TOUCHDOWN. BLAST OFF
We found our camp and were greeted warmly by the fantastic four: JC, Carolyn, Daniella, & Chorizo. "Oh shit The New York City virgins made it! Congratulations!"
Then began a mad rush to prepare what little we could before the sun went down. My priorities were getting the bikes wired for lights. It is crucial that your bike be well illuminated.
Dave set about building the frame for a plastic-sheeted front door for our RV, in a vain attempt at keeping dust out of the vehicle. I knew the minute I swam in that dirt that there was no way we were keeping anything clean. It was a lost cause. However, not all of us were ready to surrender just yet.
The first things you notice as you enter Black Rock City, are the "art cars", BM's signature moving sculptures. They are bizarrely-sculpted, outrageously-decorated vehicles of all shapes and sizes, the more outlandish the better. A hodgepodge of welded-together-monstrosities and true works of wonder. Glowing apparitions covered in pulsating lights and shooting bursts of flames like a whale clearing its blowhole. They are chaos incarnate.
As we raced against the sunset, we started seeing our first batch of art cars in full regalia, heading out for the night. First, the entire front porch of a house drove by. There was 5 people in Old West costume dress performing a musical number. The only common denominator among the art cars is that they all have a booming sound system built in, blasting some kind of dance music at maximum volume.
The house was followed by a life-size replica of Jabba The Hut's desert "Sail Barge" from Return of the Jedi. The wheels were tucked so far under the glowing underbelly that it really looked like it was floating!
That was followed by massive neon rooster that rolled by. Each car was crazier than the last.
After the front door structure was built and the bikes were wired to go, we suited up as best we could and set out on our first exploration. Water? check. Goggles? check. Headlamp? Flashlight? Gas Mask? bandana? Chiggity Check. Enough already. ROLL OUT!
The magic and majesty of your first view of the Playa at night cannot be over-stated. It is simply otherworldly. Alive. Electric. Insane. A living, black light landscape that fills your entire filed of view in all directions. It's at that moment, when you first see it, that you are SO FUCKING HAPPY that you actually made it to Burning Man. All of that stress and struggle and money and time - it was all worth it!
The first night was magic. We rode around in a little bike gang with JC and his crew. I felt like a kid in my first amusement park. What's that over there?!! Let's go over there! Holy shit what's that way over there?! Let's go over there!!! And so it went, all night long. We biked from one bizarre, amazing oddity to the next. We were't even on drugs but it felt like tripping. You NEVER get this much visual stimulation w/o hallucinogenic drugs. It's just not possible. Or so I thought…
The impact of the physical landscape, or utter lack of landscape, is also something that's very hard to describe. The Playa is a completely flat plane. You've never been anywhere this flat in your life. Being devoid of any detail, it just becomes this abstract blank canvas that stretches off in to infinity. A blank canvas filled with 40,000 neon black light laser-shooting fire-breathing Jabberwockies. I need to stop trying to put it in to words because I cannot do it justice.
We stayed out late that night, riding around and exploring the endless wonders there were to see. So many amazing art cars. So much music blaring at you from all directions.
The cacophony of music on the Playa is quite surreal. There is so much sound competing for your ear drums. Songs appear and then disappear as the wind shifts. As you ride around, one minute you're hearing dubstep, then seamlessly some techno drifts to center, then house music, then god knows what. At one point a magic carpet with glowing underbelly drove by, filled with hookah smokers, blasting Louie Armstrong's "What A Wonderful World". I heard maybe 2 lines of the song before it was eclipsed by a louder tune from elsewhere.
This went on all night. We rode out in the center of the Playa, as well as back among the endless parade of camps on the backstreets. Most tents on the road are alive with lights and lasers and whatever are they're offering you something. A bar serving drinks. A DJ playing music. A tent full of massage tables. Somebody's making popcorn. Others are serving wine & cheese. A drum circle. A kissing booth. A bad advice booth. A spanking. A hug. Healing workshops. Aura cleanings. You name it. And it's ALL free. Money is strictly forbidden. No transactions are allowed to take place. You just roll in to somebody's camp and they'll tell you what's being offered. If you have something of your own, you can give it to them in kind, but more often than not you just take it for free, knowing that you'll give back to the city in whatever way you intend. I had burned about 50 mix CDs before I left, so I gave those out from time to time.
There was so much stuff to see I didn't want to sleep, but this was just the first night. I had seven nights to go, so OK fine. We probably should pace ourselves. Fine.
The next morning we wandered around the camp for a bit, introducing ourselves. We were only about half full at this point. It was another six days until the man burned so there was plenty of time to get there. We were introduced as "The New York City Virgins". JC grabbed an old friend and told him to give me some solid virgin advice from a lifetime Burner. He stepped forward, leaned in, looked me in the eye, and simply said:
"I got three words: SUCK IT DRY!"
This sounded like the best advice I was going to get all week, so it became my daily mission.