This story was read aloud at:
The sun set slowly over the mountains, the fire in the gutted econo car began illuminating the center of the compound. As I walked across the compound, there were a few people standing around. Vanessa, also known as Spork, because she created a Gone with the Wind dress with sporks, accosted me.
"Are you going to be a mime tonight?" Vanessa asked.
"Mime?" I answered.
"Come on, you're going to part of the mime rampage."
"The mime rampage?"
"You are going to be part of the mine rampage." She stated flatly.
At the moment I did not know why I held back, probably something to do with the fear of people laughing at me, the fear of a little boy with the bullies laughing and kicking. A fear of being noticed. An excuse popped out of my mouth.
"Um, I don't have a mime shirt."
It was a lame excuse.
"I brought lots of extra mine shirts." Said Vanessa.
She grabbed me and pulled me toward the tent. I was at her mercy.
We sat around drinking PBR as the white face, black eyes and red lips were installed. I was not the only one, there were about twenty-five mimes, all ready to scream.
Welcome to BurningMan, that week long festival in the Nevada desert. A place where for a week there is no money, art seemingly placed on every corner, and enough naked people scattered around to dull that sense.
The desert here is completely flat, salt flats, speed trial flat. In this seemingly infinite expanse, is a fifty-foot wooden man draped with neon standing alone. Surrounding the man is an open area dotted with art instillations. On the south side is the crescent shaped camping area, for thirty thousand people, it resembles the crescent moon and star of an Islamic flag. Most of the action takes place on the esplanade, the main crusin' street following the edge of the crescent.
That is where us, as mimes, headed.
There is a cacophony of people and bicycles and glow sticks and neon walking by. Pac-man and some ghosts float by. An art car flooded by music playing and people dancing on the dance floor. A fifty-foot Christopher Columbus ship floats by on the desert sand. Like a Disneyland parade concocted by thousands of late sixties hippies who never lost the dream.
The first victims of the mimes came into view. A couple on bicycles. They stop as we surround them and their eyes, open wide and tiny pinpricks stare wildly at us, as twenty-five mimes scream. "YOU ARE STUCK IN A BOX" and our hands make the international symbol of a box in front of their faces. They stare dumfounded.
We head off, leaving their confusion behind. "Just wait till they try to describe that to their friends" we say to each other as the bottles of Jameson's, Tanqueray and assorted beers get passed around.
We walk up the esplanade. We move and stalk and pounce, stopping art cars, attacking innocent people with our mayhem. Moving and screaming and yelling and surrounding and moving and running and jumping and shouting ourselves horse.
It is, of course, a mime rampage.
"A BOX" one of us yells, and we surge around a lone phone box in the desert, the pacific bell logo removed from the top and it now reads "Talk To God" We surround the phone box like birds in an Alfred Hitchcock movie trapping the innocent inside. "YOU'R STUCK, IN A BOX." We love it, it is true and horrible and meaningful all at the same time.
Ahead are two ten-foot tall papier-mâché elephants, this is Camp Bollywood. There is a DJ and people dancing in front of the elephants on the desert floor. We join the dance, and a girl asks me, "Why are you talking, you're a mime." "I'M ON FUCKING VACATION."
The alcohol was really kicking in now, it was getting a little ragged, but we called the mimes together and tried to leave Bollywood.
But where was Little Bit, she was missing, we can't leave without her. And the chant starts "NO MIME LEFT BEHIND, NO MIME LEFT BEHIND." Where is she, oh there she is, and now we are complete again. Everyone have their mime buddy, everybody grab a mime buddy, ok, here we go again.
As we continue walking the alcohol runs out and we convert to Surly mimes. "MIMES NEED BEER." Became the call. "MIMES NEED BEER."
There was none around and our camp was far in the past. What to do?
Normal has beer, came the cry, she must have beer, where is Normal? She's at Thunderdome. MIMES THUNDERDOME HO!!!
We arrive at the metal dome, straight out of the Mel Gibson movie. Battles were raging inside, but we had other issues.
"NORMAL" Where are you Normal?"
Ahh there she is, and we rush her, and there is fear on her upturned face, and then joy and love as we hug her, and she gives us beer. The Mimes are happy.
Goodbye Normal, but what next? Mimes to the Man, out to the man himself. Across the open desert. We follow his neon and walk that direction. The land becomes quiet away from the esplanade and the lack of people to attack subdues the mood slightly.
But suddenly the mimes charge off to the left and surround a dark seemingly empty piece of playa. I look over the shoulders and see a couple on the ground. Her legs are wrapped around his waist with a skirt covering their waists, she looks up with sparkling eyes and a smile and he with fear as we scream, "YOU'RE STUCK IN A BOX."
We leave them to continue on with whatever they were doing and head off again.
At The Man the mimes disintegrate. Some climb the steps of the man and some stay down, some go to the port-a-potties and some drink from the portable bar wandering around. The cohesion falls apart.
I walk alone across the desert back towards camp, with a white painted face that no one finds strange. The stars are out and I stumble as I try to walk and look at them at the same time.
Back in camp, there are people standing around the burning car warming their hands, and I get a beer from someone. But the energy is gone and it is time to pass out.
The sun rises harshly in the desert in August, and I awake confused and hot and uncomfortable in my tent. Where's my water, where's a beer, and what is all this white crap on my pillow?