Life on the Playa

The last time I…

Rode a bicycle – 28 years ago.

Erected a tent – 32 years ago.

Was rolled around in a giant ball-shaped cage – 34 years ago. (Yes there was one – believe it or not – at Camp Tallebudgera – I was about ten years old).

Went roller disco-ing – 34 years ago.

Rode a bicycle through a “white-out” dust storm where I couldn’t see the front wheel of my bike – never. That one lasted about an hour I’d guess, but they occurred frequently throughout the week both day and night.

Climbed the outside of a three storey art sculpture – completely mindless – never. God knows how I made it – but the view was awesome and the self satisfaction was priceless.

Dived headlong onto a quickly moving giant caterpillar art car – never.

Made espresso for paying customers – 12 years ago.

Made espresso for paying customers who were variously dressed in lingerie, body painted, spandex, topless, bottomless, dressed in marching band uniforms or like WW2 air aces, in leather or in nothing at all – never.

Made espresso for paying customers when my two helpers were tripping on ‘shrooms and couldn’t get their shit together – never.

Stood so close to one of many machines that shot propane balls of flame at least twenty feet long, that it seared my stubble – never.

Played dodge-ball with a group of twenty-somethings, in the process discovering that I am a large, slow-moving, soft target – never, but boy did we laugh!

Watched five – 3 and 4 storey buildings – The Metropolis City Art Installation, burnt to the ground by multi-coloured flame (some of the flame was green and cascaded down the side of a building – spectacular!) – never. Incidentally Metropolis city was built, and eventually destroyed, unfunded by a group of wild Aussies, Kiwis and Irishmen – bet they had some interesting “discussions”!

Saw flame twirlers (and twirling flamers) , jugglers, stilt walkers, sword swallowers, yoga classes, musicians, poets, dancers, aerialists, bondage shows, marching bands, French maid drill teams, uni-cyclists on three different stages in the one venue – never. There were also costumed characters but I couldn’t differentiate them from the crowd.

Hitched a ride in colossal moving houses, flamingos, steamships, butterflies, dragons, rhinos and domes – never.

Inscribed the names of loved ones as a last goodbye on a temple that was as moving and held as much sense of reverence as any church, synagogue or mosque I had ever been in. A temple which was burned on the last day of BM 2010 – never.

Watched some guy dressed in what looked like a space suit get surrounded in spectacular lightning-like high frequency electrical current produced by an enormous and extremely loud Tesla coil – never.

Raced after a water truck to stand under the spouting water so I could wash off the desert dust that had coated my body – never.

Lay on the top of an RV in an alcoholic and naturally grown drug induced haze to gaze at a sky illuminated by millions of clearly visible stars unmasked by light or pollution and talk about life with people I had met only a few days prior – well… I’ve done similar, probably about 15 years ago most recently.

Sent a postcard to my boys from an officially registered US Post Office (Black Rock City) that is only open one week a year – never.

Attended a concert – Bliss Dance – featuring a woman inside the 40 foot sculpture that had been built after her likeness – wonderful – never.

Had sex with a woman I’d met only an hour prior – total pre-sex conversation …. a total of about ten sentences… both of us coated in dust rolling around in a 4-person tent on a partially inflated air-mattress – well… again, this used to happen semi-regularly (sans dust, tent and air-mattress) about 18 – 23 years ago. God, they were the days!

Undeniably confirmed for myself that I’m not seeking sex but companionship, partnership and intimacy – known for ages, just needed a reminder. Not over Jess – not sure if I will be.

Danced, pranced and skipped (without any children present) – about 23 years ago.

Watched “Metropolis” in a purpose-built 20 seater theatre in a far corner of the desert – last saw Metropolis about 10 years ago – in a desert? Never.

Watched a sixty foot effigy of a man burn amongst soaring fireworks and massive fireball explosions – never.

Experienced many, many art installations, some interactive some not, scattered over a 2 mile square area – so many ideas, shapes, sizes, colours, materials and concepts, it was hard to take it all in – never.

Was a member of a cashless, “gifting” society (except for coffee and ice; very sensible, very civilized) – never.

Ate a tequila and blood-orange sno-cone made from shaved ice produced from a hand cranked machine – never.

Sang karaoke complete with impromptu back-up singers and dancers whilst slurping on a vodka martini, dressed only in boxers, a cowboy hat and blue fur-pimped sneakers – never.

Saw pole-dancing in at least 10 different clubs/bars/establishments/camps by both sexes – in one day – never.

Swung in a giant bungee-ed seat suspended beneath a giant neon-illuminated pyramid – never.

Stood in line at a hookah bar only to be turned down at the door (as they had run out of their daily allocation of tobacco and alcohol) – the huge security guard didn’t have the heart to tell the guys lined up behind us – so I had to do it – he seemed remorseful and embarrassed. That’s never happened to me before.

Used a porta potty that played “Happy Birthday to You” – never.

Danced at raves with about 5000 other people at venues complete with lasers, giant screens, flame throwers, swing sets, their own Tesla coil, hammocks and climbing structures – never. P.S. There were about 4 or 5 such “clubs” that I saw in BRC. The clubs I went to were Nexus camp and Root society.

Was given such a variety of gifts – necklaces, CDs, hugs, hand painted cards, fridge magnets and address books; meals, stickers, grass, mementos, massages, mistings, lsd, tarot readings and drinks – never. Although hugs from bare breasted twenty-something, perfect- bodied, hard-nippled women with forty-something, paunchy, sex-deprived straight men should not be listed as a gift so much as cited as some kind of modern-day version of a medieval torture.

Was power washed by foam standing in an enclosed booth with several other people – never.

Discussed the merits of a drive-by shooting range with an original “burner” – never.

Walked for 3 miles, alone, out into the desert past many art installations, past a glorious temple and a giant 60 foot man doomed to immolation, to sit quietly and look back at a glowing city of 50,000 people, in a place that has no electricity, sewerage or running water, to cry with joy and hope, to cry over lost loves and people everywhere and the fate, dreams and wishes I have for my children – never.

After acclimatizing on my first day in Black Rock City – none of the above seemed especially remarkable.

Special thanks to my travelling companions from the Dragon Wagon.

Dragon Pilot – a 67 year old retired US Army pilot, our intrepid leader who has a penchant for pink mini-skirts, multicoloured tights and an alluring form-fitting hot pink top.

Hondo – a 67 year old retired Delta Airlines worker who also specializes in hand massages – he’s figured out the game.

Chow – a 53 year old civic engineer and artist – also known to his friends as FOS – short for Full Of Shit – said in an entirely loving way.

CrAcKeR – a 40 year old personal trainer and iron-woman who found her new boy – an architect, who lives six blocks from her real residence, on the playa this year.

Mousse – a 35 year old Canadian software engineer – is that right dude? – Mousse is very, very wild when stoned.

Dr. Harsh-Mellow – a 53 year old Doctor/Neurology specialist, all-round good-guy and pervert .

QT Pie – a 21 year old student from The Netherlands who hopefully discovered love -she re-routed her travel plans to be with her new playa found Californian boyfriend.

Moonshine – a 25 year old designer/photographer also from The Netherlands who virtually upon arrival became Manager at the photographic department of the Media Centre on the playa – never to be seen again.

Thanks also to my many new friends Chantal, Jym, Luis, Louise and all the crew from Fidget Feet AKA Sucking Diesel Camp, the coffee crew at Centre Camp where I volunteered, Coffeebean, Josh and Vanessa – my tripping pals. To George the tiki-bar Aussie burner who gave me tips par excellence about “how to get rooted more often on the playa” and lastly but by no means least, to the beautiful Kory who couldn’t find the Dragon Wagon at 7:50 and G again to save her life – don’t worry darlin’, half the time neither could I.

This is a really good video compilation of the event

About Simon

Simon Houghton creator of The Bloke Show started life as a baby, going on to become a boy and then a man, at which time he became an actor. As time passed he went on to be a director, later still he became a sales guy, then a business owner. Most recently he regressed and became a writer. Then a driver, then an actor again. Decisiveness is not one of his strong suits.
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