It’s like a memory now, isn’t it?
The dust is out of your hair and your clothes. You’ve been sleeping in your own bed again, and maybe you’ve been out to eat. And you’ve gone to the refrigerator in the middle of the night, and you’ve had whatever you damn well pleased, because you could.
And isn’t it sad?
I saw the full moon coming up the other night, and all I could think of was the LAST time it was full, and it was rising over the desert hills, and someone was saying on the radio, “Hey, you hippies, have you seen the moon?”
Everything was still ahead of us then — the light and the dust and the music and the art and the wonder.
I waited a week before getting the playa out of my car. It turns out that after all that time and all that wind and all that heat, I discovered on the long ride home that I really really loved the smell of the dust, and I wanted to hang onto it as long as possible. And when I washed the car, the last physical remnants of the experience would be washed away, too. And I wasn’t ready for that. Not at all.
I had thought, after more than three weeks out there, watching those amazing people build the city and install the art, that I’d be really ready to leave. But of course I wasn’t. When it came time to go, it turned out that I wanted to stay forever, or at least until I could help take the city down. Complete the cycle.
But I couldn’t stay, the default world was calling, and when I hit the road, it was a jolt.
I couldn’t believe what a rush people were in to get off the playa; granted, they wanted to beat the crush, but even late Saturday night, the exodus had begun. People were going fast, passing each other, not caring about kicking up the dust anymore. That brought me back to when I was a kid, in the back seat of the car as my parents left the church parking lot, and watching cars cut each other off, all the rudeness and impatience. And I thought, all that talk of love and peace inside the church, and look at you now. And I’ve always believed that those parking lot scenes were the beginning of my disaffection with organized religion.
But that’s another story, and that wasn’t the feeling that stayed with me as I hit the road to Gerlach, and then past Empire, and then into the darkest hours on Indian land. Because there was too much to remember, and too much to look forward to.
There was all that selfless work: the fence, the Man, the Temple, the Cafe and everything else; the trucks, the hauls, the digging and pounding, the sweating and grunting. And all of it done in that incredibly harsh desert.
And there were all those times that you got the feeling that people cared about you, and you found yourself caring about them, too, in the most fundamental ways. You getting any sleep? You drinking enough? Don’t worry, man, it’s cool, she’s gonna come back.
And there were all those people who wanted to know more about you, what you were about, and you felt like it was ok to talk from the heart, and for a change you didn’t worry about what they’d say or think later. You didn’t feel the cynicism creeping in the way it normally does, because it was a different scene. Yeah, you still made fun of funky hippies (How many hippies does it take to change a lightbulb? None. Hippies don’t change anything”), but most of the time you went for it, you decided to be genuine, and it came right back at you.
Alright, alright, maybe I still have a little dust in my eyes. But it felt that way more than it didn’t.
I’ll say this, though: It wasn’t the crazies and party hearty-ers on the playa after the Burn who made me want to stay. The bizarreness and randomness and kind of desperate revelry weren’t much of a lure. People were too weird, too out there, too nutsy. (And it seemed like the words “leave no trace” didn’t hold much weight that night; there was lots of crap being tossed around pretty casually.)
But we don’t want to be a scold. There was something raw going on, and that’s the way it’s supposed to be. You don’t burn a 100-foot Man and dance around the embers and get caught up in the swirling mass of bodies and come away feeling centered and grounded. You feel amped and ramped, and you want to keep that primal feeling burning for awhile. I get it. I got it.
But even that crazy scene, that culmination, is getting stowed away with all the other crazy scenes, both good and bad. The list of incredible moments is way too long, and way too personal, to hold anybody’s interest but my own for long. Besides, you have your own memories, your own incredible moments, and they’re going to make you smile, or make you think, for months to come.
And by then you’ll begin to forget about the hardest stuff; the packing, the money, the dust, the heat, the cuts on your fingers, the cramps in your legs, the pounding in your head, the dizziness, the lonely moments in between. And then, when you begin to forget about the hard stuff, when the weather has turned wet and cold, and the warm sun is only a memory, you’ll start to get the longing again.
And you’ll remember something funny, like, when you showed somebody the fancy laminated card somebody gave you, the one with the structure of a molecule on it. You didn’t know what the molecule was, but SHE did. She looked at the card, and then at you, amazed. And then she pulled open her shirt and showed you the tattoo on her chest, and it was the same molecule. What are the chances of THAT happening at the coffee shop tomorrow morning?
And how many times did something strangely special like that happen to you?
And how is it possible that those kinds of things happen so often in that place?
It’s a mystery that bears further investigation.
Godspeed, and thanks for all your kind words, and see you around.