9.28.2007

Robin's Adventures at Burning Man, Part IX

(This is the ninth part of a multi-part series about the Burning Man Festival. To read this series from the beginning, please go here.)

by Robin Forman

Dorothy was a Sissy


Sometime...over the rainbow.
Twenty-two hours until the Man burns.

So Dorothy was afraid of lions and tigers and bears, oh my! Dorothy, you sissy, try dinosaurs lit with EL wire, monkeys eating snakes, and semi-trucks stacked on top of each other.

Somewhere over two rainbows, Black Rock City had slipped into an evening sparkled by stars and neon. It had been a long week, so I decided taking it easy was the best option. Tomorrow was Burn Night, after all, and I was going to need to be at 100 percent. So it was just a few tequilla shots for warmth. I was clad in vinyl pants and rabbit fur (yes, I’m sorry to say it was real — my apologies to Thumper and Buggs). I was towed off into the night upon my mobile throne (D’s bike cart.) We came to the Esplanade where there was a person, or at least I assume there was a person in this get-up: dressed in all black with a mask outlined with neon green EL wire. The EL wire was formed to make him/her/it look like a dinosaur skeleton. The dinosaur was also on those spring stilts that allow a person, or dinosaur, to run very fast with great strides and jump six or so feet into the air.

“Ooh,” I said, “Look at you! Aren’t you scary!”

Well, this apparently provoked the dinosaur who promptly came chasing after me in the cart.

Have you ever seen Jurrasic Park? Remember the scene where the rough and tough velociraptor specialist (Laura Dern), and the chaos theorist, played by the wonder that is Jeff Goldblum, are driving away from the T-Rex in a Jeep Wrangler? It’s a terrifying scene, and I was living it. I would argue that this was actually slightly scarier considering that in Jurrasic Park you knew if that dinosaur caught them he was going to eat them. I had no idea what the neon-dinosaur was going to do when it caught me.

“Well, you are scary! Ooooooh!” I wailed, trying hard not to wet my pants.

The dinosaur said nothing but kept chasing.

“No, seriuosly, you’re totally freaking me out.”

Still nothing.

“Deeeeeeeeee!”

And so D pedaled faster and eventually the dinosaur was left behind.

I was exhausted and so as I rode in D's cart I drifted in and out of sleep. It became particularly hard to decipher between dream and desert. This must be what Dali felt like while working, I mused. I would be jolted from a doze to open my eyes and gaze upon a tree made of bones, a giant flower with people sleeping in the middle, even the Man himself.

D, much to my dismay, kept making me get out of the cart and go explore art. I just wanted to sleep.

In this state of dreamily mild intoxication, it’s hard to say what my favorite piece was. They were all so different and there were so many. But on this particularly starry-eyed night I fell in love with two.

The first was two full-sized semi-trucks stacked on top of each other in an “S” shape. You could climb up them. At the time, I was too tired to climb and I probably would have found a nook near one of the tires and fallen asleep without anyone realizing I was gone. But now I am furious at myself for not having ventured up into this marvel of physics defying gravity.

And then we found ourselves at a tree filled with monkeys. There were exercise bikes stationed around the tree. People had clambered aboard these bikes and were pedaling furiously.

“God, could this place be any weirder?” I thought.

But then I realized why they pedaled. The pedaling powererd a strobe light that made it appear as though one monkey was swinging around the tree. And as it swung, a snake wound its way around the monkey's arm and into its mouth until it disappeared.

So while I understand Dorothy’s fear of lions and tigers and bears, I feel as though the things I encountered that night, as well as during the whole week of Burning Man were far more fearful and on a completely different plane. They were terrifyingly beautiful.

(To read the preceding part, please go here. To read the next part, please go here.)

(The photo is by Livin-Lively via Flickr, using a Creative Commons license. To see a trailer for the documentary Confessions of a Burning Man about the festival, please check below.)







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