This year’s Burning Man was a profoundly different experience for me, mostly because I made a conscious effort to focus on the collective camp experience rather than my own personal existential bug out. I also only took a handful of photos, choosing instead to
live in the moment rather than document it. Both of these decisions proved very rewarding in their own way.


Back in the Spring, I had volunteered to become part of the core group that makes our “Heroes and Supervillains” camp happen every year. This meant about 4 months of conference calls and a lot of back and forth about things like power generators, placement on the grid, water removal service, shade structures, sound systems, Reno storage containers, and the myriad of other intricacies that must be mastered to get a camp up and running for 80 weirdos every year. Not to mention navigating the fragile politics of a bunch of random friends and frenemies from very different walks of life who all have jobs and lives they are trying to succeed in while participating in the gargantuan task of planning for the Burn. But all do share one thing: the will to make it happen. And so did I. So, I was down.

Aside from our annual Soul Brunch, which draws about 800 people, the other communal gift that my camp offers to the citizens of Black Rock City is the Skulliscious Bar, which is open every day, serving free booze from noon to sundown. Having briefly bartended in a former life, I agreed that this year I would step up and manage the bar. This meant figuring out how much booze, mixers, and ice we would go through in 5 days, handing out assignments to every member of the camp, supplying the bar with basic materials like shakers, rubber mats, pourers, bus trays, and bar rags, and physically assembling and lighting the actual bar – which comes in huge, dust-covered pieces and is stored in Reno every year. It was no small task, but it one I was eager to deliver on.

My Skulliscious bar in a rare, quiet moment. bm2014_full_11 To change things up further, Alison and I agreed to be n the “Alpha Team”, which is the group of devoted die-hards that show up days before the event even starts, to get all of the gear out of storage and set up the infrastructure of the camp on a barren, wind-swept patch of desert before the party people arrive. This was a big job that requires truck rentals and trailer rentals and a team of meth heads for hire to transfer everything from storage containers to vehicles.

The assembly of it all out in the desert was a circus unto itself, largely because the guy who designed our $6000 shade structure had ordered all of the wrong parts then completely disappeared, leaving us with a bunch of parts that seemingly wouldn’t fit together. Thank god for my good friend Andreas, who was fiercely determined to see it completed, no matter what. He put on his tool belt and we followed his orders diligently and I’ll be damned if we didn’t erect the damn thing after all. There was a few long, sweaty days of physical labor in the 105 degree heat, but shade is an essential component of the BM experience. You can see it in the above photo and in the Soul Brunch photos below.

For this year’s lodging, camp veteran Monty had invited me to be part of his much-admired tent city that he constructs each year, which is simply 3 or 4 spring-bar tents underneath a substantial shade structure, with a communal “Eeezy Breezy Lounge” of thrift store furniture in the middle that serves as a kind of a private chill-out space for the entire camp. This meant bringing CD turntables and other audio gear for our private DJ booth, buying a fancy new tent, special ordering a huge reflective roll of shade fabric, and lots of adjustable poles and ropes and other camping supplies that are needed for such a thing to manifest. Another big task, but so very worth it. Aside being a fellow DJ, music maker, and dreamer of dreams, Monty is the kind of guy who’s door I will be knocking on when the Apocalypse goes down, because this mother fucker will be prepared. So I couldn’t have chosen a more thorough and well-prepared guy in whose basket I was throwing all of my eggs.

All of these factors amounted to a greatly-enriched adventure for me. One where I was completely invested in the communal experience of others. I built shade structures. I set up kitchens. I managed the bar. I built a communal lounge. I wrangled sound systems and DJs and made a party happen almost every single day. I busted my ass. And it was wonderful. In many ways, it was harder work than I EVER do in my real life. My favorite quote that encapsulates this came from my friend Raphael, who shared this gem:


That pretty much sums it up. Now let’s read some poetry, look at some stolen photos, and read some random anecdotes in no particular order.

For the third year running, my personal gift to random strangers is to read them a poem. This can happen sitting around a bonfire, in the middle of the road, in the middle of a rave, on top of a monstrous moving art car, or in the line for a port-a-potty. At my request, every year Richard Hell provides me with a handful of “poems to read to people on mushrooms”. Here’s one of those:

by Elaine Equi

Autumn is a solitude.
Winter is a fortitude.
Spring is an altitude.
Summer is an attitude.

Summer is a multitude.
Autumn is an aptitude.
Winter is a quaalude.
Spring is a prelude.

Spring is a lassitude.
Summer is a longitude.
Autumn is a gratitude.
Winter is an interlude.

Winter is a beatitude.
Spring is a platitude.
Summer is a verisimilitude.
Autumn is a semi-nude.



This wooden wave above was built out in the middle of deep playa. It was big and sturdy enough that you could ride your bike on it if you had enough speed. In truth, this was probably not the smartest idea, given the fact that it was covered in a light dusting of loose sand and so many people on bikes are also on drugs. To add to the fun, there was often inebriated bikers hitting the ramp at full speed from opposite directions, barley avoiding dramatic collisions at the apex.

The art car with the moving geodesic dome is called Dr Brainlove. Probably not the best idea to have tripping people clinging to the outside of a moving vehicle in the dark, but again, this is par for the course in Black Rock City.

I highlight these two to bring to light my favorite and well established Burner rule of “SAFETY THIRD” that applies to just about every situation. In a weird way, there is odd comfort in finding a place where safety and restraint is no longer a virtue, and bad ideas are openly encouraged. I highly recommend trying it sometime.


Like me, fellow 3-time Burner Ben Cruz was also in the “live it, don’t document it” mode this year, but he did manage to take some super fucking amazing pictures of the sunset everyday. You’ll see them sporadically placed throughout this blog post.



Arriving early meant that we were already set up when the now legendary Monday rain storm hit. Rain is extremely rare out there. We were asleep at around 6am when I heard something beating on the tent. In a sleepy daze I tried to figure out what it could possibly be. Then it struck me.


I was not prepared for rain. I ran outside half naked. There was rather valuable, non-waterproof stuff like turntables and mixers and speakers and laptops and power strips all over the place.


Giant golf ball hail was raining down in sheets. I grabbed everything of value and hurled it inside our tent. The hail soon gave way to rain. The ground was turning from dust to a thick clay in a matter of seconds. A clay so thick you couldn’t walk more than about 20 yards before your feet were weighed down with 10 pounds of clay on each stump. It was comical.

The rain wasn’t really that big of a deal, but the clay consistency of the earth made movement impossible, so the city had to pretty much shut down for the day while it dried out. It certainly could have been much worse. They did close the main gate, much to to the dismay of the armada of vehicles that had been waiting in the 8-hour line to get in. They were sent back to Reno. Those already inside the event just hung out in their respective camps for most of the day.



bm2014_013 Two of my new favorite art cars. A giant fucking ram that shoots fucking lasers out of its eyes. And a mobile gelato built for two. Beautiful.


Time for another poem. This time by my go-to playa poet, Ron Padgett.

By Ron Padgett

The older I get, the more I like hugging, When I was little the people hugging me were much larger. In their grasp I was a rag doll. In adolescence, my body was too tense to relax for a hug. Later, after the loss of virginity—which was anything but a loss—the extreme proximity of the other person, the smell of hair, the warmth of the skin, the sound of breathing in the dark—these were mysterious and delectable. This hug had two primary components: the anticipation of sex and the pleasure of intimacy, which itself is a combination of trust and affection. It was this latter combination that came to characterize the hugging I have experienced only in recent years, a hugging that knows no distinctions of gender or age. When this kind of hug is mutual, for a moment the world is perfect the way it is, and the tears we shed for it are perfect too. I guess it is an embrace.

bm2014_full_12 This year’s temple (above). Never fails to elicit awe.



Some random sunrise on some random morning, long after I had lost track of the days of the week, I attended the wedding of some mutual friends of friends at this giant cartoon lightning bolt (above). I was really digging the simplicity and significance of the location. The bride was beautiful. They had met in Black Rock City four years earlier. I joined the circle and held hands with these smiling ladies above while we all wished the couple well.


bm2014_full_16 The camp next to ours was called ELEVANT RISING. They had a very shaky 30-foot scaffolding structure (above) which they would sit up on all day, smoking weed, precariously balancing on one of those skateboard-balanced-on-a-cylinder things, heckling passersby with cryptic questions or the occasional drinking challenge. I may or may not have participated in one of their sunrise ritual challenges called “Saké Waterfall”, which is pretty much exactly what you might imagine it to be.

For days, I considered them to be this weird agitation force, who seemed solely interested in antagonizing passersby from their lofty perch. It was only later in the week that I found out the true purpose of their camp: Beneath the scaffolding they had built a small, intimate restaurant. Their group was made up of various people from the SF and Seattle restaurant industry. They had a full kitchen and a dining room that was open every night for romantic dinners for two – by reservation only. Those with reservations would show up and be treated to a 6-course meal made for custom for that night. How awesome is that?

On our last day in Black Rock City, Alison and I were invited to join them for dinner alongside a group of Israelis from a nearby camp. The food was absolutely delicious. The Israeli kids eating with us were Burning Man virgins and they were wonderfully overwhelmed by the experience. As it turns out, one of their older brothers had already started a Middle Eastern version of Burning Man called MID BURN, which they strongly encouraged us to attend. They said their first year numbers were at about 1000 attendees and growing. These folks clearly had the Burner bug, and they had it bad.


We met this green guy (above) one afternoon at the bathrooms. He was about 70 years old, with a very thick South Brooklyn accent. He was pushing a cart around that was mostly filled with candy, which he was just giving away. He gave us a peanut butter power bar or something and went on his way.

The beat up looking Cheshire Cat was an art car on loan to our camp from Disorient, via a guy in our camp named Maitland, who was using it to get his art car license. It wasn’t the most handsome of art cars, but it got you from A to B, and this is simply no place to complain. If anything, having access to an art car just made me more determined than ever to get one of my own. My friend Dave just bought a house in LA. I told him his back yard better be big enough to accommodate our art car. Now I just need to raise 50K. Or so I hear. One day perhaps.

Speaking of art cars, Pac Man’s arch nemesis INKY made an appearance this year.



For years now, Ben and I have sort of been trying to put into words what’s so addictive about Burning Man, while at the same time trying to figure out what long term effects we simply must avoid if we keep coming back. It’s hard to be specific, but there’s a level of burn-out that you come across, in older men particularly, that seems very much the exclusive product of the West Coast. Guys in their 50s who partied HARD and look like they spent A LOT of time on the beach. Their skin is like leather. Like Joni’s Dad used to say “Rode hard and put away wet”. This isn’t to say they aren’t nice guys. They are. They’re wonderful. But god damn are they burnt the fuck out. Like they just stopped giving a fuck sometime around 1983. This year I finally put my finger on who it is all of these burn-outs actually remind me of, and it all made sense. This is who I fear I’ll turn into if I keep going. SKIP TO 4:00 in the video below for the juicy part.


My favorite moment of absurdity this year came on the very first day, as we were setting up camp. First of all, none of us should be using adult power tools in the first place, much less trying to guess the load bearing tensile strength of the pile of cables and steel poles that was dumped at our feet. Not to mention, you feel like you’re on the verge of dying from heat exhaustion at any second. Or you’re waiting for that giant piece of rebar you just drove into the ground to magically be ripped from its position and impale you through the skull. But you do it anyway, because… safety third.

In the midst of day one of the camp build, I keep hearing this music coming and going. At first it was Loverboy’s “Everybody’s Working For The Weekend”. I didn’t think much of it. Then, 5 minutes later I hear another song. It’s Donna Summer’s “She works hard for the money”. Then a few minutes later I hear Huey Lewis’ “Workin’ For A Livin’”.

“That’s odd.” I thought.

Then I look up and I see these two weirdos speeding by. One girl is peddling a bike, behind which she is dragging a sort of beaten up chaise lounge chair on wheels. On the chaise lounge is an extremely relaxed man. He is cartoonishly relaxed. He has his feet up. He has a large cartoonish cocktail in his hand. And he has one arm behind his head in full recline. He was the ultimate embodiment of leisure. There seemed to be a pattern forming.

Then they came by a fourth time, now playing Todd Rundgren’s “I don’t wanna work, I just wanna bang on the drum all day”.

These bastards! They were just fucking with us! Driving up and down the streets, on the day the entire city was near death from working in the Nevada heat, just blasting songs about how much work sucks, while reclining in the most cartoonish fashion they could muster. They did this for HOURS. I was impressed.



Alison and I spent a night on a random art car called “The Big Puffy Yellow”. It looks a little like a wagon train or something. We sat on the roof grooving our way across the desert night to the techno sounds of some DJ whose name I never did get. During pitstops, I would read poems to whomever would listen.

The driver was an ornery, Manson-esque, bearded character who refused to slow down for anyone trying to hop on.

“BETTER HIT IT RUNNIN’ CUZ I AIN’T STOPPIN’ FOR NOBODY!” he would yell in a Texas accent.

Art car drivers are an odd bunch. They are required by law to be sober, and they deal with crowds of incredibly inebriated weirdos all night, so they have very short tempers and they bark orders like generals – but it’s really the only way to get anything done with this crowd. They’re like Kindergarten teachers who take no shit from anybody.


This year’s Soul Brunch was pretty much the perfect party. The whole camp came together and we got down to serious business for about 8 hours straight, delivering what many reported to be the best party they’d been to all week. The crowd was full of energy and good vibes. The dance floor was packed all day. We served 1200 fucking burritos.

bm2014_full_07 bm2014_full_03

The bar was so packed that another mobile bar randomly showed up (below) and parked at our entrance, serving drinks of their own (also for free, of course). Even the damn Octopus showed up. The Octopus is like the one bonafied celebrity out there. If he shows up at your party, you know you’re doing something right.


Speaking of celebrities, one of the cuter Hollywood celebs dropped by with a campmate for a drink and seemingly to give me a hug and tell me she loves my gold shorts. She went incognito for this photo (below LEFT) so I’ll let you guess who it is.








And the music… sheeeeeit…the music was fucking amazing. I played a killer set of disco classics (if I do say so myself) that inspired a lot of heartfelt thank yous from strangers. Nickodemus was DOPE, as usual. Marques Wyatt did his thing, as did Deep Woods and Monty. Osunlade was a no-show. Rafael De La Cruz brought it all home. It was beautiful. Definitely the best party I went to all week. Fuck that. All year.


So that’s my burn report. Short and sweet. Here’s one last poem and one last sunset. Enjoy.

Last Poem
by Ted Berrigan

Before I began life this time
I took a crash course in Counter-Intelligence
Once here I signed in, see name below, and added
Some words remembered from an earlier time,
“The intention of the organism is to survive.”
My earliest, & happiest, memories pre-date WWII,
They involve a glass slipper & a helpless blue rose
In a slender blue single-rose vase: Mine
Was a story without a plot. The days of my years
Folded into one another, an easy fit, in which
I made money & spent it, learned to dance & forgot, gave
Blood, regained my poise, & verbalized myself a place
In Society. 101 St. Mark’s Place, apt. 12A, NYC 10009
New York. Friends appeared & disappeared, or wigged out,
Or stayed; inspiring strangers sadly died; everyone
I ever knew aged tremendously, except me. I remained
Somewhere between 2 and 9 years old. But frequent
Reification of my own experiences delivered to me
Several new vocabularies, I loved that almost most of all.
I once had the honor of meeting Beckett & I dug him.
The pills kept me going, until now. Love, & work,
Were my great happinesses, that other people die the source
Of my great, terrible, & inarticulate one grief. In my time
I grew tall & huge of frame, obviously possessed
Of a disconnected head, I had a perfect heart. The end
Came quickly & completely without pain, one quiet night as I
Was sitting, writing, next to you in bed, words chosen randomly
From a tired brain, it, like them, suitable, & fitting.
Let none regret my end who called me friend.


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