In which we Burned the Man (again)

Wow – how long has it been since I’ve updated this thing? Between hunting for jobs, finishing up the last remaining residency requirements, conference season and successfully defending my thesis (yay!), I’ve been a bit busy. Here’s the beginning of an attempt to catch up!

Jeff and I were so fortunate to go to Burning Man again in 2014. I’m not sure what 2015 hold for us, so our plans to return to Black Rock City may have to take a small hiatus, but we’ll see. Our camp, Camp No Plan, named for the fact that we were taking only one virgin with us and none of us had adequate time or resources to plan something elaborate, was amazing. I couldn’t have asked for better companions. It was an amazing time, as I suspect it always is.

Our car - as clean as we'll be for the next week at some rest stop in Oregon

Our car – as clean as we’ll be for the next week at some rest stop in Oregon

To begin with – the drive down from Washington, through remote parts of Oregon and across the tip of Northern California into the Nevada desert is absolutely breathtaking. Jeff, Anna, Alyssa our virgin, and I left out Saturday mid-morning with the trailer and made it all the way to Klamath Falls, OR the first day.

We had spectacular views of Mount Hood outside Portland

We had spectacular views of Mount Hood outside Portland

We drove down through Bend in what I can only describe as desolate volcano country. It's eerily empty and beautiful.

We drove down through Bend in what I can only describe as desolate volcano country. It’s eerily empty and beautiful.

After a night in Klammath and the annual trip to the Fred Meyer to stock up on last minute supplies, we decided to try to a night approach to the line. That meant leaving Klammath in late afternoon so we hit the line entering Gerlach just perfectly at sunset. Our dear Jeep is running strong, but no one wants to sit in a hot, dusty line in the blazing heat without any air conditioning. This also mean we had fantastic “golden hour” shots of some of my favorite landscapes along the way:

DSC_0020

DSC_0016

10649983_10202451506600611_5121569213930388734_n

This is what the drive looks like from the backseat from Anna’s camera

DSC_0025

Always good to take a look back and make sure the trailer is still attached..

We hit the line around sunset and made it almost to the gate at around midnight. It ended up that we were three cars behind the gate when the fireworks began to celebrate the official opening of the event – so close! After we made it through, we found some of our friends camped in a great spot (9 o’clock and E) who offered us space. We had to decide at that point if we were going to set up camp in the dark or go out exploring – exploring won the day.

I got to hold this 30 seconds after our group making that decision:

A giant ballon string filled with tiny LED lights. Photo by David Hays from here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/dav1d/4979419103/

A giant ballon string filled with tiny LED lights. Photo by David Hays from here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/dav1d/4979419103/

Slightly terrifying – it’s all your childhood nightmares of letting go of a balloon multiplied by 1000 – but it’s tethered to a harness, so the chances of that happening are slim.

The other half of our group had planned to come the following day, so we went in search of some of our other friends but couldn’t find their camp. We have a tradition of meeting at the far side of the Temple at sunrise in the mornings as as the sky began to lighten we gave up our search and headed there. The playa was unusually quiet, but we chalked that up to it being still early on the first day. Unknown to us the gate had been closed because of rain which turned the gigantic prehistoric lake bed into an oozing sticky clay. We hardly saw anyone as we approached the Temple, but as we rounded to the other side we saw a small group of people standing under a “Finish Line” art piece/sign. Our friends! Some of whom we hadn’t seen since last year!

Finish Line art installation at sunrise

Finish Line art installation at sunrise. Photo credit: Alex Cahn

Our friends! Photo credit: Alex Cahn

Our friends! I’m in the leopard coat and neon green backpack. 
Photo credit: Alex Cahn

Catching up with old friends and drinking champagne - just like how all mornings should start.

Catching up with old friends and drinking champagne – just like how all mornings should start.

We all went to Robot Heart afterwards and got to dance to the smallest gathering there all week - it was great! Like having the best party place all to yourself. I also got to drink bloody marys with the owner which was awesome.

We all went to Robot Heart afterwards and got to dance to the smallest gathering there all week – it was great! Like having the best party place all to yourself. I also got to drink bloody marys with the owner which was awesome.

For comparison, this is what Robot Heart normally looks like at sunrise:

2014-robot-heart-sunrise

Crowded, fun, chaos with great beats

After being up for 36 hours Jeff and I somehow managed to make it back across the playa in a rain storm, put up our yurt and crawl inside to sleep. Typical Burning Man. The other half of our camp managed to get in early Tuesday morning after being hampered by closed gates and rain.

Random pictures of excursions into the playa:

Biking down the 9 o'clock street

Biking down the 9 o’clock street

Climbing brightly lit plexiglass sculptures.

Climbing brightly lit plexiglass sculptures.

Watching the sunrise in front of a laser-cut wooden gorgeous Temple

Watching the sunrise in front of a laser-cut wooden gorgeous Temple

Hanging out with friends in a huge net-hammock seat.

Hanging out with friends in a huge net-hammock seat.

Comparing beard lengths

Comparing beard lengths

Dressing as Jeff with a beard - he was only slightly amused. I didn't keep it on for long because it was too hot!

Dressing as Jeff with a beard – he was only slightly amused. I didn’t keep it on for long because it was too hot!

Beard reprisal.

Beard reprisal.

Beard buddies

Beard buddies

Night adventures

Night adventures

Giant crocodile art installation

Giant crocodile art installation

Biking down a path towards the temple

Biking down a path towards the temple

Open playa

The Man - the tallest one they've ever built

The Man – the tallest one they’ve ever built

It was hard to get him into my lens

It was hard to get him into my lens

Surrounded by souks in the spirit of the Caravansary theme.

Surrounded by souks in the spirit of the Caravansary theme.

The Canadians filled their souk with useful items for rent.

The Canadians filled their souk with useful items for rent.

Meeting in front of the temple to drink champagne and watch the sunrise

Meeting in front of the temple to drink champagne and watch the sunrise

The Embrace sculpture you could go up into!

The Embrace sculpture you could go up into!

Looking through paper books in the library

Looking through paper books in the library

Getting ready to go out - camp style

Getting ready to go out – camp style

Because Burning Man is the only place a bear hat, hot pink tutu, geometric tights, moccasin boots and a leopard fur coat don't look out of place together.

Because Burning Man is the only place a bear hat, hot pink tutu, geometric tights, moccasin boots and a leopard fur coat don’t look out of place together.

My camera broke early on, so most of these pictures are stolen from Anna, Mary, Hannah and Alex. I was sad at the time, but it allowed me to truly live in the moment of being there. All too soon the week came to the final close and it was time to burn the Man:

Burn night

Burn night

Dusty burn night

Dusty burn night

Goodbye Man!

Goodbye Man!

Dusty friends

Dusty friends

We took one last shot of the best No Plan Camp ever…

Ben, Amy, Yoni, Alyssa,

Ben, Amy, Yoni, Alyssa, Anna, Mary, Jeff and I

…and headed home:

10685372_10202451506720614_8813967589708076315_n

Writing this post now so many months removed and just trying to spill all the pictures into place I’m remiss on too many things from that time to put on here. Burning Man stretches you to all the limits you knew you had and exposes you to new ones – I always come back in a weird state of refreshment and exhaustion and with a renewed hope in humanity.

This year I felt like I knew what I was doing (to the best you ever can); was integral to our (no) plan camp in ways I could’ve have been last year; and immersed myself in the community more (one morning I was one-handed biking through a dust storm, eating an Uncrustable sandwich on three hours of sleep to get to a volunteer shift at the airport and kind of felt completely normal about that). I hope life has many more Burns in store for us in the future.

In which we Burned the Man (Part I)

Last week Jeff and I went to Burning Man, the weeklong event held once a year in the northern Nevada desert to celebrate creativity, self-reliance and community. Trying to describe it is often compared with the attempt of trying to describe color to a blind person, but this BuzzFeed article comes close. It’s huge (68,000 people – temporarily becoming Nevada’s 3rd largest city), crazy (24 hours of non-stop music, light and people) and just simply wonderful. We went with 28 strangers in our camp who quickly became lifelong friends, bawled our eyes out at one of the most beautiful marriage ceremonies we’ve ever attended and learned to embrace the “Burner Culture” founded on the Ten Principles (which basically boil down to: “Get your shit together and also love everyone”).

The alkaline dust that coats everything is pervasive and corrosive, so I didn’t take my camera out much. The following pictures are the ones I did take in an attempt to document one my favorite weeks I’ve been alive, and due credit is given for the (much better) photos I’ve borrowed.

Tickets - check. Camelback - check. Crazy fur costumes - check.

Tickets – check. Camelback – check. Crazy fur costumes – check.

Our group right before we left. To be honest at this point I knew only one or two names. Now I love these people so much.

Our group right before we left. To be honest at this point I knew only one or two names. Now I love these people so much.
Top of truck: Tyson. Back row LtR: Ben, Mikey, Spencer, Me, Jeff, Josh, Andrea, Symon, Ashley, Matt, Phil, Amy, Mary. Front row LtR: Anna, Yoni and Eric.

Two of the Principles of Burning Man are Radical Self Reliance and Decommodification - Basically you've got to bring everything for the week with you, there is no food to be bought in the desert. As a camp we coordinated food for 30+ people for a week and signed up for shifts to cook it (Jeff and I had Thursday night: Chicken teriyaki with rice and veggies).

Packing and labeling the food
Two of the Principles of Burning Man are Radical Self Reliance and Decommodification – Basically you’ve got to bring everything for the week with you, there is no food to be bought in the desert. As a camp we coordinated food for 30+ people for a week and signed up for shifts to cook it (Jeff and I had Thursday night: Chicken teriyaki with rice and veggies).

We left Seattle on Saturday afternoon at 3:10p and arrived in Black Rock City at 5:30a Monday morning.

We left Seattle on Saturday afternoon at 3:10p and arrived in Black Rock City at 5:30a Monday morning. Our camp’s theme was Owl Town and “Hoot” was the adorable mascot for the Jeep.

Stopping somewhere in Oregon to try down the tarps. Our little caravan held 3 vehicles, 2 trailers and 15 people with enough supplies to last us a week in some pretty hard conditions.

Stopping somewhere in Oregon to try down the tarps.
Our little caravan held 3 vehicles, 2 trailers and 15 people with enough supplies to last us a week in some pretty extreme conditions.

The view when you're caravanning.

The view when you’re caravanning behind your friends’ trailer for hours.

We finally made it through the gate and into camp as the sun was rising. The first shape I could make out was a ship. Yes, a ship with masts parked next to our tent. It was the first of many "art cars" we would see out on the playa.

We finally made it through the gate and into camp as the sun was rising on Monday morning. The first shape I could make out was a ship. Yes, a ship with masts parked next to our tent. It was the first of many “art cars” we would see out on the playa.

I stole this picture from this flikr page (http://www.flickr.com/photos/thelastminute/7964064238/). There are three ways to get around Burning Man: Walking (it's realllllly far, and realllllly dusty); Biking (on your decorated bike of course); or by hopping on one of these art cars which are just amazing.

This is the ship I had my first glance of. I stole this picture from this flikr page: http://www.flickr.com/photos/thelastminute/7964064238/.
There are three ways to get around Burning Man: Walking (it’s realllllly far, and realllllly dusty); Biking (on your decorated bike of course); or by hopping on one of these art cars which are just amazing.

And then I put my camera away for three days because of the dust and constant running around and doing things. The art that people bring to display on the playa (read: large, flat, dry, dusty, prehistoric lake bed) is incredible and more pops up each day. We rode our bikes for hours trying to see it all and then when we’d get tired we’d sit and chat with people from all over the globe.

On Wednesday we had the really cool chance to go up in a plane with some skydivers to see the city from the air. One of the members of our camp had put us in contact with the members of Burning Sky, the camp that organizes planes to take skydivers up over Black Rock City and some observers along with them.

We met at their camp on the other end of the playa and a plane art car took us out to the airport. It's a temporary airport that exists, like everything else in the city, for only one week out of the year.

We met at their camp on the other end of the playa and a plane art car took us out to the airport. It’s a temporary airport that exists, like everything else in the city, for only one week out of the year.

DSC_0054

They fit all of the observers with parachutes as well with only two instructions: “If the pilot tells you to get out, get out. Next, pull the cord next to your heart”. I’d only been skydiving once – I really didn’t want to do it again.

All parachuted up and ready to go

All parachuted up and ready to go

Ready for the skydivers to exit the plane.

Ready for the skydivers to exit the plane.

Black Rock City from the air. It was incredibly dusty on the day we went up, so the picture quality isn't great. I was just amazing by how HUGE it is. Seriously, for one week it's the 3rd largest city in Nevada - and then a week later it all just disappears.

Black Rock City from the air.
It was incredibly dusty on the day we went up, so the picture quality isn’t great. I was just amazing by how HUGE it is. Seriously, for one week of the year it’s the 3rd largest city in Nevada – and then a week later it all just disappears.

To give you some idea of scale. Stolen from here (http://www.buzzfeed.com/kevintang/53-things-i-learned-at-burning-man)

To give you some idea of scale. Stolen from here (http://www.buzzfeed.com/kevintang/53-things-i-learned-at-burning-man).
The streets are laid out in a radial pattern – from 2 to 10 o’clock and then the concentric circles are alphabetized out from the center from A to L. We were camped at 8:20 and E – so just to the right of that 9’o clock line in the picture, about halfway out (kinda near the “9”). The man is in the center of the empty area known as the playa.

We survived our airplane trip without having to use the parachutes!

We survived our airplane trip without having to use the parachutes! Our plane art car made it back to the Burning Sky camp about the same time that the skydivers did!

More to come.