The Desert in the Off Season

We were greeted at our camp site by a ten foot tall neon green penis that sprayed a light, refreshing mist during the day, and shot fire from its tip in the evenings. We piled out of the Lincoln Town Car I rented to shuttle us to, from, and around the desert, and set up a camp of tents, shoddy 2×4 supporting structures, and an old parachute. It was Black Rock Desert, but there was no organization okaying our presence, no expensive tickets, no large-scale art or upsettingly large stacks of speakers pumping out garbled untz noises at 5am, and no rules.

After being there a couple hours my friend asked, “Hey are you cool with me taking the trunk off of that Town Car so we can fit more people in it?”

“If you feel confident that you can get it back on, then yes, absolutely!” He was a mechanic, so I felt confident in his abilities, and I also loved the idea. We were now able to (somewhat) comfortably transport up to 13 people at a time, meaning we were the party wherever we showed up.

When I wasn’t building or tinkering, I spent most of the daytime hours in the open desert teaching people how to do donuts in the Town Car, and lounging around at or near Frog Pond (ponds, really – it was a collection of small hot springs) in varying amounts of clothes. My particularly eccentric Ukrainian friend liked gathering the small fish or tadpoles inhabiting the pond into his mouth, then spitting them onto anybody who asked why his cheeks were puffed out. It was hilarious.

The evening rolled around, and my friend said, “Would you like any of the liquid acid I brought?” I feel like you can all guess what my answer was. “How many drops do you want?”

“I dunno. Three? Four? That sounds reasonable.”

“Okay, tilt your head back and open your mouth. One… Two… Thr- OOPS!”

“Throops?! How many is throops?!”

“Uh… Maybe like… Eight to ten?”

Great. Clearly it was time to load up into the Town Car and head out into the desert. There were thousands of people spread out over the vast expanse of public land (you were only legally allowed to have so many people at each campsite, which seemed to be the only rule people were interested in following), so you just had to drive toward the lights to find a group partying. For some reason, I was still elected to be the driver, and we may or may not have spent 30 minutes following around a car with a flashing light on it, and we must have visited upwards of ten different locations.

My friend that throopsed me and I stood watching a group burn a five-foot high wooden man, and they neglected to tell us that they filled it with fireworks. One of them zipped right between our heads; neither of us moved. We turned slowly to each other and I said, “Well that was close, huh?” Then we laughed until it was time to move on to the next place.

When we’d had our fill of nonsense, we headed back through the pitch black desert to our camp. I was still driving, but my passenger was dictating all of my wheel turns, as I could not see. “Okay, straight. Left… LEFT! MORE LEFT!” We narrowly avoided a large muddy patch that the car would have sunken into, and I finally decided I had had enough of the driving thing, stopped, and made my passenger drive, which he was basically already doing. When we got back, I did that cartoon thing Homer Simpson does where you spin around in circles on the ground saying, “WOOOOOP, WOOP-WOOP-WOOP-WOOP-WOOP!” until I got tired and went to bed.

The finale of the event comes in the form of a 30-foot tall frog with vampire teeth and bat wings, made primarily from wood and propane tanks, constructed at the far end of the shooting range (there was a shooting range). I took my shotgun and lined up with about 40 to 50 other naked or nearly naked people with guns, then someone yelled, “Holy shit, it’s a Frog Bat!” And everyone opened fire.

The explosions reverberated through your bones, and the thing went up in a glorious mushroom cloud of smoke, fire, and Frog Bat bits. Having slain the beast, there was nothing to do but pack up, put the trunk back on, and head home – tired, hungover, sunburnt, and victorious.

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