Tuesday night was a tale of two nights: A lovely gathering in our home on the playa — Media Mecca — and then a journey into darkness on the other side — Thunderdome.
The first event was a birthday party for Andi Grace, aka Action Girl, who had a birthday that ended in a zero. We won’t be more specific than that about which birthday it was. There was an amazing turnout from various factions, with people from from Cobra Commander of the DPW to Larry his own self. There were TWO cakes, and Flash was behind the bar. It was good times.
Then it was off to “Friends and Family” night at the Death Guild’s Thunderdome, where the DPW and the Gate crews squared off against each other. Do you know the Thunderdome? Like so much here, it’s very “Mad Max.” Two men (or women) enter, one man (or woman) leaves. The action was fierce. Really fierce. Much fiercer than you’re likely to see the rest of the week.
We couldn’t imagine two experiences so wildly divergent in a single night. But out here, that’s not really out of the ordinary.
There’s an amazing amount of new art on the Playa this year, and one of the biggest reasons is the presence of 24 effigies set up by the CORE project, the association of Burning Man Regional groups from around the world.
For the first time, the Regionals will stage their own burn, on Thursday night, when all 24 of the projects will go up in flames in a giant ring around the Man.
It’s a sign of the growing significance of the Regionals. As the main Burning Man event continues to push the size limits of the playa, the importance of having Regional events climbs.
“There are many people in the Regionals who’ve never even been to Burning Man,” Action Girl was saying at a gathering in the Center Cafe on Tuesday. “But they still feel a part of the community now.”
The Regional organizations began 13 years ago, so you could say that their big burn project this year could be called their Burn Mitzvah, it was noted at the gathering.
Among the many effigies on the playa this year are Lucky Lady Lucy, the creation of the Las Vegas group. The funding for the project was grass-roots, as evidenced by the garage sale held by Dr. Gooey to help raise money. The effigy from the South Bay group is made up of a crossed stairway of laptops rising out of an orchard. Very fitting for the Silicon Valley.
One of the largest and most ornate effigies is OuroBouros, from the very large and very active Austin group.
“There’s no reason the fire hose of creativity has to be aimed at the desert,” Action Girl said at the meeting. “And the purpose is not just to throw big parties. It’s about civic engagement.”
As if by wizardry, Black Rock has sprung to life, the party’s started, and everything everywhere is going off at once.
The city is ringed in light, the art cars and blinky bikes are out in number, and everywhere you look, everyone seems to have hit the ground running. The Center Cafe is good and crowded, the speakers and performers are going round the clock, and the yoga dancers and poi spinners are holding court in the center of the space.
Monday was a funny day, in that there seemed to be a higher-than-normal number of people wandering around the playa who looked fresh and clean. Their outfits were shiny and new, and their skin had yet to acquire a base coat of playa dust.
By today, though, everyone was coated homogeneously, and you weren’t able to tell who’s been here for a day, a week, or a month. The temperatures were in the mid-80s (nice!), but the wind kicked up and was blowing at a steady 30 mph most of the day.
The population of the city doubled overnight, to more than 30,000, and of course there were plenty more people on their way in. By tomorrow, we’re guessing, we’ll hit an average peak population somewhere north of 50,000.
And the folks of Black Rock City went around and about, determined to make the most of these precious days. Here are a few snappies from the first full day of Burning Man 2011:
A couple dozen or so people rode down to the Gates last evening for the “soft” opening of Burning Man 2011.
As you’ve no doubt heard, the gates to the city don’t open until midnight on Sunday night of the event. Buuuuut, for the last couple of years, there has in fact been an unofficial official opening, when the powers that be have said that it’s time to let folks in and get those lines moving.
Maybe you’ve picked up one of those green bikes that you see all over the playa, the kind that seem to pop up magically when you need them most. You need a bike, you find a bike, and then you leave it for the next person who needs it.
There are about 1,000 of the bikes circulating around Black Rock City, a shared resource for the people who get around exclusively by foot and bike (and art car). Yesterday, the crew from the Bologna Hole, the bike lovers who help you when your bike has problems, were bused out to the work ranch. Then they picked up the so-called Yellow Bikes (even though they’re green) and rode back 12 long hot miles to the playa and dropped off bikes around the city.
“Normally I ride about 100 miles a week,” Jamie was saying at the Depot before they headed out. “So it’s going to feel really good to do this.”
They don’t take all 1,000 bikes from the ranch to the city this way, but, like so many things here, it’s a tradition to take the last ones to the city by human power. And so the crew adhered to their strict training regimen (plenty of beer and smokes), and headed out to the ranch.
The bike program started in 2006, when there were so many bikes left behind after the event it became logical to repurpose them for the next year. And so they did. “We worked on them right out there,” Reno Travis was saying as he pointed to a field of baking sagebrush at the ranch. “We got all the leftover bits and scraps.” And that’s also how the group got its name: You make bologna out of leftover bits and scraps of meat. (There’s another connotation associated with bologna hole, of course, but we’re not going to go there today. But you can safely assume that the crew is aware of the reference, and vigorously embraces it.)
Anyway, the crew got a big lift the next year, in 2007, when they received a donation of 1,000 bikes from a donor moved by the Green Man theme that year. They’ve kept the vast majority of those bikes in service ever since.
And yesterday was the day they finished up their prep work for the year, reconditioning the bikes and getting them ready for Burners who need them. Need a bike, find a bike, then leave it for the next person. One of the many things that works around here.
12:01 AM Monday, August 29th 2011: must be time to burn. The calendar says so.
Burning Man is in full swing. There are hundreds…no, clearly thousands of auto headlamps visible on Gate Road, something that Danger Ranger once referred to as the “String of Pearls”. Swarms of clean people are pouring out of the radial streets onto the iinner playa…and I just saw one guy belly flop with joy into the dust. And the art. The art is up, and more is coming. I can’t see it all. I can’t shoot it all. I can barely even decide which of the 3000 images I’ve captured in the last few days to display here.
So, without further ado, here’s a small sample of what Burning Man 2011 has in store for you.