Thursday, 25 October 2007

The High!!!

Welcome back, here’s part 2!

I wish to applaud how I have discovered the benefits of a drug largely new to me. People have been addicted to this one for centuries. Yet if one can hold off devouring certain common drugs then when one finally does partake the beneficial ‘high’ is extra rewarding. Much like one gets more benefits from going to university as a mature student rather than a whippersnapper fresh from school. This drug has been as good, similar to and curiously as inspiring as Absinthe.

And like absinthe I realise it is important to NEVER under any circumstances have more than 2 in one day or it may cost you an ear. I will also add that I only know this through PARTIAL empirical evidence. I have never myself had more than 2 absinthes in one day but I have had 2 on 3 occasions. On each of these the person I was with had a third, went completely NUTS. It was always I that bore the scars from those evenings.

I’ll not drag it out anymore but I am finally discovering the utter ‘creative fix-it’ joy of COFFEE. Wonderful. I’m glad I avoided it for so long to make use of it in this way now. I understand that this effect will wear off and I may never catch the same high again but no matter I get it now. In just the same way I ‘got’ surfing after just one lesson and now yearn for another opportunity to properly learn how to do THAT. Take note universe – I’m up for an assignment in a location that’d afford that opportunity.
I forgot to mention that I do not take all the shots I show with these musings – I favour mine where I can but use other people’s from our camp to show the event as best as possible. Notably I did not take the one with the trucks and rainbow – I wish! And this time I did not take the double rainbow one either from this round.

Many of you know me as a solar eclipse-chaser and this year as an extra cool treat there was a Total Lunar Eclipse on our first night. As it happened I was ‘man-down’ with a super bad cold and chest cough compounded by exhaustion from lack of sleep and jetlag. I just wanted to sleep and knew I should but how on earth could I of all people not stay up until 2.30 am to catch the deep red umbral phase of this phenomenon? So of course I pushed through and did. As a result I also witnessed the premature burning of The Man by an ‘individual’.

It seemed so unlikely that I was kind of in denial as I cycled out towards the place the man should’ve been but where a fire was burning instead. After years of people threatening to burn the bugger before the scheduled time, a prankster/performance artist had finally managed it. For me the “BURNING OF THE MAN” is not the highlight of the festival at all, in fact its rather random to me and I attach little significance to it. So I did not really care much at the time. I was just mildly annoyed in that I had planned to photograph the lunar eclipse and the man in the same frame after which I could’ve happily retreated to the RV to get more sleep having acquired my eclipse photograph of the event. Now I would have to find some other iconic thing about burning man to include in a snap with the eclipse. Eventually I got a barely satisfactory snap with one of the city ‘lamps’ and another with the bendy bus galleon.

I’d like to claim the eclipse meant more to me than it did that night but oddly I felt a little more duty-bound on this occasion than truly relishing it as the remarkable astronomical event during which is the only time we can see earth’s ever-present shadow. Of course I did appreciate its beauty and the moment but I was pretty ill and shattered. I guess Solar Eclipses are really my thing. I returned to sleep and managed to lie in until at least 1030, which can be very difficult as the day gets so hot so fast. Being in a tent can be unbearable by that time. This is one thing that makes an RV a better, if much more expensive option than a tent.

Every day like that first day, contains so many sights and sounds. Amongst these the Interaction Café stood out. Yes – they don’t serve food or drink! No - they serve INTERACTIONS. We arrived (Katie, Skez and I) and were ushered into a sumptuous restaurant by the maitre’d and flustered over by a group of waiters. Lovely chaps – splendidly half-dressed. Offered a table for 4 in case another guest arrived. We each picked an “h’orderve” from a proffered tin box. I forget what the others had but mine was ‘Perform an INTERPRETIVE DANCE on a theme suggested by one of your compatriots’. I can’t remember the suggestion but I did a dam buster flying around the room impersonation ending by revealing my underpants, which had the word ‘end’ written on the bum. The chaps who were running this Café were really funny and constantly making us and the other ‘diners’ feel great. As a main course, Skez had a non-contact ‘Blowjob’ while Katie had the ‘Human Camera’. I had the ‘Super Slo-motion Race’ that I shared with 2 waiters and Skez. This involved trying to travel about 3m as slowly as possible while tensing every muscle. VERY silly and very funny. I wish I did a snap to illustrate this place with as a picture does say 1000 words and it was a superb example of people going out of their way to ensure you have a great time.

Another thing I love doing is going Deep Playa alone on my bike. This is into the wide expanse of desert around the city in which various artworks have been dotted around. Once again, these artworks are pretty much created and installed at the artists expense (some of the bigger ones are funded by some of the event ticket purchase) and effort for your enjoyment and their self-expression. Doing this early in the week one can appreciate the solitude more as there are far fewer people but still enough to enjoy the odd random encounter. I found some good stuff. A field of a thousand silver windmills, a lone chair with a lone tree and a book with a poem about the last tree. A couch on which I had a short nap – aah. See snaps as I found it and as it had become by the end of the week, showing its evolution. There was a note on it describing the couch as the world’s smallest inn – ‘stay as long as you like – take the gift left by the last person and leave one in its place.’ My gifts were chapsticks with personalised stickers on them, along with individual pin-on buttons. I left these and took a scrap of paper on which was written this: “Accept loss forever”. Pretty ominous and rang a deep chord within me.

I administered some Third Aid in the form of a UV-active dolphin tattoo to ‘Pineapple’ of Los Angeles. To preserve water I administered this tattoo with saliva – it’s a desert after all! She and her friend Robyn were hanging out at the Big Rig Jig which is rather a good example of how bloody nuts this place is in terms of its art! I gifted them several of my buttons in what was the closest thing to a horse trade I had at BM. Robyn was wearing a badge saying “Don’t harsh my mellow” and I kinda REALLY needed that to give as a gift to another friend in dire need of just such a badge.

By nightfall I got back to camp but the others had already gone out. I randomly found them inside the Department of Playa Security – a theme camp ensuring Al-quaeda would not find a foothold in Black Rock City. To gain entrance I was rigorously searched by ‘Able’, a very able-bodied uniformed anti-terrorist agent who was quite convinced I was hiding bombs inside my mouth that only her tongue could detect. Rules is rules and while I knew I’d placed no bombs in my mouth one can never be sure that some other fiend hadn’t. I was relieved to eventually be given the all clear.

I had an encounter at Camp Validate because of a ‘u-turn girl’. This involved me bursting into their fantastic tent brandishing a riding crop, announcing ‘Ha ha – you have an intruder… and he’s armed… what’re you going to do?’ Much laughter… cries of ‘Give him a drink!’ A ‘u-turner’ is someone you do a u-turn for after you’ve cycled past them to ensure an interaction. It may be their cool outfit, gorgeous looks, the vodka jellies they’re giving out and so on. When I explained why I’d ‘u-turned’ and burst into the tent intent on conversing with this particular Lovely visible from the street, her reply was ‘Well, that’s ME validated!’ Then she gave me a rubber stamp to mark the word on her lovely tummy. This was that camps gift – providing validation for people on the playa. And always accompanied with some form on glowing praise for the thing one was being validated for and congratulatory alcoholic beverage of your choice. Later in the week in a slightly down moment I returned seeking my own validation. It worked – I felt much better afterwards though the strong mojito definitely helped!

We moved on. Finding a huge fairground creation involving 6 giant horses all moving up and down on poles. A hip-hop DJ was crunching out some great grindy chunes and soon as you like we were all over these horses dancing and messing around. There I met Saturn, a lady on stilts dancing next to me and while I was dancing on the horse, things were great but once I dismounted it became hard for her to stoop to my level. Stilt it was lovely while it lasted. Stilts equals bad news for conversation and smooching so bear that in mind if you’re planning a career in stilt walking. I doubt the guidance counselor will mention THAT aspect of the job. See inactive daytime snap of the horses thing quite a different place when not lit up nor surrounded by 200 dancing mad folk.

We spent some time hanging out near the fire twirler stage – this area is by no means the only place that fire twirlers operate, they do it bloody everywhere, but it’s a particularly good one with lots of extra visibility and drama being added by a circle of propane spewing gas towers. Amongst other things I saw here was a super remarkable fire hula-hoop girl and 2 huge guys with giant fireballs on chains doing what I hope was a pre-choreographed performance. Thinking about BM now I bet those 2 dudes didn’t even know each other and met on the stage for the first time that night. Safety Third! A constant amazement at BM is the quality of these performances. Always astounding. See snap for fireball guys. Also see snaps from Part 1 for hula fire-girl.

That’s just a light hazing of some of the stuff that happened the Tuesday – which was really my first day there.

The fact that none of this entertainment is provided by the organizers often makes people surprised to hear that one has to pay for a ticket too. The average ticket price is $250 so they are not too cheap either. Some of this money funds art, some of it funds the organization’s full-time staff, more of it pays for insurance, police hire, rental of the land, hire of earthmoving equipment, cranes and so on. However I also learned this year that the organisation supplies everybody who wants to use it with free propane. It is Burning Man after all. Apparently this one crazy art-piece which is a giant ‘X’ of propane towers spewing fireballs in series somewhat controlled by spectators pressing buttons burns $20,000 of propane a night. Seems unlikely but then I have no idea how much propane costs and this thing sure uses a lot of it! See snap from part 1 for this ‘X’ artwork.

Jay and I had volunteered as ‘Greeters’ on the gate from midnight to 4am on the Wednesday night. We did this the year before and had hugely appreciated it. Last year Domenique and I did it unofficially with Jay but this year I had committed to it beforehand. I’d decided I’d be in my fun policeman mode, wanted to cut an officious figure and be able to demand ‘papers’ or else from the new arrivals I wore a military uniform/polo outfit (see snap).

It was even more nuts than the year before with many more arrivals than at the same time last year. The satisfaction of being that person there to welcome all arrivals ‘home’ knows scant equal. Welcoming them with hugs, smiles, delight, silly banter and trading a tale or 2 then giving them the official warnings about driving and not putting foreign objects in toilets, finally handing out maps and so on. Of course it’s even better when a vehicle turns up containing virgins to initiate. This year officially spanking was off the initiation menu as someone sued someone the previous year. So we were left to initiate the virgins with bell-ringing, line crossing, playa dust angels and so on and of course if their friends requested the DELUXE greeting experience. This year the indefatigable Brian Spaley joined us and amongst others we had the delightful company of Hula, Keeper and Molly from Playa of the Apes. Out of Seattle these lovelies had erected a papier-mâché statue of liberty rising from the sands outside their cocktail tent. Coincidentally I’d met them all earlier that day while exploring the city.

I wonder if us greeters are regarded as an obstacle to getting into the main event by those who’ve driven long and hard to arrive late at night. Then I remember the super smiles these cars all contain as we bound up to them and ‘interact’. Never once have I had a bad response from someone I ‘greeted’. Though this time that could also have been to do with Hula’s ahem... special assets and her willingness to display them to arrivals. Of course I had to report her to Jay (he’d been appointed chief-greeter - hooray!) for the unauthorised display of goods without the required quality checks but after a thorough examination it was concluded they were more than acceptable. But even without her when I would introduce myself with my playa name - Doctor Lobster – without fail they’d break into a smile, laugh and I hope feel a little more likely to appreciate the absurdity of our existence.

Some of the cooler ‘greets’ included some Brazilians requesting the Deluxe Greeting Treatment for the 2 virgins in their group. Enough girls who love a man in uniform to make THAT outfit worth repeating next year. Also a lone French Dude who’d been at his desk in Paris and thought, ‘Merde, Burning Men - I must go’ - ok I don’t know what he really thought but he just grabbed a few things, his passport, went to the airport, booked a flight to Denver, San Fran then Reno, hired a car and arrived at the gates 28 hours later. It was his 3rd time and he’d almost missed coming. What else could I say but ‘Welcome home’. Also the unjaded 17-time burner finally bringing his 2 virgin friends along. The 3 virgins who’d been in New York, had their flight to London cancelled and just decided to come to BM instead.

But by far the best of all... sadly their names are lost to me... the husband and wife owners of the nearest gas station. They were finally coming to the event for the first time ever. Can you imagine - being the small town folk owning the closest gas station in the area and finally coming along to experience this behemoth of an event right on your doorstep that’s no doubt been a huge goldmine for them. They only had 6 hours, arriving at 3am but were super relaxed and so happy to chat to me about what they should do and the event in general! They were pretty sun weathered and craggy - I guess in their late 50’s – but all I could do was welcome them in, get them to ring the shell-case all virgins ring and shout ‘I’m not a fucking virgin anymore’ which they did lustily. My recommendation was to park their car somewhere about H-road and walk on up 6 o’clock until dawn. I wonder what they made of it! Maybe I’ll look them up next year.

At 4am we retreated to the safety of the Recharge Ranch to continue laughing the dawn in. Thank god for the RV so we could sleep late. Thank god also for the window in the RV that allowed Tali and Dan to feed raspberry pancakes to me until my strength was restored. Incidentally when I say sleeping late that is still only 10am. A REALLY good nights sleep at BM is probably 5 hours. Perhaps it is the fact that I draw huge energy from hot and dry conditions or perhaps it’s the exuberant nature of the event as 5 hours feels like enough sleep. I guess it’s also a lot to do with the idea of ‘well - I’ll sleep on the plane or when I’m dead’.

Last year the music was ok but this year I heard some of the best dance music I have ever heard. I put this down to knowing more about where to go, when to go, where to stay and being in extrovert overdrive. Also being with more friends helped make dancing several hours every day even more fun.

We danced at The Deep End daytime dance area twice. Once to our favourite Space Cowboy DJ – Mancub – the best daytime dancing I’ve ever done and only eclipsed as a general dance experience by the following night’s nocturnal activities on top of the bar at the Ashram Galactica (no HBO). The music led us on a journey for the entire afternoon, letting us engage with everyone around. The spirit of the crowd exquisite!

The second time at the Deep End was the most hardcore outdoor, at the mercy of the elements dancing by far. I’d been lucky with the weather this year and last, always being with someone suitably comfy in a tent or RV when a dust storm hit. My luck ended that day at The Deep End. At times we were barely able to see a few feet in front of oneself. But the DJ played on and the party faithful stuck it out. And THAT spirit was wild and unchained. Strong like some tribe of party savages about to feast. The conditions at BM can be extreme and not for the faint-hearted. Beware and be warned! Goggles and mask. When this dust storm cleared we were rewarded with an intense double rainbow. Super beautiful picture attached (not mine – again!)

So there you have it for this part – a very few of the things we got up to before the weekend at BM.

I’ve attached a LOT of very low res images showing some more of the art and some showing some of the things I wrote about in this mail and one of 2 girls showing us their beavers.

I can also let you know that I'm still running a multiple set of equations and analysis programs in various parts of my body, mind and soul in an attempt to gauge just how far the innerverse has expanded as a result of this recent super-ina-nova. For the last several weeks every available psychonaut I have (they’re like astronauts but do to inner space what astronauts do to outer space), has been preparing to go forth and explore these new regions within me. Many of the expeditions have been deliberately delayed to gather strength for what might be quite a lengthy journey. And I’ll admit some of them are just a wee bit daunted by the task – after all whose to say there will not be spiders as big as tigers in these new regions of my mind? If you care to offer a topic of exploration I’ll add it to their workload.

I’ve been joking for some time about being an interdimensional lay-by cartographer but now I realise what I REALLY am is an inner-dimensional cartographer. Watch this space.

As I mentioned life’s experiences have continued unabated since BM – not the least of which involved a magic time in LA with the mermaid Pearl, a surprise acquisition at BM, another unforgettable and equally surprising time in London with the same Pearl, a full contact dance mission to Ibiza, the continued delights of Doomsday, the film I am employed by, a few uncommonly good parties, friendships, Rugby World Cup (Bokke!), house-hunting, succumbing to the evils of the televised cricket, the Masque of the Red Death and Shillington cocktails.

Once more feel free to hit the opt-out clause and avoid the next installment.


Doctor Lobster xxx

That’s my playa name – like a nickname really though it has to stick to you like shit to a blanket, without telling the tale mine is came as a combination of Third Aid, Hot Baths and a Curious Kitten.

Doesn’t it seem super suspicious that one can buy items like Christmas mince pies that have best before dates more than 6 weeks prior to xmas itself!!!
I’ll have a moment of appreciation for the decommodification aspect of BM. Ahh.

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