Sweet serendipity

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One of the lessons of the playa is that sometimes you find what you didn’t know you were looking for.

There’s a word for it: serendipity. Black Rock City may be one of the most serendipitous places on the planet. You can go off looking for one thing, but you come upon something that seems far more valuable than what you originally set out to find.

Maybe you went off to meet up with friends, or to hear a certain DJ, or maybe you headed to a class to learn how to tie up your partner. But you got sidetracked along the way, attracted to something that, as it turned out,  might have been far more important for you to experience.

Mystery writer Lawrence Block says of serendipity: “Look for something, find something else, and realize that what you’ve found is more suited to your needs than what you thought you were looking for.”

Basic needs can be taken care of that way sometimes: You set out for Center Camp in search of an iced coffee, say, and along the way you come across a pancake breakfast yours for the having.

Or you are going across the open playa at midnight, trying to catch up with the friends you haven’t seen for hours, and a small light catches your eye. You approach and find yourself standing at a martini bar, and you didn’t realize until that moment that a perfectly made, ice- cold vodka martini was in fact the exact thing you were really looking for.

Some serendipities can be more spiritual, more nourishing for the soul.

Tell us about yours …

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About the author: John Curley

John Curley has been Burning since the relatively late date of 2004, and in 2008 he spent the better part of a month on the playa, documenting the building and burning of Black Rock City in words and pictures. John is a longtime newspaper person and spent many years at the San Francisco Chronicle, where he was a deputy managing editor in charge of Page One and the news sections of the paper. Since leaving the Chronicle in 2007, he was a contributing editor on Blue Planet Run, a book about the world's water crisis, and for the past two years has been a lecturer at UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism. He has also started an event and editorial photography business, and is also working on a book about the "Ten Dollar Doc" from Arco, Idaho, which will make a lovely film someday.

39 thoughts on “Sweet serendipity

  • One of the best things (for how can one possibly narrow them down) that happened to me this year was that my bike got stolen. My bike was a bike solely purchased for burning man. This was its second year on the playa. Before I left for the burn, I spent a couple of hours decorating it with Cowboys,Indians, Hawaiian flowers and streamers. It was my work of art that I was bringing to the playa. I received so much joy from compliments and comments from fellow burners. Then Friday night, at the rocket launch-thing it was lost and then stolen. I got separated from my friends. As I searched for them, I also lost perspective of where I was in relation to my bike. I met some awesome people on my way back to camp and had an awesome night on foot. The next day, as we headed out on foot we wandered over to wear my bike should have been, but it was gone. Which turned out to be the best thing ever. My best friend was wearing a sari, so we couldn’t ride anyway. And it wouldn’t had fit in the car on the way back to the default world. But the truly best part was the adventure that I had when I was walking around. It is far easier to interact and talk with people you meet on the playa, if you can just stop walking. I also know, that my bike brought someone else joy. They received compliments and comments on it, just like I did. The love I put into the bike is still being spread in ways that I don’t know about. Which is far better than it sitting in my garage waiting for the next burn.

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  • Wholly shit!!! That is how you call what had happen to me!!!!
    This year… Friday evening… We went out to see Infected Shrooms performance at Opulent Temple. Big!!! Loud!!! Intensive!!! Performance was great!!! Few thousands of people were jumping like crazy!!! WOOOOOW… just got goosebumps on my hands again :) …but something was not really right. Something was missing… kind of a feel of …mmmm… under-overdose…you know what I mean ;)
    We left O.P. without waiting the end of the show with no hope to find anything bigger and louder for that evening. COMMON! – that’s Infected Mushrooms!!!! …but in two block we got stuck at Hookahdome. I won’t be telling you the whole experience of my inner peacefulness and balance that I had dancing at Hookadome’s club for almost 4hours that night and even more at the night of the burn. We went to go see the Shrooms, to get wild, to get some stupid energy out – which makes you show that you can jump the highest and drink the biggest. The serendipity, of all this, was the introduction to a totally different music and behavior styles that actually let all of my stupid energy, that was soo rushing to escape, to transform into a good energy.
    I would never believe that anything on this scale would happen to me. This year was truthfully special! …for me at least :)

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  • This is one of the main reasons I never take a bicycle to Burning Man. Bicycles significantly increase your chances of arriving at your intended destination instead of that serendipitous location. (Similarly, they decrease your chances of meeting anyone along the way.)

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  • There’s probably a half dozen things, but we were about 2 hours late to the spaceship launch — we actually thought we missed it — and as we were walking across the playa, wondering what we were going to do and how we would ever find our pals, all hell broke loose and we got to see the fireworks, explosions and insanity. Seemed like we had it better than those who waited hours for that damn thing to take off!

    Just so happens that part of the delay was a stolen bike.

    Shame on all you a$$holes that steal bikes — but it is testament to how awesome the playa (and the people) are that nothing can stop it from being the best place on earth.

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  • I was out of Opulent Temple, out in the playa.. walking to my camp. it was cold,I was freezing.. Girl named Vicki passed by with a bicycle, asked me how I been, I told her that Im feezing :) She rode far away then came back and said ” I cant leave you here! I will take you to the nearest street” and gave me a ride
    Another day I was starving.. Missed dinner time and I was away from my camp, thinking about my hunger and a guy came by asked me if I want any burgers?
    That was delicious..
    Playa gives you

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  • 45,000 people and I still managed to randomly bump into multiple people I hadn’t seen in over a decade. One had been a close friend years ago, so reconnecting with him was an amazing experience.

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  • What is BM to me?

    I got ready by renting a BIG SUV. I read how you had to bring everything. So I wanted a shower, I took a it mattress and tied it to the roof and filled it with water. Grabbed a couple marine coolers and filled them with beer and drinks. Stuffed the rest with a two room tent and a portable shade structure. I headed out at 10:00 pm from Santa Cruz.

    Just outside of Tahoe, I almost rolled the truck applying the breaks going downhill, the truck was top heavy. The brakes shuttered and I slowed it back to reasonable.

    By 4:30is am I was approaching the playa, no cars on the road this time of the morning, the full moon was reflecting in a lightening sky. The refection was amazing, it was a huge reflection pyramid lake.

    I sat and watched the sun rise as I waited for the gates to open. No one was up, a rolled past a sea of RV’s and everything was dusty gray. It looked like something was going on, but nothing was at the moment. I parked all the way over at the corner of walk-in, where the water truck goes to get a new haul.

    On the left, there were still a few spots, I wanted to spread out, so I built my structure there, next to the truck. by 10:00 am I was finished setting up camp, the sun was starting to bake. So hung out in my tent in the Persian carpet and beanbag chairs. I moved the poker table and stretched out for a nap.

    I woke up at noon, to the ponding rave across the street, there was a reason it was empty, it was like being in the speaker. I got up looked outside the tent and across the other way was a do it yourself walk-up trapeze with line of people.

    It was quite surreal.

    So I got up and explored the playa. I was adopted by a beautiful woman with long blond hair. She was from LA, and told me how as a run away she grew up with HellsAngels. She indicated we could fool around, but wanted to make sure that I was ok with that fact. She has genuinely kind hearted and introduced me to her friends and saw Spooky Pie playing live to an audience of 12. We jumped a couple strip mobile art cars.

    Somewhere out there I lost my wallet. And lost track of each other during the early morning.

    I traded all the beer to hang out with a bus load of stoners from Oregon who arrived in a big school bus. They needed Ice for the keg, I had 4 huge coolers worth.

    I got so baked, We all just stared at the playa as people walked by laughing at how we must have looked. all in a row, just staring out.

    I met the woman again later, she lent be 20 bucks so I could get home. I coasted down the hills in neutral and got back with 0 miles to go reading on my milage indicator.

    That was 7 years ago. I went the next 4.

    There is a beautiful way life happens on the playa that is so unpredictable.

    I left a message a few years about indicating that there should be subconscious art, they made it the theme the next year.

    This year I would like them consider Random, as the theme.

    random everything.

    Peace BM friends.

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  • I had always wanted to go to the jewelry making tent by center camp and somehow convinced my boyfriend he wanted to go to… Thing is that you have to wait for a few hours before people who are making jewelry finish their creations and depart so new people can take their spots (the art is truly subjective to your desires), so we were out in the ante-chamber (which is enclosed) waiting and making conversation with others and waiting. I could tell my boyfriend was getting restless and he was waiting for what (?) making jewelry (not really his thing, if you know what I mean). Well, all of a sudden one of our fellow jewelry enthusiasts pulls out these beautiful hand made ceramic Man pieces in different colors and hands them to us as gifts. I had been trying and trying to figure out what I was gonna make, no answers, thinking…, no thoughts, nothing. In a flash I knew what I wanted to do and that I wanted my new gift to be the center piece! Then another of the people waiting got this look on his face like he was in some kind of distress. I asked him what was up and he said he was starving as his friends had told him he’d be fine on protein bars, granola and water! Yikes!! It just so happens I am a snack carrying whore and we fed him on the spot and it also happened that my boyfriend prides himself on his culinary skills at the burn – and creates these lovely feasts! We told him to come by for a proper dinner and he actually did later, all was well in the world! :) Another part of this is while we were waiting a furious white out occurred and lasted for about 5 hours (!) and we were trapped and the second is that one of the things I loved was watching my boyfriend in the jewelry tent also making a lovely creation based on his wonderful gift, and just lost in the moment making himself a kick-ass necklace. The Playa will always provide…

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  • all i know and what I’ve learned is that i just know. i didn’t go to the playa this year and it was inordinately challenging. brc is my home, it is the very place that reinvigorates my faith in humanity and my soul and what we are all capable of being. until this point, i thought the playa to be the one of the most relevant wherein i could cultivate this, but by way of not prancing upon that desert soil, i received the opportunity to cultivate the vibe that is relevant and critical in another space with like minded people. we can burn 24/7, everywhere and with everyone. i have since learned that this spirit is available all the time everywhere and all the time. i will be there next year. and i can’t wait to squeeze each and every last one of you….

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  • My first year we got there parked our car and set up camp. Immediately following, we went to go try to find some food. my friend Alec happen to see a sign that said free margaritas and chips. We went in and got to talking with the proprietor only to find out they were from our home town. Keep in mind these were the first people we met in all of Burning Man. After talking a little more we realized that they had come into my work the previous week and I had been their server. WHOA!

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  • (i started writing this, then re-thought the point of the blog and started over…here goes my re-thinking.) Being a virgin to burning man, i had no idea what to expect and had the highest hope that the people that were to be my family for the next 7 days would be the sweetest, most caring people that i would ever meet. None of you dissapointed! My boyfriend and i were on the middle of the playa…very far from our brc home, and i had completely sucked through my entire camelpack. Walking past an art car a wonderful woman put out her hand and asked us if we would like a nice cold beer. we obliged and i thanked her and commented that i was out of water. Her smile got huge and she bubbled over that she had water! she turns around, grabs a container of water and fills up my camelpack. This was an amazing moment considering you can’t buy water on the playa, and i know that it can be a huge sacrifice to give up water. But it what you do for your family right?

    another moment of re-enforcing my faith in humanity….out on the playa on most of the most beautiful days i had seen….i started not feeling well, and the one thing i had heard over and over is that you need to listen to your body. as we started to ride back my boyfriend had us pull over into the whiskey saloon because he was afraid i wasn’t going to make it back to camp. we sat inside and talked with the awesome bartenders and had some time to regain my strength for the ride home. When we arrived back at our RV…we noticed we didn’t have the camera. there was crying and yelling and the decision to ride back to the saloon. I arrived back still sobbing and said that i had left my camera. the bartender turned around and picked it up off her mantel and handed it to me. she said that i left it on the chair and someone turned it in. it was a $500 camera, and someone turned it in. that wouldn’t happen in the “real world” amazing people you all are! i wish there were more in the world like you <3 see everyone next year :)

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  • I unfortunately missed this year, but last year had a great bit of serendipity befall me: Normally I’d wear my duster out at night, but this particular night for some reason decided to go with a Japanese Kimono. Later I met up with some friends at Ashram Galactica and almost as an afterthought entered into their drawing for free lodging that evening. While in the midst of terrific drinks and conversation the drawing was held and my name was called! I had won a night in the Japanese Tent! I spent the rest of the evening camped out in the Japanese Tent with the door open, welcoming in anyone who stopped by and urging them to allow the Playa to provide!

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  • Best serendipidous moment that ever happened to me happened this year. It was Sunday, the day after the Burn, and I was in my tent, thinking to myself, “You know, these Timberlands have done really well, stood up to some serious grief. But they have no style. I want to get some boots for next year that have some panache… That’s going to be a priority for next year.” I walked out of my tent, and 20 seconds later (no joke) my best friend walks up with these kick-ass metal-heeled 4-buckle steel-toe playa monsters and says, “Try these on.” I say, “Ok” and they fit perfectly. He says, “I got ‘em on Ebay, and misjudged the size they stated. They’re yours.”

    I looked up at the sky and immediately shouted, “A brand new RV and fourteen strippers!!” The playa saved me from myself by holding back on that particular request.

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  • The first year I went to Burning Man was in 2007. My birthday is during Burning Man every year, and for my first burn I was so excited to spend my birthday on the playa. On my actual birthday, it was so beautiful. It was the day that saw that glorious double rainbow arching over the playa (how could you forget that?) Everything that day was perfect. I was hot, someone would offer me a popsicle. I was thirsty, someone would bring me a beer. Even though my bike had been stolen that day I had a great day/night. When night came, I was a little bummed because most of my friends went out their separate ways, and instead of having a great big dinner with my friends, I was left there with just my boy friend to eat some granola bars and ramen. When, of course, the awesome Tuna guys whose camp was nearby came to the rescue. We ended up having this amazing tuna sashimi (my fave) and seared tuna dinner. We ended up walking around and enjoyed the evening on foot, seeing where we would end up and who we would meet. The best part had to be when around 4 am I walked into a port a potty and the tune happy birthday was playing in my ear! Best birthday ever! I love you BM and all the wonderful people that make it so great.

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  • Last year I camped with two friends in a larger village. I arrived first and pulled up in a convenient location next to a white car. The guy was a little older, and quite sad with some issues going on in his marriage. He was a first-timer and we spent many mornings and evenings chatting during the in-between times of the day.

    This year I camped alone in the same village. I arrived early and found myself a convenient location. (Then I helped two campers drag their belongings in, they having been dropped off at the gate by a woman who decided to bail.) I later looked up as a white car pulled in beside. In a village with 450+ people I was camped next to the same guy as last year! And it was so cool to be with his happy self, as his marriage was improving. :)

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  • This was my 2nd year and every single moment was serendipitous. From the first moment on the plane, when the burner sitting next to me offered me a ride out from the airport to BRC, and luckily since my shuttle was canceled; to the sunset photo shoot my friend and I had out by the man when we got caught without planning in the middle of the bunny/animal control riot that rocked our word. I had been going through alot right before the man, feeling very lost and needing a true connection. 3 years in L.A. will do that to a person. Yet still I had no expectations when I went. I figured maybe I would make out with some cute boys and just have fun with my friends, little did I know the playa would send me some love….

    On my 2nd night, Thursday, having the time of my life dancing at the Hookah dome and around the esplanade, I met an amazing guy, and it was his birthday (a fellow Virgo). We were inseparable from that moment on tell the moment we left the playa. He lives in San Diego so we have stayed in touch. I had hoped since the distance was short that this connection would last, considering I was eager to leave L.A. and falling in love was a great excuse, but it appears this connection was just a Burning Man thing. And even so, I embrace that. The universe needed to show me that still existed out there, and I should have hope and never settle. Live in the now fellow burners, that is the mindset on the playa and one of the greatest lessons we can take back into reality. <3

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  • Dinner was cooking one evening and to escape drama at camp myself, my partner and a friend walked around our camp to see what was around. We walked down G near 5:30 and between 5:30 and 6:00 I spotted a well-lit tent on the left, set back from the path. There was music.

    We decided to go see what the lights and music were about. In front of the tent was a big open space and just as we got there we were treated to a fire spinning show. It seemed to be a practice session. The performers were at camp just having fun and the only people that knew about it were the fire artists, my group and the four people who were nearby that came to sit and watch.

    We intended to escape crummy camp drama and achieved it and then some! We got to see just what is possible (up close and personal!!) with fire artists. Now, back in the default world, my partner and I have decided to take up Poi as a creative way to express ourselves and as a relaxation technique. None of that would have happened if there wasn’t camp drama, if I hadn’t noticed the tent/music or if the fire artists were reclusive-types that wanted privacy.

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  • Serendipity
    2009
    My first year and things didn’t look good for me. I drove 1800 miles to meet up with a group of people I didn’t know, who were mostly younger than my own kids, played music that I couldn’t remember if I liked and who did who knew what else, and that’s all I knew about them. They knew less about me. The playa provides and it provided me with more than I hoped for. We built a theme camp at a major plaza and we rocked the joint and we had fun and I loved every second of it. And I can’t wait to go back. My shelter buddy was the most amazing and gorgeous woman you could possibly have a laugh with. And we laughed long and often, as we got ready for the new day every day. She remembered how it is to be a noob, because it can be hard but not at this camp
    We had a balanced camp with no heartaches, no drama, and no major unmet expectations. I don’t think my senior citizen shit impressed them much either. Piss clear and let’s party tonight are really nice things to hear when your home on the playa. Thank you Planet Earth and thank you Black Rock City. See ya on the playa.

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  • Well on Teusday my friend took my bike to center camp but forgot to ask for my chain. Well when he come out 30 min later the bike was gone. Granted, the thing was a $50 made in China Craigs List find and not anything terribly expensive, but still, that was petty raw. Well on the last Monday I figured I would just start walking and maybe come across an abandoned bike that was close enough to the one that was swiped. I walked no more than a couple of blocks on the Esplanade when I saw a huge mountain of bikes. These guys said they were all abandoned after a very wild party the night before and I could take my pick. I rode off with a Giant Rincon valued at $400 retail.
    It had not a single mark of ID, trust me I looked. No camp stickers, no DL engraved in the frame, nothing. I ride it around at least 3 times a week to try and lose some weight and get fit. It rides like a dream and is in perfect conditon. Thank you playa!

    To the dorkwad who stole my bike, I hope you got what you needed from it and really hope you didn’t continue your dorky streak and leave it behind on the playa for the DPW. To the person whose Giant Rincon I now posses, sorry for your loss, but trust me that I am getting a lot of great use from it. And next time, engrave something on a bike that nice. I would have done everything I could to return it if there was any ID marks on it.

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  • I have always been fascinated by the Burning Man Event. I don’t have the stamina to do a whole week. But I’ve heard one can get a pass for a day. I consider this event a true example of the values America has been based upon. It’s not about capitalism. It’s about relating to your fellow man. Hopefully, I will see you there sometime…

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  • So many serendipitous moments…

    This year was my boyfriend and my first burn. Our first full day, we ran into a young lady passing out Otter pops at the man, and not one but TWO ice cream stands in our adventures around the playa. We’d had no idea that was even possible — to have frozen treats out in the middle of the desert — so you can imagine how amazed and thankful we were.

    Riding into Center Camp on the day of the burn, I came upon a guy standing in the middle of the street with his bike flipped upside down. He was looking around anxiously and by the look on his face you could tell that he’d just decided he was stuck in the middle of the road with a broken bike.

    I stopped and asked what was wrong, and he showed me that his chain had come off and was securely stuck between his frame and the gears. I used to race bicycles, and it just so happened that I had a swiss army knife in my backpack. I grabbed it, flipped open the screwdriver and we used some elbow grease to force the chain back out. I put his chain back on for him, and when we stood back up to inspect the bike, he gave me this look of such gratitude. We hugged, and I felt like I’d given back to the playa some of what it had given to me.

    Those are just a couple. Simply getting to go seemed like pieces magically falling into place. I can’t wait until next year. =)

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  • In 2007, I pulled up to Bookmobile Camp, where I was staying that year, and got out of my car. I was instantly greeted from two different directions by two friends I had not seen for quite some time who (1) did not know each other and (2) were certainly not looking for me since they had no idea where I would be camping. A third friend, who didn’t know either of the other two, walked up while we were talking.

    Also in that same year, once I had my tent set up, it turned out that I was camping just across the street from a person I had gotten to know through emailing about common interests unrelated to Burning Man. We had corresponded about meeting in BRC but had no influence on the placing of our respective camps (she was in Greeters’ Camp) near each other.

    Another serendipity that year came after I had spent a couple of hours trying to find some friends who I knew were camped in Hushville. First I had trouble finding anyone in Hushville who knew them and then when I found their camp, they weren’t home. They didn’t know where I would be camping, so I had to find them. Rather tired, because I hadn’t brought a bike that year so I could see what it would be like to do everything on foot (didn’t like it), I was walking past the Bookmobile Reading Room to my tent when (you guessed it) there were my friends perusing the free books on display.

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  • It was about 5:00 am the morning after the Man burned, and I had been dancing and running around ALL night. I was at the Temple, walking up the stairs and thinking to myself “All of a sudden I feel STARVING”. Just then a young man walked by with apple slices and offered me on. I told him it was AMAZING timing because I was JUST thinking how starving I felt. He reached into his bag and pulled out the biggest, shiniest, crispest red-delicious apple and gave the whole thing to me! All I could think was, the playa provides. As a virgin burner, it was my first experience with how true this statement is. It was a very powerful moment for me.

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  • dear what I asked for,

    I was not particularly careful about the way I asked, I suppose, more a railing against the universe than a real request. Still, you heard me and you arrived, and I am not sorry. thank you for saving me and allowing me to rescue you.

    Thank you for being everything I have ever wanted along with a lot of things I had no idea about, and some other really challenging things thrown in for good measure. Because really why not? Might as well grow and learn while you are getting your cake and eating it too, it’s only right.

    love,

    exactly what you were looking for

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  • I found comfort in camping on my own for the first time at the burn. This year, I had a tent and no plan. Sounded good enough to me. I left the schedule of events in the tent, and headed out with nothing but a smile and my laughter to guide me. I never knew what I was going to ‘find’ to entertain myself.

    And guess what? Every where I went, every day, someone did something beautiful for me…and I never had to look for it, which was a complete surprise. It’s really awesome to be on your own at the burn–it gave me a totally new experience.

    For example, on my first morning, I picked up ice and realized how far it would be back to my tent on foot (with all the ice they talked me into buying). I stopped to consider the shortest path back, when I heard a bike horn, and some woman say “honey–you shouldn’t carry that ice on your own, want a ride?”

    These 2 sweethearts had me sit in the middle of their art bike (where i couldn’t pedal, only relax) and they told me i was their princess & that they needed to put me on their chariot–so they could do the work for me to get me home.

    Later that day I was walking to go and see friends, and I told myself to stop worrying about finances, when out of the blue, a man decked out in a suit decorated with dollar signs $$$ came up to me and said “I bet you take care of a lot of people financially. I think it’s time for someone to give you some money for a change.” And he handed me a real $50 bill that had a BM stamp on it in the corner and insisted that I take it. Afterward he asked me “Now, didn’t that feel good?” He gave me a hug and a kiss and went off on his merry way. (He was right, about all of it)

    It was like all of the angels kept approaching me, showing me more and more love…with others offering me delightful adventures ‘just like that’…out of no where.

    This year I really wanted to ride on more mutant cars, crazy rides, and art cars to get around….and had no plan on how to make this happen ‘exactly’….well, each of these activities happened multiple times a day, which was awesome!

    I could simply step outside, zip my tent shut, turn around, and I had a ride right there, starring at me…it could be a giant motorized scooter, the tilt-a-whirl, a fish car, a flirting booth, some giant spinning mobile work of art—everyone asking me to take a ride with them—it was a blast! Friends got me on art cars that their friends run–i never had to run after an art car on the playa this year. And each ride took me someplace else, which helped the next beautiful adventure happen…and so the week went

    soooo much fun literally came to me, or approached me, and my smile never went away! A lot of people showed me amazing times and great ways to let all of the love in.

    thank you sweet angels.

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  • One morning my bladder woke me up too early. I tried to ignore it, not wanting to leave my cocoon. Defeated, I wrestled myself free from the tent and slogged toward the porta-potty. And then I saw it. The most spectacular sunrise I’ve ever seen. I stood in awe, rooted to the earth, unable to turn my back on it. I nearly peed my boots. When I finally broke free of its glory, I caught the eye of another early-dawn drifter and without words we said “I know.”

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  • Lotsa folks have adopted the term ‘playadipity’, as the playa provides it’s own breed of serendipity.

    I have the pleasure of using it once in a while up here in Vancouver, BC. Yes, indeed, the playa love extends far beyond the boundaries of BRC.

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  • I was leaving for Opulent temple the nite Infected Mushroom was there and hopped a random art car that took me EXACTLY to opulent. Then, when we left, we hopped another art car that happened to stop right at the 9 O’clock portal where i lived. And then, on the nite of the temple burn we were running late but ran out of our camp just as an art car was heading past. We RAN like hell and jumped on and as soon as we got to the top of the art car, the temple began to burn. I love art cars!! XD

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  • A search for my brother led me to the thunderdome, where i crossed paths with a girl who i had been crushing on for years but rarely saw. admitting mutual feelings for one another for the first time (which, back home, violated social barriers), we quickly became playa partners. we spent the rest of the event together, and now share our lives with one another.

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  • There’s so many wonderful things that have happened to me on the playa, but here’s one of my favorites from this year:

    On Wednesday I woke up on a couch in the Lamplighter’s Lounge, starved and dehydrated (I was a bad Burner this year!), and while I was trying to psyche myself up for the walk back to my faraway camp, man in a purple kilt and toga sat down next to me and we started talking. Eventually I mentioned my killer case of playa foot and other woes, and he offered to give me some lotion/vinegar/miscellaneous wonderful things at his tent. I washed off my feet, which was heavenly in and of itself, and he even gave me a new pair of socks! Afterward, he fed me green chili stew and lasagna, totally kicking my ass with awesomeness in the process.

    We ran into one another a lot that week (He was a Lamplighter, and I was hanging out there a lot as I have many friends in that camp), and finally on Saturday night we went out. We did some dancing, drank in front of a fake fireplace at Monticello, discussed Molly Ringwald and the finer points of pop culture, then went back to Lamplighter’s and sat on a couch on their second-story deck, making out and watching the sun rise.

    Oh, and he was in a purple kilt again, with a top hat with matching purple LED wire trim. The next day I realized that was one of the best things that’s ever happened to me, and I needed it in more ways than one. The playa provides =)

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  • I experienced an incredible moment of sweet serendipity on the playa at Burning Man this year. My close friend Dayn Schulman of Santa Cruz (Rest in Peace) inspired and pushed hard for me to go to my first Burn in 2004. We had an awesome time. He was a wild man and one of his nicknames was “Scully Powers”. Sadly, He ran into a difficult head space and took his own life a few years later after the 2004 Burn we did together.
    2009 was the first time I was able to return to the playa since I live on Kauai and it is difficult to pull off. I believe it was Friday at sunset this year, I was in front of the large Brass Tax Boombox theme camp fashioned soundsystem near Nexus, a huge oversized Boombox with speaker stacks and dj booth built in.
    I saw the sun setting behind the upper corner of the Boombox where a red light and the POWER button was located. I decided to take a picture with the sun in the back drop going down and the POWER light on in the foreground. when I looked at how it turned out, to my amazement the semi truck parked in the back of the Boombox read “SCULLY” perfectly aligning with the POWER to read SCULLY POWER with the sun setting to the left. I was blown away…It gave me the most extended and nice feeling goose bumps and I was so happy knowing that Dayn was there by my side, proud to see me back at Burning Man, giving me a serendipitous reminder that his spirit carries on strong… I Love You Dayn… Thank You Burning Man

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  • My first time was 2007, last minute no organization, car packed to the hilt for just one person. My boyfreind wasnt having it once he saw the dirt coming out of the car 8 months after the burn he vowed never to go…. So this year he went! He is normally VERY, shy even with his own family… NOT No More, I was the gracious host and led him and his nephew around for the first 1.5 days then kept asking them “where is the camp?” after a while they got their bearings. I said I was going out for a while and would be back later…. I didnt see them for two days, I came back they were gone. They came back, we were supposed to have a party at our place the “Sham-wow Luau”, they were so “happy” they couldnt even stand up. They had been to the “Jump of Death” and got arm bands and many drinks. I had envisioned was that big wood ramp I saw earlier in the day that became a faux ski ramp, but no it was a 8 inch high series of bike jumps. They got into the party and walked up to complete strangers and offered drinks and socialized for almot 6 hours before finally passing out. Now understand that neither of them speak much english. Both are from Spain, one less than a year ago, so this was stretch for both of them.

    One the way home they both said they will keep coming as long as they are able to. But next year with an RV. The tents and dust were a bit much they thought.
    It only took a month to put away all the camping gear, and dirt is still oozing out of their SUV. The playa has that effect on people, changes neat freaks into Playa angels. Thank you ethos!

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  • I have had some amazing playadipitous moments since attending in 2005….meeting the right people in the right place, stumbling onto artists that I didnt plan to see but loved even more, places where relationships formed, strong spiritual connections and adventures, a beautiful wormhole of giving and receiving….so many great stories to tell.
    I went to BRC for my fifth round and thought I had it nailed down. I put effort into the theme camp, created a really fun sunrise party with a friend that delighted others, helped people out, gave stuff away, received, did all these things right but forgot about being spontaneous and just getting on foot and staying away from the rave camps and go enjoy some freakin art and burbs. I thought I had it nailed, and I didnt. I stood there in wonderment and disbelief for much too long, attention deficit disorder breakdown, I would meet someone and then arrange for a later date in the eve that never panned out (just go with the flow, do it now!) So many anti serendipitous moments for me this year, I did so much ‘wrong’ for myself in many ways.

    There was one really stand out moment though, my art buddy took me to the butterfly moth female like sculpture. I took photos of him as he climbed it. At one point, at the top in the bowl, a young man played some amazing silver trumpet. The mix of his creativity and the art piece made that piece so amazing. It wasnt the same without trumpet man playing in it. An art car drove by playing Abracadabra and the trumpeteer played along with the song perfectly. I got to witness that. Now when I see pics of the butterfly bowl, I think, neeener neener, I saw that thing at its best ;)

    So even though I drove away from BRC dissapointed in myself this year, the lessons and inspiration I have for my next one are teaming and bubbling with goodness……even on a bruised year, one can be transformed Playa style once again, in a whole new unexpected way….thus morphing your dreams once again, completely affected by the experience, yearning to open more doors and search for more clues of how to be Super Me, Actually.
    I gotta be that trumpeteer in the bowl more often.

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  • Serendipity, Hmmm
    This year was my first burn and I was looking to let loose before I started the corporate world. I came into BM to experience BM and that was it, I wasn’t looking for a girlfriend or hookup, nothing I just wanted to enjoy BM. Needless to say that didn’t happen I met this girl the first day, which nothing happened but we ended up meeting back up a few days latter. Since our moment on the playa we were inseparable the rest of the week. My group of guys that I rode with turned out to be a bunch of selfish assholes. So I eventually ditch them and their quarter million dollar RV. To spend the rest of my time at BM in a tent with this girl I just met. Amongst all the drama between my camp and her rides ditching her TWICE! I eventually ended up renting a car in Reno and driving her and me to Arizona. Where we spent the whole next week together and are still together to this day. I don’t know what my future holds with this wonderful woman that I met at BM but all I can see is happiness and that’s a huge deal for her and me. So yes this was a serendipitous experience! Despite all the bad that happened I met some great people and that’s what I focus on, thank you for making my first burn an experience of a lifetime, and to you girlee thank you for making my experience a life changing one.

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  • This was my second year at Burning Man. Last year was truly a life altering experience. I had waited 10 years for the the opportunity to go and it was worth every day of the wait. This year I made the decision to go only 7 days before the event. I had spent the last 7 months dealing with extremely serious health and personal issues and I wasn’t sure if I was healthy enough to even make it back from a week in the desert alive, but I could feel the Playa pulling me home…I just HAD to go. To be honest, when I left on Sunday to drive to BM I truly believed I would be returned to my parents in a body bag, but at that point, I didn’t care. Burning Man is home…not such a bad place to go and never return from.

    Once I made the decision to go, the way everything in my life just began lining up in perfect harmony for this trip to be possible was unbelievable. The next day, which was the Sunday before the Burn, I found a ticket on Craigslist that I was able to buy that afternoon from a wonderful young lady who had a friend gift her one at the last minute so I was able to purchase mine from her at an amount lower than what she paid face value for. This was such a blessing due to the fact I was using the last $250 I had to my name to pay for the ticket.

    Within the next 3 days I found a ride with a group of people by posting for a rideshare on a local burners yahoo group website and 4 days later we were off to the Burn! The lady I rode to Burning Man with was a total stranger, but we seemed to have so much in common and we had a wonderful time talking the entire time and arrived at the Burn on Monday afternoon with our caravan without any incidents or problems.

    Then, on Wednesday, the third day of the burn, (after having sworn off men mere weeks before because of all the craziness they caused me in the last several years of my life) I met the man of my dreams. The total stranger I had ridden to the Burn with was camping with a WONDERFUL group of people and this man happened to be camping with them also. Had I not ridden to the Burn with her, I would have not been at that camp at all because I was camping with a different group, and I never would have met this amazing man who has changed my life so dramatically. Talk about serendipity.

    I went to Burning Man this year planning to not come back alive and instead I came home with a few things I hadn’t experienced in so long I couldn’t even remember nor did I believe I would again. Joy, love, peace and HOPE.

    Burning Man changed my life again this year. Burning Man saved my life this year.

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  • Remember that time you woke up from a wild dream that made absolutely no sense but you immediately closed your eyes and tried desperately to fall back into it. Well, that’s the only way I know how to describe Burning Man. I’ve stumbled with my best friends through dusty dark tent alleys only to find my self waking up to pillow mountains covered with florescent lighting where total strangers dressed as Adam and Eve offered me ice cold liqueur drinks. Your first reaction when a stranger hands you a drink is to pull out your roofies testing kit and start evaluating. But hey, it’s burning man, you can trust strangers, right? If you can’t, just consider the roofies a present from the radical gifting society that makes up BRC. Fortunately or Unfortunately, my drink was not roofie-fied. I cheersed Eve and hopped the next giant rubber duck to THE END of the playa where I stayed up all night with two beautiful burners who I’ll probably never meet again.

    I don’t know how I made it back to camp that night but I felt at home as I slept beneath the stars with the playa against my back.

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  • I came to the playa searching for myself under all the layers of programming and illusions. It was my first year, but my boyfriend had been before… I did all the preparation, devoured every word I could find online. Storys, Tips, Tricks, Precautions… We packed up our car and drove 14 hours, arrived in a dust storm so the greeters rushed us through, no bell for me… but the minute I stepped outside I got a face full of playa. We set up camp in a white out at night, tent poles broke, people got hurt, but we were there finally…

    As the week went on I felt disconnected from the people… i enjoyed them, talked to some, but couldnt open up. I didnt realize that internally I was building up so much pressure I was about to break. I thought I was just tired.

    We went to the temple the night before it burned and I lost my boyfriend. I searched for an hour before giving up. His bike was gone so I sat down in a small pillar under the stairs and read the words of all the burners who had sat there before me. I wanted so badly to know myself enough to be able to release like that, to know why I was there, what I wanted. i thought I knew, but I was still so lost. And it was in that moment of feeling lost that a woman sat down next to me… She had the kindest eyes Id ever seen, the sparkled with love. She could see deeper into my soul than I could, and she knew. She knew I felt alone, that I felt lost, that I was searching for myself and wasnt finding it… She knew more about me than i though possible. Every word she spoke lit up a part of my soul I could reach alone. She said that she was with a camp of healers, that she did readings and talked with people… She told me to come find her the next day, she wanted to help me. She said there was something special inside of me and she wanted me to see it. I wrote her location on my hand in a sharpie and said Id find her.

    I found my way back to camp and as I laid down in bed thinking of that woman, my boyfriend came into camp with tears in his eyes. It was as if we had been apart a thousand years. We laughed and cried and fell asleep in each others arms. And the next day I went off on my own to find that woman because I knew she had something to teach me. I searched that intersection for hours, asking every camp if they knew of her. I never found her that day…

    A year later I am writing this almost done with my schooling to become a healer myself. I still feel lost sometimes, but Ive realized that what she had to teach me was that sparkle in her eyes. She saw the light in me when I was lost in the dark. All I needed was for someone to see me and she did. Ill never forget that woman, or the sparkle in her eyes. And when I feel lost I remember that moment when she found me, and I find myself again.

    I hope to run into her again this year, to thank her for that moment. For now, I thank the playa for providing what I needed <3

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