Yup, despite my earlier post, I did get a ticket and found myself back on the Playa by Monday night.
The thing is, I still believe everything from my previous post, except for the obvious factual inconsistency of me going. I packed up an SUV with my friend and we headed out, joking I'd decide whether or not I was really going when we got to the gate. Thing is, I'm not so sure we were joking.
Gate was easy. I had a physical ticket I got from someone on Craigslist, my friend had to stop at will call. But near sundown on Monday night, there wasn't much of a wait at all. That is, until we got to the greeters.
Pardon my jaded old-timer rant, but screw you, greeters. I know where I'm going, I don't want or need a hug, and fuck you if you think I should make a playa angel. I don't even want to get out of the car. The only thing more frustrating than all that bullshit is watching the greeters go through that with a car-full of virgins for a half an hour as the last rays of daylight dip behind the mountains. Screw you even harder and in extra holes for that.
Fortunately, I had augmented my costume from previous years. Traditionally, I wear an orange prison jumpsuit with "Psycho" written across the back matched with a belt made out of a wire coat hanger with little plastic fetus dolls strung on it. This year, I added a hockey mask, and apparently that was enough to put it over the top (more people wanted my picture this year than any other.) When we finally got to the greeter, she took one look at me and said, "You look scary." I stared out of my mask for a few seconds, then said, "Just give us our shit and let us go." She did with no further word. Success! (of a sort.)
Within minutes, we were at our camp at 5:00 and E (technically "Edelweiss" but nobody cared about what the letters stood for this year--even less than other years.) I jumped out of the moving vehicle and let out my traditional Burning Man greeting--"Hello, Black Rock City! Who wants to have my abortion?"
I discovered I have friends who will cry with joy if I show up unannounced after telling them I won't show up. We all started drinking scotch. Then I went to the porta-potties and drank some hand sanitizer. Because that's just the year I was determined to have. I even took up smoking--or rather, bumming cigarettes from friends.
I broke a guy's hand, and he gave me the finger. For the rest of the week, Unnecessarily High Five camp sported a high four on their lowest hand. I hear there's some discussion of leaving it that way next year. So find them and see if I made a permanent impact on their camp.
I even got a playa wife! Actually, just a playa fiance, because she slept through the wedding. But the important thing we engaged in some sexy rumpus. Contrary to common belief, this is not unheard of for me. But this time I cared about her pleasure above my own, and that is unheard of. And we got applause from my friends in the neighboring camp, so that was cool. Now I don't know anything about true love, but when she was away I drank heavily, and...actually this does not indicate anything.
I walked out to the edge of the universe (trash fence) twice. Once under the heat of the mid-day sun, once in the middle of the night during a near white-out. This is kind of tradition for me. During the walk back to camp in a midnight white-out, I simply had to trust that the prevailing winds come from ~6:00, and march directly into the blinding wind. I ended up reaching the city at 2:00 and A, which is honestly closer than I expected. In such situations, hitting the Esplanade is a sort of miracle trick-shot, and I came within a short block of it.
A good friend had to be ambulanced to Reno. He came out just after being diagnosed with Crohn's disease, and was planning to start treatment (yanking out a bit of necrotic intestine and stitching the good parts back together) when he got back. Seems he had to start the treatment a little early. He's recovering now and hope is good. Just an extra bit of playa drama.
And finally, the burn. I was high as hell. For some context, a friend of mine has a medical marijuana card for his insomnia. He used it to get some pot chocolate, which comes in regular strength and high strength, which is 18 times stronger. Of course he got the latter. Each square of chocolate is supposed to be one dose, and I took one and a half. So I had approximately 27 regular "doses" of marijuana in me. For some extra context, another friend of mine took one square and said he felt nothing. Maybe I'm a lightweight, or maybe he's a hopeless addict, but I think someone just spiked the hand sanitizer.
I walked out with my campmates and some kids we met and hung out with all week. The idea was to find a nice place to watch the man burn in the distance, but before we knew it we were past the art cars and up near the front of the audience. We even had to sit down (damn my old bones, getting back up was an ordeal!) I don't think I've actually felt the heat of the Man burning in about five years. Not sure if I liked it. Not sure if the high helped or not. I do know it felt like someone was totally tweaking my contrast and brightness knobs to their max. On the walk back, my blotto-pilot totally failed. I mistook the art car circle for the Esplanade (rookie fucking mistake) and had to rely on my traditionally far more wasted/less reliable friend to be blotto-pilot. And he was perfect. Then I sat in camp for hours afraid to go to bed (which was really the passenger seat of our car, since we had mostly broken camp) because I knew I was going to throw up. And sure enough, I did. Three times. Lost all the steak I had eaten at our big steak feast at steak o'clock earlier that evening. But I survived, and once we were on the road and back in cell phone range, I even tweeted a snarky comment about myself.
Maybe the weirdest thing--exodus was extremely easy and quick. No stopping at all, around 11 am on Sunday. Very weird. But we made up for that by getting stuck in an awful traffic jam over Donner Pass the next day.
A common refrain of the week was, "the playa will provide (whatever you need.)" Perhaps it provided me with what I most needed--a lesson in humility. I'm tempted to call it my best burn ever and declare myself Burn Again. But then I remember all my friends who couldn't make it because of the ticket fiasco (despite the fact that the BLM cap was raised, peak attendance was actually down from what I heard.) By a rough count, of the veteran burners I personally know and consistently hang out with only about 2/3 of the ones who wanted to go actually went, entirely due to the ticket situation (usually some combination of they couldn't get tickets so they made other plans or by the time tickets were available they couldn't get time off work.) So I'm still bitter about that. I guess at this point, this year could serve as a re-invigoration of my burning spirit, or a final fanfare. And I think that will entirely depend on what the powers that be do to learn from this year's ticket fiasco.
Oh, and one final note. There's not a lot of outside news that gets into Burning Man, and what there is ends up getting mixed into weird rumors. I remember four years ago John McCain nominated Sarah Palin during Burning Man week, and it was hard to convince people (like me) that this wasn't just a crazy playa rumor. In 2005, Katrina struck during Burning Man and we first heard rumors of over 100,000 dead. So when we got back and heard the real death toll was only a couple of thousand, it was good news to us. If someone had arrived on the playa on the final weekend and told me that Clint Eastwood did a long, rambling bit with an empty chair representing Obama on stage at the RNC, I would've praised them on coming up with the best playa rumor ever, but there's no fucking way I would've believed him.