Friday, September 19, 2008

Burning Man - American Dream

The American Dream was the theme of Burning Man the “BMC” held on the Playa of the Black Rock Desert in Northeast Nevada. I went with Maggie after a long series of river trips and we stayed for four days out of the six (we had to go to work!). As the theme of Americana was imprinted though the layout of clock-wise (there is no “counter” at BMC) by naming those avenues after Iconic American Cars: Corvair, Falcon, Dart, Corvette, and even… Hummer. Additionally, this year’s costumes mirrored the theme with scatterings of flags and a plethora of red, white, and blue cloth, skin, and lights.

The American Dream is essentially the realization that you/we “have everything”: cars, clothes, houses, food, entertainment, friends, family, etc. The Playa provided that: no one went hungry, art cars were everywhere, music never stopped, there was plenty of housing, people were surrounded by friends and family (real, constructed, and evolved), and entertainment was always within eyesight and arm’s reach. The American Dream came to fruition on the inhospitable soil of the Black Rock Desert. Everyone was from somewhere and the indigenous people provided the venue (through the BLM). The gates of the BMC were an approximation Ellis Island and the Playa succumbed to the “Manifest Destiny” of those who had conspired to stage this American Dream. The citizen’s of the world were present with representatives from most continents (Antarctica didn’t have a contingent; however, the others did!). So the World was represented by folks from countries such as: England, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Ireland, Greece, Russia, The Ukraine, Israel, Iran, Iraq, India, Pakistan, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, China, Korea, Japan, Thailand, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Canada, and even Oklahoma! Many others were there as well…we just met or heard of folks from these Countries.

Our founding “fathers”…yes, the old, dead, white men who allegedly “constructed” our constitution and Declaration of Independence (based upon their readings and interpretations of Locke, Hume, Payne, and others that they plagiarized freely) would have thrived: B. Franklin by creating electrical madness and Art Cars, T. Jefferson would have raged the Deep End, set-up the bachelor party and Domes while hooking-up, and G. Washington would have piloted the largest of land-yachts across the Playa day and night. The rest of their posse would have created a killer theme camp (colonial columns, wheeled ships, exploding muskets made of L-wire, and rivers of rum). All in all, they would have approved.

Not a bad “Dream”. No one went hungry, thirsty, un-sheltered, optionally clothed, and un-transported (in the real and imagined senses). The American Dream lives through our excess, excesses, and Burning Man ’08 was just that: a celebration of our collective and global excesses rammed at hyper-speed through all of the available senses.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Burning Man Part 2

Maggie won the Golden Ticket and Big Poppa decided to drop in...
Burning Man Camp (BMC) 2008!

I picked up Maggie in Reno after loading the Dodge up with provisions, shelter, and bikes to deal with the Black Rock Desert where Burning Man is held (about 140 miles northeast of Reno) and just to the east of Pyramid Lake.

Since neither of us has ever been to BMC, we were apprehensive, excited, and a little bit giddy.

We were welcomed "home" by the BMC staff at the second checkpoint and we figured out the lay-out quickly (the whole camp is laid out like the dial of a clock. We found a great spot at 9:30 "Hummer" (the Axis paths were named after American cars in keeping with this year's them of "The American Dream". In less than one hour, we were on our bike and cruising across the Playa of the Black Rock Desert. Since it was only the second day of the six day run, the BRC was still coming together and the installation zone in the center of the "clock" was still sparsely populated with installations and sculptures. It gave up the opportunity to really see it all come together and it did...with amazing precision and creativity. We rode our bikes at-least 15 miles through the camps and installations.....and then darkness fell....the lights (powered by solar, generators and glow sticks....) filled the night combined with the costumes, Art Cars, Mobile DJ's, and hordes of cycling kooks (like us). We swam through the crowds and landed at installations everywhere we could 2am, I called it a night and Maggie powered on to play putt-putt golf with an Irishman named Ruckus and his friend and ran into old friends in new locations. The music never stopped so sleeping was merely a concept.

I rolled out to see the sunset and folks wide-eyed, zombied, and some staggering through still thumping drum and bass sessions with dust settling from the night air as a blaze of red, orange, and crimson flooded the blue sky above the desert to reveal a mile long string of balloons arching across the Playa with ultra-lites plying the skies. Overnight, new installations appeared, new structures developed, and more campers filled in the minimal gaps.... Maggie saw the sunrise from the top of "Babylon" (a 8-story structural steel tower just to the northeast of the "Man") and we met back up in camp. Due to our river guiding skills, we whipped out a breakfast of potatoes, sausage, and eggs with ice cold orange and grapefruit juice and watched the human parade from our campsite. After a session with the sun shower, we headed out again to see what we could agenda, and with no plan.

six hours later...we had met up with Kevin at the Fixation Lounge, seen countless new installations, listen to live music, watched dance performances, elbowed through the crowd at the Deep End (an open air world-class DJ Club), saw a circus, observed human combat in the Thunder Dome (sponsored by the Death Guild), watched a series of fire shows (with flame throwers, explosions and twirling, flaming batons), stopped at numerous open "bars", received cooling mist-offs from other campers and we circumnavigated the Playa at least three times....then we had dinner (which was awesome: pasta, watermelon, and margaritas) and we were joined by Kevin and his friend from Minnesota. Back on the bikes....'till 4am with new sights and a consistent soundtrack of House, Trance, Techno, Folk, Eastern, and everything else blended together (we even found a Punk camp with a half-pipe skate ramp at 2 O'Clock).

The scale of BRC became etched into was huge. This year, approximately 65,000 campers were expected to attend and the "clock" was filled from 2 to 10....and deeply! Interestingly though, we could bike or walk into the open zones and feel the quiet and the isolation of the desert and turn to the mountains or the open expanse of "12 O'Clock" framed by the lone installation of "The End" (a 24 ft' tall wooden edifice of the the words: THE END).

The quality of everything we encountered was first-class or even world-class: the best Art, sculpture, Mechanicals, technology, Music, Dance, and Creativity on our small planet was present and represented on a patch of desert in northern Nevada...strange, yet very appropriate. Although Burning Man sprang from a event of 20 artists burning an effigy on Baker Beach in San Francisco 20 years ago, the event is now global and populated by citizens (young and old) of the world (at some times I felt that maybe even "beyond" our world).

We needed to leave early for other commitments: jobs and River Trips; but four days on the Playa during Burning Man is a life-long memory that I am sure will be repeated.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Burning Man - Part 1

Burning Man Event

Pre-Burning Man or "I got the Golden Ticket" all starts with Greg D. offering up his Burning Man tickets...first come, first serve.
Two tickets to Burning Man right before the W.E.T. River Trips end-of-Summer party. Perfect.
W.E.T. purchases the tickets as prizes for "guide competitions" to take place at the party ...very Punk Rock and just after P.O.W.
On Sunday, August 23rd the call went out to the core crew to assemble at the W.E.T. River Trips' warehouse in Lotus @ 6pm.

We pack one van and one SUV and take off to our first stop: Sky High Trampolines in Rancho Cordova. We then proceeded to explore the facility (essentially the equivalent of 3 huge basketball court sized rooms lines with horizontal and sloped trampolines to provide continuous bounce opportunities). After checking out the big bounce area and seeing Steve B crack off series after series of double back-flips (he won the first phase of competition with best trick and air), we moved to the dodge-ball arena...for the second phase of competition...initially Team W.E.T. was schooled by a group of 14 year-olds...we re-grouped and by round three we destroyed the youngsters...Maggie won the point total. So...covered in sweat, bloodied, and with twisted ankles we moved on to stop two: Joe's crab Shack in Old Sac.

Joe's Crab Shack will not be the same...17 river guides can eat and drink everything...they did (the tie-dyed and pop-rock margaritas were the big hit (besides the shots of tequila that we even shared with other diners. After two hours of food and drink we moved on to the next stop....Gold Club Centerfolds. But before we left, Jeff and Kyle (the two collegiate swimmers in the crew) decided to swim across the Sacramento River...they made it to the second Tower Bridge Pier...super.

After a short van ride (thankfully, it was the entire interior of the van was filled with a full-contact, no-holds-barred wrestling match). Luckily, only bruises resulted from the chaos.

Maggie and Meg lead the charge to the "club"...who knew? They killed it and we had a calm ride back to Lotus and a "topper" at the Coloma club where the Karaoke King Steve B.and the Princess Robin threw it down again...devastating the crowd with their mad-skillz....

1:30am and Big Poppa got everyone home safe...and a awesome farewell to Meg, Tom, and John C as they head back to Maine!

Maggie won the competition based primarily on desire...she wanted to go to Burning Man.

Next stop: Burning Man!

Maggie got one ticket and Big Poppa kept the other....on to Burning Man