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Tuesday, October 3, 2017


       It's difficult to describe Burning Man. It's an art and music festival plus so much more. The desert gathering is big and complicated, a two-mile wide city shaped like a clock.
     One afternoon, while attending a cocktail party  at the Toxic Disco Clam Camp, I saw a jet fighter roaring high overhead. Someone later sent me a silent video of what the pilot saw.  Here's the link, . 

       It was enormous.
I doubt I saw more than 20% of it. BMan was like going to a festive neighborhood on Halloween night with each of it's 100 houses  having its own spooky show or haunted house. You'd be lucky to see a dozen of them.

A 12-foot pyramid glowed in the dark desert night.  It was made with 100,000 multi-colored gummy bears sandwiched inside plastic panels.

       Black Rock City had 68,000 people living in 800 separate encampments for a week. I loved their crazy names like "Habitat For Insanity", "Electric Kool- Aid Vision Quest" and the "Awkward & Tawdry Lounge".  Most of the camps had a bar (free drinks! Absinthe at the A&T) plus some kind of show or display.  It could be huge fire-spewing flowers, a Bob Dylan sing along, or an erotic puppet show. 


I brought two gloves and a ball.  At times I 'd go out and offer strangers a chance to play catch. 

       I took several forays into the "clock" to see what others were up to. At the Museum of the Weird I played in a black light-lit psychedelic sandbox. Two blocks east was a 120-foot trampoline. The warning sign admonished,
"Be careful. This was made by hippies. Smart hippies but hippies none the less..."  

    Young woman back flips along the endless trampoline

 The hippies did a great job creating this stretched out crowd pleaser. It allowed folks to bounce and flip for forty yards before diving into a sea of pillows. You'll never see that anywhere else.  
    You can get away with all kinds of things in the high desert.

      Besides hundreds of camps with their own entertainments, Nevada's Neverland had over 300 art installations. Many were too large to miss and others almost impossible to believe.  Let me tell you about a few,

A bicycle centipede pedals past the  
SINGING TESLA COILS-  Sextant Camp's scientists created two towering Tesla coils. At night they would thrust wicked bundles of energy at each other  producing ethereal thunder music. The hypnotic effect was so incredible it made you feel you were high on something even though you were not.
 (Hear them sing! Google Burning Man Tesla coils).

TREE OF LIFE (Official name, which no one quite understood, "Tree of Tenere")

    This 32-foot artificial oak was made for shade, climbing, and partying under its own pulsing light show.


It's 25,000 leaves contained almost 200,000 LED lights controlled by a Black Rock wizard. 

On Friday afternoon a San Francisco ballet troupe performed Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring", accompanied by an orchestra, in its shade. The best seats at the crowded event were on the upper decks of the mutant vehicles parked nearby.

FLOWER TOWER-  Artist Kevin Clark (foreground) told us how a visit to Barcelona last fall had inspired his Gaudi-like design. The 70-foot tower was covered with meticulously-shaped metal flowers and spouted huge balls of flame when you least expected it.


EUTURPE, THE 25-FOOT WOMAN-  When I first saw her in the dusty distance

I thought, "Is there really a giant woman walking towards me?".  She was "Euturpe", a gigantic string puppet held up by a rolling crane.

   The big girl talked non-stop (a lot like the rest of us) marveling at the surroundings. The Big E changed costumes twice a day and at night would get horizontal in her own 28-foot bed.  The shapely cloud scraper was created by Spain's Carros de Foc Street Theater,           

And finally there was, 

CHARON, Peter Hudson's latest zoetrope (an animation device that creates the illusion of motion).
   Early one morning I rode my bike towards what looked like a 32-foot Ferris wheel. 
  Circling inside were 20 skeletons frozen in various phases of rowing.  

People could make the wheel turn by pulling  on thick ropes.  

   This was incredible but at night it got even better. An overhead light would blink at the rowers passing by creating the illusion of motion, that there was one skeletal figure before you rowing continuously.  He was "Charon", the mythological figure who carries the souls of the dead across the River Styx.  
    Charon and the others fit nicely into my little box of surprises that I never expected to see. One could say that Burning Man produces more of the unexpected than you'll ever have time to witness.

    Here's a link to a 90-second video that shows
you the incredible art described above, .

     I could go but in a week I was only able to see a small part of the show. What I took from Burning Man was the totality of it. For eight days I got to be a part of a fantastic, intentional international community, one where you felt not just safe but comfortable being whoever you wanted to be.  The all-night carnival made you hesitate to sleep for fear you might miss something. A month ago it was our home where creativity reigned, giving replaced selling, and love connected us all.


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