I was riding my bike on the playa of the Black Rock Desert on Thursday of Burning Man week and thinking about the gesture I was there to make at the Burning Man Temple to honor my friend Chamba who passed on May 24th. A perfect metaphor occurred in my mind that captured Chamba’s essence. Smiling, I determined to write it down. Two hours later it occurred to me that I had forgotten to record the perfect metaphor, and it had evaporated like a dream. Then I thought - how about “Sweet and Sour Sauce” for my crusty, tender friend. Not bad for a second team metaphor, and perhaps even better. Chamba is smiling.
The best elements of Burning Man for me as a veteran of the event are the camaraderie with camp mates and the vast, flat open playa. A new benefit to me this time was to be able to read without distraction while my camp mates sought out the many marvelous artworks and events throughout Black Rock City. I took this precious time to read Chamba’s edited manuscript of stories from his colorful youth, which I had promised him I would publish after his passing. I found myself delighted with his writing, as it was replete with his humor, brusque and ironic, together with epiphanies and insights worthy of the most observant spiritual traveler. Sweet and sour indeed, but deep sauce too.
I was a little late on Thursday in placing a poster with Chamba’s picture and words to live by at the Temple. I searched around the rather extensive Temple for a spot and found one at the base of a pillar and felt it was appropriate to position the poster at ground level, signifying Chamba’s earthiness. I propped the poster up with rocks found near the pillar. I noticed that there was writing above where I had placed the poster, but I was busy trying to add support to the rock props with duct tape, an appropriate fix, I felt, given Chamba’s penchant for using the most mundane materials to make things work. That evening, my camp mates, Ronda, Alan, Richard and I, walked out to the Temple to check on the poster and for me to see how the tape did in the heat. It failed, and I figured returning in the morning with hammer and nail was a necessity, as I was to meet Chamba’s friends Derek and Victoria the next afternoon to celebrate in a modest ceremony our love for the departed sweet and sour man.
The next morning I awoke at 6 and rode my bike to the Temple with my tools to place the nail where it would hold the poster, with or without rock support. After I finished, I happened to read the long poem written above the poster. I was stunned to read it, as it not only reflected clearly the truths I have learned myself about life and existence but also the deeper thoughts I had been reading in Chamba’s manuscript. The poem could have been written by Chamba, or perhaps through a human medium directed by Chamba’s spirit. Astonishing! Serendipity! A miracle to my mind!
I had no pen or paper, but I was determined to transcribe the poem to put at the end of his book. Dear Ronda undertook the task later in the day, so I have the entire poem in longhand on note paper, which I will transcribe to the computer in due course. You will enjoy it.
Friday afternoon, my camp mates and I went to the Temple at the appointed hour, and in time, Derek and Victoria found us and Chamba’s poster. We wrote messages to Chamba. Alan made cairns out of the rocks to symbolize the Yuba River, while others made grooves in the sand to signify our holy river flowing to Chamba and the remarkable poem above his head. I scattered a few of his ashes and proclaimed him “Sweet and Sour Sauce.”
I had to leave Burning Man Saturday morning, so I missed the Temple burn Sunday night, but I watched it on the video feed through the Internet. This story will be expanded a little, and I plan to put it at the end of the book along with the extraordinary poem that miraculously appeared above Chamba’s picture before it physically manifested on the Earth below.