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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

BURNING MAN, Perfect for a Camera

     It's not uncommon to hear photographers say, "I took 2000 pictures at Burning Man".  Amazing things -and amazing people- surround you during the eight-day desert festival.
      Here are portraits I took of a few Burners. Their wearable art was a big part of the show.
      Taking these shots? Generally I'd say "hello" and ask permission. Not so much for the sleepers.

 Enchanted by the Tree of Life

Ian, about to board the bus

 Dusty little Romeo who came to BMan from Switzerland

Aboard the Dragamuffin mutant vehicle

  Camp Abraxis senior costume designer, Bobcat, aboard the Dragamuffin

Sometimes it was too hot for costumes

 Forever Young- Our camp had a very friendly teenager, Josh, who told us his mother was camping nearby. We later learned he was 33.

This fashionisto has been a hit at the BMan fashion show for years.

Voted the show's "Most Amazing", Gayle Maccia

Lena, our new Iraqi friend, had her own mango fashion show.

One of the many photographers.

 The Grove Guy assisting at the performance stage which featured eco-evangelist, "Reverend Billy", and Hal, the fashion show's legendary master of ceremonies.

Airport shot- Going home was happy/sad


Saturday, September 23, 2017


       In Miami it can take a hurricane to build a community.  Big storms force us to abandon our  un-air conditioned houses and build fallen branch trash piles with rarely seen neighbors. Spoiling food is heaped on roadside grills and the cook-outs become festive post-hurricane parties.         The Argentinians did the grilling last Sunday

      We had such a party in my neighborhood last Sunday, seven days after Hurricane Irma gave us a whoopin'. Over sixty people gathered in the little South Grove park across from Charlie's Woods, as the invitation said, "to continue the neighborly ways of the past week".

      Most of those attending were strangers who quickly got to know one another. Many times they told me, "This is great!  It's too bad it took a hurricane to make it happen".

Our new Brazilian friend showed us how to eat jackfruit,

And, we learned a new smart phone app.

Coconut Grove is blanketed with trees and  many of them fell in the storm. We spent many days after dragging their branches to trash piles.  
They came in handy for 

our party's drag-a-branch relay race.


Meeting the neighbors felt so good. I hope these gatherings are happening wherever the hurricane hit. We're already making plans for another Palmetto/Plaza event next month.  It would be lunacy to wait until the next big storm. 

  Our Trees Reconfigured
      Two weeks after Irma blew through we still have trees blocking

and "bridging" the roads near our house.

Some are even providing shade in new, unexpected ways.

Thursday, September 21, 2017


     A year ago I came home raving about my first trip to Burning Man, the annual desert celebration. When my kids asked, "Can we go with you next year?", I was happy to comply.  How could any loving parent not expose their progeny to the world's craziest creative event?

       I first helped them acquire the proper wardrobe from local thrift stores.

Suitably attired, the Terry boys climbed aboard a giant camper bus in San Francesco three weeks ago. 

  We were a part of the Green Tortoise Tour Company's caravan heading east to the Nevada's Black Rock Desert. 
  Four  buses carried 150 people from 17 countries -ages ranging from 23 to 73- to the world's most incredible gathering. 
Rolling into the Sierra Mountains we  made new friends on our Magical Mystery Tour. 

     For seven days were would be camping in "Black Rock City", one of the least hospitable landscapes on earth.  
   The boys and I pitched our tents in the sun-baked desert where temperatures range from burning to freezing.  Our canvas shelters kept most of the dust out and all of the heat in.
      The 70,000 Burn fans attending every year think climatic hardships are well worth it. Where else can you be surrounded by so much incredible art,

spectacular vehicles,
and more smiles than 
you've ever imagined?


    Everyone attending has to bring their own food and water. There is nothing for sale except coffee and ice.  Also, there is no electricity, internet or phone service. 
   It actually prepared us to spend the following weeks living the same way after Hurricane Irma.

    Our friends at Green Tortoise made living in the desert not too difficult as they fed us and filled our canteens. The 100+ degree days were tough. Between noon and five you stayed in the shade and tried not to move. Our camp ("Tortoise Town", one of a thousand camps) had a large shaded 

area where you could lounge in a dusty chair or on the dusty ground.  

      Huddling in the shade of our bus
     The super-fine dirt is everywhere and we  almost got use to it.
         One of the Rangers (the 800 hippie police force who keep things from getting crazy) told me, "You've got to trust in the dust".

    Thousands of volunteers, like the Rangers, make Burning Man happen. I helped manage the performance stage and was a "wrangler" in Media Mecca.
    Mecca houses the PR people who assists the photographers and journalists who cover the event. This is one of my co-workers, Harold, who
always looked great. 

The Mississippi native does BMan in style living in an air-conditioned trailer, scooting around on an electric bike, and wearing a fresh set of brightly colored clothing every day.

   I enjoyed volunteering but it also gave me access to clean porto-potties and cold drinks from the Mecca bar.
     Most folks have to use the thousands of portable bathrooms with interiors like this
that are spread out over the the mile-wide temporary community.  
    While they are very dusty -inside and out- the toilet seats are not because they are "dusted" by the many
stoners sitting on them. Toilet paper is often in short supply. I always carried my own.

      You discover wonders big and small at Burning Man. Every group of potties has Purell hand sanitizers mounted on a pole. You push the white lever at the bottom and the gel shoots out.

    Some clever person modified them "burner-style". He or she replaced the Purell stickers with these, 


and added "Motion Activated" to some of the the push levers. 

   It was somethin' to see folks waving their hands beneath the pumper  hoping to squirt some "Purelsd" into their hands.
   It was very clever, very "burning man".  
    Last year I saw one of the porto-potties break away from the others and drive off.  It was one burner's amazing contribution, a robo-potty.

    While I was volunteering my two sons would explore other camps and the "Playa" everyday. That's the mile-wide open space in the middle of everything. There were over 300 art installations and thousands of happy, hugging people to enjoy.
Sometimes I'd join them and we'd witness marvelous things.

Friends playing next to the Temple


   Pink Camp created a Love Line. Four hundred people held hands and followed a leader. When I approached to take pictures every person passing smiled and said, "I love you!". It felt like they really meant it.  I told them the same.


I'll tell you more  about the "Zoetrope" later

At Planned Playahood you could crawl through a tunnel and be born again.

 The Man was enclosed in a temple this year.


 At Burning Man there are no spectators. Everyone performs in some way. The Terry Boyz set up a Bad Portrait Studio just south of
The Man.  

 For hours we drew pictures that didn't look much like the people sitting in front of us.
   They seemed pleased anyway.
   My family grew when I acquired a third son, "Ahmet",  a highly animated gastroenterologist from Holland. He asked me to adopt him. Ahmet explained that he wanted an additional father, one that would take him to the desert festival every year. 

    On Friday we ran into our Miami musician friends, Cuci and Toni who perform all over (and at BMan) as "Afrobeta".  We spotted Cuci singing in the Black Rock City Choir.
    I later observed Miami's history wizard, Cesar Becerra, broadcasting a live TV show from Center Camp. I got a little suspicious when I noticed his 'camera' was actually a tripod-mounted cereal box. That's was very Burning Man too.




   All of BMan's events are centered around "The Burn" on Saturday night. That's when The Man is set ablaze in spectacular glory.

   The Big Burn always has a carnival atmosphere and this year The Man was lit up surrounded by 60,000 people and hundreds of glowing mutant vehicles. 

      The carnival continued through the night as we visited many of the rolling sculptures. Each had its own party. We danced through crowds with me
gyrating a bit with my kids and Lena, our new friend from Cairo. 
We had a terrific time that magical night. It was Mardi Gras in the desert.

       Another BMan tradition occurs at sunrise the next morning when people gather to be warmed by the still-glowing embers. Some even cook french toast on The Man's remains. 
But this year was different. 

    The fire's site was fenced off and rangers stood guard. I asked one, "Why?" and he told me some fool had run into the fire during the burn.  Fortunately we did not see this happen as we were on the far side of the mega-blaze.
     I later learned the 41-year-old Oklahoman was apparently hell-bent on doing himself in. The ranger told me he ran at the fire four times -and  tackled briefly by multiple guards- before he succeeded.  
   It was shocking, something I did not think  possible. I guess when someone decides to run off the edge of the Grand Canyon there's little you can do.  99% of the canyon's rim is not fenced.
     On Sunday night they had the traditional "Temple Burn" and a protective fence was added.  They also asked for 400 extra volunteers to stand guard against possible "runners".  I was one of them.

For more than two hours we took a knee and watched the crowd.
They watched the temple collapse as it became tiny stars drifting up to heaven. 


Finally, it was over, the end of the amazing 31st desert gathering. 

    On Monday morning we loaded our dusty selves on to our buses and
headed back to the other world.  We arrived at our friend's house in Berkeley after dark. 

Tired puppies heading home

     His backyard was cool and quiet under distant stars, not unlike the desert.                   

    Although there were comfy beds inside, we opted to "burn" one more night. We slept on the lawn. 
Even now I'm still dreaming about those incredible days in the desert.