Mon, 23 Aug 2010 22:25:33 -0700
Like every year, I've managed to fool everyone but myself, saying I wasn't going to out to the playa. My laundry list of excuses did sound feeble, even to myself: I have negative vacation; there's too much to do at work; I should spend that time cleaning out my bins of costumes and camping gear instead of using them; I've got a birthday party (my 30th!) coming up soon thereafter to plan for myself; it always spins me into a frantic last-minute anxious spree of planning, packing, worrying, and dreams of arriving at the gate, only to have forgotten something. They of course all pale in the face of the simple truth that I'll regret not going, and wouldn't regret going. Shawn came over to Building 40 two Fridays ago, and we fetched snacks from TGIF and beer from the kegerator and sat on the balcony, me altenately hatching plans and being sad that I wouldn't be acting them out. On the way back from yoga that Saturday morning, I picked up some acrylic wine glasses on sale, just in case I were to want to drink rosé out of something unbreakable in a hostile environment. By that afternoon, I was enlisting Colin to explain to me the rudiments of electrical power over coffee at Four Barrel, and to help me spec out just how I might rig a solar panel to an inverter to a deep-cycle marine battery if I wanted to blast Bach from my iPod across the desert roads without a generator. By that evening, I'd emailed the guy to whom I'd arranged to sell my ticket and reneged. None of my friends are surprised.
I'm really not sure why I do this song and dance every year. I don't want to play the burner drama queen, do-I-don't-I; I'm generally better -- much better! -- about establishing exactly what I want and then going about making it happen. But somehow I forget that some things make me happy: A CSA peach that Cynthia cut up and put on a plate for me, for example; an open watermelon Jesse'd sliced into that suddenly made me think of childhood summers in Madison; green Konadria figs I forgot I loved until I was demonstrating to a dubious roommate how you eat one. I've said I don't like fruit, too.
Perhaps part of what made it easy was proving to myself, three weekends ago, that such excursions get easier the more I do them: The bins of costumes sort themselves out; I have a bag all ready to go of striped knee socks; the headlamp needs batteries but is otherwise ready to go. In late July, I picked over my collections and tossed corsets and Camelbaks in a bag, and drove up to FnF for the weekend. It was Burning Man Lite, in ways: Dirt but not dust; collective food (I cooked vegetarian dinner for 400); never more than 50 feet from a source of shared, potable water. Comparative luxury! And then music pumped all night, even when the second transformer blew and PG&E came out to the middle of the woods and the guy in the truck danced in the crow's nest as he restored our power.
One aspect of the hesitation, I'm sure, is the ad-hoc nature of each year's camp: Unlike Jaime's sometime camp and social group -- who plays together prays together drinks together has babies together goes to the playa together -- I'd cast my lot in first with vegan-sushi types, next with type-A mechanical engineers, next with a few friends who like to build tensegrity structures. I have no tightly enmeshed community such as Ashram Galactica's; I don't even have a co-conspirator (it rubs raw, sometimes). And the preparation does get to me, somehow: I'm not just going to the south of France; I'm going off the grid, and I won't exactly be wearing street clothes -- so the list of things to pack and to prepare is, as every year, huge. But I've done this before -- why now am I not sleeping well, clearly anxious about something or everything (I am attempting to plan Burning Man, a large party, and to continue kicking ass at work, all at the same time)? Why these bad dreams? Olivia had to remind me this evening that the big party in the desert to which I'm about to go is vacation. And, ooh yes, that does cast it in a different light from the frantic preparation stage: I am, in fact, hugely looking forward to silly stockings and Tecate and midnight grilled cheese and neon and trebuchet pianos and iced coffee at Center Camp and semi-functional bikes covered in dubious faux fur and long dusty beribboned hair that it feels so good to wash out at the week's end. Sleeping through raves. Giant blinking fish. An empty, dreamless brain.
And so here I am, a week before the burn, in my predictable whirlwind: Lists, bins, rides, the rusting chain on that ancient road bike completely unsuited for the moon-like surface of the dry lakebed across which I'll be forcing it in 5-inch platform boots. Gazpacho and curry are freezing and on the stove, respectively. I'm planning to run a rice cooker off my not-entirely-fictional solar power system. I want my knee (my good knee, which I must have twisted planing and painting 4x4s this weekend) to stop hurting.
But other than that, I'm ready. I was always obviously going; maybe I'll remember that earlier next year.