On Wednesday, August 21st, a very powerful wind front blew through the beginnings of Black Rock City. There was some warning from weather services, and the staff communicated what was coming to artists and staffers. Most art crews were prepared, and afterwards the ARTery conducted a survey of the art projects for damage.
Many staff camps dove into action in the initial whiteout, strapping down tents and shade structures, despite the fact that most were secured the previous night. But this very powerful storm had higher winds and bent structures that only shook before.
So here’s the lesson: plan carefully for the prevailing winds, and use very long stakes and more strapping and ropes to secure your structures than seem necessary. You’ll be glad you did.
There is no one as enthusiastic as a second-time Burner. After our first time, we can’t wait to go back and we can’t stop talking about the playa. Our restlessness is palpable. Second-year Burners have been stoking that fire for 12 months, fresh off a transformative experience. We want to do it all over again, only with better gear and more art and more friends. We understand the lay of the land and the porta-potties and we’re ready to pitch in.
All the costumes and camping supplies and decent food — the things I needed that first year when I didn’t even have a chair — don’t add up to the exquisite mind-blowing first Burn. Burning Man changed my life. My experience as a virgin Burner was typical: my mind was blown wide, wide, wide open. I was grateful, gracious and disbelieving. It’s all I could think about when I returned to the default world. I ached to be back on the playa. I came back to BRC ready to do it all over again and my expectations fell flat. Where was the lightning bolt to my psyche?
Subsequent Burns are more about reigniting that original flame, more life-affirming than life-altering. Some years it’s a big fire; other years it’s a lot of dust. The months spent daydreaming of electric moonscapes and deep playa kismet and … well, I still do that. I want to be closer to that wide-eyed wonder. Could y’all bottle that for some of us old-timers? Maybe start a theme camp that serves some of your fresh-Burner juju?
After 12 Burns I don’t expect the catharsis and epiphany I experienced walking around Black Rock City in 1998, colliding with splendor at every turn. A few years in I accepted the ebb and flow. Don’t get me wrong — I am excited for BM2013. I’m looking forward to driving with a friend and camping with a group of women. Mixing it up is a good way to get a fresh perspective on the event.
Taking time off from the playa is one of the best things for reigniting the flame. My return to the playa was resplendent and relaxing and hilarious and serious and sad and wonderful. I still get teary driving into Black Rock City; the first glimpses of the event on the horizon feel like coming home. I cry when I take my annual solo bike ride along the trash fence and stare back into the city. I may be a realist but I’m still a softie.
I’m not trying to bum you out. Burning Man is the greatest. Your second Burn will be splendid; so will your tenth. But after you know what to expect, maybe things start to seem a little less grand. Your mind gets occupied by other things. You consider using that vacation time elsewhere. Everything evolves: Burning Man, Burners, anticipation and expectation.
[Kristy Evans is Burning Man’s Gate, Perimeter & Exodus Manager … she knows whereof she speaks, so listen up.]
The most common question I received after the 2012 event: what did you guys do to make Exodus so much better? The short answer is that YOU were a major part of the solution. You spread out your departures over enough days and times, and did it in a fairly balanced way. That is the most effective solution to reducing Exodus wait times. Let’s do that again, shall we?
Now, here’s the thing … we can’t get complacent! Because if everybody thinks, “Well 2012 was a breeze, clearly the problem is solved and I can leave anytime!”, we’ll find ourselves right back in long Exodus lines again. What we need to do is make a plan for Exodus. All of us. (more…)
Successful theme camps, it seems go through a common life-cycle. According to organizers from various camps I’ve spoken to:
– They start out as an incredible idea. “Hey, do you think we can pull this off?”
– And then they pull it off, and it’s amazing, and more people want to get involved, and a couple of growth years go by.
– Then there comes a point where people who have spent so much time and energy and money on this project for the last several years ask themselves … “why are we doing this again?”
– At which point they either recommit to taking the thing to an even crazier next level of awesomeness … or they let it go and find something else to do with their time.
Individual burners seem to have a similar life-cycle. It’s noticeable how many serious long-time Burners I know have lost all interest in “The Man,” and most interest in the Temple, and keep only a low-grade interest in the art and spectacle.
Instead they keep coming back for the people: to see friends who are lost to them the rest of the year, or to be there when their friends dress up and go crazy like they otherwise never would. They’re here to chill out with their people, and everything else is secondary. Go out to the fire sculpture and dance naked under the moonlight? Maybe, but … their friends are all right here, with deck chairs and whisky.
I’ve noticed the change in myself, and have come to the gradual conclusion that – at least for me – I’ve been doing it wrong. (more…)
So here I am, spending another evening attempting to write a novel. My daughter is upstairs packing for college, I’m recently divorced, and about to be kid-less for the first time in 18 years. Wow.
While doing research for the novel, I come across a web page telling me Burning Man is happening in two weeks. It’s something I’ve heard about for years, but being 50+ and on the East Coast, I don’t know anyone else who’d ever gone.
Could I do it? In just two weeks? Of course not.
I stare at the week of August 27, but unbelievably, it is clear. The event had been sold out for months, but a ticket on eBay was coming due in 20 minutes. I placed the bid and won. And forty minutes later I have round-trip frequent flier tickets for free. It seems like I was meant to do this. Landing frequent flier tickets 12 days out? You know that just doesn’t happen.
But the real challenge I face is how to get all my shit to camp. (more…)
The camp fell together by happy accident. At a dinner in 2003, I seated my brother the construction guy next to my BFF the drag a capella singer, hoping their shared love of Burning Man would get them through a meal. Over that meal they conjured The Vault of Hivin’, a bewinged VW beetle towing chalkboards for a spelling bee, and a sound system that blasted the Bee-gees, the B-52’s, and Sting. They decided to collaborate on this vision and camp together, reasoning that the construction gearheads needed artistic vision, and the drag queens needed a ratchet up with implementation. After a decade of sticking together, we are truly a ragtag, multigenerational family of folks who love our annual reinvention fest. Having campmates with wildly diverse skills is a gift – somebody has to remember how to put up the shade structure, and somebody else has to make it blingy but not moopy.
Our best theme was probably Miajuana! which combined Lucha Libre Mexican wrestling with a Titty Tequila bar festooned with a whole laundry line of the largest and smallest bras we could scavenge (until the big bras all got appropriated as costumes.) Our construction wizards built a regulation-size wrestling ring on two trailers, surrounded by a two-story viewing platform and a repurposed tiki bar. The drag queens pumped lavender mist water on the shockingly large crowds who came, while the gearheads offered goopy-cheese nachos, and tang-and-tequila margaritas; we had colorful ringside commentary and interactive NSFW “burro rides” during intermission. We poured through gallons of booze and bales of chips, but the canned ‘cheez’ and pickled jalapenos never seemed to run out. Wrestlers of both genders showed up with their own multicolored masks. When it rained, it deteriorated into clothing-optional mud wrestling which ended when we all stopped to watch the double rainbow. It took us eight months to develop amnesia over that one. (more…)
You know how every year when you leave Burning Man after partying your butt off, interacting with amazing art, seeing your friends and making new ones, and wandering around an amazing city unlike any you’ve ever encountered that magically rises up out of a prehistoric lakebed; you go home and take a shower and maybe have a beer and think about how great that was? Well, there are people still out in those dust storms and that searing heat making sure everything is torn down, stowed and shipped and any little bits of trash you possibly, accidentally were inconsiderate about not taking home with you are being all picked up so we can throw this little event again next year.
I was talking with DA who runs the Playa Restoration (or Resto) Crew and he told me how when the event is over they spend weeks tearing down Black Rock City’s structures and then walking miles each day in the sun over grids, making sure to pick up every last bit of trash that may have made it to the playa floor. The goal is to leave the playa as clean as it was before the event and it is hard, grueling work. They start early in the morning and DA tells me that around 3:15 in the afternoon someone will invariably yell “Morale!” and the crew will stop, go to the shade and drink a couple cold beers and eat some snacks. This makes the remaining two hours go by faster.
That beer and snacks are donated by you, kind citizen of Black Rock City.