Burning Man Table of Contents

Burning Mind at Burning Man

Courtesy of Bob Wallace

We left Sebastopol in our rented RV about 9:30 am Thursday, loaded with various supplies, costumes, pyro, makeup, firewood, and other goodies. After lunch and gas stops, we arrive on the playa about 4:30. Some of our group had started a camp a ways out to the north; others had found a place a little closer and south, just inside the outer ring road. After a short pow-wow, the north group moved to join the southern contingent (yea!); great ride around camp with one occupied tent on top of the RV and the other on a car.

We widen the perimeter, and re-planted the sign, added flashing xmas lights (left one set in its circular plastic holder, a great flashing mandala), run from our handy, quiet Honda EX650 generator. After a little more settling in, we start our first prowl. Saw the Camp Center, the Man, the Towers, many marvelous camps.

I tried a new pyro hack (thanks to American Fireworks News): first brought out a dowel with 4 feet of stranded copper wire, attached so the wire can be spun around [mine had a screw in the dowel end, holding a washer with a hole drilled for the wire]; a large hook made from solid wire was attached to the other end. Then folded one pad of #0000 steel wool in half, around the hook. The wool lights easily but burns slowly when stationary. When the lit wool is spun around on the wire, you get an incredible throw of sparks, perhaps in a 50 foot circle. Very spectacular!

Back to camp; I go out again later alone; see the Fire Circle camp, and try some excellent homebrew and mead.

Friday morning we hang out in camp, meet new people, talk. I don a costume -- a kind of kaftan made of wedding veil material, with half-inch sequins glued on, matching hat, nothing under. We bring a plastic skull to barter camp, great stuff there; I want to trade for a bike helmet with a butterfly, but the helmet owner is out and I plan to go back later (but don't get to it). My friend trades for a horseshoe set; we play it on the playa, still in costume. Our parasail + blower friend flys around the camp.

We go to mudhenge; I just strip and shower at the 5 pm spray, then come back at 6:30 to get covered and wallow with people until the 7 pm spray, but it's cool and windy by then. The mud is lots of fun! People are doing each others' backs.

The evening shift: drop the sunblock, grab the flashlight, eat a little dinner. Gee, some mushroom tea would be good right now, especially with a little ayahuasca for its special synergy (the True Hallucinations mix, but at a moderate dose). Three of us go out walking again; we visit the big circus camp (flashing blue light, SW suburbs); watch a couple fire juggling and fire staff twirling, visit the ambient party room.

Camp Center has dancing and music. We go north; see a fantastic fence with flashing lights. We go to the Fire Circle camp; on the way, we pass a group of nudies, and I entice them to come with us to the Circle, where they can be warm and safe and dance around the fire. Nice zone-in with the drumming and dancing; play the sticks. Visit the Man again. Back to camp, and out again; see the Door camp stage (surrounded by walls made of maybe a hundred doors); listen to guitar/ drum music. Can't remember all the marvelous sights and sounds.

Back to camp; talk with fellow campers about our specialty. Then back to the RV; cuddle with spouse, and listen to the camp sounds, which come in waves: drumming, firework noises, the jet car (!?), talking sounds, part of a movie dialog, totally weird music; active and quiet periods, driven by some underlying chaotic mathematical structure which makes for dramatic energy swings. Finally sleep.

Saturday, sleep in. Ride to Techno/Rave camp, shoot some video, dance. More talking with campmates. Lunch. Mudhenge. Talking. About 3 pm I wish for 100 mg of mescaline sulfate [a low dose] to catalyze the afternoon and lay a mind base for the evening. The evening comes; at Burning Man, day and night are as different as night and day! We do the costume and makeup for the evening, eat a little. I long for a moderate 2C-B dose (20 mg) to help tune in to the evenings events. Eight of us don headbands with two red glow-sticks attached like horns [just taped on, but using small metal L-brackets to support the sticks]. Onward to camp center.

We see a performance by a man with a big head-gear and mask, involving fire and weirdness and nakedness and leather (of course). At the stage, the Helco stockholders meeting starts; Mr Clean (with his torch) and Aunt Jemima show up, and the Devil and his many minions; will Larry Harvey (Burning Man founder) sell out? Never! They chain up the Devil, throw him in a truck. The torchlight procession starts; stilt walkers, fire batons, crazy banners, much strangeness.

We walk through the Gates of Hell, "abandon hope, all ye who enter" in red neon. We reach the Seemen stage. Wait. Announcer asks for a moment of silence for his friend, who on Wednesday ran his motorcycle full speed into a van, and died. The audience has no respect; the announcer almost goes ballistic, held back by two women who have him on leashes attached to a collar. A young crowd, drinking too much beer; one guy staggers and falls on us.

The Seemen finally start their show. One big dinosaur-like body on a moving cart with articulated head spewing fire; another with a tri-claw arm, grabs weird burnables and holds them up. The Seemen woman with the big strap-on mechanical penis screams obscenities. The Devil climbs the 40 foot Helco Tower, sets it ablaze and rides down the guy wire; great burn. (We miss much of this, hard to see behind the stage; not well planned...)

On to Tinseltown, by the LA Cacophony Society. They pass out movie film in long strips. A great layout, with film images, Marilyn Monroe dummy, and many facinating but indescribeable stations, all connected with fuse and gasoline; the parts slowly flame up, setting off embedded fireworks and other pyro. All the time with strange, processed, beyond-ambient sounds; not quite cacophony, not quite familiar, with many subtle shifts. Very intricate pattern of sound and fire and image and feelings; quite trippy. Great show!

And for me, the highlight of the whole weekend, Pepe's tribal opera, the Arrival of Empress Zoe. Each act gets announced by a man bicycling around a naked lady holding a sign; a stiltwalker twirling a two-ended fire staff provides light. At the center, the 40 foot Towers, the Fire Linghams; made of mud on a wire frame, three of them, connected with three causeways, stairs, flags, vaginal openings. We sit in a big (400 foot?) circle; everyone can see, the parade of the opera walks around the inside. Great staging! While waiting, I paint the towers with my pocket lazer with another 5 or so people; we play tag and match patterns.

The show begins! We see the Devil and Empress, the Chariot, priests, guards, cockroaches, the man with the Dog of Hell teased by a leather- wearing vixen, the Graces; the Tormented, a young women in a cage, a man chained to a box he must drag around. Many are screaming with pain and/or desire; many have torches or other fire, many are naked (except for fantastic body paint) and most nearly so.

Great evocative music and singing; "Devil's delight, Fire tonight!" The Towers, filled with wood of course, are set aflame. The Empress, with her huge cock strapped on, and the High Priest, stand on the causeway among the belching towers, appear to be fucking their brains out. The Towers start to glow; the clay shrinks, and the flames show hrough the wire armature; we feel the heat. The entourage dances around the towers; they're too well built, and last a long time before collapsing into themselves. The dancers are tired!
Wonderful opera...

Spouse and I head back to the RV, where we exchange couple energy for over an hour, feeding back the excitement we've seen; very intense sensuals. A little GHB would have been almost superfluous. Then around 3 am, I meet a camp-mate who is going off to Rave camp. I pretend I have taken 100 mg of MDMA, and off we go.

CCC is a little too mellow, and the pyramid camp is too hip-hop, but we get to Gateway and find the groove. These raves have warm-up fires instead of chill-out rooms, but the Dance is great, trancy and with good energy. They had some nice altars, one at each corner speaker. The DJ tower was covered in diaphanous white fabric, with a glow-stick guard atop and a powerful green lazer line shooting out.

A little light in the east grows, dawn comes, we all grin at each other. I start back, catch a ride, explain that a microdot really can't hold enough mescaline to do anything and must contain some other compound, likely LSD or DOB. See the sun rise with the Man in the background; very nice image. Morning maniacs abound. Walk back to our camp. A truly great day! Sleep.

Sunday I sleep in again, talk with camp-mates, do another tour with spouse. Mudhenge continues to evolve: one woman fashions a mud penis; several women and men play with a sex doll; at 3 pm there's an official mud wrestling match (done lovingly), and people in the area do body painting; the green man, and a purple woman, stand out. I'm with video camera this time, but get naked and muddy before shooting, as a courtesy.

We go back and get ready for the fashion show; spouse in the sheer kaftan with the big sequins, me in a thing with a two-foot circular hat (big plastic flowerpot saucer hooked to a helmet), with a gathered cylinder of sheer black fabric with spots of irridescent green, attached to a ring (flowerpot saucer with center cut out) at the bottom, clad inside with body-paint spots to echo the fabric spots. Very weird. We go first (I get tongue-tied in front of the mike); we stay and see the fashions, gender-fuck queens, silver and green people, a big popcorn box hat, many veils and painted bodies and leather and indescribable costumes with no names. (I was sold on my first Burning Man when I couldn't find a name for the event.)

Back to camp, switch to night mode and get ready for the Man Burning. Unlike Saturday night, the night to howl and get Dionisian, I figured Sunday night would have many day-trippers and I'd just be cool and videotape the affair (another 10 mg of 2C-B would have been nice). Camera has a fold-out viewfinder and remote control; placed on a monopod (and with a right-angle prism mounted to bounce the remote IR from below) I could raise it from eye level to ten feet high, and still frame using the viewfinder and zoom using the remote. Short people behind me could also see the action in the viewfinder. Worked like a charm.

So we started at the Center Stage, with the musician who played a kind of spring harp with blowtorches, then switched to banging on flat metal sheets on top of flames, amazing sounds and visuals. The stilt- walkers with fire staffs started; some had the bottoms of their stilts flaming as well. The torchlight parade to the Man starts. Many elaborate banners and other high-up strangeness. Silver alien head on an 8 foot stalk, with red flashing eyes.We parade up and sit. Very soon -- we are not ready -- the Man is set aflame; no ceremony this year! Was this a mistake? (I miss the slow Bhuto dancers in white powder, the fire couple who flame each other clad only in paint, the jet car racing inside the circle...)

Again, the Man is too well contructed; the flames go on for a long time, even when the Man's guy wires are jerked, making him dance. He's a strong Man! The arms finally fall, and later He falls back; people run forward. Many people dance around the pyre; much screaming and wildness.

Back to our camp, for our personal community burn. I save the circular xmas light, but the other flashing lights burn with the poles, random wood, and our camp sign. We luck out; one of our new camp friends is a pyro performer; he spins a two-ended fire staff, pours gasoline in patterns on the ground. I pour a psilocin molecule pattern on the playa and set it off; beautiful.

I show the steel wool trick to the pyro guy; he loves it. We do small fireworks, burn a book of Genesis, sit in the fire circle for web site photos. People drift away; a group of us do a drumming circle, very intense, another of our group does a fire dance.

A problem; a young women who became attached to our camp did too much GHB, passed out, threw up. Again, luck; the camp anesthesiologist pulls out his portable blood oxygen saturation meter, clips the probe on her finger, and waits for her to surface. (Next day, she is fine.)

I go out for a final spin around camp, in search of the pianos. Camp Center has set the bulletin board structure on fire; people jump over it. Near Lost Vegas I find an excellent fire/drumming circle (LA Cacophany?); they have the weird and wonderful processed sounds, which combine with fire and drumming in high mind synergy. Moving on, I find the remains of the crushfest (they passed out 4000 drumsticks among big metal junk pieces; thought I heard some heavy banging earlier); several people are still there, we bang, alternate this with standing and toning (making loud vowel sounds together). I find the giant Mousetrap game, perhaps 15 feet high and 100 feet long, using bowling balls instead of marbles; but no action.

Finally I find the pianos; really large wooden pieces of them, in a C-shape about 20 feet high and 30 across. Filled with wood. It's about 2:30, and yes! they set it off. Perhaps the most awsome burn of the evening. Very hot!

I walk back, sleep; Monday we pack it up, clean it up, say our goodbyes.

All in all, fucking incredible! Several thousand people dedicated to gratuitous weirdness, fire, and lust; pushing the envelope, dissolving the boundaries, forcing me past many old limits, into totally novel awareness. We built a city of fantasy up from flat clay nothingness, in the middle of nowhere. Such an altered reality! We burn the Man, and churn the Mind.

- Bob Wallace (just my opinion); bobw@promind.com
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