I volunteer to clean up after Burning Man. It’s a camp I used to belong to, people I used to be friends with who I haven’t seen in years. Now I’m idly cataloging the junk left behind — piecing together the stories of what happened at the week-long party. Specifically I recall searching under flip-up style Murphy beds that are semi-permanent and remain in desert for the year (an unusual change since everything used to be completely leave-no-trace). Sponsorship in the camp is by Ritual Coffee, naturally. I still drink Ritual to this day.
Perhaps an object I find, perhaps a different dream: a golden metal orb with triangular holes lining its surface. Thin tetrahedral slices which fit exactly through the holes, as if it were a 3D puzzle to be assembled through the tiny gates. But it seems too elegant and precious to be a toy.
At the end of an unpaved road in the desert, dunes on either side. Searching for a spot to park and sleep in the overland SUV. Up a short side road is a private campground, but they’re full of long term RVs after recent redevelopment. I get the impression people aren’t even staying there.
Viewed from above, I survey another hilltop location once a vantage for scenic stark beauty, recently built up with houses. A bit of the outback lost to civilization. Overpriced houses, packed tight, the parking all in the center of a cul-de-sac. They cite new houses right up against fences built the year before, knowing the residents only work in offices nearby and couldn’t care less.
We leave the end of the dusty unpaved road, passing through a rough-hewn log gateway — something you might see built by the orcs of Warcraft, yet having the semblance of an old English gallows gaol. We’re waved on; everyone here knows us. Past this point the car accelerates, as if on a track, rocketing toward a towering city. Sooner then expected we pass under vine-laden bridges and all manner of infrastructure. It’s so sudden that while I’m zoning out looking at an apartment building I’m struck by the baffling thought of just how many human lives are now within my eyeline.
An unexpected bit of FOMO while camping at an event that occurs during Burning Man. Cited on a hill with acres of underground bunker to be explored, dirty, dangerous, and wild. A total of ten levels. I’m warned that the lowermost has toxic mud that can get tracked up when trod by the unwary.
Sharing a house with longtime roommates. The suggestion of renovating the walls comes up while I’m off nearby playing on the floor, and I notice that behind each of the wall panels — and I deliberately check them one by one — is pressure treated wood. We couldn’t replace them if we wanted. I’ve been quiet for a while and wait for the opportunity to speak up, hoping I needn’t wait too long.
A man is hoping for a new income stream by advertising his well-trained dog as a performer. The dog is loyal and easily performs for the scheduled entertainment industry boffs who’ve come to scout for talent. I’m pleased to watch him do so well, but understand there’s only so many roles one dog can get; he will always still look like himself. I can already imagine the man (who reminds me of my cousin Ricky) pushing his dog into more absurd and dangerous stunts with the goal of getting more business. I can imagine it getting bad enough to border on animal abuse.
Ensign Tilly fakes her death at an airlock. She lands underneath in a metal rack.
Three wines: hard, mineral, spicy. No explanation left of this detail, a curiously distinct detail nonetheless.
I’m a servant on an expedition somewhere reminiscent of Egypt. I am enlisted as an unplanned mediator between leaders of the expedition when they can’t reach an agreement. It’s my wizard friend Devin Person and some fancy Cleopatra-esque girl. The setting is like a Burning Man camp or an Arab Bedouin tent. We’ve set up a shade structure, the corners piled with throw pillows. There’s difficulty figuring out where to put the camp’s garbage can full of nitrous chargers. When they do their nitrous ritual, there’s a special mantra people are supposed to say; it’s inscribed on a plaque on the wall. I’m not really looking forward to hosting people.
In my hometown family room. A foil musical record is kept in a locked metal closet. There’s a love note from an acquaintance, Lydia, to her husband Paul da Plumber discovered in outer sleeve cover of photo album.
Review for Flora Grubb, perhaps Flora Grubb’s relative with the same last name.
Sailor Moon’s design, or redesign, focused around big boobs.
Practicing my long synthesizer keyboard in the garage, the keys can be early lifted off. That’s how I discover that they are for some reason wider, as I lift one up, turn it around, and compare its size directly to the beautiful antique piano with gold autumnal inlaid keys.
A long set of story beats, repeated — the same dreams twice. If this was intentional or not, I don’t recall. I do remember waking up afterwards and wondering if I should write the story down, thinking it might be important, but they’re effectively evaporated.
Burning Man spent mostly scavenging. A sand quarry adjacent to the site. A small plane made of plastic you climb inside, used by the crew, with a single front facing plastic window — seems terrifying but I can imagine myself flying it. In a trash can, I discover two discarded pet slugs which are still alive. In the long canal of sand on the ridge, I leave as soon as I realize there are still workmen (who have yet to see me). Red jelly beans chewed up and dried in a jar into pebbles, then dumped out on the ground by my cousin Betty.
On a pair of stilts, I run after a departing train with a sackful of quarters in my pocket. It speeds up rapidly, but I’m not worried I won’t catch it was the stilts carry me at great speed. There’s a section missing, like a film that skipped, which those of us watching realize having seen it before.
During a theater performance, the Spanish royal couple have their view blocked by a large hexagonal cracker — ostensibly for security purposes, though deliberate provocation seems also likely.
A valet service has a wall of red ribbons and white ribbons, coded to mark self service. Too expensive for me to get myself.
Invited back to Burning Man, with the camp my sister stays at. They last stayed in 2015 — it doesn’t seem so long ago.
When I first get into camp I find a few emblems lying on the ground at he entrance. My old rabbit fur bag of elfstones (that I carried in middle school) appears to be there, as well as some important books from my past.
The camp is indoor and outdoor. There’s a book counter in our camp, and the bookseller asks me if I know that a photo of mine is currently first place in a competition. He seems to be clued in to the unusualness of the situation, and I can’t fully recall if it’s a photo I did take, but I definitely can’t remember submitting it. He reminds me of my wife’s dad’s friend, Loren.
Nice slow conversation with friends in our camp about bringing a good smartphone camera to Burning Man. Mickey is there, my sister Alia too, I even notice my dad sitting at the end of a table — had hung out with him without even realizing he was my dad.
The photo from the competition comes out: a very clear photo of statuary in a twisting wood, the lighting a deep velvety eerie calm midnight. Studying it closely, the sensation forms of how the angle, framing, color treatment, and more are recognizably my style. It must have been made several years ago now.
I help haul out stuff we’ve brought this year, much of it packed into a rundown old ’70s luxury car (one of those big fat Buicks or Cadillacs) parked on the roadside exactly behind the spot where I parked last time. After that long discussion on phone cameras earlier I happen to uncover an old Motorola flip-phone. Though only here for novelty purposes, it proves worthy of close examination — a true artifact. Somehow I finally appreciate just how many individual technological bits and pieces were sorted out in its making.
The chaos of the festival is just coming into swing, though it’s early yet… and a bit more reserved than I remember. I watch a procession of long mechanical costumes march up a slope toward us. An articulated worm-dragon, I realize, was probably made with help from my friends Don & Tracy.
Mickey is futzing around camp, pensively searching for a special spiritual emblem of his that’s missing. Meanwhile I’m feeling annoyed as the bookseller has closed shop early, and without notice. I could’ve asked him about the emblem — I’m worried a book I traded could’ve contained (or perhaps was) Mickey’s cherished talisman.
The bookseller returns unexpectedly soon afterward, having only taken an evening break.
Massively sped up time-lapse of one early civilization, a primitive community building itself from raw nature over generations of real time. Just as a thought comes that “they’ve reached the stage where they need walls to protect what can now be destroyed”, and one wall of an enclosure has been built, I watch as a gigantic rhino beast smashes in and tramples all their work into splinters. I realize: this is my ancestry, although not a part which survived.
At Burning Man, I lounge with many friendly acquaintances in a communal camp where we spend most of our time. This day we’re in the midst of a low-key engineering competition. I go on repeated walkthroughs of a semi-outdoor hardware store scrounging for the right supplies. The desert is less dusty than usual, more crunchy.
Dara Vinne introduces me to her twin sister, called Dana Vinne. She appears mostly identical but has lived a distinctly different life — she was born with a clumpy, fleshy, twirled-up tail. I find I’m still just as attracted to her, which is an odd conundrum; I feel like the tail should make a difference, or that my existing intellectual attraction to Dara should instead favor her, but… well, no conclusions there.
I get a good look at the tail while we’re all sitting around naked. In the open space between couches she’s facing away from me, semi-squatting on a mattress. Her tail gives the conflicting impression of both a deformity and a banality. I watch then as she lazily maneuvers her hips to hump down onto a fresh tampon, driving it in no-handedly. Vulgar but bemusing, comfortable with her body and her company, the shocking gesture comes off as bizarrely endearing. Uncommonly feminine, too — a rakish femininity that’s happy with gross-out humor even at one’s own expense.
Later I pass by a camp on the corner where I again spot her (Dana Vinne), and consider backtracking for the chance to hang out with her. But I soon notice several other individual twins from my communal camp all headed that direction. I decide there must be a twins meeting of some sort, and head back to my own camp… still very curious about this new person.
As I lay on the living room couch, I hear an odd rat-like noise from our back room — but not identifiable as one of our pets. I’m a bit playful when I go to investigate but creeped out by a bunch of our pillows that’ve been slashed almost in half. In an instant I realize no rat or other pet could’ve done this, and a malicious someone in likely still in the house.
I bolt awake, heart pounding, from sleep on the couch… remembering that I couldn’t fall asleep there; I had to give one of our rattie boys his medication.
I’ve been tricked into “checking out” some sort of vacation retreat with a very culty vibe. I try to leave but quickly find myself mobbed by a crush of people who aren’t allowing me to go. I think one even delivers the “it’s for my own good” line; bone-chilling in these circumstances. One bespectacled man grabs my keys and puts them in his pocket. Struggling against the huddle of bodies I manage to retrieve the keys — though I’m almost alarmed they let me have them back. They’re reluctant to do anything resembling an unambiguous assault. I escape climbing through a bathroom window when I think no one’s watching, though at this point… I wonder if they are.
I’m assigned a new group at Burning Man while it’s halfway through (not much like Burning Man — more like a week-long summer camp in an elaborate multi-story wooden atrium). I’m paired with three affable Asian kids younger than me. We’re moved to a different bunk room (a frequent occurrence) and shortly afterwards my first group, of which I’m still kind of a part, gets assigned a room that’s closer. I sleep there as it’s a bit easier, especially moving all my stuff, but I feel disappointed and conflicted for abandoning my cool new friends.
While lying asleep in bed, I hear one of our pet rats crawl up onto my wife’s side. It makes its way across our pillows, feeling oddly familiar. It crawls under the blankets right in front of me and I peek one eye open. It’s a grey rat, but we haven’t had any grey rats since… I bolt awake, realizing that one of our babies that went missing two months ago, Silveroo, has returned.
But he’s not there. There’s no rat at all. I was, for the second time in a night, having dreams of rats, set in the very place I was actually sleeping.
Walked trail back from an event on the playa. Footprints in dirt and patterns on canyon wall from so many hikers, very clear. Butterfly backpacks on the wall of staging area. I interrupted an older female friend before they could say something snarky about the other burners (?). Found a time capsule in the form of a large round buried cistern of cream soda with the date 2008 (or 1998), do not open for 100 years. Someone asked where everyone present had been then. There was a liability waiver engraved with it on the bronze! Conversation became about how unlikely that was to be useful or used, but I pointed out that while a lot of things change in 100 years, it’s a long time to sort out negotiations. Further down the trail there is a nice clean house, with several interesting coffee table books on racks about beauty or friendship. I point out to Lynae that they’re the same few interesting books that everyone in this community seems to have. We then had a brunch toast, a gentlemen looking like Dean Mermell spoke on doing a drug (ketamine?) and people don’t think of the after-effects as alcohol drunkeness, despite many obvious alkaloids that the body processes. He lauds the possibility of a month of feeling slightly drunk before we have a group cheers of frothy icy orange juice drink. I turn to Lynae and tell her I figured out what I want to do with my life for work. I want to make interesting collectible coffeetable book knickknack-type things, some one-offs, some production pieces. Stuff that’s fun to have and conveys taste and status but is still ok to give away. Something that can let me travel the world. This world has nice architecture and bridges and might be called Metroworld.
In a different dream, there is an omnipotent dirty that shows itself as bright beams of light. I’m in a room for sharing with this deity. It comedically moves to the power outlet behind the couch. There’s a large circular ceiling decoration the light plays off of. The deity throws us (it’s congregants) a big celebration, but it’s revealed that it spent what very little money it had renting marching band uniforms for us (which we couldn’t really use). We found the truck they came in — along the way, near a rusty concrete beam overpass, I find an original Sonic the Hedgehog Sega Genesis box. I consider selling it as collectible but I have a vision of Toys R Us just like I remember it, but with different stock. I manage to find a Jurassic Park toy set that must have been sitting there on the shelves since 1995.
Hello again everyone. As you know, I went on a roadtrip. A roadtrip during the last week in August. But not to Nevada. There’s a certain… “festival” event that we sort-of chose to miss this year, and every previous year also, coincidentally. Not that it was important, or anything. We didn’t have nearly at all close to enough money, anyways. Pfft, we had a better time traveling around northern California on an aimless roadtrip to somewhere. Ended up as far north as Crater Lake, although had the best time in Lava Beds National Park. There’s nearly no one there, and it’s full of caves which you can just drop in on and explore. Resting after discovering an ice cave in one, we discovered a new name for myself. Took lots of good pictures too. We had a good time, spent it with each other and not 40,000 people in a desert. I like the desert—grew up there—and it can be a very pretty place. Much more crowded now, I hear. I’ll take my roadtrip elsewhere.