Suppose your name is Alice. You make lunch, do laundry, wipe noses, go to work, cook dinner. Dashing to and from school motorists agree: red means stop, green means go. But somewhere inside of you is the faint memory of a place where wheels roll any which way, and the communal meaning of red and green depends on nothing more than a particular moment in time. It’s the place where a caterpillar sits atop a mushroom covered in thousands of blinky lights. Sweet plumes of smoke dance overhead. A stilt-walker strides by like a giraffe. Two dozen Santa’s come out of nowhere followed by several sparkle ponies in furry leg warmers. My lungs breathe deep, dried apple and pear. I hold onto it. I study it. I want to remember what it feels like. I want to remember the curve of its face. The caterpillar asks if I’d like some of his water. This is the place of Yes. Yes, and may I join you up there? Yes, and do you have a secret to tell? Yes, and I’d love to go dancing. Yes and yes again, because I’d like to try something, anything, everything. And stay here forever in Yes.
When I wasn’t with my campmates I spent my time exploring the bright peaks and dark corners of Black Rock City. Dozens of art cars roamed the playa, always vibrating with competing techno music and half-naked dancers. I was thankful when a friend encouraged me to climb onto to one. But in my enhanced state, even at two miles an hour, it was hard to jump off. I spent time lounging on pillows in most excellent company. Silky fabrics billowed in the night air. Stars fell from the sky. And all the while came the roar of giant flame throwers and the thunk-thunk of d.j’s luring their crowds. If I was offered something I usually said yes. Had I been in Portland I probably would have said no to the bartender who wanted to trace my naked breasts into his scrapbook, but this was a place that felt more like home to me than any other city (including Los Angeles). I was safe there. And more willing to explore than ever before. I had sunscreen slathered on my skin by a small team of geeky, middle-aged men. In Real Life these guys might be considered creepy. But everyone deserves a thrill and after all it was important to protect my skin from harmful UV rays. I dare not divulge the details of other experiences (I’m not that much of an exhibitionist) though I do believe the spirits of loved ones were with me in the desert this year. It was the whisper of their voices that helped me to unleash the part of me that remains forever shackled in Real Life. And by God yes, it felt good to be free!
Directly or indirectly I came across the following happenings…
– Spanky’s Wine Bar
– The Great Canadian Beaver Hunt (couples competition)
– Booby Bar
– Blow-Job Workshop @ Pleasure Palace (partner or prop required)
– The Hookahdome (no socks, no sleeping, no sex)
– The Monkey Chant
– Silhouette Theatre (where couples made love behind a white screen and in front of a flood light)
– And Then There’s Only Love (Orgy den)
– The Birth Canal (where people simulated being born using a tunnel made of tight netting)
– Sunblock Application Station
– Midnight Poutine (fries, cheese curds and brown gravy – mmmm)
– Burners Without Borders
– Nexus (one of several enormous techno clubs)
– Healing Yoga (sunrise and sunset editions)
– Burning Ring of Fire
– Comfort & Joy (soap, hair brushes, toothbrushes and toothpaste available)
– 50ft Slip n’ Slide @ the Duck Pond (bar)
– Mojitos (where we danced and drank all day instead of packing)
– Vomiting Sparrows (where I met my favorite Spaniard)
– So much astonishing out-of-this-world art I can’t even go into it
It went by tragically fast. I’d overslept. The plan was to hit the road by 5am to avoid the morning exodus. My teeth chattered as I raced across the playa on my bike. If I was lucky I’d just beat the sunrise. I tried not to look where The Man once stood (he fell over with such glory and poetry the night before!). I whirled past Bliss Dance, a gorgeous forty-foot installation of a naked woman dancing with her eyes closed, wishing I’d photographed her. There’d be no romantic goodbye. No nod to my spiritual journey. No tears for my rite of passage, for all I’d leave behind in Black Rock City. In thirty minutes time G and I were gone. Again, he drove the entire way, which left me free to gaze out the window and watch bits of myself blow away as if they never even existed. And while the landscape kept changing – infinite nothingness, towering cliffs and big sky, to the redwoods, the whole of my life cast by shadowy giants too tall to see beyond – the desert clung to me. It strapped its arms around mine and I buried my head in its shoulder until our breath grew slow and shallow, and the oxygen that sustained me for so many days was gone.
“Thank you for coming back to us,” TC said. It was never a question. (But perhaps he knows me better than I know myself – I am so in love with freedom it scares me.) And from all directions my babies hurtled themselves at me and I smelled their hair and kissed their skin and felt the weight of them on me again, their eyes sparkling with love. And my heart expanded well-above the treetops and deeper than any rabbit holes I might have fallen down.