Friday, September 12, 2008

Burning Man 2008: The evening...and the breakdown of what is formally known as “hump day”

By Matt Pierce

Black Rock City, Nevada - No, I'm not talking about a day where you go out and hump things.  That would be what happens to some people after massive amounts of rum (K.B.)  I left off around Sunset on Tuesday last time, and this is where this crazy story in the center of Bat Country truly begins.  Myself and Captain Tuesday went out on the town that night, as Tuesday night was the ranger social at the 3:00 ranger station.  So, we set out early and stopped to enjoy whatever we saw out on the open Esplanade.  The first exhibit that we saw was on the esplanade lane not too far away from where we had turned the corner on 8:00, was a large holo cube thingy.  I don't know what it was called, I just knew that my pupils weren't small enough for me to ride in it (although the operators said differently.)  So, we hung out for a few minutes and had a cigarette with one of the operators, and it provided for a good laugh.  We had pictures of this, unfortunately, the camera disappeared later in the night, and alas, we never did find it.

Farther along the esplanade, myself and the Captain realized why we liked burning man so very much.  We actually agreed on something for once!  I know, this doesn't sound like anything special, but for those of you who have actually met us, you know we never agree on anything.  For some bizarre reason though, out there it was the total opposite, as if the fates had conspired for the both of us to go home this year (and by home, I mean Black Rock City.)  We laughed like the half drunk playa cruisers we were on our way out to the man that night, stopping at every art station we could find in between.  After what seemed like most of the night (which in reality was probably only about a half hour or so,) we finally made it all the way over to the 3:00 plaza and the ranger station within.  We ran into Sasquatch first, over by his bus.  He directed us to the trash can that was full of beer (yaaaay! beeeer!) and then we found seats and had a nice chat with Rangers Beauty, Lady Frog, Sasquatch, and Magpie.  It was Magpie's first year as a ranger and only the second year on the playa.  To her, I raise my glass and salute.

After we had a few beers in our systems, myself and Captain Tuesday set out for center camp.  Now I had this genius (*note: sarcasm is to be noted) idea to walk across the unpacked open  esplanade.   We finally made it to center camp after what seemed like eternity (and trust me, our feet were feeling it,) and finally got to sit down.  I must admit, although it was much more painful to sit down and take the weight off of my feet, it felt so nice after doing playa seal training on the long walk there.  Now this is where the sad weepy part of the story takes place (not for me mind you, see my last post.)  I found a very funny thing in center camp that night, and it hangs on my fridge at this moment.  It was a picture of Dick Cheney with his normal scowl (personally, I don't think its physically possible for that man to smile,) and he had left a very nice note.  It read "Hey burner, go fuck yourself." I got a nice laugh out of it, and of course had to take it back to camp to bring home with me.  I drank whatever drink I had in my water bottle with Tuesday as we relaxed in center camp.  I lost my water bottle that night, but hey, its just a nalgene.

Earlier in the day, at I'd say about 11 in the morning, Tuesday went to a fire staff making class.  He made what looked like an awesome staff (and trust me, I wanted to light it up.)   While we were at center camp that night, I left before Tuesday did as I was about to pass out in the seat there.  Tuesday said he left about 20 minutes after I did, and made it about a block and a half before he realized that he had forgotten his staff (NEVER leave a fire toy unattended at Burning Man.)  By the time he made it back to where he had left it at center camp, it was gone, never to return.  The next morning, once Tuesday woke up, he proceeded to tell me of his epic fail.  I informed him of my opinion, but assured that I would help him try to find it throughout the rest of the week.

Soon after my conversation with Tuesday, I found myself in the center of a fucking reptile zoo.  And somebody had coated everybody with dust!  This was truly a journey to the savage heart of the American dream.  I found affirmations of everything right and true in the American dream, but that dream is only for those with true grit.  And I assure you, I am fucking chock full of that man!

In the next issue: Mongoose remembers exactly why the fuck he went to this super harsh desert environment.

Until then, my quote for Wednesday:

"The Playa wookie is real!!!!"

Burn, Baby, Burn

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Burning Man 2008: The day the Col. took Mr. Pete on a tour

By Matt Pierce

Black Rock City, Nevada - Tuesday morning was an odd one. I had went to bed early that night absolutely covered in dust (along with everything we had,) and awoke to calm weather, and a nice sunrise. The madness that was brought on by the sleeplessness from the drive in was gone (and trust me I slept for 13 hours after I finally napped out,) and I realized that I really was at Burning Man. Coffee camp was up and running, so I went to get my morning jolt. The coffee woke me up pretty nice and very quickly. I finished my cup of coffee and got dressed and cleaned off for the morning (the mud face ran rampant from where I had drooled in my sleep, and I also managed to ruin a razor trying in vain to shave without water out there.) After that, I decided to stick around camp for a while, and besides, we were in no hurry to go out and try to see everything. Those of us who had been there before knew that it was physically impossible to ever see all of the city. KB woke up from what looked to be the most uncomfortable position ever, doubled over in a camp chair. Shortly afterwards, he got changed into the bug eye Willy Wonka goggles that he had from the first time he went to Burning man.

I found Mr. Pete about an hour after I had woken up and started telling him what Burning Man was like, knowing full well that I was about to give him a tour of sorts so that he could experience at least a part of it first hand. I also knew that it was early in the week, and that after he had picked up the basics of navigation, he would be out on his own the same way that I was. We started the journey at least somewhat early, and made our way out towards Esplanade lane. We met stilt walkers along the way, a few of them actually. They were kind enough to allow us to snap a few pictures before we moved on, and one of them even had the idea of taking a picture of us from his perspective about 3 feet above us.

I love the randomness of Black Rock City.

After we hung a right on Esplanade, we saw a tree that was made of a wooden frame with ballerina shoes as the foliage. The artist that designed the structure went by the name of Butters and had said that she had built it in the middle of the dust storm from the day before. I find it simply amazing that out of something that made so many people so very miserable that something so beautiful and awesome could blossom like that. This is a depiction of the lovely Ms. Butters and her friends at their exhibit.

We continued on in our journey to the strange center of the city, and along the way, we ran into what I'm sure was supposed to be an art car, however the DPW (Department of Public Works) had not taken it out at any point during the week. It was a tree, but not like any tree that most people have ever seen. In fact, its more like a tree that would come out of one of Tim Burton's nightmares. It was made entirely of the bones of animals (faux bones, worry not vegetarians, no animals were harmed in the creation of said art car.) I had never seen anything like it, nor will I see anything like it again until next year at Burning Man.

We ran into a guy with the most awesome necklace that I had ever seen made for Burning Man farther down the road. It was made from Stained glass, and was very obviously designed with much care and attention. Myself and Mr. Pete asked him if he would like to meet our good friend Bob, and we went walking back towards center camp, and then onwards. After meeting with Bob, we traded a few finger lights for some awesome Alaskan smoked salmon (which by the way has my vote for best food of the week), and while that trade was taking place, we noticed a girl with a beautifully painted back. Yes, I mean back, here I'll show you.

We hung out and chatted over a couple of beers, and had fun while doing so before myself and Mr. Pete made our departure for Center Camp. Upon our arrival in Center Camp, we found what I am affectionately referring to as the art car to the underworld, complete with walking statues of Anubis leading the cart along. Music was blaring from the top, and in the center of the hieroglyphs, was the logo of the man with his arms raised.

After taking some pictures of this most awesome art car, I showed Mr. Pete the post office. My favorite sign by far was actually located on the front of said post office, but I feel that letting that sign speak for itself would be far better. 

Mr. Pete found some post cards that he liked there at the post office, and traded some finger lights (and later a solar flashlight) for some of the post cards depicting events and art exhibits from years previous. I honestly don't think there was a single post card that he did not send out to somebody (I'm pretty sure that the last one he sent out was to himself as well.) Just as we were leaving the post office, I ran into the one person that I wanted to say hi to more than any out there, my friend from San Diego named Flutterby. I walked up and said her birth name (no, you don't get to find out what that is) and she screamed and threw her arms around me. After that, I gave Scott a hug because I had not seen him since the last time I was at the good Captain's house (and no I'm not talking about Tuesday.)  It was so good getting to see them, but other than Sasquatch, Lady Frog, and Beauty, I didn't really see anybody else from San Diego that I knew. After the greetings, I headed with Mr. Pete into Center Camp. Mr. Pete had not seen center camp yet, and from the look he had on his face, it blew his mind seeing what the central camp of Black Rock City actually looked like. I took a seat while Mr. Pete looked around center camp and snapped many many pictures. While I was sitting, I bummed a guy a cigarette and he gave me a really really cool metal turtle that is hanging on the balcony outside of my apartment at current moment. Sometimes the more random gifts are the best ones you can receive at Burning Man. I met another interesting character named Raine while I was sitting at the bench in center camp taking a rest and smoke break, and I gifted her some inscence as it was her first time out at the burn. She, in turn wrote the following in the notebook that I happened to be carrying at the time:

And An Ode

If we dance free with love and hate, we choose to choose the other. Whether the other is hate or love, balance is all that center of the same, as I am you and you are me, we all have weeeeee! with ups and downs, my in is your out. my hate is nothing more than misguided love for you, and I do.... love you. familiar and powerful cam we capture each other in this moment? I believe so, a camera can break, but my words ring eternal in your book of life. Up, down, love, hate, no wordsw are all words, and we exist to exist.

I thought this was cool, you can go ahead and think whatever you want.

Shortly after, myself and Mr. Pete headed back to camp and waited out the rest of the afternoon.

In the next volume, the Captain and the Col. venture out into the unknown of Black Rock City, and find more drinks than the average 2 unofficial officers. Same blog time, same blog channel. Okay, maybe not the same time, but definitely by tomorrow evening. Until then, my quote of the day and closing bit for this article, "Shirt cocking is not art. Lose the shirt or put on some fucking pants."

Burn, Baby, Burn.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Burning Man 2008: Captain Tuesday… On Tuesday…

By Captain Tuesday

The man burns in 4 days

Shaking the dust thrown off by passing vehicles from my head, I crawled out of bed, and stumbled over to my new best friends, COFFEE camp, the social hub of the universe, sometime around 9:00am, and had quite possibly the best cup of instant coffee every created by a human being. Jermo is the shit for his coffee making abilities. Once I woke up and gathered my wits about me, it was time to start making preparations for my plans of the day, which included getting the cameras registered and tagged as press cameras, getting our press passes, and then off to the workshop for making a fire staff. It took about an hour to gather the FVR writers and head out to Center Camp, and we had some fun walking there and looking at the new arrivals on their way in. After signing the contracts I had a few questions to ask at Media Mecca about ownership and rights of all the pictures taken, as the wording in the contract is all in legalese. The answer was simple, Burning Man LLC owns all pictures and video, and grants us a free license to use them. Some people think this is kind of a dick thing to do, but if you think about the craziness of the event, the wrong image getting into the hands of the wrong politician or into the mainstream media could put a serious damper on future festivals. Needless to say, I signed without hesitation. Then, Mr. Pete and Mongoose headed off on their own, and I headed in the direction of 7:30 and Fairlane, to build my very own fire staff.

Since the workshop was so close to camp, I stopped back in and refilled on water (lifeblood of the event really), grabbed the power drill we brought along specifically and only for this particular workshop, and walked one street counter-clockwise, and 2 streets outbound. On arrival, I found the workshop director, Captain Salamander, and introduced myself as a participant, and a member of the press. I grabbed my 5ft section of aluminum bar stock, took some pictures, and got to work. All in all, it was pretty easy to do. The absolute hardest part of the whole process is cutting the Kevlar. Kevlar does not cut easily, and the scissors we had just weren’t doing a very good job. After that, it was really a piece of cake (yes, the cake is a lie…). Upon completion, we celebrated with some homebrew porter provided by the Mooncake Rebellion camp, and hung out for a bit. Then I had to bring the drill back, which was never even used, and was so proud of myself that I was walking around holding my staff in the air saying “I has a staff!!” and yes, that is exactly how I said it.

I went back to camp, grabbed my cup, ran across the street to Raise The Bar, and got myself some of that world famous PBR. Everyone who saw the staff immediately noticed the fresh Kevlar and asked me when I was going to set that thing on fire. I then had to explain that I'm still a n00b and wasn’t yet confident enough to light up, so instead some people showed me some new moves and transitions, and other people just said “good luck!”. It was awesome. After my liquid lunch, I decided it was time for a hike. Mongoose had mentioned that some of my friends from San Diego were camped in the vicinity of 3:00 and B street, so I headed in that direction, by way of the Esplanade. Again, I met some very interesting people, one of whom (Bob from camp AOK, who gave me a patch remarkably similar to that national campground place) had never heard of a fire staff, and started quizzing me on its purpose and use. He was actually quite excited about the whole deal, even though he wore only a top hat and shoes. Moving counter-clockwise from there, I met another person with a staff, but he was doing contact staff moves. Contact staff involves using every part of your body, except your hands. Wrists, arms, elbows, shoulders, head, neck, back, etc. He showed me some other cool moves that I will definitely need to practice. I just don’t have the fluidity needed to perform them properly, let alone transition from one form into the next.

Once I made it to 3:00 and B st, I stopped in at the ranger station, hoping to find my friend Sasquatch. Sas is easy to find in a crowd. You just look for the head towering above everyone else. In the case there are two, just look for the one with long red hair. Sas is a cool guy, and a computer nerd and thinker like I am. Plus, we have the same taste in booze. You just can’t argue with that. Unfortunately, he didn’t know where any of my other friends from SD were, so I asked where the nearest bar was.

(You should probably get used to that. It’s going to be a running theme.)

Off to 2:30 and B, one block away, to the Petting Zoo. Apparently its just a name, as I didn’t see anyone being pet, or anyone doing any petting. *shrug* up to the bar for some beer, now that I remembered to grab my cup from camp. After another search in the vicinity of 3 and B, I headed back to camp, by way of the open playa.

Just off to the 12:00 side of the 3:00 avenue, sat a small cubicle. If I were someone other than myself, I would consider this very odd, and wonder whether or not there was some extra special something in that last drink I had, but truth be told, I wasn’t surprised. Other people might be surprised at what people haul out to the desert, but not the Captain. Sitting in front of the non-functional computer screen, was an attractive female, whose name I have since forgotten, surrounded by another attractive female, and a dude, whose names also have escaped me. The woman sitting at the desk informed me that she was taking dictation, and would I like to dictate a memo. So I began:
Me: “To whom it may concern”
Her: “To all you Fuckasses”
And, well, I’m sure you can get the idea from there. To make it short, my memo informed all who might be concerned that I was lacking in female accompaniment, and this problem needed to be rectified immediately. I can’t give you the full dictation, as I was being severely distracted by female #2 lucking my navel, and sucking on my nipple. After dictation was over, we went on a campaign for moop against moop, the idea being that moop isn’t moop, it’s just waiting to be repurposed.

Once back to camp. I took a short nap, and headed out with the Colonel. Around and around we wandered, in whatever direction the playa took us. A bar here, a bar there, some art over here, another trip to The Man for some up skirt shots of The Man, not the people, and then to the fire trees, which blossom into fire art at night. One tree bore the fruit of the fire jet, which is, as its name implies, a jet. The difference being that its less of a jet, and more of a rocket, except with four nozzles, instead of one, and all nozzles pointing to the center. So its less of a jet, and more of a rocket, and less of a rocket, and more of a pendulum. Many pictures were taken. At some point, we headed towards Center Camp for a rest and possibly some random encounters. This is where things first started to suck. I wandered over to the main stage where some sound problems were happening, to offer my assistance, and got to know everyone there. I went back to the seat I was at, got my bag, and started back to camp. About that time, I started to wonder what hopefully you are wondering too, namely, what happened to my firestaff……  Yep, you guessed it. It disappeared. My cup was still there, but no staff :-( . Sad, defeated, and grumpy, I went back to camp, and went to bed.

Disarmed but not Defeated
Captain Tuesday

Burning Man 2008: The American Dream in the Land of Oz

By Captain Tuesday

For me, this year was yet another learning experience. Unlike my last burn in 2005, I had a much better time. I had a ridiculously good time. I think I had more fun than is allowed by most state laws. Good thing for me that it was in Nevada, where you can get away with things like that. And now, I will begin my AfterBurn Report

The Man Burns in 5 Days

Driving through Nevada in the wee hours of the morning, we kept looking to our left, waiting to pass the low hills, trying to get a view from the city, looking for the monolithic structure that is The Man. We were still 12 miles or so away, so when we finally got a glimpse of him, he was just a slightly tallish looking speck just below the horizon. One structure was clearly visible, but we didn’t find out about it till later. At the time, I thought it was some industrial building far beyond the city limits. Driving through Empire and Gerlach we passed many burners taking one last break, and picking up very-very-last-minute supplies. I had to laugh at them, because the residents of these last two towns on the way to Burning Man are making a killing at the registers. The towns are small enough that everybody knows everybody else, so spotting a burner is pretty damn easy, although being covered in fur is kind of a dead giveaway. Quite frankly, I feel that the residents should absolutely charge a higher price for last minute supplies, for two reasons. Firstly, as burners, we are supposed to practice Radical Self Reliance. We should already have everything we should need or want at the burn. And secondly, these towns are small, and don’t have the infrastructure to handle 50,000 tourists buying up all their drinking water and gasoline. Those poor burners will probably have learned their lesson after paying over $5 for a gallon of gas, and about as much for water.

Once we turned off the highway, and on to entrance road, things started to get a little surreal. One lane split into two, and then into three, and ultimately into 8 lanes, plus two bus/RV/camper inspection stations. They aren’t inspecting for contraband, but instead for stowaways and people trying to sneak in without a ticket. Some people didn’t get the memo about no ticket sales at the gate anymore. Some people (who had tickets presumably) got out of their vehicles and were walking around talking to and entertaining the other drivers. For awhile, I was the only person in the truck, sitting behind the wheel, waiting for the line to move, and everyone else was out wandering around, talking to people, making a short hike to the porta-potties, and one had to make a nice long hike to the will-call booth to get the ticket he purchase online shortly before sales ended. There were other people riding on the hood of their car, drinking beer and enjoying the excitement of not falling off when the car moved. One guy was in a camp chair, on top of a huge RV. After about an hour or two in line, we made it to the greeter station, got our maps and our what/where/when guides, and the three virgins got out and rang the bell, as tradition, and The Captain (me), demand.

Up next was finding a good campsite. After two false starts in spaces reserved for theme camps, we finally settled in at 8:00 and Dart, right next to the porta-potties, and miraculously, right next to COFFEE camp, the self proclaimed social hub of the universe. We all unloaded the truck, set up the tents, did a quick organization of stuff, and then lost all visibility in one hell of a dust storm. Guess it’s a good thing we stopped for more goggles on the way out, since two of us (not me) forgot to get some. For me, it was a first. In 2005 there was only one wind storm, at 70mph, and carried mostly dirt, not sand and dust, so you could still see a bit. This dust storm came with a vengeance.  40-50mph winds, fine-grain dust and sand covered everything, and reduced visibility to about 5 or 6 feet. You could be standing right next to someone, and not be able to see them. Well, me being the adventurous type, I gathered up the Colonel, Bumper, and KB from COFFEE camp, and we all went to see The Man, in the middle of the dust storm. Ipod and Mr. Pete, when asked if they wanted to join us in our first visit to The Man both said “In this? Are you fucking crazy?” to which I responded “Yes. Yes I am.” We had fun, saw lots of cool art, and climbed to the top of the obelisk, atop of which stood The Man. Once we finished with that, we made it back to camp in one of the few calms of the storm, and had some White-Out White Zinfandel. Then I took a nap, and learned that napping in a dust storm still requires goggles.

Evening twilight proved to be quite nice. The temperature dropped to what I’m going to guess was around 60 degrees, and the dust went away. As soon as the sun set behind the mountains, everyone in the vicinity let out a primal scream, and that’s when the parties started happening. We gathered the camp mates packed up some water got our cups, and went in search of beer and booze. Being a Monday, not too many people were set up yet, so it was quite a trek to find an open bar, but eventually we succeeded. Apparently, the beer of choice for Burning Man, is none other than that cheapest of beers, Pabst Blue Ribbon. I like it at home because it’s cheap, doesn’t taste too bad, and gets you drunk. Well, on the playa, it tastes downright awesome. We finally ended up hanging out at the Duck Bar (so named for the giant rubber duck on top of a mast which says simply “BAR”) listening to the DJ spin some tunes, and generally having a good time. Colonel Mongoose, the famous drinker, decided to go wandering off, and I decided that I was still pretty damn tired from the long journey and the no sleep since Fresno, even after my nap, so I went home and went to bed, and slept like a rock.

This concludes my Day 1 report, and there will be more to follow, so keep checking back. As usual, if you have any questions or comments, click the link below that says (gasp) Comments

Because it’s not Monday anymore,

Cpt Tuesday

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


By Matt Pierce

The journey began early.  I don't remember what time we left on Sunday, but I do know that 2 1/2 hours into the drive we had to turn around and go get the tickets from Keira's house.  We drove back, got the tickets and then began the final journey to the alkali flats that are better known as the Black Rock Desert.  We arrived at the gates at about 6:30 or so on Monday morning and waited in line for something like 2 hours.  I had been in the car for entirely too long, and decided to go and get my ticket.  One of the greeters, who I must say was terribly mistaken if he thought that he would deter me from getting my ticket, was trying to direct me back to the great white bull.  So, I went to look for the great white bull, and it was fucking gone!  I looked everywhere for signs of it, and could find none, so I made my way around to the will-call ticket booth, and got my ticket.  After that I returned to the lines to go look for the great white beast, and instead of finding it immediately, I had some fun pushing cars along that people didn't want to start.  Not to say that I was alone in this effort, everybody out there in the line was making the best of the waiting period, and we enjoyed what we did out there.  I met several people waiting out in the line, and I must say, that was a captivating experience in itself.  I found my associates after a good long while (it was still light, so it couldn't really have been that long,) and we made our way through the gate.

Myself and Captain Tuesday made Mr. Pete, James (bumper), and Keira (iPod) ring the virgin bell, despite their objections, and proceeded to find our spot in Black Rock City.  Our original spot at 7:50 and C had been taken by what would later become our friends at Raise the Bar.  So, rather than get bitter about it, we just went across the street and set up camp.  As soon as we had parked the truck and opened the tail gate, I spotted Jeremy and KB from Coffee Camp.  I ran over and gave them each a big hug, and there was much rejoicing.  We finished setting up our camp, and then assisted them in setting up theirs.  About an hour after everything was set up, the first dust storm hit.  Normally dust storms last about 20 minutes and are over, but not this time.  This was to be a white out of epic proportions, and it went on for about 7 hours without any kind of relenting.  We had fun despite the dust though, I was not in a mood to let the desert rain on my parade, fuck that!  So, I braved the storm out in the open with KB and Jeremy from Coffee Camp, and we had fun while we did it!

We relaxed out in the dust, caught up on events past, laughed, and assured my campmates that this was indeed a freak occurrence at burning man.  I see this dust storm as a symbolic thing for all of us that were there though.  It was like the desert itself was baptizing us in dust.  Towards the time the sun went down, the wind and the dust finally stopped, and we were able to go out and explore the city freely.  Not to say that we hadn't done that during the dust of the day either, my first priority was going to see the man at the center of the city, and needless to say, we made it to him.  After the sun went down, we ventured over to the 9:00 plaza to go and visit the Moonshine Tavern.  I felt a bit daring, so I took a shot of moonshine, and the most accurate description of what happened next can be described only as a loony toons fire breath.  It burned so bad on the way down!  And yet, it tasted like apple pie with cinnamon.  Our group ended up bar hopping  for a little bit that night, and I managed to run into 2 virgin burners (the term virgin meaning that it was their first time there.)  I gifted them some incense, and we ended up talking about a myriad of different things, all related to the burn, and had fun while doing so.  After a while, I couldn't sit around with my camp mates anymore, and went out to go and see the city.

I explored for a good long while before finally returning to camp and turning in for the night, I was so exhausted that I couldn't see straight.  And that is only day 1, there will be more articles to follow this one, many of them with several pictures.  But until then, remember to keep your hands on your guns, and not trust anyone (in case you don't catch it, that s another fear and Loathing in Las Vegas reference, but you'll need to watch the movie to find out where.)

Burn, Baby, Burn