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It's 11:55 PM on Monday night as I write this. I just drove back into Vegas from the Burning Man festival.
I'm uplifted, reengaged and re-enlightened about my own life.
I loved it.
it's LLE...aka- playa name- FIREFLY
I thought about how to tell this amazing story, review the event and at the same time relate the experience in a way that does justice to all that happened to a young hippie like me.
I had time on my 12 hour journey from Reno to Las Vegas in the car with a fellow vagabond, Vince, to discover how best to get this story out to those yet to attend. I met Vince through the wonderful world of Craigslist. No adventure is worth doing, unless it is going to be done right. So- I rented a truck- filled the back with Monster Energy drinks and costumes and hit up Craigslist for a passenger on this journey.
Found a simple request:
"Need a ride- call anytime. My friends bailed. I'm here from Thailand."
Sounds like the one. And it was.
The plan was to head up and meet my partner, Silverfox, at Camp Welcome at the event. Apparently this place is located at the inner ring of Evolution, or 5:30 and A...which meant nothing to me either. I just took the information and got into the car.
I headed to Anthem in Henderson to pick up this random companion.
"I'm here for Vince" I slyly tell the guard.
"And you are?"
I drive in through the wonder that is Anthem. I pull up to a mansion.
"Well at least I know where his parents live" I boldly think.
this is going to be safe, I thought and quickly forwarded his facebook page to all my friends and gave them coordinates less they need to go after his lineage. Vince's story could be- and very well may be- a blog in and of itself. Living in Thailand and well traveled. interesting motherfucker, I tell you. Definitely rockstar status. Plus, he's hott so that is nice to have on a long ride.
"I love the decor" I politely flutter as I walk into the house.
"oh. ya? well...I will tell my mom." chirps a rockabilly younger sister. (love having old woman tastes)
Man, this is going to be good...
And it was.
Vince and I didn't do much after we got up there together. I headed to the famed location and walked right into the arms of awaiting SilverFox. I costumed. I walked out onto the playa. I became a citizen of Black Rock City.
Vince asked me on the way home what my favorite part was. Then proceeded to tell me that he already understands that this question and it's possible answer would be unassumingly difficult to tell anyone if they hadn't "tasted the water", so to speak.
What came out of that question is what follows. A meandering journey of what happened to lle on the playa. With the laughter and tears I felt. Feel free to let this journey be a peaceful one.
play some nirvana and shit.
and lets get into it.
"my favorite part. hmmm...must have been the day I went to the wedding on the playa."
"A real wedding?"
"Yes. I mean- not with cake, but with vows and a license and shit"
"What was that like?"
"Completely unexpected, actually."
As I recount I realize my attendance at that wedding was truly unexpected. SilverFox was invited by the groom. Firefly accompanied with vigor. A playa wedding. This is a first. How will this work?
"We need to meet at 4:45 and F- can you remember that Firefly? We need to be there at 6:30PM. " directs SilverFox
"ok" I brush
"ya? What did I just say?"
"4:45 on friday"
"no. not at all." the patented SilverFox head shake of disappointment
"oh" kinda surprised, mostly childish, I blush
We ride our bikes to the assigned location. No one is at the camp. Something was lost in playa translation. SilverFox heads out to explore. Finds groom. Everyone is getting ready. whew- we didn't miss it.
wow, I think- this shit must be really legit.
SilverFox wanders over to an RV. Inside is a hott little Mexican dancing around serving hummus and carrots. She's orgasmicly talking about fresh sushi she ate on the playa. She has poured water all over herself as she checks out the result in the mirror.
Meanwhile, there is a couple in the corner talking about the day's previous memorial at the temple. The playa temple is an accidental miracle. A memorial of death and life. So intense in its form, created out of love- it's a place where most burners come to let go of loved ones who've died or to put to rest some other affliction that needs a place.
Time for me to wander around while we wait. Seems we have time.
Firefly walks from the RV to a back street. "Am I on C?" my alterego questions
In the middle of my thoughts a vivacious, winged passerby cheers "take this sticker, it will save your life"
I do take it. I like my life and all. The sticker is an elaborate painting of a fairy. All green. Looks like it's a photo print of that little man's fairy spirit as he flew in and out of my life.
"What did that guy just say"? I hear pop from my right
"this sticker is a savior, apparently" As I stick in on my arm. There is so much on that arm. I find a spot between the stamp I have of a lamb and a henna tattoo that reads "love".
"That is cool?" this robed man questions rhetorically.
I'm invited to sit and enjoy a glass of white wine. A woman is rolling a joint as she asks my name: "Firefly"
"And what do you do Firefly?" they inquire.
I look left and see a bundle of man rocking back and forth in the middle of the playa street. He is trying really hard to remember something, I'm told, and I answer "I'm a comedienne". I wanted to open a new door to the conversation and interject something witty about rocking meditation guy. They moved on to filling my cup. I put the sticker on it.
We sit and sip and I go through my glass. Which, bytheway, isn't a glass at all- but a blue camp mug. I feel buzzed.
"Aha! I remember" meditation boy has apparently remembered what it is he was scanning his genius for.
The woman licks another joint in her hand closed and I get a delayed introduction: "I'm Mercedes and Michael over here was trying to remember what book my dream reminded him of."
"oh" I nod. I wonder how long I've been here. I'm not sure if I have been saying little. Conventional wisdom about levels of appropriateness and tact haven't existed in quite some time. In my head I have been making up stories about these people from the small tidbits of information they choose to ignite.
"I'm a storyteller" says Mercedes. " I tell ghost stories"
"cool. I'm a storyteller too. But I just talk shit about people. Apparently...just as interesting"
I feel buzzed. The conversation as I clue back in has started to discuss the other kinds of storytelling that is done including the adult industry. How ghost stories and the adult industry are both on the same level of expertise for one author is fairly beyond me. But then again...some people are better at multitasking.
And I remember there was a wedding to attend that I have previously left far behind.
"I should probably get going- I'm headed to a wedding."
"A real one"? this question again...
"Yes! Thank You. Namaste!"
I'm drunk...can I stumble to that RV again? I could use more carrots. Where has my head gone. I'm totally buzzed.
Silverfox appears!! We embrace. Like it was written in this part of the script. I enjoy playa hugs.
We head off to gift the bride. What do you get burners as wedding gifts?
Luckily, I had made friendship bracelets and had two special ones that we put together for them. I had also made an elaborate dust mask for the event. Blue with fireflies and a myriad of charms and bells. I had worn it once. I thought it was so special and couldn't bring myself to put it on. It needed a new home. I decided that it was definitely worthy of a playa wedding. It wasn't much but it was filled with love.
The processional decided to walk the mile to the temple from camp. Silverfox and I decided to ride around them on our bikes.
We passed through the streets of black rock city out to the open playa.
The sun was setting to my left and the moon was rising to my right. I've never seen something so beautiful. A view of black rock city at dusk. No concept of time. Feeling abundant.
Art sculptures were not yet lit and the weather was perfect.
I did figure 8's around the wedding party and explored ahead of the group before we all met and parked at the temple.
We found more wedding attendees and headed north.
A cozy spot at the back of the temple would do. A bride in a baby blue gown with black ribbon tying her together and platform black boots making her taller than her groom. Her cat-eye contacts and sparkle made her eyes shine regardless of her emotion. She held the hand of her groom. His blond spikes high, his eyeliner running down his cheeks from joyous tears. His lifesize white and pink bear hugging his neck. The bear's hands holding a plush heart that reads: 'I love you' on it's front.
A man with a skirt starts telling those gathered 'round about the parental and unconditional agape love he felt from this union of spirits. He gave them the opportunity to say their piece.
bliss and happiness.
we're reminded of the purity of true love and what the face of it's union looks like. Beautiful.
Applause and kaz0o humming ensue. Silverfox didn't kazoo cause he doesn't like how the kazoo feels on his lips....
the crowd backed up into a larger circle and a man with a long horn bellowed as the couple danced for show.
The Dip, The kiss.
And then, as if a button was pressed- the Temple lights came on and the couple literally skipped off towards the Man in harmony as the rest of us watched them disappear.
It was time to realign the temple meaning for me now that such a beautiful ceremony has literlly lit a fire.
During my first days on the playa I had gone out and felt intense sorrow. Now, here I was at it's foot thinking of the beautiful love that juxtoposed it's grandeaur.
I went in.
Wrote "Let's be gentle" on it's walls.
It burned last night. The embers surely filled with so much love and a hope for a kinder future.
We headed back to our welcoming home base. Along the way we stopped at the 'Hammock Camp'. Silverfox and Firefly laid around for a while digesting what happened.
Back into a dusty tent for another night hanging out behind camp welcome.
"So your favorite time was the wedding?" announces Vince unsatisfactorily at this account during our intense ride home.
"What about the burn? did you see the Thunderdome? Center Camp? The Lamplighters? THE BURN?!"
"of course! The burn was a sacred turning point in my life. It was one of the most awakened moments I have ever had. Perhaps the meditation over the last month and the playa-candy helped...but it was definitely amazing!" I begin to recount the conditions.
Without a partner in Silverfox who left the event early, I headed out with fellow virgin burner and bff of mine, Priscilla.
A whiteout- the first of it's kind to grace the city- has put a damper on the day. It didn't prevent us from walking the streets to find entertainment earlier in the afternoon.
Daytime playa adventures with Priscilla included some titty painting, some hanging under shaded mist-system camps. We got henna tattoos. I met the creator of Fashion Wars on myspace. (awesome)
We drank concoctions called 'gummy bears'. We looked into the 'truth mirrors' and generally just tripped. the. fuck. out.
In this nighttime dust storm hours before the grand finale, the camp is discouraged and rumors of the supposed shut down of 'the burn' run through camp like the fire we want to see spread.
We put goggles and dust masks on.
Firefly gears up with water, gifts and the tutu.
We head into the unknown.
Unable to see 4 feet in front of us we go blindly to where we know the man should be. People see our glowsticks and ask if we are going in the right directions. We follow Vetran burners. We're unsure of our direction. We keep walking in blind faith.
My legs begin to feel raw from the smacking sand cutting up my already dried out skin.
"I know we're close. this burn will happen. I want to be there." I declare.
We get there as the storm starts to settle down. As we sit comfortably in our spot the solitude of that moment was unexpected. 8 rows of people sitting in front of me. Solemn. Watching dancers spin fire without hesitation. I talk to those I'm sitting next to. People huddle and pop pills. I keep getting whiffs of weed.
Some foreign man behind us has mistaken boo-ing for an endearing gesture and the more the Americans try to correct him the more he sips from the handle of Jack in his hand.
It's smelly out here.
"Will you sign my jacket?!" asks the flamboyant glowing windbreaker in front of me
"what about you"? he inquires to the cute brunette next to me
"I can only think of crude things to say" she admits
"That's ok". of course it is, this is burning man.
Sit.On.My.Face. she writes
I look over as she starts to share a dream she had last night. Her friends suggest: 'that is SUch a lesbian dream'
I eagerly offer her a cigarette
She touches my leg "you don't need cigarettes" she winks
The burn begins. All attention I once had on little brunette is now turned to watch this spectacle of lights.
Fireballs and music...
or...was the music just in my head...
cheers and roars from the crowd. more and more I expect the finale and it keeps burning.
Something magical happened there. I couldn't stop the excitement and joy I felt. I didn't try. A culmination of something that began earlier in the week- the burning of the man felt like a resolution to me. I was fulfilled watching this spectacle. Thinking of what it was built to do- to burn. And how this event is not the defeat of a culture, but a celebration of it. And it will abundantly happen for years to come.
Pretty fucking cool.
I wipe my tears and decide to fly off on my own. I head toward the only tent on the open playa. A tea temple. This will do.
A man with a skirt, a turban and a tattoo on his face silently puts a small goblet in front of me and fills it. In the 40 degree beating wind, this reprieve is beautiful. It's a perfect end to an emotional roller coaster.
I decide to stay for mini-amounts of time as I take the long way back to camp.
I pass a hookah lounge with techno beating out front. I shake my way through the dance floor as I pass through.
I find a boutique designer dancing behind me at a hip hop club I stumble into.
I get drinks with the 'Lamplighters' and check out their diggs.
I start passing by 'Camp Here' until they invite me in and feed me and offer me a sex partner if I'm interested.
"Sorry- I have a time limit on camps tonight. Thanks for the salsa."
Onto 'Animal Control Camp' where they're serving cheese and crackers and gourmet salami. This might be the best I've eaten all week. I talk about their adventures with them which are as different as my own. Then again- this camp is dedicated solely to catching and hazing those who are wearing animal costumes on the playa. Their art car has a massive carrot sculpture on it. Apparently they specialize in rabbits.
I head on and go slowly into my camp.
I huddle in my tent and cuddle up with my earplugs and eyemask. I was drained from the emotion. The burning of the man readied me for the exciting times ahead.
Concluding my recount I declare "Vince, I love it. I will go every year. I'm going to have Silverfox build me a yurt"
"Fair enough" he adds. Then says "Hey- we're in Fallon! Wanna stop at this rodeo?"
and we do.
There is something to be said from surrounding yourself with dust and fire and seeing what comes out.
for me- it was a resolve for more goodness and love. one love people, the hippie way.
Can't wait to show you guys the tattoo this has inspired that is yet to be drawn.
3 fab points.
had there been a toilet, perhaps it'd be as good as studio 222 ;)
seriously, put it on your life list of things to do. and find me at camp welcome- 5:30 and A.