Citation: 77k. "Set The Controls for the Heart of the Man: An Experience with DOM (exp3216)". Erowid.org. Oct 5, 2000. erowid.org/exp/3216
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I had been fairly certain ever since I got to Burning Man that I would save the DOM for the night of the Burn. My one past experience with DOM was at a dosage level that was slightly too low (7 mg), but I could see that it was a drug of the absolute highest quality, in the same class as LSD, mushrooms, etc. It would be perfect for Saturday night.
I have to begin by giving a summary of the other drugs I did at Burning Man, because any professional drug user at Burning Man needs to put serious thought into day-to-day cross-tolerance. Tuesday was 2C-B, Wednesday was merely GHB, Thursday was LSD and MDMA, Friday was mushrooms. I figured that I had abstained from the phenethylamines for a few days, so my 11.3 mg of DOM wouldn't be diminished too much. Looking back, I would say that the 11.3 mg was weakened a little, but the level was still very good.
Now I need to describe the set and setting. The setting, of course, is Burning Man (let http://www.burningman.com/ explain in detail). Within 18 hours of arriving on the desert, I had completely and transparently suspended all disbelief at what I was experiencing. The sheer improbability of this city existing on a scorched alkali plain in Nevada set a base level of improbability for everything else within the city; it was not possible to shake the feeling that this was a complete fantasyland.
I had a couple art works that I had brought with me. I had a hard time getting them set up and working properly (it took several days) and I was disappointed that other people there seemed to have ones that were similar and possibly superior to mine. I was upset that sometimes my art didn't work quite right, and I couldn't figure out why it didn't work. I was a little moody for my first couple of days there. Gradually, and with the aid of other psychedelics, I started to tap into the collective unconscious of Black Rock City. Once my art was up and semi-working, people started to talk to me about it. They told me why they liked it and asked me how I did it, and their completely genuine interest in me and my vision began to lift my spirits. I began to understand how Burning Man is not a place to show off your skills. It's a place to express yourself and to see how 28,000 other people choose to express themselves. By looking at the limitless types of art around you, you can truly see the infinite expanse of human creativity. It is both humbling and inspiring in a way so fundamental that it is almost impossible to ignore.
Now that Saturday had rolled around, I had completed my transition from a spectator to a participant. Instead of looking at the city and its citizens as something new to explore with caution, I understood how it was MY city, and how my presence there was as important to the greater whole as anyone else's. I felt the freedom to walk down any street and talk to anyone I met. They were my neighbors and friends.
I finally felt like I was in the right mindset to experience the Burn. I also felt like I was in the right mindset to let the ritual permeate my soul while I was tripping my ass off, something I was not entirely sure of until today. At 4:30pm, I ate 11.3 mg of DOM on a fairly empty stomach. Several friends also took DOM. Others took 2C-B, LSD, mushrooms, 2C-T-7, MDMA, MDA and more I'm sure I forgot. Virtually every one of my companions had taken some psychedelic.
The hours ticked by towards sunset. I had my first alert within half an hour, and by about one hour I was unquestionably tripping. The intensity increased extremely smoothly across the next two hours and near sunset, at 7:30 or so, I had just about reached the peak. Fluid colors rippled across surfaces. Objects squished and breathed. Music from our reasonably beefy stereo system seemed quieter and distant, but the music itself seemed alien and infused with meaning. The temperature dropped and the wind picked up. I realized that I could hear sounds around me in the greatest detail, and I could localize and recognize noises that came from more than half a mile away across the playa.
At dusk the excitement in our camp became palpable. Everyone was rushing around getting their things ready, dressing warmly, smoking pot, getting a bite to eat. I felt my mood elevated and my body energized from the amphetamine lurking inside the DOM's molecular structure. A searing red warning flare shot into the sky: 30 minutes until the Burn. The time flew by and, before we knew it, another flare. We had to get out to the Man, immediately. A part of our group left.
We reached Head Way (the inner circular road closest to the Man) and I saw that the Man's arms had raised towards the sky. I started to run, fast, towards the Man. This was a completely unconscious reaction; I neither told myself to run, nor could I have stopped it. It pulled me like a magnet and I could not take my eyes off it. Soon I reached the circle of thousands of people who were sitting and standing, waiting and cheering.
It was around this time that I realized I didn't feel like I was tripping anymore. I didn't see waving objects or rippling color. Things sounded 'normal.' The panorama before my eyes was so far beyond the surreal that my brain did not care it was awash in DOM.
Almost immediately the pyrotechnics began. A hundred fire dancers circled in the space between the celebrants and the Man, making a blurry, dizzying array of flaming yellow trails. Drums thundered from all sides. The crowd was illuminated with the cool chemical radiance of thousands of glowsticks.
The man ignited. Fireworks exploded out of him and I could feel my retinas become saturated with the spectral purity of burning metal.
Then a pressurized kerosene-powered flamethrower fired off a tongue of flame. Its throttle opened all the way and a one hundred foot column of hell dwarfed the man and illuminated the playa like day. An evil black mushroom cloud drifted up, illuminated by the flamethrower's next blast.
For a moment, I thought deeply about Burning Man's relationship with Nature. We humans, 28,000 of us, drag our expensive toys out here into the second-largest life-free flat space in the United States. The speed of sound was broken by a rocket car here on the Black Rock Desert. Burning Man does not pretend to be an event that is harmless to the environment. While we strictly adhere to the Leave No Trace rule, that we must leave the playa in exactly the condition we found it, we run generators, drive cars, and set things on fire. We pollute the atmosphere, and although we take our trash with us, we generate just as much as when we're at home in our comfortable houses. We bask in the glory of the human species, quietly downplaying the mess we made to get to this point, and stare in slack-jawed awe at the lights of the seven square mile city we build from nothing.
Yet the Milky Way still glitters above us, putting to shame the piddling multiwatt lasers we shoot at it, and turning away from the city one can only see an endless expanse of night. The desert is so long that the earth curves down and away by the other side. We fire off our flamethrower, and although we can feel its heat on our faces and we vicariously experience the thrill of the man holding its throttle, to the timeless mountains around us it is just another Bic lighter of the human race.
The Man falls down, helped by people pulling with all their might on the cables holding him up. When he falls, the crowd rises to their feet and rushes inward, five feet from the foot of the fire. I am crushed by the people around me, and am swept along as the mass of people rotates round the pyre. I am right at the front of this core of bodies. Sweat pours off my face as fifteen foot high flames irradiate us with millions of watts of power. People chant and yell; many have brought something symbolic to throw onto the fire. I realize that I have brought nothing. After a moment of thinking, I conclude that there really isn't anything that I would want to burn. There is nothing in my life, that I can symbolize with an object, that I feel the need to cleanse myself of. This is strangely satisfying.
Paramedics push past me, carrying someone who got too close to the flames.
I see someone with a gigantic professional video camera, spotlight blazing, and I resist the temptation to push him to the ground.
Eventually I leave the spinning circle and drift off into the crowds farther out from what used to be the Man. People dressed in suits made of blinking electroluminescent wire are all around me. As they jitter and slide across the playa, I suddenly am reminded that I am tripping... I can't put my finger on how far in front of me people are, or which direction they're headed. There is just a swirl of dazzling points of light all around me.
Soon after that, I realize that I do not know exactly where I am. I can see the Church of Mez's tower in the distance, but I still don't know how far away from it I am. In fact, I no longer feel exactly like myself. I'm traipsing around with a confidence that I have rarely known. I feel free to approach works of art and let them communicate with me; a throbbing propane-powered organ mounted on a silver car speaks a chaotic language of thumps, wheezes and hisses. I rub shoulders with people I have never met and will never meet again. I take a swig of some unknown alcoholic beverage from some guy who offered me some. This is more than just a mood alteration. A portion of my ego has slipped away and I didn't even notice. It's not just the DOM's doing; it is the mind-bending improbability of Burning Man that has chipped away at anything I could use as a frame of reference.
I hear a hissing, crackling, buzzing noise in the distance. Even though I can't see where it's coming from, my DOM-ized ears instantly recognize the sound of electrons being ripped from their subshells. Dr. Megavolt is here. I run towards his truck with two tesla coils on top and as it fires off again, shooting 12 foot streamers of energy through the atmosphere, I feel a wave of pure euphoria wash over me. The spotlights illuminating the coils are unreal and the discharges themselves cast dancing, vibrating shadows for hundreds of feet around. Dr. Megavolt himself gets up on top of the truck in his protective metal suit and lightning bolts strike his head. I yell madly in praise of this human who built a giant machine that flexes, stretches, whacks and smashes the electromagnetic field. Dr. Megavolt is absolutely the icing on the Burning Man cake; the absurdity of a man who calls himself Dr. Megavolt standing next to an absolutely lethal piece of electrical equipment on top of his tractor-trailer to the cheers of hundreds of tripping people in the desert... is just totally ridiculous.
I wandered towards the Black Light District to give the DOM visuals a fighting chance. I approached the glowing, bright outer sculptures and stared into them. Patterns appeared on their surfaces and they stretched a little. As I walked past them my eyes readjusted to the darkness, and the whole of the Black Light District faded into view in an almost comically stereotypical tripped-out way. The deep violet of the blacklights was nearly bottomless, and the fluorescent things around me almost too bright to bear. The entire scene, in fact, seemed tilted a little to the left, and the District didn't have the same proportions I'd remembered from before. Beautiful music flowed from an iridescent stage. There was a crowd of ghostly-looking people watching the stage, and when I stared at their faces I could sense their thoughts. I watched the way their eyes moved and the light that glittered off their corneas, and I felt them drinking deeply of the scene before them. I sensed the common consciousness among us and the contours of this shared hallucination. Save for the music, the Black Light District was nearly silent, populated by mute spirits circling around in awe.
I was getting pretty cold at this point, so I stood (mesmerized) by a fire for a few minutes, and then headed back to my camp. When I arrived I met up with a friend who had taken DOM for the first time and was having a fantastic trip. We decided to gather together a larger group and visit some of the 'night clubs' along the Esplanade.
Now the city had turned from an all-out tribal extravaganza into the greatest party on Earth. The DOM followed in stride. I was not the slightest bit exhausted and I was ready to go out dancing and partying for hours more. We hit a couple of rave camps and I was sucked in by the music and started dancing. I stood five feet away from the beam of a ten watt argon laser and watched the playa dust flash with the glitter of blue diamonds. I was introduced to people who came along for the walk with us and I felt like they were good friends. The pervasive optimism and joy among the people I met is unlike anything I think I will ever see again. By the time we decided we should make the 1.5 mile walk back across the open playa to our camp, every negative thought had been wiped clean from my brain. I had been filled with the pure euphoria of a person who had experienced Paradise... and I was still smack in the middle of it.
We arrived back at our camp. It was now clearly time for more drugs. I drank some GHB and started smoking pot. Then, out came the crate of whippits. I initially started off slowly, and I found the nitrous+DOM combination to be very much like acid, in terms of both the visuals it produced (regular repeating patterns texture-mapped across everything in sight) and the mental state I found myself in.
As I started to inhale more nitrous, and as the GHB came on, the nitrous space was getting freakier and freakier. I once again felt my ego slipping away. Time slowed to a crawl and my ears tuned in to different sounds around me that phased in and out. I started to think about the Big Questions... In the context of the evolution of the human race, what is the significance of Burning Man? What the hell was I doing out here? People say that Burning Man isn't as good as it used to be... does this mean that, because I think Burning Man is so great, my standards are lower than other people's? And shit, what do I want to do with the rest of my life?
The answer to these questions was: I need to do more nitrous. This was not a time to be conservative with drug use. After plowing through 30 or 40 whippits I had taken a roller-coaster ride through dozens of emotions. I had felt both what thrilled me about my life and what bummed me out. Things that bothered me were presented to me in a way that suggested that I could resolve them and that I would find the right solutions. Questions that I had felt answerable. A few whippits later, I was laughing hysterically at the hopelessness of trying to understand the meaning of life.
I smoked another joint. The sun began to rise. Thoroughly baked, I wandered around a little more and checked out who was still awake. The DOM visuals were mostly gone, but there was still some stimulation and thought alteration. I gave the DOM a bit more time to wear off, and then tried to go to sleep, which I did at about 7:30 (t+15 hours) without much trouble.
Next day, I woke up after well under 8 hours of sleep and spent the entire day doing physical labor tearing down our camp. I felt great.
Saturday night at Burning Man was, on Shulgin's scale, a plus-four experience. But the DOM, on its own, was only a plus-three. Burning Man itself is a drug that is fully on par with any psychedelic I have taken, and the unique synergy between Saturday night and the DOM was what pushed my trip over the edge into a life-changing experience.
Often, people take drugs and then re-experience things they are familiar with. They listen to music they know, or they have deep conversations with people they know, or they put themselves in environments they are familiar with, like raves. But everything at Burning Man was something I was experiencing for the first time. What the DOM did for me during the Burn was not just to let me see the event in an atypical way. What it did was let me see it as if I were really someone else. My memories of that night are ones whose context is not exactly in line with the context of my own ego. When I think back to it, I remember it more as a story or as a fantasy than as something 'I' actually experienced. It was something somebody else experienced, but I have their memories, and the fact that they're not 'mine' means they'll never be lost in the mass of 'my' many memories. They will always stand out as something extraordinary, in the most literal sense of the word.
DOM, as a drug independent of Burning Man, is almost without flaw. I felt very good the next day, like I said earlier. My mood throughout the whole trip was positive. Though at times I was concerned about whether I'd be able to hold my shit together, and though I sometimes didn't know exactly what to do or where to go, I still had the driving feeling of, 'I know I can handle this, just go for it!!' And the psychedelic qualities of DOM are of the breadth and depth of acid: similar hyperawareness of music, similar visual complexity, and a totally comparable access into the crevices and beyond the bounds of the mind. The length is long but feels just right for serious exploratory trips. It is unfortunately a very rare drug, but one well worth seeking out and trying. A-plus.
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