Are you packed?
Were you up all night? Have you wrapped up the loose ends? Have you finally decided what will just have to wait until you get back? I know, I know, no way. But just get your mind around it: You’re going to be away for a week, and I promise, the the minute you hit Gerlach the rest of your life is going to seem like it’s a long way away, I guarantee it. It’ll be ok.
Things are going to slow down and become more simple. Your customary items of conversation — the conventions, that new iPhone cover, they’re all going to fall away and you won’t miss them. In their place will come concerns about the basics: food, water, shelter. Oh, and love, friendship and fun. The basics. It’s what’s really important, and it’s pretty much what happens here. Things become more fundamental, and it gets a little easier to live in your true self. You’ll be less connected to the world, but more connected to people.
Sorry. I might have gotten carried away there for a second. It’s happened a couple of times now. I was out at the Temple yesterday, and ran into Shrine, the artist behind it, and I mumbled something about the “feeling” of the Temple emerging, that quiet, contemplative mood that will only get deeper when people start to bring out their own mementos, and you’ll look at the pictures and read the stories and your heart will ache. But I think there was just too much happening for Shrine, too much still to happen, for that feeling to have taken hold for him.
Speaking of the Temple, the major structures seem pretty squared away, and now all the amazing decorative pieces are being welded and attached. But I did hear that there was a bit of a problem with the second level, something about “wobbling,” which you’d have to view as a negative. This is an unconfirmed report, but this is a blog, so I’m going to take that liberty for now. And the only reason I do it is because I also heard that after some thought about keeping the second level off limits (not really a good option), an engineer arrived and figured out the way to make it all rock solid. So off we go.
The opening is really pressing down upon the city. It doesn’t feel “early” anymore. Trailers and camps are being planted everywhere. It feels impossibly crowded to me now, after all the open space of the past couple of weeks.
It’s only taken one year of being up here early to turn me into one of those people who doesn’t want anyone else to come. It’s gotten crowded enough, thank you very much. Lock the gates now. I LIKE being able to wander around and actually randomly run into someone I know, even if I don’t know all that many people.
Like last night. The bright lights and banners flapping in the fairly light breeze drew me over to Center Camp for a walk-through. It’s at the point where I can’t really comprehend the changes anymore. It’s probably trite and tired for anyone who’s done this before, but for me the amazement is very fresh. Where there was nothing, now there’s everything.
Anyway, after walking around for a little while I was headed back to my little patch of dust when Lexi came up in a golf cart and asked, “What are you doing?” and I said “Not that much. Processing photos.” So we took a little ride in her cart and tried to find the Burners Without Borders party, but when we got there everybody was already asleep. (There really are two kinds of Burners: Those who sleep at night, and those who don’t.) So we bumped and rattled across the dust, just cruising. The Man was lit, beautiful neon work glowing in the darkness. It was kind of funny, though, because it looked like he was shirt-cocking: His head and torso were lit, but his legs were dark.
Then we wandered over to Kate Raudenbush’s beautiful Altered States, bathed in white light. And as we stood there talking and laughing with some of the people working on the project, a glowing jellyfish art car with a blaring sound system pulled up, and three or four people got out and started doing a dervish dance around the piece. And as we stood to the side watching the guy with the Afro and the woman with the flowing clothes dance around the cage, we thought, now there’s the archetypal Burning Man mash-up: amazing art, and a bunch of ravers. (And yes, I know it’s not that simple, but it was a pretty perfect juxtaposition.) ,
So we hung out for a little longer, then she dropped me back off near Center Camp, because she gets up at 6 every day to make sure everything is functioning at the Commissary. (About 600 people are eating there every day now, and the task is just huge.) This was around midnight, and Center Camp was still completely buzzing with workers.
This morning you could see that they’ve turned it into a refuge from the sun and wind, and it’s a fine place to kick back and watch the parade of Burners for awhile.
There’s no coffee yet, but there are a whole lot of espresso machines waiting for you. So you don’t have to make that run to get a bag of Blue Bottle if you don’t have time. Cross that off the list.
Other things to think about as you make your final preparations: Go to your pile of clothes. Now cut it in half. You won’t wear them all. Also, the food? You can reduce that by say, oh, a third. You’re not going to eat it all. People are going to feed you. You’re going to have pizza and ice cream and Tenderloin and Thai food and fine chocolate put in front of you, most unexpectedly, and it’s going to be the most delicious thing imaginable. So make things simple for yourself today as you go crazy trying to get ready.
Here’s what you can’t have too much of: fluids (water water water, plus the energy drink of your choice. Forgive me, but I’ve come to the realization that a cold Coca Cola is the thing that works best at reviving me. I don’t drink a lot of Coke normally. Here, I think about it too much). Sunscreen. Moisturizer. Handiwipes (but don’t put them in the Porta Potties). Shade. A place to sit. And maybe it’s because I’ve been tethered to a radio for so long, but now walkie-talkies seem like kind of a good thing to have here. But maybe not.
But the main thing is, just get here. Forget what I said earlier about wanting to lock the gates. It’s not a party till you get here.