This article is going on my resume as a reference. 🙂
Your life is yours to create. be a dreamer
Friday, September 1st, 2006 – What a long strange trip it’s been
(Note: I started borrowing pictures from others on flickr since I didn’t take nearly enough. Hope noone minds! So some of these pictures aren’t necessarily chronologically correct, but they are representative of the familair sights.)
Friday really summed up the trip and was a special night. If I had to pick the best day/night of the experience, I don’t think I could have chosen between Wednesday and Friday. By this time I was really into the swing of things. I was acclimated to the desert, I had a great group of people to hang out with, I knew my way around the playa, everything was just falling perfectly into place.
I spent most of the day working in the studio until that evening. Like usual I headed over to camp DDI to meet up with everyone. There had been some talk about challenging Deathguild to a match; two champions competing in Dance Dance Immolation and then a match in Thunderdome. Deathguild is the camp responsible for bringing Thunderdome to the playa every year. It’s a bunch of goth kids that seem to be quite full of themselves. Granted they do have some great post-apocalyptic cars.
Now DDI couldn’t just walk over and say “Hey, we want to challenge you guys.” It had to be done with the appropriate flair and flames. Several people suited up in proximity suits, and the rest of us donned DDI flightsuits. Rubin loaned me his to wear for the evening as I was basically adopted by the camp at this point. We gathered several fire accessories including a rope dart, poi, two flaming swords, and a flame thrower carried by someone on stilts. We marched down the Esplanade chanting D-D-I as we made our way to Thunderdome. When we got closer we stopped to light up all of the fire and marched the last bit in. A prepared challenge was read to Deathguild and the audience at the Thunderdome and then we turned around and marched off like the badass geeks we were. It went off well and we gathered quite a bit of people wondering “what the parade was for.”
Our first stop for the evening was 2pir where we spent some time watching how people interacted with the canvas of flamethrowers that had been provided. It was a lot of fun watching how differently people played. And the smile on their face as they walked away from the platforms to the cheers and clapping of all the spectators gathered was a treat to witness. We also had the chance to witness one of the most beautiful things I had seen on the playa. Mary danced with fire oh so elegently on the platform as flames shot up all around her. I had to pick my jaw up off of the dust I was in such awe.
After who knows how long at 2pir we regrouped and decided we should keep exploring. Since we were already pretty far out in the deep playa, we figured we’d make a trek all the way out to the trash fence. The trash fence is an orange fence that basically forms a perimeter around the area designated for Burning Man. You’re not supposed to go outside of this fence. The walk out there was a little bit longer than we thought, but a nice one.
The walk out through the deep playa felt very much like we were exploring a different planet. The playa is a prehistoric lake bed, so it’s perfectly flat, and it dries up and cracks into chunks. This in combination with us in the dark, surround by such surreal sights and sounds, plus the only light coming from our headlamps made it feel very other-wordly. It felt like we were millions of miles away from Earth and that we were interpid explorers, wandering and experiencing all that we could. While we were walking out there we had an odd discovery. In the middle of the nothingness we happened to choose a path that brought us across a stack of mud “scales” that someone had created from playa pieces. We paused to reflect on this and the fact that someone somewhere had been at this spot and had taken the time to create this. They didn’t know whether anyone would see it, and chances are they thought noone would. But they still took the time to sit down and create it because they wanted to. We took a minute to appreciate someone’s random contribution and then left it for the next set of explorers to stumble upon.
Along the way we found a random door set up on the playa. Rubin crawled through it and then it was locked behind him. He’s stuck on this side of the door now.
We also came across a setup that had a box of envelopes and cards. You were meant to write your hopes and/or fears on a card, your address on an envelope and then put it into the box. The creators would mix up the cards and envelopes and mail them out to the various people after the event. Rubin got the last envelope, but there was a final card left in there for me to write on. I jotted down something about refusing to let my fears overshadow my hopes, dropped it in the box, and we continued on our journey. A random mini-golf setup distracted us for a few minutes and then it was off to walk the Esplanade and find the roller skating rink.
Yes, there is a theme camp that sets up a roller skating rink on the playa, complete with skates to borrow. David and Heather were feeling up to the task, but Rubin, Nathan and I opted to watch as we appreciated our only slightly bruised bodies at this point. Everyone around was having such a good time, so many smiles, no drama, no fighting, no ugly faces. It was great. There was a couple out in the middle of the rink dancing their asses off like there was no tomorrow with the biggest smiles on their face. It was just people having a good time and it was so refreshing.
Some photos during the day of the Roller Disco and a dark one from nighttime I found on flickr:
We decided that we should go make a stop at Center Camp and the Medical Tent to see how Nicole was doing. As we had prepared to leave earlier in that evening Nicole was being taken to the Med Tent. She was basically exhausted, having worked herself way too hard on 2pir and just in general. On the way to the Med Tent we made a quick detour down a side street to find some porta potties. In the bank of potties we came upon, we found the “Pimpest Potty on the Playa.” Someone had taken it upon themselves to clean out one of the porta potties, line the seat with fur, setup and light candles, put some art on the walls, and even provided a little stereo for music. Oh, and the kicker? a fresh _unopened_ roll of toilet paper. It was an amazing sight to see this late in the week.
We finally made it to the Med Tent only to find out that Nicole had been discharged back to camp DDI. This was good news at least. Nathan split off and we wandered around Center Camp, slowly making our way in the direction of Camp DDI. We were walking and discussing the fact that we had accomplished many of our mini goals that evening, however we had not ridden an art car yet. Minutes later Heather noticed a familiar art car called the Moonshine Saloon. She recognized it because apparently it was stored/built at NIMBY. We ran over and jumped aboard. We were finally riding an art car! Mark that one off the list.
Luckily Heather was the smart one and pulled out her camera to record some video of the Big Round Cubatron in action. It is 1000x cooler in person, but this will give you kind of an idea of what it was like.
Wednesday, August 30th, 2006 – Does it get any better than this?
Wednesday was an incredible day, or rather I guess most of it happened that night. During the day we had some pretty nasty dust storms, but nothing too serious. Laura and I actually braved the worst of them to walk down the street to visit the Flaming Ugly Cowboy Saloon for a few drinks in the dust. FUCS was an outdoor bar so we were literally drinking in the dust storm. Quite a new experience. While we were there we met a very attractive cop from New Zealand (if I remember right). She spent some time painting La’s face, chatted, had a few drinks with us, and then we headed back to our camp. That’s all the excitement I remember during the day (probably had something to do with the drinks).
That evening I headed over to Camp DDI as usual to meet up with everyone. It had been decided that we would do a group outing around Black Rock City this night. With 14+ people, that would turn out to be quite a task.
We started out with Skippy informing us of the best method for keeping a group together in an environment like Black Rock City. She would call out DDI, and we would count off to make sure we had everyone. It was a valiant attempt by Skippy, but alas, we had a bunch of sleep-deprived, cracked out, distracted geeks and I think we only counted off 2 or 3 times.
The night started at a club camp on the edge of the 2:00 side, not sure which one. The music was decent and some of us danced, but a majority of people weren’t feeling the music and wanted to expore. Since we had agreed to stay together as a group, we gathered everyone and headed out, losing 2 or 3 people who headed back to camp for some reason. We then headed out across the playa to the Waffle, aka Uchronia. We had such a large group of us that we decided to hold hands and form a line to sweep the playa. Along the way I got a chance to meet some of the DDI people I didn’t know yet. Such a cool group of people. I wish I could have bottled Amada’s excitement and happiness. After a long and slightly distracted walk we made it to the Waffle where the lights and music were going.
It was like a mini-rave, although much better. We spent some time just hanging out and enjoying the sights and sounds. Jennifer and I spent quite a bit of time talking about life. An incredibly cool conversation. We also spent some time dancing and checking out Uchronia close up. We found a random guy with a great EL-Wire jacket and went and let him know how much we liked it. He thanked us and let us take a few pictures.
An interesting thing happened while me and Jennifer were discussing life. I mentioned to her that I had a crush, and minutes later that crush took a whole new direction. Sometimes some things just need to be voiced for things to happen. 🙂 The rest of the night was a blur of running around the playa with some of the greatest people. We hit several art installations throughout the night. At one of them (Cat’s Cradle I think) I took off my camelbak so it didn’t get dirtier when I layed on the ground, and ended up leaving it when our group moved again. Luckily I realized quickly and was able to run back and grab it. A true loss for the night occurred at the Serpent Mother where one of my plugs was knocked out into the dirt by accident. I looked for it for a minute or two in the sand, but quickly realized it was a lost cause with the amount of people, the fine sand, and it being night. Unfortunately this was a piece of Matter Out Of Place (MOOP) that I contributed. 🙁 I hope one of the volunteers did find it when the playa was swept. While at the Serpent Mother I did get a chance to play with the buttons that triggered the flame effects which was just plain fun.
The night went on, more art pieces were visited and we wandered the playa. Eventually the group dwindled to Nicole, Rubin, Mella, Ian, Rachel, and me. We went back to someone’s tent to hang out and then crashed out in another tent. I was so tired I don’t think I could have made it back to my own tent that night.
The next morning I woke up and pedaled my bike back across the playa and promptly went back to bed, completely ignoring the fact that my tent was 100 degrees.
Thursday, August 31st, 2006 – 2pir Works!
I spent most of the day Thursday sleeping and just recovering at camp. I helped out with the studio a bit (mainly just watched) and enjoyed the shade.
We found out that Nicole, Mella, David, and Reed’s project, 2pir, was up and running! One of the projects I looked forward to seeing in action the most was working!
We headed out to the deep playa to spend most of the evening playing with 2pir. Rubin and I had fun running around the platform setting off huge flame effects with just the wave of our hands. We also watched as Mella and Rubin spun fire on the platform. I even took my turn at controlling the on/off switch to make sure noone’s fur got singed. Originally the project was meant to have three levels of sensors, and only one was working, but noone noticed as it was still one of the best interactive fire art pieces I’ve ever experienced.
Here are videos of Mella and Rubin spinning fire with 2pir:
And here are some random pictures of 2pir in action. Please keep in mind it’s hard to get a good picture when fire is shooting all over the place. Rubin did a better job so the first two are ones I stole from him:
After spending most of the evening at 2pir, it eventually started running out of fuel. So we headed over to the Waffle, the tried and true hang out place. I hung around for a bit and then decided that my sleeping bag was calling me. Realizing I would probably need to get some rest for the big weekend ahead I bid my friends good night and crawled into bed for a good nights sleep.
Halcyon (who I had a brief minute to meet) has a great video of Burning Man 2006. The intro describes the vibe very well:
“The playa removes all barriers to self-expression. All the voices in your own head and that come from outside of you that make you dwell in doubt and shame and judgement. Those things are gone and when you take those things away it is amazing what is possible. It is amazing who we are when we can look at ourselves clearly. And when you’ve got a city full of people that aren’t saying “oh you shouldn’t of worn that” or “isn’t he too old to be doing that” but instead are saying “yeaahh! good for you, sing it louder, scream it, dance harder, express it with more feeling.” You’ve got those voices lifting you up. It’s amazing how high you can reach.”
Monday, August 28th, 2006 – The Playa in daylight
We spent a lot of time just hanging out with the DDI crew and relaxing. We had to adjust to the desert before we started running around like madmen! Rubin showed off his overkill gas mask (while Leah watched) that he had acquired when a dust storm threatened to roll in.
Tuesday, August 29th, 2006 – The Playa Task and DDI
Another hot morning ejected me from the tent and started my day. After a breakfast of fruit cups, granola bars, and a fill up of my Camelbak, we biked over to DDI to see what was happening there. We just happened to run into the SF0 Minneapolis crew while we were there and realized that the Playa Task was today!
George headed back to camp, not really in the mood for running around in the heat, while I wandered around killing time and then headed to Center Camp to meet up with everyone for the Playa Task for SF0. I ran into the impressive sculpture made out of scrap metal out front.
We finally made it to the porta potties and sure enough there was a piece of paper with an alpaca on it with little slips of paper to rip off with a string of numbers on them. Someone had already ripped off a few, and I wonder what they thought they were for. While there we also noticed someone had equipped one of the johns with some music (video), and another porta potty was dubbed “Your Mom.”
Back at camp GPS, the rest of our crew had started to arrive, RVs galore! Introductions were made, and we hung out for a bit helping unload things and set up. Then it was back across the playa to camp DDI. Along the way we were distracted by some fire dancing on a large platform that had been erected. Some incredibly performances by a talented staff spinner with incredibly cool neck spins, an attractive and topless girl who knew what she was doing, and various art cars that stopped by to shoot off their flamethrowers. I’d post the pictures, but anyone that’s tried to take night photos of fire with a low-end camera and no tripod knows the blurs that they become.
DDI was open and running this night and I knew that I had to play. I had waited so long since I had first heard about it online, and then Nicole had shown me the bits and pieces at NIMBY. I jumped into line and ended up waiting an hour or so before it was my turn. While waiting, those of us in line got to know each other, sharing stories, ideas, drinks, etc. It finally came to my turn and Mary helped me suit up in one of the proximity suits and walked me over to the platform.
-A Huge thanks to Rubin for some of these pictures. I’m glad he remembered to grab his camera when I forgot. 🙂
Alright, so I’m going to tackle documenting my Burning Man experience in parts and hopefully I’ll make it further than I did with the San Francisco trip documentation. 🙂 If you don’t know what Burning Man is, I’m afraid there’s not much I can do to explain it. It truly is one of those things you have to experience to truly understand it. My attempt at a short description: It is a celebration of art, life, music, expression, community, interaction, and self-reliance in the Black Rock Desert (i.e. middle of nowhere) for a week. This year there were an estimated 39,000+ citizens in this temporary city, named Black Rock City. I was one of them for the first time.
1997 – A spark…
Friday, August 25th, 2006 – The Pilgrimage Begins!
After spending $1000+ on a ticket, a plane flight, and various other items needed, I finally started my pilgrimage to Black Rock City. First was a car ride to the airport with my two large bags and my trusty messenger bag carry-on. A quick check-in of the bags and only one got the menacing “HEAVY” tag, but no fees for it luckily. I boarded the plane and we took off.
The rest of the plane flight was uneventful and before I knew it I was standing outside Oakland Airport, wondering why in the world Chu kept saying “Hegenberger!” I soon found out that was a street he had taken to the airport that he liked the sound of. The bags were tossed in the Falcon, and we headed back over the Bay Bridge to San Francisco.
Saturday, August 26th, 2006 – Shopping Day
After being woken up by Ava mounting me in the morning, followed by introductions, Chu and I spent most of the day running around shopping for the last bits and pieces that we needed for Burning Man. We stocked up on 30 gallons of water, a metric crapload of baby wipes (aka showers), various food items, random necessities, and scored some kick-ass bikes at Target.
Sunday, August 27th, 2006 – On the Road…
Our greeting was kind of a mess and we didn’t get any of the typical virgin greeting stuff. since we were the first people in our theme camp, it was our responsibility to claim camp. They radioed our placer and told us to head to our camp location and he would meet us there. We slowly drove through the dust, and found Anxious and 9:00 on the North side of the playa. We waited and soon our placer, Jake, came to confirm that we had indeed figured out correctly that the blue flags marked off our land. We thanked him, parked the van in the middle of our plot, unloaded the bikes, and went exploring before we even set up the tents. It was a wide-eyed bike ride with huge smiles across the playa to meet up with Rubin and Nicole who were camping with Dance Dance Immolation. After some socializing and playa exploration, we headed back to our lonely camp, set up tents and fell asleep for the first time on the playa.
All day yesterday was spent running around town gathering the last
necessities for Burning Man. A $35 bike score for me, 30 gallons of
water, various camping bits and pieces, and a selection of easy food
items. Chu just headed out to get the Falcon, then its load up time and
on the road for us. Hopefully we’ll hit Black Rock City around sundown.
A journey that has been bouncing around my mind for 9 years, and has been close to an obsession for the last 3 months, and it is finally here. I fly out tomorrow for San Francisco, and then drive out to Black Rock City on Sunday for Burning Man. Basically I will be out of contact for two weeks, starting tomorrow. No internet, no cell phones, virtually no outside communication while I’m in the desert. Think this geek can handle it? hehe We’ll see! I’ll be back on Sept 6th. Everyone take care until then!
p.s. if you happen to be going and I didn’t know it for some reason, swing by Anxious and 9:00 and ask around for divinity 🙂
My shopping (as far as pre-flight shopping goes) is almost done! My
camelbak (3L M.U.L.E) finally arrived and I scored a new nalgene, some
lightweight camp towels, and a bike light amongst other stuff this
afternoon. Only 2 days of work and then a few hours Friday morning till