I’m writing from Room 906 in an undisclosed Reno hotel casino, or as we like to call it, 9 o’clock and R. It took me 20 minutes to get to the truck and back because every dusty Black Rock City refugee stopped and wanted to talk about Exodus and whether theirs was good or not so good. You can spot Burner cars in Reno, the really, really dusty ones loaded with all manner of camping necessities; the ones that other Burners have traced images of the Burning Man through the playa dust onto the clean paint below.
Sunday was a great day as we tore down the Man Museum so that our long timers wouldn’t be stuck with all the loading on Monday and Tuesday. As we were taking apart the shade, two bikes collided on the Esplanade out front and we ran over to them. The two girls involved stood up and hugged each other. No one was hurt and they went on their merry way. Only in Black Rock City do you have a “Hit and Hug”.
Yes, there were intermittent dust storms Saturday and Sunday, but that didn’t slow us down. Sunday was a party to celebrate cleaning up after our last party, which was a celebration of the previous party and so on.
Then we began getting ready for the night’s festivities and THAT MOMENT came about, the time when….
… the dry-pulverizing desert sunshine suddenly disappears with a pop, as the sun dips behind the Granite Range to the west of 34, and that harsh white daytime baking spotlight on the playa is replaced with a breathtaking cool gentle sky of gorgeous uterine pinks and blues that enchants and makes everyone so beautiful; makes the colors come alive, then it all slides slowly into a purple gray slate sky, and Black Rock City suddenly comes alive.
Dinners and cocktail parties are in full force and the Esplanade is packed with those going to and fro, all fabulous. Photographers live for that brief moment and they save up their shots to get there and shoot the Art. In camps, lights shake off the day’s dirt and start their twinkle and costumery is suddenly warm as shadows play tricks on the eye. Daytime sculptures go to sleep and the night time Art comes into focus as El-wire cars passing light up and suddenly make sense and take shape and everything is transformed as we slowly slide into the night time world where planets and grand constellations rise and dance across the sky with much felicity above our temporary bacchanal.
Sunday night the Moon rose full and heavy up over 2:15 to the south east and as citizens beheld it, a great howl arose from all parts of the City, a primal howl that made you look to the sky and see what they saw and in turn, howl yourself, because it felt right and good after all the time out here in this magnificent City.
If only all cities howled when the large moon rose close to the ground all around.
Saturday’s Burn was fantastic. We kept saying, one of the best ever, what with the Tangled Bank and this year’s amazing Art Cars all encircling the fire. Personally I’m glad they burned that Man down. Seriously, he was becoming an eyesore taking up that space right in the best real estate.
We braved the white out in the Shuttlecraft Magellan aka Sparky where we couldn’t see 10 feet in front of us, then suddenly the Man came into view and the more Art Cars that arrived, the less the wind could get to us until finally the winds died all together and a circle of magnificent Art Cars circled the fire perimeter. A self imposed order came to the playa.
Rumor has it that in years past, the Bureau of Land Management assigned officers to the event whether they wanted to come or not and that this year BLM officers were asked to volunteer. Lady Merv and I met a couple who told us as much and who also said they were having a really good time. It looks like Obama is the new Sheriff in town.
All week I’d been dreaming of Playa Flowers, this kind of disjointed concept of them sprouting from the playa, then, as Lady Merv and I passed “behind” the Man, where the wind would eventually blow all the embers and smoke and there were only two rows of people deep and we wondered how many of them knew what lay in store for them or if they just thought they had the “good seats”, I saw my flowers spring up before me when the Fire Conclave made their march around the Man base and began spinning and breathing fire. Last year the weather kept them down, so this year was exuberant and I saw for the first time that they are not so much choreographed, but everyone is doing their own thing in the same organized flow and they were beautiful.
That night after the pyrotechnics and explosions and burn that revealed a diamond shaped Masonic looking Yoni that finally fell and set off the grand running around our fallen man, we visited the 10 o’clock El Circo and The Do Lab where Bass Nectar was playing. We saw the Ravers in far too little pants shredding down the “Wedge”. We ended up at the Temple at one point and I was a bit overcome with emotion as I made my way up the stairways, passing so many expressions of people saying goodbye or hello to their dearly departed. Beloved remembrance of Tom Kennedy and Shooter, two of our own lost this year, up in that Temple, Fire of Fires.
I was just now playing video poker badly and the bartender at the El Dorado told me there was an accident Monday on I-80. No one was hurt, but he said, “All the Burning Man people were out of their cars, spinning things. It looked like they’d been there for a long time.”
You can tell a Burner in Reno once they’ve showered and put on “clean” clothes by their shoes. There is a shoeshine booth at the top of the escalator in the Silver Legacy casino and those guys kept saying, “Get a shoeshine. It’s Burning Man!” I told them I would if I won. My boots are still dusty.
Sunday the weather cooperated and the Temple burn went off without a hitch as far as we could tell. That was a Temple built to burn and as it went up, Fire Devils or Ancestors Departed, or Dust Devils, whatever they are to you were swirling about the grand bonfire.
It was a silent, respectful burn, and it made me wonder what the law enforcement were thinking, after Saturday’s crazy energy release burn of that Man, the Temple was a totally mellow burn. We are a community mostly with respect that comes naturally and doesn’t need it to be bludgeoned into us.
There were no Art cars thumping, only quiet conversation. However, an interesting phenomenon manifested at one point; this very intense aural wave of people making almost moaning, crying utterance that moved slowly like a wave at a game and swirled around the circle of us surrounding that burn at various times. It was primal. It was natural. It was the Tribe to the Howl of our departed. It was the same instinctual reaction as seeing that huge moon rising earlier, when the night first began. A week on the playa will bring out those instincts. They’re always there, just waiting for us to tap them.
Personally this was one of the most memorable, Memorial burn nights.
After the Temple Burn there were other Memorial Burns as Sunday has become a night for such. It was a poignant night with impromptu memorials for Bobo at Bobo’s Bar (over near 7:30 and Esplanade) and in outer playa, Crow’s Mother.
We made our way out to Crow’s Mother, a beautiful memorial by Dan Glass, an artist from New York who was part of the Acavallo crew in 2007. The piece was a big female kachina doll in tribute to his mother who passed on Christmas Eve, that was filled with her collection of Native American artifacts – little kachinas, birch bark bowls, etc, among other objects, and there was a beautiful picture of her as a young woman in the center. I spoke with Daniel from the Pyro Safety Team who told me that in order to burn on the playa you have to be off the surface or you will leave burn scars. Burn scars are like putting playa dust into a kiln and that’s bad for everyone. A solution that involved raising the sculpture off the playa using coffee cans from the Café atop corrugated sheet metal, with degenerated granite spread around below and with the PST there to make sure nothing too hot hit the open playa, was devised. For more on how this works, go here.
And at the last moment an Art car arrived and, at Dan’s request, played the entire Peanuts Christmas album that was perfect for the burn as, like the Man the night before, there was a reveal of a Christmas tree once all the wood burned away.
Crow’s Mother was a beautiful and moving burn and what a wonderful memory she burned into our little group out there.
Tomorrow we leave for San Francisco, to a different kind of foggy and cold white out, to the home base where Metropolis will develop over the next year, evolve and come into fruition and I hope to bring the best of this year out into that default world with me. Tonight I will awaken sometime during the night and see shadows on my hotel wall and think for a moment that I am still on the playa, with dust flowing through my abode. The fact that something like Burning Man even exists, lets me know that our culture is not as sick as it sometimes seems.
I truly hope everyone had a great Burn and safe journeys home.