Exodus

Sep. 4th, 2007 06:38 pm
mordwen: (Default)
The next day’s ride back got a slow start but once we were on the road, we had good conversations.

I found it odd to be in a vehicle with people casually talking about “Barlow” (John Perry) and his two naked 19-year-old nubile young things in his RV at Burning Man and about John Gilmore and Ray Kurzweil (Catherine was a research analyst for him), who they know as friends and not icons of the digerati in the way I have.

I find myself feeling a little strange again, a little fish in such a big pond. Do I have to think of this as schmoozing, as networking, as making friends? Do I want to be in this Silicon Valley network of hugely intelligent people or do I want to work in other ways, creating alternative futures in sustainable ways? Are the two things mutually exclusive? Later, I think. Later I will untangle these threads. For now, it is enough that I am heading back to my love and we have a thousand things to do before we can make it home.
mordwen: (mandala)
Monday was bump-out. A hard work day of taking down the dome and packing up the tents, breaking down the camp in general. It was also a day of rising tempers as campmates and freeloaders didn’t pull their weight, as people’s lifts left without them, as others didn’t pack up swiftly enough for their friends.

It was, in other words, typical of any day after a festival has ended, anywhere in the world.

Catherine, Brad’s partner, had told me there was a chance I’d hear pigs flying overhead around 7am, shortly followed by their RV pulling up. Just in case, I was up early. As it turned out, they were waiting for another traveler and then a storm hit around 3pm.

In between trying to breathe, I kept helping with the bump-out as much as I could. Finally, around 7pm, I thought I’d give up and see if I could find them instead. Just as I did, they drove out of the blinding wind. I flagged them down and we got my stuff on board.

What followed was the worst Exodus storm in a decade, according to people I’ve spoken with. We could see about a foot in front of our faces, if that. Catherine and I were telling Brad when we could see the fences to either side and when we lost sight of them, we knew he was veering out of the lane. We couldn’t see the vehicle in front of us, that was certain.

Pure exhaustion after all that meant I slept most of the way to Reno.

We stayed in a very tacky hotel filled with slot machines on the bottom floor. I felt like I was in an episode of CSI.

One very amusing moment was when I noticed the National School Scrabble Championship on the television screens along with many sports. I wonder if people were betting on that too.
mordwen: (mandala)
I wanted to be alone for this night, so after dinner I wandered out, planning to hitch a ride with a passing art car. Parked outside and waiting to go was the silver Sphinx. Serendipitous. So I climbed aboard and met Mato, the beautiful man organising things. He was one of the most beautiful beings I’ve encountered. Long hair in dreds, threaded with ribbons, liquid eyes, a black leather cincher, a skirt made of brightly colored rags caressing his boots.

In the middle of the roof was a wooden harp and a woman seated in front of it.

I moved to the front of the Sphinx and we started to move across the playa towards the Temple. As we got there, the music was turned off, and we stood and watched it burn brightly. A cowled man behind me with dark eyeliner spoke of his friend who’d killed himself. The Temple was entirely surrounded by people. As we waited and watched it burn, someone started a wave of noise that went around the circle like a Mexican wave, infectious. It went around six times.

I started crying, for Grandpa, for other reasons, for a teenhood that I could have had. Hands touched my shoulders.

Behind me, a voice said “To forgive is to be free.”

“To forgive is to be free.”

“To forgive is to be free.”

On the third sentence, the Temple fell.




“Third time’s the charm,” I said.

“That’s why they call me 3D,” said the cowled man.

We were asked to clear the decks so the band could play. It turned out that the beautiful man was the lead singer of a Las Vegas group called Kinetic Origins of Rhythm. He chanted the names of god in twenty languages. He sang of us all being messiahs and spoke of love. He channelled primal energies and stamped ancient rhythms for the harp to play against, eerie sounds distorted through the mixer.

He made eye contact with me and mouthed something I didn’t quite catch. He was the incarnation of masculinity and magic. I tried to tell someone this later and they asked me what I was on. When I told them I was “on” the power of the music and nothing else, I don’t think they believed me. It was true, though.

Afterwards, I spoke with him and hugged him and told him, from one messiah to another, that he had an incredibly powerful gift. A woman from Ecuador wearing an amazing feathered headdress came up to us. She had in her hands a carved Phoenix, blackened on one side. I’d heard a rumour that part of the first Man had been put inside the second. It had been shaped as a Phoenix and its single eye was green bottle glass. On its back were the signatures of all the people who’d built the second man. It said, “You thought we had a second Man in a box. We didn’t. You are all the second man.”

Apparently, it was in the Man’s head and his head didn’t burn. She saw it fall and went to pick it up from where it fell. The Phoenix is arisen once again!

The Sphinx went back to the Village and I said my farewells.

[EDIT: The story of the making of the Phoenix. The eye is melted neon from the first Man.]
mordwen: (Default)
Back at the Village, I went to open my last Ready to Eat Meal from Trader Joe’s when Rosa Anna asked me whether I wanted to share dinner with them. I’d seen her preparing it earlier, an amazing smelling ginger, garlic and cilantro (coriander) concoction with cream and goodness knows what else poured over barbecued chicken and steamed rice. Although I was running late for the Temple burn, I had to say yes. Again with the superlatives, but it truly was one of the most divine dishes I’ve had outside of a restaurant (and possibly inside of one for that matter). 
mordwen: (mandala)
I return the wheel chair to BWB. I don’t want to mess up my leg but at the same time, I really want to climb the Steampunk TreeHouse and this is my chance.

It was amazing. In fact, all of the incredible steampunk themed art this year was beautiful, a haunting futurepast that I long for and mourn all at once.

I went to find Brad Templeton and check on the offer of a lift home (turns out he lives close by) as the sun faded over a hazy skyline, red cast shadows from the smoke of so many burning firepits.
mordwen: (mandala)
I had plans but my back and leg mean I’m grounded if I want any hope of making it out again tonight. Thankfully, Priya’s partner Bijan kindly goes to get me coffee and there are other delightful people around to talk with.

Around 3pm, someone mentions that they think there’s a chiropractor at the HeeBee GeeBee Healers Tent. That’s only at 4.30 and Estuary, not very far at all. I hop into the wheel chair again and get myself over there.

Amazingly enough, there is, and he does some network chiropractic on my lower back and some manipulation of my thoracics and neck and I can walk again.
mordwen: (mandala)
The same chaos reigns over at Crude Awakening. I have been hearing stories all week from Mills about her concerns with the safety of this project, so I am a little wary of standing too close. Yesterday, they were having trouble getting pressure into the 500 feet of pipe they will pour the propane through.

I can’t see a silver Sphinx anywhere. Karen doesn’t think we’ll find it. My feet are sore. [profile] aethyrflux doesn’t mind either way. So we find another vehicle to rest in for a while and gather ourselves. Rested, we decide to keep wandering. On my way off this truck, I am looking for a foot hold and can’t find one. Someone offers me a hand and I foolishly decide to take it rather than keep looking for the foothold. I come down too heavily on my bad leg and feel my sacrum and L5 go out of place as I land. It’s enormously painful.

Walking slowly will help but I really need a chiropractor. We move slowly towards a large art car with a glowing sign: Martini Agog. Perhaps a drink or two? Parked right next to that is the silver Sphinx bus. Whoo hoo! We climb aboard. Apparently, we were supposed to meet *next* to the bus not on it, but I didn’t know that at the time. From the open top deck of the bus, we watch the amazing fireworks show before the oil derrick burns. It’s literally the best fireworks show I think I’ve ever seen and I’m including Sydney Harbour 2000 in that. Mind you, Sydney Harbour had a couple of three dimensional shapes. Perhaps it’s on par.

Then the derrick starts to burn. I have never seen anything so enormous as this fireball. I can’t help but think about how wasteful it is. “Green” Man, huh? Buying carbon credits to offset this is all well and good but this is still hugely problematic. The travel of all the people here is too. And yet, otherwise, how would they get to make this art statement about dependence on oil? Complicated.

Apparently there are four “blevvies” in this explosion. All I can see is an amazing fire tornado at its center, spinning with a wildness of a sprite chained.


I am swept with a wave of exhaustion and tell [profile] aethyrflux I’m going downstairs. He joins me and we find our way past the sumptuous bar to the hidden back room, lined with deep red wallpaper and done up as a Moroccan bed chamber. There are mattresses and cushions, a round table with spaces cut into it for drinks, people draped around. There is a water feature, a little waterfall tumbling down onto some smooth rocks against one wall and a little alcove at the back with a Ganesh figure in it.

I keep snoozing. The captain of the Sphinx keeps coming in with his girlfriend all dressed in a white corset and tutu, black-framed glasses making her stern. “No sleeping!” he says. “Spankings all round if you sleep!” She administers the spankings with glee.

We eventually leave the Crude Awakening site and head, I think, back to camp, but it turns out the Sphinx plans to hang out at the Opulent Temple at 2 o’clock. I wait and wait for it to head home, since I can’t walk six whole playa blocks to 5 o’clock with my leg as it is. Luckily for me, aethyrflux works with Burners without Borders and he’s a darling. He props me up on a bean bag at a chill space and walks back to their camp at 3.30, gets me a wheel chair and then wheels me back to our camp at 5.

Needless to say, I got a few surprised looks when I got into the Village, but we sat around and talked a little longer and then I wheeled myself to the hammock again.
mordwen: (Default)
I want to make sure we get out to the Man before the craziness starts, so we decide to leave. JJ and B and Karen come with us. I’m hoping for an art car but they’re all full.

We tromp the distance to the Man and see the arms raise as we get closer. He’s been rebuilt in two days flat by the construction team, identical to the first version. In some ways that saddens me: it highlights exactly what it seems the “arsonist” was protesting, this cookie-cutter Man, this reproduction out-of-a-box.

It’s the usual chaos, finding a spot behind all the art cars, the chants of “sit down!” to all the people standing in front. We’ve got reasonably good line of sight. I can’t see Dave twirling somewhere in the Conclave but he’s there somewhere.

In front of us, the twirlers are transforming into a particular group: there’s a story being told. They line up one in front of the other, fire fans overlapped and then lights flame from front to back, a winged Shiva forming. There are three women and a man, with him at the very rear. Two of the women form a guard of sorts while the third dances with the man. It is intensely sexy, male and female energies swirling, she swaying and seducing, he undulating and fiery. Suddenly, other men appear armed with fire spears and shields and there is a fight, ducking and swerving. The women defend also. The play goes back and forth and of course our lovers triumph.

Fireworks begin. The twirlers disappear. The Man starts to burn, for the second time. And then there is an enormous fireball and he is engulfed in flame. He burns brightly and then eventually falls. We move in towards him. I want to circle the pyre as I did last year, but as we get closer, someone pushes a large spherical artwork into the flames and another fireball goes off and everyone is shouting “move back!” and I think, no, perhaps not now, perhaps not this year.

We walk away, towards Crude Awakening, which is due to burn in another hour or so. We have instructions to find a bus done up as a Silver Sphinx and to meet Kati, Priya, Yassi and [personal profile] signifier there.
mordwen: (Default)
The park is much more fun with a crowd. We are all sleepy from the late night before and lie on the grass massaging each other’s backs and stroking each other’s arms.

I want to go to the swimming pool again and everyone seems keen but they are languorous in the heat and slow to stir.

I am on foot while they have bicycles. They will join us later. Karen agrees to walk her bike with me so I’ll have company (I’m more worried no one will come at all). Again, halfway there, we find a ride for me, this time because she knows friends at a Peeps Flambé camp. Apparently this is some sort of marshmallow confection shaped like a bird for Easter. It is far too sweet. The pool is delightful.

I have an appointment with [profile] aethyrflux for 6pm at the park to meet up for the Man. Kati has no plans, so she comes with me, and we take the makings of a picnic dinner. He has brought port. Mmm.

After dinner, back at camp, Kati is distracted by Priya and Yassi and will go out with them instead (I can understand this: I took one look into their little house and saw three glowing naked visions sitting cross-legged; I could barely tear my eyes away).
mordwen: (Default)
While eating breakfast Saturday, a woman named Kati wanders into the dome wearing nothing but a cream coloured silk scarf draped around her pale cream-coloured neck and carrying a pink parasol. She has pink ribbons in her hair and eyes tilted up like a pixie. She is a magnificent vision and I tell her so.

She sits down with us and another woman comes in, nut-dark bare breasts atop a pair of tight blue jeans and a crazy huge deep brown fur hat making her look like an Eskimo. She makes some comment about her breasts and suddenly we’re in the breast appreciation society. I say, as I often do, how I hate this culture women have of commenting only on the one bit of themselves they don’t like and envy in others rather than focusing on their beauty.

One by one, we end up around the group, baring our breasts and highlighting what we think is sexy about each other. Priya, a stunning goddess from Iran, thinks her magnificent large breasts are ugly and mammoth. Kati thinks hers are too tiny. It’s all ridiculous. We turn to the man in our midst and give him some loving too.

We leave everyone aglow.

We dub it the Breast Appreciation Society.
mordwen: (mandala)
I got a ride on a weirdly tall bicycle up 2 to Intertidal. Someone gave me an ice-cold grape Otter Pop.

The swimming pool was gloriously cold, one of those child’s inflatable pools that was just large enough to sit in up to my neck. I was alone there for a while, and it was blissful. In the heat, I dried off almost immediately.

I got another ride back to The Man and walked across the playa to Media Mecca for another round of cocktails. Yet again, we were hit with a huge storm, this time so bad I had trouble breathing. News started to filter through that the storm had delayed the burning of Crude Awakening which was now scheduled for after the Man tomorrow night.

Dinner at camp. Went to bed early in the hammock strung up in the camp dome, but heard that Paul Oakenfeld would be playing at the Opulent Temple club on 2 o’clock and Esplanade sometime early in the morning, so around 1am, when I awoke with all the noise around me, I dressed and wandered out again. I jumped onto a passing art car and bizarrely, the hand reaching for me to help me up was Denis, who Doug and I met at Harbin a few weeks before.

We went off to the club and danced on the platform above the crowd. (Image cc courtesy of enpointe.)

Later I decided I was too tired and headed for home, only to discover all the wonderful people I’d met from Flaming Lotus Girls sitting around the Illumination Village fire. Ended up sitting next to them and getting fabulously drunk on red wine, tipping some down Mills’ cleavage when she wouldn’t stop singing “Tie Me Kangaroo Down” at me.

I even went out again in search of the mythical steam bath at Camp Carp, discovered it but no steam engine, wandered back and on my way ran into Dave and Alison from FireDrums. Had a wonderful talk with them, went home, chatted by the fire again until silly o'clock and watched the sun rise with [personal profile] signifier. Slept.
mordwen: (mandala)
talk to godOn my way to a swimming pool [profile] aethyrflux had told me about at 2 and Intertidal, I saw that the queue for the “Talk to God” phone box was quite short. I picked up the phone.

“Hi God.”

“Hi. Before we start,” said the voice, “This is my male incarnation. As you know, I am male, female and all else, so if you’d prefer me to appear to you in some other incarnation?”

“No, thank you. As I plan to ask about a masculine person, your masculine persona is fine. I just wanted to check in with my partner. He’s been having a hard time of it recently and he’s camping somewhere in the Santa Cruz mountains on his own, recharging and doing exactly what he needs to do and I’m here with 40,000 strangers, recharging and doing exactly what I need to do, but I just want to know he’s okay.”

“Close your eyes, let’s do this together. Breathe in deeply. Remember that you are my divine child and that your partner is my divine child and so long as you breathe and know this you are always connected to each other through me.”

He went on for a while. I was crying. I knew he was some guy at some camp with a wire between us, but he was speaking a truth in some way, something I believe at least about all of us as humans being connected.

“Thank you,” I said. “I love you.”

“And I love you. More than you could possibly know.”

I hung up the phone.
mordwen: (mandala)
Headed to Center Camp for espresso then tried to get over to the steam bath again but the line was enormous and by then it was getting on for midday.

I had interviews lined up with the crew from Mechabolic, which was an amazing project to build a 110-foot long machine that ate trash and fuelled itself. Its mouth was a woodchipper, its molars another, smaller woodchipper and a government paper shredder, its lungs an air intake array for its V8 engine. In its guts sat three gasifiers, turning waste into bio-diesel, and sending some of it to the V8 for motion, some to a Lister engine and to a generator for electric lights and some straight to metal flowers arrayed above it. Its bowels gently dusted charcoal onto planter boxes that also drank waste water. In the end, the monster only moved 69 feet, but it worked.

I absolutely loved the women who were working on it. You go, grrls!

One of the better pictures I found of this comes from Wired, of course. This is the day before…
mordwen: (mandala)
[profile] aethyrflux and I wandered off and had one of those magical Burning Man nights where you meander across the playa talking about mysticism and science, emergent consciousness and creativity.

We saw Swarm (I’d been looking for them for a few nights), four beautiful metallic robot spheres that changed color and emitted sound as they rolled around near each other, interacting with each other. The first one was amusing and off-putting: glowing pink, it murmured “I’m a bad girl” over and over as it crept closer to another sphere. Later, they appeared to be dancing with each other, singing deep Tibetan throat chanting in off-beat harmonies. Again, pictures coming as soon as someone posts decent ones. My photos turned out black.

We saw Crude Awakening, the enormous oil derrick with stairs all the way to the platform, worshipped by nine enormous figures crafted from recycled metals twisted into bodies, lifting burnt offerings in their hands, eyes blazing, unable to look upon their deed, having turned from worshipping the gods to worshipping oil. Stripped tree trunks stand abandoned nearby. [profile] aethyrflux says to me, “At first I hated the oil rig, but then I realized it’s the worshippers that are the problem.”

We go to the Temple and write on the walls. I write “I forgive my father” and I write something for Doug.

We wander across to the crazy monkeys and snakes swinging on the zoetrope tree, watch as it stills then as the cyclists start it rotating again, the monkeys appear to come alive, swinging from limb to limb as the snakes slither down towards them. (Awesome photo and description here)

At some point we decide to look for a chill space and I remember hearing about a place called Celestial Heavens or something like that, somewhere on 4 o’clock or 4.30. We find it but everyone has gone for the night and it’s dark. We head back to the 4.30 keyhole where we saw a place called Iron Rose and discover it playing reggae and we lie down and drink red wine and I dance occasionally.

After a while we head next door to the chai bar to have chai, discover they’ve run out and have mate instead, listen to a woman singing accompanied by someone’s beautifully played piano. We end up singing ourselves, “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and “the Rose” and many other tacky classics. As the sky began to lighten, we went back to camp.
mordwen: (mandala)
abraxasBack to Media Mecca around 2.30 to make it to the media art tour. There was another insane dust storm, so they plied us with liquor until the storm passed and then a grand golden dragon named Abraxas pulled up outside the tent complete with warriors in Eastern-style armour.

We piled on and moved out into the playa, stopping periodically at huge installations of art, climbed onto them, clambered back onto the dragon, watched the warriors walk on their hands and do other stunts. Climbing up inside Big Rig Jig was kinda terrifying. Two semis bent and connected to each other one on top of the other, filled with a lounge and weirdness and a science lab. Hard to explain.

predatorBack at Media Mecca, it was a 'meet the artists' drinkfest. I met one of the warriors, styling himself Predator, with coffee skin and long dreds and liquid green eyes. (Really want a photo of him in his Eastern armour... next to the dragon. Yum.)

Met Brad Templeton of EFF and chatted for a while.

Checked my e-mail on some guy’s laptop and found out that Dad was okay — he’d gone into hospital with a blocked artery the night before I left.

Met another guy, [profile] aethyrflux, and decided to wander around with him that evening.

(Photo of abraxas from someone on Tribe called theoneandrea... still looking for one that shows more detail from this year)
mordwen: (mandala)
steambathSignifier found out where the steam bath was, so I headed over there. Oh wow.

Inside a dome, they’d built a low wooden bench around the edges and the floor had wooden floorboards in a hexagonal pattern with gaps between. There was a keg of water that was boiling, making steam, and a sprayer to spray the hot, dusty playa off your skin. It dripped down between the gaps and into the grey water system beneath.

It was heavenly.

steambath
mordwen: (mandala)
rodentI went to media cocktails and we got hit by a windstorm. This one wasn’t too bad and it was nice to hang out at the media space and sip my bourbon and mango-passionfruit Rockstar energy drink (it actually tasted pretty good…)

Back to camp for dinner and a change of clothes. Went out to Spike’s Vampire Bar because I knew a couple of people from there. Getting gothed up on the playa is a weird experience but it was fun. They serve red wine from IV bags hung from a manikin wrapped in gauze. The music was heaps of fun and I ended up dancing around on the podium to a remix of New Order’s "True Faith" with some guy in a blue silk boxer’s gown.

Hung out with Doug’s friend Rodent (right) for a little while and got more goss on the Man burning on Monday.

Went searching for the Swarm. Didn't find them.

Had an early night.
mordwen: (mandala)
Spent the morning reading a book on Burning Man by [personal profile] signifier’s friend Jess Bruder. It’s brilliant, one of the most comprehensive and coherent compendiums on Burning Man that I’ve seen, filled with photos of art and stickers and the detritus of the culture. Her interviews are superb, delicate and touching ones like the story of the first Temple and the burning of the Contessa, raucous ones like how the Tuna Guys got started and the woman who built the huge chandelier which gave viewers electric shocks.

At least, I think that was Wednesday.

Buy one. Seriously.
mordwen: (mandala)
I head into Centre Camp for coffee with Karen from the Flaming Lotus Girls. There is a man there holding a sign. It says: I know something about you.

So we walk up to him and ask him.

“You think you’re normal,” he says to me. I laugh. Normal is about the last thing I think I am. “No," he says. "You do. You think that everyone processes things the way you do and it isn’t true. You recover from things a lot faster than others -- and people could benefit from those lessons. You could find work in charitable pursuits helping give people those keys to processing the way you do.” Or something along those lines.

It’s very interesting. “Resilient” is a word just about every psychologist I’ve ever been to has used about me. And I’m definitely looking at moving into non-profit work.

He’s intuitive, that’s for sure.

(Photo cc courtesy elainevdw)
mordwen: (mandala)
I head back to camp, change my clothes and decide to wander around the playa. I figure I’ll jump on an art car and just let it take me wherever it feels like going. I find the Surly Bird only a few blocks away, a red delight playing just my sort of trance and we’re off, first through the back streets then across the deep playa.

I go to the Temple and write something for my grandfather. I don’t realize until later that it’s the anniversary of his death and how appropriate this is. I add something for Doug’s parents, whose estates we gave away at Burning Man last year.



I meet Oona and Jake, randomly on the same art car, weirdly also from Flaming Lotus Girls… A wonderful night.

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