Fast, faster, fastest

The DPW begins its parade. Remember, the extended middle digit means “I love you” in DPW speak.

Please, can someone put this week in a time machine and slow it down? It’s going way too fast.

After all the iffy weather and freezing nights, it’s been beyond gorgeous in Black Rock City. Hot, but not ungodly hot. And the playa on Wednesday night was just a wonderful place to be.

The moon is waning, but still, it rises above the horizon line a little later each night, and it’s all huge and orange, and sometimes it’s partially obscured by a puff of clouds, and it just is the most beautiful thing here, even with all the other beautiful things here.

The days and nights seem to blend together, and no one is getting much sleep. The Cafe is crowded with body dancers and massage therapists, and just standing in line waiting for an iced mocha is one of the most entertaining things you can do, because the people-watching is just the best there is.

We don’t like to take the camera out all the time in public places. Sure, most of the folks love to have their picture taken, but some don’t. And walking around with a long lens and snapping some candids of people who are unaware of your intentions is just not cool. So we stay away from it.

We’re staying in Media Mecca, which is just across the street from the Center Cafe, and this year there’s a big huge wonderful Narwhal parked out front. Wednesday night, as the stars came out, the ship was lit up for the first time. One of the talented folks in the Mecca took the mike and serenaded us with sing-along songs of a nautical kind. He has an operatic voice, and  the beauty and clarity of his voice snapped everyone to attention, and a small crowd gathered around the boat.

Then Megs, who engineered the re-launching of the boat, took the stage and belted out a few sultry numbers that got us all ready for the night.

Megs on the Narwhal

Next, Kid Hack threw down some beats. He asked me if I had any requests, and I said, “Well, if it’s not acid house with break beats and some old school D and B I’m just not down with it.” He laughed and shook his head. I had no idea what I was talking about, of course, but I tried to string some words together that I had picked up along the way.

Next up was the crew from the Burning Opera, and they performed songs from the play that was so popular at Teatro Zinzanni last fall. We still don’t understand why this show isn’t on the road, visiting Portland and Seattle and San Francisco and Los Angeles and Austin and all the other places a Burning Opera would have a great reception.

We realize that this is starting to sound like a travelogue, and we apologize for that. We don’t really like just telling you, “And then we did this, and then we did that, and then we went over here, and then we saw that.” It’s boring, especially if you weren’t here to enjoy it with us. So we’ll try to not do it, but for all the boyfriends and girlfriends and parents of people who aren’t here, I’ll just quickly report that Mutator was … off the hook, as the kids say, over at Burners Without Borders last night. Our friend and fabulous photographer Dimitre was there to help us with the documentation, and we’re thankful he was.

From the set by Mutaytor (photo by Dimitri)
More from Mutaytor (photo by Dimitri)

Then we wandered out to the Temple to take wedding pictures for Candace and Karl not Karl. But the Temple wasn’t the right vibe, so the sizable group gathered again at the Pagoda, where vows were exchanged and toasts were made and hugs were shared all around. It was a really late wedding, and in that there were a lot of hard-working DPW folks involved, the revelry didn’t last too far into the night. We get tired, you know.

Candace and Karl Not Karl
Wedding revelers for Candace and Karl Not Karl.

Walking back to camp from the Pagoda, we stopped along the way and got a look at some of the things we haven’t been able to catch up with yet.

Clowns came into a fire garden along the Esplanade.
Just your average, everyday mutant playa vehicle.
The fire pit at the entrance to the Esplanade from Ring Road.
The Temple at night glows from within.
Trees glowing with LED leaves light up the playa beyond the Man.
The Decadent Oasis all aglow in blue.

Then today the DPW had its annual parade, which took the jankiest collection of vehicles you could imagine and promenaded around the city. We weren’t too proud to ask participants to gift us, and when that didn’t work, there were certain appropriations made (in the most collegial manner possible, of course.) We were allowed to borrow a red DPW shirt so we could take pictures without incident. A red shirt meant you weren’t drinking, and you’d act as a buffer between the DPW folks and the general population. We are proud to report that our services in that department were entirely unneeded.

We wound up in the far reaches of the city, with the wagons circled and the band playing and the Jameson’s being passed around. When the lassos and the mosh pit started to get a little rowdier than we were absolutely comfortable with, we again made the long trek back to camp.

But here’s one of the good things: The rain early in the week really tamped down the playa, and it’s flatter and smoother than we ever remember. And the weather. My god, the weather. For two days straight now, it’s been absolutely perfect. No wind, no whiteouts, just the occasional dust devil forming a plume over this installation or that.

It can’t hold, of course, and Burning Man without hardship just wouldn’t feel right. But we’ll take things the way they are and be damn happy about it.

It’s only fitting that the DPW parade kicked off with a little dust.
Lily wore the red shirt, which meant she was there to help keep things in line.
Claire kept an eye out, too.
A long line of vehicles made its way up 5:30 from the Depot.
Dani Elle was rocking the sunglasses.
All love, all the time.
That’s Makeout Queen on the left. She was off duty.
Porcelain Shaw and her pal.
Along the route, a DPW band entertained an art car.
It’s important to fly your colors at the parade.
At the end, a wide-open party on the wide-open playa.

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.

19 Comments on “Fast, faster, fastest

  • Alex's Mom says:

    You don’t sound like a travel log. As someone who can’t be there, your descriptions flow and give you just a taste of being there. Which I do appreciate. My son had to go into town yesterday to get supplies and he called me. Alex said being at Burning Man has been the most awesome experience he has ever had. He was so excited to tell me everything. Of course he told me about the Rangers being there cause you know us Moms want to know our kids are safe. lol Alex said at night it is amazing how everything is lit up and there is no electricity. From your pictures it does look beautiful. So keep the blogs coming, I have so enjoyed reading them. Thank you and peace to all of you.

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  • Lady Luck says:

    I’ve got a pang in my heart not being there on the Playa this year! Okay I really was not feeling it at all, that was until I saw this set of images and heard that the weather seems to have turned to agreeable. The Temple looks AMAZING and the fog is back by the Bay.


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  • mick says:

    It is crazy how fast this week flew by. Are people still on the way?

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  • Jackie J says:

    Love the daily updates. For those of us sitting at home sulking, planning on next year, your updates are like manna from heaven.

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  • sharwest says:

    John, I want to thank you for your beautiful words and photos this week and leading up. You convey such emotion, and your point of view always makes me long to be back there. Perhaps next year we will meet there again. Enjoy the bittersweet ending of a wonderful burn.


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  • jane steele says:

    Loved hearing about the weather since my sweet sister is out there doing her thing with blind eyes. It looks like the sand picked up today but am so glad all is peaceful and well. Keep the reporting coming for those of us watching the fun from home. Peace.

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  • julie blake says:

    I love your blog and NO you don’t sound like a travel log. I’m one of the wives who couldn’t go with her husband to Burning Man. Your blog is so interesting and you’ve posted awesome pictures. It’s fun to read and it reassures me that my husband is having a fabulous time!

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  • John Curley says:

    thanks so much for your very kind words!

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  • Zander's Mom says:

    Thanks so much for the insider’s view. My son’s first time, and well yes as a mother I worried but WOW it is so incredible. The art is over the top and if I wasn’t so far and well not able to do that type of event (age body) I would love to experience it.
    Keep up the amazing creative work that comes from the energy of minds being free.
    Z’s MOM

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  • Sandy says:

    I’m Hazmatt’s mom. I love DPW and Burning Man makes him so happy. I loved thes photos.

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  • Magdalena Villaronga says:

    Enjoyed the description… but … I still do not understand what is the meaning of “Burning Man” and what exactly is the “Temple”. Is this by any chance about Wicca?
    And … “burning man” is a symbol of letting go…..of negativity, the past…? Magda

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  • Theresa R says:

    I’m the mom of one of your participants…this is her second year attending and she looks forward to it all year long. Thanks for the great pictures and stories…this certainly helps those at home to be a “small” part of what you folks have experienced.
    A MOM

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  • Galens Mom Carol says:

    I wonder if the blog is still going, a week past. Never too late to say thanks for hosting and to all the moms and dads and spouses and others who couldn’t be there, don’t we love the ripple effect of the art and energy.

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  • Summer says:

    Dear Your Mom / Burning Man Participants.

    DPW are aware that their attitudes are on the negative side. Something about living in a hot van for 2 months out of the year makes one a little Deadwood-casual at times. If you don’t get that it’s all an act, that we’re all role-playing out there… then maybe, instead, you could could meditate on how many more creepy sex people would be ruining your party by drugging and molesting children in dirty homemade hot tubs if we hadn’t beat the shit out of them back in the day. Theoretically.

    We see everything. We build it for you and we protect it for you. And for ourselves. If you think all your interactions with the DPW are negative, consider the roads, the Cafe, and the street lamps. We built those. You don’t have to thank us. We do it because it’s fun, and because we got in where we fit in. I.e., with other people who secretly enjoy living in hot vans for 2 months out of the year.

    Yours in service, with attitude,
    The DPW

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  • Trip Elliott says:

    Dear DPW:

    As a 9 year participant I have interacted w/ DPW many times, even on their own home turf (The Ghetto & Frog Pond). You guys rock! BRC would be nothing w/o you. Huge love to Star Child & the rest of DPW

    Trip & Monster

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  • Vampirates says:

    Just a note… That “DPW BAND” was Vampirates from Reno, NV, and our alter ego punk rock cover band Voted Best Band. We play every year for the DPW and they are some of the most fun shows we do all year.

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  • Roflstomp says:

    Dear DPW and participants,

    I sincerely appreciate DPW’s efforts of building the city that the participants play in, and I also appreciate the participants buying the tickets that create the funds to have DPW there in the first place. Guess this will be a stale mate till both parties understand the roles they have.


    Its your choice to be there for 2 months in a hot van or tent to work, sweat, bleed pre and post event. No one put a gun to your head and made you do it. I see some playa princesses and some of them have DPW gear on.


    Yes this city wouldnt exist without the diligent efforts of our beloved DPW workers. The trash fence race is always a pleasure to hear about. I wouldnt want to be on the playa for 2 months, would you? And then have abunch of tourists come through and be princesses themselves??

    So to me theres a bunch of whining on both sides and super heros on both sides. Fuckin deal with it both of you.

    Much love…..

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  • I’m one of the older newbee’s that got to attend this yr. 2010. It was the most wonderful experience I’ve ever had on a vacation. The younger people treated me with respect. Parents you would be so proud of your children. I need help walking and getting up from sofa’s your children were wonderful. The whole burning man experience can’t be explained in words. People are kind and sharing with each other. The art work is from simple to deep. I loved seeing the children there. Parents were very loving and protective of their little ones. Everyones has a loving air about them. Just wish the real world was like burning man. I do not drink, smoke, do drugs of any kind and had the most loving time.Don’t talk negative about BURNINGMAN if you have not attended. A fulfilled Grandma, wife, Mother Love Burers Much

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  • Wow, you have a crazy, cool and awesome journey. The pictures you post is awesome.

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