Dusty Tuesday Exodus

Center Camp Cafe’

Monday night they began tearing down the Center Camp Café. I was walking back from dinner where entire camps were disappearing with great expediency, leaving gaping holes in the once urbanized wall of themecamps that were there only one day before. Gone were the Home Brew camp, the Beacon and Eggs bar. As I passed the Café I saw two of the last stragglers; a tall naked man stood with his back to me next to his female companion who wore a flowing paisley robe, both staring wistfully into the Café that had become a deconstruction zone. I could tell they only wanted just one more Tai Chi or Chai Tea but the Café is closed for business.


Next year take an Art Tour

Dismantling The Universe Revolves Around YOU, photo Barbarino

The Art is disappearing out here overnight, with a couple of the non-burnable huge pieces like Zach Coffin’s The Universe Revolves Around YOU and Pier 2 in the process of being taken down. The playa’s pretty much empty now with only the Man pile still burning, the Dragon Smelter and Bone Tree hanging around the Esplanade, and I’m told about four pieces out there waiting to be pulled up. Burn piles out where David Best’s Temple of Juno, The Man and Otto Von Danger’s  Burn Wall Street stood, are being tended to by those cleanup crews.


A Socratic debate

It was exactly like this, only on a dusty street with a truck.

A hot Sunday morning after the Man burn.

Too bright, too sunny.

Walking down an intersection where people were sitting on both sides of the street in their camps. On lawn chairs, under shade structures, fanning themselves. Recovering after a long night.

A pick-up truck drives slowly past. A bunch of beautiful young men and women are on its bed, smiling and laughing. One girl throws her arms wide and shouts “It’s a beautiful sunny Sunday morning in Black Rock City! Love and blue skies and peace and happiness!”

They all grin and smile and cheer.

I turn, and can’t help myself.  It just bursts out.

“Apocalypse!” I shout back at them. “Hellfire! Doom and destruction and futility! Night will descend upon us all!” (more…)

To the Burn and the Burners of 2012…

I’ve been baptized by the playa. From dust we came and to dust we shall return, but I feel blessed not to need to wait for death to experience the full saturation, this cleansing transformation. Every pore of my skin is chalk white. My lungs, my hair, chalk white, At this moment, my appearance is the truest projection it has ever been of my Self. And I feel beautiful.

I asked Black Rock City to help me let go of some things. It understood me literally and took away my goggles and face scarf. So I had to embrace the white outs with a soon sensual surrender. When all I see is blankness enfolding me, I am one with it. There’s nothing else in that surreal world which comes and goes with the wind. I am humbled to be the dust. When a figure emerges from the whiteness – bedecked in the full regalia of their own self expression, we are alone in this world. We are mirrors. I am him, she is me, we are the dust of the Earth. And just as gracefully as it emerged, the figure fades away again into the haze.

Never have I been so seen, so felt, so respected and so uncomfortable. Black rock city might be mapped a mile south of the fringes of my personal boundaries. Free of my comfort zone, I can play myself without inhibition. I came alone and I leave alone, though the journey was shared with the deep sweet hearts of burners as enrapt with the surreality as I.

The flat cradle of the playa, like a vessel in the black rock mountains, holds the extremes of our thoughts and emotions – those we must leave there in order to carry on with life afterward. What unfathomable depth and strength in that Earth.

On day 1 I believe it could (and should) last forever. By day 7 it’s far too full, nearly overflowing with the byproducts and leftovers of 60,000 people’s mental/emotional/spiritual catharsis. The catalyst is too strong to be sustainable and we can’t swim around in the energetic moop any longer. We leave. No trace. Vast. Empty. Desert.

Perhaps the wind carries it all away. Perhaps the ground soaks it down deep. But invariably by the next year, the black rocky arms are fertile again, empty, and ready to hug and accept whatever the fuck we bring for her this time around.

The sun has been our witness, our jury, our judge, our murderer and our white dove. How, then, can I recognize it as the same sun that shines over me at home? There it merely floats, out of mind, above the ceilings that shelter me. It’s all but forgotten as I navigate my way through the gruelingly elaborate labyrinth of Babylon.

I wonder, when I wear a polo, does the sun recognize me, too? In my Honda, am I still the nude Goddess who danced on a flaming dragon? Are the sun and I companion strangers who only meet when there are no shields between us, as on the playa?

It’s Temple Sunday. The pieces of art that changed my life are being dismantled. They lay in scattered pieces on the sand – mere memories of themselves, as disjointed as my recollections are sure to be when I look back on them. Will it seem like a dream, like something that would bear rich metaphor if I search for meaning in symbols I didn’t understand? Were his eyes really that shade of blue? Exactly how deeply did they penetrate my being? Will I think of them again? Will my burners think of me?

Or will I soon write it off as that sleepless night I sat under a heat lamp transfixed on a Salvador Dali painting.

As high as I’ve been lifted this week, I’m so much more grounded now. As far from default reality as I have travelled, I’ve become more realistic in my expectations of the world. I’ve aged a year in a week, just in time for my birthday right after exodus. I’ve been anywhere from 7 to 70 years old in 7 days and I’ll be happy to settle at 22 on Tuesday… at least until the next burn.

Life is nothing if not rich with contradiction, and the playa is the playing field upon which polarities party together rejoicing in their own impossibility.

360 days hence, in another lifetime, I’ll see you once again. Bring your libations of blood, sweat, cum and tears to pour at the feet of the man in a year many thought would never come. Save every syllable of sadness and surrender them in a smear of ink on a temple trellis. Transmute all the gratitude that our hearts only wish they were big enough to contain into gifts for our once and future family.

To the Burn and the Burners of 2012… thank you for stripping me of the layers of my self to reveal my Self.

by Jen Livingston

i once was lost, but now i’m found

My name is Hummingbird….it was my virgin year on the Playa this year. Everything I did, everything I saw, and everyone I met….was all so incredible. I could never fully explain my journey in Black Rock City.

My most epic, memorable moment….was during a day party at Distrikt. There was an animal….maybe Giraffe-like art car parked there, and it had a reeeeally long nose. Everyone was playing a ring toss game on it. Throwing mini hoops to make them around the nose of the art car. Now…I am the type of person to watch others try the game first, so I might create some type of strategy.

There was a guy who had been trying to make a ring around that nose for probably close to an HOUR….and he just could not friggin get it. He kept throwing it to the right of the car, hitting bikes, or to the left of the car, almost knocking people out with hoops!

It was so hilarious…and entertaining…but I really was rooting for him! So after about his 100th miss…lol…I realized he needed some motivation. I had a honey stick which was gifted to me from the Bee Keeper at the Honey Dome camp. I asked the guy if he liked honey…he said “yes”…so I gave him the honey stick, told him that if he ate the honey, it would give him the strength and focus to make that friggin ring on that nose!!! So….he ate the honey stick, and MADE THE NEXT SHOT!!!! he was SO happy….he rolled around on the playa, and jumped up and gave me a huuuge hug! I was so happy for him!

Next…I decided it was my turn to have a go at the game. I was having a difficult time, myself! It was much harder than it looked. After missing, I’m not really sure how many times, a VERY attractive man in a red cowboy hat came over to me and told me I had beautiful hair, and he gave me this awesome fire-color, beaded necklace that he made (it was the only gift he made, and brought to Burning Man to give to one person he felt deserved it, and would really appreciate it), so I picked up a ring, threw it in the air….AND I MADE THE RING ON THE NOSE!!!!!! I believe that my honey gift helped that guy make his shot…and I also believe that the necklace I was given helped me make my shot. Playa Magic is REAL, people!!!

Gifting goes such a long way….deeper than thoughts…deeper than the heart….it goes beyong anything anyone can imagine. These memories…and all the others I have stored in my mind, heart and soul….will be with me forever. Thank you Burning Man, and all Burners for everything. <3

by Hummingbird

The End of It All

The Temple of Juno burned last night, raining embers of shimmering fire on the crowd that had gathered to solemnly bring Burning Man 2012 to a close.

It may have been the most beautiful night of the whole week  – perfectly still, comfortably warm and lit by a near-full moon. During the daytime, an exodus had begun from Black Rock City, and the population had shrunk to maybe half the 52,000 participants who were here at the peak of the event. The refugees kicked up plenty of dust on their way out, but it hung low in the air, like tule fog in the Central Valley on a chilly winter night.

One more big burn, and then the work to restore the Black Rock Desert to its natural state would begin. This would be the first time in five years that a David Best temple would burn on the playa. After he built the temples of Mind, Tears, Joy, Honor and Stars from 2000 to 2004, Best retuned  in 2007 to build the Temple of Forgiveness. And then he left it to others to carry on the tradition. “I hoped that other people (on his crew) would step up, but it didn’t happen,” Best said yesterday.

During last year’s event, Best was getting his bike worked on at the DPW’s bicycle camp when a young, heavily tattooed woman approached him to say thank you for all   he had brought to Burning Man. It was a turning point.  “It touched me deeply,” Best said. “When someone thanks me, you have no idea what that means to me.” And that simple act of gratitude planted a seed.

Best’s crew had been asking him why they couldn’t do it again, get back out there and build another Temple. And  then, when his wife, Maggie, said that if he wanted to build another Temple, she would help him,  the decision was made. “She’s over there now,” Best said, waving his arm in the direction of the camp’s kitchen, “feeding 120 people a day.”

And so Best and his crew worked for months off the playa and for many weeks on it to erect the Temple of Juno. It was a beautifully detailed, Asian-influenced structure, instantly recognizable as a Best creation. And on this perfect night, it would go up in flames, and the drifting smoke would lift the sorrows of many thousands of people who use the burning of the Temple as a release from their pain.

Friends of Dr. Gooey brought Champagne and other things to honor her memory.

During the week, the Temple is heavily decorated with inscriptions and pictures and trinkets – mementoes  of those who have passed away, placed there by people seeking to honor their memory. But the Temple is not simply a collective funeral pyre; Best sees it as part of a healing process, a first step toward moving beyond the pain from loss and grief.

“The dream I had was that the community would heal itself,” Best said. (more…)

What a Burn

There was fire all over the playa last night as the city began its process of self-immolation, and all through the night giant bonfires raged.

It was a different kind of  burn night as there were not one, not two, but three big burns. The grandaddy of them all on this Rose Bowl burn night was, of course, the  burning of the Man.

The wind that had been blowing steadily for most of a couple of days had gone still by  the time Crimson Rose lit her torch from the cauldron at the top of the keyhole in  Center Camp. It had turned into a beautiful playa night, and there wasn’t a hint of dust blowing as Crimson and the procession made its way to the Man. Then they circled around the fire ring, distributing fire to the conclaves waiting to perform.  To keep with the football theme just for a moment, you could call the fire-dancing crews  the cheerleaders of Burning Man – Burn Team Burn!

With the conclaves all set in place, a crew pulled on the lines that raised the Man’s arms in the air, and the festivities were underway. There was drumming and dancing and thousands of people with shining eyes watching. All around the Man, hundreds and hundreds of fire performers did the routines they’d been working on for months.

Soon enough the time came for the dancing to end and the burning to begin.

The fireworks show began with sparkles and crackles,  and silver cascades of fire  poured down from the second level of the pavilion. Soon the Man had a streak of flame running up his leg, and the base became more and more consumed with fire. When the big booms came and the base exploded in flames, the people in the  inner circle had to scramble back to escape the heat. It was that intense.

The burn was beautiful and ferocious. The upper layer of the Man base fell in on the lower part, and then that whole structure burned for a good half hour more before the final upright lumber fell in on itself. Then the el-wire crowd and the blinkies and the thrill-seekers pushed toward the circle of embers. The crowd started circling around the fire in a tribal dance, waiting for the chance to race across the embers.

We didn’t wait to see who would be first to cross the flames. There were many burns to attend on this night, and the next one up was the EGO project of Laura Kimpton and Mike Garlington.

Laura Kimpton and Mike Garlington at the EGO burn

Photo Mike and his crew had spent most of the year making plaster casts of religious iconography, sports trophies, and other enigmatic detritus, then spray-painting them and attaching them to the giant EGO letters. Mike’s beau Meg said he’d been up at 4:30 most every morning to get going. “He gets such energy from the art,” she said. (more…)

All Good Things to an End Must Come

Man Burn

As you’ve no doubt heard, there were a couple Burns out here last night. We had a strong showing by our valiant Man who held on as long as he could before slipping in a mass of fire and embers below to howls primeval. His pavilion lasted much longer than he and it was probably the most substantial structure I’ve ever seen the Man stand upon since he’s been on top of them. It was a fitting and beautiful tribute to the man who designed it, Rod Garrett.

Tonight the Temple burns and all of the emotion we’ve put in there this week will wash up in a cathartic column of fire, sparks and ash that will send those notes of love and loss and of grief and forgiveness swirling into the night sky. Dust tornadoes will form and dance around us as if they are our loved ones lost, caressing us in the firelight’s glow, saying do not worry, everything is as perennial as the seasons, or the plants that return each spring or the love that brings us all together eventually.

Princess with her Sparkle Pony

Princess Blahblahblah came by the ARTery with her pony that she’s been bringing out here for years. She’s with Kentucky Fried Camp and someone stole the pony a day or so ago and the camp was predictably bummed until yesterday when the pony mysteriously re-appeared and had been Sparkle Ponied, with new faux fur on her mane and sides, hearts and sparkles glued all over her. A Polaroid was left; a picture of the Pony with another smaller pony out near the Temple at sunrise, with a note that read “Thank you for dancing with me all night.”