What follows is an entirely true minute-by-minute account in one individual's experience at the event Burning Man 1999. All times given herein, expressed in Mountain Daylight Time, are entirely approximate. Clock time is meaningless in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada but necessarily noted for the sake of perspective and artistic integrity. The calendar date of this account is Saturday, September 4, 1999. If you are someone who has never attended Burning Man, perhaps this may serve to explain the event or some segment of the population's preoccupation with it. If you have attended Burning Man before this will all seem obvious, redundant, and predictably autobiographical. You should read "Barry Manilow: This Strong Yearning" or something else instead.
8:07 a.m. Wake up early because it's too damn bright not to. You're in a small blue tent with a still sound-asleep person whose hair is dyed the arresting hues of a Bomp Pop. Yawn, stretch, shake sleep from head. Wriggle out from under sleeping bag. Pop a tab of ecstasy.
8:10 a.m. Stumble out of tent to a glorious but chilly desert morning. Brush your teeth and open a beer. Marvel at the majestic and subversive scene of these big old mountains circling a desert surface thoroughly decorated with ridiculous, absurd, and/or meticulously-built lodging structures while swishing and spitting into your camp's slop jug. Lots of sand and dust is all over your clothes, pretty much a lot of sand and dust is on everything everybody has.
8:16 a.m. An unusual degree of awakedness and activity in your camp this morning for such an early hour, what aspires to be a humongous nude photo shoot is scheduled for 9:00 this morning. Six or maybe more of your friends are awake and about, word going around is that long lines are already forming at the neighborhood Port-A-Johns.
8:32 a.m. Dig through the cooler for some sort of genuine nourishment, being careful to avoid solid food 'cause it might temper the drugs. Settle on a red-colored, perhaps 'berry-flavored' Gatorade drink. These are good as you can cram them in your pocket and use them as your water bottle the rest of the day.
8:35 a.m. Shuffling between the various tents, pieces of old living room furniture, cluttered and liquor-covered tables, tastelessly vandalized crappy lawn art and randomly strewn-about bicycles which make up your camp, you contemplate a plan to get yourself together and out to the photo shoot. You take about three sips of that Gatorade and set it down someplace and completely forget about it.
8:57 a.m. As some of your pals are putting their faces and birthday suits on, you and your good friend from back in civilization are tasked to going out to the nude photo shoot site as scouts to guage the progress is of this whole undertaking. The two of you hop on your post-apocalyptic bicycles and start zooming out to the center of this entire desert city, the wide open space where the Burning Man itself stands.
9:06 a.m. Biking in the flat, open desert it is easy to quickly attain top speed. Oh yeah--- this old bike has no brakes! You're zipping past an endless parade of people and sculptures and art with no way of slowing down! You are suddenly, physically, wholly overwhelmed by the thought that Jesus Christ isn't life so utterly wonderful and don't you just love everybody and you really couldn't possibly be happier right now.
9:09 a.m. Your good friend from back in civilization is looking over from his bike with a big grin. Turns out he's tripping on acid!
9:42 a.m. You've zoomed far out past The Man to the site of the shoot. Within minutes all your pals from back at camp join you. More mystifying and loosey-goosey ecstasy-induced physical sensations manifest up your back and through your body. A crowd of easily four or five hundred has gathered to get in on the big naked picture, it's being organized by some artist photographer type whose thing is mass naked photo shoots. He gives the command for his subjects to get rid of every stitch of clothing. After taking your clothes off along with hundreds of others, you are all led like calves to the slaughter to a cordoned-off open field of desert. Awww Yeah-- All everybody's privates are shamelessly flopping around all over the place. Looking across at every nude body shape ever to come down he pike, you are for once at Burning Man impressed by how normal people look... none of us looks in much of anyway distinguishing with no clothes on.
9:45 a.m. You don't care if it's supposed to be Nevada or the desert or what, you're naked and it's cold! You and your tripping friend are inviting yourselves to go snuggle up with others for warmth.
9:47 a.m. Despite fabulous designer drugs, this whole thing of being naked among hundreds out in the cold has an eerily genocidal feel to it. This is evidently the theme of the piece, the photographer instructs us to lay down, be silent, and play dead. The air of conflict between widespread naked hotties and an all-too-real mass murder scene creates a tension that's, well, quite delicious actually. Yes, yes, those gorgeous dead-acting bodies all around you.... For a long time you zone out on one person in particular's butt.
9:59 a.m. Of course the whole thing is taking forever. It's been painfully silent this whole time.Ahhh, it's starting to warm up, though, or at least that's what it feels like to you. Yep, talk about being warm and naked and playing dead in the sun! MmmmmHmmmm.... you suddenly imagine how nice it might be to have your nipples pierced.
10:12 a.m. Okay, the final snap snaps and he's done! The huge crowd gets up and stretches, shakes it's limbs, in general moves slowly to get up and get dressed again. You are delighted by the warm, puffy pressure of human fingers on your bare back. Marvel over it, let the free and easy rhythm of your back muscles synch up with the infinite wisdom of those pushing and poking fingers, for whatever reason you are unaffected by the typical instinct to look back and see who this is and what they're doing. Why, it's your one friend who really does have pierced nipples.... she's working on popping some zit on your back. Says she can't bear to see it let it go. It doesn't hurt to have her do that, really, well yes it does but in a very nice and pleasant concentrated pinching, stinging way. She seems to know what to do with one of these.
10:15 a.m. You are a good patient for the nice nurse and her results are astonishing.... she is able to extract (literally!) a solid rope of white pus from the lesion on your back. And such a handsome little rope! Really, have you ever seen anything just so beautiful and organic and, like... Oh, people are so beautiful and I just love every last, scrumptious one of you! The little rope passes hands many times.
10:33 a.m. Dressed again, your group lollygags along at a typical Burning Man pace to get back to your camp. You take advantage of a lull in progress to go talk to a woman you just happened to glance up at. It's remarkable how her black hood, black sweatshirt, black jeans and black shades set her apart as a post-gothic'reaper type' in this otherwise peppy early morning naked picture crowd. Tell her you're a big-name photographer and you'd love to have her model in some of your 'very artistic' photos. She ignores that one completely, laughing that she wasn't even in the big naked photo. And what's more she is from Canada. COO LOO COO COO COO LOO COOOOO COOOOO! Heh heh. Ohhhhh CAAAAH-nadaaaa! Heh heh heh. Ohh It cuts like a knife... An' it feels soooo right! Heh.... Okay, I'm dyin' ovah here...
10:39 a.m.As the conversation inevitably turns to drug use, Miss Death Canada openly frets that this evening is the actual burning of the Man and she's stuck without even the littlest of narcotics. Still reeling on your first dose of the day, you promise that if she'll come by your camp beforehand you'll feed her up on some mushrooms. Yes, that's right-- that kind of mushrooms!
10:47 a.m. Okay, where are all my friends? Did they leave me? Or wait, did I leave them? This happens to you all the time at Burning Man. What can you do but keep pedaling through this carnival of madness, the city of Black Rock now wide awake and in full revelry of nakedness, excess, and high/low art. Stop and enjoy seeing costumes mocking and sexualizing every period and movement in human history as they randomly filter past you. Look out! A giant red elephant effigy is chasing after you! Pedal harder, dude!
10:51 a.m. Wow, doesn't this look great - a yoga class! You think it's such a novel idea to have a yoga class out here that your eyeballs are more or less popping out of your head. Drunk with delight (say, have I ever done yoga?) you throw the bike down and take a space with the class. The place is called Elvis Yoga and twenty or so people are copping funky holds and positions all around an array of Hindi religious pieces and Elvis Presley souvenirs. Before long somebody - the instructor, no less - is standing on your stomach while you're lying flat. It's good fun contact and the tire holds up pretty well. But almost as quick as it all started, the class is over. Nonetheless-those few positions pumped you up into a suddenly flawless specimen of human fitness. Oh yeah, feelin' alright here.... Gonna get back on that bike some more. Not gonna run into anything.
11:15 a.m. Stop at an RV done up as a highly specialized cocktail lounge, the Panty Colada Hut. Their sign proclaims, "FREE PINA COLADAS. Show us your panties, get a free pina colada. Not wearing panties? Get two pina coladas." You get a free pina colada.
11:26 a.m. Here's something perhaps not as inviting or kosher.... Camp Littleton, the Columbine High School Shooting Gallery. It's a closed mini-shooting range built out of scrap lumber. Unsure how to react, you are greeted by a rowdy middle aged biker who is the proprietor of this very sick theme camp and invited to come and shoot off a few rounds. Well it is Burning Man.... so ...... well, in the spirit of satire and everything...... come on, the guy's already gone and built this thing here and it's not like you're encouraging more violence. It's just two guys having a few laughs with a couple rifles and 18 Pepsi can likenesses of the victims of the Littleton shootings, right? He hands you a front-loading BB rifle and get this --- there's even a black trench coat for you to wear. He take the side which says "Eric" while you take the side that says "Dylan". You ask him if he's gotten any flack for this theme camp. He acknowledges that he did have one person who told him that he was from Colorado and knew some people who went to Columbine, but the dude didn't get mad or tell him to take it down or anything. You fire off about twenty shots at the Business class teacher - all misses.
11:50 a.m. Biking again, you schmooze on up to four latter day punk rock ladies... some topless and multiply tattooed, some in big shades and cowboy hats but certainly all of them so fucking badass and just totally down looking you'd think they were some big lesbian hard rock band touring the country. Turns out it's exactly what they are - together they form Megababe, a Seattle hardcore band on the Thirsty Girl label. Of course you have for some time believed that that dykes who flirt with boys represent the most highly evolved species within all the human race, so you let the chitchat roll. These dykes see right through your routine, though, and they just keep on walking. But one who stays behind, introducing herself as Lola - Lola Rock'n'Rolla - she sings and plays guitar for Megababe. Lola Rock'n'Rolla walks back to your camp with you down the grid of Burning Man tent city streets, all named on a system of clock times and planets in the solar system.
11:58 a.m. Saturn and 5:15 - here's where you live! All your friends have made it back here and you can only hope they've been tweeking on something this good too. Lola Rock'n'Rolla introduces herself and is a big hit with everybody.... she's busting out rock hero poses, calling us out to dance naked onstage with her band tonight, and even handing over a copy of Megababe's latest CD "Don't Hate Me Cause I'm Beautiful". Before she leaves she also lays on you a little stack of "Bass Ale" temporary tattoos, advising that when applied these can be easily altered to say "Ass Ale" or simply "Ass". Thanks, Lola! We'll remember to do that!
12:14 p.m. It's afternoon, the temperature is now well into the nineties, and you feel a little winded from all the activity. Maybe a good time to relax and settle under the shady tent with a nice piece of fruit. Yep, time to relax and let your body--wait, what's this? Someone is offering you unlimited free liquid LSD from an eye dropper?
12:15 p.m. You tilt your head back and squeeze a nice plop right onto your tongue. Hey, this being high as hell has been nothing but fun for you all day. Best decision you made was taking drugs first thing when you woke up! You contemplate taking another little squirt of acid on your tongue but decide it might flip you out a little much here today.
12:16 p.m. For one reason or another you are now actually taking that other squirt of acid. Give the Visine bottle back to the guy and thank him. Two of your friends flash you that stupid 'be careful' wince and you shake your head at their petty caution.
12:31 p.m. Open up that Megababe CD. There's Lola on the inside photo, straddling her tongue with her middle and fore fingers.
12:49 p.m. Doing your best host routine between small crowds of old friends and random freakersby, you suddenly feel a rush of something which is definitely not ecstasy. Drop into a fold-out chair and try to regain perspective. As you try to collect some thoughts, a strangely Susan Powter-esque skinny minny suddenly grabs one of your hands. She's happened upon your camp with her boyfriend or husband or whatever he is, Mr. 'I Just Sit Here With My Funny Hat And Act Oblivious To Everything Going On Around Me'. And she wants to paint your fingernails - Hey, quit it lady! You can't! Wait, hers look reeeaaallly cool.... There may be as many as two or three colors of glitter there on those fingernails! Their teeming sparkles unleash themselves s and dance like mad in the hot afternoon sun. Shit, yeah, you'll take a coat of that. As many different coats of glitter as you can get on there, lady! Her conversation is far too complex to follow......... begin to really zone out on the tiny wet brush against your fingernail........... and the outdoors................................ very much movement....................................................elsewhere....stillness.................................................................................................................................................................................................... the creature Grendel must have been huge.
12:58 p.m. You have no idea how, but you can tell that someone somewhere at Burning Man is SOMEHOW taking the sound of the wind, the random conversation of the stream of people constantly walking by, the far-off DJ beats and radio from nearby camps, the din of gas power generators, and the occasional growl of a car passing by, and somehow synchronizing all this sound into an elaborately arranged Pink Floyd symphony piece. Spellbinding. Hypnotic. You listen to five or six movements.
1:45 p.m. Get up and try to see if you are still alive. Scenery around you does in fact move but you cannot feel body doing anything. See friends. Sit down near them. Try to decide what to do next.
2:03 p.m. Make occasional minor movements. Break, spill, or generally knock over several items in doing this. Start forming strategy to participate in conversation.
2:09 p.m. Strategy fails, you think you're an orange. Sweating a lot. No, that's called condensation. It means you're in a warm place and you have lots of moisture in you. Need more to drink. Can't do that, don't have any arms because oranges don't come with arms. Have to wait until water comes through the branch. And then a horrible, sudden realization - you are no longer on the tree!!!
2:41 p.m. "Hey, we should go do something," says your friend Little t, who had given you the cautious look earlier but also did at least one hit on her own. You agree and decide to try and take on normal human functioning. Only it ain't gonna be so normal...
2:50 p.m. You get on your bike, your spray-painted junker bike with no brakes that you got for free because Ben back in SF was just looking to get rid of it. Are you going to be capable of even riding a bike right now? Well, it is supposed to be notoriously easy to remember how to do...
2:56 p.m. It works, pedaling and movement in proportional amounts and so far everything's cool. You're off on bikes with little t and Jetogi, also of your camp. The streets are teeming with mad costumed riff raff. It's the live action realization of those old comic book covers depicting a scene of every single character in creation somehow getting together for a massive every character free-for-all. Your remember how that scene would never actually occur anywhere in the comic.
3:00 p.m. The three of you ride your bikes through this mad, spontaneously-built, absurd, primitive desert resort town. Breasts and cocks are out there being presented as just about every kind of art you can think of. Your more talkative type friends stop for awhile to meet the busy engineers of a giant catapult who plan to start lobbing shit this evening.
3:10 p.m. *spritz!*spritz!*Drive-by shooting! You're in the throes of a healthy, hard trip and shooting mist from your water squirter at everybody who you think needs it. Occasional problems surface with maintaining balance of the bicycle. Spray your own face, too-- it feels super nice. The squirter bottle is now near empty, and at this point roughly one hundred million miles from your camp, you realize this is the only water anyone brought.
3:12 p.m.,Alright, let the acid head trips begin... Am I dying of thirst? Would I realize it if I was? Would I realize it if all three of us were already dead and in Hell? Or am I really in perfect comfort and just tripping too hard to realize it? Can't decide whether to break back for camp or stay out sans any water. Spritz away the last drops of water you have into your mouth while doing this.
3:14 p.m. You're lured further out by the eye candy of the Little House on the Playa, the swing sets for big kids, and the Braindrops tent. As of this point on Saturday afternoon there are villages, camps, and outposts out in every direction from the Man. Burning Man 1999 is now so big that it composes a full circle, albeit a very scarcely populated circle here at the very eastern end. You are now out past the airstrip, which had only last year seemed the inconquerable boonies. You and your two hombres find yourselves at a giant and remote castle and courtyard built of discarded auto parts and scrap metal, a Giger-esque rust heap fortress of solitude where an industrial noise band wails away hypnotically. It's kind of crowded for being out this far, and you soon notice that everyone here resembles a gargoyle. Each in his or her own unintentional way, of course. You stop here for a while to listen to the "music".
3:21 p.m. Though it is chaotic, disjointed, and rich with discord, this music speaks to exactly how your brain is feeling. You find this profoundly horrifying. Again your grip on reality weakens. Everyone coming, going, and hanging out here, it seems, is a wax museum figure.... and you know you're real but you're the one who doesn't move.
3:25 p.m. The three of you may all be equally wigged-out by this scene-- and perhaps even each other. The noise music is a carefully constructed brain scramble and none of you can speak. You can only stare around and at each other with a cosmic case of slackjaw.
3:34 p.m. It's been the same song this whole time. Each member of the band is gender indecipherable and looks straight out of the Skeksis.. One reminds you of something walking around in "The Garden of Earthly Delights". Really this whole scene is a giant real-life Heironymous Bosch painting, with tons of people practically fucking and being crazy on this barren, surreal physical landscape... this is just what Bosch was seeing and you are now essentially inside one of his strangest works ever. That awful little floppy dog-eared robot bird from "The Temptation of Saint Anthony" could easily be walking around here. Awwww, what if the horrible little floppy dog-eared robot bird WAS here and he was, like, HUGE??? Like as big as the mountains! Think about that! You do think about that, him poking his giant head over, then his beak, then walking over the mountain and stomping all around Burning Man...
3:37 p.m. Okay, time to get out of here. It's time to go back to camp by yourself to get some water now and get your head centered and that's just that. You ride off to... well, in a direction.
3:40 p.m. Way hot and sweaty, you stop your bike and lean it on the ground. Look around. That crazy place where you just were is now just a tiny, far-off speck of civilization. In the other direction, all of Black Rock City is also a far-off speck of civilization. But which one is the city? You really can't tell. In addition, the landscape is diagonal like a villain's hideout on the Batman TV series.
3:41 p.m. Just ride in the direction of anywhere you see people. Minutes pass, you riding, as first a few remote art installations, then a few tents and trucks, and then finally the outer streets of the city begin to materialize. The Outer Limits of Black Rock City have a serene but somewhat even more subversive parallel universe quality. A guy with an enormous comical tiki head sits silently meditating in the desert some 500 yards from anything else. Far across the flat empty plane a motorized saloon on wheels trucks it's way up to top speed and before you know it flies past you, the rickety thing (and all the drunks on it) wavering like crazy. Keep riding back to camp, passing freaks and even getting cold sprays of water from random do-gooders.
3:46 p.m. Back to camp again, you find a scene of decadent tranquility. Fruit and cheese are being nibbled under a community chillin' tent where relaxation, chatting, and massage all reign as one. You toke from a bowl passed to you with gluttony equal to the vicious chugalugging you put on a water bottle given to you five seconds before.
3:48 p.m. Here comes that guy who dosed you on this acid in the first place.... all naked save for some leather straps across his chest and black boots, hair remarkably styled. So much for camp being a stable place to get yourself centered. Rather than busting into a furious B&D scene, he sits and visits with the tent crew and has a cold beer.
3:54 p.m. The CD ends and you have to play a little DJ. Struggle through the messy cab of your moving truck, looking for an album in ten different places and screw around with getting the stereo set to "Phono". Eventually you get it all together. You put on the new record and, gasp, it's magic. The very first peppy horn chiming in on Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass' unforgettable lp "Whipped Cream and Other Delights" is like smelling salts snapped right beneath your nose -- sudden invigoration! And what's this? You're suddenly sashaying across the playa? And what's this? Your camp-mates are dancing around like drunken aunts and uncles at a wedding? Make a mental note that Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass brings instant salvation from a bad trip.
3:58 p.m. Stories and blabbing in camp.
4:18 p.m. Your friend from back in civilization cruises back into camp, biking with a brave Indian squaw. Now he's on mescaline! He disappears again as quickly as he arrived.
4:20 p.m. The ice cream truck goes by! The ice cream truck! It's bopping down the playa streets with a lounge and sound system on top.
4:25p.m. Momentum builds for another venture in the streets of Black Rock. little t has returned to camp and is primed to rage some more. Pepper, Hoosier Daddy and "Bob" have the bug too. Plus we all have to pee so it's a logical starting point. You remember to fill up a nice big plastic jug to take with you (with water, not urine!). And someone fortunately remembers beer too.
4:31 p.m. Leave camp to go stand in line for the Johnny On the Spot. Techno music cascades through the air of the entire desert. Talk to a lady from Berkeley about where to get discount fabric in the Bay Area.
4:38 p.m. Okay, everybody's done their business and you're all wandering off towards the center and north. Burning Man seems to be adopting a slightly more reserved demeanor. People may be saving their energy for the Burn, just a few short hours from now.
4:42 p.m. Your posse uncounters Underpants, a giant sculpture piece spelling out the word 'underpants' and draped with specimens. A close inspection of these samples yields a horrifying discovery.
4:47 p.m.You arrive at Mercury, the busy innermost rung of the Burning Man '99 road map. Your group needs to decide in which direction to go. You toss your water bottle up in the air, it lands pointing in the direction of North Camp. It also points at a lovely solo wanderer in the see-through flowing satins of "I Dream of Jeannie". And it IS Burning Man...
4:48 p.m.After a harsh refusal from Jeannie, catch up with your friends and continue north on Mercury. Pass about fifty afternoon raves in progress.
4:54 p.m. Time to pee again! Your group's wait in line quickly devolves into stooge-like antics and a slapstick physical battle for the pole position.
5:10 p.m. You round 3:00 & Earth and stop in at Bianca's. This year it's no longer a smut shack, but it's still a lovely oasis and they have a marvelous double-helix. Several folks are milling around and relaxing inside, two men are engaged in fellatio outside. An exceptionally good DJ is working Chuck D's famous line "If y'all really like to rock the funky beats, somebody in the house say 'Hell Yeah'" into a boogie oogie mega-mix. The mustachioed barmaid who serves hors d'oevres at Bianca's every year saves your life with a very hospitable water refill. Ms. Hors D'orvres, you are owed a debt of major gratitude! It will come back to you in bushels someday!
5:18 pm. Even back in civilization you have trouble setting boundaries in your life when it comes to raves and dancing-- at Burning Man you don't even try to out up a fight. You'd rather stay here and shake it then walk back to camp, so your compadres leave you behind.
5:38 p.m The getting down continues over at the Flower Rave. The music there is outstanding and the crowd is kicking. As you're about to blend in to the marathon dance madness when who do you see? Old mescaline boy from back in civilization. He is still beaming from the mescaline but can manage very few words. However a lot of unspoken stuff is communicated. After your conversation he heads off again while you're going to rave some more.
5:51 p.m. Yep, this is a good one. Sweaty freaks in costumes are bugging out, a full bar is cranking out cocktails, there's even an island mama doing the rounds with a big plate of fresh fruit. Dance with people dressed as Mount Olympus gods, some pixies, a dragon lady (guy) and an old dude in a Superman suit.
6:30 p.m. Cheers go out at the end of an unbelievably slamming number, followed by silence. Panic and confusion grasp the crowd when it becomes apparent the rave here is over. You see looks of desperation normally shown only at five-thity in the morning. NOW WHAT DO WE DO? This rave may have been going non-stop for days. Weaving throught the lost souls, you come across none other than little t who could also not bear to quit raving for the afternoon. The two of you walk in the direction of camp, but you're at the tip of North and that's FAR. It's almost sunset time, and when you're not dancing it's actually kind of chilly. Lucky for you, little t is already utilizing her eagle eye and girlish cuteness to scam you both a ride in a rickshaw. A blue bike with a riding cab built for two attached to the back is coasting towards you. You don't have any beer or drugs on you but quickly offer the driver an unplugged rendition of "Swannee". The driver, also blue, agrees to let you on. He's got a blue furry radio strapped to the back of the bike which is playing non-stop deep trance music, so you're grooving out on the way.
6:38 p.m. Passersby love the cab driver. They wave and pump their fists and yell things to him like "Alright!" or "Yeah!...... Bike Man!". He handles it all in stride. He drives past some sort of spanking parlor and demands that you and little t get spanked if you're to going ride any further in his cab. Well, what choice do you have? If only Freud could be here to see how many people are lining right up to get what punishment was given to them when they were very young. You and little t bend over and get yours and the ride may now continue.
6:50 p.m. Unable to see much outside from in the cab, you don't know which way this guy is going. He's definitely not going the direct route. He's pulling up on an inflatable Fight Ring which is equipped with two bludgeoning weapons for combatants. You hope he doesn't make you fight to keep riding. A guy and a girl take to the squared circle and you and little t are drawn right into the match. Of course you are rooting for the guy but t is rooting for the girl. The driver pedals us away before the conclusion of the fight. Go guy!
7:04 p.m. The driver has to stop somehwere for tools, and you think that you're pretty close to camp. You thank him and bid him a good burn. Now to actually find your camp before it's too outrageously cold and dark. The sun is indeed getting ready to disappear behind that big mountain. Burning Man signifies that it's the time of year that from now on the sun will start going down earlier and faster. You reflect on this and let out a sad little sigh.
7:09p.m. Thanks to the little purple light on a tall thin pole at the camp next door, you are guided back home safe and sound. It will be dark soon and that means the beginning of the madness and the burning of the Man. Your buddy Mescaline is back and back to earth, too. He pulls you aside and says that somebody here has to talk to you. And out pops the the little tough cookie Canadian who you promised mushrooms to at the photo shoot this morning! Only instead of looking like a Haight Street runaway, now she's dolled up like a Soho club kid in a swanky cocktail dress and layers of glitter make-up. You are taken aback at what a different person she looks like. Sure, she can have however much drugs she wants! You, her, and an old friend whose D&D books you still have divvy up your bag of mushrooms. It's imperitave that everyone is tripping tonight. The old friend gives you a couple joints and Miss Club Kid Canada gives you some condoms (but she fails to employ them!) The three of you gobble your shrooms and brace yourself for more strangeness.
7:15 p.m. Everyone in camp is putting together their extremely critical outfit to wear for the burn. Time is growing short and tensions are running a little high. "Who knows where the scissors are?", "Is that red glitter still around?", "Fuck! I know I just had it yesterday!" It's a constant state of scavenging through art and trash to find some little tool or accessory, and it's very tough on everybody. But it's got to get done before more drugs kick in. To your dismay, you must also dress for the extremely cold night-time weather this year. Sweatshirts underneath and layers of legwear are necessary. Sequins, feathers, and an egregious pair of bell bottoms are also necessary.
7:48 p.m. Small-time fireworks are blasting all over, clouds of sage are starting cover every camp,and the air has the unmistakable feel of something going down. Drums and whistles and and screaming can be heard from way off every where. People are almost ready to go and this is what you've been waiting for all year! Bring it on, Larry!
7:56 p.m Okay, the whole group is ready to go and we embark as one! Viva la Burn! Burn that fucker down! Alright!
7:57 p.m. Ooops, false alarm. We're not ready. People are still getting their shit together, but a faction decides to take off on their own. Bye Mescaline! Bye Nurse! Odds the rest of us will all get separated like every other year anyway.
8:09 p.m. After dramas both large and small your crew is genuinely ready. Meeting places are being designated for potential split-ups and mental notes are made of who is the most visible in a crowd. And whoooo-eeeey, here come those mushrooms! You can already tell this trip will be much cleaner than your last trip today, you feel an earthy savage experience with lots of visuals coming on but you still have your city slicker irony and intellect intact. The smell of sage and other smoke brings you vividly in touch with where you are-- smell is such an evocative sense and you only smell this once a year. Right here in the Black Rock Desert on this night, that's what that robust, smoky, sage-y smell is. This will be an unbelievable evening. Good that you brought your riding crop.
8:15 p.m. Your gang is hiking across the Playa in full burn regalia. Smaller fires are already dotted across the desert surface. People are ready to see shit burn. You all stop to watch the FrogNet webmaster as he burns a large wooden frog. It is very heavy to intentionally send one's own art up in flames. Pay your respects to the artist, then to the frog, and continue toward the now-throbbing crowd. Several bottles of red wine are making the rounds and going down easy. Too easy...
8:27 pm The Bone Tree, the Pagan Float, and every other important piece of mobile art is already out at the Man when you get there. So are all 23,000 other people who came to Burning Man this year. But there you are, right near the actual Burning Man as he glows in this year's yellow and red neon. And so far nobody has gotten separated! Toast this with a bottle of red wine. A couple times.
8:35 pm You may have been among the last to get way out here to this thing, but it doesn't matter. There's still a lot more partying around, waiting for sentiment to build before this thing will go up. Drumbeats are being pounded out from everywhere in this mob.
8:39 pm You settle into a gap large enough so everyone has room to stand, see the Man unobstructed, and pagan out comfortably. A small crowd of silverware dingers is gathered behind you providing a steady litany of kling-klang. Another round of pre-tripping hot flashes engulfs your body. Or maybe not necessarliy pre-tripping.
8:40 pm Drums pound! Shouts and screams in the desert night! People are wearing their craziest shit they brought with them and carrying on like tribal ya-ya's before some kind of huge once-per-lunar-decade virgin kill and mammoth roast. Folks are just plain grabbing each other and making out. Bizarre spirits are clearly cruising this crowd, totally unchecked.
8:55 pm Awww shit... somebody's standing next to the Man with a giant lit torch. Bedlam breaks out. A fire is lit beneath him and it starts creeping up, up, up quickly in narrow but speedy lines of fire. The lid blows off. People start rioting like it's 1991. It has come following a great deal of fanfare, but The Man is burning. Thousands worldwide wish they were here right now. It's the modern primitive payoff after a week of avant garde nonsense and nakedness in the desert. Yet in this whole enormous crowd from around the world, no two people will interpret this burning the same way. The Man blazes, officially symbolic of nothing whatsoever.
9:06 pmThe Man is fully consumed in flames. The mob, drunk on it's own lack of traditional family values, has lost any sense of dignity or decorum. Pan laughs aloud and revels right along with, practically unnoticed by his human counterparts. Dionysus, unaware that he has peed himself, swigs from the bottle of Carlo Rossi and promises everyone the moon while holding back belches. There's Crowley, who's breathing flames which somehow harm no one. Zeus has changed forms repeatedly in his attempts to get laid, he currently resembles the very masculine humanoid lion from C.S. Lewis books. Freddie Mercury lunges for Zeus' cock with obvious relish. Anyone with whom you make eye contact is suddenly your blood brother, your romantic soulmate, and/or the only one who understands you. You both then acknowledge this with big hugs and battle cries, then walk away and go about with the rest of your life. Repeat this twenty times again with other soulmates.
9:10 pmA furious explosion of white sparks suddenly spews from The Man. He's packed full of explosives! Brilliant! One can only wallow in how genuinely dangerous this whole stunt is... the giant Man is burning unabated, crackling with fireworks and flammables. Nothing separates him and the crowd of tiny and vulnerable humans, no ambulance could possible penetrate this crowd if something did happen, and a whole lot of people out here are tripping balls. Yet you feel secure in that everyone is a freak but no one is an idiot.
9:23 pmThe wooden balls on each of the four corners around the Man explode with sparks and flame! Awwww man, you've been hoping all week long that that's what they're planning to do with those things.
9:25 pmRevelry continues. Zone out on the electronic image of the Man burning on somebody's little digital digi-cam a few yards away. Then swoon into a chaotic but mesmerizing group bongo beat, then a little Fred & Ginger action with Bomb Pop, then here comes a big wet sloppy one from "Bob". While we carry on with our gourd-losing therapy the Man is collapsing piece by piece into his own inferno.
9:39 pmSuddenly realize the purpose behind your life and the riddle of existence. Try to make a mental note of this so you remember it when you've come down.
9:48 pmThe Man is now a large bonfire of much lower stature. The green laser that shoots way across the whole sky at night lights up, slicing up the darkness like a Benihana Steakhouse chef. The roar of distant raves grows. The Aftermath is beginning... which may be even more insane than the burn itself. The crowd begins to spread to the peripheral craziness on the inside circles of Black Rock City, yet thousands remain out here at the giant fire. And what remains out here is a raging afterparty of people who won't leave, a mix that's part Rainbow Gathering drum circle, part beer bust, part dada theater, and part "Clan of the Cave Bear". A lot more carousing and wine drinking for your entire crew.
10:15 pmEventually the urge sets in to move around and check out other areas around the fire, still no one has strayed or become lost. You all forage through to the middle, close together. Then you cut through thr crowd to the far opposite side of the mob, then along the southern side of the fire and surrounding mass. Marvel at more great outfits. Take a wizz out on the playa. Everybody else is! Rejoin your folks, take a head count, and resolve to now hit some of these ragers going on along the Esplanande. Head straight over in the direction of south camp.
10:22 pmWhile you're playing drum major with your riding crop, it is unexpectedly snatched from your hands by a statuesque cutie with a masonic fez. She wastes no time in laying into your butt relentlessly. While she claims to be a complete novice,her technique indicates otherwise. Firm, building blows with a flexible wrist, just like they teach you in school. This continues for longer than good taste would dictate, some distance grows between you and your original posse.
10:35 pmThank her, fix your drawers, get your crop back and try to catch up. Everyone has now congregated at a plain big old bonfire, undeniable for it's size and simplicity. Some musicians are jamming out an old Navajo fireside number on fife, bongo and whistle. Tons of raves and other forms of carrying on circle your far-off periphery, but this fire is warm,quietly cracking, inviting, engrossing. Tell the grand master of the lodge your theories about the correlation between BDSM and Catholicism.
10:40 pmTrek en masse toward the extreme south of end of the vast ruckus, the biggest loudest dance party you can see. Maybe a thousand people or more are bugging out around several giant screens of projected psychedelia and loud, marvelous electronica. The stage is mobbed with people who climbed up and are getting down way up there. A spontaneous limbo carousel starts and won't stop. This is desert raving at perhaps it's finest. Your crew separates and splits into clumps but keeps ending up back together. Your adventuring flings you to the far-end corners of this rave and many points between, also briefly onstage-- where you see that almost none of this music is electronic. It is in fact a large ensemble of actual human beings, a real band playing exotic orchestra and percussion instruments. Astonishing! Jaw hits the floor while body continues with the funky stuff.
11:22 pmThe Playa is five thousand times more happening than the biggest New Year's party you've ever been to. There appears to be as many loud raging parties and raves on the vast black desert horizon as there are stars in the sky. Your crew bounces to as many of these as possible. One is an extremely loud throbbing full-size godhead a la Zardoz, complete with burning red eyes, housing a mad, thumping drum & bass rave. Inside the Zardoz head it's quintessential overcrowded claustophobia -- but it's fun! Everybody's grinding up against everybody else, whether voluntarily or involuntarily. Rock out in the middle of this one until breathing and limiting body temperature start to become impossible.
11:46 pmDecide it is definitely time to move your way out of this crowd.
12:08 amFinish travelling about fifteen yards through solid mob to get out. Recover here while slowly all the rest of your party emerges alive.
12:14 pmYour clan re-converges but it's bad news-- the D&D Book Guy and the freemason chick and their whole crew have to leave. As in leave Burning Man tonight, now. Their long drive home to the midwest and beyond starts as soon as they walk back to their cars. This is the sad reality for many other burners tonight too. It's the first So Long and See You Next Year. Snif, sob. Your little congregation shrinks some and the departers disappear into the lights of the insane carnival, back towards camp. Jesus, you couldn't imagine driving tonight. Or even being in a car. Or even a car.
12:24 am Happen upon the celebrated Thunderdome-- a perfectly constructed replica of the geodesic dome battle arena from "Mad Max III". It is precise and fully functional. Combatants hang from a long bungee in the center and do battle with blunt objects, chainsaws, etc. while spectators climb up the side of the thing to rock out and cheer and boo. The dome holds up to these rigors solidly throughout the entire weeklong festival. Hey-- it's two girls fighting! No wonder the crowd is so into it. They bang on each other and get bounced around flying through the air. It's just unbelieveable how much entertainment there is at Burning Man.
12:53 am Moving on again, the whole entourage is on their worst behavior. Many of you drunk and on hard drugs, shamelessly without boundaries, freaking out without learned societal neuroses.
12:59am It's the 3-D Magic Glasses tunnel!. You've seen this place all week and never gone in but now... what perfect timing! The waiting line is semi-long but moves steadily and everyone is (see 12:53 am). You arrive at the front of the line and are handed 3-D glasses. Slip 'em on and venture in. The sights are unbelievable. Wow! These people have a life-altering invention on their hands here.
1:18 am Further on, your troupe passes what looks like an opulently organized turn-of-the-century French cafe or living room. Someone has constructed a wallpapered monolith holding painitings of red-haired sirens and portraits of ancient conquistadors with table and chair sets in front of it. All remarkably cozy and charming.
1:52 am Arrive near Center Camp at the Nebulous Entity, a breathtakingpiece of interactive sculpture. Several layers of latticework metal silhouettes of reptiles revolve around a warm white light. The shadows of the reptiles dance a wide radius underneath. It is impossible to not be mesmerized by this thing. Many folks lay down right underneath it to watch the endless, sonorous revolution of the reptiles. It has a quieting effect on any who see it at night. Boy, it would be a real shame if somebody reached their hand up in there and one of those thin metal cut-outs of reptiles sliced it right off at the wrist! They don't, though. They mostly look like they're achiving a tremendous yet amused inner peace.
2:13 amThe onslaught of drugs and activity has taken it's toll. Someone proposes heading back to camp, and wearily you find no grounds to disagree. It's still far. But a bowl is burning among you all, and so many of the camps you see look exceptionally beautiful at night. It's a pleasant but cold walk. You all get a little lost, but eventually the purple light on the pole next to your becomes visible again. Cut through camps and streets to get to it.
2:26 amHome again! This is now a huge releif. Christ, the trouble you've seen today! You collapse in a seat in the living room tent and struggle to stay awake while Bomb Pop heats up some nice soup and Pepper resumes packing bowls.
2:40 amWander in and out of sleep while stories of the burn are recounted and other fellow camp-ies roll back in. In the brief glimpses you get from those moments you are awake everyone appears jovial, exhausted, fulfilled.
2:55 amOh, hey, now you're actually awake again. Remove feathered, sequined top and put on hat & gloves for comfort. Hat and gloves! At Burning Man! The weather this year has been something of a travesty. Talk and laugh about memories from old times/memories from earlier today with these people. You never see some of them anymore.
3:13 amA final foray before you crash, to the Port-A-Johns for final evening prayer and meditation. The starry sky is surreal on your walk there. The screams from distant ragers continues, it will all night and well after sunrise. Reflect upon another year having come and gone, the changes that happened in your life and the ways Burning Man continues to change. The outpouring of creativity and brilliance lavished on you this past week will send you back to western civilization changed. More irreverent and determined. Stronger ties with close friends and those you've gotten distant from. Drawn into new communities to learn and grow more. Challenged evermore to invent wacky and perverted costumes for the days and years ahead. Yes, barring early death you'll return to this desert again for the priceless rejuvenation it brings.