I’ll be fine here, back home.

I’m SO excited to be taking this year off Burning Man.  I just wanted to let you all know.

At homeThe last month has been a bit of a drag, following online art project and theme camp arrangement discussions along with noticing random shopping Burners all a flutter in mad rushes at various building supply and thrift stores, picking through bins of clothes, pulling out the unseemly, ironic or costume re-purposeful stuff.  I see them there, hoarding Boy Scout shirts and tuxedo tops, grabbing odd hats, bridal getups, impossible shoes and other affluent refuse donated by a spoiled culture steeped in planned obsolescence.  I noticed them at scrap and big builder outlets buying pipes and steel, tarps and wood and screws to build something they have no business erecting anywhere without zoning permits.

Yea, I saw you buying up all the solar lights and goggles and dust abatement gear, filling your bags with anything that glows or blinks, anything that can entertain off the grid. I see you loading your almost-clean-of-playa-dust-after-a-year trucks all covered with BRC stickers. I know what you’re up to.

Ah,  to avoid the hassle of going to Burning Man!  Have a good time this year suckers.

I’ll be fine here, back home.

There’s plenty to do when skipping Burning Man.  I can log some extra hours at work and avoid this blog that’s brimming with stories and images of how fantastic things are on the playa. Some friends may get together to have drinks on Saturday night. I doubt we’ll webcast the Burn, or perhaps we will. We certainly won’t talk about Burning Man, no, not at all. We won’t tell stories of Burns past.

So tell me, what’s going on this week?

Also there is always this awesome list of ideas that goes way back. It made the email rounds back in the day and I have no idea who originally wrote it but it’s always been one of my favorites, with such great ideas to experience Burning Man at home such as:

“Stack all your fans in one corner of the living room.
Put on your most fabulous outfit.
Turn the fans on full blast.
Dump a vacuum cleaner bag in front of them.”

Yea this week is going to ROCK.


A Visit to the DMV

Sparky is justifiably proud of the changes at the DMV
Sparky is justifiably proud of the changes at the DMV

If you’re going to drive a mutant vehicle in Black Rock City, you’re going to need a permit for that beast. And to get one, you’re going to need to visit the DMV – the Department of Mutant Vehicles.

Tell us your favorite story of a visit to the DMV in the real world– oh, that’s right, you don’t have one. It’s a miserable, soul-sucking experience.

Not too long ago, it wasn’t much different on the playa. Fantastic and fantastical vehicles would be lined up along the Esplanade, their owners looking for someone who could PLEASE check them in and get them on their way. It was pretty haphazard and frustrating for all concerned.

“Frankly, we sucked,” Sparky was saying as a line of cars began taking shape in the morning sun. But things have changed, and Sparky seemed justifiably proud of the way the department has turned around.

“It took us two years, but we completely redid everything,” Sparky said. “All new software, and a really robust database.” That database makes lots of things possible, including quicker and easier registration, and access to the clientele.

Tashi Pomo does the cooking for the big Osiris sound camp, and she was having trouble getting clearance for food deliveries. “So I called the DMV and asked if I could do a last-minute registration,” she said. There was no way that could happen, BUT, what the DMV could do was get out word to all of their already registered vehicles to see if someone might be able to step up and help. And of course someone did.

“They saved me,” Tashi said.

Tashi: The DMV saved her bacon
Tashi: The DMV saved her bacon


You’re Gonna Bring That Wood Where?

The Vancouver CORE team
The Vancouver CORE team

The Vancouver Regional burners were on their way to Black Rock City to participate in the Circle of Regional Effigies – the big ring of art installations around the Man that will go up in flames en masse on Thursday night.

The first folks from the Vancouver team were on the road with a big load of wooden pallets with which they would build their Artifactuary project. But when they got to the U.S.-–Canadian border, a moment of truth arrived with them.

Somehow, at least some of the pallets the Vancouver team had purchased had not been treated with the material that would prevent insect infestation. So the border patrol took a look at the wood for the big art piece and simply said nope, that thing’s not going anywhere.

The road to Burning Man is often a journey of frustration and despair, and so it was for the Vancouver team this year.

“We’ve had plenty of years when everything went smoothly,” Ryan was saying at a morning get-together for the various CORE teams on Sunday, “but this wasn’t one of them.”

So they were not going to be able to bring the wood for their project with them. And they worried that they wouldn’t have enough time to go back to Vancouver and get what they needed. So they made a decision to leave their project right there at the border, continue on to Black Rock City, and then sort things out when they got here.

“We were going to have faith that the playa would provide,” Carnie said.

And to make a long and difficult story short, the playa did indeed provide.

Ryan and Carnie stood in the dust and hooked their thumbs over their shoulders and gestured at the Man sitting atop his giant flying saucer. “The wood came from him,” Ryan said.

The Man base is a gargantuan project this year, and a thing of such scale generates a lot of scrap wood. So it was decided that the Vancouver team would get a lot of that leftover scrap. That helped a lot, and so did Betty June, who stepped up and found some last-minute money for them so they could get some more wood, too.

Carnie and Ryan from the Vancouver team
Carnie and Ryan from the Vancouver team

“We just feel so much love,” Ryan said. “We can’t believe how many people came forward to help,” he said. (more…)

Be Smart. Don’t Run Afoul of Law Enforcement in BRC.

Gate road, 2008
Gate road, 2008

We don’t want to see participants get cited or arrested by law enforcement as they enter Black Rock City, nor do you want it to happen to you, right? Right.

OK, so be smart, be prepared to be pulled over for any infraction that draws attention, and tighten up your ship before you get here. Yes, really. Here’s how:

  • Make sure that all your taillights, license plate lights, turn signals and headlights are working.
  • Ensure your license plates are not obscured by bikes, gear, or dirt.
  • Wear your seatbelt and go the speed limit (10MPH on Gate Road and 5MPH in Black Rock City).
  • Don’t drink and drive, don’t have an open container in your vehicle, and — as fun as it may be — do not ride on top of your vehicle while entering the city.
  • Carry a current valid drivers license, vehicle registration and proof of insurance.
  • Always be polite and respectful to law enforcement officers.
  • Know your civil rights: law enforcement must have clear probable cause to search your vehicle. Watch this video to learn more:

Finally, please report ANY interaction with law enforcement — good or bad — by filling out a Law Enforcement Feedback Form at Ranger HQ so that we can use this (anonymous) information for our daily meetings with law enforcement heads.

Be smart, stay safe!

Your Turn

"The Coyote" seemed to be howling at the rising sun
“The Coyote” seemed to be howling at the rising sun

So let’s just get this out of the way and come out and say it right up front: We can’t wait for you to get here.

After all the weeks and weeks of toil and trouble (and thunder and lighting and pounders and Bruno’s and 12-Mile and trash fence), we are ready.

Well, pretty much.

There’s a morning meeting every day at the Depot, which is something of a central command center for the crews working here, the whole lot of them – Power, Water, Roads, Spires, Shade, Recycle, Special Projects, Heavy Equipment, Transpo, Dispatch, Commissary, Signs, Gate, Emergency Services, Human Resources (!!), Fuel … everything. And every morning there’s a meeting before the meeting, where the honchos get together on the side and trade notes and go over what needs to happen at the morning meeting. No doubt the most important stuff takes place at the meeting before the meeting.

And today was the last morning meeting (until after the event), and it was also the last of the meetings before the meeting. And Coyote said they were all over there, looking down the 5:30 road into the center of Black Rock City, looking at what they had accomplished over the past three weeks – the roads, the lights, the tents, the flags, the signs, and hey, how about that, the ART – and they looked out at it all on the day before the gates open and the participants coming streaming in and the group reached a consensus:

Close enough.

"Louder," aka Charlie Dolman, was gifted at the morning meeting
“Louder,” aka Charlie Dolman, was gifted at the morning meeting

Yes, there’s still lots of work going on. The indefatigable Man Base crew is still hammering away, the Temple is still frantic with activity, and there are still more signs to put up around the city to guide you on your way. (Already 20 of the handcrafted signs have been vandalized, damaged or just plain stolen, and it’s very tough to replace them at this point, so when you get here please please please leave them alone).

But for the most part, it’s all done. It’s ready. WE’RE ready. We’re ready for you to get here and get this thing going.

Because no matter how romantic or heroic or attractive it might look to be around for the setup, it’s really not about the work. It’s about getting ready for the magic to happen.

“We get to bathe in it for weeks and weeks,” Logan said. “But we’re building the canvas, (and you) get to paint.”

Because this was the morning meeting, and because this was very close to being a genuine sentiment stated out loud, of course it was pounced on.

“We set the table, and they come to dinner,” someone said.

“We make the bed, now come lay down,” someone else said.

The analogies went on for a while and got more and more ridiculous, but the point was made. This thing doesn’t really happen until you get here. So hurry up and get here, because we’re tired of all this building, we’re tired of the place looking like the world’s biggest yard sale. It’s time for Burning Man.

(Also: take your time and be careful: Don’t speed through the little towns on 447. Don’t go more than 5 mph in the city. Keep your shit trim, and stay cool. Seriously.)

Yesterday the last spire was driven into the playa floor. It was decorated with as much jank as possible, and it will stand all crooked and funky right there along the Esplanade, inside an eight-sided wooden enclosure, the same oculus that is set up on the night of the Golden Spike, when the very first metal is pounded into the ground with much pomp and ceremony.

Squirrelly at the last spire
Squirrelly at the last spire


Meet the builders of Midburn CORE: The Hand of Inspiration

Midburn CORE Team
Midburn CORE Team

There are many stories about how the regional Burning Man group in Israel started. Memory  recalls general details better than specifics, and points of view might not agree. But many feel these stories don’t collide, they coincide.

Sharon Avarham, the Artistic Director for Midburn, is happy to explain the basics of his involvement. While working at a summer camp in 2011 for Jewish children in the U.S. Midwest, he was invited to go to Burning Man at the end of the summer. Having missed the chance once before, he made every effort to rearrange his schedule and go. He and his friend Daniel joined the CRTT theme camp and found themselves at home. A random encounter with other Israelis inspired them all to keep in touch once back home.

Sharon Aravham holds a print out of their missing engineer who is back in Israel
Sharon Aravham holds a print out of their missing engineer who is back in Israel

They did more than keep in touch.  A Facebook page was created and grew as other Israeli Burners discovered it. A Burner’s night was started at a bar in Tel Aviv. Theme-based gatherings were held. At one point, Sharon says, those that had been trying for years to organize a Dead Sea burn event were in touch, but nothing manifested. The growing community was content to be part of each other’s lives and share the Burning man vibe. They were hungry for it in fact!

Then there was a birthday party. (more…)

Mike Garlington’s “Photo Chapel”


Mike Garlington was laboring with his nine-person crew under a sky made blood red from the smoke of surrounding fires this week as he worked to install his “Photo Chapel” in Black Rock City.

“It’s the biggest thing I’ve ever done,” he said as he hurried from worker to worker, handing up tools, carrying lumber and talking about the structural integrity of his piece.

Garlington is very much a known quantity on the playa, both as an artist and DPW worker. He’s called Photo Mike, or Photo Miguel, and although he is not working DPW this year, he will stay after the event is over to help clean up the highways that are always littered with trash by departing Burners.

Garlington is upbeat and always in motion. During the year, he’s usually up and dawn and working in the studio. His idea notebook is thick to overflowing, and he’s always looking ahead to what comes next.

Last year, he collaborated with famed playa artist Laura Kimpton on the “Ego” project, and even as he watched flames engulf the work, he was already talking about what he wanted to do this year.

“Photo Chapel” is the apex of many of Garlington’s artistic arcs – meticulous photographic printer, conceptual photographer, inventive framer, and DPW pirate. The chapel is the culmination of 14 years of image-making, with many of the photographs created during his annual two months in the desert, working alongside the vivid personalities in the DPW as they set up and take down Burning Man.

One of the trucks that the Fluffers use (Fluffers being he women who visit the various work crews to deliver cool drinks, snacks and smiles) is covered with more Garlington photos made in the desert and mounted on the truck’s exterior. The truck never fails to attract onlookers during the event.

His own van is also covered with his work. He used to do a lot of shooting in remote locations, and the beat-up van was his darkroom on wheels. Although his most familiar photographs are shot with a 4×5 camera and Polaroid Type 55 film, being behind a camera did not come easily to Garlington.

Garlington was in nearly constant motion as the build continued
Garlington was in nearly constant motion as the build continued


Law Enforcement in Black Rock City

The Man, 2013 (photo by John Curley)
The Man, 2013 (photo by John Curley)

As the Department of Public Works toils away building the infrastructure of Black Rock City, the law enforcement agencies who patrol our fair metropolis are also on site now, setting up their own infrastructure.

These law enforcement agencies — BLM Rangers, Pershing County Sheriffs Office — are there to enforce the Federal, State and Local laws that apply to us on the Black Rock Desert — yes, these laws still exist at Burning Man. While Black Rock City is certainly a remote and freewheeling place, it’s also a functioning metropolis. And just like in any other city, law enforcement patrols BRC day and night to keep the city safe and compliant with the laws that allow us to have the event in the first place. So yes, any illegal action on your part can lead to a citation (more common) or your arrest (rare).

The Burning Man organization works hard year-round and on playa to establish a solid working relationship with these agencies, and while there are always growing pains in a new year and with a new BLM crew, we’re committed to cooperative collaboration to create a workable and sensible environment for everybody to enjoy. To that end, we encourage participants to report all interactions with law enforcement — both positive and negative — by filling out a Law Enforcement Feedback Form at Ranger HQ, so we can use that information in our daily on-playa meetings with law enforcement.

Law enforcement officers have a difficult yet important job, both on and off the playa. Please respect the valuable work that they do. It is the duty of all law enforcement personnel to enforce the law, and they are there to help protect our citizenry.

That said, you should absolutely know your civil rights, as they are still in full effect on playa as well. For more information, please watch this video from the ACLU about protecting your civil rights at Burning Man: