Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Burning Man Part 2: Things to do

It's amazing the things you see as you walk aimlessly around the Playa. Icthyosaur skeletons lie abandoned in the desert, a short walk away from a dance area ringed by the word LOVE, playing Sinatra tunes at all hours of the night. A naked man doing a performance piece with an array of blue and white umbrellas, the Hug Deli, where for the price of a compliment you can get your choice of an array of hugs (I got the Beverly Hills Air Kiss; L got the Gangsta Hug), an enormous, interactive Rubik's Cube.

An enormous, steampunk house on wheels. Rolling around the desert, occasionally stopping to disgorge an army of Victorian-era passengers, the Neverwas Haul was one of the more impressive Art Cars that drifted slowly across the cityscape. As the only motorized vehicles allowed in Black Rock City, the cars frequently serve as mobile dance parties, drifting around the cityscape festooned with glowing lights and attractive dancers. The Neverwas Haul was certainly one of the more impressive, but hardly the only car of interest. A giant, glowing rubber duck nearly ran us over one night, and an enormous reticulated bus done up as a sailing ship offered tours of the major art installations. A glowing mustache floated around, offering people rides (teehee) and an enormous birthday cake was there for your special birthday rides.

A minigolf course with toy dinosaurs and a motley assortment of obstacles because what better way to spend a week in the desert than by hitting Tom Cruise in the nuts with a golf ball?

And the rocket. The Rocket! Three stories tall, resting majestic on its launchpad, a fabulous relic of a grand, Buck-Rogersesque space age, laden with alien specimens, exotic launch controls and artists discussing in all earnestness how they intended to launch the vessel Friday night. They were working with "students from a New Zealand university", and were expecting to get a good one to three feet of altitude with their new, plasma-baffle rocket technology. I suppose it's not too surprising the number of people who believed them (including a particularly credulous Australian who warned us to keep our credit cards safely stowed away on the day of the launch).

No launch, of course, but a magnificent fireworks and pyrotechnics display to impress even the most jaded pyromaniac. (Tuesday evening, by the way, we were graced by an enormous display of fireworks at midnight, unannounced, and for no apparent reason).

... and there, in the background, nestled behind the elaborate, wire-frame artwork. A slide. An enormous slide. Three stories tall, twenty feet wide, and covered in astroturf. Grab a sheet of plastic, run to the top, jostle your way to the front, and barrel down in to a pile of large, foam blocks. No rules, no guidelines, so be careful not to collide with the slow-going guy ahead of you, who refused to get out of the way even as L yelled out warning. Stick around at the bottom for a few minutes to throw blocks back in to the pile for the benefit of the daring souls coming down behind you and marvel at the structure before moving on.

Admire the giant bunny and the giant birds' nest. Climb up inside it if you want to, relax on a couch, and look down over the expanse of desert.

Wander over to Thunderdome. Thunderdome, one of the more famous, longer-running institutions at Black Rock City. An excuse to break out of the happy, friendly, giving vibe of the institution. A chance to dangle from the ceiling on an elastic cable and beat the crap out of an opponent with a foam bat as bloodthirsty spectators crawl on the top of your geodesic cage and cheer you on. Two cheerleaders with a grudge to settle, a man dressed as the Green Lantern challenging yours truly, dressed as the Tick, to a duel, anyone. Climb in, let out your inner, violent psycopath and fight.

Not really my thing, I'll admit -- I've never found violent spectator sports particularly engaging and I walked away after two bouts. But climbing up on that dome, feeling the raging energy of the crowd around me. That was cool.

Too many other things to list. Just too many. I never got a picture of Root Society or Opulent Temple, the two major dance clubs that ship massive soundsystems, stages, and infrastructure to the middle of the desert and provide a huge, throbbing, week-long dance party.

I can't describe the genuine, moving, powerful experience I had in the Temple. Walking through the lotus-shaped building, looking at the memorials and testimonies that people had written to friends and family passed or passing, I was caught up and my normal, cheerful, cynical facade just dropped. I wish I had been there to watch it burn.

Too much else to list. Too much.

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1 comment:

  1. You could hit Tom Cruise in the balls at mini golf? That's brilliant. I'm sort of impressed that the credulous Australian guy has become one of the more memorable things from the whole event. On one hand, it was hilarious, but on the other, he certainly wasn't representative of what all went on.

    What I keep thinking about is how that much stuff probably wouldn't be feasible if it was all coordinated and planned by a single entity. The enormity of BM really does depend on nonplanners taking the initiative and doing weird shit of their own accord. In it's own weird hippie-flavored way, I think that really says something about the spirit of entrepreneurship.

    I'm afraid I can't share your indifference to Thunderdome, though. I completely enjoyed violent, gothy atmosphere.