Why aren’t you here?

It's hooper heaven along the Esplanade
It's hooper heaven along the Esplanade

More random thoughts, because that’s the only kind we are capable of, and really, trying to get your arms around this beast is pretty damn impossible right now.

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We crashed a fancy party last night, and things were very fine. It was an outreach network gathering, bringing together a lot of the far-flung Burning Man operations.  The Black Rock Arts Foundation, Black Rock Solar, Burners Without Borders and a lot of the regional clans were represented.  For a lot of the folks, it was a reunion, like the people who were down in Peru helping after the earthquake. And there were regional reps from all over the world — Canada, South America, Japan … it’s a big Burner world out there.

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Maybe it’s just me, but there seem to be many more live performances on the Playa this year. The Red Nose District is in full swing, but it seems like there’s a lot more of everything live, too. Last night at around 8:30 and Esplanade, we watched a beautiful dance piece, the  dancers glowing under black lights in the desert night. Beautiful.

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If you live in the Bay Area, it must seem like you have the city to yourself these days. On the bright side, certain restaurants might be a little easier to get into. (And oh how we long for a restaurant experience, ANY restaurant experience:
Even though I have been eating relatively well (and by relative I mean probably better than I do at home), still, we will soon go to a restaurant, we will sit down, we will pick something off the menu, anything we like, and then they will bring it to us, and perhaps there will be wine. Oh yes, we are ready for that.)

There are lots of babies here, and Juniper was having a blast yesterday.
There are lots of babies here, and Juniper was having a blast yesterday.

But still, the Bay Area has to be lacking a certain energy. And maybe a common sense of longing for those not able to make it out here this year…

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You have to wonder how the BM people try to gauge the event; there’s no way of predicting, really, where the energy is going to go when people get here. At least I don’t know if there is. I’m sure clues emerge in the artist proposals and the theme camp registrations, but the hundreds and hundreds of camps that are off the grid or out of the book also help determine where this thing is heading. But who really knows? It’s not like the event can be directed in any major way. “It’s pushing with a feather,” as one insider put it.

There seem to be more than a couple of people walking around with tired eyes today, and the reason might not be exactly what you’d suspect. “I got plenty of sleep last night, but I still feel kind of tired. I’m not waking up,” one campmate said.  The diagnosis? Dehydration. You don’t know you’re even sweating out here. There’s no clue, because there is rarely any moisture on your body. But you lose water just the same. So yeah, for those of you not here, we’re really suffering. I know you feel for us. Really, I do.

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Thunderdome is in full swing, with places to hang onto the bars and watch the battles already hard to find. There was a cute scene there the other night; a young boy with a man we’ll say was his father were in the ring. The little guy was really going at it, taking out all that pent-up resentment of being told what to eat and when to go to bed and when to do the homework. The dad, admirably, was just doing a little jousting, pretty much love-tapping him when appropriate. No doubt they’ll use their words later …

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There's fire everywhere ...
There's fire everywhere ...

The “wheel” area of the camp is very much expanded this year, and it feels like there’s a lot more room. A lot of the familiar camps are still here — BMIR, Picasso Camp, the Information Booth — but it all feels more spacious. The Jazz Cafe is also going pretty much around the clock, and that’s a place I hadn’t checked out before. It’s kind of a combination performance/seminar scene, with lots of hot playing, but there are also lots of conversations about what’s being played, the influences, and the progression of the genre. Cool stuff.

We’ve been pretty wired to the election season in recent months, and it’s very strange to be out here and so out of touch. You don’t get much sense of anticipation about Obama’s speech tonight. Same with the Olympics; for the people here, it’s like they pretty much didn’t happen. But I’m looking forward to catching up via digital recorder, and I’m pretty sure Obama’s speech will be in YouTube shortly after he delivers it. So it’ll be there for me when I get back.

Politics feels more personal here; there are a lot of activists, but I haven’t come across any from the major parties. Instead, there are people who’ve learned how to do things like hang doors and frame houses and pour concrete at Burners Without Borders operations. There are a lot of Peru veterans here. It’s the politics of the planet.

The clown out in front of the Wheel leading to Center Camp looks a lot different at night
The clown out in front of the Wheel leading to Center Camp looks a lot different at night

Tonight’s plan; back to the Red Nose District, maybe another visit to Altered States, then out to the Temple (which I haven’t been able to get to since it opened), and then on way way out to Babylon and Peter Hudson’s Tantalus. It’s an aggressive schedule, given the condition of the playa (which is really challenging this year). But, hard as it is to believe, time is growing short. See you out there.

Here are a few snappies from the Regionals bash yesterday:

Larry Harvey and Maid Marian
Larry Harvey and Maid Marian
Miss Kelly
Miss Kelly
Bex and Neil
Bex and Neil
New York is in the house
New York is in the house
Burners without Borders people had a reunion at the Regionals gathering.
Burners without Borders people had a reunion at the Regionals gathering.

David Silverman of Simpsons fame broke out his flaming tuba.
David Silverman of Simpsons fame broke out his flaming tuba.

About the author: John Curley

John Curley has been Burning since the relatively late date of 2004, and in 2008 he spent the better part of a month on the playa, documenting the building and burning of Black Rock City in words and pictures. John is a longtime newspaper person and spent many years at the San Francisco Chronicle, where he was a deputy managing editor in charge of Page One and the news sections of the paper. Since leaving the Chronicle in 2007, he was a contributing editor on Blue Planet Run, a book about the world's water crisis, and for the past two years has been a lecturer at UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism. He has also started an event and editorial photography business, and is also working on a book about the "Ten Dollar Doc" from Arco, Idaho, which will make a lovely film someday.

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