[Tony "Coyote" Perez first set foot in Black Rock City in 1996, where he immediately went to work, ultimately becoming the Department of Public Works' Site Manager. He is renowned amongst the staff as Burning Man's Poet Laureate, as well as being an accomplished saxophonist with his band "Second Hand Smoke." This post is part of the Metropol Blog Series.]
Did you know that the basic layout of the city of Boston was planned by the cows? No, it’s true. It’s not just something I heard on “Cheers” from Cliff Clavin. Boston was one of the earliest-settled cities of the new world and the settlers of the times, being from various parts of Europe and such, threw down camps apart from one another to start their own separate farms and villages. The open range pastures of these early farmers allowed the cattle to roam from farm to farm and from village to village as they were raised and traded. Paths formed.
I remember my first Burning Man. No, it’s true. The ’96 burn didn’t have a fence yet and the dust plumes of caravans came from all points like slow motion meteors. People started throwing down camps apart from one another to start their own separate camps and villages. A road formed.
Put a group of people together and, given time, communal geometry happens. Old as the hills. Given time, the single celled life of pre-history took a billion-year old leap and started arranging themselves into organisms where cells started taking on tasks – started working together. In a sense, multi-celled organisms were single-celled communities. A blood stream formed. Funny how the conduits are amongst the first things that a community builds. Funny how one can get the word “communicate” out of the word “community”. Seems the words have something in… common…
I’ll never forget my first glimpse of Black Rock City in ’96. It was that of a Doggie Diner head shimmering ahead in the shimmers, emerging like the dot of an oncoming twilight zone. What was this place?! Maybe my buddy who was guiding me to this planetoid had something new for me after all. Couldn’t really ask him at the time, his head was blasting off out of my sunroof as we approached one ten on the speedometer. Even at this speed, the grand vacuum of the playa was reducing us, and everything else, to a mere dust plume – just another slow motion meteor.