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.

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