My photos are here

Monday, December 29, 2003

why a post in December?

I'll tell you why: I was rereading some entries last night and realized that every post from 21 August to 27 August was missing. I distinctly remembered writing several entries during that time, so I went hunting and discovered that due to some upgrades my publishing engine made, some of my settings were reset and only a limited number of posts were displaying (at least I think it was their fault. then again, it could be mine). I've fixed everything and all posts should be displaying correctly, so read them if you want, or don't...

Thursday, September 18, 2003

Awesome article on SFGate - check it out

Monday, September 15, 2003

Just a couple of updates and clarifications of rumours... the three reported deaths in the second plane crash were not accurate - I believe four people were taken to hospital, the pilot was in serious condition and later died - the others made it through. The other death, the one involving the art car, was confirmed: Kathy Lampman, 21, from Belmont California died early Saturday morning as she was disembarking from a slow moving art car. The Burning Man community mourns for our fallen friends.

You will have noticed the link above to my photo gallery - those are just the ones I took with Mike's digital camera - I'll post more pictures when I get my film developed and scanned from my other camera. To your right, I've posted links to other photo galleries and Burning Man sites, and will continue to do so as I find more... there are some fabulous photographers out there that have done a much better job of capturing the visual atmosphere of BM than I could.

Caesar was a regular visitor to our camp and has a good write up and photo album for you to look at. Check it out. Also, here are Glenn's pictures (Glenn is the Ottawa rep, and sort-of-co-organizer of SARS Camp).

This will probably be pretty much it as far as journal entries go here... I may post a link or two here and there, and maybe a little something after the Decompression Party, but my journey is pretty much done for this year... I will no doubt do something similar next year, and I'll be sure to let you all know. If you have any questions, or want to contact me for any reason, send an email to dave(at)posativ(dot)com. Burn On!

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

Monday - The Aftermath
It was insanely hard leaving today. After spending such an amazing week with my campmates, it was difficult to say goodbye, even though I know I'll see them all when they get back to Ottawa. It's hard to leave the playa and the freedom and the creativity and the people of Black Rock City. We've all been a part of something so great and so powerful and so intense and we've built this city from dust to bustling and now we have to tear it all down and return to our default lives.

I got all my stuff packed up, handed out some food and booze I didn't use to some guys across the road whose supplies had run low. I finally tracked down Scott, who I hadn't seen all week, and arranged to pick him up at his camp. I hugged all my campmates and headed off... it'll be odd to see all these folks back in Ottawa, wearing normal clothes, sober, clean, rested. It all had to end sometime, I suppose. I took one last look around the quickly depleting Black Rock City and headed off.

The ride back to Reno was relatively uneventful - there was a minivan that had flipped over on the side of the road, but it didn't look like anyone was hurt. We stopped in Gerlach and some locals washed the outside of our car with a couple of firehoses and soap and towels - they did a great job, well worth the $6 considering last year Petr and I spent three hours cleaning our car!

I checked into the hotel next to the airport and since Scott had a few hours to kill before his flight, he came in to shower and go for a swim. We went down to the swiming pool/jacuzzi area to find a number of burners enjoying the facilities. It's still so amazing to me that feeling of community that burners feel, even offplaya. We sat and talked for some time with a couple of guys in the Jacuzzi, and then went out to the pool for a swim and found a couple of other guys from New York, one of whom Scott had done some body painting for earlier in the week.

Afterwards, I drove Scott over to the airport, and then set about repacking all of my gear once I got back to the hotel parking lot. When I finally got everything jammed back into my boxes, I headed up to my room. Feeling exhausted, I was just about to settle into bed for the night when I realized how hungry I was, so I headed down to the hotel restaurant for a meal. As it turns out, the waitress seated me right next to the guys from New York we had met earlier, so they invited me to join them for dinner. We all sat around and talked about our experiences on the playa, sharing bits of rumours we had heard, describing the most beautiful things we had seen, and just generally decompressing by talking. When we were saying goodnight, these three guys who I had met only hours before offered hugs before hopping onto the elevator to their rooms.

Tuesday, September 02, 2003

Sunday Night - The Temple
Having not slept on Saturday night, Sunday was a pretty nothing day... a lot of just lying around, trying to nap in the heat of the day... later in the afternoon, the winds started to pick up again - we had been relatively dust-storm free for a few days - the winds gradually got stronger and stronger, until the dust storm was so fierce that we couldn't see the school bus across the road from our camp - total whiteout. The handful of us at the camp decided to wait out the storm in the RV, since we could barely see or hear each other outside.

We began to worry that if the winds kept up, the burn wouldn't happen... nightfall would mean one of two things: either the winds would die down, or the storm would get a lot worse. Luckily, it was the former... as the sun went down, things started to calm down a bit and the rest of our campmates slowly returned from the various places across the playa where they had been trapped during the storm and we all got ready to head out for the burn.

I love the temple burn. The temple burn for many burners has come to symbolize what Burning Man really is all about. When the man burns, it's all spectacle and glitz and craziness. When the temple burns, it's a truly personal, emotional experience for many. The temple has become a place where people become emotionally attached, placing dedications and monuments to loved ones who have passed on. When the time comes to burn it, there is release and the experience is much more personal than the burn the night before. All this, plus the crowds are much smaller as many of the 'weekenders' have gone home, and most of the leftovers are the hardcore burners - the ones who've also probably been around since the beginning of the week.

I took it pretty easy tonight- I was still pretty tired from not sleeping Saturday night, so I decided to have a chill night. Once the gang was all ready and the storm had completely subsided, we all headed down for the burn. On the way out, a guy stopped our group and asked if we all wanted firesticks, to which the only response could be, "Hell yeah!" So he handed us each a thick bamboo pole for burning when we could get close enough.

As we passed the ring of art cars, a guy on the second deck of one of them shouted to the crowd below, "I love you! I love all of you!" To which someone in the crowd responded, "We love you!" Which sparked an argument between 6 people about who loved who... only at Burning Man.

We were pretty far back when the temple began to burn, but the thing is huge so there's not really a bad spot on the playa for viewing the burn. The wall of flame that rose up was mesmirizing... I was in awe, I don't think anyone in our group said anything until after the structure fell. We slowly moved forward as the crowd thinned out before us until we were right next to the fallen structure - and damn, it was hot!

Firestick in hand, I decided to walk around the fire a few times - it was an amazing experience- moving around the fire, you try not to stop for too long at any time or else the heat would become too intense. That is, most of us try not to stop for too long... there were three naked dudes on one end of the fire, lying down with their heads less than a foot away from the edge of the glowing embers... madmen!

There were drummers, and singers and chanting and the whole scene was just beautiful. Those of us with firesticks got them lit and carried them around the fire a few times as torches before throwing them in. We stood around the fire for some time, enjoying the scene... At some point, Karen wasn't feeling well so the group I was with headed back to camp where I spent the rest of the night just chatting with whoever happened through.

Monday, September 01, 2003

The Man is gone. The temple is gone. So is most of Black Rock City - I'm in Reno right now. I wanted to write so much the last few days, but it got pretty insane, and I was in no state to be writing at night. I'm going to split this post up into two parts for each burn night, and a third for the aftermath - they will appear over the next few days.

Saturday Night - The Man
What a fantastic night I had. The burn was phenomenal - the temple structure around the man burned incredibly. Unfortunately, they ran into some problems when they were raising the man's arms - apparently there was a mechanical problem with the locks that are supposed to hold the arms up, and one of the arms ended up falling and the neon shattered and half of him went dark... we all had a good laugh because Simon, a friend of some of the folks in our camp and head of the DPW (Department of Public Works) construction crew was responsible for the rigging. So we got to make fun of him.

Before the big show, there were a bunch of protesters out holding plackards and yelling "Save the Man! He didn't do it! He's innocent!" Funny... there was a pretty big group of them this year, and they seemed to be pretty organized. There was no art car procession this year - for some reason, there weren't very many fire-related art cars... so they got right into the fire spinners and dancers - which is always amazing. There were so many of them this year, and you wouldn't believe what some of these people can do!

The fireworks show was pretty amazing - it started with a giant bang and a shower of white sparks that lasted about thirty seconds and the whole show went on for about ten minutes before the man started to burn. And man, did it burn! It was spectacular - the whole structure was enveloped in a few minutes - the man fell backwards, but we had been sitting behind him, so it fell forwards to us. I had been hanging out with Petr, Jamie and Priya and when the entire structure had fallen, we made our way into the middle of the crowd to be near the fire. It gets pretty crazy in there, but there's something so awesome and powerful about a fire that size, that just draws you in...

Eventually, Priya decided to go find some other folks, and Petr, Jamie and I took a little tour around looking for some good music to dance to. It was a charged atmosphere everywhere around the Esplanade - so many people out for the big party. That's the one thing I'm not crazy about the night of the burn - there are so many weekenders and tourists and frat boys that come out and the atmosphere really changes - there's this tension in the air that builds over the last few days of the week, and by Saturday night, the place feels like a powder keg. The Sunday night burn has become for most old-timers and true burners the highlight of the week, but I'll talk about that later.

After an hour or so of wandering around, the three of us decided to go visit the site where the man used to stand... the fire had died down considerably, and now there was a handful of smallish fires with people sitting, standing or dancing around them. We picked one and sat in the man's ashes, surrounded by his glowing embers... it was filthy, but it was so peaceful and warm and somber compared to the rest of the parties around the playa. There were a handful of drummers, a saxaphone and a trumpet around the circle and together they provided a stunningly beautiful improvised soundtrack to the moment. Others were dancing, sitting quietly, singing, or just staring into the fire reflecting on the week passed.

I pondered the metaphor of the Man, and what his burn symbolizes. Throughout the week, the man stands as the largest, most recognizable landmark in the city. He is the lighthouse that guides you home at night. When orienting yourself in the city, you pick your path by looking at the man and figuring out where you are and where you need to go. You spend a week discovering a new way of living, building a community on the tenets of creativity, love and sharing. You learn and grow and create and express yourself in ways you never imagined in the outside world, and all the while the man looks on. At the end of the week when the man is gone, your bearings get all screwed up. You have to find new ways of navigating around the city. You've been turned loose into the great dark world, with no guiding light. This is where you're supposed to go and take with you the things you've learned here and shine your own small light in your community.

After some time we all decided to head back up to camp for a bit to replenish our supplies and see if anyone was around. Petr ended up crashing, and Jamie and I headed down to Reorient, the giant dance club at the end of the Esplanade. I had been dying all week to catch the sunrise out here, and had decided that this would be the night/morning... Jamie didn't stay long, but I stayed dancing all night until the sunrise came, and it turned out to be the hightlight of the week for me.

As the night slipped away and the sky began to turn light, you could see people scattered everywhere on the Playa, waiting for the sun to appear over the horizon. Everyone in the nightclub was dancing facing the direction of the sunrise. Half the club danced their way out onto the playa outside the club, facing the sunrise. Some people danced far far out onto the playa, calling the sun, cheering it on. At the moment before the sun peeked over the mountains, the DJ dropped in a remix of U2's Beautiful Day that sent shivers up my spine. When the sun broke, the track playing had the chorus, "It's just so fucking beautiful"... which it was. A perfect end to an incredible night.

After the sunrise, I walked back up to camp to find Mathias sitting on top of the RV - having woken up just before sunrise, he decided to catch it from up there. We sat for a while and talked... apparently, there had been some thefts in the neighbourhood the night before - how horrible... there are people that come out to Burning Man just to take advantage of the fact that everyone in the city is down at the Man on Saturday night. Priya came home shortly after and told us that some friends of hers had lost close to $5,000 worth of gear from their camp.

It's amazing to me that with the number of government and law enforcement agencies out here, they can't even be bothered to spare a patrol or two to assist in protecting the city on burn nights. They're more interested in getting petty drug possession arrests than protecting the citizens of Black Rock City. To them, we're just a bunch of hippie stoners. It's especially disheartening to realize that this city that we build out here on foundations of love and sharing and creativity, is really just as susceptible as every other city in the world... the bigger it gets, the more bad elements it will attract, looking to take advantage of our loving, trusting environment.

Saturday, August 30, 2003

It's burn night. Things are getting crazy around here - the place is really filled in - apparently they figure there's about 35,000 people here this year. The parties have been going strong 24/7 - I ended up crashing a little early last night, but I got up just before sunrise and caught a few of my campmates on their way back. Tonight will be my allnighter- apparently the sunrises are amazing out here, and I'm pretty sure I'll be able to find a party tonight.

There's this really amazing piece of art way out on the playa - I wish I could get my pictures to upload - you'll just have to wait.. it's called the Temple of Gravity - it's made up of 8 slabs of granite weighing about 9 tons each - four are on the ground, and the other four are suspended on this heavy metal rigging in the shape of a pyramid. It's unreal. Apparently that's where the party was last night.

Some of us got up early this morning to go out to the airport (oh yeah, there's an airport here) to see if we could catch a ride up over the city. Four people from our group managed to get rides, and three of us were supposed to go back tonight to arrange another trip, but I don't think that's happening now - apparently there was a plane crash this afternoon and three people died - pretty frightening. There was a crash yesterday too, but nobody was hurt. There was an incident with an art car last night as well where someone was seriously hurt or killed (the rumours haven't been confirmed).

There was another Canadian Cocktail Party last night at Snowflake Village - man, there's a lot of Canadians here - and we're very popular! Apparently Glenn was talking to someone last night who told him that every cool person he's met here has been Canadian. We're also very popular for our poutine - we finished it all off last night - it was great, we had lineups! Our neighbours love us - they're all repeat customers. So much fun.

There are so many amazing things out here, I don't even know where to start. The man is huge this year, as is the Temple of Honor... should be a really good burn.

I'm really glad I came down earlier this year - there really is such a big difference in the tone around here between early in the week and later when all the "weekenders" and "yahoos" show up. You can really feel it when you're walking around the Esplanade or Center Camp - people seem more standoffish and not quite as friendly as earlier in the week. Part of that is probably crankiness due to heat exhaustion, but there's definitely a different vibe coming from the people that show up just for the party.

It's been such a great time camping with SARS Camp - everybody is really generous and fun and good to hang out with. They've all been really enthusiastic and helpful with the poutine, and are all gung-ho about doing it up even bigger next year - there's talk of raising money to buy a propane-powered deep fryer and going mobile (ideally finding a chip truck or faking one).

Anyway, I've gotta go track down an outfit for tonight. Burn, baby, BURN!!!

Thursday, August 28, 2003

My apologies for the delay in updates... internet access has been intermittent at our camp - so photos are near impossible to upload, but I've been taking lots so I'll be sure to send them up as soon as I can get a stable connection.

Last night was great - the poutine has been going off amazingly - people love it - yesterday we served for almost three hours.

The weather has been great this week - tuesday was cloudy and windy, but it was a nice break from the usually scorching heat. There have been a number of dust storms this week, making tooling around on the playa loads of fun... I was out by the Man yesterday when a near-whiteout kicked up - I couldn't see more than 30 feet in front of me.

There was a Canadian Cocktail Party last night at Beyond Borders camp - I met some dude that develops in ColdFusion and geeked out for a little while... and got way too loaded.

I'm now reasonably certain that I bought way too much food. I think I'll be able to send some of it back with one of the driving crews though.

Well, I'm off to tour around Center Camp and see if I can find a bank of porta potties without a lineup.

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Project: Poutine on the Playa has been an amazing success - our first day was phenomenal - people loved it! We had all kinds of people swarming our camp for the two hours we were serving it up today. There are tonnes of Canadians out here - and many of them stopped by - and the Americans, though unsure and hesitant at first, were amazed that they had never heard of such a dish. One thing that really blew my mind was the generosity I experienced in return: I was gifted so many times afterward - I got t-shirts from the Transexuals down the road, I got Deputized as a Love Deputy by some dude that we shouted down as he rode by our camp, I got a pile of body glitter, and countless invites to parties around the playa. So much fun - I can't wait to do it again tomorrow!

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

3am. It's good to be back. What a night it's been. I'm so happy to have hooked up with the crew I'm camping with - this is going to be an amazing trip. Once I got settled in and everything, just after nightfall, Petr and I took a little stroll out to the man and took a little random wander around the playa - saw this really beautiful musical installation that I tried to take pictures of, but I don't think they could possibly do it justice... so beautiful - it's hard to describe - it looks like a harp, all outlined in christmas lights and there are two touch-sensitive pads in front that control the sounds coming out of it as well as the lights... you step on different squares on the pads to make different sounds - it's really cool... The man looks great - the structure surrounding him isn't finished yet - the Temple of Honour looks like it'll be amazing, I hope they finish it in time... I'm sure they will, these things have their way of working themselves out.

A really cool moment happened out on the Esplanade tonight - we were walking along, and I stepped on something, and it sounded like glass crushing, sure enough, a black light bulb had fallen off an art car, and was now lying in pieces on the playa - suddenly there was a swarm of people crowding around, picking up the pieces and not five minutes later, the ground was spotless - not a shard of glass left.

So much to see and do, I wonder how I'll ever sleep...

Sunday, August 24, 2003

I think I should have gotten a bigger car. I just got back from supply shopping - I bought all of my personal food and Project: Poutine on the Playa supplies. I haven't even bought my water yet, and I'm not sure how I'm going to get all of this stuff in the car, let alone Scott's stuff when I pick him up tomorrow. He said he'd be travelling light... I hope he meant it.

I find it really hard to know how much is enough when buying for an event like this... I mean, you have to SURVIVE in the desert for a full week. The last thing you want to do is bring too little, but overbuying can mean you're spending a small fortune on stuff you may not need. And it's not like I can bring any of this stuff home with me - my travel bins were jam packed on the way over here.

I bought some things that are non-consummable that will have to stay behind: at WalMart, I bought a $13 cooler and a $4 camping chair... If I can get someone from the driving groups to take them home, cool - but otherwise I'll just donate them to someone.

I'll definitely be eating better this year: since I brought a stove, that opened up all kinds of options and since I have to keep the cheese for the poutine cool anyway, I figured I could buy some other fresh stuff instead of all that non-refridgerated meat stuff I bought last year. So I picked up some grilled chicken, pasta and sauces, hot dogs, and even some bacon (mmm... bacon). I also bought two loaves of bread and some peanut butter and jam. (not to mention all-I-can-stand poutine!)

Beverage-wise, I think I'm pretty well set: 3 cases of 30 cans of MGD (sadly, no Heineken), a case of Red Bull, a case of Brisk Iced Tea, and a case of Gatorade. With all that, I should need much less water than previously... probably just a 5 gallon jug, maybe a little more. I should also have plenty to share as well - even I'd have a tough go of drinking 90 beers in a week.

My one concern now is that I'm going to have to wash some damn dishes - I need to think about what to do with the gray water. You can't dump that stuff on the Playa - it kinda goes against the whole 'leave no trace' thing. I think we'll just have to be disciplined about it - use very little water and bring a big jug to store it in and haul it out.

In about 24 hours from now I'll be out on the playa, settling into my home for the week... I'm anxious, I'm excited, I'm a touch nervous. I think it's going to be loads of fun camping with the other Ottawa folks. I hope Petr shows up and finds us in a reasonable amount of time - he's got my bike, so I'm not going to be terribly mobile till he gets there. (UPDATE: I just got a phone message from Petr - apparently, they're expecting to arrive early Monday morning - they must really be flooring it!)

I can't wait to be out there, see the Man in all his neon glory, envelop myself in the Burning Man culture and ethos. There's something magical that happens out there, something so incredible that it changes people's lives. It's something that I could never sum up in words, and pictures help but a little... I hope you all get a kick out of my ramblings here, but what I really hope is that it inspires you just a little - even if you can't be here, I want to share it with you and hope that you see and feel some small part of what's drawn me back.

Saturday, August 23, 2003

Precarious Internet: I managed to get a stable connection just outside my room... with my laptop balanced precariously on the ledge of my balcony, I can get a pretty good signal (thank you, shaz... whoever you are). When I was out this afternoon, it amazed me how many open networks I found on my drive along S. Virginia - if I hadn't gotten the signal here, I wouldn't have had much of a problem finding alternate access just up the road.

I was out shopping for a while this afternoon. Didn't get tonnes of stuff - some flashlights, butane for my stove, some batteries, a hat, a wash basin and a couple packs of gum... I spent a lot of time in shoe stores - I've been dying for a new pair of sandals... but alas, I have yet to find a pair that will suit my needs.

I ran into some other burners at Twin City Surplus - damn, those folks must make a killing off BM. It's an army surplus warehouse style place - they carry everything you could imagine, and some things you wouldn't even know existed, all at a decent price and served up with a healthy dose of friendly service.

Oh yeah, I take back what I said yesterday about the weather - damn it's hot today!

11am - Another downside to staying in Downtown Reno is that there's a rail line that runs right through the heart of the city... remember what I said about the walls around here?

I'm sitting in "World Famous" Mel's Diner, a 50's style diner downstairs in my hotel, waiting for breakfast. After this, I'll go upstairs and make a list of the places I need to go and what I need to get. I still haven't been able to get a stable wireless connection... I haven't picked up any signals anywhere but in my room - I took a walk around the hallways and downstairs and the parking lot last night... nothing. I'll take my laptop with me this afternoon and do a little "war driving" and see if I can find something. Apparently there's a Kinko's somewhere nearby, but who wants to pay for internet access?

Friday, August 22, 2003

My flight from Ottawa to Chicago was delayed this morning because of a jammed seatbelt in the cockpit. This unfortunately meant I didn't make my connection in Chicago and ended up sitting around for two hours for the next departure. I spent a good portion of this time wandering around looking for a bank machine so I could get money for some breakfast. Why don't they have debit machines anywhere here? It's amazing how pervasive that technology is back home, that you can go just about anywhere and not have to worry about carrying cash.

I didn't sleep at all last night - there was no way I'd make it to the airport at 5am if I had slept... so it made for a long tired day. I slept for a good portion of the flights, but as you can imagine, they weren't the most comfortable sleeps.

I arrived in Reno at about noon local time and then had to wait in line at the car rental counter for an obscene amount of time. When I finally stepped outside, it wasn't nearly as hot as I had expected, and there were quite a few clouds in the sky. I hope the weather gets better.

When I booked my hotel last week, I based my decision mainly on price, and I hadn't really done any research into the location or rating. The Sands Regency is right in the heart of seedy downtown Reno and its decor and atmosphere leave a little to be desired. The room is clean and all, and the clientele seem normal enough, but in retrospect I probably should have shelled out a few extra bucks and stuck with the tried and true Peppermill Hotel where I stayed last year. It's a little newer and is just on the outskirts of downtown, making it easier to get out to the stores for supply shopping.

The hotel doesn't offer internet access, and there's nothing really close by but I've been "sniffing" with my wireless card and have actually had intermittent access to as many as four open wireless internet connections. So far I haven't been able to get a stable connection, so I'm writing this offline for now, but I'm hoping that later in the evening there'll be less interference and I'll be able to get a solid connection and post this tonight. Otherwise, it'll just have to wait till tomorrow.

When I got to my room today, the only thing I wanted to do was sleep... I turned on the television, kicked off my shoes, and drifted into some fine afternoon napping. I awoke only an hour or so later to the sound of a band starting up out by the pool where the hotel was throwing a big pool party and swimsuit contest. The band may as well have been in the next room! That's the thing about buildings in this part of the world - there's very little need for insulation, so sound tends to travel through walls like they were paper. So I got up, ordered a burger and a few beers from room service, and caught the network version of frickin' Casino.

Tomorrow I begin gathering supplies.

Derek Powazek had this to say on his website: "It's difficult to explain what that First Time is like to someone who's never been, but everyone who has understands. Have you ever taken a trip that lasted long enough, and was dramatically different enough, that you completely forgot where you came from? It's like that. Except Burning Man isn't the trip. The rest of your life is the trip. Burning Man is coming home."

It's 2am - my flight is at 6:40am, so I probably have to be at the airport somewhere around 5:00am, so I figure I'll just stay up... I don't imagine I'd be waking up otherwise. Everything's packed - with the exception of a few carry-on items that need to go into my small backpack. Unless I'm totally blanking on something, I think I even have everything under control - it's really becoming clear how beneficial this forced week off of work has been.

I've decided that I'll definitely be bringing my laptop and Mike's digital camera. I'll do my best to post here each day and hopefully will be able to get some photos up as well.

August 21, 2003

When you arrive at the gates of Burning Man, the greeters welcome you into the city by saying, "Welcome home." Even if you've never been, that's exactly what it's like - a return home. That's how I felt last year. It's hard to really capture in words that feeling, other than to say that it all seems so familiar and right and comfortable and like no other home you've ever been to, but it just feels like home. Soon I will leave this "default" world and head home... I'll be sure to return with many stories and snapshots of my adventures and share them all with you.

So the stupid Starplates never showed up. I'm not entirely sure what I'll be doing for a shade structure now, but something tells me it's going to be a GREATBIGPAININTHEASS!!!

August 20, 2003

Busy busy busy... what a crazy week it's been! The return home is rapidly approaching, and all I gotta say is thank gahd for this power shortage/forced vacation we've had... I've been running around getting tonnes of stuff done. I finally made a seat cover for the Playa Cruiser! It's tiger print and insanely cool. Hope it holds up - I think it's the first thing I've sewn in about 10 years.

I finally got in touch with the dude with the big damn hat from last year I had mentioned... his name is Scott Fray and you should go to his website and read his "review" from last year: We've actually just been communicating over the last few hours, and it looks like we'll be sharing a rental car from Reno on Monday - that'll help defray costs a bit, phew...

The get-together with the Ottawa Burners from last thursday obviously had to be rescheduled, but we managed to get together on Monday night. What a great bunch of people- I'm really looking forward to camping with them... I think this year is just going to be phenomenal all around!

I can't express how excited I am for this weekend... just to be in the vicinity of the big event. It'll be tough to contain myself and keep from just driving out the second I arrive... but I have to wait till monday - it will give me time to round up the much needed supplies and get a few good nights of sleep.

The countdown is on... I'll try to post once more tomorrow before I leave. I haven't decided if I'm bringing my computer out yet. I'd love to, but I'm afraid it may be too risky... we'll see. It would be insanely cool if I could post pictures of the event while I'm there.

August 13, 2003

Made some gravy in the crock pot last night - success! Also made a larger batch of french fries which worked out fine as well... things are shaping up. My sister made a brilliant suggestion last night for some decorations for The Great Canadian Poutine Stand as it's now being called: get a bunch of beer cups with various Canadian beer logos on them and cut the bottom out of them and stick them on a string of outdoor christmas lights - instacool truly Canadian patio lanterns!

Getting together tomorrow night with some of the Ottawa Burners that are heading down - phew! I'll finally get to know who I'm going to be camping with out there! Got an address too: somewhere in the vicinity of Imagined Dogma. We'll be just down the street from Snowflake Village and the Canadian Embassy where Canuck Burners can register their camps so that fellow canucks know where the friendlies are.

Today I sent a message to someone on the BM Site looking to rideshare out to the Playa... hopefully will be able to share expenses getting out there. Only problem is, they want to return on Sunday, and I think I'd like to wait till Monday so I can see the Temple Burn on Sunday night. I doubt I'd have a problem finding a ride out after if I had to...

I pulled my Playa Cruiser down from the garage last night and cleaned it up a bit - the chain needed oil in a major way, and the tires needed a little air but otherwise it seemed to be doing fine. I took it for a little spin and was reminded just how badly I need to make some sort of padded seat for the damn thing. Tonight, I begin Operation: Cruiser Comfort!

Oh yeah, one of my stupid FRS radios is broken already. Don't know what happened, but I brought them up to the Pig Roast/Bachelor Party this weekend and I'm sure that was my first mistake.

August 12, 2003

Mmmmmm-good. Made some french fries last night in the deep fryer! Damn they were good. I just made a regular sized batch last night - tonight, I'll see what happens if I go over the official capacity. And I'm gonna try out some gravy as well - I'm looking for gravy that I can make in my crock pot that'll keep fairly well for the week.

I also found some storage lockers/packing crates at Wal-Mart for under $20! The label on them said "UPS and Airline approved!" Here's hoping they're right... I forgot to bring the exact dimensions with me to work today, but tomorrow I will and then I'll call to make sure. Given the size and shape of the things, I'm thinking I'd better find a collapsible dolly thing to wheel them around on - once I get into Reno, I'm going to be on my own... and these things are pretty big.

Still haven't dug my bike out of the garage for cleaning, repairs, decoration. Also haven't gotten my Starplates yet!!!! They'd better get here soon - I hope they're not caught up at customs for some insane reason.

August 11, 2003

I bought a deep fryer on Thursday from Costco - the $139 one I was looking at was a mere $79!!! At that price, you could practically consider the thing disposable! I'll stop by the grocery store on the way home tonight to pick up supplies for making Poutine to test the thing out. So much for my diet.

My god, there's less than two weeks left to prepare... I bought my ticket online on Thursday - I'll be picking it up at Will Call upon arrival. Petr and I have been working on figuring out how we're going to hook up out there. It looks like he and a friend will be driving out to arrive sometime towards the middle of the week, so I'm hoping this Ottawa camp is happening so there'll be more of us for him to find.

Jeannine and I did a bunch of shopping on Thursday - we picked up the deep fryer and an air mattress and air pump and looked at some fabric and some other odds and ends. I want to go shopping for costumes - the Ottawa Burners gang is heading out on Saturday afternoon together... unfortunately I won't be able to join them, as I have a party to go to. I'll have to attempt a trip to Phase 2 this week.

August 6, 2003

Oh, happy day... I've been communicating with some folks on the Ottawa Burners Mailing List and have just worked out a deal with another burner to share some of his generator time! So Project: Poutine on the Playa is a go. I've been looking at consumer grade deep fryers in the $139 range. Guess I should pick one up soon - gonna have to start experimenting to see what's going to work best. Gonna have to find a place to buy some good bulk gravy powder too.

Still waiting for my Starplates to arrive. If they get here in time, I was thinking that maybe I could pick up some lumber and build a practice dome this weekend at the cottage. I have to, at the very least, build one of the triangles to size it up for fabric. Then I really gotta get moving on that. There's barely more than two weeks to go!!!

August 1, 2003

After some lengthy discussions with a few close friends tonight, maybe the Poutine on the Playa thing isn't so far fetched after all. The toughest thing is going to be power - I'm not terribly fond of having to transport a generator from here. I have a small one that would do the job that may not be so horrible, but it is still a concern because of the weight. And I'm not sure what the airline would think of having a generator in cargo. Maybe I can have it shipped UPS to someone in the area instead of taking it on the plane... Jeannine is going to look at an alternative power source: how cool would it be if I could power the outfit with solar panels?

The rest is fairly straight forward: a $120 consumer grade deep fryer. The potatos and cheese could be bought in Reno. I could transport powdered gravy. A crockpot to heat up the gravy. The suggestion was to decorate up my shade structure with Maple Leaves and Fleur de Lis' and serve up dishes with little blue and red flags. As for the theme, who's gonna believe that I set up a poutine stand on the playa. Hrm...

July 31, 2003

Towards the end of our ride out to BM last year, I remember occasionally seeing this interesting looking guy in a gigantic hat. I think he was on the other bus that was following the same route as us, so occasionally I'd notice him at one of the rest stops. When we arrived in Reno, Petr and I kinda milled around the bus station for a little while getting ourselves organized and clearing our heads after the three day trip. I remember seeing the guy with the gigantic hat again, kinda wandering around and I remember how there were a bunch of burners kinda doing the same thing and that's about when I realized that there's something about a burner: even though it was my first time out there, I immediately picked up on that something in the air around them that allows one burner to pick out another in a crowd instantly. As Petr and I were checking our bags so that we could go pick up our rental car, I ended up talking to the guy with the gigantic hat. Turns out that I was right, he was a burner. And the poor bastard had lost his luggage - that is, the bus company lost his luggage. Petr and I were on our way out, and had to get moving... and this guy said he was going to hang around for a while and hope his luggage showed up, so we wished him well and got on our way.

I hadn't really thought much else about him aside from hoping he found his luggage and would make his way out there somehow... until we saw him at the bus station again five days later. He filled us in on what happened to his luggage: He had waited 12 hours and it didn't show, so he bought some clothes in Reno and hitched a ride to BM. Sometime over the 5 days he was on the playa, his luggage finally did make an appearance and they held onto it for him. On the bright side, he now had all kinds of fresh clothes to wear home!

It turned out that the three of us had an identical itinerary for about half the trip home, so Petr and I ended up spending almost two days with this guy talking about all kinds of things. He had a lot of fun and interesting conspiracy theories about the american government and 9/11 and terrorism and all that. I really enjoyed the time we spent together. We exchanged contact information when we parted ways, and promised to be in touch. I never did get around to emailing him. I think about him now as our time to return home grows near and I wonder if he'll be making it out this year. I'm pretty sure I have his business card still. I think it's about time to get in touch.

I've been thinking about the idea of gifting at Burning Man. I really like the idea of it, and have thought it a great way of participating in the culture of BM. Last year Petr and I had been talking to a group of Americans who had never heard of Poutine and we thought how amazing would it be if we could find a way of setting up a Poutine stand on the playa - It would be a very distinctly Canadian way of participating and sharing on the playa - and something tells me french fries with cheese and gravy would really hit the spot just after sundown on the fifth day. But as this year's event has been drawing nearer, I've realized just how logistically impossible it would be. It's a recurring theme for me: living across the country really imposes a lot of restrictions on what you can bring out there. In this case, a deep fryer probably wouldn't go over so well as a carry-on...

So I've been trying to come up with another idea of something I could mass-produce and share with my fellow burners out there. So far nothing's come to me... the trick is to come up with something that's relatively inexpensive, somewhat creative, and just special enough that they won't throw it away the second you're out of sight. Last year, a girl came up to me and said hi and pinned a button on the strap of my backpack. It was a little home-made dealie with a picture of her dog on it. Inexpensive. Easy. Creative. And I didn't throw it away - in fact, it's still attached to my backpack.

July 30, 2003

UPS attempted delivery of my FRS Radios from AIRMILES yesterday but nobody was home. I left a note for them to deliver to my neighbours today, so hopefully I'll have those in hand tonight. Who knows how useful they'll actually be on the Playa- I'm sure there's a lot of signal noise with the number of people who must bring them out. But I'm sure that's half the fun: picking up other people's conversations, meeting other people on your channel, etc...

The theme for this year is Beyond Belief, so I'm trying to figure out some way I could decorate my camp in a theme-related way... when I figure out what I'm going to be using as cover for my shade structure, I'll get a better idea of what I can do. I think I'll probably end up using fabric from old sheets and stuff - so maybe some kind of iron-on transfer stuff would be in order. I have a bunch of that special paper for inkjet printers - I could print out images and iron them onto my shade coverings... what would the images be of though?

Methinks I should pull my bike down from the garage and see what needs to be done to it tonight - I'm sure a good cleaning is in order. I should also check out the tires and figure out where I can get spare inner tubes for them - I'm sure the big wheel won't be a problem, but it's got that tiny one on the front...? As for decoration, that after-dark-spray-painting-on-the-playa job has to go... I saw a great bike last year all done up in fun fur -that'd be fun... just gotta make sure to use good adhesive. Maybe some gold or chrome spray paint?

July 29, 2003

The countdown begins! Less than a month to go till the event, and there's so much to do... In this space, I hope to document my journey from now until Burning Man. Currently, my schedule has me leaving Ottawa on August 22 - I'll be flying to RENO where I will spend a few days preparing for the final leg of the journey out to the Playa - this year I will be spending a full 8 days out there!

I actually had been thinking about this site for a while, and had wanted to start this sooner, but time just wasn't on my side... some things have already gotten underway: I bought my plane ticket almost two weeks ago... that was pretty much the official start of my journey. Still lots to do (including buy my ticket for the event itself!), so I'll try to keep this updated as much as possible...

Hrm... seems there's going to be Internet at BM again this year. I've been thinking that maybe I could bring a laptop and digital camera and share my journey right out onto the playa. Gotta figure this out - I'm not crazy about bringing my iBook out there - who knows what could happen... gonna have to find a cheap old laptop that I wouldn't worry as much about... (know anyone who may be interested in helping out? email me: dave(at)

Last year, Petr and I built a Tensegrity structure to provide us with shade - it was built using three 2x4's and 120+' of rope and was actually quite effective. We covered it with a giant blue tarp and managed to support a hammock for afternoon snoozing.

This year, I'm setting my sights a little higher. I had been wanting to build some form of Geodesic dome for shelter last year, but hadn't found any plans that we could pull off with the restrictions we faced: travelling across the country by bus really limits the amount of gear you can bring with you. Most plans for such structures called for lengths of PVC piping which posed a considerable ordeal when it came to transport. Then last week I came across these dealies.

Perfect: the way I figure it, I can transport the Starplates and associated hardware with ease, and upon arriving in RENO, I just need to pick up 25 pcs of 2x(whatever) to build a basic geodesic dome - I'll also transport some fabric fashioned to the correct size and shape to cover the structure - and at the end of the event, I'll just burn the lumber and bring the plates home with me. A relatively inexpensive way to build a decent shade structure that will probably be strong enough to support at least two hammocks for that all-important afternoon snoozing!

I've decided that I absolutely must have BEER on the playa this year. I found it insanely difficult to drink vodka and bailey's all week last year. I'm not a hard-liquor kinda guy, and I have a tough time guaging my tolerance with it. I spent a few nights in way less control of my faculties as I'd have liked. As much as I love my banana-seat bike with the huge handlebars, goddamn if those things aren't the worst things to drive at night after way more vodka than any human should probably consume. This year, it's beer all the way... even if I gotta drink it warm - my love for beer shall overcome. Maybe I should keep all my beer outside from now on to practice drinking it warm...

Last year for food we pretty much just stocked up on crap: beef jerky, costco muffins, some fruit, more beef jerky, non-refridgerated cheeses and meatsticks, more beef jerky, non-refridgerated chicken salad and crackers packages (surprisingly good!), more beef jerky, and we brought some hotdogs and buns, with no way of cooking them (which worked out fine, as we met some really cool people who let us cook at their camp).

This year that's all changing. I refuse to eat beef jerky and non-refridgerated meat and cheese products for a week. There will still be a place for non-refridgerated meats and cheeses, don't get me wrong... but there is a line between convenience and bathroom horrors that must be observed and respected. I've been reading around and getting some tips from experienced burners, and after having been through it once now, I have a better idea of what one can survive on out there.

The hot dogs thing worked out well last time, as did the non-refridgerated chicken salad (surprise, surprise). I will not tolerate those damn meat/cheese sticks again - they were gross - and the muffins proved to be a bit of a let down. One suggestion I found that I'm really looking forward to is PB&J Sammiches!!! I can't believe I didn't think of that last year... just premake and ziplock up a loaf's worth of sammiches, and you've got a tasty snack you can carry around on you for any time of the day or night. I'll definitely bring more meal replacement-type bars - gotta keep those vitamins and essentials coming in... I'm working on finding a small stove setup to bring with me, which will open up many other options as well.

Related Links

Current Itinerary

Friday, August 22, 2003
Depart Ottawa: 6:39am
Arrive Reno: 10:18am

Friday, August 22, 2003 - Monday, August 25, 2003
Sands Regency Hotel, Reno

Monday, August 25, 2003
Depart Reno: 1:00pm
Arrive Burning Man: 4:00pm

Monday, September 1, 2003
Depart Burning Man: ???

Tuesday, September 2, 2003
Depart Reno: 7:03am
Arrive Ottawa: 6:18pm