Robin's Adventures at Burning Man, Part XI

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

by Robin Forman

This is Why it's Called Burning Man

Thirteen hours until sleep.
The Man is burning!

Burn Night is insane.

The entire city of approximately 40,000 gathers around fire dancers of every kind who are gathered around the Man. The Man now stands unobstructed on nothing but a lean-to of tree trunks.

The outfits of the burners are unfathomable. One of my own companions, a lovely man by the name of Noca, wore a gentleman’s leather bikini bottom, a jacket and a hat that was lit by tiny white balls. Aaron, the artist from the Voodoo Space Patrol, was dressed as a neo-Roman warrior, complete with glow stick-accented helmet and toga. My, these boys were handsome!

Once the fire dancers had performed for a bit, the Man ceremoniously raised his arms in a “V” above his head. I’ve been told that this is his announcement that he’s ready to burn. I was not ready to let him go. I mean, he had already been burned once and had risen again like an alternative inferno Jesus!

Fireworks erupted sending flame, thunder and cheers into the sky. The Man burned.

For me, it was slightly anticlimactic in that I had already seen the Man burn early. Then again, this was only a small anticlimax when consider you’re watching a 30-foot human effigy burn. It also made my burn special and unlike the first burn of most. I got two Burning Men for the price of one.

During this second burn, the Man was resilient. He actually had to be assisted to his collapse. He stood proud, engulfed in fire, atop his tee-pee of wood until they used ropes to pull him down. There was a group of protesters walking around with signs proclaiming “Save the Man.” As the man fell, the leader of the protesters shouted “We can still save him. It’s just a surface wound!”

After the Man fell, I joined the throngs in slowly circling him. Some people played drums, some stripped down to nothing, but I just thought: “Damn, it’s hot this close to that fire wearing this stupid fur coat.”

The party after the Man fell had its own momentum: I didn't make it to bed until 11:00 the following morning. The party began with me taking enough of the substance responsible for my relationship with D to tiptoe along life’s edge. This time, I did not take it all at once. I wisely spread it out over the course of the next 12 hours. Raring to go, I had to make a phone call. To God. Somewhere amongst the other artwork seemingly dropped onto the Playa from a space ship, is a phone booth. It is a functioning phone, but you can only call one person. God. In my case, God was a chick. But I’ve heard that god has answered the phone as a drunken guy challenging you to shots as well as a sober man, and who knows what else.

Around the time the panic from the intoxicant was starting, it was time to light the oil rigger. The fireworks were apparently spectacular. I had buried my face into D’s jacket at that point and was not handling lots of fireworks well. But the few times I did glance up it was unbelievable. I was able to lift my head for long enough to watch the rigger itself explode into a 300-foot mushroom cloud of flames. It was beautiful and warm even though we were more then 150 yards away. If you don’t love and appreciate the beauty of all things fire — not the case for me; I blame my pyromania on my older brother — you will by the end of Burning Man.

The rest of the night/morning went as follows: met a faerie queen and king; danced at and in between half a dozen clubs; woke my fellow gypsies Sarah and Jasmine at 5:00 AM to convince them to rejoin the party; panicked again; accused D of having an affair with Sarah; watched the sun rise and partied like it was my last night on Earth.

All in all, I’d say it was a pretty good first burn.

(Although Robin has seen her first official burn, her series is not done. A few more parts remain. To read the preceding part, please go here. To read the next part, please go here. )

(The photos are courtesy of Robin Forman. To see a video of the 2007 burn, please check below.)

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