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Deep Playa

Eclectic Playa Tribe Camp Breakdown
Monday September 5, 2005, 12:00 pm

My plan had been to watch the burn from deep playa. I went out there a couple of nights ago and decided it was my favorite part of Burning Man. The night before the burn, Bill came back in the late evening. I was just sort of lurking in camp, a little sick of Black Rock City and I asked him what he was up to. He said he was going to go out dancing. It was dark and late-ish.

bill (22K)

"Hm," I said, "I have an incredibly strong hash brownie you could have a slice of, we could roll together. Are you interested?"

He looked at me for a moment.


We spent a little while packing to roll out, grabbed bikes and hit the esplanade. I was already affected, as evidenced by the fact that I simply left my fully packed bag, water, camera and all at the campsite and didn't realize it until quite a bit later. I ended up being pretty glad about it, because now I'm glad I don't have photos of deep playa. I like it being a little mysterious.

I'm Your Wingman

"Where do you want to go?" he asked.

I was done trying to direct things. I was finally feeling sad and relaxed and carefree, having done everything I wanted to do.

"I don't care. You just go where you want to go and stop when you want to stop. I am simply your wingman." I said. Then, after a little more thought, "And don't worry about entertaining me. I'm already entertained."

Then we did go, as the potency of the hashish began to take hold. Bill's awesome strategy was to simply stop at every single dance club on the esplanade, heading out towards the outer rim of the playa...dancing for a few seconds or a few minutes each before casting ourselves out again. I danced with complete abandon to each new strange set of beats, not considering whether I liked it or not, or whether I looked cool, just throwing myself around like the most spastic of muppets, whirling and thrashing about.

fireSpurt (13K)
All kinds of things spit fire.

Finally we were at the last dance club on the Esplanade. This weirdly painted psy-trance place right at the edge of the playa, the desert stretching out before us. We danced wildly to the alien tworps and blorps. So many things in the distance were spitting fire and burning. I walked many paces away from the dance area and just danced on the cracked lakebed by myself, with my huge shadow twisting thirty feet behind me.

"Alright," Bill said, as we rolled away from there, "let's go to deep playa." I looked out at the dark expanse of lakebed and got on my bike.

Heading Deep

I hadn't realized that people actually did art projects out there in the deep playa, but they do. They're mostly just less flashy and more sparsely populated. We rode from one to another, just riding to the closest lit thing we could see. Small projects that the creators must have known only a small fraction of Black Rock City residents would see. Banks of small flashing lights, little robots, things I only half remember. We zigzagged ever further from the man.

alienSemaphore1 (4K)
alienSemaphore1 (4K)
alienSemaphore1 (4K)
Alien Semaphore.

After some time, I started to see some people off in the distance. I was filled with disbelief as I realized what it was: a western saloon style bar out in the middle of deep playa with two hot girls dancing on the bar. It was some kind of unreal twilight-zone bar. We put down our bikes and started to walk over to it, but someone stopped us and said, "You have to come in through the doors."

I looked over a little ways, and sure enough, there were swinging saloon doors. I banged through them with a flourish almost worthy of a gunslinger, but no one really noticed. It's okay. I noticed.

These girls weren't drunkenly swaying, they were really grinding it. For some reason this seemed like the funniest, coolest bar in all the playa. Later, a ranger told me they hauled four people into medical from out there. Not me. I was 100% tweaked already. "There's no way in hell I'm drinking," I said, and knowing that was the only way we were going to fit in there, we walked out the saloon doors with a similar flourish.

We rolled yet deeper into the playa.

robotBrain1 (2K)
robotBrain2 (2K)
Weird brain robots are the kinds of things you run into on the playa.

We headed out to the darkest, deepest part of the playa until we finally hit the plastic fence to keep burners from getting lost in the Nevada desert in the middle of nowhere. We looked out the playa boundary and looked out at the mountains. This is as far as we were going.

A Gift to the Playa

Back on our bikes, we passed this tiny structure of some sort and Bill immediately stopped. We walked slowly towards it and I shined my little LED flashlight at it. It was two simple walls of poles and canvas, making a small room with only one corner that faced away from the man, a kind of psychic shelter. I quickly saw that there was a young girl sleeping there underneath a fluffy blanket. I wanted to tell Bill to leave her be, but he seemed to have something to do. He reached down around her and found a couple of electric lanterns stashed inside the structure and set them out on little posts in the ground and turned them on, marking a little perimeter to keep people from accidentally running it over with a bike.

I marveled in my stoned state at Bill's skill and insight to have seen while riding by that it needed to be done, and really reconsidered my riding partner for a moment. Then I reconsidered him all over again when he turned to me and said, "This was my gift to the playa this year." I looked again at the exhausted, bikeless girl sleeping there, someone who would never meet her benefactor for that night in waking hours. Somehow this seemed to be the best of all of Burning Man to me at that moment.

"Do you want a piece of chocolate?" he asked me finally.

"Heck no."

He broke off a piece and put it on a small end table next to the sleeping girl. We left her in peace.


Now there was nowhere to go but inward, so we rode quite a ways and saw Black Rock City stretch out before us in its entire great noisy expanse. We stood on our feet and as if standing on a stage before the whole production. From there I swear we could hear every sound. I heard all the music of countless dance parties all at once, through both our ears and the thrum in our feet.

"Well," Bill finally said, "where are we headed?"

I asked my body, and it said to rest as soon as possible. "I pushed it as hard as I could and now I need to go to my bed and rest immediately."

banjoMan (13K)
This guy rocked the banjo. I think he was on drugs.

With a little dread I headed back into the city and all its noise. I must say that in my intoxicated state it seemed impossibly ugly and sordid. I just wanted it all to go away. "This whole thing fucking sucks." I remember thinking.

I went back to my tent feeling so alone it was all I could do to lie down and drink water and just lay there in exhaustion listening to a million sounds and thinking a million thoughts about a million people and a million mistakes before I could finally go to sleep. I didn't feel quite as grim in the morning. I hung around camp and ate and relaxed in the warm sun and massaged my neighbors.

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