10 Days In The Desert

I’m going to Burning Man. I’m leaving in two hours.

It feels good to get that off my chest.

There is so much to say about it… but right now, my brain is a messy pile of spaghetti, so bear with me as I try to get this all down in one-pre-life-altering-event post.

I’m all atwitter with nervousness. Usually I would liken my emotional highs and lows to the typical roller coaster ride. But this? This has been more like being vaulted off the end of a see-saw at irregular intervals. When I first accepted the invitation (from my charming, freakish friends) they agreed to pay for my ticket if I took care of paying for things like water and gas and the like. And immediately I began my volley into the stratosphere. My first thought upon seeing my printed ticket?

WHAT THE HELL WAS I THINKING?

Remember how I loathe the idea of a contrived community? Remember how I hate constant noise? Remember that whole episode in the Flight Path Of An International Airport? Remember how I like to BATHE? And eat fresh fruit? And sleep in a real bed?

Before I saw the ticket though, there was a whole OTHER set of things to worry about . The second I said yes to this whole affair, I became obsessed about one thing and one thing only: sex. All I’d ever heard about Burning Man, and all I knew (from friends who have come back) is that something snaps inside people when they go and they come back wanting to do things like change their names to be more in line with their new-found purposes in life. (Thing like Ruby Greensleeves or FeatherMoonbeam. You know. Totally normal.) They also want to do things like sleep with everyone. EVERYone. Because Burning Man makes them realize how sexually repressed we are as a society. And that we should be boinking a WHOLE lot more. So, why not start with your neighbor? And then your neighbor’s girlfriend? And then your neighbor’s girlfriend’s neighbor?

Did I mention that CLH is not going?

Okay, so I did a little talking with CLH and with my hosts and I think I have calmed down about it. I mean, I didn’t say yes to this whole experience so that I could try my hand at polyamory… but I am only human. And I am probably breaking about fifty social taboos right now, but I’m just going to admit that I am human and that I didn’t know how resistant I would be to the lure of new ideas about monogamy. I think I can safely say now that, after weighing just how special and unique my relationship with CLH is, and after seriously considering what “experimenting” has done to other couples I know, I am quite sure that my pants are going to stay on the whole time I’m at Burning Man.

So, now that that’s all cleared up, there’s plenty of room for the next set of neuroses. Enter: how do I live in the desert with no cell phone, no computer, limited resources, and no way to escape the constant visual stimuli? I mean, I have never, ever had to pack, not even on the most “extreme” backpacking trip I have even been on, stuff that would literally make the difference between a good time and a helicopter trip to the hospital. I’m already a Nervous Nelly when it comes to new environments and people I don’t know. Add in my-ahem-issues with a certain grain and my intestinal fortitude, a 48 hours bus ride, closed in spaces, and, well, I’m breaking out in hives just typing this sentence. I need to bring EVERYthing I might need to survive (food, shelter, clothing, and a feather boa) for the next ten days. In the extreme heat of the day and the frigid temperatures of the night.

Of course, I love me some heat. But, desert heat? For ten straight days? With no relief except the occasional 75 mile per hour blinding, must-wear-goggles-and-masks windstorm? The kind that has the power to blow coolers and lawn furniture and whole tents into the next state? The tent that is my ONLY PROTECTION FROM THE SUN FOR TEN DAYS?

I’ve made several dozen packing lists. I’ve pulled every mumu, every glittery eyeshadow, and every kind of skin lotion out of the closets, stuffed them into four blue totes, and have allowed near-perfect strangers to load them onto a giant yellow school bus festooned in silk butterflies.

Oh. My. God.

I texted my friend Tara yesterday while I shopped for wigs and blinky lights, and she reminded me of my formerly brave self, the self that was not afraid, in 2004, to buy an RV off the side of the road and then drive it home, on a downhill, with no breaks. Tara and I do stuff like that.
We started chatting about what we could have done had that RV actually been drivable.

Tara: I just picture us wicked hot and broken down on Route 66, meeting a guy “selling glass” while he follows Wide Spread Panic or some other jam band. We buy weed off him and then line dance at the biker bar all night. Some guy in tattoos reads us the poetry he recently wrote about open roads and the purr of his Harley.

I hope Burning Man is EXACTLY like that.