***After six days at Burning Man, I was seriously drooping. I had no energy to do much more than sleep or lay around. The heat and dust were really getting to me, my hair was a rat’s nest, showers were few and far between (if at all,) and people were noticeably irritable. Kicking back in my tent, I picked up the BRC News and came upon an article about ‘crankiness on the playa’ being the norm by Thursday! Well, I’ll be! – it was Thursday! So, I was normal, after all. Whereas, I may not have necessarily been cranky and crabby like the article indicated, I sure was lethargic and lacking energy. I was in urgent need of a cold sponge bath and loading up on Gatorade to perk up! It helped, as did sundown when the heat of the day left us and cooler air took over. This is when I found myself more energetic and raring to go, kind of like a noncturnal animal…I was much more productive and active at night! All the rest during the day got my motor runnin’ and I’d kick into gear when the sun went down…
Behavior on the Playa: There are acceptable behaviors at Burning Man that aren’t as tolerable in the Default World. Along with nudity, drugs, and sexual activity amongst consenting participants, there are things, such as playa husbands, wives, boyfriends and girlfriends, etc. Anything goes, so if you come solo to BRC (whether you are single or not in the Default World,) you may end up with a playa spouse for the week, and no one cares, judges, or condemns. In fact, many people have playa names and shelve their real names for the week, giving them the freedom to really be anonymous. However, this place is not necessarily a sexual free-for-all, though there were plenty of camps you could visit to fulfill such desires. Many couples came together, and though some were out to find a third and/or fourth person to join their twosome, not all were open for that. Flyers were distributed early in the week asking us to be sensitive to who, and what we took pictures of. With the ease of picture taking and uploading them to the internet, it can be destructive to some people. So, discretion is asked for, and highly recommended to insure anonymity. But, no matter what your reason, motive or adventure for coming to this event was, I can tell you one thing: What happens at Burning Man stays at Burning Man!
***Black Rock City has it’s own newspaper, which this year informed us was going to be titled ‘Dustpocolypse” and “The Dust Bowl of 2012.” I guess weather experts think they can determine these things in advance, but in my experience, weather people are wrong more times than they are right, so to them I say, “Pfffffft!!” What this year’s ‘Black Rock City’s Independent Newsweekly’ also informed its readers is that 60% or the nearly 60,000 attendees this year were ‘newbies,’ or ‘virgins.’ This could
be a good thing, or a not so good thing, in that the majority of the community would be clueless and inexperienced. The downside to this would be that they would take advantage of the freebies that are handed out, and clean everyone out of what they offer. The upside would be that they would ‘get it,’ or learn that this is a different kind of community from which they/we come, and that they take the experience with them into the real world and spread the positive word. A great example of a group of newbies who ‘got it,’ was a camp that offered a loungey type bar. I didn’t actually get the opportunity to visit it, but a fellow HOTD camper did, and talked very highly of his experience there. This group of mid-20 to 30 yr. olds, some who were newbies and some who were only here for their second year, understood the concept so well that they came back this year as a bar/lounge. They realized immediately that ‘it is better to give than to receive,’ and so they left BM last year with this imprint. Returning this year with some first time Burners, they set up their camp, paying it forward, to share and enjoy with others. This is what Burning Man is about – to reach out to others, not to take what you can get.
**The Night time is the right time – and a much better time for a bike ride than during the heat of the day. Every night when I needed a break from bartending, I was off on an exploration. Some nights it was down to the Esplanade and deep playa, and other times it was in the other direction, to what I called the ‘Boondocks.’ Both were very different. The majority of the energy and activity is found on the deep playa, which becomes like a mini Las Vegas with all the colorful lights, noise, and masses of people. The art cars come in hoards, filled with people; there are traffic jams caused by bike
riders; and there are bunches of people walking around. Music comes at you from every direction, blaring loudly, which you would think would be annoying and obnoxious. But, in reality, because there is so much of it blasting out different vibes, it becomes almost like white noise, blending together in a comforting monotone. Being out there, in the middle of the desert, yet amidst tens of thousands of people, art cars en masse (and all lit up,) and hundreds of bright and colorful art structures, it is hard to imagine that this place is barren and desolate for the other fifty-one weeks of the year! There is absolutely no life here – no birds, bugs, plants, water – except when 50,000+ humans decide to transform this place into this ‘city’ for the week. It’s a mind-boggling concept!!
When, and if, you get tired of pedaling, which you will, Center Camp is a great place to hang out and be entertained. This is the largest temporary, freestanding tensile structure in the world. With almost an acre of shade, a full-service coffee shop, two stages, art exhibits, and acrobats, this is a place bustling with activity. If you want a latte, or chai, here’s the place to get a decent one, but don’t forget to bring some cash, since it’s one of the only places that charges for something. Inside Center Camp is truly a circus – there’s no better way to describe it – bursting with art and entertainment. A musical stage features participants playing world and instrumental music, and another stage features poetry readings, comedy
acts, and theatrical performances. There was constant activity inside this ‘center of the city,’ which made it a nice place to hang out, mingle, be entertained. I found shelter here one night after getting caught in a white out while out riding on the playa, and found it to be one giant-sized, comfortable living room. Of course, it was packed as always, and there was entertainment everywhere. I had the pleasure of seeing a boy (probably around 12-13 yrs. old) performing on a pair of vertical cloth panels that hung about thirty feet off the ground. He climbed them, wrapped himself up in them, hung from them, wound himself up and then dropped from them, receiving gasps from the crowd who thought he was falling to the ground. It was an act that resembled one from a Cirque de Soleil performance, and one that mesmerized the crowd. This kid had talent!
**Monday, Aug. 27, 2012-the first official day of Burning Man. The gates are now open to everyone and from what I’ve heard, it is a long, slow process to get in today. But, this place is so enormous, and our camp is so close to the center of things, that we’re pretty oblivious to what’s happening back at the entrance. The only noticeable signs that occurred throughout the day were an obvious population explosion (living quarters became much tighter,) and more people were gathered around the porta-potties. But, since people are free to arrive at any time, and any day now, this is just the beginning!
After morning coffee at camp, and chatting it up with a few fellow HOTD camp mates, it was right back to work, finishing the setup and organizing the bar for the public. Once we were open for business, we had customers immediately. (Well, we actually had them before that, but who’s looking?) I decided to jump right into it, and started making drinks, taking to it like a fish to water! Being the social blabbermouth that I am, it was the perfect job for me. On the playa, one should come equipped with a cup, or drinking vessel of some sort. There’s a lot of liquid that should, and must, be consumed, so people come with cup in hand. We pour their drinks right into their personal holders, and the party begins! As I mentioned before, people in BRC are the best – happy, friendly, easy to please – and are ready for fun, dressed in anything and everything from elaborate and detailed costumes, to complete and total nakedness. (And, everything in between!) No matter what concoction I came up with for them to drink (most were normal drinks, but some were strange,) everyone was satisfied. No one complained, refused a drink, or had an attitude. In fact, I can’t count how many times someone came to me and ordered, “Whatever you want to make me.” And they were thankful every time! I kept thinking to myself (actually, I said it out loud, too) that “this is the way it should always be!” Oh, if only people could always be this selfless – life would be blissful..!
After three straight hours of bartending, and hunger setting in, I knew I had to force myself to take a break. After a quick bite to eat, it was time to explore some more. Loading up on water (a gallon a day is recommended,) lathering on sunscreen, and donning mask and goggles, I was off on my trusty (now properly blinged) bicycle. Today I trekked directly to ‘The Man’ himself, who was built on top of a large pedestal where people could go inside and climb around, or take stairs to a higher point and check out the view. After cooling off inside for a bit, I headed for the Temple, a spiritual place built of intricate woodwork, that reached towards the sky. With an equally beautiful wall built around it, this place was where memorials are placed for those who have passed on, people pray, meditate, reflect, and have quiet time, and in my case, write names on the walls of those who need to rid themselves of things like addiction, demons, negative issues, unhealthy behavior, and whatever is troubling them. This temple will burn at the end of the week, so with it, I wish and hope for the things I wrote to go up in smoke and disappear into the heavens. For me, it was a place of renewal, rebirth, and giving problems, sadness, concerns, and worries, up to the universe to take care of.
An unbleivable sight for me, and my favorite coolest thing on the playa, was the sinking ship! At first, I couldn’t belive my eyes and thought I was seeing things. (a mirage, perhaps?) So, I pedaled over to get a closer look, and lo and behold, it was even more spectacular than I thought! Named La Llorona, or “weeping woman,” this Spanish Galleon was pretty much to scale and tied up to a pier that you walked on to get into the ship. But first, along the pier was ‘Pappy’s Bait Shop’ with some ‘fishermen’ inside ‘selling bait’ for authenticity. Figuring that, once I reached the entrance to the ship I would be disappointed with a hollow skeleton, I’d be out of there in a minute. Boy, was I wrong!! The place was swarming with people, all captivated by the detail inside – tables with hanging benches, barrels, tools, ropes and hinges, nets, and even an old science area, complete with journals, books and shelves of scientific studies. There were even jars of pig fetuses in formaldehyde, an old microscope, early astronomy and science tools, all set up to resemble a primitive science lab! This ship was three stories in size, from the upper deck and outlook area, to the living quarters underneath, and the below deck storage area, which was partially under water (sand, in this case.) It was cray-cray! Then, walking out on the deck, it was sloped downhill, dropping off into the sand, stern sunken below the surface. What a trip this was for a first-time Burner! I had no idea people would go to this extreme for a week long art exhibition in the desert. Wow…
Burning Man is an art show, as well as a forward thinking community of radical self-expression, radical self-reliance, and free expression. It is a place to leave ego, greed, competition, self-centeredness, and worldly corruption behind. It is where one can let go of inhibitions, judgments, opinions, stereotypes, racism, sexism, and all other negative aspects of dysfunctional society. This is a place to live and let live; live and love; live, laugh, love; and accept everyone as they are. It’s no wonder that, every year, more and more people attend this event. It is my hope that this spirit spreads across the country and influences the masses to live like this, or becomes it’s own country, where those who chose to live in love, peace, and positivity are able to do so. I know, I sound like a whacked out hippie, but hey, 60,000 people (between the ages of 0 and 80+) in the desert would surely agree with me!!