BURNING MAN 2002-PAGE TWO OF SIX
About 10:30 A.M. on Tuesday I woke
up after a great sleep. It was so good having no obligations for
a change, laying down and not thinking about work related issues
and only rousing myself when the temperature inside the tent made
me sweat. I could use my three battery powered fans to stay cool
longer if I wished, but I noticed a wide curving region of sunlight
shining where it wasn't supposed to across my tent ceiling. The
wind which ripped across the desert all night left a wide tear
across the space blanket where the wind got a hold of it. This
was easily repaired with the brown plastic 'postal' tape, applied
like broad 'stitches' to fasten together the two pieces.
The routine before venturing out was
then automatically done, first the application of 45 rated 'sun
block' lotion, which this time included my legs as I decided to
wear shorts this year. Next the dark glasses were clipped onto
my clear ones, and finally my improvised Arabic style head cover,
topped with my wicker postal hat with a snug cord securing it
against the wind. I walked out to The Man to have my first daytime
look at the wooden colossus, and noticed a tall 'cherry picker'
nearby. Several people including some BRC Rangers were in the
vicinity and a tall statuesque woman with faded purple dyed hair
appeared as the wind picked up, wearing a long Playa colored garment
of light fabric which was carried along the breeze in lazy horizontal
ripples. This was Crimson Rose, one of the Burning Man organization
luminaries, and one of the very few who could or would do what
she was about to do.
Rose was carried to one of the legs by a cherry picker type crane, and she climbed onto the top of the upper story of the wooden pedestal. She stood into the wind like a ships figurehead, then faced different directions while peering serenely into infinity. She then steadily moved to the downwind leg of the Man and began climbing, carefully tucking in her loose garment as she gripped and stepped her way up the outer wooden frame. She was not only justifiably confident in herself but in the robustness of the Man itself. Oblivious to her precarious position and stretching herself out into empty space with only a hand and a foot anchoring her, she reached out into the air with her other limbs with the athletic confidence of a dancer. The wind was blowing her loose garment outwards into intricate rippling folds in a dynamic billowy mass like that portrayed in some ancient Greek statues, the wind now and then fully extending her wide butterfly wing shaped thin fabric cape and gracefully flapping them as if in flight. Rose seemed to be one with the wind for a time, looking like she was about to go weightless any moment and float away. It seemed like a timeless moment for her and the small number of people standing transfixed at the sight.
As she made her way to the stairs inside the structure we moved on into the emptiness. I saw several dust devils lazily careening across the playa. One huge dense mass loomed hundreds of feet into the air, briefly seeming to engulf the Man itself while passing across the flatness. Wandering to Tethered Aviation, I greeted some friends and met new members of this now traditional camp. Carter, AKA Mistress Barbie, was lamenting a lack of batteries for his glow-wire fedora. Fortunately I had some extra nine volt batteries and made a mental note to bring some back on my next trip there.
3. The early development of Black Rock City
Tuesday was hot but not severely
so, perhaps 95 degrees Fahrenheit during the afternoon. Around
seven, an hour after passing behind the nearby mountains, the
sun actually set and began lighting up a thin display of Westerly
high clouds much as it had done the previous days. The surroundings
slowly dimmed while the remaining daylight gathered itself far
to the East. A cool breeze gradually picked up but the wind rarely
became very gusty.
Passing through the prominent village of Disturbia, we saw a major community with many population centers interspersed with narrow empty zones. Disturbia was obviously thriving, although the large sign used last year had been burnt in anticipation of disbanding the village! There was a small mockup of a feature of the 'red light' district of Amsterdam, with 'AmsterDAMNED' written out in glo-light tubing. In a window display next to the sign, lined with red cloth, sat a young woman playfully mimicking sexual movements in a dancing fashion with another woman, while a crowd facing them outside danced to Techno music.
Walking outwards into the central
emptiness, we decided to head out into the darkness to see the
stars. As flatness opened up around us the last trace of blue
twilight was fading in the West, with that half of the sky appearing
brighter than the Playa. Toward the north the sky just bordering
the horizon became a very black band with a sharp lower border
at the horizon. The dim Playa beneath was lit up by the tent city
almost as far as one could see. Finally a little later the entire
sky was blacker than the playa, with all the small vertical 'city'
facing edges of the many cracks catching its light with the very
distant ground merging into the infinite blackness.
We walked a long way out there, to a large structure fashioned into a yellow toy 'rubber duck' which was supposed to be opening as a bar in a day or two. We decided not to push on towards the all encompassing perimeter fence surrounding the event, but headed the couple miles back in the gathering chilly gusts with our water running out. The sky was not appreciably darker than the previous night at Gordons house, the Milky way visible but not really obvious. Mike called my attention to a red dome in the distance, and for a moment we thought there was an art object out there we had missed. It was the Moon rising. A few scattered people nearby and many more in the distance yipped and whooped like animals as the sight was widely recognized. Once the coppery gibbous Moon cleared the distant horizon it appeared to be smiling due to the darker maria regions dabbed across the waning disk. On the way back to camp the Moon provided some lighting. From out there the music from all sides was intermixed and distorted like a high fidelity version of what you sometimes hear when listening at night along the empty spaces on the radio dial, faraway music and sounds fluttering across each other and throwing echoes back and forth.
Tuesday was a bit cooler and a bit cloudier, to the North some
puffy cumulus clouds huddled together, growing as the wave of
wetter weather tried to invade this dry region only to dissipate
late in the afternoon. During this struggle between the weather
systems isolated whirlwinds marched here and there across the
dry afternoon Playa. At the 2 to 3 o'clock time of peak temperatures
it seems to be well over a hundred degrees, although some of that
is the heat radiating up from the sunlit ground. There are very
few living things here, although I saw a narrow inch and a half
long black beetle and some small moths. Some people reported playing
host to large praying mantises.
Listening to a Reno news radio station at the top of the hour I heard Burning Man Mistress of Information Marian Goodell interviewed on a Reno news station. She gave concise and well delivered answers in the portion of her remarks the station chose to air.
Wandering about while protected from
the sun, I was again astonished to see how much was already set
up. It seemed the entire inner 'Esplanade' road was by now well
endowed with vast construction projects heading toward completion.
I walked to Tethered Aviation and again met up with Barbie, and
we traveled together to the other side of the tent city. I ran
into another old playa friend, as it turned out camped not far
from me, and after some chatting we agreed to meet again at nightfall
to share in a special toast for the evening. On the way back to
the other side (I usually made it a point to circulate around
to increase the chances of seeing new things) I checked on the
progress of some of the major projects, and noticed the ribs were
all in place around the school bus, with the horizontal boards
being nailed in place over them. A big crane was hoisting up the
main masts, one complete with a habitable 'crows nest', which
were carefully lowered and secured to the readied locations on
the wooden deck. The rope rigging and sails would be prepared
The streets were by now well established, but only minimally dusty even though well traveled. Big water trucks slowly sprayed water over the streets, usually with people following them getting cooled or even washing. Generally I found the daytime glare uncomfortable, but the coming of 'Magic Hour' of low lighting did away with the need to use sunglasses. The color contrasts between the yellow-pink sunlight and violet gray shadows livened up the textured Playa surface around me. The shadow of the Western mountains passed across us again and I watched my shadow fade. There were few clouds at sunset, again a near repeat of the last two days weather. As the darkness gathered the community really asserted itself, loud drumming rolling like staccato thunder across the valley from dozens of major sources. It was as if people wanted to spend as much time as possible in the environment really available on the last days of earlier events. The lights brought there washed the night in color wherever you went, and people were walking and biking about with others dancing before techno music being played and performed on huge well lit stages. There were lots of places to be, but a deliberate effort to get anywhere would never be a straightforward thing and you never knew if you would be quite the same person at the end of your journey as you were when you started.
A small group of people surrounded
a stout tripod supporting something swinging lightly. A young
woman was delicately 'hog tied' in a ritualized silent procedure.
A serene faced thinly built women with long reddish blond hair
was gently wrapping soft red cords around the arms then the bent
legs of the shorter woman with her black hair put in a double
bun. Occasionally the woman doing the tying would stroke, kiss,
pinch, and lightly slap the hanging lady, who seemed to be in
an enjoyable meditative state. Finally the nimble arms and legs
were tied and her back arched as she was gently rotated and swung
around. Somebody whispered nearby that this was a demonstration
of a Japanese bondage ritual, and that every knot and action meant
something. Unfortunately the tape in which this and Crimson Rose
climbing the Man was defective and all I have of these timeless
moments are my few still images and my memories.
At last I was nearing the one particular spot in all of this which was now my destination.
everyone arrived at the arranged location and a desert drink was
shared between us, which included some alcohol in its ingredients.
As we talked inside our hosts open framework dome our attention
would be diverted by one event after another, first a brilliantly
lit art vehicle would prompt comments then a brilliant thick stream
of fireworks would scream skywards close enough to wonder how
they could manage it, since this was forbidden. The surroundings
became louder, the combined vibrations of the surroundings rippling
through us. In the distance we see a recreation of the simple
wire frame tank of the popular old video game 'Battle Tank'.
We took off on foot and wandered about, flowing in and out of the streams of human traffic and among the visual offerings planted everywhere. Dr. Lizard yelled over the din that we were looking for a giant cuttlefish to ride on. The vehicle in question appeared and we climbed on. I wound up holding on next to the driver, who I instantly recognized as Teiwaz from Disturbia. We tried to chat a bit in the confusion, and soon we were in the hub of activity around the great Center Camp tent complex. All about neon and other glow light signs mocked big corporate entities and poked fun on many levels. Dust on glasses and in the air brought out saturated colors in hazy clouds surrounding each of the contrasting hues in a group of neon signs. Many people wandered about singly and in groups, with others threading about with bicycles with and without lights. Music was everywhere, and many things to see supplied a constant destination to whatever direction you moved.
That night I put away my cameras
and let myself be carried along in a fantastic parade of color
and visions. There were many chromatically endowed fish vehicles
moving about in the darkness, some with elaborate glow light adornment
imitating the lights of carnivorous deep sea fish. A 'pinging'
sound loudly echoed from some vehicle in the dark beyond, casting
a surrealistic layer over the night. fantastic large conveyances,
many with two levels of passenger accommodations, picked up people
and dropped them off in random directions. I got separated from
my friends as they ran into another large conveyance looking like
a large mobile pyramid but I enjoyed wandering amid the madness.
The still gibbous Moon provided decent lighting after it rose,
and I eventually made it back to my camp, actually getting to
sleep just before dawn.
Wednesday started with a strange aircraft mishap. A designated landing area exists for those choosing to fly small aircraft to the event. One twin engine plane somehow mistook the wide well trodden path for the 'walk in camp' entrance on the other side of the event for its landing strip, gracefully easing down in an area fortunately clear of people, then scraping its belly and digging its props into the Playa since the pilot forgot to deploy the landing gear! Nobody was hurt but the incident must have been an expensive professional setback to that pilot!
began changing that day, the northern cloud buildup a good deal
stronger and the winds picking up. In the afternoon furious dust
devils tore across the tent city and far into the flatness beyond.
There was still far less dust than on any day last year. By now
the finishing touches were being applied to some of the larger
projects such as the Temple of Joy, the Galleon and other mobile
and stationary art objects. There were several other mobile ships
which deserve mention, all splendidly crafted and major projects
unto themselves. One larger sea vessel had fish fins on the sides
and a webbed tail at the end. This ship had a sound system on
which I happened to hear sound check rehearsals of a group of
really accomplished female vocalists, their resonating voices
One innovation I saw used quite a bit was the disposal of 'gray water' by pouring it into improvised evaporation pools made with hosed, pipes, or even lumber and plastic tarps. Most people simply picked a set of deep cracks and poured water into them. Most of the days ended with the passing of the shadow of the mountains over the area, but later in the week the clouds contributed to the occasions.
The sunset Wednesday shone redly against the Eastern mountains, and later upon several large cloud masses, the lighting a bit dull but quite colorful. It was the first really photogenic sunset of the event. When I arrived at the Man to add it to the composition I saw numerous photographers with every kind of camera darting this way and that to place the Man in a desired location in relation to the background. Surprisingly at the location I thought best I rarely saw other photographers nearby. Far to the north an especially large cumulous cloud mass caught the last rays of the sun, holding then as a crimson garment long after the last trace of daylight faded from the surrounding clouds.
TO PAGE THREE