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.
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