I am home in San Francisco this afternoon, because for my 10th year I did “Burning Man Light”. Three days, four nights, but as always eye opening, hot, dusty, joyful, difficult, ya’know. But in just these few days I once again found my campmates facinating. We camped for several years with beings who bring peace as well as art to the Playa, and then a couple of years with the Bunnies, one year a staff camp and last year a bar camp filled with long time Burners, but where we were far and away the oldest people in the group.
I always find the “Who ARE my campmates?” interesting! This year we had a gaggle of newbies some of them software celebrities, crew from the the explOratorium, a rising international artist, a former art curator, a Playa luminary who is also a cartoon director and producer, our camp leader is a mechanical engineer and we have Gate and Artica staff as well as our own DPW Manager, and bringing up the rear, Moze and me, your bloggers.
So how does it come to be that there is this symbiosis of geeks, writers, artists, and engineers? Some of whom never stop working on the camp and some of whom barely contribute unless there is a request. I am sure that your camp also has some breadth and depth of engagement with [BM]. Is there a type of person you can categorize as a Burner or those that you know would hate Burning Man and yet they end up coming to the Event and loving it?
So when you arrive home and are dreaming of Burning Man tell me a story of a campmate that in some way surprised you, or you did not expect to like and now adore, or about that “thing” that seems to happen, that camps get to a certain size and morph into some other entity, or how you could not imagine camping with anyone else. The camping with other people can be a huge part of Burning Man and I would love to hear more about it from you!
Get out of their camp and do something, that is. The organizers of Rathskellar, a new theme camp “risen from the ashes of Spike’s Vampire Bar“, are asking all of their members to volunteer with at least one other group at Burning Man.
As Rathskellar co-founder Chris “BoyChaos” Bishop says, “Many of us already choose to work with other groups for the growth and benefit of our city. Making this a requirement to join our camp was a good way to encourage more people to do the same, and to show them the value of such participation.”
Their experiment is already bearing great results. At two recent DPW volunteer work weekends, the Rathskellar crew showed up in force, contributing their sweat, blood and beers to the many tasks needed to prepare Black Rock Station – Burning Man’s Nevada work ranch and permanent staging area – for this year’s event. The Black Rock Desert also benefitted from their efforts, with Rathskellar volunteers helping to clean the playa of nails and other MOOP (Matter-Out-Of-Place) which is sometimes brought to the surface by heavy Winter rains.
Sky High, Part I A big wind storm blew in this afternoon and covered the city in a swirling fog of fine dust. Lots of people ducked for cover, but plenty of us pushed out into the abyss, looking for a good time. I gathered some of my crew at our camp and recommended a bike ride out to Crude Awakening to scale the oil derrick and look at the metal figures. We headed out toward 1:00 in hopes of seeing the city above the storm, and we got lucky. There was no line to climb the derrick, and the 99-foot structure afforded us a spectacular view.
The four of us hung out on top of the tower for a long time, watching the storm move around town, alternately covering one section and then another in swirls of playa dust. The sky above us was incredible, sunny and blue with miles of intermittent clouds stretching out to the horizon. The sunlight bounced around, rebounding off huge domes and then throwing shadows across the low dunes. The wind was blowing the whole time, but I never felt the derrick sway. This thing is solid. I wonder how long it would last on its own. We’ll never know though, because it’s going up in flames tomorrow night.
Tonight my campmates and I ate a delicious dinner and took showers to get ready for a big night ahead. Our camp seems pretty typical for a non-theme camp. We’ve got three trailers and two or three tents. A shade structure in the middle that consists of a custom-made awning and three parachutes held up with pvc posts and anchored by guy lines tied to rebar stakes topped with impaled stuffed animals. We’ve got tables and chairs and carpets and Astroturf. Ice chests and an inflatable swimming pool. We always have one or two new people, which makes it extra fun because we get to see things through their fresh eyes.
We have a solar shower at our camp, and we use a kiddy pool to collect the gray water. We manage to take very few showers, and we use about a gallon of water when we do. Maybe two if we wash our hair. That’s really different from the amount we tend to use at home where water is free flowing and limitless. Where we don’t have to think about what to do with it when we’re done, because it goes down the drain. Out of sight. Out of mind.
I like that Burning Man reminds us to consider the stuff we usually ignore. You have to think about trash here. You have to deal with it. Does it motivate you to consume less, or do you just take all that shit and stuff it in a dumpster after the event? Does your camp separate glass and cans and plastic from burnable paper? There are recycle centers at all the Albertson’s in Reno now, so hopefully you’ll go there on your way home.
My friends and I headed out as a group after dinner, aiming for the Ashram Galactica and points beyond. The Ashram was closed. Suck! We looked for a friend’s bachelor party but were given some bad beta and couldn’t find it. Suck! So, we hung out at Skinny Kitty Camp and drank some different teas and coffee and spirits, listened to a live band near the Smooch Dome, and went over to see a performance by Cirque Berserk at the Red Nose District.
At midnight I met a friend at the sculpture between the round bouncy trees at Center Camp, and we headed out to a raging party at the gate. Things were ramping up because of the imminent closing of the entrance to incoming participants. We climbed up on the tower for a while and celebrated with friends, looking out over the city on one side and out toward Gerlach and Empire on the other. Back on the ground, people were listening to music, tipping over burn barrels, setting off fireworks, dog piling each other, and jumping off structures. Driving around art cars and setting things on fire, eating things and drinking stuff. Yelling at people and taking their clothes off. It was excellent.
I was pick-pocketed by an expert. First he shook my hand and took C Load’s light saber off my utility belt, which I knew, but he made it disappear behind his back, which I couldn’t figure out. Then he hugged me and managed to steal the little ring off the end of my zipper. It’s a tiny metal ring that you use to pull the zipper up or down. It was awesome. I have no idea what else is missing, but I liked that guy right away.
I chatted with Combustible Russ and Steel Toe and DA. Railroad Mike and Sendo and a bunch of the bike club guys. Summer and Alexi. Luckily, there was a set of bleachers right there, so a few of us sat down for a while, laughing our asses off as people jumped around. Panties No Panties had a signpost with an arrow on it, and it made for some high quality exchanges with Bloody Knuckles. I can’t remember what else was flying around and/or breaking, but it was a ton of fun. I want to use the word debaucherous here, but in the self-indulgent lascivious lawless excess revelry sense, not in the vile perverse wanton depravity sense. You know?
Sky High Part II We left the gate late and headed into town, stopping briefly at the commissary and one of the nearby camps. Then we met Entropy out at Homouroboros and piled into his art car for a trip to Crude Awakening. There was a long line at the oil derrick, but we took cuts and went straight up. (They told us to!) It was really nice up there. The air was warm and the sky was decorated with a zillion stars. We got a clear view of Black Rock City and the open playa. We bumped into people we knew from DPW and other crews, and hung out for a while with Steve 23 and Juicy at the bottom while they worked on waxing burlap. It was fun saying hi to people as they passed through the line.
After we left Crude Awakening, Entropy dropped us off at Doyle’s truck and we went in search of good music. We stopped at a bunch of different clubs and danced at most of them, but there was no hip-hop or rap to be found. It seems like that’s the case most of the time at Burning Man. I’m either missing the good stuff or it’s not here. Please let me know if you’re going to be playing real hip-hop next year so I can check it out.
We stopped at a friend’s camp and made breakfast just before dawn. People were wandering in from their night out, stopping to say hi and grab a bite to eat. We headed home as the sun came up, ending our night as others began their day. Time is flying.
As of this afternoon the new man, Replacement Man, is nearly finished, awaiting some neon. The Man Krew built him on site, working round the clock, and he’ll be ready to raise tomorrow. Access to the Man base since Monday night has been limited to authorized Burning Man personnel. It’s been fenced off and surrounded by work trucks and heavy equipment. It’s weird not being able to go to the Man and check out the displays or look back at the city after climbing up on the base, and I haven’t had any chance meetings there in the middle of the night like in years past. BUT! Today was awesome…