Notes from all over

We’ll do a little bit of this and a little bit of that today, so stay with me to the jump for more surprises.

You’re getting closer to departure. You might be frantically tying up the loose ends of your life, so that your absence will be minimized. Your playa gear might be in a loose pile in the middle of the room. But it might be helpful to realize, right now, before you even leave, that you will NOT in fact remember everything that you need. But that’s where the beauty of the playa comes in, because once you get here, you will find what you need.

Still, there are great lists and resources to check on the Burning Man home page. To my mind, water and shade come before anything else. Even if you didn’t bring food, you’d find enough to eat. Somehow, you would. In fact, you might wind up eating much better than you do at home. (I am not encouraging you to skip the provisions, though.) You’ll also eat a lot less than you thought you would. So don’t stress.

You don’t need to be told to wear your sunscreen. But it might also be helpful to bring a small container of vinegar, to counteract the playa’s alkaline dust.

Nothing will feel better than a footbath: Wash your feet, then get them nice and wet with vinegar, and follow that with a soothing lotion of your choice. Seriously, you will thank me for telling you this. And you won’t get playa foot. You don’t want to get the playa foot. Walking barefoot might feel amazingly good, but there’s a good chance your feet will punish you. I have fair skin, and I haven’t worn open-toed shoes since my first year out here, when I learned my lesson.

Anyway, I’ve tucked in some pictures of the road to get you in the mood for traveling.

There’s so much hard work out here it’s hard to comprehend. So maybe it doesn’t come as a surprise that there would be hard play, too. Tuesday was one of the nights there was a planned activity, and it exceeded all expectations.

I thought I knew Bingo. YOU thought you knew Bingo. Neither of us knows what Bingo can be. Aristotle, the boom lift operator with the philosophy degree who is partial to formal white shirts and ‘80s lounge wear, organized the proceedings. Tables were arranged in the commissary. Very professional Bingo cards and markers were handed out. (However, the fat red markers were not used for their intended purpose in all instances.) There may have been a few gallons of Jack Daniels.

Music was ‘70s and ‘80s lounge. Bingo monitors wore fringe and sparkle. A Dolly Parton lookalike called the numbers.  There were helpful tutorials on Bingo basics, plus a framed needlepoint that governed the rules of play for the evening: “Friendship is like the setting sun; it shines it’s light on everyone.” The room would be asked to recite it loudly when things turned too agro. This was, after all, in Aristotle’s words, psychedelic friendship Bingo.

There was a conga line when B-13 was called, there was a demonstration of proper technique when 0-69  was called, there were small bottles of Underberg distributed at B-4, and there were winners and no losers. Blogging was discouraged, so there will be no further particulars.


Love and relationship issues are intensified in the desert. We all know this, do we not? It’s beyond discussion. There are those who come together, and there are those who come apart. Desert time is like internet time — it all happens so quickly.

There’s a nice story about coming together happening here, and it’ll peak on Saturday night at the early burn: Foxtrot and Huckleberry are getting married.

Pillow Talk was in the Commissary the other day, putting the final touches on Foxtrot’s dress, and she did a fitting as the food crew cleaned up after lunch and got ready for dinner.

Foxtrot and Huckleberry are a nice story. They were each other’s first loves back in Colorado, where they grew up. Then life intervened. He moved to LA for a career in film fire, she stayed behind in Colorado.

And then life, and the internet, intervened again. Seventeen years after he moved away, she found him on Facebook. She took a deep breath, then friended him, not knowing if the feeling would be mutual. But it was, and one thing led to another, and now here they are, set to tie the knot at sunset on Saturday.

So if you’re wondering whether you should look up that lost love from long ago and give it a try, here’s strong evidence that it can sometimes be a good idea.


Just in case you were wondering, it’s 707 yards from the Man base to the Esplanade. And then it’s 400 feet from Esplanade to the first street, Athens. And then each of the streets are 200 feet apart after that. Everything is laid out with a satisfying mathematical quality in Black Rock City.  Here are some other numbers:
–The main Plazas are at 3:00 and 9:00, centered 2,785 feet from they Man. Each of them are 250 feet in diameter.
–There are two smaller, 200-foot diameter plazas at 4:30 and 7:30, which are centered 3,935 feet from the Man.
— There are also three 200-foot diameter Plazas at 3:00, 6:00 and 9: 00, which are centered 4,625 from the Man.

Even though you know the numbers now, you’re still going to get lost on the way back to your camp. Just accept it.

It’s Thursday, and maybe some people are hitting a wall. The radio is relatively quiet. (Gameshow was quick to point out, however, that it just means that people are working quietly and efficiently. Uh huh. Definitely. Exhaustion is not a factor at all.)  But maybe he has a point. At the manager’s meeting yesterday evening, manager after manager reported no problems, things were working smoothly, the DPW was meeting everyone’s needs, and etc. and etc. It was remarkable, really. Forty people sitting in circle at the Depot, and nary a negative word was heard. Drama free.

Camp Placement even had something to crow about. Sweet Thing and Retro and WD are really on their games: All 708 theme, staff and artist camps have been placed, with flags put down in the dust that delineate all the borders. And they finished three days ahead of schedule. They’ll have time to review any issues, and then their reward will be to help other crews get their work done. The work doesn’t stop, have we mentioned that?


Shenanigans definitely have their place on the playa. (And “shenanigans” isn’t the word that I’d use, but it’s the one people use, so we’ll go with it.)

One of the shenanigan-like activities that goes on out here is to steal camp flags. All the big camps fly flags: Right now they are waving over Center Camp, First Camp, Fistica and many others. And right now there are people plotting to steal the flags of the other camps.

We went on a raid with Austin the other day, as she and her crew drove a scissor lift right into the heart of First Camp and stole the flag. A bold move in broad daylight.

There are certain conventions that must be followed: You cannot steal a flag that has not yet been mounted on a pole, and you cannot break the pole upon which the flag is mounted. So one of the countermeasures is to attach the flag to the pole with as many different kinds of screws as possible, making it all the more difficult to detach cleanly.

Austin and company got in quick and got out clean.


The best radio station you never heard of is KLAP right there in downtown Gerlach. (“Catch the KLAP!”) Tune your FM dial to 89.5 and enjoy an amazingly eclectic playlist — Hank Williams, Bob Dylan, BB King, Bob Marley, all in one set. The segues are seamless. The station is a pure joy. Plus, you can hear it way out on the Indian land where there is little else, and you can hear it out on the playa, too. Take a break from the techno and check it out.

The station is part of a nonprofit network that brings radio programming to areas that otherwise would be unable to get it. KLAP is a “satellite” station of KDUP-FM 88.1, Cedarville, CA.  Both stations are licensed to OpenSkyRadio Corp., a 501(c)3 charitable organization dedicated to bringing local radio to towns where none exists.  You can read more at:

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.

11 Comments on “Notes from all over

  • Retro says:

    Ah. You sit down in the dust with Curley to give some credit where credit is due, and, well, “what we have here”, as the line from Cool Hand Luke goes, “. . . is a failure to communicate”

    All 708 camp boundaries have been SET with survey flags by the Placement FLAGGERS: WD, Rascal, BlackJack, Dayzee, Wombat, OnTime, MadCad, Stroppy, Termeh, & The Machine. SweeTTHANG says she “didn’t flag jack”. Retro has been mostly occupied elsewhere, but is happy to join them aat days end for “milk and cookies”.

    As much as the PLACERS would both love and be crushed to hear that all camps have been Placed, actually Placement of arriving camp in their reserved spaced will begin next week, with the lion’s share happening between Thursday and Sunday pre-event.

    ~ Retro

    Report comment

  • great pictures of the road! for those interested here is a list of all the BRC radio stations on the FM dial:

    Report comment

  • Lexi Lu says:

    yay Fawks!!! get it girl!!

    Report comment

  • Andie Grace says:

    Third time I’ve teared up reading this blog this year. Go Fox Go! Mazel tov!

    Report comment

  • LadyLuck says:

    Curley, your words remind me why I’m not there, why I need years off the Playa, but your photos, your photos draw me in and make me wish I could drop it all and come.

    Hope you’re taking care of yourself out there.

    Report comment

  • Leanimal says:

    I love these updates. Curley, amazing photos! It’s truly amazing how much hard work goes into to making the playa a mystical magical place. Thank you!! Can’t wait to come back home and meet all of you.

    Report comment

  • KBreezy says:

    Burning Man virgin here! My Bro has been with Ashram Galactica for years and now I can finally go! Stoked about getting my cherry popped! Thank you set up crew for all your hard work and dedication. Burning Man wouldn’t be possible without you! Much love! See you soon. Peace

    Report comment

  • John Curley says:

    Thanks for setting the record straight, Retro.

    You’re my new editor. :)

    Report comment

  • Oatmeal Mama says:

    I-Can’t-Wait. And boy can I EVER relate! I have a pile of my belongings that is growing, feverishly, in my carport. I’m still trying to explain to people and my family WHERE I am going and WHY!? I just want to disappear for a few days to BM, then come back and have people not even notice that I was gone. May I speak for a lot of the virgins and say that we appreciate the information and all that you guys do. It’s beyond beautiful!


    Report comment

  • Juicy Crone says:

    Being there just came into focus today. VERY excited!!

    Report comment

  • Zulea Bomba says:

    ooooolala thanks for taking me there! see you soon!

    Report comment

  • Comments are closed.