Kids Take the Mic – Youth Voices of Black Rock City
The kids ask the questions this time. These longtime burners have participated in BRC most of their young lives.
6-year-old Teapot offers sage advice on the radio. Teen brothers Atticus and Colby interview adults who’ve been burning for decades as part of our Department of Public Works, the DPW.
Coyote is the city superintendent of BRC, and author of the book, Built to Burn: Tales of the Desert Carnies of Burning Man.
Melissa Waters is a wellness educator and Burning Man Project’s office administrator for California-based operations.
Atticus and Colby are their sons. Who better to ask about families at BRC.
We also hear from:
Abby Ehmann, aka StAbby, a longtime DPW Manager
Tamsin Hull, a DPW Volunteer and creative ceramics artist
They talk about interactive art, smart art, playa names, and serendipity. It’s cool.
The episode ends strong with little kids on the radio, the playa’s main station: BMIR. They share stories of Kidsville, a lemonade stand, and choosing to be an angel, not a dragon.
Hear the curiosity and cuteness, and the occasional awkward transition… like childhood… BRC is for everyone.
The Front Porch
Wings of Glory (“The Pegasus”)
Facing the FearBeast
MOLLY: Hello and welcome to Burning Man LIVE. I’m DJ Toil and I’ve been working for Burning Man Project for almost 13 years now, and volunteering even longer, doing a wild variety of things in my roles, including helping make this podcast happen.
This episode is not interviews of kids; it’s mainly interviews by kids and kids telling us what’s on their minds. These kids have been participating in Black Rock City for pretty much every year of their lives. I started bringing my kid to Black Rock City back in 1995, and she’s come back every year since except two. She did have to start college. Now she’s a manager on staff, and her partner is too.
They bring their kid to BRC. He’s six now, and his plan name is Teapot. In this episode, you’ll hear him share his stories with. And some radio DJs at BMIR (Burning Man Information Radio). You’ll also hear teen brothers, Atticus and Colby take turns interviewing a few adults who’ve been burning for decades as part of our Department of Public Works, the DPW.
Coyote is the city superintendent of brc, a co-founder of D P W and the author of the book, Built to Burn: Tales of the Desert Carnies of Burning Man.
Melissa Waters is Burning Project’s Office administrator for California-based operations. She’s also a wellness educator and a co-founding manager of the DPW.
For full disclosure, these twin brothers, Atticus and Colby, are the sons of Coyote and Mel. But hey, who better to interview about having family at BRC. We also hear from StAbby, aka Abby Ehmann, a longtime DPW Manager, and from Tamsin a DPW Volunteer and creative ceramics artist. The episode rounds up with a couple of fun clips from young kids talking on air at the playa’s main radio station BMIR.
Let’s start the show with Colby interviewing his dad, Coyote.
COYOTE: It’s recording.
COLBY: Okay. What’s your name?
COYOTE: My name is Tony Perez-Banuet and I’m known as Coyote out here in the desert.
COLBY: Sick. What’s your job out here?
COYOTE: I’m the City Superintendent for the Department of Public Works, and my job is to make the infrastructure of the city happen.
Essentially, I’m building the clock, the city grid, and all the amenities that create the city itself. Essentially, I see it as a trellis upon which the plants of the community grow through.
COLBY: Cool answer. How long do you stay out here?
COYOTE: Well, I usually show up around July, mid-July, where we set up offices in Gerlach.
This year we hit the playa on July 28th and set the Gold Spike, and I spent about a week camping out on the playa with my survey crew under the stars. We work at dawn and dusk and spend the heat of the day in Gerlach while the rest of the crew prepares in Gerlach and works at The Ranch. And then about six days later, we come out and set up the fence.
Once the fence goes up, full production starts and heads us into the event. And after the event, it takes me about two more weeks till the fence comes down. This year for the first time I will not be staying for playa restoration. I’ll be going back to San Francisco to help you guys because you’re in high school now, so I need, I’m more needed back in San Francisco. DA, who is the captain of the Resto team, has got full control. So I’ll be back in San Francisco probably mid-September.
COLBY: Okay. And that’s after you finish cleaning up the city and getting everything outta here?
COYOTE: Well, yeah. Once the fence comes down, that means that no structures are allowed to be left on the playa. All the camps need to be gone. We have to have everything of any structure off the playa. It takes us about two weeks to do all that. It’s a big scramble, a huge heavy lift, but we got it down.
Everything that we built has to be unbuilt, and essentially the last screw that we put in will be the first screw that we take out. Because Black Rock City, make no mistake, is a temporary city, and in many ways the logistics look like a traveling circus.
It is a city on wheels that packs into containers, gets stored in our facility about 30 miles north of here at our work ranch. It’s a pretty incredible feat actually to watch it happen, to watch the city just completely disassemble and go away. Then the final two weeks of Playa Restoration, we go from camp to camp and line sweep it to make sure that we actually do leave no trace.
COLBY: Leave no trace. Okay. What brings you back to Black Rock City every year?
COYOTE: Yeah, a lot of people ask me that one because I’m in my 27th year. They ask me if I’m jaded by now, why would I put up with the dust year after year? And quite simply, I love building Black Rock City. For me, it’s the coolest thing I’ll ever do besides raising you guys.
Black Rock City is an amazing place. It’s a little bit different each year. We build an entire city from scratch each year, so we have the advantage of improving upon it and learning from our failures and challenges. We don’t have to live with the mistakes we learn from. And so the city is ever-improving, and there’s a builder’s pride of stepping back and knowing that you accomplished a pretty amazing thing.
It’s a two and a half mile wide clock that’s etched into a blank canvas. And that to me, yeah, I’m not gonna top that one. I have the honors, the honors, of doing that. Besides that, it’s the people; the people I work with really forward bright people, a lot of real clever people, a lot of good senses of humor out here. A lot of very strong personalities. There’s a strong women-side to this that really balances our workforce. I love working in that type of environment. Every year there’s a lot of new people that come in, sort of like a tide pool, and just to watch the experience through their eyes reminds us all how special a thing it is that we do out here.
So that’s what brings me back. It’s the people, and the love, and Black Rock city itself. The place is hilarious. You should have seen it last, just this last Tuesday; it was the triumphant return. The place was going off, and we enabled that to happen. That’s a real honor.
COLBY: Yeah, I did see that in the Gold Spike. It was exciting. How has having kids changed your Burning Man experience overall?
COYOTE: Well, it’s been 14 years. Let’s see, you guys came along in 2008 and I had been going to Burning Man since 1996 so it was quite a change of lifestyle to suddenly be a father out in Black Rock City. It is a game changer, make no mistake, but not necessarily a negative one; just a different one. There are a lot of people who really frowned on the idea that we would bring our babies and our toddlers out to Black Rock City at all. They think it’s a pretty harsh environment, which it is, but it’s doable. You just have to know what you’re doing. It’s just, you gotta be a good camper, and you guys turned out alright.
I think my wife and I really wanted to set an example that being a family in Black Rock City can be equally as fun and fulfilling as not having a family out here. There’s a lot of people who perceive Black Rock City to be an adult city, but it is not. It is a community, and communities have families. Families do thrive out here, and there’s a lot of fun things for kids to do along with their parents.
In that respect, it is like the dream that Walt Disney had. He wanted to have a place where the adults and the children could play together and have fun together, and Black Rock City shares that. Of course, it’s not exactly Disneyland out here, but it has that feel.
COLBY: “Happiest place on Earth.”
COYOTE: There was definitely challenging times where, you know, when you have two twin babies in the camp, it’s definitely gonna change your daily schedules. But we’re still in Black Rock City and we’re still part of it and still participating in it. You just adjust to it. In the end, it’s very fulfilling. And now we have the two of you guys here interviewing me.
COLBY: Okay, cool. What do you think is the best part about Burning Man, either working for it or just being here in the event?
COYOTE: I like working. I think that this city is a city of endeavors. If you look around, especially Build Week, my favorite part is Build Week, survey, and Build Week…
Of course, the event itself is mind blowing. It’s incredible what these people bring, the cheer and openness that they bring. But the building is the satisfying part where everybody’s building stuff and their dreams are coming together. It’s not a city for the lazy. I mean, there are definitely people that come out and just show up for a couple of days, and the camp is catering to them; they don’t really have to do a thing, but at least they did come out and get into the same dust storm as every one else. The dust storms and the environment and the harshness of the place is the equalizer. It doesn’t matter if you’re a zillionaire that’s flying sushi in every day, or you’re living outta your truck or in a tent; you’re still in the same environment. You’re still facing the same challenges.
My favorite part is to watch everybody have to deal with it and find strengths that they never thought they had as they try to adjust to new challenges. Not everybody can do it. It’s a harsh place. Some people pan out, some people can’t stay out here, and that’s fine. That’s the part of the experience that I really value.
COLBY: Interesting. Well, that’s all the questions I have for now.
COYOTE: What, if I had some questions for you? Let’s see. You’ve been coming out to Burning Man ever since before your memories. What are some of the standouts that you have, some experiences that blew your mind?
COLBY: Well, this year has been pretty cool so far. For me, I really like the Man Burn every year because it’s like fire right there in the explosions and stuff. That’s cool.
Also, art cars are cool. It’s like everybody has their own personal art that you get to look at and admire. And it has flamethrowers, so it’s cool.
COYOTE: Did you happen to see the drone show this year?
COLBY: Yeah, I did see that.
COYOTE: I find it kind of spooky. And a little frightening. But pretty awesome.
COLBY: OK, that is the interview.
ATTICUS: I’m Atticus Perez-Waters. I’m gonna be interviewing Tamsin from Burning Man. Hi, Tamsin. So my first question is, what inspired you to first go to Burning Man?
TAMSIN: I heard about it a long, long time before I actually made it over here. Obviously, coming from Britain was a bit more of a journey than if I was American. It took until 2008 for me to get here, when I met some Burners in London who come with a big theme camp here, and I came with them.
ATTICUS: All right. What do you think is the most memorable moment that you’ve had at Burning Man?
TAMSIN: Oh crikey! A most memorable moment? When I worked with the Iron Monkeys, what year was the big spaceship where the Man base was the big spaceship? 2012, maybe 13 or 14. And I worked with the Iron Monkeys doing the perimeter inside the Inner Circle, so that was pretty cool.
They made the perimeter a lot bigger that year. They didn’t know which way the Man Base was gonna fall, or how it was gonna burn, because if you remember, it was like elevated and it was a bit unpredictable. And that was quite cool.
ATTICUS: What year do you think had the best Man Base?
TAMSIN: I think that was the best one. The big spaceship.
ATTICUS: Oh really?
TAMSIN: What was your favorite Man Base?
ATTICUS: I don’t usually pay that much attention to the Man Base. I always go look at other art, and I only really go to the Man Base when it’s burning.
TAMSIN: Yeah. right? I haven’t been yet this year, but I wanna go tonight before they close it.
ATTICUS: Yeah, there’s a bunch of crazy art.
TAMSIN: What’s your favorite art this year?
ATTICUS: It would have to be the little trees. All of those little trees around the edge.
TAMSIN: Little spindly ones.
ATTICUS: Yeah. Those ones are really cool. Like, the ones you can go inside and then you could like walk around.
TAMSIN: Oh, that is the Paradisium. It’s amazing. Have you seen the Big Beast with the little child standing in front of it? That’s pretty amazing as well.
ATTICUS: That one’s cool.
TAMSIN: It makes sort of evil noises and says things like, “You don’t deserve this.” And then when you hug the child, it changes to like nice sounds and positive affirmations, like, ”You are loved” and things like that. It’s really sweet.
ATTICUS: I didn’t know that. I came there and it was completely broken down, but I still thought the design looked cool. The tires made the legs look so evil, bro.
TAMSIN: Yeah. And the eyes, there’s like faces in the eyes. The red. Really cool.
ATTICUS: So what do you think is the most fun you’ve had at a camp at Burning Man?
TAMSIN: Ahhhh…These are hard questions!
ATTICUS: I can give you some easier questions.
TAMSIN: They’re good questions. The most fun at a camp. I just really like sitting around, chatting and meeting new people, so that’s fun. Yesterday we went to a wedding of people we didn’t know; there was nice food and homemade limoncello. I’m sure I’ve had more fun than that, but I can’t think of an answer right now.
ATTICUS: All right, I’ll give you an easier question.
ATTICUS: What do you think is the hardest part of living here?
TAMSIN: Oh, this week it’s so hot. I’m struggling with that.
ATTICUS: Oh, the heat.
TAMSIN: Yes. I’m struggling this week because I’m in a tent, and so I can’t sleep in the daytime. I like to go out at night and then sleep in the day normally, but that’s been hard this week.
ATTICUS: What do you think is the nicest thing that someone has done for you here?
TAMSIN: There’s some pretty nice people. It’s hard to pick one thing. People are always so helpful and kind and generous. Making dinner, being thoughtful, making sure that you’re okay. I think the nicest thing is just when somebody checks in and asks if you’re okay.
ATTICUS: Think of all these questions on the spot. It’s kinda hard.
TAMSIN: You’re doing great.
ATTICUS: What’s your playa name and where did it come from?
TAMSIN: I don’t have a playa name. My real name is Tamsin. There’s no other Tamsins, so that helps. There’s very few in the world. Also, thankfully, touch wood, I’ve never done anything stupid enough to earn a playa name. I’m sure you’re aware that a lot of the names come from when somebody has a horrible accident or does something stupid, so I’m fine with not having one. And what’s yours?
ATTICUS: I’m Lefty and I refuse to tell anyone why my name is Lefty.
ATTICUS: Have you ever had a hard time sleeping because of rave camps?
ATTICUS: I should’ve asked a more open ended question.
TAMSIN: This week in the tent out here, I’m having a hard time sleeping in the mornings, not because of rave camp, but family camp chatting.
ATTICUS: Dude, rave camps, people like that sometimes music vibrates their chest, but I don’t like that. It makes me feel like I have something wrong with me.
TAMSIN: I love that feeling when you can feel the bass inside your body…
ATTICUS: It feels so weird though.
TAMSIN: Yeah, I can understand why it might feel weird. So you prefer family chatty camp to rave camps?
TAMSIN: I find it easier to sleep through music because it becomes sort of like white noise, and just that repetitiveness. It’s easier to zone out less. If there’s a conversation, it’s harder to sleep through that.
ATTICUS: Have you ever met someone famous in any way here?
TAMSIN: I know that there are famous people at Burning Man, but I haven’t met any of them. Your dad’s pretty famous, isn’t he? He’s famous at Burning Man and now, you know, with his book and…
ATTICUS: He’s sort of famous.
TAMSIN: …and people all over the world are reading his book and listening to his words. It’s fairly niche, I suppose. Do you think that somebody who’s not interested in or never been to Burning Man would be interested in reading it?
ATTICUS: I’ve read the first chapter and so far it’s pretty interesting. Even for someone who’s never been to Burning Man, it would describe what Burning Man is like to them pretty well. And there’s also a whole bunch of other stories that aren’t connected to Burning Man. I only remember one story about this crazy rooster. There’s illustrations too, by some really talented artists. The crazy chicken. It was so good.
TAMSIN: Yeah, there’s some good stories, and he sure can tell ‘em.
ATTICUS: Yeah. We were taking the Golden Spike spot and we were doing some ritual around it. It was like this thing that I got invited to. There was just this dragonfly that flew in and I was like, “You’re not supposed to be here!” Yeah, because it’s so dry, I don’t know how it would survive. I don’t know why it would go there.
TAMSIN: I guess they come from over by Frog Pond, but there’s a lot of water around here. But why it would fly into the middle of the desert, I don’t know.
ATTICUS: So moving back to Burning Man, what do you think was the coolest art car you’ve ever seen?
TAMSIN: I really like the el Pulpo Mechanico which is now called el Pulpo Magnifico. They’ve improved it. That’s my favorite one.
ATTICUS: Isn’t that the octopus one?
TAMSIN: Yeah. “Pulpo” is Spanish for octopus.
ATTICUS: I saw it in the distance, but I was so tired. I just wanted to go home, so I just went right past it.
TAMSIN: It’s all new this year. They sold the old one and they made a new one all out of stainless steel. I think the other one was more rusty, but that’s my favorite. The Y Knot Saloon, of course, is amazing this year.
ATTICUS: So if you could get any art piece you’ve seen here added to your front yard, which one do you think it would be?
TAMSIN: Probably the Space Whale.
ATTICUS: That one’s over at Reno, right? Yeah, I saw that one. It was so cool, dude.
TAMSIN: Yes. Beautiful. I’m really glad it got permanently placed somewhere. And then I love robots and I wasn’t able to come here for the “I, Robot” year, but I’m sure there was a lot of art there that I would’ve loved to have had, but I didn’t get to see it, four years ago.
ATTICUS: I remember they were like, “Alright, let’s do the ‘I, Robot’ year this year,” and I was like, “Ooh, that sounds cool.” It was when the “Get stick bugged” meme was popular, so, Okay.
TAMSIN: I don’t know that one.
ATTICUS: It’s a meme, so, yeah. Not a lot of people would get it here because they’re not young.
TAMSIN: Oh I see. I’m too old.
TAMSIN: Too old to get it.
ATTICUS: Who do you think was the best dressed person you’ve ever seen here?
TAMSIN: That’s a toughie as well because there’s some well dressed people, isn’t there? Steven Raspa always dresses really well. There’s one clown girl who always, just incredible clown makeup and always beautiful outfits. I don’t know her name, but I’ve seen her here every single year I’ve been here. She doesn’t speak, she has a little squeaky thing in her mouth and she just squeaks all the time.
ATTICUS: I actually saw this dude at the Man Base and he had this clown nose on and he had this squeaky thing in his mouth. He would just squeak and I thought it was so funny.
TAMSIN: It is funny.
ATTICUS: We gotta end it off on a lighter note. So, do you have any hobbies?
TAMSIN: I do, I’m a ceramic artist. I make ceramic robots.
TAMSIN: My degree is in ceramics and I used to work on the potter’s wheel and make cups and bowls and things like that. And then make molds from plastic toys like rubber ducks or barbie dolls and use those as the handles. I now roll out flat slabs of clay and cut it, doing miter joints with the clay, and then join together and make robots.
ATTICUS: Alright. That’s pretty cool. That’s nice. Alright, so I guess that’s it.
TAMSIN: Thank you.
ATTICUS: You’re welcome.
TAMSIN: That was fun.
ATTICUS: Yeah, it was.
TAMSIN: See you out there.
COLBY: Okay. We are now on air. My name is Colby and I am interviewing Abby. So, what’s your playa name if you have one?
ABBY: My playa name is StAbby.
COLBY: That’s a good playa name. How did you get it?
ABBY: During the DPW Talent Show, the easiest talent to show is rewriting the lyrics to a song. So I rewrote the lyrics to “Feeling Groovy” and I made it “Feeling Stabby.”
COLBY: Cool. How long have you been going to Burning Men?
ABBY: This is my 18th burn.
COLBY: What brings you back every year?
ABBY: Mostly to see people that I don’t get to see anywhere except for here.
COLBY: That makes sense. What was your first experience with Burning Man?
ABBY: Well the first experience with Burning Man was even before I got to playa because the first year I was coming out in 2002, I figured the best way to have a good time out here was to get involved and volunteer. I mean, Burning Man was great, but working for Burning Man was even better.
So I volunteered for the Black Rock Gazette, which was the city’s newspaper. I went to their playa entry edition event in the East Bay, and helped them put together the edition of the paper that they hand you when you come in the gates. So, I was already involved with Burning Man even before I came to the desert.
COLBY: I didn’t know Burning Man had a newspaper. What was the craziest Man Burn you ever seen?
ABBY: The flying saucer was the craziest because I feel like that was the most wood, and it looked really cool, just the shape of it was cool. I know that Lewis Zaumeyer, from JubJub, was the one who designed it and helped build it because he was on the Man Base Crew as he was again this year. But they’ve all been pretty epic.
COLBY: What is your favorite Man base?
ABBY: There was a year that it was like a maze, this double-decker fun house kind of thing where there were revolving doors and you could get lost pretty easily, and separated from your people and everyone was calling out to their friends. It was the most interactive Man Base I thought. And plus, I love a fun house. I love carnivals.
COLBY: What’s your favorite part about working for Burning Man?
ABBY: Well, it’s fun to be sort of backstage and know what’s going on and know the inner workings. And it’s also badass to be able to say, “Hey, I work for Burning Man.”
ABBY: Yeah, it makes you seem, um, rugged, I guess.
COLBY: Yeah. What’s your favorite piece of art this year?
ABBY: I really enjoyed that one particular tree in the Paradisium that had the little dioramas. One was an apothecary, and I loved all those little things. And I liked the scary monster with the kid that I had to hug. Everyone was taking pictures of me hugging the kid. They thought that was goofy.
COLBY: My favorite piece of art this year is the raven thing made out of garbage.
ABBY: Is that the one that’s made out of the spoons and stuff?
COLBY: Yeah. And its tail’s made out of saw and razor blades. There’s also like a random fence gate thing, and a rusty, dusty old sign that says “Slow Kids,” because like a school zone. What do you think is your favorite piece of art ever?
ABBY: I really liked this piece of art, it was way in deep playa, and it just looked like white walls from the outside. When you went in, the way they’d situated the walls really kept the dust and everything out, and the inside was all cushions covered with white fake fur, and then strung above your head were all these, I think they were just pieces of fabric. I don’t even remember what they were, but they rustled like leaves. So just laying underneath there, you got just enough of a breeze and all this lovely rustling noise, and they were kind of hanging brushed up against you and you laid down on the cushions. It was pretty magical.
COLBY: That sounds relaxing.
ABBY: It was very relaxing, yes!
COLBY: My favorite piece of art ever could be The Folly. I liked seeing it burn too. That was cool. Or it could be the Baba Yaga House.
ABBY: Oh, I loved the Baba Yaga House, and I loved the carrot. That was I think my first year that the Sun Brothers did. It was so simple, just a little glowing carrot with a little white picket fence.
It’s hard to say which one’s the best because some are to admire, and some are to climb, and some are to, you know, go inside of and have an experience. So they’re all kind of different.
COLBY: I like the Baba Yaga House because the legs, and inside there were like pies with the human faces and skin.
ABBY: Last year (I keep saying 2019 was last year because it was last Burning Man.) I scrambled up those crazy rocks, those climbing rocks, and then I couldn’t get down and I had a meltdown on the top rock. And your dad said, “Am I gonna have to get a Heister to get you down from there?” Some rock climber dude came up and helped me down.
COLBY: I also always really like the piece of art outside of First Camp, especially the galloping horse, the Pegasus from 2019, and the Space Whale which is now at the skatepark in Reno across the river from the Reno Burning Man office.
ABBY: Yeah, I loved the Pegasus too. It not only looked good, but it made nice sounds. It sort of clanked. It sounded very old school, not all slick and tech. It sounded antique.
COLBY: I think the Space Whale made whale noises too.
ABBY: Oh, that was the year I wasn’t here, so I missed the Space Whale. It looked beautiful though.
COLBY: What’s your favorite part about Burning Man in general?
ABBY: You know, I’ve been asking myself that this year because I feel like I’ve forgotten how to Burning Man and it’s been difficult. So I’m trying to think: what actually is my favorite part? I think the random awesome things that happened, like just this morning when Christa was practically crying because she was in so much pain from her shoulder and I said, “We should get you over to my friend Suzanne, who’s a massage therapist.” She specializes in all these special kinds of massages. And I’m not kidding you; two minutes later she rode up on her bicycle. That kind of stuff. That Burning Man magic.
COLBY: Well, my favorite part about Burning Man is the random cool and fun stuff that goes on in camps around, like the cinema that was playing movies for five days this year. They were interesting movies. Also, this year there was a trampoline thing.
ABBY: Those were pretty deluxe trampolines.
COLBY: I was doing flips and stuff. I would jump to the diagonal wall trampoline and put my hands there and then put my feet where my hands were and then spin around and land back down. I called it the frog spin cause it looked like a frog.
ABBY: The trampolines looked super fun. They looked like an advanced trampolining to have the ones on that angle.
COLBY: I also really like about Burning Man the cool, trippy and creative art that goes out every year. And it’s different every year. Like Meow Wolf, some of it is like Meow Wolf. Like, the forest tree thing this year, there were like two rooms that were especially like Meow Wolf.
ABBY: I feel like Meow Wolf was somewhat inspired by Burning Man, don’t you think? I’ve never been to any of them, but I’ve seen pictures and they all seem very Burning Man-esque.
I feel like right now it’s very trendy for things to call themselves immersive or experiential, and that what everyone’s trying to do is capture that sort of magic like I was just talking about; that, you know, where you aren’t just consuming entertainment, you’re part of the entertainment. And I think that’s what makes Burning Man super special is that, even if all you’re doing is sitting in your camp and someone bumbles in and they sit down and you have this great conversation, it’s all around you. It’s not like going to the mall and buying something.
COLBY: Yeah, only one or two pieces of art I’ve seen this year were not interact-able. Like there’s one a little bit towards 12 o’clock from First Camp and it’s a 3D hexagon kind of 20-sided die looking thing.
ABBY: Oh, that looked interactive. People are spinning it.
COLBY: It had a sign on it. It said “Enjoy with your eyes, not your hands.” And it had designs of like animals on each side, and it was hanging from strings.
ABBY: A guy I know, or knew years ago, he was like a mathematician and he made this crazy spinny thing, and it was so complicated. He tried to explain it to us, and the geometry was all super complicated, but it was very fun to spin. Even if you didn’t understand how it all worked. It was a fun toy.
COLBY: Yeah. Also, next to the promenade where a bunch of art is, and it’s like a room with a world map.
ABBY: Oh, I liked that one too.
COLBY: Yeah. With the questions about COVID, and it’s like a tribute to all the people that died.
ABBY: Oh, you guys had a totally different experience of that than I did. When I went in there the questions were about global warming. It was interesting that they, you know, that… Maybe the whole thing was about how human beings interact with the planet and how well, or how poorly, we’re doing stewarding it.
COLBY: Why I brought up Meow Wolf earlier is because a quarter of it is a big forest area full of trees and pathways above, like a bridge and treehouse areas.
ABBY: But built trees, right?
COLBY: Yeah. And you can go inside them, little staircases going up. And that’s exactly like what the trees forest art piece here is, like because it has bridges and you can go inside the trees with little rooms and staircases up.
ABBY: I feel like trees are a recurring theme out here. People like to see, even if it doesn’t look like a real tree, the idea of something growing out here is appealing for some reason.
COLBY: Nothing grows out here.
ABBY: No, nothing grows here. Well, there’s the scrub along the edges, there’s sage brush and whatnot. Have you ever seen any footage of the Banksy thing that he did? Dismaland?
COLBY: No, I’ve never seen that.
ABBY: Oh, you gotta check that out. It’s sort of like the darker version. And there’s this same sort of thing, like interactive things and you’ll like that. In New York, they had a big Banksy exhibit and they had footage of that, and I’d never seen it. It was interesting. Also all artists doing weird installations, and they were doing sort of like the anti-Disneyland.
COLBY: Well, a lot of Burning Man stuff that’s like trippy, interactive art. I don’t remember that many Man bases, actually.
ABBY: They had one that was like a pyramid and they had little niches around the bottom where you could sit and be a deity, or do whatever you wanted.
I sat for a while and made believe I was a deity. That was cool. The reaction of people was very interesting. Everyone brought their own baggage to you sitting. While I was sitting there, some people would come and pray to me; some people would come and treat me like I was a shrink; some people just came and took pictures. Everyone had their own response to that.
That was kind of interactive.
COLBY: That’s cool. Definitely not a cult.
ABBY: Not a cult.
COLBY: What’s your favorite art car?
ABBY: I remember my first year, I really loved the little cupcakes. I thought they were just so magical. And Sea of Dreams was the theme that year, and there was a chariot that was being pulled by these really beautiful seahorses. That year was good because the aquatic theme just looked good out here. I liked the whale. I like how all the ships looked out here. I don’t really have a favorite. I like the rocket car, and the Volare.
COLBY: Those are good ones!
ABBY: Yeah. They’re accessible.
COLBY: I really like the big ones that are like a party thing.
ABBY: The problem with those is that it looks super fun when you’re not on them, and then you get on them, and either the music’s too loud or you have to go to the bathroom and you wanna get off and they’re not stopping, so you’re kind of trapped. So I think they’re more appealing from the ground.
I went on the L.E.D. Zeppelin this year because my friends made that, they brought that out from New York, and that was pretty cool. They did some crazy advanced math and geometry to make the programming of the tubes that crisscrossed work so it would flash the right way. Yeah, they’re scientists so they made that work pretty well.
I think it’s all good. I know how hard it is just firsthand trying to keep our vehicles running, how difficult it must be to make it, service it, store it, keep it running, keep gas in the tank, make sure that people are safe, make sure you’ve got someone to drive it. It’s just all sort of like everything else: a lot of work, a lot of effort. So I appreciate anyone who brings out an art car or art or a camp. It’s a lot of work.
COLBY: I was wondering earlier, like how hard it is to store those things?
ABBY: Where the heck do they put ’em? Where do they put those?
COLBY: And how did they drive it on the highway if it’s that big? What if people think, like if they’re not going to Burning Man, like a giant dinosaur going by.
ABBY: Well, we’ve been in the New York Times so many times that now people see the giant dinosaur and think, “Oh, there goes a Burning Man car or a 747 or whatever.”
COLBY: For the first time I saw the Mayan Warrior.
ABBY: Oh, that one’s crazy, right?
COLBY: Yeah. I saw its lasers and it was like the whole sky.
ABBY: It’s totally intense.
COLBY: When you hear the words art car, what’s the first art car that comes to mind?
ABBY: La Contessa, probably. There’s so much Burning Man lore associated with the Contessa, so…
COLBY: For me it’s the Narwal. That one’s a classic.
ABBY: Narwal’s here!
COLBY: I saw it parked when we were driving, and I was like, “Hey, there’s the Narwal!”
ABBY: There’s the Narwal. It used to live on the Ranch and it fell into total state of disrepair and Megs rescued it, probably with lots of help.
COLBY: The last time I saw the Narwal was like five years ago when I was in fourth grade. I was like nine or something.
ABBY: You’ve been coming out here a long time.
ABBY: You’re jaded.
COLBY: It’s my 16th year, 1 4th Burn because the pandemic messed things up.
COLBY: But now I have the same amount of Burning Mans that correlate to my age. 14 years. 14 Burning Mans, but …
ABBY: Oh, that’s cool.
COLBY: So I’ve been with Burning Man for 16 years.
ABBY: In utero, even.
COLBY: Yeah. since 2007! I think that’s all I have to say. Do you have any more say?
ABBY: Nope. I think I’m good.
COLBY: Well, that wraps up this interview, so bye.
ATTICUS: I’m Atticus Perez Waters. This is Melissa Waters, and she’s my mom, and I’m interviewing her. So let’s go. How many years have you been to Burning Man?
MEL: I have been working for Burning Man for 22 years, and this year was my 20th burn.
ATTICUS: Nice. What brings you back every year? What’s inspiring you?
MEL: Well, I really like spending time in the desert. I like being there with my friends. I like working with my friends. And I like taking my kids there and letting them experience that too.
ATTICUS: Yeah. What’s your favorite part about working in DPW?
MEL: I like getting to be there from the beginning, seeing it go from just being playa, and then seeing it go all the way back to just being playa.
I really like the desert in the area and the town of Gerlach. And we’ve been there for so long, we have a lot of friends there now in the community, and a lot of friends within DPW, and so it’s just a really special time to be there together. As members of DPW you’re eating together and working together and hanging out together and sharing living arrangements. So it’s a really bonding time, where you spend all your time with someone like that working towards the same project, it’s a pretty cool experience.
ATTICUS: Yeah. What’s your favorite part about Burning Man in general?
MEL: The event itself, I like the art. And I also like when things just happen, You call it playa magic. You need something or something is just so, it seems like it was meant to be. We had that experience this year when we were getting the apothecary cart ready and we didn’t have what we needed. It wasn’t ready for the decorations and for the products to be put in there. We looked across the street and there was a little theme camp called Ray’s Fix It Shop. And Ray’s Fix It Shop, every time we walked across the street, had exactly what we needed, from hinges that matched our cart perfectly to hammers, to finishing nails, to string and lights and tape and everything. They just had everything and it really felt like a little bit of playa magic that right across the street from where we were, there just happened to be everything that we needed. I really like it when stuff like that happens.
ATTICUS: Nice. How do you feel about having a family at Burning Man?
MEL: It makes it even better. I really enjoyed seeing Burning Man through yours and Colby’s eyes and visiting art pieces and theme camps on playa, where we explore them in a different way because we’re exploring them as a child.
Also, it slows us down. Instead of being in this mad dash to see everything and do everything at events every year, we stop to take care of ourselves more because we’re stopping to take care of you. And then what happens in those moments is that, we’re in camp and people know where to find us, and so then we have this opportunity to get together with friends, and make that a part of our event instead of just racing around trying to see all the art, not miss any of the fun parties and stuff like that.
ATTICUS: Alright. What do you think is the most difficult part about having a family at Burning Man?
MEL: Just trying to keep you guys safe and keep you healthy was challenging. I’m concerned about your exposure to the heat and the dust, and so making sure that you had a safe space, or that we didn’t get caught out in the heat or we didn’t get caught out in dust storms, especially when you were little and wouldn’t be able to wear masks. That was a challenge, which we figured out year after year. You’ve been there since before you were born. Every year it was a different challenge. Now that you’re teenagers, the challenge is to allow you to have independence, but also to be safe and responsible at the same time, enjoy the event in your own ways now, not just through our lens.
ATTICUS: Mm-hm. What do you think was your favorite art piece of 2022?
MEL: My favorite art piece was Paradisium. I like the concept of trees. I like that they are trying to use more sustainable practices. I like that they were not burning it; that they made it stackable so that they could transport it using less trucks and less fuel.
I like that they made their art piece into a stage for other artists to put their work inside the trees. One of the favorite nights that we had was also, when the Front Porch and the snail and the Y KNOT Saloon pulled up and they had a big concert. And I think the March 4th Marching Band was there at one point. And then there was a jazz band that played. It was really good music and just a really surreal setting. Everything looked so beautiful together. And also it was kind of like a reunion for all of our friends.
ATTICUS: Good answer. What was your favorite Man Base, like ever?
MEL: You know, I just took a sticker from the office that had all of the Man Bases on it up until 2019 because I can never remember which was which.
If I had a favorite, it would either be the Lighthouse, which was 2002 for Floating World, which was such an impactful theme that I feel like it still influences playa mutant vehicles today. There are lots of boats and ships, still.
And I also really liked, it was the Cargo Cult year, and that was the UFO, and I think that was the biggest Man Base ever and the biggest burn for Burn Night ever.
ATTICUS: I liked that one too. And everyone thinks that that’s their favorite one.
MEL: The UFO? It might have been 2013, which you would’ve been five. You would’ve been five, so it would be hard to remember.
ATTICUS: I honestly barely remember anything from when I was five. What do you think was your favorite art car?
MEL: Well, I would have to say the Y KNOT Saloon. It was really beautiful. I don’t wanna be biased or anything, but that was kind of our theme this year was the Wild West. The Y KNOT Saloon was that big saloon art car.
ATTICUS: It had like an entire cow skull and a piano.
MEL: Yeah, it had a piano and a little wood burning stove and velvet wallpaper and furniture made out of antlers. It was very thoughtful, and very detailed, and very well made. I liked how they could just take the signs and the little trim off, and then the walls shrunk in, so you could drive it on the highway. That’s pretty cool.
What was your favorite?
ATTICUS: My favorite art car? There are so many. I think the big ass Narwal.
MEL: That is a favorite and has a historical place for you guys because you’ve played on it all these years.
ATTICUS: I don’t usually pay attention to the art cars.
MEL: Yeah. It’s funny when you’ve been there for so long, sometimes it just seems like part of the scenery. You take it for granted a little bit, don’t you?
ATTICUS: I kind of like the Pac Man Ghost this year. That one was kind of cool.
MEL: I think that there’s a Pac Man and multiple ghosts and they all go together. Did you see the Space Invaders drone show?
ATTICUS: Yes, I did. We looked at the sky and we just saw like a giant countdown and we were so confused cause we didn’t know what it meant. And then this game of Space Raiders started playing. We were like, “Is someone playing that?”
MEL: There were two drone camps.That’s why we had drone shows every night. Did you see that big drone eyeball on Burn Night?
MEL: That was my favorite one of those. It was creepy, but it seemed complicated because they were making the eyeball, it was the eye and it looked really realistic, and it was blinking, and just looking at us in this really creepy way. I’m sure tons of people freaked out!
ATTICUS: Damn, that sounds really weird.
ATTICUS: The final question, what’s your favorite piece of art ever?
ATTICUS: You could just say Space Whale if you don’t want to think of one.
MEL: Maybe the flaming Pegasus. That was the keyhole piece the year after the Space Whale. The Space Whale’s pretty great. The one this year too that I really liked, but I didn’t get to go see, it was the one that had all the stained glass of art pieces from previous years. There were 25 posts, and each post had four sides. So I guess that’s 100 different art projects. It was like an homage to previous years. And there was one with the Thunderdome from when someone pranked the Thunderdome and put the Hot Topic sign on the top. There was the Big Rig Jig. There was all kinds of different things from previous years and I thought that that was pretty cool. But yeah, all time favorite: Space Whale or the Pegasus.
ATTICUS: Space Whale is pretty popular.
MEL: Well, the nice part about Space Whale was camping next to it and it had the whale sounds and it really was very peaceful there that year.
ATTICUS: I liked the big ass monster, the big monster with like the weird eyes.
MEL: Face the FearBeast with the face, it had like eight eyes or six eyes, but they were all faces with the little kid.
ATTICUS: No, it wasn’t working, but I heard that it would like yell bad things at you, and then you would hug the kid and that it would say nice things to you. If it was working then that would be my favorite art piece.
MEL: Well, that’s at The 360 now, so maybe we have another chance to see it working.
ATTICUS: I don’t know what The 360 is.
MEL: That’s that Burning Man property right outside of Gerlach.
ATTICUS: Oh. I would like to see it work.
MEL: You know what else is going to The 360: Some of the trees from Paradisium.
MEL: And more of them are going to Fly Ranch.
ATTICUS: All right. Good thing they didn’t burn it because they can transport them to other places now.
ATTICUS: Alright, so that’s the end of all of the interviews.
MEL: Well, you did a good job. Thanks for being part of the project.
ATTICUS: You’re welcome.
ATTICUS: Alright, see you later. Bye.
MEL: See you later. Bye.
BMIR: This is BMIR, Burning Man radio, Black Rock, 94.5
HUBERT: If you’re out there, drop by in the studio.
ALPHA PUSSY: Gifting, one of the fun things we do out here, and we’ve already gifted our very first Black Rock citizen. Do you wanna talk on the radio?
ALPHA PUSSY: It’s okay.
HUBERT: It’s okay.
ALPHA PUSSY: Mom, do you wanna talk on the radio?
PROSPERITY: Yeah. So I’m here with Cody. He is the first swag recipient from Alpha Pussy’s beautiful piece of art.
ALPHA PUSSY: It’s a lot of time. It’s a lot of love and it’s a labor of love.
PROSPERITY: So she made this amazing pendant. I’m Prosperity, I host the Love Burn Miami since 2014. We appreciate art. Absolutely beautiful. Thank you for sharing it with Cody, and thank you for inviting us to witness BMIR radio and the kids. I don’t know if other kids from Kidsville will be coming, but it was awesome and thank you.
CODY: Thank you!
ALPHA PUSSY: Thank you for coming, Cody.
HUBERT: There you go. Thank you for sharing on the radio.
BMIR: The Voice of Black Rock City. Waking Dreams.
HUBERT: We’re back in the studio with us is Ezra and Reed. So you’re from Kidsville?
HUBERT: How do you like it?
EZRA: Well, Kidsville… Kidsville has a bunch of cool stuff next to it. I have been able to bike to the… I’m sorry, I can’t talk. There is a giant… OK, I’m sorry.
ALPHA PUSSY: Is it a trampoline? Is it a big bouncy house?
EZRA: Yes. Thank you. Yes. I lost my voice there for a minute.
ALPHA PUSSY: You’re fine. You’ll find it here.
EZRA: I haven’t explored Kidsville too much, but it’s my first year I can probably gonna be remembering. I have…
REED: I think you’ve enjoyed being near a lot of other kids and having a lot of other built-in playmates. Certainly there’s lots of activities geared for children there, and we feel a little bit safer knowing that there’s lots of parents nearby.
EZRA: Yeah. Our next door neighbors, they set up a lemonade stand. Before they even opened there was a huge line. And the third day I borrowed a megaphone and I was just like, “Lemonade!” with some of the other kids there.
ALPHA PUSSY: Busking lemonade at Kidsville! That’s pretty awesome.
EZRA: Yeah. “Open four to six everyday till Sunday!”
ALPHA PUSSY: You’ve got a radio voice. What are you talking about? You got a voice.
HUBERT: Yeah, for sure. You said this is gonna be your first Burning Man you’re gonna remember, you’ve been out here more than once?
EZRA: Yeah. I came when I was eight months old.
HUBERT: Yeah, that’s probably a period you don’t remember at all. Your parents brought you and you’re like, “Oh, this should be fun.”
REED: So I guess so far this is definitely your favorite Burning Man year?
EZRA: Yeah. This is only my second.
ALPHA PUSSY: Got you. I had the opportunity to actually give pendants to two unborn Burners earlier in the week. There was a woman that was out front of our studio, she was eight months pregnant, and I, you know, got up to the belly and I spoke to her unborn child, and gave her unborn child their first playa gift. So that was really cool.
HUBERT: Talking about gifting a pendant, since you’re in the studio and you actually answered our call coming out here.
ALPHA PUSSY: I have a pendant for you.
EZRA: Thank you. Wow.
ALPHA PUSSY: There you go. Because we can. So I have one for you, too.
REED: Oh, thank you so much. This is beautiful.
HUBERT: Yeah. Thanks for sharing and I hope you enjoy the rest of your burn as much as we are gonna do.
REED: Thank you for letting us join you.
HUBERT: Yes, thank you so much.
REED: Thank you. You too.
ALPHA PUSSY: Okay, bye. That’s awesome.
HUBERT: And we’re back. More participants in the studio. We are back with Molly and
HUBERT: Teapot, so nice to have you in the studio. Molly, my dear friend. I know her for…
MOLLY: Many years, many years.
HUBERT: Alpha Pussy, who is also a friend of Molly, so we’re one big family out here.
ALPHA PUSSY: Yes, we’re here with Molly of Burning Man, that’s her title. Molly of Burning Man and her grandson Teapot. Yep. And you wanted to talk on the radio.
MOLLY: What do you wanna tell us about, Teapot?
TEAPOT: Oh, tell you guys about
TEAPOT: Alright. So, a friend of my grandma’s died so we went to the death Temple and we put up a poster to honor him. And some friends of mine had to honor their cat named Pippin, whose ghost still lives in their house, and is very friendly. I’ve been to San Diego and I really like the zoo there. And I just, I also saw a Mexican restaurant across the road from the scariest haunted house ever. Well, spoiler alert, it has only one ghost!
ALPHA PUSSY: Well, it sounds like you’ve been to Burning Man.
MOLLY: How many times have you been to Burning Man? Do you know?
TEAPOT: I don’t know, but I know I’ve been here on all the years that it, that it’s opened since 2015.
MOLLY: Yep. He came in his mom’s belly, and we had a big baby shower for her on playa, and then he was born almost immediately after the event.
ALPHA PUSSY: Oh my goodness.
MOLLY: So what do you like doing out here at Burning Man?
TEAPOT: Hanging out at my LC and drawing on my whiteboard.
HUBERT: That is an awesome thing to do out here.
MOLLY: What are you gonna do tonight? Do you remember?
TEAPOT: See the art, and see the Man with its neon on.
HUBERT: Oh nice. That’s a good one.
MOLLY: He’s going out after dark tonight.
ALPHA PUSSY: Do you go out on a golf cart or a bike?
TEAPOT: A golf cart.
ALPHA PUSSY: Yeah, that’s definitely much safer.
MOLLY: Definitely. So do you have any advice for kids at Burning Man?
TEAPOT: So, 1. Don’t be a dragon, be an angel.
HUBERT: Oh, that’s so nice.
TEAPOT: I’ve been much of a dragon lately.
HUBERT: That’s great advice. I love that.
TEAPOT: 2. Please respect the art. 3. Face the Fear Beast!
ALPHA PUSSY: Oh my goodness.
HUBERT: That’s solid advice there.
ALPHA PUSSY: I couldn’t have said it better myself.
TEAPOT: 4. Don’t mess with the art if it’s under construction.
ALPHA PUSSY: Good point.
TEAPOT: And 5. Don’t tease the art.
MOLLY: Don’t tease the art?
TEAPOT: Yeah. Like don’t make fun of it.
MOLLY: Oh, okay.
ALPHA PUSSY: Yeah. Don’t harsh the mellow out here. Be kind to the art and the artist.
MOLLY: Every art piece out here has its own point of view and sometimes we don’t understand it, but there’s no point to making fun of it.
HUBERT: Because people put a lot of effort in it, put a lot of love in it, for the art to happen. So it’s solid advice, really. Thank you for your advice.
ALPHA PUSSY: Beautiful. Thank you, Teapot.
HUBERT: Thank you, Teapot.
TEAPOT: You’re welcome.
MOLLY: You’ve got any last words for us?
TEAPOT: Um, yeah. Please be careful while you’re walking on the ramp that leads to the arch where the Man is on, because there is no walls.
ALPHA PUSSY: Yeah. That’s a dangerous one.
MOLLY: That’s good advice, honey.
HUBERT: That’s solid advice.
ALPHA PUSSY: From the mouths of babes.
MOLLY: He’s a bit of a veteran. This really will be his sixth burn.
HUBERT: Wow. Yeah.
ALPHA PUSSY: Here I have a pendant for you. Ooh.
MOLLY: What do you say?
TEAPOT: Thank you.
ALPHA PUSSY: You’re welcome, Teapot. It’s a pleasure. Thank you, Teapot.
HUBERT: Thank you, Teapot. Have an awesome burn.
COLBY: Okay, that is the podcast. Bye.
TEAPOT: Burning Man Live comes from the Philosophical Center of Burning Man Project. Some of it is paid for with money people give to our non-profit at donate.burningman.org.
Thanks to all of us kids at Burning Man, especially Atticus, Colby, Cody, Ezra, and me, Teapot! Black Rock City is for everybody!
Thanks to the adults, too. Grammy, DJ Toil. Producers kbot and Andie and Vav. And thanks to Super Producer Stuart Mangrum. And my other mom Lulu says “Thanks Larry.”