The boat carried us out of Black Rock City and moved across the playa always avoiding the people, bicycles, and mutant vehicles that converged on the fixed point of the statue. In a perfect state of inebriation, I had ridden a horse with no name to a strange but friendly planet of flat alkali desert surrounded by dark mountains. The desert dwellers came to this place and formed an immense circle around the god of fire, who had assumed the mythic shape of a blue neon man, glowing over the desert. Dancers twirling hypnotic flames spun around the statue while ships and dragons and animals belched propane-fueled fire. Weird and wonderful shapes descended from the sky, lit by a yellow moon that crept above the mountains. The fire dancers swirled like dervishes, and drums throbbed in the eerie light where glow sticks burned like neon candles. I was eerily conscious of each detail of this carnival night with its colors, sounds, tastes, smells and the absolute anticipation. The dancers spun in their circles of fire, and the drums pounded to a crescendo. Alone, the neon man loomed over the desert, canopied by thousands of twinkling stars.
The ritual began with a massive barrage of shooting rockets and fireworks illuminating the man, then a blaze of fire and a magic conflagration roared to life in a frenzy of heat and flames. The inferno raced up one of the man’s legs and consumed him bit by bit even as his triumphant arms remained raised, as in defiance. Everyone was yelling and shouting and the air pulsed with music. In an eruption of galactic grandeur, the Man was burning bright. The Man was burning.