But there was one episode that stands out in my mind, when everything crystalized, so I'll share.
It was Thursday night... and I'd wandered all the way from our camp in the Thunderdome ghetto @ 4:30 and Esplanade to the Gates of Samsara. Transfixed by the open space around me, I made the decision that I needed to get out to the base of the Man right then.
I was hoofing it (couldn't bring a bicycle on the airplane from Cleveland and didn't have the means to find one in Reno on the way in to Black Rock) and my feet were starting to complain. I'd abandoned my combat boots in lieu of socks and sandals after 2 days, but the blister on my blister was still noticeable.
But what's this? A vehicle! Some kind of trolley car! Stopped!! Right here, in front of me! Packed full to capacity, but with room for me to sit in the doorway! Hoorah! I clamber on.
The xmas lights are as cheerful as the faces on the fellow passengers who help push start the car. Moments later, we're mobile, bouncing along to that Fatboy sound. Passengers start to hop off here and there and I slowly manuever to the interior of the trolley.
Yes, I think. Time to go to the Man. I'm sure this bus will go out to the Man. But you know, maybe I should stop off at my tent... a few slices of bologna would do me good, I haven't eaten in prolly 12 hours...
More people exit at Thunderdome, and as I turn to do the same, I catch something out of the corner of my eye, in the front of the bus which is now not-so-crowded. A plate. With a towel on it. Not an interstellar hitchhikking towel, but a dishrag. Clean. Partially covering a heap of...
"Oh my god, is that food?" I ask. I don't say what I actually think it is, because it couldn't possibly be, not in the middle of the desert, not at 3:00 in the morning, not when I've been eating bologna for days.
"Yes!!" beams the rider up front, as she passes me the plate. "Have some!! You're on the sushi bus!!"
It's veggie, but it's legit. The happy-go-lucky guy from San Diego across from me is as enthralled as I am. We take over distribution duty for the bus girl, who hops off and says "When you leave, just give the plate to someone else." Which is better? The seaweed and rice itself, or the joy/disbelief on the faces of new riders? I get it, I get it, I get it, how can anyone NOT get it? This is it, this is participation, this is giving and sharing and laughing and being human. This moment right here, this is Burning Man. On the sushi bus.
Riders come and go. A beautiful pvc-clad dominatrix type converses with us for a while before departing at e-ville. A guy with a furry maroon coat and achingly beautiful cheekbones relaxes next to me. Someone mixes a gin and tonic for the San Diego guy in exchange for a cassette of funk music. "What could be better than this?" He asks, cup in had, sushi in the other.
"Wasabi," says a smart-ass in a hawaiian shirt clinging to the end of the car.
A few moments later, the passenger next to Cheekbones hops off, and he spots a plate on the window ledge. I don't have to tell you, it was the real deal. I'll remember that color of green, and the way the oil separated on the plate, and the howls of delighted laughter, forever.
My mouth and throat are on fire and my eyes are tearing, but there's no time to waste because we're at the Man, now, and the driver isn't slowing down. So I ungracefully plop off the end, my big soft ass in the big soft dust, creating a cloud. Before I can even stop laughing, there are innumerable hands outstretched to help me up. "Are you OK?" "Yeah, I'm fine. It was a real soft landing." Someone with pupils more dialated than my own thanked me for having fallen, I guess he found it particularly cool to watch!
And now I'm at the Man, and I won't bother trying to describe what that meant. Just skip forward about ten minutes to the point where a trio of rail-thin beauties on platform shoes were alternately hugging and giving each other spinning "airplane" rides. I saw a piece of jewelry go flying, and my eyes were on the playa when it hit the ground, poof.
I recovered the necklace and handed it to the grateful girl, her friend cried, "Our hero! Give her a drink!" and their companion pulled from his bag the perfect libation to soothe away the last vestiges of wasabi.
In the middle of the night.
In the middle of the desert.