Monday, September 7, 2020

At the start of the NYC Deep Playa Bike Ride

Text and photos by Stacie Joy

I'm trying to map out where to meet Gerhardt DeKunst, also known as G-man, an East Village-based costume designer, artist/activist, and martial arts instructor. I'm planning on documenting a colorful nighttime bike ride G-man is participating in late Saturday.

The ride covers a wide swath of lower Manhattan and we finally decide it might be best to connect at the starting point at the Washington Square Arch. The ride ends late, so we agree to catch up for some questions the following day.

How did this event come about?

The bike ride is titled: NYC Deep Playa Night Ride, referring to cycling around the vast “playa,” the dried-out lakebed where Burning Man is located. Saturday’s ride was the “Burning Man edition” because Burning Man was supposed to be this week and Saturday night is the climactic “burning of the man” event.

As it was not held this year, many groups were doing something as a stand-in for what they would have been doing if it was on, and for a feeling of continued engagement in the community.

Your ride is particularly tricked out. How do you find storage space for it in the East Village?

I built this bike specifically for riding at Burning Man and it has had a secondary life in NYC, participating in many parades and events like Mermaid Parade, Dance Parade and more. I am lucky to be one of the few in the city with storage room in the basement of my building. I built the bike to break down and compact for the purpose of shipping to Nevada.

What is the purpose of the group bike ride and how did you get involved?

The purpose of these rides is to generate and participate in a sense of community in this time of fractured society: to gather in a safe way — masks and social distancing required — and yet be able to convene and be part of something; to meet up with friends and the wider Burning Man community of NYC and once more feel like we are not isolated individuals oppressed by the pandemic and trying socio-political times, that we are more and can have and continue to have a sense of community.

And to be clear, this is not in the face of or in counterpoint to the protests: many of us are activists and deeply involved in the protests and support of fighting for justice and equity in society. This is in addition to that and a flexing of our creative and fun-loving sides that have been quashed in COVID-19 times.

How did people react to seeing it?

People in general are very positive seeing us ride by, especially at restaurants seating people on the street. We get cheers and whistles and clapping as we go by, because I think it cheers people up, a moment of passing fun that materializes from the darkness and dissipates, an impromptu parade of pedal-powered light-up delight.


Giovanni said...

I saw these guys gathering under the arch and the lighting on these bikes is amazing. This ride was very San Francisco.

What you don't see in the background is the giant NYU student party going on inside the park. They had two DJs, each with a huge amount of equipment, and it looked like they were brought in by somebody to provide entertainment to the newly arriving students. This also happened on Friday night, and I have never seen the park this overcrowded. This party was such an obvious coronavirus super-spreader type of event that it led the nightly local news. NYU has been doing a great job trying to keep their students safe so far, but if students are going to throw huge parties it won’t be long until they are quarantined, suspended from school, or sent home.

Anonymous said...

Me and my dorky Trek would get laughed out of burning man festival so fast i just know it

Anonymous said...

What’s with all the citibikes?

It’s like showing up at a jazz age party in a lime leisure suit.

marjorie said...

Anonymous 11:01, I'm confident that you and your dorky Trek would be welcomed.

fwiw I was shocked at the gulf between the social-media-curated/dude-photographer-curated versions of Burning Man and the diversity of age/costume/body type (not so much race, though I'm told it's getting more diverse on that front) at the non-mediated actual event. My husband has been 23 times and I've only been once -- it's his thing, not mine! -- but I was struck by how many people were clearly yearning for connection. The amount of eye contact on the playa (not necessarily skeevy eye contact! just "I see you, do you see me, let's smile" eye contact) is honestly a little unnerving for a New Yorker!