Monday, October 27, 2014

Burning Man Stories: Two Polaroid Photos, 2014, 2013

Some burners walk around with (what used to be called) a Polaroid camera. They take photos of people, and then gift those people with an instant print of the image captured, which slowly develops over a few minutes.

Here are two I was gifted:

free radical with Temple Guardian, the Sharpie Shaman, aka Uncle Buck, at the Temple. Burning Man 2014 
The gentleman I pose with above is a "Temple Guardian," a volunteer whose job is to, basically guard the temple.  At this point, he was on perimeter duty, keeping people from approaching the temple.  It was too late to visit the temple, for it was closed so it could be prepped for immolation that night.  This was the cause of no small amount of grief on the part of the burners, who wanted badly to enter the temple, but the guardians were there, not just to protect the temple, but to empathize and support the community that relies on it.  They set up a small outpost on the perimeter, that was a large wooden box that had been painted colorfully and skillfully, and so was a complete work of art, like the temple, for visitors to commune around, and put their feelings into. They could write or draw on scraps of wood or cards and place them in the box, which would be placed in the temple to burn with the rest.

The Sharpie Shaman maintains the safety perimeter around the Temple

The man in the orange robe I actually recognized from Burning Man 2011, who was in the exact same spot, at roughly the same time, when I was there on Sunday morning.  He clarified this, saying he was there that year, and remembered me.  He introduced himself as the Sharpie Shaman, aka Uncle Buck.  In 2011, he'd ferried my remembrance into the temple, to find a place for it to burn.  He had a ceremonial way about him, conscious and empathic, so I again bade him find a spot for my placard this year, which I saw him walk away with, at a ritually slow pace.  But before that, he had intimated that they were running low on supplies that burners could use to create their remembrances to be burned.  I have come to expect this from previous burns, and so came prepared with a dozen extra Sharpies and a stack of 5X7" cards, which I was happy to donate, and he was happy to accept.

At the Center Camp with some Russian girls whose names escape me, but who were a hoot.
The picture above was from 2013, from a visit to the Center Camp.  I was just wandering around, taking in the scene, when pretty much out of nowhere, I fell into a "meeting."  Some girls accosted me, and told me we would be having a meeting.  I naturally acceded to this, and followed them till we found a suitable space for our meeting.  I'm not sure how it started out, but this ended up being a mock-business meeting, in which we argued and negotiated over imaginary salaries and titles.  At some point, I was feeling a bit ganged up on, and so had to go looking for an advocate.  Not too far away, a young woman was just wandering around  as I had been, and so I enlisted her as my attorney, or some such title.  She said she had no experience doing that, and I said that was fine, and so she was in.  She took on the spirit of the game with gusto, and argued vehemently on my behalf.  I forget exactly how the meeting ended, but basically, when we all got bored with the game, it was over, and we were back to being people in the cafe together, but this time, we'd been through a little dramatic experience together. Someone had a polaroid-style camera and snapped the above picture.  My attorney is not in the picture.

This was the perfect expression of the spirit of spontaneity at Burning Man: do anything, be anyone, form spontaneous ad hoc relationships with random strangers.  It's a blank slate to create yourself again as anyone you wish to be, any character or persona.  All around you are the exemplars of this spirit, who can show you how to do it, and reveal to you the simple joy of this purely creative act.


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