Thursday, September 9, 2010

BRC 2010, part 1 of ?

Life on the Playa is life inside a kaleidoscope that is inside a carnival calliope that is inside a giant snow globe.

All around is color and lights, constantly moving, shifting, changing; the only difference between day and night is the color of the sky which moves from palest blue through shades of cobalt to midnight and back again. One or two scarves of cloud may appear and millions upon millions of stars, but the blues remain ever constant.

The wheezing old calliope may sometimes slow down, the tune may change slightly, but the sound goes on 24 hours a day. In the brief respites, drums continue like a collective heartbeat.

Late in the day, at about the shift between Robin’s Egg and Cerulean, between 70’s Disco and the evening’s Techno concert, the Titan child who owns the snow globe picks it up and gives it a gentle shake. Fine white dust rises all around, blanking out visibility an arms length in front of your eyes. Alkaline breath, sour, cough, sneeze blood, wait it out. The dust settles, or not, at the child’s whim.

At the center of everything is the Man. Wherever you walk or bicycle, turn to look down the radian roads and he is there. It is impossible to ever be totally lost, even in the confusion of the camps; just go to the nearest intersection, look for the Man and you know where you are. But beyond the Man, at the edge of the world, seeming on the horizon of a much smaller planet, looms the Temple.

In past years, the Temple resembled something close to an edifice, a sacred building, Gothic or Pagoda but still recognizable as a building. This year it was something different, more primordial, not so much a constructed “building” but an organic, found space. Our prehistoric ancestors would have found it familiar, a natural cave or mound perhaps. The structure was in three parts of graduated size. From a distance it seemed natural but closer it was obviously constructed from random sized slats of wood. The larger piece could be entered and held tens of tens of people; other entrances were to spaces sized for a nuclear family or small clan; still others might hold one child or small adult. A “courtyard” space between two sections could be a market place or gathering for larger groups, under the sky but protected from the harsh outside world on all sides by sheltering arms.

No one spoke loudly there. Voices were hushed, in conversations or prayers or chanting or song. One man sat in a corner of the Agora with a drum, playing only for himself; a small group chanted in unison, softly, hardly audible above the wind. On the walls, inside and out, were words left by the visitors. Objects were there too: photos of loved ones living or dead, tokens of lives past or to come, the requisite Teddy Bear, flowers, scraps of lives. It was a place to leave burdens behind.

“I hate you. Why did you leave me? How can I go on without you?”, “I love you now and forever,” “I miss you Daddy.” "I love you Michael. Always. Soul mates." Scrawled on the walls in pen or crayon, scribbled on scraps of paper, inscribed on wooden hearts thoughtfully provided by the creators.

“In Loving Memory of a Failed Marriage, 1976-2006. I forgive you for breaking my heart. I forgive you for stealing my innocence. I forgive you for wasting my time.” My inscribed wooden heart and my wedding ring, tucked into a space between two boards at a spot where the sun would shine from dawn to dusk, were turned to ashes Sunday night.

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