Danseur Ignoble: the Playa Plague
We had a rough burn this year – lots of chaos during setup week, then I came down with what we’re calling “the Playa Plague,” which closely resembles a proper bout of ‘flu. I spent the last two and a half days of burn week in bed, feverishly griped my way through tear-down, departure, and all the airports, then went back to bed for another two days. I’m still coughing and “feeling puny,” as it were, but the fever at least seems to have abated.
Needless to say, ballet-related Playa plans were greatly modified over the course of the burn. We had fun doing the first couple of barre classes; the performances, on the other hand, didn’t get off the ground this year because it’s really pretty hard to direct a performance, let alone perform, when you’re in bed with a fever, hacking cough, and no voice o.O
I’ll have to plan for that contingency next year — somehow, it hadn’t even occurred to me that being rather seriously ill on the Playa was even a possibility. I also think I’m going to schedule less stuff — one or two Open Barre sessions, a Taupe Party (which is the logical follow-up to Wednesday night’s White Party), and one performance event, for which I’ll have to appoint a deputy director in case my immune system decides to crap out on me again.
In other ways, this year’s burn was possibly the best yet for me. During the time that I was still up and about, I rolled around the Playa with our camp family on an amazing Mutant Vehicle while our friend John DJed an awesome set, had an utterly transcendental 4AM walkabout with amazing friends, provided ice-schlepping services and improvised dance performances at Arctica, and danced for hours with complete strangers to hits of the disco era in our own little cozy dance bar.
…And even when I was lying around in bed being “pale and interesting” (and mostly asleep), in the moments that I was awake I concluded that I’d still rather be where I was than anywhere else on earth.
I did crawl out of bed on Sunday night for the Temple Burn, which meant a lot to me. We’ve never actually been on the Playa for the Temple Burn before, and at the end of the day I feel like the Temple is a locus of significance.
It’s hard to explain why: as in any sacred space, I guess, each person’s experience is different. For whatever reason, my heart and brain have chosen to invest the ever-changing, transient Temple with particular meaning.
I was surprised by that, the first year. Prior to my first burn, my inner cynic staunchly refused to assign spiritual potency to the Temple simply because it’s the Temple; turns out that once we arrived, my inner cynic had no say in the matter. If there’s anywhere on earth that you discover what it means to take things as they come, it’s in the ephemeral cosmopolis of Black Rock City.
Which is, in the end, what this year’s burn was all about, for me: taking things as they come. Things didn’t go as planned (okay, at Burning Man, things never go as planned, but this year they really, really didn’t go as planned) in so many ways, and yet even in the moments of deepest, grumpiest frustration, I would check myself and ask, “Is there anywhere else I’d rather be on earth right now?”
The answer was always no, which reminded me yet again to be here, now.
Which, in the end, is the only way to take Burning Man — you have to be here, now, because it is much more pressingly clear that later on, the here you’re experiencing won’t be.
The same is true, of course, in every other place on earth: it’s just more obvious in a city that’s built, thrives with the vivid intensity of a post-rain desert bloom, and then is demolished again in a matter of weeks.
PS: There were bugs. I counted exactly three: two different wasps (one of which seemed terrifyingly determined to be my BFF, or something like that) and some kind of lacewing-ish thing.
The stinkbugs and seedbugs had moved on by the time we arrived on Monday of Build Week.
Also, the high desert through which one passes to reach the Playa was decked in heartbreaking, shimmering green. I’ve never seen anything like it. I wrote some more coherent thoughts about it, but I’m not sure where I stored them.
Such is life.