Burning Man: Origins of 3 Old Men

Here’s where we are: three old guys who need a schtik, preferably ritualistic, that can be transported across the continent so that we can Participate in the Burning Man Festival.

Here’s a funny thing about inspiration and creativity: sometimes—just sometimes—an idea will come to you fully born.  That’s great, because then all you have to do is justify it.

So it has happened here.

Remember back in December when I gifted myself with all the little notebooks, waste books?  My life is littered with them now, and one set is the Burning Man set.  I’m on my second one.

I opened that first notebook and wrote Three Old Men at the top of the first page, and then made a sketch:


Craig David Me
leather loincloths,
long-nose masks
Butoh paint on bodies/heads
single-file — unison movemeneet
dance breaks — slow-motion staff dance

Some interesting points about this page.  Notice the note about Pantaloon.  That comes from the commedia mask, which would resemble the “long-nose mask” I envisioned.  (And the mask was actually a hazmat particulate matter mask: the Playa is very dusty.)

The problem of course is that Pantaloon is the antithesis of the Crone-equivalent we’re looking for.  He’s a figure of ridicule, decrepit and impotent.

The other notable thing, which might seem trivial, is that by the bottom of the page I was writing in all caps.  That stuck—the rest of my input is in all caps.  It just feels right.

Anyway, here’s a further sketch of an Old Man:

Gas mask: check.

Loincloth: check.

Saggy manboobs and belly: check.

(Notes on Butoh—ignore those for the time being.)

At this point, we’re good to go.  All we have to schlep across the country are gas masks, loincloths, and staves.  We can buy the ingredients for body paint when we get to Reno.

If you’ll imagine our setup: three old men, nearly naked and painted white, their faces covered by almost alien looking devices, walking silently in single file across the Playa or through the streets of Black Rock City like some new priesthood.

They stop.  Silently they raise their staves and begin a sequence of movements that seem ritualistic, a cross between martial arts and Butoh dance.

Finished, they resume their trek.

So far, so good.  Like all good and perfect ideas, it changed almost immediately.

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