(Continuation from last week on my Burning Man experience)
On day four, I had a bit of an accident at the giant boot installation. You enter through a door into a fairy tale world of tiny elaborate scenes behind glass involving toy mice, dolphins, dragons, elves - the usual once-upon-a-time-stuff, exhibited in recesses in the walls and in old leatherbound books where the pages were gouged out to house the scenes. There was an interior ladder to get up to where Rapunzel lowers down her hair but the only way to exit the boot was down a steel vine you have to climb down leaf by leaf. I remember I hit the first leaf and then for twelve feet it was just air rushing by until my head thudded on the ground, throwing up a lot of dust. There was blood everywhere. If you want quick medical service come to Burning Man, the paramedics take minutes (all good looking). They made me stay face down holding my head and asking me what my name was, what day it was and my age, which I lied about and when they found Ed, my husband, and asked him, he gave a different age so they thought I had a concussion.
In the ambulance as they drove me to the pop up hospital, I looked out the window at giant babies with no heads, an over-sized type-writer where you sit on the keys, a flying carpet being chased by a half dog, half police car, large coiled dragons breathing fire. Anywhere else you'd think you had a brain injury, here it was just the view. The hospital was another scene from The Apocalypse; people in the latest warrior-wear were connected to tubes or hanging from gurneys either from dehydration or drugs. It turns out my finger was torn open, explaining the splattered blood and besides my thick socks being shredded (if they weren't it would have been my legs) and half my behind bruised purple, nothing happened but they shot me up with pain killers anyway the way a doctor gives you a lollipop.
A few hours later I was back on the bike heading for the clown orgy. I was told the clowns were still asleep so I pedalled to the temple; an enormous wooden structure shaped like a conch sell made of ribs of wood. Inside, people wrote long farewell notes to those who died along with photos and mementos. The notes were heart breaking about how they missed them or never said how much they loved them or how they felt they're still with them. I carved a thank you note for not breaking my neck. They burn this temple down the last night along with all the notes, photos and prayer flags. On my way out two people with matching hairstyles that stood three feet straight up to a point, asked if they could marry me to someone. Ed was nearby so they performed an impromptu wedding ceremony as a crowd cheered, kissed and congratulated us; it took four minutes. It's a continuous surprise party.
There were many moments where I heard myself say out loud, "Oh, my God." At one point, I watched the lamplighters; a group of about 60 men and women dressed in white tunics, carrying long wooden sticks on their shoulders with about eight lanterns hanging off them, four on each side. They walk in a solemn procession every night, rain, sun or sandstorm. When they approached the lampposts lining the mile long walkway to the Temple; someone dressed as a wizard, in front of the carriers (with long beard and pointy hat) raised his staff and four people ran with hooks to nab a lantern and as the wizard raised his arms they raised their separate lanterns to hook onto the lamp posts. People riding alongside shouted, "Thank you lamp-lighters."
As I watched them go off in the distance about 70 police cars (I counted later) drove slowly in a line the opposite way with their lights flashing but no sound. It was such a juxtaposition of the spirit and the real world criss-crossing. The cars lined up in two long rows on either side of the lantern lit walkway and the police got out walking quietly to the front of the temple, raised a tall ladder and one of them climbed up to hammer a photo of a policeman on the wall. He wrote beside it, "His life meant something." I was told he had recently been shot in the line of duty. Again the weight of emotion was palpable; it's rare to be with a large crowd and feel such compassion and vulnerability. I thought this is what humans are like when they're not elbowing their way to the front to get to God knows what. This is the way we are when our dog-eat-dog button is on 'off.' It's infectious, when so many people are emoting empathy, you can't help but catch it. All my sarcasm had nowhere to go because once there's no fear or anger, there's no reason to bite. Your defences are down and what's under that is something close to happiness.
The last night they burned the 80 foot wooden Man. It began with a firework display that kicked the ass of anything I've ever seen or heard about. The sky was filled with lattices of electric sparks that went on for hours and then the effigy of the Man exploded to the crowd's howling while fire dancers went primitive. I had to leave, my eyeballs and mind just gave up and surrendered; they could take in no more. I had to find a quiet room and a Xanax. This euphoric experience, even with my loss of blood, will forever be embedded in my brain. There's no money used here so people give you things without expecting anything in return. There's a first. No one asks what you do for a living so there's no sense of being higher or lower than anyone else. In the six days I was there, I got a taste of what's possible and that will keep my heart afloat until next year when I'll be back in my Disney dress.