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Dear Diary + Mr. Fluffy pen,
Once I’d secured a meet-n-greet with the Temple wizard himself, Mr. David Best, I needed to get my silly head on straight in a jiffy. As tantalizing as it was to catch that Sesame Street Live w/ Kanye celebrity jam out at the trash fence, I wisely elected to stay in for the night with a sixer of Yoo-hoo’s. You know, figured I should prolly whirl together a list of hard-hitting questions instead. To avoid being pulled away by any other filthy temptations, I chained myself to the inside of my tent with a pair of sex cuffs this one peckerwood “gifted” me. (I’m actually still wearing them as we speak. Kinda makes me look like a superhero!)
The next morning I was able to navigate back to where that intrepid neon vibrator had directed me yesterday – the Temple crew camp (I wonder what ever happened to that lil go-getter?). After arriving, I checked in with a nice French lady who was Best’s media “handler.” That’s because even Temple wizards require a lil muscle to filter out the “riff-raff” (Word on the street was if you got out of line, someone beat you senseless with a bag of cucumbers or whatever’s clever. Don’t ask me which street because I have no effing clue.)
As I took a seat under a shade canopy, Best was still being interviewed by some press person woman. The handler informed me once they were done, she’d have to check his temperature to see if he was “still in the mood to talk.” I was like, “What a damn minute – WHAT?” I gave up an exclusive superjam just to be here entirely way too early. Don’tcha know that was “one night only?!” Not gonna lie here Mr. Fluffy, I became pretty super duper nervous. I’d done my homework and all, but what if this Best fellow didn’t want to play ball anymore? What if he went all “Outtie 5,000 bitches” and teleported himself to wherever Temple wizards teleport themselves to?! It didn’t matter! I had to pull it together or else. Besides, trying to decipher my scatter-brained notebook of jibberish quickly became quite a fucking task in itself. Jesus, what the hell did they put in those filthy Yoo-hoo’s anyways?!
Perusing through my plethora of notes, there were waaaaaay more questions than I could’ve ever needed. Like way more. As I desperately shifted pieces around in my groggy head like a game of cockamamie Tetris, Best surfaced out of freaking nowhere. In fact, his sudden appearance dang near startled me right out my fancypants folding chair. With intense blue eyes, a glowing white beard and a dust bespeckled uniform, the man possessed quite a striking aura about him indeed.
Upon introducing myself for the 2nd time, I attempted to explain the purpose for our meeting. How earlier I’d wandered inside the Temple without any effing clue as to what I was getting my sweet, supple body into. How after absorbing the bizarre energy oozing from its clutches, I scurried off into the desert void sobbing like a lil ole Nancy. How ultimately I just needed someone to start making sense of it all! Fortunately, I avoided throwing in the bit about that boob duping me into searching for “Slappy” the filthy Temple dog. By the looks of his steely demeanor, I could tell the man had zero inclination for any such Masterpiece Theatre tomfoolery. He actually reminded me of my long gone grandpappy, who had just so happened to be a POW from World War II. Indeed, the two carried the same no-nonsense, low threshold for bullshit kind of vibe. Good lord Mr. Fluffy pen, as if I wasn’t nervous AF to begin with. Did I mention the part about him possibly being a wizard? Perhaps it would be wise NOT to inquire about the total lack of flashy-blinky time or Camel Toe Fashion Show action at the Temple. I figured it would be best to slowly ease into this one:
“Let’s see here, where sh-should we, um…Oh ok, he-here we go. Ahhhh yes, I really like this one! For someone unfamiliar with the Temple, like me, they might think that it’s…”
“A bunch of spiritual bullshit. And that’s fine.”
(Before I could even get my very first question totally out of the gate, he just finished it off for me. Gee-thanks Mister! In fact, my level of queasiness with the whole situation only got worse when all my stupid notes fell into a cluttered mess on the ground. But damnit, I had to keep the ball rolling. Just had to. Winging it with the first thing that popped into my head, I winced as each word trembled from my mouth.)
“What do you have to say to the guy who wonders ‘Isn’t it a bit audacious to think you have the divine right to build a temple?’“
Once the question finally rolled out, a rather unsettling pause followed. Oh for fuck’s sake, why’d I go with that one? Stupid, stupid, stupid. Bracing myself for impact, I…
“You just have to have better cards than me. That’s all. I’m ready to step down anytime someone’s got a better card. If you’ve got a better hand than mine – then play it.”
Oh my goodness! Did he just make a cryptic reference to down ‘n’ dirty Friday night UNO ragers between all the Temple wizards? Ahhhh – the plot thickened. Even though his candor caught me off guard, at least my urge to faint had subsided a smidge. The overall mood still felt a tad tense though. I’d have to toss him a few icebreakers to keep loosening up the air.
“Soooooo like what inspired you to roll out of bed one day and say to yourself, ‘Hey! I think I want to build a Temple today’?”
“Oh, I didn’t think I wanted to build a Temple at all. I was just going to build something. It was mindless. We’d already been planning when Michael Hefflin got killed on a motorcycle a week before the event. So that thing we were going to burn became a tribute to him. And it evolved into a Temple from that. We had no intention… If Michael hadn’t been killed, it would’ve just been a thing we burned. It wouldn’t have had any thought of death on it. The fact that Michael was killed gave us an opportunity to grieve. If that hadn’t had happened, who knows.”
I’m not gonna lie Mr. Fluffy pen, I was REALLY thrown for a loop this time. So that’s where this came from? It felt like I’d just asked an entirely way too personal question without ever meaning to ask an entirely way too personal question. Good golly! Apparently I’d just stepped into the rather awkward realm of being – that guy. Before getting completely turned around inside my own mind – I kept my poker face – immediately transitioning to salvage whatever ounce of momentum we’d established.
“Ever since then you’ve been like the ‘man’ around here when it comes to leading the Temple build. I hear you’ve done 9 of ‘em. When it comes to finding inspiration each go around, how does that work? Are you a human vessel channeling an extraterrestrial being or whatever’s clever?”
“No, I’m an artist. I’ve been an artist working for, shoot, 50 years. Maybe 40? So the design and all that is pretty automatic for me. When it comes to the inspiration, the requirements are that it has to be a building that can accommodate 40,000 people. It has to be beautiful. It has to look like a temple because our community identities with temples. If it were a geodesic dome, it wouldn’t work as a temple. It’s gotta have that kind of religious bullshit to it. It has to be built in 2 1/2 to 3 weeks. So it’s gotta be designed to be put together pretty easily. For the other requirements, one of the classic ones I say is that it has to be so delicate that a young woman who has been raped can come in and use it. And it has to be strong enough that it can handle that weight. So there’s a combination of building both a strong building and delicate building at the same time. And that’s the only requirements. With the material, you’re looking at a limited budget. So it may be $100,000 or $120,000 for material. It used to be cheaper, but you can’t get stuff anymore. Scrap is hard to buy. So you’ve gotta build within a budget. The image of it comes out of years of building temples. This year’s Temple is all made out of just surplus 2 x 4’s I found in a palette factory. It’s just scrap. I think it’s really important that the Temple not cost a lot of money. To me, it’s inappropriate to spend so much money on something. There’s people out of work. There’s people who have no homes. People who are losing their homes. To spend a lot of money on a Temple would be… Inappropriate.”
Now we were cookin’. Even though I was halfway tempted to inquire into the meaning of this “religious bullshit” he spoke of, I was NOT about to fiddle fart around with a good thing. Don’t do it. Don’t you dare do it! Moooooving on.
“Is this Temple building business like a form of release or therapy for you? Why the heck are you even doing this?”
“Well it’s really therapeutic when it’s done. It’s cathartic when it’s done. It’s just a pain in the ass to build the Temple. It’s nothing but work. You have to juggle 125 people’s personalities. You have to embrace and care about a crew. You have to get all the materials and all that crap together. The transportation. The trucks break down. The equipment breaks down. So there’s nothing in that. The best part of it is when it’s over. I like doing it… But it’s not… Well, you do get something. I haven’t seen it this time just yet. But when I see something that’s written in there… A set of car keys. I saw a picture of a car crash once where someone’s sister had been killed. And there were a set of car keys in there. That’s what is cathartic. That’s my reward.”
“Do you ever have days where you’re deep in the trenches trying to figure out how to put the pieces to this ‘thing’ together, where your mind wanders and you say to yourself, ‘How the freaking hell are we going to pull this one off?'”
“No. Never doubt the crew. I’ve got the most incredible group of people working with me. We never fail. That’s not to be arrogant or prideful. It’s just that I know the competence of the people I work with.”
At that moment, from what I can recall, Best needed to hit the pause button so he could go eat a bowl of cereal. However, whether he was a Frankenberry or Count Chocula kinda guy was not the central question I was left to ponder. It was much more along the precarious lines of: Will he even come back? In the meantime, wizard diversion tactic or not, he’d summoned a crew guy person named “Tree” to “keep me company.” Jumping right into conversation, Tree mentioned this was his 6th time to be on Best’s team and how they’d been out there for 21 intense days, working non-stop to get the Temple up and ready for the public. Yes, Best had touched on it. But goddamn Mr. Fluffy pen, I had no idea they threw it together that freaking fast. What is this – Jimmy John’s? Here I’m thinkin’ these construction peoples had been out here assembling the wooden colossus for at least a couple months. At least. Right? Riiiiiiiight? Good golly, I needed to know how did everyone keep from strangling each other…
“I’ll tell you exactly what we do. We’ve been there with every Temple build. A few days before finishing, there are people getting grouchy, people getting tired… People starting to pass out. We stop. Everybody stops. And sometimes it takes quite awhile to get everybody to stop working. It takes awhile to pull them together. But we acknowledge that this is the final push. We’ve got lots of frayed nerves and we need to remember why we’re here… These are powerful healing vessels… So we start going around and a lot of people speak up about why they’re here building the Temple. And they share stories. And it’s a real powerful way to rejuvenate the energy of the crew.”
Shortly after finishing, Tree was pulled away to transport a golf cart full of ice or whatever. As I sat waiting, anxiously wondering if Best would return, the magnitude of the Temple operation hit me like a bag of French cucumbers. Although I was rattled as all get-out by his demeanor, it struck me that I might’ve been off about this Best. Yes, he was really gosh darn surly. Yes, he might’ve been a wizard. But just from our brief back-and-forth, I could see plain as day he’d been ridden golly heck ragged, only to be put up wet like a Lebanese donkey on prom night. Ok, ok, so I super duper fucked up that analogy. Bottom line is – the man had damn near no gas left in his tank. Alright, so I was wrong. Ya happy, Mr. Fluffy pen? Indeed, Best had been carrying around the entire god forsaken weight of bat-shit crazy Burning Man on his 70 year old shoulders for three long, brutal weeks just to get the thing up’n’ready for the wacky masses – just to set the beast ablaze a few days later. Now that’s just bonkers! Maybe it was just me Mr. Fluffy, but I had a hankerin’ this Temple business was a pretty dang big deal. Look, everyone and their Sparkle Pony had come all the way out to the middle of Palookaville, Nevada to drop off their dirty laundry like it was the freaking ghost receptacle from Ghostbusters for a strong reason. But I still couldn’t wrap my head around why it existed at Burning Man of all places. And what about the Temple’s gave it this baffling, supernatural-like presence? One way or another, I reckon there were still plenty more layers to be unraveled from this Temple conundrum…CONTINUE TO SIDE B