We arrived on the playa late, and the processional of fire dancers was well on its way. Thousands of people had already encircled the Man, circling green laser light tracing his electric blue form. The ever present technical difficulties had already made their appearance, and his left arm was down by his side, the dead neon a dark spot in the brilliant fire show all around.
The nature of the crowd on burn night is intense; and on a gut level terrifies me. People who have been absolutely loving and supportive of each other all week in a death defying environment, suddenly turning and lashing out at one another over a better view. SIT DOWN!!! versus STAND UP!!! ad infinitum. Tempers get nasty at the drop of a hat and this year i was beginning to think a few blows might be thrown. Thankfully, the Man has impeccable timing: the first of the fire works roared skyward, suddenly eclipsing the moment when the first violent ultimatums were thrown. Thank you, Man.
The fireworks were huge, blooming flowers of sparkled light. Everywhere around a sea of heads did a chicken bob following each blast from pedestal to firmament. The Man's bright red heart beating on and off through the haze of smoke. Each moment seemed stretched out and eternal, i felt like my mind was reeling out virtual tape, catching every pixelation of light, of flame, of smoke. Yet the time whipped by before i could catch enough breaths to slow the giddy whirring of my blood. I screamed and screamed and waved my hands in the air. I couldn't stop myself. The crowd had control of me; i was enthralled. And then the first real flames appeared, spreading in the blink of an eye to the entire Man, his tiny carcass overwhelmed and collapsing before anyone had grasped that it might happen. The temple pedestal blazed on, an inferno slapping my face with heat even from a half a mile back. the wind picked up, and the smoke column towered over us shooting ashes up into the pitch black night sky. Ashes fluttering down from on high, a rain of swimming, living stars.
Then came the surge forward as the crowd rushed the flaming pyre. i never feel heat so comforting as that of the burning remnants of the Man on my face.