Elliot's version of "This One Time At Burning Man....

Share your pictures and video. Tell us about the sights, sounds, and scents, as well as the rumors and truths found at Burning Man.
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Elliot's version of "This One Time At Burning Man....

Postby Elliot » Thu Sep 28, 2017 10:46 pm

In case you are not catching these elsewhere on the interweb, I will post them here -- as I write them, which is sporadically.

Chapter 1 – New Zealand
THIS ONE TIME AT BURNING MAN….

Even though money is essentially never used in Black Rock City, mysterious circumstances placed two $20 bills in my hands -- two $20 bills from NEW ZEALAND.
What to do with them?
But later. This week, I have a Bicycle Service Camp to run.
….
Fast forward...
... to Friday September 8:
….
The Event is long over, and there are not many of us left out there, still busy taking down and packing up.
Suddenly…
… a lady appears – from the nearest other camp still packing up. She is Chelsea and simply wants to be neighborly.
….
We talk, and discover we have a good friend in common.
Mighty small World.
How small?
Turns out…
…Chelsea is from New Zealand.
….
“One moment, please. I have something for you.”
I re-emerge with the $40 NZ and hand it to her.
Chelsea misses not a beat:
“There is a Youth Community Bike Shop in my neighborhood in Auckland! They can really use this!”
….
Burning Man.
Not just crappy dance music.
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Re: Elliot's version of "This One Time At Burning Man....

Postby Elliot » Thu Sep 28, 2017 10:55 pm

Chapter 2 – wheels for a Marine
THIS ONE TIME AT BURNING MAN….

His name eluded me, but he is a disabled veteran – a Marine, who took a bullet near the spine, which cost him the use of one leg.
Later…
…he was minding his own business when a befuddled senior citizen drove her car right over him. That cost him a foot and the use of that leg.
Years pass.
….
Our Marine decides that Burning Man is for him.
Now he needs a bicycle.
And he buys a bicycle with electric motor assist.
Trouble is…
…he cannot get it started and keep upright at the same time.
Mobility Camp…
…bless them!...
…try him on a hand cycle.
Better in a way, but still tipping over.
Next…
…a tricycle.
No tipping over now, but needs the electric motor power.
….
What he needs…
…is training wheels on the electric bike.
….
Enter…
…Wonder Camp, which is across the Plaza from our Bicycle Service camp.
They resolve… training wheels it shall be. And they have welding equipment.
Next…
… a nice lady from Wonder Camp comes over and asks me for training wheels. Anything – a-n-y-t-h-i-n-g – they can turn into training wheels.
We brainstorm, and I give them a creaky old tricycle.
An hour later.
She is back. With the Marine.
They have dismantled the tricycle and made training wheels from it.
The Marine tells me…
…it is the first time he is riding a bicycle in…

…30 years.
….
He hefts his legs onto the pedals with his hands, pushes with what little power those legs still have to get rolling, then hits the electric switch.
….
And rides…
…a-n-y-w-h-e-r-e -- h-e -- w-a-n-t-s in Black Rock City. Just like you and me.
….
Folks…. I’m a 65 year old man with thick hair on my chest.
And I wept.
….
Burning Man.
Not just for sparkle ponies.


Postscript.
After the Marine rode off, I turned to the Wonder Camp lady and said...
"He is going to crash that thing, sooner or later... I hope you realize. And I bet he won't mind much."
She replied something like "Yes. And yes."
....
Later, I heard he had indeed tumbled off the bike a time or two, and didn't mind it much at all.

Post-postscript.
The Marine is Barry, and the Wonder Camp lady is Mama MJ.

Here is Barry with his "training" wheels.
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Re: Elliot's version of "This One Time At Burning Man....

Postby Elliot » Thu Sep 28, 2017 10:56 pm

Chapter 3 – Intro to the Ethos
THIS ONE TIME AT BURNING MAN
….
Apprenticing is good. Burning Man takes learning.
….
Invited to serve my apprenticeship with a seasoned camp, I was also asked to bring any extra bicycles I might have, since many camp-members could not bring theirs.
….
“Bicycles? OK. I can bring some.”

A repurposed school bus has plenty room for an extra handful bikes.
….
Monday, Event opening day, 2006.
Gate, Greeters, Camp Lucky. The bikes come out of the bus first, and I set them in a row.
Then a lady walks up.
….
She has arrived in Black Rock City separately from her friends, and is now searching for their camp. On foot. In a campground of seven square miles.
She asks to borrow a bike. For just an hour or two, until she finds her friends.
….
“Of course. And no hurry -- keep it as long as you need it. All week, if you like.”
….
For seven days, I crisscross Black Rock City with my jaw down on the third shirt-button.

“Wow. People can DO that?!”
“Wow. THIS is possible?!”
“Wow. Where did all these people suddenly come from, to help set up a tent?”
“Wow. Why is this not in every urban neighborhood?!”
“Wow. Total strangers invited me to breakfast!”
“Wow. Nothing like that kind of art was ever mentioned in my art history classes!”
“Wow. You mean you are just GIVING me this?!”
“Wow. I just had a wonderful conversation with a hippie in dreadlocks!”
“Wow….”
….
A week later. Monday, Event exodus day.
We are packing up.
And here she comes. The lady who borrowed a bicycle.
….
It takes me a moment to even remember her. Make that several moments. I had forgotten all about her by Wednesday, for certain.
….
But sure enough, she rides that bike all week as I invited her to do, and then…
… SHE BRINGS IT BACK.
Not a scratch on it.
….
I propose marriage.
Alas….
….
Folks, I had lived in that desert for eight days. And learned tons.
But this was the moment when I “GOT” Burning Man. The ethos of Burning Man.
….
What I wouldn’t give… to have that bicycle on the wall in my living room today.
….
OF COURSE she brought it back!
She is a Burner.
….
Burning Man.
Not just a joy ride.
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Re: Elliot's version of "This One Time At Burning Man....

Postby Elliot » Thu Sep 28, 2017 10:57 pm

Chapter 4 -- the photo creep
THIS ONE TIME AT BURNING MAN
….
I was walking home from Perimeter shift in the middle of the day, when I noticed a man sitting in a lawn chair right at the front of a camp, by the street.
….
I noticed him because he was wielding a big SLR camera with a long zoom lens, and clearly looking up and down the street for something to photograph.
….
I walked quietly past him... and about 30 feet along I stopped and turned around, discretely.
….
And I did not wait long before a young lady came bicycling down the street, wearing shorts, shoes, and hat.
….
The man followed her with that long lens for a good 40 feet, zooming in and clicking away.
….
As the lady passed me, I saw the anger in her face.
….
Putting on my best diplomatic suit... I strolled up to the fellow and complimented him on the fine camera.
…And then eased into the matter of Burning Man photography rules – strictly by consent only, thank you.
….
The Creep became defensive -- almost hostile. Not interested in any rules. He had paid for his ticket to The Show, and he had rights.
….
Then…
…ANOTHER BURNER stepped up and began explaining to the fellow the same as I had told him.
And the creep was suddenly not quite so cocksure of his right to break rules in Black Rock City.
….
Burning Man.
Not just you alone.
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Re: Elliot's version of "This One Time At Burning Man....

Postby DoctorIknow » Fri Sep 29, 2017 10:25 am

Thanks, Elliot. These are great and reminded me I've got to get my stories from TTITD down in some format. The stories are not just stories,,,,they changed my life.

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Re: Elliot's version of "This One Time At Burning Man....

Postby Elliot » Fri Sep 29, 2017 12:22 pm

One story I have written is about how... a life was not only changed, but probably saved -- as in preventing an unnecessary death. Alas, the subject prefers it not be published, even with the name changed. Too personal, and I fully understand that. My point is.... Oh, yes... lives are indeed positively changed in BRC.
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Re: Elliot's version of "This One Time At Burning Man....

Postby ygmir » Sat Sep 30, 2017 7:22 am

Elliot:
I think you've hit your stride and found the perfect niche, here, and hopefully other places.
these stories are grand, well written and inspiring.
Thank you, for doing this.
You will inspire, and help, so many with your words.
*bows*
YGMIR

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Re: Elliot's version of "This One Time At Burning Man....

Postby some seeing eye » Sat Sep 30, 2017 10:53 am

Elliot, thanks for this post! Hope it continues. Perhaps other ePlayans can have their own threads too. Also thanks for calling out the creepy photographer. We had something similar and we resolved it as a group in the moment.
increasing the signal to noise ratio with compassion

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Re: Elliot's version of "This One Time At Burning Man....

Postby Elliot » Sat Sep 30, 2017 1:55 pm

Be vewy vewy quiet. The Photo Posse is hunting Camera Creeps.
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Re: Elliot's version of "This One Time At Burning Man....

Postby Elliot » Mon Oct 02, 2017 2:33 am

Chapter 5 – Bring ALL the tools.
THIS ONE TIME AT BURNING MAN
….
To this day, I still keep the thank-you card in a place of honor on the wall.
….
Can’t remember the year this took place, but I had by then hung out my shingle as bicycle mechanic somewhere in Black Rock City.
….
Beginning of Event week, a big guy of mature years shows up, pushing his bicycle.
No flat tire. No derailed chain. No taco’d rim. No lost pedal. No jammed brake.

No seat.
….
Seat? Actually, it is a saddle. His seat… is that cushiest part of his anatomy. Ask any horse-riding instructor to point out his best pupil in the arena – “The bright blue jacket -- good seat on that one”. As in a skilled seat – learned quickly how to get along with the hard leather saddle.
….
So… no saddle on this guy’s bike.
Gent this size and age shouldn’t even try to ride a bike very far standing up. That’s for teenagers on little “stump jumper” bikes.
….
Bicycle saddles, I have. Big comfortable ones.
What is lacking… is the chromed steel post the saddle attaches to -- the one that can slide up and down in the frame for height adjustment.
Oh, he brought the post, all right. Trouble is, it has slid all the way down into the frame. (Never loosen both bolts at the same time.)
….
We begin by fashioning a “fishing hook” out of a coat hanger. Too stuck for that -- the hook unbends.
We heft the bike up-side-down and shake it. Too stuck for that.
We jar and rattle the frame with a hammer. Too stuck for that.
Bang it against the ground. Bang it against the flatbed trailer.

Wave a dead cat over it and speak a couple sentences in Norwegian – employing a low and threatening tone. Too stuck for that.
We add WD-40 to the recipe and perform all those stunts again. Too stuck for that.
….
Brain slowly coming up to highway speed.
What tool might I possibly have, that could grab the inside of this confounded piece of steel tubing, deep inside another piece of steel tubing?
….
Answer: External retaining ring pliers # P-4735, which I bought for use on a clutch pack in an automatic transmission in 1975. They look like something a veterinary surgeon might use when working inside a horse.

Squeeze the handles and the tips spread OUTWARD. And the tips have teeth and are of a hook shape.
Around the inside of the stuck post, there is a bit of a ridge at the top.
Down, squeeze, feel, squeeze harder, wiggle, squeeze, pull, twist, squeeze da daylights outta it, twiiiisssst, puuuuulllll….
….
Marching bands. Fireworks. Speeches. Medals.
Heroes, and I is one.
….
But what on Earth possessed me to bring those transmission pliers to Burning Man in the first place?! What told me to bring ALL my tools, just in case?
Last year’s Dust, possibly.
….
End of the week. No Avon lady shows up. No Land Shark. No Cable Guy. No process server. No Telegram for Mongo.
But a fleet-footed young fellow brings me a postcard.

“Thank you for saving my Burn!”
Signed “The Big Old Guy.”
….
Burning Man
Not just the stuff you expect.
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Re: Elliot's version of "This One Time At Burning Man....

Postby Elliot » Mon Oct 02, 2017 2:47 am

Chapter 6 – Another Burner speaks up
THIS ONE TIME AT BURNING MAN
….
Cruising Inner Playa one evening on a pedal car with my friend Unjon, we stop at the sculpture Heardt – by a team of five young artists from Czech Republic.
….
Heardt is a large replica of a human heart – not the greeting card shape of heart, but the kind with aortas and arteries and such sticking out.
The sculpture is a loose grid of thin steel tubing, forming the shape of the heart, but hollow and see-thru.
Inside… is… a piano.
A 1923 Baldwin model K – a full size Grand Piano.
….
Every steel tube of the heart shape is covered with addressable LED lights. The moving lights represent the neural signals that control the beating of the heart. And the neural signals are controlled by… the piano. …The mood of the music played on the piano.

Clever, these Czechs.
My only contribution was an old mass-produced piano.
….
Unjon and I arrive at Heardt while a gentleman is playing. There is no wind at all, but the lid is closed.
I inspect the whole assembly – especially the hinges. All is fine. I open the lid, and the music wells forth like it is truly supposed to – magnificently. The pianist nods and smiles.

Further inspection reveals debris inside – a beer can, whatnot. Then I slide the sheet music stand forward to check under it – not. It is stuck. The left side little red-felt-lined track is broken. To prevent further damage, a sheet-music-stand-ectomy is indicated. The patient can live a productive life without it.
….
As I gently place the sheet-music-stand in the luggage box of the pedal-car, the music stops, and the pianist walks over.

“Are you just TAKING somebody’s piano part?”

I love that man, that pianist, that Burner.

Of course! He has no idea this is my piano!
So he challenges me.
He DOES THE RIGHT THING.
….
Burning Man.
Not just somebody else’s problem.
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Re: Elliot's version of "This One Time At Burning Man....

Postby Elliot » Wed Oct 11, 2017 9:47 pm

Chapter 7 – A quick tune-up
THIS ONE TIME AT BURNING MAN

“…& Piano Bar”.

Whatever else we call the camp this year, it always includes “…Bicycle Service…” and concludes with “…& Piano Bar”.
Oh, yes… you bettcha, buddy. A real piano. Six hundred pounds or some such of iron and wood. Mostly iron. At a camp-out in the desert.
Because…
…we can.

This one is the 1927 Gulbransen upright. Reinforced with quite a bit of inch-thick plywood.
….
Luckily, it is a dry heat.
Still, a piano sometimes needs tuning, and PROBABLY so after a few days of light-hearted, boisterous, rambunctious, mildly rowdy -- occasionally raucous – festivities in Black Rock City.
….
Who you gonna call?
Nobody.
If it becomes too awful to play at all – burn it. Catapult it. (Then pick up every last sliver!)
….
However….

Along comes one Burner with more discriminating ears. And skills.

He asks one of our bicycle mechanics if he might borrow a tool or two?
No sober mechanic likes to lend tools, but this fellow seems… different. Calm. Sincere. Competent. Collaborative. Maybe even… ever so slightly… Conspiratorial.

“Help yourself.”
….
The stranger picks a large pair of vice-grips, then carefully selects a small socket. Not a couple one would normally find walking hand-in-hand.
Worse, he clamps the poor socket in the vice-grips! Note: square end out.

With this improvised TUNING LEVER, he proceeds to tune our 1927 Gulbransen while the bones of Norwegian immigrant and mechanical genius Axel Gulbransen spin in a moss-covered grave somewhere outside Chicago.

Finished, the mysterious stranger returns the tools, apologizes for the scratches on the socket, and strolls off. His work here is done. Perhaps he knows of another needy piano in this seven square mile campground-community we all create.

Burning Man.
Not just marching to the sound of the loudest DJ.
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Re: Elliot's version of "This One Time At Burning Man....

Postby Elliot » Wed Oct 11, 2017 9:47 pm

Chapter 8 – the Playa provides
THIS ONE TIME AT BURNING MAN
….
Stolen. Everything.
….
Let’s call them Julie and Joe.
….
Leaving their home in the Pacific North-West at the first crack of cock-a-doodle-do, they head for the 2008 edition of Burning Man, pickup-truck loaded to the Plimsoll line.

The second day, only two or four hours from the Playa, they stop at a friendly little small-town diner for breakfast.

And from their table – fork-loads of tomato-onion omelets in mid-air – they watch their pickup-truck drive away.
With e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g.
ALL their equipment and supplies for a week in a ferocious environment. A much-loved art project.
A little piece of their souls.

…Except for their wallets with the Event Admission Tickets. There may be a god after all.
….
Arriving in Black Rock City by means of their thumbs, Julie and Joe go searching for the most urgent necessities.

Burners often bring extra Stuff, because people are human and sometimes forget to pack things, from a tent to a toothbrush. We love being able to say “Yes, I have an extra. Here you go.”
We use the term “The Playa provides”. (A concept not to be abused, please. Accidental need, yes. Negligence or deliberate omission, no.)
….
By the time Julie walks into our camp that afternoon, they have secured a tent and the other critical overnight necessities – sleeping bags, warm clothes -- and one bicycle, which allows Joe to continue the search further afield.
At the top of Julie’s list now is a bike for her.

Done.

In the process, it is obvious how tired she is. And hot. Stressed out. Dirty.
….
Flashback: A few years earlier, I had purchased a decommissioned school bus and named her Millicent. Not much to look at, as Motor Homes go, but by golly she is outfitted with a shower and a refrigerator.
….
Returning to the present…. I “march” Julie into Millicent and deposit her in the shower.
Emerging therefrom, Julie soon finds herself comfortably seated and eating a big bowl of chocolate mint chip ice cream.
Heck, yeah… I bring “extra”. It ain’t my first rollick in this vast parched desert. Among basic survival gear out here is dessert.
….
Burning Man.
Not just on your own
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Re: Elliot's version of "This One Time At Burning Man....

Postby Canoe » Thu Oct 12, 2017 9:43 am

Elliot wrote:... The stranger picks a large pair of vice-grips, then carefully selects a small socket. Not a couple one would normally find walking hand-in-hand.
Worse, he clamps the poor socket in the vice-grips! Note: square end out.

With this improvised TUNING LEVER, he proceeds to tune ...

Been there. Done that.
  • And with the right socket size and large allen key, you can get much closer to a more conventional control, and with care, somewhat closer to setting the pin, with no vice-grip to slip off the socket.
  • Both ways, must take care to not strip the pin, as with less contact to the pin, there's a lot more load per sq. inch.
You can also:
      JB Weld the correct tapered pin cast into a donor socket. You can file the JB Weld to 'tune' the cast taper.
    • Or epoxy in strips of steel to match the taper.
    • You need a good release agent on the pin and degrease the socket so there's a good bond; don't drip onto anything, particularly a string.
    "My favorite people are the people of the dessert", said Lawrence as he picked up his fork.
    .
    ... but don't harm the red dragon that frequents the area from time to time. He and I have an agreement.

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    Re: Elliot's version of "This One Time At Burning Man....

    Postby Elliot » Thu Oct 12, 2017 1:05 pm

    Quite so. However... I had with me TWO proper tuning levers, with tips in both #1 and #2 sizes. And I had neglected to make them available when I was not present.

    Edit to add: Ah... of course, an Allen wrench would be far preferable to vice grips, yes.
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    Re: Elliot's version of "This One Time At Burning Man....

    Postby 171/348 » Thu Oct 12, 2017 6:05 pm

    Yes... But the vice grips add a lot of color to the story. And they seem far more playappropriate.

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    Re: Elliot's version of "This One Time At Burning Man....

    Postby Elliot » Thu Oct 12, 2017 8:15 pm

    Well, it is simply what happened. These are true stories.
    I add a little pizzazz to my writing style when I can, and I even fill in the occasional gap with a triviality, to maintain the flow of the story, and keep you entertained, but I never change facts such as the vice grips.

    For example, in Chapter 8, I do not actually know where the theft of the pickup-truck took place. But it doesn't matter.
    I created the "friendly little small town" and the "tomato-onion omelets" simply so the story would keep flowing.

    If I had written only "Julie and Joe had all their stuff stolen on the way to BRC", you might have quit reading right there. Boring.
    And... "How was it stolen?", you might shout at me. But it doesn't matter to the real story -- which took place on Playa.

    The technical term is literary journalism. Facts presented in a style that is enjoyable to read. Or... at least I aspire to make it so.
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