In Dust We Trust : Burning Man 2016

Returning to Reno from the Playa this year Doug and I were high on life. This year had been the best burn yet and the desert had left us feeling raw to the bone. We had a bunch of food left over that we wanted to give to a homeless person. The first homeless guy we found could not accept any food as he had just had his last supper. He was dying of cancer and was headed to the hospital to be fitted with a feeding tube. Oh yeah, this is reality. Full of pain and suffering and death. Somehow after 10 days at Burning Man we had completely forgotten about the real world.

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It hit us like a ton of bricks.

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Lost In The Net

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I slowly approached the door feeling a strange combination of fear, shame and excitement. The house was a small one lost back in a bundle of old growth hemlocks far from the road. It was made from natural edged wood hand planed and lovingly put together. None of the angles were straight and none of the boards were square but it held a strange kind of appeal that most square houses did not. The door started to open and my heart skipped two beats.

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The Desert Wept At Our Passing, And Is Once Again Left Alone

70,000 people came and went where none were before. A place so barren it is without insects, and yet I saw a hawk swooping through our camp at dusk.

Black Rock City. A place like no other on earth. You have either been there and know it, or you are an outsider. There is no in between.

There is no place I feel more alive, more insane, more in touch with the emptiness inside my own soul. That personal struggle to add meaning to an intrinsically meaningless life.

Giant bug puppet. Photo by Jim Laux
Giant bug puppet. Photo by Jim Laux

I didn’t want to go, but I had already bought a ticket and a plane ride, there was no turning back. Doug and I planned for months to build a giant 22 foot walking puppet bug we were going to stride across the playa with. I knew it would be a nightmare building it there, it always is. I knew the wind would make our lives miserable as we tried to cart around this giant creation. Last year I built a 43 foot tall puppet man and moved it around with 6 others on guide wires. I swore never again, but here I was building this bug in the middle of nowhere, right back at it again.

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Worst Idea Ever – Build a 43′ Tall Puppet, Strap It To My Back, Walk Around 60,000 People in 20 mph Winds – Burning Man 2013

My 24' high puppet built for the previous burn in 2012.  This year it was twice the size.
My 24′ high puppet built for the previous burn in 2012.
This year I built one twice as large. Photo by Dan Kaus.

In the last 2 weeks I …

– Had the bomb squad called on me in the airport

– Was attacked by lawn sprinklers while innocently sleeping outside somewhere I probably shouldn’t have,

– Got pressure washed with foam so hard it hurt while rocking out to a DJ in a plexiglass cage with 80 naked strangers

– Danced 6 hours a day in the desert for a week and ate the best food of my life every day at the Rhythm-Wave camp in Black Rock City

– Built a 43′ high bamboo puppet with scrounged materials found around BRC and walked around for 5 hours over 2 different nights with 5 people helping me

– Hiked for 3 days in Yosemite with Doug while the whole park was on fire, climbed half-dome and didn’t get eaten by bears despite smearing peanut butter all over my face and duct-taping myself to a tree

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Am I in an Oven? Nope Just at Burning Man Yet Again

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I got back for a week then turned around and flew out to Nevada to camp in the desert for a week with my son and my good friend Eric Skawold in 2007. The Burning man trip was even more intense than Russia had been. The first day the thermometer said 100 degrees in the shade. I was totally overheated and could barely function. The first day I thought I was going to die right there in the desert. Once I stopped moving and just laid and sweat in the shade I started to feel better again. Orion had a fantastic time and most of my energy was spent trying to help facilitate him having a good time. Someone set the man on fire early, which to my great surprise actually made national news. The art installations were amazing and intense as always. The heat and dust storms were pretty intense, and trying to camp in a tent didn’t help.

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Fought In Thunderdome, Rode The Roaster Coaster & Found My REAL Home – My First Burn

The following is a recounting of my first experience at Burning Man in 2004.  I have been back many times since then, but that first trip was the most magical.

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As I sat quietly tears streamed down my face. All around me thousands of people sat quietly humming in different low harmonious tones. The heat from the flames of the temple was so hot it was quite uncomfortable. Although we were seated over 300 feet away the 80′ Temple of Honor burned with an intensity I have never seen in any structure fire in my 4.5 years as a firefighter. I big part of me was glad to see it burn. I have been to visit the temple 8 times in the last 3 days and each time it brought tears to my eyes. I have traveled across a great deal of the planet and the temple was one of the most beautiful places I had ever seen. The love and tremendous amount of energy that was put into the temple was staggering. It made me realize that once you see what’s possible you’re no longer interested in what’s probable. For the temple the gift was in the giving. I thought about the huge amount of resistance I had put up in switching over to the Burning Man gifting economy and I realized that a great deal of that was the difficulty I was having in seeing that the gift was in for the giver, not the receiver. There was a big part of me that was glad to see the temple go and another part that was just beginning to appreciate the transient nature of life. All the work that had been put into that temple that was only around for a week made me realize that no matter how hard I worked or how much I accomplished that it wouldn’t change the fact that even if I lived for 100 years that it was still a brief glimpse of time when compared with the timeline of the universe, the earth or even mankind. It was sobering in a deep and meaningful way. The night before we had burned the 40′ neon blue man at the center of the city and the atmosphere had been a world of difference, there was hooting and hollering and dancing. The burning of the temple was a far more solemn occasion. There was so much emotion in that place, frequently visitors made no attempts to hide their tears. The energy of the place was so intense it was hard not to feel sadness.

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