Tales from the Playa: Live in Black Rock City

2:22 Amethyst Portal in 2011 (Photo by Mr. Science)
2:22 Amethyst Portal in 2011 (Photo by Mr. Science)

Announcing the first-ever Tales from the Playa: Live in Black Rock City! Come sit in a soothing installation way out on the edge of BRC to hear and share the dreamiest Burning Man stories.

What: Telling Burning Man stories in a far-out vibrating portal
Where: 11:55 Reformation Portal, 11:55 & way out there
When: Burning Man 2015: Monday at 9am and 9pm, Friday at 9am and 9pm

Playa stories aren’t just the what of what happens out there. They’re also the why. The unbelievable events and encounters that happen in BRC become the stories we bring home with us, and they’re the fuel that brings us back. Come share some!

Perhaps you’ve heard stories of the portal? That’s where we’re holding these storytelling sessions. Harlan Emil Gruber’s portals have been the sites of some of my earliest, my wildest, and my most meaningful playa experiences. So, indeed, have Kathy D’Onofrio’s hauntingly beautiful sculptural installations (here’s a great blog post Curt Mekemson wrote about one). So this year, we’re in for a treat, because these two artists are working together. We’ll tell our tales from the playa inside the portal’s humming amplifier, and we’ll have an otherworldly audience of alien beings paying rapt attention.

You’ve got four chances. Monday and Friday, 9 am and 9 pm. From the Man, aim just a tick to the left of the Temple and walk or bike straight out… way, way out, and you’ll find the encircling walls of the portal. Come on inside, and bring your Burning Man stories.

See you out there.


Tales from the Playa are dreams and memories of events that took place at Burning Man, as told by participants. Submit your story here.

A Tender Moment at the Temple Burn

by Shameless

i-qC9zKNR-LMy second visit to the playa was in 2014, but it was my first time to see the Temple burn. My friends told me that it’s a more solemn event, a quiet event, a time for reflection and a time to let things go. I didn’t have a particularly emotional time, it was similar to attending a funeral for someone I didn’t know. I felt an air of sadness, but I was not sad. I was in observation mode.

When the Temple dome collapsed, it slowly spun, then fell into itself. The crowd gasped, and for a moment I could feel some emotions stirring. But that was about it for me. I was there to quietly watch. The crowd was mostly very quiet. After the collapse, it seemed that many of the people who were holding their emotions back let them go. I heard many people sobbing around me. As if I was at a stranger’s funeral, I simply stood there and watched with my friends. I knew that some of them had left memorials or other tokens and were watching them burn to ashes. I remembered doing this in church camp many years ago. It’s quite a powerful thing. Back then I might have fought the urge to cry or feel sad. I’ve learned that it’s okay to be sad. It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to mourn loss. I told myself it was okay to feel something, but there was nothing to feel.

Someone was crying behind me, sobbing quite loudly. I turned to look and saw a lady in her mid 20s dressed in a furry jacket with cute bear ears on top. Her face was pinched up as she cried, tears streaming down her face. Her body shook when she sobbed. I can handle someone being sad, but not being sad and alone in the middle of a crowd of thousands. So I slowly walked to her and offered her my hand.

She took my hand, then pulled me for a hug. Hugs seem to be the currency at Burning Man. I wondered to myself, “How does a middle-aged man hug a young woman at a large event?” Very carefully, I thought to myself. So I put one arm over her shoulders and held her while she buried her wet face in my furry jacket. I’m glad I was wearing that jacket, the fur was probably very comforting. I like to bury my face in my German Shepherd Ranger’s coat, it’s so warm and soft. She held on tightly as she continued to sob.

After a few minutes her breathing slowed down, I could feel her release her grip on me so I let her go. Resisting the temptation to say something like “it’s okay”, I just looked directly at her. She looked back. We didn’t bow or anything, I simply let her go and returned to my friends. They were silently watching the embers from the Temple. I looked back a few minutes later to see that she was gone.

I Grew up in Black Rock City

by Phoenix

(Photo by Nathan Heller)

(Photo by Nathan Heller)

This story is about twelve years old.

One day a friend and I were standing outside The Artery when we approached by a 25 year old woman in flowered & flowing gowns. She was radiant and owned an awesome smile.

“I grew up here,” she sputtered with a certain conviction to us and to everyone who could hear. I giggled, thinking, “I grew up here too.”

But there was power and authenticity to her claim. My friend, a wise historian and archivist asked, “How is that so? Many Burners claim to ‘grow up’ here?” (more…)

How Not to Disappear at Burning Man

by Factoid

dustupFirst of all, walk/bike onto the open playa in the dark and rising wind to retrieve your art car.

Next, stop halfway out and just stand there (with the wind still rising) taking pictures of the Man like an idiot tourist because he looks cool in the dust storm…

… pausing only to close your mouth because there seems to be a lot of dust in it …

Continue past the Man — trudging on foot now because the air’s too thick to see through — and wonder at how Burners’ lights seem to suddenly pop up out of the dust just in time to avoid running into you. Notice that everyone else seems to be headed into camp in the opposite direction.

Ignore this. (more…)

Bacon Now!

by RockAtman

Bacon Man. (Photo by Amy)
Bacon Man. (Photo by Amy)

This is barely a story; it’s way too short and without a plot. But I swear to all the Playa Gods, this is exactly how it happened.

We were tearing down the French Quarter, moving tons of stuff, large beams by the hundreds and heavy cast iron railings. I felt like I had just exhausted my very last bit of energy and would collapse right away if I didn’t immediately get some replenishment.

Crossing paths with a campmate, I shouted “I need bacon NOW!” And just as I say the last word, “NOW”, another campmate, Jen, shows up, turning around the corner about 15 feet away. She comes straight towards us with a large aluminum tray in her arms full of freshly made bacon, shouting “Bacon anyone? Bacon? Bacon?”

Why I Did It: Confession of the 2012 Temple “Free Bird” Disc Jockey

by Forest of Arizona

(Photo by Brooke LaValley)

(Photo by Brooke LaValley)

I am not here to apologize or pardon myself. Instead I’m here to let you know what has bothered a lot of people for over two years: why I played “Free Bird” at the burning of the Temple of Juno.

In his wonderfully written essay, “Building the Temple”, John “Moze” Mosbaugh explains just how seriously Burning Man takes the Temple. Moze states that there is a “sacredness, solemnity, a sense of remembrance, grief and renewal.” This is an essential juxtaposition to the high intensity of the rest of Black Rock City, providing an “emotional nexus” as Temple creator David Best called it.

When I first stepped foot into the Temple of Flux in 2010, I was floored by the energy washing over me. Never, even at a funeral, had I ever felt that magnitude of emotion. The power of the space is very real. Many Burners have arrived at the thought that the Temple should always be a quiet space for remembrance, celebration and contemplation of life and death. I’m totally supportive of that idea. But I want to explain that it wasn’t just a “Play some Skynyrd!” moment that propelled me to blast “Free Bird” during the 2012 Temple burn.

It was more than that. (more…)

The Birthing House

by Angel Eyes

(Photo by ucki ood)

(Photo by ucki ood)

On our first night, we birthed eight people. Maybe twenty. It’s hard to know. When beings are flying over you, under the night sky, supported only by your fingerprints and palms, numbers seem a strange reality to track.

We had made our way out to the deep playa by means of a few different vehicles — an island complete with palm trees, a multicolored bus with seats on its sides. We had climbed up and through a spinning metal globe, levering ourselves up through triangles of space, watching the lights of the Esplanade blur as those on the ground pushed the sphere in faster and faster circles. We had cased several strips of porta-potties, oriented ourselves to the compass points of the Man and the Temple. We lit our own path as we trekked through pockets of soft and sinking sand, each of us with battery packs stored on our persons. (more…)

Becoming Playable

by Cosmic Trooper

I wasn’t a Burner my first day at Burning Man or my second.

I wasn’t a Burner until my third day.

Wasn’t a Burner until I decided that I wanted to be the performer dancing for the crowd.

Wasn’t a Burner until I went to the Temple and cried as I let go of my self-hate, my insecurities, my anxieties.

Wasn’t a Burner until after writing on the Temple wall and growing I decided to gift the marker that had been gifted to me to a tattooed, bad-ass looking-mother-fucker, sitting outside the Temple.

Wasn’t a Burner until when I handed him the marker he looked up at me and started crying. And I sat and I heard his story, his pain and struggle. And I took a little of that struggle off his back with an open ear and a firm hug.

Wasn’t a Burner until I realized that with the tiniest act, I could change the world.

I’m a Burner now. I know where True Home is but I try my best to make everywhere I am Home, one open ear and firm hug at a time.