Burning Man 1999 - After the Burn

The following photos were taken after the Man Burned. The Burning Man festival climaxes the night the man is burned. It's a wild exuberant experience and I decided that a camera would only get in the way, so I didn't carry one. I was able to spend a few days on the site helping others pack and clean up.

<-- Back to the index

Imagine my shock when I discovered I had nearly a full week of time off with nothing scheduled at all. This was the largest block of free time I've had since High School. The first day after the burn half the city left. The next day most of the rest of the city packed it in. This photo is what was left of Spanky's Bar after I had about 200 drinks. I hadn't met Spanky previously, he was helping some pals of mine pack up, and he needed an 11mm wrench to take down his shade structure. I loaned him said wrench, and in the shade of his tikibar realized there was no reason not to spend the rest of the day right there with a tropical drink in my hand. No one was relying on me for anything, or would be for several days. So I was the official loud drunk while the world was taken apart around me. I mixed drinks for random freaks who walked in, kept CD's in the boombox, misted the working troops, and made sure my speech was slurred at all times. It was tough work. Many thanks to Spanky for a rare afternoon of complete and total slack.

The Black Rock Desert is a vast expanse of nothing. Nothing like you've never seen before. Completely flat and not even a single blade of grass to be found. On the edges, a strip of sagebrush, then mountains. In a few places hot springs bubble up providing enough water for a few trees and a bathing area. Here's where I spent the day after Spanky's with a group of random freaks who also were in no hurry to get anywhere. I met a man from the Netherlands who had been travelling in the US for over a year. At the time that seemed incredible that he was able to mentally be that idle. By the end of the week I was de-stressed enough to understand.

larger version

These are the mountains on the other side of the hot springs above. Dry, stark, and alien.

larger version

The Safari Bug and I headed back to the remains of Black Rock City. It's advisable to not travel alone when possible in this environment. I took this photo because of the particular feeling of crossing the desert kicking up big clouds of dust needed to be recorded. In the back of my car you can see several boxes of books doctored up to read "Mein Camp by Larry Harvey", courtesy of my pals in the Portland Cacophony Society.

larger version

The safari bug in all it's glory. This car started as a $1 purchase... The part you don't get from this photo is beer garden / polka music that was blaring from my PA as we crossed the desert.

larger version

This is the Burning Mandible. That night Black Rock City was nearly empty, mostly down to the Department of Public Works, the diehard playa cowboys setup and breakdown the infrastructure of the city. After a solid week of techno music, painted naked people, and fragile art projects the DPW fought back with the soulful tunes of AC/DC, spiked black leather jackets, cheap booze, and well worn cowboy hats. If you look close at this photo you can see a giant propane tank in the back powering the flames. The same gent who built this fine object also had a 3 foot tall working replica of a bic lighter.


That night most people left in the city gathered and plowed through the perishable food and booze that had been donated by the horde leaving the desert. This rough crowd had more in common with the early Burning Man festivals than it does with the current more sanitized versions. The DPW pyros built a giant bonfire and fed it with anything flammable, including full containers of white gas, fireworks, and colman propane tanks. Do NOT try this at home.

All packed up and ready to go. Hard to believe this location was near the center of a city of 24,000 people just three days before. One of the differences between Burning Man and the rest of the world - people clean up after themselves.

If you can't pick up your own crap, stay home.

The nearest outpost of civilization is Gerlach. Here's the Post Office.
Ten minutes north of Gerlach is the Planet X Pottery Collective. This photo does not do justice to this neat little oasis. Sqeeze an extra half hour into your schedule to stop here, check it out, and maybe pick up some of their beautiful pottery.


<-- back to the index, or on to High Rock Canyon -->