Red Wolf is born at Burning Man
A social gravity pulls all walks of life into the barren desert, where the only things in existence are the styles and blossoming spirits of those in attendance at this Mecca of culture. The people are pooled together like dust in the wind, circling and settling in a corner eddy of the world. Layers upon layers of them piled up, creating the most interesting stuff this world has to offer, the kind of stuff dreams are made of. A freedom to outwardly express the life within, right down to the very name the person holds, and as thoroughly as the entire community can reflect back.
Aug. 31, 2009. I pass through the gates of Black Rock City. For eight days this city will burst with the kind of rampant existence only the temporary life can truly appreciate: endless music, dancing, art of all kinds, nudity, culture, and a free spirit that most Americans thought died out with the ’60s. This mortal, makeshift city will thrive for its time, as a temporary oasis from the infrastructure of modern civilization. Burning Man rejects money, instead using karma-based reciprocity system. It does away with any confines of acceptable appearance, and instead invokes a free-form-style aimed at some of the most core institutions of our day-to-day society, breaking things down to the most natural of naked states, and adding, if anything, the individual expression of whatever a person feels like.
A culture like that from the adult mind of Doctor Seuss, sprung from a powdery ground of dust so lifeless and foreign that it could well be the surface of the moon. At night, the electric glow of humanity resonates nuclear colors through the air. The neon lights feel natural to me, completely artificial, but the only thing able to really make sense enough to live in this place, this place where not even insects survive. I pedal my bike along the desert, electronic bass melodies tunnel through the air, growing louder as I approach the domes and parties along the downtown Esplanade. A vehicle looking like a marine ship on wheels pulls past me, lit with endless feet of green and purple wire, music blasting to the world; it is an art car. Bodies dangle from it, dancing in the night sky, carefree, happy, in love with the life they have.
I park my bike, unlocked among thousands of people. All friends, even if never in person, they are all vibe, all life, and all dancing. My body drifts through the rhythms of electronic bass beats, bouncing me from one place to the next, until I venture into the serene space of the open desert. It is a rest for my senses; I am only half surrounded by distant lights and movement under the twinkling stars.
A long bus pulls up to me. It has two parts to it and a hinge in the middle making the purple and yellow body wiggle like a worm. The doors open and I step on. A crowd of people are dancing to the sounds of a DJ at the back of the bus. The air is warm, the most humid I have felt since entering the desert. Bodies are pressed close to each other; beautiful women caped for warmth above outfits of lingerie. The bus rolls ahead, until stopping to spill the party into the cool open air at the foot of humblingly large art structure. We walk under its welded frames of metal piping: lines clung to each other, grown into a circular snowflake of rust and angular size. Within this massive protective cage are three shining eggs made from chips of mirrors, twinkling like the jewelry on a woman’s face. The three eggs lean relaxed into each other, each the size of a man, and with nowhere they would rather be.
I board the bus again, and exit at the next stop. A tree dangling electric fruit stands before the crowd of us. Hand-sized buttons speckle the roots, and when pushed, 10- and 20-foot flames explode out of the branches, lighting the sky and heating the faces of all standing in amazement around this new face of nature. The fires burst forth almost in melody from the human hands in control; distant people dancing the spirits of the flames, warming the lives lived in the wasteland of dust around them.
The bus pulls away again, and I walk to the large domes near my camp. Music pumps into the night air, and familiar faces sweep me along with them. We play in the motion, and find ourselves magically danced to the doorstep of their laser lit RV.
While sitting with my friends atop the mobile home, waiting for the sun to rise over the distant hills to spread light across the flat of the playa, I notice a patch pinned to me. “Red Wolf” is written in a glowing paint, on a purple house-shaped surface. I read it and look up just as the sun peeks its face into my world for the first time. At that moment, the name Red Wolf is born to me. I am a burner, a cell in the body of the great Burning Man, I am Red Wolf. The sun shines in my eyes and across my sleepless body with the gentle caress only the first and last moments of the day can give. Before long, we all must climb down from the RV and seek shelter from pounding rays, shelter in the shaded structures with crowds of dancers. The music never stopped. It churned all through the twilight and straight into the day, for this is Black Rock City, a city that never sleeps.
– Jason Mallory is a freelance writer living in South Lake Tahoe.
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El Dorado County deputies arrested two people on suspicion of grand theft and possession of burglary tools after reportedly finding items linked to catalytic converter thefts in a vehicle during a traffic stop Jan. 13.