I started writing this in 2006 and it has sat in my Drafts folder as a reminder of… I don’t know… a reminder. It’s about my first Burning Man experience. Dunno if I’ll ever finish it, it’s a good start though. Maybe if I put it out into the universe, it’ll get finished. So here you go…
Black Rock City, September 4th, 2004:
I was having a fine time on Saturday night, the night the Man was to be burned.
I had brought my art over to near where I was going to fly it. I was having some technical problems with it so I got out my soldering iron and I was fixing it on top of a giant box labeled “Glass Ball” in the New Day’s Eve camp. Some guy was trying to help me but was just distracting me with his constant questions; he couldn’t hold the light steady so I rode back to my camp and fetched my head-lamp. When he said that he was going to find some punani to put his meat kilbasi into (yes, he really said that), I knew I didn’t need his help and sent him away. Maybe he was on speed, doesn’t matter.
I got the plane to light up. I recall the happy neon glow on the box and the annoying guy. I was close. But then I had 2 problems. The playa was completely filled with people wandering toward the Man; I couldn’t be assured of a safe landing spot. And I couldn’t fit all of the electronics inside the fuselage. Argh! It was just too tight. If I had just 1 more day to put it together back home… When I realized it was going to be more of a pain than it was worth, and potentially a danger to bystanders, I decided to forget it. I was standing on the Esplanade and could see the Man. He was going to raise his arms any second and the anticipation was too much. My friends were waiting for me on the playa. So I stashed the plane in the Asylum container and went looking for Marah.
The plan was for Marah and I to meet at the Temple and watch the Man burn from there… A nice secluded spot (and Marah isn’t much for ambling crowds). But as I rode out, past the Man, past the solar system, I realized that the Temple was way too far out. Finally making it out there and looking back, the Man was just a dot on the horizon.
I looked about for Marah but wasn’t having any luck. Then I heard her calling me; She was walking out, alone, to meet me. I found her about 80 yards away in the dark playa. She said that, yes, the Temple was too far out. We were going to meet up with friends at an art installation.
On the way back… And while I was riding out, I got to look at the sky. The huge, gigantic, tremendous sky. I recall standing out there, looking back at our homage to “The Vault of Heaven”. So many people had put forth a tremendous effort to gather and praise the heavens and, from my vantage point just 1/2 a mile away, it appeared as nothing but a thin strip of lights on the horizon. And then I looked up. Just a 1 degree above our party, stretching for a billion billion miles in every direction, the heavens hung. My eye followed the bright swath of the Milky Way galaxy across the sky. I felt, as one does the first time they see our moon through a telescope, “Ah! It isn’t a cardboard cut-out, it’s real! It’s not just a picture, it’s a place. I could go there if I had the means. Maybe people already do live there and I just can’t see them!” I recalled how Galileo Galilei must have felt, being possibly the first person on this little marble to look up and see that the objects in the heavens were in fact real objects and not perfect celestial bodies and pinholes in the black velvet of the night’s sky.
Image: Stiched panorama of The Vault of Heaven Horizon from The Temple, Burning Man 2004
(to be continued)