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Dear Diary + Mr. Fluffy pen,
Strategically somersaulting my way into the plaza of a Temple I had once swore off infinity x 100,000 million (no gotcha’s), I found myself having to exert every morsel of self-restraint not to let my focus wander. “Just don’t make eye contact. Don’t you dare look at the Temple!” Good lord Mr. Fluffy, never-ever in my wildest wet dreams did I imagine a homework assignment being so freaking hard. Stupid, stupid field trip! I hate you homework!
Carefully walking through the scene unfolding outside the massive edifice, I quickly opted to recede into the “woodwork” where I could quietly listen and observe. Picking up from where my last Temple visit left off, I soon came across a seemingly perpetual procession of Burner peoples who were altogether down in the golly heck dumps. Why these Gloomy Gus’s were so stinkin’ sad was still the central conundrum I could not seem to wrap my head around. And as much as I wanted to reach out and touch someone or turn on my filthy heartlight or whatever’s effing clever, the fear of doing so was too damn much, I tell ya. In my current state what good could I possibly bring to their situation anyways? Nevertheless, the simple act of watching from afar was enough to keep me present. To keep from running off like a total pussyface sissypants toward the trash fence, that is.
While in the midst of minding my own dang business – of keenly shielding my eyes well away from those of the Temple – I began to picking up on odd details I hadn’t noticed on my first trip. They came in the form of what must have been a colossal game of Jenga. A never-ending arrangement of miniature wooden clues poking their heads out at me from the Temple’s elaborate exterior. Perhaps mystery riddles no one but I could see. Whether they were nuggets of wisdom or cryptic forewarnings, it’s like they were calling out. Caaaaaaaaaalling ouuuuuuuuuut tooooooooooo meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.
You want me to “Break the Spell Be Free?”
Ahhhhhhh geeeez, you’re the greatest. Like thanks for the hot tip! Wait…hold on – there’s more?!
“You don’t just find the magic, you have to make the magic?”
Well god damnit, what’s it gonna be? You want me to be free AF or rub filthy magic all over somebody’s nipples? Jesus Mr. Temple, why must you be so demanding of me!
As much as I wanted to throw one of those blocks at that god forsaken mariachi machine circling the Temple, I resisted the urge. Besides, there was a super duper kickass game of Jenga going. Wouldn’t wanna mess that up. No, OF COURSE NOT.
But get this Mr. Fluffy, the clues didn’t stop there. Oh no, they most certainly did not. The more I perused through the gallery galore, the more those puzzling messages went from the realm of Hallmark taint tickler to being on the level of downright head-scratcher poppycock. In fact, I was so unimaginably bewildered by one that I completely forget to take a picture of the debacle. It was a two-paneled cardboard collage whatever the hell dedicated to – you guessed it – the fan base of the Cleveland Browns. Don’t even ask me what a “Brown” is, because I have no fucking clue.
With fuzzy pictures taken straight from a freaking TV set, the words below waxed filthy poetic about these events in the fabric of time called “The Drive” and “The Fumble.” How apparently this “football team” hadn’t won the NFL since the Johnson administration and the makeshift science fair project was somehow, some way going to absolve this thing called a “Dawg Pound” of its stupid misery. And I’m standing there like, “Who the golly fuck…came up with this?” No-no, don’t worry Mr. Fluffy, that’s a rhetorical question. Look, no intake of baby carrots or fun-time jello shots was gonna solve that hot doozey. Good lord, such loathsome filth!
Before becoming entirely entangled, I quickly disengaged myself from that hopeless quandary and power walked my ass as fast away from it as possible! However, bizarre interruption aside, the Temple just haaaaaaaaaaad to keep telling me its saucy lil weirdo secrets. I shit you not, regardless of my vaunted efforts to completely avoid eye contact with the face of the Temple, that haunted clubhouse was bound and determined to get through to me. “Ohhhhhh you again! Now what the hell do you want?!”
This time around though, there was something quite alluring about the next block I encountered. In fact, the lil go-getter was so low to the dusty as all get-out ground that I had to crouch to get a better gander. Indubitably, the piece of scrap wood beckoned louder than any other in this ongoing Hardy Boy fortune cookie series. For it had found a way to penetrate through all those residual layers of unease, striking a chord.
Find Stillness in the Chaos
Where the “Stillness” was located or what “Stillness” even meant in the first place was beyond this peckerwood. Nonetheless, it resonated some sliver of truth inside. And it was right then, just as a flash of internal silence sparked within, my eyes opened. Standing directly in front of me were two brilliant looking poles with light dancing all along them. Ahhhhhhhh, but what could they be? Gazing straight up, I tried to comprehend the beams. For these were not giant metal toothpicks or a pair of extra-terrestrial antennas. They were stilts. And whoever was atop the things had a staple gun in his hand!
Wait a minute – had the circus come to town? Of course not, nu uh, no way – not a chance. The circus at Burning Man? C’mon, get the fuck outta here. I mean, look, talk about a big ole snooze-fest. Am I right or am I right?
It didn’t effing matter. He had a staple gun, I tell ya! Oh yeah, and in case you didn’t get the memo, he was wearing stilts too. Fucking stilts! No-no, not some knock-off designer bullshit from the Sav-mart in Reno. These were the real deal. But what in the name of Barnum & fucking Bailey could this guy be doing? Well, I’ll tell ya here in a minute, Mr. Fluffy. If you’d just calm down and not get your Carmen SanDiego bikini briefs in a lil bind already. Ugggggh, journaling about Burning Man is so much hard work! God damnit Larry Hagman, why’d you have to invent this lunacy?
So yeah, where was I? As much as I wanted to get down to the bottom of this crazy stilts & staple gun caper, it was gonna take some good old-fashioned desert sleuthing first. Don’t even start with me, Mr. Fluffy pen! Look, I was too gosh darn dumbfounded by this dude’s presence to simply just approach him straight out of the blue. Get with the program already. Taking a step back or 58, I proceeded to non-creeper shadow this fascinating fellow around the outside of the Temple. Yes, such a feat can be done. For the better part of half an hour, I jotted down mental notes as he glided back and forth like between different compartments of that tree house façade. All the while, floating in and around peoples without them even noticing. Freaking show-off!
Every once in awhile he’d casually reach down to some random person who’d hand him a mysterious note or a picture, only to staple them above all the other assorted visual potpourri plastered across every conceivable nook and cranny on the altered beast better known as the Temple. Wheeeeeeeeew, hold on, lemme catch my breath. And then, aaaaaaaand then he’d golly heck reach right back down to give these same peoples a hug. Now that’s just bonkers. Like who does that?
Although his elevated prowess quickly became for me a source of ever-increasing piqued interest with a smidge of glee thrown into the mix, I couldn’t quite figure out what the heck was happening here. Yes, this gentleman was a staple gun dynamo from fucking Mars. Yes, his stilts were bedazzled with diamond sequin sparklies. But the part that got through to me the most, even without being privy to the nitty-gritty details, was him performing a service of some kind – to complete rando’s. And these weren’t just any ole rando’s either. They were the same type of folks I’d seen upon first stumbling into this confusing quagmire. They were quite upset about something, alright. They were…drifting…lost in the chaos. Perhaps the same chaos my goofy ass had momentarily found “stillness” in. Whatever that means.
One way or another – it was time to stop fucking around already. I’d been beating around the bush for long enough. Stupid bush. I hate you bush! Pffffffffffffft! It was at that moment when I decided to cautiously mosey on over to this stilt person extraordinaire, whether I had any giant posty-note pictures to give him or not.
“Excuse me! Hey! I know you can hear me up there. Don’t you dare act like you can’t see meeeeeeeee!”
After finally getting his attention, the peculiar man slowly maneuvered down to my eye level, greeting yours truly with a serene smirk. Indeed, there wasn’t even the slightest air of “who the golly fuck are you?” or “hey, you’re not wearing stilts, get the hell out of here you asshole!” I mean, c’mon Mr. Fluffy, surely these salutations happen everyday. Right? Instead, this chap had a curiously warm glow about him that I couldn’t quite put my finger on.
“Ok, I’ve been kind of following you around – no creeper – for the past few minutes. Just a few. Pinky swear promise with baby carrots on top.”
Stilts guy: “Uh huh.”
“So I have to ask. What’s with the stilts, man?”
Stilts guy: “Well I’m a circus artist. I worked for Cirque du Soleil for quite some time and…”
“Ahhhhhh, you don’t sayyyyyyyyy…”
As we continued getting further acquainted, this fellow who went by the name “Eros” shared with me how he’d come to the Temple with his partner, David. Damn it, why didn’t get a Temple partner buddy? However, before I even had a chance to inquire into what the hell had been going on for the past 30 minutes, he started speaking to me in a very matter of fact way as if I already knew (FYI BTW – I didn’t know).
Eros: “For me, Cirque du Soleil was sort of my dream job. Once I got that and realized that it unto itself was not happiness, there was that burning question. Like ‘what is happiness?’ So I’ve been experimenting with all kinds of things. I was sober for 4 years just trying to figure out what happiness is. As far as I can tell, this is the closest you can get… and it’s not an ecstatic, screaming, neurotic, passionate battle cry. It’s just a soft, sweet smile and a hug. I just love it, man. I’m living for this right now.”
“But what the heck are you doing here exactly?”
Eros: “His parents. He lost pretty much the rest of his family this year. The Temple is a really big part of our trip. So this is what we’re doing together.”
Good lord, Mr. Fluffy, the words were getting through, but I still had absolutely no idea what the golly heck he was talking about. It’s like we were in the middle of this nebulous conversational limbo game. We might’ve been on the same page, but I was at the very top while he kept getting lower and lower to the freaking bottom. Apparently the utterly perplexed look on my face was enough for his partner to step in.
David: “I lost both of my parents rather suddenly within 6 days apart…”
I don’t know what it was about this place, but apparently everyone I came across had no reservations whatsoever. It’s like, do I have a large neon sign on my back that says “All Secrets Welcome Here?” Whether it was a secret or not, both of these men, whom I’d only met a few minutes earlier, had zero qualms opening up to me.
David: “I was the only one left in my family. I was the one responsible for doing the funerals. I was responsible for needing to speak at the funerals… I almost had to turn my emotions off in order to get through it or I would’ve fallen apart.”
Even though I was still trying to piece together the whole story in my mind, the edges of the puzzle were fortunately becoming a little less jagged. Before I had a chance to interject though, he jumped ahead.
David: “When I came upon the Temple… as you enter in, there was just the atmosphere of the air going through it. The energy of Burning Man… but taking on a quiet tone. And I walked in and saw people here who were me. I was seeing other people who were in the same situation as me.”
As his voice began to crack and tremble, Eros quickly placed a hand on David’s shoulder. Although it took him a few moments to regain his composure, he carried on.
David: “It just made me feel at one with everyone. I wasn’t being judged. I wasn’t judging. I wasn’t having to be the strong son. I wasn’t having to be the one that holds it together. I could totally let go. It gave me a safe place to just… calmly fall apart.”
At that juncture is when I finally caught up. The big picture, the little picture along with every confusing frame of reality in between. Things were aligning. I got it. Indubitably, my entire week’s worth of seemingly unrelated, wacky Burner fun-time absurdity had somehow led me to this. Yes, the Temple might’ve been a black hole straight to Antarctica. Yes, there might’ve been tiny elves hosting an intergalactic leapfrog tournament in the attic. Yes, the Temple might’ve wanted to defile my soul without even taking me out for ice cream sandwiches first. Ohhhh, the nerve! However, none of that mystical tomfoolery made a damn bit of difference to this peckerwood. Maybe I’m going out on a limb here, but the Temple was, was… oh for fuck’s sake, where was I going with this? Right, I remember now.
This moment of truth I was having allowed me to see how the Temple was a refuge of sorts where anyone and everyone could come release anything and everything that was, you know, haunting them. As the fancypants sign at the front door read, people could – enter and be freeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee. God damnit, why didn’t I think of this earlier? Okay listen Burning Man – quit feeding me filthy jello shots every single waking nanosecond of the fucking week already!
But wait, the moral of the story wasn’t the fact it took me 5+ days just to scratch the surface of the beast better known as the Temple. Crazy, I know. You see, there was still plenty more to this wild stilts & staple gun caper. All I know is, it would’ve been pretty dang easy for these two chaps to just show up, let it all hang out and then get the fuck out of Palookaville. It was when they first visited the Temple a few days earlier though that they took the process one step further, even if not originally intended. Ahhhh, the plot thickens.
You see Mr. Fluffy, by Wednesday afternoon the Temple had become so gawl dang inundated with memorials out the wahoo that any notion of real estate along the walls was non-existent. To many of those who had anxiously made a pilgrimage with tributes in tow, ready to finally let go, the weight of the situation must’ve quickly become unbearable. That is unless, you happened to know someone with a pair of stilts and a staple gun.
For it was after locating a home for David’s parents high above what had come before, Eros was tapped on the shoulder by a person whom he’d never met. A woman with a wedding dress possessing a note to her deceased husband. She had been wandering around the Temple for quite some time, desperately searching for an opening. Without hesitation, Eros mounted those glorious circus beams from Mars, soon finding a clearing in the rafters and I suppose in turn some form of closure for this “stranger.”
Before ya knew it, whether it was a picture or anything, one person after another was calling upon their spontaneous services. And what started, as a chance for David to unburden himself of any lingering dark emotional matter became an opportunity to help unburden those they came in contact with as well. They were throwing a lifeline of “Stillness” to the chaotic psyches of these once total rando’s. You could see it in their tear-drenched, spinning eyes as plain as day. And it was one of the darndest damn things I’d witnessed all week. You know, besides watching the man in the tutu outfit get in a starting contest with the Temple. Oh yeah, and that one time when I got invited to a pink naked laser foam party by God, who might actually be a tranny, while chatting on a pay phone. Ok, ok, ok, you get the point already. There’s A LOT to “take in” here. Oh my goooooodness!
After spending the lion’s share of my afternoon floating in and around the Temple’s wonder-bosoms, these two humans I’d befriended gave me a strong glimpse into the possibilities of a space I once could only fathom as quite surreal.
Indeed, it was a rather profound revelation for yours truly: the idea that in some way, somehow a stranger could heal a stranger. And it made me feel ever more connected to people in their suffering, more of a bond, than in mindless jubilee.
Good lord, what will Burning Man think of next?!
Sure enough, whether I’d officially completed my long and unwinding Temple research bonanza project or not, this I knew:
I was now ready to speak with this David Best.
Lost in Sound Publishing Note: Join us next week for the culminating episode of “The Blissful Idiot goes to Burning Man,” as he meets for a fascinating interview with David Best, the designer of the Temple.
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