Hey mister, got any PIE?
We were somewhere around Reno when the drugs began to take hold...

Did I say that? Or just think it? The mind plays funny tricks on you in the desert; making you quote lines from Hunter S. Thompson books is one of those tricks. We went to Burning Man. Here’s some of what happened...

Main article, layout by Tjames Madison
Photos courtesy
Sensory Input Overload


BLACK ROCK CITY, NV — Why were we out here, anyway, 20 miles from the nearest phone and god knows how far from the nearest hot shower? Does anybody really drive 400 miles to hunker down under a flimsy canvas awning in the vain hope of getting some relief from the 100-degree-plus heat and unforgiving sun, the same celestial beast that scorched this awful place into a warped caveman drawing of a lake, a flat bed encrusted with moondust and cracked gaps the size of your thumb?  I think there was a question there, but it disappeared into the night, along with the last, lingering strains of Frank Black singing about the latest in dynastical facial hair styles...

“Listen to this part! Fu Manchu! Dig it!” I exclaimed all this at Evan while he bravely tried to humor me. We were all cracking up and we still couldn’t see the Man. It was late and we had been on the road for the better part of a lifetime. Not for the first time to come this weekend, we looked back at an event that had taken place just a few hours previous and were unable to comprehend that it had happened this week, let alone in the same day. We bought our groceries in Fairfield... I remember that pretty clearly, because we all bought hats there... no, that was in Wadsworth, a little truck stop town 30 miles east of Reno... no, maybe that was in Reno, at the Albertsons market where Special Ed and Zach huddled paranoid like thieves while the local cops cruised the parking lot for drunks. “You wimps!” I bellowed at them. “You have nothing to hide from these officers! We are going to burn your sins away in good time!”

Evan got out and walked Dude around (Dude was a little remote-controlled 4x4 he bought at Fry’s while we were waiting for Splicer to hurry up and buy the damn camera... more on that later). We were getting antsy and impatient and it was already way past midnight, and we weren’t even out of Reno yet.

Reno is a strange town. It’s like a miniature Vegas, except staffed by Normal People, not runaways and rejects from showbiz academies like Vegas seems to be filled with. The clerks in the Albertsons seemed perfectly normal to me; I never felt the need to mace them. Also, they have slot machines stacked up at the front of the store with a genuine croupier in attendance: “Hello, sir, I seem to have won all the money in your Albertsons slot machine. Could you please provide me with a large cup with which I may carry it out of your fine establishment?”

There was a big pile of somebody’s puke by Ed’s truck. We checked to make sure it wasn’t one of ours and resumed our journey. We had really only stopped to buy a carton of really bad cigarettes, so we got back on the road and geared it toward the weird place in the desert we seemed determined to find.


Part One: Gerlach or bust
Part Two: Naked yoga
Part Three: Piss Clear
Part Four: Ishtar
Part Five: Pizza in the desert
Part Six: The Man Burns
Part Seven: Hangover Camp

Burning the Man, compulsively
 by Splicer


12 (or 15) Things I Learned
at Burning Man


Travels with Dude
by ESP (coming soon)

Laying in supplies

Laying in supplies in Fairfield

This took like two hours to do, and we spent well over $200. Well, someone did - I chipped in a measly 20-dollar-bill. Note beer selection. We did okay considering what you’re stuck with at a Food4Less in Fairfield. (Click for larger version)

Reno Boy Special Edward

Reno Ed

“Let’s just go, dammit.”

We sped past town after town, eating up miles and the endless darkness ahead. After stopping for hats, of course. I knew next to nothing about Burning Man — just what I had gleaned from the few reports I’d seen in the press about the event, notably the infamous Bruce Sterling article in Wired. Everything I’d heard turned out to be wrong, fortunately, but I didn’t know that yet, and I spent a lot of the trip wondering if some speed freak would try to throw me on top of a big pile of wood and set me on fire.

I gave Evan a pill to help calm his nerves. Splicer made a face. Well, I couldn’t see him, because he was in the back seat, but I bet he made a face. It didn’t matter, though. We crested a ridge 17 miles outside the small town of Gerlach, NV, and saw, for the first time, Black Rock City, the playa, and the glowing body of the Man. The sky was starting to lighten as we pulled up to the gate.

Touch the puppet head

Part Two — The Arrival