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Sunday, September 30, 2007

Burning Man 2007 - The Breaking Point

{NOTE! Click on the pics to get them full size}

Theme : Green Man
Favorite : Crude Awakening
Second : Big Rig Jig
Third : Cubatron Cone

For my my other Burning Man stories...


SMOU 17 - State Mobile Observation Unit 17

After such a good year in 2006, our camp's energy was high and things got organized early. We had a local (and virtual) meeting with Club Verboten, People's Art Congress, APOKILIPTIKA, Labwδrks, Robots Unite, Booby Bar, MASH 4207th, Risa and Galileo Shuttle.

Before the physical meeting broke down into a party, we decided to become more closely associated without becoming an actual Village. We could present our new "Terminal City" to BORG as a unit and maybe get better control of camp placement - without getting into all the politics and costs of a true village.

Another advantage of a pseudo-village is cross-utilization of creative and operational resources. This came in handy as Tim wanted to build an art car and we needed some talent in the art and construction areas. Damian (of Mini-Man and Mantis fame) from Labwδrks offered to do art direction. He donated some human mannequin masks for an effect he wanted to try in a mobile setting.

Tim's original concept was to have what looked like a bus full of old yahoos driving around staring at people. Damian offered these masks to be used in a similar way, but might produce more paranoia which was just fine with Tim.

Damian said the van would have to be completely disguised to get a Mutant Vehicle license, and Tim liked the idea of some kind of "State" presentation, keeping with the camp's history. Tim also wanted an actual van in which we could throw a mattress in back for a mobile chill space. And of course Tim required a reasonable source of music so we planned external speakers.

001 Taking Shape

Tim and I checked out vans around town for a few weeks until he found an 1987 Toyota for under a thousand dollars. He bought it. Tim was the money guy along with Fred and John.

In November I had moved into a new home on a half acre and christened it Annabella's Zen Art Sanctuary - a place to create art and store art for Burning Man. I of course offered my driveway and garage for the project.

Curt from the Booby Bar did the heavy construction and Shelly (PineMom), his fiance, did the interior and fabric. It all came together over a series of weekends starting in January. By June we were 80% complete. The rest was completed in late August.

002 SMOU Crew - Tim, Shelly, Damian & Curt

Tim christened the vehicle, "SMOU 17 - State Mobile Observation Unit 17". These masks had inverted faces whos eyes seem to track you as you walked by. It was a pretty creepy effect and worked especially well at night. This effect, added to the overall sinister appearance, locked in the concept. To invite people into its chill space, Tim had me write on the back door, "Worker's Procreation Space". This was all consistent with camp philosophy as defined by Omar Suarez (Tim)...

"This year Club Verboten has continued to develop our theme of "The True Socialist Camp at BRC".We are in the vanguard of the Association of Socialist and Satellite States which promotes one party rule under the strict Killbuck Line. Of course we deviate slightly by allowing Suarez Thought and Principles to guide our workers in their daily lives and activities. Above all we are an independent and peace loving camp."

I should note, as a long time student of Ayn Rand's ideas, my politics are the very opposite of our camp presentation. Indeed, I am currently reading Churchill's writing of World War II, but find Tim's retro avant guard socialism to be both a Zen challenge and even entertaining in an inverse mocking sort of way. It's another excellent example of getting past one's politics on the playa.

003 SMOU Effect

Golf Ball Maze

There were other projects going on at Annabella's. A local Burner named Jeff Carver had a consignment for an art piece to be placed at center camp. It was to be an exhaust pipe maze where a golf ball was inserted at one end then the entire structure moved on two axis and in three dimensions until the ball came out the other side. There was a lot of welding to do.

Jeff needed bare ground and a water hose for safety. I had an empty spot in the back yard so he created it there. As it turns out the water hose was a wise precaution. During the last week of work, grinding sparks set fire to the grass - the first flames of Burning Man. Fortunately, Jeff being a fireman, got it out fast. No damage was done.

004 The Amazing Jeff Carver

To be honest, I had my doubts about him completing the project on time. For the first few months almost nothing happened. Then the last two weeks he was there almost every day. Definitely an eleventh hour guy, but he got it done.

005 Golf Ball Maze


Last year's Zen Tyvekian Radiation Shield worked so well I decided to just make some repairs and do it again. Tim said we would have a few more campers so I added one more rib making the base 25% longer at 40 by 60 feet.

All Burners get a blank canvas of the playa in which to express their nature. After seeing the Aerial and satellite photos of the event, I realized the top of the Shield was literally MY blank canvass. And remaining blank just wouldn't do. I needed to express myself. Something significant. If you could speak only one word to the universe, what would it be?

There are artists who wish to remain enigmatic. I'm not one of them. I'll tell you why I painted "YUM!" on top of the Zen Tyvekian Radiation Shield. It's really quite simple.

First I made a list of words and considered it for weeks. I got other's opinions but one word kept floating to the top and wouldn't yield it's position.

006 YUM!

Back in the eighties, Tom Robbins wrote one of my favorites, "Still Life with Woodpecker". In it he rambles through various ideas like, "Red hair is caused by sugar and lust", "Dynamite is a communication medium" and "The only real question is how to make love stay".

He presents these and other ideas using the backdrop of blowing up a Ralph Nader / UFO conference. Don't worry about spoilers. If you've read Tom Robbins, you'll realize plot doesn't matter. It's just a canvass for him to express HIS ideas.

What DOES matter, is he makes fun of trying to over-simply life, my specific objective in this case. For instance, "There are only two kinds of people, those who think there are only two kinds of people; and all the rest".

The absurdity of dichotomy becomes one of his literary play-things and later takes the form of "There are only two mantras... yuk and yum. Which gets us back on topic. I stole Tom's mantra.

If a mantra is a word to focus one's thoughts, "YUM!" is a pretty good choice. If Burning Man is about finding our essential nature and expressing it, "YUM!" would do just fine. If we wish to find the best things in life and the people we meet, "YUM!" is a very good approach. And if you're going to try and do something as silly as reduce all meaning to one word... YUM!

Oh, I should mention, there's a far more important reason for YUM! But I'll just let you wonder.

007 Space View

Click the picture to get a bigger image. As you can see, the image of "YUM!" at the center was still pretty blurred. Guess I'll have to wait for better space cameras. You can also see the Booby Bar in the lower left corner above.

008 Boobies Close-up

Mylar Surprise

Since SMOU was done early I had time to do some other art of my own. One of my reasons for joining Club Verboten was to get closer to the Esplanade so I could get to and from the playa easily with some kind of art. I missed the fun I had with my jellyfish and hammock. I wanted to do something along these lines again. I also wanted a more creative way to pass out freeze pops.

A year ago I'd found some special gloves at an erotic supply store which have have a tiny vibrator in the tip of EACH finger. I took them to a local Burner event. It had the effect of the old hand buzzer gag, except I would use them on the back of the neck while giving someone a hug. Most people were at first quit surprised and would jump. This was typically followed by a moan and a plea not to stop. These things are a fun toy.

Now I could have just walked around Burning Man applying the gloves, but I wanted to first get people curious. I needed something to distract them, something difficult to classify, yet interesting to look at so I could move in with the Surprise. I needed something that appeared to be far more than it was. I needed lights and mirrors.

By now you've probably realized, I'm not really an artist in the conventional sense. I'm not very good at creating beauty. My picture of a horse in the second grade didn't look much like a horse. It didn't even look like a cow.

My Burning Man art is not primarily visual. It's an attempt to evoke some kind of visceral emotional response, and most of my designs are about producing the greatest impact with the least resources. THAT is my nature to be expressed. I like the Zen of almost nothing at all. I've mentioned my experiments with Mylar. It would be good for creating isolating mirrors. The trick would be finding some way to make it appear substantial yet be able to move it around without creating the mass and expense of another art car.

009 Work in Progress

My solution was to take three aluminum poles and cross them at the center to hold up a sheet of rigid insulation from which to hang the Mylar. To this I would add lights. I'm describing the process in a much simpler way than it actually occurred. It took several weeks and two versions before I got the effect I wanted. I kept the lights modest so it would more reflect the lights of my targets. The point was to make people wonder.

When finished, it was eight feet long, four feet wide and seven feet high, with lighted tentacles spanning over twelve feet. It was quite imposing, yet weighed only fourteen pounds. This was light enough to dance around in. It was really just an extended costume, but was the size of a small art car. This would do. I packed it up.

010 Mylar Surprise


I try to get out to see my old camp-mates at The International Burn Hostel at least once each year before going to the playa. It's good to check in with friends and help out if I can. Besides, Hagy's place is a small taste of what's about to happen.

This year as I arrived, I noticed a huge fire engine. It's hundred foot ladder was fully extended and quite impressive. Inside I met the owner, a guy named Greg Glover who had bought this monster on eBay for $2500 and drove it back from Ohio.

He took me outside for a tour. OK, I chickened out about half way up the ladder but I was high enough to get a view of the Reno area. THIS piece definitely had the Burner vibe. Later he added some VERY impressive lights.

Greg likes to think big. And this huge fire engine was just a small sample. His really big purchase was 640 acres of land 75 miles west of the playa. His objective for it is nothing less than creating a PERMANENT year-round collection of Burner camps - permaburn.org.

Now I've heard a lot of wild and ambitious ideas from Burners, but this guy already had the land, the resources and more importantly a track record.

Ten years ago Greg started a similar community based on hang gliding near Chattanooga, Tennessee. He's using the success from that project to fund this one. I'm curious to see how it works out. Check it out for yourself...


I for one will keep an optimistically open mind.

011 Packing Up

Playa Time

Like last year, I prepped all week and packed up on Friday, then stopped at Tim's before heading out. Fred and Swirl drove the truck pulling a trailer with SMOU on it. John and a new lady from Scotland named Sgt. Pepper came with us in the RV. We left Reno at 8:45 and arrived just after midnight. The only problem was the tarps blew off the art car being towed by Fred, but nothing else was damaged.

Once we got to our site and I stepped outside, my first thought was, "It's hard to remember what a magical place this is". I know that sounds a bit romantic and perhaps it is, but I also meant it literally. Our mind protects us from remembering how good some things are. If it didn't, we'd never get anything else done.

That night we also met new members Shayleen and her brothers, all of whom were from South Africa. They were a great help setting up camp this year. I didn't get to sleep until after two.

012 Swirl & Fred

Saturday, August 25th, 6:00 AM

We got started at dawn as planned. The ribs went up fast and we got one tarp section up by 10:00. Just then the wind began to blow. Within minutes it was blowing fairly hard - about 25 MPH and picking up dust. Worse, it made it almost impossible to attach bungees or even to release the ones we had up.

013 John, Shayleen & her brother

014 Raising Ribs

015 Watch Out for Wind

016 Too Late

The wind had stopped us dead in our tracks. We couldn't even back up. We headed indoors to wait it out. The RV is very handy when nothing else is set up. We had a full house all afternoon. There was nothing else to do but wait it out.

And wait it out.

And wait it out.

And wait it out.

017 All Day Long

This sort of "relaxing" is a stressful experience. You're all keyed-up to get the camp done and all you can do is watch the dust blow. The wind lasted until almost sunset - nine hours straight. This was but a sample of our week to come.

Getting stopped in mid-construction had it's cost. The problem was my design relies on the structure being complete in order to effectively stand against this kind of wind. That one section of tarp got beat up all afternoon because it wasn't held rigid on the trailing edge. The second rib was not anchored down with ropes. In hindsight, it would have been a good idea to climb up and rig extra ropes for the afternoon. Live and learn.

Since this second rib was not secured, it began to dance up and down and whip back and forth in the wind. As it did, it pulled at its base and tore at the tarps. These steady winds of 15 to 25 MPH all day ripped at the grommets on the trailing edge. By late afternoon many were torn out and the west leg of the trailing rib was literally pulling out of the playa. This was not good.

018 Sleeping Gear

Later in a lull we got the top of the club tent up but had to stop that work too because of the wind. I got my one section of tarp down and replaced all the bad grommets and broken tie-wraps just before dark. I was now ready to completely start over with the tarps in the morning. The others got the club tent completed before dark. The day wasn't a total loss.

With nothing else to do, I walked out to the Temple of Forgiveness then to Big Rig Jig and finally the Man. The Temple was beautiful, my second favorite next to the Temple of Joy from 2002. The trucks were dramatic and fun in spite of their contradictory anti-oil politics.

The Man was isolated with few people, in contrast to prior years. Maybe it was the windstorm. There were also no displays yet. I missed being able to climb up the Man's platform. Maybe others did too. The Man was green, but lonely.

I didn't stay long and got to bed by 10:00 P.M., trying to make up for my lack of sleep the night before. I needed to be fresh for another attempt on the structure.

019 Terminal City

Sunday, August 26th

Tim woke me up - it was perfectly calm. In three hours we had all the tarps up and a basic rig completed - just as the wind began to blow. It was a good thing it was secured. We had another day of moderate winds and even some gusts strong enough to kneel the structure at about 30 MPH. With a better rig this would only have happened at 40 MPH.

020 Success

I actually caused part of the problem myself. I tried to tune the leading rib AFTER it became dynamic and got it out of plane. This made it kneel more quickly and tore out more grommets.

We also didn't have any of the side anchor ropes yet. The whole structure was moving up and down in waves of wind. The ribs were jumping up on their steel posts from six inches to a foot with each gust. It looked like some big worm making its way across the playa. I spent the next hour adding the necessary side ropes. This calmed down the worm a bit. But the wind continued.

022 More Wind

Now that the Radiation Shield was basically functional, we parked the trucks and everyone set up camp. Then we waited out another hot, windy and dusty day. The temperature approached 100 degrees, but now the shade helped. I got some reading done and took a nap. Bank that sleep.

About dusk the wind died down some and I fixed fajita salads for everyone. This was a lot easier than it sounds since everything had been prepped back in Reno. It's part of my gift since I've had the RV.

After dinner when the wind completely died, I discovered the problem with the leading rib being out of plane causing the early kneeling. I released the tension on the rope and in the process the metal stay jumped and folded half my thumbnail back.

I pushed my thumbnail back in place and wrapped it with duct tape - the all purpose playa medical kit. It didn't bleed much but hurt like hell. An Ultracet fixed that in short order. The drug gave me a mellow buzz for my evening walk and put me to sleep early which was not a bad thing. The warm days made the evenings so nice.

021 Start the Party

023 Jimbo

024 People's Art Congress

025 Jimbo's Minions

Monday, August 27th

At dawn I trimmed the rig some more and got it pretty straight. Lighter winds also helped. This day was also a bit cooler. It was the first day I didn't run the AC in the motor-home. The Radiation Shield was working well.

026 First Ride

With the camp done, this was our first morning bike ride to watch the art going up. The outer streets were already filling up. It turned out to be a record year for the head count - 48,000, a 20% increase.

027 Temple Construction

The Temple of Forgiveness was beautiful and well attended even before it was finished. Some might not like the simple rectangles, but it LOOKED like a temple. Besides, I love the lacy effect David Best gets with the wood. People were already leaving messages. This was to be a major draw all week.

028 Jig Construction

029 Man and Mirrors

In daylight the Man looked even more lonely. The tents were still empty and not much going on. Maybe it would get busy once the displays were up.

030 Mud Brick Man

031 Morning Yoga Man

Gender Confusion

On the way back to camp An, pointed out a guy next to the street leaning over peeing into a jug. I figured he must have had to go REAL bad. Just then "he" stood up and peeled off "his" shirt to display a beautiful pair of breasts.

This made the urination trick even more impressive; well, unless this "guy" was a trans. I never got close enough to tell. I pointed out "his" rack to An, and her mouth fell open. It's best not to assume too much on the playa, but I like to think this was a very talented lady.

032 SMOU in Action

033 Find a Hand Hold

We were invited to dinner with Dan and Cindy and had a nice evening. From there we headed for a dance event. It was not moves An was looking for, so we walked about until we found ourselves back at camp.

The winds were down and it was a beautiful evening. This was the best day so far. An headed for another dance event somewhere else. She generally does her own thing. I sat out in front of the club and watched the parade go by. Whether you move, or it moves, doesn't matter. It's a constantly changing circus.

I didn't stay up for the eclipse but did wake up early in the morning and noticed it was darker outside. I was tired and just went back to sleep. I could watch an eclipse any time.

034 Playa Spider

035 Better with Age

Tuesday - Burn the Man! Early!

This morning was the first day I didn't have to work on the structure at all. The sky was blue with no wind. The camp was settled and the art was up. The weather and the week were going well.

All of a sudden three pickups went zooming toward the playa at about 30 MPH - with their lights flashing. And I'm not talking about small blinky lights. I'm talking about BIG blinky lights. These were official cops. This is very unusual for the playa, but actually happened several times in the next 48 hours. Why?

That was explained when someone came by saying the Man had burned last night and they were looking for the guy who did it. That explain the cops, but why the speed? Did they really expect to actually chase someone? And what about bikes coming from side streets? This was indeed dangerous behavior. Weren't they there to PROTECT the public? Safety third I guess.

As it turns out, the guy who burned the Man was caught within minutes of the deed, which happened not long after three in the morning. Apparently, a Black Rock Ranger spotted and held him for the real cops. So what was all this zooming about? Is it that when something illegal happens, cops just HAVE to drive fast as a reflex? And how long does this effect last? It sure makes them look silly, and creates more of a safety hazard than the actual crime that aroused them.

036 Start Over

We got the bikes and rode out to take a look at the Man. He didn't look that bad, but the act was certainly symbolic. Piss Clear has been advocating burning the Man early for years. Someone finally did it. My guess was that it had something to do with the Green theme. Someone had reached their political breaking point.

We headed back to camp and made French toast for everyone. The burned Man was the major topic of discussion. Then someone came by delivering a special edition of the Black Rock Beacon with front page pics of the Man burning.

Even with all it's resources, it's rare to get hard copy news after midnight back in the default world. It's far more impressive out here in the dirt with a temporary lash-up. Plus, they had all the facts right! Amazing people out here. And driven to express themselves - both with arson and it's news coverage.

So, why DID the Man burn early? When I got back to Reno I got a copy of this link on the regional email list...

Wired - A Fiery Q&A With the Prankster Accused of Burning the Man

036 Paul Addis - Arson or Artist?

There's been lots of debate as to the quality of this artistic expression. I can see both sides. You're not supposed to mess with someone else's art, and Larry certainly has the right to preach his Green Man gig if he likes. But there's also a long standing tradition at Burning Man of appropriating other's art to extend it's expression as you own. Was this such a case? Would a jury understand?

I certainly don't agree with Paul Addis about the Man being Alterna-Disney. It was more like Alterna-Epcot. But in my opinion, that didn't justify lighting a match under the guy. On the other hand, Paul DID create the story for which Burning Man 2007 will be remembered. And that's probably art.

Since I've mentioned playa papers and Piss Clear in specific, I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Adrian Roberts and the staff of Piss Clear for all the excellent work over the years. It's been a great rag. They don't know it, but I even delivered papers one year.

Anyway, Piss Clear has decided to close up shop for various reasons. They won't be publishing next year. Did they reach a breaking point? Who knows. It doesn't matter. Art comes. Art goes. Paper burns so well.

And Adrian, you're not the ONLY one who like to capitalize an entire word every now and then. See you in the dust.

037 Reconstruction

"Something a Little Different This Year"

That was literally how they introduced this year's event guide book - "What Where When". But different is often not better. This is a great example.

The very nature of Burning Man makes it difficult to coordinate and publicize events. Many Burners work on playa time, others don't bother with time at all. Some camps get moved around, others don't even show up! Add to this the best intentions from months earlier when each event was first planned, colliding with the realities of dust, weather and equipment failure. Now throw in strange concepts, words and descriptions layered with mis-communication and typos. All of these factors conspire to produce an event guide that's only about 80% correct when it's done well. And this year it wasn't.

An was the first to complain. She normally gets the guide and maps out a plan trying to do as much as possible. This year she was stopped dead in her tracks.

The front half of the book was an hourly schedule with event titles; the back half was event descriptions with a camp name but no location. You had to go to a separate document, the map listing, to find where the camp was actually located.

The real problem was the event description didn't list times for each event - you had to scan through the hourly schedule to find them. And that was 40 pages long!

So in order to attend something happening now, you had to find it in the schedule to get the event title, then use the event title to look up the event description to get the camp name, then use the camp name to get the camp location - and this process was the EASIEST way to use the guide!

In order to attend an event you'd heard of from some prior year, you had to look through the ENTIRE schedule then go through the above process. And if you wanted to catch a later performance - too bad, you had to start all over again. There was NO CROSS indexing - the process only flowed one way.

If you found an event in the schedule, the camp wasn't listed. If you found an event by it's description, the times weren't listed. If you looked up a camp, you didn't know what events they were doing, or when they occurred. "What Where When" were all kept in separate lists, and unfortunately remained a mystery.

There were also three pages of Event Descriptions that began with the word "The" which explained why lots of events didn't seem to have a description. To confuse things even more, they threw in the book a map and listing of all playa ART which had almost nothing to do with events. Or did it? Was this confusion just the "art" of the Guide? This guide was at best a sick joke, and at worst, a total waste of time.

An reached her breaking point. She tossed the book aside saying, "I know a better way". She got on her bike and rode over to the 9:00 plaza to ask when the next dance was scheduled. Riding around was actually quicker than the book. THAT is how bad the Event Guide was this year. But it made the experience even more random. If that's your thing.

038 More Mylar

039 Wind Music

Wednesday, August 29th

We took a long ride this morning. You could tell the new camps - they didn't have any dust on them - yet. That would change soon. Most of the art projects were up and functional.

040 Proper Attire to Raise a Tent

041 Feel the Music!

042 Wire and Glass

043 Which Means?

044 Pre-storm

045 Sad Eyes

046 "Hand me something to write on" - (posted at Info Camp)


Wednesday is the middle of the week and a bit of a turning point for Burning Man. Most of the projects are working if they are going to be. A few never make it. Sometimes people bite off more than they can chew.

A literal example this year was Mechabolic. This was a VERY ambitious project both in scale and concept. The idea was to grind up garbage then digest it to create methane which would then be used to run a supercharged engine and drive this "factory" around the playa. The point was to mimic metabolism and mobile biology.

I was looking forward to seeing this beast in action but it never turned a wheel. It wasn't because they didn't try. You could tell it represented thousands of hours of work. It was huge and very complex. I'm impressed they even got it to the playa.

047 Mechabolic

Extra credit was at least due for continuing the work all week even though anyone could see completion was hopeless. They were probably about 80% done. I'm sure the weather didn't help any. I heard they actually started the motor at one point but that was about it. The front framework still wasn't bolted together. Mechabolic was in no shape to roll.

On the other hand, they DID present a radical concept in physical form and I'm sure got lots of people thinking. That's the nice thing about art. Even when it fails, you often get your point across. Besides, it looked cool in a determined industrial sort of way.

Success and Failure

There are lots of ways and reasons to fail. Some art may be functional on Wednesday but doesn't last long enough to be seen. Depending on design and conditions, lots of stuff breaks within days or even hours.

048 Homouroboros Zoetrope

Homouroboros Zoetrope by Peter Hudson is an impressive example of a piece I saw Wednesday morning but never got to see in action. It was from the same guy who did the strobed swimmers in other years so required darkness.

Swimmers Movie

On the playa, Homouroboros was known as "The Monkey Eating the Snake". I heard it worked well when it worked, but every night I came out to see, it was dysfunctional. I heard the same thing from others. Again, I think the wind and dust were factors. It's all part of the serendipity. You Tube is not quite like being there, but it's a taste. And it's how I saw the monkey eat the snake this year.

Homouroboros Zoetrope Movie

(I later learned it required many people pedaling hard in order to come to life. So maybe the failure was mine. Only two of us were pedaling both times we tried. Or maybe it needed more lights to indicate SOMETHING was happening.)

049 Lose a Bike?

050 Of Course

051 Sword Fight

052 Clean Green

Next we did some work on the SMOU. Tim had run into some rebar. Repairs were done. The SMOU also had trouble starting at various times during the week but we got it running most of the time. SMOU was a success.

That afternoon I got Mylar Surprise ready and at dark took it out. It was well received but after an hour the wind came up and I had to take it in for the night.

Too Much of a Good Thing

After that An went dancing while I watched. She's pretty good. This is definitely her thing at Burning Man. She tries to make every session.

Next we did roller skating where at least I could keep up with her. The rink was a lot better than I thought it might be, the skates not so much. But I WAS skating on the playa for the first time. And it was INDEED a fun experience. I used to skate a lot. It brought back memories. Definitely great art.

As I was taking off my skates (my feet were starting to hurt), I encountered a not so great part of Burning Man - too much of a good thing.

Next to the bench was a young man lying in the dust. He was totally naked and seemed to be peacefully sleeping. The he woke up and that changed. He started yelling at everyone.

He didn't seem to focus on anyone in particular, just everyone in general. What he was yelling, I couldn't make out. It was a total mumble. I can't even remember the words. He tried to raise up but could do no more than get up on his elbows and look around. That's when I smelled the alcohol.

The amount of noise he was making was impressive for his condition. Then he collapsed back into the desert - face first. No one seemed to mind. Which struck me as very sad, making his performance somewhat artistic I guess.

Skating was followed by lots of lights, clubs and the Bad Idea Theater. They were playing a Turkish version "Young Frankenstein" with Turkish actors. They were doing the rotating fireplace scene, but the actors seemed way too serious for a comedy - very strange, and actually funny for all the wrong reasons. Definitely a bad idea.

053 Crude Sunrise

Thursday, August 30th - The Green Theme

This morning we went straight for Crude Awakening to catch the sunrise, but there was no room on the top until after the sun came up. An was concerned about design loads with the rail to rail crowd. I was amazed it was all held up with 4 x 4s.

054 Crude Appeal

055 Crude Crowd

056 Crude Drop

057 Crude Shadow

058 Crude Escher

059 Crude Stairway

060 Crude Columns

061 Crude Stare

062 Crude Meditation

063 Crude Perspective

064 Crude Droppings

OK, this last pic had nothing to do with Crude Awakening. It just seem to fit the sequence. Actually, there are always LOTS of pee spots on the playa in the morning. They are especially common around a Rave. Fortunately, this type of deposit isn't. But back to Crude Awakening...

The statues were my favorites from prior years with new ones added. There were now so many! This was a major project. I enjoyed the scale and content, but not the theme.

When it was first announced, I thought Green was fine if that's what Larry wanted to express. It's his party after all. But the more I learned, the less impressed I became. I did a blog post on it earlier. And after living it for ten days, I've definitely changed my mind. Green is way to political for the Man. It's like having anti-war as a theme.

That doesn't mean I'm anti-green. I think making REAL changes in our personal energy consumption is a good idea. I just think more resources are wasted on symbolic measures than real ones. And BORG has bought into it.

Here's what I mean by political. This year BORG turned the Man into an Epcot-like display, and Burners stayed away in droves. Every time I stopped by (which admittedly wasn't as often as in prior years), the place was empty.

065 Burning Epcot

An challenged me when I referred to the displays as propaganda. She naively said, "But these charts MUST be true". So I used the one in front of me as an example. It showed all the forms of human transportation and their "carbon cost". At the bottom was the bicycle with a claimed ZERO energy requirement.

I pointed out that with the cost of human food production, it's been established that driving a small car is actually MORE efficient than a human walking. And a bike is only five times better - certainly well above zero in it's impact. THAT was the problem with the display under the Man. There were no counter-displays! And they were certainly needed. That makes it political.

So back to my example, the biggest piece out there (which was admittedly my favorite) - Crude Awakening. It set the Guinness record for planned propane burn - which made a VERY impressive fireball, but heating nothing but 80,000 eyeballs. This was fine with me, but why not admit Burning Man is an art party about blowing things up and burning things down? Did the crude wake up? Is anyone buying a smaller car? Or WAS Larry largely preaching to a segment? The Road Warriors certainly didn't give a shit.

Plus, the Cool Man's carbon offset thing is right up there with the Pope's sixteenth century practice of selling indulgences to pre-aswage the guilt of sins not yet committed. Miles not yet driven. Fuel not yet burned. BORG is spending MY ticket money on this scam? I'd rather have it spent on an honest fire ball any day.

And making fun of tanker trucks doing a jig when virtually EVERYONE drove to the playa in an oil-based vehicles was such a contradiction, the message was literally inverse. Which made it funny. Which made it art. And nicely done.

I also didn't like the way the theme was MORE than just a suggestion for the $450,000 they spent on this consigned art. Even though some of it turned out pretty nice in spite of the theme. The theme aspect was a joke on itself.

It was even rumored that Green was a factor in which art cars got a sticker to drive around. If true, this would be SO un-Burning Man. Tim put big green flags from Turkministan on the SMOU just in case. I could go on and on, but I'd rather get back to the spirit of Burning Man. THAT is what a theme should be about.

At least now we're done with the Green thing for a while. The American Dream should be a lot more fun. Everyone's dream will be more divergent, as opposed to forced convergence. The American Dream is more in the spirit of Burning Man.

066 Temple of Forgiveness

067 YUM!

068 Temple in Action

069 Double YUM!

Keeping Cool

Since I've complained about the theme, I should point out BORG does most stuff very well. One major advancement this year was ice sales.

BORG has sold ice at center camp for years. They give the profits to the local school and that's good. What wasn't good was trying to carry bags of ice on a bicycle for miles back to camp.

This year that changed when they added ice sales to the three and nine o'clock plazas. This was a dramatic improvement in physical distribution. I've heard of people who actually created art cars JUST so they could do ice runs. Now they will have to rely only on artistic expression for motivation.

These new ice sales went smoothly except for later in the week when they had major lines and even ran out early a couple of days. I later learned the problem was because of more people and the weather. Higher temperatures combined with high winds tended to melt everyone's ice more quickly. Overall ice sales were 40% higher than last year!

Now you might think, what's the big deal? But if you've ever had to manage rapid growth AND predict the weather, you'll realize it's not easy finding more trucks, more drivers and more ice on short notice when you need it. This is especially true when you're buying it by the truckload. Try it sometime. BORG did a good job on this one.

070 Golden Sunrise

071 Strings or Wind Instruments?

072 Playa Hug 1

073 Playa Hug 2

074 Dramatic Natural Expression

Nature's Artistic Expression

Clouds had been forming in the afternoon for the last couple of days but no major wind or storms. All that changed at 3:00 when nature decided to express itself once more. A BIG thunderstorm formed to the west. First the wind went TO the storm gusting to about 40 MPH.

Then it came back.

Normally this wouldn't have been much of a problem. But instead of flowing THROUGH the structure from the southwest as was typical, this wind was out of the east and hit the structure broadside. This combined with the weakened second rib from that first day caused the rib to literally pull the post out of the ground and it start jumping around. This thing was breaking lose and trying to fly.

075 Quick Repair

I quickly added a second safety rope tied to the wheel of the RV, but the stress had already torn out about 12 feet of grommets on the trailing side. At least now the rib wouldn't rip through the tents next door. Later we added more stakes.

These tents were the next project. We released the poles to keep them from breaking under the stress. Other tents were not so lucky. Many had their poles snapped. It was THAT windy.

Even with more ropes, the Radiation Shield kept jumping like an animal trying to break free. Next, the top link of the third rib separated at the joint. Only the ball bungees and tarps held the rib in position. I crossed my fingers and watched.

After an hour the wind switched directions and stressed the other side. The PVC was jumping up off the posts about a foot at a time stressing the rope to the tarps. This went on for another hour.

All of a sudden we got a sprinkle of rain. Then the storm ended. The rest of the evening was very nice. About then we welcomed our late arrivals from Reno. Apparently, it was raining hard there. Maybe this storm wasn't so bad after all.

Next, we had dinner, cleaned up and did an art tour on the playa. Again we climbed "Crude Awakening" for a beautiful view of th city. It looked so clean from a distance. Soon it was a sea of moving and flashing lights.

078 Cubitron at Dawn

Cubatron Cone

Another piece I spent a lot of time with was Cubatron Cone. It was one of the most impressive light shows I've ever seen. And after six years on the playa, that's no mean feat.

Cubatron was made up of layers of lighted ping pong balls laid out radially and forming a cylindrically space about thirty feet in diameter and ten feet high. Each ball could be any color and was very dynamically computer controlled.

The patterns were simply amazing. You could lose track of time watching, and it never seem to repeat. My guess is they choreographed shapes into movements then used random numbers to drive these scrips with random choreographed colors groups.

079 Cubatron 2

Here it is in action...

Cubatron Movie

I think the impact (apart from the pretty dancing lights) came from the fact that the human mind keeps looking for patterns, and this art produced just enough to keep you wondering. I didn't learn until later there were also glasses to produce even more interesting 3D effects. Even without the glasses, this was indeed fantastic art.

Another amazing aspect was that it seem to have completely different effects depending on how far away you were. The dancing effects from a couple hundred feet away changed as you approached, and were completely different with your nose against the wire. This piece was near our camp and got my attention many times from many angles during the week. Oh, and it was solar powered. Very Green.

080 Cubatron 3

076 Tall Grass Being Subtle (right edge)

077 Tall Grass at Night

Friday, August 31st - More Storm Damage

We had an early ride and noticed lots of storm damage - mostly poorly secured tents and shade structures.

The 65' bamboo tower called Tall Grass right next to camp had also blown over. We would miss it. With it's blue light strings it had been a beacon to find our way back to camp at night. And yes, I'm glad they weren't green lights. Maybe these guys were from Kentucky.

Anyway, it failed right at the top of it's shade structure in a very even way. All of the bamboo vertically split and collapsed. No joints failed at all. It went right to the breaking point. Very impressive design.

081 Tall Grass Mowed

Speaking of storm damage, it was time to work on my structure again. It had become a acommon chore during the week. This morning was especially bad, but the later in the week, the less you bother to do. It's all about return and invested energy.

The storm had separated the third rib at one of the link joints. There was no way to get the link back in without taking everything down so I took it out and just set the pipe back into the six inch coupling before adding LOTS of of duct tape, the all-purpose playa building material. The stressed-skin of the tarps was still holding the rib mostly in place anyway. This thing was pretty resilient.

As I was finishing repairs the others began to wake so I fixed another workers breakfast. It was well attended. The wind was calm. For now.

082 Steam Punk Tree House

Next I rode around to look for some friends, checking out art along the way. I found John Turner who helped me during my first year on the playa and took a ride in his solar-electric art car. It was faster than I expected, and fun. I looked for some other friends but never found them which is par for the Burn.

083 Fire Ant?

As I made my way back to camp, it was getting hot and clouds were forming once more. It didn't look good. The wind started again just after 2:00 but didn't get bad until about 5:15. This was a thunderstorm like yesterday but later and more intense. It also blew from the east and then west.

083 Final Storm

The Shield was again bucking and jumping like a wild animal - a very BIG and very WILD animal. This was the worst yet. I stayed in the RV and read Churchill keeping an eye on my monster.

084 Final White Out

The wind was blowing so hard that even the seals around the RV's window had dust blowing in. They formed little white jets. You could see the dust suspended INSIDE the RV. I had never seen it like this before. I got my mask and goggles out as a joke, but then kept them on. The wind was howling. The shade was jumping.

085 Internal Dust Storm

All of a sudden, I noticed a significant change. The skin had dropped down at the third rib. I looked out but couldn't see the problem. SOMETHING had broken. I went out to take a look even though there wasn't much I could do in the storm.

What I saw didn't make sense at all. One side of the third rib had jumped completely off it's steel post - but the post was gone! And the chain was still attached to the playa. Some kind of bizzare illusion? Then I got it. The post had broken off right at the playa and the top part of the steel remained in the rib!

This was unexpected. In all my design work, I assumed PVC would fail before steel. I thought it would split out. That was the reason for the multi-layered PVC "foundations". I had even considered adding steel straps around the outside of the PVC for saftey. But I had never thought about snapping a steel post!

086 Playa Mystery

Once I got it back to Reno, I determined the steel post had LITERALLY snapped clean, probably from a shock load. The was no sign of repeated bending - very strange. Plastic gives, steel doesn't. The steel post had found it's breaking point before the plastic! The playa had surprised me again.

087 Clean Break

Now I had an interesting situation. This renegade rib was only being held by the anchor chain connected to the part of the post still buried in the playa. The rib was now literally jumping off the playa several inches into the air with each gust and only held by a single rope.

I tied another rope for safety. There were no tents in the way if it completely failed, but I informed the neighbors anyway. It was not wise to stand behind it in these conditions.

This is a good place to watch a time laspe movie of the week all in only ten minutes. It's all scurry, dust and lights. But there are several interesting points presented. You can watch the man burn - TWICE. And you will also get an idea of the wind and dust storms even though you only see about one frame out of a thousand. Imagine what was happening during the other 999. This was indeed an interesting Burn.

2007 Burning Man Time Lapse Video

As indicated on film, the worst storm was Friday afternoon and that's when the Shield took the worst damage. I've read reports of 80 MPH gusts but wasn't able to confirm.

All of this wind didn't stop Critical Tits. OK, I'm sure it MUST have slowed it down some, but they went on riding right through the storm. Several stopped in for shelter on their way back from the parade. Or maybe they never found the parade. It was quite a sight - a bunch of topless girls with interesting wet mud streaks. Oh, and they of course had painted titties. Playa storms blow in the strangest refugees. Here are a couple that chickened out from earlier. Good call.

088 Critical Dusty Tits

Swirl came by a little later. The wind was dying off. He said they his medical group was having a busy Burn even without the weather problems. One guy hung himself in a tent - that's all we knew at the time.

Later I learned his name was Jermaine D. Barley, 22 of Fort Collins, Colorado. He was not a member but was staying at "Comfort and Joy", a self proclaimed "queer camp". The following week some TV comedian referred to his death as "art" which started that rumor on the Burning Man boards. But according to BORG and the police, there was no indication of such performance art.

It's more likely this is an example of how Burning Man tends to make emotions more volatile. Even without drugs (and I have no reason to believe Jermaine was on any), the playa turns good into REALLY good. And it can also turn bad into black. At least for some people. Something about the Burn apparently took this guy past his breaking point. Or maybe he just decided it was a good place to make his exit.

There were lots of other minor medical cases and drug over-doses. Another guy had a heart attack and was taken by helicopter to Reno. There were also problems with alcohol encounters similar to what I had seen two nights before.

One guy fell 20 feet off a dome and STILL wanted to fight everyone who tried to help him. Swirl had to "talk him down", saying he was probably on alcohol, meth or crack. Or maybe all three. He finally got him to mellowed out.

These examples dramatically show the behavioral difference between alcohol and marijuana. You never hear about any drama on grass, and there's LOTS of it out there. But with alcohol, whether it's here or at other events, people that exceed a certain personal inflection point become real assholes, often doing themselves and others harm.

To be honest, I'm always amazed there aren't more problems considering the conditions, the weather and the substances being used. I think the key is the people involved. Most are very reasonable and logical. But not everything in everyone's lives can be reasoned with. Sometimes the forces just cause something to break.

089 When Push Comes to Shove

A Grim Prediction

Just then it started to rain which brings up an important topic. Rain scares me more than wind. I believe it will be rain that finally brings an end to Burning Man. I've only experience light rain on the playa, but if you understand the nature of this dust and water, you've already figured out where I'm going with this.

A TENTH of an inch of rain makes an inch of mud here. An inch of mud is a major problem. It builds up on your shoes so everyone's instantly wearing playa platforms. It feels funny for a few minutes but then becomes a hassle to walk at all.

The bikes also quickly come to a literally grinding halt, clogged with mud. Thousands of people trying to move around just makes things worse with every step. Even just getting to the bathroom becomes a major project. The published advice is to stay put until it dries out which is generally a good idea.

A little rain is just a big mess, but if we got an INCH of rain, we'd have a literal disaster. There would probably be death. An inch of rain would create a FOOT of mud and there aren't enough helicopters in the western United States to pull everyone off this playa before major shortages set in.

Just getting to air drops of food and water would be a challenge. Drops would have to be done camp by camp without injury - not an easy thing to do for 50,000. Like I said, not enough helicopters. It would make the Woodstock's rain storm look like paradise. People would become literally unrecognizable as the mud built up from moving around.

Some would panic and struggle in the mud trying to slog it out and escape, only getting a few hundred yards. Livestock as died from exhaustion this way. People probably would too. Others would fight over dwindling supplies and fresh water. We would once again rediscover the darker side of human nature. CNN would have a field day just broadcasting the video of what fools we are for staying on the playa in such rain.

But the clean up is the part that would finally break and bankrupt BORG. Even if they got the people out somehow, the next challenge would be all the MOOP. Once the mud dries, it becomes a mortar and sets up very hard. They would be chipping all that equipment out of the playa for years, and much of it would never be discovered just under the surface.

090 Rain Art

Rain Art

But like I said, we only got a LITTLE rain - barely enough to cut the dust. It felt like a gift or perhaps the wrapping for a gift, for next we got the rainbow! Then another. And another. I've never seen three complete rainbows before anywhere. And after a hard week of heat, wind and dust it was a good sign.

This is one of those times the camera doesn't quite capture the experience even if I'd caught the third rainbow. It's not the image in the sky, it's the vibe in the people. It's the magic in the mood.

091 After the Storm

092 Repaired Surprise

In a couple of hours the storm was totally gone and the party was back at full tilt. I repaired The Mylar Surprise but it was still too windy so I left it next to the RV.

093 Shandy and John

The club was very busy Friday night with Depeche Mode. Half the party was in the street. Later on Shandy aka DJ Edge (Tim and Debbie's son) took over for Tim and did a set. He got a great response from the crowd and seemed to be having a good time.

93J Shandy & Tim

93J Tim in Party Mode

094 Sgt Pepper

Friday is my favorite night. There are only minor burns and no single big events. Everyone is going everywhere at once - with lights and flame at full blast. It's a very magical time, maybe even the real peak of Burning Man. We of course were out in this randomly moving circus for hours.

095 Still Lonely Man

At one point we were at the burning of the pyramid near us. The music and dancing were seductive. All of a sudden, four BLM Rangers came pushing through the crowd like Storm Troopers. They were all geared up like cops with belts and guns. It was such a contrasting vibe. They were SO out of place. But they didn't DO anything at all. They just looked around menacingly. Weird.

This was one of the most heavy-hand demonstrations of it's kind I've ever seen on the playa. Maybe it's because they were so close. I would have expected this from the local cops, but aren't the BLM supposed to manage LAND? We moved on to the next vibe, next event, next group, next flame, next presentation, next art - next, next, NEXT!

096 Temple of Forgiveness

097 Goddess Worship

Saturday, September 1st

I got to bed late but I awoke well before sunrise and needed to pee. The RV holding tank was almost full so I decided to walk up to the porta-potties. It was still dark. I didn't bother dressing for the hundred yards. I needed to go.

I know it's very Burning Man, but being helio-phobic, getting naked during the day was not common for me. And at night I haven't found anything to express that has gotten me totally nude.

But this is my favorite time of day, and with a full moon lighting everyone coming back from the parties - well, to steal a line from Woody Allen, "As a meaningless experience, it's one of the best". I guess I was expressing my lazy nature and the state of my RV's black water tank. Reason enough. It was fun. And liberating.

I got back to bed and slept late for a change. After a ride about, I checked the state of the Shield. It looked a bit wonky but was still functional; and with the extra ropes, essentially safe. Grommets had ripped out all the way to the top of one tarp so I grabbed the corner and tied it up out of the way. Well, mostly. It would have to do for another 32 hours - I hoped.

098 Wonky Shield

The weather seemed a bit cooler and dryer. This might cut back on the thunderstorm action. We were overdue for a really nice day, and that turned out to be what we got. The winds were light; the temperature moderate.

099 Fresh Bed

100 Child's Play

101 Piano Throwing Trebuchet

This trebuchet needs an explanation. The heavy concrete weight on the right throws the piano on the left over the top and a couple hundred feet down range. I never got to see it in action, but I saw the result in the burn tray later. Like I've said. You have to be there.

102 Dust Detector

Even when you think the air is clean, there's lots of dust from all the movement. This mirror demonstrates it nicely.

103 Late Finish or Early Start?

104 Big Rig Jig

105 Intimate Approach

106 First find two bikes

107 Fun with Balloons

108 Emergent Talent

Back at camp I noticed Jimbo was taking down the fire barrels. I ask him why. He said he was out of wood so might as well begin packing up. The exit process was beginning.

With the better weather, I spent more time riding around checking things out. There was lots of storm damage but no other major pieces had come down. At least not that I noticed.

109 Sweet Smoke Ring

110 Paula's Rose Palace

111 Total Destruction

112 My Kind of Art

113 Faceless Expression

114 Omar and Action Jack

114J Banking Sleep

115 Flying Man

That afternoon I did fajita salads again. We had plenty of food for everyone. Then we got cleaned up for the evening. Tim ask if I would watch the camp while him and his family went to the Burning of the Man. He had never been to a Burn. I said sure. I ask An if she wanted to go out. She said, "No, I've seen it before. Everyone has a blinky light, and there's a big fire".

Dave Orel stopped by on his way out, but instead stayed with us watching the Burn from in front of the club. It was fun to see the parade of lights and people as they went out. Then came the fireworks and flame. Then they came back - like a tide turning with a big flame in the middle.


As this happened, I noticed something. There were LOTS of people WITHOUT any lights at all. These people are known as "Darkwads" and are dangerous because when there's a little dust in the air, they're easy to hit while riding your bike. Were there THAT many clueless virgins this year? Or had people just quit caring?

Will more Burners change the event? Probably. It's different every year anyway. Would I ever reach the breaking point and not come back? I don't like to say never, but I can't imagine it. Even if half the party were Darkwad yahoos, it would still be worth it for all the good parts.

Soon everyone was back from the Burn. The wind was calm so I got Mylar Surprise out again and put on the gloves. Then I started playing with human behavior.

116 Mylar Surprise in Action

I would walk out on the playa and sit it down, hiding inside. When people walked by, I would pick it up and start following them. It's size and nature were a bit intimidating.

Different people had different reactions. Some would walk faster and I would let them go. Others would laugh and back away. I would follow. Then then would try to look inside. That's when I would come out and give them a vibrating hug. Each would scream in turn then start laughing as I moved to the next person in the party.

The Mylar was the distraction, my gloves the surprise. It worked well. Only one lady said the gloves felt scary. Most insisted I not stop. One guy ask if he could try out my costume. I said sure and showed him how. He took off down a dark street while I was vibrating people, and didn't stop until I caught up with him. I think he wanted to take it home or something. He was pretty blitzed.

I ended up playing surprise for several hours that night then going back to the club for a while. The burning of Crude Awakening happened about then so I missed it. But here is John's video...


What you're seeing is the combustion of 900 gallons of off-spec jet fuel and 2000 gallons of liquid propane.

117 Crude Result

118 Picking Up the Pieces?

119 Sand Crawler

120 Peter Totter

121 The Defiant One

Sunday September 2nd

Of course I awoke before dawn again needing to pee. Since I'd had so much fun the morning before, I walked to the bathrooms naked again. Little things like this can be so much fun out here. Then I went back to bed and got the other half of my sleep.

We were just coming back from our bike ride when Jellyfish (Damian Janssen) came over. He joined us for breakfast. He was going around apologizing to anyone he might have offended the night before. The Burn can be like that. I assured him I wasn't on that list, though I did remember he was in a major party mood when I was out with Mylar Surprise.

U-Me Web Site

Overall he said he had a good Burn. His U-Me was definitely a major success and his other projects (including SMOU) had gone well too. This guy was no where near his breaking point. I suspect he will be back in spite of too much partying now and then.

122 U-Me Has Landed

123 U-Me Interacting

Tim also came in for some breakfast (bacon), but he was in a different mood. He HAD reached his breaking point. He said the management of the camp and club had gotten too big. He wanted out. He said he would help organize and DJ a couple of nights but wanted someone else to manage and run the whole affair. We'll see.

Then Jimbo came in. He said as long as I brought the Radiation Shield back, he would be there. And then Swirl arrived. He wanted to make something to burn on the playa next year and said he would help with the camp again. I suspect Club Verboten, the Peoples Art Congress and Labwδrks will all return in some form.

It was another nice day. I rode around a bit. Lots of people had already broke camp and were leaving. In late afternoon we did the same. The Shield came down nicely and we were packed up before the Temple burned.

125 A Final Prayer

123J Temple Burn

Again, everyone flooded out to the playa. There were lots of people with blinky lights. There was a big fire. Then everyone came back. I got to bed early.

124 A Final Dance

126 Then pack It Up

Monday - Snacky treats for everyone!

The RV was moving at 5:05 A.M. but it still took us well over an hour to get to the highway. Exit is probably the least popular aspect of the Burning Man experience. And BORG hasn't done much to fix the problem. There were two Borg people counting heads at the exit gate (to validate their ticket sales I'm sure), but that was it - there was NO ONE directing traffic ANYWHERE, not even at the highway.

This lack of traffic control was especially a problem because the sun had just come as we got to the highway and looking through dusted windows (you can never get it all off), it was VERY difficult to see if there was traffic coming (rare but possible).

I'm sure each single file vehicle had to completely stop, roll down the window and look into the sun before carefully proceeding. This slowed the exit process dramatically.

After that, the trip home was a bit faster but not without problems of it's own. In a few miles we encountered the first accident. Actually, we encountered a long line of cars and had to come to a
complete stop.

This situation in the default world would have a few people getting out of their cars to stretch and look around. But we weren't quite back to the default world. EVERYONE was out of their cars talking and moving around. The rumors were being passed from one group to another. It was said a helicopter had just taken off with the injured. One guy was walking down the line yelling, "Snacky treats for everyone!", as he passed out granola bars at each group. The party hadn't quite ended yet.

After about 20 minutes, the line began moving again, but no one was in a hurry. The back up would make it slow going for a while. As we passed the wreck, you could see a wheel had come off a trailer causing an over correction and roll-over of a Toyota SUV. Hope they had on seat belts.

About forty miles farther there was another roll-over accident, but it had mostly cleared. This one was a Volvo wagon. I later heard there were other serious accidents that day after we passed.

This highway has very soft and sandy shoulders. If you drop a wheel off the road, it's easy to flip your vehicle. Plus, everyone out here had gotten up about 4:00 A.M. after being sleep deprived for a week. No, I'm not going to issue a driving warning or discuss breaking points. More words won't help. Safety third.


Along with the weather you've read about my complaints regarding the theme, the event guide, the BLM police being out of control and the lack of exit crew. These are all opportunities for improvement next year, but everything else was great.

My projects had worked out pretty well. My shade structure mostly stayed up and my Mylar was a Surprise. I hadn't ridden in the SMOU, but not because I didn't get a chance. Tim invited me twice. I just never got around to it. Still, it was fun to help build. That was enough.

I have one final prediction...

The growth of Burning Man this year will not be duplicated next year. We may even see Black Rock City's very first decrease in population. All of those new people will think this year was typical, and wonder why we stay out in all the dust storms. But those who understand the event will be back. We may decline in number, but the quality will improve. And there will be fewer Darkwads.

Like the heat, wind, dust and rain, along with the lights, fire, joy and rainbows, Buring Man is an adventure. There are good parts. There are bad parts. My favorite part is how the nature of the event is ever changing but still very positive.

OK, overall, this was my least favorite Burning Man. But I still had a great time.

See you on the playa.

For more of my Burning Man stories...