Drowning Man

On a side note, side story that has to do with another “Floating World” I once was part of. In 1995 I was fishing in the Bearing Sea around the 1st of Sept. I was a cook on a huge 360′ factory trawler. I needed/wanted to do something in honor of the Burn, being some 3,000 miles away and with no land in sight. So I cut out this cardboard figurine of the man that was about 2 feet tall. And went out on deck, with this very proud shit eatin’ grin on my face, and poured lighter fluid on the cardboard dude. I then attempted to light the “man” on fire. Which was to no avail as “the seas were angry that day my friends.” So I threw him overboard. The 30-60 mph winds caught the figurine and twirled it around, with the 100’s of birds that are always flying along side the boat acting as our escorts, till he finally fell to the sea. It was and is still a beautiful image in my head.

I said “Fair enough, the drowning man.” And went to go back to my cabin.

But, my captain, oh captain my captain, had watched the whole thing. And he was looking down at me through the windows of the bridge with the fire I needed to light my man in his eyes. His mouth silently yelled “Get the hell up here!”. I climbed the stairs, and enter the bridge where for 15 minutes he was yelling and cursing about fire on the boat and what the hell was I thinking, dumb shit for brains and on and on. I tried to get a few words in. But trying to explain Burning Man to a captain who has spent more time out at sea than he has on land was pretty much a futile attempt.

Needless to say, the only reason that they did not fire me, and did they ever want to fire me, was on the grounds that The Man was my religious belief. And therefore, it would have been religious discrimination had they done so. How they came to this conclusion, all on their own, is still a baffle to me.

The rumors on the boat that spread around the crew of 150 in the following days, were that I worshiped/followed this cult from somewhere in Colorado?!? And they actually sacrificed people once a month by burning them in these bonfires way out in the middle of the desert. And as part of this “belief” I needed to sacrifices a figurine once a month or else I would perish in…god knows what.

So to comprise my religious practices, the mate, who was from Norway and very interested yet confused as to what “Burning Man” was all about, told me in his “Wegi” accent: “Ah you know, if you have to, you can burn a figurine of your “Man” in the incinerator once a month.”

I never did though. Drowning the Man once gave me my fix. And seemed to fit so much better while I was floating through the endlessly surreal world of the Bearing Sea.

by Tyler Hanson

About the author: Tales From the Playa

Tales From the Playa

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