Steampunk, a Towering Octopus, and a Giant Rhino… The Mutant Vehicles of Burning Man

Burning Man's El Pulpo Mechanico.

The sometimes scary El Pulpo Mechanico in black and white.

Peggy and I were out wandering around Black Rock City when we came across the steampunk mutant vehicles that I am going to feature today: El Pulpo Mechanico and the Beamer Steamer. A flaming duck was also present. The folks that created these vehicles came from Northern California and Southern Oregon— our territory, and at least two of the vehicles had connections with the human-powered Kinetic Sculpture Race that runs between Ferndale, Eureka and Arcata over the Memorial Day Weekend.

El Pulpo Mechanico sprang from the creative mind of Duane Flatmo. His parts were scrounged from the Arcata Scrap and Salvage Yard in Northern California. Jerry Kunkel designed his electronic and flame system. His crawdad attachment was once part of one of the Kinetic Sculpture race vehicles.

El Pulpo always draws a crowd at Burning Man, especially when he is flaming. He can go through 200 gallons of propane in one night.

El Pulpo always draws a crowd at Burning Man, especially when he is flaming. He can go through 200 gallons of propane in one night.

El Pulpo at Black Rock City.

This shot of El Pulpo by our friend Don Green also shows his crawdad front.

Heres a shot of his crawdad front during the day. This creature was once part of a kinetic sculpture that participated in the Kinetic Sculpture Race in Eureka.

Here’s a shot of his crawdad front during the day. This creature was once part of a kinetic sculpture that participated in the Kinetic Sculpture Race in Eureka. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Looking up at El Pulpo provides a view of his barrel tentacles.

Looking up at El Pulpo provides a view of his barrel tentacles.

El Pulpo Mechanico fish at Burning Man.

This primitive fish is also a part of El Pulpo’s decorations.

As is this sea horse!

As is this sea-horse! (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

El Pulpo's head.

El Pulpo’s head.

El Pulpo Mechanico at Burning Man.

A final view.

Bob and Karen Thomson of Southern Oregon had been participating in the Kinetic Sculpture Race for several years when they decided they wanted a vehicle that they didn’t have to power with their own effort and sweat. They created the Beamer Steamer to go to Burning Man.

The Beamer Steamer at Burning Man.

The Beamer Steamer mutant vehicle by Bob and Karen Thomson.

I am not sure of the history of the flaming duck but it can light up the sky at night.

The flaming duck during the day at Burning Man.

The flaming duck during the day at Burning Man. Check out its head.

The flaming duck at Burning Man.

The flaming duck out on the playa at night waiting for the man to burn.

You have to travel south on Highway 101 from Eureka to come to the home of my fourth mutant vehicle today. The Rhino Redemption was created by Kevin Clark and the artistic group that works out of the Reared in Steel building in Petaluma. Kevin was also responsible for the creation of the Medusa Sculpture at Burning Man that I have featured in the past.

This wonderful rhino mutant vehicle has become one of my favorites at Burning Man. I was once charged by one of his counterparts in East Africa and have had a special appreciation for rhinos ever since.

This wonderful rhino mutant vehicle has become one of my favorites at Burning Man. I was once charged by one of his counterparts in East Africa and have had a special appreciation for rhinos ever since.

Rhino Redemption at Burning Man.

A side view of Rhino Redemption. He can accommodate up to 20 people.

Rhino Redemption at Burning Man.

Rhino charging? It’s kind of how I remember it. (grin)

Rhino Redemption in camp at Burning Man.

A final view… (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

NEXT BLOGS:

I’ve decided to take a semi-break for my birthday next week when I will be in Las Vegas. I’ll see you back here on March 6. Well, I may put up a blog or two if things are slow, but I wouldn’t bet on it. (grin)

–Curt

DMV… Burning Man’s Department of Mutant Vehicles: Part 2

One of Burning Man's more unique mutant vehicles from my perspective is this traveling eye.

One of Burning Man’s more unique mutant vehicles from my perspective is this traveling eye. The only thing remotely like a normal vehicle are the tires peeking out from below. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

 

“A Mutant Vehicle is a unique, motorized creation that shows little or no resemblance to their original form, or to any standard street vehicle. Mutant Vehicles are radically, stunningly, (usually) permanently, and safely modified from their base vehicle. Sometimes the whole vehicle is made from scratch.

Mutant Vehicles may include such non-standard motorized forms such as furniture, other non-street vehicles such as a boat or train, animals, or just about anything imaginable.” —Taken from Burning Man’s website.

 

Eye of mutant vehicle at Burning Man.

The eye up close, checking you out! (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Animals are a favorite theme for mutant vehicles. This polar bear would have fit right in on Valentines Day.

Animals are a favorite theme for mutant vehicles. This polar bear would have fit right in on Valentines Day. (Photo by Tom Lovering.)

Polar Bear mutant vehicle at Burning Man.

A side view of the friendly polar bear. (Photo by Tom Lovering.)

Burning Man takes its mutant vehicles seriously— partially because they are an integral part of the Burning Man experience and partially because safety is a critical issue.  These often-large vehicles must maneuver through and around thousands of bicyclists and pedestrians both during the day and at night.

The permitting process is extensive. To start with, both government agencies and Burning Man place limits on the number of mutant vehicles. Far more people want to bring vehicles than can be accommodated. Participants must meet stringent requirements to bring their creations to Black Rock City. (Go here to learn about requirements.)

The Department of Mutant vehicles is responsible for overseeing the permitting, inspection and operation of Mutant Vehicles at Burning Man.

The Department of Mutant Vehicles is responsible for overseeing the permitting, inspection and operation of Mutant Vehicles at Burning Man.

Headquarters for the Deparment of Mutant Vehicles at Burning Man.

Headquarters! All mutant vehicles must stop here to pick up their licenses to operate at Burning Man and have a safety inspection.

The first requirement is that the vehicle must in no way resemble the initial car, truck, golf cart, etc. (Boats seem to be an exception, but hey, they are ‘floating’ across the desert.) Beyond this, the organization states, “the mutation should aim to provide a level of ‘radical visual stimuli’ or ‘wow factor’ for the other participants of Black Rock City.”

A covered wagon mutant vehicle at Burning Man.

A covered wagon had us running for our cameras. I’d say that there was a ‘wow’ factor.

Conestoga Wagon mutant vehicle at Burning Man.

Another view. The Black Rock Desert would have seen similar vehicles (albeit smaller and attached to oxen) in the 1860s along the Applegate cutoff to the Oregon Trail that ran through the area. This photo was taken in front to our camp.

Cat car mutant vehicle at Burning Man.

The cat car is another perennial favorite of mine at Burning Man that has a definite ‘wow’ factor.

A side view of the cat car mutant vehicle at Burning Man.

A side view. It takes a lot of guts to have pure white upholstery at Burning Man!

Close up of head of cat car mutant vehicle at Burning Man.

And a close up of the kitty’s head.

Interactivity is also considered critical. Giving rides to Burners and providing entertainment are two ways of accomplishing this. For example, one year I saw a fire-breathing mutant vehicle that featured an opera singer standing on top. When she hit her high notes, the vehicle would send flames shooting into the air.

Safety involves many of the things you would expect including good brakes and safe accommodations for passengers. Think of 40 people (some who have spent a fair amount of time visiting Burning Man’s free bars) dancing on top of a vehicle as it drives through the desert night. Falling off is a real possibility. Railings are critical.

Orange bus mutant vehicle at Burning Man.

There are serious railings on this orange bus mutant vehicle. Note the intricate carving of the wood.

Orange mutant vehicle bus side view.

A side view of the bus. I suspect one would land with quite a bump coming off the slide.

Mutant vehicle with beak at Burning Man.

This guy with his boxer-beak and tail feathers also has a well-built railing.

Tail feathers on a mutant vehicle at Burning Man.

The tail feathers.

Vehicles that want to travel at night must have adequate lighting on all sides of the vehicle. But the requirements go further. Lighting is also expected to contribute to the “wow” factor. Many mutant vehicles are more spectacular at night than they are during the day. One of my all-time favorites is a large, travelling vase.

Mutant vehicle that looks like a vase at Burning Man.

This large vase mutant vehicle normally lives in camp during the day.

Vase mutant vehicle at Burning Man with mountain backdrop.

Another day-time shot. This one with a mountain backdrop.

The mutant vehicle vase at night. This was on the night when the Man is burned and vehicles form a large circle around the Man.

The vase at night. Mutant vehicles form a large circle around the Man on Saturday night when he is burned. The flower is part of another mutant vehicle.

Vase mutant vehicle lit up at night at Burning Man.

A different views with different colors.

I caught this shot as the vase left a wedding in Black Rock City we had attended.

I caught this shot as the vase left a wedding in Black Rock City.

As you might imagine, vehicles that feature fire art and shoot flames into the air, must also meet strict requirements. The types of tanks, fuel lines, daily safety checks, and emergency shut off valves are all included. But the effort is worth the extra care when you consider the results. Imagine meeting up with El Pulpo Mechanico as it roams across the playa with all eight arms flaming.

El Pulpo Mechanical as he flames his way through the Burning Man night.

El Pulpo Mechanical as he flames his way through the Burning Man night.

Burning Man mutant vehicle designed to shoot flames into the air.

The ‘weapon’ on top of this Mad-Max look-a-like shoots flames as well.

Dragon head on mutant vehicle at Burning Man.

A front view…

Close up of dragon headed mutant vehicle at Burning Man.

And a close up.

And finally, there are sound requirements. Nothing is more irritating than a mutant vehicle with humongous speakers making its way through your neighborhood in Black Rock City while blasting out music at 2:00 AM. Burning Man notes that there has been an “increase in the number of vehicles with sound systems that would normally be designed for an arena or stadium.” No kidding. Having those systems pointing at you is like deaf city. Fortunately, the loudest systems tend to be restricted to the outer areas of the city where Burners can go deaf to their hearts-content.

Check out the number of speakers on this mutant vehicle. They are the reason it is assigned a position way out at the edge of Black Rock City in the Playa.

Check out the number of speakers on this mutant vehicle! They are the reason it is assigned a position way out at the edge of Black Rock City in the Playa. There is almost always a crowd of people dancing around and on this vehicle, including up on the heart.

And just for fun, I will close today with this googly-eyed, low-tech frog.

Frog mutant vehicle at Burning Man.

 

NEXT BLOGS:

Monday: The airplane that crash landed on the Hudson River in New York City.

Wednesday: The Sierra Trek— Our second day included a sixteen mile hike without any water sources, a lost trekker, and a huge timber rattlesnake that insisted on blocking the trail.

Friday: More Burning Man mutant vehicles including El Pulpo Mechanico and a huge Rhino that would send his African counterparts scurrying for cover.

A 60-foot Fire-Breathing Dragon Roars into Washington— 3 Days after the Election… The Mutant Vehicles of Burning Man: Part 1

If Trump had stared out his window and seen this fellow staring back at him, do you think it would have changed history?

If Donald Trump had stared out his window and seen this fellow staring back, do you think it would have changed history?

Today I am kicking off my Friday photo-essay series on Burning Man. Last week I went through the thousands of photos I have taken since I first went in 2004 and winnowed them down to a mere 4,000. (grin) I suspect you will see a few hundred of them on Fridays over the next six months leading up to the event. 

I had a long discussion with myself over what to start this series with. “What are you talking to yourself about?” Peggy had asked worriedly. Mutant Vehicles won out. I love the variety: from dragons to bugs to ships to rhinos to cats to Mad Max wannabes— Burning Man has them all! 

Peggy and I share photo taking responsibilities at Burning Man but we also have help from fellow members of the Horse Bone Tribe: Don Green, Tom Lovering and Ken Lake. I’ll try to credit Don, Tom and Ken, but if I miss a few, my apologies. 

Let’s start with Abraxas,  a 60-foot dragon equipped with a 10,000-watt sound system. Normally, Abraxas hangs out at Burning Man, but on November 11 (right after the election) he was in Washington DC on the Mall. I wonder if the new president looked out his window and saw him. Probably not. There weren’t any tweets.

He seemed quite proud of his offspring who followed him everywhere.

What would Trump have tweeted about Abraxas? Any ideas?

Abraxas has been going to Burning Man for a number of years. In 2016, he showed up with a baby.

Abraxas has been going to Burning Man for a number of years. In 2016, he showed up with a baby.

Early in the morning before sunrise, Abraxas likes to hang out at the Temple, you can see him lurking out on the Playa. When the sun comes up, it is time to dance and he fires up his 10,000 watt speakers as Burners gather around.

Early in the morning before sunrise, Abraxas likes to hang out at the Temple, you can see him lurking out on the Playa. When the sun comes up, it is time to dance, however, and he fires up his 10,000 watt speakers as Burners gather around.

Another close-up of Abraxas.

Another close-up of Abraxas. The tube coming out of his mouth spits out fire at night.

Abraxas the mutant Vehicle at Burning Man.

Check out the claws!

Most mutant vehicles at Burning Man take on a different look/personality at night. Here, Abraxas was getting ready to go out and party the night away.

Mutant vehicles at Burning Man take on a different look/personality at night. Here, Abraxas was getting ready to go out and party the night away. You may have noted the different faces. Most years,  Abraxas comes back to Burning Man with a new look.

The golden dragon is one of hundreds of mutant vehicles/art cars found at Burning Man each year. While you are required to park your car, truck, RV, etc. at your camp and leave it parked, mutant vehicles are free to roam the playa and Black Rock City, assuming they have a permit. Today I am going to also feature a warthog, a lion, an angler fish, a lizard dragon, a mammoth and traveling bar. There will be more next Friday!

Warthog mutant vehicle at Burning Man.

This warthog is a favorite of mine.

Warthog art car at Burning Man.

Head on! Check out the tusks.

Burning Man warthog mutant vehicle.

And a side view. I think he is kind of cute. I once followed a warthog and her kids across the Serengeti Plains in Africa. Mom and kids all had their tails sticking straight up in the air.

Burning Man is okay, huh. Are you ready for some reggae?

Burning Man is okay, huh. Are you ready for some reggae? The M.O.J.P. is taken from Bob Marley’s song, Exodus, and stands for “Movement of jah People.”

M.O.J.P. mutant vehicle at Burning Man.

A side view of M.O.J.P., which I assume is a lion. Note the big mouth.

M.O.J.P. art car at Burning Man.

My friend Tom Lovering found it quite comfortable. M.O.J.P., BTW, was once an RV.

Lizard dragon mutant vehicle at Burning Man.

Peggy found this small but ferocious looking dragon out on the Playa and climbed aboard. Fortunately it was missing keys. Otherwise I still might be searching for her.

Small dragon art car at Burning Man.

The dragon’s snout.

Head on view of mammoth art car at Burning Man.

Somebody had a twisted sense of humor when it came to creating this Mammoth art car.

Head and tusks of mammoth at Burning Man.

A side view of the mammoth’s head and tusks. I wonder if the wire around the head is supposed to be a halo?

Mammoth art car in Black Rock City at Burning Man.

A full view of the mammoth.

Angler Fish art car on Playa at Burning Man.

Whoa! If I didn’t have a clue about what was happening and saw this creature drifting by in a dust storm, I would be looking for the nearest exit.

Angler fish mutant vehicle at Burning Man.

Here’s the angler fish up close and personal. In nature, angler fish use the nose dangly as bait for attracting prey. Great teeth.

Front view of angler fish at Burning Man.

How the fish might look just before it chomped down on you.

I'll conclude today with the Playa's wandering bar complete with outhouse. (Photo by Tom Lovering.)

I’ll conclude today with four photos of  the Playa’s wandering bar complete with outhouse. Wandering around through the desert can give a person quite a thirst! (Photo by Tom Lovering.)

This tractor pulls the bar around.

This tractor pulls the bar around.

Burning Man's traveling bar.

Action at the bar! Tom and I stopped for a taste of moonshine. It was potent stuff!

Kitchen of wandering bar at Burning Man.

Peggy walked through the bar’s door and came out in this kitchen!

NEXT BLOGS:

Monday: I’ll conclude my Boston series.

Wednesday: It’s back to the Sierra Trek and the “pot smoking orgy.”

Friday: My next post on the mutant vehicles of Burning Man.

Ten Favorite Burning Man Activities… Updated!

The classic female nude has always been a favorite subject of artists. This beautiful woman was over 50 feet tall and was one of a series of three at Burning Man.

The classic female nude has always been a favorite subject of artists. This beautiful woman was over 50 feet tall and was one of a series of three at Burning Man. Art, more than anything else, has been pulling me back to Burning Man since 2004.

With two laptops down and this one heading for the doctor, I have to revise my publishing schedule for the next week. I’m reaching back into my archives and pulling out three former posts that are at least in the spirit of what I have promised. Today is on Burning Man. I’ll follow up with an historical blog on Philadelphia’s Fort Mifflin and then a backpacking tale that includes bears, lots of them.

I may be totally off the Internet for the next week. If I don’t respond immediately, that’s the case. 

It’s time to buy tickets for Burning Man again, which is always a harrowing experience. At least it has been for the past several years. I made my first trip to Burning Man in 2004 and have been back numerous times since. I can’t resist. It is one of the most unique events I have ever attended. Following are some of the reasons why. Today kicks off a Friday series on Burning Man I will be running over the next couple of months during the ticket sale time that feature favorite photos from my archive of thousands. Enjoy!

I should probably name this blog Curt Mekemson’s Ten Favorite Burning Man Activities. When it comes to Burning Man, things get personal. One person’s preferences might very well be another person’s boring, with just the right teen-age emphasis followed by, “Was that guy actually there?”

For example, I don’t like loud music but there are camps at Burning Man with humongous speakers that blast out ear shattering decibels 24/7. Fine, it’s their thing and they have lots of fans, not to mention some of the best DJs in the world. Many Burners list these venues among their top choices. They joyfully dance the night away, literally. I like stopping by but my ears soon send me scooting for quieter locations— like the opposite side of the Playa.

Dancing and music are an integral part of Burning Man. The event attracts some of the top DJs in the world who spin their tunes for free at Burning Man.

Dancing and music are an integral part of Burning Man. The event attracts some of the top DJs in the world who spin their tunes for free at Burning Man. The hanging speakers give an idea of the volume that can be generated.

I don’t run around naked at Burning Man, either. That would be scary— for both me and anybody looking in my direction. But I have no objection to other people being nude. Some Burners are quite attractive while others are at least, uh, colorful. I assume all are enjoying some form of liberation, or at least a bit of exhibitionism.

Outrageous costumes make people watching at Burning Man a number one activity. The guy 'looking the wrong way' helped make this photo. Note the platform shoes on the woman. She wears them well.

Outrageous costumes make people watching at Burning Man a number one activity. The guy ‘looking the wrong way’ helped make this photo. What was he thinking? Note the platform shoes on the woman. She wears them well.

The thing about the Burning Man experience is that it depends on the individual. My recommendation for new participants is to come with an open mind and explore. If you want to get naked, go ahead; but you don’t have to and most don’t. Your experience can be as radical or conservative as you wish to make it.

So, having established my parameters, here is my top-ten list of things to do at Burning Man (assuming one can finagle a ticket). They aren’t in order of preference.

1. Attend the Burn: First, you will want to visit the Man during the week. There are usually a number of activities taking place that reflect the year’s theme. Plus you can often climb up into the base and enjoy some of the best views available of Black Rock City! The burning of the Man on Saturday night is the climax of the week where everything and everyone comes together. Hundreds of fire dancers and drummers kick off the event and are followed by an elaborate ceremony where the Man is set on fire.  Things start with a bang, literally, as rockets explode and light up the sky. The Man then moves toward his ultimate demise, slowly. His last seconds are met by silence from 70,000 people, possibly the only time when Burning Man is quiet, followed by oohs and ahs building to a crescendo as he comes crashing down, completing his annual sacrifice. Don’t worry, like Frosty the Snowman and the Phoenix Bird, he’ll be back. The burn is only part of the show, however. Elaborate costumes, giant mutant vehicles, and total  bedlam compete for attention.

 

For six days the Man serves as a gathering point on the Playa and as a landmark for lost Burners. On Saturday night he burns in what has become one of the world’s best known New Age rituals.

Burning Man's roots go back 27 years to the burning of an 8 foot tall statue on Baker Beach in San Francisco. Today's man stands some 40 feet tall and rests on a 60 foot pedestal. The wooden man and his fiery demise symbolizes the annual event that takes place in the remote Black Rock Desert of Nevada.

Burning Man’s roots go back 31 years to the burning of an 8 foot tall statue on Baker Beach in San Francisco. Today’s man stands some 40 feet tall and rests on a 60 foot pedestal.

My friend Don Green took this photo of the Fun House entrance that was built around the Man in 2015.

My friend Don Green took this photo of the Fun House entrance that was built around the Man in 2015.

The night sky is lit up by fireworks during the burning of the Man at Burning Man 2014.

Suddenly the night sky and the Man are lit up by fireworks. The burn is about to begin.

A close up of the Man burning at Burning Man 2014.

Don Green captured this photo of the Man Burning.

The Burning of the Man on Saturday night gives the event its name.

Huge flames light up the night.

People perch on El Pulpo Mechanico at Burning Man and watch as the Man burns.

People perched on El Pulpo Mechanico at Burning Man and watched as the Man burned. Even the mutant vehicle, El Pulpo Mechanico, seemed entranced.

2. Enjoy the People: I don’t know where one could find a more interesting cast of characters than Burning Man. But then again, there aren’t many places where you are encouraged to be yourself and pursue ‘radical self-expression’ in a region where temperatures top 100 and 60 mph windstorms kick up massive dust storms that create zero visibility. Tribes, events and volunteering create numerous situations where it is easy to meet people and make friends. While Burning Man preaches involvement, you are also totally free to wander around and simply observe.

The folks who come to Burning Man represent a broad spectrum of people representing all ages and occupations— from broke college students to billionaires. this fellow is a veteran Burner who works with the Department of Public Works that helps build Black Rock City.

The folks who come to Burning Man represent a broad spectrum of people from all ages and occupations— from broke college students to billionaires. This fellow is a veteran Burner who works with the Department of Public Works that helps build Black Rock City.

This young couple stood next to me as we watched a burning piano be tossed 50 or so yards up the Playa. Glasses form an important part of Burner's costumes.

This young couple stood next to me as we watched a burning piano be tossed 50 or so yards up the Playa.

Costumes are an integral part of Burning Man and some people such as my friend Ken (aka Scotty) Love to dress up.

Costumes are an integral part of Burning Man and some people such as my friend Ken (aka Scotty) love to dress up. Scotty, BTW, is Ken’s Burning Man name. Almost everyone has one. Mine is Outlaw.

3. Appreciate the Art: Burning Man art comes in all forms, from monumental to small, from sculpture to painting to performance. Most of the major pieces and performances take place on the Playa or along the Esplanade. But there are many smaller pieces (and performances) found throughout the camp and at the Center Camp Cafe. Much of the art is interactive. Be sure to check out the playa sculptures at different times of the day. Many of the pieces are schizophrenic with radically different day and night personalities. And many are making there way into communities around the world.

Burning Man has become a major center for what is happening in today’s art world. Selecting a piece to represent what is happening in the Nevada desert is close to impossible. These two oil tankers welded together and stacked on top of each other, meld environmental concern with art, two of Burning Man’s major themes.

Medusa with her snake hair was one of my favorite sculptures in 2015.

Medusa, with her writhing snake hair, was one of my favorite sculptures in 2015.

Burning Man Fantasy sculpture

Monumental sculptures, many you can climb on, are among the most popular art works at Burning Man.

4. Save Time for the Desert: The Black Rock Desert and surrounding mountains are beautiful. Look around. Once the Playa was part of the huge Lake Lahontan, which was over 500 hundred feet deep. Mammoths wandered the lake’s shore. Early morning and late evening provide the best times for desert viewing. An early morning walk, while Burning Man more or less sleeps, is the best time to appreciate what the desert has to offer. Embrace rather than dread the weather. When else in your life will you experience a massive dust storm or see a desert rainbow?

The evening sun bathes the surrounding mountains at Burning Man in soft light.

The evening sun bathes the surrounding mountains at Burning Man in soft light.

I think Burning Man  fails to emphasize (or assigns to footnote status) one of the event’s most spectacular assets… the beauty of the Black Rock Desert.

A massive dust storm crosses the Playa and hides the camp.

4. Visit the Temple: The folks who build the Temple deserve a huge vote of thanks from all of us. Visiting is both an aesthetic and spiritual experience. To start with, the temples are gorgeous, with each year’s building a unique creation. Thousands of written messages are left on the walls to honor loved ones who have died or to give thanks for blessings. The messages are both sincere and touching. Take along a pen or a marker if you wish to honor or thank someone who has had a significant impact on your life. On Sunday night the temple burns, sending messages skyward in what I can only describe as a sacred experience.

The Temple of Promise at Burning Man 2012.

The Temple of Promise at Burning Man 2015.

The Temple of Grace at Burning Man 2014.

The Temple of Grace at Burning Man 2014.

The Temple burns on Sunday Night. Unlike the Burning of the Man which is a bit on the rowdy side, Burners watch silently and respectfully as the Temple Burns.

The Temple burns on Sunday Night. Unlike the Burning of the Man which is a bit on the rowdy side, Burners watch silently and respectfully as the Temple is consumed by flame.

5. Check out Camp Center Cafe, Often: Whether you want to perform, show off your costume, pick up the latest news, attend a show, enjoy art, have a cup of coffee, meet friends, have your fortune told, apply pasties, watch people or just hang, Camp Center Cafe is the place to go. It’s open 24 hours a day. Something is always going on. I visit two to three times daily. Be sure to watch the costume contest and the talent show.

This robot with his dog and a flower was in front of the Center Camp Cafe. He would raise the flower up to his nose and sniff it.

This robot with his dog and a flower was in front of the Center Camp Cafe. He would raise the flower up to his nose and sniff it. Each year Center Camp Cafe features a major sculpture.

“Yes Master.” Camp Center is a great place to watch people, show off your costume, and live out your fantasies… and it is always entertaining.

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?

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 on the floor center-right twins?

Center Camp is also a prime location for Burning Man art.

Center Camp is also a prime location for Burning Man art.

6. Stroll or Bike The Esplanade: This is Burning Man’s other major center of action. It provides the border between the Camp and the Playa. It is a theater, circus and walkway all in one. Stop by and watch people pummel each other with foam sticks in the Thunder Dome, enjoy a troop of fire dancers, go roller-skating, play games, try out a balloon ride, hear how loud music can actually get, dance, watch a movie, become lost in a maze, meditate… etc.

Hundreds of people lined up for an opportunity climb into the sky on this balloon ride that was offered on the Esplanade. Entertainment along the Esplanade varies from dancing, to roller skating, to circuses. Once there was even a booth that would spank you, assuming you needed it.

Major tribes with hundreds of members build elaborate camps along the Esplanade.

Major tribes , some with hundreds of members, build elaborate camps along the Esplanade.

A number of impressive buildings including the Sacred Spaces building are found along the Esplanade at Burning Man.

Another example.

7. Check out and/or Ride on Mutant Vehicles: Undecorated vehicles are restricted to camp. If you are going to drive you have to decorate. What’s not to love about a giant, wooly mammoth or a cat car with fur? Mutant Vehicles at Burning Man come in all shapes, forms and sizes. Some people spend weeks/months creating their fantasy transportation systems and even bicycles are elaborately decorated.  Various vehicles become dance floors, spout fire, look ferocious and even appear friendly. A polite request may land you a ride.

The Cat Car is a perennial favorite at Burning Man. This year she had a makeover and was looking quite snazzy.

The Cat Car is a perennial favorite at Burning Man. This year she had a makeover and was looking quite snazzy.

The tusks on they mammoth are what make this art car one of my favorite mutant vehicles at Burning Man. People sit inside the rib cage. The driver climbs into the head.

The tusks on they mammoth are what make this art car one of my favorite mutant vehicles. People sit inside the rib cage. The driver climbs into the head.

Where's Alice?

Where’s Alice?

Never Was Haul resembles a Victorian House that has been converted to a steam engine train.

Never Was Haul resembles a Victorian House that has been converted to a steam engine train.

A rhino even more massive than its counterpart in East Africa.

A rhino even more massive than its counterpart in East Africa.

8. Join a Tribe, or not: Tribes are the major social units at Burning Man and there is a tribe for almost any inclination. Many feature theme camps based on the year’s theme and welcome visitors. You can also form your own. Let’s say you are a purple alien from outer space and can’t find a tribe. Create the Purple Alien from Outer Space Tribe. Odds are there are other purple aliens who will want to join. It’s doubtful that anyone will even recognize that you are an alien. They will just think, “Oh, he’s got a neat costume,” and want to take your picture.

The Peripatetic Bone, held here by Boots and featuring his leather vest, has his own tribe… the Horse-Bone Tribe. He has been visiting Burning Man for years and was even married there to Bonette, a few years ago.

9. Go out into the Night: The Burning Man night is magical. Everyone and thing includes some kind of lighting system including art, people, bikes and mutant vehicles. Most blocks provide entertainment. Is it going to be pole dancing, jazz or vodka creations that capture your imagination? You will think you have entered a different universe.

The front of the Temple at night.

The Temple of Promise at night.

A large group attended an evening discussion on the issue of violence against women.

R-evolutuion lit up at night. Here, a large group attended an evening discussion on the issue of violence against women.

Burning Man dragon created by Flaming Lotus Girls for Burning Man.

A fiery dragon.

Burning Man mutant vehicle. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

And a mutant vehicle vase.

10. Peruse the Catalogue: You are given a catalogue when you arrive that includes literally hundreds of things you can do at Burning Man ranging from attending a lecture on solar power to having your breasts painted. The various tribes sponsor these events for free as part of Burning Man’s gift-giving culture. You can practice yoga, learn the samba, improve your fire twirling skills, watch a show, and even improve your sex life, regardless of which way you lean. You can also drink. The catalogue lists dozens of bars featuring everything from Bloody Marys to craft beers. One year I found a casket that featured beer spouts.  Drinks are free; bring your own cup. One of the first things I do after setting up camp is to go through the catalogue and check off things I might want to do. Hmmm, I wonder what bondage is like? (Just kidding… but there are opportunities to learn about it, and practice.)

Burning Man may be the greatest show on Earth. Bring along your imagination, sense of humor, and willingness to experience new things.

If you’ve enjoyed this post, are planning on going to Burning Man for your first time, want to learn more about the event, or want to reminisce about past events, I invite you to join me on Fridays for the next couple of months.

Fire in the Night: The Man Burns… Burning Man 2015

Intense flames engulf the Man at Burning Man 2015.

Intense flames engulf the Man at Burning Man 2015, reminding me of the power of fire.

People were cooking bacon over the smoldering ashes of the Man, symbolically reminding me that life goes on. Regardless. Others were collecting remnants of the tall sculpture: pieces of metal that refused to burn in the conflagration, even bits of wood and ash. These were souvenirs meant to be put up on the mantle or stored away as memorabilia. I stopped and watched for a few minutes before moving on. It was my last day at Burning Man 2015 and I was sure there was art lurking out on the Playa that I had somehow missed. Plus there were several sculptures that I wanted to revisit, to admire one last time.

Burning Man at night is a different world from Burning Man during the day. There is fairytale magic in the air as Black Rock City comes alive and colorfully lit mutant vehicles, bicycles, and Burners make their way though the temporary city, parade up and down the Esplanade, and move out into the desert. Dragons, ducks, ships, a rhino, an octopus and a myriad of other creatures breathe fire into the night. Acres of dust are turned into gyrating dance floors while shows ranging from burlesque to circuses entice burners in. Even the art takes on a different persona— some pieces shoot out flames, some burn, and all are lit up in ingenious ways. As wild as each night is, the burning of the Man exists in a class by itself.

Sixty thousand people plus and several hundred mutant vehicles gather in a huge circle around the Man. Music booms out into the night, a thousand fire dancers work their twirling magic, fireworks light the sky, and the Man burns, at first standing tall, arms outstretched, and then eventually falling— as Burners catch their breath in anticipation and then yell together in celebration. The deafening sound echoes out across the desert and then is absorbed into the night.

I like to wander around the night of the burn, as opposed to sitting in the dust for two hours. My tailbone doesn’t have the same sense of humor it once did and I enjoy the night look of mutant vehicles. I catch glimpses of the fire dancers as I go, but stop to watch the fireworks and burn. Here are some of my photos from 2015.

People perch on El Pulpo Mechanico at Burning Man and watch as the Man burns.

People perch on El Pulpo Mechanico at Burning Man and watch as the Man burns.

This one-eyed, toothed monster was one of several hundred mutant vehicles at the burn.

This one-eyed, toothed monster was one of several hundred mutant vehicles at the burn. I like his yum sign up on top.

A seahorse was accompanied by a jelly fish and other ocean life.

A seahorse was accompanied by a jelly fish and other ocean life.

Unicycle, or...

A very unique bicycle built for two.

Splendid tail feathers.

Splendid tail feathers.

Sharp teeth, and I suspect, a fiery breath.

Sharp teeth, and I suspect, a fiery breath.

Exotic bug? It's dome back made a good viewing station to watch the Man burn.

Exotic bug? Its dome trailer in back made a good viewing platform to watch the Man burn.

Fish mutant vehicles at night Burning Man 2015

No doubt about this water creature. Fun fins.

I am thinking grass hopper here.

I am thinking bee here. And it looks angry.

My search for unique mutant vehicles stops immediately when the fireworks start.

I stop wandering when the fireworks start. The Man’s head can be seen on the right between the two columns.

The fireworks can be intense with dozens of explosions going off at once.

The fireworks can be intense with dozens of explosions going off at once.

Red spotlights set the man off against the fireworks.

Red spotlights set the man off against the fireworks. We were standing on the side instead of in front of the Man, so we had a side view. His arms are always raised to announce the beginning of fireworks show. Immediately following the fireworks, the Man begins to burn.

Man burns at Burning Man 2015 1

Ghost-like, the man’s head appears out of the flames.

Man burns at Burning Man 2015 2

And then disappears.

Don Green took this photo.

Don Green took this photo that shows the burning platform and the Man’s arm, no longer held aloft.

Man burns at Burning Man 2015 4

I caught a pair of rabbit ears in this shot. The Man has become a skeleton of his previous self.

And eventually, even that is burned away.

And eventually, even that is burned away, leaving one center pole and the metal structure.

And finally, he begins to fall, bringing an to the burn.

And finally, what remains begins to fall as 60,000 plus people cheer.

This marks the end of my 2015 Burning Man series. I hope you have enjoyed viewing it as much as I enjoyed putting it together.

I’ll be out of touch for a couple of weeks as Peggy and I head off to Alaska to visit our son and his family. They’ve urged us to come up and join them at the Fur Rendezvous in Anchorage and the World Ice Art Championships in Fairbanks. We will be taking the train up to Fairbanks from Anchorage. Altogether, I suspect there will be some good blogs to come out of the experience. To fill in the blanks while we are gone, I am reposting some blogs from our trip up to Alaska three-years ago. —Curt

Burning Man Walkabout 2015… Part 2

The options of what to do at Burning Man seem overwhelming. For, example, do you need a hug?

The options of what to do at Burning Man seem overwhelming. For, example, do you need a hug?

The Colonel from Kentucky was giving away fried baloney (his spelling) sandwiches on a slice of white bread and shots of Kentucky Bourbon. The elephant with his missing tusk was back. You could pick up “a long uncomfortable hug,” at the Hug Deli. Lamplighters marched by carrying 12 lamps each. A man in a mask was wearing a doctor’s smock and flowery underwear while playing a saxophone. And my friend Don was climbing everything in sight to take photos of the city.  (The truth here is that Don just likes to climb things.)

It was another typical day in Black Rock City. Every hundred yards or so offered another adventure. Each day, we checked out the Burning Man’s 160-page activity guide. Will we do something cerebral and go listen to TED talks or join the Billion Bunny March to Protest Humanity. The options seem limitless. Do I really need to learn how to spank Peggy? I don’t think so; neither does she. Here are some more photos for you to enjoy, including Don’s Black Rock City overviews.

Burning Man program guide 2015

The Burning Man activity guide listed close to 1600 ways to get into mischief or learn something new.

Tom decided he needed a hug from these people who were celebrating their daughters birthday. Judging from the look of the wife, I think it fell under the title of long uncomfortable hug.

Tom decided he needed a hug from these people who were celebrating their daughter’s birthday. Judging from the look of the family, I think it fell under the title of “long uncomfortable hug.” But Tom was having fun. They did tell us, however, where to go to get a baloney sandwich and a shot of Kentucky bourbon for breakfast.

The Kentucky Camp was offering the Kentucky bourbon and baloney, naturally. The Colonel gave me a wave of greeting.

The Kentucky Camp was offering the Kentucky bourbon and baloney. The Colonel gave me a wave of greeting.

This guy was quite pleased that baloney was on the menu.

This guy was quite pleased that baloney was on the menu.

Camps at Burning Man have mastered the false fronts of the Old West. Free drinks were offered here at night, as they are by numerous camps.

Camps at Burning Man have mastered the false fronts of the Old West. Free drinks were offered here at night, as they are by numerous camps.

Buildings can be quite elaborate, such as this one put up by the Burners from New Orleans.

Buildings can be quite elaborate, such as this one put up by the Burners from New Orleans…

And the Firehouse, a production of the North West Burners Camp, Do More Now.

And the Firehouse, a production of the North West Burner’s Camp, Do More Now.

One of my favorite buildings is this 'mobile home' pulled by a tractor. You never know where it will show up. This side features a 50s style kitchen that cooks and gives away cookies. The other side is a free bar.

One of my favorite buildings is this ‘mobile home’ pulled by a tractor. You never know where it will show up. This side features a 50s style kitchen that cooks and gives away cookies. The other side is a free bar.

I always stop and pay homage to Ganesha, the Hindu God/elephant that has lost his tusk.

I always stop and pay homage to Ganesha, the Hindu God/elephant that has lost his tusk. (Photo by Don Green.)

There are lots of opportunities to volunteer at Burning Man. Being a lamplighter is one. Each evening you can find this folks making their rounds.

There are lots of opportunities to volunteer at Burning Man. Being a lamplighter is one. Each evening you can find these folks making their rounds in a solemn procession.

This fellow seemed to be serenading the lamplighters as they went by. I found his costume amusing.

This fellow in his flowery underwear was serenading the Lamplighters as they went by. I found his costume amusing. (Sorry my photo was a little fuzzy.)

Don Green, who provided a number of photos for this blog series, works on his bike, Trigger. A bit of trivia: When Roy Rodger's horse, Trigger died, he had him stuffed. Trigger now resides in Bransom, Missouri.

Don Green works on his bike Trigger. A bit of trivia: When Roy Rodger’s horse Trigger died, Roy had him stuffed and mounted, which provided a new definition for mounting a horse.

We arrived early at Burning Man. You are allowed to camp anywhere that hasn't been marked off and to take up as much space as you need. My van is on the right and Tom's trailer is on the left.

We arrived early at Burning Man before the crowds. My van, Quivera, is in the center.  Tom’s trailer, Walter, is just to the left of it. (Photo by Don Green.)

Spaces quickly begin to fill up. (Photo by Don Green.)

Spaces quickly begin to fill up. (Photo by Don Green.)

And become crowded. (Photo by Don Green.)

And became crowded. (Photo by Don Green.)

A shot of Don's looking out across the Playa provides a view of the afternoon dust storms.

A shot of Don’s looking out across the Playa toward Black Rock City provides a view of the afternoon dust storms, which were rather mild at the time.

A shot of the Man before he burns on Saturday night. Surrounding buildings have all been taken down. NEXT BLOG: (and final Burning Man post for this series) The Man burns.

A final shot of the Man before he burns on Saturday night. Surrounding buildings have all been taken down. NEXT BLOG (and my last Burning Man post for this series): The Man burns. (Photo by Don Green.)

 

 

 

A Walkabout Tour of Black Rock City… Burning Man

The fun of going on a walkabout at Burning Man is you never know what will come up next, such as King Kong wearing a tutu.

The fun of going on a walkabout at Burning Man is that you never know what will come up next, such as King Kong wearing a tutu…

I am about to wrap up my series on Burning Man 2015 so I thought I’d take you on a walkabout tour of Black Rock City. It gives me a chance to slip in the photos I liked but couldn’t fit into the stories I was telling. This post and my next will primarily be photo essays. My final blog will be on the celebration surrounding the Burning of the Man.

Or maybe a jet airplane hosting a DJ.

This jet was hosting a DJ.

Dancing and music are an integral part of Burning Man. The event attacks some of the top DJs in the world who spin their tunes for free at Burning Man.

Dancing and music are an integral part of Burning Man. The event attracts some of the top DJs in the world. They spin their tunes for free at Burning Man. The size of the speakers equates with the loudness of the music. The major dance venues are relegated to the outer limits of Black Rock City, which is a good thing.

Large camps along the Esplanade are common along the Esplanade, Burning Man's main street.

Large camps are common along the Esplanade, Burning Man’s main street. This devilish clown had great character.

As was this, um, beauty.

As did this, um, bounteous beauty.

I caught this guy staring at her.

I caught this guy ogling  her.

Several million photos will be taken at Burning Man each year and this is how we photographers like to view ourselves with fancy equipment, standing tall...

Several million photos are taken at Burning Man each year and this is how we photographers like to view ourselves with fancy equipment, standing tall. Note the professional handling of the camera.

This is more the reality... lying in the dirt.

This is more the reality… lying in the dirt, posed under a woman with a whip.

Or butt up in the air while eating Playa dust... all for the sake of art.

Or butt up in the air while eating Playa dust… all for the sake of art.

I prefer my models posed on the same level I am. Being a nature lover, I couldn't resist these bunnies.

I prefer my models posed on the same level I am. Being a nature lover, I couldn’t resist these collar wearing rabbits. Or are they supposed to be bunnies?

It always pays to look up. You never know what may be flying out of the sky.

It always pays to look up. You never know what may be up in the air, such as this flying motorcycle. (Photo by Don Green.)

This heavy equipment was up in the air as well. Now you know how all of the large sculptures and buildings are put up.

This heavy equipment was up in the air as well. Now you know how all of the large sculptures and buildings are put up.

This is another way the equipment was used. The large block is being raised into the air to toss a burning piano that is affixed to the other end of the tower.

This is another way the equipment was used. The large block is being raised into the air to toss a burning piano that is affixed to the other end of the tower. I’ve included a video by Don Green of the toss as my final entry of the day. NEXT BLOG: We will continue our walkabout tour of Black Rock City.

A Horse with No Name and Burning Man… The Bikes of Black Rock City

This lion was one of the more uniquely decorated bikes I found at Burning Man 2015.

This lion was one of the more uniquely decorated bikes I found at Burning Man 2015. The tires are perfect for the Playa.

Almost everyone has a bike at Burning Man, even the folks with mutant vehicles. How else are you going to make your way down to the neighborhood bar, or the Center Camp Café, or the Man, or the dance venue out on the edge of Black Rock City when you have an itch to travel and your only option is walking— for miles. That means that there are well over 50,000 bikes running around in the desert. I wouldn’t be surprised if the number were closer to 65,000.

There are no skinny tires at Burning Man, or, if there are, the Virgin Burners who brought them won’t make the same mistake twice. Playa dust sucks up skinny tires like quicksand sucks up wayward cows. You and your bike may not disappear, but you are guaranteed to come to a screeching halt in deep dust, and possible even earn a dust bath. Most bikes also share another quality. They are dirt-cheap. Dirt seeps into everything. It is not the place for your $1000 bike, or even your $500 bike. I am talking Wal-Mart cheap.

When I first journeyed out to the Black Rock Desert, my friend Ken Lake brought along hobby horses to fit on our bikes.  (A hobby-horse is a long stick with a horse head on one end; you’ve probably seen them in kids stores like Toys-R-Us.  Maybe you have even jumped on one and yelled Hi-Yo-Silver-Away. I have.) Ours came with sound effects. Pinch their ears and they would make trotting and neighing sounds. The hobby horses were meant as a decoration, but they also served a more practical purpose: to help us find our bikes when hundreds of others looked just the same.  In honor of the horses we decided to call ourselves Horse Camp. Naturally we had to name our horses. I chose Horse with No Name after the lyrics of 70s song released by the band, America.

I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name— It felt good to be out of the rain— In the desert you can remember your name— ‘Cause there ain’t no one for to give you no pain.

Burning Man bikes Horse with No Name

Horse with No Name tries on my hat. The yellow circle under the hat was one of the many glow sticks he was wearing the night before to avoid becoming a statistic.

Following along with the horse camp theme, I adopted “Outlaw” as my Playa name. The two names just seemed to fit, plus they both have a rather illusive quality I like.

Not all burners decorate their bikes, but most have at least something on them to aid in identification. Here are some decorated bikes I found  at Burning Man 2015.

This pirate had outfitted his bike with a canon. (Photo by Don Green.)

This pirate had outfitted his bike with a cannon. (Photo by Don Green.)

A family of owls roosted on the handle bars.

A family of owls roosted on the handle bars.

I don't have a clue as to what these white poles represented but they sure made the bikes easy to find.

I don’t have a clue as to what these white poles represented but they sure made the bikes easy to find.

So did the lamp shades.

So did the lamp shades.

And how about these animals? It looks like someone robbed a toy store, or maybe their kid's room.

And how about these animals? It looks like someone robbed a toy store, or maybe their kid’s room. This is a tricycle, BTW.

Now, if I only had someone to pedal me around...

Now, if I only had someone to pedal me around…

I am thinking Pagoda here.

I am thinking Pagoda here.

If you have never biked, or haven't biked for quite awhile, your crotch may be in for a real treat. These folks (and their highly abused rabbit and bear) have done what they can to counter the experience.

If you have never biked, or haven’t biked for quite a while, your crotch may be in for a real treat. Trust me on this one. I’ve been there. These folks (and their highly abused rabbit and dog) have done what they can to counter the pain.

I will conclude with this flower. Join me in my next blog as I go on a Burning Man walk-a-bout.

I will conclude with this gigantic flower. Join me in my next blog as I go on a Burning Man walk-a-bout.

 

Center Camp Café… Where Burners Gather

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The backdrop for main stage at the Cafe.

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

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

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

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

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

And this walking caution sign.

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

Ta da!

Ta da! (Photo by Don Green.)

And this well-dressed bride.

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

Talent show at Burning Man 6

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

This Asian woman with her oriental costume...

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

And this green man in his height of fashion costume.

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

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

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

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

I thought this woman may have been learning to fly.

I thought this woman may have been learning to fly.

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

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

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

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

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

 Art at Center Camp Cafe at Burning Man

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The People of Black Rock City… Who Goes to Burning Man?

I chose this man to kick off my blog on the people of Burning Man partially because of the character shown in his face and partially because he is a veteran Burner who works with the Department of Public Works that helps build Black Rock City.

I chose this man to kick off my blog on the people of Burning Man partially because of the character shown in his face and partially because he is a veteran Burner who works with the Department of Public Works that builds Black Rock City.

When I first travelled out to Burning Man in 2004 the perception was that Burners were a group of modern-day hippies who travelled out into the desert, got naked, and smoked a lot of pot. I was okay with that. I like new experiences and adventures. Besides, I could go out into the desert, not get naked, and not smoke a lot of pot. What I quickly discovered, and have since advocated over and over however, is that Burning Man is much more than a hippie party in the desert; it is a hot-bed of creativity and a huge outdoor gallery of world-class art. Many of the costumes shown in this post are another aspect of that creativity.

Bright, colorful costumes have been a tradition at Burning Man since the event started. They are a way that individuals contribute to the overall atmosphere.

Bright, colorful costumes have been a tradition at Burning Man since the event started. They are a way that individuals contribute to the overall atmosphere. (Photo by Don Green.)

Naturally I was curious about who my fellow Burners were. As it turns out, so was Burning Man. BMO (the Burning Man Organization) began carrying out an annual census or survey in 2002 of who participated. What I discovered, as I reviewed the results of the annual surveys, was that the everyday average Burner looked a lot like me.

Burners come in all ages and many come well-costumed. I've always been a bit suspicious that them of them are also aliens.

Burners come in all ages and many come well-costumed. I’ve always been a bit suspicious that some of them are also aliens. I like the eyes staring out from behind. There is a good chance that Susan Sarandon tacked them up. (Photo by Don Green.)

Here are a few results from the 2014 census (the last date for which complete details are published) that I pulled out to share with you:

  • 58.2% of the participants are male and 40.6% are female. (Some don’t respond.) Of these people, 64.9% had been more than once and 35.1% first-timers (virgins in Burner speak). Only 5.5% fit my category of having been to the event 11 times or more.
  • People are older than you may think. 33.9% are 40 and older and 35.2% fit the category of 30-39, leaving only 30% for the under 30 crowd. My esteemed age (grin) puts me in the one percent category.
  • Income-wise, the majority of Burners are well above the poverty line. 2.7% actually make over $350k a year. Over 50% make between $50k and $299k per year.
  • 27% of Burners have advanced college degrees and 42.6% have bachelor degrees meaning that almost 70% of the people at Burning Man have graduated from college.
  • Not too surprising, 87% of the participants are white, a fact for which BMO has come under some criticism. 84.8% of Burners come from the US and 15.1% from other countries. (And yes, I realize that leaves 0.1% hanging out there. My theory is that these people are aliens from outer space. Who would ever know?)
  • The political view of Burners is somewhat left of center, especially on environmental and social issues. Only 4.8% registered as Republican. 34.6% registered Democrat and 34.3% Independent. Other parties got the rest. In the last election 72% voted. Of these, 75% voted Democratic.
  • Two final results: 69.4% of Burners consider themselves heterosexual. 71.8 % do not belong to an organized religion.

So now, to put a face to these numbers, here are some photos of Burners from 2015. I owe a special thanks to my friend Don Green for many of these pictures. Don is much less shy than I am about going up and asking people if he can take their photo.

It's not all youngsters at Burning Man. As the woman's glasses suggest, the majority of Burners are of a more liberal persuasion.

It’s not all youngsters at Burning Man. As the glasses suggest, the majority of Burners are of a more liberal persuasion. Most would go along with the old saying: Make love, not war.

Burning Man has a rule about not wearing feathers. They tend to escape onto the Playa and have to be cleaned up. That never stops people from wearing feathers. I thought they looked good on this woman. (Photo by Don Green.)

Burning Man has a rule about not wearing feathers. They tend to escape onto the Playa and have to be cleaned up. That never stops Burners from wearing them. I thought they looked good on this woman. (Photo by Don Green.)

This woman has been coming to Burning Man as long as I have and never looks a day older. I want her secret.

This woman has been coming to Burning Man as long as I have and never looks a day older. I want her secret.

Burning Man People 6

I captured this man twirling fire. While 87% of the participants at Burning Man are white, my sense over the past several years has been that the ethnic make up of the event is changing, be it ever so gradual.

I identified with this woman as she sat alone and worked on her journal, capturing her experience at Burning Man. It could have easily been me.

I identified with this woman as she sat alone and worked on her journal, capturing her experience at Burning Man. It could have easily been me.

This young couple stood next to me as we watched a burning piano be tossed 50 or so yards up the Playa. Glasses form an important part of Burner's costumes.

This young couple stood next to me as we watched a burning piano be tossed 50 or so yards up the Playa. Glasses form an important part of Burner’s costumes. He had a large fork as a staff. Why not…

Great eyelashes. (Photo by Don Green.)

Great eyelashes. (Photo by Don Green.)

Some Burners are abnormally tall.

Some Burners are abnormally tall with surprisingly small feet.

And some have wings, large wings.

And some have wings, large wings. (Photo by Don Green.)

I really liked these "wings."

I really liked these “wings” caught in the early morning sunlight. Is she ready to fly?

This woman had learned how. (Photo by Don Green.)

This woman had learned how. (Photo by Don Green.)

Our next door neighbors had a huge orange outside there RV and boxes of oranges that they were giving away. They told mer they had an orange tree in Southern California that bore fruit right about Burning Man time every year. They would pick the fruit, bring it to Burning Man and give it away.

Our next door neighbors had a huge orange outside their RV. They told me they had an orange tree in Southern California that bore fruit right about Burning Man time every year. They would pick the fruit, bring it to Burning Man, and give it away. They had been doing so for several years.

The hat and unique look guaranteed that this man would make it onto my blog. He really liked like someone I would like to know.

The hat and unique look guaranteed that this man would make it onto my blog. He really looked like someone I would like to know.

Here is how I like police people to tell me no. This woman was a member of the Black Rock Rangers, BMO's group of volunteers who help maintain order in Black Rock City. She was telling me I had gone about as far as I could go.

Here is how I like police people to tell me no. This woman was a member of the Black Rock Rangers, BMO’s group of volunteers who help maintain order in Black Rock City. She was telling me I had gone about as far as I could go.

Every party needs a pirate, right. Could it possibly be... (Photo by Don Green.)

Every party needs a pirate, right. Could it possibly be… (Photo by Don Green.)