Sunday, September 12, 2010

Post Burn Fuel

We brought trail mix, pistachios, almonds, coconut water, and wine.

We also brought plenty of whiskey for our canteens that we would sip periodically through the harsh and cold evenings. Just one or two sips would cure our frigid bones for the evening, going quite nicely with the fire that burned in various places across the stark desert. I learned that whiskey was the drink of choice on the playa for this reason. Everywhere we would go and flash our canteens, people would ask, "Is that whiskey?" and we were expected to share a drink. It was like the calling card of friendship for the burn.

We subsisted on a gallon and a half of water a day, fed each morning into the camelbacks that dressed our shoulders.

There was no produce nor anything else that needed refrigeration. We were down to bare minimum during this exercise in radical self survival.

The only sustenance we could count on were the daily offerings from other camps in this gift economy, camps that offered chorizo burritos on a Monday morning, or pancakes at center camp, or the three vegetarian meals a day that were made with love by the Hare Krishnas where we were staying.

The vegetarian meals were iffy at best. Because we had no clocks or technology or cell phones, we depended on the good old sun to relate the time of the day, which meant arriving at the meal tent for breakfast, lunch or dinner hoping we weren't too late to dip our recycled spoons into curried rices, sweet potato and spinach mashes, and other meals that tasted good but all blurred together under the heat.

It didn't matter though, that our food was slim pickings or unpredictable, because we were on another planet where food was just the fuel to let you go back on the playa, bicycle wheels whipping the dust and icy yellow light, until your thighs burnt so bad you were forced to go back to the tent to lie down and recuperate for the evening ahead. An evening that would consist of walking the landscape at night, gallons of water disappearing and food nowhere near the mind.

After we left, food was heavy on the mind. My camp mate Sonia told us about an Indian food taco truck that was usually parked at the exit to Burning Man and sure enough, there it was offering wraps and other goodies to a crowd with a big portion of attendees in the healthful eating genre. Cars were lined up to get an order of richness back in the world of the hungry.

As I drove home to the desert the next morning, my gut was aching for Indian food but as I suspected there were only signs along the highway for the usual fast food restaurants, offering puffy fats and chemical tastes, and my week had somehow made me averse to even the smell emanating from these places. Then, like a mirage an Indian food restaurant arose on the side of the highway in Sacramento and I quickly took a turn when I saw the banner exclaiming "Wraps to Go". Piryani with extra vegetables, curry sauce and a sweet mango lassi later and I was on a new food mission back home.

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