temple zone copy2For a lot of people, Burning Man is a transformational experience.

Your outlook changes. Your experience of the world changes. The way you relate to other people, and the place they hold in your life, changes.

Stories of transformations are everywhere.

There is the business executive who, after attending his first Burn, decided that the life he was leading really wasn’t the right one for him, so he chucked his job and his status and went on the road for a year and a half, trying to decide what to do next with his life. (This story is not apocryphal; ; I am not making it up. True, I can’t use the names, but you can probably understand the reasons why.)

There is the young woman who went to Burning Man after graduating from college and decided, “Oh yes, this is for me, this is how I want to develop my life, these are the areas where I want to grow.” So she moved to San Francisco, to be in  position to volunteer for the organization. She’s still here.

And then there are the smaller, maybe less dramatic things that happen to you during the event, the ones that you try to take back from the playa with you. The experiences you didn’t know you needed to have until you actually had them. Somehow, you met and had a truly significant and helpful conversation with a person who was going through something a lot like what you’re going through. You found new words to describe your situation, and in the process, discovered more clearly how you were feeling about it. And how exactly did it happen that this was the person you were stranded with in a sandstorm? How exactly did that awesome conversation start?

It’s lost in the haze, but the aftereffects have lingered.

Tell us about how you’ve changed since the time in the desert, and how you got to where you are now.

temple write copy

All the Burn’s a Stage

burning man opera-54We went over to the Noodle Factory in Oakland on Sunday to get a taste of “The Burning Opera – How to Survive the Apocalypse.” It was one of the final tuneups for the show that opens Monday, October 5, at Teatro ZinZanni, on the waterfront in San Francisco.

The rock opera is a little bit “Hair” in that it tries to capture the zeitgeist of a movement, and a little bit “Rent” in the joyful exuberance that sometimes comes along with incredible hardship, and maybe a little bit “Jesus Christ, Superstar” in the way it touches your spiritual buttons.

burning man opera-29The storyline is about a guy and his girl who make their way to the playa for the first time.  She’s a lot more reluctant about everything than he is, at least initially. She tolerates the greeters, gets freaked out trying to set up their tent in a dust storm, and in general is having a really crappy time. She finds very little amusing about shirtcocking, but of course she’s not alone in that assessment. But she’s uptight and really unsure about this whole radical self-expression thing in general, especially when it comes to nudity and sexuality.

But things happen.  There are transformations. Hilarity ensues. And you’ll want to see it all for yourself.

You definitely don’t need to have gone to the desert to get a kick out of the Burning Opera, but there is lots that will be familiar to people of the playa: PortaPotties, blinkies and pasties, plus the eternal question: How can people who wear pink fur get along with the folks in black leather and studs?

Here’s more from the website:

Driven by the desire to bring the Burn off the playa, but without the crusty snot, “How to Survive the Apocalypse” aims to communicate the culture of Burning Man to wider audiences. On a larger level, the show aims to explore the inherent conflicts and painful paradoxes of the event itself, from its tangled origins to its ongoing mutation.

The tale unfolds with the help of some really beautiful music and some incredibly talented people.

You can find out about tickets over here. The workshop performances in January sold out, so you might want to grab some tickets before it’s too late for this go-round.

Lots and lots more photos after the jump.

burning man opera-44


all hands on deck pt.2:, New Orleans

Hi. I’m a DPW / Gate clowngineer who now lives with some other “derelicte” members of D.I.Y. society, building up a Katrina-bombed house in the Holy Cross neighborhood of New Orleans. The Holy Cross is the sliver-by-the-river area of the Lower 9th Ward which didn’t get crushed by a tsunami shortly after Hurricane Katrina hit landfall. All around our neighborhood, during the day, you can hear hammering and sawing and the shouts of construction workers complaining about heat and sun. It sounds like a Deadwood background reel, or Black Rock City being built.

Meanwhile, we’re living with no refrigerator for the moment. Also, zero grocery stores exist within biking distance — reasonable biking distance — so for the past we-don’t-know-how-many days in a row, when we’re not being fed at the fancy-pants restaurants at which we toil, we partake of the HOLY CROSS BREAKFAST: Fried chicken and a pickle.

Live Debris – Portland Oregon


We don’t usually tell you about local events but we thought this was so new and exciting you had to know about it!  A [BRAF] 2009 Grant Recipient, Live Debris 2009 is a series of international events sharing reuse traditions as a means of reducing stigmas around garbage, poverty and street culture. Live Debris has taken place in Beirut, Lebanon, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and now Portland, Oregon.


While You Were Burning…

Welcome back! It was very strange not being there with you, and watching the event, vicariously and compulsively, on the streaming feed on the web over the course of a week. For me, Burning Man has been a learning experience from the beginning, and I have learned so much this year, only this time I’ve learned it by not being there.

It has been incredibly painful going through the motions here, maintaining a typical existence, going to work, doing what I normally do. Except it’s been anything but normal, because I wasn’t there, I was here. And I should not have been going to work. I should have been building a dome, contributing to life in our temporary city, hanging out with all of you.

So what did I learn by NOT going to Burning Man this year?


Once upon a moment

bone tree copy2

No matter how much time you are able to spend in Black Rock — a day, a week, a month — there always seems to be a moment or two or three if you are lucky that define the experience, ones that linger in your mind’s eye for weeks and months and years.

On Sunday, on the evening of the Temple burn, the moon rose beautifully over the playa, and it illuminated the Bone Tree that was parked near the entrance to Center Camp.

Other people were struck by the sight, too, and they came running to tell us about it.  So the moment was doubly significant — the sheer exquisite beauty of what was happening, as well as the instinct to share the experience.

(If you are unfamiliar with the Bone Tree, here’s some background from Dana Albany, the artist who created it in 1999:

“I’d been thinking about a bone sculpture for several years … Working  in the desert where cattle grazed nearby, I had access to all the bones I needed. I wanted to use an artifact of death to create a tree, as a way of paying homage to the existence of all life.

“…  I designed and constructed a mobile, interactive sculpture I named The Bone Tree, which consisted of a 27-ft steel frame tower mounted on five wheels like the base of an office chair, allowing it to be freely pushed around the Wheel of Time. The tower was completely covered with thousands of cattle bones. … It looked very eerie sitting on the playa, biding its time, knowing that sooner or later all living creatures turn to bone and that metaphorically all the bones would come to it.

“… The Bone Tree came to a very fitting end in the desert that year. After a ferocious wind storm, one of my friends walked up to me and said, “Did you hear about the Bone Tree?” She told me that the wind storm blew the Bone Tree across the playa, pushing it so far out that it was at least a mile from camp. What is especially interesting is that all of the extra bones stored under the Bone Tree’s frame had been shaken loose, leaving a trail of bones behind it the whole length of its journey.

“I thought this was amazing because I had always envisioned the Bone Tree out on the playa and felt it was meant to return to the desert, and it did.”)

So that’s the story of the Bone Tree, and one of the times that will stand out the most for me.

Tell us about one of your defining moments on the playa this year …

That Heavy Sunday Moon

El Dorado
I’m writing from Room 906 in an undisclosed Reno hotel casino, or as we like to call it, 9 o’clock and R. It took me 20 minutes to get to the truck and back because every dusty Black Rock City refugee stopped and wanted to talk about Exodus and whether theirs was good or not so good. You can spot Burner cars in Reno, the really, really dusty ones loaded with all manner of camping necessities; the ones that other Burners have traced images of the Burning Man through the playa dust onto the clean paint below.

Sunday was a great day as we tore down the Man Museum so that our long timers wouldn’t be stuck with all the loading on Monday and Tuesday. As we were taking apart the shade, two bikes collided on the Esplanade out front and we ran over to them. The two girls involved stood up and hugged each other. No one was hurt and they went on their merry way. Only in Black Rock City do you have a “Hit and Hug”.

Man Museum 2009 Exactlee and Crew
Man Museum 2009 Exactlee and Crew

Yes, there were intermittent dust storms Saturday and Sunday, but that didn’t slow us down. Sunday was a party to celebrate cleaning up after our last party, which was a celebration of the previous party and so on.

Then we began getting ready for the night’s festivities and THAT MOMENT came about, the time when….

… the dry-pulverizing desert sunshine suddenly disappears with a pop, as the sun dips behind the Granite Range to the west of 34, and that harsh white daytime baking spotlight on the playa is replaced with a breathtaking cool gentle sky of gorgeous uterine pinks and blues that enchants and makes everyone so beautiful; makes the colors come alive, then it all slides slowly into a purple gray slate sky, and Black Rock City suddenly comes alive.

Dinners and cocktail parties are in full force and the Esplanade is packed with those going to and fro, all fabulous. Photographers live for that brief moment and they save up their shots to get there and shoot the Art. In camps, lights shake off the day’s dirt and start their twinkle and costumery is suddenly warm as shadows play tricks on the eye. Daytime sculptures go to sleep and the night time Art comes into focus as El-wire cars passing light up and suddenly make sense and take shape and everything is transformed as we slowly slide into the night time world where planets and grand constellations rise and dance across the sky with much felicity above our temporary bacchanal.

Sunday night the Moon rose full and heavy up over 2:15 to the south east and as citizens beheld it, a great howl arose from all parts of the City, a primal howl that made you look to the sky and see what they saw and in turn, howl yourself, because it felt right and good after all the time out here in this magnificent City.

If only all cities howled when the large moon rose close to the ground all around.


Dreaming of Bacon

ManThere are 40+ thousand people these days eating on the playa every year and there’s really no way to encapsulate that entire experience but if I had to point to one word it would be BACON!

Sizzling salty swine in a pan. Love the smell and the taste of that stuff out on the playa. Make it free range if you will, but BACON.

At Burning Man, Bacon is a gateway meat for vegetarians. Bacontarians, if you will. They may taste it when that morning pan fried aroma is slinking through camp and offered to them. They’ll promise to swear off the pig when they leave the playa with much consternation, but for now they’ll imbibe in the irresistible bacon.

BACON MAN! Bacon without Borders, Bacon as currency, Optimus Bacon, Megs and Bacon, Bacon Gunz, Squeez Bacon… just search for “bacon burning man” on Google and you’ll find everything you need to know.

Heron Project Morning

Fannie Brice once sang a song called “Cooking Breakfast for the One I love” where she says, “My Baby likes Bacon and that’s what I’m makin’” Fannie would have had a good time on the playa.

In 2000 this tall, tan guy was pushing his bike around the playa and he had a gas stove attached to his handle bars. This was right after the sun came up and Bird and I were relaxing on our dusty couches on the Esplanade at the Headless Maiden. The guy stopped and asked, “Would you like some bacon?” to which we stood and said, “Yes please,” and he stopped there naked with his bacon sizzling, pushing it around with those metal tongs.

We asked him if he’d ever burnt himself and he said, “So far, so good”. This was the first time he’d done it and he did it because he’d always wanted to make bacon for the City naked.