Dude, where’s my stuff?


Felix Ling had a little trouble finding his stuff on the playa last year.

So you know how hard it is to find your way back to camp some nights (or some mornings)? You walk around for what seems like hours, you get more and more frustrated, then you start thinking bad things about yourself for being such an idiot, then you start pleading with the powers of the universe … please PLEASE let me find my camp! I just want to sleep!

Well this is a story about a guy who couldn’t find his camp. But it wasn’t just for a couple of hours, or for a night, or until it started getting light again. He NEVER found it again.

Felix Ling was out at the Burn last year with a bunch of friends. They had to leave before he did, so they took off and left the camp set up for him to take care of later. Welllll, one thing led to another, and there might have been a little partying, and there might have been a night spent … out and about. But the key point is, when it came time for Felix to go back to his camp, it wasn’t there.

Even though the Man had burned and a lot of the geographic locaters were missing by this point, he KNEW he couldn’t be THAT disoriented. He couldn’t completely lose his camp and his car. But still, it was all gone. No trace.

So he came to the logical conclusion that someone had stolen all his stuff. (And Felix is quite logical. Among other things, he teaches Economics at San Jose State. He does lots of responsible things.) So he made his way to the exit gates and hitched a ride back to the Bay Area. He was saddest about the 800 pictures he’d lost, but just about everything else was replaceable. Not a bad attitude at all, considering …

Fast forward a couple of weeks. Felix is at home, the phone rings, and it’s Maid Marian from the Burning Man office. She has a question for him: “Did you forget anything?”

Right. His stuff WASN’T stolen. He actually HAD lost it all. The Burning Man people had gotten pretty worried when they found all his stuff completely intact after everyone else had left the playa. What was this mystery camp and car? Was the guy dead? Would they eventually discover his body under a pile of rubble. So they went about solving the puzzle of the Missing Asian Guy. And eventually they were able to find a phone number for him and tell him the good, if embarrassing, news that all his stuff was indeed safe.

Here’s the kicker of the story: Not only did they FIND his stuff, they actually drove it down to him in San Francisco. One of the office staff needed a way to get from Gerlach to SF, so … why not take Missing Asian Guy’s car?

To show his gratitude, Felix is up here now volunteering with the Department of Public Works. He’s helping to set up Power Camp. He’s digging trenches and counting cables and generally being a very willing and capable pair of hands.

And his playa name? MAG. Which stands for … Missing Asian Guy, of course.

(more photos over here)

About the author: John Curley

John Curley (that's me) has been Burning since the relatively late date of 2004, and in 2008 I spent the better part of a month on the playa, documenting the building and burning of Black Rock City in words and pictures. I loved it, and I've been doing it ever since. I was a newspaper person in a previous life, and I spent many years at the San Francisco Chronicle. At the time I left, in 2007, I was the deputy managing editor in charge of Page One and the news sections of the paper. Since then, I've turned a passion for photography into a second career. I shoot for editorial, commercial and private clients. I've also taught a little bit, including two years at UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism and a year at San Francisco State University. I live on the San Mateo coast, just south of San Francisco in California.

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