I managed to stay awake well into the afternoon that first day. I helped setup three big parachute tents and an art car. I met many of the organizers and participants in our camp. I wandered around aimlessly, ate, drank, and sat. Eventually, just as the sun was beginning to set, I crawled into the darkest bunk in our RV, plugged in the earplugs, slapped on the eye patch, and tried to sleep. The DJ stage right on the other side of our wall had started already. My bed was shaking violently to a quick bass electronic rhythm. My head was beginning to ache.
In a few hours I was up again and my head was throbbing. I told myself I had to shake it off and go see stuff. I told myself this was Burning Man, damn it, sleep when it’s over. My friends agreed. We got ready for wandering and wandered.
The town of Black Rock was beginning to swell. Art cars, brightly lit, in all shapes and sizes, and usually blasting some variety of techno, meandered at a comfortable 5mph around the playa. Everyone glowed. If you didn’t have some variety of glowy or blinky someone would shout “Dark Wad!” at you. The community didn’t want your dumbass run over by art. That’d make for some messy moop.
Most of the partying/dancing/wandering activities of that entire week are blurred together in a mishmash of memory. We’d notice something cool and giggle, point, and alert each other. Like a 40-foot-tall (but otherwise pretty normal-looking) 4-legged chair scooting across the playa. We’d laugh and say to ourselves or each other “What the fuck?” and keep walking. We’d hear a tune we liked drive past and run after it. We’d see an art car with people swarming all over it dancing and run after it. We’d see people standing around some lights in the middle of nowhere and head towards it. We’d stare at interactive art until we understood what to do, did it, said cool, then moseyed on. We’d scream when a fireball burst a hundred feet up from the ground or erupted in a cascade from an art car. We’d relish the warmth it laid on us. Then we’d move on.
As the sun began to rise I set off alone on my bike into the playa. I found a pier… like the kind you’d find sticking out into the ocean. But this one stretched a few hundred feet from playa to playa. Underneath, towards the end, was a hammock. I set my bike against an upright and fell into the hammock. The sounds of ocean waves gently crashing into the pier and seagulls chirping radiated from speakers hidden somewhere above me. I sat and stared at the mountains cradling the sunrise far in the distance. Orange soup gently morphed into a brilliant yellow spray as the night’s black sky peeled away to the blue embrace of day. I don’t remember falling asleep.
But I awoke shivering. The seagulls were still chirping. The sun was staring at me low on the horizon, not yet ready for hugs, just saying hello. I hopped on my bike and headed back for some deep recharge sleep.