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.

Latest Ticket Information

Greetings from Ticket Land!

The $225 tickets are sold out! All pre-sale tickets now cost $250.

Tickets are available for purchase through Walk In Outlets or Online. Go here for Outlet locations or to buy tickets: http://tickets.burningman.com

The deadline to have your tickets mailed to you is fast approaching! All orders placed online after July 31st, 2004 are going to be held at Will Call. This means that you will not have the option to have your tickets mailed to you before Burning Man and you will have to pick it up upon arriving at Black Rock City.

In 2003 the Will Call lines at the Box Office were quite long and at times the wait was up to one hour to collect your tickets. We apologize for the long waits, we know it sucks but there is only so much that can be done on the playa.

Please help us to help you avoid long Will Call lines by planning ahead and buying your ticket *now* so that you have the option of having it mailed and in your hand when you arrive at Black Rock City.

Tickets at the Gate will cost at least $300 and will increase in price over the course of the event, most gate tickets will cost $350. Plan ahead – if you think you might go – get your ticket now – it won’t be hard to find someone who will be happy to use it in the event that you can’t go.

Questions about online orders:
Online Ordering Questions

Ticket FAQ:
Ticket FAQ

See y’all on the playa!!
The Ticket Team [para_end]