Welcome to Burning Man’s Temple… A Spiritual Place

Early morning photo of the Temple of Grace at Burning Man 2014. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Outlined by early morning sunlight, the 2014 Temple of Grace (designed by David Best) adds an element of tranquility and spirituality to Burning Man.

Black Rock City does an annual census that is chock-full of interesting information, including the spiritual beliefs of Burners. I was going to write about the overall census results today, but decided to wait for the final 2014 data. That means this will be my last post for the season on Burning Man.

Census form being filled out at Burning Man 2014. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Burning Man takes its annual census seriously. Here a Burner fills out his form while his friend checks out the entertainment at the Center Camp Cafe.

It seems appropriate that I conclude with the Temple. I consider it to be Burning Man’s most unique structure. And yes, this includes the Man. The Temple is a spiritual place. Thousands of Burners leave messages to friends and loved ones who have passed on, including pets. They also leave messages of thanks and love to people who are still very much with us. By Saturday, it is challenging to find a reachable space that hasn’t been written on. When the Temple burns on Sunday evening, all of these messages are sent skyward, with a prayer, if you will.

Burning of 2102 Temple of Juno designed by David Best. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

While Peggy and I left before the burning of the 2014 Temple, we were able to stay for the burning of 2012 Temple, which was also built by David Best.

This does not mean that Burners are religious. In fact, only 7% of Burners define themselves as belonging to a particular religion according to the 2013 Census. Half of all Burners consider themselves spiritual, however. And most of these folks, including me, think of the Temple as sacred space. The thousands of messages of grief and deeply felt love make it impossible to think otherwise.

Messages written on the walls of the Temple of Grace at Burning Man 2014. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

So many messages are written on the walls of the Temple that no space is left, as this photo illustrates. I was amused by the upper left message that stated, “Goodbye to who I thought I was. Yes!” Warning: Going to Burning Man may impact your concept of reality.

A memorial to Robin Williams at the 2014 Temple of Grace at Burning Man 2014.  Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

There was also a memorial to Robin Williams. “Thank you Robin for the laughs.”

View of Temple of Grace at Burning Man 2014. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

I like this photo because of the perspective it provides on how intricately the walls of the Temple were carved.

Center piece at Temple of Grace, Burning Man 2014.

This view of the Temple’s centerpiece also demonstrates the intricate carving as well as the open feeling of the Temple. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Top of Temple of Grace at Burning Man 2014.

Peggy caught this early morning photo of the Temples top. The specks you see up in the sky, BTW, are skydivers. Hundreds of jumps are made during the week. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Gateway to Temple of Grace at Burning Man 2014. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

One of the main gateways into the Temple of Grace.

Gateway pillar at Temple of Grace, Burning Man 2014. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

I liked the contrast with this gateway pillar and the morning sky.

Photo of early morning clouds taken from Temple of Grace at Burning Man 2014. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Looking over the wall that surrounds the Temple of Grace, I took this photograph of clouds caught at dawn.

A view of the 2014 Burning Man Temple of Grace at night. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

A view of the Temple of Grace at night.

A view of the Temple's centerpiece at night. (Photo by Don Green.)

The Temple’s centerpiece at night. (Photo by Don Green.)

Temple of Grace at night during Burning Man 2014. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

A final view of the Temple of Grace.

NEXT BLOGS: I am beginning a new series on North America’s fabulous Northwest. I will start with a week-long sea kayak trip Peggy and I took this summer off the coast of northern Vancouver Island looking for Orcas. I will then move inland for a look at Washington’s beautiful Mt. Rainier National Park where Peggy and I hiked with our son Tony in August. I will finish up with a road trip down the Oregon coast, which I am on right now. It may even include portions of Washington and California’s Coast. Who knows where I might end up. I don’t.

A Goat with a Pink Tutu— Walkabout at Black Rock City: Burning Man 2014

Goat at Burning Man 2014 wearing a pink tutu. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Where else, other than Black Rock City, would you find a goat with purple hair wearing a rosy pink tutu.

Going on walkabout was a rite of passage for Australian Aboriginals. Young men would journey through the Australian Bush for up to six months while contemplating their navels and pondering the wonders of the universe. At least I assume that is what they did. Native Americans had a similar practice where young people would go out on vision quests to discover their totem animals and earn such names as Bear Who Throws Bone in Air.

Brown Bear throwing bone in air. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

So, if you were on a vision quest and came across a huge brown bear throwing a moose bone in an air, would you name yourself after the event? Or would you just run?  (I took this photo last year in Alaska.)

My parents used to send me outside as well, although I expect their motives were different. I was more than happy to wander off into the woods during such exiles. I even found my own totems: Robin Hood, Tarzan and the Lone Ranger. The woods were full of outlaws, man-eating tigers and one illusive 20-foot boa. I was, of course, able to defeat them all. The names of my heroes were already taken, however. I had to settle for Boy Who Peed on the Poison Oak. Like how much more daring could I get?

Peggy and I love to go on walk-abouts and bike-abouts at Burning Man. I’ve already introduced you to some of the creatures we met this year including a rhinoceros and a giant octopus. You’ve journeyed with us to Center Camp, watched the Man and Embrace burn, and checked out the art on the Playa.

This is what the rhino looked like up close and personal.

This is what the rhino looked like up close and personal.

I was charged by a rhino once when I was in Ngorongoro Crater, Africa. I took this photo with my Kodak Instamatic just before he charged. I didn't get any closeups.

I was charged by a rhino once when I was in Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania, Africa. It was a while ago. I took this photo with my Kodak Instamatic just before he charged. I didn’t get any close-ups.

Today you are invited to join us as we explore the back roads of Black Rock City. The thing about this one week, temporary home for 65,000 people is it doesn’t matter which way you go, there are bound to be interesting sights. We found a goat with purple hair wearing a pink tutu, Elvis, a home for little people, and a woman falling off a tight rope… not to mention a 20-foot tall sculpture known as, umm, the Divine Masculine. I’ll let your imagination tackle that one for a bit.

Crazy Horse at Burning Man 2014. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

We came across this crazy hose with buck teeth. “Is that supposed to be a joint in its mouth?” I asked Peg. “That would explain a lot,” she replied.

The Elvis wedding Chapel at Burning Man 2014. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

I’ve never really believed the tales of Elvis sightings around the world. But if he is alive, I am convinced he goes to Burning Man.

A small house at Burning Man 2014. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Peggy came across a series of little houses and crawled into this one. It was set up for a chess game.

While Peggy was checking out the little house, my hose was checking out a port-a-pot.

While Peggy was checking out the little house, my horse was checking out a port-a-pot and found a surprise.

Flowers in a port-a-pot at Burning Man 2014. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Flowers.

And made a graceful exit.

We watched a woman fall off a tight rope, or maybe she was being launched. Fortunately the rope was only a foot off the ground. I thought her exit was rather graceful.

Vamp Camp at Burning Man 2014. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

One of the fun things to do on a walkabout is to check out the various camps. Many are quite elaborate.

Camps can be quite elegant at Burning Man. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

And they can be elegant. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

In small print, under the skull and crossbones, this camp declared "I am quite famous at Burning Man."  (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Most large camps are unique, once again reflecting the creativity at Burning Man. In small print, under the skull and crossbones, this camp declared “I am quite famous at Burning Man.” (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Pastel dome at Burning Man 2014. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

This pastel dome flew the US flag under a zebra and a wart hog. Flags are common in Black Rock City, but you don’t see many zebras and wart hogs.

Flags at Burning Man 2014. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Judging by the flags, there are lots of pirates at Burning Man.

Flags of Burning Man 2014. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

The flags at this camp represented the growing international presence in Black Rock City.

It's time to wrap up this blog and I've put this off long enough. The Divine Masculine is set off by flags as a truck provides perspective. A pair of Burners enjoy the view from the top.

It seems appropriate to wrap up this blog with a photo of the Divine Masculine. A pair of Burners enjoy the view from the top. This may be irrelevant and possibly irreverent, but I am reminded of the 1950’s hit, “He was a one-eyed, one horned flying purple people eater.” 

NEXT BLOG: Who goes to Burning Man? It may be your next door neighbor.

 

The Art Of Burning Man 2014— From Praying Mantis to LOVE

Giant praying mantis at Burning Man 2014. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

This giant praying mantis was one of many art works featured at Burning Man 2014.

The praying mantis appeared out of a dust storm with wings flapping. He was one big guy. Think humongous. Think scary. Peggy and I had to go check him out. It was art— and art is our primary reason for attending Burning Man.

When you arrive at Burning Man, the greeters give you a map that shows where most of the art is. The 2014 art map showed 233 installations scattered across the Playa and throughout  Black Rock City. Since weather had delayed us by two days, there was no way we could see it all. So we decided to go “random.” We would wander around and check out whatever caught our attention. Following are a few examples.

Bird with wings lowered and raised by pedals. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Much of Burning Man art is interactive. This bird immediately attracted Peggy. She climbed up the ramp and into its stomach. The bird’s wings were designed to be raised or lowered by pedal power.  Peggy went to work. A crowd urged her on.

Large bird sculpture at Burning Man 2014. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Another view.

Geometric sculpture at Burning Man 2014. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

The geometric lines of this sculpture caught my attention.

Geometric Sculpture and Man at Burning Man 2014. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Shooting from a different angle, I caught the Man in the background.

Much art at Burning Man incorporates a sense of humor. I called this guy big ears. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Much art at Burning Man incorporates a sense of humor. I called this guy Big Ears. He was wired for sound. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Love letters in the dust at Burning Man 2014. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Love is big at Burning Man. (grin) The Embrace sculpture can be seen in the distance through the E.

Peggy caught this interesting reverse perspective on the love letters. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Peggy caught this interesting reverse perspective on the love letters. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Big O in Love sculpture at Burning Man 29014. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

The big O in Love was hard to resist.

This sculpture reminded me of a Hollywood set piece.

This sculpture reminded me of a Hollywood set piece.

Climbing up a sculpture at Burning Man 2014. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Burners love any sculpture you can climb. Often, as in this case, climbing is encouraged.

Wind operated kinetic sculpture at Burning Man 2014. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Wind operated this kinetic sculpture.

These cubes created the illusion of climbing far into the sky. (Photo by Don Green.)

These cubes created the illusion of climbing far into the sky. (Photo by Don Green.)

Alien at Burning Man 2014. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

For the past several years, strange alien creatures have been found far out on the Playa near the perimeter fence.

NEXT BLOG: Wandering around Black Rock City.

Embrace the Dawn Burns… The Art of Burning Man 2014

Embrace the Dawn at Burning Man 2014. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Monumental sculpture has become a tradition at Burning Man. 2014’s Embrace the Dawn by the Pier Group out of Reno, Nevada is a prime example.

Monumental art has become a tradition at Burning Man. Each year I return to Black Rock City excited to see the latest creations. Last year, the Truth Is Beauty sculpture pulled me to it like a moth to flame. This year it was the 72-foot tall sculpture called Embrace by the Pier Group out of Reno/Sparks, Nevada. Related groups in Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, B.C. Canada also worked on the project.

Working out of a huge warehouse studio in Reno known as the Generator, the Pier Group has created several art pieces for Burning Man, including another one of my all time favorites, a huge sailing ship sunk partway into the desert.

Spanish Galleon created by the Pier Group for Burning Man 2014. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

This Spanish Galleon, named La Llorona, was created by the Pier Group for Burning Man 2012.

This year the Pier Group had hoped Embrace would become the 2014 Temple. Matt Schultz, the lead artist, envisioned Embrace as a space where people could “sit, reflect, look up, feel the wind through the sculpture, and think about life and love.” Another project was selected. That didn’t stop Matt and the Pier Group, however; they went ahead and built the monumental sculpture anyway, much to the benefit of Burning Man and the 67,000 people present.

Embrace the Dawn Sculpture at Burning Man 2014. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Seeing Embrace from the distance provides a perspective on the sculpture’s size. The Man looks on from the distant left.

The Embrace sculpture at Burning Man 2014 provided access to go inside and climb up into the heads. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

In this view, it appears the couple is kissing. (They weren’t.) The space on the bottom provided access to the figures where you could climb up into the heads and look out through the eyes.

The heart of the Embrace sculpture at Burning Man 2014. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Each of the figures had a large, unique heart that had been created by artists in Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, BC.

View form the eye of the Embrace statue at Burning Man 2014. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Looking out at Black Rock City through the eye of Embrace.

Art inside the head of the Embrace sculpture at Burning Man 2014. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Dramatic art inside the head of Embrace.

Mural sized art inside the head of the Embrace the Dawn sculpture at Burning Man 2014. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

More head art. Light is coming in from the top of the head, which was left open so Burners could see the stars at night.

This night photo was taken by Don Green, a member of our camp.

This night photo was taken by Don Green, a member of our camp. The red high heel is a mutant vehicle.

The decision was made to burn Embrace at dawn, which, to my knowledge, was the first major burn at Burning Man to take place in the morning. A significant number of Burners present had partied far into the night and 7:00 a.m. had come awfully early. Some were up so late they decided to stay up all night. A few who had come to watch the burn slept through the event. It was amazing how quickly the 160,000 pounds of wood in the sculpture went up in flames.

Preparation for burning Embrace the Dawn at Burning Man 2014. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Preparation for a major burn can take hours. Burners arrive early to get prime seats in the dirt. The trucks in the middle are all part of the preparation.

Preparation to burn the large sculpture, Embrace the Dawn, at Burning Man 2014. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Another perspective on preparation for the burn.

Crowd gathers to watch burning of Embrace the Dawn at Burning Man 2014. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

I like this photo because it provides a view of the size of the crowd that stretched all the way around Embrace. The Burners in the right center of the photo are trying to catch up on sleep.

Mutant vehicles wait for the burning of the Embrace sculpture at Burning Man 2014.

Mutant vehicles, like these shown here, also stretched all the way around the burn circle. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Colorful crowd gathered to watch the burning of Embrace at Burning Man 2014. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

One thing is guaranteed, any group that gathers at Burning Man is bound to be colorful. Check out the leggings.

The beginning of the burn of Embrace the Dawn at Burning Man 2014. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Two puffs of smoke announce the beginning of the burn. Firemen stand watch.

Flames begin shooting form the head and eyes almost immediately. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Flames begin shooting from the head and eyes almost immediately. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Embrace sculpture burns at Burning Man 2014. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Shortly thereafter, the whole torso starts to burn.

Flames are so intense that mini-tornadoes, large dust devils are created. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Flames are so intense that mini-tornadoes, large dust devils, are created. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

And soon only a skeleton remains. (Photo by Tom Lovering.)

And soon only a skeleton remains.   An interesting dust devil outlines the head. (Photo by Tom Lovering.) Next Blog: I take another detour from Burning Man to travel back in time to UC Berkeley’s student revolution 50 years ago. I was there.

A Giant Rhino, an All-Seeing Eye and Other Mutant Vehicles of Burning Man 2014

Giant rhino mutant vehicle at Burning Man 2014. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

So who needs an African Safari? (grin)

A journey to Burning Man is a voyage into one of the world’s most creative environments. A kaleidoscope of art, costumes, theme camps, and live performances constantly demand your attention. Mutant vehicles are another form of marvelous creativity. In my last blog I introduced you El Pulpo Mecanico. Here are some other favorites of mine from Burning Man 2104.

Rhino at Burning Man 2014.

A horn of plenty? (Photo by Tom Lovering.)

I would say that this Burner is quite proud of her Rhino.

I would say that this Burner is quite proud of her Rhino.

The all seeing eye at at Burning Man 2014.

The all-seeing eye and… (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

The all seeing eye mutant vehicle at Burning Man 2014. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

…its mutant vehicle.

Mutant vehicle eye. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Speaking of eyes, I caught this man-sized  one on a mutant vehicle the night they burned the Man.

Peggy found this dragon out on the Playa while the owners were away. Good thing they didn't leave the keys. (Photo by Tom Lovering.)

Peggy found this dragon out on the Playa while the owners were away. Good thing they didn’t leave the keys.  Giddy-up! (Photo by Tom Lovering.)

Close up of a dragon head at Burning Man 2014. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Close up of the dragon’s head.

Winged dragon mutant vehicle at Burning Man 2014. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

This is a rather attractive fellow with gossamer wings.

Fish mutant vehicle emerges out of a dust storm at Burning Man 2014. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Imagine for a moment you didn’t know what was happening and you saw this creature of the deep emerge out of a dust storm.

A steampunk horse and carriage at Burning Man 2014. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

A steampunk horse shows off his inner workings. The carriage is also quite unique.

Steampunk vehicle at Burning Man 2014.

Another steampunk vehicle with a unique look. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Large mutant vehicles can carry a number of people at Burning Man. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Large mutant vehicles such as this bull can accommodate a number of people.

The same bull at night provides a perspective on how dramatically different mutant vehicles look at night.

The same bull at night provides a perspective on how dramatically different mutant vehicles can look when the sun goes down.

Cheshire cat at Burning Man 2014.

This Cheshire Cat rolled by our campsite.

Lady Sassafras mutant vehicle at Burning Man 2014.

Lady Sassafras built by the Crown Collective of New Orleans is made from debris left over by Hurricane Katrina.

ATV mutant vehicle at Burning Man 2014. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Mutant vehicles come in all sizes as this ATV demonstrates. Every square inch of available space is covered.

Close up of decorations. I liked the dog.

Close up of the decorations. I liked the dog.

A three mast sailing ship at Burning Man 2014. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

This three mast sail boat makes a good conclusion for this blog on the mutant vehicles at Burning Man 2014. Next blog: A huge sculpture known as Embrace.

 

El Pulpo Mecanico… The Magnificent Octopus of Burning Man

The mutant vehicle El Pulpo Mechanico lights up the night at Burning Man 2014. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

El Pulpo Mecanico doing what he does best: spout fire and entertain Burners.

He comes through the desert night with eyes bulging, jaws dropping, and eight arms flaming like an ancient god. The 26 foot tall El Pulpo Mecanico, the mechanical octopus, arrives in a cloud of dust and fire. An admiring group of Burners gather round, cameras poised. This is El Pulpo’s fourth trip to Burning Man, and he still elicits wonder wherever he goes.

The head of El Pulpo Mechanico at Burning Man 2014.

It’s hard to look at the head of El Pulpo and not imagine some ancient god. He even has his own church. (grin)

El Pulpo is a mutant vehicle or art car in the language of Black Rock City. The powerful DMV, the Department of Mutant vehicles, has licensed him. Beyond getting to campsites, Burners are not allowed to drive on the Playa or in Black Rock City without a DMV permit. And you don’t get a permit unless your vehicle has morphed into something else— like an octopus, or rhinoceros, or sailing ship, or even a push-button telephone.

Push button phone mutant vehicle at Burning Man 2014 photographed by Curtis Mekemson.

Mutant vehicles come in all shapes and sizes at Burning Man. This phone vehicle at Burning Man 2014 represents both the imagination and humor of Burners.

El Pulpo sprang from the creative imagination of Duane Flatmo, a graphic artist and mural painter who lives in Arcata, California along with his wife and fellow artist, Micki Dyson. Duane’s murals can be found throughout Eureka and Arcata. Or, if you stop off for one (or more) of the excellent beers at the Lost Coast Brewery and pause long enough to admire the labels, you are admiring Duane’s work.

The label from Alleycat Ale of the Lost Coast Brewery in Eureka California. Duane Flatmo created the label.

The label from Alleycat Ale of the Lost Coast Brewery in Eureka California.

Duane’s talents apparently include music as well. In 2006, he became a finalist on America’s Got Talent by playing a guitar with a weed whacker and an eggbeater. It would take me less than .01 seconds to destroy a guitar with my weed whacker. I suspect a bit longer with an eggbeater.

My weed whacker. I challenge any guitar to stand up to it.

My weed whacker. I challenge any guitar to stand up to it. Bring on your Martin!

Going to Disneyland as a child inspired Duane to build things from an early age. It was the Kinetic Grand Champion Race in Humboldt County that encouraged him to build things that move, however. The race, which is known as the triathlon of the art world, takes place annually and pits human-powered art sculptures against each other in a grueling 38-mile race over land, water, sand and mud between the communities of Arcata and Ferndale. Duane created the first of his 30 plus entries in 1982.

His passion for building led him to England in 2001 to participate in the TV series the Junkyard Wars where participants were challenged to create specific objects such as a car crusher from junk. Two years later he was in China participating in the Strange Vehicle Games and building a monster truck.

All of this was accomplished before El Pulpo Mecanico. Somewhere around 2005 Duane and his creative group of fellow travellers made it to Burning Man. Not surprisingly, they soon began dreaming about creating mutant vehicles.

It was in the small town of La Peñita, Mexico about 40 miles north of Puerto Vallarta, that El Pulpo was born. (It’s a pretty area; I was fishing off its shore last fall.) The Flatmos have a home there that they visit for a couple of months every year. With an idea in mind, Duane hit the streets searching for junk. Out of this junk he built the first model of El Pulpo.

Ocean north of Puerto Vallarta. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

The Pacific Ocean off the coast from La Penita.

My grandson Ethan proudly displays a fish he caught on our fishing trip north of Puerto Vallarta.

My grandson Ethan proudly displays a fish he caught on our fishing trip north of Puerto Vallarta. He was lucky it didn’t catch him.

Back home in Arcata, Duane pulled together a team to help him create the giant cephalopod. Steve Gellman was brought on board to help with the fireworks and long time friend Jerry Kunkel was recruited because of his expertise in electrical work and engineering. While a number of others helped with the assembly, it is particularly important to note Bonnie Connor. She owns Arcata Scrap and Salvage, the home for most of El Pulpo’s parts.

Black and white of El Pulpo Mechanico taken by Curtis Mekemson.

El Pulpo was made out of junk gathered from the Arcata Scrap and Salvage Yard. Duane says the size of the 55 gallon drums used to make El Pulpo’s upper legs determined his whole size.

Photo of El Pulpo's head featuring salvaged parts at Burning Man 2014. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

This close up of El Pulpo’s head demonstrates his salvaged parts, including the 55 gallon drums.

The skin of El Pulpo Mechanico , like the rest of the Burning Man octopus is made from salvaged junk. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

I was amused by El Pulpo’s junk yard skin. Muffins anyone?

The octopus was built on top of a donated 1973 Ford 250 4×4. A giant cam provides the muscle power— raising and lowering his eight legs, thrusting out his eight bulging eyes, and dropping the jaws on his four mouths. Neither computers nor hydraulics are used. Four fifty-gallon propane tanks provide flames for a night of fun on the Playa. The fire spouting legs and head send flames roaring out 30 feet. And here’s a final fun fact, the sound of the escaping flames can be used as a percussion instrument. Duane plays El Pulpo like a drum. And why not. Anyone who can play a guitar with a weed whacker should be able to make music with an octopus.

Four propane tanks provided El Pulpo Mechanical with fuel for his fiery performances at Burning Man. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

The four 50 gallon propane tanks that fire up El Pulpo for a night. As you can imagine, keeping these tanks full is expensive.

El Pulpo Mechanico sign. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Indeed he does.

El Pulpo made his first trip to the Burning Man in 2011. What is the most fun Duane has had with his mutant vehicle ? He lists two incidents: providing transportation for Susan Sarandon as she toured the Playa and watching San Francisco firemen line up to admire El Pulpo. The head fire inspector “hit the fire buttons and giggled like a child.”

Duane and company are now in the process of creating a new mutant vehicle for Burning Man. I can’t wait to see the results.

El Pulpo Mechanico during the day at Burning Man 2014.

Even during the day, El Pulpo Mecanico is magnificent. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

El Pulpo Mechanico shown up in the air at Burning Man 2014. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Up in the air.

Fish sculpture found on El Pulpo Mechanico at Burning Man 2014.

As might be imagined, other sea creatures such as this fish can be found sharing El Pulpo’s ocean.

Fish sculpture found on El Pulp Mechanico shown at night, Burning Man 2014. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

The fish at night.

Sea horse sculpture found on El Pulpo Mechanico, Burning Man 2014.

This friendly sea horse is another of El Pulpo’s companions. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Crab sculpture found on El Pulpo Mechanico, Burning Man 2014. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

As is this crab with large claws. It looks a lot like the crawdads my brother and I caught as kids and our mother boiled up for dinner. Sweet meat! Duane created this guy for the Kinetic Grand Champion Race and adapted it to El Pulpo. See this article in Popular Mechanics.

El Pulpo Mechanico line up with other mutant vehicles waiting for the Man to burn at Burning Man 2014. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

A final shot of El Pulpo waiting patiently for the Man to burn at Burning Man 2014. Next blog: I will introduce you to some of the other fun mutant vehicles Peggy and I found this year at Burning Man.

 

 

 

The Wild Man Disappeared into a Yellow Balloon… Center Camp Cafe at Burning Man

 

Bike Bridge sculpture at Burning Man 2014.

Looking out from the Center Camp Cafe through the Bike Bridge, a sculpture by Michael Christian of Berkeley, California. The work was done in collaboration with twelve young women from Oakland who were taught welding skills and then worked with Christian in creating the sculpture out of recycled bike parts.

 

You journey into another world when you travel to Burning Man. An open mind helps. You don’t have to party to the wee hours, or get naked, or do yoga in your underpants, however. People are free to choose the activities they wish to pursue. I mean, if you really want to know how to make a flogger out of duct tape, you can— or not. I opted out.

Besides, I have my own whip. I used to break the whip out and walk around my office cracking it when I was the executive director of a non-profit in Alaska. I did this during the winter months when the nights were long and the days were short. Since it was dark outside, the people who worked at the bank across the road would line up at their windows and watch me. The bankers, my staff, and I enjoyed the break in routine. Or, at least, no one ever reported me to the cops.

The Center Camp Cafe at Burning Man 2014.

A view of the Center Camp Cafe from the Playa. Note the tower on the right.

Center Camp view at Burning Man 2014.

Looking down from the tower at Center Camp and the Center Camp Cafe. (Photo by Don Green.)

Center Camp Cafe at night Burning Man 2014.

A view of the Center Camp Cafe at night. The flags on top can be seen from throughout Black Rock City and are used by Burners as a land mark.

Bikes parked in front of the Center Camp Cafe at Burning Man 2014.

Over 60,000 bikes were at Burning Man this year. On any given day, the Center Camp Cafe was surrounded by them. Note the fat tires. There are no skinny tires at Burning Man since getting around through the dust on the Playa and in Black Rock City would be impossible.

The middle of the Center Camp Cafe provides a large circular opening looking up at the sky and the flags.

The middle of the Center Camp Cafe provides a large circular opening for  looking up at the sky and the flags.

Heading over to the Center Camp Cafe is something that almost everyone at Burning Man does at some time during the week. It’s a great way to be introduced to and participate in Black Rock City performance art. Free entertainment of one sort of the other goes on around the clock at the Cafe’s two stages. Less formally, anyone is welcome to perform in the large, circular center stage. I watched ballet dancers, jugglers, couples yoga, a woman work a hula-hoop, and a group practicing what I called chicken meditation since it sounded like they were shouting chica, chica, chica and making chicken moves. But what do I know; it looked like fun. Then there was the wild-looking guy who disappeared into a large yellow balloon…

Couples yoga being practiced at Burning Man 2014.

It appears this woman is learning to fly as she practices couples yoga at the Center Camp Cafe.

Yong woman practices with hula hoop at Burning Man 2014.

A young woman works her hula hoop as blonde hair flies. Whole camps are devoted to mastering the hula hoop and Burners have developed considerable skills.

Dancing at Burning Man 2014.

A young man who had been practicing impressive ballet leaps, suddenly stopped and asked an elderly woman to dance with him. The two bowed to each other and then waltzed off across the floor to applause. Batman looked on.

Man disappears into large yellow balloon at Burning Man 2014.

Peggy and I were sitting and chatting with a man from Berkeley when a guy with a large yellow balloon walked out to the center area. By the time I had grabbed my camera, half of the man had disappeared into the balloon. Then he was totally gone. As things progressed, first his hair and then his head appeared out of the top.

Balloon Man Burning Man style at Burning Man 2014.

In the end, the balloon shrank and I was able to get a full head shot. He was pretty wild looking, even for Burning Man.

People watching receives an A plus rating. A stroll around the Center Camp Cafe usually calls for another stroll, and then another after that. Or you can just choose to sit and let the parade pass by. Many Burners dress up in elaborate costumes, or dress down (way down) for their visit. I confess to enjoying it all.

 

My favorite Burner in her snazzy hat (Luna AKA Peggy) wears a Mona Lisa smile.

My favorite Burner in her snazzy hat (Luna AKA Peggy) wears a Mona Lisa smile.

Cross generation conversation at Burning Man 2014.

This photo strikes me as pure Burning Man. A younger man-made space for an older woman and the two were soon involved in an animated conversation. Meanwhile, an obviously tired Burner had put his feet up on the seat back so he could snooze. I kept waiting for him to go to sleep and his feet to drop. It didn’t happen.

Burning Man is a photographers dream. And almost everyone takes pictures. If each Burner took only 20 photos, over a million pictures would have been taken at Burning Man 2014.

Burning Man is a photographer’s dream. And almost everyone takes pictures. If each Burner took only 20 photos, well over one million pictures would have been taken at Burning Man 2014.

One of the best places to catch some of Burning Man's wilder costumes is to attend the annual fashion show hosted by the Center Camp Cafe. While it may not be New York or Paris, it does come with a runway. (Photo by Don Green.)

One of the best places to catch some of Burning Man’s wilder costumes is to attend the annual fashion show hosted by the Center Camp Cafe. While it may not be New York or Paris, it does come with a runway. (Photo by Don Green.)

Fashion show participants at Burning Man 2014.

What some of the best dressed models chose to wear. Size matters when you are wearing gloves. (Photo by Don Green.)

Art also fills the Center Camp Cafe, as it does all of Burning Man. Peggy and I visit at different times of the day to catch how the different light impacts the art, enjoy the shows, and sip a cup of coffee or glass of ice tea. Center Camp Cafe is the only place in Black Rock City where you can buy anything besides ice.

Sculpture at the Center Camp Cafe, Burning Man 2014.

There must have been upwards to 40 pieces of art at the Center Camp Cafe including this beautiful sculpture.

The two cats who have caught Grandpa Mouse, promise him his freedom if he reads them an amusing story.

The two cats who have caught Grandpa Mouse promise him his freedom if he reads them an amusing story.

I really enjoyed the Eastern oriented environmental art that combined nature with people at the Center Camp Cafe. Following are several examples.

Oriental painting in Center Camp Cafe at Burning Man 2014.

Bird eyes.

Art featuring dragon and humming bird at Center Camp Cafe, Burning Man 2014.

Dragon faces off against hummingbird.

Oriental art featuring woman and elephant on display at the Center Camp Cafe, Burning Man 2014.

Woman and elephant.

Butterfly wing eyebrows and a cat-like face.

Butterfly wing eyebrows and a cat-like face.

Painting at Center Camp Cafe featuring woman and animals, Burning Man 2014.

I conclude with this woman surrounded by animals. Next blog: We go out into Black Rock City and out into the playa in search of my favorite mutant vehicle: El Pulpo Mechanico— the octopus.

 

The Man Meets His Fiery Demise… Burning Man 2014

 

Flames shoot out as the Man burns at Burning Man 2014.

Flames shoot out as the Man burns at Burning Man 2014. Fireworks continue to light up the sky.

I introduced the Man in my last blog. Now it is time to join him for his fiery end, the quintessential event Larry Harvey created in 1986 that gives Burning Man its name. Think show. Think ritual. Think party. Think three-ring circus. It’s the one event at Burning Man that pulls everyone together at the same time. Saturday night is Burn Night.

Preparations for the 2014 burn began hours earlier. The market surrounding the Man was closed down and packed away, the area was roped off, and the Man was prepared to burn. Firewood was stacked around his feet. Fireworks were stuffed everywhere else.

Burning the Man at Burning Man 2014.

Firewood stacked around the base of the Man helps assure he will eventually fall over. Massive support beams for his hundred foot height were reluctant to burn through, however. (Photo By Don Green.)

Sometime around six, the residents of Black Rock City begin their preparations. Dinner is eaten; costumes are donned; people and bikes are decked out in lights. (I’d love to have a concession that sells glow sticks to Burners.) The dozens, even hundreds of venues that provide free entertainment are shut down. Large and small camps provide final instructions. Are their members traveling by mutant vehicle, bike or foot? Will the bikers and hikers stay together? How? It is ever so easy to get lost in a rowdy crowd of 65,000 people.

And then the parade (or is pilgrimage a better word?) begins. Large mutant vehicles that hold dozens of dancing, gyrating Burners move out early, eager to find prime locations and begin blasting out ear-splitting, industrial-grade music. Hundreds of performers also head for the Man to find their assigned places inside the huge circle surrounding the Man. Next come the folks who hope to sit close to the circle and have the best views of the fire dancers and burn.

And finally, everyone else. Dark streets become clogged with gaily decorated, lit-up bikes and Burners journeying out into the Playa. Somehow they avoid running into each other. By 8 pm Black Rock City has become vacant, a ghost town.

For the past several years I’ve chosen to walk around the perimeter of the circle. My body has lost its sense of humor for sitting in the dirt for hours. Even now, my tailbone screams at the idea. Plus, there is a lot to see. Burners, dressed up in their finest costumes, stroll and dance around the circle. It’s prime time for people watching. But what really captures my imagination are the mutant vehicles stretching for two miles around the Man. Every vehicle is lit up for the night and many belch fire. Dozens form large viewing and dancing platforms. There are ships and trains and dragons and bugs and almost everything else the human imagination can create. Or at least it seems that way to me.

Great imagination goes into creating the mutant vehicles of Burning Man. I am not sure what this guy was called but I nicknamed him Mighty Mouse.

Great imagination goes into creating the mutant vehicles of Burning Man. I am not sure what this guy was called but I nicknamed him Mighty Mouse. The people on his back provide a size perspective.

El Pulpo Mechanico at Burning Man 2014.

Many of the mutant vehicles spout fire. This is one of my favorites, El Pulpo Mechanico. I’ll be doing a whole blog on El Pulpo.

Mutant vehicle lights up the night at Burning Man 2014.

This photo provides an idea of how bright the fire from a mutant vehicle can be.

As for the burning of the Man, it follows a ritualized pattern. The fire dancers twirl fire, drummers drum, the Man raises his arms, fireworks go off, the Man burns, and finally he falls to his fiery grave as 65,000 people first go quiet and then shout in celebration.

Fire Dancing at Burning Man.

Fire dancing/art is an important part of Burn night as hundreds of fire dancers perform in the circle before the Man is burned. I took this photo a couple of years ago.

The Man raises his arms in preparation for fireworks and burning at Burning Man 2014.

When the Man raises his arms, the fireworks are about to begin!

The night sky is lit up by fireworks during the burning of the Man at Burning Man 2014.

And they do.

Fireworks at Burning Man 2014.

Few fourth of July events are capable of matching the fireworks display at Burning Man, which goes on and on. (Photo by Don Green.)

Fireworks and Man burning at Burning Man 2014.

The fireworks continued as the Man burned quickly. We could definitely feel the heat.

Structure of Man at Burning Man 2014 shows through the fire.

Soon, his basic structure was apparent.

Head of the Man at Burning Man during 2014 burn.

Don caught this photo of the Man’s head. (Photo by Don Green.)

The Man before he falls at Burning Man 2014.

I waited patiently, along with 60,000 other people for the Man to fall as fires licked away at his feet. But he was stubborn. Finally I headed off to Center Camp.

Normally we return home sometime in the night after the Man has burned. But this year we stayed around and visited the site the next morning. Much to our amusement, people were cooking meals over the remaining flames and heat.

Remains of the burned Man at Burning Man 2014.

Burners were gathered around the remains of the Man the next morning. The size of the leg support beams suggests why it took so long for the Man to fall. (Photo by Tom Lovering.)

Cooking bacon on the coals left over from the burning of the man at Burning Man 2014.

We were amused to find people cooking bacon, eggs, coffee and pancakes. Some one had even roasted a lamb. Nice tongue.

Souvenir hunter cuts off piece of the Man's structure that remained after the Man had burned dow at Burning Man 2014.

A burner was working hard cutting off small pieces of the Man’s ‘leg’ for souvenirs.He smiled up at me and gifted me my own piece of the Man.

A close up of the Man burning at Burning Man 2014.

I will close with this excellent close up of the Man burning. (Photo by Don Green.) On my next blog I will visit another Burning Man icon: Center Camp.

Burning Man Was Born on a Beach in San Francisco

The 2014 Man at Burning Man.

The Man at Burning Man this year stood some ten stories high and towered over the surrounding playa and Black Rock City.

A striking view of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge dominates the view from Baker Beach in San Francisco. It’s a romantic spot, a popular place to get married. Folks also get naked; it’s a nude beach. It was here that Larry Harvey and his friend Jerry James decided to host a bonfire in honor of the summer solstice in 1986. As to why they chose a nine-foot wooden effigy of a man (and his dog) to burn, Harvey remains mysteriously mum. Whatever the reason, it was out of the flames that Burning Man was born. Larry and his friends had such a great time they vowed to come back the next year with a bigger Man.

By 1990 the Man had grown to 40 feet tall and word of mouth had guaranteed that a sizable crowd was present for the solstice bonfire on Baker Beach. It wasn’t to be. Golden Gate Park police had decided that burning the Man posed a fire hazard to the Park and City. A single Park Ranger rolled in on a motorbike and said no go. You can’t be too careful, right? Fires were raging across Southern California.

The Man was taken apart and returned to the vacant lot he called home. The people who had come to watch the burn were angry. This might have marked the end of Burning Man, except for a bit of synchronicity. The Man had caught the attention of a group in San Francisco known as the Cacophony Society, an organization that specialized in outrageous pranks and strange outings known as zone trips. Several of its members, including Co-founder John Law, suggested to Larry that the place to burn the Man was in the remote Black Rock Desert of Northern Nevada. It would make an ideal zone trip— far out in the language of the 60’s. A Ryder Truck was rented for the Labor Day weekend and stuffed with the man plus personal gear. Cars were loaded with people and some 80-100 Burners headed off into the desert. The rest, as they say, is history.

Much had changed when I arrived at Black Rock City in 2004. Old timers spoke nostalgically about the good old days when there had been far fewer people and no rules. They were right; there were more people and more rules, but as far as I could tell things were still pretty rowdy— and magical. I was impressed. So I have been going back ever since. One of my first activities on returning to Black Rock City is to make the journey out to the Man. Since Larry dictates his dimensions, the Man always looks the same. Up until now, however, he has been perched on a different base each year, as shown in the examples below.

Last year's man.

Last year’s man.

The Man at Burning Man in 2006

The Man on his pedestal in 2006.

This year, for the first time since 1995, the Man stood alone and had gained skin. He was magnificent, standing some ten stories or 100 feet tall. A group of tents, representing a souk/market place surrounded him. The souk reflected the 2014 Burning Man theme, Caravansary, and was supposed to be reminiscent of the ancient markets that grew up wherever caravan routes crossed.

The Man at Burning Man in 2014 and a mutant vehicle.

All eyes (and cameras) on the Man, a theme based mutant vehicle passes by. Note the tents of the market place surrounding the Man. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

The Man at Burning Man 2014 at the end of the avenue leading out from Center Camp.

The Man stands at the end of the avenue leading out from Center Camp. The building bathed in light behind the Man is the temple. The dome-shaped building off to the right is the Tower of Babel.

A photo of the Man at Burning Man in 2014 framed by the gateway that leads into the market place and Man.

Don Green, a friend who has been coming to Burning Man with me since 2005, took this photo of the Man, which is framed by the gateway that leads into the souk.

Sun shines through the head of the Man at Burning Man 2014. Photo by Tom Lovering.

Tom Lovering, who has been going on adventures with me since the mid-70s took this photo of the Man with the sun behind his head.

Man horse gives ride at Burning Man 2014.

Peggy hitches a ride on a hobby-horse/man in brief briefs at the souk. My favorite cow checks out a red topped man/woman/dummy in the background.

Wild eyed grass eating cow at Burning Man 2014.

The cow.

People headed ostriches at Burning Man 2014.

A number of murals/paintings decorated the walls of the souk. These people headed ostriches were sufficiently Burning Man strange.

What would a souk be without exotic drinks such as a snow cone. Beth Lovering, bathed in the red glow from the tent roof, discusses flavors with the Man from Minnesota.

What would a souk be without exotic drinks such as an icee. Beth Lovering, bathed in the red glow from the tent roof, discusses flavors with the Minnesota Man. Various regions including China, Japan, Russia, Taiwan, Lithuania and Argentina sponsored the various booths.

Drum making at Burning Man 2014.

My favorite souk-like booth, Membranes of Marrakesh, was sponsored by the Utah region and featured drum making. Once again, the red tent roof imparts a red glow. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Drums being Made at Burning Man 2014.

Shelves feature drums in various stages of development.

The man at night, Burning Man 2014.

I’ll conclude this blog with a photo I took of the Man at night, surrounded by the colors and activities of Burning Man. Magical is the word here. Next blog: We will watch the Man burn.

 

Welcome Home: Mired in Mud… Burning Man 2014

Burners are welcomed to Burning Man by a wild group of volunteers who withstand wind, dust, and sun to make sure that Burners are greeted enthusiastically.

“Welcome Home!” the Burning Man Greeter grinned from ear to ear. “Are you a virgin?” she asked.

Dark clouds stretched across the horizon as we made our way across the northern Nevada desert to Black Rock City on Monday morning. A road sign just outside of Cedarville, California had warned, “Flooded.” Some Burners or a local teenager had added at the bottom, “with love.” We laughed. Everyone can use a little love.

Located on the eastern side of the Warner Mountains in the far northwest corner of California, Cedarville may be the most remote town in California but it provides a hearty welcome for Burners.

Located on the eastern side of the Warner Mountains in the far northwest corner of California, Cedarville may be the most remote town in California, but it provides a hearty welcome for Burners.

This Cedarville mural suggests even the local livestock are welcoming Burners. Or maybe this horse and chicken are amazed by the strange procession of people and vehicles passing through their normally quiet town.

This Cedarville mural suggests even the local livestock are welcoming Burners. Or maybe this horse and chicken are jaw-dropping amazed by the strange procession of people and vehicles passing through their normally quiet town.

Dark clouds over the Black Rock Desert of Northern Nevada suggested flash floods and a muddy Burning Man.

Dark clouds over the Black Rock Desert of Northern Nevada suggested flash floods and a muddy Burning Man.

But flash floods in the desert are not to be trifled with. Lack of vegetation and poor soil combined with a downpour of rain can turn a trickle of water into a car tumbling torrent in a matter of minutes. Common wisdom is to stick to the high ground and avoid gullies. We proceeded with caution.

We were more concerned about the rain’s impact on Burning Man. A quarter-inch of rain on the Black Rock Desert turns the Playa into a quagmire. Everything comes to a grinding halt. Nothing moves. Walking cakes the bottom of shoes with one to three inches of cement-quality mud. If a mobster picked you up and threw you into a lake, you’d be guaranteed to sink. It’s worse for bikes and vehicles.

Our worst fears were confirmed when we arrived at the cutoff to Burning Man. A really nice BLM Ranger and a not so nice roadblock greeted us. “I am sorry,” the ranger announced, “Burning Man has been shut down and will be for at least 12 hours. We are recommending that you drive into Fernley and wait.” Fernley was 78 miles away. Towns are few and far between in Nevada. We turned around and pulled off the road to seek a second opinion. “Black Rock City will be shut down until 12 noon tomorrow,” the official voice of Burning Man declared on Twitter. Damn. The 12 hours had grown to 24.

But you know the old adage: if life hands you lemons, make lemonade. That’s certainly what the folks stuck in the thousand or so vehicles caught between the entrance to Burning Man and the welcoming station did. Their cars were packed with food, booze, and God only knows what else. Why stress when you can have a party?

Burners on the inside had a similar attitude. Their only concern was the rapidly filling port-a-pots. Things were getting shitty, so to speak. Not surprisingly, the first vehicles that Burning Man approved for travel were sewage trucks. It may be the only time in history that sewage truck drivers received a standing ovation.

On a more serious note, I met a Burner on the Esplanade of Black Rock City who told me she and seven other people had been struck by lightning during the storm. It had hit nearby and travelled through the ground, knocking her down. A couple of days at the clinic and she was fine. “The guy carrying the umbrella that lightning struck wasn’t so lucky,” she told us.

Peggy and I decided to make our own lemonade. We would drive an extra 25 miles past Fernley to Fallon and the Bonanza Casino. The Bonanza featured cheap RV camping, liberal video poker machines, and enough free drinks to drown our sorrows about missing Burning Man. True to its Old West image, the casino’s restaurant was decorated with cowhides and served humongous cow-burgers. Bossy had given her all. We didn’t. Peggy and I left the next morning a hundred dollars richer and headed back to the now open Burning Man. The adventure was about to begin.

I found this particular cow hanging out near the Man at Black Rock City. Apparently she was a little high from all the grass she was consuming.

I found this particular cow hanging out in the souk/marketplace surrounding the Man at Black Rock City. Apparently she was feeling the effects from all the grass she was consuming.

Traffic into Burning Man from Interstate 80.

Passing over Interstate 80, we joined the long line of several thousand Burners who had been held up in Reno and Fernley because of the closure of Burning Man. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Strange, hoodoo-like rocks greet Burners along the road into Burning Man. Somehow, they seem appropriate. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Strange, hoodoo-like rocks greet Burners along the road into Burning Man. Somehow, they seem appropriate. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

The rocks gave way to Shrek as we entered the small town of Empire a few miles outside of Burning Man.

The rocks gave way to Shrek as we entered the small town of Empire a few miles outside of Burning Man. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Ticket check at Burning Man 2014.

Things went amazingly fast until we hit the line for checking tickets. At least six lines of vehicles stretched into the distance.

Ticket checkers search for non-ticketed Burners at Burning Man 2014.

As long as I have been going to Burning Man, ticket checkers have come on board to make sure I am not smuggling any Burners into Black Rock City. I’m okay with that. But checking my cabinets and refrigerator was invasive. Was this an undercover cop searching for illegal drugs? Or maybe he thought I was hiding the seven dwarves. But let’s get back to the question posed in the first photo about my virginity…

Virgin Burner rings bell, Burning Man 2014.

The question the greeter was asking was whether I was a Virgin Burner, a first timer. Having first gone in 2004, I had long since lost my ‘virginity,’ however. Virgins are expected to get out of the car and ring a bell.

Virgin burner rolls in dust at Burning Man 2014.

Rolling in the dust is a new virgin burner experience that has been added to the ceremony. Since you will look like you have rolled in the dust after a few hours at Burning Man,why not?

This blog marks the beginning of a series of blogs on Burning Man 2014 that I will write over the next few weeks. Here are a few photos to provide a taste of what’s to come. Think of them as appetizers.

Embrace sculpture being prepped to burn at Burning Man 2014.

Art and costumed people are two of the major reasons that Peggy and I go to Burning Man. You will see a lot of both in my blogs. This is the Embrace sculpture being prepped for burning.

The Man surrounded by a souk/marketplace at Burning Man 2014.

Burning Man is many things, and I will explore several, but central to the Burning Man experience is the Man and his ultimate consummation by fire. Here I pictured him through an art piece. The Man stood alone this year surrounded by a souk, or marketplace.

The Elvis Wedding Chapel at Burning Man 2014.

Wandering the streets of Black Rock City is endlessly fascinating and you never know what you might find— even Elvis. Or, as it turned out this year, P. Diddy, Will Smith and Leonardo DiCaprio. There are much stranger things to be found at Burning Man…

… such as what I could only guess was an amoeba with a vagina. Then there was the 20 foot sculpture of a penis.

… such as what I could only guess was an amoeba with a vagina. Then there was the 20 foot sculpture of a penis. There was no doubt about it.

El Pulpo Mechanico at Burning Man 2014.

I’ll conclude this small teaser with my all-time favorite mutant vehicle, El Pulpo Mechanico. El Pulpo will have a whole blog devoted to him.