Burning Man 2013… Three Million Photos Later

The Man and his flying saucer at Burning Man 2013

I’ve had another thought about the flying saucer the Man was perched on for 2013. Maybe it was a huge clam. BTW, do you see the two small feet extending out from each side. Those were slides you could exit the Man on. I clocked myself at 60 MPH after Tom/Adios Lovering guaranteed it was a gentle ride down. Note to self: Never believe anything Tom tells me. But I knew that.

Having burned the Man in my last blog, it is time to wrap up Burning Man for another year. I decided to do so with photos. Enjoy.

Burning Man is located in the remote Black Rock Desert of Northern Nevada.   These roads can be very lonely– except when Burning Man takes place. Local jurisdictions use the Burning man traffic count to justify their highway budgets.

Burning Man is located in the remote Black Rock Desert of Northern Nevada. These roads can be very lonely– except when Burning Man takes place. Local jurisdictions use the Burning Man traffic count to justify their annual highway budgets.

There is nothing lonely about the road when you arrive at the entrance to Burning Man. We lined up with umpteen thousand other people on Monday. The drive from our home in Oregon to Burning Man was eight hours. The last four miles: four hours.

There is nothing lonely about the road when you arrive at the entrance to Burning Man. We lined up with umpteen thousand other people on Monday. The drive from our home in Oregon to Burning Man was eight hours. The last four miles took four hours. Did I mention dust?

Black Rock City, Nevada

A city of 60,000 grows up over night, literally. Black Rock City, for its one week of existence, is the third largest city in Nevada. I suspect the coyotes say, “There goes the neighborhood.” (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

People come to Burning Man for numerous reasons, but one of the most important is the art. It can be monumental such as this 60 foot tall woman, and...

People come to Burning Man for numerous reasons, but one of the most important is the art. It can be monumental such as this 60 foot tall woman (Truth Is Beauty) and…

Seven ton coyote at Burning Man.

…this seven ton coyote. Someone is standing in his mouth with a flashlight. Maybe it’s a dentist. People crawled all over the coyote until a few too many fell off. Equation: Number of beers = odds of falling.

Tail of Coyote at BurningMan 2013

A tail’s-eye view of Coyote during the day. Need a wire brush? One person rests in Coyote’s belly while another climbs up the sculpture.

Oriental art at Burning Man

The art of Burning Man is as different as the artists that create it. We discovered a whole tent full of beautifully rendered paintings with mythical/Eastern themes.

Art collage ar Burning Man 2013

Art is often humorous, such as this collage featuring a puffy cloud with a Cheshire Cat  grin and silverware.

Burning Man art

Admittedly, much is strange.

Art at Burning Man 2013.

And stranger.

Mural at Burning Man 2013.

Every blank wall begs for a mural. And usually gets one– or several.

Metal snake at Burning Man.

This blank floor space demanded a snake.

A photo op of a photo op. Tom needed a photo and somehow decided that Peggy resting on his shoulders was better than me resting on his shoulders. I wonder why?  Anyway, 60,000 people at Burning Man pretty much guarantees 60,000 cameras. Let's assume for the moment that each person takes an average of 100 photos, which is a conservative estimate in today's world of digital cameras.  That means a conservative 6 million photos were taken at Burning Man 2013.

A photo-op of a photo-op. Tom needed a photo and somehow decided that Peggy resting on his shoulders was better than me resting on his shoulders. Anyway, 60,000 people at Burning Man pretty much guarantees 60,000 cameras. Let’s assume that each person takes an average of 50 photos, which is a conservative estimate in today’s world of digital cameras. That means upwards to 3 million photos were taken at Burning Man 2013.

Skull tree at Burning Man by day.

What you see by day…

May appear considerably different at night.

May appear considerably different at night. Are you ready for Halloween?

El Pulpo at Burning Man 2013.

Strange creatures wander the Playa at night. In the streets of New York City, or London, or Tokyo… El Pulpo Mechanico would create a panic. Here its, “Oh look, here comes the octopus.”

Rooster mutant vehicle at Burning Man 2013.

Or maybe a giant rooster will come to visit.

The Toilet Bowling Alley at Burning Man 2013.

If you need a break, there are always games to play. I knocked down nine of the ten pins at the Toilet Bowl. (Next to the Toilet Bowl was a long string of port-a-potties.) 

Decapitation warning sign at Burning Man.

Some games can be injurious to your health. Here’s a Burning Man style caution sign.

Metal man at Burning Man.

“Ouch, I think I’ll keep my head.” (Photo by Tom Lovering.)

You reach a point at Burning Man when your mind goes on overload, when you believe you have see it all.

You reach a point at Burning Man when your mind goes on overload, when you believe you have seen it all.

Church of the Jerk at Burning Man.

And then something happens to blow your mind. A man and his friends built this church to last for the week so he could get married.

Church of the Jerk wedding at Burning Man 2013.

We crashed the wedding. Well, we did ask, sort of.

Burning Man 2013 wedding at Church of the Jerk.

Vows were determined by spinning the wheel.

Later, we attended the wedding of Bone and Bonetta at the church. Bone has been wandering the world for 45 years. He rescued Bonetta from a Florida swamp four years ago. They finally decided to get married.

Later, we attended the wedding of Bone and Bonetta at the church. Bone has been wandering the world for 45 years. He rescued Bonetta from a Florida swamp four years ago. They finally decided to get married. Bone’s kilt was made by Ann Baughman, an 80 plus year old woman who lives in Kansas. Punkin aka Beth Lovering made Bonetta’s gown. Both are members of the International Society of the Bone.

Ken Axon of New York provides Bone with a pep talk just prior to the wedding.

Ken Axen of New York provides Bone with a pep talk just prior to the wedding.

Punkin solemnly recites the wedding vows.

Punkin solemnly recites the wedding vows.

The Cradle of Mir burns at Burning Man 2013.

A final burn. The Cradle of Mir.

Sunset at Black Rock City, Burning Man 2013.

The sun sets on Burning Man 2013.

Until next year. I hope you've enjoyed this series on Burning Man.

Until next year. I hope you’ve enjoyed this series on Burning Man.

NEXT BLOG: I am close to finishing “The Dead Chicken Dance,” my book on the sometimes scary/sometimes humorous adventures I had as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the jungles of West Africa. I’ve posted several blogs on the experience. My next blog will be the introduction to the book.

The Burning of the Man: Part 2… A Flaming Ritual

The burning of the Man is Burning Man's signature event and is surrounded by ritual. (Photo taken by Kenneth Axen, a New Yorker who joined our California/Oregon group this year.)

The burning of the Man is Burning Man’s signature event and is surrounded by ritual. (Photo taken by Kenneth Axen, a New Yorker who joined our California/Oregon group this year.)

Rituals have grown up around the burning of the Man that date back to the day when he was first burned in San Francisco on Baker Beach in 1986. He was probably soaked in kerosene and lit by a match, although I don’t know that. I do know that white gas, which I occasionally use to start campfires with when the wood is wet, has a little too much poof, like BOOM.

The days of lighting the Man with a match have long since passed, however. Now it is much more akin to preparation for the Olympics where eleven Greek women representing Vestal Virgins focus the suns rays using a parabolic mirror to create the fire that is then transferred to the Olympic Torch. The tradition dates all of the way back to classical Greece and Rome, although I doubt virginity is still a requirement.

A parabolic mirror is used to light the flame that will eventually light the Man. (Photo by Tom Lovering.)

A parabolic mirror is used to light the flame that will eventually light the Man. (Photo by Tom Lovering.)

A parabolic mirror is also used to light the fire for Burning Man. The fire is started on Monday and then maintained throughout the week in front of Center Camp until Saturday night. We watched this year as four women wearing white, carrying torches, and perching on stilts led a solemn parade that carried the flame out to the Man.

Parade carrying fire out to burn the Man at Burning Man 2013.

Women dressed in white and walking on stilts, lead the fire parade out to the Man.

Once the parade has arrived, the fire dance starts as hundreds of dancers arrayed around the Man twirl fire in every possible way. Musicians ranging from bongo drummers to marching bands provide the rhythm. Next comes a very impressive fireworks display, and finally, the Man burns. 

The Man at Burning Man raises his arms just prior to the burn.

The Man’s arms are up; let the party begin.

Flying saucer seems to prepare for takeoff at Burning Man 2013.

White flames shooting out and down from the flying saucer provide an illusion that it is about to launch.

Fireworks above the Man on burn night at Burning Man 2013.

Fireworks suddenly light up the sky.

Fireworks at Burning Man 2013

Fireworks at Burning Man 2013

And go on, and on…

The Man Burns at Burning Man 2013.

The legs of the Man are set on fire, which then works its way upward…

The Man burning at Burning Man 2013.

The Man engulfed in intense flames at Burning Man 2103.

Soon, the whole Man is engulfed in bright flames as tens of thousands watch. The flying saucer has started to burn as well.

The flames quickly eat away at the Man and saucer. One year, the man was built on huge timbers that took over an hour to burn through. Not so this year.

The flames quickly eat away at the Man and saucer. One year, the man was built on huge timbers that took over an hour to burn. Not so this year.

The burn of the Man at Burning Man is photographed thousands of times in any given year.

Another photographer shoots the same photo I do.

A few remaining timbers hold up the Man at Burning Man 2013 before he crashes into his fiery grave.

The Man is on his last legs, prepared to crash downward to his fiery death as the 2013 burn draws to a close.

NEXT POST: Burning Man 2013 wrap up.

The Burning of the Man: Part I… Bacchanalian Revelry or Symbolic Gesture

Burners gather to watch the Man burn at Burning Man 2013.

Thousands of Burners gather in the Playa the night the Man is burned in what is both a huge party and a symbolic celebration. Burners arriving early get prime seats in the dirt while volunteers and staff make final preparations for the burn. The Man stands (looking alien) on top of his flying saucer, arms down. Mutant vehicles can be seen in the distance. A string of helium balloons stretches across the sky.

They gather in the tens of thousands, trekking out from their temporary homes in Black Rock City to an event viewed by some as the world’s greatest party and others as a celebration– a final goodbye to the tall, wooden man who serves as a magnet by day and a beacon by night.

Burners arrive on foot, bike, and mutant vehicles, forming concentric circles around the Man: an inner circle of fire dancers, a second circle of sitting and standing Burners who settle in for the show, a third circle that serves as both a promenade and the world’s largest dance floor, and a fourth circle dominated by huge mutant vehicles that throb with music, shoot fire into the air, and provide convenient viewing stands for various theme camps.

The burning of the Man is sometimes described as a Bacchanalian Revelry, and maybe it is. The Roman God Bacchus would have loved the spectacle. And I suspect most Burners would have liked him. Nobody could throw a better party than the God of Wine. But Bacchus had other traits Burners could agree with as well. In his Greek Dionysian persona he was considered a “protector of those who do not belong to conventional society,” a phrase that might describe a significant number of those who make the trek to Black Rock City.  The Romans believed that his wine, music and ecstatic dance freed his followers from fear and cares– and lessened the power of those who sought control over their lives.

Besides the huge party and celebration that take place on Saturday night, there are also ritualistic aspects to the evening. The Burning Man represents the end of the week and the end of his “life.” The Man’s week of dominating Black Rock City is over. Burners go silent just before he tumbles into his fiery grave, the music stops, and the dancers cease their gyrations. A huge shout accompanies his fall. The ashes have hardly cooled and been scooped up off the desert floor when planning starts for next year’s burn. Like the Phoenix, the Man will rise again.

I spend my night of the burn making a full circle of the Man and doing what I do best, wander. I have sat and watched the show of fire dancers but my body has no tolerance for sitting in the dirt for two hours. It never has. Also, I don’t like being hemmed in. And finally, people can be rude. Late-comers occasionally try to force their way to the front. But the primary reason I wander is that I love the show on the outer two circles. The costumes are fantastic, the dancing wild, and the mutant vehicles magnificent. The total walk may be two miles in length and I make an evening of it. I will feature the walk on this blog and the actual burn in the next. The short video below captures some of the action on my walk.

Dressed in a log black coat with a vest, white shirt, and bow tie, I am ready to head out to the burn. My hat displays a week's worth of playa dust. The glow sticks are to make me visible on the dark walk out and back.

Dressed up as Outlaw in a long black coat with a striped vest, white shirt, and bow tie, I am ready to head out to the burn. My hat displays a week’s worth of playa dust. The glow sticks are to make me visible on the dark walk out and back. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Palm tree mutant vehicle at Burning Man 2013.

While I love the costumes and action, the mutant vehicles are the main attraction on my two-hour stroll around the Man. The night of the Burn is the only time you will find them all in the same place. This one has chosen a tropical setting.

Mutant vehicles come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from what I call the squid car...

Mutant vehicles come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from what I call the squid car…

...to the 'ocean liner.'

…to the ‘ocean liner.’

Hanging lanterns at Burning Man 2013.

Color is everywhere, as demonstrated by these hanging lanterns…

Colorful segmented mutant vehicle at Burning Man 2013.

…and on this segmented mutant vehicle.

Duck spouting fire at Burning Man 2013.

Many of the mutant vehicles, such as this duck, shoot fire into the air.

Flames from El Pulpo Mechanico light up the crowd that has gathered to watch the burning of the Man at Burning Man 2013.

The light can be blinding, and hot. I took this shot as El Pulpo Mechanico was shooting flames from his eight legs and head.

Fish sculpture on side of El Pulpo Mechanico at Burning Man 2013.

Speaking of El Pulpo, he featured this fish on his side. The detailed work that goes into creating mutant vehicles can be incredible.

Rubber ducky mutant vehicle at Burning Man 2013.

The big rubber ducky.

The vase I love...

The vase I love…

Mutant vehicle vase at Burning Man 2013.

…that constantly changes colors.

Mutant vehicle train at Burning Man 2013.

A train…

A clothes hangar...

A clothes hanger…

Space Shuttle mutant vehicle at Burning Man 2013.

And the Space Shuttle.

Mutant vehicle features blue lady with flashing eyes at Burning Man 2013.

This blue lady with her flashing eyes caught my attention.

As I did this strange horned creature at Burning Man 2013.

As did this strange horned creature.

Mutant vehicle boom box at Burning Man 2013.

Music was everywhere. This mutant vehicle boom box was booming. BTW, I saw on Craig’s list where it was for sale.

Hot band at Burning Man 2013.

Some mutant vehicles bring their own live bands. A hundred or so Burners were dancing in front of this one. I could barely make my way through the gyrating bodies, so I danced my way through.

Watching the Man burn from a mutant vehicle at Burning Man 2013.

Mutant vehicles provide prime viewing opportunities for the theme camps that build them.

Crow's nest view of the burn at Burning Man 2013.

I thought this crow’s nest on a sailing ship provided the best seats in the house. I was jealous. (grin)

Man outlined by fireworks at Burning Man 2013.

NEXT BLOG: The man’s arms are raised; it’s time for the burn.

The World’s Largest Cockroach… Burning Man 2013

Burners blithely ignore the fact that they are about to be attacked by the world's largest cockroach. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson)

Burners blithely ignore the fact that they are about to be attacked by the world’s largest cockroach. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson)

They grow things big in Texas. Just ask a Texan. But I never thought that the folks from the Lone Star State would fess-up to having the world’s largest cockroaches. Apparently they live in Houston. Regional Burners from the area brought a replica of one to Burning Man. Eventually it was sacrificed to the fire gods, burned up. But, hey, that’s what Burners do, right?

Houston was one of 24 locations from around the US and world that brought art to Burning Man 2013 to represent their regions. The Dutch bought a windmill, for example. Utah had a rock arch. Sacramento featured a riverboat and Reno a wedding chapel. You get the point.

The Netherlands brought a windmill to represent their regional group in Holland.

The Netherlands brought a windmill to represent their regional group in Holland. (Photo by Tom Lovering.)

Burning Man is big on regionalization. Groups are now located in areas ranging from France to Taiwan and Israel to South Africa, as well as all over the US. Their art this year was organized in groupings around the Man and burned simultaneously on Thursday night. It made quite the bonfire.

Texas cockroach at Burning Man 2013.

A front view of the Texas Cockroach. The media center was set up to teach facts about the cockroach, such as they will be around long after humanity has gone the way of the big lizards.

Utah regional art at Burning Man 2013.

Utah chose to represent one of its famous rock arches, the type you find in Arches National Park. It also featured petroglyphs, a subject I have written on in my blogs. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Arches National Park

One thing Utah has a lot of is beautiful rocks. I took this photo at Arches National Park.

Dinosaur National Monument petroglyph.

Nor could I resist posting this petroglyph I found at Dinosaur National Monument given Burning Man’s 2013 focus on aliens. This guy and his dog are about as alien as you get.

Dinosaur national Monument petroglyph.

I may have seen this guy walking by our camp. I am surprised Utah didn’t include him on its arch.

Idaho Marvin, regional art at Burning Man 2013.

Idaho produced this sculpture that they named Marvin. (Photo by Tom Lovering.)

Reno appropriately produced a wedding chapel. My parents got married at a Reno wedding chapel. But did it make me legitimate? Hmm.

Reno appropriately produced a wedding chapel. My parents got married at a Reno wedding chapel. But did it make me legitimate? Hmm. (Photo by Tom Lovering.)

Sacrament brought the Playa Queen, which represented the Delta King, a Sacramento Riverboat that once carried passengers between Sacramento and San Francisco. Before that it had carried rice. It was brought over from France by the grandparents of a friend of mine, Jean Snuggs.

Sacrament brought the Playa Queen, which represented the Delta King, a Sacramento Riverboat that once carried passengers between Sacramento and San Francisco. Before that it had carried rice. It was brought over from France by the grandparents of a friend of mine, Jean Snuggs.

New York regional art at Burning Man 2013

I found New York’s piece, a representation of the iconic top of the Chrysler Building to be particularly graceful.

New Orleans regional art at Burning Man 2013.

There was something fishy about New Orleans.

Lithuania art at Burning Man 2013.

Peggy and I were particularly interested in Lithuania’s regional work, which featured birds. While we were at Burning Man, Peggy’s sister, brother and cousin were visiting with relatives in the country. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Burning of Lithuania's regional art at Burning Man 2013.

Our connection with Lithuania’s art brought us back to watch it burn on Thursday night.

Burning of Lithuanian Regional art at Burning Man 2103.

The piece comes tumbling down.

Washington DC's pyramid at Burning Man 2013.

The glowing remains of Washington DC’s pyramid stand behind the embers of the Lithuania’s work. 22 other regional pieces were burning at the same time.

New York City's regional art burns at Burning Man 2013.

NYC’s art piece burns on the right.

The East Bay Area structure burn.

The East Bay Area’s structure burns.

I've included this because of what appears to be an eerie face burning at the bottom.

I’ve included this because of what appears to be an eerie face burning at the bottom.

Beth and Tom Lovering, along with Peggy, glow in the firelight from the burn.

Beth and Tom Lovering, along with Peggy, glow in the firelight from the burn.

NEXT BLOG: The incredible ceremony surrounding the burning of the Man.

The Temple of Whollyness: A Sacred Place… Burning Man 2013

The Temple of Whollyness at Burning Man 2013.

The 2013 Temple at Burning Man was built in the shape of a pyramid and made completely of interlocking wood pieces without the use of nails, glue, or metal fasteners. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

We were sitting in camp when the first police car went by on Sixth Street. We hardly looked up.  With six law enforcement agencies patrolling Burning Man, police cars are a common sight. But then a second and a third car followed– and they just kept coming. I stopped counting at 40. Something big was coming down.

They drove out to the Playa and surrounded the Temple while blasting their sirens. Rumors were rampant. Was it a major drug bust? Was a riot about to erupt?

The police got out of their cars, formed two solid lines leading up to the entrance, and took off their hats. A woman, escorted by another person carrying a plaque, slowly made her way between the lines and into the temple. Her husband had recently passed away. He had been a BLM law enforcement officer who had spent several years helping patrol Burning Man.

The man had come to love the event and now he was to be honored at the Temple by his fellow law officers. Burners and lawmen alike stood silently in respect as the eulogy was read and the plaque was placed on the stone altar. Spontaneous applause filled the Temple as the woman left.

An altar or cairn made of black, igneous basalt graced the center of the temple.

An altar or cairn made of black, igneous basalt graced the center of the temple.

Later, Peggy and I were sitting in the Center Camp Café when an older man sat down next to us and begin sobbing. I was about to ask if we could help when another person leaned over to me and said, “He’s been out to the Temple saying goodbye to his wife.”

The Temple is truly a unique, and I would say, sacred place. Thousands of Burners leave messages of love and grief, honoring friends and saying goodbye to those who have passed on. On Sunday, the Temple is burned and the messages are sent skyward in a ceremony of letting go that dates back to the very beginnings of humankind.

Each year’s Temple is different. The 2013 structure, designed and built by Gregg Fleishman of Culver City, California, consisted of a central pyramid and four smaller pyramids. Named “The Temple of Whollyness,” the sanctuary was constructed out of interlocking wood pieces without the use of nails, glue or metal fasteners.

The Temple of Whollyness by Greg Fleishman.

This photo emphasizes Fleishman’s use of geometric forms in creating the Temple.

2013 Temple at Burning Man

A close up of the Temple. Note the interlocking pieces.

wood fastener at Burning Man's 2013 Temple.

Cairns on the Temple of Burning Man 2013.

Small sets of stacked rocks soon filled all of the Temple’s flat spaces matching the large cairn inside. Cairns, BTW, are used in the wilderness to mark trails. They mean that you are on the right path. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Black Rock City residents quietly meditate in the Temple of Whollyness at Burning Man 2013.

Inside the Temple people quietly meditate or write notes to be left behind. Gongs, located on the walls, provided soft, melodious tones. The altar is covered with tributes such as that left behind by the wife of the BLM officer.

Gongs at the Temple of Whollyness at Burning Man 2013 provided melodious sounds.

Tribute at Burning Man's 2013 Temple.

Tributes, such as this, filled every available wall space by the end of the week.

Tribute at 2013 Burning Man Temple.

A tribute to a fallen comrade.

Tribute to pet at Burning Man Temple 2013.

Dozens of touching tributes are also left for family pets. This one to Dobber was signed, “Your Dad.”

I love this tribute left behind for Zippy.

I conclude with my favorite pet tribute. “Go get the ball, Zippy!” I suspect if there is a dog heaven, they have tennis balls there.

NEXT BLOG: It’s time to check out the strange world of Mutant Vehicles.

A Seven Ton Coyote and Other BRC Wonders… Burning Man 2013

Coyote sculpture at Burning Man 2013.

Caught in the early morning sun, Coyote raises his head and howls. Note the guy sitting beneath his chin. Much of the art at Burning Man is designed to be climbed on. Large helium balloons stretch off to the right.

I talked to a coyote once. I was hiking on the American River Parkway in Sacramento when I saw one disappear into the brush. I froze. A couple of minutes later he came back out and looked at me. I remained still and he continued to stare. Suddenly he raised his head up and gave a Coyote greeting, “Yip, yip, yee.” Translated loosely, it meant, “Why are you behaving so weirdly?” I raised my head and responded, “Yip, yip, yee.”

I don’t know exactly what I said but he sat down and howled again. I sat down and did likewise. Thus our conversation began. It went on for about fifteen minutes before we ran out of things to say, got up and headed off on in different directions. The experience had been close to magical.

I suspect my behavior would have been different had the coyote been 25 feet tall and weighed seven tons. Fortunately, Bryan Tedrick’s coyote sculpture at Burning Man this year was made of steel and not likely to eat anyone. (Burners were welcome to rest in his belly, however. That is they were until too many fell off.)

Below are photos of Coyote and several other works of art at Burning Man 2013 I considered among my favorites.

Coyote at Black Rock City.

Another early morning view of Coyote. (Photo by Tom Lovering.)

Coyote and the Man. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Coyote with people in his stomach shown along with the Man. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Cargo Youth Spacecraft at Burning Man 2013

I really liked this UFO called Cargo Youth Spacecraft, which was created by Dana Albany working with youth groups in the Bay Area. It was created with 50% recycled materials.

Cargo Youth Spacecraft at Burning Man 2013.

Tom Lovering took a fun photo of the Cargo Youth Spacecraft with the Man’s flying saucer. (Photo by Tom Lovering.)

BELIEVE at Black Rock City 2013.

Big words created by Laura Kimpton and Jeff Schomberg have become an annual treat at Burning Man. Past words have included Mom, Ego, Love and Oink. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Tom caught one of his early morning shots of BELIEVE. (Photo by Tom Lovering.)

Tom caught one of his early morning shots of BELIEVE. (Photo by Tom Lovering.)

BELIEVE at Black Rock City 2013

BELIEVE at night.

Art sculpture Drift at Burning Man 2013

I found what looked like neurons slipping across the Playa. This was the Drifts Sculpture by Michael Christian.

Drift at Black Rock City 2013.

A close up of Drift.

Here we have a Canadian Goose made out of 100,000 pennies.

Here we have Penny the Goose made out of 100,000 Canadian pennies in honor of the last year the Canadian penny will be in circulation.

Penny the Goose at Burning Man 2013

Penny takes off.

Open hands art piece in from of the Center Camp Cafe at Burning Man 2013.

This set of hands created by  David Gertler was located just in front of the Center Camp Cafe.

I liked the simple lines of this lotus-like sculpture. The Truth is Beauty sculpture can be seen in the distance.

I liked the simple lines of this lotus-like sculpture. The Truth is Beauty sculpture can be seen in the distance.

Zonotopia on the Playa at Burning Man 2013.

This unique structure was part of Zonotopia created by artist Rob Bell for Burning Man 2013. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

One of Tom's favorite sculptures was You Are the Key. (Photo by Tom Lovering.)

One of Tom’s favorite sculptures was You Are the Key. (Photo by Tom Lovering.)

Peggy, a crafty woman, liked this knit house. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Peggy, a crafty kind of woman, liked this crochet house. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

A close up.

A close up.

Xylophage created by the Flaming Lotus Girls for Burning Man 2013.

The Flaming Lotus Girls have been producing quality art at Burning Man for many years. This year’s theme was named Xylophage and included the large burned out stump, this gnome and several humongous mushrooms. Everything, of course, flames at night.

Flaming Lotus Girl's Sculpture at Burning Man 2013.

One of the mushrooms in the Flaming Lotus Girls’ sculpture.

This set of stacked cubes seemed to reach high into the sky.

This set of stacked cubes seemed to reach high into the sky.

"Come over here and catch them from this angle," Tom urged.

“Come over here and catch them from this angle,” Tom urged.

This is only a very small sample of the art found at Burning Man. Later I will visit the regional art but next I want to take you out to what is always one of Burning Man’s top attractions: The Temple. It is truly a sacred area.

Aliens on the Outer Edge of Burning Man… Burning Man 2013

A buzzard in Kathy D'Onofrio's art work at Burning Man 2013

This strange buzzard created by Kathy D’Onofrio greeted me out near the fence on the edge of Burning Man. “Cross over the fence,” he urged in a raspy, secretive voice that only I could hear. (Move the buzzard up and down with your cursor and the evil bird will wink at you.)

There is a fence on the outer edge of Burning Man that separates Black Rock City from the vast emptiness of the Black Rock Desert. Few people and fewer artists make the trek out that far but I felt compelled to. Wide-open spaces call to me and lure me on. This time they lured me right over the fence, but I am getting ahead of myself.

Our journey outward across the open Playa...

This photo of our journey outward toward the fence across the open Playa provides one perspective on the distance and isolation. A desert oasis awaits us on the right.

Looking toward Black Rock City from the outer fence at Burning Man 2013.

Looking back toward Black Rock City from the fence provides a different perspective. The Man is right center, a mere dot in the distance set off by an impending dust storm.

Peggy and Adios went with me on the journey. First we came to the oasis and then the alien village filled with cats and buzzards. Afterwards we found the gypsy wagon where our fortune awaited us. It is a tale best told in pictures…

Desert Oasis at Burning Man 2013

Peggy stopped to rest at a desert oasis on our way out. It was the last stop before the alien village. Would it be our last stop ever?

Alien woman at Burning Man 2013

“Come this way,” the alien woman with reddish-orange boobs beckoned us toward the family pod.

Head of alien woman at Burning Man 2013

Her unplucked eyebrows bore a strange resemblance to a plucked bird. Had it been lunch?

Blue alien woman at Burning Man 2013 with fine collection of rocks.

Inside the pod, a blue, alien furtively showed us her fine collection of rocks. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson)

Two aliens in discussion at Burning Man 2013

Meanwhile, outside two male aliens discussed what to do with us while the fence looms ominously behind them. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson)

Alien guy BM13

Peggy Mekemson dances with alien at Burning Man 2013.

They soon had Peggy dancing their twisted dance to unheard music. But my fate would be different. (Photo by Tom Lovering, AKA Adios.)

Cats created by Kathy D'Onofrio at Burning Man 2013

A bright green cat with glowing red eyes caught my attention as I exited the pod.

"Come closer," his companion urged in an irresistible purr, "and look into my eyes."

“Come closer,” his companion urged in an irresistible purr, “and look into my eyes.”

Alien grren cats at Burning Man 2013

“You are as alien as we are,” she purred. “Cross over the fence. It’s what aliens do.”

Crossing the fence at Burning Man

I couldn’t help myself. Once again I was caught straddling the fence as I had on previous years at Burning Man. This time I went over…

Looking in from outside at Burning Man.

And immediately discovered my mistake. Would I be able to get back across. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

"Help me Peggy," I pleaded, assuming my best begging position. "Run Curt!" she yelled. The dreaded BRC Border Patrol was rushing toward me at 100 miles per hour and I was over the fence without a ticket.

“Help me Peggy,” I pleaded, assuming my best begging position. “Run Curt!” she yelled, as always helpful. The dreaded BRC Border Patrol was rushing toward me at 100 miles per hour and I was over the fence without a ticket. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

It was the feared BR 15, the truck with the skull and crossbones. A prodigious leap took me back across the fence. Who says white boys can't jump... even 70 year old white boys. "Hey, you can't do that." the voice of the law called after me. "You're too late," I called back. "I have already been out and beyond and returned."

It was the feared R 15, the truck with the skull and crossbones. A prodigious leap took me back across the fence. Who says white boys can’t jump… even 70-year-old white boys. “Hey, you can’t do that.” the voice of the law called after me. “You’re too late,” I called back. “I have already been out and beyond and back.” (Photo by Tom Lovering.)

Our adventure wasn’t over, however. We decided to visit with another denizen of the lonely desert, the infamous fortune-teller, Gypsy Rose. Could she tell me whether I would become possessed by the aliens or captured by the BRC Border Patrol? And which would be the worse fate?

The camp of Gypsy Rose on far Playa at Burning Man.

Gypsy Rose’s lonely camp.

Gypsy Rose's horse at Burning Man 2013

Her horse was getting old.

Services provided by Gypsy Rose at Burning Man 2013

Rose offered the services we wanted but I wasn’t sure about the belly dancing or pick pocket lessons. Maybe the latter– after all, my Burning Man name is Outlaw and I had been over the fence.

At the camp of Gypsy Rose, Burning Man 2013

Unfortunately, Rose wasn’t home. Peggy, who has been known to dabble in I-Ching, offered to fill in. “You will meet a woman dressed in blue with a tie-die neckerchief and white hat and become her slave,” she predicted. Thus ended our adventure for the day. (Photo by Tom Lovering.)

NEXT BLOG: We will visit a seven-ton coyote and check out some of the other intriguing art of Burning Man 2013.

The Center Camp Café: A Kaleidoscope of Wild and Whacky… Burning Man 2013

A show of some kind of the other is pretty much guaranteed when you visit the Center Camp Cafe. Here couples practice partner yoga. Are the two guys center-right twins?

There is always something to see or learn at Burning Man’s Center Camp Cafe. Here couples practice partner yoga. Are the two guys center-right twins?

Peggy and I walked into the Center Camp Café to the sound of applause, which wasn’t surprising since someone is always performing. This time, however, the clapping came from the back of the large tent where people line up to get coffee, tea and lemonade. It’s one of the few places you can buy something at Burning Man. The counter stretches from one wall to the other.

During a busy day, Burners are stacked up at the counter 20 deep in several lines. There is constant banter back and forth between the large staff of volunteers and their customers. Sometimes you have to sing a song or tell a story before you get your drink.

It was night now, however, and most Burners were elsewhere. The staff had decided it was time for an impromptu dance. They had climbed up on the counter and were bouncing, bobbing, weaving, stomping and twirling to the music. It was a typical Center Camp happening.

Like the Man and the Temple, Center Camp Café is a go-to place for most Burners. To begin with, it is stuffed with both art and entertainment, inside and out. A large stage surrounded by comfy couches provides a venue for scheduled entertainers and speakers as well as a place for people who want to sleep. A smaller, less formal stage with wooden benches is open for anybody. Just sign up. Storytellers, poets and magicians are welcome as are people who want to rant and rave. The latter remind me of my days as a student at Berkeley.

One might expect a guitar player to be found on the major stage at the Center Camp Cafe...

One might expect a guitar player to be found on the major stage at the Center Camp Cafe…

Accordion player at Burning Man Center Camp 2013

…but don’t be surprised to also find an accordion player.

Knife and fork art at Burning Man 2013

This knife and fork caught my attention as an appropriate art piece for a cafe.

Cork fork at Center Camp cafe, Burning Man 2013

Here’s a close up of the fork.

Most entertainment is less organized. Parades, for example, are common at Burning Man. Many of them end up marching through the Café. I’ve seen rabbits, and carrots, and belly dancers, and people in little black dresses (both men and women), and kazoo bands, to name a few. The rabbits and carrots, BTW, are at war with each other.

I almost always go on a clock-like walk around the Café to see what else is happening. It’s an easy way to pick up one of BRC’s newspapers or fill out the Burning Man Census at one of the tables provided. Giving things away is big business. You can have your fortune read or receive a massage. Pastie Dan is a regular, providing his usual nipple-cover service for women. It’s impolite to stare but impossible not to notice. I reported last year on the woman who walked around carrying a block of ice. She would hand you the block and then put her freezing hands on your neck. It was instant air conditioning.

Painter works on canvas at Burning Man 2013.

Here a painter works his magic on a large canvas at the Center Camp Cafe.

Body painting at Burning Man 2013

While another artist uses a woman’s leg for his canvas. The artist’s goggles have a definite steam punk look. Body painting takes many forms at Burning Man with whole camps devoted to the art.

The Center Camp Café is also a place to see and be seen. Burners dress in their best get-ups for a stroll around the perimeter. There are angels and demons and preachers and shamans. I sometime think there are more kilts than you will find in Scotland. Native American headdresses seemed “in” for some reason this year and steam punk is becoming more and more popular. A whole story could be devoted to what’s trending at Burning Man.

And finally, there is center stage, which really isn’t a stage but is rather a large, round center space where people do their own thing for an audience that isn’t. The photo at the beginning of this blog shows people practicing partner yoga in the center area. The following video shows a man working with flags. There is also other action such as the guy on the right wearing the pink outfit scratching the head of the woman who swoops in on him.

Mural painting on back of Center Camp cafe at Burning Man 2013

The back of the Center Camp Cafe is covered with murals. I asked one woman who was painting a mural if I could take her photo. “Sure,” she replied, “as long as you come back when the mural is finished.”

Murals at Burning Man's Center Camp 2013

Here’s the completed mural along with one on either side.

One of numerous bike racks outside of the Center Camp Cafe provides an idea of how many people visit the Cafe.

One of numerous bike racks outside of the Center Camp Cafe provides an idea of how many people visit the Cafe.

Center Camp Cafe at Burning Man 2013

A photo of the Burning Camp Cafe from the Playa. The flags on top are one of the major location points that Burners use to figure out where in the heck they are.

Burning Man Center Camp cafe flags at night.

At night, the flags are an even more important beacon for lost Burners. Here they are slightly blurry from being blown about by the wind.

NEXT BLOG: We journey to the outer edge of Burning Man and discover strange, alien beings, which is hardly a surprise.

The Back Roads of Black Rock City… Burning Man 2013

French Quarter in Black Rock City, Nevada.

One can find almost anything on the back roads of Burning Man, including the French Quarter of New Orleans shown here. Great pastries were being served for free.

The back roads of Black Rock City offer a little of something for everyone. Finding it is something else. People would often stop when we were in camp and ask where something was. One person was so confused he stopped twice, not realizing he had already been by. Several years ago a single guy reported to the officials that his car, tent and personal belongings had been stolen. He hitched a ride to San Francisco. After the event he got a call from Burning Man. They had found his car and tent– right where he had left them. It’s easy to get lost when you are out and about.

Black Rock City now has a population of over 60,000 people for its short duration and this, in turn, means that there are miles of roads to explore. BRC is laid out in a semi-circular grid with the circular streets given annual names based on the alphabet and yearly theme. For example, 2013 streets were named Airstrip, Biggie Size, Consumer, Desiderata, Extraterrestrial, False God, Idol, GDP, Holy, Interstellar, John Frum, Kowtow and Laissez-faire. Crossroads that cut straight down to the Esplanade are numbered: 2:00, 2:30, 3:00 etc. on up to 10:00.

Here’s a map from Burning Man to provide a visual. Center Camp is in the middle keyhole-like area. The Man is out in the Playa directly in front of Center Camp and the temple is the small circle beyond the Man. Blue areas represent recognized theme camps. Everybody else is welcome to settle into the white areas– first come, first serve. You simply stake out how much space you need for your group. The scale at the bottom represents 5,000 feet.

BRC 2009 City Plan

The point here is that every road, and almost every block, holds treasures. Theme camps have their own quirky personalities, which sometimes reflect the year’s theme, or not. They often represent a great deal of work. Most give something away, in line with Burning Man’s gifting policy. The camp across from us, for example, gave away free shocks from a cattle prod. We could here the screams. The free shot of whiskey that came with the shock was apparently enough to entice some people in… but not us. The California Library was more to our liking. It gave away books and had a no-return policy.

The Library of California at Black Rock City.

The Library Camp insisted that books you “borrowed” never be returned. A few years ago the library ran out of books. Soon Burners from throughout BRC had shown up to replace the collection. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Mutant vehicles, games to play, and art are also found in abundance on the back roads, as are free bars, music venues, and, well, you name it. Peggy and I are fond of heading out randomly to see what we can discover.

Back roads art at Burning Man 2013

Art can be found everywhere on the back roads of Burning Man. Peggy and I found these bugs quite intriguing.

Peanut Butter and Jelly anyone? This was a serve yourself stand in case you got hungry in your wanderings.

Peanut Butter and Jelly anyone? This was a serve yourself stand in case you got hungry in your wanderings.

Crashed rocket at Burning Man 2013.

Here we have a crashed rocket looking suspiciously like a bomb that offers salvation. Go figure. A UFO is on the left side.

Empire of Dirt Burning Man 2013

I totally got this theme camp. Black Rock City is indeed an empire of dirt. Peggy and I spent a week after Burning Man cleaning Playa dust from the inside and outside of our van. (Well, there were also 7000 miles of bugs from our Alaska and Canada trip that we concluded just before Burning Man.)

Cult of Cargo Pants in Black Rock City.

The cult of the cargo pants captured the 2013 Burning Man theme in a humorous way.

This theme camp suffered from a serious altitude problem. Couches were provided for a birds-eye view of BRC.

This camp suffered from a serious altitude problem. Couches were provided for a birds-eye view of BRC. Check out the dragon on the right. He’s bitten off the head of the seated guy. Mmmm, crunchy.

Comfort and Joy Camp at Burning Man 2013.

One of the most colorful camps was Comfort and Joy, built by a group of gay men. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Cone camp at Burning Man 2013

I’ll conclude with one weird cat at Snow Cone Camp.

NEXT BLOG: We’ll visit Center Camp, a happening kind of place.

Out and About in Black Rock City: The Esplanade… Burning Man 2013

Sacred Spaces Camp at Burning Man 2013.

The Esplanade is Burning Man’s major road and separates Black Rock City from the Playa. In other words it is prime real estate and home to some of the events major camps, such as Sacred Spaces shown here. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

I could have sat in our camp at Burning Man, watched the world revolve, and felt that the experience was well worth the price of admission.

A constant parade passed by our front door. Costumed everything, entertainers, dressed up bikes, law enforcement vehicles, water trucks, and mutant vehicles were all part of the parade. It’s even possible that an alien from outer space wandered through. Who’d ever know? I was suspicious of our neighbor. And it was nearly guaranteed that representatives of the one-percent travelled our street. The giants of Silicon Valley such as the founders of Google, venture capitalists, and CEO’s of High Tech firms have discovered that Burning Man is a great place to play– and apparently do business.

Given this flying saucer that crashed in the Black Rock Desert during Burning Man 2013, It's quite possible that aliens were wandering our street.

Given this flying saucer that crashed in the Black Rock Desert during Burning Man 2013, it’s quite possible that aliens were wandering our street.

Even Pastie Dan stopped off at our camp. Dan is a budding entrepreneur and a Burning Man institution who provides a unique service. He will gladly give (and apply) pasties to any woman making a request so she can go topless or braless without feeling quite so naked. Pasties come in a variety of sizes and can leave you looking smiley or even patriotic. Perusing the net, I found Pastie Dan’s website where you can check out some of his favorite projects or buy pasties for at-home use. Let’s see, will it be the snowman or the pumpkin? Hmmm… The pasties come with directions. Using the right amount of glue is important.

Pastie Dan in Black Rock City.

Normally Pastie Dan plies his trade at Center Camp but occasionally, he wanders the roads of Black Rock City. He stopped at our camp to see if any of the women were in the market for pasties.

Staying in camp was not an option, however. There was far too much to see and far too many adventures to have. I’ve already introduced the art; there were over 300 pieces at Burning Man 2013. And of course there was the 24/7 entertainment, not to mention the major burns. Everyone knows about burning the Man; it is the signature Bacchanalian experience that gives the event its name. But there are also numerous other burns ranging from the Temple to regional art.

Then there are the events hosted by theme camps. Our “Welcome Home” packet included a 160-page catalogue of everything we might do. Randomly opening the book to page 102, I learned I could paint myself, learn self-hypnosis, redefine who I was, or talk with a paleontologist. Authenticamp declared “Men: dare to receive custom tune-up of your masculine presence by embodied, tuned-in women.” No thanks. If Peggy hasn’t tuned me up after 20 plus years, I doubt it is going to happen.

Beyond all of the above, I find that wandering up and down the roads of Black Rock City, stopping off at Center Camp and occasionally dropping into one of the large theme camps can provide a year’s entertainment in a week. This, and my next two blogs will feature photos exploring the streets of Burning Man.

I am going to start with Burning Man’s main thoroughfare: the Esplanade.

Another view of the Sacred Spaces Camp. (Photo by Tome Lovering.)

Another view of the Sacred Spaces Camp. (Photo by Tom Lovering.)

Roof of Sacred Spaces Camp at Burning Man 13

I wandered into the Sacred Spaces Camp and shot this picture of the roof.

I wandered into the Sacred Spaces Camp and was greeted by this woman. The Sacred Spaces Camp includes artist, musicians, and specialists in alternative healing.

I was greeted by this woman. The Sacred Spaces Camp includes artist, musicians, and specialists in spiritual development and alternative healing.

This year's Burning Man theme about Cargo Cults led to a number of Theme camps to focus on the South Pacific Islands during World War II. This "crashed plane" would have provided  a treasure chest of cargo.

This year’s Burning Man theme about Cargo Cults led a number of Theme camps to focus on the South Pacific Islands during World War II. This “crashed plane” would have provided a treasure chest of cargo.

Views along the Esplanade at Burning Man 2013.

One theme camp along the Esplanade at Burning Man decided to decorate its main tent as a South Pacific volcano.

Not sure where this tutu wearing King Kong fit into the scheme of things but he too, along with the Empire State Building was found on the Esplanade.

Not sure where this tutu wearing 30-foot tall King Kong fit into the scheme of things but he too, along with the Empire State Building, was found on the Esplanade.

This Celtic Castle was one of many venues on the upper ends of the Esplanade where DJs, loud music and dancing rule into the wee hours of the morning.

This Celtic Castle was one of many venues on the upper ends of the Esplanade where DJs, loud music and dancing rule into the wee hours of the morning. (Photo by Tom Lovering.)

NEXT BLOG: We will travel the back roads of Black Rock City and visit such sites as the Library of California and the French Quarter of Louisiana.