(All photos and movies for this entry are posted here)
As I’m sure you have gathered, Anna and I are back in town. But are still somewhat recovering from our trip up to Burning Man, the Bristlecone Forrest, and the Sequoias. This year’s Burning Man was our fourth, and felt a bit strange for me. We weren’t introducing anyone new to the event, and it was a bit of a forced march up here, 14 hours of travel doesn’t do much for your attitude.
We drove up all of Thursday, stayed in Reno that night, then left the next morning for Burning Man. That only gave use slightly more than 2 days there. Hardly enough time to get into the swing of things, and drifting into tourist territory. Participation is a key aspect of Burning Man, and tourist is a dirty word. People arriving on Friday are right at the bottom of the playa caste system. We were only slightly better than someone who showed up Saturday in a Hummer yelling “Show me your tits!” I kid. Sort of.
We waited in the sun for almost an hour before people showed up at will-call windows to help with tickets. I’m sure it was just poor planning, but in my post-travel grump it felt more like hate for ‘the tourist’. These people were volunteers, and they work hard. But it was a bit frustrating to hear them talking and laughing behind the building while you and thirty other people sit there… waiting.
Eventually we rolled into town and looked up Dave and Devin’s camp in the info system. Armed with a location and a description of an ‘Enterprick’ van, we found them without troubles. After quickly setting up camp, it was off to The Deep End to go dancing. There really isn’t many things like dancing in the dust as the sun goes down. It was a long night of great sights and sounds as we found Rave Raffe, played in the man’s funhouse, and watched the phoenix.
The next day we rode into center camp, then continued our tour of the playa. We stumbled on more and more wonderful things. I rode my bike until my ass was sore. There were definitely some highlights. The tea house was wonderful. Very tranquil, inviting, and it even had great chai. The temples were small, but still great. Clockworks, a massive wooden clock, was amazing. And random encounters are what makes Burning Man great.
After a meeting some great people, and having a bit of a feast, it was time to head out for the burn. We had a decent seat and settled in to watch the fire spinners. Parts of the crowd sang happy birthday (this year is the 20th), then the man started to burn. Soon there was a massive display of fireworks, and twisters spinning off from the fire’s wind, generated by its massive oxygen consumption. This years man had a robust platform, and burned for a very long time. Eventually the man fell, and the crowd surged forward.
We wandered back into the parking lot of art cars and throngs of people to soak it all in. Soon the flames started from various pieces strewn about the playa, and we reacted like the magpies that we are by seeking them out. After having a good time wandering around, we eventually made it back to camp to refill water several hours later.
I grabbed a tripod that Jimmy had lent me and took off on my own to try it out. After a bit of playing around with shutter times I managed to get some decent night shots and went to bed around 3.
Sunday I awoke to a visitor on the tent and had some lebne and bread for breakfast. Mmmm. After a little bit of visiting we wandered over to center camp and did a brief tour of the playa. Unfortunately the burn barrels and pits were in full use. I had a really hard time with them this year, even with a N100 mask on. Maybe some retard decided to burn some carpet, or a couch. In any case, I was too physically uncomfortable to enjoy myself. We packed up, did some playa cleanup, and left shortly after Devin and Dave.
Exodus was disappointing. People succumbed to impatience and broke out of line, racing down the playa to the exit. Anything over 10mph kicks up dust clouds that cover the rest of the people still at burning man. When we got to the highway it wasn’t much better. This year seemed like the worst yet for garbage. People hadn’t strapped it down well enough and one could see bags on the side of the road. I don’t want to give the wrong impression, I’m not talking about massive piles of garbage bags on the side of the road. But for an event whose participants pride themselves as ‘leave no trace’, we sure did a shitty job on the highway. Despite leaving on some negatives, we had a wonderful time in Reno. Dinner and a movie, and dinner (Italian at Lucianos) was particularly nice.
I had a good time at Burning Man this year, despite my sometimes bad attitude. Most of that could be explained by the hectic schedule and physical discomfort. We saw and did some amazing things, and I had fun this year. But I was also a bit numb. I feel very slightly jaded, and I really don’t want to. This is the only place in the world I will see a cheshire cat car, this much fire, this many different parties, or meet such interesting people. The fact that I have to stop and recognize what an amazing place this is means I need to let go of my expectations, and change my headspace. The best way I know of to do that is to take a year off.
Yes, I know I said that last year. Time will tell, I suppose.