Burned Out – reflections on one hour of Burning Man

Friday evening…

So there I am, having just been abducted by aliens with the messiah (trust me, you don’t want to know), and I’m wandering around in a post-abduction daze. (The aliens probed my mind with all kinds of strange instruments that emitted weird light and odd noises.) All kinds of freaks loom out of the darkness in the most bizarre costumes and creations. A motorised picnic table flies past, naked people hurry to and fro, there is a carnival atmosphere in the air.

I see a lounge drive by and hop on. It is a huge motorised platform with zebra carpeting, comfy sofas at one end and a bar at the other. I wander over to the bar and sit on a bar stool as the lounge heads out from camp and towards the Man. The situation is one Douglas Adams might have created.

I’m dressed in a long floral dress and a huge hairy yeti hat, carrying two marine distress strobes. I look at my neighbors at the bar, a topless woman with eyes painted on her breasts who looks like she should be in a porno flick and a guy with a spangled top hat and a big cape with thousands of flashing LEDs. As the lounge picks up speed I see the driver, a guy in a leather thong, leather vest and leather cap. He must be in his sixties. He is guiding the lounge with a weird stick like-contraption. I later discover he is Pepper Mousser, crazy all-around nice guy.

Towards the Man we go, a huge 40-foot effigy with glowing purple and red neon tubes for veins and arteries. The music gets turned up. It is The Aquavelvets (surf rock, like the theme from pulp fiction), and people start getting off the couches and dancing. We all get into it, and before long I’m standing on top of the bar, waving my strobes around and hollering like crazy as we rove the desert, picking up an entourage of cyclists alongside and hurtling towards the Man. The lounge is now packed with people, all going completely mental, and we start to circle the Man, everyone staring at us. We’re screaming and yelling, totally living for the pure ecstatic moment, reveling in the fact that we are doing something unique and utterly ridiculous. Round and round we go, gathering a large crowd of people running with the lounge and dancing like there’s no tomorrow.

Finally we break off from our orbiting and head out to the desert, away from the camp and into oblivion. (There are a few hundred miles of nothingness before us – this is no small desert.) The wind starts to kick up dust, and we can see nothing but the moon above us and our own little lounge, an island of insanity in the vast, unending wilderness. People shine their lasers into the dust and create patterns. It all gets frenzied. I realise I’m having the time of my life – we’re horsemen of the apocalypse now, heading for Armageddon and living it to the max.

Eventually the crazy driver realises we’re lost in the desert and turns around, headed back for home. Eventually we see light in the distance and head for a gathering of people clustered around a strange effigy. Upon nearing the gathering, we turn down the music and watch the scene before us. There is a huge wooden goat in the middle, and people on stilts and scary goat-head masks are performing a ritual. It is the Scapegoat. Throughout the week, people have been placing pieces of paper with their sins written on it into the belly of the goat. It is time for the goat to be sacrificed. The chief goat priest performs the final rite, throws a flaming torch at the goat and retires to a safe distance. Suddenly there is a light as bright as the sun. Fireworks go off, and the goat goes up in huge flames, with a blaze of molten magnesium at its heart.

The crowd screams and yells like banshees. Burn, baby, burn, the crowd cries, feeling absolved of their sins. As the goat collapses and the fireworks die down, the crowd surges forward, the drums start drumming, and naked people writhe to the primeval rhythms and celebrate the fire. Nearby someone with a flamethrower lights up a large tower construction and there’s more frenzied celebration. I jump off the bar and off the lounge and watch it disappear with the music still blasting, people still going crazy, and someone else already taking my place at the bar. I head off to the huge tesla coil where 30-foot claws of purple plasma are scything into the air, creating an unholy noise as they tear open the fabric of matter. And I think to myself, life IS good.

This was one hour of Burning Man. I was there for eight days, and to write about every hour would take a decade. I lived more in those eight days than most people do in a lifetime. I learned so much, felt so much, saw so much, did so much, created so much, destroyed so much. Words can never be enough to even scratch the surface of Burning Man. It assails the senses and emotions with a jackhammer and leaves no doubt that it is the ultimate event on the planet. And now I must rest to assimilate and prepare to FUCK SHIT UP on an even more hardcore level in everyday life. You ain’t seen nothing yet.

by K@wzl

About the author: Tales From the Playa

Tales From the Playa

Tales From the Playa are dreams and memories of events that took place at Burning Man, as told by participants. Submit your story here.