Hardly a day goes by at Burning Man that I don’t stop by the Center Camp Café. It’s a great place to enjoy Black Rock City’s unique residents. Find a good seat and watch the parade go by. Or, better yet, join the parade. It goes in a circle, around and around— but not in any particular order. Structured chaos rules in Black Rock City. On a good day, rabbits, carrots, or belly dancers may join in the action.
Many Burners dress up in their finest costumes to visit the Café. The best always draw a handful of photographers. “May I take your photo?” is heard often. It’s courtesy, Black Rock City style. Most people say yes. After all, they are walking art, meant to be appreciated.
One side of the Café features a large stage where performers offer everything from country music, to opera, to comedy, to magic and possibly even a poem or two. The really big event of the week is the People’s Fashion Show. Outrageous is both acceptable and encouraged. The opposite side of the Café has a smaller stage where you can sign up to give a talk, if you want, on almost anything.
A large, open circle dominates the center of the Café. It’s where Burners practice their latest moves with hula-hoops, or juggling balls, or their bellies, or any one of several other performance arts that are common in Black Rock City. But practice is just a part. Performers are born to perform, right. And many of the folks in the center circle are strutting their stuff, like you would expect at a three-ring circus. Some demonstrate great ability and talent. What the majority of the people focus on seems to vary by year. This was the year for acrobatic yoga.
Like everywhere else in Black Rock City and out on the Playa, art is featured in the Café. Checking it out is always one of my first stops, right after I have examined the murals on the long, circular fence behind the Café.
Want a decent cup of coffee to start your engine in the morning or a glass of iced tea to cool you down on a hot afternoon? The Café is the only place in Black Rock City where you can buy anything (besides ice), and coffee, tea, and lemonade are what it offers. Now if it would only sell pastries (sigh).
While you can’t get pastries, you can get pasties— for free. Pastie Dan is often found at the Café plying his trade. Or possibly I should say, applying his trade. And you have choices… spirals, the Man, a flag, a rainbow, or a smiley face: the list goes on. If exposing your nipples seems a bit risqué, possibly you would prefer a tarot card reading session or a massage. Someone is always giving away something as part of Burning Man’s gifting program. Last year I got icy hands on my neck. The point is, you just never know what will be happening next at the Center Camp Café, but it is almost guaranteed to be fun, or at least unique.
NEXT BLOG: A quick look at Burning Mans major form of transportation: the bicycle
28 thoughts on “Center Camp Café… Where Burners Gather”
Curt – you never cease to amaze me!!!!
Is that a good thing or a bad thing, GP? 🙂 –Curt
I’m grinning, G. Thanks. 🙂
I’ve decided Burning Man is a safer place for me to read about than to visit. Pastie Dan might just push this introvert over the edge.
He really is a nice old guy, Carrie. 🙂 The women love him. Laughing. –Curt
Mr. Green in his jeweled outfit, reminds me of the old Cockneys who adorned their person with buttons. Great photos.
Thanks, Kayti. Wasn’t Mr. Green marvelous? –Curt
Just realised I can’t go to Burning Man. I have nothing good enough to wear. 🙂 Love the pics.
Its as near as the closest second hand store, Peggy. 🙂 –Curt
It just never stops at Burning Man. It should be protected by listing it as A World Heritage site.
Maybe someday, Gerard. In about a hundred years. –Curt
Wonderful to spend time at the cafe with you. If I ever do get to BM I’ll have a good idea what to expect from all your posts. My favourite thing about this post: The cash register sticker saying “Burning Man It’s just fucking camping.” 🙂
🙂 I wondered whether anyone would comment on that Alison. Noisy camping with a few other folks. –Curt
Yes I can see that a line up would never be boring at Burning Man! Fun to see the people who seem to match the stairs perfectly. Astounding! 🙂
Boredom is something I’ve never felt at Burning Man, Sue. Laughing. But then again, I haven’t been bored since 1970. –Curt
Now that is a brilliant attitude!
Nice to see the punters … everyone looks very relaxed!
I don’t know if I would define Burning Man as a relaxing vacation, Dave. Exhausted perhaps? But, on the other hand, folks are usually in a good mood. –Curt
The Green Man is wonderful, and I think the bride’s a hotty, not haughty. But this was the killer line for me: “You can sign up to give a talk, if you want, on almost anything.”
Long ago, during a study of Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter,” my all-time favorite prof asked us, “If you were forced to wear a letter, which would it be?” In the spirit of that question, how about this one: “If you were going to give a talk at Burning Man, what subject would you chose?” There’s something to ponder, for sure.
Mr. Green’s costume is brilliant, and the glasses divine. I would totally wear those. The Silver Horned Man, also awesome. The woman in east Asian costume in sunset golds…wow. That one could be my favourite. Nice claws. I love anything unicorn, so that one was good too. And the man in a White Wedding is also wonderful. I think it’s the hat and scarf that make it perfect.
So, I think you’ve successfully put me into BM mode with all these posts, because when I read the sentence above about all the drinks the cafe offers, I read “If it would only sell pasties.” I had to read it three times before my brain finally read “pastries.” I thought to myself, “well, I’m sure that they have pasties too, ha ha.” And sure enough, in the next paragraph, that’s just what you wrote. Don’t mind me… I’m just amusing myself over here…
The acrobatics are impressive, and both of you got some good shots of those strong, bendy people.
Glad you got the pasties right, Crystal. Otherwise you might be seriously wondering about me now. More than usual. 🙂 Pastie Dan also makes house calls. You see him out and about on his tricycle.
The costumes are marvelous at Burning Man and people go out for the the annual fashion show. Several of the participants are regulars, appearing in different costumes year after year. –Curt
I’m with you. I’d have to go to Center Camp Cafe every day just for people watching. Love that Caution Tape Guy! And the nails on the yellow lady. In fact, this whole post reminds me of a Cirque du Soleil event gone awry in some ways. Thanks for sharing the costumes — and the creative people who made them!
I could spend my whole Burning Man at the Cafe, if it weren’t for all of the other stuff I’d miss, Rusha. And costumes have always been a major item at Burning Man. I am a big fan of Cirque du Soleil, BTW. –Curt
Bring on the dancing girls!
Great post. GreenMan my favorite.
The Cafe would be a people watching nirvana.
The immense undertaking for this huge elaborate art show continues to just amaze and interest me. Thank you.
And dancing boys. (grin) A lot of work had to go into getting Green Man ready. As for organization, it is a year round effort. Welcome. –Curt
This is lovely! Thank you! ❤
Really glad you enjoyed it. I love the Cafe. It is my favorite Burning Man hangout. Thanks for your work. –Curt