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Burning Man [Sep. 14th, 2008|10:32 am]
Wade
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 the wikipedia entry.

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 been.

  • 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 509 theme 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 registered art installations, between the playa itself, center camp, the pavilion 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 time-specific.

    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.

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