It’s taken as a given that it is impossible, or at least highly impractical, to see everything at Burning Man. Short of super sonic Segways, or maybe a time machine, we’re limited by the physical constraints of our city, the temporal window of temporary community, and lest we forget, the physical and mental energy to actually go out into the dust and experience what may come.
I always feel like it’s over too soon, and that I missed so much. But in the long run, I remind myself that those feelings aren’t so much of a reason to be sad, but rather to be excited about coming back.
The night before the big burn, I made a 360 degree panorama that I hoped would capture the sheer bigness of this particular iteration of the Man. There’s an interactive version on my site or click on the image below. Would love to hear your feedback!
There were so many things to like about the Temple of Grace burn last night, it’s hard to pick a favorite moment, so we won’t even try. We’ll just tick off a list of things that were just about perfect:
— The weather was calm, warm and dust-free. The sky deepened from pink to purple to blue to black, and by the time night had fallen, the fire from the Temple threw a warm orange glow on everyone’s face.
— The crowd was unusually respectful. There were many art cars lining a perimeter circle, but, as in years past, their sound systems were turned off for the burn. There were few, if any, raucous outbursts that would have changed the mood.
— Marisa Lenhardt Patton sang “Freebird” as the fire was lit, a fitting nod to the DPW’s fallen brother, and an echo of what happened two years ago, when a blaring version of that song offended many in the crowd. This time, it was only a single, beautiful voice. That song was followed by the Doors” “The End.” And then there was only silence and the sound of the fire.
— David Best his own self actually asked a Ranger to lower her voice as she was telling the crowd what to do and where to sit.
— Similarly, David made sure that all of the people who were privileged enough to be in the inner fire circle were sitting on the ground so that the crowd that had gathered behind them would have a good view, too.
— When fire engulfed the structure, it collapsed in the most graceful way possible, a half-twisting pirouette of flame and wood and embers. The Temple of Grace, indeed.
The fire lasted just about as long as seemed appropriate, and when the fire perimeter was dropped, the crowed moved slowly forward toward the flames. Best left the people he had been sitting with and called out, “Maggie! Where’s Maggie?” and went off to be with his wife.
The smell of sage and copal became thick in the air, and people pulled picnic blankets and food and drink toward the smaller piles of embers. They joined together to share what they had brought. (more…)
The big Man is just a pile of smoking ruins now, even if people are still picking through the ashes, looking for burnt treasure.
We imagine that the biggest treasures have already been scooped up – Joe’s big nuts and bolts, the ankle and shoulder metal, even the cables and anchors that kept the Man upright for so long.
This year’s burn went longer than most. He was a mighty big Man, after all, constructed of 20×20-foot limbs and spine, and the whole thing took awhile to consume, which was not unexpected. You build a big man, you get a long burn.
We don’t have a problem with a long, slow burn. It has its advantages: More time for visiting, more time for appreciating, more time to soak in the flames. We can think of many times when we have been reluctant to be the person to douse the flames at a campout, because there are times that we don’t want the night to end.
But we admit that we were waiting for the Man to fall last night so we could escape the sound. Yes, yes, we know the saying, “If it’s too loud, you’re too old,” and maybe that’s true. But honestly, we always thought that one of the corollaries of radical self expression was that your actions not impinge on another’s experience, and let’s just say there was lots of impinging going on last night. We do not expect to hear a DJ exhorting a crowd in a way that might work at spring break in Daytona Beach, but doesn’t work on the playa. At all.
Plus, we’d like to be able to HEAR the burn. Not just the exploding shells and fireworks, but also the crackle and pop of the flames, the whoosh of embers falling, and, last night, even the climactic crash of the Man’s big legs.
But no. Last night that was not possible. And yes, we might be the slightest bit cranky about it. We’re not saying that there shouldn’t be sound and celebration, because this is the big finish, the Bacchanalian moment. But there’s got to be a way that the sound cars don’t take over the experience. It’s not your show, comma, dude.
The night began as it always does, with Crimson Rose transferring the flame that has been burning at the top of the keyhole in the El Diabla cauldron since Monday to the Luminferous, the wagon that carries it to the Man. A grand procession of flame-carrying stilt-walkers and drummers and Black Rock citizens processed up the 6 o’clock boulevard, then made a circle around the giant Man. When their circuit was complete, it was time for the Man’s arms to rise so that the fire conclaves could commence their show. (more…)
I’m catching a ride out with a friend whose plans are less like clockwork and more like cats chasing a laser pointer. So once we started talking about “when we’re going to leave” I started making some rounds, telling people “this might not actually be the last time I see you this year, but it also might be, so let’s make the formal goodbye now.”
I was at BMIR: my home away from home on the playa. I said goodbye to Kanizzle. I said goodbye to Decibel, and to Ben, and to Mao, and even to that one girl who keeps sneaking up behind me and cupping my ear. I don’t know what her deal is, but she’s definitely been part of my experience. We all hugged it out in tender, sad, moments. None of us have ever seen each other outside of Burning Man.
Then a guy I didn’t recognize looked up from a coach. “Oh no!” he said. “You’re LEAVING?”
I felt pretty guilty about not recognizing him, but I don’t actually have a great head for faces or names, so I know there are people who I should recognize at BMIR but don’t. “Well, sort of,” I said. “I might be back later, but I don’t know for sure, so I’m making sure I hit everybody …”
“C’mere,” he said. He stood up and gave me a passionate embrace. I hugged him back. He was obviously so affected by whatever moments we had shared.
“Listen,” he said. “Don’t ever forget that what you do is so, so, important.”
“Making this radio station run … a gift for every listener out there on the playa … it’s just such an amazing thing you do …”
I paused the hug. “You … you don’t actually know what I do, do you.” (more…)
Oh how things have changed from the Rainpocalypse of Monday’s downpour, hail, and lightning strikes that shut down the city and kept gate closed for hours. Black Rock City is in full force with roaming dusty bands of painted and festooned citizens and with flowing flocks of decorated bikes ridden by enthusiastic, wide eyed merry makers. There are shiny newcomers all acclimated and fabulous, as well as those who’ve been out here a while and who are now relaxing and taking it in. Art has burned, parties have been thrown and like all cities, we’ve weathered this together and become closer. There are peals of laughter and general hilarity across the city, howls as the sun drops behind the granite range and the magic hours begin, sizzling grills smoking at all times of the day, be it bacon hour or the dinner cocktails time, with art cars of all types and sizes: cats, ships, dragons, camels, rolling slow, shimmering disco and techno as they slowly cruise and create temporary ambient environments prowling up and down the avenues of our city.
If I had an intern, or a ghost writer, or even another fifteen minutes, this space would be occupied by poignant observations, a vague reference towards the weather, a witty quip about Burners and their general resilience to adversity, and finish with a snarky zinger. But…it’s sunset, the light is great, I’m going out to shoot, so let’s get down to it!
Embrace, by the Pier Group
The Temple of Grace, by David Best
And last but not least, El Pulpo Mechanico…
Stuff is exploding outside, gotta go. More either late tonight, or early tomorrow.