3 Old Men, an update

Ten years ago I was ABORTIVE ATTEMPTING my way through designing/planning for my first burn — which I thought was going to be Burning Man but ended up being Alchemy. (The blog posts detailing that process are actually excellent philosophizing, if not outright rationalization.)

My theme camp, 3 Old Men, started out looking like this:

There were six of us then, four Old Men and two spouses.

Ten years later, my camp looks like this:

And like this:

We have the labyrinth and its thrice-daily ritual. We have the craft cocktail bar; Raymundo brings an absinthe bar. We are proud to partner with Wizard and his gong/bowl sound baths. We host Traffidor and his baroque music ensemble for a concert during the ritual. (No, really.) We spearhead the March from the Dark Side, led by Duff, who this most recent burn brought our very first art car, Grubby. We fart around with GET OFF MY LAWN, wherein we put a bowl of hard candies on a large piece of astroturf and then yell at any hippie who steps onto it. We have O•MAOR, the Organization for the Mutually Assured Oxytocin Release, i.e, free 20-second hugs. We have GALAXY, which Turff will bring back this fall, now with a silent disco soundtrack. If I can get my act together, we will have Rage Against the Night this fall, our first art burn.

We’ve grown.

When I came up with this whole concept of a multicursal labyrinth and 3 old men officiants offering a concluding experience to any participant, I had a hunch that we might become a burn institution, and lo! so it has come to pass. We are both a destination camp and a landmark. (One year there was a medical emergency in a bedroom camp across the way, and the radio message that went out to the medics was that the patient could be found across from 3 Old Men.) We get respectful placement, not only at Alchemy but at To The Moon, our other major regional.

More than that, though, is the impact it seems to have on those who walk the labyrinth, especially during the ritual. (After you reach the center, you choose if you want to exit at one of the three exits where an officiant stands. One will offer to bless you; one asks if you will bless him; and the third will offer you a “struggle,” which takes various forms.) Every single ritual, at least one of us will have a powerful encounter with a person who emerges at our station; this past fall, I ended up offering the blessing every time and I was astounded at the impact my simple words seemed to have on everyone.  We all have stories about those encounters.

And we’ve become known as a refuge kind of camp. People seek us out as a calm, comforting space. We’ve taken in random burners; we’ve attracted some of the smartest, kindest, most creative, and funniest people I’ve known. It’s an amazing group of people and I am awed by what they bring to 3 Old Men.

3 Old Men is one of my proudest accomplishments. I owe my eternal gratitude to all of the people who have made it a beautiful thing. If you’re reading this, you know who you are.

me at Alchemy 2023, feeling gratitude for 3 Old Men

4 thoughts on “3 Old Men, an update

  1. I can’t imagine your pride. I’m grateful to have been welcomed at Alchemy and intend to camp with you again with the hope that I can contribute more substantially. The labyrinth is a worthwhile and meaningful addition to any burn, and the gravity of it is, to my mind, more appropriate to the fundamental values a burn seeks to embody than most other offerings. The silly camps that pursue fun and a return to free, child-like uninhibited expression are invaluable, but the camps that offer not only a genuine opportunity for introspection but a chance at deep connection to others are where the meat of what happens at a burn lies—at least for me. Thank you. Thank you immensely. What you do matters.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *