
When my time comes, I want to go out with a smile on my face. I want to be ready and unafraid.
Life makes no promises. The minutes tick off relentlessly. All we can do is be true to our hearts, and live every day like it’s our last…
because it might be.
You never know.
Burning Man 2002 – Chapter IX
Burn the Temple of Joy
She came looking for me a few times, but I wasn’t around. I kept hearing messages from my campmates through out the week.
“This girl came by looking for you.”
“Yeah. Wow. Blond dreadlocks? Really fuckin hot.”
I knew her. We were lovers last year. She stayed with me in my tent a few times, even when my whole body was painted green.
I was hanging out at South Central Jesus on Friday when I heard her voice.
I looked up and saw her sillouetted through the mesh. She was wearing angel wings and platform shoes, white lingerie and a black feather head dress. Absolutely stunning. Everyone at camp stopped what they were doing and turned to look.
She stepped through the door and I called her name.
She smiled and ran into my arms. I held her tight. Her scent was intoxicating, like comfort and dreams. I wanted to crawl into bed with her and never leave.
“It’s so good to see you.”, she said. “I’ve been stopping by, I was worried we wouldn’t find each other.”
“It’s good to see you, too,” I said, “You look absolutely gorgeous. I swear you’ve grown more beautiful this year.”
She pulled away a little.
“I came with my boyfriend this year.”, she said, “We’re camped together.”
“Oh.”, I said. “Well, that’s good. How is he doing?”
“Eh.”, she said.
“It’s not going so well.”
“I’m sorry.”, I said.
“It’s okay.”, she said. “I’m just glad you’re here.”
She pulled me close, and we held each other tight. I buried my face in her hair and breathed deep.
“But I promised him nothing would happen.”, she said seriously. “So nothing can happen.”
“Okay.”, I said.
“It’s important.”, she said.
“Okay.”, I said.
She pulled me closer and my lips brushed her neck, lightly. We talked about life and how the year had gone. I told her about my adventures in California, and she told me about her relationship. She and her boyfriend had moved in with her mother, and she was pretty unhappy with that situation. She said she respected her boyfriend a lot , but she wasn’t in love with him.
“I’ve been stopping by in the mornings.”, she said. “I was hoping I’d find you still asleep in your tent. I wanted to crawl in beside you… and surprise you.”
“I wish I had been there.”, I said.
She kissed me.
“I was thinking of you as I set the tent up.”, I said. “There is still green paint on the inside from last year.”
“We were both very green last year.”, she said.
“Yes we were.”, I said.
We kissed passionately. Her hands ran up my back, through my hair. My whole body was on fire. I caressed her hips and rested my hands in the small of her back. Her skin was so soft.
Everything else fell into the background.
She was all that mattered.
We walked through the city with our arms around each other’s waists. We talked and told stories, pausing periodically to make out in the road.
Just outside of Center Camp we were stopped by a Photographer. He asked if he could take some shots of us and we said sure. He clicked away happily saying, “You two make such a hot couple. You’re going to love these pictures.”
I looked at her and smiled, almost laughing. She blushed and kissed me.
“I’ve been taking pictures here for about four years.”, he said. “Man, I’ve really got some great ones, but you two…. you’re something else. Give me your address and I’ll send you copies.”
I kissed her neck and she moved against me, pulling me close.
Another photographer asked if he could join in and we said of course. They both knelt before us, shutters clicking, and I couldn’t help but laugh. I looked into her eyes. They called us the perfect couple and we smiled, appreciating the irony.
___________________________________________________ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
She came to me again Sunday night, before the Temple burned. She wore a white negligee and not much else. Everyone was leaving to go see the Temple, and soon we were left alone in the camp.
There’s not alot I can tell you without damaging the relationship she has with her boyfriend. I am her dirty little Black Rock Secret, and I wouldn’t want to get her in any more trouble than I already have. We didn’t see the Temple of Joy burn, but I felt it, wrapped in her arms, enveloped in her scent. We clung to each other desperately, pledging love and sharing secrets.
She said she wanted to run away with me. She said we could be happy together somewhere far away. We kissed deeply, breathing each other in. I can still feel the silk of her night gown moving across her skin.
She said she’d follow me to California, and I wanted to take her with me, so badly. We could get a little place together. Raise house plants and make love all day.
She left when the burn was over and I haven’t seen her since.
Burning Man 2002 – Chapter X
Monday morning, we packed up camp and moved out. Dan and I drove the RV. Bert and the others flew out in the Cessna. It took us two hours to get out of Black Rock City. We stopped at a motel later in the evening to shower and sleep.
Tuesday morning, I took over the driving. Bert assured me I was on the insurance. I drove that dusty, 30 ft RV over 500 miles back to Los Angeles.
We arrived at the Vapor Brothers offices at about 2:00 Tuesday afternoon. I crashed the RV into their neighbor’s car while I was trying to park and caused $2500 worth of combined damage. Bert doesn’t want to claim it on his insurance, and I don’t have the cash, so I am officially now an indentured servent at Vapor Brothers inc.
I start working for them first thing Monday morning down in Redondo Beach. They pay $10 and hour. This could take awhile.
As you may know, a very long time ago, the barren playa where Black Rock City now stands was once a lush and thriving lakebed. Lake Lahontan was under the protection of the Kingdom of the Sea, and my Father, Poseidon, loved it dearly. He used to spend his summers there. But then one day the Burning Man came and dried up Lake Lahontan. The animals moved away, the plants withered and died, and the ground became cracked and brittle.
It has taken a millennia, but I am coming to Black Rock City to destroy the Burning Man, avenge my father’s loss, and reclaim the Playa for the Kingdom of the Sea. I have amassed a small army of fishes, devils, monkeys, and Gods to march on the Man’s Temple and burn it to the ground.
We are bringing thousands of gallons of water with us to aid in the attainment of our ultimate goal; the complete Rehydration of the Playa. We will begin our assault Wednesday Night at Sunset from our Head Quarters in the Woonami Village. We will then march along the esplanade, conquer Center Camp, and group at the cauldron to rally more supporters.
Thursday Night at Sunset we begin at the Cauldron and proceed up the processional to the Temple of Honor. There we will perform our preparatory rituals and receive our Blessings from the Goddess.
Friday Night at Sunset, we will gather at the Cauldron, march to the Man, and threaten him. This is his final warning. If he does not pull out after Friday night’s demonstration, then Saturday, at nightfall, we will destroy him.
I have formed alliances with the following Deities, and we have all agreed to March against the Man and burn him down. Together we shall be known as… . . .
The March of the Gods.
- Athena, Greek Goddess of Art, Wisdom, Justice, and War. Athena was very close to my Father. In the old days, they used to hang out at the Acropolis together. She felt his loss very deeply and she is coming to Black Rock City, stilted and armed with Flaming Poi, to serve the Man a fistfull of divine Justice.
- Starchild, Native Spirit Goddess. She will come to us Wednesday night in unearthly form. Thursday she will meld with the mighty unicorn, and Friday she will manifest herself as a human, adorned with a flaming headdress, and ablaze in all her tribal glory. She comes stilted with Flaming Poi and Fire Fingers.
- Munkus the Crusher, King of Apes. He is marching to avenge the displacement of his simian brothers from the foresty banks of Black Rock Lake. He wields Poi and a Flaming Staff.
- Loki, the Trickster. His skills with Poi and Flaming Rope are legendary. It’s true he is a mischievous and unpredictable deity, but I trust his instincts, as well as his innate talent for finding fun in the destruction of a God.
- Pan, Lord of Goats and Protector of Shepherds. He wields Flaming Nunchucks. When asked what his motivation was in marching against the Man, Pan replied “What day is it? Saturday? Hell, I’ve got nothing better going on. Let’s burn his ass!”
- Elijah, God of Elements. Wednesday he is Air, Thursday he is Earth, Friday he is Water, and Saturday he is Fire. He is coming to Black Rock City armed with Flaming Poi, Staffs, and Machetes.
- FireNinja, Master of the Flaming Martial Arts. Little is known about this renegade assassin. Some say he has a personal vendetta against the Man due to unpaid debts for past services rendered. He comes armed with Burning Whips, Swords, and Staffs.
- Lucifer, Lord of the Underworld. He claims that the Burning Man has been stealing his fire. He also says that recently several of his major Demons have left Hell and moved to Black Rock City. He comes wielding a Flaming Pitch Fork, Sword, Whip, and Staff.
- Nasu Pestihl, God of the Persian Underworld. Nasu travels in conjunction with Lucifer, and he plans to drag the Man’s spirit back down into the Underworld with him where it belongs. He is coming to Black Rock City armed with Flaming Poi and a Fire Whip.
- Bast, Goddess of the Cats. She represents the interests of all felines, from the lowest domestic tabby, to the mighty Lion. She comes armed with Flaming Poi and Fire Fans.
- Kali, Mother Goddess of Dissolution and Destruction. The Man betrayed her heart when he took a hallucinogenic DPW worker as his lover in 2002. She is coming to Black Rock City armed with Fire Fans and Swords to unleash her wrath and regain her lost honor.
- Inanna, Sumerian Goddess of Love, Fertility, and War. Inanna has a symbiotic relationship with the natural world. When the forest around Black Rock Lake died, Inanna’s soul died with it. She is coming to Black Rock City armed with Fire Fans to take down the Man, restore life to the Black Rock Forest, and resurrect her lost soul.
- Utnapishtim, Wise King and High Priest of Shurrupak. Many say that Utnapishtim, like Noah, is the immortal sole survivor of a Great Flood. But I have heard rumors that the flood was his doing in the first place, and that he is coming to Black Rock City to do it again. Just as Prometheus brought the spark, so Utnapishtim brought the dew. He travels armed with Flaming Poi.
- Mercury, God of Merchants, Trade, and Profit. In recent years, Mercury has developed a rather lucrative career as a real estate broker. He is coming to Black Rock City armed with Flaming Clubs to destroy the Man and stake his claim on the parcels of land directly surrounding the Playa. Once the Lake has been restored, the market value on these parcels will increase dramatically, and he will sell them off as waterfront property at a significant profit.
- Apollo, God of Music. Apollo is marching for the thrill of battle and the spoils of victory. He will weave our story into a great song that the people can sing for generations to come. He wields Flaming Poi, Swords, Whips, Claws, and Flags.
- Pecos Bill, Spirit of the American West. Pecos Bill claims that the Burning Man is horning in on his territory. When asked to elaborate on this claim, Bill said “Goddamn it, Burning Man! I’m the one that dug the Rio Grande! Now git the hell off mah land, or I’m gonna challenge you to a showdown!!” Bill is coming to Black Rock City armed with Flaming Poi, Double Staffs, and a ten gallon hat.
- Hippocampus Rex, Greek Lord of the Sea Creatures. Hippocampus will be in charge of our group’s Fire Safety. He has been swimming with my family for generations, and there is no one I trust more with the well being of our team.
- Luna, the Moon Goddess, will descend from the sky and march alongside us. It’s the New Moon and her night sky will be full of stars.
- Scorpio, Tribal Goddess, will march with us too.
- Oshun, the Afro-Cuban Goddess of Water.
- Nemesis Adrasteia, Goddess of Divine Justice and Vengeance. Nemesis will carry the scales and hold the Man accountable for his crimes. He will pay, no one can escape her.
- Eros, the God of Love. Eros has agreed to stay behind and watch over the Sea World in our absence.
Ganesh, Hindu God of Prosperity, has honored us with his divine protection. He’s also provided us with Propaganda to spread throughout the city during these marches in support of our cause. We will be distributing educational stickers and collectable memorablia in an attempt to enlist vehicles, and rally more supporters.
Warrants against the Man are being issued by many of the Deities listed above, and Wanted Posters will be hung in all the major theme camps calling for the Man’s immediate execution.
I sincerely hope that you will support us in this mission. Your blessing means more to us than you will ever know.
Thank you for your time.
King of the Seven Seas
Master of Waters