In which Wade becomes a burner.
So. Burning Man.
If I let myself fall into a narrative about what happened, it will
take a month to write. Besides which, it is impossible to describe,
with any degree of versimilitude, what Burning Man is really like.
Experience it, then we'll talk. For a very good overview, you can read
Some random words, and some flow-of-consciousness (In the
following, BM means Burning Man, and BRC means Black Rock City).
Fascinating: There are more interesting things to see
and do, per unit area, in Black Rock City than any other city I've
Stimulating: The art is fascinating and often edgey.
The music is energetic and dancey. The theme camps are amusing and
brilliant. The costumes are amazing and often provocative. The
energy is intoxicating and palpable. EL-wire is everywhere.
Surreal: Art in the desert (including a flower garden
made from $30,000 worth of sex toys). Mutant Vehicles, from the tiny
to the truly massive (some of my best dancing was done on the flip
side of an glow-in-the-dark airplane that wasn't really an airplane,
it was just made to look like one). Camps offering everything from
soul connections to bologna-for-breakfast (gifted to anyone who came
by) to body-washes-with-a-car-washer.
And the most surreal part of it all was how quickly the surreal
became normal. Only in BRC is the sight of a giant 15' tall, 30'
long, glow-in-the-dark "radio" driving around (playing kick-ass
music) relatively unremarkable.
Experiential: The use of recreational drugs to generate
alternative mental states is very common at BM. My guess (entirely
unsupported by any kind of scientific evidence) is that 30% of the
population is altered in some way (alcohol, pot, E, 'shrooms, etc.) at
any given point in time during the week, and that this probably climbs
to 70% in the evenings.
Although the legality of drugs is a very complex issue, the fact
that there were a total of 6 arrests and 129 citations this year at BM
provides anecdotal evidence that a very large number (49,599 this
year) of people can function and interact constructively while altered,
at that society doesn't fall apart when everyone isn't "straight".
Given the excessively intolerant attitude towards drugs in the
States, and my desire not to be deported, I can neither confirm nor
deny being part of the above statistic.
Promising: The vast majority of BRC denizens are about
community, cooperation, radical self-reliance, radical
self-expression, receptivity to different ways of being (both for
themselves and for others), and openness. People sincerely respect
the individuals who are working, and volunteerism is far more common
there than anywhere else I know. The Rangers, the waste-removal
peeps, the ice deliverers, the individuals providing services from
within their camps - they are all given real respect and appreciation,
and they know it. Comraderie. Connection. Community. It rox.
Diverse: This year, there were
camps and villages from 231 different home towns. 81 theme camps
hailed from San Francisco, 20 from Seattle and Reno, 19 from
Portland, 17 from Oakland, 15 from LA, 12 from New York, 8 from Santa
Cruz, 7 from Sparks, Brooklyn and San Jose, ... etc. 259 hailed from
California, 41 from Nevada, 36 from Oregon, 22 from New York, 17 from
Colarado, 11 from Utah, 10 from Arizona, etc. As an aside, note that
there were 5 theme camps from British Columbia (for you
geographically challenged Americans, that's the western most province
in Canada), 2 from Alberta (that's just east of British Columbia),
and 2 from Ontario (look on a map - it is 1.5 times larger than
Texas, so you should be able to find it :-)
There were 208
around the Man, and theme art.
It is, obviously, impossible to see and experience every theme
camp and art installation in a week (maybe it would be possible in a
year?), especially because the events and art is often transient or
I didn't discover the Costco's Soulmate Trading Outlet until
Thursday, by which time they were experiencing a backlog because so
many people had applied. Will remember to go early next year, and am
also planning on volunteering there sometime.
Connecting: My camp was "Deep Heaven", a theme camp
that provides an on-the-Esplanade chill space and also provides
workshops on various topics. Almost everyone in the camp has done HAI
workshops, or is otherwise able to be open, honest and authentic with
others. I really like the consciousness of my fellow Deep Heaveners,
and had a great time with them. Daily meetings at noon, during which
we cleared withholds and in general ensured that we were all doing
our part to stay connected.
Amusing: During one of the daily meetings, I shared
with my camp how the previous day's experiences had made me realize
that I was missing a sense of romantic connection in my life, and
that I was motivated to be more proactive about finding partnership.
The next day, one of my fellow camp mates was kind enough to
introduce me to an acquaintance of his that was visiting our camp,
because she too was interesting in meeting people.
In order to explain why I found this amusing, one must form a
picture of where I was at the time. In the center of our camp, within
the confines of our tents, trailers and RVs, we had an evaporation
pond (basically, a 8' by 12' area on the ground reminiscent of a
"sandbox", except that instead of sand, it was a canvas-lined box (an
evaporation pond) that held our communal grey (shower) water.
Centered within this box was an a shower infrastructure, consisting
of four semi-vertical metal legs that converge to an apex, from which
a sun shower can be hung. Our camp, being the nudity-positive camp
that it is, hadn't bothered with a privacy screen around the shower.
So, I'm happily enjoying my pleasantly warm, and entirely nude,
shower (sun shower bags are quite handy!) when my camp mate comes
over and introduces me to his female friend.
This would be a great story to tell the grandkids about, but alas,
I didn't feel any sense of connection with the individual he
introduced me to. It was still delightfully amusing though.
I could go on and on, but I'm feeling motivated to write down my
thoughts on more interesting (introspective) topics, so I'll post now.
In short, I cannot emphasize strongly enough how much I recommend
everyone go to Burning Man, at least once.