Burn the Man!

Playing with fire at the 1997 Burning Man festival

I walked into the desert to calm down and get a panorama view. Hualapai Playa looked like a village sacked by Mongol hordes. Dark silhouettes danced around dozens of fires in the distance. On the Burning Man main stage, the San Francisco galactic funk band Beyond Race rocked a manic crowd. The covered-wagon thing rolled up on a huge, wooden duck and promptly flambeed the fucker. I dropped by a tent full of strobe lights, mirrors and foam bats, then made one last pass at Bianca's Smut Shack, where a five-way sex show was well under way. Big deal. By then, my senses were cauterized. I was beyond shock. I was burned out. It was over.

Monday morning, word around camp was that Burning Man organizers had taken in enough money to cover their costs with the county, but were still 50 grand in the hole. I resolved to write them a check once I got home, then followed the Moonies in Beelzebus as we plowed through the deep sand on an emergency access road that had been opened to relieve traffic pressure on the main exit.

Once I hit the highway, I kept my radio tuned to Radio Free Burning Man until it faded out 10 miles down the road. I set my tuner to scan and watched the digital numbers scroll until they locked on a talk-radio station out of Reno. Former U.S. Congressman Bob Dornan was guest-hosting the Oliver North show, ranting about a ". . . liberal conspiracy afoot to create a subversive, almost pagan devotion to life in the fast lane."

I laughed.

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