The Art of Gifting… Burning Man 2012

One of the neatest gifts people can give at Burning Man is working as a greeter. These folks welcome you to Burning Man with a generous smile, give you a hug, answer questions and provide information packets. They work around the clock through both heat and dust storms. This brightly garbed couple welcomed Peggy and me this year.

The official Burning Man folks, founder Larry Harvey and the Burners who devote their lives to making the event work, promote their vision of Burning Man relentlessly.  Like Moses with his Ten Commandments, Harvey has his Ten Principles. They are listed in the photo below. Go here for a detailed description.

Somewhere in my wanderings around Black rock City, I came across this sketched out version of the Ten Principles of Burning Man.

These visionary ideals work to varying degrees. One that impresses me the most is the concept of gifting. Things aren’t sold at Burning Man; they are given away. Everyone is encouraged to contribute something.

Gifts are only limited by the individual’s imagination. For example, Peggy and I were walking through Center Camp when this woman came up to us carrying a partially melted block of ice. “Would you like to be cooled down?” she asked. “Sure,” Peggy responded. It was hot. The woman handed Peggy the ice and put her freezing hands on Peggy’s neck. It looked fun and refreshing. “Me too, me too,” I urged.

The woman’s icy hands felt great on my neck but apparently I misplaced the ice block she handed to me to hold. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson)

My cooling was much shorter. “You were holding the ice block under her breasts,” my lovely wife pointed out. I had been too busy being cool to notice but Peggy had the evidence. The woman approached us again the next day. Maybe she liked icy breasts. This time I carefully held the block in my lap. When I stood up it looked like I had peed my pants. I couldn’t win. “No one will notice,” Peggy offered helpfully. I refused to let her take a picture.

We have received gifts ranging from lattes to scarves to T-shirts over the years. Once we were even handed a backscratcher. Free drinks and music are offered everywhere. One group featured Miso soup this year. Mystic Camp next to us provided cereal and Saturday morning cartoons. Punkin Beth from our camp, a master bike mechanic, put on pajamas and a tutu and fixed people’s bikes. There was a guy at Camp Center gifting colorful pasties (nipple covers) to women. He even offered to apply them… free of charge, as the saying goes.

Punkin Beth, decked out in feather ear rings, tutu, and leopard PJs, provides her master bike mechanic skills to Julie from our neighboring camp: Intense, Intents, In Tents.

My photos today feature just a few of the ways Burners gift other Burners. In my next blog I’ll take a quick look at things I found amusing or interesting around Black Rock City but haven’t been featured. I will conclude this series with the burning of the Man and the incredible show that surrounds the event.

While Punkin was fixing Julie’s bike, her friend Bob was teaching Little Pepper from the Horse-Bone Tribe how to twirl poi balls. Teaching skills is a frequent form of gifting at Burning Man.

I was out at Wall Street when I came across Lee Lanier plying his trade. He paints peoples bodies as his gift. “Pick a part,” his sign urges.

Here’s a photo of Lee at work painting a posy on a cheek.

Out at the temple a choral group dressed up like a church choir was offering a free concert. They provided a stirring rendition of “Black Rock City is a Burning Town”

Meanwhile, back at Camp Center, a man played the xylophone with Lawrence Welk flair as his gift to Burning Man 2012. I also found a large Kazoo band out and about on the Playa and was handed a kazoo to join them.

Many tribes offer activities as their gifts to Burners. The Black Rock Roller Disco provided a roller rink with roller blades and skates. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson)

Just down the road from us on Sixth Street, a camp had set up a combined pool table and bowling alley.

Ever play the game Twister? Black Rock City’s Twista House guaranteed a fun time. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson)

Drinks, food and music are the gifts offered by many camps… often in exotic surroundings. One of the most exotic is the Shipwreck Tiki Lounge. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson)

8 comments on “The Art of Gifting… Burning Man 2012

  1. My boyfriend and his friend are the original “Icy Hands” crew. The both of them had been giving the gift of cooling down with ice cubes for 2 years previous to 2012( when I joined them). All last year my boyfriend obsessed about Burning Man… To those unfortunate souls who had not experienced burning man it would seem rather annoying. After 2012’s burn I am now, just as obsessed as he is. I am the “Icy Breasted Lady” that was depicted in your blog. I just wanted to write to say thank you for enjoying our gift. Through a hectic year the blessing of burning man is a long awaited treat for us. I am so glad you got so much out of the burn this year. Everyone has so much to offer but the experience of being the one who gives is what I enjoyed the most. Those people who melted in my hands like putty and those who just gave me a simple smile were the best part of my burn. Pregnant women, older people children and everyone in between… The BRC community becomes a family for one week a year and that spirit lasts all year long.

    • It’s amazing how the numbers grow, GP. WP gives us all sorts of ways to look at how we are doing. Obviously, the more posts we create and the more opportunities people will have for finding something of interest. I am always interested in which posts generate the most traffic. Burning Man always generates a lot. I suspect it is also why some 170 countries have checked in. My posts on Europe have been popular lately, even though I made the trip a year and a half ago. Anyway, it’s fun to watch the numbers grow, and to know people find some value in what we write… like your informative posts on the Korean War. It makes all of the effort we put into these blogs worthwhile. –Curt

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