The wind blew most of the day and night on Saturday, and the Burn was put on hold for hours. But in an eerie replay to last year, the dust storms stopped just in time for Burning Man 2009 to reach its appropriately fire-y conclusion.
The day of the Burn was packed with people and activities. The city’s population reached its peak somewhere north of 42,000, and you have to be impressed that the number stayed so strong in such an economically challenging year.
Center Camp was mobbed all day, with folks seeking shelter from the blowing dust. … But it wasn’t the kind of dust storm that blanketed the city last year and turned daytime into evening. The sun was still shining, and it was a really really pretty day on the playa.
We had a fairly representative Burn day. It started with maybe the most perfect iced mocha ever served in Center Camp. No, really. It was spectacular. Just perfect. … When you’ve come to kind of depend on the camp coffee situation to take care of itself, and then it doesn’t, well, you get a little desperate. But in this case our desperation was happily resolved at the cafe.
Then we were off for a last look around before things began to burn up.
We headed out to the Depot and the start of the DPW parade. Even though the wind and dust was howling, we could hear them coming from blocks away. “F– your day!” they’d shout. “F– what you know!” we’d shout back. “No pictures!” they’d yell. “F– your day!” we’d shout back.
It sounds nasty and hard core, but you know what? I’ll tell you a secret. It’s an act. Oh, they won’t admit it, of course. And yeah, they’ll act like they would bite your head off most of the time. And they actually might, at least some of the time. But nobody comes out and volunteers to build a city in the dirt and heat who doesn’t have a lot of heart. And that’s your average DPW crew member right there. Dirty and crusty and loud on the outside, kinda squishy and real on the inside. But don’t tell them I told you.
Then we headed out to an ice cream party at the Transformation Beyond Zion camp, but on the way there we got distracted by a cocktail party. Imagine that. … The concept was pretty simple: Bring in a piece of moop (matter out of place) (or trash if you’d new to the area), and we got a cold, fruity and delicious cocktail on return. We very much liked that concept and did a bit of playa cleanup.
While we were getting the delicious cooling cocktails, something happened to me that’s never happened before. (Which really isn’t so unusual at Burning Man, but I’ll tell you about it anyway.) I was offered a nipple clamp. Something about the fishnet shirt I was wearing made it seem appropriate I guess. Sadly, my nipples were TOO SMALL for the rubber-band style device. But it worked spectacularly well on my companion.
By the time we reached the place for the ice cream party, there wasn’t a sign that it was going on or, actually, that it had even taken place. Yes, of course we had gotten there late, but so what? It’s playa time. Oh well.
A small digression about Yellow Bikes. The Yellow Bikes (which are green of course) really saved our butts on Saturday. We were lacking a bike, and when we started out from camp we made the enormous faux pas of “borrowing” a camp mate’s bike without telling her. Bad move. We were radioed back to camp pronto. And chewed out mightily by Nurse. Yes, nurse. You’re right. We suck. We’re sorry.
Anyway, so we left again, this time with just my bike. We tried to make a passenger seat out of the middle bar, and that really didn’t work out so well in the long run. For awhile, yes. For a longer while, no. So we thought, ok, let’s look for one of them Yellow Bikes, the communal bikes that everyone shares here. And soon enough we found one. … We felt a little guilty picking it up, because how do you really know the person who had been using it is finished using it? No matter. We reallllly needed it, so we took it, and off we went.
Later in the afternoon, the circle came around. As we were visiting briefly with friends, a girl came up and picked up the Yellow Bike that my friend had laid down in the dust. My friend pleaded, “Oh, please don’t take my bike!” and the girl responded, “But I reallly need it!” And so, because karma comes around, she took the bike and off she went. “The little whore took my bike,” my friend said, karmically speaking.
Then we were off to see a couple of friends get married over at Mohammed’s martini camp in the 9 o’clock portal. The dust and wind was pretty bad by this time, and we missed the camp on our first pass, and I’ll tell you, we were damn hot and tired by the time we stopped to rest for a second in the middle of the 9:00 plaza. But then one of those miracles happened. You know the kind, where you get exactly what you need at exactly the time that you need it? In this case, it took the shape of icy and refreshing snow cones that were being given away by Stan from Sacramento. Thank you, dude. Thank you.
Then we went to the wedding of Chris and Meredith, and it was beautiful and wonderful and heartfelt, and Flash did a hell of a job giving the bride away. Or was that Plex? No matter. It all was lovely and not even very dusty. The wedding cake was a tower of Twinkies, and they were brilliant.
Then the day was getting late and the shadows were getting long and it was time to find some food before heading out for the Burn. The wind was up and a hold was on for hours, and by the time we were walking up the 6 o’clock spires, you couldn’t see five feet in front of you.
It all becomes kind of a blur after that. We saw a lot of the people who we’ve come to know over the past month or so. It had the feeling of family. Then the fireworks went off, and then the Man caught fire, and then the base of the Man, the beautiful base, it went up in flames so fierce they pushed us back out toward the perimeter.
Then, when it was all done, when the fire died down and the revelers made tighter and tighter circles around the embers, the randomness of the night took over, and the center of it all, the Man, the anchor, the beacon … he was gone for another year. You couldn’t get your bearings any longer, because the thing you came here to do had been done.