The Man


by Jon Robson

I watch the man burn amongst the most spectacular fireworks and explosions you could imagine. I feel a sense of calm to see it burn as if all anarchy and hate is disappearing with its removal from the world. I yearn for someone special to share this moment with, to replace these negative energies with something more positive.

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Like meerkats the people in front of me rise with the flames and block the view. I rise with them, only for two arms to grasp at mine and my lower back to turn me around. A lady behind me tells me I’m too tall and she cannot see. Somehow, someway, in a way to compromise we fall into a warm embrace. My arms clutch her and her head pushes affectionally into my chest. We watch together in near silence, with the occasional shriek and wow as the man burns until there is nothing left but a wooden wireframe. Then we together clutch one another knowingly as if we have known each other for years and years, as the last piece of the man hits the floor. As only smoke remains, we separate and talk for the first time. The first time properly seeing each other’s faces.

Tamara asks if I saw her shirt. I say I didn’t, and she steps back to reveal it says “free hugs”. She admits that I am the longest hug she has ever given away. I step back and reveal the 8 watches on my 2 wrists and the 9 watches that hang around my neck and say that it must be related. We hug one last time and walk away without exchanging details, for it seems more special that way.

As she leaves I look around me, the desert now a stranger without a distinctive wooden man in its heart. When everything around you that know best and love dearest is destroyed, surprisingly the one thing that shines the brightest and helps you through, is Love.

/ and the world ended /
/ in fire, neon and chaos /
/ beautiful it was /

MOOP Map Live, Day 4: How to Get the GREEN

Greetings MOOP maniacs and line sweepers extraordinaire! It’s time for another installment of the Burning Man 2013 MOOP Map, our faithful record of how Black Rock City upheld its commitment to Leave No Trace on the playa.

Photo by Phoenix Firestarter!
Photo by Phoenix Firestarter!

Your Playa Restoration All-Star moopers are hard at work this very moment, braving extreme weather and mounting grumpiness on the frigid, wintry Black Rock Desert. Let’s get a big hurrah for the home team!

Photo by Phoenix Firestarter!
Photo by Phoenix Firestarter!

Today, though, I have the privilege to share some stories from just a few of the theme camps that make our city so vibrant and unique. Because let’s face it: Without the massive amount of love, time, effort and cash that goes into creating each Burning Man theme camp, our city would be a very different place. What theme camps bring to Black Rock City is absolutely irreplaceable.

Not only that, but if theme camps didn’t bust their butts to Leave No Trace, we would have a LOT more trouble passing the annual BLM site inspection. Theme camps are about the biggest gifts I can imagine, so this year I’ve asked some of them to share their own stories of Leaving No Trace.

Robot Heart participants doing a line sweep after a mobile party in the open playa
Robot Heart participants doing a line sweep after a mobile party in the open playa

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Spectacular Send-Off


by Monica Angrand

It was my Mom’s choice to have her ashes go into the Burning Man fire. She asked me every year why I never went after watching it on the news. I never knew why, I just didn’t. No shower? The heat? She was convinced I was missing out on something incredible.

She had terrible asthma, and the dust would have been too much. A Bohemian in her younger years, she put all that aside to raise me in a more conventional setting. Now and then, her quirky side would peek out, but it wasn’t until the past few years that she started being “her” again. She was an gifted artist and a damn good art teacher.

1236848_10153254728030615_503744495_nSo I did it. I went to Burning Man and put her and her pup Sidney’s ashes directly under The Man’s right foot. The Black Rock City Rangers saw me, and let me keep it there, which doesn’t usually happen. The Rangers are deeply compassionate people that quickly made understand what my Mom intuitively knew about the spirit of Burning Man. Apparently, The Temple of Whollyness is where those things usually go. I went in there, and the energy was painful and sad, which was not what she wanted.

Besides, the celebration preceding the “burn” happen at the Temple. No fireworks. No diamond sky.

One of her favorite lines from Bob Dylan’s, “Mr. Tamborine Man,” was “Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free.”

Now you are, you truly are.

The Letter ‘E’


by Jon Robson

After a day of traveling and waiting I had arrived. I swam around the playa on my bike with the dust goggles as my mask and a keffiyeh to help me breath. It was a blurry colourful chaotic world that I was a stranger to and not yet part of. As if scuba diving in the ocean, I admired all the colourful fishes and swam with respect and without touching. What a weird and wonderful world I had entered and I was only beginning to explore…

I was cycling towards the man with no plan, only ideas. I was toying with the idea of exploring the outer reaches of the city but in my head it seems too much effort with little reward. A girl cycling ahead of me slows her bike down alongside me.

“Where are you going?” she asks inquisitively with a thick dutch accent.

“I don’t know”, I respond.

She says she doesn’t know either and asks if we should go nowhere together. I say I would very much like that and the two of us cycle parallel to one another. She asks if we should go to the “Believe” sign and we chase the horizon until “Believe” towers over us.

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We sit on the letter “E” sharing dates, nuts, water and stories until the dates are all gone. Gina and I hug and then part ways to other adventures. As she rides away, I’m instantly hit by childhood memories of riding around my neighbourhood on my bike alongside newly acquired friends from parks.

I miss those childhood adventures long lost. At what time do we lose that curiosity of adventure in the company of new friends? I vow that day to regain my curiosity and explore places I’ve never found before and meet people I’ve never seen…

MOOP Map Live, Day 3: State of the Playa

Burning Man Playa Restoration 2013, Day 1.

Hello MOOP maniacs and line sweepers extraordinaire! The Hun here, reporting from Gerlach where the Black Rock Desert is putting on its winter coat. Yes, the weather is here — in fact, 2013 has been a particularly weathery year.

As if rebelling against the warm, dry winter that preceded it, this summer has surprised us with monsoon rains and flash floods. You probably remember the storm that stranded 160 DPW on the playa in August. That event was one in a series of showers, a weather pattern that is far from ordinary in this dry, sun-baked country.

Burning Man Playa Restoration 2013, Day 6.

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Introducing the Playa Restoration Awards!

Hello MOOP maniacs and line sweepers extraordinaire! It is my very great pleasure to introduce the first-ever Playa Restoration Awards, aka The Restos.

D.A., Playa Restoration Manager, introduced the game-changing BRC MOOP Map in 2006, and since then we’ve seen a huge shift in consciousness about what it means to Leave No Trace at Burning Man. As the city has grown, it has become impressively green and MOOP-free — so MOOP-free, in fact, that the “red spots” really tend to stand out.

It is easy to look at this year’s MOOP Map and make a judgment about the camps, projects and parties that were scored red. But to do so would be to overlook the unique, unquantifiable and incomparable magic that so many of these groups bring to Black Rock City.

How do you put a score on the experience of watching the sun rise with the people you danced next to all night? How do you count the connections made by bringing friends and strangers together for new, mind-opening experiences? How could you possibly judge a project’s worth solely by what it left behind, without simultaneously celebrating it for what it created?

Sunrise at Robot Heart. Photo by Paretz Partensky.
Sunrise at Robot Heart. Photo by Paretz Partensky.

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3 Things

Photo by Paul Duane, 2013.
Photo by Paul Duane, 2013.

Here’s a sweet story for you.

At Burning Man this year, first-time Burner Paul Duane decided to pose this question to Burners he encountered:

“Imagine that I handed you a microphone; when you speak into it, the whole world can understand and hear you at the same time.  You can make 3 statements. What would you say?”

People wrote down their answers, and he took their pictures. Here’s what happened.

OK so wait. That’s not the cool part. The cool part is that an elementary school teacher in North Carolina saw his “3 Things” photo essay, and decided to have her students do it too. And she posted their photos.

Paul said, “I was excited to see my Burning Man experience make it clear into the classroom of some kids on the other side of the country …”

We’d most definitely have to agree.

MOOP Map Live, Day 2: The Going Gets Tough

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Greetings MOOP maniacs and line sweepers extraordinaire! I’m here on the drifted shores of the Black Rock Desert, where your Playa Restoration All-Star moopers are hard at work removing every last trace of Burning Man. Our home team is hell-bent for victory — but let me tell you, Day Two was no cakewalk.

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