BURNING MAN 2016
BLACK ROCK CITY, NEVADA, UNITED STATES
Upon entering Black Rock City, the initiation ceremony is to lay down on the ground and make a dust angel followed by banging on a giant gong and being given the rules of consensuality, 'moop' and leaving no trace of litter behind.
On magic mushrooms we sat in the middle of the desert laughing so hard that we couldn’t get back on our bikes. There was an art structure of orcas surfacing out of the playa as if it were the ocean, whereby you could sit inside and listen to sounds of the sea. There was a train of giant tea pots that had exotic dancers dangling in and out of leaving much to the imagination.
Having accidentally left the pop-up trailer door open one night, we returned to what looked like a deserted, dust-consumed vessel. Still 'under the influence', I created a line of ‘unconsensuality’ between 'Love Nest' and I's shared quarters using LED glow sticks. 'Papa Reposado' and co entered to see what the delay was and upon discovery had us all in hysterics. 'Love Nest's' enthusiasm was becoming coherent.
At night the festival had a pulse of it’s own. No vehicle had a home. The lights vibrated as they moved across the terrain that was a dried up lake surrounded by mountains. The earth is cracked beneath your feet and has the potential to turn into thick stodgy mud after rain denying you any exit from the land and potentially leaving you stranded for days. The bright lights of the giant mutant vehicles blasting music with people hang off the sides dancing in elaborate costumes blind your coordinates.
At night the stars shine so bright that you feel closer to the universe. Towards the end of the festival, sign posts are stolen as souvenirs and art structures used as land marks are burned taking away your bearings to find your way back to camp. Watching the giant Pyramids burn at sunrise with four dust tornadoes spiraling off of the flames is one of the most magical sights I have had the privilege to see.
Our neighbors in the camper van next door who had traveled down from Las Vegas offered us free drugs by the handful. One snorted cocaine off of a sharp knife while Skyping his girlfriend in Columbia surrounded by a pic ’n’ mix of various coloured oversized baggies, while the other; a jewellery maker (who gifted me a necklace) cheated on his girlfriend in the back of the van. The third was a talented DJ who had performed to an apparently sorry crowd. A generator constantly screamed noise in the background.
On my journey over to Black Rock City I had an impromptu layover in Shanghai where I purchased a foul chicken leg preserved in juices from which there had been a whole isle dedicated. This was to become 'the unwanted gift of the festival’. I turned it into a necklace and gave it to the infamous 'Love Nest' who received it with gratitude but then quickly passed it on. The latter gifts I had brought were some sweet bracelets from the Gili islands in Indonesia.
'Papa Reposado' and I had conflicting views on how best to protect nature; him being a hunter and I a vegetarian. He tended to spend his nocturnal hours donning an iconic giant pink fluffy dressing gown. On magic mushrooms, he rolled his head around in pure indulgence with a ludicrous smile on his face as he listened to one of my pre-recorded music sets. I was later informed that on the journey home, he fell asleep to the same mix only to wake up thinking that he was back in the thick of the playa.
I will cherish the memories forever along with my gifted copper necklace from the sacred temple of Burning Man 2015. Thank you "Love Nest' and 'Papa Reposado' for the time of my life. I couldn’t and wouldn’t have done it without you.
We arrived in Manhattan at approximately 11pm...we should at least have one drink to see where we are about town...
We arrived at the entrance of Small’s Jazz Club and went down the narrow stairs to a basement where everybody seemed to be dressed from WW2/50s era. It was a squeeze and the vibe was electric. Cocktail dresses and red lipstick. People tapping on knees, bouncing and smiling. The seats were long benches like at a church but with no back support. We bought delicious white Russians and stole a spot closer to the music when it became available. It was a very intimate venue but it emerged that we had sat down in the artists' area. We made friends with some of the musicians who were taking it in turn to take to the stage. They later snuck us into another jazz bar called Fat Cats. This was fantastic - true underground musicians' paradise where improvisation was open to all. The talent was amazing. They only sold beer and wine and had ping pong, massive pool tables and shuffleboard. We got drunk and danced and played.
When I was in Detroit, I had met a speaker called Vito Coletto who had announced on stage that despite his demeanor that he was actually a big teddy bear at heart. He proved this when he later on gave me a big cuddle on stage! We spoke behind the curtains and he advised me to go to Joe's pizza place when I visit New York. Of course he was half Italian like many in New York.
So I went to Joe's pizza place and picked up a slice. I walked to Union Square where the pavements were so high off the road that it made you feel smaller. I walked through the market in the square and spotted some art I liked. It was mischievous photography – sexy, dark and a bit cheeky. I loved it and I bought a print.
The man selling the art and the artist himself was named Victor Spinelli. We exchanged contact details.
I arrived at Times Square and was amazed by the 360 degree view of advertising that painted the buildings against the backdrop of the sky.
Red lips of models and big brand names, and money. I stood by a clinical Ray Ban's shop whereby on the corner of it outside was a man preaching about white man being the devil and opposite him was a man speaking avidly about God and religion using bold gestures. A total contrast of cultures.
There were women dressed with revealing Rio carnival costumes promoting something. A man approached me and asked me what I thought of them dressed this way and I said they looked vulnerable. It was a very industrial place to be exposed.
I started to walk back. A guy came up to me and asked if I wanted to buy a ticket to a comedy club. He then said 'why do women like Jesus so much?'. I said I don't know. He responded ' because he's so well hung'. It cracked me up and he gave me the ticket for free.
I headed towards the Skyline where I bought some more art. It was a beautiful evening. I turned a corner and there was a man sitting with an old typewriter.
In front of him was written 'tell me your story and I will write something inspired from it'. I started to tell him all about my experience in New York so far. Half way through writing the poem he left to smoke some pot and then gave me some. At the end, he read the poem to me and to my surprise it was graphically provocative.
I continued along the Skyline and as it got dark I decided that I would visit a club nearby called Le Bain. Le Bain was at the top of a sky scraper building. Birdsong was played in the bathrooms, luminous graffiti art adorned the corridors and there was a pool and jacuzzi inside. Outside there was a rooftop terrace with an elaborate cocktail bar, four poster beds, astro turf with deck chairs and a crepes vendor. I shared a joint with 2 girls from Singapore, a girl from Thailand and a transvestite on one of the beds. The view from the top was spectacular.
I then met up with a friend of a friend. We went to a bar and got pissed whereby when it closed, we played music from my mini speakers outside. People joined in from the streets including an old man who dropped his stick to dance with us!
On my sister's recommendation, I visited Miss Lilly's around the corner from where I was staying in Manhattan. The staff there were beautiful and had amazing style. People seemed to drink and party in a fiesta style from morning. The music was upbeat and fun and the atmosphere was vibrant. I found a perfect little sunny spot outside where I ate spicy fresh food with a smoothie and set upon planning my day.
I decided I wanted to visit a record store. I went into A1 records which had all I could have asked for. I spent hours sifting through vinyl records taking pleasure in both the artwork and the selection. I bought 17 records. DJs would come in and out of the shop and take turns on the decks. When I liked a song, they would let it play out and then hand it to me to buy. They invited me to a party that weekend that I would be unable to attend.
I headed towards a party I was invited to in Brooklyn. There was a guy called Matt Vorzimer aka eCussionist who had high tech equipment that he used to remix R&B songs into grimy drum and bass and jungle remixes using samples, beat pads and drum sticks. It was a subway party! I gave him drinks vouchers that some girls had given me in Le Bain and bought two CDs from him.
I arrived at Knickerbocker Avenue in Brooklyn where Victor Spinelli from the market in Union Square met me. We entered an outdoor state area where music was blasting from a DJ set coming out of a hot dog van, there was fire and poy, a party bus and beds outside. It was a Burning Man festival after party and the theme was 'Back To Work'. Everyone put on ties and spectacles upon entry and we raved outside. There were fake computers and phones with take the piss work presentations projected on the brick buildings. People pretended to be slamming it working hard, while there was a giant sketch pad and big pens to doodle and work hard with.
I then went back to Victor's place which doubled up as a flat and an art studio. Another paradise. He had a dog called Bella with beautiful eyes. A little fluffy white thing. We smoked a joint and had drinks and nibbles. We played dress up and he showed me his artwork and photography. He passed out on his giant fluffy rug.
The next day I had fresh orange juice, cafe latte and delicious fresh food at a family run cafe. It was a very hot day. The staff were stunning and unique in style.
I walked to Central Park and was so hungry when I arrived that I bought a total mish mash of food all in one box from a fresh foods counter. I found a comfortable spot on a spectator's baseball bench. I watched the game while eating my food and shared a relaxed conversation with a man sitting a few metres away. We were the only ones there apart from a guy sleeping on the bottom bench with a security tag left on his trousers.
Afterwards I strolled towards another game where I peered through the metal mesh fence. There was a guy sat next to me on a wheelchair who advised me not to put my fingers through the wire and then showed me his hands which had big bruised lumps clearly from where he had been hit with a baseball ball multiple times doing exactly what I was doing.
As I walked through the park there were some handsome men walking in my direction. As they walked past one of them farted very loudly and sniggered to himself after. A guy sat nearby on a bench looked horrified and remarked 'jeez man, you shit your pants?!'. I found it hilarious!
There is so much to do and see in Central Park, I could have given it 3 days before I'd have been satisfied that I'd seen it all. The horse and carriages looked as though they had stepped out of a fairy tale. The reservoir was enormous and had a rainbow shining through the fountain in the middle. A cool breeze was coming off the water in its vastness. I visited a small castle, saw a gathering with Jewish dancing, kids running around picking up leaves, a river with old rowing boats surrounded by banks of green grass. I lay in the warmth of the sun for a while taking in the day.
There was music everywhere. I rested on a bench while a woman snoozed on the bench adjacent and we enjoyed classical Jazz together from a trio in our satisfied silence. There were big oak trees and I saw a couple getting married next to a stunning fountain which looked crystal in the sunlight. The highlight was when I came across rollerbladers who wore brightly coloured outfits and had massive afros. They danced on their blades doing salsa in pairs and pirouettes to funk music being blasted out of a boom box. People stood on the rocks waving vibrant silk flags to the music.
I climbed some rocks in the evening sun where people were lying and enjoying the warm surface while smoking spliffs. Hats and socks off.
I visited China Town on my way back, where I visited a supermarket and bought a careful selection of bits and bobs. At the counter, the lady gave me free rice noodles and recommended an excellent vegetarian place which I ate at straight after. I then bought some tacky New York t-shirts from a shop which seemed to be bursting at the seams with bricka bracka. I haggled my price and left to be on my way home.
I was working at an international exhibition in Detroit when I befriended one of the technicians named Christian LaFayette. He told me he used to be a matador and is now a musician.
It was a networking drinks reception and naturally we made good use of our drinks vouchers before finding a cosy spot beside the outdoor fire place on the hotel patio. Later on Christian decided to get his laptop from upstairs to mix music on, and I my mini speakers.
The networking drinks had turned into a mini outdoor party. The crowd had dissipated apart from our circle by the fire with music now blasting. Some of the key note speakers had grabbed instruments from their hotel rooms upstairs, one of them being a flute and another a string instrument I hadn't seen before and were now jamming along to the dance music. Brash but friendly jokes were being exchanged in a less than professional manor. It was a wonderful getaway from the corporate exhibition space inside.