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On My Way Home

by Barbara Sicuranza

burningman2000 -- Back from Burning Man, and man alive it was a trip, not all peace and love, but that's what I sought to put in my heart, as did many, many others. But then there were those who hung around to boast or gloat, in some strange one-upmanship...this their 8th or 5th Burning Man, I a mere virgin. And then the true revelers, such as my pal pogo, and there was beautiful ritual magic chants and ecstatic dance to be had by all who wanted any.

I burned up a small man of my own, a piece of wood just blew by me at our camp and I carved a man upon it, colored it glitter and gold and infused it with all I wish to purge from my striving soul, all fear and anger, my filthy dirty ego. A stranger happened by just before I set it a blaze, asked what I was burning and so I explained my effigy, and he asked if he could drop some hate into it and I said hell yeah bring it on, burn it up...it was a glorious fire...Wait, where am I?

Backtrack

Sign, sign every where a sign..I saw the writing on the wall, and it read, "Burn your ego." What was I doing in the middle of the desert with 30,000 other folks (freaks). Burn it up. Burn it down. I was down. I was more than down, I was in it. But the writing wasn't quite on the wall, no real walls to be found in the desert. I was reading the writing on the porto-san, and grateful this time not to be ankle deep in human waste. Today's service at this Johnny on the Spot had been outstanding. A few loyal citizens of Black Rock City, Nevada, had taken it upon themselves to make our eliminations just a little more enjoyable. As I waited in line, I was offered a toilet seat liner, baby wipes, water, beer, candy, toilet paper, reading material and various other particulars that seem a luxury in the harsh desert. These items were provided free of any compensation, but many (myself included) returned to replenish their supplies and thank them for a fine toilet experience. Needless to say everyone left the public piss site smiling and that is an extraordinary job well done. Once inside the porto-san, I became aware of the accompanying recording, in the style of an announcer from the 50's, a deep male monotone that well suited the situation; "Please remain seated at all times, please keep hands and arms inside the vehicle, please hold onto hats and keys." I was seated, a rare indulgence, taking full advantage of my seat liner, I look up and read "Burn Your Ego" on the porto-san door.

Be kind rewind.

Getting there is half the battle. Or rather half the fun. We fly to Las Vegas, arriving after midnight and stayed overnight in a sleazy hotel. Ah, last showers, last beds. Next morning catch an 11 a.m. flight into Reno. It's cheaper than a direct flight. Once we arrive in Reno we head over to the car rental where I've reserved a car for our trip into Black Rock City, only to find I haven't enough money on my credit card to cover the cost, and my husband, Chris, hasn't a driver's license, so we're stuck. Can't help but notice the boys renting a van next to us are heading out to Burning Man as well....very much in the spirit of this tribal event we've soon gotten a ride with these boys. Kevin the director and Mike the photographer, our new travel companions are also from New York City. A few stops in Reno, last minutes supplies; thirty gallons of water, mostly non- perishable food, and a pink bird pinata top our shopping cart. A stop at a thrift store gets us some last minute costumes, its near Halloween so we are in luck; skeleton outfits, a batman mask, and a coffin add to our supplies. Its dusk when we arrive at the gate, our tickets are taken, and we are greeted into Black Rock City with a warning of potential drug patrols; Ranger danger, and a heartfelt, "Welcome Home."

We set up camp at 7:30 and Gut. We're quickly introduced to Mojo Tony, a mystical town crier of sorts, he's camped just next door in the voodoo shack.. It does smack of home to me. Tony tells us not to sweat the Ranger K-9 units, though we see no dogs, he says, "They can't smell anything, their noses are packed with playa dust." Poor pooches. Our first peek around is after nightfall and full of neon and florescent piping, but many are building away, long into the night. There are giant projections and rave camps. Center Camp sells coffee and juice, the only hard cash exchanged at Burning Man according to tradition. It is a huge impressive shelter, couches, pillow, carpets, very lush. We lay around a spell and watch the beautiful world go by.

Next day we are up early and there is oh so much to see. People continued to arrive all through the day and night, and oh what the sun does against the mountains. Incredible light. Everywhere is a fantastic show, its almost overwhelming. Every faction of subculture is represented, along with everything else. You got your hippies, your goths, your ravers, your frat boys, your voyeurs, exhibitionists, modern primitives, media exploiters, and anything else you care to shake a stick at. And they all don't like each other either. An undercurrent of sarcasm and hostility bubbles beneath this collective community. Chris was remarking on how it was a reflection of the world climate, a sign of the times. There just wasn't all this anger at Woodstock. The first one, that is. The one he was at... Not the last one, the one with looting and fires. A different call to burn.

The man we've come to burn (at least myself and many others bent on pagan ritual complete with ecstatic dance) is being adorned with rope fuses and surrounded by bales of hay...finishing touches. Dust storms are raging, we invent flimsy but stylish masks with scarves and sunglasses. The larger sculptures and installations around the man are being constructed. The overall theme is the body. The head, the vulva, phallis and the anus being most prominent. The head is an impressive 20 foot high three sided face, made of metal, grass, and wood respectively. We discover a group of folks rigging together an aerodynamic go-cart racecar construction of sorts. They are laying down tracks and using bungee cords to propel the car across the desert. The wind picks up and slows down progress a spell. Rangers roll by and prevent any further progress on the bungee car. It is never to be seen again. Chris and I seek shelter from the storm (I'm blind and eating sand) at Center Camp. The storm is brutal, the worst yet, even the semi-shelter of this massive camp offers little protection. We crawl into a small geodesic dome within the camp for shelter. Inside the dome four people are tripping their faces off as ambient and sometimes disturbing sounds are piped in.

We lounge until the air outside is breathable, then wait two hours for mochas, this is not a bore nor a chore - the wild world surrounds and stimulates. We read the Black Rock Gazette and Piss Clear; the two papers printed at Burning Man. I learn from the local news that the head on the playa may do wondrous things. The head made of metal will cry fire and sing heavy metal. The head of grass will cry water and sing opera. The head of wood will cry sand and sings the blues. (We later caught the metal face in action.) Tears of fire. Magnificent. The Gazette seems straightforward, Piss clear is the alternative rag so they reveal Gazette cover ups and ask "Are frat boys and commercialism ruining burning man"? They may be onto something, but the dust is settling and off we go exploring theme camps.

continued...

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