by Pete Lee
AS A CHILD, LOOKING BACK, I THINK I COULD HAVE PLAYED MORE. I seem to recall someone mentioning that it was amazing to see a group of adults at play at The Burn. Hearing it for the first time, I found this statement to be rather incongruous. Adults? Play? When the hell did those two words really fit together?
I discovered, for the first time, that they really, truly do. It all started with an incident midweek, where earlier that day, Black Rock City Animal Control had decided that they needed to ‘capture’ Jaime (of Tiger Dome) who was wearing a tiger headdress and orange striped fur. Right now, I should explain the mission of BRC Animal Control for the not-yet-Burners: to protect the innocent animals of Black Rock City. Considering the not insignificant number of participants who wore animal costumes, their work was cut out for them. Animals would be caged, sedated with shots (of tasty sedating beverages), tagged and released. The way things worked out, Jaime wasn’t terribly fond of this. Long story short: we weren’t going to tolerate this behavior-the battle cry of “let’s raid those fuckers” goes up in our camp, and appropriately, a flurry of furry activity begins.
Angie and Jaime must have brought an entire bolt of extra orange tiger fur with them. This is in addition to the metric-ass-ton of tiger fur that covered the entire floor of a large dome space and a million other things. What to do with the extra fur became patently obvious: make tiger costumes! Why? Well, duh, because we need them!
Over the next two hours, the seamstresses of our camp, complete with sewing machines, went to work. The reserves of the Crafty Chick Army turns a bolt of tiger fur into skirty kilts, hats, headdresses, and a few other creative coverings. [N.B. Uncle Satan clearly won the award for best use of the least amount of tiger fur.]
Not being so quick on the draw (after all, a bolt of tiger fur has already been tapped into by the guys of a large theme camp), I am forced to rely on the generosity of Lycretia, who has brought a grip of white fur. What to make. Hmm. An idea for a white furry quasi bondage harness, tail, helmet and matching wrap pops into my head. Great idea! Five seconds before it all started, I would not have been caught dead wearing faux fur, a tail, or anything vaguely resembling bondage gear-or even thinking about any combination of the above. Two hours of light sewing, cutting, duct tape, my Sam Browne EMT belt, a key ring, the ever-required E6000 building glue, and a zip tie to hold the waist wrap shut complete the outfit. Unfortunately, no time to add the EL-wire-at least on this adventure!
We all jump onto our Garden of Eden art car, blasting the dance remix of Eye of the Tiger with Mr. T quotes (let’s not forget-our sister camp is Tiger Dome/Church of T), and drive to Playa Info for directions. Leaving speechless a group of individuals who, quite frankly, should already be accustomed to this sort of freakish, exuberant behavior, we find the location of BRC Animal Control. Game on!
A combination of riding, walking and biking tigers march to the BRC Animal Control camp. Oddly enough, we find the normally active group of Animal Control Officers to be unsurprised or in a deep state of shock as we roll up, growling. After locking up a representative of their group, sedating him with a PBR, and threatening to ‘mark’ their territory, we come to an agreement.
At the wedding of Angie and Jaime in Tiger Dome, I am surprised to see BRC Animal Control appear. What the hell? They mobilize and herd the drunk cats as Angie and Jaime roar off in a dragon trike. Then, this SWAT team disperses in an eerily organized manner. Thanks to them, no animals were killed during the making of this wedding!
The Funhouse we visited later was also cool, beautiful in its detail. I never really did that as a kid either. Walking through that, I became a kid again. Let’s hope I don’t grow up! (Still hate clowns, though.)
This sense of play applied to everything that happened at The Burn. I got to relearn something from my childhood: didn’t we pour our heart and soul into play and creativity as kids? As a kid, wasn’t that scrawled drawing the very best? It was our opus! We were better than the greatest artists of the world combined! And, really, it was. Why? Because it was done with incredible love, energy and devotion. This is when I discovered the true meaning of ‘Welcome Home.’ Burning Man was what I (and perhaps many of us) never got quite enough of as a kid: an opportunity to feel safe, to be simultaneously challenged and supported, to play and to grow. As artists, engineers, musicians, medical staff, chefs, and rangers-just to name a few-we were there to create our own opus, again. Playing in our own way. This is where Home really is.
As noted in the website, “If something feels like work, stop doing it.” 99% of my time at Burning Man was spent doing something fun, whether it involved mundane tasks, building something, creating art, or participating in the work of another artist. The other 1% of the time, I was taking a break or sleeping. This seems about the right ratio for kids-big or small. I can’t really think of anyone who wouldn’t find an opportunity to have fun at The Burn, as whatever they want to be-while respecting the boundaries of others at the same time.
A reminder to drivers in Black Rock City: SLOW – ADULTS AT PLAY.
(This selection was excerpted from a longer work submitted by the author: http://ourhands.fea.st/The%20Man%20Has%20No%20Hands.pdf)