**This program has been interrupted to bring you ‘The Adventures of Burning Man’ (2012.) ‘Walking in Memphis’ will be continued when the dust of Black Rock City, Nevada settles once again.
Burning Man (http://www.burningman.com/whatisburningman/about_burningman/bm_timeline.html) is a twenty-six year old gathering of people that has been described by some as an experimental community offering displays of art, radical self-expression, and radical self-reliance. It began with a few friends on Baker Beach in San Francisco, and now takes place in the Black Rock Desert in northern Nevada, attracting nearly 60,000 people (and counting!) You can read about Burning Man all over the internet, but here you will be reading about it from my eyes – the eyes of a first-time newbie birgin! (Oh, you can also Youtube BM videos, for a pretty good visual of this event.)
Getting ready for Burning Man isn’t easy. This is a camping trip into the desert, where nothing lives except dust, wind, and well,
dust and wind! Campers have to bring in everything they will need for the week – water, food, clothing, shelter – as well as desert survival kits of dust masks, goggles, vinegar (for ‘playa foot’,) baby wipes, lighting, etc. Bikes provide transportation, unless you have brought along an artcar (explanation later,) because once you have parked your vehicle and pitched your camp, you’re pretty much in for the duration. Luckily, I had the good fortune of finding a ride (and a camp) with experienced Burners who were equipped with everything. I just needed to scrounge up a few personal items and jump into the passenger seat. Burners do not travel light! You will find every sort of packing on such an odd assortment of vehicles, making the drive to and from Black Rock a parade in itself. I was in a truck that towed a1967 camper trailer that had been colorfully painted to reflect the hippie era it came from. Appropriately named ‘The Groove Tube,’ it attracted loads of attention on the road, especially by fellow burners. While driving to the event, pitstops for gas, food, and other necessities, bring you to locations where you run into other Burners, who are very friendly and happy to be going ‘home,’ as they call Black Rock City during the event. The rest of the year, Burners refer to ‘The Default World’ as the every day, real world we all live in. Upon arrival, we are all greeted with shouts of “Welcome home!” and hugs given freely by all. At first I thought these people were a little overzealous and weird, but later in the week I came to wish that the real world could be more like them. Traveling from Reno, which is the last big city before things become gradually more desolate, through little towns like Nixon, past the last body of water to be seen for the week (Pyramid Lake,) through the tiny and abandoned town of Empire, to Gerlach, and then..there it is: Black Rock City (such as it’s called for the week,) the fourth largest city in Nevada during the week of Burning Man! On the day we arrived, there was a bit of a wind storm (not uncommon out here) so the dust was kicking up and the visibility was pretty poor. The drive in is a long one, as they like to get the camper traffic off the two lane highway as quickly as possible. Bouncing around on the uneven playa surface, as well as the very low speed limit, keeps traffic moving slowly and safely towards the entrance. Upon arrival, we first had to show our early arrival tickets (being with a working camp, we were allowed early entrance on Saturday, in order to set up for the rest of the campers who will arrive on the official opening day, Monday.) Next, it was over to Security, where a tiny pixie fit through what small spaces were left in the camper to check for no-nos. Once okayed here, the next stop was ticket collection, and in my case, Birgin initiation! I was kindly ordered out of the car and on to the dusty playa floor, where I was instructed to lay on my back and make a ‘snow angel,’ flip over to my belly and do the breast stroke, then given a metal rod to bang a gong and shout, “I’m not a birgin anymore!” Now sufficiently dirty and dusty, I was given a big hug by my ‘debirginizer’ and allowed to enter. And, so begins my experince at Burning Man!!