Going to Burning Man has been pretty high on the bucket list for years… ever since I started chatting to an American guy online back in 2003, who was all set to head off to Black Rock City from his home somewhere in New Mexico. His name was Matt.
We chatted so much over webcam that Matt decided to fly to London after the festival to see me. I know, I know, so romantic. And it was. It really was; as soon as he stopped lying on my sofa, staring at the ceiling and making noises that sounded like tiny pieces of his soul, fluttering off, hitting a wall and dying.
Matt lost his mind you see, out there on the playa. He was a dust-splattered shadow of the guy I’d fallen for online; all dewy-eyed and sun-kissed and a little too skinny. It took a full week for him to start resembling the albeit pixellated person I’d been talking to before his time at Burning Man, but more than losing his mind out there, Matt told me, he lost his heart.
“The playa has my heart, Becky!”
I rolled my eyes. I was supposed to have his heart by then; not the frickin desert and a bunch of hippies in feathers and tutus. I didn’t get it. I didn’t understand.
He showed me the photos, soon as he could bare to look at them. They brought him to tears, you see… the memories, the feelings he now associated with being HOME, out there in the dust and the wind, dancing under the sun and stars, having all his new friends call him ‘Tiny Pockets’ – as was his ‘playa name’. I didn’t ask why.
Matt showed me a picture of a frozen foods lorry – the kind supermarkets use to transport ice-cream, peas and pies across countries. It was set up on the dusty, barren flatness of the festival, away from everything else, blurred in a mirage, like the start of a Monty Python episode before the giant foot comes down and squashes it.
Another photo showed the lorry up close. A man in a penguin-costume stood in the open doorway as an icy fog escaped the coldness behind him and attempted to freeze the desert. The penguin was holding a tray of ice-cubes, like canapes.
“He was just giving them away. They were his gift,” said Matt, ever more dewy-eyed as he gazed at the photo. “So many gifts.”
I think I rolled my eyes again. I didn’t get it. I didn’t understand. But little known to me at the time, that penguin, with its frozen gifts in a sun-scorched desert struck a chord somewhere. I researched more about Burning Man. And every year when it came around, I thought of ‘Tiny Pockets’ out there, losing his mind and his heart.
And I wanted to get it. I wanted to understand.
I never got tickets though. I was always too busy. Always too poor. Always too unorganised. Until now. Now I’m finally going to Burning Man and I have no idea if that penguin will still be there, or if Tiny Pockets will be there either (we lost touch after he decided Facebook was evil and he was better off with no friends – or something like that).
Either way, I suppose there will be new wonders to behold. I’ll be the hippy dippy feather-clad freak who’ll stare at walls when she returns. And if I do lose my mind… please know that I probably lost my heart first. And that all things considered, it probably went to a very good HOME.
Stay tuned for updates! And please wish me luck. Thanks x