Of the 4 Burns I have attended, the 2010 burn was by far the best yet. The combination of having family, good weather, and camping with an RV for the first time added to the experience far more than I thought it would. It’s hard to imagine going back to Burning Man with nothing but a tent and sleeping under stranger’s trucks in the day once you’ve experienced the desert with the comfort of an RV.
My good friend Zoe who is Burning Man celebrity with her Pee Funnel Camp had previously lambasted me extensively online about being a parasite/tourist. This motivated me to bring my 12′ high glowing blue man costume and tons of empty IC tubes in my backpack on the plane. The idiots that worked with homeland security unpacked everything and then could not get it back in the backpack so they just haphazardly tied the sleeping bag and my thermarest pads on the outside of my backpack by one of the straps. It was a miracle it all got to Oregon in one piece. I had to pay an extra $25 for the privilege of having the airlines lose my luggage for 3 days, the airlines are getting downright intolerable.
Arriving in Oregon we spent most of the time preparing the camper for BM. I worked on 5 different bikes that all had flat tire, seized up cranks and rusted chains and got them so they all were ridable and had at least 3 or 4 gears that worked. We also went to the Oregon Caves National Monument and did the candlelight tour which everyone really enjoyed. We were late getting there and had to run the last 1/2 mile to make it there on time. Before we left I also got to see my sister paragliding. She has been working on her certification for 6 months now and she was so excited to be flying. It has been great to see Laura and Tim really focus on doing the things that make them happy for the last several years.
Tim drove all night long to get to Burning Man, a trip that Google Maps said would be 6 hours ended up being about 15. Between side trips to try to get liquor and stopping for groceries and Lowes and then 3 hours in the Willcall line for Tim to get his ticket a short journey became this incredibly drawn out adventure. We arrived at Kidsville and settled into our preregistered spot in the middle of 5:30 and between D and E. It was a fantastic location in the middle of everything and we setup our RV to face the road so we could watch the freak show go by all week long. As the week wore on the playa dust infiltrated every corner of the RV trailer as well as every one of my orifices despite my best efforts to control it.
Jim Laux, my coworker and close friend showed up pretty early on and we went out together with my 12′ glowing blue man costume. People really liked it, I think because they had been watching the man for years and really wanted to see him out and about walking around and interacting with people. The more drugs people took, the better I looked. One guy came up to me and said “Man I was tripping so hard last night I just followed you around for 3 hours.” The glowing blue man costume was having some problems with the EL wire breaking at the joints so I decided to take it apart and try to build a 30′ high man. I went from camp to camp to try to score PVC or bamboo and finally struck gold at kidsville where there was a whole trailer full of scrap PVC and one 15′ section of Bamboo. Over the next 4 days I spent a great deal of time while Orion was out playing with his friends building 3 different 30′ puppet prototypes, all of which failed miserably. Eventually I gave up and decided to build a 23′ high man instead. I managed to get him working properly and he ended up looking really mega cool. Every night was pretty much the same, I would go out with this giant blue EL wire man costume and walk on the Playa and dance until it self destructed and then end up limping back home at 4 or 5:00 AM. By the end of the festival I had 6 different breaks in the EL wire that I had to repair and the costume was pretty much totally trashed. For next year I really want to build a 30′ high costume and have regular wire soldered in at the joints so I don’t have to keep dealing with these failures from the EL wire bending to much and then shorting out.
On Fri night I walked out past the temple and they burned the metropolis. While walking back a bad dust storm kicked up and I ended up seeking refuge in the temple. This year the temple was designed like a giant sand dune and it was by far my favorite temple design yet. The first time I went to visit the temple at night, I said to Jim “Wouldn’t it be cool to see a 30′ blue walking dude come around that corner”. It was a vision I had seen that I had to create. The wind forces on the costume were really insane. Even in the temple I had a hard time not getting blown over. To make matters worst I had forgotten my goggles and dust mask so I ended up having to breathe through my winter hat. I ended up talking to a really cool photographer named Playaparrazzi for several hours then eventually made it back to the city when the dust storm settled.
The night that the man burned was a repeat of the night before except even more intense. In the 4 years I have attended I have never seen a dust storm at night so it was crazy to have 2 right in a row. The gusts were about 30 mph and I was having a really hard time not getting blown over. We managed to make it back to camp and I decided to go out dancing. Sat night was the best night and only my left leg was not working right and only 1/2 as bright as it should have been. I only wish I could have seen this 23′ high blue wire man dancing at the Opulent Temple in the middle of thousands of people. Countless people came up to me and would say things like “You win man” and “that is the coolest thing I’ve seen at Burning Man yet”. Lots of attractive women came up and wanted to dance with me, so I reveled in the badly needed attention from the opposite sex. So much of what BM has to offer I do not partake in, the free alcohol, the drugs and the rampant sex with strangers. Even though I don’t participate in those activities I still love the art, the music and the people. Black Rock City really is a city with 50,000 people and there is something there for everyone.
Orion went to a bunch of events, his favorite were by far the frankenstien stuffed animal workshops where people would chop up stuffed animals and sew them back together in bizarre ways. There was a bondage teddy bear and the woman next too me made her stuffed animal have an incredibly large phallus. It was all sorts of disturbing, however I did find cutting the heads off of teddy bears strangely therapeutic. Orion made a six legged woolly mammoth that he was very proud of and showed everyone on the flight home.
For me my favorite part was spending hours walking on the playa at night in the costume and having people come over from a mile away just to tell me how cool my costume looked at night. I really loved the dancing and watching people enjoy themselves. This year I spent one night visiting the temple and feeling pretty bad about all of the wastefulness that the Burning Man festival represented. In a way it reminded me of ancient Rome with all the people reveling in their glory and wealth and partying away while the rest of the world suffered. Being a resident of BRC for 4 years has helped to change me into being an anti-consumer and recognizing the threats of marketing and conspicuous over-consumption. The reality is that cheap available energy from fossil fuels is what makes Black Rock City run. Without it there would be no burning man. It’s amazing to see when you climb up the 70′ tower of Mal-Mart and look over the whole city and realize 99% of the lights are created from generator power.
The thing I realized this year is that the act of creation is my highest state. Whether it is working for hours on a costume idea that may not work or sitting here writing this story about my experiences I love creating things. When you can create something beautiful that other people appreciate there is few experiences in this life that really feel that good.