i have been so busy/discombobulated by my travels of late, it has been difficult to keep it straight where i am heading and where i have been, but i am making the attempt. there was a glitch in my blog matrix, i realize, in my last rushed emission. so now to continue. i left minneapolis in the afternoon and made it to rapid city south dakota by around midnight. it was a rainy drive and i felt the pressure to get to salt lake quickly, since my friend alexis would be arriving there the next day around 2 pm. time was not on my side, but i didn’t want to get so close to mount rushmore without catching a glimpse of it.
i got a room at a motel off the highway – a newish motel 6 done up ikea-style. kinda nice, surprisingly. i got up and got going the next morning and pointed myself toward the mountains, passing a bagel shop on the way – cowboy bagels, i think it was. should have taken a pic of the sign. everything in rapid city was pretty kitschy.
munching my everything bagel with cream cheese and tomatoes (no tofu cream cheese, though – new york, i miss you) and drinking my coffee, i climbed the lovely mountains, occasionally spotting a confusion of wild turkeys or a smattering of antelopes on the roadside. i made it to mount rushmore and was surprised at how few people were around. this is because mount rushmore charges 10$ just to park. lame. everyone snapped their pics from the road, as did i. it would be one thing for them to charge a couple of bucks like state parks do, but come on. 10$ to park for a few mins? wah wah.
i kept on truckin, a beautiful day for driving, and finally made it to slc in the late afternoon. there was a little rain on the way, but the payoff was in rainbows, which is fine with me!
alexis and i were staying with a girl she had met at the airport while waiting for me. turned out this lovely lady, ashley, lived just south of the city and had a ride coming. alexis went home with her and i drove straight there. ashley’s lovely papa made us spaghetti and garlic bread – manna from heaven after the long day’s drive. the house was full of life – a young boy, a toddler, ashley and her sister, their dad, two chihuahuas and a little puppy chihuahua who stole all hearts in the vicinity.
the back yard was outrageous – mountains surrounding and sky crowning an enormous vista. the yard was punctuated by a trampoline embedded in the lawn and a swing set out at the edge near the farm lot adjacent to their property. it was a beautiful bordel of playful puppies and mischievous little boys. we slept in sleeping bags in the living room and awoke to a beautiful sunny day. we intended to leave, but stayed and talked and ate and read tarot cards beneath the trees in the yard. and gallavanted with tiny dogs.
alexis and i hit the road around 3. a late start indeed. we stopped by the great salt lake and walked across a desert-like expanse of slushy salt toward the edge of the water. someone had told me i must swim in this lake. we walked and walked. as we neared the edge of the water at last, we saw piles of tiny empty tube things on the mud. soon we realized they were the cases of larval flies that live near the water. our walking disturbed great numbers of them and caused them to swarm and fill the air around us, as if they were protecting the water from intruders. but they were harmless enough. we braved them and waded into the squishy bottomed lake, though ultimately there was not enough determination in me to attempt submersion. even if it is super floaty water. maybe another time.
we continued on and darkness encroached. on the tail of so many traveling days, i was tired and the lights began to blur around the edges and my speed began to lag on the mountain roads. we decided to stop for the night in elko, i believe. aside from the car alarm going off unexpectedly, it was an uneventful evening.
the next day we made our final push to reno. we arrived in the afternoon and did some necessary shopping before trundling back out of town and north toward the black rock desert. we stopped along the way for some indian tacos from a road side stand. these are amazing. fried flat breads topped with beans and tomatoes and salsa. yum. i guess they had chicken too. there was a fuzzy headed baby hanging out with an old man and a little girl excited to have someone to help her skip rocks on the gravel expanse.
the entry gate was not so very far and we arrived just as the sun was setting behind the mountains. the desert air around us was filled with dust kicked up by the cars, the much talked of playa veiling itself with itself.
alexis guided me through the maze of tents and rvs to our address at 4:45 and e. the city is set up like a clock, with times to refer to the streets’ locations from the radius point of center camp in 15 minute intervals and lettered avenues curve around the city starting with a in the middle and ending with j on the outside. black rock city is oriented to the north where the man stands far off in the playa and beyond him the temple shimmers on the horizon.
alexis and i went to unload the tents and set up camp, but quickly discovered that i, clever little kitty that i am, had forgotten them. i knew with a sudden certainty that they were at that very moment lying on the floor of our basement in arkansas. luckily we had jenna there to offer us her tent for the night, and our friend evangeline, the other wheel of our theater group, tricycle, was on her way that evening with a tent. alexis and i set off to explore the city.
at night, it is a city of lights: the glowstick bangles, headlamps, bike lights, flames shooting from art cars, the man himself lit up with white neon. we walked to center camp, a large pavilion with flags on top so as to orient us in the sometimes confusing city. we walked around the playa and up to the man, this year sitting atop a multi-storied coliseum like structure. it was a clear and warmish night and we boarded a wrecked pirateship and walked its plank. people played on a spinning hoop suspended above the desert and we eventually went back to camp. on the way we passed the thunderdome and watched pairs of friends beat each other with padded sticks while dangling from bungees in a geodesic dome. it was pretty entertaining.
alexis went to bed and i stayed up by the fire to greet the comers home and wait for evangeline. i met several of my campmates around the fire that night and heard one camper’s retelling of her trip and how she had seen too much of the universe and spoken with the devil. evangeline arrived around 4 that morning looking shaken – her ride share to the event had been somewhat trying. but she was there and all was well.
the next day i donned my tutu and grabbed my parasol (well, evangeline’s, since it matched better). our camp was called apocalypse lounge and served bloody mary’s in the brunch hours. they were yummy and spicy and had olives and pickles! the lounge had hookahs and couches and was very comfy and full of life during the bloody mary hours. i met a man named sammy who said he was the reincarnation of paramahansa yogananda. it was fun to meet such venerable fellow campers.
later that day marshall came to our camp and brought me my sister erika’s burning man bike. we hung out for a bit and decided on a time and place to meet at the temple and set up erika’s shrine there. alexis, evangeline and jenna came with me, and marshall came with his best friend drew, who was with us through everything that happened last year. also with him came hylah and emily, two of erika’s girlfriend’s whom i also met last year after she died. we brought incense and sage, a wooden box which had once contained dad’s coin collection and now held erika’s ashes, letters, photos; marshall brought a sheet of stickers with her address in napa on them, some thank you gift for her many donations to animals’ causes, no doubt. he also brought a bottle of wine from her extensive collection and hylah had a perfect brass chalice. emily brought some native american prayer ties someone had made for erika last year. it was beautiful to tell stories and write and cry and decorate her little corner of the temple. we finished by singing “you are my sunshine” in a circle which included others who had shared our wine and heard our stories about her. after the song we stood there in silence, the afternoon light filtering through the filigree temple walls and onto our bowed heads and the heads of all the others in the temple, praying, crying, smiling, sighing.
that night we all planned to meet up, but plans are frequently foiled at burning man, largely due to the absence of clocks. jenna, her boyfriend chris, his friend abbie, and myself got dressed up (i hope someone got a pic of my outfit, cause it was a piece of work! blue sequins onesy) and rode our bikes out to the playa. night had fallen and we toured the inner playa for a bit. climbed an intricate metal tower and sat in its cushioned crow’s nest a while. then descended and rode as fast as we could, our bike lights spinning and helping us see each other as we raced over the cracked desert and occasional dunes of loose dust – out into the deep playa. the lights of the city faded behind us and we soared across the expanse toward any lights on the horizon. some were just other groups of explorers. we rode all the way to the trash fence – the outer limits of black rock city. the moon was extravagant and dramatic, putting on and taking off clouds like a showgirl with an ostrich feather fan. we rode on to a movie theater playing a strangely edited old movie. it was too nice outside though, and we left. the evening was perfect and there was no need for even a light jacket. the deep playa began to fill with art cars, their lights making them surreal: a caterpillar/train rolled up and i wanted to climb aboard, but was warned away by my compatriots (we referred to ourselves as ultraforce). apparently to board an art car is to give up the freedom of bikedom. and it did feel free. we were like porpoises frolicking in water, turning like a pod toward any interesting thing on the horizon. the moon forever hung above us, showing off, playing peekaboo.
we rode back into the playa, now full of activity. people everywhere, clubs and bars and french quarters and flaming things. we were almost ready to head home when a light in the distance attracted us. it turned out to be nothing interesting, but another light in the shape of a cross drew us on. it turned out to be a well lit tent for bad catholics. the cross had a smiley face in the middle. the tent was hung with large paintings done by a now dead reformed catholic. they depicted scenes of drunkenness and bacchanalia. civilization’s thin veneer made transparent by drink. we hung out for a while and spoke to kendoll, our new friend, while number one (abbie) napped. we headed back to camp and jenna remembered some beautiful trees nearby. they were made of bamboo and lighted plexi leaves which changed color. they were lovely and organic looking. as we were admiring them, we met a man named jolly who took us to his 3d museum. he then decided to make us grilled cheese sandwiches, which was about the best sounding thing i could think of right then. they were awesome and topped with tomatoes and avocado. after our sandwiches, we went back to our camp. most everyone went to bed but me. i hung out by the fire with a young man from louisiana named mckenzie and love sprout, our neighbor. eventually, a giant fish rolled up. it was the kind that lives at the bottom of the sea and has a little lamp dangling in front of its crazy eyes. inside its open jagged-toothed jaw sat its driver. in its tail ran a tap for a keg. a moustachioed man named nigel was with him, wearing a top hat and plaid tails. the driver referred to nigel as “mustache guy”, despite nigel’s protestations. eventually, the three of us boarded the fish and headed out into the playa in search of the sunrise, which was imminent. nigel wanted a tower, but we decided to go to the portapotties and escape the driver who seemed smitten with me and called me sparkly blue girl.
as we traversed the sandy expanse, the sun rose and the walk seemed to take a beautiful eternity. the sun shone on the mountains and illuminated the dried lakebed of the playa. little pockets of valleys were singled out for glowing rays of sunlight, while the peaks were yet unlit. airplanes dropped skydivers onto the playa and we watched the day begin. we walked back to my camp and climbed aboard a camper van equipped with a deck and chairs on top.
the next day was a white out of dust to begin with. good for napping. the other days blur together. i revisited the temple. i met a lovely man named myles there who joined us for a while. we watched the temple burn together, and all too soon people were leaving. the camp was changing, the city losing the forms of her streets. landmarks disappearing. the man burned saturday. the temple sunday.
evangeline and alexis hitched a ride to the bay area and jenna and the rest of the ultraforce/portland group and i packed up our camps and headed toward oregon.
we camped that night by a hot springs in oregon, where we showered off the dust and relaimed our bodies from the playa. many other burners were there and the party continued somewhat. we played music and read tarot and bathed and relaxed. after another night there, jenna and i drove on, the others having already left, and made it to portland, where we have been ever since. september is the time to be here – the days are sunny and hot. our things are almost cleaned and soon i’ll be moving on.
all for now. love and miss,