Learning to Burn

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I'm writing this raw, so I'll probably edit it a few times. I'm putting it in the Articles section because Burning Man has a very Tao Bums vibe to it and I encourage others to experience it.



Last year. I opened an email account I no longer used and among the 1000 unread messages was 'ARE YOU READY, WE BURN IN 5 DAYS!!'. No I wasn't. I'd joined the Burning Man newsletter years ago. I'd always wanted to go, but life, marriage, kids and a twinge of fear always kept me away.


Let me back up try to explain what Burning Man (BM) is. Its an event, an experimental city built in the middle of the Nevada desert for one week. People from around the world come to it (the biggest minority being Californians). In some ways the only rule is there is the Golden One. No commerce allowed, no buying or selling anything (except drinks(nonalcoholic) at the center tent. It is a gift economy and you are expected to generously share with others but also be self sufficient.


The book 'Pronoia' writes about it glowingly as the best last bastion of human freedom. A place where people go to build there Utopia'


How could a person not want to go there. A few warned me it was a just a place to do drugs, others disagreed, saying it was a place to discover yourself, find and live out your artistic passion. The theme for the year was Evolution.


I mentioned it to my wife. She disregarded it. That night I dreampt of Burning Man, woke up the middle and was able to slip back into it. That's rare for me. I spent the next day thinking about the possible trip, fuming that I probably wouldn't go.


That night I told my wife I really want to go. She looked at the calendar, said if I was going to go, this would be an ideal time since the kids just started school, but didn't have any activities. This was the end of 4 day (to go). I hadn't really expected to be doing it.


I spent day 3 trying to decide if I should and if I did how I'd get there. From Chicago it was about 1700 miles. If I flew I couldn't bring all the camping equipment I needed, and if I bought it there I couldn't bring it back. Driving take 3 days.


There were many Must-Have-Lists available on the internet. Most were at least 200 items long. I noticed woman's lists had 4 gallons of water a day, whereas men's had only 2 gallons. Obviously woman were wasting water on such things as bathing.


If you want adventure you have to travel. Online I purchased a ticket, $300 to be picked up at will call in Nevada. I bought some camping supplies and headed off half assed with one day to go from Chicago to the alkaline desert 1700 miles away. I left at 5:00 in the morning.


I woke my wife up and kissed her goodbye. Walking out the door I felt a little put off that she hadn't gotten out of bed and sat down for a good bye coffee or something. It was a long trip and I'd certainly driven her 30 miles to the airport whenever she'd needed to fly. My bit of anger and its questionable justification would weigh on my mind during the long drive.


I'd stopped at the library earlier and took out some audio CD's for the trip. One of them was a long college Philosophy course. I made it through 2 hours of listening to 'What is Proof, before I answered 'What is Boredom' and took it out.


I also had 9 hours of Adyashanti CD on True Meditation. This was more up my alley. There were some good concepts in it. He particularly had my number when he discussed how too many meditators would go directly into trance state and bypass the everyday mind, and that is a big mistake. True meditation is not the trance, it has to be found and reconciled within the confines of the everyday mind.


I listened to radio, moving in and out of local stations every 30 minutes. Lots of fundamentalist Christian radio, I'd listened, it to give me something to focus and fume at. Driving through Iowa and Nebraska was visually boring. I made good time that day. I made it all the way to the Colorado border where I found a cheap hotel and stayed the night. Waking up I was still 1000 miles away and the BM festival was starting.


Colorado was visually stimulating. I turned off the radio and drove with my thoughts, still on the same highway I took out of Chicago. I thought about where I was in life, what I'd accomplished and the mistakes I've made. I called home a few times to let them know I was fine and so the kids could update my location on map. The beauty of Colorado faded as I approached the desertlike scrub of Utah. There was occasional burst of beauty, and I think I saw a herd of wild gazelles.


Once on the phone I passed a broken down car. I think it had Burn or Bust sign on it, but I was going 75 mph and didn't stop. That weighed on me. BM is supposed to be about community, joining a tribe, reigniting the caring impulse that civilization keeps dormant. I decided I wouldn't let it happen again.


I made it over the Continental Divide, my ears popping from the heights and at times my hands a little too tight on the wheel. With the Sun on its way down I made it to Salt Lake City. I thought about staying there but pushed on, the drive so steeply downwards I coasted at highway speeds in neutral gear and moved toward the salt flats to the east. The flats were remarkable, they seemed like a desert w/ a few inches of salt water on top of it. Flakes of salt flew up like snow as you drove. The water gave way to flat hard desert. With the sunset I made it to Nevada and bill boards screamed, 'Come to our Casino', how could I resist.


There were casino hotels and I walked through them and picked the cheapest. I treated myself to an extravagant buffet dinner, then gambled, losing $90 quickly. That bothered me, gambling is a losing affair, but it can be done more intelligently, money management being the key to playing longer. One section had betting on various horse races around the country.


One race had 2 early disqualifications so only 4 horses were running, an unusually small number. Two were clearly favorites, but their pay offs were low. Still there's a certain bet where you pick the first and second place winner; that one had a 100% payoff. I made it and won. A little excitement before camping.


There were late shows, strip clubs but I called it a night. This was in part a spiritual quest and I'd already strayed too much. I had missed day one of BM, maybe that was a good thing, 10's of thousand of people coming in meant lines of hours. Plus I'm not really into camping, much less in the desert.


I got up early and headed out, 250 miles to go. Nevada was scrub and canyon. Ahead I saw a person walking the highway, they looked like something out of Mad Max. It was near desert and I weighed whether I should stop, maybe he was going to burning man? By the time I made the decision I was half a mile ahead of him. I stopped the car on the side of the road and waited.


Thinking about it I was still a 100 miles away from BM. Maybe he wasn't heading there. He didn't have his thumb out. The Mad Max look came from a tarp he had rolled up and hitched across his shoulders, giving him wings that stretched out 2 feet to his sides. I waited for him, then got out of the car and walked down the highway to meet him.


His name was Michael (like mine), he wasn't going to BM, he was heading, walking(!) to Southern California to spend the winter. He was a bum, maybe I should say tramp since that has less negative connotations. A long time ago I lived out of a back pack for months. I can respect the decision to live a life of freedom.


He was in his 50's. He was heading in my direction so I offered him a ride, he excepted. He had few possession but had 4 multi gallon water bottles that must have weighed at least 30 pounds altogether. It was close to 90 degrees and he was hiking through the desertlike scrub with at least 40 pounds of weight.


I enjoyed talking to him. He'd been homeless for years. He described how he survived in the desert, mostly eating ramen noodles. He told me about his family whom he hadn't seen in years. Where he'd camp. How the scrub was filled with tender that burned white hot. I told him a little about myself, we shared a dislike for radio preachers and right wingers. He seemed like a good sort. His life style was by choice, much freedom along w/ ascetic hardship.


We drove about 60 or 70 miles, then his route went one way, mine went another. I dropped him off at a rest stop where the highway split. He didn't ask, but I gave him some bottles of gatorade and $40. He thanked me, it would keep him in ramen for a while. As he walked away I felt ashamed I didn't offer more. I'd spent that much on dinner the previous night, not to mention losing twice that in the casinos.


I had a feeling I'd have learned more following him and his lifestyle for a week then I'd learn at Burning Man. Course the first lesson would be I wasn't tough enough to hike miles in the desert w/ a pack.


For me the big question is whether there's a god in control and whether it gives a damn about us. I hope in deep meditation to get my answer. Til then its nice to have synchronicities like meeting another Michael who is so different yet similar to shake up my perceptions.


I drove on, an hour later I thought I was at Burning Man but was only at the nearest town. BM was another 60 miles away and it was already afternoon. I filled up on water and uncharacteristically on beef jerky which I'd started to enjoy. I was finally off the highway I'd been on for two days. The rest of the route would be on country roads through an Indian reservation.


Along the road were little stands offering churros and tacos that looked good. I was now part of an increasingly long caravan of cars, trucks and RV's and didn't want to leave the road. In the distance tall dust devils spun like mini tornadoes. It got slower and slower as we approached, finally queing up in one of a dozen car lines before the entrance. There was a pull off for people who had tickets at will call I took it.


I got out of my car and stepped onto the alkaline flat. It was 90 degrees with hot wind whipping up white dust to near white out conditions. This might not be as easy I thought. Goggles were one of the 100 things I didn't bring from the Must-Have list. I got in a relatively short line, gave a person at the booth my name, and got my shiny ticket and itinerary booket on what was going on (&where) each day. I got back in my car, drove back into line and cued up for the initiation ritual that newby virgins got before entering BM.


When I got to the head of the line I was greeted by two men in dresses. They were the volunteers who got people ready and psyched for the BM lifestyle. They asked me a few questions, went over the rules and tried to give me an understanding of the layout of the city I was about to enter. There were free boutiques inside where I could get proper clothes.


They told me BM would have about 45,000 people. They asked if I had any drugs in the car. Had me scream a few affirmations, then scream them again louder. Finally I hit the entry bell a few times signaling a BM virgin was joining the tribe. I rolled into Black Rock City, this years BM.


The dust storm was still going on. Despite the dust the ground was rock hard. The city was round, shaped like a bike wheel with roads A-Z leading to the center and others labeled with evolutionary names A through Z circling out in rings. Half was the inhabited, the other half was the Playa, open land containing huge art projects, like the giant 3 story Temple and Wooden Burning Man Statue. I had no idea where to go,but spotted a few R.V.'s parked in a U shape. I stopped next to them and asked the people nearby if I could park there. They said no problem.


So I did 2 smart things. I used there RV's to protect me against the dusty wind, and when I set up my tent I drove over the bottom tarp so it couldn't get blown away. Setting up the damn tent in the dust, heat, rock hard ground was not fun.


I was a poor dust cropper surrounded by fancy folk who lived in RV's with amenities like air conditioning, hot food, water and something called electricity. I introduced myself. The 3 couples had known each other for a while and it was not there first BM. I'm 45, they were a few years older then me and from California. They seemed very nice.


We took a group picture. The woman to my side faced me and turned to pose with her leg raised and thigh on my lap. I'm just a simple Midwesterner, and generally we're protective of our personal space, but being a squatter means getting along and I didn't complain. I pulled up a chair and indulged in their wine as a dust storm blew around us.


As we talked a naked woman pushing a naked man in a wheel barrow came by. Another sign we weren't in Kansas anymore. One of the RV'ers grabbed a camera and the naked couple graciously posed for them. Not that I'd consider them photo worthy as they were older then we were and perhaps a bit more uh rounded. Still they seemed happy and as long they were smart enough to cover up w/ sun screen god bless'em.


The dust died down and I went exploring. There was a post apocalyptic vibe to the place, but an optimistic one. Like, the end is here, lets party. In the vast city there RV's, tents, and fantastic make shift structures. Domes covered with beautiful multicolored clothes, others topped with white styrofoam like oversized igloos. The inner areas had group camps that were little city's within themselves.


People were in unusual states of dress and undress. Like my greeters there was a strong contingent of cross dressing around. Later I'd see there were several free shops for picking up colorful garments. As an Aikidoist I've spent years running around in a long black skirts (hakama), but as a man I need pockets, thus never really considered any fancy garbs or going without.


The bicycles going up and down the hard clay streets were amazing, decorated as insects or hot rods. There was a group there armed with blow torches who would elongate bikes fronts making them chopper style. One monster bike was a 4 person take off on a Hummer, complete w/ 4 wide tires and orange paint. The mutant vehicles were even more amazing. Many had space themes, I saw star wars hover machines (had wheels), Apollo capsules, a motorized couch run steered by the joy stick on the side. These were amazing, but they were nothing compared to what would come out at night.


I walked to the tent at the main center of the city. It was a huge open aired circus tent. They were 3 stages in it, not counting the spacious center. Each stage had couches and chairs around them. The center had a few couches, but mainly pillows of all sorts. In the center was a soft 6 foot ball covered in teddy bears. Not only am I not making this up, but the giant teddy ball is indicatative of the playful spirit of the event. Young kids were roll it around. Older daredevils would leap on top of it and get spun off.


The tent had the only commerce around. They sold coffee, iced coffee and a gatoradelike drink. The first few days it wasn't horribly crowded, the acts in the tent were generally excellent. Most of musicians were professional and gave out free CD's after they sang. One talented folk singer said at the end of her act 'I have CD's for $10 ..' and was immediately questioned and booed, til she said 'whoops forgot where I was, I have FREE CD's for you.'


The tent was filled inside and out w/ art work. Drawings some of them interactive, some large impressive statues, many w/ electronics, free coloring books and write in books. A third of the time there were classes taking up all or part of the center space.



One was tantric dance, I think the group was connected to TantraNova which has a location in Chicago. They showed an intimate circular dance where the bodies are always in contact, rolling around each other. They encouraged people to join in. I was tempted, but I didn't want to scare anyone off by my invitation. It was enough to sip iced coffee and watch. Always the chance being approached by middle aged slightly over weight male is not a girls dream. Though maybe it is, and some girl somewhere is writing now about the fat gent who got away.


Later there would be capoeira demonstrations there. Capoeira is probably the most entertaining martial arts to watch, with its music, danceforms and dynamic kicks. There were American showing off what they knew, but when a small South American guy joined in, the difference was night and day. Knowing how to play vs Mastery.


I spent the evening walking around. Near the center hub were the big groups w/ special projects. Some had theater, bars (one nudes only), the hang out, which was filled w/ a dozen hammocks. I discovered Black Rock city was only half filled w/ tents, the other half was the Playa, a vast area filled with unbelievable things. Major pieces of art, the giant burning man sacrifice, the 3 story built-to-burn temple, lots of absolutely mind blowing stuff.


We're talking full size (25 ft) rocket (which would later be exploded), 14 foot computer controlled rubic cube, giant beautiful statues of woman w/ chains for hair that would burst into flames at night. A freakin sledding hill made w/ green plastic carpet. You'd climb up it helped by rope, then grab some corrugated boxes and use them to slide down, usually into elaborate pillow structures people on the bottom would make.


At night the big mutant vehicles came out. Huge galleons based within double decker buses. Many fire breathing custom vehicles of all sizes, blowing fire. Sci fi, fantasy, vehicles of all kinds represented. No cars were allowed, only what was strange and they had to be certified.


It was a freaky overload world there. I was tired, went to bed at 12:00, woke up at 3:00 and headed back to the central tent. Lots of people there, one or two musicians playing. In the center court jugglers held sway, many w/ bolo's practicing and working out routines. During the big burns the balls would be lit on fire and they needed to be precise.


I talked to one guy who said he'd been up 42 hours cause theres so much to see. I believe him. I'd only seen a fraction of the place and it was amazing. All around the tent were people who were crashed.



I headed back to the tent and fell asleep. I was woken a few times by loud sounds, horns, the bright morning light. I tried to keep sleeping but there was no way. The nearest washrooms, portapotties were a half mile away. I had my portable bike and headed to them then back to the main tent. I got the low down on classes and exhibits that were going on.


The days kinda ran together. It probably didn't help that I spent so much time in bars. Nearby my tent some guys had set up a small bloody mary bar. I rarely passed them without getting a homemade drink. It only had 5 seats, usually had an empty one. They served one drink, gourmet bloody marys. I've never been into them but I know quality when I taste it. Each drink was made by hand, including real horseradish and bitters, premium vodka, no mix was used. The best part of the drink was the pickled asparagus. For me they tasted best light on the alcohol and spices, two asparagus stalks please.


A larger more social bar I liked was the Koi bar, large and beautifully decorated w/ gold fish swirling around on top. Again we're in the desert camping and there's this beautiful bar set up in the open. The bartender and people there were very friendly and they served a variety of drinks and if your timing was right, food!. Again not too crowded. I think it may have been a gay leaning bar, but I have no local sense of gaydar so I'm not really sure.


One funny episode happened there. I was drinking and scrounging some bacon sandwiches from them. A few of he guys thought it would be funny to bring them down the road to the PETA group. Note they weren't exactly PETA, but they were very close and had a fairly large campsite and exhibits that you saw as walked past. As you walked past they had pictures of farm animals which read 'I'm a Mother, I'm a Sister, I Feel'.


I'd talked to one of the girls there about my son who is a vegetarian, she gave me some good pointers and let me know she'd be spending the night naked wrapped in plastic in a mock food container. She did this to protest the meat industry, god bless the young.


Anyway the bar group forgot they wouldn't be heckling simple vegetarians, they'd be pissing off militant vegans. They came rushing back 15 minutes later with stories about how they almost got there asses kicked by the crazies there. I loved it. I later saw the young woman in her performance art display. Naked, wrapped in plastic in a large faux meat packaging. Looking at her you didn't think Meat Bad, rather Woman Good, when do they unwrap her?


Another favorite bar was Sharkies. Lots of shade, nice people. Sharkie made only one drink a day, in 5 gallon batches, he had a strict policy of bring your own cup. Good stuff, pretty strong. One day it would be Zombies, the next XXX Pain Killers, though I never thought his drinks were quite as strong as advertised. In the middle of the day, through in sweltering heat, nothing tasted better. And bless him, if the timing was right he gave away hot sandwiches.


One afternoon there was an under tone of possible violence. Some of the 'regulars' were talking about a young tough who was threatening and causing trouble the day before, a real asshole. As soon they stopped a biker type walked into the veranda. Bald, tattooed, sleeveless t-shirt, by the looks I could tell this was the guy they were talking about.


There was a moment of silence then one the group, a Jerry Garcia type, walks up and says 'How you doing, whats up..Let me get you a drink..'. A perfect preemptive move. Totally defuses the situation and its back to mellow.


One of things discussed was people slipping drugs, Mickies, into drinks. I was under the assumption that it was a BM urban myth, but they had some reports of people taking drinks and either passing out or getting wiped out for a few hours. The consensus was these were douche bag pranksters, very rare, but it was a reality.


Another concern moving through the bars at the other extreme were police stings on serving the under aged. Apparently some places were being closed down w/ the owners facing heavy fines. This was unprecedented in BM past. Once or twice I was offered drugs, I turned them down. I have enough vices without adding to them.


A very cool bar that I didn't visit too often, but was fascinated by was the S & M Wine Bar. They played fabulous funny music. I wish I had there play list, every song was raunchy and hilarious. Before ordering a drink you rolled 3 dice and had to do something sexual and degrading to get it. Things like 12 push ups topless, or bottomless, so many spankings w/ a paddle.


I noticed the woman ahead of me had to roll the dice, so did the girl behind me. I was not asked, ah to be old, but I did get my merlot :).


There were hundreds of organized groups at BM. There was a Jewish group that sponsored meditation, Shabbat dinner etc. I tried to make it to there events but never found them, or got side tracked. In one of my searches for them I found a fabulous Denver group.


Their campsite included small wooden houses, a deck for yoga, a nice bar. One of there charities/art forms was free albeit naked showers, it attracted some knockout woman. As I walking past them admiring the set up I was invited in by one of the leaders, another Michael. We talked and drank.


They also offered free pastie any woman who cared and dared. The pastie of the day had little propellers on them. Think of nerdy beanie caps for nipples. As we talked a well endowed woman came in and Michael painted her nipple with a latex glue and capped it w/ a beanie pasty. A female Denverite came by and pooed, pooed and said he used the wrong size, a medium when the nipple needed a large. But the woman was happy w/ it or didn't like the thought of it being pulled off.


Another Denverite put out a sign that said free hand massages for the next 2 hours. I let them know I had experience (true, 10 week course CSMT) in massage and I'd be happy to act as one of the masseurs.


I was accepted. We used moisturizing lotion instead of oil. My third customer was a topless beauty who went by Gaia, she was so appreciative of the hand massage I offered to do her feet. As I cleaned them and lotioned her up she groaned loudly. By the end of the massage she was motionless and her chair was moved away to a shady spot. I can't take full credit but sometimes the right technique at the right time can have that effect.


I gained a reputation for massaging so well that ladies passed out. After that business was good. My next customer was a full body paint job. She was sunset and flowers from neck to toe, Gaugin meets tequila sunrise. She was a beautiful hairless canvas. I was thorough, professional and loved every inch. We don't get to do these things in the Midwest.


Nearby the Denver site was the Purple Haze a busy bar and dance site. It had non stop misters that cooled off the dancers. It rocked, but I was a little old for it and felt out phase with it. Same thing with the late night Raves they had. A couple hundred people standing close and pulsing. I tried but I wasn't in the same spirit so moved on.


One amazing event was the full size Mad Max Thunderdome. If you didn't see the movie it was a post apocalyptic place where people fought to the death. Physically it was a large, a 40 or 50 foot geodesic dome. People climbed all over the structure to see the action inside. If they fell from the top, they'd be needing an ambulance or morgue.


Two contestants were strapped into harnesses w/ long rubber cords. They were given a choice of soft padded weapons, swords, two pillowed staffs and the like. A tall leather clad dominatrix was the announcer. The two 'warriors' sometimes guy/guy girl/girl or small guy/ large woman would be pulled backwards til they were stretched out at opposite ends, then let go to smash into each other in midair. Then some not so playful combat would begin.


With the bungie cord harness they could do monster jumps and midair flips. When combat bogged down the contestants would be separated and relaunched at each other. Again something we don't have here. The spectators, particularly those balancing on top were at a greater risk then the fighters. Each night it drew a huge crowd. So big it was hard to get a good view. The fighting was fierce, I wouldn't want to be a contestant, not that I was asked.


Other Oddities. During the day watering trucks sprayed the streets in an attempt to keep the dust down. Naked people followed them trying to get a quick shower. One night in the main tent a group did the play Godspell. Very professional, great voices and staging; they must have been done it together before. It was unusual to see topless disciples and Jesus bald and covered in blue paint.


One group had a theater which showed comically redubbed movies. I watched Harry Potter w/ a hilarious over dubbing. Other places had cunning psychedelic light shows. One tent had giant mega-oversized furniture as there art. There was the naked man bike ride which attracted a few dozen (not me, not enough sunscreen). There was the bunny invasion which had a hundred or so rabbit dressed people rush the main stage w/ signs like down with war up with carrots.



One Night in Black Rock.


On my third night there was a major burn. Smaller then the famed Burning Man effigy & the large temple, but it was still a house sized bond fire. Before it was lit the area was cordoned off. Fire dancers came out and performed within the restricted area. Most had exotic costumes and used lit bolos, balls of flame on rope. A few used batons. They were daring and talented, drawing arced pictures in the dark.


When they stopped the building was lit. The dancers had whet our appetite for fire and this was a 10 course meal. The fire spread and grew and grew. Those of us in the front row were forced to move back. The fire reached up 30, 40 feet. I found the flames on at the bottom particularly fascinating. The intense heat caused waves to ripple along the bottom, as though the fire was liquid. It was like a window into another elemental universe.


The intense heat shortened the burns life, it was consumed within an hour. I headed off into dark toward the main tent a mile or two away, in a certain reverie from the event. I stopped at one of the fire art works. An out door fire pit, made of iron and cut to allow light to shine through intricate symbols. It wasn't large and there was a pile of fire wood next to it. I found a log and sat on it and watched the flames.


There was a poet reading and a family listening. The man I took to be the father was short, trim, wearing a dark leather vest and an outfit like a subdued bull fighter. The woman was taller, dark hair, open shirt, leather skirt. There were two kids. A boy maybe 11 and a younger sister of about 7. They had an Adams Family jibe to them, the kids less so.


The woman was enraptured by the poem being read. Literally swaying to the words as if they were music. I found the poem a bit trite and cliched. Finishing the poet bowed and walked away. The woman was still clearly in awe of it.


I told her 'You are the one who makes the poem great. It was was your listening that gave it power.' I meant it, the poem didn't effect me, but watching her reaction to it did. She smiled appreciatively. The man, I assume her husband was doing tai chi inspired movements toward the fire. Like the fire in the pit was a dance partner, pulling and pushing towards it. Franz Bardons descriptions of Fire Salamanders came to mind. The boy emulated his father, but the power of the movement wasn't as evident.


It's not hard to fake Tai Chi, but it can't be done balanced on one leg. There were movements he did on one leg that had flow and precision. I found his moves as interesting as his wifes reaction to the poem. When he ended I complimented him on the power of his movements and he bowed graciously.


Here and now they were in there element, I don't know how people like this live in the outside world. I hope they had there nitch and thrived. Before they walked away the mother gave me a small leather pouch. I thanked her and wished I had something to give in return. They left and I put it in my pocket without opening it.


I continue to sit, the log making a good zafu. A young woman came by. She asked me if I was the Guardian of the Flames? (Sounds like something out of a Ghostbuster movie, but honestly it happened) I said no. Seemingly ignoring my answer she asked if she could throw some rose petals into the cauldron? I said 'Yes'.


We talked a little bit and she went away. I threw some logs into the fire to keep it burning. A couple comes by, they begin to kiss by the fire. I stop them and move them away. The woman's long dress was getting dangerously close to the flames. I guess I was a Guardian of the Flames of a sort.



I just found the Burning man booklet that was given when you got your ticket. Here is a sample of classes, Repeating Tues Events.


Tasty NOodles 1-5 @ Camp OObleck -Rock away music dancing & cooling Mists.

DarWeenie Camp 1-3 New Age fun, food frolic w/ weenies, lemonade & WhoreShoe (??)toss

Burning Tarot Readings- Miss Magdalen read better w/ chocolate, wine and Whiskey.

So You Want to Tie People - A workshop

Energy & Body Work

Conspiracy Theory Discussion Group

So You Think Your Hot- Chili tastings

Bloodade n' Lube Confessional - (no idea) but there were supplies for necro hobbies

Sharpie Body Art Salon

Spontaneous story creation

Bondage Rides (I quote) -Learn to fly! Explore the unique experience of being bound in rope and suspended in md-air. Become a work of art, or just come of the endorphins.

Acoustic Rock and Folk Jam.


These were pretty typical events. There was lots of Yoga(all types, some nude), kite flying, physics discussions, David Deida's work discussion, 20 or 30 classes a day listed in the What Where When booklet, w/ many more unlisted.


I walked by a tent and was steered into a class on Kotodama, sacred sounds. I've always been had an interest in it. Good class, it had about 35 people sitting in a circle, less about chanting and more vowel work. Close to what I've done in the past under the Abulafia kabalic system. The teacher had some interesting points on how to aim sound that I'd never seen covered before.


I don't buy into the New Age 'The Secret' philosophy, but there was a course on it, so I thought why not. If you only learn about what you agree with you become one sided. I'd got 3 important lessons from it.


The large tent seemed very crowded so I decided to listen outside. The teacher kept encouraging more people to come in, when they hesitated she'd say this is a class on creating abundance, of course there was room. So they walked in and were crammed like sardines.


During her lecture a nearby camp site started playing loud music. It must have been interfering with the lecture. I walked over and asked if them to turn it down. They did, but no one in the tent had come out to take action. They were either willing to suffer with it or trying to wish it away. So lesson number one was action is better then wishes.


I wasn't the only one outside listening. I started talking to a person who'd just arrived. Soon people were staring at me with disapproval. I'd been creating a disturbance as bad as the one I'd solved. So lesson 2 is, without mindfulness you end up the cause the problems you despise.


I would have shut up much sooner if the people around me had gotten my attention w/ a nudge. People aren't mind readers. This brought me back to the funk I was in when I left for the trip. The fact my wife hadn't given me a better send off. I didn't ask her too. If I had said come downstairs, lets have coffee before I go, I'm sure she would have. Too often we expect others to be mind readers; lesson number 3 is don't blame the people for not doing things when you don't ask. The universe requires a little bit of boldness.


The night was rule by mutant vehicles. Moving Houses, Pirate Galleons, Fire breathing dragons, all manner of dressed up tricked out vehicles moved around the dark playa. So many it was dangerous to be without several light sources wrapped around yourself. I was able to hitch onto one craft and sat next to a group of overage frat boys who were passing out margaritas. Here's a BM hint, always have a glass available, in many situations its strictly BYOCup.


Most of the large floats belonged to groups. I was on one and was asked to leave because it was group only at a certain time. Still, grabbing a ride on one is the best way to view the playa. There was double decker bus parked deep in the playa I climbed on, but it was empty. Maybe broken down. I enjoyed the view from the top. The figure of the Burning Man was like our Sphinx, it was covered with lights now, when its two massive arms were raised it meant the burn was going to happen. The 3 story Temple prominent on the horizon, like the Man it too would burn.


As I watched a young woman dressed only in a loin cloth got on the bus and climbed to the top. She danced to the sound of distant music. In the past days I'd learned how to look at naked woman. Not to gawk or look away, but to appreciate them. Show admiration without lust. In the high desert alone on the bus stop, she danced I watched. It was a a magical moment, surreal. After a few minutes she hugged me and went away.


For all the amazing moments I still had bouts of loneliness and melancholy. The burn out factor is high, everything get to be too much. Too much sensory overload. The heat drained, the high altitude sun sapped, the cold night air refreshed then chilled. I enjoyed connecting to people, but they'd come and go. I missed my family, my mundania.


I left after the morning after the Big Burn. I had enjoyed the smaller one more. There was an edginess I had I couldn't get rid of, it was time to come home.


The trip home was filled with suspense, murder and the super natural compliments of Stephen King. I'd taken Duma Key from the library and enjoyed all 15 discs and 17 hours of it.


Burning Man may be this nations greatest unknown treasure. I'd recommend people try it. Go there with an open mind. Its a place where you can find or create anything. The gift economy part is wonderful. I was given authentic BM dog tags, various art work, bumper stickers, a vial of playa dust. The Adams-like family I met, when I opened the pouch later in my tent it contained an arrow head.


I don't think I've exaggerated my experiences there. I've written about drinking, but in truth it would be rude to have more then 2 drinks at one place at one time, you don't want to over impose on peoples generosity. I'll often nurse a drink for a while. Maybe at times I over imposed, but in most of the time I was a good guest, shared my music via Ipod and what small rations I had with others. I made gallons of herbal ice tea and made it available to all. Tried to inform people of what was going on where.


Things to know: Bring a bike, preferably a small cheap no speed. Burning Man is miles wide and you don't want to spend hours hiking. Bring a lock too. For the same reason try to camp in the middle. Closer to the main tent is better.


I find tent living sucks, on the Burning Man newsletter there is the name of a place in California that rents small 15 to 21 foot mini RV's. That would be nice. If you have a truck with a commercial name on it, be aware it must be covered up, no logos allowed.


Another perhaps more ideal way to experience BM is join a group, the big ones have kitchens (private meal plans), showers, comraderie etc. I was amazed at the intricacy of one cavernous site. I was told the builders were Hollywood set designers.


One Burner told me the best way to start out was to sign up as volunteer and stay in Hushville, a quiet region. My area was relatively quiet, but we still had yocals blaring loud music as they sped by in mutant vehicles at all hours.


I wish'd I'd brought goggles. I did pick up a sleep mask and air plugs on the way there, they helped a little. You need a collection of glow necklaces, flashlights and headlamps. The night playa is dark and dangerous with moving vehicles of all shapes and sizes. You need to be clearly visible. A few years ago a woman was run over while lying down star gazing alone on the playa.


Another dark side was leaving BM. A few miles out there was accident a car off the road onto a ditch. Further down was very bad one, I think it was head on collision by people trying to pass on a one lane road. An hour later on the highway I passed a third bad accident.












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Wow, I'm impressed, thelerner. You really went outside your mental, lifestyle & geographic box for this off-grid solo adventure! I haven't even had the balls to do this & I don't even have a family!


So, eagerly awaiting your next installment...

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Here is a write up of last years Regional Burning Man. One of the shorter smaller ones that try to replicate the spirit of the Big Burn in Nevada. Which is going on right now, Burning Man 2011; themed Rites of Passage. Wish I could be there.




Lakes of Fire is a regional burning man event. There are a couple of them (6 or 7) around the country each year. Lakes of Fire (LoF) is the Midwest's one. They're cheap, LoF was only $40 to sign up. It lasted four days 3 nights. There were only about 1,000 or so tickets sold. It could be considered Burning Man (BM) light.


I was a bit apprehenscous heading to it. I was going solo this would be my 2nd BM event and I wasn't sure what to expect. It was in Michigan only 3 1/2 hours away from me. Nonetheless my GPS got almost to it, I drove past the small sign 3 or 4 times before I saw the entrance was a dirt road off a minor country highway.


I rambled up the road, when I got there it was pretty crowded. I stopped my car at the intro area. I got hugs and a recital of BM rules and spirit, ie radical self sufficiency, gifting economy, total freedom balanced by high respect for others. Good stuff.


The camping was based around a large circular road. The lower half I was told was mosquito ridden. I could temporarily park the car at my campsite then had to move it to the general parking lot. Warned of mosquitoes I drove to the upper half.


I was evicted from my first camp site, told it was for a group only. I found one nearby, a bit close to another tent but they didn't complain so I took it. I hate camping and set up a relatively large 5 man tent in the hot sticky weather.


It was a nice section. The area marked by a naked flying female mannikin/balloon. I made friends with the people nearby. One couple had a little trailor. They were a bit older then I was. Both were performers, the man was a professional stilt walker and had a variety of them he'd brought along. The coolest being the racing stilts, short, but with springs that allowed him to run and jump inhumanly fast. He had cool costumes for each. His wife taught and performed belly dancing. They had a side business selling flavored nicotine for e-cigarettes.


There was a younger couple nearby who were very nice. There was a family group nearby. One of the younger people there (20ish) offered me a hashish cookie. I've led a remarkably drug free life. At 45 I've never done drugs (except a puff of some pipe thing in Israel which numbed me and made me throw up).


I considered, I was middle aged, in a safe environment, why not? I've never been against drugs per se, but they weren't my thing, the reward/risk never seemed worth it. Also I've seen people hooked and lives crushed.


The cookies were delicious, gourmet worthy. I accepted one and got the warned to only eat half. They were white chocolate. Their secret I was told lay in the butter used, how it was clarified and long soaked w/ the weed.


I cautiously ate half. Sat down, waited..nothing, ate the other half, felt nothing, thus my drug virginity officially ended in my book, soon I would be a slut. I took a walk around intent to circle the whole festival. Lots of colorful campsites. Some interesting interactive art set up but I didn't want to stop at anything, I wanted to get a feel for the whole area.


In the lower half I met 2 guys with at a great location who had a camp fire going. They were WilE (pronounced While E, like the Coyote in the Road Runner cartoon) and Carlos. WilE's arm was covered in new age tattoos, like pentagrams and magic seals. He was spreading clarified butter onto the burning logs. I asked him about it. Part of ritual he said for his camp site. He also burned sage.


As we talked, rangers (LoF police) came along and evicted them from there site, saying it was pre-approved for a group. I helped them pull up tent stakes, lift up there tent and moved to it a lesser area. They offered me a swig from a glass jug. It had brown bits on the bottom. I was told it was peyote juice. Peyote is the stuff Carlos Casteneda writes about in his first book.


They explained it could give me visions, and I might throw up the first I tried it. I put my lips to it and took a little swig. Awful tasting, but I've had worse. They said I needed to get some of the black stuff into my mouth. Fine, in for a penny, in for a pound, I took a big mouthful. Swallowed. Like the cookies I didn't really feel anything. I certainly didn't throw up. I said my goodbyes and kept walking. (I'd meet them later, plus I'd meet WilE again at this years LoF)


My initial impression was nice people, laid back. Much less nudity then BM, almost none. There were a few interestig arts and crafts site. Whereas BM was city of 50,000 incorporating 20 30(?) miles, this was small and manageable, walkable whereas at BM you really needed a bicycle. Other then mosquitoes it was way more livable then BM's harsh desert.


I was less of a mooch then at BM, but nonetheless didn't have much cooking gear and lived off the 'land'. Taking meals and snacks where I could find them. One guy had kegs of homebrew beer that were excellent. There was a camp site called the Tick Bar that had a large bar, and nice groove to it. I stayed there a bit. Walking around there was a Java tent, that advertised coffee in the morning.


As night fell, I ate, drank had 2 more Hashish cookies and went to bed.

End Day 1.


The regional BM went on for 4 days. It was relatively easy to find things to do. Every morning I'd start out at the Coffee Hut. A generous camper had gallons of the stuff and pastries each morning. One group had an art tent. For a few hours a day they had supplies and a model and you'd draw.


There was a Raiku furnace set up. Some very generous people brought hundreds of unfinished tea cups, Oxides, and heavy outdoor furnace to BM. You could coat the cup in various metal oxides and that night they'd bake it. I made 2 beautiful shiny metalic cups. Sadly both have a little bit of odor to them that makes them useless for tea, but they are pretty.


There were lectures going on. I caught some on psychedelics with WilE and Carlos. There was a photographer that took your picture in dual mode. You could find it later on line and if you printed it out and held it close you'd get a 3d effect.


I spent quite a bit of time at the great Tick Bar. Nice people, great bar. I found a guy who played Frisbee and we'd spend hours tossing it. Drugs, shmugs, frisbee is my passion from childhood. Tossing the frisbee, good conversation, laying around drinking beer. That is my heaven.


There was some music. Most of it Techno stuff that I don't get into. (This year I was way to close to the Techno drome). Campfires nightly, lots of sharing. Each night the fire spinners came out, dancing with flaming hula hoops, bolos, swords etc. Still it had some of the same overload as BM. The 2 couples near me I'd befriended both left early. There was a small 3 story light house that burnt beautifully on the last night. Though it was just a match compared to the blazes that happen on real BM playa.


I was close to the girls tent, yet another tent of guys friendly to them moved inbetween us, thus making for some loud, somewhat annoying nights. Like 4 a.m. seeing a hunched shadow, listening to guttural gasping, seeing a wet stain slowly roll down the outside of your tent, ah the smell. That a kind thing. Annoying, but goes with the territory.


Likewise there was some theft, cars broken into. I left mine open and change was removed. No biggie, others had speakers stolen. I can't help think where there's drugs, there's crime (or more of it).


It was swampy and the mosquitoes were fierce. I'd cover up and put on spray, but my ankles below the pants were massacred. There was very little nudity, until the last night. There was a big blow out at the Fire Bar. Finally a DJ played decent music. The dancers started stripping then they'd go into the crowd drag others into the circle and start undressing them.


It was innocent fun. Just dancing. I stayed for a bit, drank and watched. Then left. I don't know if I was afraid I'd be disrobed, or afraid I wouldn't.


This year the Regional was at a much better place, fewer mosquitoes and a beautiful swimming lake.. Thus much more nudity. The Fire Bar had early parties, at one you'd get a strip of bacon for every piece of clothes you took off. I stopped at 3.


WiLE was there and conducted a big spiritual circle. He had props of ash and flowers, also a print out of a long Hindu chant. We collected made a mandala and chanted. A Buddha looking man over the thing impassively.


Memories. There was some fabulous, some what X rated talk shows going on that were hilarious to listen to. There was a floating island. Two guys were pushing it into the water, it had two attractive topless young ladies on it. I joined in and helped push it across the lake. Good exercise and something totally different.


People were generous with food. I met some I'd known before, the guy who ran Videogasm film site who apparently hits several Burning Man events each year. Another nice burn. I only spent 2 days, 1 night there.



I'm hoping to go to the 2011 Decompression Party, they just announced the date. I hit last years; I had my own bar stocked w/ Playa beer from Trader Joes (it was rewarding to finally give more then I got) Its a fun 13 hour bash held in a warehouse in down town Chicago, pretty mild by burning man standards. Here is the info. If you're near Chicago you should consider it.



The Voyage Home


Saturday, October 15th, 2011

2:00 P.M. - 3:00 A.M.

The Bridgeport Arts Center

1200 W. 35th Street @ 35th & Racine

Chicago, IL

$15 suggested pre-sale contributions -

$20 suggested contribution at Decompression, if you're in voyager or playa-gear

$25 suggested contribution at Decompression, if you're in street clothes

Participants 12 and under will not be asked for a contribution


You're so very welcome to join your friends in Chicago's Burning Man

Community for Decompression 2011: The Voyage Home. Every year, this

B.U.R.N. NFP-sponsored community event brings the loving, creative

spirit, and the full-throttled energy of the Burning Man Project to

beautiful Chicago, Illinois for thirteen hours."



Regionals and Decompression parties happen all across the U.S. There are also other similar events happening. Its a great way to meet other strange people, experience strange things, kick back and try to create your own little piece of paradise.

Edited by thelerner
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Write up on Burning Man Decompression in Chicago:


Last Saturday was the Burning Man Decompression party. It was held same place as last year on the top floor of a south side warehouse. I'd bought a ticket two weeks ahead of time. The party is 13 hours from 2pm to 3 a.m. On the day of I was reluctant to go. I didn't feel like it. I didn't want to drive 80 minutes to get there. I didn't think I'd like the noise and crowd.


I waffled throughout the day. At 6:30 got in my car, drove to the highway, saw it was jammed, didn't get on, instead went for decaf coffee. The question was 'If I didn't go, how would I feel about myself?'. Lousy, but ..I didn't feel like it. But I'd feel lousier for longer if I didnt' go.


So 7:15 I got on the highway, traffic eventually opened up and I made it there by 8:10. Downstairs I showed my preprinted ticket at the booth, got the requisite greeting hug. Most of the people around were wonderfully and outrageously dressed, in a kind of Mad Max meets Longerie kind of way, think leather overcoat over bustiers. I was as always conservative, jeans, my shirt orange shirt was from last years event. It had the Lakes of Fire logo on its back. Not too square, but no where near the color or flair of those around me.


I'd set up a bar last year. This year I had a bottle of wine, 2 folding chairs. Not much. I also had a bottle of make shift Manhattans. The mix must be about 60 proof. That high a proof could screw you up. On the way there I thought I shouldn't have any, I don't want to chance drunk driving. I didn't want to set anyone else up for it either. I never opened it.


Taking the elevator to the 5th floor I was cognizant of the reasons I didn't want to come. Loud Techno music, crowd of people who I didn't know. I set up my chairs in a corner and walked around. In a side room there was no Fire Water lounge this year. Too bad, it had been a crazy place during the Lakes of Fire mini burns. Instead there was small stage with a dj. Outside there were several art exhibits, a live painter, places to get photographed within psychedlic winding lights.


I wandered around, in the main area was a bigger stage as well as trapeze. I willed myself to accept the Techno music, it wasn't so bad really. Near my corner a large bar was set up. There was a childrens Fire show scheduled at 8:30, I went back downstairs, got a good seat on dirty warehouse ledge. A woman, joined me. We watched, I liked it, she was critical. Not enough safety people, dancers were wearing synthetics, which was a no no.


She was an old hand at Burning Mans. She been part of some of the big staging. Interesting woman, very artistic and totally unlike me. At one point she pulled out a pouch of weed she'd scored from her daughters boyfriend. She asked they had a pipe, they didn't but they had a 'hitter'. Apparently thats just a tube. She filled it and puffed. Asked me if I wanted any, I said no. I have enough vices.


She was an interesting mix of free spirit, experience, and worry. BarbaraBeBe, she works Milwaukeefest, she told me to call her if I wanted to get some free tickets in for my family. Very cool.


After the show I wandered back upstairs, The bar had set up a pinball machine, one from my youth Xenon. I drank my wine played it. A couple guys came over and we played multiple. It was fun. There was a large oversized chess set on the floor. After being beat in Xenon I challenged my opponent to chess. The board was so big you had to walk around it a bit to move the pieces. It was a long game, probably incessant drinking made it longer. An advantage I had was I'd created a shot glass chess set in college and was used to playing tipsy.


I think I outplayed him, but foolish mistakes almost did me in. In the end it was my king against his king and rook. I offered him a draw, he took it. I walked over to the main stage. There was a group of belly dancers taking turns with each songs. They had talent. In the middle of the floor was a round hula hoop trapeze. A young woman was spinning around on it. Also good.


At 11:30 the Fire Show started. There was more 2 people at a time acts then last year. Often they'd have different accoutrements, like the woman had a fire hula hoop, and the man a long roped poi. As always, exciting to watch. One guy had an over sized poi ( rope with ball on end) that created a huge fire ball. He started the show by repeated hitting the ground with it, leaving little puddles of flame as he walked. This was outside ofcourse.


Left around 12:30..not too late. I was very glad I went. If you want adventure you have to travel. To really live you have to push yourself.

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*wow*, read most of the 1st post, will have to read more thoroughly later. Just that you went & wrote piques my BM curiosity. Thank you Michael!

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*wow*, read most of the 1st post, will have to read more thoroughly later. Just that you went & wrote piques my BM curiosity. Thank you Michael!

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I read the first post and it was interesting but I doubt I would ever go to such an event. I'm familiar with BM as I used to be a member of


So even though people aren't supposed to drink alcohol there was obviously plenty of makeshift bars. Also you mentioned there were a lot of drugs about! I drink and am not shy of drugs but if an event states no booze or drugs you would think that it would be enforced? sad.gif


No I like hearing the stories and seeing the photos but I think 'sensitive me' would find it all too much. huh.gif


Anyway you seemed to have had a good time and certainly an adventure with plenty of stories to tell! biggrin.gif

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I've never heard of a no alcohol policy at Burning Man. The bar set ups at the big burn were amazing, elaborate and relatively numerous. The local events also weren't bashful about bars and drinking. The official maps showed bar locations and the events held at them. The local event did have bracelets and it was known that a bar would be shut down if it was serving minors. The ethos of Radical Self-Expression would be a turn off for anyone uptight about drinking, drugs, nudity, loudness, and all manner of craziness.


Drugs..were technically illegal, probably bustable if a real cop was around, but if people were cool and well behaved camp rangers would traditionally look the other way.


I suspect the warnings about alcohol had to do with the extremely hot weather. Still if you could handle it, sitting in the shade w/ a drink was the best way to sit out dust storms and extreme heat. Um, maybe not, but it felt that way at the time. Truly the best drink of all was water and in the desert plenty was required.


Still the Burning Man ethos calls for radical self reliance, You are responsible for You. Yet there was an excellent sense of community and somehow it worked out.

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No commerce allowed, no buying or selling anything (except drinks(nonalcoholic) at the center tent.


My mistake, thought the above meant the whole show. I probably could deal with it on a good day but as said not really my kinda thing.




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Thanks. This year I'm going solo, but would like to hook up with a larger site, perhaps one of the hundreds of themed camps. I've got a few months to find one. If anyone has any suggestions I'd be glad to hear it.

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This years theme is Cargo Cult. Kind of strange, past ones were Evolution, Fertility, The Green Man. I learned about Cargo Cults from an old Larry Niven sci fi book. Cargo Cults was a strange cultural snafu that happened on some South Pacific Islands when natives began thinking of visiting army base personal and there equipment as Gods!


Coca cola became drink of the Gods, planes their mystical transportation. After WWII the troops left and the legends grew. Humorous and easy to look down as humorous foolishness until you wonder what Cargo cult ideas we all have.


How would I express Cargo Cult? Maybe from the angle of a sacredness that has left. What was good in the world <and a bit ridiculous> that is no longer? Scooby Doo, symbol triumphant togetherness? Have a totem stick w/ Scoobies head, all worship the Doo. Hmmn, stick would have Scoobies head impaled on Mountain Dew bottle!? Not bad..not bad..


What else? What was good, and a bit decadent and naiive? What do I wish would return? A show from the early 70's? 3's company? nah. A book? a song.. A record? Maybe a record. Yeah a record, having a wind up recorder w/ bull horn speaker. I wonder I could find one, make it into a public use/display? Make art out of the covers and allow people to play what they will. Have some inflatable couches around, corny music from the 60's. Yeah, that cargo cult. Back to the 60's when times were good straining to listen to old worn out records, cornier the better. Dr. Demento, stuff like that.

Edited by thelerner
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thank you thelerner,

and i am now a hillbilly burner.

not sure if i will make it to the big one

but getting to a couple of regionals will be cool too

edit> maybe you can 30 day mentor me on burning?

Edited by zerostao

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edit> maybe you can 30 day mentor me on burning?

Lesson 1, its not about learning, its about dreaming and going with the flow.


One of the camps I hung out w/ 4 years ago seems to be open to new members. Whiskey & Dust, out of Denver. They had a beautiful set up, small wooden houses, nice bar, yoga platform, very nice people. I joined in one of there public offerings- foot massage. I actually have some expertise in the field and my clients were often beautiful and well painted. Good times.


I'll contact them, they actually have a website. To get a taste of what theme camps are about go to and a search word like 'yoga', you'll find some interestings camps. Many downright blew my mind. There was one giant cave that seemed impossible to build a short time. It turns out the people behind it were special effects guys from California. So many impossible things, like a sledding hill in the middle of the desert, amazing and fast but watch out of the nylon carpet burns.


The idea to bring out an old fashion phonograph is not too practical, they're expensive, heavy and delicate. A modern take is the Soundwagon, a toy car that runs its needle around an album! The albums stays still, the toy car rides on top w/ its needle in the groove. Relatively cheap, small, runs a single 9 volt; and its cool looking. Just what the doctor ordered. Until the needle breaks off and I don't have replacement.

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that is a nice site. i was there looking at the ten principles and found my state group.

the ten principles look useful in my doable anarchy idea ^_^

i will be looking at that site awhile.

i found this:

You could be the world's most intrepid traveler, but nothing you have done before will prepare you for Burning Man. Spending a week in the Black Rock Desert will stretch your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual boundaries. While you may be coming to the event for this very reason, it can also put a tremendous strain on you and your relationships. Many a hardy Burner has melted down when "it all gets to be too much."

count me in

Edited by zerostao

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You think you're going, great. It is an anarchists dream. No money (cept for drinks in the main tent), no corporate logos, extreme self sufficiency in an extreme climate balanced by a gift economy and the ideal every one participates and everyone should find there art or passion. <mine was hanging out in bars and a defunct body outline project that failed early>


Burning Man burn out. It hits a lot of people. For the Big Burn I came a day or two late and left a day early, still caught the big burn of course. But 2 of the 3 trailers that made up my impromptu group left earlier. You want to see it all, do it all, there so much energy in the place its very easy to melt down. People stay up 40 or 50 hours then collapse. Its the freakin desert 100 degrees w/ the wind blowing burning alkaline dust and all you want to do is see more and more.


What saves you is slowing down, finding a bar or class, planting your feet and shooting the shit. Its okay not to see everything, try to get some rest, stay hydrated, always have a cup w/ you <I use a drinking horn>. Bring quality ear plugs, eye shades and very importantly a cheap bike; Black Rock City is just too big, hot and dusty to walk everywhere. It could be a 4 or 5 mile hike to get to The Man, The Temple, the Art sections, your favorite watering holes; you'll need wheels- a cheap expendable no speed. Sadly a tiny combo chain, its not that it'll be stolen, but it may be borrowed for a long periods.


Burn out happens at the smaller regionals too. Camping isn't easy, I generally don't like it. Loud and exciting people cut both ways too.


If you <or any bum> are going, let me know. We can set up some way to meet.



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Info for this year, unusual theme, even by BMan standards


Theme by Larry Harvey, text by Larry Harvey and Stuart Mangrum,
illustration by D.A. of Black Rock (aka Dominic Tinio)

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

— Arthur C. Clarke

Who is John Frum? He is known to us by many names, this Visitor from Elsewhere, dispenser of endless abundance and wielder of mysterious technologies: John Frum, Quetzalcoatl, Osiris, "Bob." His cargo is splendid, his generosity boundless, his motives beyond our understanding. But across the ages and around the world, the stories all agree: one day he will return, bearing great gifts. Our theme this year asks three related questions; who is John Frum, where is he really from, and where, on spaceship Earth, are we all going?

"'E look like you an' me. 'E tall man. 'E live long."

— Melanesian informant

13_theme_plane.jpg<I get it, its a plane.>

Our story begins in Melanesia during World War II. Thousands of American GIs suddenly descended on this South Sea island chain, bearing with them unimaginable riches: magical foodstuffs that never spoiled, inconceivable power sources. Just as abruptly the troops departed, leaving only broken, rusted Jeeps, crumpled beer cans, and the memory of Spam. To the astonished eyes of the natives, this was a miraculous occurrence, and they yearned for the return of abundance. Accordingly, they built totemic sky-craft in an attempt to summon back these Visitors and their legendary leader, the man the Melanesians called John Frum. They had formed a Cargo Cult.


This Myth of Return is no less relevant today. To put this in a modern context, what if your electricity went dead and stayed that way -- would you know how to make the current flow again? Can you fix your car if it breaks down, or build yourself a new one? Like the islanders, most of us are many steps removed from the Cargo that entirely shapes our lives. We don't know how it's made, where it's made, or how it works; all we can do is look beyond the sky and pray for magic that will keep consumption flowing.

Pavilion design by Lewis Zaumeyer, illustration by Andrew Johnstone

Burning Man 2013 will court the return of our benevolent Visitors from Elsewhere by constructing an enormous replica of their sky-craft, hewn from the primitive materials of our backwater planet. Burning Man will stand atop this streamlined structure, majestically revolving like an interstellar beacon. Within this three-decked vessel participants will encounter the Temple of the Navigator, a shrine that features six hand-operated zoetropes that will function as prayer wheels. These will rehearse what little we know, or believe we know, of John Frum's story. A sweeping observation ring surrounding this central chamber will afford panoramic views of both the playa and our city.


We feel sure our theme will attract many alien Visitors, and hope this will stimulate our planet's faltering economy. To that end, we invite artists to create altars that may be placed in the vicinity of Burning Man's pavilion. These installations should be portable and easily removable from our burn circle. Participants are encouraged to contribute propitiatory offerings to these Space Age shrines. Artists are also invited to propose homemade interactive technology that may be installed on our saucer's upper Flight Deck (consult our online Art Guidelines for details).

"Your spaceship is cramped, and it's beginning to smell like fast food."

— Reverend Al Ridenour

Burning Man is of course what one makes of it. So we must recognize that a few participants question the literal existence of John Frum1. They believe that cargo culture is unsustainable; no deus ex machina descending from the sky can possibly provide consumers with relief. The only spaceship worth considering is planet Earth. Each and every one of us, it is held, must find our Inner Frum: the first step toward salvation is to give our gifts to fellow human beings.


1It is speculated that when greeting Melanesians, American soldiers would state, "Hi, I'm John from Tallahassee" or "I am Johnny from Detroit." John, being a common name, was remembered, but the various place names were soon forgotten. The only other constant being "from", this word soon morphed into a surname, hence John Frum. However Orthodox Frumites within our community repudiate this interpretation. Note: the Burning Man organization takes no position on religious beliefs.

Edited by thelerner
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The Man burns in 37 days.


I'll be at the Whiskey & Dust camp this year, any bums heading down should look me up. B)

Edited by thelerner
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This Myth of Return is no less relevant today. To put this in a modern context, what if your electricity went dead and stayed that way -- would you know how to make the current flow again? Can you fix your car if it breaks down, or build yourself a new one? Like the islanders, most of us are many steps removed from the Cargo that entirely shapes our lives. We don't know how it's made, where it's made, or how it works; all we can do is look beyond the sky and pray for magic that will keep consumption flowing.

This is where I type pointless words you don't listen to anyways. Right here...

and here.

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