Early Burn!



Burning Man has many traditions that have grown from a single event. Early Burn began in 1999, when Peter Mars constructed a 15′ tall stick figure that was used as a central survey marker to layout Black Rock City. The last ring road was 2400′ from the center, so they needed something more visible than a single spike in the ground.

1999 EarlyMan built by Peter Mars

1999 EarlyMan built by Peter Mars

After the city layout was complete, the stick figure needed to be removed and the Man built in its place, so it was decided to burn the figure. For the next couple of years, the process was repeated and the early burn became a celebratory event for the crew to mark the construction progress of city infrastructure.

“Burleyman” 2001 built by Rave Boy Walter

Over time, the size and scale of the Man and the City has increased, but the tradition of building a figure from leftover scrap wood and burning it one week before the Gate opens has become an established tradition. The number of impromptu figures has also increased over the years as various departments added their own contributions. Recent events that occur while the crew is working, have also become the subject matter of artistic expression, some of them quite elaborate. In previous years, the fire crew burned a giant fire extinguisher, the communications crew; a giant radio, the office staff; a larger-than-life desk, complete with actual paperwork and office supplies.

fly swatEarly Burn 2015 was the largest ever, with more that two dozen burning figures, including a giant bug with flaming flyswatter, a 1/4th size wooden shipping container, a wooden golf cart, and three versions of ChocoTaco, one of them built by the BLM in a fit of participatory humor. IMG_0773

Monkeys & Skulls in a boat -by Mike Garlington.

Green couch, yellow bikes.

Green couch, yellow bikes.

bottle_0778Sparkle Pony

Someone brought 100 ChocoTacos in a cooler to hand out, and 300 people lit sparklers in a moment of silence for Spoono, a beloved crew member who passed away in his sleep the week before.

Spoono's art car was given a place of honor at the burn.

Spoono’s art car was given a place of honor at the burn.

Early Burn is reminiscent of Burning Mans early years. There are no Rangers ringed around this burn. The crew is quite aware that the intensity of the fire will create its own perimeter and the fireworks will explode directly overhead. You assume the risk…

That first Gold Spike in the ground has also become a ceremonial tradition of its own.





Ephemerisle is an experimental floating community that comes together in the Sacramento River Delta once a year. It is a temporary autonomous zone consisting of a variety of boats, houseboats and constructed floating platforms lashed together to form a floating island, which is secured in place with anchors. This event has been held annually in July since 2009. Ephemerisle is more like 4th of Juplaya than Burning Man. There are no tickets, no central organizers, and no Rangers to keep you safe.

Elysium ArchipelagoThis years 7-day event consisted of approximately 32 boats, 1 floating dance floor (with 4 walkways), 1 floating trampoline, 1 floating ‘hot’ tub and several ‘art boats’. It was attended by more than 400 people, 5 dogs and 6 kittens. The physical infrastructure for Ephemerisle 2015 took two semi-trucks to transport to the nearest dock.

This event has evolved a lot since I showed up at the first one with a sleeping bag, a tent and enough food & drinking water for 3 days.

ephemerisle-warning2The 2015 Survival Guide is filled with lots of useful information; how to get there, how to add your boat to an existing Island, how to build your own island, safety & survival tips and leave no trace practices. You must practice radical self-reliance.

Art Boats are becoming an increasing part of Ephemerisle. Here’s a DeLorean hovercraft:de loren boat

“You know how some people have had the ‘Avatar blues’ after the movie ended, because they couldn’t live in that universe? ….. After you return to reality from Ephemerisle, you’ll get that. The difference is Ephemerisle is real, and you can make it and be part of it. And it can change you, help you discover yourself, discover others, and chisel who you are and what you want out of life.” ———Dan Dascalescu

Photos & Stories:

3984577011_3848ebbc7c_oEphemerisle 2015

Ephemerisle 2014

Ephemerisle 2013

Ephemerisle 2012

Ephemerisle 2011

Ephemerisle 2010

Ephemerisle 2009

Video documentary about the first Ephemerisle: <2009 video>

Planned dates for the next 5 years:
July 11 – 17, 2016
July 17 – 23, 2017
July 16 – 22, 2018
July 15 – 21, 2019
July 13 – 19, 2020

See you in the water.Ephemerisle 2009

The Black Rock Saloon



outside 3

The Black Rock Saloon is Burning Man’s private social club in Gerlach.


There’s lots of interesting decor inside the Saloon. Photographs of DPW staff members hang on the walls. Several of the original signs that once stood at the highway-to-playa entrance, are reminders of Burning Man themes from years past.

pool BRSaloon. 93

There is a reverence to some of the altar-like pieces scattered about.


“Fifteen years and six continents
Five lives and countless memories
The trail of duty and the path of peace
These boots have traveled them all
They began their journey in a distant desert
They now end their journey in this one-
The place so many of us call home”

And there is a certain style of humor that burners appreciate.


The original building was constructed in the 1940s and has served as a bar/restaurant for most of its life. When Burning Man first arrived in 1990, it was called Norm’s Cabaret.

Sometime around 2001, a porch was added to the front and the name was changed to Black Rock Saloon when it was acquired by Joan Grant, who also owned a ranch in the nearby Hualapai Valley.

In 2004, Burning Man acquired the Black Rock Saloon for use by it’s staff and volunteers.

There is a lot of history in this bar. During the 1940s & 50s, rodeos were held in a large corral south of Gerlach, and it was one of the 6 or 7 bars in town that was popular with the cowboys. There is a story, that on more than one occasion, a drunken cowboy would ride his horse thru the front doors and up to the bar and demand another round. In the 1990s, the local justice-of-the-peace, known as “Judge Phil” would stumble into the bar carrying his loaded AR-15. During the early 2000s, the Black Rock Saloon became a favorite hangout for burners passing thru town. After Burning Man acquired the bar, the post-event donations from participants insured a good supply of free drinks and food for the clean-up crew after working on-playa all day. It became a custom for DPW members to carve their playa radio names into the long bar during an evening of drinking. Over the last decade, this bar top has acquired a luxurious patina with hundreds of names carved into it.

bar long view_0875

Here are a few:

DarkAngel DA
JeneRator bar curley 3
QuietEarp bar_0878

Along with these names are a few quotes that hint at historical events or express ideas that reflect the character of DPW.

Frankly, we don’t give a damn about your camp.

camp fyc_0879

Then there is the legendary “Who Shot Flash?”
who shot flash_0867
It was one dark night in 1998, that Flash Hopkins, an abrasive character and self-proclaimed mayor of Gerlach, walked out of the nearby Miners Club and into a hail of .38 slugs. Bleeding from two bullet wounds (one in the leg and the other to his posterior), he stumbled back into the bar and exclaimed; “Give me some whiskey, boys. I wanna die like a cowboy. I wanna die like Eli Wallach.” He survived, resigned his claim of mayor, left town and stayed away for several years. Annette Silas, a bartender at the Black Rock Saloon, was later arrested for the shooting. (Whatever you do, Don’t mess with the bartender.) This tale has been retold around burn barrels along with this admonishment: “Don’t go fishing in Lake Lahontan without a Annette.”

State Of The Arts




On July 29, I represented Burning Man at the annual State Of The Arts symposium, which was held at the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno. The symposium covered three main topics: the missions of arts organizations, creative education in schools, and the economic impact of the arts in the northern Nevada region. I was one of 18 panelists, which included these organizations:

• Artown
• Arts For All Nevada
• Bruka Theater
• Burning Man
• Capital City Arts Initiative
• The Discovery Museum
• Holland Project
• KNPB Public Broadcasting
• Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival
• Nevada Museum of Art
• Reno Chamber Orchestra
• Reno Little Theater
• Reno Philharmonic
• Sierra Arts Foundation
• Sierra Nevada Ballet
• St Mary’s Art Center
• University of Nevada

Our discussion centered on where the arts are now and the possibilities for arts culture in the future. Much of the conversation focused on the local lack of jobs in the arts industry, the difficulty in obtaining funding for nonprofit groups, and the need for arts within the educational system. Reno is in the midst of a changing economy, casinos are in decline and tech companies like Tesla & Switch are moving into the area.
reno tech

“We have to develop our audiences,” – Beth Macmillan, executive director of Artown, the annual, month-long art festival in July. Many of the leaders emphasized the importance of attracting outside audiences, not just local ones. “Tourists want an authentic experience so they want to go where the locals go,” – Christine Fey, resource development and cultural affairs manager for the city of Reno.


Attracting people is a mysterious process. I observed that “Burning Man has the ability to attract 70,000 people to one of the harshest desert environments in America. Theoretically, Reno has the advantage— it has many vacant hotel rooms with flush toilets, and ChocoTacos right at the corner store.” News of Burning Man’s negotiations with the BLM is closely followed by Reno-ites; the ensuing laughter showed that the audience caught the reference.

During the Q& A session, I was asked “What is Burning Man doing to support education in the local area?” I responded that there have been several initiatives which have gone beyond the orange fence, including Burners Without Borders and Black Rock Solar, which was the first non-profit solar company in the US. While we do not yet have an educational outreach program, we do have Kidsville at the event, a place where kids can play, learn and create art.

There was some discussion about marketing on social media, using crowdfunding to gather contributions and looking at ways to partner with other groups. Consultant Karen Craig, of Creative Cities, reminded the 18 panelists and the audience, that — between all of the represented organizations — they had a total budget of about $50 million annually.

David Walker, executive director of the Nevada Museum of Art, stated that “People invest in really good ideas,”

But what exactly is the idea that makes Burning Man attractive? I pointed out: “Few people realize this, but Burning Man is really in the ranching business. Once a year, we roundup a bunch of creatives, corral them out in the desert and have an art rodeo. Now we’re trying to figure out how to support these artists beyond the desert.”

It is clear that Reno is currently at the Event Horizon of Burning Man.

Our Master of Ceremonies for this State of the Arts symposium was Amanda Horn, Director of Communications at Nevada Museum of Art. Her face was strangely familiar to me, but it wasn’t until our conversation after the symposium that I found out I had seen her at Burning Man many years ago— when she was on a playa stage, performing with The Circus at The End of the World.

.                                             Indeed, We Are Everywhere.

Element 11 Regional Burn



E11_0661 14 years ago, during my Road Trip Across America, I attended “Synorgy,” the 3rd annual Utah Regional burn. In 2015, I returned to Utah for “Under The Stars,” which was hosted by Element 11. WHAT IS ELEMENT 11? “el·e·ment 11 (ˈeləmənt/) noun 1. Sodium – salt: The eleventh element on the periodic table; the sixth most abundant element on earth. A regional characteristic of Utah, given the Bonneville Salt Flats and the Great Salt Lake. 2. A volunteer-based, non-profit organization with the mission to ignite a culture of creativity and self-expression! We provide a canvas for our community to play, dance, evolve, create & ignite. 3. A sanctioned regional Burning Man festival event dedicated to the Ten Principles and ethos of Burning Man. The Element 11 (E11) Arts Festival (Utah Regional Burn) is held the second weekend of July each year. 4. A community of radically, self-expressive artists, creators, innovators, do-ers, and participants who see art in all forms, in all ways, and in all people.”


I have decided that UTAH is just like the rest of the United States… but with a bi-polar disorder. MormonismUtah has an interesting history, which is largely influenced by a religion founded in 1823 by a 17-year old boy obsessed with angelic visions, magic eyeglasses, a smart rock, and gold plates inscribed with secret hieroglyphics. And it’s not surprising that underwear and polygamy would be an important part of a young mans career choice at that time. This was the frontier religion that dominated the Utah Territory until it was invaded by the United States Army in 1857, which resulted in a year-long period where plowshares were turned into swords. Finally, in 1861, the Utah Territory was divided into Colorado, Nevada and Utah.

E11_0679After a 45-minute drive on a dirt road in a remote part of western Utah, I arrived at the Stargazer Ranch, which is the new home for the Utah Regional burn. I set up my camp between a polyamorous family and a gay anti-goverment pro-gun survivalist. They were all really nice people. They were all burners. We are members of the same global tribe. A great thing about being a burner is that I might have weird neighbors, but I don’t have to kill them because they offended my god. Stargazer Ranch is located in a vast sagebrush basin with beautiful views. It could be a training ground for Black Rock; a little dust, a little heat, a little wind. There were about 1200 participants at “Under The Stars.” It reminded me of the early days of Burning Man out on the playa. This is what a post-apocalyptic community would look like before the gas & water runs out on Fury Road.

E11_0670 I was camped across the street from Cosmic Recess and on same block as the School of Safe Sex. E11_0649 In addition to the art, a handfull of theme camps and a few art cars, there were a variety of amusements, including a swing set, a teeter totter and a big slide. The day before the gate opened, the slide had fallen over, but now it was back up with more braces welded on.

E11_0645There were 2 representatives from the home office in San Francisco: myself, and Megs, manager of the Burning Man Regional Network. She took the center camp stage a couple of times, and also did a talk about the Global Network and another time for her MegaFlame Cabaret show. She also spoke on the pirate radio station.

e11 coyotrI did my “Coyote Goes to Burning Man” talk in the early afternoon, which was a real challenge because it needs to be pretty dark for anyone to see what comes out of the projector. We threw some additional tarps over the shade structure and with the loan of an industrial size projector, the talk was experienced by a full house. E11_0641

There are lampposts here just like Black Rock City, but these have been modernized with low maintenance solar lights. I also note that they don’t steal the street signs at Element 11, at least not yet.

My favorite bar was the Crypster Saloon, a wild west styled trailer that was kinda like the Front Porch, but stationary.

photo by Jonny George Jemming

photo by Jonny George Jemming

Inside was a wonderfully decorated bar with hundreds of tiny lights in the ceiling. The bartender was dispensing whiskey lemonade punch from a huge container sitting on the bar. The story is that several gallons of whiskey had been harvested from a large collection of antique Jim Bean collectable bottles that had decorated the walls of a brothel in Elko. With each drink the bartender poured, he would announce: “Whiskey straight from the pussy of the Virgin Mary!”

Music was provided by dj Eben Flow, a BRC PG&E veteran, who was spinning some of the best dance music in town, which had most patrons in motion. E11_0648Out behind the saloon, standing on the dirt, was a vintage pinball machine and an equally old PacMan video game. When I ordered my first drink, it was evident that the bartender had been indulging in the holy sacrament all day long, and at one point, late in the evening, he crawled out from behind the bar on his hands and knees and I moved in to take his place behind the bar.

One of the high points that night at the Crypster was when a rhinestone cowboy came in after hunting scorpions with a UV flashlight and a camera. He displayed photos from his venture into the new sport of ‘scorpion watching’.E11 scoprpin The Burn took a while to get started. At this new location, the fire crew was overly cautious about having a large, hot fire on the scale of previous years.


One of 60 alert rangers

It all went very smoothly and orderly. Later, many of us gathered around the warm coals to chat and tell stories. E11_0669

Music and entertainment could be found throughout the night at camps like Ballin’ Oats, Hail Satan, Disco Trolley and Adults Behaving Badly.

E11_0674 Morning after with Ranger Lushus. I was quite impressed by all the Element 11 crew members and volunteers. There was a strong sense of community. I was honored to be presented with a Ranger shirt and an honorary Element 11 Ranger laminate.E11 198

And there was this RV.E11_0673 Maybe Larry has a new sideline?

At E11, the soundscape is not yet out of control.

Less than 5 art cars, 2 ultralights, 1 hover drone, and no lasers.

                                         Someday, I’m going back to the Utah burn.

                                                                               The kids are alright.

Seven Years


In 2008, I created this blog, and then parked it for 7 years. It’s one of many seeds I’ve planted during my life, which will lie dormant until my future self can reach back in time and bring them into being. That’s a long interval between the “create” button, and the “edit first post” button, but I’ve been distracted by creating the future. That is where the FaceThing took my writing and hid it “below the fold.” Now the words bubble back to the surface…


July 17, 2015

Element 11 Regional Burn



Aug 3, 2015

The Black Rock Saloon



Aug 7, 2015




Aug 25, 2015

Early Burn



Sept 21, 2015

How I Spent Burning Man 2015



Oct 19, 2015

Got Virtual Fire?



Nov 15, 2015

Esalen Is Burning



Dec 8, 2015

Rider on a Black Horse



Dec 25, 2015

The Santa Claus Infection



Jan 1, 2016

2001 – a Black Rock Odyssey



Feb 8, 2016

Brides of March (ongoing blog)



April 25, 2016

The Tesla Tour



May 1, 2016

Rust Belt Revival



Dec 25, 2016

A History of Christmas- by Gerry Bowler



April 20, 2017

The Future is now, at the Salton Sea



May 21, 2017

The King is Dead



Dec 9, 2017

A Badge of Honor