You Will Never be Able to Explain


A Week on The Playa

Even looking at the pictures, I can't say what happened for sure.


I picked up my rider, Daniel, at 7:30 in the morning in Berzerkley. Yes, that early. He wanted to leave at 5 am, but this was the best I could do after staying up 'til 2. We packed his shyte on top of my shyte and hit the road. Yeah, I ended up borrowing the truck from Sierra because there was no way the entire MORT camp with a Bucky dome and a kitchen was gonna fit in the Sentra. The drive was going well enough, but when we got to Reno (or was it Sparks?), Daniel realized that he spaced on his warm clothes and had to make a phone call. We got some more water, I had my last burrito of civilization at El Pollo Loco, and was ready to proceed.

Are we lost?

photo © Randal Alan Smith

So we got on this road called Pyramid and followed the signs to Gerlach. The road turned to dirt. "Is this the right way? I don't remember taking a dirt road last year" Along the coast of Pyramid lake, I stopped and got out. The clouds and the color were too much. I grabbed my camera. It jammed, of course. But I turned the battery around and I got a great calendar shot of the lake. The desert loves cameras and makes love to them. With no better suggestion, we continued on.

We arrived at the Playa about 3 pm. In line for the greeter camp, we read the Burma Shave signs. The theme song I selected for our grand entrance was Ray of Light by Madonna. (The stereo in the truck sucked; no base response at all) But then we gave the radio another chance. The first Black Rock station I got was playing "Where the Streets Have no Name", the U2 version. If ever a song were written about the Playa, that's the one. I opened the window to broadcast the joy to the rest of the world and got a mouthful of dust and grit! It was windy and cold. So much that I hesitated a few minutes before disrobing.

I had planned to stake the camp at 3:00 and Uranus, but when I got there, all four corners had been claimed. Furthermore, it just didn't 'vibe' right, and I wanted something more central with traffic. So I dropped off Daniel at his destination of 8:30 and Venus and looked for a space in Alternative Energy camp at 2:00 Earth, but there was no rep to talk with. So I parked and walked out onto the Playa with nothing on but my druid cloak and a smile.

Then It hit me; a rush of kid energy. I was on the Playa and getting the high. The contact high. I call it Playa Yoga. That's when I met Cordelia. She said something interesting enough to stop a streaking druid, and I had an answer to rival it. We got to talking about how I didn't have a camp yet, and no propane for the evening. She invited me back to Spatial Delivery at 4:55 Venus.

After a streaking contact high back to my truck for warmer clothes, I moved the truck to 4:14 Earth where I met the builder of Rainbow Camp across the street. He was decked all in Day-Glo, so I reached into my barter bag and produced for him a fluorescent green fuzzy tissue box cozy with a Cupie doll face on the front. Then I walked over to have dinner with Nick and Cordelia. As if Nick wasn't cute enough, I said something that warranted the reply "Go if you must, stay if you will". The pagan reference was apparently exactly what I needed to hear at that moment. I fell at once in love. I shared some pre-cooked brown rice from a ziplock and they added some dal. We shared so many stories and I can't remember a one. Nick made us some yerba maté and we chatted 'til bedtime. It was just too bloody windy too set up a tent, so instead, I leveled the stuff in the truck to form a bed and slept under the shell.


In the morning I awoke to the sunrise. Yes, just seconds before the sun hit me in the eye from the rearview mirror. The position I slept in was my first orthopedic mistake. I was crumpled up and my feet were hanging out in the cold. Ever need to crack you toes real bad? After a trip to the privy, I started to set up camp. But first, I scored a breakfast of pancakes at Vortile Whorled, next to Spatial Delivery. I set up the solar oven and prepared the stew veggies. Then I chopped cabbage and onions for tsukemono, the Japanese version of kimchee. With the stew in place, I made signs to mark this space as MORT. Then I hobbled back to the front gate to register the camp location, 4:14 Earth, across from the Black Rock Community College.

I think I was naked most of the day. When the wind picked up, I put on the blue kosode. I remember running into Jackie, from Supersnail, at the message boards after someone called me Jesus at the Center Camp fire. I went back to the fire and did some yoga. I believe I had dinner with Nick and Cordelia again. The stew "wasn't quite" and I needed to heat it up. You really have to move the oven to face the sun every 30 minutes at least. And there were clouds that day too. We ate and had yerba maté again and talked 'til bedtime. This time, I set up the tent in the shadow of the truck.

Two Things at a Time

photo © Randal Alan Smith


When I woke up, I immediately started the kimchee and solar cooker drill. Craig and Wendy were due that morning. Surely, I might be awakened by them, but they never showed. To double check, I went back to the front gate to see if the MORT index card was there and left messages at the message center.

Wednesday afternoon on the way back from Center Camp I passed Jackie and Julian. They were moving some load in the hatchback and about to set up camp. "We're building Supersnail over at 3:45 Earth" That was just a half hour from my place! I caught up with them later and helped to raise the sheets and make signage for the photo booth and painting garden. This must have been the day I went blue and yellow, carrying a white photographic umbrella. I was green, and Wasabi Camp was green. So I went over there with some of my cabbage and shared it with the Wasabi ceremony. A cutie on stilts named George passed by and we got to talking solar. My first photo session with Julian happened before I scrubbed off the green color at sunset. For dinner, I repeated solar stew with the help of Sabbo's stove. It went well with their ziplock rice.

Yes, it was Wednesday night that I decided to bond with Supersnail because I didn't have a camp. I moved the truck and left the tent (or was it the other way around?) Anyway, one of these nights, I slept without the tent. I remember fleeing at 4 am. It was so windy that I was afraid MEZ Tower was going to topple. So I dragged the tent over to Supersnail and slept on top of it. The wind wasn't so cold.

Jack with the SLR

photo © Randal Alan Smith


I'm getting confused, because I have green residue in the muumuu pictures; I remember making kimchee at the old location in that outfit, so I guess I didn't fully move until Thursday. I was holding out that long for the rest of my camp to arrive. The lines of time begin to blur from motion.

We went out on a Supersnail photo mission that night, Jackie, Julian and me. Llyra was in top form as an illuminated witch. We went to the Man, and we also got some digital shots at the rainbow arches.

Freaky Friday

Midday, Sierra arrived, in my car, ahead of schedule, and with no Juliet. He had already bonded with Glitter Camp. Good, I wouldn't have to do any baby-sitting. The dome was already built for the painting garden with the help of Eric and some other Supersnails. The opera happened that night. I didn't go anywhere near it. I just disappeared into the night with my digereedoo. This was my schtick by now. Even the sprained knee wasn't going to stop my quest.

Now time speeds up to where I can no longer make any distinctions. Full throttle, burn the man, photographic attack!

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