Sunday, September 26, 2010

Temple of Flux, and all that goes with it.

The Temple at Burning Man is always the spiritual heart, a place of peace and respect within the wilderness of the incredible carnival that surrounds it.  Typically, the temple looks like an what you'd imagine a temple to be - ornate, spired high.

But the theme of this year's Burning Man was "Metropolis".  As explained in at the BM site:

Tumult and change, churning cycles of invention and destruction - these forces generate the pulse of urban life. Great cities are organic, spontaneous, heterogeneous, and untidy. They are, like Burning Man, magnetic hubs of social interaction. This year's theme will function as a micro and a macro-scope, an instrument through which we will inspect the daily course of city life and the future prospect of civilization.

So what they decided to design for the temple was something opposite.  It was a temple hearkening back to primitive man, pre-city.  When humans sought shelter in dunes, caves, and canyons; natural protections from the harsh elements of nature.  What they arrived at was the TEMPLE OF FLUX:
FANTASTIC!  There were various entrances, nooks and crannies within the structure, and a few scattered fire bins for heat.  People quietly wander and write on the walls.  In the morning, man are there writing in their journals.  It's a place of reverence.

I took these photos on the first day of the week, so you'll have to imagine that a few days later the walls, the crannies, the whole place was filled to the hilt with scrawlings, photos, poetry, confessions, hopes, dreams.  In places, it looked like some child's museum curated bedroom filled with stuffed animals of lost loved ones, framed photos, every last centimeter covered in keepsakes, dreams, and memories.
What people write is extraordinary.  Things you know people feel, but never share.  Heartache, hope, heartbreak.  The most wrenching were notes to the dead --from the living who regretted not saying something; not being able to comprehend something about that person while they were living.

The remembrances, obituaries of relatives, all so strikingly honest.  Not the mamby pamby "You were the best father in the world" but more like, "You grew up with a chip on your shoulder, and I'm not sure why.  But you never wavered in who you were.  You were never a hypocrite." Things like that.  Or this:

"To Alejandra and all those I let down, I'm sorry that I could not live my life with you in mind.  I'm sorry that I moved on.  I'm sorry that I chose life and this journey over you...
"Dear Omi: You would probably cry if you knew I was writing to you from Burning Man, but this is my version of spirituality..."
General advice, aphorisms, wishes, dreams, advice
Platitudes you wouldn't necessarily find in a greeting card:

The presence of hope is the source of all fear
The loss of hope is the source of all grief
The absence of hope is the source of all despair.
As you wander around, you end up with tears literally racing down your face.  Just reading those simple messages to the dead: "Mom, I want you to know that I finally found a man who can cook!" Or the one from a woman to a baby she lost in childbirth, pleading for it to forgive her for not being able to bring him and his light to shine upon the world. 

At one point I saw a woman, in the midst of writing on the wall, begin sobbing and shaking so hard, still trying to get it out, finish that phrase she was writing.  Some people went over and put their hands on her back until she could finish.  

On one of the last nights, Bam and I, after all our miles of wanderings around the wonder, beauty, and insane adventure on the playa ended up at the temple.  There, in the middle of the desert, were dozens of people huddled up writing, reading; some sleeping, others curled up by one of the fires.  It was very near dawn, 5:30 in the morning, and we were weary, cold and hungry.  This man wandered over to us and, in the true random gifting spirit of Burning Man, from out of nowhere he opens this pink box and says, "May I offer you a donut?"

It was exactly what we needed at that very moment, something that happens often out there. I believe that's the true challenge of Burning Man, to find a way to bring a piece of that back to the default world.  What a difference place this planet would be if this generosity of spirit, this manifesto of unity prevailed.  What a wholly different man I would be.  

On the last night, the temple burns.  In stark contrast to the party fueled, firework filled burning of the MAN the night before, with all its music and revelry, the temple burn is utterly silent.  All those left in Black Rock City come humbly to the temple, 40,000 or so, and sit in silence.  We remember what we wrote, or what someone else wrote inside, and as it goes up in flames, the entire crowd sits in perfect reverence as all the memories, wishes, hopes, memories and regrets fly up into the night sky.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

motivational aphorism for your little leaguer

Also essential to remember: There is no "I" in Gangbang!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Let me at the Confetti!

Wish I had more time to share stories from the overwhelming inundation of loose ends that must be tied for producing my new web series Half-Share (we shoot next week, yee-haw!) but besides that my lease is up, and we're actually moving.  Half my belongings were on the street last weekend as on our stoop we had a "Stoop-a-Palooza" and screamed things like "Dreams for a dollar!" (we weren't kidding, with a $1 or best offer tag on a fleshjack ("It's only been used once!") but the hottest selling items came from the drag box.  The wigs flew.  Who knew?

I also was asked by my friend Audrey to work the National Texting Championships which is, yes, just as ridiculous as it sounds.  All those kids who can't go a minute without texting their friends some idiotic glob of acronym are being honored, hailed, and....encouraged!?  Competitors younger than Justin Bieber competed to win $100,000 from LG phones.  And you know those fast fingered freaks need that prize money for a college education because you know they can't spell.
Competitors thumbed through various rounds texting difficult phrases (no grammar involved) quickly and accurately in order to advance.  Then they did it blindfolded (I kid you not) and you should have seen the stage mothers stomping, holding their heads like they were about to explode, screaming "technical difficulties!" until it got down to one final winner at which point, the crowd went wild, and then it was my turn.  Pow!  Streamers bury the Roseland Ballroom stage in red and silver. 

Audrey had put me in charge of the C02 cartridge charged STREAMER CANNONS.  Who would put me in charge of the explosives?  She loves me!  I packed my cannon with streamers, screwed in the co2 canister and, trigger happy, prepared to blow my wad upon the winner.

I was standing next to Audrey who was in charge of the confetti machine.  She sees me looking at my cannon, eyes bulging at her big blower confetti machine, moments away from crowning the national texting champion on stage and she says to me, ever so dryly, "Jesse....step away from the confetti."

Which has to be the best admonition ever.  LOL

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Burning Man Photos 2010 - by night

Biking miles out into the Burning Man playa, we marveled at Cooldan's favorite onomatopoeia:
At night the desert dust turns into something else entirely.  Something topsy turvy full of lights and music and fire and unexpected surprises, installations, and festivities -- like a Thunderdome, Roller Skating Rink, 50's Diner, interactive art installations like this one---there was some sort of algorithm pattern you had to figure out to make the lights work their magic but it went over my bewigged head!

And my head was bewigged!  As night fell, I'd put on this horrible clip on fall (pictured) that got more and more dust filled and crusty as the week went on.  Then I became "Maybelline".
We hung out in the hollow of giant metal trees with rotating burning canopies.  Cooldan is laying there, oblivious to the entire world on the other side of that root!

What a world

Maybelline and Bam Bam also enjoy the comfort provided by the magnificent metal tree and dusty desert dirt.  Gorgeous!  Maybelline has a bit of a complex and the nastier that crusty clip on wig becomes, the more she fancies herself the most beautiful woman ever to grace the playa...
Remember this fine lady by day?

At night she lit up from within, and slowly changed colors.  Bam and Cooldan couldn't stop staring.   Maybelline fluffed her locks, "I don't see what all the fuss is about?"
This got me on a kick about how Maybelline is so gorgeous that women all over the playa (the 50 foot tall one included) were continually clasping at her hems, but somehow Maybelline, in each and every case, manages to be more stunning, talented, and young...than any of her competitors.
Found a house of mirrors.  Maybelline's favorite room!
After rolling around in the dirt all week, we discovered that Maybelline's gossamer threads were DRY CLEAN ONLY. Genius.

We came upon this wandering band, complete with tuba on fire, and it took us a while to recognize the tune they were playing - Lady Gaga's Bad Romance!
All the while, the most outrageous "mutant vehicles" are zooming across the vast expanse.  This intricately detailed praying mantis used to be a dump truck, and when it didn't have 40 people dancing on it's back, it got up on it's haunches and presided over the playa.
Baffled by its beauty, Paul paused to wonder about its intent: "What motivates someone to say I'm going to turn this truck into a gigantic Praying Mantis, he asked. "To impress a girl?"
We later saw a crane transformed into a gigantic pink flamingo.  The flamingo beak shot out fire, which just didn't feel right.  A raging flamingo?  That flamingo was definitely having an identity crisis.  Which value do you ascribe to a fire-breathing flamingo?

I don't know these people, but A for effort!
Lee returned from the "Million Bunny March" and he is just cute as a bunny isn't he?  In the dance suit he wore when he was a ballet dancer years ago.  (It still fits!) Apparently the bunny march was met and confronted by a legion of "carrots" protesting.  It got pretty physical, and then the Black Rock City animal control rushed in and started tagging all of the feral rabbits.  Damn, next time I'm bringing ears!
Hanging out with Bessie the bus and camp-mates before the night really begins.  Because night really never ends.  There's something comforting knowing that no matter what time you crawl into your sleeping bag, there is music and art cars still zooming around.  I've always had a problem with bed, it always feels like I'm accepting death.
And yet Burning Man embraces death.  I mean, there you are for one week --living, truly living, and then all that sound and beautiful fury is burned, gone without a trace.  Life and death. 

In the meantime, check out Paul's genuine matador costume!!
You can't really tell what is happening here, but this guy was making lightning!  He was zapping this woman (in a metal bed) with electricity he conducted from...(I should have finished physics, right?).  In any case, the woman seemed to love it.
Cooldan and Paul

Bumping Uglies?  This thing was moving far too quickly for what it was up really couldn't look away. One girl ogling it, said to me "What twisted mind came up with this?  Hold on, my friends have to see this!"  It's kind of like that piece of food you taste in a foreign country and it's totally disgusting, but you're like "you've GOT to taste this!"
The Man.  Here he is just before the burn. 
When all of Black Rock City's residents come forth, almost in a procession, to watch the man burn.
But first there are fireworks!
After traveling the playa for a few hours, --stumbling upon many a wonder - we came back to find the remains of the burned man.  The coals were surrounded by several people in different states of mind, and then there were the nudists!  It was definitely warm enough by the fire!

The highlight of my time by the fire was the nude woman who was wandering around with a flashlight.  Someone asked her, "What are you looking for?" She replied, "My clothes" before adding, "Not that I'm going to put them on when I find them..."
The embers didn't provide enough light to capture this other nudist woman to the right of this photo who, whilst traipsing around the ring of the fire like a woodland nymph, came upon a nudist man.  They talked, they embraced; and there they were, making a primal connection butt-naked in the middle of the desert surrounded by hundreds and I could just imagine ten years down the road, some stranger asking, "So how did you two meet?"
Until next time...
The man burns in 347 days.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Anyone afraid of Heights?

You have to watch the world's scariest job!  Climbing up --free-climbing up, I might add-- an antennae tower and standing on a teeny tiny little platform about the size of a shoebox.  Sometimes, when I'm at a certain high height and look down, my balls hurt.  Does that happen to you?  What is that physiological testicular phenomenon relating to altitude?  It happens to me just watching this video - and I like heights!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Burning Man Photos 2010 - by Day!

Radical Self-Reliance, Radical Self-Expression, and just plain radical art!  If you ever get here, you'll wonder what took you so long...

Our camp -- all decked out and standing in front of Bessie the bus. Clearly, I forgot about "tutu tuesday"
Before entering Black Rock City, the "gatestapo" get you out of your car and roll you around in the dust proclaiming: "This is the cleanest you're going to be all week!" How right they were! Here are photos from daytime -- nighttime (when the place really turns into a different universe) photos to follow in another post.

There's so much to do -- from trampolines, to roller discos, to dancing at giant domes with world class DJs, to zooming across the desert on the back of a giant art car...and with the gifting culture, everyone takes care of everyone.  It's the way the world could be if we were focused less on what separates us and more on what unites us.

One day, I tried the Monkey Chanting tent.  I only lasted about ten minutes.  Had to leave before I started speaking in tongues and foaming at the mouth.  It reminded me a little too much of church.
The afternoon place to dance is at DISTRIKT.  It's around the far side (9:00) of the grid, and has some of the hottest kids on the playa. You will never see hotter straight people in your LIFE than at BM.  Not that anyone cares if you're straight or gay; it's all for one and one for all.  It staggers me to imagine how different a person I would be if the world behaved like the people in Burning Man.
Wig envy!!
The best thing is that everything on the playa is totally random and unexpected.  Like this guy zooming around.  Don't forget to sweep up the dance floor in your very own customized Vaccuum Cleaner!!!
showing off our bikes
Cooldan, Paul (love the matador ensemble) and Bam
Jesse does not want to stop dancing.  I found the Pink Mammoth.
This woman is the largest sculpture of a woman ever made in the USA.  SPECTACULAR.  Probably the best piece of art on the playa this year. How do they get it out there? 
I headed over to the man one morning and discovered they were setting up for the nude bike ride!  For all the miles one bikes around the playa every day, this can't be comfy for the scrotum, but what a site! 
"Starbooty" Lee relaxes back at camp.
Dju rehydrates.  The sun and sand are brutal!
 Bam Bam has a tiny cocktail while modeling a "Furkini" he was given at Furkini camp.
Our camp neighbors looked out for us 110%!  Thank you Maman, and Akua...

Meanwhile, Cooldan hits up the "teabaggers ball".  So did I, of course.  Look how non-chalant these tea baggers are.  "A teabag for you?" they called out to passersby.  And the best part was when some girl would make her boyfriend do it.  Heck, it's Burning Man.
Of course I had to climb up this installation and hang out in the wavering ball. 
This is not, thankfully, the installation I fell from.  And by fall, I mean we were playing around on this ten foot high swing and it just snapped as we lay on it...crashing to the ground.  Dan was unscathed, but my ripped shoulder (must be shoulder cuff, I can't raise my elbow up) took me to the medical tent where they gave me a sling made of plain muslin (I'm like, can you swing a swath of organza please?  This is not going with my outfit!) and an ibuprofen.  Ibuprofen?  I was hoping for an oxycontin/codeine mix with a morphine chaser!

I am born-again!!  This claustrophobic happening occured well before I fell off that double decker swing because look - my arms can still reach over my head.  Things were so tight in there that as you're being birthed (and it's not a graceful birth, let me tell you, because you've got to kick up your legs and wriggle down like a fish.  It rips all of your clothes off in the process, which I suppose is the intention. Still, not the sexiest way to take your clothes off.
We tackled a game of mini gold with these pretty girls from Edmonton.

The green was not very even, I have to say.
Dan and his friend Scotland adopted a gnome from gnome camp. 
The flying carpet!  Complete with multi-hosed hookah for your flying pleasure.  Sure beats air travel.
Mutant vehicles.  Wherever they stop, you can get on.  The best way to see the playa -- and a great break from all that cycling.
One afternoon Paul and I sat on the back throne of this giant ram.  With a shrimp? Thalidomide? tail.  As it cruised around and stopped for impromptu parties along the playa.
Black Rock City is truly a city for one week.  Granted, there are no garbage cans (pack in, pack out!) or showers, but all who enter offer something.  There's a post office, an airport, a radio station, and all free for an exchange or performance.  The "Boutique" is a free thrift shop.  The price of a garment is on the way out - you must model it on the runway!  We had no problem slipping into something more questionable.
Bam, Jesse, Dan--relaxing on an art car!
In front of center camp with Cooldan rocking my easy, breezy HAKAMAS, a huge hit on the playa.  
 In Center Camp, the contortionists. 
We caught a kabuki-esque on stilts performance mid dust-storm.  They told a story, some kind of story without words, I'm actually not sure what kind of story but it was absolutely beautiful and mesmerizing.
Honeycombs big, yeah yeah yeah!
Necking by sunset in a....giant chair?

The "Talk to God" phone was CONSTANTLY busy. Typical.
To all you little monsters who populate Black Rock City one week a year....thank you!