Burning Man: Chapter 3: The Cast
Just like most things in life, it's the people who leave the biggest impressions. Burning Man is no different.
The people you meet there are beautiful, crazy, interesting, deep and human in the highest order. I have several who left impressions on me in terms of lessons they taught me and a good way to TRY to encapsulate the gamut of people there. Here's the cast I have in mind that I will bullet point and they appear in no particular order. Remember that everyone has a "Playa Name" and I'm not even using the names that they used there to greatly protect identities:
Dr White & Divia
The Drug Dealer
The Assassin (I'm serious)
Hot Lesbian Couple (oh yeah)
Brad: Let's get started with Brad who was our neighbor. My first morning there while I was outside of our RV sitting under the overhang and playing guitar by myself, immediately to my left a figure emerges from his tent. The guy had about chin-length jet black hair, natural silky dark skin and a few tattoos covering a quarter of his torso. One of them was a dragon as I recall going up his side and back. It was beautiful. He was absolutely ripped. You could see every muscle move subtly with every movement. Not in a way that was too much but in a way that was like Bruce Lee: effortless and natural. How do I know all this? He was naked as the day he was born. This was still my first morning so I wasn't completely used to seeing people in the buff as regularly as I will have by the end of it. We didn't speak at the time but we did later.
His name was Brad and he was a personal trainer in San Francisco. He specialized in natural medicine and roots. He introduced me to a couple that knocked out a vicious hangover that made both me and Raven believers.
At first his energy was a bit much but I soon found out his depth and how incredibly sharp he actually was. We talked about philosophy, medicine, exercise, the universe and chicks. Mostly chicks, in retrospect. There are scattered encounters with Brad as the week progresses but that's who that is.
Dr White & Divia: This is one of the most fascinating couples I'd ever met. They would be eternal sources of conversation individually but together they were a circus of intellect and fun.
Dr White is a... um… well… I don't know what he does.... He didn't share very much about what he does but was an open book of ideas and personal traits. He's German, I do know that, and speaks perfect English. He has homes all over the world and travels constantly to visit his various girlfriends/semi-wives, all of whom are aware of each other. I met Dr White through Raven who had known him for years and could still not really tell you what he does. She says that he's a German professor in California but his tenure there seems to infrequent that it appears a cover for something. A few of his homes are in South America and Georgia (the country). Both Raven and I think that he's a spy. Literally. He is clearly massively intelligent and charismatic. He also walked around in camouflage from the German Army. That could be taken literally or as a joke out in the desert. You don't think "hmm, this guy could probably rip my throat out and never be seen again", in stead, you think "oh cool, camouflage". I also heard stories about how he would drive through war-torn countries in South America where he would pass through borders with no problems. Very casually. This is not par for the course in these regions my friends. He was very charming and he and I got along like peas and carrots. We spoke a little German in the beginning, I think mostly to see if I was full of shit, but then we talked about all kinds of things. He also had a wig on like Thing2 and Thing1 from a Dr Seuss book. He was hilarious and, just like a good comic, made you uninterested in the moment to delve deeper because of the fun you're having. Is he a spy? My vote: I don't know. Which means he's a very good one if that's the case.
One of his wives, Divia, is a professional Opera singer from Singapore. Her English was pretty solid as well and she had a natural flare for life. A charming, child-like curiosity and amazing sense of humor. Dr White hit on Raven the whole night and I flirted with Divia too. It's what you do out there, you know. Especially when one of the significant others is egging you on and basically asking you to hit on him/her. Anytime someone is said to have great skill in the Arts, I'm always the first to want to see/hear it. We were jokingly singing and I did belt some Mozart in an operatic way and she walked next to us and let out just a little, random belt of her own. Clearly not trying very hard but it rung out clearly, powerfully and beautifully like a songbird shooting over the tents. Holy shit. No more questions, she's legit. We wandered around all night drinking, chatting and checking out the art. Dr White constantly encouraged me to grab her ass. I did out of courtesy to the situation, of course ;) Everyone at Burning Man takes turns being the instigator. My turn comes later.
Jenna: This is an interesting one. She's one of Raven's friends who is pretty hot and totally insane. She has an excellent sense of humor and is just crass enough to seem funny, not quite abrasive. She had recently had a kid but you couldn't tell by looking at her. She is a white girl with blonde hair, dark eyes, tanned skin and not lacking in the booty department. Dare I say, the most important quality? She is known to party pretty hard and lives in LA. She's a Burning Man pro and since she's spent most of her life as a go go dancer she takes it all in and gets lost. She, to me, represents the damaged part of Burning Man. She is in the minority but there are definitely some people there who are disconnected from the philosophical importance of Burning Man and are just there to have fun. There's nothing wrong with that at all, but she does it in a most self-destructive way. She and I would have scattered encounters out there.
The Drug Dealer: So we go to meet some of Ravens friends on another side of the camp. This particular camp was bordered by two large, beautiful RVs. I soon discovered that one belonged to The Drug Dealer and other to The Assassin. Raven and I walk into this camp and she runs to hug one of her girlfriends she hasn't seen in a while. I'm hanging back and observing. Not far from the two gals is a huge black man who looks like a black version of Mr Clean. He's at least 6'2" and jacked. Both of his nipples were pierced and he was walking around shirtless with sweatpants eating a salad. A salad out here? That was a first. He was also beautiful, of course. We get to talking and he's a somewhat distant but nice guy. We talk about music, the world and how our experiences are going at Burning Man. He is clearly intelligent. He invites me into his RV but first he ushers in two of his girlfriends, who I get a better look at once I get aboard the RV. First I'm greeted by the big sign that says "take your shoes off before you come inside". I'd heed this sign regardless out of respect, but it also helps if the guy looks like he could bury you without a second thought. I ditch the kicks and climb inside.
Holy shit. This "RV" is nicer than some apartments I've seen. It has an immaculate bathroom, very wide, two couches, a huge flatscreen TV, sleeping area and a kitchen. This is all highlighted by art gallery-like lights that are strategically places along the leather couches and seemingly marble hard surfaces. This is expensive. This is very expensive. I'm not super compromised at this point but we drink a tad more and the adventure continues.
The Assassin: While the Drug Dealer and I are outside talking, he waves over an interesting character who would prove to be just that. I thought the Drug Dealer was intimidating but the Drug Dealer said that this other guy whom we are about to meet makes HIM nervous, although they're friends back on the West Coast. He's a white guy, about 5'8", decently built with a thick brown beard and dark eyes that are friendly (at the moment) but intense. I've seen this look before with men I've known from various Special Forces units. Some of the more hardcore characters I've ever met. I'm glad I can still read things like this. He's only wearing boxer briefs, laced up jump military-looking boots and a solid black floppy hat that you see soldiers wear in most Vietnam War movies. He came right over and we all chatted for a bit. All friendly conversation talking about all the crazy shit that is part of the magic of Burning Man. The Assassin then walked back to his RV and that's when the Drug Dealer told me more about this guy. Although the Drug Dealer lives in Las Vegas, he clearly has connections all over the West Coast. He told me the story of the first time he went to this guy's home to bring him some party favors. It goes like this: This guy has a mansion on a cliff in Malibu overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Let's put this in perspective, if you owned a two-bedroom shack on that piece or real estate, you'd be looking at a fortune. Nevermind that this guy has a palace overlooking this coveted view. The drug deal goes inside and then after some chatting and after the hand-off the Assassin says "hey do you wanna see something cool"? The Drug Dealer says "sure!" The Assassin takes him to a room in the mansion and they approach a huge band vault door. Literally. There's an elaborate amount of security attached to this fortress and after a variety of combinations to enter, the door opens. Holy fuck. He explains that it's truly a vault as they enter. Huge. Inside he believes, with no exaggeration in his face, that there were AT LEAST a couple of hundred loaded guns varying from handguns to rifles to machine guns. On the floor he swears was about $1 million in cash. I imagine a drug dealer of his prowess could quantify a pile of money pretty quickly. He then explains that he goes on periodical "business trips" (he verbally used quotation marks, implying the silliness of the implication that these trips were for a civilian job) several times a year to see his clients who are all perpetually unidentified and are all in South America. He goes on to specify that of the few things he can confirm about this guy, the one thing that he knows for sure is that he was a Navy SEAL at one point. At some point in him telling me this story, I know that my eyes were huge and my mouth was hanging open. I just don't know how long. Then we both look over and the Assassin comes out of his RV and waves at us as he saunters off to go mingle with the rest of the BM crew. I don't see him again but I will never, ever forget.
The CEO: As if you need me to specify anymore, you never know who you're talking to out in the desert. Everyone looks like a cartoon, homeless, or a homeless cartoon, assuming they're wearing any clothes at all. Raven and I were walking around and visited a camp site where she had made friends over the years. In the tent were two gentlemen, one of whom she knew and the other she didn't. They were doing spray-on tattoos for free, as everything out there is for free, and I accepted when they offered to put one on me. The gentleman who Raven introduced me to was about my height, looked around 60 yrs old, wore glasses and had a scruffy faint beard. Not in a manicured way but in a "I'm living in a desert" kinda way. He wore a kilt with a leather vest and a dusty, abused top hat. He was very nice and was genuinely interested in talking with Raven and me. The other gentleman administered my tattoo while they talked. After I got the tattoo finished I went back to finish up the group convo before we all hugged and said good bye. Raven turned to me and said, "do you know who that was?" "No" i said. She went on to tell me the MAJOR corporation that he's the CEO of. I'm keeping the name of the company to myself but it's a BIG boy. I have no idea what this man makes but it cannot be less than $2 million a year. That's if they're short-changing him. Really. It's that stupid. He was very friendly and had no pretension about him at all. It's not about money out there, it's about the content of your character, and people who believe that that's the most important thing go to Burning Man. Who knew that this silly old homeless dude could buy and sell the entire festival with what he makes in a month. Fascinating and encouraging.
Hot Lesbian Couple: One of the nights that Raven and I were out and about we went into a bar that was actually a large tent like something that an Arabian King would set up camp in. Beautiful. It had elaborate and seemingly expensive art, all the staff was over-the-top accommodating and wore full tuxedos. They went for it and nailed the luxury portion perfectly while the people coming in were dusty Playa fuckers like us. Really fun. Raven and I work out way through the crowd and find some real estate by the bar. There are two super hot girls sitting together and both are wearing very little. They kinda remind me of porno versions of Princess Leia from Star Wars. As they separate, I start talking to the one that got up to the bar. Shot down. Politely but she shut that shit down in a hurry. I turn around to see Raven chatting with the other. Raven is a SUPERIOR wing man for several reasons: she's hilarious, disarming, super intelligent and can size up a situation very quickly. AND she's a girl, of course ;) Nobody can help or destroy your chances with a girl like another girl can. The girls are all three talking now and then I'm brought into the group. It turns out that these girls are in a serious relationship and are disgustingly in love. They both live in Los Angeles and one is a famous artist who just did a huge mural piece in a very famous persons house whom I will be keeping anonymous ;) They're extremely pleasant and we all chat about all kinds of things for a while. This is the only time in my life that two smoking hot chicks in front of me making out is distracting. I'm not mad but we all get drunk and split. Still, that was pretty rad ;)
The Aussies: As mentioned in the first installment of the Burning Man Blog, I met Ms Aussie the first night who was having troubles with Mr Aussie. She is a famous photographer in Australia and he is, what seems like, a successful business man. Raven, the Aussies and I spend hours talking. We have drinks together and they tell us all about their psychedelic experiences doing vision quest-like mushroom tea outings in various countries like Peru and India. Their camp mates were a couple from South Africa. The male was originally from Norway so he was tall, blonde and kinda looked like a blonde version of Bradley Cooper and his girlfriend was, of course, smoking hot. He and I connected right away. We did several shots back-to-back, as we all did, and he was wearing tight pants that looked like flames. Much like I was wearing. I called him Fire Pants in a broken imitation of a South African accent. He knew right away that it was because I found their accent charming that I wanted to connect with them. Fire Pants, Ms Fire Pants, the Aussies, Raven and I went to a huge club party at 4pm. There were at least 500 people jamming hard to techno music and we joined right in. I don't seek dancing and I'd typically rather sit and hang out. I'm more of a pub kinda guy. Sitting and talking is my jam, but when in Rome, get the fuck up and dance. That we did. That we did.
Carl Cox: As I mentioned before, there is a huge electronic music element to Burning Man. It didn't start out that way, I don't think, but with such a huge celebration of art and life going on it's very difficult for a party not to erupt. Raven hung out with Carl Cox quite a bit the last time she was on the Playa. Carl Cox is a world-famous DJ. He's a big black man who wears glasses. I think he's from Barbados. I didn't get to meet him but Raven knew that he was going to be out in the desert this year and one fine afternoon while we were walking around on the Playa, a funny little vision happened. Zipping right past us was a small green soap box derby cart, powered, and in it were a large black man wearing jeans, a tshirt, a huge neon wig and sunglasses, and a white woman wearing what looked like a corset. She also had a huge bombastic wig on. Aside from people saying "sweet ride" I don't think they knew who that was. Raven did. I know people who would flip out if they saw this guy and here he is racing along, unmolested, looking ridiculous and enjoying life. Later that night, Raven and I were partying with some other people we met from San Francisco and we (all 2,000) of us were crammed into a small amphitheater watching Carl Cox do his thing until at least 2am. Lots of fun and he's the only celeb sighting I can tell you about. That I'm aware of that is ;)
As usual, Burning Man is a microcosm of what the world should be like, philosophically. You never know who you're talking to. Ever. It has zero pretension and is fearless in its approach to making life as cohabitational and as beautiful as possible. It's an amazing thing and these were some of the flag bearers I decided to write about. More to come.