Friday August 29th, Burning Man day 7
I bartended all day. I was too tired to venture out on the playa, too tired to wear a costume, so after running a few errands in the morning I plunked myself at the bar, gave away Kimchi and got people drunk (and it was fun as hell). I made caesars, Kentucky Punch, G&Ts, Apples and Oranges (apple brandy and triple sec, which turns out to be awesome), met interesting people, got amazing travel tips, exchanged gifts, made friends, and basically let the amazing people of BRC come to my doorstep. I was told that we poured the best caesars on the playa, and the people of Apres Ski were a distant second. Quote of the day - "Most bars at Burning Man pour warm shitty cocktails, you pour cold awesome cocktails."
As soon as it was dark and cold enough to sleep, I basically crashed in a heap. Too many days of not sleeping caught up with me. Friday was awesome while I was awake, and then I got a solid shot of badly needed sleep.
Saturday August 30th, Burning Man day 8
I think I was burnt out enough at this point that the day just didn't tickle my fancy. I got some meditation and mindfulness time in hammock dome #2 which settled me down a little bit, but the morning was riding a rough edge pretty hard up until that point. Out in the deep desert there was a giant sign that just said "LOVE" in giant block caps - one of my camp mates told me a story about someone who climbed up on the letter E, and when he tried to climb down he fell off and got injured... the paramedics came and asked what happened and he explained "I was coming down on E and I hurt myself."
I love bad jokes. I love bad jokes so much.
The same friend filled up my 1L water bottle with ice and water, and it was like drinking pure heaven in the middle of the bloody heat of the desert in daytime. Difficulty turned into bliss every time I put that thing up to my mouth. Something as simple as ice water, but it was so powerfully amazing after a week of everything being so damn hot.
At night, the man was scheduled to burn. We got upwind of the thing and sat, watched, waited. Before the performances started I found myself sitting next to some really amazing people who were surprisingly easy to connect with - L from the bay area who I hope to become penpals with, T who didn't say where he was from who looked a little rough around the edges, and who was so moved by me checking on him to make sure he was ok that he gave me a beautiful glass pendant. The man took an hour and 45 minutes to burn, and I think they were using the new laminated lumber used in high-rise wood buildings to hold him up - hence the ridiculously long burn time. We went dancing afterwards, but the encounters with L and T, the moments from Thursday night where connecting with people was the thing I wanted to do the most, it all drove home pretty hard that the thing that's the most interesting to me still is other people. The lights, the dancing, the excitement, all of that's fun, but what makes it the absolute most worthwhile is the other people. So, when one of our camp mates got sick of the music and wanted to go hang out somewhere quiet I was on that like white on rice. There were a few faceplants though - the bikes were locked together, we eventually got them unlocked, and I had a bike failure just as they rode away. We didn't really see each other again at all that night, so I had a solo night of exploring the desert floor. The lights were just as beautiful, the costumes just as intense. I was also just as tired, so after a brief stint with a broken cosmic ray detector mounted in a giant glowing LED lighthouse I went back to camp and pretty much turned in for the night.
Day 9, Sunday August 31st
Mostly, today was about taking the camp apart. I woke up early and did dishes, took things apart, packed my gear, helped pack the camp's gear.
Funny thing about my sleep cycle - I'm apparently hardwired to wake up early these days. I was up and picking away at striking camp at 6:30, hours before anyone else even started to stir. 7:00 am, half a block away at the Minstrel C(r)amp, someone sat down and started to play the piano. It's hard to describe. 9 days in the desert, pounding electronic music constantly vibrating the ground, neon lights and bright things and a constant forcible assault on the senses, the sound of someone sitting down and simply playing acoustic beautiful songs on the piano was so deeply moving and so deeply touching that when he played I just had to stop doing what I was doing and listen.
He went through a spectrum of classical and current music but I only remember the name of one song, he did "Clocks" by Coldplay. Somehow just listening to something gentle and beautiful and acoustic and improvised was such a perfect balm to an overstimulated week. I thanked him for adding something beautiful to the playa, and I meant it. This seemed like one of the very few actual spontaneous acts of beauty that I encountered on the playa - moving, random, un-planned, and done purely as a form of play. He wasn't trying for recognition or to get a party started, he just played because it was beautiful and it fit the moment, and it was one of the acts of artistic creation that made me hum inside the most deeply.
I was tired so I didn't contribute as much as I feel like I probably should've, but I rode my helpfulness edge the best I could. The shade structure came down, we packed our boxes, the kitchen structure came down, and the patch of desert floor we had been sitting on started to turn back into a patch of desert floor.
At night we went to watch the temple burn.
This was my last act as part of Kimchi, after this I was to diverge and go to a place other than home. My ride to Kansas with D was slated to go just after the collapse, so there was a lingering sense that this was the last time I'd be part of this little bubble of family that had formed around Kimchi. The temple burned along with the goodbyes I had written for it... things too delicate, still too fresh and hurt to share here. Lots of farewells that night.
We walked around the coals after the structure came down... a random, beautiful woman asked to be embraced and I set aside my pack so I could hug her properly and she melted into me like it was the most natural thing in the world. That hug was amazing, and then she slipped back into the crowd and was gone. Another moment that could only happen at the Burn.
We made our way slowly back to camp. I said my goodbyes and tried (and failed) not to tear up, not to be scared by the emptiness I was stepping into. I tried not to miss them already, and I failed before we had even parted ways... I still miss my Kimchi brethren. It's a bit strange to have made such beautiful connections with other human beings and then leave them be like that.
The time had arrived though. I met with D. I got into his truck, and two hours later (a short exodus) we were on the road. Burning Man was over. The rest of that story is pretty much unfolding where you can see it.