Party pics


It’s easy to have mixed feelings about Decompression gatherings.

On the one hand, it always feels great to be digging out the playa wear and smelling the dust again.

Ah, the smell of the dust. Even if you’re on the anal retentive side and meticulously wash all your clothes and oil down the chains on the bike and run the car through the car wash three or four times, the smell of the dust rises up and bites you when you least expect it.

You turn on the defroster in the car and  plumes of the playa coming rushing out of the vents. Or you come across a scarf in a backpack, and it is still covered in a lovely dusting of white. Or maybe you missed one pair of shoes in the back of the closet, and when you go for Decompression footwear, there they are, just back from Center Camp.

decompression-12Anyway.  Sunday was a day to dig out all that stuff, but like we were saying, it’s easy to have mixed emotions. Because after all the fun, and all the laughing and eating and drinking and dancing, at the end of it all you are not sleeping under the stars, and there is no Man to guide your way home. No. You are going to wherever it is you call home. You are most decidedly not on the playa any longer. And that always stings.

No matter. Decompression is a lovely reminder of the event, and for that we were all pretty happy on Sunday.

There were lots of clowns and stilts and fur, but maybe not as many blinkies and el wire as might have been expected. And you could buy food and drink. What a thing. And there plenty of shrieks and shouts from the reunions taking place all over the Dogpatch streets. It was a lot like Homecoming weekend, only without the football. A lot of your favorite people in the world were gathered in one spot again. Nothing wrong with that at all. Not a thing.

And the San Francisco venue has changed for the better over the years. Decompression used to be held in a parking lot near the baseball stadium, and while the square footage might have been bigger, it had no atmosphere at all. Unless you call macadam and hurricane fences atmosphere. Now it’s in a funky neighborhood, lined with trees and low-slung buildings. It definitely feels more home-y.

But one little question: Can’t we burn some stuff next year? I’m sure the fire department would hate it. And there’d be expensive permits and emergency crews and all the rest of the city rigamarole to contend with. But still. It’d seem only right.

Lots and lots more photos after the jump.


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.

8 Comments on “Party pics

  • Mike Hedge says:

    awesome shots John!!! love em!!!

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  • Netzard says:

    Pictures are great! ‘Fraid much of the fire art was at a wedding reception we attended that day. When fire artists get married, the whole fire art crew shows up. I am sure they will return to Decom next year.

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  • Dave says:

    Great photos! I love seeing so many portraits.

    But damn, that photo interface is stuck in the 90’s. Please put them on Flickr or Picasa so we can see a larger version and a slideshow.

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  • Ben says:

    Thanks for all of the documenting of the event we all love so much that you do. Decompression was great, My girlfriend couldn’t make it to the burn this year so we were happy she could make it to decompression and feel just a sliver of what home is like.

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  • Barnyard says:

    So sorry I missed SF, outstanding photos here, and the format is just fine!
    I did attend LA two weeks ago and it was great, the first four hours greeting everyone at the volunteer gate was awesome!! Then that full moon rising just after sunset. So sad some one did not document LA Decom. Maybe next year this old fart will bring his camera and do so.

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  • Bobo says:


    I’m here in Atlanta and totally envious of you guys that get to go to Decompression! I’m plotting my return to the Playa as we speak!

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  • Party Venues says:

    So what exactly is a Decompression Party again? Looks as though you had an awesome time judging by the photos that you have posted.

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  • Baxa says:

    Heya i’m for the primary time here. I came asorcs this board and I to find It really helpful & it helped me out much. I am hoping to provide something again and help others like you helped me.

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