Burning Man – Artistic Genius – Then Burn It Up

Since Burning Man begins in a month – always over the Labor Day weekend, giving yet another insane rendering of “Labor” – and make no mistake, for those Black Rock Rangers and the other intrepid workers who lay out and construct what you see below – there is a ton of work they labor at, in a pleasure so pure it hurts:

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In the end, a city of 40,000 campers looks just like this:


The efforts get cleaned in a rather dramatic fashion, later, including the burning, as mentioned below, of everything, no matter how temporarily cool:


I’m doing this post to please a friend who asked about what all the hubub was over Burning Man. She had never heard of it. Since I’ve been there, I have my own very personal opinion. So, Marcia – here ya go. The event is coming soon. Adventurous, thought-provoking, anarchistic, artistic – the adjectives flow like water over the Niagra Falls………..in the end, while it is indescribably interesting, make no mistake – it’s fun!


I guess I’m stretching a bit to present what to many is a scandalously misunderstood event in here in my nice conservative, construction and design-related blog, but I feel somehow almost obligated to. I enjoy sharing my life in every way and I obviously appreciate products I consider items of artistic genius.

My interest in this popular and controversial event  stems from these underpinnings. And I am one who fully believes Burning Man is an event of Timeless value.  There are many sayings and diatribes on how we contaminate reality with belief, but the purity of the vision here and the enthusiasm of its participants, is wholly off the charts. This event is unique in the world – thus drawing so many travelers who design visits around it. I guess that pretty much says it all.

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Burning Man is a week-long event of something more than epic proportions, held on the same “playa” or lake bed where the world land speed record was set a few years ago by the crazed Englishman piloting a virtual jet car at above the speed of sound. Gerlach, Nevada is about 60 miles Northest of Reno and it is an otherwise sleepy, oppressively hot burg of a scattered population of every political persuasion known to man. But the world class events which happen out its front windows are some crazy stuff.


What began in 1986 with a few guys hoisting up an 8′ high wooden “Man” and then setting the sucker on fire on Baker Beach in San Fransisco, has now evolved into something of a virtual culture. This year, 48,000 people will congregate in the Black Rock Desert to participate in this year’s version of Burning Man – a festival like absolutely no other. Here, from the Burning Man’s own website is the timeline and history of the event.

You can see some strange stuff out there!


Nature gets gorgeous and pretty crazy during a stay in the desert like this. One sure needs good shades, some serious sun screen and a ton of water. Dust storms are normal, not rare – it seems every year is good for a nasty, good sized dust storm: Here comes one now!


But Nature also gives………..



It may surprise people to realize that the average age of a Burning Man attendee is around 35. After a walk around, through all the amazingly well-organized streets of campers, sporting silliness and wonder, it becomes more obvious.

Burning Man is a “barter zone” – money is only allowed for use at the Main Tent for coffee, lemonades and for the purchase of Ice. Otherwise, you can leave your wallet back where “civilization” rules. The Burning Man experience is so creative, large and literally engulfing, that you find yourself contributing. In the end, in fact, this is the energy behind the event. It has indeed become something of a culture of its own, led by enterprising artists and Internet-savvy art geeks and it provides a wonder of stuff – nearly indescribable, really. Night time scenes see amazing high tech lighting and nocturnally-inspired art work:



And the “Mobile Art”, lol. The Art Cars have institued their own world of whimsy, now featuring an Art Car Festival in Houston, Texas and a natural outgrowth of the male need to tinker and play, lol. Needless to say, these were always my favorites:


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Some are just for fun



Some are more serious:



And these are just the “cars”. The art?


This is what grownups can do, lol…………


A pretty solid visual feast, no matter how you look at it.


Then it disappears – in 3 days, it will be as if no one had even been there.


From these, the Fire Temple of wood, above and two years of The Man below:




From this……….



To this:


It’s all good, interesting, exciting and always weird  – which is the point. It’s is the single most Artistical Artical Event ever. 😉




A Note On Friendship – Life’s Passages, Love And Nature

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Bobby’s freshly unceremonious ceremony…………. Perfectly-held for the man who may have been the least pretentious person his friends and acquaintances will ever meet in their entire lives.

We really and truly had a great crowd……..there were some tears, some grateful and comforting and oh-so-human hugs and lots of laughter in an absolutely captivating series of loving memories. If I had to capsulize my impression of things, I would probably say the day was an utter delight – in spite of its function – which was also served.

Saying goodbye.

Bobby’s daughter Morgan and her friends and equally gorgeous soccer mates were there to provide the perfect splash of youth, beauty and the caring spirit which Bobby was always so instrumental in somehow manufacturing in a world which seems not to value that as much as it once may have. His touch was everywhere, in the modest and grateful spirit of his wife, Kim and in the freshly-bereaved Morgan, whose support system is the envy of the English-speaking world. (She is the beauty on the left in the picture below). Let me be as clear as possible – these are some of the nicest persons on the planet.

Let me add this, in praise to the arrangers – of whom there were so many. If food were a measure of a man, judging by what was given at this event, Bobby Miller was a daggone Giant. Suffice it to say, the comfort food was off the charts – not only in quantity, but in quality.

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And so the weekend ends………………

I just drove back from Owensboro after attending this nicely informal ‘wake’ for my great friend Bobby Miller who passed away last week. The party was held outdoors and indoors, enduring torrential rainfall a couple of times during the affair and even the sounds of tornado warning sirens in the distance more than once. It was sort of a revelation – In this iPod, Blackberry world, we were able to access more specific local weather events immediately and we did hear of a twister which landed not so far away, just to make things more exciting. Man, it is also truly an rather severe April to remember, weather-wise, with more electrical storms than many natives have ever seen – all in a non-stop series of storm  events, tumbling along one after another.

Crossing the Ohio River and dropping down into Owensboro from the Indiana side revealed a cresting river, spilling over it banks into nearby fields, the farmer’s plains, as it were. This area is so flat near a river which – like the Yangtze or The Nile – is quite famous locally for its Spring Time flooding and dropping some rich silt onto these fields which, in 5 months, will be sporting corn or soybeans in a vast green swath of agricultural Plenty.

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But for now?  You can’t see much dirt, can you?  😉  That, for the record, is those afore-mentioned fields – they are just a bit underwater currently. The river itself is a good 3 miles North of this, in the distance..

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But it was gorgeous, too – warm, sultry air, the humidity completely off the charts in 73 degree weather – the Springtime features like the profusion of young lime green leaves maturing in this deciduous forest, dogwoods and other ornamental blossoms bursting out with even some shrubbery nearly ready to join the horticultural party.

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As I mentioned, my friend Bobby was quite an amateur landscaper, having done all his landscaping work himself as well as building the home. He used the local flora to augment his planning, making this gorgeous green expanse butt up next to the forest in a seamless, natural way, transitioning the parking area to domestication up a small set of stairs and surrounding his home with absolutely luscious perennials and azaleas.

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I’m kicking myself for not getting a picture of the Columbines which were just beginning to act out, but then, there was so much compelling interaction to be had on the human level, I would go hours before remembering I had a camera. Low tech Man!

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Here’s a glimmer of the activity above, complete with the dead White Pine in the rear yard to the left which someone asked my analysis of.

“The Pine? Oh, it’s dead.” (I kept it short and sweet  😉  )

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It was especially deeply rewarding for me in that I had grown up with so many of these folks and then moved so far away for so long. What was so especially rewarding for strictly selfish reasons was the sense of “return” on such a deeply emotional and thoroughly “connected” basis.I was seeing old friends I’d known when I was 12 years old and who surrounded me and influenced me all those long years ago. These people are a part of me, embedded so deeply they can’t be peeled away. They are the statues, the icons in my own native experience and they all make up who I am this very day.

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The amazing sense of unconditional love, of friendship and of our human commonality on this day filled me with a religious type of spirit. I turned away with a couple of tears more than once as I saw others breaking down on their own, over a story, a memory or simply just because of the overall sense of the moment itself. This was a very religious event, in the end, our bidding goodbye to our precious friend, father and relative. Bobby Miller sooo got the send off he would be so proud of.

What April Fool’s Day Means To Me

As a person who has a somewhat out-of-control sense of humor, I have to admit to some huge yuks in my past over April Fool’s jokes, both pleasant and unpleasant. Yes, I have been the butt of a few – an unfortunate number of them being “accident humor” at job sites – from the accursed crew members who may have realized – late – what day it was. Thankfully, there was only one “death” and most of the stuff involved good old fashioned crude displays of grotesque work injuries with things like machines sitting on top of fella’s and stuff.

(Ha ha! “Just kidding, man. He’s alive – look!”)

No, I love a good prank as much as the next guy – or gal.


But I am convinced I have had the Mother Of All April Fool’s pranks pulled on me, in real life! Here’s proof:

In March, 1990, my wife, Alice, was showing massive proof that she had been pregnant for 9 months or so. As we waited for our “due date” of March 15, I noticed she was becoming hopeful about relieving all her symptoms of being a pregnant woman. I confess, I, too, was pretty excited about our baby and getting Alice back in normal human shape. We deliciously counted down the days.

And counted.

And passed the 15th up, then the 20th,

then the 25th………….. You get the picture. 😉

Finally, she had contractions! Oh boy oh boy oh boy! We run to the hospital and sit for a bit, she gets analyzed and we get told to go home. “False alarm.” So – we wait another day and repeat the process as her contractions (‘Braxton-Hicks’ it turns out) resumed, only to be turned down yet again. If you see some frustration still ripe and visible here, well, there is a reason for that. (It may be timely to note we did not have the sex figured out as we opted for the surprise). It was borderline gruelling, in spite of what it was we were expecting. You know, the new human and all………..

Well, on April 1st, 1990, we go again, with contractions beginning yet again. There was no way I was going to let the nurse tell us we weren’t having this baby, lol. I was about to become “Pop Nature”, by dammit!

Our very cool young doctor strolls in, looks at Alice and says: “Well, would you like to get the party started?”, smiling, knowing everything that had transpired. He laughed, we winced, hopefully – and, lo’ and behold! – our little daughter became a miracle – a real live born kid.

One never forgets the feeling of welcoming a baby into the world – the sensations, the chills, the worry and the sudden adaptation to being this little human’s protector for life – the sheer depth of this new plunge into the human condition and the mysteries of a future totally unwritten.

I don’t really see how it is possible to love anything more given the meager resources at hand, but I often also think her semi-diabolical little April Fool’s Prank made us care slightly more than even normal. I mean, being “fooled” by a baby is some memorable stuff! And how marvelously intelligent of our kiddo. Here she sits with her best friend, sucking down a milk cocktail and rediscovering feet. This proves how smart and how sneaky she is and was. Look at how innocent she seems!



So when people try and tell you they know a “good April Fool’s prank”, go tell them about how you know a guy who had one that lasted 21 years and 9 and a half months!

Happy Birthday, Sweetheart. Your Daddy loves you, even if you are such trouble. 😉

You’ve gone from here –


To this and I likey.

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To My Good Friend Jane, Minneapolis And To Friendship In General

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I took a trip to Minneapolis, courtesy of Jane Sparks Flanders, a very good friend of mine who dates (back then, pretty much literally) from my 8th grade class at Southern Junior High in Owensboro, Kentucky. And truly, we have actually hooked up more recently – when I first went “viral”. When I got online at first, good old modest me sent out a sort of form letter to all the people I could think of who had undoubtedly lost track of me and announced I was alive and once again fair game. Well, I got a response from Jane who I had not seen nor heard of or from for over 30 years, who announces she attends Burning Man with regularity and would be in Reno in just a few short months. I ended up going to the event – thus the Burning Man posts in here – and we had a ball together. Since then, we’ve stayed in touch a lot closer.

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Straight from the plane, we toured this gorgeous city. Minneapolis is full of surprises – from man made and obsessively artificial and unconventional, to just overwhelmingly, splendidly Natural. (Hey, it really does have a bazillion lakes. They miscounted.)  😉  After breakfast at a dynamite Cuban Restaurant, Jane and I took the car tour and did some good clomping around to boot. Here’s some daggone extreme artificial edifices, along the line of that glass fish at the top which can be found in the Sculpture Garden. Just like the next pic – a somewhat well-known sculpture which made me glad we’d eaten before viewing:

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Below, composed of interwoven willow branches and installed by a traveling artist who specializes in exactly this sort of sculpture – with many far more “Outside the Envelope” than this one (after all, this is “just a house”) – Patrick Dougherty’s works are passionate and evocative as heck. This one, of course, if Plu-Perfect for Halloween.

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From the ridiculous to the sublime – or is that backwards in this context? –  we find Frank Geary’s most unusual house perched out over the river hard by this bridge – incredibly enough it is getting itelf expanded, thus the crane. For pure Stainless Steel comfort, this is it! Pretty crazy:

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And, compared to the Guthrie Theater below, Geary’s house might be ‘near-normal’:

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Minneapolis reminded me so much of Vancouver, BC, owing to its obvious love of natural things combined with an absolutely craven regard and respect for artistic license in architecture. Knowing what I know now concerning the Minneapolis regard for live drama, art in general and a sense of “what’s next?” – it all begins to make sense.

Their love of Nature is probably just a battle to deal with such an overwhelming natural presence, considering cold Winters and the absurd abundance of lakes, rivers, creeks and ponds.

Jane proved to be a natural “birder”. I absolutely couldn’t believe how she spotted this Bald Eagle, shown here being badgered by a few really obnoxious crows for the crow definition of ‘sport’. Crows really are jerks and here they prove it yet again. 🙂  But enlarge this picture – the eagle is pretty much smack in the middle of the frame. Jane saw this guy from about a half mile away, lol. “What is that?” became a familiar refrain as we toured in Nature Forests in and around Minneapolis, always followed by whimsical directional driving to see exactly what the heck “that” was. This one worked out nicely.

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We drove to Minnehaha (don’t laugh)……old, bad joke…….. Park, a wonderful park dead center in the city with this absolutely stunning waterfall which I certainly never expected:

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Jane lives in very nice condo project -she has recently just relocated there – in a suburb on the West side of town. It’s not really dense with population and, (judging by the gutter cleaning she forced me into abject slavery to deliver for her) one does indeed “own” one’s own joint. In fact, one of the ostensible “purposes” of the visit  was to ascertain whether or not we could devise to construct a Zen Garden for her with the resources (limited space) at hand.

We can and will.   🙂

I’m thinking I finally get to do a major pebble mosaic pattern with a very-Steve-like bit of jack-hammering and destruction (hey, I get to have fun too!). My 3 favorite things! Destruction, noise and art. Hell, it doesn’t get any better. Oh – plus, I told her I work for beer. Man, I have her right where I want her!

This is just too easy, man. Am I smart or what?

Here’s her view out back – think Walden Pond and, yes, that is a small bridge in the distance. Now and then you’ll spot a fisherman on that little strait looking utterly like some Norman Rockwell scene:

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Jane Sparks Flanders is one of my favorite and most interesting people in the world. Modest to a fault, this highly successful and soft-hearted businesswoman has her own very hard-won Insurance Business dealing with horses, pushy and fun people of all stripes and who has some exceptionally close and fascinating friends. She has this “Montana Crowd”, I call them, where she has a virtual second home, around Missoula who think of her as I do. That would be her Burning Man crew.

Hey Abe!  “No sweat!” (an overheard ‘mantra’ of he and his old high school chums)

I badly want to tell more, but even she will probably be bored by this time. In the end, this was a delightful trip, offered right out of the blue and put together in literal days which in some ways made it even more special. As people in general, we are far too UN– impulsive when it would be so cathartic to be just that. We both drank deep of this deeper longing we all have to experience just a bit more of life. To paraphrase John Lennon: We passed that audition.

Thanks, Jane.