posted in: Adventure, Inspiration, party
Radical inclusion and radical self expression. These were several of the terms used to describe the ideals of Black Rock, the temporary city of 50,000 inhabitants whom amass every year for Burning Man. I had already considered myself a pretty open guy, but as I flipped through my dusty “guide to burning man” book, I quickly realized that maybe I was a bit of a prude. Workshops ranged from “loin cloth making,” to “Ted Talks,” and on the next page, “circle jerks.” Why would anyone want to insert themselves into a circle of jerks? Turns out, I had a lot to learn..
Mike the Trike to the man
I had always been intrigued by Burning Man, but I was a bit apprehensive due to several invalidated horror stories I had heard. My more conservative friends seemed to be convinced that I would go to the desert, be fed a strange cocktail of psychedelics, move to Berkeley and roam the streets as a bearded tramp with a sidekick cat that would live on my shoulders, named “Pickles.” I decided to leave all of my preconceived notions and expectations in the city, the desert was no atmosphere for egocentricities.
We rocked up to our camp on Sunday night; a motley crew full of Aussies, kiwis and poms (a derogatory term to describe the English) in a large RV with photos of smiling families on horseback plastered to the side (this thing was obviously not made for Burning Man). Upon first glance I noticed that our camp had an Ok Corral feel; complete with a country western structure with a giant neon sign of a nude cowgirl. I was all ready stunned, but then when the cowfirl’s gun wielding arms moved, 10 foot flames burst out of the weapons and the words Bang! Bang! lit up the sky. Yes, this would be home for the next 8 days.
Riding my trusty steed, ”Mike the trike” at night onto the playa for the first time, it is hard to describe what i saw. There were thousands of other glowing cyclists all engulfed in a rainbow of purple, blue, green, pink and orange. Looking out onto the horizon for the first time, i remember seeing nothing but neon effigies, floating art cars and sporadic bursts flame on the flat, black desert river bed.
Spontaneity was abound (great for a child of the ADD generation), this adult Disneyland’s possibilities were only limited by your imagination and even then, you couldn’t dream up some of this stuff. If we saw a giant bunny art car pass by with a bunch of human carrots on board dancing to house music, then you could bet we would jump on board. Our wolf pack of about 50 “Bangers” would yell out to each other “Bang! Bang!” throughout the night and could be recognized by heart shaped neon creations on our bike wheels. It was truly a mad scene, a beautiful mass of organized neon chaos.
Daytime was for exploration. Going to workshops, seeing Ted talks, and stumbling upon the nude acroyoga tent, were all in a days work. Burning Man is definitely about expanding your horizons (whether this be through mind altering substances or not). There were giant group puzzles to be solved, a dizzying array of art installations, many of which were interactive, healing workshops, free sherbet, free pickle martinis, orgy domes and a hell of a lot of dance parties (which EVERYONE wants you to join). Cleanliness does not matter, men are wearing makeup, you have dust in places you never knew existed, you are constantly getting groped by strangers and yet somehow you are happier than ever.
This may be fucking terrifying to some and as a “virgin” for the first few days, getting hugged by every stranger you make eye contact with can be a bit uncomfortable (especially if they are wearing nothing but a tutu). However, once you let your guard down, cast your ego and judgement aside, you become part of a community that will embrace you with open arms (literally).
The truth about Burning Man is that it can be whatever you wish to make it. For one week, the playa is a place on earth that tempoarily erases societal and personal boundaries. It is a giftng community; money doesn’t matter and you can’t even barter for a beer. A year is spent building structures of magnificent temples, moving pirate ships, fire breathing dragons and life size replicas of Wall Street, which are created only to be burnt down a week later. This reminds me of the Zen Monks whom create fabulously intricate sand art, which are wiped away mere seconds after being completed. Is Burning Man a lesson in impermanence and removing oneself from attachments, or is it just a bunch of naked people running around on drugs? I think that it’s both, and this balance is what makes it beautiful.