Did you make it out ok?

There were flags to the front and flags to the rear on the way out of Black Rock City on Monday.
There were flags to the front and flags to the rear on the way out of Black Rock City on Monday.

So we’ve tried all sorts of strategies for making a speedy exit from Black Rock — leaving right after the Burn on Saturday night, leaving early on Sunday, leaving late on Monday — but pretty much to no avail. You’re going to be sitting in traffic for awhile. The good thing, though, is that you’re going to be sitting with other Burners, so you’ll likely be better for the experience. You’ll hear about the philosophy of Be Here Now, if you so choose, and you’ll be offered refreshing beverages, maybe a bite to eat … and some VERY thoughtful person will make sure that there’s a Porta Potty brought in when the line gets real long.

That’s what happened on the way out Monday evening. It took about two and half hours to go from the city to the highway, which wasn’t too bad, considering the entertainment going on all around. How about you? When did you leave? What was it like? Share a story about your Exodus …

How was your burn?

Brian dances in the street during the DPW parade
Brian dances in the street during the DPW parade

The wind blew most of the day and night on Saturday, and the Burn was put on hold for hours. But in an eerie replay to last year, the dust storms stopped just in time for Burning Man 2009 to reach its appropriately fire-y conclusion.

The day of the Burn was packed with people and activities. The city’s population reached its peak somewhere north of 42,000, and you have to be impressed that the number stayed so strong in such an economically challenging year.

Center Camp was mobbed all day, with folks seeking shelter from the blowing dust. … But it wasn’t the kind of dust storm that blanketed the city last year and turned daytime into evening. The sun was still shining, and it was a really really pretty day on the playa.
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We had a fairly representative Burn day. It started with maybe the most perfect iced mocha ever served in Center Camp. No, really. It was spectacular. Just perfect. … When you’ve come to kind of depend on the camp coffee situation to take care of itself, and then it doesn’t, well, you get a little desperate. But in this case our desperation was happily resolved at the cafe.

Then we were off for a last look around before things began to burn up.

We headed out to the Depot and the start of the DPW parade. Even though the wind and dust was howling, we could hear them coming from blocks away. “F– your day!” they’d shout. “F– what you know!” we’d shout back.  “No pictures!” they’d yell. “F– your day!” we’d shout back.

It sounds nasty and hard core, but you know what? I’ll tell you a secret. It’s an act. Oh, they won’t admit it, of course. And yeah, they’ll act like they would bite your head off most of the time. And they actually might, at least some of the time. But nobody comes out and volunteers to build a city in the dirt and heat who doesn’t have a lot of heart. And that’s your average DPW crew member right there. Dirty and crusty and loud on the outside, kinda squishy and real on the inside. But don’t tell them I told you. burn-night-6

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Burning Man’s plans

Larry Harvey at Fly Hot Springs
Larry Harvey at Fly Hot Springs

It was a gorgeous evening to be leaving the playa.

There hadn’t been much wind all day, and the dust was barely noticeable. The moon was a day away from full, and there was real excitement and anticipation in the evening air.

A smallish group of very well-turned-out people gathered near the Bone Tree in First Camp on Thursday  to be taken by bus to Fly Hot Springs, an oasis maybe 10 miles down the road from the hot and dusty Black Rock City. We drove away from the camps and the lights and the art, back out the way we had come in, and traveled a little further out Route 447, beyond the boundaries of present day Burning Man.

The bus we were on was taking us where Burning Man would like to go.

fly-hot-springs-4There’s a plot of land not far from the Black Rock Desert that the organization wants to buy. It’s owned by a family that would be willing to sell. The family has always been pretty sympathetic to the Burners, and now the economy has helped bring all parties closer to a deal.

So off we went to get a look at the land, leaving the present to get a glimpse of the future. All six founding directors of Burning Man were  part of the expedition — Larry and Marian and Crimson Rose and Harley and Will Rogers and Michael Michael — and also the people who keep the engine running so that the event takes place smoothly every year, the tech people and the legal people and the legislative people (it takes a lot to assure nervous politicians that yes, there is actually more going on at Burning Man than a bunch of naked people dancing around fires, although of course that DOES happen, but so does a whole lot more).

All of them, but especially Jackrabbit, had tugged on coatsleeves and cashed in chips to bring together some people who might be able to help make Burning Man’s dream come true. To be blunt: Burning Man was putting the arm on them, letting them know that they needed their help in getting this thing done.  So they were treating them to dinner at the place  where they’d like to go.

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Who are you camping with?

I chose this photo because it is multiple images of the theme camps that surrounded us in 2003, those are our stars, Bollywood was across the street, Eye of Gawd next door, etc., etc., etc
I chose this photo because it is multiple images of the theme camps that surrounded us in 2003, those are our stars, Bollywood was across the street, Eye of Gawd next door, etc., etc., etc

I am home in San Francisco this afternoon, because for my 10th year I did “Burning Man Light”.  Three days, four nights, but as always eye opening, hot, dusty, joyful, difficult, ya’know.  But in just these few days I once again found my campmates facinating.  We camped for several years with beings who bring peace as well as art to the Playa, and then a couple of years with the Bunnies, one year a staff camp and last year a bar camp filled with long time Burners, but where we were far and away the oldest people in the group.

I always find the “Who ARE my campmates?” interesting!  This year we had a gaggle of newbies some of them software celebrities, crew from the the explOratorium, a rising international artist, a former art curator, a Playa luminary who is also a cartoon director and producer, our camp leader is a mechanical engineer and we have Gate and Artica staff as well as our own DPW Manager, and bringing up the rear, Moze and me, your bloggers.

So how does it come to be that there is this symbiosis of geeks, writers, artists, and engineers?  Some of whom never stop working on the camp and some of whom barely contribute unless there is a request.   I am sure that your camp also has some breadth and depth of engagement with [BM].  Is there a type of person you can categorize as a Burner or those that you know would hate Burning Man and yet they end up coming to the Event and loving it?

So when you arrive home and are dreaming of Burning Man tell me a story of a campmate that in some way surprised you, or you did not expect to like and now adore, or about that “thing” that seems to happen, that camps get to a certain size and morph into some other entity, or how you could not imagine camping with anyone else.  The camping with other people can be a huge part of Burning Man and I would love to hear more about it from you!

photo: Pete Slingland

The white procession

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White was the theme Wednesday night and Thursday morning in Black Rock City.

The Opulent Temple dance camp had a big blowout on Wednesday night, a gathering that’s called White Night.

Then, the next morning, everyone who’s still up after a night of dancing, plus other folks who want to see the sun rise in the far reaches of the playa, heads out to the Temple for the White Procession.

Here are a some photos from the morning after and the night before.

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Acclimated yet?

What Happens in Sin City

Tuesday night someone climbed up on top of the Thunderdome and hung a Hot Topic sign over their sign. Brilliant. If you know who Deathguild is, you’ll appreciate the prank. At first we thought the Billion Bunnies may have done it, but “Hot Topic” wasn’t misspelled and none of the letters were backwards, so it probably wasn’t them.

We’re in full swing here in the magnificent potlatch of Black Rock City. The intermittent dust storms seem to have settled and everything is playa tested and approved. Please keep your head and arms inside your vehicle at all times. Evidently, every odd numbered street is one way, so please observe all traffic signs and comply with requests from officials. If you are pulled over for post gate inspection, please co-operate with your friendly inspectors. They’re pulling people over with much flourish to their carport of flashing lights and cones, then giving them tamales.

Also, don’t be surprised if you are the proud recipient of the Black Rock City award. Rumor has it that all over our fair City, the Animal Control are waiting for someone to go into one of the Porta Potties, then while they’re in there, they lay out a red carpet and they’re all dressed fabulous and carrying trophies. When the unsuspecting citizen opens the Porta door, they are greeted with a group of showgirls presenting trophies to them and paparazzi. It is quite the scene.

Jocelyn and Eilliot's Funky Cock Car

A few other things that more than likely are not true, but everyone seems to be talking about them:

The theme next year is 2012. Burning Man is always ahead of the Zeitgeist.

There are Monkey Pox and Unicorn Flu moving through Black Rock City. You obviously get Monkey Pox from kissing monkeys, but Unicorn Flu, contrary to popular belief, does not come from dust, it comes from dust masks.
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Art car

This shot's a little tricky, and I apologize. It shows the "Carbeque" in the foreground and the "Slug" in the background.
This picture is a little deceiving, and I apologize. It shows the "Carbeque" in the foreground and the "Slug" in the background.

You really want to climb aboard some kind of vehicle if you are going to make an evening of traveling around Black Rock City.  Last night we got on The Slug, the skankiest, nastiest, Mad Max-ing-est art car out here. It started life in the mid-60s as some kind of truck, and now it’s smelly and dusty and LOUD. And unbelieveably cool. It’s pretty much the only car I would want to be seen on, and that’s really saying something.

This beast has been totally redone for 2009 (like the ads say). There’s a new second deck/dance area, a very cool visual system that throws green and red laser lights on the floor of the desert and makes things seem like we are floating on a green and red sea of jewels.This drives most Burners wild, of course, because they are attracted by all things sparkly.

Also, the sound system seems improved too, but I can’t confirm that. There were three DJs on board Tuesday, including the famous KidHack.People were streaming out of their camps as we came rolling by.

Not everything is new and improved, though. We broke down a lot, just like we did last year.

That's the early DJ on the right. He always seemed to be the last one to get on board when the Slug was starting back up. "You can't leave the DJ on the playa!" he'd say.
That's the early DJ on the right. He always seemed to be the last one to get on board when the Slug was starting back up. "You can't leave the DJ on the playa!" he'd say.

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Fight Night

The DPW had its "family" night at Thunderdome on Tuesday. You know Thunderdome -- where two enter, and only one leaves? Oh, wait, wrong movie. But pretty much the same. Two combatants suspended on thick elastic from the roof of the dome, who are hurled at each other to do battle. Sometimes foam swords are used. Sometimes not. I do not yet have the results of all the matches, but D.A. was looking for revenge after his four-round loss to the DPW champ last year. Leave a comment if you know who won, and how the battle went. Much appreciated.
The DPW had its "family" night at Thunderdome on Tuesday. You know Thunderdome -- where two enter, and only one leaves? Oh, wait, wrong movie. But pretty much the same. Two combatants suspended on thick elastic from the roof of the dome, who are hurled at each other to do battle. Sometimes foam swords are used. Sometimes not. I do not yet have the results of all the matches, but D.A. was looking for revenge after his four-round loss to the DPW champ last year. Leave a comment if you know who won, and how the battle went. Much appreciated.

art-car-3