Vote Charlie!

Feeling astonished, validated, home

Posted at age 28.
Created . Edited .

Tuesday night was possibly the best night of my week, at least for dancing. This was unexpected since I ran the Burning Man 50K Ultramarathon that morning and was quite exhausted by afternoon. I stayed in working on my lights while the group went out for the evening, but they came back around 21:00, at which point I decided to join. I loved the music everywhere we went, and I loved everyone in the group!

This entry is No. 6 in a series of 14 entries.

Upon my return to camp after finishing the race, Erik said he tried to find me. I previously hoped he might find motivation to grab my SLR and photograph runners, or me at least, so I would have something by which to remember the race aside from my memories, which may or may not ever be recorded. As Pink Lightning had some photographers this year, those concerns were alleviated. And really, after running six hours in the desert, I was concerned about nothing other than rest.

Thus, I rinsed off and relaxed while campmates went out for the early evening. Once I regained some energy, I worked on my bike frame and tall identifier lights and then my smaller animal hood.

An hour after sunset, I sat on a three legged stool just inside my yurt while the lights grooved along with the music I thought no one but me could hear. Danny burst in and gave me a hug, and he told me how happy it made him to see me here doing my thing. He vented some disappointments with another camp and shared hopes for building something together, perhaps with a friend of ours. Soon after, Erik and the others returned, I think from an event involving drag queens who are apparently well known, though I would not know.


Erik's booty.

The group readied for another excursion, and this time I was ready to join, having finished my lights and six red treats. I had a bit of alcohol, but not enough to feel. The rest, though, was perfect. Erik, Phillip and I went out with Oscar and Scottie, Steven, Danny, and Nick and Ri. I had a great time!


I went out to the playa for the first time Tuesday night, after the 50K was finished and I was already able to move around without too much trouble.

The goal was apparently to find the Mayan Warrior – all week we called it “Mayan Warriors” – an art car with a reputation for costing a million dollars and possibly being related to Univision. When first described to me this year, I didn’t know of the art car, but once it was pointed out to me, I recognized its face and antennae from previous years. It’s hard to say if I would have concluded this were it not pointed out to me, but it seemed the Mayan Warrior was the most prominent art car, as it often displayed lasers and spotlights visible from anywhere.

Official video from the Mayan Warrior camp from 2014. Clearly they have resources for top notch presentation!

In previous years I remember thinking that of BAAAHS, not so much because it stood out among all the lights, but because its two spotlights mounted in the eyes moved in a characteristic way, often pointing straight up, but sometimes rotating around on the whim of that big sheep. Still, you don’t always find what you seek, even if it is there. But this year, we usually found the Mayan Warrior when we looked, though the journey was often long and pulled us through many other scenes.


Panorama, a large staircase with great views of the city and also giant slinkies to play with on the stairs.

As we approached the Esplanade, I was very aware it was my first nighttime playa bike ride this year. All year I had waited and prepared to return here for a feeling. I tried to temper my expectations in case I had drummed up in my mind too much enthusiasm, but I hoped I would at least find something that bore a resemblance to what I remembered. It was thus to my great delight those neural pathways – first formed in that desert but years prior – reactivated, stronger than ever. All the feelings rushed back. I was riding out into a videogame landscape where nothing was real but everything was real, where nothing mattered and anything could happen. Voices and music and sound effects ricocheted across the land. It seemed I could hear anything over great distances, and certain sounds grabbed my attention as I biked. Sometimes it was a singer’s voice that hypnotized me, beckoned me to circle around. Sometimes my attention was drawn to a melody that proved rich and unpredictable, a voice originating not from a human but from an instrument who nevertheless possesses a personality, and maybe a soul. Other times I was moved by a simple but seductive bassline that grew funky and tantalizing. I loved being there, no matter where there was. Good vibes could even be felt dancing around the bikes as the group pitstopped at the porta potties. I didn’t care! Pleasures were unending, so long as I showed up, remained open and paid attention.

On the way to our destination, we stopped at Kalliope, another production I recalled from last year but never noticed how amazing it was. I had been pronouncing it “kally O pay”, but Mike A. told me it was “kuh LIE a pee”. That made sense to me since the art car perhaps took inspiration from a kaleidoscope, but now that I look up the word, I found kalliope means “beautiful voice” in Greek, so likely both our pronunciations were wrong. Names aside, the music was great, and the lighting and effects were very intricate, I was in awe. Each time I saw it during the week, it seemed to channel a totally different personality, making it all the more impressive.


Reunited with El Pulpo Mechanico

Next we danced at BAAAHS, and possibly some others. Each time we left, Danny and I and maybe others had been enjoying the music and would have been quite happy to stay, but some in the group yearned to be reacquainted with the Mayan Warrior, and thus, we continued trekking so long as most agreed. As the night evolved and we kept leaving good music, I had to wonder what more we could want, and joked with Danny that I feared the great night might come to an end were we to ever actually arrive at the Mayan Warrior.

The night spawned some good conversations with Danny, someone I’ve known for years now but haven’t gotten to know nearly as well as I’ve wanted to. We’ve both been busy, but in a way he is now a mainstay in my life, so much of which has become preoccupied with planning for and processing after Burning Man. I liked how Oscar seemed like an animal spirit come alive when he danced; the well thought out costumes and fine face paint certainly helped. Steven was quite funny. He was always doing something strange with his hands when I looked, and he seemed to be possessed in thought. Sometimes I would catch his glance, but that never resolved the mystery. I also managed to document a few things, for at times the group seemed at least briefly settled, I ventured off with my camera.


I wandered around a bit photographing nearby lights while the others seemed they would dance in one area for a while.


I wandered around a bit photographing nearby lights while the others seemed they would dance in one area for a while.

We did eventually reach the Mayan Warrior sometime around 3 a.m., and I think it was good. We recollected at camp not long after.


By 3 a.m. we made it to the Mayan Warrior, an apparent goal set when we left camp. I had been enjoying all the music along the way, but I was glad the others were happy.

At camp I was delighted to see the umbrella I built still functioning, and the air was clear and warm enough I pulled Steven to the ground to stare up at the sky. Perhaps he wouldn’t remember, but we had a nice moment, and I thought I could fall asleep right there. He did sleep soon after, in his tent, but not before Danny gave Steven first aid after hearing he made his hand bleed somehow while opening his bike lock. Erik and Phillip stayed back as well, and after playing half a song for some rejuvenation, I went out again, with Danny, Oscar, Scottie, Nick and Ri.


I had the umbrella mounted near my yurt while I was testing it, and then moved it out by the street once I was pretty sure it wouldn't blow away. It ended up being a strange but helpful camp identifier.

The music was much deeper by then, but we found lively and somewhat funky music at Disco Knights, and also at Robot Heart.


This might be Robot Heart, or I'm confusing another art car that has a large robot screen suspended from a cherry picker.


This might be Robot Heart, or I'm confusing another art car that has a large robot screen suspended from a cherry picker.

We stayed out about two hours before heading back for sleep. As I retired into the yurt and closed the door, I said goodnight to Danny as he lay in the hammock smoking a cigarette.

The story continues in Recovering, welcoming.

Entries in this series

  1. Unpacking Burning Man 2016
  2. The journey ‘home’
  3. Social apprehension
  4. Race prep by day drinking
  5. Third ultramarathon fastest yet
  6. Feeling astonished, validated, home
  7. Recovering, welcoming
  8. Lost at day, seeking friends
  9. Lost at night, seeking joy
  10. Joy, right at home
  11. Man burns, desert chills
  12. The Temple
  13. Return to default world
  14. Bonus: The golden stool