Do you know what it means?

Wed. May 27, 2009
New Orleans, LA
(the backbone of middle Amerika; the soggy bottom of Old Man River)

Hi. I’m Summer Burkes. I just moved from the crispy Bay Area to the sweet warm fog of New Orleans and as a DPW/Gate desert rat, I experience a swampy deja vu on the daily. Here are the top ten similarities between Burning Man and New Orleans I’ve noticed so far.

1. You can walk down the street with booze in your hand, all the time.

2. You encounter random parades, second-line marching bands thrumming with brass and drums to hoardes of ass-shakers, and sexy “pony” girls pulling a modified shopping cart chariot with a man dressed as a flamingo.

ya heard?
ya heard?

3. Sometimes it smells. And you love it.

4. Everybody parties, including the teetotalers, because they know that death is certain – but life is not.

5. Large groups of dirtbags hang out on the sidewalk — messy dreadlocks, facial tattoos, Carhartts held together with leather patches and dental floss, hand-studded denim jackets with the sleeves cut off displaying various clubs and allegiances, tallbikes sprawled out on the ground, dogs running everywhere, and other folks yelling at them to put their dogs on leashes. (DPW)

6. Reconstructed, deconstructed, renovated, half-falling-down structures intermingle with awesomely beautiful hand-crafted buildings — because it’s all pretty and who gives a crap about material possessions and symmetry anyway.

looks like a job for the DPW
looks like a job for the DPW

7. Poverty, and/or comfort in squalor, and/or the realization of how things should be in America dictate that a good portion of the population mines “obtainium” — the detritus others throw out.

8. Some people complain about the heat, while the hard-heads truly married to the city simply mention it as a point of fact.

9. After the tourist season, the city empties out, the hard-heads hunker down, the storms arrive to whip everything to pieces, things get weird, and everybody left gets to know each other WAY better. (Cleanup / Playa Restoration)

10. Nothing makes people want to serve humanity and live in the moment more than the constant knowledge that at any time, if we don’t look out for each other, we could all be swept away.

…It is this last point which perks our antennas. The outpouring of love, service, volunteerism, and community action we’ve seen in the Crescent City is truly mind-boggling. In the next posts from NOLA, we hope to profile a few of the badass organizations here which, while not created by the Burning Community, remind us an awful lot of our shared philosophies.

There are myriad ways to take what you’ve learned in the desert and apply it to your hometown. Hopefully the detailing of some of these organizations will serve as a model for what you can do to occupy yourself in the months away from home — and to carry on to others about a Better Way To Be.

Stay tuned…

About the author: Summer Burkes

Summer Burkes

Summer Burkes has been rousting about at Burning Man since 1998. She first met her dusty DPW / Cyclecide / Bike Club fam-dambly on the back of The Bucket. A Cacophony Society enthusiast, Summer loves explosions and cake.

6 Comments on “Do you know what it means?

  • Coillinn says:

    Great analogy. That’s why I go to Jazzfest every year and Tipitina’s And the Instruments are comin’ benefit concert. New Orleans totally has the spirit of appreciating everyday. I can tell you it definitely is coming back alive with people from all over, with musical talent, settling down a bit there!!! I am so pleased and hope to meet more burners from New Orleans and hope that there might even be a Zydeco camp this year. The Jazz tent at BRC was very good, last year. Take care of yourself until the Burn!!! Coillinn

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  • Raven says:

    Hells yeah! Love in our thick swamp of NOLA. Isn’t it lovely here?

    … I am also from the Bay Area, and have lived in New Orleans for 7 years now. Welcome to your second home :)

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  • Andy Ben says:

    I was at BM in “05 when Katrina hit. There were two reactions. The People that started screaming, nashing of teeth and running around like chickens with their heads cut off. This group did not impress. The other group started a funeral dirge with the riverboat on Sunday and celebrated your point exactly. We better get living coz dying will be here soon enough. Late in the afternoon we caught up with the Riverboat on the Playa just in time to sing Amazing Grace with Joan Biez. Whenever I need a good thought I always tell myself, “Well at least you got to sing Amazing Grace with Joan Biez! What a wonderful BM memory. See you this year!! No Spectators!

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  • Jeff says:

    From King Cakes to drive thru daiquiri shops to Carnival & French Quarterfest… this place is insane (in a good way). I moved here a month before Gustav (from Portland) and was moved by the outpouring of support on The Playa for all New Orleaniens… use of satellite phones, planning disaster relief proactively, etc. Now, if we can minimize the graft and drive-by’s, and instill the Leave No Trace ethic, that would be progress. We could use some help from Black Rock Solar as well.

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  • O-ryan says:

    Well, technically there were 3 reactions. There was also the group that immediately started gathering donations and then left the playa to go help out. That was how Burners without Borders got started.

    How good is that?

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  • ssurferss says:

    @AndyBen: I was on the Playa that year as well. It was surreal see Joan Baez pop up out of the ether to address the Katrina tragedy. It was difficult for us to get news, since mobile phones had zero service back then. News would trickle in from people coming in from Gerlach.

    I was most impressed during exodus, where a large group of Burners had already collected truckloads of leftover water and nonperishable necessities and were sending trucks full of dirty Burners and supplies straight from the Playa to New Orleans!

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