Originally published 6/27/2009
After leaving the Bordello of Dust, I headed down the street to the Center Cafe again. There was always something going on there. The stages had entertainers of all types who would entertain for a set period of time and then someone else would take their place. There was an MC for each stage whose job it was to make sure the entertainers didn’t go too much over their time.
I stopped to watch someone playing guitar and singing, followed by a woman who was reciting intense poetry, and then followed by what I can only describe as the ‘worst’ comedian ever. This guy not only wasn’t funny – and the rest of the crowd there apparently agreed with my assessment – but he was somewhat unnerving – like watching a serial killer telling jokes. I moved on from there.
At the other end of the cafe, some folks brought their wonderful animated camel through the cafe. The legs belonged to two people, under the mechanical camel, that held it up, and the head and neck were operated by one or more people with controllers in-hand. The operators would swivel the neck around as if to have the camel look at something specific, the eyes moved and blinked as well.
Around 3:30 in the afternoon, when it started to really get warm, I headed back to the RV for a short break. I fired up the generator, turned on the AC and sat back to read a little and doze through the heat of the afternoon. Around 4:30 I fixed a microwaveable meal (yeah, roughing it, I know) and chowed down before heading over to the chapel to start the lamplighting process for the day. I knew that if I didn’t eat something, I would be hungry well before 9:00, when the evening meal was ready.
Between having so much to see and do, and the heat factor of the location, many people tend to eat less and drink more. To offset the diluting factor of drinking more water, you must keep up your intake of electrolytes and salt. Salty snacks and pickles help, drinking not just water but a Gatorade-like drink helps too. Eating less though means making sure you don’t stop eating altogether! Lite meals and salty snacks kept me going throughout to week and although I lost a few pounds, I really could afford to lose it.
I don’t drink alcohol, but I feel I should include this warning. Drinking alcohol increases dehydration. I saw it in several fellow lamplighters whose hydration problems sent them to the medical tents for an IV drip to re-hydrate them.
At 5:00, I arrived at the chapel and went immediately to the white board for assignments. JustDaniel was there, as always, and I signed up for the same route he was doing – the Temple Run. The run to the Temple in the evening is a long one. The one saving grace – for my feet at least – was that they take you out to the Man on the truck, so you can start your run from there.
I wanted to experience some of the longer runs there before my feet gave out for the week ,and figured this one took us farther out than most. At more than a mile and a half, the Temple run starts at the Man and heads up the promenade to the Temple, then around the Temple to complete the lighting there. The longest part of the run is walking back to camp, about a mile from the Temple.�
We had a good crew of both Lamplighting villagers and volunteers and made the run in good time. It helps to have good people to share the work with and the walk back, as the twilight gives way to the dark and you walk the promenade, so beautifully lit by those same lanterns you helped to hang.
After the long walk back from the Temple, I did the whole foot soaking thing and found that they were still in good shape. Dinner was served, not sure I remember what it was, but every dinner brought with it new things I had never tried. After dinner, instead of crashing at 10:00pm, like I had the night before, I decided to go out and check out the night-life around the city. My only mistake, was attempting to do it on foot.
Setting out, I headed toward the center camp cafe, and out toward where the promenade and the esplanade met. It was like walking the boardwalk at the shore, at night, with crowds of people headed everywhere. Brightly lit structures beckoned as I headed clockwise on the esplanade. People, bikes, and fire belching vehicles bustled along the busy street. All manner of places to see, and music to hear, called me to come and look. This was part of what I looked forward to. The rhythm of all that music blended to a sound not unlike a primal heartbeat. Nighttime at Burning Man pulsed an energy all it’s own. I found myself exploring a set of tents called ‘home’ – decorated with carpets, fine furniture and smaller rooms set off the main area, I found folks lounging and watched a young lady working her hula-hoop to the beat of some 80′s music.
Moving further up the esplanade, I reached the end, at 10 o’clock, where the two domed structures of the ‘Root Society’ blasted out inviting sounds and lights. The smaller of the two domes was open, but there were cranes working to complete the interior of the larger dome. In the smaller dome a DJ played music while visitors lounged on long bed-like couches around the walls, and people danced and mingled throughout. On either side of the DJ, two large enclosures, looking like giant TV’s, held dancers inside whose shadows were projected on the screens to all the people watching. Anyone could get in on the shadow box dancing and many projected their shadows in suggestive poses and actions.
Back outside, I waited to see if any of the art cars nearby would be leaving to transport people across the playa. Many of these decorated vehicles haul folks back and forth, criss-crossing the open playa in the center of the city and stopping at some of the bigger venues (like the Root Society dome). I waited awhile, and none of them seemed to be going anywhere, so I decided my feet felt good enough to walk. I headed onto the playa in the general direction of the 2 o’clock area, which would take me across the space between the Man and the Temple. As I walked into the night, the stars were bright and some of the aerial ‘technology’ that was deployed could be seen. One of these involved several cables sporting multiple helium filled balloons, call Skyline. The cables also had bright LEDs that could be seen from a distance and they seemed to dance with each other in the night sky.
A little farther along, I came to Kate Raudenbush’s’ “Altered States” which is a fabrication of carved white steel panels – depicting mythical creatures – connected in the shape of the capitol dome in Washington – in the center, you can climb up to the second tier balcony and look out. Also in the center a large ladder-like swing for visitors amusement.
The evening was beginning to take on a bit of chill, and I, in my daytime clothes, was feeling it. Evening can truly get cold on the playa so it is best to dress for cooler temperatures. Leaving the “Altered States” installation, I decided to make a change in course and headed toward the promenade between the Man and the 3 o’clock keyhole. Once on that path, I found the Playa Timeshare hut similar to what I would have stayed in, had they been able to get them ready on time.
I ducked in to see how cool / warm the building was in the evening chill. I found the space occupied and well lit from the solar powered lights inside. Two burners had decided to hang out, play guitar and mostly just crash there. The ‘timeshare’ hut was a comfortable temperature and the playa-tech plywood furniture was comfortable to set for awhile and chat.
When I left the hut, the chill was even more pronounced and I was starting to feel the need to crash, myself. I headed toward the lights of the 4 to 5 o’clock part of the esplanade and when I got to the roller disco, I knew I was almost back to the RV. It was after midnight by then, past 3 AM at home, so after seeing to my feet again, I crawled into the sleeping bag and drifted off.