I actually crossed paths with The Godfather of Skating at the Tom Jones Panty camp during Burning Man 2002.
It’s kind of a funny story that’s not even appropriate for posting online.
I took the Green Tourtise to Burning Man 7 years in a row. Going to Burning Man is like being struck by lightening and I had that once in a lifetime experience 7 years in a row. I started in 1996, the Hell year. The year that people were being decapitated, run over by cars as the slept in their tents, and maimed left and right. At times the skies were filled with Medivac helicopters, it was like Apocalypse Now but with House and Trance beats in the background. Check out the aerial view from to get an idea of how scattered brained everyone was back then.
Look how honky-tonk The Man’s altar was back then. It was just a couple bales of hay. These days it’s these really unique and elaborate alters or temples. I remember they had a temple a few years ago that was the size of a Home Depot, but back then it was just on some bales of hay. It felt like the Dukes of Hazzard were running the show in ’96. Yee-haw!
Then keep in mind that the Rave Ghetto was TWO MILES away from the main camp and they had not yet banned cars on the playa.
At night you’d be walking the desert feeling like a cross between Lawrence of Arabia and Charles Manson and then a BMW would zip within a few feet of you going 80 miles per hour. With its lights turned off. Yee-haw!
It was a completely different experience back then. From 1998 on they’ve been in the same spot, which has always felt like camping at the Burning Man Mall. You had the Black Rock mountains, the train tracks, line of cars waiting to get inside, and all of these other distinctive landmarks to give you a sense of perspective. These days, after The Man burns you can ride your bike for miles and still navigate your way back to your camp without a problem. Back in 96 after people starting breaking camp you could walk 20 feet away from your tent and be completely disoriented. It would be like getting off MUNI downtown and finding that Market St and the Finical District had disappeared. It really was like camping on the moon.
2002 was a great Burn for me. Normally the burns have been all hype and very anti-climatic for me. It’s like Super Bowl Sunday. You sit around doing nothing for 4 hours, get up to go to the bathroom, and then when you get back it’s all over. Yee-haw! But 2002 was a great Burn and I felt like I had accomplished everything that I set out to do and wanted to go out like Seinfeld, just exit stage left on a positive note.
I think the 2002 Temple really sealed it for me.
I’ve always been really impressed with David Best’s work, every year it kept getting better and better and he kept taking more chances, but he nailed it that year and for the first time I felt like it actually upstaged the burning of The Man himself. Everyone loves to bitch and complain, Hell, we’re Americans, that’s our national pastime these days. But ultimately not only do you have a hell of a lot more freedoms at Burning Man than you do else where, but if you’re talented enough your art can actually upstage The Man himself. If you’re talented enough, your Burn can actually be more spiritual and touch more people than the burning of The Man at his own party. That’s something to think about.
Fast-forward 5 years later
System downtime means that I actually get home from work at a reasonable hour. I’m channel surfing when I hit Dave’s Skatin Place show on public access. Just to back peddle a bit,
David Miles Jr is like the Afrika Bambaataa of Golden Gate Park. I’ve always seen him as not only one of the local community activists that are always trying to make San Francisco a better place to live, but also one of those guys who just does it without looking for some political payback or favor. D was instrumental in having the Golden Gate Park side streets closed off to traffic on Sundays, does roller disco in the park, and has his own roller disco ring by Center Camp at Burning Man each year since early 2000. I want to be just like this guy when I grow up.
Back to the show,
Dave’s public access show is on and has footage from Burning Man 2001 and 2002. Excellent ! It’s all there, the La Contessa , the Taj Mahal, Drago the Dragon, the David Best temple even the Green Tourtise. Awesome. It’s one of 3 episodes he did on Burning Man, so I go online at to find out when the others are but for the life of me I can get the public access show site to work.
http://www.accessf.org just got a retarded public relations upgrade. I was on there a few years ago because I noticed some local house music and 9/11 conspiracy public access shows that popped up on my radar that I wanted to keep tabs on. Before, it was a really basic site but was at least functional. You could easily search to find a show and if there was a url associated with it. Now it’s useless. There’s a PDF file for listings? What the hell? Why not just put it on micro-fish and have it down at the library…
So I got Dave’s cell phone number from the end of the Burning Man episode and I cold-call the guy the next day.
I’m all “Hey, I really enjoyed your show last night. I don’t Burn anymore, but those years that I did are really special to me and it’s amazing when I can find footage of that time. I was wondering if you could help me out though. I was just checking out the public access site and for the life of me I can’t find when your next episode is gong to air.”
And then D goes off. “I don’t know what’s going on with those turkeys. That used to be a really fun station but now there’s big money involved. You have these political cronies that are pulling in 6 figures and running that station into the ground, they are wasting over ten thousand dollars every month on the new Market Street office that they really don’t need but just want for the prestige. Those clowns are fucking up that station.” Ten minutes later D is all “Sorry to go off, I talk a lot and those idiots just get me worked up.”
And I’m all, “No, I hear you. I see that everywhere. It’s the same thing with work, it’s the same thing that’s going on with the government right now. It’s the same thing with Bush putting one of his incompetent horse judging buddies in charge of FEMA and then watching New Orleans fall apart. These guys are corporate raiders that don’t know how to manage anything, they just give kickbacks and cushy jobs to their fuck-buddies from bowling night and just dick around while Rome burns.” About ten minutes later I finally wrap up my “Never underestimate the awesome power of incompetence, fuck Chris Daily, and fuck nepotism.” speech.
Dave’s all, “Yeah, glad you enjoyed the show. I have no idea when those turkeys are going to air that again, but you can check out the entire thing on my site for free. I’ve also got that and the Malcolm in the Middle Burning Man episode.” And then Dave goes off on the Malcolm in the Middle Burning Man episode for another 10 minutes. Classic.
Check it out.
Skatin’ Place @ Burning Man 2001 and 2002.
UPDATE # 1
Amazing 2009 BM footage from stevesf123 that was posted online on the Sunday of Burning Man (!)
Amazing turnaround and amazing aerial view as they fly into Burning Man 2009 and later into San Francisco Labor Day 2009.
I love those clouds too.
It’s easy to get caught up in the human spectacle below, but just look up and there’s this amazing skyline untouched by skyscrapers or telephone pole lines.
UPDATE # 2
Great footage by Mr. Holehead of the BrassTax Boom Box at Burning Man 2009
I love it when DJs have a sense of humor…
Sunday Skating at Skatin’ Place.
Skatin’ Place. Ride the SoulTrain at Burning Man 2008