Burning Man 2009 – Part V – Dust, Darkness, and Glowsticks

Night time on the playa is when Dani and I did most of our damage. And by damage I mean we went out, drank a lot of booze, looked sexy (well she did anyway), and had most of our fun. Not only was the sun not pounding on us, but the temperature would cool down and Black Rock City would light up in a surreal sort of way. From out in deep playa it looked much like a city horizon on the distance with twinkling lights, but instead of the typical white and amber colors, there was a whole myriad of colors. Blues, greens, reds, oranges, everything. And lasers shining like beacons from all over. Very powerful green lasers. Most of them focused on theman.

BRC at Night

Our ritually usually started at sundown whenever the shadows grew longer. We’d come out of our lull and start to organize. I would fix us drinks. We usually carried either bota bags (wine skins) with wine in them or perhaps a quart bottle filled with a mixed drink of some sort. And one of us might take some water along too. Dani would get her outfits on.

Dani, getting dressed with the sun just down

Then we’d put on glowsticks. Why? Everyone is doing it! At least wise people. At night lots of people are on bikes or driving mutant vehicles. They need to see you. So everyone wears glowsticks. Or I guess more often than not, glow rings. And sometimes even this strange wire that lights up. We saw all manner of personal lighting. Some people even wore black and used glowing wire to frame themselves so that from afar they looked as though they were stick people.

Now night time in Black Rock City yielded some pretty incredible experiences for us. Some of them that could be had during the day and some that were exclusive to the night time. One of the most alluring things in the deep playa at dark was a machine known as the “Cuba-tron”. It is visible clearly at over a half mile and draws lots of attention through oscillations of light. Upon arriving at the Cuba-tron the first time, we realized it was sort of a Mecca for people that were doing LSD.I’m sure you can figure out why. (Disclaimer: No, neither of us did any illegal drugs, however, we may have been drunk in public which is also a crime in the state of Nevada)


This thing would light up and the patterns of light would change and randomize and then seemingly come together. Its 3 dimensional nature allowed one to view it from many different angles and garner a different experience from each one. The druggies took full advantage.

Despite being surrounded by people tripping on acid, it was quite a beautiful thing. Dani and I spent quite a bit of time admiring it in our comings and goings. It was near our camp site and so we passed it each night that we went out onto deep playa to see night things.

One of our first nights out we were off to observe a Rubik’s cube. We’d seen the thing the night we set up camp. It was way off on the distance, clearly lit up. However, it was quite a walk and we were tired when we got there. It was surrounded on four cardinal directions by stations where these people dressed strangely stood. And the crowd would interact with these strangers and in turn the strangers would do their bidding of “modifying the cube”. In this way it was a functional rubik’s cube. I’m not sure if it was ever completed. You can see one of the control pedestals on which a stranger was posted.

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After seeing the cube we found our second Mutant Vehicle to ride on. Our aching feet were greatful for a wagon pulled by a 4wheeler covered in fur or something. The wagon itself was styled as a pagoda of some sort with hanging asian lanterns lit in an eerie green color. Buddha sat upon the front of the wagon looking back at us with his golden stare. I captured no photos of this bizarre wagon but it was notable since it was the first ride of any length we took on a MV.

It drove us from the giant Rubik’s cube to the biggest thing out on the deep playa. We had no idea what it was yet, but from a great distance during the day it was ominous and we could see hundreds walking to it. It turned out to be a gigantic slide.

It must have been two to two and a half stories tall. Just a big giant slide. They had canvas set out to sit upon as you went down. Dani and I trekked to the top, waited our turn and sat at the edge of it. She looked terrified. I gave her a pat on the rump and watched her scream down. I prayed I wouldn’t burn my butt and followed suit. At the bottom I had to scoop her up quickly and get out of the way of others.

These big art installations, or “toys”, are generally just set up and left unattended, so who knows if some guy high on mushrooms was going to come down the slide behind us and crash into us. I heard a few people got hurt this year on the slide. I personally saw as many as 8 people across going down at once. Luckily we were safe. And it was fun. And terrific.

On our way home from the slide we played putt putt. Yes. There was a putt putt course out there in the desert. All by itself. I have no photos. But it was strange.

Another night we went to see what this was all about:

Turned out it was a big dance club. And I mean that truly. Huge sound system. Giant projection screens. Thousands… Yes THOUSANDs of half naked people dancing in these huge domes under the desert night sky. Did God look down upon us all and think, “What hath I done?”

There were many more observations to be had. I’m not sure what the order we saw all this was in but take a look at this. I do not know its name, but I call it the flaming booth.

It was quite beautiful. Just a large square pavilion made of precision cut steel and with benches in it to sit upon.

At some point Dani and I hitched a ride on another MV by climbing onto its roof. I’m not even sure what it was anymore. We danced ontop of it. There was a bed up there and we eventually got to sit on it. Driving around we passed stages where people were dancing and huge fireballs were shooting up into the sky. Giant fireballs. Like 30-40 ft into the air. Lit up everything. At about 2000 ft you could feel the heat of them when they blew. Some in time to the music.

The art car brought us way over to 4:00 o’clock which is far from our 8:30 home and it was late. We’d gotten wrapped up in conversation with some other guy from Louisiana it seemed. And so we whistled to get off when we realized our distance. We met up with some other strange woman trying to get back home too and set off together.

Although at first it seemed a long way, walking with this woman wearing a wedding dress and drinking vodka out of a half gallon jug (an honest to God jug) made it tolerable. And little did we know on the way out some of the things we’d cross on foot.

She is beautiful isn’t she? Here she is in the daytime.

Our walk was quite long but things like the woman above inspired us to spend one or two nights exploring more of the city than the deep playa. Hopefully more of that lurked. On our way we stopped at numerous bars and met with a great many people. One bar was abandoned but it was huge! It had a chandelier and comfortable couches. Elaborate sculptures. I wish I had a photo of it but I believe I was too dumbfounded to take one.

Somewhere out in the deep playa we passed something that I can only refer to as the “jellyfish” people.

We also encountered what is known as “Key Note”.

This astounding piece of artwork was a huge man with a key hole for a face. His entire body was made of locks welded together. And behind him he was dragging an enormous key. The rope which was attached from the key to his palm was made of a cable that had been strung with so many keys that you could no longer see the cable itself.

At an event like this you see thousands, maybe even millions, of random and bizarre things. So many that you don’t even give pause when a 3 story boogie manjogs by. But Mr. Key Note made me sit and think and ponder for just a few moments in all the chaos.

More to come. Trying to break these into manageable sizes.

Are you freaked out yet?