Date: Wed, 06 Sep 95 02:15:43 -0700
Subject: John and Burning Man...
On thursday we left for Reno, staying the night amidst all the lights and stuff. Then Friday morning, 100 miles north we found the playa. dead (or so we thought), barren, alkali dried mud that fills 400 square miles. We found the main camp and wandered around. A little crazy... Lot's of very creative people just being cooky and creative. A mile south was the rave camp which struck us as much nicer. Much more serene than the atmosphere of the main camp. People working together rather than everybody expressing their individual selves, which isn't bad, but leaves a lot of room for any one person not to fit in, just my own impression. So be it. So the main camp was full of people rebelling and trying very hard to be free, and the rave camp was full of people less worried about rebelling, and just being free by not worrying about it. Just being a flying flock of birds in unison rather than a chaotic swarm of bees... each ego beautiful in its own right. and the ego of each camp just respected each other. So it was really neat to see all the artistic expression. There were these art cars where people had made their cars into a giant shark, or fin, or bug... it was a van with a VW bug mounted on top, and the bug was molded into a real bug, with legs hanging down and big eyes and skin and jewels and toys and all kinds of things embedded into the body. And at night it lit up so that there were all these lights coming from the eyes and everywhere else... it was impressive. There was the tiki room, a hut/bar with mach palm trees and all kinds of hawaiian stuff and they served free drinks all weekend long. We went there late Friday night and there were a lot of drunk people, trying to get us to try their newly discovered Spam and tequila drink. Cathy and I passed.
So, the first day was calm and nice, and gave us a chance to start building up our excitement and style. We danced for most of Friday night. I particularly enjoyed Minor's set. It got cold and began to give us an idea of extremity. Saturday day got exceedingly hot, and the music went from eccentric acid the night before to slower dub, as all the people were collapsing in the heat. But through that heat we were able to meet lots of people ... There were so many just really interesting people. People from Illinois, Minneapolis, New York, Honolulu, and even England. They came that far to be there. So, later that afternoon we made our way to the hot springs. A sulfuric warm bath at the edge of the desert and the mountains. While we were in there the sky went from dry clear and hot, to dark ominous clouds. Then lighting starting striking the edges of the desert and we decided to leave the spring so that lighting wouldn't hit the water with our precious selves inside. Then we drove as fast as we could to our camp because the rain was starting and the winds were picking up. We got to our tent and was barely able to zip it all up and throw ourselves into the car before a ferocious dust storm swept through the camp. It lasted about 15 minutes and completely covered our car in dusty mud. You couldn't see a thing and it was just really intense. Then we got out and started cleaning our tent. The rest of the evening was filled with sporadic lighting and dinner around a fire.
Then we went to Wicked to start some dancing. So we danced and the music was building up and everything was falling into place. We were having this extremely beautiful moment with our new friends and the DJ (not sure who it was), as he was just perfectly in tune with all of us, building and building the music... the big green laser was beaming out into the desert for miles, drawing patterns and the ground was vibrating from the bass of Wicked's sound system. and then the lighting started picking up. Pretty soon the music was getting so intense that everyone was screaming and the lighting and thunder was striking in the background every few seconds. The wind was blowing harder and harder and was sweeping huge clouds in front of the moon as the thunder continued to roar. Then the rain began to fall and everyone just kept dancing. Wicked then had to turn off the laser and the music but by then the thunder and lighting had more than taken its place, filling the desert with light and sound. The rain began to sweep through everything and suddenly the sky cracked open and down it came, with such intensity and voracity it was all you could do to just smile and marvel at the power of meaning. You can't witness an experience like that and not see the attunement of the world, the interplay between your actions and nature. It made me think of indian rain dances, and the funny power of coincidence in life.
So the rain poured and the playa turned into mud. And we all walked around sliding and stomping in the mud. About ten minutes later it stopped and the sky became clear again. The stars all twinkling and the air filled with a sweet smell from the mud. Warm winds blew and dried our clothes in about 20 minutes, and the water soaked into the mud and within an hour the desert floor was dry again. That was just an awesome experience. We then went to a camp fire and cleaned our shoes, with big grins on our faces and our bodies still vibrating from the intense energy of the desert. Capt'n Crunch lent me his knife to scrape the mud from my shoes (thank you). The music came back on and we went to dance at Spaz this time... riding the edge with Jungle music. Cathy and I spent the rest of the night dancing at Spaz or Wicked, and walking the mile toward the main camp. Laying on the desert floor and watching the sky... a sky so clear that you could see lots of shooting stars and satellites orbiting the earth. It was beautiful.
Sunday morning I finally found my mom, who I had invited to come and share the weekend. She had spent Saturday night listening to guitar players and singing... more her thing than the raving... so she had her own experience that night. We took her dancing at Wicked in the hot sun. the winds took their cue and swept up again. The rain began to fall and we dove for the car. We sat in the car watching people run and slide in the mud. The rain got harder and lighting began to strike again. Soon the raindrops were as big as nickels, and then the rain turned into hail. We were huddled in our car as the hail pounded on the roof and bounced off the windshield. About ten minutes later it stopped and the sky became clear again. The sun turned on and the winds became warm. The lighting moved to the edge of the desert again, and kept striking off in the background. We got out and stomped in the mud as the water seeped back into the ground. We had to take our sleeping bags and everything out of our tent. They were all completely soaked. We had some books in there and they were now all warped and twisted, including one new book I got called "the self aware universe." I thought that was pretty funny... struck down by the hand of god himself. So we set them out to dry and wandered a little. The naked people had all become mud people, running, sliding, and dancing as faceless mud people. We danced some more until it was time for the burning of the man Sunday night.
There was a large procession to the man, a 40 feet tall wooden statue covered in red and blue neon lights. Pretty impressive, actually. There was a large fireworks display as they exploded over the man, lighting still striking in the background. There were fire dancers and a candle belly dancer dancing around the man. There was this car that someone built, like a go-cart with a huge flame thrower on the back, that burned rocket fuel to propel itself. It was driving in circles around the man, shooting flames out from behind. Finally the fire dancers lit the legs and the flames crept upwards. There were more fireworks embedded inside the man, and as parts of it burned, huge showers of green or red or blue sparks would come shooting out of it. The hands were shooting fireworks out of it and the head was exploding in multi colored sparks. The neon tubes finally all melted and stopped shining and the wooden frame began to burn. Finally one arm fell and then the whole man fell to the ground in flaming victory, lighting striking still in the background. Jan, Cathy and I then went back to our camp and decided to sleep. There was a big storm warning that night, but somehow I get the feeling that it passed over us because we were tired enough to sleep. It all works out. We slept soundly, despite the good music playing in the background. and woke up around 5 in the morning to greet the dawn. We danced some more as the sun rose and then napped for a few more hours. Around nine or so, we got up and packed up all our stuff. We found our way out of the desert and headed for the all you can eat buffet in Reno. mmmmm.... it was so good after eating power bars and trail mix for four days. We crawled the highways home toward Santa Cruz.
It was an awesome weekend in the truest sense of the word. For me, the man that burned was fear. And in its place I'm learning patience.
What more can I say. Meaning must come to find itself.
respect for all...
be seeing you,
Subject: A Wicked Burning Man
From: "Niels P. Mayer" <email@example.com>
Was definitely way cool. Although the burning man, performances, etc were great fun, my favorite parts was staying up all night Saturday and Sunday raving at the Wicked system. On monday morning, Garth was out on the dancefloor and I couldn't help but tell him "Your set on saturday night ripped me a new brain!" Markie and Spun gave me a good trepannation, power tools courtesy of the purple people pusher.
Saturday night was powerful, weird, trippy, shamanic. I finally think I figured out why almost everybody that I talked to thought Saturday was so twisted -- Electric charges building up tension as a storm gathered, then the release as the storm shot it's proverbial load, followed by the transcendence of a clear and electrically neutral sky popping our brains open, exposing a single huge, new, blinking eye staring straight into the hearts of space. You really feel directly exposed to the universe out there in the middle of nothing, a dry ancient lake bed -- doing like Jimi Hendrix says "watching the sunrise from the bottom of the sea" ...
I was talking to a woman who mentioned that during the storm build-up she raised her arms in the air with someone else and a spark passed between their fingers. There was a literal charge going on out there. I believe those physical effects boosted A wide variety of AlreAdy-Altered experiences into new reAlms -- the brain's functioning is, after all primarlily electro/magnetic. This accounts, for example, for a certain long-time member of this list claiming the feeling that some kind of Alien contact had gone on that night. I personally thought it wasn't Aliens, we just happened to be lucky enough to be exposed to the vibe of spAce itself -- and spAce vibe isn't human!
Perhaps electricity accounts for the person seemingly possessed by the DJs, continuously harassing them, knocking the needle off the turntable, and finally jumping towards Garth knocking both turntables into his arms. Perhaps the Kook thought he was Don Quixote; a valiant knight tilting at turntables instead of windmills. Even more surreal, in the silence that happened after knocking over the turntables, people were wrestling the kook away from the dance-floor and some cut-down hippie just had to get into the guys face gripping his collar and *shouting* "do you realize what you've done, you've just killed the vibe!!!" over and over again. THis just seemed completely ironic at the time, I imagined that the hippie sounded just like the teacher in "Peanuts" to the Kook, not exactly a PLUR way of dealing with psychosis, IMHO.
Oh, and Kudos to Geoff White and Moonpup for handling this intense situation with aplomb.
After this spark of crazed randomness, Garth just harnessed the increasing tension/charge in the air. The kook caused us to race downwards on our emotional rollercoaster and garth took advantage of our velocity to boost us back into the stratosphere when he kicked in that very appropriate song "Get your feet back on the ground" (who duz that tune anyways?) song... The roller coaster sped downwards again when out of nowhere, clouds and a massive storm caused a sudden downpour -- the crowd near the stage without any instruction or order (like a thousand ants gathering food) managed to get a big tarp over the DJ booth and the party continued without a hitch. THere was an incredible feeling of vibe and community as people huddled under the tarp near the DJ booth, arms outstreched to hold up the tarp, fingers pulsing to keep pools of water from forming and dripping on the DJ.
And then the incredible elation of the crowd as the storm passed just as quickly as it arrived, leaving a completely clear and starry sky. Some of us wondered whether the storm had actually happened at all, because everything seemed relatively still and calm and beautiful; within no time at all, there wasn't even a trace of water/mud around...
I could go on, but I won't bore you... lets just say that Saturday night into Sunday morning was definitely the best Wicked I've ever attended, far better than any full moon i've attended, perhaps even the best rave I've attended. Sunday was great as well, on par with some of the best FMRs (unfortunately, it wasn't as well attended as Saturday's party, perhaps because a lot of people were beat from burning the man).
PS: what's that song that Garth played -- very dark -- with some guy with a gravelly low, evil-sounding voice saying stuff like "you are mine, my children, hahahaha". This caused Gary Burns to walk up to me and in his scottish brogue proclaim, "This is the most evil, evil song I've ever heard". It was evil, and cool too. SO what's the name and who duzzit?
PPS: Hi and thanks to RV mates Diane T, Gary B, Lavonne W, and Rob O!
Subject: Burning up reality
I had a great time and now am trying to get a grasp back on what normal people (like the ones here at work) see as reality.
Friday I setup camp and my Burning Newt then got soused at Tiki Camp till rumors of blended spam drinks scared me. Proceeded to do Twinkie research by shooting them out of a spud gun, zapping them with one of the backup transformers for the Mans neon lights (1500 volts and a great arc), and torching them with flaming aerosol and rubbing alcohol. The Zen of twinkie testing was discussed when one of the twinkies leaped out of the way of a hammer. Then we headed for rave camp till sunrise. The dancing chills creeping up and down my spine as the playa grew light were incredible.
Saturday I got body painted then blown away naked by the white out dust storm. I was in central camp and it was amazing to see what held up and what didn't. Also cool to see people grabbing hold of the nearest thing around and holding it down not even knowing who's it was. (Tiki kept the blenders whirring through out the storm. Talk about pros.) Damn near lost my voice whooping and hollering as each storm came through. What a rush.
Polkacide was really cool. (I'd never slam danced naked before.) Then the next storm came which put a halt to the avenue of art. Oh well, the camel at sultan camp got burned with a really good drum circle and quit a few wild dancers. The sunrise at the man was really intense with a pink walking rain cloud to the east and dark clouds full of lighting to the west. (Almost matched the blue and red sides of the Man.)
Sunday was slow in main camp (Lots of people recovering.) I met Vince and Amy and that was cool, (good to hook-up with a few sfravers.) Then the rains came, signaled by a hugh thunder clap which rolled around and around the hills. Before long, people are getting pulled behind vehicles on their butts making us laugh and then this guy started playing a trap set and people started throwing off their clothes and dancing naked in the rain and the mud. I took some pictures then decided it was perfect for a newt so I joined in. As more and more people had trouble keeping their feet we collapsed into a big wiggling pile doing the naked amphibian mud flop. It was the wildest inner child mixed with adult sexuality type of thing I've ever done. I had the Water Woman shower me to get cleaned off. The stuff was up my nose, in my ears and pretty much every where else, but it was worth it.
I got to tape a twinkie to the colon of the man to finish the twinkie research.
Then it was time for the Man. I went around the backside (southeast) so I could get front row without being crushed. The jet car going by was really wild and came about ten feet from me. Close enough to feel the heat from the side. Then the fireworks. I happened to be right where some of them ended up hitting the ground. The first one landed about three feet from me and exploded into a ten foot radius. Several peoples clothes got burned but no one was hurt. Boy did they listen when the guy with the flare told them to move back again. We, had several more land in our midst but now that we were paying attention we made plenty of room for them. Then the performance dancers and finally the man was lit. It was great seeing Vince torch the parts that didn't catch due to the wind. The Dancing Man was great when they pulled the guy wires to try to make him fall.
The Lingam burn was great with white blue flames coming out the top at the end. The music had changed from the drum procession which played the whole time for the Man to Sharkbait warming up for the crushfest.
They tossed out hundreds of drum sticks and drug out parts of cars, metal tubes, sheet metal, corrugated metal and lots of other stuff to pound on. It's a wonderful thing to be making these wild pulsating beats with hundreds of others. The band becomes incidental and the tribalness takes over. Bang it, jump on it, go crazy making sounds getting into it with your whole body.
Finally, it was time to burn my newt. Had to carry it out to the middle of center camp because of the high winds, but we got it torched up after the procession, did some drumming, and poured the rest of the newts head stout. Vince showed up with a laminate for me (thanks a ton, that was really great) then headed for rave camp. I felt like drumming some more, but every time I headed for what I thought was a drum circle it ended up being Wicked's bass bouncing off of something so I went and danced for awhile then passed out from exhaustion and excitement.
Overall, the super weird became normal (weird was barely noticed) and the surreal became the way of things. The storms couldn't have been better planned for their entertainment value while their duration was short enough to be quite surviable. I again had one of the best times of my life.
The Newt King
From: Jonas Judd <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Still more energy stuff
I'm still coming down to Earth after my experience at Black Rock desert, but I wanted to post while I'm still "feeling it".
Let's just say that any expereince is what you make of it.
Yeah, there was a lot of media B.S.( I was dancing while the Man and the mud tower burned, and I was greeted by many a video camera, with someone asking "so what do you think of all this?", and "on a scale of 1 to 10 how do you rate this?" Damn people, let me dance!
Yeah, there were drunk, clueless individuals who staggared about with glazed eyes, crying out for the sake of impressing their friends and others.
Yeah, there seemed to be some tension among a few of the sound systems at the Rave Camp.
And yeah, I'm sure the ritual is not what it used to be. (I can imagine how beautiful it must have been for a few hundred people to be together to share in this experience).
But I chose not to focus on all this. Instead, I decided to reach back...way back, into the depths of my psyche and get in touch with something that we all have within us, but appears to be buried underneath a deluge of conditioning, programming, self-doubt, and fear.
A primal energy that defies my explanation.
I've experienced this energy on the dance floor, but due to the influence of drugs, there was no connection to it's source, so after a while, the "feeling" was lost. At some outdoor parties, I could feel this energy much more, but due to the limited duration of the TAZ, the connection to this energy was not as significant.
Burning Man was a TAZ that allowed enough time for the natural progression from conditioned human to a timeless, sentient being.
On Sunday, after wrything around for a couple hours in the mud in front of the SPAZ tower, I walked into main camp, covered head to toe in mud.
The mud clinging to my skin, I could feel each hair on my body pull tight with each step. I felt a sort of alien, a being from some distant world visiting these things called "humans". I began thinking...
I am not of this world.
Wait. I AM of this world. I've just become so distant from what I TRULY AM that I feel alien.
This primal energy. This is me.
I was then reminded of a Tibetan proverb:
"If it is here, it is everywhere.
If it is not here, it is nowhere."
If Burning Man happens next year, it'll probably be more of what it was this year, a media free for all, a place for the family to come and look at all the "crazy" or "weird" people, and a very fragmented ensemble of energy. Perhaps all the more reason for the promoters to take a break and rethink their strategy for maintaining the intimacy needed for this type of ritual.
Burning Man gave me the reasssurance that though we all might have our differences, we are all connected with this primal energy.
Perhaps if we can begin to trust this energy, welcome it and nurture it, we can dissolve our conditioning, thus our differences, and live in a world of mutual respect and trust.
From: Timothy McIntyre <timothym@ocf.Berkeley.EDU>
Subject: thoughts on burning man
Well, you see, I'd never even been to the desert before. I sat in the backseat of our cramped car as we motored through the Sierras, squinting at my U2 Joshua Tree CD, trying to get an idea of what the terrain would be like. Cactus? Sand? Scorpions? I really didn't know; we don't have any deserts back east, and I'd never been to Nevada before.
I had dramatic visions of myself crawling across the desert floor in 110 degree midday heat, hallucinating waterfalls and such, so I made everyone in my group buy gallons of water at the ShopKo in Reno. Armed with food, drink, supplies, and anticipation, we left Reno at around 5 pm on Saturday (we had left Berkeley earlier that day), and arrived at Black Rock Desert near sundown.
As we steered our nervous little Nissan off the highway and pointed it towards some lights twinkling in the distance, I felt like we'd landed on Mars. The landscape was *so* brilliantly different from anywhere else I'd been, the sky was so much bigger (since the horizon line, in every direction, was so faraway), and the colors had been switched. Instead of greens, bright blues, and whites, nature had chosen rich red clay, pink dust storms, neon yellow lightning bolts, and an orange moon.
We drove around in the twilight, trying to figure out where the rave camp was. All around us were tents, scaffolding towers, blinking lights, dusty motorbikes, off-road pick-up trucks, campfires, and a glowing, enormous, statue of a man, the burning man, and he was outfitted in blue and red tubelights.
The scene was awesome in the truest sense of the word. I felt a bit out of place at first, but I was excited about getting into character. I wanted to be dusty, too, and I wanted some boots, and a cigarette, and smoke through my detergent-scented clothes. We found the rave camp, and I hopped out of the car and ran over to what I would later discover was the Gateway setup. The first person I spotted was Jon Carel, my favorite DJ, and I asked him where everything was. "This is it!" he shouted. "The main camp's that way, and Wicked is over there..." We talked about how beautifully strange everything was, and how it felt as if we were in some post-nuclear war renegade camp. I felt like I shouldhave been dressed up as a ravesoldier, or a fighter pilot, or something... I was in the middle of a movie and I wanted a copy of the script.
So my friends and I parked the car, pitched our tents, and went looking for others that we knew. I saw my friends Dave and Ben, who were huddling by a fire eating food from tin cans, I saw my friend Reza, who I had raved with all summer long, saw Claire and the Gateway crew, Fiona and Jenna and Jesse and Rona and a bunch of other Berkeley ravers. And I couldn't get over how -cool- everyone looked! Standing around in the desert, making tent repairs, planning shuttle runs to main camp, fixing dinner, sharing water and talking excitedly.
I ended up dancing ecstatically that night, crashing in my tent at around 4 a.m., dusty and sweaty and blissed out. I woke up an hour later to eat tiny bits of paper with my friend Joe, and we got to see the sun come up over the red hills on the eatern lip of the desert. The morning music was pounding good and hard, it was bright, warm, and just 9a.m. when our shirts came off, sweat-drenched and mud-caked. We floated through the rest of the day, lying in the hot sun, checking out the main camp, and preparing for the final night. At around 1 pm, a thunderstorm hit, turning the ravecamp into a muddy Woodstock. People splashed around in the muck, and the bravest ones got completely naked and covered themselves in green mud. Lightning came crashing down in big pitch-forks, (thank God none of us were struck, actually), and when the storm finally passed over, you could see a skyscraping mushroom cloud and a double rainbow off in the distance, and if you looked one way, you'd see a hailstorm, the other, clear blue sky. Reza said to me, "well, you'd never been to Nevada before, and I still don't think you've ever been." The Bay Area seemed orbits away.
They finally burned the man later that night, and I heard a rumor that some protestors planned on disrupting the ceremony, and for that reason, supposedly, the organizers kept everyone at considerable distance. It was still a good showing, however. I know that some American Indian tribes have burning rituals, where the burning of statues and belongings represents spiritual cleansing. I'm not sure if this is what the organizers had in mind here, but I liked my interpretation so I thought about it as I watched the fire. They also torched the "Langin"(sp.?) statue that night, which was clearly a sexual representation. It was a phallic tower that had female characteristics to it, but was still overwhelmingly masculine. That was another thing about Burning Man--the festival, to me, anyways, had a very male quality to it. I missed the sexual equality that most raves have (I'm not talking about the number of men and women present, I'm talking about the general attitude), but itwas an experience to see this type of setup, too.
The DJ's on the last night, the ones from UltraViolet (a Dutch troupe that spins hard trance), kicked my head in. The music was relentless, and the people dancing were appreciative of the tempo, too. You could tell how much the fun the DJ's were having--pounding their fists in the air, heads bouncing around like a Jack-in-the-box, and smiles stuck on their faces.
It was Monday morning now, and we ended up leaving around 8 o'clock. It was sad to drive away, and Jesse and I had said the day before how we had just started getting used to be dusty, scrappy, desert-rave urchins. I didn't even want to take a shower anymore, and the trail mix, as long as you don't mind raisins, was pretty tasty. But we had stuff to do back in Berkeley, so we said bye-bye to Burning Man and started the long drive home.
For those who didn't get to go, go next year. And the year after that. It's one of those experiences that swims around in your head for a week afterwards. Also, hi to Brian McGonigle, who I saw on his bike but didn't get to stop and chat with (and get a hug from!) and all other SFRavers who I didn't manage to say hi too. Well, that was Burning Man out of my eyes--hope everyone else had a sandblast as well.
Love and double rainbows to all
Date: Thu, 7 Sep 1995 16:43:14 -0700
From: "Wayne D. Correia" <email@example.com>
Subject: This letter is dedicated to you
I had an awesome time at Burning Man.
I just can't put into words the things that happend out there that would even remotely approach what happened, but upon leaving, we all felt like it's changed us in strange, spiritual ways. Since I cannot assemble words do justice to those feelings, I will not betray them with a verbally flawed account. All I can say is that it was the best weekend of my life and I simply just cannot tell you why. It was each and every minute, each and every hour, each and every day we were there. Individually and summarily, the moments were magical. I'll leave the 'overall' Burning Man experience description to that.
There's a couple specific events that I want share with you. It's just a couple short stream-of-consciousness conversations that happened that I hope affect all of you out there the way that they did me.
My friend Rusty is out there with us Sunday night at Burning Man in the Wicked area, and he's experiencing a ravE for the first time. (Can you think of a better 'first rave?!) Like all of us, at this point he is totally immersed in the desert, the music, the vibe and the people.
I was off wandering around for a while dancing with all of you, then I stopped by to see how he was doing and to give him his 'first' hug. In this blissful state he tells me, "Now I know why you have to share this so badly."
Then a short time later he asks Vince, "How long does this feeling last?"
and Vince tells him, *"The rest of your life!"*
It's already been a few days, but whenever I think about or tell someone this story, the power of those words words create this rush of emotions and I get tears in my eyes.
I really hope it does the same for you.
That's why we rave.