Dueling Fire in the Big City

Last night we stopped for a sip of water and some very important decisions on what direction to move and what art to check out. As we sat near Thunderdome we encountered a couple fire art cars that rolled out of the shadows and stopped as if in a stand off. As happens in these kinds of situations, suddenly one fired off a huge burst of flame. The other answered with a volley of several fifteen to twenty foot fireballs and the game was afoot.

Back and forth they answered each other with huge bursts fiff fiff fiffing in hot rolling explosions that spontaneously illuminated the desert surface and caused unsuspecting participants to jump. Their big cannons spouted spurting flames that shot forth with great immediacy from car to car, fireballs all manner of size creating different tonalities like some symphony full of fire and fury.

This continued for a short while until they were spent and waiting for their tanks to warm back up and pressurize before they could start again. From what I can tell the cars with the biggest propane tanks usually win these impromptu challenges. After a few minutes rest, the bigger vehicle sent a burst rolling, only to be answered again by the other and the dance began anew.

I’m pleased to see that some things never change at Burning Man.

It seems like just days ago when the gates opened. That was a long time ago in playa time. We’ve been dusted just about every day and a cold front has moved in for the long weekend. It’s nippy out here with dust blowing yesterday like dry snowflakes. This is perfect weather to wear your fabulous costumes to warm you. We saw some Santas walking earlier Ho Ho Ho-ing and the Furries around 7:30 portal are enjoying the chill as everywhere thousands of people dance, frolic, ride bikes, hang at bars or explore art. Theme camps like Kostume Kult host fashion shows. There are hundreds of dance camps, kissing booths, boutiques and carnival games that seem to be on every block. The Costco Soulmate Trading company is doing a brisk business, Center Camp is packed and the city is alive and in full force.

This year I’ve heard it said that Burning Man was so much better Next Year. Rumor has it there is an ambulance Art Car roaming around the playa that looks official, and they find people, then open the back and you’re pulled into a chamber of horrors with ten clowns, balloons, free candy and lots of cow heads and rotting meat. They’re looking for people who don’t seem dusty enough and I’m told their camp is “Immoral, Unusual and Entirely Inappropriate Camp” but this is unfounded hearsay.

Rumors travel fast around here. Regarding the weather, there was a rumor of rain that seems to have evaporated.  When people ask about the weather, we tell them it’s going to be dusty with a chance of puppies.

Most of the art and theme camps are amazing. However one of the most wonderful aspects of Burning Man I appreciate is the ultimate jankification that can manifest out here.  Some theme camps were probably a great idea on paper. Most are fabulous, but Burning Man is the place where Jankitechture can be observed in its most natural of state and that can be as amusing and enlightening as the superstar art and camps. We were riding around on the Tipsy Gypsy, moving  slowly through the night visiting some of our favorites, Marco Cochrane’s “R-Evolution”, Mike Garlington’s “Totem of Confession”, “Serpent Mother” by the Flaming Lotus Girls and “Dreamland” by Flux Foundation and Kate Raudenbush. We love “Blunderwood Portable” by Cat and Cockroach, “Illumacanth” by Rebecca Anders and of course, the Temple.

Riding bikes around we passed a group of women and overheard “I don’t remember Coachella being so dusty last year”. We also heard that Larry, Opa and Truffles the Clown were going be incognito and see if they could get a drink at one of the Plug and Play camps. Haven’t heard how that worked out.

Last night our group of monkeys decided that the last thing you really want to hear when wandering the playa with friends is “Wait here, I’ll be right back”.

Right now it is time to eat in camp and realize the futility of sweeping alkaline dust off your tarp in your shade structure each day. It is time to pick up MOOP and stop by other camps and make new friends.

We’re at that point in the week where large art is disappearing each night as burns blaze across the playa and you find yourself moving from fire to fire to enjoy the conflagration and then the warm afterglow. The Suspension Bridge burned Thursday leaving a wonderful bonfire for newly frigid participants to enjoy. Last night Mazu went up to much jubilation and today the steel infrastructure for the Lotus still stands. Well done.  Tonight they burn that big Man in the middle and we will find ourselves, 60 thousand plus, making our way out across the dusty cold expanse past flaming eye candy colored manifestations that Burning Man artists have brought here to gift us all. It will be giddy and full of anticipation. It will be wonderful as always and we will move like aliens to the hive or jellyfish softly glowing and undulating in a tide that ebbs and flows each year out here, to bathe in the electric excitement, rows of luminescent children in the desert sculpture garden that exists in this temporary city once a year.

We will cross pollinate and make new friends. We will trade ideas and share visions  to make it even better next year. Burning Man was so much better Next Year, indeed.

About the author: Moze

John Mosbaugh aka Moze is a SF Bay Area heretic and writer who's been hauling himself out to Black Rock City since the Nebulous Entity first beckoned him to check out this phenomenon known as Burning Man. Moze is a "Life Collector" who scribbles down encounters with you to share on the blog. He enjoys the hyper reality of that week in the desert enough to keep coming back. He's been on the Burning Man web team since aught two and has written for Piss Clear and the YEP (Yahoo Education Project). He doesn't speak for the org and he finds you fascinating. He celebrates you and loves it when you take away ideas from Burning Man and share them with the rest of the world. He likes to make grilled cheese on Burn Night afternoon and gift it to you because you're probably hungry. Moze is a big fan of fire, art, freedom and community.

4 Comments on “Dueling Fire in the Big City

  • G says:

    Is it just me, or are there more fire spewing thing out there this year?
    Last year I remember thinking that there was a trend from less fire poofing things and more computerized light displays.

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  • Trey says:

    Yeah, there seemed to be a lot more fire spewing art cars this year.

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  • Jason says:

    Thanks for the typewriter shout out! We are beyond gratified to hear so many people list the blunderwood among their favorite pieces.

    The full text of the poem we printed in sections, “mehitabel s motto” by Don Marquis, is available here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1VVy87O8vy8qSwcEMqfIR7GZ6E9Wfk32b_m44UXQOWtY/edit?usp=docslist_api

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  • Marzipan Man says:

    “The Suspension Bridge” art piece which you referred to (having burnt Thursday night) was actually titled “Inflection”.
    http://spacemeat.net/inflection/

    I’ll add that this particular piece was an excellent specimen of the “Jankitechture” experience you speak of… It was expertly rendered and constructed, but holy shit i was certain that several tripping hippies were going to slip and twist their ankles.

    Same goes for the zip-line at Sextant camp. I watched them experimentally send a wheelchaired guinea pig (whose playa name is “Guinea Pig”) down the line, testing out an alternate rigging after the previous attempt had busted a campmate-catcher’s nose and dislocated an appendage. I’ve heard talks from Sextant’s sargeants that they’d wanted to bring the EXPERIENCE of jankiness in a completely safe environment (provided you follow their ten or so rules, which included an advisory to avoid their zipline if you’d ingested any intoxicants).

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