Guest Blogger! “Thanks But No Thanks: Plastic Playa Gifts”


Special Guest Blog from the one and only Molly Golightly:

Here’s the thing: I loved the Burning Man documentary “Gifting It.”

I have been given some wonderful playa gifts, including: First Aid and a gin ‘n’ tonic (BM ’98); pair of hand-made earrings (BM ’00); combination lighter and bottle opener (BM ’01); an antique kimono (BM ’04). I have also been given countless pieces of plastic crap that ended up dusty and broken in the bottom of my backpack and that generally made me sad.

Now, I don’t want to seem ungracious. I know you’re not supposed to look a gift horse in the mouth. There is so much magic on the playa — I’m well-known for crying at the overwhelming beauty of it all. Burning Man’s gift economy allows you to put meaning into almost anything. It’s not the cost of what’s given, but the act of giving. But that plastic butterfly hair pin one gentleman insisted I have when I was dressed in hoop skirts and corset as a gothic southern belle left me cold and went straight to the landfill

Playa gifts are a piece of you. You’re giving a stranger something to add to their experience, all because you can. People are open to receiving and it is a beautiful thing. When you’re thinking about playa gifts, put down the made-in-China trinket list. I’d rather have you stand in front of your camp passing out lemonade or spraying me with a water gun. That would make my Burning Man that much more playa.

It’s Never Too Late To Volunteer

Photograph by Heather Gallagher (CameraGirl)

Did you know that excessive volunteering guarantees you a spot in heaven? At least, that’s what we’ve heard from people that know stuff about this sort of thing.

OK, so maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but volunteering in whatever capacity you can is still a great way to participate and play a part in making Black Rock City the marvelous place that it is.

Plus you’ll be creating some good karma for both you and your fellow citizens. So you’ve got that going for you. Which is nice.

I do realize that Burning Man is mere weeks away and you may be saying to yourself, “But Timmmii, how can I possibly volunteer now? Isn’t it too late?”

Well, no, it’s not too late. It’s never too late for you to volunteer!

Yes, it’s true! You can still volunteer at Burning Man after you arrive, and No, it doesn’t matter that you didn’t sign up in advance.

Here’s what you do:


Nine Years

In 1993 my girlfriend and I were in a photography class together. A woman in class had photos of this thing in the desert. There was this giant wooden structure in the shape of a man with a couple of hundred people circled around it. She said that at the end of the weekend they burned the structure. We both were very intrigued. After an onslaught of questions by the two of us we found out nothing from the woman, like she was trying to keep it a secret.

Living in the city we would hear things about this event but it was still elusive. In 1995 we were ready. We had the info, we had tickets and we had the desert survival know-how. As soon as we arrived on the playa my girlfriend wanted to participate in some way. I just wanted to experience the desert. Within the next year she was involved in the event and has since become one of the integral parts of making it happen.

Me, I kept going but never fully got it. In 1997, I got engaged on the playa, to a different woman. We would go for a few years and then I stopped. After going through a very emotional divorce I returned to the playa. It was 2004.

It wasn’t until I went to burning man alone that I truly started participating. In 2005 I went to the temple burn. That was the pivotal moment for me. I saw a few thousand people stand silent in front if the blaze. The looks on the faces were amazing. I think I looked at every one of them. Behind me somewhere a bag piper started playing Amazing Grace. Aside from seeing my daughter being born it was one of the most amazing moments of my life. The emotions that were trapped in me were released all at once. I wept while holding the hand of a woman I didn’t know sitting next to me.

As the fire died down and the crowd started to disperse I got off the art car and began to walk back across the darkness to my camp. I walked for a few minutes, then sat on the playa and wept again.

I have gone to BM every year since and have met so many new friends from all over the world. I look forward just like I did the very first time. I hope to bring my daughter in a few years so I can share some of what I’ve gotten from being a burner.

by J.Love

Drink And Be Merrier

can_top_closeup.jpgI like to drink as much as the next lad or lad-ette. Especially in the joyously hot Black Rock Desert.

When you’re chilling underneath your shade structure in the middle of a sweltering afternoon on the playa, there are few things more suitable than quaffing a few cold ones to watch the day go by — interspersing those cold ones with steady gulps of delicious water to keep yourself alive and stuff.

Or, if and when you run out of ice to keep said beverages chilled, you’d be amazed at how tasty a warmish beer can be. In fact, by the end of the week, I can attest you’ll be acclimated enough with Black Rock City to not care if a beer is cold or not. Even if it’s been sitting in the blazing sun all day (which can be easily avoided if you keep your cooler in a shaded spot) and its inner temperature is near boiling point.

Regardless, when purchasing your various beverages, whether or not it’s alcoholic, you should always get aluminum cans, never glass bottles!

Tip #13 leave the genny at home

“An inverter hooked up to a truck/van/car is often plenty of power for most/many people.  And yet every year many people lug out expensive, noisy generators meant to produce way more power than they actually need.

Inverters come in a range of sizes (150 Watt to 1000 Watt) and when hooked up to a vehicle make a great impromptu generator.  The vehicle will have to be run occasionally to charge the battery but it will be much quieter and produce way fewer emissions than conventional generators.   Just don’t run out of gas on playa!

Unless they’re running a large sound system or some other power hungry project most camps don’t need a generator. Modern automotive alternators are designed to produce 100+ amps of DC current which is more than enough to power a 400 Watt inverter.

Just a thought.

DC Chris”

Green Your Cooler: cool tips from the Ice Queen!


-photos courtesy the lovely and talented Camera Girl

The xool and xollected Xandra, the Ice Queen who runs Arctica, passed along these helpful tips for greening your cooler. And since she *is* the Ice Queen, I’d reckon she knows what she’s talking about.


Helpful tip for greening your cooler from the Ice Queen

We all know how difficult cooler management can be on the playa. Between the dust, the heat and your food and drinks co-mingling with the ice we’ve all experience the dreaded, smelly Swamp Cooler. Eeeww!

Many years ago I discovered a way to beat back Swamp Cooler and this is the perfect year to pass that trick onto you. Here’s what you do:

  1. Purchase a 2.5 gallon water container (the ones with the handy spout at the bottom)
  2. Make sure that you can fit this water container in your cooler and still have plenty of room for your food and/or drinks. If your cooler isn’t large enough try using a gallon sized water jug instead.
  3. Drink the water during your travel to Black Rock City.
  4. Cut a nice sized hole in the top of the container leaving one side attached to act as a hinge.
  5. Pour your bag of crushed ice into the water container and place it inside your cooler.
  6. When the ice has melted, pull out the container, open the spout and pour the chilled, clean drinking water into your water bottle or bladder.
  7. Repeat steps 5 through 6 as many times as needed.

This method of cooler care will ensure that your food and drinks never touch melted ice water which leads to the breeding of happy little bacteria. As long as you refill the ice frequently enough throughout the week your cooler will smell as clean as it did when you packed it at home. Its also a great way to avoid the urge to pour your cooler water on the playa – a definite no in the Leave No Trace ethos. Cheers!

The Gift Economy gets recycled: drive through drop offs in Reno!


Ripped verbatim from the Jack Rabbit Speaks, this is the best news I’ve heard in weeks: Reno area supermarkets are being turned into drive through drop off recycling centers, post Burning Man. Woot! Cardboard, plastic, aluminum, glass, even batteries and BIKES!!! No more ditching your old Schwinn on the playa thinking “some body will want it.” Now it’ll get to someone who can actually use it. This story could be better..but I’m not sure how.

Some might say “but you’re promoting their store! Isn’t that commercialism…or something?” To which I’d reply “Did you miss the part where it happens after the event, and you’ve already bought everything?”

See, this is a gift. This is our values, principles, call em what you want, being mirrored back to us. True, it’s by a supermarket, but so what? That’s the cool part, really. I was there last year when the area managers for this particular chain of stores came to the event for the first time. They were wondering “why is our busiest week of the year in August?” So they toured around, saw the city, met some people, and clearly *got it*. This fantastic recycling program ( remember: all the recycling centers in Reno are otherwise closed on Labor Day) is the happy result.

Please spread the word. Please sort your recyclables in your camp. PLEASE drop them off clean and tidy and with a nice word or three for the people who’ll be there collecting them.

A big wet, sloppy green kiss to Nathan Heller, the Reno area burner who helped make this amazing program happen!


New York Happy Hour

Greetings from the road once again friends!

I’ve been laying low in the Big Apple, trying to catch my breath and prepare for the last leg of this journey through Regional Land. While here I did managed to stop in to the weekly Burner Happy Hour that happens in NYC.