Originally published 7/19/2009
Wednesday morning, the 27th of August, came shining through the cracks in my RV curtains around 8 o’clock. Darn it! Wasn’t I supposed to set the alarm and greet the sunrise?!? The previous nights’ late night walk made it hard to get up in the morning. So I hopped out of bed, ate something for breakfast, readied my hydration pack and left the RV.
I stopped by my next-door neighbors, Barry and Meps’ camp. They were preparing their “costumery” for the day. I’m not sure I ever saw them in the same outfit for more than a few hours. They certainly had a wide repertoire of things to wear, all perfect for the playa. By night they rode their bikes, complete with alien passengers and floating space ships along the esplanade, sometimes handing out treats and greeting everyone they met. That’s part of what I like best about them. They’re like folks you’ve known for your whole life, even if you’ve only just met them. I was lucky to have them as my neighbors there, and we continue our friendship beyond the playa, even now.
After checking to see who was hanging about in the lounge, I climbed aboard my bike and began exploring side streets again. I ended up on the esplanade around the 5 o’clock area again and began to explore the art installations I had not seen the night before. I stopped to see ZsuZsu: The Crybaby Drama Queen in her heart-shaped trailer and mini Eiffel tower, to see if I could coax her out, but alas there was no response to any of my “button pressing” on her conversation board.
While there I took a series of pictures for a panoramic shot, starting toward the 2 o’clock esplanade end and turning gradually clock-wise until I was pointed at approximately the 7 o’clock area – which was so far off as to be almost indiscernible. Click on the picture below to open it on another page and select the full size measurements above the picture on that page to see the full sized view.
From there I moved on – counter-clockwise over the playa, just inside the esplanade, until I got to the 3 o’clock promenade to the man. It was time to actually ‘visit’ the man and climb the tower to his perch. I headed toward the man and came upon a cubicle, complete with office furniture, computer, chair, and phone. I guess it was there to represent the ‘American nightmare” rather than the American dream. Or perhaps it was just there for those who missed the office.
Heading toward the Man, I saw, off to my right, a pyramidal stage for an ‘opera’ production. Later in the week, after the opera, they would burn the stage.
Further toward the man was the winged sculpture called “Spread Eagle” a 30 foot wide set of wings with a large ring between them. A photographer had a model painted all in blue, perched atop the ring. Another young lady approached on a bike and was ‘recruited’ to stand inside the ring. The whole structure of metal and wood rotated in any direction with a light push, or with the wind.
Nearby was the Playatech Timeshare hut where I had stopped in the night before. I wanted to get some pictures (seen in Chapter 10) by day. I was surprised to find someone wrapped in a sleeping bag on the ‘couch’ inside. Perhaps one of the two guys I had chatted with the night before. I left them to their slumber.
Arriving, at last, at the Man, I stood in the archway to enter, and heard an eerie voice sounding from all around me, speaking nonsensical phrases while i passed through the ‘metal detector’-like entry. There were two sets of stairs, one going up, the other coming back down. I call them stairs but each step was higher than 12 inches.
I climbed to the very top, just below the Man’s feet. There was barbed wire between myself and the man, a product of the premature burning that took place the previous year. The tower was shady, and a cool breeze passed at that height. I took pictures in all directions and lingered on the third level where the breeze seemed coolest.
Looking out across the Playa toward the Temple, I watched the water truck spray down the dusty promenade and contemplated my visit there in the coming days. I knew that, of all the places at Burning Man, the Temple would affect me the most. The next day would be my first visit there (other than to light lamps around the outside) , but for now, it was time to get back to the Lamplighters village, and the much anticipated Bloody Mary Brunch.
The Lamplighters host the Bloody Mary Brunch each year, as a mixer and recruiting party to help coax volunteers from all over the city to help out each evening. In July several members get together to make the spicy home-made pickles that help to make the event such a favorite. Later, the home-made bloody mary mix is conjured to be served up on Wednesdays at noon on the playa.
Earlier I said “anticipated” because this yearly event draws crowds from all over the city. I, myself, do not drink, but I was anticipating the opportunity to recruit evening volunteers to help light the lamps.
When I arrived, I was early but a line was beginning to form from the bar, snaking around through the lounge, and out the back again along the road. I spoke with several people as I walked from the head of the line toward the end – I welcomed them and talked to any who would listen about the ‘joys’ of lamplighting. I reached the end of the line just as the bar was ‘opening’ to start the brunch. The line, from that time, never seemed to go down until about 30 minutes past noon when it was finally short enough that everyone was in the shade.
One enterprising young man rode his adult tricycle under the shade and sprayed us all down with a fine mist of water from a large misting tank as he went. It was a welcome refreshment as the day was beginning to heat up. After talking to a few more potential lamplighter volunteers, I wandered out the back and marveled at the sheer number of bikes parked there by the crowd. Then I headed back toward the RV for a snack of my own.
Unfortunately, most everything at the Bloody Mary Brunch was too spicy for me and I needed to refill the hydration pack for my afternoon. I was tasked by “Schwag Whore” – who played a major role in the running of the bar, with a mission to ‘embrace the fur’. It did seem as if everyone there had some kind of fake fur regalia. I, however , did not and so I was told to go forth and seek out ‘the fur’ at one of several location that give out outrageous costume wear. As always, the playa gives you what you need. More on that in chapter 12. In the meantime, I need to get some information out to potential Virgin “Burners” about things they should take and advice and hints for their own trip to the playa. This will follow before Chapter 12.