Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Burning Man Chronicles-Part 2

Ladies and Gentleman, today there will be no crashing planes into buildings. Yes, 6 years ago on a Tuesday in September that’s what was going on here in New York City. Explosions, buildings crumbling into dust, clouds of smoke and ash all over the place, absolute madness on a clear blue day. Well this Tuesday we have a somber, rainy, muggy day. I’m not one for reflecting on that day or wringing my hands in grief, life goes on, a bit changed, but it goes on.
Speaking of dust and explosions, let me go back to Burning Man before that is all a distant memory. The culmination of this arts festival/hippy love fest in the Nevada desert is the burning of a giant wooden man on Saturday night. The man himself was burned early this year by a disgruntled veteran burner who was upset with the way things were changing on the playa. But they rebuilt him in time for Saturday night’s torching. I was surprised at how small he was perched up there on his pyre of large logs. Still, when he went up in flames it was impressive. Not to be upstaged, the oil derrick of the “Crude Awakening” exhibit was torched as well Saturday night in a gigantic ball of fire, the largest explosion to date at Burning Man. After a fantastic fireworks display, this 100 ft or so wooden structure was immolated with four giant blow torches in a matter of moments. The throngs of people looking on howl and screamed with excitement, hooting and hollering across the dark Playa. It actually threw me back to that Tuesday 6 yrs ago when I watched the second plane crash through the south tower of the World Trade Center, the force of the explosion pushing heat against my face there on the Lower East Side. Impressive as it was, it was more disturbing than exciting for me. Guess for as much as life goes on, that day is still with me.
Another part of Burning Man are the giant dust storms that sweep across the ancient lakebed getting dirt everywhere and blocking out all the art exhibits across the Playa. You can see them creeping across the giant open space and you hurry to get your goggles and dust mask on. Winds whip up to 100 miles an hour and the fine dust gets everywhere imaginable. The wise advice is to hunker down in your tent or at the closest camp to provide you shelter until the storm finishes. Sure that’s the logical thing to do but many, yours truly among them, found it extremely fun and liberating to get out and run around during the dust storms. There were drumming circles that would drum away during dust storms so whenever we were enshrouded in a giant dust cloud, the drums could be heard all over Burning Rock City, calling the brave out to bang and dance around. If you’re not up for dealing with the dust and dirt, then Burning Man is not the place for you. One must embrace in order to survive. Of course, these dust storms wreak havoc on rental cars (and everything else). My mom and sister-in-law took care to hide the evidence of where I took the rental car by giving it a good washing before I returned it. Even back in New York at LaGuardia, you know who on your flight was at Burning Man for their bags are covered in the dust. Always a great conversation starter. Post-dust storm one day, we had a little rain show (which equals mud), after which there appeared in the sky a fantastic, full double rainbow. Of course this rare phenomenon sent all the burners screaming and yelling out onto the Playa to photograph it. It was an amazing surprise event for us all.
So now after more than a week since the big burn, we are all back in our little New York routines; Pete, Jackie, Marshal, and the rest. We all feel connected by this incredible adventure and recount stories from the week over meals and drinks. Some of already have plans afoot for one year from now returning to the Playa for more fun. Until that next time, we all bask in the after glow of the burn.

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