Center Camp Café… Where Burners Gather

Bad cat! I found this painting at the Center Camp Cafe and just had to laugh.

Bad cat! I found this painting at the Center Camp Cafe and laughed. The expressions were precious, including that of the robe-bedecked senior across the street.

Hardly a day goes by at Burning Man that I don’t stop by the Center Camp Café. It’s a great place to enjoy Black Rock City’s unique residents. Find a good seat and watch the parade go by. Or, better yet, join the parade. It goes in a circle, around and around— but not in any particular order. Structured chaos rules in Black Rock City. On a good day, rabbits, carrots, or belly dancers may join in the action.

An inside view of the Center Camp Cafe. (Photo by Don Green.)

An inside view of the Center Camp Cafe on a fairly quiet day. (Photo by Don Green.)

Many Burners dress up in their finest costumes to visit the Café. The best always draw a handful of photographers. “May I take your photo?” is heard often. It’s courtesy, Black Rock City style. Most people say yes. After all, they are walking art, meant to be appreciated.

One side of the Café features a large stage where performers offer everything from country music, to opera, to comedy, to magic and possibly even a poem or two. The really big event of the week is the People’s Fashion Show. Outrageous is both acceptable and encouraged. The opposite side of the Café has a smaller stage where you can sign up to give a talk, if you want, on almost anything.

The backdrop for main stage at the Cafe.

The backdrop for the main stage at the Cafe. It definitely had a Burning Man feel to it.

The People's Fashion Show always draws a large crowd. My friend Don Green always shows up early and gets a seat, front row and center.

The People’s Fashion Show at Burning Man always draws a large crowd. My friend Don Green shows up early and gets a seat front row and center, just at the end of the runway.

People's fashion show at Burning Man 2015 features a two legged dancing unicorn.

His objective is to capture photos like this of what I assume is a two-legged dancing unicorn. (Photo by Don Green.)

And this walking caution sign.

And this walking caution sign. You might think twice about dating him. (Photo by Don Green.)

Ta da!

Ta da! (Photo by Don Green.)

And this well-dressed bride.

A well-dressed bride. Perhaps a bit haughty. (Photo by Don Green.)

Talent show at Burning Man 6

Over the years, I’ve learned that the participants go outside for a photo shoot after they have walked down the runway. So I place myself among the photographers and capture images like this horned man of silver.

This Asian woman with her oriental costume...

An Asian woman with her oriental costume… Check out her claws.

And this green man in his height of fashion costume.

And my favorite, Mr. Green in a jeweled costume. The glasses go above and beyond!

A large, open circle dominates the center of the Café. It’s where Burners practice their latest moves with hula-hoops, or juggling balls, or their bellies, or any one of several other performance arts that are common in Black Rock City. But practice is just a part. Performers are born to perform, right. And many of the folks in the center circle are strutting their stuff, like you would expect at a three-ring circus. Some demonstrate great ability and talent. What the majority of the people focus on seems to vary by year. This was the year for acrobatic yoga.

I admired the beauty and grace of people participating in acrobatic yoga.

I admired the beauty and grace of people participating in acrobatic yoga.

I thought this woman may have been learning to fly.

I thought this woman may have been learning to fly.

Don caught this woman working her hula-hoop in a seemingly magical way. (Photo by Don Green.)

Don caught this woman ecstatically working her hula-hoop in a seemingly magical way. (Photo by Don Green.)

Like everywhere else in Black Rock City and out on the Playa, art is featured in the Café. Checking it out is always one of my first stops, right after I have examined the murals on the long, circular fence behind the Café.

Today the desert; tomorrow the world? I wondered about the implications of this photo.

Today Black Rock City; tomorrow the World? I wondered about the implications of this graphic rendition of the Man.

 Art at Center Camp Cafe at Burning Man

As I wondered about the vision behind this art work. I thought possibly it had been inspired by a magic mushroom or two.

Want a decent cup of coffee to start your engine in the morning or a glass of iced tea to cool you down on a hot afternoon? The Café is the only place in Black Rock City where you can buy anything (besides ice), and coffee, tea, and lemonade are what it offers. Now if it would only sell pastries (sigh).

The line for coffee and tea at the Center Camp Cafe can be a little imposing, but I am never bored while waiting.

The line for coffee and tea at the Center Camp Cafe can be daunting, but I am never bored while waiting.

Once you have ordered and paid, you can always amuse yourself by studying the stickers that seem to adorn the backs of all the cash registers.

Once you have ordered and paid, you can always amuse yourself by studying the stickers that seem to adorn the backs of all the cash registers.

I found this fake parking permit with its satirical take on BMO's new parking permit requirement. The theory is that it will encourage people to to bring vehicles. Maybe. But it is also another way to generate more revenue.

I found this fake parking permit with its satirical take on BMO’s new parking permit requirement amusing. The theory is that charging a fee will encourage people not to bring vehicles. Maybe, but it is also another way to generate more revenue. BMO has doubled the price for 2016.

While you can’t get pastries, you can get pasties— for free. Pastie Dan is often found at the Café plying his trade. Or possibly I should say, applying his trade. And you have choices… spirals, the Man, a flag, a rainbow, or a smiley face: the list goes on. If exposing your nipples seems a bit risqué, possibly you would prefer a tarot card reading session or a massage. Someone is always giving away something as part of Burning Man’s gifting program. Last year I got icy hands on my neck. The point is, you just never know what will be happening next at the Center Camp Café, but it is almost guaranteed to be fun, or at least unique.

The Center Camp Cafe at Burning Man 2015. The flying flags can be seen from most places on the Playa and in Black Rock City, serving as a beacon for lost Burners. I've used them many times, especially at night when they are lit up.

The Center Camp Cafe at Burning Man 2015. The flying flags can be seen from most places on the Playa and in Black Rock City, serving as a beacon for lost Burners. I’ve used them many times myself, especially at night when they are lit up.

NEXT BLOG: A quick look at Burning Mans major form of transportation: the bicycle

28 comments on “Center Camp Café… Where Burners Gather

  1. Wonderful to spend time at the cafe with you. If I ever do get to BM I’ll have a good idea what to expect from all your posts. My favourite thing about this post: The cash register sticker saying “Burning Man It’s just fucking camping.” 🙂
    Alison

  2. The Green Man is wonderful, and I think the bride’s a hotty, not haughty. But this was the killer line for me: “You can sign up to give a talk, if you want, on almost anything.”

    Long ago, during a study of Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter,” my all-time favorite prof asked us, “If you were forced to wear a letter, which would it be?” In the spirit of that question, how about this one: “If you were going to give a talk at Burning Man, what subject would you chose?” There’s something to ponder, for sure.

  3. Mr. Green’s costume is brilliant, and the glasses divine. I would totally wear those. The Silver Horned Man, also awesome. The woman in east Asian costume in sunset golds…wow. That one could be my favourite. Nice claws. I love anything unicorn, so that one was good too. And the man in a White Wedding is also wonderful. I think it’s the hat and scarf that make it perfect.

    So, I think you’ve successfully put me into BM mode with all these posts, because when I read the sentence above about all the drinks the cafe offers, I read “If it would only sell pasties.” I had to read it three times before my brain finally read “pastries.” I thought to myself, “well, I’m sure that they have pasties too, ha ha.” And sure enough, in the next paragraph, that’s just what you wrote. Don’t mind me… I’m just amusing myself over here…

    The acrobatics are impressive, and both of you got some good shots of those strong, bendy people.

    • Glad you got the pasties right, Crystal. Otherwise you might be seriously wondering about me now. More than usual. 🙂 Pastie Dan also makes house calls. You see him out and about on his tricycle.
      The costumes are marvelous at Burning Man and people go out for the the annual fashion show. Several of the participants are regulars, appearing in different costumes year after year. –Curt

  4. I’m with you. I’d have to go to Center Camp Cafe every day just for people watching. Love that Caution Tape Guy! And the nails on the yellow lady. In fact, this whole post reminds me of a Cirque du Soleil event gone awry in some ways. Thanks for sharing the costumes — and the creative people who made them!

    • I could spend my whole Burning Man at the Cafe, if it weren’t for all of the other stuff I’d miss, Rusha. And costumes have always been a major item at Burning Man. I am a big fan of Cirque du Soleil, BTW. –Curt

  5. Bring on the dancing girls!
    Great post. GreenMan my favorite.
    The Cafe would be a people watching nirvana.
    The immense undertaking for this huge elaborate art show continues to just amaze and interest me. Thank you.

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