Saturday, September 26, 2015

Burning Man - Eat My Dust!

For years my friend, Al, has been extolling the virtues of Burning Man to the point that I agreed to "try" to go just to shut him up.

You may ask "what is this Burning Man thing and why would you want to attend, Marc?"

I've yet to hear a concise explanation that captures it all. When asked I say that it's Mad Max meets Woodstock at a Boy Scout Jamboree in Las Vegas.

There's art, although not in any conventional sense. And in order to install your art at BM you have to obtain permission from a committee and then spend all year building it. Just to show you how it might go here's what I imagine a sample pitch might sound like:

"Hey guys. I have this idea. I want to build a 40 foot toilet out of sandstone and aluminum and I want it to spin. I'll have an opening in the front so people can actually climb around inside the bowl and use a ladder of turds to reach the flush handle. When people flush it I'm going to have flames shoot 25 feet into the air. And of course it will have a bidet attachment that will douse the flames. And it'll play music."

You laugh but after seeing some of the things I saw I won't be a bit surprised to see this show up at Burning Man in the future.

Okay, so that's one aspect. There's music too although most of it is "electronic dance music" (EDM). EDM is based on the principal that if you repeat the same two bars of music enough times people will dance to it. Sure, there are other genres represented (metal, folk, oldie rock, etc.) but the predominant sound is the kind that rattles your organs.

The third component is probably the spirit of the thing. While one of the tenets of BM is self-reliance the community is there to feed itself and take care of those who need it. The only things you can buy there are ice and coffee/tea drinks. Everything else you have to bring with you---everything from water to toilet paper. But don't think you're completely on your own because the community is there to help you.

The community is made up of individuals and "camps." Small groups may set up their tents or sleep in their cars, often propping up a tarp next to their car to form a sort of lean-to. But a huge portion of the 70,000 population forms camps which have a common purpose. A camp could offer free beer to anyone who comes by or perhaps free chicken wings from 5-7 or a camp that will wash your feet for free or provide massage or teach you meditation or do a makeover. There's a huge camp that will repair your bicycle and only asks that you stick around to help someone else fix theirs. There are camps that are there to entertain---music, acrobatics, fire arts, etc. And then the sex-themed camps that range from spanking to providing a space to have sex. And it's all free.

The last component is the environment. The organizers went to the federal government and asked for space to hold this festival. The Bureau of Land Management, always willing to help, rubbed their collective chins and asked themselves "where is the most inhospitable place we can think of to let these people suffer?" And lo, a few miles from beautiful Gerlach, Nevada, a mere 102 miles north of Reno, Black Rock City was born---or rather blew onto the map.

Can you say "flat?" Can you imagine microscopic dust that can blow at 50-60 miles an hour? And let's make it anywhere from 50 - 110 degrees during the day and possibly down into the 30s at night. Try packing for that!!

But what's most remarkable about BM might be that a week after those 70,000 people have left there isn't one cigarette butt, not one scrap of paper, not one safety pin left in that desert because one of the other tenets is "leave no trace." And they don't. Hundreds of volunteers remain after the event ends and comb the desert like my Uncle Sid with a metal detector at the beach, picking up everything they find and turning over the dirt to make sure they haven't missed anything. What the heck. It's only about 27 square miles.

So can you see the allure of Burning Man? Doesn't it make you want to pack up your van and drive 600 miles to suffer the weather, the wind, the dirt and 70,000 other people? If the answer is "no" then you have hit on another aspect of BM --- it "self-selects" as Al likes to say. Only people who can hack it go there. They know what to expect or they wouldn't be going.

Now that I've laid a filthy foundation let's get back to me and I'll abbreviate the lead-up to the day I left. I reserved my RV in January, didn't get my ticket on the first lottery and didn't get a ticket on the second chance lottery (I think they get something like 300,000 requests for 68,000 tickets). Luckily Al came through for me and got me a ticket for the eight-day event for $390 plus $50 for the vehicle pass.

As the departure date approached I read everything I could find about BM and used the many checklists and tips to build my own checklist, planning for every weather condition from extreme heat to monsoons. I began to pack and by "departure's eve" I was ready with five crates of food, clothing and stuff and a bicycle decorated with flashing electroluminescent wire and a hockey stick.

My RV reservation was for 10:00 that morning but I had Robyn drop me off at El Monte RV at 8:00 and luckily they took pity on me and got me out of there by 9:00.

It was pushing 85 by then but I was sweating at the thought of having to negotiate a 22 foot RV onto Sepulveda. I must have sat there at the edge of the driveway for a good 20  minutes waiting for a large enough break in the morning traffic to allow me to use all three lanes to swing onto Sepulveda. At one point the gal at El Monte RV came out to make sure I was okay. I wasn't.

But I made it home and started loading. By now it was over 90 and I was sweating like a Finnish sauna attendant. The last item to load was the bike so I hefted it up to the door, tweaked the handlebars and---shit. It wouldn't fit. No matter how I turned it there was no way it was getting through the narrow doorway.

With no choice I emptied the cargo compartment, turned the bike on its side and tried to muscle it in. Rats!! It wouldn't fit with the hockey stick protruding from the back so I grabbed my Swiss army knife and began undoing the zip ties and tape that I had so carefully used to secure the stick to the bike. And because I was hot and frustrated and running late I was not a happy camper and pretty much threw the damn amputee bike into the compartment.

And then I get a call from my office. The mail has come in and the GoPro my sister got me has finally come in along with a picture that my friend, Kate, has sent me to place in the temple at BM (more on that later). So I get on the freeway going south to the office instead of north to Burning Man and I'm pissed. It's noon and I should be long gone.

Now it's 1:30. I pop the spicy jaw breaker that comes with your Burning Man ticket and I'm finally on my way but the only thought in my mind is that I really could use a shower. Five minutes out and instead of being psyched I'm worried about how I must stink. Are my priorities screwed up or what?

Ten minutes later an alarm in the RV starts beeping every 30 seconds. It's bound to stop, right? Wrong. After 15 minutes I pull off the freeway and the beeping stops. Luckily El Monte RV has this awesome helpline so naturally I call them to ask what it could be but the operator on the line, Lisa, hasn't got a clue. We've run through all the possibilities but none of them pan out.

What the heck, it's finally quiet so no big deal but that only lasts about ten minutes. Since I've just spoken to the nice but not-so-helpful Lisa I redial her while driving and we go through the problem again. She can't hear the beeping through my phone even though I've got her on speaker and I'm holding the phone as high as I can.

"Can you walk closer to the beeping?" she asks me.

"I'm driving which makes it a bit difficult to do," I respond.

"Can you pull over so I can hear it?" she asks hopefully.

"It'll probably stop when I pull over---that's what it did last time."

"Is there anyone else with you?"

Now I'm getting pissed. "Lisa. If there was anyone with me don't you think I would have had them walk closer to the beeping?"

"I suppose so," she answers sheepishly.

Pointless. I hang up and tolerate the beeping for another 20 minutes or so before pulling off the freeway again.

Now I'm completely fed up and call my brother-in-law, Jack, who talks me down. He reminds me that despite all the crap that's happened in the first 50 miles I'll be having a blast in less than 24 hours. I have my doubts but I agree to continue. Had I not told so many people that I was going in the first place I probably would have turned around and cut my losses but I know me pretty well and made a point of telling anyone who would listen that I was going. There was no way I was going to let a little beeping keep me from my "dustiny." After all I only had about eight hours to go before I'd reach Reno.

The first time I stop for gas I realize that I haven't set up my Sirius satellite radio so I patch into the radio, plug into the AC power and extend the antenna wire. No power. Huh? What's with that? Exasperated I just crank the engine, pull back onto the freeway and try to find a station that isn't playing music about a man, his ex-wife, his truck or his dog and finally settle on a station that plays the worst of the oldies. Only about seven-and-a-half hours to go.

At around 7:30 I pull off the freeway somewhere past Sacramento and pull into a Denny's parking lot, making sure that I park in such a way that I won't need to back up when I leave. The place is mostly empty except for two couples at two tables and an old timer perched on a stool at the counter. I opt for the counter and realize as soon as I sit down that the counter is so close to the stools that I have to fold up my legs to fit. Why would they build the counter that way?

The waitress is older and overweight as are the other five people in the restaurant. Is this Auburn California or Macon, Georgia in 1960? I order a burger and kill time by checking my email. As I'm reading an email posted by one of the members of my discussion group the front door swings open and a young couple comes in with seven kids, all under 10. The waitress sees me eye them and points to a sign that says "Kids eat free on Tuesdays." Ah.

Anxious to get back on the road I wolf down my dinner and spend the next 60 miles trying to keep it down. By now I can smell my overnight layover and an hour later I pull into a Wal-Mart parking lot in Reno. Did you know that Wal-Mart welcomes RVs to spend the night in their lot? You do now. And I'm not alone. There are three others parked there and each of us have parked close enough to the others to create a sort of safety ring but far enough apart to avoid having to interact with each other, not that anyone is going to be milling about at 10:00.

I spend the next half hour putting tinfoil in all the windows (to keep the sun from superheating my 22 foot tin can at BM), tape plastic bags over the vents to keep the dust out and crawl under the covers, mercifully falling asleep in minutes,

The next morning I wake at 6:00 and get ready to take off. The engine turns over easily and the beeping starts again. Damn. Lisa answers right away and I'm thinking that she and I are probably officially dating by now.

"Marc! How're you doing?" she asks cheerfully after recognizing my phone number.

"It's beeping again, Lisa."

But Lisa is ready now. She did some research after we signed off the day before and has spent some serious time with the 2016 owner's manual. She directs me to the outside of the RV and has me opening panel after panel in an attempt to locate the generator switch. It takes me some time to figure out where the switch is. I locate it and turn the generator off, then on and run into the RV. The beeping has stopped! And better than that I can see that the face of the Sirius receiver is lit!!

Things are looking up.

I sign off with Lisa and head for a gas station to make sure that I'm prepared in case I need to run the engine or generator at BM. 90 minutes later I leave Gerlach behind me and I can see the gate to Burning Man. Now I'm getting excited. A small dust storm rolls across the desert like a cotton freight train. It seems to be leading the way.
The gate has a colorful "Carnival of Mirrors" sign off to one side so I dutifully get out and take a
selfie in front of it, then start the 10 mph ride to security. There are very few of us coming in on this the third day of the event and we spread out over the 15 coned off lanes that eventually funnel the "Burners" to the security gate after about 15 minutes of crawling.

Security scans your ticket, scans your vehicle pass and checks for stowaways, fire arms, fireworks and other contraband. They check trunks and cargo compartments and make people semi-unpack their vehicles to make sure there's nothing stashed under sleeping bags or behind coolers.

In my case the guy looks in my bathroom and in one of the cargo areas, then says "the only thing you're trying to hide is your stomach and you aren't doing a very good job of it." He waves me through.

From security you slow to 5MPH and drive to where the greeters are waiting. Their job is to get you out of your car, give you a hug and bid you "welcome home."

For virgin burners like me they have you lay in the dirt and either roll around or make dust angels. then they have you grab a length of rebar and bang it on a large bell to signify that you're no longer a virgin. Ironically I did exactly the same thing back in 1971.

Then it was through the gate to the "playa." As you Californians probably know the word "playa" means beach but when you go to the beach the water is already there. Not so with the playa at Burning Man. If you don't bring your own water with you within 48 hours you'll be a dessicated pile of skin.

As I skirted the outside of the camping areas at 5 MPH I took in my first real view of playa life.

There were lots of RVs but the vast majority of the people here in the outskirts were living in tents, small one and two-man tents or in enormous geodesic domes of canvas. Heck, there was every type of home imaginable. tents within tents, tents attached to cars, vans with pop tops, RVs, trailers---well, you get the idea.

The same goes for the people. Young, old, fully clothed, topless, naked, in kilts, in shorts, in sarongs, in bathing suits---I could go keep going but if you're like me you've already pictured some fifty-something year old, sunburned, wrinkly, naked man on a bike and you're trying to purge the image. I guess if you weren't thinking that then you're certainly doing it now. You're welcome.

They're walking, riding bikes, tricycles, unicycles or in "mutant" vehicles or art cars. Mutant vehicles are anything fairly small that's been bastardized but still motors around. It could be a golf cart with a pig's head on the hood to a trike with a bicycle on top of it with the gears of one driving the gears of the other.

Art cars are generally larger and act as the free rapid transit system (at 5MPH). These are decorated elaborately and usually have lots of lights. For example you might see a 15 foot long motorized gecko with bar stools on its spine. Or you might see a school bus turned into a pirate ship motoring down a dusty street with a dozen people aboard drinking margaritas and dancing to the music coming out of its four eight foot speakers. If you want a ride they have to stop and pick you up but the driver controls the destination, not you. Get on the wrong art car and you could be gone for days.

As I slowly drive towards my camp's coordinates (4 o'clock between A and B streets) I tried to take all this in, marveling at the way people have decorated their abodes, their transportation and themselves. Should some of them put on clothes? Hell, yes. Do they care? Hell, no. If they didn't care then neither would I and I would wear my L.A. Kings banana hammock proudly.

I found Al's RV easily enough and after a hug and a "welcome home" he guided me into my parking slot and showed me where to hook up to their camp's electrical grid. Then he and his wife Sarah took me on a little tour on their golf cart.

Our first stop was the center of "And Then There's Only Love," the name of our camp. Sounds lovely doesn't it? All lovey dovey and full of hugs, right? Ask people at Burning Man what they know about our camp and they'll look puzzled but call it by its more famous name, Orgy Dome, and everyone knows what you're all about.

Orgy Dome is an 1,800 foot covered and enclosed tented structure with twenty-something mattresses laid out on the ground. No. It's not a slumber party area. It's place where couples and "moresomes" can get together to uh, do what couples and moresomes do.

Al introduced me to some of his friends: Shade, Sean, Natasha, Meat, Sebastian, Steve and Sonia. No. Meat is not her given name, it's her playa name. Playa names are typically given to you by your friends. For example Al is an attorney and uses the playa name of Laszlo, named after Hunter Thompson's crazy attorney in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Shade is lovely and cool so her playa name fits too but Meat? I'm not sure how she got that one.

Then it was time to head out into "deep playa," the furthest areas from the camping area.


Picture a semicircle of living areas stretching from 2 o'clock to 10 o'clock like a huge pizza with four gigantic slices missing. The center of the pizza is hollowed out and the four piece slot is desert. Now put something like 1,000 "art pieces" in all the open areas spread out over about 12 square miles. Staggering. I know.

And that's in the daytime with blowing dust obscuring a lot of the pieces. Tonight I'll see them lit up, gyrating, spinning changing colors and spitting flames into the sky.

After arriving at 10:30 and getting a little taste with Al and Sarah I was anxious to hop on my bike and meander around on my Playa Zamboni. I dragged it out of the cargo area and reattached the hockey stick and lit out to just go where the wind took me---out into the playa and then weaving through the streets of the camps.

It's 5:30 and time for a little nap. The dust is already covering every surface inside the RV. It's
between my toes, in my nostrils and covering my hair. My skin is completely covered and the hair on my arms and legs is a strange golden brown. The only place that isn't inundated in dust is my---wait. It's there too!!!
This was just after I washed my hands. My hand isn't really red---it's just a night shot---but check out the dust on my arm.

I just remembered that the Orgy Dome is hosting an Ice Cream Social (they call it "I scream") but I'm a little too late and, while there's some ice cream left, it's mostly on people's bodies and I'm not that anxious to find out what's in their version of rocky road.

Having missed the ice cream I decided to whip up some tacos and get a meal out of the way. One of the tips I got from an orientation I attended in L.A. was to freeze some cooked ground beef and/or chicken and bring some tortillas. Sure enough it was an easy meal to cook and easy to eat but rather unnerving since there was no TV to watch, nor could I watch the show outside the RV what with the foil covering all the windows.

So I wolfed down a couple of tacos and followed them with pudding, jello and some pretzels (I think I hit all the food groups), finally washing it all down with about a quart of water. I was doing my best to keep up with the recommended 1.5 gallons a day but was failing miserably. Drinking means peeing and peeing is not terribly convenient when you're out in the middle of the playa.

Don't try to nap on a full stomach. I tossed and turned for about an hour and then heard an extremely loud "whoosh" coming from a ways away. (Is that proper? "A ways away?" It looks weird.) Hurriedly I put on my evening attire (same as during the day) and dashed to my bike to see what all the "whooshing" was about.

By now most of the camps were lit up as dusk was giving way to night. The bright neon lights blinked and flashed although many of the camps were completely empty, their occupants either eating, resting or simply out for the evening. Music drifted towards me from multiple directions as the occupied camps began to gear up for their activities.

The flames were coming from an art car that was wandering from street to street, blasting five foot flames in spurts from each of its two smokestacks. It was a couple blocks away so I unlocked my bike and went to find it.

I reached it in less than a minute and sailed passed it to check out the camps. Crisscrossing the area I saw people dancing, relaxing, juggling LED clubs, fire dancing and pretty much everything else. The loudest music was coming from Spanky's Village and Wine Bar so I pulled in and locked my bike. The beat was drawing me inside and the place was pretty packed----a good sign. The bar was jammed and people were dancing everywhere, some by themselves, others in groups and a few non-conformists in pairs. Christmas lights hung inside the huge tent and----

Wait a second. Is that what I think it is. I push through the crowd to one corner of the venue and there's a guy without pants chained to a board and there's a cute girl spanking his bare ass. And there's a freakin' line waiting for their turn.

This is too weird for my first night and while I'm not one to judge (okay, I am) I could hear my bike calling me. Check please!!

I hopped back on my bike and hit the road again. The visuals were amazing with vivid colors bombarding me from structures, bikers, walkers, mutant vehicles, art cars and of course the large art pieces strewn across the playa.

It's not shocking to learn that Burning Man was the brain child of a group of San Francisco folk and many of the art comes from Bay Area innovators because the LSD influence is evident in many of the

Many are a kaleidoscope of colors while others are simply lit but large and beautiful nonetheless. There's a 50 foot woman who is motorized and periodically moves almost imperceptively.

As you stand and look at her only the whirr of the motors alerts you to any of her subtle movements. It could be a slight movement in her chest as she takes a shallow "breath" or maybe a slight tilt of her head and I promise you it's very difficult to see what's moving.

I spent about four hours just riding aimlessly, stopping to listen to music or watch people doing crazy things. Almost everyone is friendly and inevitably if you stop somewhere there's someone who is more than willing to chat with you. Sometimes it's hard to get away from them and doing so without hurting their feelings can sometimes prove difficult.

The girls at 3:00 and the Esplanade were particularly friendly and invited all passersby to stop and "check out our titties" which normally would have been a strong selling point to stop but not on my first night on the playa.

Art cars trundled across the playa, some shooting flames, some playing music and some just flashing colors. But all of them were packed with riders in various stages of inebriation--no inhibitions allowed.

Thunderdome was cool with people draped all over the giant geodesic dome and standing four and five deep around the periphery. The two combatants are only armed with nerf bats but when two people on swings are hurtling towards each other it's bound to result in some injuries and like a Nascar race the crowd was screaming for blood.

After a long day and a lot of riding, frequently against the wind, I was spent and decided to turn in. The noise made it somewhat difficult to fall asleep as I was parked alongside one of the major thoroughfares and I was struggling to shut it out.

Day 2
Burning Man doesn't stop. It pretty much runs 24/7 with a brief rest period between 6:00 AM and 10:00 AM but even those are merely guidelines.

Just when I would finally fall asleep here comes some annoying art car blasting EDM at midnight. Then at 2:00 it's the fire belching vehicle again. Then at 5:00 The Lost Penguin camp across the street decided to blare Sirius radio to the entire neighborhood. Did you know there's a 24 hour Grateful Dead channel?

I climbed out of bed at 7:30 and got a hard boiled egg out of the fridge and learned that even hard boiled eggs can't go in the microwave. Let me correct myself. They can go into the microwave just fine but they don't come out in a recognizable form. Fortunately the microwave was large enough to accommodate my head so I was able to lick up most of it. As for the rest I assume the RV cleaning fee would cover it.

I will warn you now this next section is not for my mother nor, quite possibly, for anyone who ever had a mother. If you're smart you'll skip ahead a few paragraphs but I know my friends and family and I doubt that anyone except Mom is heeding my warning.

9:00 began my three-hour shift as a greeter at Orgy Dome. Now one would think that a greeter is someone who stands at the door and says things like "Hi. Did you come here to have sex? Well come on in!" (They love to say "come" at Orgy Dome.) As I found out very quickly it's so much more than that.

The first duty is indeed to greet the prospective fornicators and check IDs if they look like they could be under 18. If the visitors are two men you need to feel confident that they're gay and not two college guys with voyeuristic intent or worse, two guys hoping to touch women without their consent. As River explained to me it's okay to ask them to French kiss if you have any doubts.

Next comes the "orientation" that explains the rules and the layout. The dome is for couples and "moresomes," the quantity of participants limited only by imagination, physics and mattress size. If you want to just be with the folk(s) that brung you you opt for the "Just Us" section. For flirting with other parties and perhaps engaging in spontaneous play (nice euphemism) there's another section that is segregated from "Just Us" by a line on the wall of the tent.

The rest of the orientation deals with consent, safety and inappropriate contact, (Yes. It's possible to be inappropriate in an orgy dome.) Upon completion of the orientation there's a test that consists of me asking if it's okay for me to touch one of the parties. If that person answers in any manner other than an enthusiastic and verbal "Yes!" they have failed the test and I send them to Spanky's to get reprimanded.

To drive the point home when the person answers "yes" I would often touch them but after a while I realized what a good thing I had going. If there was a cute girl at some point she'd have to give me permission to touch her or she wouldn't get in. Seriously, we were very concerned about safety and everyone having a great time so I did everything I could to make them feel comfortable and if I sensed someone was hesitant I made sure the couple talked it over and understood that either one could say "no" at any time.

After the orientation the couple would receive a red wristband that was good for the week and a bucket (called a "fucket") for their clothes, jewelry and other personal items. Then one of us would unzip the Dome tent flap, hold our noses because of the aroma that tends to ooze out like pus from an infected toe (such imagery!!) and zip up the opening behind them.

Now for the weird part.

As part of our commitment to safety and comfort we provide a number of items free of charge: condoms, lube, disinfectant and towels which the visitors pick up on their way into the Dome. But because needs arise inside the Dome another job of the greeter is to (go away Mother!) patrol the Dome for safety, cleanliness and service.

So there I am with my pink basket (not a euphemism) filled with condoms, lube and all the other goodies. I'm strolling through the 1,800 square foot tented area with dozens of people having sex all around me and moaning, screaming, panting and singing (Singing? Yes. Don't ask me what tune it was.).

Now let me back track for a moment. One of my orientation couples was a cute girl of about 25--Courtney-- with her boyfriend. She was slightly inebriated or perhaps just giddy with anticipation because she was rather flirty and after our little game of "can I touch you?" she asked if she could touch me, then proceeded  to rub my leg briefly. Hubba hubba.

So I'm on patrol in the Dome and I ask if anyone needs anything. I don't walk up and tap somebody on the shoulder and make my inquiry. And I'm not shouting "cigars, cigarettes, condoms" like some cigarette girl from the 1930s. I speak quietly but loud enough that people know I'm there. Surprisingly many people pause in the middle of their "activities" to say "no thank you" but most people just keep plowing the lower 40.

As I'm about to finish my rounds I hear "Oh, Lube Boy! I need bottle service!"

It's Courtney and she's got a silly grin on her face as she rocks back and forth while astride her boyfriend.

Making eye contact during sex is fine but when that person is having sex with someone else it's just plain bizarre. Unfortunately for me my duty here will require that I make eye contact with Courtney and I don't want to. Heck. I don't want to make any contact with anybody in there.

I try to act nonchalant and sashay over to her. Does she stop? No. She merely holds out an open palm. My training didn't include lube etiquette so I'm unsure of the proper way to handle her request. Do I hand her the tube and let her dispense it? That would require both hands and I can clearly see (well, maybe not clearly) that one of her hands is, um, occupied so I grab the lube and squeeze some into her palm.

"Is that enough?" I ask.

"Perfect," she pants, then thanks me and goes back to the task at to speak.

Bucket list item #71 is now checked off.

Because people are people there is trash everywhere but in the trash can and I'm supposed to pick it up. Luckily rubber gloves are provided and there's a disinfectant air lock that sprays you with Purell and then burns your clothes off your body. Reluctantly I pick up the trash and deposit it in the trash can, then make my escape.

Yes. It was creepy but by the 20th time I was helping people untangle, holding them up while they maneuvered into new positions and shouting compliments and encouragement and picking up the trash with my bare hands.

You would think the participants would fit a certain narrow mold but there were all types of Dome visitors; old, young, fat, skinny and everything in between.

I had a married couple in their 60s (not that kind of "had") and there was a girl with a guy who proudly told me she was here the day before with a different guy. The guy she was with didn't seem to care---he was smiling at his good fortune.

The creators of the Dome certainly practice what they preach. I overhead one of the organizers say to another greeter whose wife was also working "can you be here at 5;30 on Friday? Shelly wants to have a gang bang with maybe five or six guys---something like that---but definitely less than 10. She thinks more than that would be weird."

Weird indeed.

After a sumptuous lunch of quiche, coq au vin and an ice cream sundae (translation: cheese sandwich and beef jerky) I headed out to the playa to check out some of the distant structures. The weather was beautiful and the wind barely a whisper so I decided to aim for the Temple of Promise. With such a mild breeze there were no dust storms to deal with and I was able to spot it immediately despite the fact that it was probably a good mile and a half away.

The Temple of Promise is a wooden structure that has become a staple of each year's celebration. While it can be used for reflection most Burners consider it a place to remember deceased loved ones or to pray for those who are sick.

The building itself is constructed in such a way as to facilitate the placement of pictures, letters or other items and to keep them in place without the use of metal like nails or brads or staples. Items can be slid into slots in the wood, into joints, tied on with string or simply anchored to the ground by rocks. Some people elect to simply write a message on the plain wood structure itself. On the last night of Burning Man the temple is burned to the ground with all the messages, pictures and mementos inside.

This year's temple was shaped like a cornucopia that funneled people into tighter and tighter spaces which served to slow the crowd to a crawl. With forward progress so hampered we were conveniently able to spend time reading the various messages and look at the shrines within the structure.

My mission was to place the picture Kate sent me in the temple and I had also brought a screen grab of her husband that I took off the internet from one of my favorite moments in his life.

Every place I looked was either occupied or too small to accommodate both pictures without obscuring someone else's letter or memento so I opted for a spot on the ground next to one of the few benches. I placed them together under a rock and nudged them into a corner that would further protect them from the wind. Plugging in my ear buds I played the song he was singing in the internet screen grab video, closed my eyes and pictured him as the crazy, fun-loving, government-hating, lovable knucklehead I had known. When the song ended I snapped a few pictures so his wife could see the temple and the little homage to her husband, then left.

A couple hundred yards away there was a small crowd so I pedaled over to investigate and found myself at a playa hot dog barbecue in the middle of nowhere. The dog wasn't that great but it was free and came with a dust covered bun and a hug.

Then it was off to deep playa where the fence stretches as far as the eye can see and is there to hopefully catch any flying "moop." Moop is "material out of place." You laymen can call it trash.

The only structure I could see was a building and as I got closer I could see the marquee on the front. It was a movie theater a good two miles from civilization and I was intrigued. Was it really a theater? What would they be showing? Would there be popcorn? Would there be air conditioning?

There were a few bicycles parked alongside and a handful of people milling around but before I could even park my bike I saw the glint of the metal chain on the front doors. Closed.

Disappointed at having ridden to the virtual end of the earth I turned and headed back to civilization, fighting the wind all the way.

I did a slow ride on some of my local streets, grabbed a beer at one place, a melon margarita at another and spent a half hour talking to a young couple from Utah who had moved to Berkeley for some kind of revelatory movement. They were spewing their gospel using confusing jargon that I probably could have understood on acid in 1970 but here in 2015 with a lot less brain cells whatever they were saying began to sound a lot like my garbage disposal. I smiled politely and from time to time repeated what they said right back to them as if to let them know I understood. The melon margarita didn't help but my sunglasses made it easy to turn my attention to everything else going on inside the bar and on the road outside.

After a brief nap (at the RV, not while sitting with the Berkeley couple) I realized I hadn't defrosted dinner (where was Robyn when I needed her?) so my tacos will have to become tomorrow's lunch. There was still some egg stuck to the walls of the microwave but hardly enough to make a meal so I repeated breakfast and added pudding and jello.

I'm a little worried that I'm not drinking enough fluids. The recommended amount is 1.5 gallons which is something like a small bathtub and I think I'm only at about two thirds of that amount. Maybe I'll just drink three gallons on the last day.

Al and Sarah have convinced me to go out with them tonight which means EDM (Endless Din Music) so I've hidden some ear plugs in my backpack. My LED shoelaces are on and this animal is ready to party all night---or at least until 10:00.

Sarah had gotten my GoPro going so I went on a little tour on the bike. It wasn't quite dark yet but the neon lights were beginning to come alive as I wove through the streets looking for entertaining things to shoot.

At 9:15 or so I met Al and Sarah at their RV and we golf carted a ways to meet up with their friends, James and Lisa, at their RV. They were funny and sarcastic and I liked them immediately but passed on their offer of elicit mood-altering medication that I think is used to sedate housecats.

The itinerary for the evening was to hit every electronic dance music venue on the playa and Al knew where each of them was located, who was DJing and when. They completely lost me as they argued the merits of each "club" but they finally settled on a definite plan of attack.

Flashing lights, music, a throbbing, body-shaking beat and wildly clad people dancing defined each locale and pretty soon I was able to actually discern differences in each venue's music, a sure sign that I was being transformed into a "creature of the night" (to be said in a Bela Lugosi voice).

We bobbed and swayed to the beat, my moves confined to what Sarah called "white man dancing." Hey, I haven't really danced since the sock hops in my high school days so lighten up.

Sarah, James, Lisa and I were actually barely dancing in place but the vast majority of the crowds were really dancing hard enough to work up a sweat. My guess is that most of them were on ecstasy or Ketamine or some other kind of inhibition erasing drug.

By 11:30 it was beginning to get pretty cold so we zipped back across the playa to retrieve our fake full length fur playa coats from the RVs (mine was borrowed from Al). Except for the ratty Reebok high top basketball shoes I felt and almost looked like a burner with a couple of EL wire necklaces, EL wire laced through my backpack zippers and that coat that would have been an appropriate fashion statement in the 1920s.

After hitting a couple more spots we headed out into the semi-deep playa a little more than a mile from camp, Al, Sarah and me on the decorated and lit up golf cart with James and Lisa pedaling furiously behind us as they had all evening.

Al knew exactly what to expect but I was surprised as hell to arrive at a pretty good-sized happening in the middle of nowhere. What we found there was a gathering of art cars (or is it called a "bevy?") with one enormous car playing the music. It was probably 30 feet long with a Mayan warrior's head as the front end (Or was it an Aztec? I can never tell them apart at parties.). Perched on top about 15 feet off the ground were the crew who ran the lights, music and lasers and surrounding them were about a dozen dancers.

A makeshift dance floor was laid out in the dirt but not any kind of dance floor that you'd expect or recognize. There were dozens of plastic or rubber disks with some bounce to them. They were a little smaller than manhole covers, had a swirly black pattern painted on them and had been wired to the art car so that they changed colors in sync with the music. Each one held a dancer.

Surrounding the area were the other art cars---maybe five of them---and they formed a circular community with the dancers at the center. Other art cars would meander by including one with about a 15 foot diagonal TV screen of lights glowing, dancing and morphing geometric shapes, then becoming an animated point-of-view roller coaster ride and lots of other things that can be accurately described. The only thing that it wasn't showing was ESPN's Sports Center. Does anyone know the Dodger's score?

We'd seen this videocar before as it sailed across the playa like a disembodied oversized TV and Al knew the people who operated it. Christ, does Al know everything and everybody out here?

It's hard to fathom how much time, money, thought and effort went into the planning and execution of something like this scene in the dirt-it's truly astonishing. By now Al was tired of me staring slackjawed at stuff like this but I had no choice and I let my 34th "wow" leak out of my mouth.

It was getting late and I was getting burned out (pun intended) so Al ran me back into town. When I got back to the RV I tuned on the hot water heater and stepped into the shower to wash my feet in water and vinegar to get the playa dust off my feet and allowed myself the luxury of a 90 second shower. Budgeting shower water isn't fun but when you have limited water on board you have to be conservative. Besides, at 4:00 AM how long a shower can you really take?

4:00 AM? WTF?

Day 3
I slept late---mercifully. The Grateful Dead were silent---also mercifully---and I didn't pour myself out of bed until 10:00. I had no idea what I was going to do during the day. My Dome shift would be from 3:00-6:00 with Al and Sarah which meant 12 hours were already planned (work, eat, nap party---repeat as necessary) but I still had five hours to kill. Cheese sandwich anyone?

Hey, Del Monte!! What's with putting the cherry halves at the bottom of the fruit cocktail can? Are they supposed to be like the prize at the bottom of the cereal box? I think the last time I ate fruit cocktail was 1968.

My friends from Lone Pine, California--Dean and Beverly--were around here somewhere but I hadn't been able to find them yet. I had their approximate location and had ridden through their general vicinity a couple of times but now I made a slow pass and finally saw their van.

Dean didn't recognize me at first but it's no surprise since I was wearing goggles, a bandana over my nose and mouth and a big floppy bush hat.

They were enjoying themselves immensely, especially the way in which their camp had welcomed them and looked after them but that's pretty much to be expected at Burning Man. Everyone is happy to give a hug, lend a hand, offer food or squeeze out some lube.

Bev was getting a massage or having her chi tuned up or something mystical so we hung out until she was done and then rode out to the art installation their camp had built---a house of four mirrored exhibits that used geometry and angles to create interesting optical illusions.

It was only Friday but they were dismantling it because it was only a few feel from The Man who would be torched the next night and they wanted to salvage the entire thing. I pitched in for awhile, helping to take down the walls but soon I was really just getting in the way. Had I been willing to pick up a tool I probably could have done some more but Marc and tools are a dangerous combination, one that could easily cause a major incident---especially to me.

Note for next time: make sure you know where you park your bike. Even though I had that big red hockey stick jutting up into the air it doesn't help much when your bike has fallen over but at least I got to see The Man from every angle....twice.

I headed back to the RV to grab a bite, cool off and guzzle more water than I thought I could hold but the camp generator is out....again. I called the front desk but the concierge must have been busy because there was no answer. Being the self-reliant bloke that I am I got down on my knees and put my head in the fridge. It's not very comfortable and I've read the Gatorade bottle twice but the cold feels great----ahhhhhh.

I had my next shift at the Dome coming up with Al and Sarah and the wind has picked up considerably. When I stepped into the RV I was sweating and hot but as I stepped out to head to the Dome the sun was hidden by the swirling dust and the temperature had dropped to what felt like the low 60s. Weather like this was bound to bring a lot of people to the sheltered stench of Orgy Dome and it did.

The line to get into the Dome was long as people realized they could escape the elements and have sex. If we had TV it would have been the Burner trifecta.

Not only were we considerably busier than the morning shift the day before but we had every possibly combination: gay couples, gay threesomes, foursomes with every combination of males and females and a few oddballs---hetero couples. While no one was thrilled at having to wait for an hour or more to "get busy" in the Dome they waited patiently and lounged on the couches in Aphrodite's Garden, either cuddling for warmth or socializing with other groups.

I felt partial to the groups I had oriented (or "orientated" for those of you who attended LA Unified schools) and tried to spend a few moments with them when I had a chance, either joking or asking them about their experiences at the burn.

One of the foursomes was a mystery to me. There was a 40-ish woman with two somewhat unattractive nebbishy men and another man who was maybe 5'2" with his face completely covered and carrying a metal lunchbox. Since one of my jobs was security I had him open it to make sure he wasn't carrying a camera or some other verboten items. There was something electrical in there but it wasn't phallic and it didn't look dangerous. It looked a lot like a radio someone might build in junior high shop class.

They sat on the couch quietly for about an hour, rarely talking and not chatting with the people around them. Finally it was their turn (yes, we handled out numbers like Baskin Robbins---"now serving number 69!!") and they scurried into the Dome.

Not 10 minutes later they emerged.

"What happened?" I asked the woman. "Was someone hassling you or did something happen in there? I just saw you go in a few minutes ago."

"He's got magic in that box," she answered, nodding her head at the mysterious troll. "I don't know what it does exactly but it sure doesn't take long."

The little man's face was still covered but I could swear he was smiling. I don't know why the other two guys were needed and I asked Al about it later. He thought it could have been some kind of electrical stimulus device and that the three men had pressed electrodes or something to various parts of the woman's body. The ingenuity of man never ceases to amaze me.

The shift continued at a frantic pace with Al supervising the crew and making sure everything was mellow in Aphrodite's Garden where the crowd was packed liked sardines. He also attended to the pink basket duties in the Dome, a job he really enjoys. A few of the people left early rather than wait any longer but the vast majority lazed on the couches and huddled to keep warm. But one girl visited a second time during my three-hour stint with two different guys. She gave me a look as if to say "what's a horny girl to do?"

With my responsibilities limited to the greeter spiel I took it upon myself to do a little entertaining by asking people if they would prefer waiting elsewhere: "You could head up to the third floor and wait by the bowling alley but watch out for the jacuzzi just inside the door" or "there's probably some room by the fireplace." It took a second for people to realize I was kidding and they all seemed to appreciate my feeble attempt to make them laugh.

When my shift ended at 6:00 I went back to the RV and had dinner while Sarah napped and then went for another cruise around the neighborhood. By now the wind had eased considerably proving Al's assertion that as night fell the playa calmed down with the only uncertainty being how cold it would get.

At 9:00 we lit out for more music and stayed in one area where there were three music venues. Slutgarden is the only one I remember by name---for obvious reasons.

A couple hours later Al and Sarah wanted to crash for a few hours in order to wake up for the sunrise so I biked in the other direction and landed at Camp Chaos for a couple of hours. I could be wrong but I think they only payed one song for those two hours.

It was now after 1:00 AM and my feet were begging to be washed so I cruised back, stood in vinegar and water for about 10 minutes and hit the dusty hay.

Day 4
It's 3:45 AM on Saturday, the day they'll burn the 60 foot man and I've gotta pee. At my age it's not unusual to be up this early to hit the head but "usual" isn't something worth writing about. I stumble in the dark, do my business and slip back into bed only to repeat the exercise 15 minutes later. Okay, so I didn't completely empty the reservoir. 15 minutes later I'm at it again. And again and again and again. WTF? By 8:00 or so I'm getting sick of this dance. Do I have a bladder infection? Is it the elusive painless kidney stone that will eventually evolve into a cross between a Tarzan yell and a howler monkey call?

As much as I feel like I need to pee there isn't much of it coming out even though I've been drinking close to a gallon and a half per day so I've ruled out dehydration. Still, this doesn't make any sense.

By noon the frequency is down to about every 30 minutes between visits but it's still disconcerting. I could head a couple streets away to the Port-a-Potties where I could at least interact with people while I wait to pee but anyone watching me might get the idea that I have an unhealthy attraction to filthy, smelly crappers. Instead I elect to wander around the neighborhood but stay within dashing distance of my RV.

Watching the people walking and riding around is a pleasant enough distraction although there are far too many naked men riding around who shouldn't be naked. What they've saved in clothing they seem to have invested in hats. What's with that? "I want to be naked but I'm going to draw your attention away from my dangly parts by wearing this ostentatious hat." Okay.

By 4:00 I'm really dragging my ass after spending the bulk of the night and most of the morning sleeping 10-15 minutes at a time. The intervals have increased to about 45 minutes and, while I'm happy that I seem to be getting better, how will I be able to sit with 69,999 others in five hours to watch the burning of The Man?

Al comes by to check on me and says "Dude, you need to go to medical." Reluctantly I aquiesce and ride over to the medical tent.

There's a line out the door and I mentally calculate how long I have before I'll have to pee again. The guy in front of me is tightly holding his finger and it's dripping blood into the dirt. He's trying to joke with his friend but it's clear he's starting to freak out. Why he doesn't push to the front of the line is beyond me---I guess people here are polite no matter what.

The intake gal finally notices him and admonishes him for being so patient. She hustles him inside, grabs a nurse and sends him back for treatment.

Okay. We're in the middle of nowhere in harsh conditions and this medical center is operating better than any ER I've ever visited. The intake gal logs each patient onto a sheet and briefly describes their symptoms or complaint. The line moves quickly and she takes my basic info, After hearing my symptoms she gets specific.

"Have you had any unprotected sex?"


"Are you sure?"

I pause a beat. You know I'm struggling mightily to be nice and to suppress the smartassedness that is waiting to erupt. I fail.

"Pretty sure but I may have been raped in my sleep."

"Any history of prostate problems?"

"Other than my problem with a doctor with large fingers, no."

She scowls and points to the Group W bench (does anyone get the reference?) and I wait with a couple others who aren't bleeding or holding bags of severed digits.

In about 10 minutes a male nurse comes over and asks if I'm "the pee guy" and takes my vitals, then escorts me back to "Rampart," the M.A.S.H.-type tent in back.  He tells me they have a full lab and x-ray machine. Good to know.

He finds me a seat in the corner of the tent with a bunch of other folks, peppers me with questions about unprotected sex, recent surgery and prostate problems, then hands me my info sheet and tells me to hang loose. Naturally everyone is friendly and pretty soon we're talking.

There are two Israeli guys from New York, one of whom has a nasty gash in his scalp after crashing his bike, a guy from Woodland Hills, California who twisted his ankle after jumping off an art car, a French girl in a very small bikini top with so much pus oozing out of her eye that it's hard to look her in the face (not that I was looking at her eyes) and a woman with a headache she described to us as how it would feel if an anvil had a baby in your head. I'm not really sure what she meant but I imagine it was a doozy.

Everyone was very nice and helpful in providing me with a diagnosis. The consensus was that I had an STD. The French girl, Pus n' Boobs,  insisted it was a urinary tract infection and told me she had a cranberry concoction in her tent that might help. She said she'd wait for me if she was released first and suggested I wait for her if I beat her out.

My initial thought was that if I went with her I'd either throw up if I had to look her in the face too much or she'd cure my UTI and give me an STD that would put me right back where I was sitting. I explained that the combination of Lipitor and cranberries was likely to send me into anaphylactic shock.

She didn't know exactly what that was and my French wasn't that good but I was able to explain that it wasn't a good thing.

Pretty soon the male nurse came back and reviewed my "chart." He verified the unprotected sex thing, gave me a pee cup and pointed me to the Port-a-Potties outside.

It occurred to me that it had been over an hour since my last pee so I felt that maybe I should just keep walking but I was actually having fun and figured "what the heck?" I might as well see this thing through. I was also wondering about the unprotected sex thing. Imagine going to Burning Man, being a "good boy" and coming home with chlamydia (the disease, not a girl) so I returned to the Rampart tent with my cup in hand.

I sat back down and waited for someone to come and fetch my specimen but after about five minutes I was still holding it (the cup, not the pee). Finally I stopped my nurse and tried to foist it on him but he declined saying he needed to "glove up" before handling something so obviously rife with lethal organisms.

I told him I only peed on the inside of the cup but I guess he just couldn't trust someone with prostate problems who had random unprotected sex.

Ten minutes later a doctor approached me and grabbed the chart hanging on the tent post behind me.

"Your test results are somewhere between negative and inconclusive," he began. "If you haven't had unprotected sex I'm not sure what it could be. Do you have a history of prostate problems? I could give you an exam," he adds holding up a gloved finger.

"No. My PSA is checked annually (did I spell that correctly?) and my levels have been pretty consistent within an acceptable range. My primary physician says it's a little enlarged," I brag, "but it's been that way for years." (Besides. I'm staying at Orgy Dome and a prostate exam is part of the camp welcoming ritual.)

"Well, I suppose I could start you on a four-week course of antibiotics in case it's an UTI......"

Pus n' Boobs smiled at me triumphantly and seductively if a girl with a steady stream of infected eye-jaculate could be considered seductive.

"Actually, the frequency of my urination has decreased, Doctor, so I think I'm improving on my own. Maybe I'll just see how things go."

He wrote something on my chart and had me sign the bottom. I added a note that said I hadn't had ANY sex let alone the unprotected kind and handed the chart back. He suggested seeing my doctor when I got home and having a prostate exam just to be safe. Jesus. What was with these guys and my prostate?

I said my goodbyes to our little group in the corner, got a hug from Pus n' Boobs and thanked her again. As I walked out I looked at my watch and saw that it had barely been an hour from start to finish---not bad considering where we were plus the value of the entertainment.

By now it was a little after 6:00 and time to eat after which I stopped by Al's RV to check in. He told me the camp would be heading out to the "Man Burn" at about 8:15 but he and Sarah had inner ring passes for themselves that would put them close enough to the festivities to toast marshmallows.

With about an hour to kill I wandered around the neighborhood but things were pretty dead as most people were either preparing to leave for the burn or had already left. I figured I'd be on my own and I wanted a good seat so I lit out well before the rest of the camp was scheduled to leave.

It probably wasn't a good idea to have chugged a beer when my pee situation was still tenuous but it was too late to do anything about it now. I remember from my younger days that you can't undo a beer.

The walk was only about 30 minutes and I settled down on the ground on one side of the Man (3:00) and had a good sized space to myself with enough room to stretch out.

Twenty minutes later it's just before 9:00 and I'm in the knee-chest position with people pressing me on four sides. I'm only four rows form the front so I know I'll have no problem seeing the festivities but God help me if nature called or I needed to stand because it was going to be at least a couple hours before I'd be able to do either without leaving a wet spot in the dirt.

Let me set the scene. The Man is in the middle and there are a few pockets of VIPs quite a distance from him. Next is an open ring in which the "conclave" will take place. The next ring is a band of spectators (the coach seats) maybe 30 or 40 people deep. Behind us are 10-15 rows of people standing and behind them are all of the art cars, lights strobing and pulsing and many of them playing music. From the air it must have looked incredible.

It's 9:00 and the "conclave" begins, a fire performance involving hundreds of costumed fire dancers, fire jugglers, fire baton twirlers, acrobats, stilt walkers, fire eaters and flaming whip snappers---you get the idea. It was basically Dust du Soleil with fire as the theme.

That went on for a good 30 minutes and then the real show began. Fireworks began launching from all around The Man and from The Man himself. And we're not talking about a few salvos and then a pause and then some more. This was a good 15-20 minute barrage of colors and explosions as if four or five fireworks displays decided to get together for a "menage a boom" (sorry about the Orgy Dome metaphor).

Suddenly there was a huge explosion that may have emanated from The Man's chest. It became a fireball that engulfed him from the waist up. The crowd roared as the flames leapt higher and turned the man into a skeleton within in the orange flames.

Fifteen minutes later we were still there waiting for him to topple over. Fifteen minutes after that there was no change and the crowd was pretty quiet, spent after having exploded at the eruption of the flames.

My legs were useless by then as it had been over an hour since there was any blood flow to them. My ass hurt plenty but I knew the numbness would soon eliminate the pain. I figured I had another 10 minutes or so before my muscles would atrophy followed by my bladder releasing. Luckily I'd never even feel it happen.

People were becoming impatient and screamed things at the Man: "Die bitch" was the most used exhortation but that was coming from a couple of guys behind me who were so drunk that it was amazing they could string even two words together. Their incoherent but entertaining mumblings and screams were currently the only things keeping me from focusing on my pain. There were also bets on which way the man would eventually fall.

The guy sitting next to me whispered that last year's Man took three hours to finally fall. Great.

By now I'd been sitting there for two hours and The Man continued to burn but now at least pieces were starting to fall off. Part of an arm pulled away from the body but refused to completely disengage and seemed to defy both gravity and the inferno. I thought it looked like a big burning middle finger.

A few people finally gave up, got up and stepped over and on the seated crowd. Anxious to make my escape as well I tested my legs to see if I was capable of joining them but my limbs were about as useful as a pair of cooked spaghetti stilts.

I'm ready to cry. The numbness has spread all the way to my ears and I now know how people trapped in an avalanche feel as they weigh their options: Give in to blissful sleep knowing that it will bring relief and death or continue to fight a painful and probably fruitless battle to survive. At least I didn't have to pee---uh oh. I shouldn't have thought that.

Just as I'm about to ask the guy next to me if I can fall asleep on his shoulder The Man teeters and then collapses. I'm not sure if the reaction from the crowd is one of jubilation or relief but in either case the crowd begins to disperse.

I know that my attempt to stand will be an exercise in futility and that I'm destined to flop around like a beached grouper so I merely stretch my legs while laying on the ground and wait for the numbness to give way to pain---and it spades.

I must have looked quite comical writhing around for a good 30 seconds and finally rose to my hands and knees before willing myself to stand. The walk back to camp is a welcome change and I navigate back using the landmarks Al had pointed out the first night.

I aim to the left of the red skoosh ball and look for the blinking nipple behind it. I swing slightly to the right and pick up the pace as the beer finally makes its way towards the exit. Up ahead I can see the steam rising from the Orgy Dome followed by the stench of love (good name for a band).

It's midnight and I pray that Al and Sarah are waiting for me. The plan was to hit their friend, Jerri's, birthday party (Jerri Manthey who was on Survivor's first season) and then head over to Slutgarden but when I get to their RV the golf cart is gone.

A quick whiz and I'm on my bike and heading for the general vicinity of Jerri's camp. I had been there the first day but I was riding with Al and Sarah then and really hadn't paid attention so I was stuck asking around but none of the people in that area knew her camp, Kalamity's Kitchen. Al's cart is nowhere to be seen so I'm stuck crisscrossing the area in the hope of getting lucky.

After about 30 frustrating minutes I take it as a sign, give up and return to my RV. After not having slept the night before I'm exhausted and not in a mood to party by myself so I remove the hockey stick from the back of my bike and stow it in the cargo area. I plan to leave in the morning and stashing the bike is one less thing to do when I wake up.

No sooner have I shed my night gear and washed up a bit than I hear Al and Sarah drive up.

Do I unpack the bike and get dressed up again or do I call it a day (and a festival) and just go to bed? I'm sure you've figured out my answer.

The next morning I'm outside by 7:00. I walk down to orgy Dome to say goodbye to whoever might be around but it's closed and nobody is in the community kitchen so I trudge back to the RV, remove the foil from the windows, unlpug the cable from the power grid and head out.

Burning Man was definitely a "wow" experience and I'm so glad Al convinced me to go. Standing out on the playa at night and looking back at the lit up camps and art pieces is an indescribably beautiful sight. Would I go again? Probably. With this year under my belt I feel like I'd be better prepared next time around.

I'd definitely do a better job of "playatizing" as Black Rose put it. That means being more costumed as opposed to dressing in a practical manner. Self-expression is important at BM and my attire screamed "CPA." And I'll stay out later and sleep in since the evenings are so incredibly beautiful.

If I had to sum up my advice to anyone contemplating going I'd say just give in to the dirt and accept that you'll be wearing it, inhaling it, living in it and eating it. Number two is to drink, drink, drink and number three is to hook up with a camp so you'll have a built-in support system and a group of new friends on Day 1.

Many thanks to Al and Sarah (Laszlo and Agntsea), Pam and Anna at El Monte RV,  Shade, Lefty, River, Black Rose, Meat, Uli, Sebastian, Steve, Sean, Sonia, Courtney and all the people who visited Orgy Dome and were so appreciative, polite and fun. And thanks to all the folks who shared hugs, beers, hot dogs and margaritas, to the medical staff and patients at Rampart---especially Pus n' Boobs--- and the greeters at the main gate who made me do dust angels and welcomed me home.

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