We also came across an open stage, which gave an appreciative audience to anyone bold enough to climb up and read their poetry:
Later, we visited friends at the "Temple of Xara" compound. This shady refuge boasted a sitting area with real sod. I went out in search of some San Francisco friends from the rave scene who had organized a "Freezing Man" benefit party. Instead I found "Freezing Man" itself, and ice cream truck; my pals were distributing Blow Pops and ice cream bars as the drove slowly up Mars Avenue.
Finally night fell and it was time for the Burn. Elaborate costuming was needed, and Nigel and Patricia had brought ample supplies:
Here, Mary feeds the beast as Dave demos his costume:
The actual burning was somewhat anticlimactic. The large crowd crackled with anticipation but was generally well behaved as the event stalled for around an hour. A few fire dancers tried but could not keep the energy rising. The Man's neon skeleton flickered on, then off again. His arms did not rise, which is traditional about ten minutes before ignition. We were left standing around, with only roving improvisatori to keep us entertained. Our zone was treated to the one man crusade of the Tequila Melon, a guy who ranted "Do you love Tequila Melon" and bestowed great sodden gobs of tequila soaked melon to anyone who would testify. At one point a techie climbed up the explosive-laden Man to attempt some kind of fix. You, dear reader, might feel it would have been a better spectacle had the Man gone up Right Then and There but I was just as glad that he climbed down safely. Had your 'umble narrator been in charge, one of the troops of hunky barechested guys'n'gals with big drippy torches would have been sent in much sooner to start the burn and the celebration. We were distracted by the immolation of the four twelve foot high wooden spheres which stood as guardians of the four directions:
As it was, the Man allegedly started spontaneously when he did go up. Here is the Man falling at last and burning on the ground.
Following the conflagration, a procession went round the Man counterclockwise. This was merely crowded rather than a mind-melding physical/spiritual groupgasm (not even any injuries) so we soon repaired to the Main Stage. There, with giant screen video projections and CD quality sound, the band and dance troop AWD performed.
But this was not the place for a "performance" with half a dozen minimalist art students doing a carefully choreographed "tribal" stomp before a gaping throng of people acting like bored rock fans. We were "not amused" and proceeded to make the rounds of parties and art installations.
One of the best works of art was the Bone Tree:
Equally lovely, and hella dynamic was the Fountain of Fire, a beautiful play on the elements.
Sad to say, the best shtick at Burning Man didn't wind up in any of our images: A troop of cyclists carried around four foot sculptures of fish, drawn in electrluminescent wire. In the dark, the cyclists themselves were nearly invisible, so it semmed like cartoon fish were schooling around Black Rock City. Perfect execution, visual charm, E-Z literary reference, Joe Bob sez you shoulda been there. "EL wire" was a perfect medium for the environment, high tech but requiring very low power. We'll be seeing more of it. What a delightful contrast to the bombastic Main Stage. Whatever happened to "No Spectators"?? But then, whatever happened to tent camping??
We wound up at Central Camp where there was a cafe of sorts. This was once the only commerce at Burning Man and by now it offered a full cafe menu. We regretted that the full menu of herbally charged nutritional drinks and apple cider had been reduced to tea and coffee by the time we got there.
The next day was a time to relax, cycle aimlessly around the playa,
and then go drinking at the Tiki bar, unburdened by our cameras. Finally we gathered round one of many bonfires on the playa and joined in a drum and dance circle. Nigel and Patricia's performances raised the energy and body temperatures substantially. :
Photos by Bob Carasik and Mary Dryovage, text by Bob Carasik. Last updated,September 16, 1999