Who are you camping with?

I chose this photo because it is multiple images of the theme camps that surrounded us in 2003, those are our stars, Bollywood was across the street, Eye of Gawd next door, etc., etc., etc
I chose this photo because it is multiple images of the theme camps that surrounded us in 2003, those are our stars, Bollywood was across the street, Eye of Gawd next door, etc., etc., etc

I am home in San Francisco this afternoon, because for my 10th year I did “Burning Man Light”.  Three days, four nights, but as always eye opening, hot, dusty, joyful, difficult, ya’know.  But in just these few days I once again found my campmates facinating.  We camped for several years with beings who bring peace as well as art to the Playa, and then a couple of years with the Bunnies, one year a staff camp and last year a bar camp filled with long time Burners, but where we were far and away the oldest people in the group.

I always find the “Who ARE my campmates?” interesting!  This year we had a gaggle of newbies some of them software celebrities, crew from the the explOratorium, a rising international artist, a former art curator, a Playa luminary who is also a cartoon director and producer, our camp leader is a mechanical engineer and we have Gate and Artica staff as well as our own DPW Manager, and bringing up the rear, Moze and me, your bloggers.

So how does it come to be that there is this symbiosis of geeks, writers, artists, and engineers?  Some of whom never stop working on the camp and some of whom barely contribute unless there is a request.   I am sure that your camp also has some breadth and depth of engagement with [BM].  Is there a type of person you can categorize as a Burner or those that you know would hate Burning Man and yet they end up coming to the Event and loving it?

So when you arrive home and are dreaming of Burning Man tell me a story of a campmate that in some way surprised you, or you did not expect to like and now adore, or about that “thing” that seems to happen, that camps get to a certain size and morph into some other entity, or how you could not imagine camping with anyone else.  The camping with other people can be a huge part of Burning Man and I would love to hear more about it from you!

photo: Pete Slingland

About the author: Affinity


Affinity, a Burner since 2000, was legally married on the Playa in 2001, was wedding coordinator and then training coordinator at Burning Man, before becoming the Black Rock Arts Foundation (BRAF) Social Media Coordinator and an Advisory Board Member. An attorney, she served on the Board of Directors of the Western Pension and Benefits Conference. She interned with the Human Awareness Institute for 10 years. She writes about how art is envisioned, produced, created, installed and its afterlife.

8 Comments on “Who are you camping with?

  • baldchris says:

    Also home after a shorter stay, but had a GREAT time at 4:31-Inherit. Stop by and say hi to the great folks there if you can, or come back next year and find them again – probably spread out, but no less great. Many first-years, a few repeat visitors, and all of us fully convinced that the event is one of the best places in the world to be at that time. Not to mince words – fucking awesome.

    Hard for me though – my wife, who I love and am committed to, isn’t interested in coming out, despite my efforts to convince. So that makes me lead two lives almost – the day to day (51 weeks a year, and very nice) and the fabulous (Burning Man, 1 week of perfection). I was having a great time this year, but I had to leave a little early, because of temptation. Sweet, delicious, temptation.

    My apologies to those I had to back-out on. The last thing I want to feel on the playa is the leash and lash of social conformation. But we need to bring our whole selves and be fully honest in what we do.

    Any thoughts and advice on coping with a non-burning but committed partner are most welcome.

    Report comment

  • John says:

    Also back early from BRD. Four days, three nights. Camp story? I wandered over to Entheon Village looking for a friend and they invited me to stay for dinner! Chefs Eric and JP served me something you would expect at a fine restaurant in Napa. Radical inclusion – classic Burning Man.

    Report comment

  • sunn says:

    i am so admiring that you had the strength of will to pull out of bm early…we have a best friend who is in the exact same situation. His wife stays home every year while he comes with us to bm and it’s very hard on their marriage because of the temptations. She almost came one year and then backed out. Now this year, I was the one who didn’t come (I’m the one girl in our group) due to a problems with my guy (fellow burner)…how very hard to know they are there and I’m not…it would be my 5th year. I’m watching the blogs and the webcam which actually helps. I miss it so much. I will for sure go next year, even if I camp alone I’ll be there. I really, really don’t understand a mate who doesn’t go with their partner (even just one year, to see what it’s about.) Of course it’s not for everyone…we all know that, but geez….just see what it’s like. It’s so incredible. I think it’s too bad your partner can’t share it. But that’s life…anyway, I started out saying I think it’s awesome you were so strong to pull out early and I do mean that. It shows so much character and how you are caring in your relationship to do that when we burners know that it takes a lot not to stay to through to the end…wow…! hopefully your partner really appreciates you, sure they do…. maybe next year she will go….take care….blessings to you both…..

    Report comment

  • Tandu-la says:


    Like your wife, I too am a non-burner. Last year my husband went and loved it. This year by many forces working together, I too went. and what a wrong decision that was. Now being the loving darling that my husband is, his concern was keeping me happy, and doing things with me … which ended up as nothing done together anyway. I had no interest in doing the things he wanted – cycle around the dust storms to see the art and joys and parties – and he had no interest in doing the things I was interested in, like waiting 2 hours for a hair wash. Sounds funny now that I write it, but yea. After a day all I cared about was all the various ways to get clean, and stay clean. That included the tent and everything in it!

    I would say if your wife doesn’t want to come … don’t try to make her. Simply go and have fun and relish in the knowledge that she is such a great wife who “gets” it that you gotta go ….

    Report comment

  • Barry F. says:

    Year 11 at Burningman….my tolerance for heavy white outs,midday heat, and trying to cook in a storm, has diminished over the years. It doesn’t help being 62. This year was BM light Wednesday through Saturday camped. The heavy dust storms this year made fun really difficult on Saturday…so we left after the burn.
    I most love the the creativity that flourishes at BM on so many levels. Having an RV gives one a chance to escape the downsides of the conditions but seemed so out of sight financially this year. Next year I hope it will be different, perhaps and RV, perhaps also a cool yurt! And I hope to join a camp with my big ass espresso machine to serve up my fellow burners….

    Report comment

  • baldchris says:

    For Sunn and Tandu-la, and anybody:

    Thanks for the support, and I agree with the “don’t knock it unless you’ve tried it” perspective, the last thing I want to do is force anybody to come out. I don’t have to understand it – but if she doesn’t want to come out then she doesn’t, and forcing the issue would be unpleasant for both of us. I hope eventually she will be curious enought to check it out – as I intend to continue this yearly retreat into the forseeable future.

    The “strength of will” perspective is attractive, but for the record it wasn’t strength – it was integrity. No pats on the back there, I’d have felt worse to have indulged than to have abstained… in the long run. Pure self interest – I’m 37, I try to know what I am. While I might have a bit (more than a bit sometimes) of internal conflict, such is life. All choices have a cost, and in the net I try to be glad with those I’ve made. I am very glad in my marriage. It is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, I love her so very much.

    I’ve been thinking about the details of where the problem arises. I think it comes from a contrast in the great deal of emotional connection (with pretty much everybody I meet) contrasting with an absence of a physical connection. The solution will be to find a way to have physical contact without the implication that it leads to sex. THAT is the outside cultural boundary carried by most, that is confounding me. Of course that, AND the desire to have sex, but they are and should be seperate, in the same way in-depth conversation and sex are seperate.

    Thanks again for the perspectives all, and glad to air my views for public discussion among the thoughtful.

    Report comment

  • Concerning the move in venue to private property:

    Great idea

    When I arrived this year and saw the significant increase in BLM officers, my initial response was “good – these men and women are here to protect us”. I have a lot of friends and patients who are law enforcement and these are reasonable people who got into law enforcement for the right reasons.

    Then, we had a belligerent drunk in our camp. We found 2 officers to help get the situation under control and they told us that this was not what they were there for (!) and that we needed to find BR rangers to take care of this guy. I was baffled. 1 hr later we found BR rangers (who are not trained in restraining techniques) and by that time the guy was gone. I did, however see MANY petty drug busts. My attitude changed – these guys are not here to help us – they’re here to bring in revenue through busts. Driving this home, on the way home we stopped in Lovelock for pancakes and eggs. I spoke with a group of locals seated at the counter (these were REAL locals – ranchers and cowboys) who know most of the the BLM and fire guys and they they told me that they used to attend Burning Man and loved it, but they all stopped going around 2000-2002 because they know the inside scoop and get to hear the dialog from these guys and they think their presence is pretty much a scam – the law guys but especially the fire guys – $300K contract.
    Anyway – while I still think tight security is totally required to protect burners and open use of drugs is inappropriate, petty drug busts are equally inappropriate.

    Report comment

  • Bill Dibble says:

    My wife had a diabetic problem at the burn. The medical staff was great. She could not walk, the med staff told me to find a ranger to transport her back to our camp, so I could transport her out of the burn. The rangers were NO help at all, they told me I had to find her an art car for transport, thanks to the ones who transported her. My question is what in the hell are they there for if not to help.

    Report comment

  • Comments are closed.