Welcome Home… the first words anyone says to you when you arrive at the gates and if you’re a first-timer as we were, they make you roll on the ground in the dust. And then they tell you to have a good burn. It’s been a week since my re-entry back from Burning Man as the playa dust has finally cleared out of my body while staying forever etched in my mind. Trying to explain what Burning Man is to someone who has never been or even heard of it is like trying to explain a color to a blind person. However, I will do my best here because to understand this event, you must participate. And I did that to an extent!
Burning Man takes place in the beautiful, remote, and inhospitable Black Rock Desert of Nevada which is a temporary metropolis referred to a Black Rock City. For one week, people (more than 60,000 this year) come from all over the world to experience the radical self-expression and self-reliance of this leave no trace community. This was the 26th year. Volunteers spend countless hours to make this event extraordinary and incredibly organized amidst what looks like chaos. There are no rules to how you behave or express yourself. It is truly a poo-poo platter (pardon the expression) and this year’s theme was fertility which contemplates the tendency of any being or living system to create abundant life. Everyone is welcome, no pre-requisites…to engage and reproduce as this year suggests. It’s a place to suspend reality and never go sleep although I needed my sleep. It’s a place for girls to go topless and boys to go bottomless with a cape of course. In fact, I had my breasts nicely painted for the Critical Tits Parade, aka boobs on bikes, but never made it to the parade…don’t ask. For weeks before coming to BM, I joked about frolicking in the group sex tent or even in the circle jerk (yup, just like it sounds) but when faced with the reality it didn’t appeal to me. So the saying goes, the truth will set you free but first it will piss you off. The stimulation on the playa is overwhelming whether you choose to be inebriated or sober. I chose a little of both and it was perfect. We went to a wedding and bar mitzvah on the same day in the gorgeous latticed temple they built for a week. The guest list was endless. And it’s all about gifting. No money is exchanged so it’s good to figure out what you can offer before you arrive in order to have barter control in an emergency (ha). We went to a slave auction where we bid on a slave (a 2 hour massage) for liquor and food which is what we had to offer. Our camp was “feed the artists” and that was our gift. We also had a shower in our air-conditioned RV which is VERY desirable in the dust bowl. The days and nights felt like two separate events with the sunsets bearing magnificent purple/pink skies. Bonus, we got to witness the full/blue moon. It was HOT during the day (we were in the desert after all) and anyone who was up with the sun were on their bikes with big brims minus clothes. I don’t know how they were riding those bikes naked. My seat was so uncomfortable but luckily there were bike mechanics. Even a makeshift medical center where we had to go one day when Paul fell off our Candyland art car. You gotta have an Art Car…thanks to our fearless leaders, Neil and Lesley! It’s especially beautiful at night when can’t see where you are going listening and dancing to the loud techno music while maneuvering back to camp. But we had our landmarks and a great driver! At the end of the week, to experience the journey to the flame not only to watch the MAN burn but all the Art destroyed is quite a sight. You can see the fires of burning art twinkle all around like stars in the sky. In a world where media and society glorifies material objects, they take perverse pleasure in creating all these labor of loves and then watch them being destroyed. So the Burning of the Man (a 40 foot wooden effigy) represents a spontaneous act of radical self-expression. And boy did those occupiers cheer when Wall Street (pictured) burned. Gotta love that. Everyone wants to be free and happy, avoid hurting others, find good friends and true love, and wish to leave the playa and the world a better place. I’m a burner now.