Playa Reflections 2004


by Phoebe McAfee

I had already decided to go to Burning Man when my mother died in January 2004 of Alzheimer’s. I longed to go. I wanted something to remember in my 60th year. I dreamed of floating on the playa in swirling robes of white cotton, each day becoming covered with more stars; I would have giant pockets with magic markers and would hang out at the mythical Temple of Stars and invite all burners to draw a star on my robe. I would be silent. I would meditate. I would eat dried fruits and nuts and drink tea and draw stars, all week. I would take my camera and Remember, Remember. I would embrace the Desert. I would remember my mom, a Texas girl of the chaparral and the arroyos. It would be very spiritual.

It didn’t turn out that way. A Bee crept in, flew in to these plans, and started buzzing. By June, there were six of us, devoted bees, building an art car and her hive. She was a VW neo-bug, bright yellow. She sprouted wings. She grew plush fur in wavy stripes of black. Antennae appeared. Blue lights mysteriously emitted from below. She was beautiful. And her hive: 150 feet of yellow light rope, outlining a hive parachuted in stretchy yellow nylon atop a trailer painted in blackboard paint (for the spelling bees) and playing music of the BeeGees, the B52’s, Bee-thoven, and the Flight of the Bumblebee, among many. All eight tires of the vehicles sported yellow and black spirals that amazed the eye as we moved. And of course we had costumes, several each. It took all summer. It was great, seeing everything with “Bee” eyes. Yellow clothes appealed for the first time. I found the HoneyBee Web ring. I drew hives and honeycomb and Googled “bees” and printed out clip art. I sewed. I hung out at the www.burningman.com website and learned what to bring and how to survive. We worked hard. I took dozens of pictures of the progress.

Then, August 7, my father drowned. I rushed back to Texas and joined my siblings in a new round of grief and efficiency. I couldn’t think or feel for a week. When I returned to San Francisco, my Bees surrounded me. There was still a lot of work to do before Playa time. We sewed, we glued, we stenciled bees on everything. We tested the lights. We tested “Vitamin Bee,” our cocktail de playa. We tested the trailer hitch and the sound system. We planned menus and got our bikes tuned up. I froze a gallon of green tea and cleaned out the cooler. I put everything in ziplock bags.

And then, at 3 AM on the appointed night, we set out. Although I was with an experienced burner, it was the unknown.

My first look at the playa was in a huge dust storm. We set up camp in high wind. Our camp Bees who had preceded us had the camp blow down, and were trying to right it when we arrived. The poor little beemobile was already dusty.

Things improved after that initial travail, and that night was a magic sunset.

After that, everything was magic. I woke up each morning before dawn, applied my Dr. Bronner’s to my feet, put on my turban and my goggles, put my camera and my bottle of green tea in my fanny pack, and set out on the playa, taking pictures all the way. Each day I reached the fence in early sunlight, and did a round of Tai Chi way out on the playa. Each day I watched people build the Temple of Stars, and photographed the Man in slanting light, and walked until my tea was gone before returning to camp, at 444 Uranus. By then my fellow Bees were awake, and we made breakfast.

My idea of eating fruits and nuts sparingly just didn’t happen. The first breakfast was bacon and eggs with toast fried in the bacon grease (O My Gawd!) along with lattes avec steamed milk. The second day we had cherry chocolate pancakes. Every meal was a feast. Friday night we had a Tequila Tasting. A Finnish couple camping with us introduced us to the national drink of Finland (vodka and licorice candy). The Bees gifted all burners with honey sticks and squirts in the mouth from those plastic honey bears.

One night was cold, and the Vitamin Bee warmed us up. My Queen Bee Costume was too warm for most days, but that night it was welcome.

The night of the burn we donned our best Bee costumes and set out with our entire camp aboard. People hopped on as we crossed the playa to get a good spot. The music got us all dancing. I was moved to gasps and giggles and screams.

The hive was jumping! In my perch atop the VW Bee bug, I was The Queen!

The Man burned. I shed tears of awe and delight. I wept openly for the first time since my parents died: no holding back, screaming and crying all the way. My fellow Bees wanted to party the night away, but by midnight I was exhausted, and walked home by myself, stopping often to watch amazing flaming things, never feeling the least bit afraid of the dark or my wonderful magical mad fellow burners. It was a night of dreams. I was changed, completely.

The next morning before dawn, I set out for the Temple of Stars. I got there when the shadows were still long, and listened to Tibetan Bowl Bells. I walked up on the platform, and read many memorials. I chose where to put my parents’ pictures. I took a lot more photographs. I stayed there quite a while. Then I fixed my mom and dad’s images to the Temple, and walked away.

Then I stood on the spot where the Man had burned the night before, and watched two children pick up still warm remnants of twisted metal.

And then I walked back to camp, and we tore the camp down. We couldn’t stay for the Temple burn. People had to get back to work. We arrived in San Francisco at 2 AM. I can still smell the playa dust at odd times. I will be back.

Thanks to my Bee team: Lucky, Luzita, Ralph, Cork, and Meaux.

Phoebe McAfee (Phoebeeeeee)

The Secret Society of Love, Art and Fire


by Angela Sanders

After seven long hours in the RV, Greg, his girlfriend Pia, my boyfriend Steve, and I pass through the town of Gerlach, and we see before us the vast lake bed known as the playa. In the distance is the sparkling reflection of what looks like a small city. It grows in size at our approach, becoming a colorful sea of tents and structures. Vehicles are lined up for over a mile waiting to go in. We have finally made it to our destination, Black Rock City.

“Welcome home,” says a woman as she takes our ticket at the gate. She is wearing a blue and silver sarong with silver vines painted on her bare chest. On her head sits a dusty pink cowboy hat and around her neck hung an equally dusty pair of ski goggles painted with red flames. We smile and wave and make our way into the festival.

We have arrived a day before the actual start of the event. Although it is dusk and not terribly warm, Steve and Greg get right to work setting up our shade structure, a blue tarp held up by five poles and reinforced with rebar. The heat gets intense early in the Nevada desert, and we want to be ready for tomorrow. Bursts of flame on the horizon tempt me to explore but curiosity cannot overpower my exhaustion. As night begins to fall we each collapse into our camping chairs and, with our first cold beers, make a toast to good times. We sit back and relax to the sound of a distant drum circle.

Early the next morning heat pulls me from a heavy slumber. For a moment, in the fog of waking, I think I am at home. Then the realization of my true surroundings bolts through me like the childhood excitement of Christmas morning. Steve and I dress and step outside of the RV. We decide to explore our new world by walking to the Center Camp Café, where we can buy fresh coffee. Coffee and ice are the only things for sale in Black Rock City, which is otherwise a pay-it-forward community.

Center Camp is enormous. Under a multi-colored pavilion tent, it teems with hundreds of people. Some sit on painted benches watching everyone walk by while others stroll casually through the crowd. My eyes scan the human collage of multi-colored dreadlocks, sarongs, dangling penises, naked breasts, painted bodies, sequin dresses, feathered masks, glittering wings, and dust-covered smiles. An open space in the center holds a group silently practicing an advanced form of yoga. Sitting on the sideline is a man in a dusty orange sarong playing a sitar. His long gray beard nearly touches the floor.

We spend a large part of the day, between trips to the porta-potties, sitting in the shade of our camp. Before us passes a constant pageant: a golf cart covered with plastic goats, fifty people in streaming white gauze marching silently as their leader mournfully chants, a flatbed truck hauling space-suited folks dancing to Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire,” three stilt walkers reminiscent of Cirque du Soleil.

Within a few days I am adjusted to desert existence. I wake, brush my teeth, re-braid my hair, apply some sunscreen and dab on a good deal of patchouli oil to cover the scent of my unwashed body. Our RV’s water pump is broken, so no showers until we get back home. Oddly enough, I am not too upset. The dry heat keeps my skin from getting too oily, and I actually kind of like the earthy feel of the dust on my skin. As I step out of the RV a water truck slowly drives by spraying water on the road to keep dust down. Four naked people jog behind it, showering under the spray. Hopefully I won’t become that desperate!

As we sit under the shade structure with our morning coffee, a new arrival introduces himself as Exactly. I marvel at his clean hair and dust-free clothes and feel a pang of sorrow for him. By arriving halfway into the week he has already missed so much! Exactly excitedly leans forward and tells us about the art installation he has brought: a six-foot tall Mirror of Truth. We beg him to show it to us. Steve helps him carefully pull it out of his trailer and they set it before us. The mirror is housed in a large black lacquer box and at first glance appears no different from a standard full-length mirror. “Look again,” says Exactly. “Your image is a true image, not the reverse that normal mirrors usually show.” I look again and yes, I see it! This is the way others see me. I appear only slightly different, but better in a way. I smile and wave at the real me, changing positions to see different angles until Pia melodramatically pushes me out of the way so she can have her turn.

That night, as we prepare to go out, an enormous shark on wheels pulls up next to our camp. The driver shouts, “Hey, any of you want to go watch some big art burn?” Without hesitation we jump on board. The decision is so spontaneous that I even forget my shoes! The brightly lit shark zooms across the playa and the wind blowing all around me is exhilarating. Dozens of other art cars pass by.

Art installations of all kinds are spread out over the playa. Not having brought a bike to travel long distances, this is the first time I get to see many of them. We stop at a structure called the “House of Cards,” literally built out of ten-foot plywood playing cards. The growing crowd is pushed back to a safe distance while two men use homemade flamethrowers to torch the structure. As the fire grows, waves of heat roll over us and we are forced back several feet. Our driver turns on techno music for the crowd that now numbers over a hundred, and we dance around in joy at having shared an awesome experience.

Our next stop is the “Space Chandelier,” a twenty-foot glowing red lamp that hums steadily with its own power. As we sit appreciating the work, a man runs up breathing heavily. “Somebody please come help us, there has been an accident!” Greg, who is an EMT, jumps back into the shark and they drive over. We wait for half an hour, hoping that everything is okay. After a while, we see the lights of an emergency vehicle reach the accident, and the shark car returns with Greg. Apparently there was an unlit art installation, and a bicyclist fell onto some uncovered rebar that punctured her side. The woman was frightened and in a great deal of pain but she was going to be okay. Greg held her hand and calmed her until the medics came. We drive back to camp a much more somber group.

Saturday arrives and an almost tangible excitement fills the air. It is the day of the burn, when the Man of Black Rock City is set on fire. The census is at a record this year, with over 30,000 citizens in the city. I have been anticipating the dreaded influx of frat-boys and weekenders who come just to watch stuff burn and check out naked chicks but luckily have spied only a few.

That afternoon I decide to take a walk alone to bathe in more of the experience and the community before it all ends. As I walk along and see the people living so harmoniously together, I wish that my everyday existence could be like this. I wish that people could dress how they truly want to, that we could all have the freedom to be the individuals that we can be here. Mostly I wish that the rest of the world could share the kind of love and acceptance that exists in Black Rock City. I feel an intrinsic bond with every person around me, like I have a family of thousands.

Night falls and we go out to find a good place to watch the burn. The crowd is already immense as hordes of people stream out onto the open playa. Around the man several hundred fire dancers swing balls of flame in brilliant patterns of tracing light to the sound of tribal drums. The arms of the man, previously resting by his side, are raised high above his head and the crowd cheers wildly. The drumming intensifies and the dancers spin their fire even more dramatically. Without warning fireworks shoot out from the base of the man, brightening the night sky with colorful bursts more impressive than any Fourth of July display I have ever seen. Smoke begins to rise as flames lick at the legs of the man. In a matter of moments he is consumed in a tower of fire. Though I am hundreds of feet away, the heat is intense, and I can only imagine what it is like for those up close. As the fire builds the entire playa is lit with a brilliance that rivals the sun’s. With a loud crack the man begins to collapse and the crowd erupts into another deafening cheer. The drumming resumes and we dance by the light of the fire late into the night.

The next morning I awake slightly hung over and with an intense feeling of melancholy… it is time to go back to the real world. Greg wants to get on the road as soon as possible to beat the traffic. We pack quickly and say our goodbyes. I watch sadly through the RV window as we pass camps in several stages of deconstruction and wish that it didn’t have to end.

At the gate we see the same woman who greeted us at our arrival, still wearing the dusty pink cowboy hat. “See you next year!” she yells and blows kisses at our RV. A red man in furry chaps sneaks up behind her, throws her over his shoulder and runs back into the city. She laughs and puts her arms out in mock attempt to escape and blows us one final kiss.

Dying for a warm meal, we stop at an all-you-can-eat buffet in Reno on the way back. The bright lights and the clanging of the gambling machines pierce into me and I feel a deep sense of revulsion. The people around us seem faded somehow, a little less alive. We take seats inside the restaurant, spy another group of dust-covered patrons and smile at them knowingly.

Our waiter comes up to take our beverage order and appraises us. “Y’all just come from that Burning Man Festival?” he asks. “What’s it like? Are there really lots of naked chicks like they say?” He winks and nudges Greg with his elbow.

Greg looks up at him and grins. “Naw, man. It’s just a camping trip with a bunch of art and stuff, nothing you would like.”
The waiter shrugs and goes to get our drinks. We look at each other and burst into laughter. Just a camping trip indeed.

Connecting With The Community

Every year after the event the staff engage in reflection about what we’ve accomplished and what we plan to do in the future — changes, improvements, what was right, wrong, etc. In the context of the staff, Senior Staff and Board we have a report called an EMBER report that staff submit to an email address. The reports are read by the LLC/Board and frame the tone of the 6 day off-site debrief that the 6 Board members and a facilitator take. Then the over 100 reports (450+ pages) are read by the Senior Staff in preparation for another off-site debrief in mid-November. A fundamental principle of the Burning Man Project has always been to engage in “self reflection”. This applies to the individual as much as the Project.

In 1997 we had our first Spring Town Meeting for volunteer recruitment, and then in 1998 we had our first Fall Town Meeting in December to take in our participants’ feedback, be that complaints, suggestions, or comments. A message from the Director of Community Services, Harley DuBois on this very subject:

Dear Community,
After each Burning Man event we endeavor to collect the community feedback for improvements for the future. Other than emails directly to Project staff or the jackrabbitspeaks email address, the primary avenue for collecting this data has been our annual Fall Town Meeting held in San Francisco and webcast to those remote with a computer. The format has been “question and answer” with the senior staff face to face with the community. We dialog about whatever meeting attendees concerns are expressed. We typically inform the community of any challenges we are facing and any plans for change in the future.

For the last few years attendance at the Town Meeting has stabilized at about 200 people. Even with the webcast audience included we do not feel that we are really accomplishing our goal of connecting with our community. We want to explore other ways to hear what you have to say, answer your questions, address community issues and share ideas. With attendance of Burning Man at over 35,000 people from all over the world we want to find a forum that can include everyone.

What forum/s would you like to see?

— Harley

We’d like to hear your comments on Burning Man 2004, and ideas on communication forums for feedback with the greater community. Please email any and all feedback to: feedback(at)burningman(dot)com.

Due to the fact we expect quite a few emails please don’t expect a personal response. The Jack Rabbit will endeavor to give some idea of what sort of comments we’ve received at a future time, but no firm commitment. We DO promise that your email will be read. What do you think? We want to hear from new and old Burners alike. Starting with the good before the bad is helpful. ;-) [para_end]

ALPHANUMERIC TRANSMISSION FROM VAULT OF HEAVEN


by Howard Hendrix

DECODE SEGMENT:		B9FXR0LTD21S4πR2X10U82πRS	

Translation
Iteration 1:		B9(space)FX(space)R(space)
			0(space)LTD(space)2(space)
			1S(space)4πR2(space)X10U8
			(space)2πRS

Translation
Iteration 2:		B9 FX R
			0 LTD 2 1s 4πR2
			X10U8 2πRs

Translation
Iteration 3:		benign effects are
			not limited to one’s sphere
			-- extenuate circumferences!

(Other iterations are possible — and likely, given that this segment constitutes only a small fraction of a transmission much longer in its entirety.)

Current DMV Pre-registration Status

The response to the DMV’s new pre-registration process has been much greater than anticipated: well over 800 vehicles have applied for a license to drive at Burning Man. The diversity and creativity in many of the vehicles we have seen is amazing. The DMV volunteer team has processed the majority of these registration requests, but the volume was high enough to overwhelm our new review process. We are not finished yet, but we will be soon!

We appreciate how much time and work people put into their Mutant Vehicles, and are doing everything possible to make sure that the review process both honors your effort and meets the needs of the Burning Man Event — that the vehicles are safe, extensively modified, and bring imagination and creativity to the playa. The vehicles you see driving should be as exciting as the other artwork people bring to Black Rock City.

We appreciate your patience as we complete the review process. If you have any questions, please contact the DMV. We will respond as quickly as we possibly can.

See you on the playa!!

The DMV Hotties [para_end]

Burn One Down


by Michael A. Stusser

The guy across from our tent worked slowly and methodically for four straight days on his creation. As revelers partied all around him in nearby camps, he hammered and measured and sanded and varnished a gorgeous bamboo Tiki Hut, the center of which was a large, gleaming teak bar.

In his van – $1,000 of fine rum, fresh pineapples, umbrella cocktail stirrers – all the fixins for a blow-out luau party. On the last night of the festival, he put the final touches on the bar, lit the Tiki torches, and set an “Aloha” sign in the sand. He then proceeded to serve daiquiris and pina coladas to hundreds of New Age ravers, stopping only when the rum ran dry in the early hours. Pouring the last shot into a glass, he tossed that baby back, then burnt the whole thing to the ground. This is Burning Man.

The most amazing thing about Burning Man is the culture it has spawned – part Mad Max, part mad Marx, part munificent madness. No money is allowed to change hands at Burning Man, as all encounters are based on a “gift economy.” There are no corporate sponsors hanging their banners, no Starbucks that litter the landscape. People come with what they need (water, some chow, sunny dispositions, and shelter from the elements) and something to contribute to the larger group as well: Like a roving carnival game of “Let’s Make a Deal,” everyone’s a player as well as host, and a joke, smile or song will surely get you what you need from generous festival-goers.

There’s a crucial distinction between bartering – a no-no – and the gift giving that takes place. “Dude, I’ll trade ya a Mai Tai for a henna tat” is commerce, pure and simple. The point is to offer to all who roam the space – without the need for a reply. Trade (for services rendered) has no place on the playa. What goes around surely comes around here, and the “it’s all good” state of mind never took on truer meaning.

Though I’d read quite a bit on BM and had friends participate, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. (The pictures just confused me – was it a St. Patrick’s Day Parade, the Apocalypse, or a Mudwrestling Event?) I understood there’d be roving discos and nude hippies on bikes and sex in tents – but the ART is what took me by surprise.

Burning Man founders talk about creating a venue for radical self-expression – outlets where individuals can fashion bizarre and practical visions that can be shared (like gifts) with others: Amazing towering sculptures made of books – that can be borrowed. Self-reflective video installations. A human car-wash with bubble-bath scrubbers. A faux pond with solar lilies and sparkling fireflies. The most beautiful temple you’ve ever seen made of the spare parts from a wooden puzzle factory. A yellow ducky the size of Godzilla. Given the chance, human beings are wildly imaginative, looking for positivity and a way to express themselves.

Burning Man is a carnival for adults. Large groups often share responsibilities in a camp – cooking, cleaning and housing. But at Burning Man, camps have evolved to do even more, to become “Theme Camps” shared with participants, sometimes going to elaborate measure and expense to pull off their interactivity: Beauty Bars, Drama in the Desert, Roller Discos, Body Paints and Pasties. Members typically work shifts – handing out costumes, conducting glitter workshops, guiding meditations, DJ-ing, giving massages or blending fruit smoothies – and when they’re done, it’s time to enjoy and explore without a care in the desert.

I’ll admit it – I was as excited as a four year old at the circus. (But I was 35, full of margies, and a circus veteran.) Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride and my years at Berkeley paled in comparison to the goings-on, making my head spin before I was even around the first turn. I grabbed the bike I’d bought in San Francisco for $15 and headed down Dogma Avenue.

My first stop was about fifty feet from my campsite. “Advice Taken or Given,” read the sign, and a young man in a robe waited to be joined. I stepped off the bike and sat next to him. “Hello. I’m Superprecious. Giving or taking?” I accepted some surprisingly good advice about my relationship with my brother, shared a lemondade and a hug, and hit the road to my next adventure. Along the way I had a splendid glass of tea from the roving Chai Rickshaw, received a temporary tattoo, hit the Kissing Booth (and volunteered on the other side for a spell), took in some amazing sculpture in the sand, ate from the Mobile Taco stand, got a Savings account at Karmic Savings and Loan (I have good credit), and ditched the bike for a giant couch lounge Art Car called Lotus.

Art Cars (approved with permits from the Department of Mutant Vehicles) are huge, often fire-belching means of transportation that cart folks around the desert at a snail’s pace. Gorgeous and horrifying (some are made from skulls and chainsaws, others out of flowers and hemp), they’re basically Booze Cruises created to see the sights and meet folks. Careful getting on and off…

A group called the Animal Control Gang runs around in bright red jumpsuits, corraling stray “animals” – people dressed in animal costumes of any kind – and put them in a huge holding pen where they are alternately fed doggie biscuits (yummy scones) or beaten. One huge white rabbit ran in circles as a persistent Control officer chased him (her?) with a carrot dangling from a stick. Walking past the dozens of sad-faced furry beasts whimpering behind bars or trying to make a run for it was, for lack of a better word, zaniness.

Another favorite encounter came after a long bike ride out to the middle of nowhere, when I saw what looked like golfers far in the distance. I rode farther to find, lo and behold, the Move Your Turf Zone: a nine-hole course where caddies give players a small piece of green sod to hit off, then take with them to their ball – as the entire terrain is a sand trap. Something country clubs in Vegas and Palm Springs should clearly consider…

For those who desire structure, there’s a schedule of events filled with fascinating performances, but the Festival is too random and unwieldy for that. Best thing is to strap a water bottle to your hula skirt and head out in any direction. Let the festival come to you. Be ready to give and receive. And make sure to take the Man back with you: Our civilization – or lack thereof – needs you.

“Welcome Home”


by Megan Dixon

I have a few Burning Men under my belt at this point. I wouldn’t go so far as to call myself an “old timer,” no way would I dare. But now that I’ve gone six in a row, I would venture to call myself a “middle-timer,” no longer a newbie, perhaps even a wee bit jaded. I think it was as early as my second year when I first began to notice people saying “Welcome home” when I enter Burning Man. What is it with the Greeters saying this in the first place? Who started this?

How many of them have even been more than a year? None of the tadpoles who’ve “greeted” me.

I don’t quite know how I feel about a fresh, yippy skippy, eager perky young newbie volunteering to be a Greeter and then welcoming me home. Welcome home? How about the other way around kiddo? Welcome to my familiar stomping ground (you’ve already made yourself comfortable I see) and can you vote yet? (Is this just me getting old and angry?) I was into the whole welcome home thing for a few years but while I smiled and received the greeting with the joy of just finally being there, I certainly didn’t ever really get into saying it. It sounded so … organized … boring … and more than just a bit forced and faked. Sure I want everyone to feel welcome. The great thing about the playa is the openness people exhibit, the friendliness. But sometimes when some ten-year-old welcomes me home I just want to shove her boingy-star-headband-ass off her streamer-glittered bike and …

Well I’ll stop there.

Maybe it’s that I don’t want this to be home. It isn’t. Home is a refuge, a place of comfort. It’s relaxing and controlled. Burning Man is a place where I meet my demons, and battle my fears. I don’t get naked in my “real” life and here I struggle the first few days with relaxing those issues and just changing my fucking clothes and taking a damn shower (or not!). The first few days are me fighting my cocoon, breaking through and working my wings out and drying in the sun. Burning Man is about dust, dirt, becoming one with un-cleanliness. My friends always quote my famous remark the second year we were there: “Standards of cleanliness have plummeted!”

And this was a happy thing.

I wasn’t checking my face in a mirror every second or worrying about my hair. At “home” I don’t have to deal with NOT looking in the depths of the porta potty before I squat above it … at home there is always toilet paper and damn it, there should be. Burning Man is about rethinking comfort both emotionally and physically. I hate the heat and I hate the sun. I am a white skinned – translucent almost – person who turns into a lobster within a mere few seconds of exposure. The first day I am always sure I am going to die. I lay there inert – perplexing my sun loving buddies – waving my fan, misting with my misty mate, sucking continuously on a camelback, gasping like a beached guppy and practicing my southern drawl. “Mah word it is hot to-day!” This is not home. This is war. This is my city-self dying and my Burning Babe emerging from the ashes.

Home had cable, damn it. I’m here for something else.

I would not explain Burning Man as like a home away from home. In fact it isn’t at all. It is more like your first day in pre-school. Everything is strange. You probably want to go home, you don’t get the rules, you’re confused by the people, and you most likely have bathroom issues. But then you relax and forget that and play and do crafts and run around. You approach people without fear and talk, you meet new people and you try new things. You manage finally to poop in the potty like a big girl. Nothing will likely ever be as unfamiliar or scary or strange again in your life. Nothing except kindergarten and Burning Man. And it’s wonderful that way.

Burning man is about leaving the nest, kicking yourself out of your comfort zone, shaking your head clear and seeing things with new eyes. Home has nothing to do with that. Burning Man is more to me, makes me more me than the comfort of home ever could, and it’s in no way comparable.

So when you say, “welcome home,” and someone says, “shut the fuck up,” you may have said it to me.

See you on the playa my darlings.

I went to Nevada


by Judy Copek

Aida sings to my daughter
In the dust-hazed desert
Siren songs to my daughter
Sitting by her trashy trailer.

Old costumes stuffed under the bed,
A greasy stove and a pyramid of dishes in the sink
Ripe strawberries heaped in a pottery bowl
And a maternal mantra.

My daughter roams the desert with Aida,
Barefoot on the playa, nomadic and free.
Aida braids my daughter’s hair with careless flowers
Sun-drunk, her mouth strawberry-stained.

Aida croons wanton lullabies by the black rock
Banging on a tin drum with rusted rebar
While the wind spins pretty zephyrs
And my daughter claps her hands.

Aida and my daughter live in a floating world
With psychedelic sunsets
And canopies of vagrant stars
Vast brilliant and heedless.

Heedless of the filthy trailer
Heedless of the rusted rebar
Heedless of me.
They sing together in the desert,
Aida and my daughter,
Heedless of me.