Year of the Mexicans

A guest post from Terbo Ted, the first DJ at Burning Man (1992) and first Mayor of the Techno Ghetto.


Burning Man 2016: Year of the Mexicans

TERBO TED TERBOLIZARD·FRIDAY, 9 SEPTEMBER 2016

.
“Make America Mexico Again” – overheard in Black Rock City

.
Whether they were contributing by financing, creating, designing, building, staffing or populating Black Rock City, 2016 was a year noteworthy for outstanding input from Mexican nationals.

2016-mayan-warrior-1

Mayan Warrior’s historic link up with Robot Heart in the Deep Playa, photo from Alexandra Höglund | Instagram

Mexico City’s Mayan Warrior art car  returned to the playa with millions of dollars worth of mind blowing improvements.  Their blend of music, form, sound and light was unprecedented and sets a global standard for art cars.  Whenever it would slowly enter the playa playing solemn processional music, dozens of bicycles would dutifully follow along in anticipation of the festivities to come.  The night Mayan Warrior linked systems with playa veterans Robot Heart set an unbelievable benchmark for sound in the desert and attracted an enormous crowd of thousands that danced well past sunrise.  Equally impressive was watching the Mayan Warrior return to their large, well organized camp to go through the vehicle’s round the clock daily servicing; it was like watching a pit crew at the 24 hours of Le Mans automobile endurance event.

2016-mayan2photo from Burning Man Festival at https://www.instagram.com/p/BKDwqYDgxeS/

Burning Man has become an international jet set destination and along with some very impressive camps from Mexico lining Billionaire’s Alley- such as Humano The Tribe-, there were other high end luxury Spanish language camps in that area as well, including Ibiza camp from Spain.  All day long at the end of Lorenzo one could witness beautiful young people talking in Spanish strolling or riding by while modeling designer swimwear, tall boots and disco ball bedazzled military officer caps, which were very much in fashion this year.  I’m glad I speak Spanish; I found myself having several conversations a day en Español on the playa.

.
Many of the Mexicans had elaborate feather costumes or wardrobe items, which was quite interesting in the wake of all of the strong social media dialog before the event regarding respect for Native American and First Nation traditions, especially the donning of Plains Indian style war bonnet headdresses.  Mexicans, of course, may be descended from- or not- a range of indigenous civilizations that have long made use of feathers in ceremonial costumes and headgear, which might be influenced by Aztec, Mayan, Olmec, Toltec or other American cultures.  To directly address the war bonnet controversy, while I never saw an authentic, actual Plains Indian Eagle Feather Headdress on the playa this year, I certainly did see one wasted, sunburned and pale beer-bellied white bro with his shirt off, wearing unfortunate Spring Break styled swim trunks and a low-cost child-sized neon green faux feather war bonnet headdress that looked like it came from the Spirit Halloween store.  This poor fella looked like the only guy on the playa who couldn’t actually get laid, and I don’t think we should take his costume choices too seriously, he obviously doesn’t.
.

Black Rock City has all of the cultural sensitivity of an owl vomiting up a frog carcass it has recently devoured.  Countless booths and kiosks line the city offering ‘Bad Advice.’  Ironically, these are usually unstaffed.  While traveling around BRC, it is inevitable that some drunken clown, prankster or provocateur will yell at you through a bullhorn or distorted microphone with a message as succinct as ‘Fuck You!’ or ‘Fuck Your Burn!’  Which is usually followed with a sturdy hug and an offering of a drink. This is how a society built on ritualized destruction of a male effigy conducts itself on a normal day to day basis.  If you are new to BRC, the culture is very likely to rudely invade your personal comfort zone and via ‘transformation’ help you redefine your own boundaries.
.

It seems that well over half of the population of Black Rock City are virgins now.  What is remarkable is how all of the shared cultural history, knowledge and information has been of great use in preparing these people for their first visit.  Sometimes virgins might even be over indoctrinated before they arrive these days. We should be reminded that in the early years of Burning Man on the playa, people were NOT good at it.  Over 20 years ago people would routinely show up in the desert with no goggles, no mask, no sunscreen, no hat, no shade, no water.  Back in those days, you’d find someone passed out on the ground, intoxicated, with a blistering sunburn and desperately in need of help.  Now virgins show up in designer outfits tailored to the desert lifestyle.  In conversation with virgins this year, I’d inevitably ask them how does being at BRC differ from all of the impressions they had beforehand, from all of the wealth of pictures, videos and stories they had experienced prior the event.  Most people answer that they are surprised at how friendly everyone is in Black Rock City, and by how indescribable the desert environment is, including scale and conditions.  You have to be there on the playa to truly understand.

2016-on-bikes

Image: Alazne Bilbao | Instagram

Bicycles are an integral part of Black Rock City, but that has not always been the case.  In the early 90s, BRC was small enough to easily traverse on foot, and you could drive your car in any direction you chose at any speed.  Times have changed.  A great deal of difficulties face bicyclists on the playa.  LOCK YOUR BICYCLE or it will be ‘gifted’ from you and become a ‘playa bike.’  While literal bike theft seems to be down in BRC- in previous years people would actually throw bikes en masse into trucks to steal them- ‘borrowing’ or ‘appropriating’ of bikes is rampant in BRC.  This is especially common around turn key camps that provide a fleet of bicycles to their guests.  A turn key guest probably doesn’t have much attachment to their provided playa bike, and it is understandable that they would not lock it up, but once their allocated bike disappears, the consternation of this situation is generally inspiring enough to motivate their borrowing of someone else’s bike, which has an impressive cascading effect.  LOCK YOUR BIKE OR YOU WILL LOSE IT.  The amount of discarded bicycles strewn about after the city begins to fade away is heart breaking.  If you do not want to take your bike home, please take it off the playa and donate it to any one of the local groups along Highway 447 who specialize in restoring and renting playa bikes to future guests.

2016-girl-on-bike

Image: Polinanikova | Instagram

Further bicycle notes: If you spend any time at all in the busy bike repair shops around the city, you will notice that one of the most common repairs is eliminating a derailleur and shortening the chain to transform it into a one speed bike.  The playa is completely flat and the roads are rutted.  Derailleurs fail regularly from all of the bouncing, dust and falls a bike encounters.  If you are putting together or purchasing a new playa bike, one speed beach cruisers work fine.  Consider avoiding multi-speed bikes to eliminate yourself some hassle.  Also, while people are great at illuminating their bikes to avoid ‘darking’ at night, it seems more people could use bells or horns to notify other pedestrians, vehicles and bikes.  It is remarkable how many people ride their bikes while not looking where they are going, there are many distractions in Black Rock City.
“Communities are not produced by sentiment.  They grow out of a shared struggle.” – Larry Harvey

.

It was great to see ecstatic good vibes from the old timers in attendance this year.  The recent purchase of Fly Ranch leading up to the burn warmed many hearts.  But the path to this year’s joy has not been an easy one.  Burning Man has faced much adversity over the decades.  The festival almost collapsed after the deadly HellCo chaos of 1996.  For every single one of the early years in the desert the festival only lost money, which seemed like a lot in that era, even insurmountable at times.  Their have been countless lawsuits over the years against various government agencies.  Early stalwarts such as John Law (who designed the man’s neon) quit long ago and vowed never to return.  Others have passed away, such as Pepe Ozan, who helped pioneer large-scale ritualized spectacle in the earlier years.  But every single time this year I ran across folks such as Larry Harvey, Crimson Rose, Will Roger, Maid Marian, Steven Raspa and more, they seemed to be in the greatest of spirits.  Que vaya bien.
¡Hasta luego!

.

About the storyteller:
Terbo Ted Terbolizard first visited the Black Rock Desert in 1992 when there was no gate, no perimeter, no road, no trash fence and you could drive your car as fast as you wanted in any direction.  Terbo was the first DJ to play in Black Rock City, with no one there to hear his set on a dusty Friday afternoon.  Later, in the early years he was the only one ever to be called “Mayor of the Techno Ghetto.”  His playa self and default world self can be remarkably similar these days.

.
Header image photo by Craig Ellenwood

#burningman #playa #artcar #mayanwarrior #robotheart

Notes On Two Wheels: Stupid Laws, Stoned Burners & Public Transportation

BicycleAs I mentioned autonomous vehicles (self driving cars) in a previous post, I felt it was only fair to discuss one of the other issues that ties San Francisco, New York & Black Rock City together: Drunk people on bicycles.

DzrsqldpTGy9rmx4Mze3_Popcorn BallgameNow that I’ve got your attention! Whether it’s the deep playa, SoHo, or any of those insane hills you Frisco people shoot down on the way to work, we’re all pleased that bicycling is catching on finally here in the United States. After being a niche for the well-to-do & granola among us in the 90’s, out East, the trend started picking up speed in the 2000s & now NYC has bike paths, while you get odd looks if you show up with an SUV anywhere outside of LA. As we all know, biking is better for the environment, can save you cash & gives you those crazy calf muscles. However, we’re starting to see something unnerving here on the East Coast that I know SF & Black Rock City has had to deal with for some time. And that would be biking under the influence. Continue reading

Hot Wheels: Bike Thieves Beware

by Whatsblem the Pro

Bike-Thief-2

The latest issue of The Jack Rabbit Speaks links to a survey about stolen bicycles:

“Runs With Scissors has a cool project:

“It happens frequently: in the worst situation, you may find yourself exhausted after a party in deep playa – and the bicycle you were planning to ride back on is no where to be found, but a mangled wreck with a broken chain has been left as a sorry replacement. There are stories of people who have bicycles taken from racks in the backs of their camps on the first day and there are stories of people lifting whole clumps of chained bicycles and putting them into trucks.

YOU ARE GOING TO DIE

YOU ARE GOING TO DIE

“The trouble is that I only have stories and I want real statistics. I want to build a map that tells me where the most likely place is for a bicycle to be lost. I want to know what the qualities are of a bicycle is that makes it more likely to disappear.

“If we have enough data points, we can learn when and where we need to protect ourselves and how to prevent this from happening to ourselves. If you have ever had a bicycle disappear, please take the time to fill out the quick survey below.”

Life is so unfair

Life is so unfair

What really interested me about this JRS item was the mention of “people lifting whole clumps of chained bicycles and putting them into trucks.”

While wandering in the deep playa this year, I happened upon two separate caches of perhaps a hundred to two hundred bicycles each. They were mostly high-end steeds, and they were all lying down and locked, some to each other. These big caches of locked bikes weren’t near anything whatsoever; they looked as though they were just waiting for a big rig to pull up and someone to load them in.

It's better exercise than a handbasket

It’s better exercise than a handbasket

It’s undeniable that, after Exodus, a huge number of lost and abandoned bikes remains on the playa, deliberately ditched by departing attendees from far-flung corners of the Earth, or taken for an unauthorized joyride and abandoned, or simply lost and forgotten by their owners in the general frenzy. They’re not typically locked, though, and this wasn’t after Exodus; these caches of mystery bikes were there before the temple burned.

Three hundred used high-end bicycles sold at a cut rate of a hundred dollars each brings in thirty thousand dollars.

Is an organized bike theft ring operating in Black Rock City?

Burn, Don’t Get Burned: Playa Bike Consumer Report

by Whatsblem the Pro

NO BICYCLE FOR YOU

NO BICYCLE FOR YOU

Back in March, we gave you a rundown of options for obtaining a playa-suitable bicycle. Topping that list was Reno’s Kiwanis Bike Program; unfortunately, information has come to light that prompts us to withdraw our recommendation of that organization in favor of the other options listed in our March article.

We’re sorry to report that you should also be warned away from Rat’s Bikes, a service frequently promoted in the Jack Rabbit Speaks newsletter put out by the Burning Man Org.

We don’t have any negative reports from people using Kiwanis’ playa bike program, so you might be safe giving them your money for that (if they even have any left); we have confirmed, however, that they are not trustworthy enough to do business with on a verbal contract basis; instead of fulfilling their end of the bargain, they seem to do nearly as much back-pedaling as pedaling. Caveat emptor!

When Kiwanis recently moved to a new space and needed the old place cleaned up so they could get their deposit back, a three-way deal was struck to get their old space thoroughly cleaned in exchange for a dozen or more bicycles, to be donated to a community center for community use. Volunteers showed up and did the job, and Kiwanis got their deposit back. They made every visible sign of being happy with the work performed, to the point of gushing all over everyone concerned about it. . . but when it came time to collect the bicycles, they suddenly decided to change the deal and act as though nobody should be surprised by that. The community center that was supposed to get a dozen or more bikes got one instead. Stay classy, Kiwanis Bike Program.

Rat’s Bikes, meanwhile, a one-man operation that may be connected with the Kiwanis Bike Program, has simply vanished into thin air after collecting funds from more than a few burners. We don’t know where Rat is or what’s going on, and it’s possible that he’s in some kind of truly dire straits that makes this excusable. . . but in any case, Rat should no longer be considered a reliable resource for burners seeking bikes. We hope Rat’s OK, even though him being OK would mean that he’s some kind of thief, and that some kind of thief has been enjoying free promotion from the Burning Man Org.

As always, do your due diligence before forking over your hard-earned cash, no matter what you’re buying; this is particularly important when you’re buying tickets from someone other than the Org themselves, at any price. You don’t want to end up on the playa with no bicycle after paying for one, and you sure don’t want to show up at Gate with a ticket bearing an invalidated serial number.

Ride tough!

======================
UPDATE
======================
We have just learned that an anonymous donor has stepped forward to fill the gap left by the Kiwanis Bike Program. One dozen bicycles will be delivered to the community center tomorrow, with annual free maintenance included! The donor does not want publicity, but the bicycles themselves will be sourced from Black Rock Bicycles, who will also do the yearly maintenance.

Hooray!

Sex ‘n’ Drugs ‘n’ Bikes That Roll

by Whatsblem the Pro

Having a bicycle on the playa is considered essential by just about everyone who isn’t riding a Segway or driving a golf cart or an art car. Bringing your bike from home might not be wise or practical, however, for a number of reasons:

  • Your bike may not survive the playa. This could be a real issue for those who bring the bicycle they use for daily transportation the rest of the year, or for those weekend warriors with seriously expensive high-tech rigs.
  • Your bike may not be appropriate for the playa. Balloon tires are vastly preferable, as is serious decoration; not only does uniquely decorating your bike make it a more welcome sight to the rest of us, it also makes your bike a less-attractive target for thieves. Speaking of which. . .
  • Your bike may be stolen. Lock it up if you want to keep it, and at the very least, write your name and camp address prominently on the frame, in case of joyriders who really don’t mean to steal your bike, but who may have a lapse in judgment re: borrowing it while intoxicated.
  • You may be coming from overseas. Bringing a bicycle with you on an international flight? Bad idea, for so many reasons. You need to pick up something locally!
Yellow Bikes are green! Photo by Danger Ranger

Yellow Bikes are green! Photo by Danger Ranger

No matter what the reason, you do have options if you just don’t want to bring your bike with you to Burning Man (or if you don’t have a bike). The surest and most obvious is the Yellow Bike program. Yellow Bikes (which are green) can be found all over Black Rock City, free for the taking to anyone who needs one. . . but remember, there are only approximately a thousand of them, and if your butt’s not on the seat, it’s fair game for anyone else to take. Do not lock up Yellow Bikes, or stash them, or otherwise take them out of circulation unless you have an immediate need. If the Yellow Bike you’re riding breaks, please do your best to fix it yourself; the same goes for your own bike if you bring it. There are camps that do nothing but bicycle repair, but don’t count on them, and try to be self-reliant if at all possible. Carry basic tools and a patch repair kit with you, even if you’re using the Yellow Bikes. Bring some chain lube, too, as the playa has a way of insta-rusting things. . . but in the interests of leaving no trace, use lube that doesn’t get flung off the chain when freshly lubed, and be sure to catch any drips or overspray so your lube doesn’t end up on the playa where it will have to be cleaned up (yes, that kind of thing really does have to be cleaned up, and so do puddles of crystallized urine, so don’t piss on the playa either). Make sure the bike you’re on is appropriately lit-up at night, so you don’t end up creaming some other darktard out on the deep playa, or being run over by an art car whose driver can’t see your inadvisably lightless ass.

Serving the Children of the World

Serving the Children of the World

If you’d prefer to avoid the vagaries and vicissitudes of riding Yellow Bikes (which may suddenly disappear under another rider anytime you’re not on them), there are several choices in Reno for acquiring a playa bike. The econo route is to reserve a bike with the Kiwanis Bike Program, which provides no-frills machines specifically tailored for on-playa use. You should do this as early as possible; last year they were completely out of bikes by mid-June. You can also hope to score big for small coin on a first-come, first-served basis at the Reno Bike Project, which runs a similar program. You can reserve a Kiwanis bike anytime, and pick it up between August 23rd and August 28th, 2013 between the hours of 9:00 AM and 9:00 PM, or at other times by appointment. If you show up in Reno having forgotten to make a reservation, you may still be able to buy one from a limited pool of machines they reserve for just such situations. To reserve a Kiwanis bike, you’ll need to give Kiwanis a PayPal deposit of $40 per bike. Some of their bikes cost a little more than others, but the maximum price is $50; when you show up to get your bike, you’ll choose from over 400 available, and pay the extra $10 (if applicable) then. All proceeds from Kiwanis Bike Program bike sales go to support the Kiwanis Bike and Pedestrian Safety Programs and other service projects. To make a reservation or for more information, e-mail kiwanis_bikes@sbcglobal.net, or give them a call at (775) 337-1717 or (775) 846-7146.

Photo by Reno Bike Project

Photo by Reno Bike Project

If the Kiwanis Bike Program doesn’t have what you need, try the Reno Bike Project. They no longer do reservations, but they do have a large fleet of over 500 playa-ready bikes you can buy for prices similar to Kiwanis at $55 and up. The mechanics at Reno Bike Project are probably a little more skilled than the folks at Kiwanis, and the environment is a bit hipper, but otherwise the two programs are very similar. Like Kiwanis, RBP will accept your bike back as a donation after you leave the playa and want to head home unburdened. Reno Bike Project: (775) 323-4488, or e-mail

If Kiwanis and the Reno Bike Project are both out of bikes, or if you’re looking for something a little more high-end, then Black Rock Bicycles might be the place for you. Their prices – even for rentals – are quite a bit higher than what it would cost you to buy a bike outright from the other two places, but they do offer a better quality of machine in your choice of colors, plus a dizzying array of both utilitarian and decorative accessories with playa riding in mind. Again, you’ll need to make your reservation early, as they typically run out of bikes weeks before Gate opens. If you’re too late or too much of a fancy lad to jam econo, the nice thing about Black Rock Bicycles is that they’ve got fairly cheap playa bikes for rent or sale, but also stock a wide range of gourmet brands and accessories that run into some serious money. You won’t get off as cheap at Black Rock Bicycles as you will at the Kiwanis or the Reno Bike Project (the rentals are $95, versus $50-$55 to buy a bike outright from Kiwanis or RBP), but you’ll get absolutely everything you need at the level of quality and affordability that suits you.

Playa-Ready Fleet for Sale! Photo: Black Rock Bicycles

Playa-Ready Fleet for Sale! Photo: Black Rock Bicycles

If you’ve already got a bike (or if you just snagged one from Kiwanis or the RBP), Black Rock Bicycles can fancy you up with lights, baskets, and all kinds of playa-savvy decorations and accessories. If you’re not terribly handy, BRB has seasonal volunteers who will install accessories for you in exchange for tips! To reserve a bike for purchase or rental from Black Rock Bicycles, or if you have questions, e-mail randy@blackrockbicycles.com or call the shop at (775) 972-3336. If you’re broke and relying on your burner work ethic to see you through, both the Kiwanis Bike Program and Black Rock Bicycles have deals for people who volunteer their time. Put in a few shifts at either shop fixing up playa bikes for other burners to rent, and you’ll pedal away on a cycle of your choice, freshly fixed-up by you with your newly-acquired and/or freshly-honed bike-fixing skills. Again, the earlier you do this, the better.

Let’s not forget that “leave no trace” applies to unwanted bicycles as much as it does to standard litter. If the bike you bring to the playa is going to become a millstone around your neck once you leave, there are a number of places that will take it off your hands for charity; the Kiwanis Bike Program and the Reno Bike Project are two of them. Whether you bought the bike from them or not, you can donate it to them when you’re ready to leave. If you just can’t make it back to Reno with your bike, you’ll see several hand-painted signs on the highway during Exodus, directing you to spots where you can donate your bike to local (usually native-operated) charities. . . just please don’t leave your bike on the playa to be someone else’s problem! Thousands of bicycles are abandoned each year in Black Rock City, and it’s a bit of a headache for the Resto crew, so pack it out with you even if you no longer want or need it.

It would be nice if everyone’s bicycles were as unique and interesting as these, but that might not be practical for you. Hopefully your creative energies are being put to good use on some other aspect of your burn. It would be nice if everyone’s playa bike could be as cool as some. . . but no matter what you ride, ride tough!

Photo: Torsten Hasselmann

Photo: Torsten Hasselmann

Photo: Commodore Minxie

Photo: Commodore Minxie