In some ways we Kiwis are not as isolated as we think. Downtown Auckland to downtown San Francisco is a sub-18 hour trip with no changes of plane - some of the Brits had epic journeys involving Atlanta and the like. I got to SFO on a sunny Sunday lunchtime, and after a quick snooze wandered up Haight St in search of blinkies and clothes. San Fran has many areas that reflect events in modern history - from the New Deal (the Coit Towers) through an obscure 1950's literary movement (North Beach) to the great leap forward of the 1960s (the Haight). The latter has more or less moved on into the current world of nu-rave (or whatever one calls it) with all the stores fully ramped up to meet the needs of those adjusting for the Company Picnic (as I understand they call it in the Bay Area).
Having got myself some nice skirts sharongs and a kilt, as well as a few of the aforementioned overpriced blinkies, I was ready to head out. I caught up with Hippie and Pascal, stuffed our faces with Mexican food (cheap and yummy) and headed out of town in my shiny (and soon to be otherwise) rental car. A four hour blast up the freeway later, we managed to find Hageys without a map (navigation kudos to Pascal - no u-turns!) and began my descent into the lower circles of burnerness.
Reno pre-burn was a whirl of shopping, meeting new friends, hanging out in the pool, buying beer, drinking beer, buying more beer, etc. The crowd at Hageys was the usual mix of dotcom millionaires, predicate violent felons and recently released DPWers. Somehow I managed to equip myself with ticket, water, snackfood, more blinkies, (mostly) legal substances and more beer.
One thing you notice as you approach Burning Man is the level of hierarchy and status positioning that happens in a supposingly "radically participatory" festival. Each to his own, but an awful lot of people seem to regard part of their Burning Man experience as being able to set themselves up as a team leader or whatever. I guess they are all self-employed or work for amazingly flat organisations that don't give them enough of that sort of thing in the default world?
Anyways, a group of us decided, since we weren't going to be allowed in One Minute Before Midnight, to go camp at Pyramid Lake on Saturday. Hagey gave us the good oil on where to camp, we managed to avoid getting stuck in the sand (unlike one family of obvious non- burners who drove their soft roader right up to the lake and got it axle deep. Ha ha!) and found an excellent spot right by the pyramid. Us being me, Itamar, Paisley, Keren and Neta (so one Kiwipom, three Israelis and a token American).
After chilling at the beach, kayaking around the pyramid (thanks to Jenna? for lending us her boat) and driving up through the desert, we got to the gates of Burning Man.
Soon (after several hours fluffing around) I finally entered into the altered world of the Playa!