He was supposed to be green, and when we arrived at the gate to receive our usual “welcome home”, you could see him proudly standing in the distance ontop of his canvass mountain. The Green Man of 07 wasn’t green at all…he was black.
On Tuesday, August 28th, Black Rock City was watched over by it’s first black official – the man had been burned unceremoniously early… and we felt a little out of sorts by it all. After all… burning the Man is one of the many reasons we come to the playa…not the only one, of course, but certainly central to our mission.
The day began with the President of the United States…and a flat tire. Not exactly my idea of heading to the Burn on a clear, sunny northern Nevada morning. While I sat at Les Schwab having a nail extracted from my tire, what seemed a small militia of sheriffs and police patrol cars and cycles swarmed into the neighborhood. President Bush was to speak at 10 am across the street at the Reno Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority….and I was directly in his path. Let’s not mention that Hurricane Dean (a category 5 at land fall) had just spent itself in the Pacific waters that week – it seemed like nature was against me this year. Funny thing was…my horoscope that day even told me to be patient because I’d be delayed – and I was on both accounts.
Eventually, the tire was repaired, and I was ushered out a back alley to avoid the “Bush Rush” going on out front. The officer identified me as a “Burner”, and was really more than kind. Little did he know about the Bush T-shirt I had in my bag with just his face sporting devil horns on it. Should I wear it out in protest? Best not risk any trouble before leaving for the playa….so I kept it tucked away. Trust me, I thought of whipping that shirt on, and strolling down to the police for a polite chat….just to watch the reactions on their face. Fate shouldn’t be tempted on your first day of vacation, and I tucked my silent protest away – although it pained me deeply to do so: I was geared up for some protest to our politics and global antics this week.
After meeting at our usual spot in Sparks, we were off to the playa in a caravan. This is actually my favorite part of the trip…the anticipation of going and getting there. We paused past Nixon as we didn’t find our traditional Indian Taco stand in operation. We headed on, stomachs empty and growling….only to find the BEST stand ahead. The ladies who ran the stand were jewels in the desert. Both native American Paiutes…both as sweet, kind, and gentle as they could be. After more than a satisfying meal…we invited them to our camp..which they said they just might visit. After all…they’d been at this stand serving Burners for 8 years…and this year would be the first they would visit the playa. Honored guests, indeed.
Eventually…the road took us home…to the gate and the greeters awaiting.
At first, we were in shock at the news the Man had been destroyed. The news came to us at the gate, which we met with disbelief – and spread the news to our Greeters and Vehicle Inspection Volunteer (or whatever they’re calling themselves these days). In fact, I had the pleasure of actually informing the gate Greeters that the man would be rebuilt. BMIR (Burning Man’s radio station) made the announcement – the man would be rebuilt. “We have the technology and the resources…the man will burn on Saturday night as scheduled” the rather newsy sounding announcer reported. We all did a little dance at the gate… wondering who and why someone could burn “our” man….and feeling a bit of giddy excitement at the somewhat frightening anarchy that had begun this year’s playa celebrations.
Once in, we headed toward our preferred camping area – 2:30 and J or K streets. On the way, we questioned this year’s “Burma Shave” styled sign messaging. It was…well… a little sarcastic for my tastes (and everyone in our camp noted the odd tone in the communications). It seemed to mock those who felt Burning Man had…well…burnt out.
Speaking of burnt out…you could now see the Man clearly standing above the mountainous green tents in the distance…charred black to the bone, but still standing – his head still untouched. Crews were scrambling around the area, and we were informed the Man’s area had been closed until further notice. There were obvious safety concerns, and the area was promptly cleared of all unecessary folks. The crowds had rushed out yelling “Save The Man”! the night before…. today, he stood like a dark shadow over a tent city. But still…he stood…and we were all amazed at whatever motivation (other than anarchy) there might have been in igniting the man early.
Clearly, there seemed two camps arose – those who embraced Paul Addis‘ actions in burning the Man , and those who thought he was nothing but an arsonist that had little regard for the safety of others. As you can probably tell….I fell into the latter camp eventually, but understand that it did fit within the confines of the original intent of the event. As would be on the playa, rumors of Addis’ return to sign autographs circulated the playa which eventually turned out to be just that…rumors. Although I can’t support his actions, or the actions of the alleged BRI (Black Rock Intelligence) organization, it set a precident for everyone to unite around, rather than divide.
For me, I don’t think he’s crazy or a publicity whore, I just don’t think it was his installation to burn. And he claims to be one of the few left with the original burning man spirit. I don’t think burning others art was ever part of that charter – no matter who attended the event.
Within a day, T-shirts arose with “Hero” on one version…and “Arse-o-nist” on the other. But more than a dividing call…we found this act as a catalyst to unite the camps in watching, and participating in the rebuilding of the man. Never before had the man been built in plain site of the crowds…and it was truly exciting and bonding to watch.
No matter what you feel about the early burn…the Man returned…and this time, he had a Phoenix on his face. He was truly, risen from the ashes.
That’s as far as I have the gumption to author about our Burn at this stage. I have amazing stories of generosity…hysterical accounts of naked romps to martini’s (not me!), and weathering white-out conditions together huddled under a plastic tarp together with a bottle of tequila. So many great stories….so many great people. Truly the best of the best.
There’s plenty of time to write about them all…and I plan to.
Stay tuned for more in the weeks ahead!