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[Note: a previous version of this story incorrectly named the Shrine of Lost Moments as the "Tree of Sorrows". It has since been corrected.]




(Aerial view photo from 2015)


So on Wednesday evening at Burning Man, I lost my cell phone. I was using it as a flashlight in the porta potty, got distracted as I was leaving, and just left it there, sitting on top of the paper dispenser. Perhaps some tiny part of my brain thought I was being polite, for leaving the light turned on for the next person. In any case, it wasn't until an hour later that I discovered this, when I reached for it in my neck wallet, only to put my hand into empty space. Frantically I retraced my steps in my mind, and immediately hit upon the remembered image of the phone there, lighting up the porta potty for me. I rushed back over to them right away, but by that time... Which fucking porta potty was it, even? And, even if I did pick the right one, was it currently in use right then by someone else? And, was it even still there at all, or maybe taken? Suffice to say, I never found my phone for the rest of the week, and I have zero pictures of the Burn, past Wednesday.

But let's slow down and take a step back for a minute. How did we get here, anyway?

***



Burning Man is a yearly festival, that takes place in the Black Rock desert in Nevada. It covers an area of some seven square miles, and holds 70,000 attendees. It would be even larger than that, but that's where they cap the number, and just finding a ticket is a struggle and adventure, much less getting there physically, much less living and surviving there. The only thing that is sold there is ice, and coffee, period the end. Anything else that you need to survive for a week in the desert, food / shelter / etc, you must bring in with you. And, you must take everything out with you again, when you leave. You must leave no trace. For in the winter, the Black Rock desert becomes a lake, that evaporates into nothingness, come the summer. And, in kind, so too does Burning Man's Black Rock City evaporate into nothingness, to give way to the lake again.

I, personally, had been trying to get to Burning Man for the past five years, as I have written about in another story. Thus, I was not totally unprepared. I had read the official survival guide, many many other online accounts and how-to videos, and by this time now, I had attached myself to a camp of veterans, comprised of my own natural community, from what Burners call Camp Reality, or, the Default World, outside. (I'm a furry. Yes, those people with the animal costumes. Specifically, I'm a Coyote. I camped with Camp Fur. Hi / Aroo.)

Camp Fur


A picture of the fursuit parade, taken by The Guardian


So anyway, it wasn't too much of a shock yet, when we rolled into Black Rock. I had even studied the map of the city beforehand, so I was able to drive right to our camp (7:45 and A), without batting an eye. Me and my veteran friend that I came in with had early access passes, so we got in very early Saturday morning while it was still dark out, and everyone else was asleep. As my friend had had the foresight to insist that we get pop tents, we too found ourselves in that state as well after about ten minutes. And so, after a pretty good night's rest, the next day and a half, still officially "pre-event", were spent just building camp with our comrades, and getting acclimatized to the desert, before all that much actual Burning Man was going on.

So. All of that being said, what was my reaction, when a friend of mine asked me the next day if, so far, Burning Man was what I expected? Well... yes... to a point. I was not going in blind here. Again, I had been trying to come here for five years now, for significant personal reasons. I have seen many pictures, watched many videos, listened to countless stories. And, all of this did look like what I had seen so far. And yet... the thing is MASSIVE!!! The scale is just incredible, beyond anything you could have imagined! You can know intellectually how big the thing is supposed to be, see the numbers, grok the map... and yet still, you will not be prepared for the enormity of it all. Pictures do not do it justice. I have now taken pictures while I was there. It just doesn't matter. Some of these pictures are included here, and, they're pretty nice, even. But, I look at them after taking them, and I instantly see now just how completely poor and inadequate they are at conveying what it is like to really be standing there among it all. (This realization will eventually help me be ok with losing my phone, since, I realize, all I will really have lost, is the pictures that I took. But pictures, I come to realize, are for the people who weren't there. I was. I am.)



But I'm getting ahead of myself...

***

The Thunderdome. Yes, they actually have, and do, Thunderdome.


Desert art




Upon stepping into Black Rock City, you could be forgiven for thinking that you'd landed in Mos Eisley Spaceport, on Tatooine. The landscape is alien. The city is alien. The people are alien. (little do you yet suspect how quickly you will be joining the aliens.) As you emerge from the center of the city, into what is called the playa, there are massive works of art, just plopped right down into the dust, seemingly at random, just strewn all over the place. (you may not know it yet, but almost all of this art has two phases. Their daytime phase, and then their nighttime phase, where they come alive with lights, sound, and often fire effects.) And always, ever present, is the hot desert sun overhead. It is massively hot. Constantly reminding you that yes, you have to actually survive out here. It is not a joke, this is not Disneyland. The back of the Burning Man tickets warn, in no uncertain terms. "You might die!"

To that end, survival I mean, I can break it down for you, using the idiom in which I came to think of it. At Burning Man, you have various "meters" on your person, which you need to learn to keep at optimal levels, at all times. So let's see. You've got your food meter, you've got your water meter, you've got your pee meter, and your poop meter. You've got your sleep meter, your heat meter, your personal cargo space meter, your exhaustion meter. You start out thinking that you've got a "clean" meter, but, that one falls way the hell by the wayside, very quickly. In addition, you've got your personal buffs (sunscreen, breathing mask for dust, sunglasses / goggles, to protect your eyes.) And, back at your camp, you've got some reservoirs you top off with, which also have their own meters. Do you have enough food to last for the week, for example. Some of your meters, you can learn to extend. For example, you could go back and forth somewhere way the hell across the map from where you are, every time you need to go pee, or... you could just carry a pee bottle in your backpack at all times, so you're good to go for five or six pees if necessary, and just empty it out in a porta potty, whenever it becomes convenient. Rule your pee, do not let your pee rule you! And, do NOT ever pee on the playa! Leave no trace, motherfuckers!! :-P

It's funny to me now, when I look back, and think of some of the things that I was worried about, before I got to Black Rock City. For example, there was one tank top that I wanted to bring with me from home, that says "Hella NorCal!" and it's got a rainbow unicorn on it. I thought that would be an awesome shirt to bring to the playa! Unfortunately, I had left it sitting in my closet for a long time unused, and when I took it out on the evening we were trying to leave... it was wrinkled. Do you hear what I'm saying? It was wrinkled a little bit. And I just couldn't be seen like that. It would look weird, and I'd get stared at. Ha. Ha. Ha.

I hemmed and hawed a little bit, over whether I should really bring a bike or not. I mean, seems like kind of a hassle, and do I really wanna bike around that much all week? Surely I can just take it easy and walk to stuff? Um.. no. TAKE A FUCKING BIKE! And put lights on that shit! And put lights on yourself! Don't be a "darktard!" I had thought the whole lights thing was about decoration. And, it is. But, it's really more utilitarian, so that people can see you and don't run you the fuck over with their bikes when you're all zipping around at night.

At the beginning of the week, and for a couple of days, I was all like, ehhhhhhhh ewww, it's dusty everywhere.. and I gotta keep clean, and I can't sit down anywhere, and I gotta keep the dust off of this and that and the other thing...

And then by the time that Tuesday's dust storm wall rolled in, like something straight out of The Mummy, I was all like YEEEAAAAAH, ROAR! BRING IT MOTHERFUCKER!!! All Road Warrior like, fist raised, dancing to the music our camp leader was playing, rolling on the ground making dust angels...

Photo courtesy of Areitu Cheetah




So, suffice to say, you do acclimatize, eventually. I did, anyway. And just in time for the start of the festivities!

And what are the festivities, you may ask? Well, it's like this. Burning Man's, Black Rock City's festivities, are all provided by its citizens. Of which, you are now one. Each placed camp is encouraged to put on whatever events showcase their own ethos. So you have, not only, what does each camp do, but also, who are they? What are they all about? There is everything from food camps, to music camps, to spirituality camps, art, engineering... pick any interest that you might have, and the chances are good that there's at least one camp that is into that thing so much, they've devoted their whole theme to it. Some of these camps have been around for a very long time, and the more established and elaborate they are, the closer they are placed to the inner most ring of the Esplanade.

And then there are the art cars. These are large vehicles, often buses, which have been converted into giant traveling dance party platforms of hugely elaborate design. While I was there, I saw giant pirate ships, a cruise ship, a flying carpet, the Souuuuuuullll Train, various huge animals.. One favorite was BAAAHS, the Big-Ass Amazingly Awesome Homosexual Sheep. The way you board him is, you have to climb up a ladder in back, and slide down his asshole. Also his sound system was incredible.


BAAAHS, the Big-Ass Amazingly Awesome Homosexual Sheep. As can be seen here, entry is in the rear...


So all these art cars drive around the playa at night, all lit up, playing their music. And meanwhile, all the people are riding around on their bicycles, lit up with their own led lights. And what will happen is, an art car will go by which catches some of their fancy, and so they will end up peeling off, and following the art car around into the darkness. So, the overall effect amounts to these giant neon covered dance party "sharks" driving around the darkness, with their own personal schools of glowy pilot fish all around them. It is at once hilarious, and breathtaking to see, and for the first couple of nights, I pilot-fished myself around many of them.

(Did you know that it is possible to dance on a bike, by the way? I had no idea, myself, but I discovered this the first night, when, while pilot fishing around a particularly rockin' art car, the music kind of just took hold of me, and I started swerving back and forth slightly, timing the strokes of my pedaling to the beat, making long, slow circles around the car with my fellow fish, as we danced through the night. Totally awesome!)

What struck me as the most amazing, coolest thing however, (that first day, anyway. The bar for "most amazing thing" would just keep getting raised and raised as the week went on,) was the realization that all of these art cars driving around, couldn't have known what cool huge art pieces were going to be out on the playa before they got there, anymore than I, or anyone else did. So, the seeming affect was, that they must just drive around out on the playa until they see something interesting, and then they stop there for awhile, and then it's like, gonna be super awesome dance party right HERE by the giant flamingo statue, right NOW! And this just gets constantly changed up, as each art car, with it's own style and it's own music, and it's own band of followers, just hops from cool art thing to cool art thing, throughout the night.

***

So it's Monday night, and I'd learned to survive here. I'd started to get into my groove, and all of my meters were humming along pretty efficiently. And yet so far, I was still pretty stupid. Well, maybe not stupid. But, my eyes were not opened yet. And I was still carrying around all my outside world baggage. I didn't "get it" yet. Like, everything was definitely cool, and interesting, and pretty, and there sure was a lot of great dancing and parties. But, that's all it was to me so far. My first big breakthrough to something deeper though, came the first time that I went out to visit the Man. I'd seen him from far away for the past few days, but I figured I'd wait to go out there, until he was finished being built. And during the day, while I'm walking around, I overhear from somewhere behind me, some woman talking about the Man. And she's clearly been here before multiple times, and she's complaining that, "Oh, he looks so small this year, and he's not on a big pedestal. And he's in this pagoda temple building kind of thing. That kind of sucks, it's like, you're not even gonna see him this time! All you're gonna see is the building he's inside!"

And me, not knowing any better, I kind of start to get pissed off by this too. I'm like, "Yeah! What the fuck? I've been trying to come all this time, why do I get the shitty Man year?"


"Why do I get the shitty man year?" -Quentin Coyote


Monday evening Me will slap Monday morning Me in the face for my impertinence. For Monday evening Me rides up to the Man finally... and it's just beautiful. Tall, towering above, laced in yellow neon, ensconced in a stately Chinese style pagoda. Serene chimes set into the inner walls play softly, and light up with soft colored lights as they do. The Man is set in the very center of the inner ring described by the Esplanade outside. There are streets adorned with lanterns leading to him from each of the cardinal directions, and it gives the appearance of ley lines... focusing and drawing in all the joyous energy of the city. Sitting underneath the Man on a pedestal, is a crystal egg, shimmering with orange fluorescent tendrils of light. I will come to think of Burning Man as having two sides. The Man embodies the Joy energy of the city. While continuing on, in the distance out towards the Deep Playa, the actual Temple of the City embodies the pain, and the sorrow, the world weariness that we all need to release. It looms large, majestic, and ominous, with faint candle light. I am in awe.. and actually a little afraid of it. I begin to get butterflies in my stomach. For with the Temple I see, for the first time, that which I say had drew me out to Burning Man in the first place, five years ago. There is where I need to go, to lay my mother to rest. I am in awe, and afraid. I'm not ready to go there yet. But here I am at the Man now... and it is beautiful. A procession of people comes in, in a line, all hand in hand. They form a ring around the egg, and they all lay hands on it. A woman in the circle, wearing a sort of steampunk corset outfit, with a top hat, and black eagle wings, elderly, beautiful, full of joy, poise, and confidence, sees me there gawking, and she reaches out her hand to me to come join them. I do, and I place my hand on the egg also. After a little while, the procession moves on outside again, hand in hand, and now I am among them. Outside, the woman starts to talking to me. And she is from New Zealand. And she tells me a story of how this procession is for some woman, who lost her home in a fire, and how one of the architects of the Man learned of her story, and rebuilt a house for her. He also built one of the statues outside on the playa, and dedicated it to her. I have been drinking and partying, and dancing the past couple of nights. That's what Burning Man has been for me so far.. But now the veil starts to get pulled back.. And I am shown the compassion. The humanity.





The pagoda of the Man is ringed outside by dozens of small art pieces. I wander around to look at them all. And I come across this one, called the The Shrine of Lost Moments. It is this sort of willow tree on a pedestal, all lit up. And on the willow branch strings, are all these little tokens. There is writing around the base of the tree. And it talks about how, in our lives, we find various loves.. and then sometimes, one day, these loves are ripped from us too soon. And we may become sad and broken, with a hole in our heart. And then we must go on a journey. A transformation of our sadness into a new understanding and acceptance. We must find our healing. And the tree instructs us to find a token on it, and write down a name of something or someone that we have lost. And to then break the token in half, and leave a piece of it hanging on the tree, and to take the other piece with us. There is also a large, leather bound book set into the pedestal. And it asks us to write a story of our lost love. This sculpture and book, it says, will not be burned. It will be kept safe. I open the book, and start reading the stories there...

And all of a sudden out of nowhere, I just start breaking down, crying... For I know why I am here. My mother is very much on my mind. But, now I am reading all these stories about other people, and their loves lost. Some have lost parents too. And pets. I gravitate towards these, but, then others as well, that have nothing in common per se with my personal experience. There are other messages there, as well. Response messages, that other people have left, for the stories of sadness and pain. Though the writers may never meet the people they are responding to. Though the original writers may perhaps never read them. I cry with, and grieve, for all of them. One person had written, "I'm so afraid that I will never find love again." Another person had written under this, "You will." And... all this ball of emotion and sadness, that I have been carrying around inside of me for so long, that I sometimes forget it's even there, is suddenly pierced, and it all comes rushing out of me at once. I am crying so much that tears are streaming off my face, wetting the dust of the playa. Crying yes... but catharsis... release.. relief. Empathy. I am not alone. We are all together. All of us. We are One. It is Monday night... And I am at the Man, standing in front of this book crying... And then, suddenly, on the horizon, the fireworks from the City go off.. And I raise my head, tears still dripping from my face.. and my jaw drops in wonder.. and the corners of my mouth curve up in an astonished smile... and now I'm laughing.

Eventually, I turn back to the book, and I write some response messages of my own. I will return to this book a few more times, over the next several days. After the third day, I write a message for myself.

"I learned how to make the pecan pie mama, just like how you use to make it. I still wish that you were still here to make it for me instead, anyway."

***



It is Monday night, and I am by the Man, a little distance away now, looking at the lights of the City, and I have been crying, and laughing. And it is here where, for the first time, I notice the Sound. The Sound of Burning Man. When you go out into the playa, away from Black Rock, away from any art car, all you can hear is the Sound. The Sound permeates everything. It vibrates your very bones. It is the beating heart of the City. A million voices, and songs, and dreams, all cascading together in harmony, in this.. All-Voice that penetrates your soul. The City is alive. It haunts my dreams to this day.

Some time ago, when my mother passed, I wrote a sort of Eulogy for her, for myself. And in it, I included a point taken from a book that I was reading at the time, called Trickster Makes This World. Trickster, takes many forms in various world mythologies, but very prominent among them, and called out by this book in particular, is Coyote, my own spirit guide. And the point in question here was that, one of the primary characteristics of Trickster is that, he has no Home. Other animals do. Fish, for example, live in the river. Birds live in the sky. But, Trickster has no home. This quote vexed me very much at the time, and caused me no small amount of sadness, as I was indeed feeling very much lost and adrift, with the loss of my mother, and some other things besides. I thought I had a home, I thought I knew where I belonged. But, that was all pulled out from under me, and my world was turned upside down.

But.. for having no Home, no Place, no fixed way of Being on his own, Trickster is adaptive, and can move at will through all of them. When the river dries up, the fish will die. But, Trickster will learn the new Place, will survive, and will thrive.

There is a tattoo of Coyote on my shoulder. This particular Coyote is taken from an image from a web comic, called Gunnerkrigg Court. And he is the best, most truest interpretation of the Spirit of Coyote, that I have ever seen. He has become my own personal idiom for God, the spirit of the Universe, what have you. Space Coyote, if you like. I talk to him often. He talks to me. And I embody my own piece of him.

Coyote, from Gunnerkrigg Court, by Tom Siddell


It is Monday night, and now I have discovered the Sound. A few days from now, I will decide, I will realize, I will learn, that the Sound.. is actually the Voice of Coyote, made manifest. This.. This place.. This is where Coyote comes from. This is where he lives. This is his Home. For what is the Sound, anyway? It is the sound of Life, constantly churning and mixing and reforming itself, experimenting with ever new ways of expression, and being. And then it evaporates entirely... only to be reformed anew the next year, with new voices and new ways of being. Even the things that were there before which return, end up in entirely new places and combinations. It is chaos. It is joy. It is sorrow. It is ecstasy. When you first arrive on the playa, the greeters at the gate say to you, "Welcome Home!" I had thought at first, that that was a nice little catch phrase and sentiment, but I didn't really believe in it. Because Trickster has no Home. But that is the paradox of the playa. And I will finally see, that in a land that comes from nothing, and returns to nothing, but in the interim becomes... EVERYTHING... that I have found myself in the truest Coyote Home there ever was. I have come Home. I am Home. I am not physically there anymore... but, I have never left. I'm still there. From now on, I always will be. Forget Om... Burning Man is the sound of the Universe vibrating. Burning Man.. is the sound of Coyote laughing.

But... it is Monday night... and that realization has not come quite yet. It will.

***

So, it's Wednesday night, and I have lost my phone. I left it in the porta potty. Shit! That sucks... What am I gonna do now? So I'm riding around on my bike in the city, trying to figure out what is my adventure going to be for the night, but also pissed off and aggravated about my phone. But, I don't want to let it get to me too much. I am very cognizant of the fact that it might be gone for good, but there is absolutely nothing I can do right now about it anyway, and do I really want to let that spoil my Burning Man experience? No, of course I don't, so I'd better learn to get Zen about it really quickly. So let's think about it. What did I actually lose, really? I am completely capable of replacing it when I get home, and all of my shit is backed up in the cloud. Except, for being in airplane mode, all of my pictures that I have taken here so far this week. But, didn't I just go on an entire diatribe earlier, of how pictures do not fucking do justice to this place anyway? So what's the point of them? All having my phone has really done, is make me take myself out actual moments, that I'm experiencing right now, and make me force them through some fake screen, for people who aren't here right now, and for whom they aren't going to convey the true awesomeness of it all, anyway. And, isn't one of the ten principles of Burning Man Immediacy, in the first place? Yes, it fucking is! So, what if, losing my phone is Burning Man, Space Coyote, whatever, just telling me to have some fucking immediacy?? Yeah, ok, cool, you know what, I think I can work with that! So let's go have an adventure! So I'm biking down the street, and it's a little after midnight-ish, and there's lots of pretty, interesting things. But, I'm cold, I'm tired, I'm kinda hungry, I'm aggravated, and I'm all in my head, already skipped over to the end of the whole Burn going, "Ok, so when I get back home, I can go to the phone store before work, and goddammit, my fucking phone!"

And then out of nowhere, this woman appears in front of me, points at me, and shouts, "Hey you! You want some pho? Come have some pho!" I have apparently, completely randomly, stumbled into a camp for Midnight Pho.

I just stop dumbfounded and stare... Because I'm like, pho... pho..? Are you kidding me?

I... fucking... LOVE PHO! It is the greatest fucking thing ever! It is the greatest pho-king thing ever, if you like! I had never even heard of pho before I moved to California from New York City, and then when I got there and discovered it, I'd had pho for lunch like every single day for a year!

PHO IS MAH SHIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIT!!!

And I'm standing out here, in the middle of the night, in the middle of nowhere in the fucking desert, and you're telling me that you want to GIVE me pho, right here, right now?

Hell yes, I want some pho, fuck my phone, let's go have some pho!!! :D

And I go there, and they give me pho, and it's hot, and salty, and it has noodles and limes, sriracha and all the fixings, and it's so good, and now I'm all warmed up, and I'm fed, and I went back for more three times, and I am the happiest coyote ever! THE PLAYA PROVIDES! :D

So yeah, now I'm alright, I'm all good, got my head right again, priorities straight. Couldn't care less about my phone, lets go have an adventure!

So I'm biking down the street some more. This time, back in the deep City. Hadn't really checked this place out much before now. All the other nights so far, I'd been staying mostly in the playa. So, let's change it up, let's see what the back alleys are like.

And all of a sudden, around a corner, looming up above me, is this huuuuge lit up art car! I'd seen it driving around on previous nights, and pilot fished around it for awhile, cause it was cool as hell, and played awesome music. I had been told by veteran friends, prior to now, that it was an amazing experience to ride around on an art car. I'd already thought that sounded like an awesome idea, but I hadn't really been sure how to make it happen. You definitely can't get on them while they're moving, and I didn't really know what the protocol was for finding them, or getting invited on whenever it was that they might take people. But here is this totally awesome one, parked before me now. And it appears to be at its home camp. They have not gone out for the night yet, but it looks like they're just about getting ready to. I see a man in front of it, talking to a small group, and he looks to be in charge. He's wearing some kind of like, leopard fur vest, and a felt fedora. He has a Spanish accent. And his name was Bruno.

I'm a bit nervous, and still not quite out of my shell. I have noticed that, regular Burners seem to be very open with each other, and just start up conversations with strangers with complete ease. I really haven't learned how to do that yet. I find it a bit hard to just start talking to random people, for reasons that I've written about in another story. But yet, here is this amazing thing before me, and, I really want to get on it, very badly. I also notice that, unlike some of the art cars, this one clearly has bike hooks on it, so you can hang up your bike on it, and it'll get taken along with you. So this is a sign. It has to happen. So I make myself bold, go on up there, and I say, "Um, hello! Is this your art car?" And Bruno says, "Hey man, what's up? Yes it is! Hi there, my name is Bruno!" And I say, "Hi Bruno, my name is Quentin! Um... I really love your car, I saw it out last night. Um... I was wondering.. is there any way one... might.. be allowed.. to ride it?" And Bruno says, "Hey yeah, sure man, come on up, have a great time!"

I'm not entirely sure what I said back to that, but I think it sounded something like, "SQUEEEEE!"

So this car was named... Ixilatle. Or Quetzalcoatl, or... something like that. (No, not really Quetzalcoatl.) I asked a bunch of times, and Bruno and others kept on saying some string of syllables that I could not quite capture, but, point being, it was some kind of Mexican amphibious fish thing, that is the only animal in the world that can regenerate its limbs if it loses them. Or something like that. Anyway, it's cool as hell, and while this doesn't narrow it down as far as art cars go, it is particuarly well lit up, and in addition to its upper deck, it's got yet an even higher observation deck, above that. And its DJ is already there at the sound system, working his magic, and it's pretty damn rockin' - kinda slick, cool, low, and funky. The DJ is wearing a t-shirt which on the back of it says, "Mexico is the Shit!" And there's a bunch of other burners on the art car already, talking and laughing with each other. I get on, sort of nervously but politely nod at people, and find myself an unoccupied corner on the highest deck, to stand and observe.

Pretty soon, we roll out, and then I am here on this amazing car, the Ixi-doodle, awesome music playing, people dancing, and we're driving out through the City, and into the playa, among all the sculptures, and light, and sound, and everything. And now I'm seeing everything from high up on this balcony, and I don't even have to exert myself. And we are attracting our own school of glowy blinky pilot fish, swarming around and behind us, and we wave to them, and they wave back, and it's just the best thing ever. I keep on glancing at the DJ's back, with his "Mexico is the Shit!" shirt, and I think to myself, ya know what? I've never been, but, if this is any indication, then yeah I agree... Mexico is the shit!! :D

***


The Ixi-thingy


We've been driving along like that now, and I'm just taking in everything.. And everything is just so... beautiful. I'm crying again now, a little bit. A good cry this time. A completely happy cry. I am just... simply crying at beauty. I can't believe I'm standing here seeing all of this. I never knew... I had no idea that all this was waiting here for me, somewhere in my future. Back when I was a scared little boy, and coming out as gay in high school, and how terrible that had gone, and how I'd considered killing myself for a little while, to escape the pain. And then years later on, the pain of losing my big relationship, and then later losing my mom... and then eventually, getting sort of better, to the point of at least being numb again... but, just thinking that all the good things in my life must be over now. There is nothing new. I'm getting old and tired. I've had my shot at some things, and I lost. Nothing will surprise me anymore. Nothing will make me feel true wonder again. There will never be anything as good as that again. And here I am now... seeing all of this... And it's the most beautiful thing that I've ever seen. I'd forgotten. I had forgotten what this feeling felt like. I can't remember the last time that I'd felt this way. Just the... sheer AWE, and wonder, of Everything...

There is a bumper sticker that I saw, on one of the coffee registers at Center Camp, that I kept thinking about now. It said, "My religion? Non-denominational Awe." I'm nodding my head slowly to myself as I think about it. "Yeah, that. That's it..." I say, silently to the Universe. And I had forgotten. I had forgotten how to feel Awe. And I'm so, so sorry. I remember now. I promise I won't forget again.

And then I'm still crying a little bit, but still good cry. And it's peaceful. And I am thinking about all my various stories that I've had in my life. And noting that, sometimes I'd gotten stuck in them. That high school one, for example, I was stuck in for a good eight years after it happened. But then one day, it just simply fell away, and never mattered anymore, ever again. I am now stuck in, however, a different story. Stuck here from, depending on how you measure it, five to seven years. I don't want to be stuck here anymore. Can it, I wonder, just fall away, like the other one? Hmmm, let's think about that... What are the criteria?

I start to think about a friend of mine, from back 'home', in the Default World. We've grown close, and he's become very important to me, these last few years I've been in California. The particular aspect that I'm thinking about now though is, a few months ago, we were back home, and he was rather upset, and he was lamenting the fact that he was 26 years old, and he'd still never had even one relationship, and he feels himself getting older, and he's just so fucking lonely. And I totally commiserated with him about that. I was a late bloomer too. Didn't have my first relationship until I was 25. But I gave him advice about how everything can change in an instant, and you may have no idea what is still waiting for you, just around the corner.

And then... just like that, a few weeks later, all of a sudden he's found someone, and he's dating them, and he likes them very much. And I'm watching him, and seeing how happy he is. And it's lighting up my heart, and I am happy for him. It is wonderful to see him so happy. And I said to him sometime then... "Isn't it amazing that, you're 26 years old.." (I know.. :-P) "And yet, still there are new things that can surprise you?"

Little did he know, however, that while I am saying these words to him, I'm putting up a brave face. But, in my own head, I'm thinking, "Yeah, that's great... I remember what it was like to discover that and feel that way... But I'm FORTY FOUR now... And... nothing will be new. Nothing will surprise me anymore..."

Well... Here I am now though. And, a miracle happened. Because, lo and behold... I'm 44 years old... and isn't it amazing that there are all these new things that can still surprise me!

***

Hot on the heels of that one, I suddenly have another epiphany. All the burners talk to each other instantly. Why can't I talk to the burners? Well, it's because... I suddenly in that moment realize... it's that when I have been trying to work up the nerve to do so, what I have in my head, is to ask them who they "are", as in like, ask them who they are in the Default World. "Hi man, who are you? Tell me what you 'do for a living' so that I can define you that way!" That kind of bullshit. And not only that bullshit, but, I'm prepared to try to talk about myself that way. Like, "Hi! I do computer work for who gives a flying fuck, and here I have all this baggage I'm carrying around all the time, wanna talk about that? No, me fucking neither!"

No! Fuck all that shit, I FINALLY realize. No one wants that, not me, not them, that's not why we came here. We AAAAALLLLL came here to get rid of all that, and be absolutely nothing more than simply exactly what we want to be! In the RIGHT here, right now! And who the fuck am I right now? I am a fucking Coyote, and I am having the best fucking time of my entire life! Yes, I can work with that! :D Let allll of that other bullshit fall away, right here right now, you know you don't want it anyway, you tell yourself that every day! Do it! It's done.

I am suddenly a man possessed. I have a fire in my eyes and in my heart, and I can feel it. I see a guy across the platform, and he's wearing this kind of furry getup, red furry vest, red furry leggings, red tail. And his name was Erin. I think to myself, huh, I don't recognize him from the furry camps, but maybe he's a proto-furry, and doesn't even know it himself? I say, "Hi man, nice tail!" And instantly we're talking, and have a long conversation, that I won't belabor here, cause if you're not a furry, you probably wouldn't understand a lot of it. Doesn't matter. Point being, we're understanding each other, and talking the same language. And he says he's not sure if he's a furry, but he's thought about it, and he thinks of himself as a red panda, and says a bunch of other things that kind of only furries really say. And I tell him, "Hey man, that's cool, you don't need to be, you do whatever you feel is right for you. But, you say a lot of things that furries would understand, and feel free to come hang out with us sometime if you'd like to know more!" He is also a first time burner, like me, and we talk about that. And I tell him that he's literally the first random burner that I've struck up a conversation like this with, and we talk about that.

Cool. So simple. So easy. Just like that. Suddenly I have a new fucking super power. I move through the car easily now, making easy eye contact with everyone, bright smile, and I'm complimenting everyone I meet left and right, with whatever cool features they have that catch my eye, cause clearly they're proud of them too, and they want to show them off, that's why they have them, and it's nothing but smiles and hugs right back at me. Fucking A, this is awesome!

Then I see another guy across the middle deck of the car, and he's a little more subdued than most, but he seems fairly chill and at rest, and he has the look of an Observer. He Observes. He is Observing everyone. I'm an Observer, too. I Observe. Interesting. Let's see what he's about. He's wearing, like, a default world grey business suit, and his name was Walter.

I say hi and introduce myself, and I tell him that I'm a furry. You know, the people with the animal costumes. And I tell him that I'm a Coyote. And he says, "Oh, interesting! Ok, so, can you explain furry to me?" And I tell him, "Ok, so I've had conversations with non-furries about this, and I've tried to come up with good ways to help them understand. So for you, Walter, non-furry, it's like this. Furry is kind of a form of drag. It doesn't matter whatever you are on the outside. Furry is about taking something beautiful that you feel you are on the inside, and drawing it out for the whole world to see. And me, I feel like I am a big, bouncing cartoon coyote, so here it is!" And I tell him that, "When I was a little kid, my family moved around a whole lot, I was always the new kid, and I was always losing my old friends, and having to try to find new ones. But, no matter where I was, I always did have some friends that stayed with me. Who were always there for me. And those were the cartoon characters that I used to watch on tv. They were one of the few constants throughout my life. And they taught me how to live, how to love, how to be a good and kind person. And I loved them. And now I am one of them." Walter likes this, and thanks me, for his new view on furries.

We get to talking about why we are here. I tell him a little about my mom, and my five year journey here to put a picture of her in the Temple. And, about my recent epiphany, on this very art car, about experiencing Awe again. And at this, Walter looks a little bit sad, and wistful. And he says that's great.. And that he wishes he could feel Awe. But, he doesn't know how. Because nothing surprises him. Because, he says, he sees Everything.. all the time. Always. This is a very interesting statement to me. And, it feels a little familiar. I want to say something back to him. But, I'm considering what to say... Before, even a few hours ago, I probably would have fumbled some platitude or other. But here, I want to be honest, and with full immediacy. This is my new paradigm. So I hit on sympathy. I go with sympathy. I look into his eyes with compassion, lay my hand on his shoulder, and I tell him that, I wish I knew how to help him find Awe. But I don't. And, I'm sorry. He thanks me, and I can tell that it is heartfelt. I ask him to tell me a little bit more about "seeing everything." And he says to me, "Ok, so, there are three things that you can come to know in life, that are key." My eyes widen, and I get goosebumps a little bit. Cause, I feel that I am about to get some serious shit dropped on to me. I can just feel that Walter actually knows things. He is the real deal.

And he says to me, "Ok, first thing. You have to understand, that nothing is real..."

And I let his words sink in for a moment... and then clarity comes to my mind. My eyes focus, and I look directly into his. For now, I Recognize him. Now I know who he is.

Nothing is real. Yes. I know this already. Not "the United States". Not any country. Not a "week" composed of seven days. Not a category of living things called "trees". All of this is illusion. A socially agreed upon self-deception. It goes way beyond that. I don't have time to get into a whole discussion of it here, now. Either you already understand this, or you don't. But, if you don't, then you wouldn't BELIEVE the things that are not actually Real. But I do understand this. And I say to Walter, with conviction now, and clarity, right into his eyes, "Yes... I already know that. I think about that a lot." And then he looks at me with a little bit of a start, arches his eyebrow, and then I see him Recognize me. And now We each know who the other is.

"Perception is Reality," he says. "Perception is Reality," I agree.

"Ok, so what's the second thing?" I ask him, but, I already know where this is going.

"The second thing," he says, "is that, since nothing is real... Everything is real." I say, "Yes, I know that too. And the third thing?"

Walter says, "Because nothing is real, and therefore everything is real..."

"You can choose," I say. "You can choose," Walter agrees.

I have met another Coyote. That may not be his idiom for it, he may think of it as something else. But, that is what he is. Walter is a Coyote. We are now leaning on the guard rail of the deck together, looking out at the pilot fish, and the sculptures, and listening to the Sound, lightly leaned on each other, like old friends.

"You can shift reality, literally just by thinking about it," Walter says. I say, "Yup, I know. I just did it, in fact, a few minutes ago." Walter nods his assent, having heard my story. And Walter points out that some people can do it, and some people cannot. And I say, "Mmmhmm... And it's up to us to help them." And Walter looks at me, and smiles, and he says, "You know, that's pretty cool. First you told me you were a Coyote. And then, you Showed me you were one." I smile, and wink back at him.

I'm suddenly curious about something. "What do you call this? What is your idiom for it?" By which, I mean the Power.

"Time Bending," he says.

"Time Bending! Like Air Bending!" I say. "You're a Time Bender! Yeah, totally, got it, I like that. I call it Time Magic."

"Time Magic!" he says. "Yeah, awesome!"

The Ixi-whatsis has now stopped by the Tree. I nod in my satisfaction with everything. I hug Walter, and thank him, and tell him that I think it's time now that I'm on my way, off to new adventures. I get off the car, retrieve my bike, and leave.

Mexico is the Shit.

***

I'm standing out by the Tree. And, the Tree is... the Tree. If you were there, then you understand, and if you weren't, then I'm sorry for you. The Tree won fucking Burning Man.


Ok fine, here you go, here's a picture of the Tree. Like it matters.

"Its Chi is turned up to 11!" -Axio Wolf


So the Tree is being the Tree, and art cars are surrounding it, and their music is playing, and hundreds of people are dancing under and around it. And I'm thinking, what a wonderful place to be right now, after all these amazing things that have just been happening to me. A woman comes up behind me, gives me a pair of 3D glasses from a stack that she has, and tells me to put them on and look at the tree. And I think to myself, "Whaaat? Like the tree could be even more amazing??? Ok, let's see what this is about." So I put them on, and look at the Tree, and there's this kind of shimmering effect all around it, and I think, eh, ok, that's kind of neat. But, the Tree is just so amazingly spectacular on it's own, it doesn't really even need this. I turn away, back to the night, to look out at the horizon and start maybe picking out my next adventure.

Suddenly I stop short, cause I see that this guy standing a few feet away from me has this kind of, like, smiley face light that he's wearing, blinking on and off. I think, "Oh wow, look at that, that's pretty cool!" I take off the the 3D glasses, so that I can have a better look at it. When I look at him again, all I see is a regular plain old single led light...

What the fuck...

I put the glasses back on, and look at him again. The smiley face returns.

Wait... what the fuck..??

I take a slow turn all around me... and now I see, that every single light, every single one, on all of the hundreds of people all around me.. is now a bright shiny smiley face! I rip the glasses off of my face. All of the lights collapse back to their single point, non smiley sources. I slowly put the glasses back on... and it's smiley faces forever. The Tree itself was just too bright as a whole, and washed all the little individual faces out. It wasn't until I looked at other, more subdued lights, that I could see them.

And, the science-y part of my brain, a tiny voice now in the whole, has figured out and understood what has happened, how the trick works, but, it's a little too slow, and it's tapping on the shoulder of the rest of my brain in vain, which is rushing forward going WHAAAAAAAATTTTTT THE FUCK IS THIS THIS IS AMAZING I DIDN'T KNOW YOU COULD FUCKING DO THAT!!!! :D :D

I'm laughing. I'm crying. I'm surprised again.

And, I have now acquired another new power, as I slip this pair of glasses into my backpack. Going forward over the next few nights, I will occasionally walk up to random people, and strike up conversations by saying, "Hey... Wanna see a magic trick?"

***

I'm pedaling on my bike, away from the Tree now, looking for my next adventure. Off in the distance, I see the Mayan Warrior. The Mayan Warrior has more lasers than the Death Star. I'm about to go over there, thinking to check it out, when I happen to look above and behind me in the opposite direction. There is an aurora borealis in the sky. My mouth drops open, and a tiny "ohh..." escapes. I've always wanted to see one. But... It's kinda strange looking.. and moving weirdly. And.. I didn't think they happened this far south. I follow the light trails back up and over my head... and then I realize it's the Mayan Warrior... My hands come up to my forehead and I just start shaking it back and forth... I don't know if I can take much more of this, lol...

For as cool as the Mayan warrior looks, when you look towards it... when you look away from it, into the deep playa, into the night of the endless desert horizon... It looks like when David Bowman goes into the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey, and it's REALLY happening! You're really seeing it, right before your very eyes!

My God... It's full of stars!!!

I'm laughing again, tears are streaming down my face, and I'm pedaling as fast as I can, streaking into the void, chasing the aurora, shouting, "WHOOP WHOOP! HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOWWWL!!!" Pounding my fist into the air...


The Mayan Warrior. Photo courtesy of Alexi Husky.



Eventually I come to a stop. Rest for a bit, panting, take some long sips from my water bottle, and try to take stock of where I am. I've gone out really deep now. There isn't anything close by me at all. Just the cool night, and the aurora overhead. I can see the City off in the distance, back in the direction from where I came. And I can hear the Sound. I have never gone this far out yet on my own. And, there really is nothing else out here.. Maybe It's time I started heading back. But then, waaaaaay off in the direction to oblivion that I had been heading, I see a tiny grouping of lights. Faint. Not very many. Not enough to be an art car... I don't think? But they're there.. some of them are moving a little bit. What is that?

I waver back and forth about going or not. Whatever it is, it can't be all that big or impressive. And, there's definitely a lot more going on, back towards the direction of the City. But still... what is it? In the end, I figure, I'm already out here, I may as well find out, rather than go back and never know, always be wondering. I've already been biking these past couple of days, to my surprise, way more than I ever thought I could, and it hasn't really been a problem at all. I decide to go for it. So then, I'm pedaling and pedaling. And, it doesn't seem like they, or it, the lights.. whatever it is, are getting any closer. They are so far, and the scale is so vast, that I cannot even tell how big or small they are. All I seem to be doing is getting further and further into Nothing. But, there's no turning back now, and this void must end eventually, right? I pedal for what seems like it must be ten or fifteen minutes. Until finally, the objects are getting closer to me, quicker and quicker and quicker, and suddenly I'm there! And it's this purple neon arrow, set on a pole, pointing down into the ground, and it's a group of other burners there, with their blinkey led lit bikes.

And I pull up, and all of them rush over to me, and surround me, and hug me, and are all like, "YAAAAAAAAAY, YOU MADE IT!" :D

And I'm like, "YAAAAAAAAY, I made it! :D What did I make it to?"

And I look over, and there is this barrier in front of me.. And I'm like, "Oh my god... that's the trash fence... is that the trash fence??" And they tell me that it is. And that's fucking crazy. Because I realize now, that I've made it out to the top point of the pentagon. The furthest point out in Black Rock City that you can possibly go. Me. Me, who a couple days ago, was afraid of going out too far, for fear of getting somehow stranded. Who wasn't even maybe going to take a bike originally, because that would just be too much. And now, I am out here. I made it all the way, on my own, by myself. Simply because I would not be deterred from seeing something interesting.

The trash fence looms over me, massive, at least two stories high. I want to go over and touch it. As I approach it though, I'm confused, it doesn't move right, the optics are somehow wrong.. And suddenly, I collide with this dinky little plastic mesh web, only barely waist high, supported by simple metal posts at regular intervals. I reach out over this, for what I thought had been the trash fence, and I grasp empty space. It takes me a minute for my eyes to adjust, and to understand what I'm actually seeing. What I thought at first had been the trash fence... was actually the pure, empty, raw, untouched horizon of the playa. Beyond the confines of Black Rock City. It is the flattest flat there ever was. it goes on forever, in every direction. It had created the illusion of a tall wall, in front of me. I am in Awe again.

Eventually the other Burners pedal off, and now I am alone. And I just am staring at the horizon for minutes, completely humbled. Finally, I decide that ok, it's time to head back now. But, before I do, one more thought takes hold of me. I look all around me, furtively. I suddenly have massive butterflies in my stomach. I am about to do something... that I know you're not supposed to do. But, I'm a Coyote. And I'm going to do it anyway.

I put one leg over the trash fence... and then the other. And now I am standing Outside. There is nothing here, but me... and Infinity.

I can do anything. If I want to.

I stand here for a minute...

And then... I get the FUCK back over the trash fence, and I run back over to my bike, and I pedal the fucking hell away from there, back towards the City, as fast as I can!

***

So now, I'm rushing back towards the City, and there is nothing all around me for a very long time. And now it's really late, and I'm getting really cold, and the city doesn't seem like it's getting any closer, and I feel like I just really need some way to warm myself up. A plume of fire suddenly billows up on the horizon. "Yup, that! That's what I need right now!" I think to myself. So I veer over towards that direction, and now I'm quite literally like a moth drawn to flame.

Finally I get to this new place, back on some far arc of the City's Esplanade that I had not explored before. It is this moderately sized sound / dance camp, and it's got huge plumes of fire that the DJ can control, as he spins. He's making quite liberal use of them, and their heat is warming me right up, all the way across the dance floor. At the edge of this place is a circular bar, and on the top of the circle of the bar, is a ring of actual fire, that goes all the way around it. The bartender is in the middle of this. The bartender is in the middle of the ring of fucking fire, and he is checking people ID's, and handing them drinks, right over the top of it. I need a clicker, to count how many times my jaw drops open that night.

I go up the fire bar, and wait to order a drink. And it takes kind of a long time for the bartender to get to me, but that is alright, because now I am totally warm, and, look how fucking cool this fire bar is! Finally the bartender gets to me, checks my ID (over the ring of fucking fire), and asks me what I want. "Something fruity, please!" I say. (Because that's what I am, and that's what I like!) He raises an eyebrow at me, traces his finger around the ring of fire, and he says, "Bro, do you see this? Does it look like we have fruity drinks here?" I cluck my tongue, purse my lips, and say, "Well... I see your point! Alright, what do you have?" He says, "You can have something greasy, or something smokey!"

Normally in drinks, these are things that I would hate. But, I am now suddenly very into investing and throwing myself into every little micro-world that I come accross out here. "Alright. How about something greasy and smokey?" He considers this, nods his head, takes my cup, pulls out several bottles of god knows what, mixes for awhile, tastes intermittently, considering, and finally hands it back to me. I take a swig, and it is indeed greasy, and smokey. I sip it slowly, staring into the flames... And, it is goddamned delicious.

And then I finish my drink. And I turn around, and there is Charlie the Unicorn, right behind me...

***

You know Charlie the Unicorn? This thing.



The Charlie the Unicorn videos were a staple of mirth at my apartment in Queens, when they first came out ten years ago. Well... Now I am standing out here at Burning Man... and there is a giant Charlie the Unicorn art car right behind me! And he breathes fire out of his horn! And all his, for lack of a better term, burner minions, all have bright colored unicorn horns on their head. And Charlie's sound system is great, his DJ is great, and they are having a rockin' dance party! I've just got to go over and dance with Charlie the Unicorn! :)

***


Charlie the Unicorn. Photo by Duncan Rawlinson, 2015


I'm dancing by Charlie the Unicorn, and all his little unicornlets. And it's not the kind of self-conscious dancing that a lot of people (especially nerdy white guys like me) are prone to, where you're all more worried about, like, do you look cool to the other people around you? And you've got your tongue stuck out a little bit, and you're just kind of, side to side a little bit, waving your fists up and down a bit, same thing over and over. No. This is dancing with abandon. Who cares what anyone else thinks? They're doing their own thing, and right now, you're just having a conversation between yourself and the DJ.

And I'm thinking about all the amazing things that I've seen tonight, all of the wonder. I'm crying a little bit still, here and there. But, it's all "good" cry.

A woman with a unicorn horn taps me on the shoulder, and her name was Allison. And she is sweet and kind as can be, and she asks me if I'm having a good time? She says, "We here at Charlie the Unicorn want everyone to have a wonderful time! So, have fun, make some friends. And, you can come up and dance on our art car if you like!"

(Two art cars??? The other day, I didn't know how to get on even one art car, and now I'm going to be on two??? And Charlie the Unicorn to boot!)

It occurs to me after a moment, that Allison may have come up to me, because maybe she'd seen me crying. I'm hit by another wave of love at just all of the easy empathy and compassion that there is at this place. I thank her again, and tell her that I've been having an incredible night! And that I've probably been crying a lot, but, it's just been from all the beautiful, amazing things. "Ohhh, Good Cry!" she says. "Well ok, that's great then!"

Then she tells me that, in a few minutes, Charlie is going to drive back over to the trash fence to watch the sun come up, and that I would be perfectly welcome to ride along with them if I like.

This sounds like a truly amazing opportunity! And, I've been meaning to stay up for a sunrise out here, but I hadn't quite gotten around to it yet. Now may be just the time! Still though, on the other hand.. I can see that, unlike the Ixi-thingy, Charlie can not take on bikes, and now I've got my bike out here, nowhere near my home camp. And I've just been out to the trash fence, I know just how crazily far away it is. I don't know that I'm up for biking all that way again myself, and then just to have to come all the way back again, this time in the hot sun, once it is up. Also on the other hand, if I leave my bike here and ride with them, then I am tied to them for as long as they stay out there, for there is no way I'm going to walk all the way in the sun back from the trash fence.

I fret for a moment, but then.. c'mon.. After everything that's happened, am I really not going to watch the sunrise with Charlie the Unicorn? Fuck no, of course I am! So, I chain up my bike wheels. It's the first time this week that I've locked my bike, actually. I take a good long triangulating look at where Center Camp is, where the Man is, and where this particular piece of art we're by is, so that I can come find it again later. I board the Charlie, and off we go, rocking out into the deep playa again.

And we're heading out there, and the sky on the horizon is clearly starting to brighten. And I can see that quite a few other art cars are also heading out that way, each with their schools of pilot fish. When a friend of mine, earlier in the week, had suggested to me that at some point, I should watch a sunrise on the playa, I don't know why I'd thought this, but, I had always pictured that it would be a very quiet, solitary affair. Like, maybe it would be a few lone adventurers at most, like that group that I'd met by the fence earlier, and it would be serene, silent. It dawns on me now however, as a veritable fleet of art cars, and their attendants, motor on out into the desert, that nope, that's not how we do things here at Burning Man! This is going to be a fucking sunrise PARTY!!!

And we all get out there, and the Sound is following us, and all the art cars park and kind of set up shop. All the people spill off of them, mixing with the pilot fish, and the DJ's have never stopped doing their thing, and so now it's all hundreds of people, having dance party by the trash fence! And the sky is getting lighter and lighter. The sun isn't visible yet, but it's bright enough that you can pretty much see all around you now. People are starting to turn off their personal lights, for being redundant. It's practically daylight, save for there not yet being a sun.

I just happen to have my head raised, looking at a certain part of the lightening sky, when all of a sudden... the BIGGEST shooting star that I have ever seen in my entire life suddenly appears in just exactly that spot, and it goes FWOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!!!! It is long, slow, huge... not like the instant little pissant shooting stars you usually see. This one takes seconds, and it stays forever, and its fire trail is throwing off actual fucking RAINBOW colors. And, the top of my mouth curls into a smile, while the bottom half opens into this giant gaping OOOOOO...!!! And my arms drop out in front of me, with my palms turned up, and my fingers splayed wide, while my head shakes from side to side, and I'm just like, "MY... GOD..!!!!!!" And I think back, for a split second, to the Mayan Warrior and its aurora borealis, and I think, "Wow, Burning Man's special effects are just incredi- Wait... No... That was actual fucking NATURE, motherfucker! That just actually happened!! :D"

And I look around me, stuttering and spitting, looking for anyone else that might have seen it too, and no one but me fucking did, and then all of a sudden from way behind me, this one girl who's sitting by the trash fence calls out to me, "YEAH DUDE, I SAW IT TOO! I VALIDATE YOUR REALITY!!! :D"

And she's smoking a cigarette, and so well now, of course I have to go over and bum one and talk to her. And her name was Xy, like xylophone. Xy tells me that she's 24, and that this is her 17th burn. She's never missed a one since her first, except for one time, when she tried to move back with family to.. I think it was Shanghai.. But she didn't like it, and she regrets missing that one Burn, and now she's back. I tell her that I can totally understand, and I recount for her some of my experiences of the evening.

And then... over across the trash fence, the sun has appeared. Suddenly. Out of nowhere. It is already quite high in the sky. It becomes apparent that, out very far away in that direction, there must be a huge dust storm right now. The dust is acting sort of like how clouds normally would, blocking out most of the harsh light, but, it's very uniform in consistency, so it just blends in looking like early morning grey sky down to the horizon. So, the sun is there, just hanging in space. It is like a dark red paint blot. And you can look right at it. It looks like a native american painting or tapestry. And it's actually there.

And then there is a sharp "OHH!" from the gathered crowd, and people are looking up and pointing into the sky. And I look up, and a large cluster of sky divers have just jumped from a plane...

And then the people from Charlie the Unicorn, his music still playing, have brought out tables and a grill, and started cooking and serving grilled cheese sandwiches and coffee...

I'm crying again. I'm laughing again.

***

Finally I'm back on the Charlie bus. I've had my grilled cheese sandwich, I've seen my sunrise, I've danced my heart out. I've had a wonderful night. But, that sun is not going to be getting any cooler, quite the opposite, and, I think that I'm about ready to head home now and call it a night.

So I sit down on the upper deck and start to zonk out. But... the people outside are still going fairly strong... Surely, they will all be starting to feel the urgency of the situation too, and will not want to get caught out in the hot sun either? But, that is not happening, this party does not seem to be showing any signs of ending soon. I wait and wait and wait. And now I'm getting really tired, and a little irritated. (Irritated? After the whole night and everything that you just had?? Go fuck yourself, Coyote! How dare you?!) Yeah, I fucking know, but.. yeah.. Irritated. Come on already, let's get this show on the road.

I figure that, ok, maybe they'll be done when they run out of grilled cheese sandwiches to cook and give out. So I go look over the rail, down at the grill, to see when that might be. And, wow... there sure are a lot of grilled cheese sandwiches left on that table. This might still be awhile. I go sit down again and wait some more. A long time passes, and still no one's coming back to the bus. I get up and look down over at the grill table again, and it still looks just as full as before. And then I look to the right of it a little bit, and see something that I hadn't noticed before. Which is... this BOX! This, like, Costco sized box... of fucking bread and cheese! My eyes widen slowly and bug out of my head. They have a million grilled cheese. They have grilled cheese forever. And they are clearly not going to stop, until they have cooked the very last fucking one!

I bring my finger tips up to my temples, and now I'm feeling like I'm in trouble. I am picturing my bike, chained up waaaaaay back over at the City. And I'm thinking how long it took me to bike back over there from here, when I had it. And that was in the cool of night. The sun is already getting hot. I'm trapped here. (Hell no, you're not trapped here! Radical self-reliance, motherfucker! You can walk your bitch Coyote ass back to the city, if you really have to!) Ugh... yeah, ok, I guess I could, but... Ugh! That's sooooo far.. and it will be so hot. But, if I'm going to do that, then I'd better do it now, cause it's only just going to get worse and worse, the longer I wait. Or, I can just stay here and ride it out. They do have to leave too, eventually!

I decide not to walk, cause I've been out of water awhile ago, and to walk all the way would, now, actually be possibly dangerous. So I sit there and stew, and now I'm getting a little upset. And I'm pissed at myself for being upset. I'm like, Are you really gonna let this last little thing spoil everything else you've seen tonight? You're such a fucking asshole! I waver about trying to walk it a few more times.

And then I stop. And I calm myself down, and think. And I run through everything else that's happened to me tonight, in my mind. I run through the list of Burning Man's Principles. I consider the Sound, which I can still hear. And, I remember that I can Shift reality. And I think to myself, ok, there must be a third way. There must be something that I'm not considering here. Let's look at this again...

I could... walk all the way back to camp by myself, with no water, in the hot sun...

Or... I could sit here in the bus, stewing and being unhappy...

Orrrrrrrr... If my problem is that they're taking too long finishing with their grilled cheese sandwiches...

I could get up off my ass, go down there, and HELP THEM EAT MORE FUCKING GRILLED CHEESE SANDWICHES!!!

The solution is so painfully obvious now, that I smack myself in the forehead. And I get up from my seat, and I go down there, and I have myself another grilled cheese sandwich! And now I'm back in it! Now I'm back in the party groove! I've got my grilled cheese sandwich, and the DJ is still playing, and I'm dancing, eating grilled cheese on the playa! And I went looking for the coffee that was supposed to be around, but I couldn't seem to find that, that was gone, but, there sure was this open bar still going strong that they'd set up out there! So I had myself some drinks, and then some more grilled cheese sandwich, and I look at the box, is it empty yet? Nope? Oh well! Guess I'd better go have another sandwich then! And I must have gone up like four or five times, and then finally before you know it, they've run out at last, and now they're packing up, and then off we go back towards home! Riding in style, cool inside Charlie's shade, dancing to music, fed free hot breakfast, just having seen the most amazing sunrise ever... what a perfect night!

***

I get back to camp. It is quiet, everyone is still asleep. I crash in my own tent and sleep for a few hours. When I get up, I head over to lost and found to check for my phone, see if it's been found yet. It has not, but, it's only been since last night, and, I honestly truly do not even care at all at this point. It's totally whatever. I go out from Center Camp towards the Man, triangulate on the sculptures I'd memorized from last night. I spot what I think is the one where I'd left my bike. I head over to it, and my bike is still there, safe and sound. No problem at all. I unlock it... and head out again for even more adventures.

The playa provides.

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Quentin Coyote

September 2017

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