69 Days and Counting

June 26, 2011

Click below for Parts 1 and 2 of my  Burning Man essay:

Part 1     Part 2

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Several months prior to our departure, while perusing the Survival Guide and other websites to prepare myself, I came across some advice on how to act around burners who would be baring all.  “Don’t stare. Accept.”  Acceptance seemed to be a reoccurring theme for having a good Burning Man experience.  After doing a Google image search for costumes, it became obvious I would need to be comfortable seeing an abundance of naked people—riding bikes, hula-hooping, leisurely cleaning themselves in curtainless showers, running behind trucks shooting out water in an attempt to minimize the swirling dust of the dried up lakebed known as the playa.  It is normal, and a frequent occurrence, for a person dressed only in fuzzy boot covers and a glow necklace and bracelets to approach you day or night asking for some water from your camelback.now in San Francisco

I would also need to bring or obtain some sort of distinctive glowy accessory for each night to be recognizable by someone from my group.  It was easy to lose focus, especially in a dust storm, when friends kept moving and I couldn’t help but stop and stare at massive art pieces like Bliss Dance, a 40’ woman made of steel, one leg kicked up behind her frozen in mid-dance.  Glowy stuff is also necessary to be seen by thrill-seeking, unlit bikers who appear out of nowhere, whizzing by, causing less skilled bikers to turn sharply in avoidance, crashing into another biker, who flies of their bike and ends up in your path so abruptly you don’t have time to swerve and end up running over them, which of course, causes you to fall off your own bike.  In my five days, I witnessed many bike casualties, one of which I was the culprit.

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76 Days and Counting

June 19, 2011

The continuation of my virgin Burning Man essay . . . .

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I first heard about Burning Man from Andy.  He was the first customer turned friend I made at the Cleveland International Film Festival where I worked in the box office.  He was shorter than me by about two inches and bald, a geologist who’s passion was climbing mountains around the world.  I was enamored by him and since he’d bought the type of pass that would allow him to see any film any day, I knew I’d see him often.  Whenever I had the chance, I snagged him from the crowd to ask him what he’d just seen.

We were standing in the midst of a crowd, chatting about Battle Royale, a Japanese film in which a group of students are kidnapped and sent to an island as part of a reformation program.  Each child has an electric exploding collar fixed around their necks, detonating when they are in a marked zone.  They are given basic supplies and a weapon and must fight until only one child is left.  Somehow Burning Man made his appearance in the midst of our survival-of-the-fittest discussion and from then on I could not forget about him.

The festival’s roots are attributed to two tradesmen, Larry Harvey and Jerry James, when in 1986 they built and burned a wooden man on a beach stretching south of the Golden Gate Bridge.  The real story began with artist Mary Grauberger, a friend of Harvey’s girlfriend who held ritualistic burnings of art structures on the same beach.  Her name is oddly omitted from the official burning man website.  Did she request this oversight?  Want to remain nameless for the sake of art?  Or was Harvey so emaciated with attention he claimed it for his own?  This type of outdated selfishness would not fit Burning Man’s current connotations of community and transient artistic expression.

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81 Days and Counting

June 14, 2011

Disclaimer:  Last year was many things, but the most memorable was by far my trip to the desert of Nevada for the annual Burning Man festival.  It truly changed me in ways i’m still discovering.  And the more my friends and i discuss our plans for this year’s Burn, the more excited i get.  

While taking a writing class last Fall, i wrote a piece about my experience at the festival.  Actually, all my pieces were in some way tied to Burning Man as it was all i could talk about.  I’ve decided to publish some pieces and parts of that essay here in various installments.

No one can really describe Burning Man.  Trust me, i had a whole peer group of writers constantly telling me to describe it more.  You really have to see it for yourself.  It’s like nothing else in the universe.

So for all you Virgin Burners out there, I can’t wait to welcome you home along with the rest of my burning man fam.

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“Ready?!”

“Fight!”

I clung to the small steel triangle through which my face was pressed.  Two girls with swollen foamy bats were bobbing in baby-swing harnesses strung by bungee cord rope that was tied to the top of what looked like a massive dome-shaped spider web.  I felt like I was in the middle of Tekken, a video game where you battle an opponent, equipped with special moves and powers.  Only this was real life, not a game.

Two girls were in the center of the replicated Mad Max Thunderdome, one with neon blue hair while the other sported pink, both with knee-high striped socks matching their hair and chunky black boots.  A bald man dress all in black motioned them to their corners before shouting the battle cry again.  They flew towards each other with Matrix-like poses, batons raised.  Pink Girl struck Blue Girl in the left breast sending her spinning to the right.

The dome, which was crawling with people, filled with cheers and shouts.  People in funky hats, superhero garb, bikinis and nothing at all lined its walls from the ground up, some leaning against its curves while others chose to dangle their furry boot-covered legs over the steel structure.

I looked back for Justin, who’d given me an encouraging nudge to check out the structure, making sure he was nearby, panicking for a brief moment as without him I would not be able to find my way back to camp.  I snaked through the crowd to where he was standing.

“I totally want to do that!”

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Am i Dreaming?

January 6, 2011

I had a dream i was driving to Burning Man with friends.  Todd was in the driver’s seat of our rented RV, talking back to the radio.  I was on the passenger side looking back at Justin, who was squatting in the back, hunched over like Bob, who possessed several characters in the Twin Peaks series.

We stopped at a house in the country so i could use the bathroom.  My cousin happened to be in the house and kept telling me not to go upstairs, but i went anyway.  Peering into a room in my search for relief, i discovered a little girl.  She was wearing a flowery jumper and had long brown pigtails.  When our eyes met i immediately knew why my cousin had warned me about going upstairs.  The girl smiled and through some sort of telepathy, thanked me for becoming her new host.  Upon her possession of me, i awoke.

I wholeheartedly believe dreams carry meaning.   This one disturbs me, because i have been sensing a presence around me.  It’s not threatening, just there, waiting for me to ask what it wants.  I’m afraid when i do, it will say, YOU! and suddenly hijack my body and mind, pushing me into my own dreams, causing me to be the one that disappears when my possessor awakes.

Musicality

November 15, 2010

I have always been drawn to electronic music.  The Germans were the ones that hooked me with their eurodance groups like Culture Beat and Real McCoy.  The first time i heard Run Away, i knew this was the type of music i wanted to hear all the time.  The type of music that can transport you into a futuristic world where all that matters is the sync with your body as it ingests beats.

There is something so immediate and primal about electronic music, especially dubstep.  And last night, while jerking to the warbling sounds of DJ Phaded i realized it was also the staccato-esque beats i really like.  It punctures me with movement.  I can’t be still while listening to any music that has a beat.

Somewhere in between the beat-poking and evocation of an alien landscape, i am carried back to the desert.  It will always be the desert.  The desert of Burning Man.  And with my eyes closed i imagine i am in the middle of a crowd, united in movement, in an intangible freedom, in peace and love, and i find myself licking my lips for the sweetness of the playa.

Obsession

September 30, 2010

We were supposed to bring research to class today on a historical figure.   A dead historical figure.  Our professor told us to write about what we are obsessed with.  To keep a notebook of anything related to that obsession.  I really struggled with this assignment.  I have no obsession with a historical figure.  The only thing i’m obsessed with right now is Burning Man.  Conversations seem dull and empty if i don’t evoke at least one BM reference.

My first thought was to do a piece that featured Larry Harvey, (co)founder of BM, but he is not dead and therefore falls out of the scope of our assignment.  Even historical events interest me more than people.  People of significance don’t stand out to me as much as those who are behind the scenes.  Perhaps this is because i feel part of this underground society.  I notice the unnoticeable, what people overlook, never see.  Truly great people never draw attention to their greatness.  There is no research or biographies on these people.  Someone has deemed them unworthy of notoriety.

The Red Bracelet

September 27, 2010

My red bracelet is the last physical tie i have to my Burning Man experience.  It will be severed on October 7, 2010 in honor of a fellow burner’s birthday wish.  This small token to me is Burning Man.  It’s been saturated in playa dust and no amount of showers can cleanse it.  It is art in the most minimalist form.  It is ephemeral and can only remain a memory in my mind, my being.  It is a gift.   It is a light among the darkness.  A reminder of what life is not.

I am dreading this day because i feel like once it is gone, so will the enchantment, the dreams.  A memory slipping away in the sunset, never to rise again.  This seems dramatic and silly.  I knew it would not last forever.  I was told upfront, even before letting Dawn double-wrap it around my wrist, what the stakes were.  But it has become such a part of me, a daily reminder of my desert affair. 

I know i am capable of remembering without it, but  i am also afraid that without it i will forget its significance.  The closer it gets to October 7th the more fear creeps in, twisting around my veins, infecting me with lies.  I don’t know if i am strong enough yet to fight back.  I let my fears burn with the Man, but the emotional ashes are converging, ready for a rematch and i am standing alone.