So, Sunday. (Again. Because I feel like I didn't actually talk about it last time.... And my brain broke.)
We arrived to the playa (highway traffic line!) at ten thirty or so. I started to get hot in the car but dealt with it (stripped down, fanned myself, put up shades on the windows) and I thought about how it was already different from last year when I was in the line to get in and already uncomfortably hot (and probably overheated) but with no idea how to deal with it (or that that was what I'd be dealing with) and no idea that that was no where near how hot I (and it) was going to get.
It was awesome being there, and seeing all the vehicles, especially the crazy ones and seeing the people, especially the crazy ones (!) and feeling like it was just beyond awesome to be there again. At the ... gate (?) (I think?) we were asked if we had any of the contraband items (feathers, fireworks, fidos, fucking awesome attitudes, felines, firearms) and we had to admit to him that we were, in fact, in possession of some fucking awesome attitudes. Fortunately, he let us in with them since we didn't have any of the other dis-allowed items and after he checked the vehicle (for stowaways and the contraband items) he scanned our tickets and car pass (there was a moment where we held our breath when he scanned Connor's ticket. I mean, I was pretty sure it was real but still...) and on we went.
We got to the greeter's station and he took one look at us and said "you've both been here before, haven't you?" which made me feel really happy. I guess I wasn't wide eyed. Just grinning wide. He gave us our maps and guides (so you know where the art is and where the available camping spots are and where and when events are happening) and told us "Welcome Home."
It meant a hell of a lot more to me this year than last year when I showed up, was greeted and kind of... didn't get what all the fuss was about.
I reached over and gave his hand a big squeeze and he looked at me and said, "Oh you need a hug, don't you!?" and I smiled, tears in my eyes, nodded and opened the car door.
This great big man (tall and strong) wearing a long leather kilt and some sort of top hat and vest ran around the front of Connor's truck and gave me a gigantic, lift you off the ground you are my best friend and I love you kind of hug. And I knew I was, indeed "Home."
It was so sweet.
And so was seeing the male greeter in green florescent hot pants give an equally big hug to the driver of the vehicle two rows over from us.
I was already chit chatting with people, thanking them for their work (I still don't know how people take the heat and sun so well, but... then again, I do live in Victoria, BC, not Reno, Nevada...or somewhere similarly warm and sunnyish) and so happy to be actually, for real, entering the city.
We glanced down at the clock and then at each other. We had expected to be in line to get in for hours (like last year I believe it was at least five hours, perhaps more) and this had been so short! We drove to where we'd thought to camp and realized it was only 1:30. We'd gone from pavement to spot in two hours. Amazing.
I'd wanted to be close to the portapotties because it had been lovely to be near last year, but there weren't any spots free. We found one, but it was reserved for "building a kick-ass art car" as the awesome guy told us when we got out to look.
We ended up on the same street we'd planned to be on, but further down. I was frustrated it had worked out that way, it seemed a long way away from where I'd "wanted" to be and I was hungry and annoyed that the meal plan I'd decided to try this year didn't start for another day.
Realistically, I now recognize that this is a fairly normal occurrence. As your body adjusts to the heat, the dryness, and most especially the altitude, you get cranky. It's "normal" for the first few days to feel off... but of course I didn't think of this or remember this, I was just... annoyed.
So cranky I was. We were "too far" from the bathrooms, we had "no food" and hadn't had any ALL DAY but I just shrugged it off, ate crackers and beef jerky (because radical self reliance means that I had enough to keep myself from starving had all other food sources fallen through) and drank water and sat watching as the people and vehicles of Burning Man made their way past me.
By about 6:30 that evening, it was cool enough for us to set up the tent and put our bins into the storage side so Connor could set up his "back of the truck" sleeping area. We met some of our neighbours (it was relatively empty at this point, we could still see through to open playa behind us) and I was happy that they were vets. Seasoned burners somewhere in their fifties, and cool people.
I watched the sun go down behind the mountain and joined in the chorus of howls as it disappeared. We got peckish and Connor said he'd make us some of his freeze dried food. Except his stove didn't work. (Um... kind of like last year?) And I started to get annoyed again.
But... my temperature was good. (Polar opposite of my first night last year when I was almost literally roasting and had to sleep outside) And I was really pleased with that.
There was a tequila bar down the road and it had great music; some Floyd, some Dave Matthews Band, I was happy, if a little hungry and grumpy.
We went for a ride, out to see the Man and the Temple and some of the art. I was madly in love with "Squares", a beautiful, interactive sound and light piece, and I went and spoke to the artists and thanked them for their work. I gave them one of my necklaces I'd made as a thank you and they seemed really touched. But damn, I loved their piece. (I tried to find a photo of it to link for you, but I can't, and I didn't take any shots myself, my camera not being great in low light and me not wanting to take a shot that didn't do the art justice.)
There was also a fantastic dead tree sort of thing that when you got closer turned out to be made of bodies and body parts and again, I wish I could show you how stunning it was.
We chatted to the man sitting at the base (that early in the week and technically before the event actually begins on Monday there are still many pieces unfinished and you can often see the artists working on them, which is also pretty cool!) of the structure and he said he was just watching it for his girlfriend, the artist. We told him to pass on to her how beautiful and striking the piece was and then we biked on.
We saw a huge collection of art cars, and what we first thought was some kind of awesome art car party (woo hooo!) was the line up of art cars waiting to be inspected by the Department of Mutant Vehicles (that's right... the DMV) to see if they would be given permission to drive at night. It was awesome. Beautiful! Colourful! Creative! ART THAT MOVES! Crazy people doing crazy things to things that move and transport and make noise and shoot flames and why? Because. Burning Man. It was great to see so many art cars at once, and I'm so glad we got to see that. It was a super fun, silly, happy thing that I didn't even really know happened.
I am in love with fire and things that shoot fire and so after the art car dance party lineup I biked us towards what seemed to be some sort of fire party! There were five or six flame throwing/shooting art cars all looped around a flame throwing art installation somewhere mid-playa and I was in heaven. FLAME! FLAME! FLAME!!!!! Noise, heat, brightness, so glorious. The octopus that most people have seen in Burning Man videos was there (he's my favourite) as was a scorpion that shot fire out of its... tail spike and the word LOVE shooting fire and I don't even know what else. I could have sat in the middle of it all night being happy and revelling in how HOT the fire was and how BRIGHT it made everything!
It may sound silly to say but when it's dark...dark dark like you don't see in the city dark, and something shoots out a sh*t ton of fire in a flame throwing burst of noise and fuel? It's frigging amazing, and beyond bright... and hot. And when there's five or six or seven of them doing it all around you?
I can't even explain to you what it's like.
It must sound surreal from the outside, but all I know is I'm not getting anywhere close to explaining it. It's magnificent.
And fun. And crazy. And ridiculous. And art. Stunning art wrapped up with engineering wrapped up with f**%ing flame throwers and the happiest people you'll ever see in your life.
Because everyone's grinning.
No one more so than I.
We biked back home and I was annoyed by what looked and acted like "frat boys" who had pulled in next to us. Ugh. I have never been a fan of frat boys and especially not at Burning Man. Now I was grumpy.
Hungry too, which I'm sure didn't help but? The temperature? Almost felt... chilly. YAY!
There had been a breeze for most of the day which had been amazing and to feel actually not hot at night? Miracle.
I found myself really wanting to talk to Jason. I turned my phone on just in case and was stunned to find I had service. I hadn't had it for most of the last part of the drive, and hadn't had it at all last year so it was... sort of disappointing to have it. I didn't want to be able to talk to "the real world" but I did try to call Jason (hard not to talk to someone when you have so much you want to say) and I texted C-Dawg to let her know I was good and then I was tired.
Connor kept on thanking me. Saying that none of this would have happened if it hadn't been for me. My faith and determination to get him a ticket and get us there. I... didn't know what to say to that, I have a hard time when people tell me something like that because I don't see myself as someone that makes things happen. Maybe I should start to...
Anyway. I went into the tent, got out my journal and wrote that I could hear noise in the distance. That things were already dusty. There were art cars. Driving past. Making noise. Music. Sound. And lights.
"I'm here." I wrote.
It was probably 1am by the time I got settled enough to actually go to bed. Burning Man. I was at Burning Man. With all the dust and noise and lights and art cars and.... everything. I was there.