From Baker Beach to the Black Rock Desert… The Fiery Journey of Burning Man’s Man

The Man at Burning Man burns in 2012. A few remaining fireworks fall from the sky.

 

One of the first things I do at Burning Man each year is head out to the Playa to visit the Man. It’s a way of paying homage. Given that the annual event in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada wouldn’t exist without the Man and his appointment with fire, my ‘pilgrimage’ seems appropriate. Here’s what I wrote a few years back on Burning Man’s beginnings in San Francisco:

A striking sight of the Golden Gate Bridge dominates the view from Baker Beach in San Francisco. It’s a romantic spot, a popular place to get married. Folks also get naked; it’s a nude beach. It was here that Larry Harvey and his friend Jerry James decided to host a bonfire in honor of the summer solstice in 1986. As to why they chose a nine-foot wooden effigy of a man (and his dog) to burn, Harvey remains mysteriously mum. Whatever the reason, it was out of the flames that Burning Man was born. Larry and his friends had such a great time they vowed to come back the next year with a bigger Man.

By 1990 the Man had grown to 40 feet tall and word of mouth had guaranteed that a sizable crowd was present for the solstice bonfire on Baker Beach. It wasn’t to be. Golden Gate Park police had decided that burning the Man posed a fire hazard to the Park and City. A single Park Ranger rolled in on a motorbike and said no go. You can’t be too careful, right? Fires were raging across Southern California.

The Man was taken apart and returned to the vacant lot he called home. The people who had come to watch the burn were angry. This might have marked the end of Burning Man, except for a bit of synchronicity. The Man had caught the attention of a group in San Francisco known as the Cacophony Society, an organization that specialized in outrageous pranks and strange outings known as zone trips. Several of its members, including co-founder John Law, suggested to Larry that the place to burn the Man was in the remote Black Rock Desert of Northern Nevada. It would make an ideal zone trip— far out in the language of the 60’s. A Ryder Truck was rented for the Labor Day weekend and stuffed with the man plus personal gear. Cars were loaded with people and some 80-100 Burners headed off into the desert. A tradition was born.

Today’s Burning Man is tame in comparison to the early years on the Playa. In the beginning, people camped wherever and drove when, where, and as fast as they wanted. Admission was free, open to anyone who wanted to make the drive up (primarily people from the Bay Area). At times, the event took on the guise of a shooting gallery. Running in and out of fire became a sport, particularly popular to those who were drunk or drugged out of their minds. Once again, Burning Man could have easily ended, but Larry and the others who founded the event had a broader vision and the event evolved, instead. By the late 90s, rules had been developed to make the event safer. Elements of its art, environmental, social and spiritual culture had begun to develop. When I first arrived in 2004, Burning Man had more or less become the event it is now, minus 35,000 people.

This year, 32 years after the first Man first burned on Baker Beach, some 70,000 people from the US and around the world will make the journey into the desert for the week-plus of craziness starting on August 27th and ending September 3. On Saturday evening, September 2, most of these Burners will make their way out onto the Playa and form a huge circle around the Man. The majority will either walk or bike, but many will also journey out in mutant vehicles that form their own large circle where they blast out music and fire. As night settles in, hundreds of fire dancers will perform their fiery art in the center of the circle followed by a solemn procession to set the man on fire, which also kicks off a massive fireworks display. Sometimes the Man burns quickly as he has been prepped to do, other times it seems to go on and on. Regardless, almost everyone stays until the sculpture comes crashing down, creating one of those moments of silence, which is so rare at Burning Man, followed by a very loud celebration.

It’s impossible to get the full sense of the event without being there, but photos help. I will start with several pictures I have taken of the Man over the years and then move on to the burn.

The Man begins his week located at the center of the Playa. While his look remains more or less the same, his base changes each year depending on the theme for the year. I took this photo in 2006.

In 2007, the Man burned twice— the first time in the early hours of the morning by a rogue Burner. I had actually missed the act of vandalism by only a half hour. Note the Phoenix on the face, like the mythological bird, he was able to rise again.

BMORG, the Burning Man organization was able to put together another Man in San Francisco and get him back to the desert in time for his Saturday burn. Here, he is being placed on his pedestal, still headless. (Photo by our friend Ken Lake.)

One of my favorite bases was this one from 2009.

In 2010, the Man came with gargoyles, like a European cathedral. In this photo they are still working on the base. It isn’t unusual for finishing touches to be added at the beginning of the week. The steps up to the fourth level provided Burners with an opportunity to look out over Black Rock City, the Playa and the surrounding mountains.

One of the gargoyles I photographed when I reached the top.

Three main roads lead out from Black Rock City to the Man. This one was from Center Camp. Lanterns are hung from the poles at night. The 2012 base was one of the largest.

A close up.

What the structure inside the base of the 2012 Man looked like. No nails were used in putting it together.

A flying saucer provided the base in 2013.

The Man’s head had been altered to have an alien appearance..

The man was fleshed out, so to speak, in 2014. The Temple, lit up by the sun, can be seen through the Man’s legs. Each year, Center Camp, the Man and the Temple are lined up.

Part of Burning Man’s appeal is the magnificent mountains of the Black Rock Desert that surround the event.

I liked this shot of the 2014 Man’s face lit up by the sun.

The 2015 Man was perched on top of a maze covered with side-show circus posters reflecting the year’s theme.

And now we come to the 2015 Man being prepped for Burn Night. It’s Saturday. The art work has been removed and the firewood piled high. Entrance into the area has been closed off.

On burn night almost everyone in Black Rock City gathers around the Man. The Man on top of its flying saucer base in 2013 is looking even more ET-like. Lighting has been added to help create the effect.

Fireworks and arms raised means the Man is about to burn!

The 2014 Man goes up in flames. (Photo by Don Green.)

This shot of the base of the 2012 Man captured the intensity of the fire well. You can almost feel the heat!

The Man is standing on his ‘last legs’ here. He and his flying saucer teeter on the edge of falling into the fire.

Burners celebrate as the Man falls. Mutant vehicles provide prime seating for the event.

The morning after: Burners use glowing embers from the night’s Burn to roast a lamb. Life goes on. The Man will rise again the next year.

This completes my series on Burning Man for now. I may do a couple more posts before I head off to Black Rock City again on August 26. In September and October I’ll post the results of my 2017 adventure!

NEXT POSTS:

Big Sur with its iconic bridges, beautiful coastline, and a bit of history.

I encounter a 70s terrorist group in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

A new series: The fascinating, ancient rock art of the Western United States.

 

So, You Want to Become a Billionaire… Maybe You Should Go to Burning Man

Burning Man appeals to a wide range of ages and these young women with their floppy ears are on the lower end of the spectrum. Children are rare at the event. Only 1.3% of participants are under 20.

 

I’ve been perusing the 2016 Burning Man census. The organization makes a serious effort to know who comes to Black Rock City each year and I am always curious about the results. Today I will share some of the data. It may surprise you. I will also post photos that Don Green and I took of Burners who attended the 2015 event. (I didn’t make it last year.) In addition to providing a small sample of participants, the pictures demonstrate another aspect of Burning Man’s creativity: costumes.

Costumes are an important part of individual creativity at Burning Man. Captain Jack, for example, looked a lot like Johnny Depp. Maybe he was. Hollywood has discovered Burning Man. (Photo by Don Green.)

Before starting, however, I want to summarize a news story that NBC ran in February. It’s relevant.

In 2001 Google was searching for a new CEO. While Larry Page and Sergey Brin had taken Google to dizzying heights in five years, its board had decided that the 20-something entrepreneurs needed an older, more steady hand around to help run the ever-growing company. A massive search had been undertaken using a variety of metrics ranging from education, to experience, to the ability to crack MENSA-like brain tests— all to no avail. As Brin would tell the press, “Larry and I managed to alienate fifty of the top executives in Silicon Valley.”

There were mountains of talent available in the Valley, but Google needed a special mix that could bring an element of discipline to the company without reigning in the genius and unique approach to work that are the secrets to its success.

My son-in-law, Clay, works for Google in Charlotte, North Carolina and I’ve been to his office. The visit provided an insight into how Google works. All employees, regardless of position, share a common space where both individual contribution and group participation are encouraged and inspired. Creative ideas and problems are thrown into the hopper and anyone with suggestions from throughout the Google world is invited to participate, from the newest employee up to Larry and Sergey. There is a constant flow of action and reaction. It seems like a recipe for chaos; instead, it has proven to be a key to the company’s ongoing success.

When Clay returned to his office after a trip he had made just before Christmas, he found that every object on his desk, including his computer screen, had been wrapped in Christmas paper. It’s the type of hijinks you can expect at Google, where play is taken seriously.

The challenge that Larry and Sergey faced was finding someone who fit in. They decided that desperate measures were necessary to finalize their decision. When they discovered that one of their top candidates, Eric Schmidt, a Berkeley PhD computer scientist from Sun Microsystems had been to Burning Man, they modified their rankings to bring him back in for another interview. Here’s the thing: Brin and Page loved the creative, communal chaos of the event. Their office building in Silicon Valley was filled with photos of employees who had been to Black Rock City and were decked out in Burner costumes doing Burner things, like twirling fire. Each year, Google provided a free shuttle from the Bay Area to its participants who wanted to go. Google’s first Google Doodle was a stick figure of the Man, the symbol for Burning Man.

Page and Brin were a mere two years away from leaving their Stanford dorm room and founding Google when they headed off to the Nevada desert for their first trip to Burning Man in 1998. To let people know that they were out of the office and had gone to the event, they put the stick figure of the Man behind the company’s name, thus creating their first Google Doodle.

They liked what Schmidt had to say and decided to give him the acid test: they would take him to Burning Man with them and see how he reacted. How would he handle the heat, the noise, the dust, and the 24/7 activity? Would he fit in and become part of the team? Would he go with the flow and contribute? Or would he withdraw into himself? The rest, as they say, is history. Eric passed the test and became CEO of Goggle. The company at the time was worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $100 million. In 2011, when Larry resumed his role as CEO, the company was worth around $40 billion.  Today, Larry and Sergey are listed among the world’s richest people. And Schmidt? He, too, has become a billionaire. Not bad for a group of Burners.

So, what about the rest of us, the ones who don’t qualify as the one percent of one percenters.

The majority of folks who attend Burning Man aren’t exactly poor. In 2016, the average income for all participants was $60,000. 29.5% had an income of between $50,000 and $100,000 while 24% made between $100,000 and $300,000. 3.4% made over $300,000, up from 2.3% in 2013. The education level and age of Burners reflects the income. 74% had a bachelor’s degree or higher. The median age was 34. Only 1.3% of Burners were under 20 while 32% were over 39.

 

It isn’t unusual at all to find people in their 50s and 60s, and even 70s, attending Burning Man. (Photo by Don Green.)

This fellow had been around long enough to grow a fine set of horns.

39% of the participants in 2016 were virgin Burners, first timers. Only 13% have been more than 8 times, which, at 10 times, happens to be the category I fit in. Not sure what that makes me. Maybe my synapses are covered in Playa dust; I wouldn’t be surprised. I’ve certainly had enough up my nose and in my eyes and ears.

Men outnumber women by 56.8% to 41.4%, leaving a couple of percentage points for ‘other.’ I was amused that the census listed its gender figures under current gender— like it might change at any moment. Ethnicity-wise, close to 80% are white. 20% 0f Burners come from countries other than the US. Within the US, 48.5% of the participants came from California, which isn’t particularly surprising given its proximity and population size. It is a bit more curious that the number two state was New York with over 8%, given that New York City is some 2700 miles from Black Rock City via Interstate 80.

Men outnumber women but it isn’t really obvious at Burning Man. This Burner’s costume was his tattoos.

I discovered this woman with her smile writing at the Center Camp Cafe, an activity that I like to pursue. It is fun to sit there and watch the world flow by while making an occasional note.

This man intrigued me. Although my photo wasn’t as clear as I like, I couldn’t resist including him with my galley of Burners.

My sense is that the diversity of people attending Burning Man has been increasing, but it has been a slow process. (Photo by Don Green.)

The most interesting figures to me are those that relate why people decide to run off to the desert and play in the dirt for a week. Participants were asked to check the reason or reasons they came to Burning Man from a prepared list. I was pleased to see that my reason— wanting to see and experience the art—was marked by 62.5% of the participants, the highest percentage received. Next up was to be with friends or to share an experience with like-minded people. 44% said they wanted to experience freedom and play. Considering you can wander wherever and do whatever— assuming you aren’t doing any harm to another person or the environment— that’s a lot of freedom! Go ahead and parade around naked if that has been your deepest desire forever. You’ll have company. 28% wanted to escape the world for a week. (That number may go up significantly this year.) Contrary to what many people think about Burning Man, only 3.7% said they came to consume intoxicants. But then, would you claim that if it were your reason? 21.6 % mentioned spirituality among their reasons for attending. I discussed the spiritual factor in my post on Burning Man’s temples. While only 6.1% of Burners marked that they belonged to a specific religion, 46.5% in 2016 claimed they were spiritual.

Enjoying and appreciating art is a major reason why people go to Burning Man. Creating art is another reason. This man was standing next to a dragon sculpture he had made out of recycled and repurposed materials.

People also come to watch and participate in performance art. Hula Hoops have always been popular at the event, as is fire twirling.

The opportunity to share the Burning Man experience with friends is one of the top reasons people give for going to the event. (Photo by Don Green.)

Couples are common.

These folks were just down from where we camped and were busily giving away oranges. They told me that they had a large orange tree in their back yard in Southern California that they harvested each year just before coming to Burning Man.

This skinny pair was glad to pose for both Don and me.

Over 20% of Burners listed that they attended Burning Man seeking a spiritual experience. A visit to the Temple at any time of the day or night confirms this.

Enough on figures! If you’ve managed to make it this far, congratulations. On the other hand, if you want to learn more, check out the 2016 Burning Man Census data here. My thanks to the Burning Man volunteers who worked so hard to gather and analyze this data.

A few more photos of the people of Burning Man.

Costumes are important, and expected at Burning Man. Some photographers will go to any extreme to get pictures. Wait, is that a whip?!

One of my favorites. This man works for Burning Man’s Department of Public Works and helps build the city.

Dapper.

Cute smile.

Green feather.

And how could you resist this smile? He gave me a CD from his band.

NEXT BLOG: Back to Pt. Lobos on the Central California Coast.

 

 

This Place Called Black Rock City… Burning Man

Imagine, if you will, having enough port-a-potties to accommodate 70,000 people. It’s one of many issues Burning Man has to deal with in planning Black Rock City.

 

I always like to include a post on Black Rock City when I am blogging about Burning Man to give readers a view of how everything fits together. Obviously, you can’t throw up a city for 70,000 people in the desert without some serious planning. Think of it this way: For the one week of its existence, Black Rock City is the third largest city in Nevada— only Las Vegas and Reno are larger.

It all starts with locating where the Man will be placed out in the Black Rock Desert a few miles east of the small, northern Nevada town of Gerlach. A ceremonial spike is driven into the ground to mark the placement.  Everything else including the Temple, Center Camp, the surrounding fence and Black Rock City evolve from there. Official Burning Man structures and major camps are built before the event. Sort of. It is not unusual to arrive on Sunday with work still being done on the Man, the Temple, Center Camp, etc.

Black Rock City is laid out in a semi-circle as shown on the 2016 map below. The circular roads are given names based on the annual theme and are in alphabetical order. For example, the 2016 theme was Da Vinci’s Workshop. The road names were Arno, Botticelli, Cosimo, Donatello, Effigiare (Italian: to portray), Florin, Guild, High Renaissance, Italic, Justice, Knowledge, and Lorenzo. The main road that separates Black Rock City from the Playa is always the Esplanade. Roads that cut across the circular roads are numbered clockwise and lead out to the Man.

The large circle on the bottom is Center Camp, the middle circle the Man, and the upper circle the Temple. Both the Man and the Temple are located on the Playa, which continues out to the fence. Shaded areas are for assigned, organized camps; non-shaded areas for everyone else. Space in the non-shaded areas is on a first come, first serve basis and you can have as much as you need for your camp, assuming you come in early— there seems like a lot of space in the beginning. By the end of the week, everything is packed! The total area encompassed within the fence including Black Rock City and the Playa is approximately seven square miles.

The official Burning Man map of Black Rock City for 2016.

The following photos provide a glimpse into what it is like to live in Black Rock City.

If you come in early on Sunday, you feel like you have a lot of space. We always mark out our site with rope and reflectors.

Things fill up rapidly as the week progresses. Quivera, our van, marks one end of our camp. Our goal is to be somewhere between 5:00 and 6:00 on H or I.

By Friday, there is no room left. If you haven’t clearly marked your area, you will have guests!

If things feel too crowded, you can always bike out onto the Playa where the Man, the Temple and many of the major art pieces are located.

If things are still too crowded, you can head out farther…

And farther…

And farther. By now you are out in what is known as the Deep Playa.

This is where you come to the fence that limits further exploration of the desert. Actually, during a dust storm when visibility is close to zero, it is good to have the fence available to keep you from wandering off. There is a vast amount of space to get lost in.

Burning Man is serious about Burners staying inside the fence. Part of this is for safety and part of it is to keep people from sneaking in for free. When I crossed the fence for a photo-op, a BM truck came speeding over to where I was.

A substantial infrastructure is required to operate the event. These lifts are located in the Public Works Department lot.

Safety is always a concern. Burning Man has its own safety officers know as the Black Rock Rangers. Of course there are also numerous local, state, and federal law officers present. There is also an extensive emergency medical operation.

Lamps are lit at night to help Burners find their way. The lamp lighters are volunteers who have their own camp.

Providing ice for Burners to keep their food (and beer) cold is also a major operation run by volunteers. A recruitment poster urges Burners to sign up. Ice is one of the very few things you can purchase in Black Rock City.

The tongue in cheek sign at the top of the post refers to the numerous banks of port-a-potties found throughout Black Rock City and out on the Playa. An army of trucks is constantly servicing the outhouses. (Photo by Don Green.)

I found this in one of the toilets.  I imagine that this sign had some city folks checking. (grin)

Sand spiders are more dangerous.

Heat, wind, and dust storms are a part of life at Burning Man. It can also rain.

This photo was taken a few minutes after the above photo. The storm has arrived!

While it is important to be prepared for the heat and dust storms, there is also great beauty and good weather at Burning Man.

Looking out from our camp at the sunset.

And a rainbow.

If things get too rough out in the desert, you can always stop and have a beer.

Next Blog:  Some really cute seals and the beautiful Pt. Lobos nature reserve near Carmel.

Theme Camps and the Tribes of Burning Man… The Burning Man Series

The 2015 Art Theme at Burning Man was “Carnival of Mirrors.” The Kostume Kult Tribe out of New York responded by building this camp on the Esplanade, Black Rock City’s main street. Here’s how the tribe describes itself: “The  Kostume Kult  arts collective is a volunteer-led, non-profit community organization supporting interactive arts, costuming, street theater and absurdist fun while bringing wonderful people together.”

 

Tribes and theme camps are an essential part of part of Burning Man. Tribes are basically a group of people who decide to hang out and camp together. They can come together through friendship, a common interest, or geographical location. Some number in the hundreds and have a sophisticated structure with year around planning. Others consist of a few people who more or less show up and camp together with minimal arrangements. My tribe, the Horse-Bone Tribe, resembles the latter. The increasing difficulty of obtaining tickets and the spiraling cost of attending has played havoc with smaller tribes, including ours. I may be the tribe this year. It’s a good thing I have multiple personalities. Bone will keep me company.

The larger the tribe, the more elaborate the camp. And some can be quite impressive, as today’s photos show. They help create Burning Man’s unique atmosphere. Many larger tribes also support mutant vehicles and all participate in Burning Man’s gifting society by offering some type of free service including entertainment, classes, alcohol, food, costumes, bike repair, etc. The list goes on.

Each year, Burning Man has an art theme. This year’s is Radical Ritual. According to Burning Man: “In 2017, we will invite participants to create interactive rites, ritual processions, elaborate images, shrines, icons, temples, and visions.” That’s a lot of room for creativity, and mischief. My camera will be busy. Both artists and tribes use the theme for inspiration, although it is not required. The photo of the Kostume Kult Tribes camp at the top of this post is an example.

Following are a few examples taken from different years of major camps built in Black Rock City by tribes to reflect the year’s theme or the tribe’s particular vision.

Searching for massage, raw food, ambient trance, native wisdom or numerous other paths to spiritual enlightenment, the Sacred Spaces Village offers it all— plus a really gorgeous structure.

Looking up from inside the Sacred Spaces Village.

The folks from Silicon Valley have been creating a village at Burning Man for many years. Don’t be surprised to find the billionaire founders of such companies as Google hanging out here. The camp is large enough that it needs its own map. Smaller groups within the overall village sponsor the different areas and provide different opportunities for Burners. For example, if you want to sample various types of sauerkraut, you could check in at Pickle Me Elmo.

A number of the larger camps at Burning Man are music venues. One of these is Ooligan Alley with its 747 cockpit serving as the DJ booth. The sound equipment for this camp alone is worth several hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Celtic Chaos is another major music venue. I was amused to read that its motto is “Bringing a little more mayhem to the universe.”

The French Quarter at Burning Man brought to Black Rock City by Burners from New Orleans has always been one of my favorite camps. Great coffee and pastries can be found here, along with New Orleans Jazz.

Burners from Kentucky sponsored the KFC camp which featured fried baloney on white bread and a shot of bourbon. I stopped by for breakfast and the Colonel waved at me.

The Alternative Energy Village is the place to go if you want to learn more about alternative energy or even live off the grid. No generators are allowed in the camp.

This ‘Firehouse’ was created by the Do More Now tribe out of Seattle. Its objective is “empowering participants to challenge themselves by coming together to create innovative and playful spaces that enable and encourage the creation of art, performance and community activities. In other words – we create possibility!” It is a goal that could be applied to many of the camps at Burning Man.

I’ll conclude with this rather dreamy creation, which I have always found appealing because of its focus on white and its use of balloons. Also, check out the white mutant vehicle on the right. Unfortunately, I don’t know which tribe sponsored this camp.

NEXT BLOGS:

I’ll be taking a blog break to wander the Central Coast of California for the next couple of weeks. See you back here afterwards!

From the Sublime to the Weird… Burning Man Murals and Paintings

T-Rex looking for dinner at Burning Man back when the playa was an ocean.

As you might expect, mural art and paintings at Burning Man reflect the event. Much of the art has a mystic feel about it with both Eastern and Western influences. Surrealism also seems to have found a home at Burning Man. Then there is the fun— bordering on strange— art that always appeals to my sense of weird. Following are examples of what I see as I ride my bike or walk around Black Rock City and out in the Playa.

I am going to start with what I call Chakra art that takes its inspiration from Eastern mysticism. A Chakra, simply put, represents seven levels of awareness or spiritual power in the human body that work their way up your spine starting with basic urges and ending with higher consciousness. Meditation is the primary tool that mystics use to reach the higher levels.

Chakra art doesn’t get much clearer than this. Beyond the primary chakra points are a multitude of secondary points. This fellow also comes with an aura.

Maybe you can even get high enough to earn a halo. This one features several languages.

An eagle and a buzzard have arrived here.

This mural portrays a woman meditating. Off to the left is a chakra.

Mandalas are aids in meditation. I feel like this one could take me into infinity.

Of course there is much more to eastern mysticism and myths than meditation and chakras. Traveling farther east to China, we have this magnificent dragon.

What I call Nature art focuses on our deep connection with all life on earth and has a more Western/shamanistic feel to it that is more reflective of what we find in Native American, First Nation, and South American native traditions, as well as other animistic cultures throughout the world.

A shaman sits in a meditative pose while jaguars peer out of the jungle and a snake circles his body. I was amused to see that he is wearing a watch.

This painting also makes me think Shaman.

I am fascinated with the art at Burning Man that combines people and the natural world.

Another example.

How about this for a hair do?

This woman is morphing into an owl, or vis-versa.

Bird eyes.

A touch of green.

The tree of life and death with the left side representing nature and the right side our industrial civilization (sort of like a page out of Dante’s Inferno).

Surrealism is, well, Daliesque.

Mr. Surreal, himself.

A surreal landscape featuring Burning Man founders, I believe, along with several Burning Man icons such as El Pulpo Mechanico looming in the background.

A surreal dragonfly.

And a sort of surreal painting featuring lips, a red candelabra, light fixtures and speakers as UFOs, and apparently people worshipping all of the above.

I will conclude with several paintings/murals that fit my description of fun, funky, and possibly weird.

This mural should easily qualify as weird.

As does this painting of ‘children’ playing.

Peggy stands next to a giant rabbit. One of the events at Burning Man includes a thousand or more people dressing up like rabbits and parading around Black Rock City.

How about ostriches with people heads?

One year Burning Man had a circus theme that led to the creation of all kinds of strange circus art.

My favorite from the circus art.

The fish were fun, especially the one on the right with the teeth.

This was strange…

As was this beetle.

I’ll conclude with another favorite of mine: a 3-D Bossy.

NEXT BLOGS:

Monday: It’s back to the Oregon coast to visit a cave filled with sea lions, plus another lighthouse.

Wednesday: Bone is found and a rattlesnake threatens to bite me on the butt.

Friday: Burners and their costumes at Burning Man.

 

A Church Trap, a Temple for Timothy Leary’s Ashes, and other Unique Burning Man Buildings

The Church Trap was amusing, and possibly a wee bit scary. Scrolls of music are emerging from the windows, roof and steeple.

 

Did you ever try to catch birds as a kid using a box held up by a stick? Being a curious little boy with dreams of being a mountain man, I did. I baited the trap with birdseed stolen from Budgie, our parakeet, and tied a long string to the stick. When some innocent sparrows followed the trail of seeds into the trap, I yanked on the string and the box fell down, capturing the birds. After announcing my great accomplishment to the world, or at least my mother, I let them go— a bit beat up but wiser.

I had totally forgotten the experience until I discovered the Church Trap at Burning Man in 2013. It was set up the same way. A full-sized church had been raised up on one end with a 4×4 stick ‘holding’ it up. A rope was attached to the stick. Scrolls of paper with religious songs printed on them had been attached to an organ within the church. They poked out the windows, roof and steeple, symbolic of music (bait) emerging from the church to attract people passing by.

The church was solidly set in the ground. It was not about to be pulled down. Had it, however, a lot of burners would have been caught. People stopped by for weddings, to play the organ, and to give sermons from the pulpit.

The Church Trap was one of many unique buildings built on the Playa in 2013 to entertain and engage participants. The next year I found myself checking out the Temple of Confession where Susan Sarandon had placed ashes of LSD guru Timothy Leary. I am featuring the temple in my photo essay today along with several other buildings that have captured my interest and/or amused me.

The Temple of Confession was covered in photographs…

They were very creative, but strange, including this three-breasted woman with a dress of skulls.

The Temple of Confession at night.

This rather impressive goat, along with a confessional, a photo of Timothy Leary, and a portion of ashes from his cremation were found inside.

Eyes like this one that included peepholes were also found in the temple. Naturally, I had to look.

This is what I saw. It spoke to the incredible detail, and surprises, built into so much Burning Man art.

This is the Temple of Photos produced for an earlier Burning Man. Both of the temples were burned.

The Prairie Wind Chapel came with a windmill. Like the Church Trap, it had an organ and hosted weddings for people who wanted to get married at Burning Man.

I was attracted to the Mazu Temple because of its dragons and other mythical creatures. Its large lotus was also rather spectacular. A group from Taiwan brought this temple to Burning Man. It was also burned.

A close up of one of the dragons. The lanterns were lit at night and the dragon breathed fire.

This multi-eyed demon was on one of the side pillars of the Mazu Temple.

And how about a real movie theater out in the deep playa. You could even attend movies there and get popcorn, but I think show time started around 1:00 a.m.

Occasionally, several buildings are included together. Wall Street was built at Burning Man right about the time America was suffering the severe economic crisis that had been brought on by corporate and individual greed.

Here’s the Wall Street Bull backed up by the Bank of UnAmerica. 

A graffiti artist urges people to dream on Wall Street’s main building. I am sure, by now, that you realize that the whole complex was doomed to go up in flames.

Speaking of dreams, the Life Cube Project at Burning Man encouraged people to write their dreams and goals on a sheet of paper and insert them into a slot in the building, with the idea that your dreams and goals are a step closer to realization if you commit them to writing.

The back of the Life Cube building was decorated with art.

I’ll use this close-up to conclude today’s post. Do you have a favorite among the buildings I featured today?

NEXT BLOGS:

Monday: I’ll finish up my look at Bandon, Oregon with a trip that Peggy and I made out to the Coquille Lighthouse.

Wednesday: Part II of the backpacking trip that led to Bone’s discovery. Remember, it features a raging river and kamikaze mosquitoes.

Friday: The murals of Burning Man and other paintings that may have you scratching your head.

The Beautiful Temples of Black Rock City… A Burning Man Experience

This is the Temple of Promise from Burning Man 2015, a simple and beautiful structure designed to capture the early morning sun.

 

Census figures from Burning Man show that 71% of the participants claim to have no formal religious affiliation. Given this, it might seem strange that a temple is one of the major structures built in Black Rock City each year. But there is another factor at work here; over 50% of Burners claim that they are spiritual. While they may not adhere to any particular religious doctrine, they believe that they are part of a whole that is beyond any individual’s existence. Or, at least, that’s how I interpret being spiritual. It’s how I feel.

Whatever Burners believe, there is no doubt that visiting the temple can be a spiritual experience. In addition to being a place of beauty, as I hope the photos in this post show, the Temple is a place where 10,000’s of messages are left honoring loved ones who have passed on, asking forgiveness and expressing thanks. At the end of the week, the Temple is burned and the messages drift off into the air or, the Heavens if you prefer, giving a sense of peace to those who have left them.

Part of a larger structure, this temple was built in 2007 and was known as the Temple of Forgiveness.

This was the 2008 Temple. (Photo by Ken Lake.)

The curving wood on top of the Fire of Fires Temple reflected flames shooting into the sky. Note the intricate detail on the side panels.

A close up.

The Fire of Fires Temple at night. (Photo by Don Green.)

The Temple of Flux represented the constant change we experience in life. It can be seen as waves or as sand dunes. This photo was taken from the Man. The Center Camp Cafe, the Man, and the Temple are always in a direct line. The buildings on the other side represented a city.

Tom likes to get up early in the morning for his photography. He captured this photo of the Temple of Juno at sunrise. (Photo by Tom Lovering.)

Here’s another. (Photo by Tom Lovering.)

A later photo by me showing detail of the Temple of Juno.

The Temple of Whollyness resembled a Pyramid.

This large stone structure was inside the Temple of Whollyness.

The Temple of Grace was built for the 2014 Burning Man.

I liked this shot I caught of its spire under butter milk skies.

The Temple of Grace at night. (Photo by Don Green.)

Another photo of the Temple of Promise. I had taken Tom’s advice and rolled out early to capture these photos.

As the sun came up, Burners grabbed each other’s hands and formed a large circle around the Temple. The act was totally spontaneous.

A black and white I created.

Inside the Temple.

As I mentioned, thousands of messages are placed on the walls. By Saturday, there is little room to write on left within reach.

I found this message left behind honoring Uno Hogan quite touching. I think you will as well. It is quite typical of messages found in the temple.

And this message humorous but sincerely meant!

The Temples are always burned on Sunday night, the last night at Burning Man, in a solemn and moving ceremony with the thousands of messages sent skyward. This is the Temple of Juno.

A note on the photographers: All photos that I include in the Burning Man blogs are taken by Peggy, me, or members of the Horse Bone Tribe— all close friends who have traveled and adventured with us down through the years.

NEXT BLOGS:

Monday: Back to Bandon on the coast of Oregon.

Wednesday: I begin my story of how Bone was found.

Friday: I continue my exploration of the unique and beautiful structures at Burning Man.

 

A Texas Bull Comes Out of the Ground; A Canadian Goose Is Created with 120,000 Pennies… The Art of Burning Man

There are regional groups of Burners around the US and around the world. One year, Burning Man requested that regional groups come up with art projects. Texas produced this magnificent bull.

 

As I’ve noted before, my primary reason for going to Burning Man is the art. The creativity involved goes on and on and can, at times, be mind-boggling. Over the past couple of months, I’ve provided examples, looking first at mutant vehicles and then at large-scale sculptures. Today, I am going to wrap up my posts on sculptures. Next week, I’ll introduce some very unique buildings that seemingly spring up overnight in the Black Rock Desert only to be disassembled or burned down a week later.

The same year that Texas produced the bull, the Northern California regional group produced this lighthouse.

A close up of the stained glass top.

There are dragons at Burning Man! Always. This guy’s tail needed propping up.

I thought this dragon looked friendly…

And this fellow scary. You may remember the quote, “meaner than a junk yard dog.” Well this was a junk yard dragon, made out of 100% pure junk. And check out that shadow!

A closer look at the skin on the dragon’s back. I thought the dog was a fun addition.

Meet Penny, the Canadian Goose. Over 100,000 pennies cover her body.

Is this a small woman or a big chair? It is definitely an Alice in Wonderland kind of thing. (Photo by Horse Bone Tribe member Don Green.)

“I shot an arrow into the air. It fell to earth I know not where.” –Longfellow

I really liked this illusion of cubes climbing into the sky. (Photo by Don Green.)

Tom Lovering caught this beautiful photo of a lotus with the sun behind it.

Large letter messages such as DREAM can be found at Burning Man almost every year.

This sculpture served as a gateway between the Center Camp Cafe and the Playa. A large dust storm stretches across the Playa and will soon invade Black Rock City, possibly causing a white out.

One expects to find ocean creatures scattered around Burning Man. A fence surrounding this octopus included hand cranks you could turn to move the tentacles. Much Burning Man art is designed to be interactive.

It isn’t unusual to find art that focuses on the Man, such as these hands…

And these circles.

A side view of the circles provided a different perspective.

I’ve always liked the grace of this simple sculpture.

The same sculpture from the back. Check out the stick sculpture under the wing.

A closer look. Imagine putting this together.

This prehistoric bird is another example of interactive art. Peggy climbed into its chest and worked pedals that made the wings flap. Slowly.

A large butterfly encouraged climbing!

This wood carving made me think I had arrived at Easter Island. I decided it would look good in black and white.

Lets get down and boogie!

A gypsy wagon is pulled by a rather unique horse.

I’ll close today with these colorful geometric structures.

NEXT BLOGS:

Monday: Bandon… I’ll continue my series on the beautiful Oregon coast.

Wednesday: The interview with Bone. You won’t want to miss it!

Friday: The buildings of Burning Man, including some stunning temples.

The Journeys of Bone… Forty Years of Wandering the World

Bone has been wandering the world for 40 years. Given his nature, it is only natural that he would end up at Burning Man. He and a butterfly are perched on “Horse with No Name,” preparing to ride off into the desert.

 

Have you met Bone? He’s been hanging around here for 7 years and traveling the world for 40. Once upon a time, and it seems like a long time ago, this blog was even titled the Peripatetic Bone. There’s a story here, of course. In January of 2010, I had attended the San Francisco Writers’ Conference. Part of the event had involved ‘speed dating’ with agents.  I had carried Bone with me to San Francisco and introduced him to three of the agents, suggesting that I wanted to write a book titled “Travels with Bone.” They had been a bit surprised to meet Bone, but had been intrigued by the concept. Each had suggested that I go home and write up a proposal.

 I had also learned at the conference that I needed an Internet presence and would be expected to market any book I succeeded in publishing. I dutifully went home and created a blog for Bone on Word Press. Somewhere in the process, I decided that my first book should be on my Peace Corps experience. So, I wrote and published, “The Bush Devil Ate Sam.” I also changed the name of my blog to “Wandering through Time and Place.”

 I decided it would be fun to reintroduce Bone and do a five-part mini-series on his adventures. Today, I am going to summarize his travels. Next week I will do an interview with Bone. Then I will follow up with three posts on how he was found.

 

Bone has traveled twice to the base of Mt. Everest.

 

Part I: The History of Bone

Sometime in 1900s Bone started his life as part of horse wandering through the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The horse was allegedly eaten by a bear. Bone ended up in a high mountain meadow practicing Zen and being nibbled on by a miscreant rodent.

1977: He was ‘discovered’ by two lost backpackers (Curt Mekemson and Tom Lovering) on the Tahoe Yosemite Trail above Lake Tahoe and launched his career of wandering the world.

1980-81: Bone commenced his first World Tour with Tom.  He visited Asia including Japan, Hong Kong, Bombay, Delhi and Katmandu where he trekked to the base of Mt. Everest. He then wandered on to spend spring and summer in Europe stopping off in Greece, Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, Austria, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Germany, Belgium, England and Ireland. Getting cold, Bone headed south and hitched ride in back of truck through Algeria, Niger, Chad, Nigeria, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Zaire, Sudan, Kenya (where he crossed Equator), Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa. He signed on with Tom as crew of sailboat in Cape Town and headed north to Mallorca, stopping off on the islands of St. Helena, Ascension, Cape Verde and Madeira. Back in Europe he explored his possible Viking roots in Sweden, Norway and Finland.

Bone ends up in Tom’s hair (don’t ask) on a 2010 trip down the Colorado River.

1983-86: Bone assumed Cheechako status and moved to Alaska with Curt where he was stalked by a grizzly bear on the Kenai Peninsula, explored Prince William Sound by kayak, learned to winter camp in 30 degree below zero weather while listening to wolves howl, backpacked in the Brooks Range north of the Arctic Circle, and discussed the finer points of eating salmon with Great Brown Bears in Katmai National Park. He escaped briefly to the warmer climate of Hawaii and participated in New Orleans Mardi Gras.

1986: He backpacked the Western US for five months with Curt exploring the Grand Canyon, the Gila Wilderness of New Mexico, the Rockies, and the Wind River Mountains of Wyoming before returning to his beloved Sierras.

1989: Bone went on a six month 10,000-mile solo bike tour with Curt around North America visiting 18 states and 4 Canadian provinces. He ended his journey by meeting Peggy.

1990: The International Society of the BONE was formed at Senior Frogs in Mazatlan, Mexico, where Bone spent the afternoon being pickled in a pitcher of margaritas and being kissed by lovely senoritas.

1991-97: Various members of International Society accompanied Bone on numerous adventures. Highlights included a White House Press Conference with Bill Clinton, being blessed by the Pope in St. Peter’s Square, visiting with Michelangelo’s David, going deep-sea diving in South Pacific and Caribbean, doing a Jane Austin tour of England, and exploring the Yucatan Peninsula. A group adopted him as a good luck charm and took him back to visit the base of Mt. Everest one year and to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro another.

Bone loves high places. Here he is on top of Mt. Kilimanjaro in East Africa. (He’s with MJ, fourth from right, standing.)

Bone went diving in the Pacific in 1997 with Jose and Barbara Kirchner, visiting a Japanese ship sunk during World War II and receiving his diving certificate.

1998-99: Bone embarked on 40,000-mile journey in the van, Xanadu, through the US, Canada and Mexico with Peggy and Curt, visiting over 30 National Parks, driving the Alaska and Baja Highways, checking out Smokey the Bear’s and Calamity Jane’s graves, kayaking in the Sea of Cortez, leaf peeping in Vermont, jetting to the Bahamas, pursuing flying saucers in Roswell, New Mexico, and completing his visits to all 50 states, etc. etc. etc.

2000-02: Bone journeys up the Amazon, returns to Europe, cruises to Belize, Cancun and the Cayman’s, and goes to New Zealand where a misguided customs agent tries to arrest and jail him as animal matter.

While in the Amazon, Bone slept in the same room that Jimmy Carter had slept in.

2003: Bone undertakes a 360-mile backpack trip in celebration of his discovery and Curt’s 60th birthday. They begin at Squaw Valley near Lake Tahoe and end by climbing Mt. Whitney. Various friends join them along the way.

2004: Bone visits Hemingway’s grave in Idaho, goes horseback riding with Australians and Bahamians in Montana, and makes his first pilgrimage to Burning Man in Nevada, a very Bone like type of place. He also jets off to Costa Rica.

Bone has a love for anything ancient. Here, he perches on a Mayan sculpture in Costa Rica.

2005-2007: Bone returns to Burning Man twice and revisits Europe twice including special stopovers in Portugal, France, Holland, Germany, and Belgium. He also revisits Mexico.

2008 – 2011: Bone commences another exploration of North America. This time he travels in the van, Quivera, along with Curt, Peggy, and Eeyore the Jackass. His journey takes him over 75,000 miles of American Roads. In May of 2010 he begins his travel blog, The Peripatetic Bone, and rafts 280 miles down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon.

2012-2017: Bone goes into semi-retirement in Southern Oregon. Please note the semi, however. He continues the exploration of the West Coast ranging from Big Sur to Vancouver Island, where he kayaks for a week in search of Killer Whales. He wanders through England and Scotland helping Curt find his roots and spends a week traveling by Canal Boat on the Mercer River. Later, he returns to Europe again, traveling through the Mediterranean visiting Turkey, Santorini and other Greek Islands, Dubrovnik, Venice, Rome, Pompeii, Florence, and Barcelona. He returns to Burning Man several times.  On one trip, he is married to the lovely Bonetta, who he met while exploring a swamp in Florida. Rumor has it that it was a shotgun wedding.

Bone and Big Nose Bonetta are married at Burning Man 2013. Bone’s kilt was made for him by an 80-plus year old woman from Kansas. Bonetta is wearing a designer wedding dress with very expensive plastic jewelry to match.

NEXT Wednesday: Bone grants one of his very rare interviews. You won’t want to miss it! (No, Bone doesn’t talk; he just thinks out loud.)

In the Meantime:

Saturday: A return to Burning Man and the last of the sculptures.

Monday: Peggy and I have just been in Bandon on the Oregon Coast. Are you ready for a visual treat?

Ten Major Art Installations from Burning Man’s History

The Big Rig Jig was made up of two oil tanker trucks, taken apart and put back together.

I’ll be journeying to Burning Man alone this year. I obtained my ticket in February. Peggy joined the long queue for tickets on Wednesday, all to no avail. When she was finally moved to the ticket purchase site, the message was that all 30,000 tickets had been sold out. (The other 40,000 tickets are distributed in other ways.) Neither are other members of the Horse Bone Tribe going this year. So, it’s back to me, like it was in 2004, when I went by myself except for my friend Ken Lake. I’ll miss my friends, especially Peggy, but I am okay with going alone. I can easily spend eight days exploring and photographing the art.

Today I am featuring ten of the major art installations I have enjoyed the most over the years. This doesn’t include buildings like the temples, which will have their own posts. Since I missed four years when I was off wandering or had ended up on the wrong end of the Burning Man ticket circus, there are undoubtedly other pieces I would include.  Also, I already included a post on the 40 to 60-foot-tall sculptures of women that are definitely among my favorites.

Another view of the Big Rig Jig. I felt a bit nervous standing underneath it.

Often the major art installations are tied into Burning Man’s Theme for the year. In 2007 the theme was “The Green Man,” which had an environmental emphasis. The Big Rig Jig tied into the impact of oil.

I’ve always considered this intricate white tower beautiful.

A close up of the top.

This massive sailing ship appeared to be sinking into the Playa.

A front view of the sailing ship. I thought that the detail was incredible. The ship was built in Reno.

As is often the case at Burning Man, what was inside the art piece was also fun and interesting. I like the stylish hat.

Dragons are common at Burning Man. This one, protecting its egg, is my favorite.

I don’t think I would be tempted to harm its baby.

Especially at night.

Buck Rogers would have been happy with this rocket ship. Peggy provides perspective.

Medusa with her snaky hair was one of the most unusual sculptures at Burning Man.

Her wiggly hairdo from the back.

And at night.

The inner children of these two estranged adults reach out to each other.

I have always liked this bike sculpture that was located in front of the Center Camp Cafe because of the significance of bikes for transportation at Burning Man.

The top of the heap, so to speak.

This giant couple embraced. The Man looks on from the left.

A close up.

This art was located in the head of one of the sculptures.

At night.  A red, high-heel mutant vehicle is in the foreground. (Photo by Don Green.)

A coyote raises its head to howl. (Photo by Tome Lovering.)

A tail view of the coyote.

I chose the coyote at night for my last photo today. The two bright lights on his head are from headlamps of people climbing the sculpture.

NEXT BLOGS:

Monday: Back to the Oregon coast with a visit to the town of Astoria on the mouth of the Columbia River.

Wednesday: I’ve often mentioned the Horse Bone Tribe and Camp at Burning Man. This is the story of the horse bone, or Bone, as he prefers to be known.

Friday: A continuation of my Burning Man art series with a final look at sculptures.