… It was my second year at this double-decade bash that started as a jilted-love seaside party for 40 people at Baker’s Beach in San Francisco back in the Eighties, and has grown to one of the largest techno/art gatherings in the country. My young son, Gorio, who’s only nine, was insistent on coming along this year, and so we turned it into a family reunion, with my brother Doug from San Jose bringing a large mobile home as shelter (essential on the dusty, wind-whipped playa) and my eldest daughter (Iris Willow) and her boyfriend of San Francisco joining us at the Goodtimes Drum Camp. A dedicated drummer, Doug brought along a raft of djembes we played when we weren’t biking around the encampment … Imagine a city of 50,000 folks plopped down on a (very) dry lakebed in rural Nevada. A half-circle urban design of 13 named rings, with alphabetical street names like (A)rctic, (B)oreal, etc. – divided by 2/2:30/3/3:30/etcetera cross streets. With that structure, our camp ended up with an address of 4:55 & (K)elp Forest at one of the outer (mostly residential) rings. And there were literally hundreds of theme camps, many offering unbelievable services, including dozens of bars, lecture pavilions, dance halls, a roller skating rink, light shows, art exhibits, food, workshops, and so much more … You have to understand that once you pay the fee to enter Black Rock City (as the site is called), everything is free. So, the tradition is for a giveaway – people bring things to give others. Including booze. All free. Food. All free. Star Wars light sabers (for a huge playa mock battle we got to join in). Free. I even got a Monopoly-like Get Out of Hell Free card. … But maybe the most amazing thing about this week-long party is the transportation methods. People walk. It’s a small city – a mile or two across. But most people bike – day and night. And although road vehicles are outlawed, art cars are encouraged. And not just cars – buses tricked up as floats (pirate ships, fantasy critters, cupcakes) and traveling parties, replete with loud music, light shows, revelers, generators. It’s a crazy mélange of pedestrians, cyclists and motor vehicles – all without benefit of stoplights, roundabouts, stopsigns, or traffic cops. And yet in the entire week of mobile anarchy I only saw one person crash, and then only a minor fall without any injury. And at night the cacophony of light and sound was overwhelming. It was total sensory overload … I spent a lot of time wandering around with Gorio. But he cashed in early each evening, while I stayed up until dawn several nights, drinking with friends and strangers, dancing my heart out at the numerous dance clubs on the main esplanade … That’s just a flavor. Catch me personally and I can share more of the stories. But if you’re willing to miss our wonderful Film Fest one year, you ought to check out Burning Man. It’s a party not to miss.
VANESSA BOYD … At last year’s Burning Man, I heard a dazzling jazz vocalist. This year, wandering about in the wee hours, I found the Lost Penguin Lounge and rock vocalist Vanessa Boyd in performance. She was dynamite. Her colorations and vocalizations had me in thrall. And at the end I got one of the CDs she gave away, Hunger (remember everything’s free). I played it non-stop on the 800-mile trip home, and loved every minute of it … Check out her website and listen in, www.vanessaboyd.com. I’m hoping we can bring her here for a performance one day.
ONE FUNNY STORY … Traveling out to Burning Man was a three day adventure with Gorio and I stopping often to camp, to take hot springs dips and to just enjoy a moment out of the vehicle breathing the Loneliest Highway in the Country route air. It was gorgeous. But by late in the second day, I was growing sleepy and decided to pull over for a short early evening nap on Rabbit Ears Pass heading west into Nevada. We were on our way to Spencer Hot Springs where we’d planned to camp. But no sooner had we pulled over and started to doze off, when a van with Colorado plates pulled up alongside. Rolling down the window, I found myself talking to folks from Grand Junction who knew me, and wanted directions to Spencer … Now I’m used to being recognized in the oddest of places, but this had to be the oddest of all … We gave the “White Whale” burners the directions they sought, and went back to sleep. A few hours later we arrived at the Smoky Valley, taking the eastern short cut to Spencer off of Highway 50, only to find the aforesaid White Whale wandering around the hills, completely lost. We rounded them up and led them in the dark on the right path to the hot springs and all camped, after a lovely soak.
CUTTING CORNERS … By now, if you’re a commuter who takes the shortcut around the increasingly capricious Keystone one-lane wait, you know where Morgan’s Corner is … But who out there has been to Cannonball Caleb’s Corner, here in San Miguel County? Anyone who can tell me where that corner is?
WEEKLY QUOTA … "Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use." – Emily Post
THE TALKING GOURD
Fort Juniper, Midsummer
Scything down the overgrowth
around the cabin, my sweat drops in rhythm
to the swing of each swing of the blade.
The sprinkling of sap pelts
the understory of birch and oak
from the towering branches of white pine.
An amber rain falls through the simmer of wind
from the canopy in the sunlight.
When I stop to rest, and lean
on the scythe's handle, I inhale
the sweetness of the fragrance released
by the fallen sheaves of cut swale –
listen to the lucid notes
of a thrush's song honey the air.
– Wally Swist