Sunday August 24th, Burning Man day 2
The Lamplighters represent an institution at Burning Man - one of the longest running theme camps, one of the best respected ones, and a ceremonial practice that literally lights the playa at night. Kimchi Camp had Spatial Delivery on one side, and the Lamplighter's Bar on the other, and the Lamplighter's Bar played the weirdest and at times the most obnoxious loud music on the playa 24/7. 90's hip-hop, CCR, AC/DC and Rage Against the Machine blared until dawn came and went, and then kept blaring. That's a backdrop for the rest of the experience, they almost never stopped playing that music.
We rode our bikes around at night, and the first thing that struck me was how everything was glowing. In 2001 there was no EL wire and no LEDs, and incandescent lights ate batteries like they were candy (so no one used them for night lighting). 13 years ago the nighttime was dark except for fire spinners and burning objects, but now it was almost like a slice of Las Vegas - everything glowed neon. I spent as much effort avoiding getting run into as I spent appreciating the art structures... and there were some really incredible art structures.
Monday August 25th, Burning Man day 3
Then... in the morning, before I had crawled out of my tent, there were loud-ass peals of thunder and the rain started pouring hard. Desert rain pours HARD. I bagged up my round-the-world backpack in case things started flooding and my tent got overwhelmed. I got a bit nervous. Eventually I crawled out of my tent to watch the light show - lightning hit a structure a block down from us. I found out later someone got nailed by an arc of lightning off of a metal structure (and survived). Nature was pissed. 3 hours later the rain eventually stopped the top 6 inches of the playa were mud, and stuck to everything hard.
When I admitted to my camp-mates that I had killed the spider two nights before, there was a small angry mob hovering for a moment. The rainstorm, clearly, had been my fault.
Workshops are a thing at Burning Man - I went to one that talked about making Bismuth crystals (on a camp stove using a stainless steel Ikea bowl), and then a workshop on sexuality. Lack of sleep got me... I never thought I'd nod off when people were discussing sexy things, but to my amazement that actually started to happen a little bit. Next time I start to nod off in a class or work meeting I will be very, very well equipped to say "trust me, I don't do this because the content is boring."
Directly after I crashed out in the "hammock dome" which is exactly what it sounds like - a giant, shaded geodesic dome filled with hammocks. I think I slept a little.
While I was there, a random stranger came up to me. She asked permission, then gave me a little scalp massage that felt really, really damn good... and then she started a conversation that surprised the hell out of me. I didn't ask for her permission to write about it in here so I'm going to leave the details out, but she just decided I was a person she wanted to share an intensely personal story of tragedy and struggle with. She related that story to something that she saw in me, at a distance, from across the hammock dome. I felt really deeply witnessed, really seen clearly by a total stranger. It moved me to tears a little bit. I didn't see her again for the rest of the burn, but I found her encampment and left her a little postcard saying thank you, and left a way to reach me. I don't know if I'll hear from her but that surprise was a defining moment of the burn for me. She had one grey eye and one blue eye, and lived in Portland. I hope that tragedy she went through never visits her again.
Later, I went to a friend's electro-swing set on his birthday, dancing my ass off in a koala onesie. So that was awesome. After his set we tooled around to other parties and I just couldn't find a vibe I really liked. I hit center camp and tried to get some creative writing done (and failed), and eventually turned in.