Hey, First-Timers! How was your Burn?

Photo by Spencer Jones

Burning Man 2012 is a wrap! And now we’re curious … what did you think? We specifically want to hear from first-time Burners about your experience.

What were your impressions going in? How did the reality differ from your expectations? What did you get out of your time on playa? What did you learn? What are you taking home with you?

Leave your thoughts in the comments below. Oh and also: welcome! We’re glad to have you with us!

And if you’d like to give specific feedback about the event (good or bad), please email it to feedback@burningman.com before November 1st … that’s our official Feedback Loop channel.

About the author: Will Chase

Will Chase

Will Chase is Burning Man's former Minister of Propaganda, working on global communications strategy. He was the editor-in-chief for the Jackrabbit Speaks newsletter and the Burning Man Journal, and content manager for Burning Man’s web properties. He also oversaw the ePlaya BBS and Burning Man’s social media presence. Will first attended Burning Man in 2001. He volunteered as the Operations Manager for the ARTery (Black Rock City’s art HQ) and was on the Burning Man Art Council from 2003-2008. He was Web Team Project Manager and Webmaster from 2004 until he transitioned to the Communications Department in 2009.

157 Comments on “Hey, First-Timers! How was your Burn?

  • M Bour says:

    I’m caming back. This time fully equipped to give and share as generously as was extended to me, and to contribute with an art piece or mutant car. Observing is fun, participation is a must!

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  • lifeisshort says:

    I have been to many burns, but I brought someone for her first. Kristin is a professional and I would discribe her as an “Indoor dog”. Although she was dying to experience the Burn we both had concerned that the dust would be something she just may not be able to overcome or see passed. Personally I was more concerned that she ” may not get it”…. the whole thing. I think we can all agree, that the Burn is next to impossible to discribe. It means something different to everyone who goes. Moreover, nothing would have bumbed me out more, than if she did not love this thing I so adore. I will keep this short…,. I am thrilled to report we both could not have been more wrong. The “Dust”, that she was so worried about, never crossed her radar. She said her senses where so bombarded with amazing stimuli… “What dust”….. I wish you could see the smile on my face. Barry

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  • ty scott says:

    Most amazing experience of my life! I am a lifer now for sure! An I cannot wait to go home once again next year! An spread as much good energy to others as I aquired this first time. It really is home!

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  • Kylie says:

    Absolutely beautiful. I have never encountered so much peace, and so many beautiful people :)

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  • Lorelei says:

    I thought I had done all my research and I knew what I was getting into, I was so wrong! There is just no way to describe the positive atmosphere, everyone puts out their best, friendliest, generous, and most altruistic selves. There is no way to understand by reading about it — you have to experience it for yourself!

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  • Otter says:

    The sheer number of amazing, talented, and kind human beings in attendance was a sight to behold. I knew to expect long entrance and exodus times, so those weren’t a big deal. No amount of reading could have truly prepared me for the dust, though. I’ll be back in 2013, with a better dust mask and more hand lotion!

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  • Bill Colias says:

    It was great! This was my 2nd burn. My first one was 2005, but this one felt like my first.

    One constructive bit of criticism is that setting up a Black Rock cell phone tower was counterproductive. It was complicated to set up and use. Also, I heard that previously people were able to get text messages out, but Black Rocks own cell tower blocked that.

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  • Real life is weird now. I don’t want to be here in real life anymore. Can I please go back to the burn?

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  • shaggy says:

    I loved it. I will be back for more. Do I can see all the new shit that they will have next year.
    For all that has not been I suggest you buy a ticket and go. You might regret not going.

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  • Adam Tokevich says:

    Having known about Burning Man for so long and never being able to make it, this year was my first and it was everything I could have hoped for and more. It changed me into the person I’ve been wanting to become but couldn’t find the courage to pursue. The challenges I faced out there and my experience at temple have made me a better person! I cannot express how much this experience has meant to me! Can’t wait to come back home!!

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  • Thumper says:

    loved – looks like everyone else did too. You should probably keep working to expand the populations cap… ;)

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  • Max Giesecke says:

    My first burn was incredible. I came in with no expectations, and only a cursory knowledge of what to expect from seeing a gallery of art cars and smiling faces from a friend’s trip in a previous year. The realization that there was no corporate sponsorship, that all of the beautiful art and music were there because someone wanted to bring that gift to the Playa, inspired me in so many ways. I want to get back to my art, writing Science Fiction and Fantasy short stories.

    Most importantly I want to give back. Burning Man inspired me to make so many positive life choices and changes, likely thanks to all of the wonderful friends I made out there. I want to come back, again and again, and try to be that inspiration for someone else. With my art, my gifts, my acceptance, and all of my love. I want to meet all of the wonderful people and make wonderful friends and have a wonderful time with everyone.

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  • eldub says:

    I had some high and low points — moments of intoxicating beauty and joy and playtime, and moments of utter what-the-hell-have-I-done-bringing-myself-to-this-place. Luckily one peak outweighed the other and as I drove away, I knew I was leaving some kind of annual meeting of a scattered tribe of beautiful weirdos, one that I realize I undoubtedly belong to and one that I must revisit.

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  • dunadan says:

    I am a Black Rock city citizen now. I absolutely loved my experience.. Met such beautiful human beings and experienced an alternative way of living, the gift economy should be a rule and not an exception on this world.
    I’ll do my best to be there next year!
    But, on the downside… I’m surprise how in general BM is so little unsustainable. The generation of garbage, the incredible amount of electricity needed to fed all those amazing art pieces, clubs, mutant cars and everything is the playa is tremendous… All the gas used… etc. I’m wondering if BM can turn and evolve a bit more into a more ecological type of festival… I don’t know…
    But other than that this was for sure a life-changing experience!!!!!

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  • jdb@witty.com says:

    Most excellent!!! The best time of my life so far, and was sad when it was over……..but it isnt. I am applying all of what I have learned and exsperienced in to my everyday life. why should people be only that way on the playa, when if we all did it (gifting, teaching, learning, life based art, not worring about time, and all around kindness) year round the wourld would be a much better place. my fave place was the temple, so powerful, so spirtual, you could feel the magic radiating from it before you even entered the place. going next year, and the year after that and so on……………I miss home!

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  • Jimbo C says:

    All the fears and worries I had disappeared immediately, a turely epic experience on that I wish to repeat year after year. The generosity of fellow burners overwhelmed me along with the sense of community and family. I am getting on in years and have never experienced anything quite like Burning Man. Love you All

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  • Fede says:

    Since everyone’s description of the event was so vague, I decided go without too much expectations and see what happens…
    WAS AWESOME!!!! I really think guys you are (“we” are, according to the ten principles) doing a really important experience for the next humanity living years, or decades, who knows…
    My days were full of everything, I only had to put the automatic pilot on my bike and some force drove me to meet the right persons, at the right moment, at the right place, I only need to ask and PARTICIPATE! More than a few times I got this feeling: “I born to be here”. Also, during the Man burning, I felt I had changed, but, that feeling, I need to check it during this year.
    What DO I learn? SO many things, every one of the Ten Principles is so rich in meaning, but this time I focused mainly in meditate about the radical inclusion and the gifting. I think I learnt a lot about these two principles.
    To home? Well, walking around the Temple’s ashes on Monday morning I felt all the energy and love of the whole week concentrated in just few minutes, and my big wish, my hope, was to keep a bit of this energy and love during all year, outside BRC, outside home.
    “Stay with us” I asked looking Temple’s ashes and a cute naked boy dancing…

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  • Bobby says:

    I drove the 1978 El Dorado RV we rented for 16 hours straight to Black Rock Desert. Every time we stopped to get gas I had to restart the engine by opening the carburetor manually. It was worth it. All of the stress and hard work put into preparing for our adventure was about to pay off.

    The greeter at the gates asked me if I wanted to make a dust angel.. After making the best one I could, I was handed a metal pipe. And used that pipe to hit the Virgin Bell as hard as possible. I wanted to leave a dent, my mark of participation from the very beginning.

    It was very dark when we arrived, and we set up on the 3:00 J section. The next morning we dressed in our regalia and continued our journey.

    On our bikes, we were minding our own business, when a topless woman (pretty too) informed us via bullhorn that we should “come over for drinks. If you don’t, you’ll have to ask yourself later why you didn’t!” So we cut the top off a water bottle and began drinking a vodka mango cocktail.

    We watched the party goers revel in the festivities. They played a game similar to bowling, but the object was to get your ball as close to a smaller ball as possible. Suddenly, without warning, a mob of blood red painted nudists descended upon us! The horde of maybe 15 or 20 people gained followers wherever it roamed. Burners stripped themselves bare and were painted by the tribe, adopting them as one of the Red.

    We watched in shock and amazement, an awesome scene of the many possibilities Burning Man provides us.

    We made our way to the Temple later that day, after seeing the Man.. We wrote our prayers, meditated our desires, and gave. The Temple is the spiritual Mecca of Black Rock City – we stayed to watch its’ immolation.

    We arrived 2 hours before the Temple Ceremony so that we could get the very best view.. Front row. While waiting, we made friends with those around us, shared wine, enjoyed almonds given to us, and chocolates our new friend provided.

    When the procession began, the Temple was lit in silence.. Hopefully it will not interrupted next year with “Free Bird” from one of the many mutant vehicles that park themselves along the rim for a nice view. We love you anyway :).

    That night I was surprised by a ranger, whose name I mistook :(, he handed me a heart shaped carabiner with the words “Ranger Love” on it. That made me feel like a true Burner, that I had done something right on this adventure, and changed myself and my path for better one.

    Burning Man may not have changed me in some drastic way, but the experience is going to affect me for as long as I recall my time spent loving, being loved, hugging, being hugged, learning, teaching, dancing, riding, sensing, …

    Thank you Black Rock City organizers! Thank you Burners! Thank you Miss Gomez for getting our tickets and for asking me to go with you!

    There is far more to my story than the above, as must be true for all Virgin Burners. Till I see you all at the decompression party, or till next year! Stay out of the Moop!

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  • Merlin Maybe says:

    I had a decent time, could have used more alligator clips and fewer cans of tuna. Met plenty of nice people and found a few lost hugs a home; it was refreshing being self reliant. Next time I might take more than one music cd for the 170 hour drive, even though In Silico remains superb.

    Didn’t really learn anything strikingly new about my huge ego and boundless self-confidence, but made a few new friends. If anyone can tell me a bit about what decompression is supposed to be like, that would be neat. (I flew back to my corporate HQ and got back to work afterwards and everything was pretty much the same as before, though I guess with a bit more Deadmau5 and glowsticks after hours.)

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  • Will Chase says:

    @Bill Colias We don’t set up a cell tower, nor do we have any interest in doing so. There’s a private company that has one nearby. It usually gets completely overwhelmed once there’s a significant population in BRC, so it becomes a moot point.

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  • Yury says:

    It was unexpectedly incredible! awseome! brilliant! amazing!
    One year ago I saw a picture of my friend that was there and I said to myself that I MUST go and see it on my own.
    But it turned out that I did not expect even a tenth part of what really it is!
    Now I came back, my friends keep asking me: “What is Burning Man?”, “Where did you go?”, “What kind of event is it?”, but I realize that there’s no way to explain it.
    My words, pictures and videos can’t express all of this.
    But at least, I know now how to participate better than I did this first time :)

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  • Dust Wind Dude says:

    There is an often heard phrase amongst Burners that is a cliche until you experience it, for real.

    “The Playa provides”

    With the cacophony of beautiful chaos, the challenge for this first timer was to find my Burning Man. The Dust Angel welcome at the gate was a wonderful introduction, and working on our camp’s art car (The Chooch/Lady Whiskey) early in the week was a great way to get involved, engage, acclimatize and give back. Later, after I’d found my pace during the day, and started to get over the size (gawping at the other mutant vehicles was a favorite past time) and the incredible sights at night, I found myself journey the deep Playa. This external and internal exploration was my Burning Man, a privilege, and a wonder. There are too many moments to detail here. At sunrise on Sunday, I found myself in joyous tears at the beauty of the experience and total acceptance by the people. The (fake) butterfly that came to me in the black spiral near the Temple was a reflection of the transfigurative journey I’ve been on, that I processed on the Playa. A beautiful experience.

    The Playa provided. Oh yes it did indeedy.

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  • Grace says:

    Wow, what an experience unlike any other!!! I’ve been to other gatherings/festivals and feel like I was able to “hit the ground running” so to speak (NO, I did NOT skydive in, but had a near miss and almost got landed on while bicycling across the playa). The word “overstimulation” is a good start, but is lacking as an overall description. I had a LOT of FUN!!! I fell in love with it in many ways and am very grateful that I finally made it (after 12+ years of people asking me if I “burned” – only the last 6 of which have I *actually* understood the question) AND survived relatively unharmed.
    In addition to the FUN, LOVE, and gratitude I experienced and shared, I was also deeply moved by some more uncomfortable aspects of the experience. The amount of automobiles, excessive unconscious revelry, and burning of wood (all things I actively and unabashedly participated in) saddened me. Burning Man is harsh, on our bodies, the Earth, and other things I’m leaving unsaid. Also, as much as I appreciate the presence of law enforcement and events like this, I was grossed out (no surprise there I guess) by some of the behaviors I witnessed & heard about.
    Ok, back to the good stuff. I experienced heights of bliss and inspiration. Drank in some of the most beautiful visual splendors I’ve ever experienced with my eyes. My concepts of what is possible were OPENED UP and EXPANDED. I went in with a bit of expectation that I would have some kind of epic self realization while I was there, and left (not at all disappointed, but after 8 days VERY ready to leave) without having had one.
    It wasn’t until I was in my hometown that I’d realized how I’d been changed. Whatever real or imagined barrier of fear between myself and strangers, that thing that keeps me from making eye contact and smiling with whoever walks by, the thing that holds me back from sharing my joy with fellow shoppers at how tasty that sample of fresh apple at the grocery store is, that thing that keeps me automatically saying “I’m fine thanks” when asked how I’m doing instead of sharing my truth, that thing that really isn’t useful to me or anyone else – it’s smaller now, and has less power over me.
    As grateful I am for the experience and how it melted my mind – and how could I not mention that I had some of the *BEST* dancing experiences of my life as well, and met an AMAZING lover!!!- I don’t know if I’ll go again….maybe it’s just too soon.
    Seriously though…..WOW.EPIC. Oh, and the burning of the Man was the best fireworks display EVER! EXPLOSIONS!!!FULL MOON! What?!?!?!?
    and the burning of the Temple – the biggest most beautiful flame I’ve ever seen.
    P.S. if you’d like to see the best visual metaphor I can think of for Burning Man, google Bosch’s triptych painting “The Garden of Earthly Delights”.

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  • Summer says:

    Burning Man is an event I’d been wanting to attend for at least the last 6 years. I (fortunately) grew up in a very similar environment. Every summer when I was a kid I’d spend 2 months at a nudist beach on the Black Sea with what I can now only refer to as Burners (even though none of them had been to Burning Man). They weren’t quite hippies, or heavy metal heads, or straight up geeks. They were a diverse group of people all coming together to chill out (and in this case, be naked). While I knew the scale of Burning Man would be exponentially bigger than what I grew up with, I had a distinct feeling that the general vibe would be the same. And I wasn’t wrong.

    As a result, I didn’t think that I would have a life altering experience. And while I was there, as beautiful as all my experiences were, none of them surprised me. However, I find that since I’ve been back, there’s been a huge emotional change in me. I can’t seem to emotionally separate from this wonderful community. Anytime I read something about the event, I get teary eyed. For me, Burning Man really was like coming back home, coming back to how I always thought life should be. I feel like there needs to be a Burner support group in every city!

    I am so thankful for this event, and I can’t wait until next year.

    PS I barely noticed the dust, in fact, just as I was told, I kind of miss it.

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  • badbob>btfl says:

    I got so much more out of my burn than I thought I would, I’m not prepared to talk about it yet without misting up, all I can say is it was the best money I have ever spent.

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  • Jonny Breeze says:

    It was my first experience at Burning Man this year and I greeted it with nervous anticipation. In fact, it was my first EVER festival. To be honest, Burning Man is the only festival I’ve ever had any interest in, so I was hoping it would not disappoint me or be too overwhelming.

    The first time I heard about Burning Man was around 1995 on British TV and it planted a seed that has now began to grow and flourish.

    I was worried that as a slightly anxious person, the whole environment would be too overwhelming and that I would want to escape and get out of there. The truth is that after an initial freak out on the first night, the playa took me on an unforgettable journey that seemed to teach me so much in such a short amount of time. Truly inspiring!

    I had some expectations that I may be sexually liberated in some way whilst being there, but nothing of the sort. I think you have to let the playa take you and she will show you what you need at that point. In the end I learnt a hell of a lot about love, friendship, generosity and a whole load of other stuff that I have’t even begun to process yet.

    The landing back in my daily life has been hard but hey, its still early days and I’m sure I’ll learn to integrate all the alien, extraordinary, terrifying and beautiful experiences as the days go on.

    I’m left with a feeling that I have no choice but to go back next year. The playa has taken me……

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  • TBird says:

    Absolutely unexpected beauty of every kind. Fell in love with my man, the art, the other worldly experience and the freedom the human race gets to unabashedly enjoy. There are no rules, only principles and the result was a human experiment like no other. NO TRASH ANYWHERE!!! What planet were we on? I love the Playa: in the day, the biking and the art, at night, the interactive circus for adults. I am homesick already and can’t wait to go back. Indescribable other worldly happy memories to last a lifetime.

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  • BiBi says:

    It was everything and nothing I expected — all wrapped into a dusty, weird, beautiful, amazing, eye-opening, life-changing experience.

    I can’t wait to go back.

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  • diane says:

    It was my first time, I am from Florida, and have wanted to go since I first heard about it, 20 or so years ago. I drove in with a friend I picked up at Reno, but basically was by myself the whole time I was there-Thursday until after the man burned. I loved every moment of it, and met many people from all over the US. I left with a feeling of love, compassion, freedom and generosity-which is what I saw everywhere I walked. Yes, I had no bike-and could never find one that was in the give and take program. Walking in the heat, without the proper shoes, was hard and I got playa foot. Much love and thankfulness to the medics who fixed my feet with purple medic gloves! Yep, I wore them the rest of the time. I will go back, but with a bike and a mattress, and a partner would be nice to share the experience with! I would have to say I am having a hard time with re-entry.

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  • Marcia says:

    “You think you know, but you just don’t know.”

    That pretty much sums it up. While I came to Black Rock City trying for a state of no expectations, it is inevitable. I came expecting a fun week of craziness and costumes, sharing stuff, music, dancing, art. …and ended up gobsmacked by a welter of emotions I had never, ever anticipated. Mostly, from being completely, unconditionally accepted for who I was. Whatever I was. That has never once happened to me before, in my 48 years on this planet. It overwhelmed me.

    Honestly, I’d have thought that impossible, before. I came back from The Playa with a couple other things I hadn’t anticipated – a new way of looking at interactions between humans, and a complete loss of caring about things which simply have no meaning except between people who wish to fight over personal beliefs. I have been asked, as everyone gets asked, “what is Burning Man?” More often than not, they receive a slow, blooming smile and a cryptic “There’s nothing else like it on the planet. It is nothing you assume it is, and everything you never knew you needed.”

    I may not be able to return again to Black Rock City in this life (physical issues), but I will be very happy knowing it exists, and that I experienced it once.

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  • ashley e says:

    I am a changed person forever. I cannot stop thinking about our future art car and next year’s camp! I’ve been nicer to strangers too.. Burning Man was beautiful!

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  • Kalen Glenn says:


    Here is an article I wrote about my virgin burn this year. Aw I’m in love with BRC.

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  • Alisa says:

    This mind-blowing experience has become a huge inspiration for my life and i’m trying to take as much of it with me into my every days as possible.
    Creating a free space of open hearts and minds, closeness and intimacy, openness to strangers, the magic of gifting in all its aspects, creativity and participation in all possible manifestations, fearlessness in exploring myself and the world, challenging all I know, again and again. I take home in my heart the tingling excitement of the most colourful sunrises of my life at the temple every day, the joy of meeting the most inspiring gods and goddesses without trying to hold on to them, just soaking up the magic of our encounter and letting them move on again. I take with me many lessons about giving and receiving, about letting go my fear of letting go, my fear of unstability which turns into a wonderful flow of change as soon as i find back to the certainty of my beautiful inner self. I find myself in everybody I meet and I want to connect, more than ever before. I’m tired of my fear of exposure and want to consciously practise to open and show myself to the world. Only this makes sense.
    I am deeply grateful to all of you who have been part of living and creating this magical big adventure, playground and life school. Thank you!

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  • Peter Burke says:

    First time at anything isn’t always the best but I can’t imagine Burning Man being any more impressive than 2012. Blown away every five minutes. Met great people, engaged with many communities and made friends, remained starstruck at the art and creativity and beauty of the desert.
    Damn – it is The Best Event in America. Took me 61 years on earth to experience it. Can’t wait for the next 61 at BM!

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  • Witefeather says:

    There is life before Burning Man and life after Burning Man, I am a changed person! Thank you to all my beautiful new friends!

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  • AwesomeBurn says:

    This was my first Burning Man experience and it was phenomenal. A good friend (and my boyfriend’s older brother) had been twice and encouraged us to come with him this year. I stayed in a pretty large camp which helped a lot because many of our supplies and the small but important behind the scenes stuff was already taken care of. It was overwhelming at first – being around people all the time (and most who I had never met) with little privacy and adjusting to the harsh environment took a few days. We arrived on Sunday around midnight and by Wednesday night I was really starting to feel at home. It was really wonderful to be in a place where people weren’t all on their cell phones or laptops – instead they engaged each other and were very in the moment.


    It was so wonderful that everyone was so nice and welcoming – people waved and said hello when I passed their camps and many offered water or a seat in the shade. People smile when you walk by and everyone is willing to strike up a conversation or introduce themselves. I really loved that.
    It was also such a beautiful place to be. The natural beauty of the playa was amazing and all of the art added to the experience. I walked around with my mouth hanging open for days because of how incredible everything was.
    I loved the feeling that no one was judging me – that I could be who and what I wanted and people accepted it. I could dance when I wanted, howl at the moon, or wear a mask.
    There are so many more things I loved about burning man – everything was fantastic.

    I wasn’t too prepared about what the culture would be like (I mainly prepared for food, water, and other essentials). Though I read the survival guide I had no idea how much gifting there would be and really enjoyed finding out! I can’t wait to make gifts of my own to bring next year. I also didn’t realize how little I would eat while I was there – though I’ll probably still bring the same amount of food next year just in case.

    One of the most meaningful moments I had was right before they burned the man. I was with a big group of friends and noticed a man (or woman – I couldn’t tell until he spoke because he was so wrapped up in scarves) standing near us filming the man – he didn’t seem to be with anyone. I went up to him and told him that he looked like he could use a hug. He accepted and I went back to my group. After the main event (the structure had pretty much fallen) the man came up to me and said “thank you so much for hugging me – I really needed it and you were there for me”. This is why I love burning man. The playa seems to give you what you need.

    I absolutely cannot wait for next year.

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  • Alan Epstein says:

    I really did not know what to expect at Burning Man. It was a cornucopia of new experiences. When I first arrived on the Playa, I was impressed by how open and friendly people were. Random people on bicycles would just stick out their hands for high fives as they drove by. I couldn’t believe how generous camps were in just giving stuff away, food, drinks, etc. One guy invited me to have any meal I wanted at his camp. He was a cook. I never took him up on the offer, but it was heart-warming, nonetheless.

    The first time I stepped into the Temple, the energy was palpable. I comforted a guy who was crying over a lost loved one, and then I cried, myself. I can;t even understand why I cried over the loss of my grandparents, one who has been gone 7 years, and the other 20-some. I guess something about the energy of the Temple revealed that I had never gotten over their deaths.

    Driving through the dust on a bike…following the Robot Heart Bus out into the Deep Playa…wearing a sky blue fedora with ski goggles. Everything was new and different.

    The beauty of all of the art. The spontaneity. It was just an amazing experience. I hope to be back in 2013 and beyond. Thank you!!!

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  • BelligerentBurner says:

    While I had fun at my first burn, I have to feel a little sorry for people like Anthony. You had to go to an expensive, contrived theme park of a festival to truly feel connected to your fellow human beings?

    Fucking travel, man. Get out of your bubble, explore the world, meet people who don’t speak your language but who still help you find your hostel at 3 am, then see if you feel connected. Go places with people who haven’t drank the kool-aid, where there’s not the constant reminders about the “gift economy” or that the burning man way is the way “interactions between friends, neighbor, and strangers should be.” See people how they really are, not how they pretend to be for one week out of the year.

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  • Rich W says:

    I was all too familiar with the stereotypes going into this though I never really paid much attention to them. It all made for such a painfully incomplete picture that it sort of fueled my motivation to see for myself what this was all about. Now that I’ve been, it’s quite amusing to listen to those same people grasp for ways to label and define it. I used the 10 principles from the guide to frame my impression going in, but I really had no idea just how central they all were to the experience.

    As is commonly agreed upon by all, it is an experience that cannot be adequately described by any number of words or captured by any number of photos, but one that is as unique unto the individual as the individual is unto itself. Not surprisingly I came back from my first burn with a worn body, an awakened mind, and a renewed spirit.

    It’s funny though I used think I had to hop on a plane with a passport to find renewal, culture, and perspective when this whole time it was in my own backyard. My first impression when I arrived is that citizens of BRC are unequivocally genuine and filled with an uncommon love for life. You don’t encounter cynicism, sarcasm, or ulterior motivations because there is an understanding and appreciation that this is a unique opportunity to exist for once in a world without those things.

    On the playa you are surrounded by a novelty and wonder that inspires you to explore the unfamiliar whereas in the default world you are wary to reach beyond what is safe and familiar. The idea of temporal beauty and impermanence is infused into your core as you gaze in awe at the many monuments of passion and creativity.

    Then there is the perspective gained from the vast expanse of the open sky and the endless horizon. Being on the playa as night turns to day is a food for the soul that I cannot imagine obtaining in equal measure from any other setting. Where else can such a routine transition become suddenly transformative?

    I am a world traveler who has had an amazing time in a lot of places, but I cannot for the life of me think back to one that compares to Burning Man. Not least of all because the playa is the one destination where once you arrive, your choices are not restrained by practicality from all the monetary costs associated with your options; how much you can afford to do, how much you want to spend on a given day, do you have enough energy to make a cost worth the expense, how much have you spent on this trip already, was that transaction really worth the cost, etc. When you arrive on the playa you are truly free to do anything you want. As a first timer you realize a weight you weren’t aware of has been lifted off your back, if just for one week only. I for one am counting down the days to the next burn :)

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  • Paul French says:

    There is no English translation for the first gift I received at Burning Man. It was not a necklace or a bracelet or other trinkety item of raiment. Instead, it left me exposed, across a stretch of seven extraordinary days on the playa, to both brutal sadness and the gates of personal freedom. It was gifted to me by Mitch, from Chicago, when I told him of my plans to travel to the Northern shores of Brazil.

    It was a feeling.

    A single word.


    As Mitch explained it to me, saudade is a Portuguese word that came to describe a sadness for those who set off on long journeys to sea, or to battle, but never returned. More mysteriously, it’s the anticipation of longing. It’s the duality of envisioning, before you should, a future swamped with nostalgia.

    It was with me as I explored the customs and structures of Burning Man, where the most inhospitable place on the planet is transformed, for a fleeting week, into the most creative space in the universe. Saudade was coiled and fused with the ten principles of Burning Man, which inspire participants to carry the playa’s spirit back beyond the mountains and into rebooted lives.

    It felt like a warning.

    Enjoy this. Preserve this.

    I knew Burning Man, like any other party, would come and go, but saudade wanted to know why Black Rock City was the only place on the planet where a civilisation with no bins could produce no litter. Saudade wanted to know if people who came for the party would leave with the message.

    Saudade listened as a man called Joe Quirk addressed the crowd at TEDx Black Rock City, envisioning a world unrestricted by borders or visas or work permits. A world lived in floating cities on the sea, equipped to save the environment, cure disease, solve global food shortages and jettison millions out of poverty. In our lifetime? But why not? As Quirk has pointed out, a mere 66 years separated the Wright brothers covering the wings of their first airplane with ‘Pride of the West’ ladies underwear and Neil Armstrong getting moon on his boots.

    Burning Man was focused on impermanence. The importance of letting everything go. I was struck, obviously, by the primal value of the wildest party I’d ever seen, but knocked clean cold by the duality of the desert. I saw written on the playa’s Temple deep etchings of regret, remorse, sadness. Saudade. It was written ablaze on a metal sculpture called ‘Phoenix Risen’, built from the scraps of 2011’s Trojan Horse and in homage to Harley Payne, a burner who skydived into last year’s event and died, from heart failure, just a few hours later.

    As the sun slanted on the Phoenix, I was approached by a Burning Man volunteer called Bambi. He wanted to know how I felt, as a virgin burner. I told him that I felt a thousand different things, but that I understood. In words I know to be Gandhi’s, I told him that I felt the importance of being the change you want to see in the world. I told him what I had heard about the oceans. We talked about how powerful it could be as a theme. He promised he would plant the idea at the committee’s table.

    Between turning my back on the Phoenix Risen and sitting down to watch the temple’s flames, I examined a shrine to Steve Jobs. I read a line from his biography:

    “As you get older, your thoughts construct patterns like scaffolding in your mind. You are really etching chemical patterns. In most cases, people get stuck in those patterns, just like grooves in a record, and they never get out of them.”

    As the flames took hold, I learnt that you don’t need to blow things up to tear things down.

    I said goodbye to my grandmother. I realised a truth about a friend. I saw, clearer than crystal, the parts of me I wanted to leave behind. I tasted my own tears.

    I watched it all burn.


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  • Lawrence says:

    I know this is blasphemy to say, but I had a mediocre time. Survival was easier than I was expecting and I did some cool stuff, but as an introvert without any really good friends there it was challenging to make connections. My decompression is difficult not because I wish I was still in BRC, but because none of my Burner friends can relate to my experience – so I still feel alone and trapped in my head.

    I’ll definitely go again if I can get a tight-knit crew and a significant other to come, but I won’t be recommending it to everyone.

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  • Dennis says:

    At 56 and my wife 63 we have done some really cool stuff in life before BM. 2012 was our virgin burn and now I can say I have had a full life. We read all the survival guides and such so we kinda knew what to expect. After the first night we were both overwhelmed with the kindness and beauty of BM. My wife is a big coffee drinker and I like to eat. She didn’t even get our campstove out of the truck for four days! All our neighbors just kept bringing over coffee and food. I had expected the art and burns but what goes on in camp was truly overwhelming for us. I so wish I could live my default life like Playa life. My mind has been consumed with what to do next year. Though I don’t have the art thing I do have extreem mechanical skills. Build an art car or set up an awsome camp or join a project in Santa Clarita CA or maybe LA. Both retired we will burn every year fer sure.

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  • Ryan Crosby says:

    1ST BURN! WEEEEEEEEE…….ABSOLUTELY AMAZING!!!! I hit every emotion from laughing until my jaw hurt to crying uncontrollably at The Temple burn and everything inbetween. If only for a week, it was truly remarkable to live in a world without money. A three course meal or a cup of coffee is exchanged with nothing more than a simple conversation, handshake, or hug. A world where you can be who you are or who you want to be and everybody is perfectly fine with your decision. All walks of life from around the world coming to play together in the desert. No war! No fighting over petty bullshit differences! I knew it was going to be an amazing time, but Burning Man far exceeded my expectations on every level possible. The beautiful art, happy people, gnarly mutant cars, groovy music, and burns were truly phenomenal. Burning Man must continue to grow and evolve for every new generation to experience. Thank you so much for all the effort that goes into the production of Burning Man. I shall once again come home and I’m bringing a lot more open minded friends with me next time.

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  • Oso says:

    I can not explain how grateful I am for the experience that burning man gave to me. I am humbled by the light that shines out of all the wonderful people I met. I felt loved, understood and whole. There is no way to quantify the experience. You must go. You must find a way. Go. Start planning now!

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  • Sumaya says:

    Words couldn’t describe it. There are plenty of videos, documentaries, and pictures. There are all sorts of stories from those who had been there before. I had thought that I would be fully prepared, but the truth is, nothing could have prepared me for it. I thought it silly before to call it home, but now I get it. Prior to getting there, I thought maybe I might partake in getting intoxicated or buzzed, but being there sober is enough. I never knew true freedom before, but now I miss it and am just preparing for next year. I am looking forward to volunteering in any way I can in the following years and become a more active member of Black Rock City.

    After coming back, I feel more open with others and more optimistic about the world after realizing there are so many like minded people out there who just never really had a chance to shine before with so much negativity and stupidity being broadcasted around us. I am trying to take the positivity I felt at Burning Man and apply that to my interactions here in this world. It has been a better living experience overall coming back, but still slightly frustrating to know that we’re not quite there yet.

    I am healthier overall and have been exercising daily since. It has become easier to reflect upon and appreciate the fact that I am alive, and I have become so thankful to be alive in a time where I was able to experience something so surreal. I feel beyond fortunate to have experienced something so new and fulfilling when I’m barely into my 20s.

    Thank you.

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  • clocksnmirrors says:


    i’m so grateful to have been able to experience this

    and a little sad it had to end so quickly

    i can’t wait for next year

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  • Mary says:

    It seemed simple to suspend belief about who I think I am for a week and to experiment with playing. So I played at dressing up, or not dressing, stickies or no stickies… There were so many different workshops and events to participate in, places to visit, people to meet and music to listen to that it definitely takes years to explore such a rich and varied community.
    But beneath all this, I always felt an overwhelming sadness at the harshness of the environment. We dragged along a few spiders and a june bug from BC in our camping equipment and it was clear that the desert doesn’t support life. Earth is in delicate balance and Black Rock City is an example of large parts of an inhospitable planet. I kept on thinking of the fact that the dust is mildly radioactive and wondered not so much about what this means to my health, as how would we survive if the planet came to being largely like this mysterious place?
    The people who go to burning man are definite survivors. They have kind spirits, kind hearts, but it is the earth that supports us. Without the earth we are nothing.
    I don’t tend to include myself in the “earth” movement, because to be true to caring about the environment seems so astronomically difficult and absurd. What we do as individuals is so infintisimal as compared to what goes on with corporations, wars, volcanoes.. that our efforts are essentially ineffectual when viewed from the larger picture. But going to burning man helped me to regain a tenuous hold on my connection to the earth. When we visited our first lake on the way home, I went to the water and gave thanks, and my heart reached out when I saw the trees again.
    It was fun to fill a place with life and creativity, burn it and leave, but God I wish we could restore the harsh land it was held on to a healthy life balance. At one point I kept on singing to myself, “we’re going to do a rain dance, a rain dance” and make this planet bloom. There was great joy in discovering such a wonderful community but the rock it was held on needs help. With so many creative and beautiful minds that come to Black Rock City, it seems like a small leap of faith to believe it is possible.

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  • Brandon Frederick says:

    My first burn was an incredible experience. With all of the uncertainty and nastiness, concerning tickets, I was a bit apprehensive about how virgins would be accepted. Once on the Playa I was accepted with open arms, and never felt anything but love when asked how many burns I had been to. I originally thought I was going for the party. Turns out I was there for so much more. The art is truly unbelievable. The people are genuine, and the memories and relationships will last a lifetime.
    Take everything you’ve ever learned from societies norms, how to dress, how to act, ethics, morals, standards, beauty, etc….. and throw it out. Then do what makes you happy. Give more than you take. Society would say that a community such as that would collapse in the blink of an eye. But it doesn’t. It thrives! Lives are changed! Spirits are renewed! Old relationships strengthened and new ones built.
    I can’t wait to go HOME! See you soon.

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  • Joshua Free says:

    Amazingly Indescribable… Beyond Words…

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  • Sherri says:

    Epic. Incredimazing. Probably the most fun iv ever had. I felt like a kid again and free. Connected with my senses. I felt as if I was truly able to embrace every moment and cherished being alive, being here and being part of something special. I have been anticipating coming for many years and tried to hold back expectations. I lived in the moment and beauty and happiness surrounded me. I had my birthday there, I told only three people, I didn’t need to mention it really, it was an absolute celebration all around, every moment of each day. Wonderful. The dust? Faerie Dust. Magical. The scope and scale: the kindness, comedy, arts, sights, sounds, the landscape, all truly out of this world. Arriving on the playa is like being picked up by a spaceship and getting your mind blown. Out of this world.

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  • Hello! My name is Christy….and now, known as Hummingbird on the Playa!! It was my first year this year at Burning Man and I couldn’t have had a better experience!! From the moment I got to the gate on Sunday night and the Burning Man version of “Oh, The Places You’ll Go!” came on BMIR….which just so happens to be my favorite video ever…to packing up our camp on Monday morning of the following week, and crying tears of sadness as we left our new, and amazing friends living around 6:50 and Foxglove…Burning Man was absolutely incredible.
    My favorite moment was during a day party at Distrikt. There was a giant bus-like art car that looked like some kind of dinasour/giraffe/who-knows-what with a really long nose that went up in the air. They were playing a ring toss game with a bunch of mini hoops, and everyone had to try to get the ring around the nose. It was probably a good 20 feet in the air, maybe more. Anyway…there was a guy trying to make a shot for probably an hour or so. He just could NOT do it. I was very entertained, but I was really rooting for the guy. I remembered that I had some honeysuckle in my backpack, from the Bee Keeper. I thought it might give him some good luck, so I gave him the honey, and told him if he ate it…he would make the shot. So he ate it….and 2 shots later, he MADE IT!!! He was so happy, he rolled around on the ground, and gave me a huge hug. It was great! So, then, I decided to try the ring toss. And I couldnt do it either. I tried for quite awhile. A handsome man in a red cowboy hat walked up to me and told me I had beautiful hair. Then he gave me a necklace that he made. It was a bunch of safety pins put together with fire color beads strung on it. He told me it was the only gift he had to give at Burning Man, and he finally found the person he wanted to give the necklace to. After that….I made the ring toss!!!! Playa Miracles…im telling you! It made my day.
    As for what I expected…I was completely prepared for the weather. I had very wonderful playa parents to show me the ropes. Teach me how things work there, and how to take care of myself. I knew that there was a lot of love, good music, awesome art, and complete acceptance. But never in my wildest dreams would I ever have been able to prepare myself for it all. Burning Man has restored my faith in humanity. Anything is possible!!! I want to take that feeling with me everywhere and spread it with the world! My heart, mind, and soul have been opened up…and filled with knowledge, and love, and spirtuality I never thought was inside of me.
    My experience in a nutshell…sort of:
    1st day…met my neighbors, found my way around the playa, explored some of the night time sound camps, discovered The Tetris Building (not sure of its real name at the moment) and ended up spending most of my burn there. 2nd day…met my hula hoop idol, and hooped with her, also used her hoops!!! Went to an Opulent Temple party that night, and recieved my Playa Name….Hummindbird <3. On the 3rd day…met an AMAZING guy at the Tetris building, spent 3 days with him. Danced, talked, laughed, played, learned, grew, shared, kissed. On the 4th day…met my favorite DJ, Seven Lions…at the Tetris building, he introduced himself as Jeff…and I gave him a huge hug!!! On Saturday I watched the Man Burn on my own…on top of the Tetris Building. It just felt appropriate. Almost every memorable moment happened there. It felt right. Then Sunday I watched the Temple burn on my own also. I still havent figured the Temple out yet. But nonetheless…it was beautiful.
    All and all…it was an experience of a lifetime. I once was lost, but now I'm found. I should have gone Home a loooong time ago. I cant wait to go back. I have been having a very difficult time decompressing. Hopefully Decompression will help with that :) But I LOVE the Burning Man community…I am so honored to be apart of it, and to really truly know what Black Rock City is all about. The most talented people in the entire world gather at BRC and share their creations…and make Burning Man what it is. I love all of you Burners who make this happen. Every single one of you. I cant wait to see you all again next year!!!


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  • It took me 6 years to get home….and now I know why.

    I love you. :)

    I can only hope that BM will keep on burning bright so that I have the opportunity of sharing what I was able to finally experience.

    See you next year <3

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  • Alan says:

    BM has been on my bucket list since the first time I heard of it near 12 years ago. I think I have always been more put off by the prep/work involved over the experience. When myself and my partner were offered tickets to attend, we thought about it long and hard and agreed that it wasnt really for us at this time. I’m 52 and my partner is 48. Then we came across the “All the Place You’ll Go” video on youtube. It was like a 7 minute movie trailer without giving away the ending. We were sold, and decided to do it.
    Throughout the course of the last 8 months, we were preparing. Getting gear, making gifts, psyching ourselves up, freaking out (what did we do!!), and looking forward to “the unknown”.
    When we arrived, I was having an emotional morning. We live in Florida, and Hurricane Isaac was pounding away. Our house/dog sitter lost power and we were heading into the gates with the caravan. This was a make/break time for me. As per the BM gate attendant, we were instructed to let go of that world so you can be present in BRC. We made our dust angels, rang the bell, and let go. It was SO EMPOWERING! I loved all the pageantry–the primalness of it all. The beauty. The joy.
    The entire experience was EXTREME on every level. The people, the kindness, the physical beauty, the music, the fashion, the love, the bikes, the art, the art cars, the tricked-out clothing, the conditions, the amount of work and dedication people put into this ONE WEEK ADVENTURE. Is it Woodstock meeting Mad Max? Sort of.
    I’ve since shared my photos and stories with all my non-Burner friends trying so hard to convey our experience. I’ve come close, but it’s impossible. You have to experience it for yourself. I’ve been cleansed. Even in writing this comment, and reading others, I tear up with such emotion. Not to sound cliche, but it truly was life-changing for me, and us. My partner and I had our own special journey, 18 years into our relationship. I’ve met wonderful friends. I loved the liked-mindedness of the community. I loved the community.
    BM is not for the weak or feign of heart. I was anxious and nervous and like the others said, read all the material and blogs before hand. Nothing could really have prepared me/us for what we experienced. It was MAGIC! It’s our SECRET! I dont mind sharing it with anyone who is interested, but only my fellow Burners, and first-timers can truly understand.
    Thank you, BRC, for what you’ve given me. I thought I’ve seen and done it all, and my cork was popped several times. I cant wait to go back for more.

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  • Dora says:

    We went to )'( as first timers with grand plans. What of those plans? Oh, we burnt them. Serendipity is the way to live life on the playa.

    It was the most connected I’ve ever felt to others, the energy was free-flowing, and conversations, connections and hugs plentiful, deep and uplifting.

    We’re not back in the default world, we’re out here deep in the extended playa.

    I’m a rechargeable battery full to the brim with reaffirmations of how to live and love (in) this shared world of ours.

    Black Rock City and all who reside there – I miss you. But the best thing is we will meet again and create and grow next year and beyond.

    Peace and love xx

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  • Dora says:

    Oh, and here’s my first time in pictures: http://on.fb.me/TJz5H9

    Shout me if you want some copies.

    Peace and love, Dora xx

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  • Adrian says:

    Few experiences can prepare you for seeing the playa for the first time at night. I was overwhelmed and overcome with jubilation. My trip to BM had eluded me for at least a decade but finally in 2012 it was meant to be and I came “home”. Honestly, when I first arrived I didn’t know what to make of it. It was hot as fuck and sand/dust was everywhere and I mean everywhere within like 2 seconds. Our first task upon arrival was to procure ice and that only added to the confusion. I was like “oh man” this is gonna to be a mission all week just coping with survival.

    Well afternoon turned into dusk and finally I began to relax and soak in the energy. I met total strangers and rode my bike through the playa taking it all in. I made my way over to the temple and that is when I realized that this place was special. I was overcome with emotion almost to the point of tears. And for the record, I was completely sober. That is how powerful of an experience walking through the temple and reading the messages, seeing the people, and feeling the vibe was for me.

    I returned to camp to recharge and changed for the night time and upon returning to the playa and seeing it for the first time at night was when the lightening bolt struck. I realized that I was entering the craziest motherfucking place I had ever been to. To say the parties were endless does not do it justice. To say there is something for everyone is cheating the diversification. And to say it all rolls into the greatest party ever is well you get the drift.

    The best night for me was that first night just because it was so new. I felt like a child again at 30 years old. Literally, every sound or every flash of light we were attracted to. We just wanted to explore the playa forever. It was really a perfect moment in time.

    To sum up, if someone asked me to describe BM to them I would say it is the land of the absurd where peoples imaginations have run wild coupled with people doing whatever the fuck they want. People are literally doing whatever the fuck they want and very little makes sense.

    The perfect example of the absurd is in the outside world you are use to seeing organized protests for world hunger, world peace, women’s rights, etc. Well at BM I literally saw 100s of people protesting Rabbits and Carrots. Yes! Rabbits and Carrots. I would estimate 300 people dressed up as carrots with signs protesting against rabbits eating them and about 300 people on the other side dressed up as rabbits with signs protesting against carrots. All marching along in an organized fashion with chants and all. Only on the fucking playa! Talk about trippy, eh… Like I said, very little makes sense on the playa and that is what it is all about.

    Burn On!

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  • Etienne Donicie says:

    Hi guys, being no longer a virgin feels great. I’m back in Amsterdam but my heart is still @ the Playa. I’m trying to explain to my brothers and friends how it was out there. I just can’t grasp it. The first two days I was looking around in total amazement. The endless creativity is just mind boggling. After that I got into a good rythm. I wil come back, for sure!

    Love you all!!


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  • Nncoco says:

    I design a build a camp for 15 people 6 of which were Virgin Burners this year. I look after their basic needs like shade and proper stakes but after that they are on their own. I was impressed by all of them because 2012 was a hot dusty year.

    They all participated is some form or another through things like bar tending, DJing at sound camps, photographing, costuming, pole dancing, camp teardown etc… Nobody complained about dust and dirt and only the stripper was a mooper. I’d be happy to have any of them back except her.

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  • Max says:

    It was on my dad’s bucket list and I couldn’t let him go alone because he is a “suit”. I’ve been to a many festival and done a lot of crazy partying in my day. I thought this was going to be similar to Nocturnal fest which I’ve worked b/c I’m not down with techno (what I used to call all electronic music.) Also my dad is a jazz man so I was extremely worried about how he would react to the sex, drugs, techno and me taking part cause we came all the way out here so might as well…..

    My whole script on life got flipped! I found out who I got the party and endurance genes from. WE HAD A BLAST! Waking up in sweat soup in the tent, biking by day, hoping art cars by night, our camp GPS is the best and that’s why we’ll be back. We received an education on many things but most importantly was on electronic music, so snobs we’re no more! On that note for the first time in memory I had my Dad’s 100% attention (so did he) on a trip because he had a blue tooth surgically implanted in his ear and sleeps with thumb braces because he’s always sending emails on his black berry and this trip he didn’t even bother.


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  • EnergyFiend says:

    I think I over-researched BM, and therefore did not find it as awe-inspiring and life changing as some did. I made sure to be involved in art projects and a big theme camp, and because of that my first burn was often more WORK than fun. Don’t get me wrong, I will most definitely be back and be bringing everyone I know with me! I just have to find that balance between giving energy and experiencing the energy. Also, I was out there for 11 days and that was just toooo many! My skin still hurts in places, 12 days after leaving. I highly recommend taking 2 nights in Reno in a hot tub suite though – Vinegar Jacuzzi FTW! If only they had a lung vacuum there for the dust. *cough* Oh, and a trick I discovered out there: learn to wrap a shamaugh (head scarf), but soak it in your cooler’s water first! You can even drink through it, unlike the dust masks that I eventually discarded after they all became too dusty to wear again. :-)

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  • I cry as I write this, because I know I’m not alone in the life changing experiences of this year’s BM. I thought I knew what to expect, and as so much more eloquently expressed above, had no idea.

    To describe the event as life changing isn’t close to an adequate description.

    We were lucky enough to be well prepared by our camp, physically at least. I doubt anyone can prepare one enough mentally, and that’s probably a good thing.

    Re-entry is hard, not because I want to be comfortable in the default world, but because I learned so much more about who I am and feel the spirit of Burning Man demanding that I remember who I am and act on the 10 principles until I can go home next year, and the year after and after and…

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  • Indigobluzz says:

    I , it was my first but definitely not my last , Im not a virgin anymore , Woohoo!
    Actually I wrote a blog to describe my unreal spiritual path during Burning Man 2012, c u home soon!!!!!!!!! ♡♡♡♡

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  • Indigobluzz says:

    Here is my blog : http://frenchmisfit.tumblr.com/ Please send feedback or just say HI!!!!

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  • Tom - Buckaroo says:

    I went with really high expectations. All of them were exceeded. It took me 16 years to get to the playa, from the time I first heard about it, and decided to go. (Thank you Bruce Sterling, thank you burner friends that twisted my arm).

    I’m glad I finally said screw my default world obligations. For me, I think BM is indescribable because I experienced it with all 5 or more senses and many emotions, all at the same time. So much love, so much community. I never had a conversation on the Playa that wasn’t sincere and genuine.

    As a vet Burner friend asked, “How is it, now that you’ve had your soul cracked open?” It’s great and overwhelming. When the default world gets to be too much, I go back to BRC mentally and it gets me to a better place.

    I learned so much. I can’t wait to get back, and learn more. Heading back home soon.

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  • Cobalt says:

    My journey to my first burn began a year ago with a chance encounter with the fire breathing octopus art car while bored and scanning the days events on Huffington Post. Down near the bottom was this 30 second video clip on El Pulpo Mechanico. I was amazed. At the time, I little realized that the creature was patient and had plans for me (more on this later). My curiosity stoked, I read everything I could about him and his friends and then Burning Man. By November I knew I wanted to go and put my name in for the December drawing. By February I learned I had a ticket and the real planning began.
    I have worked and played in the desert for twenty years and know her to be a most beautiful yet harsh mistress and getting ready for her was the easy part. Getting ready for BRC was another matter. Unsure, I approached the Lamplighters Camp and was accepted. I arrived early and as I turned off the pavement onto the playa, I was greeted by the most perfectly formed curving dust devil I have seen. I was excited and took this as a sign of hopefully good things to come. At the greeters station excitement reined when they discovered that the had a newbie and the required ritual of making a dust angel and ringing of the virgin were performed. Then it was on to Lamplighters Camp. Here I worked hard preparing the lanterns to be ready to light the city each night. Bt what I really learned was what a great and caring crew the Lamplighters are. I would later learn this to be true of all Black Rock citizens that I met during the week. All are amazing people with stories to tell. I worked, danced, dressed up, participated, gifted, shared. I learned to stay in the moment. I felt myself coming alive. On my second venture out onto the playa at night, I spotted the Octopus far across the playa. I hoped he would come my way but he was doing other things and bidding his time. The playa at night is like no place on earth; the light, the music, the art, the people. I’m asked what it is like and I respond that you have to be there. There are no good words. On Saturday the night the man burns, I arrived at the man with Lamplighters aboard our work truck Lucy. I was on the upper deck. I turned to see El Pulpo drive up so close that when he spouted fire my skin was hot. He said hello and that he had been waiting for me. We watched the man burn. The last night of Burning Man the mood changes with the temple burn. The Temple is a sacred space for participants at BRC to honor those who have passed on or deal with other loss in there lives. The memorials and the writing on the temple walls offer a path from pain and loss towards healing. Reading what is placed there is difficult and emotional and I cried more than once. As was part of the fire perimeter for the Temple burn, I had been on the perimeter for an hour or so and it was late afternoon with the sun low in the west. There were very few people as of yet. And out across the playa comes the Octopus. He stops not a 150 feet from where I am standing. I do not believe in things happening for a purpose but this time I suspend my belief in the rational. I walk over to the Octopus and tell the crew my story and thank the Octopus for bringing me to this magical place. They say the playa changes you. I will wait for the test of time. But I do know this, I am more at peace with myself and I will return home next year to continue the never ending story.

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  • Adah says:

    I’m already planning a return next year!

    Below is a repost of my blog post written in the car as we left BRC.

    Dust, Loving Kindness & Euphoria.

    83 days ago I woke up with two phrases in my head. I wrote them down but never understood their full meaning until now.
    Burning Man truly is about the ‘fragility of human identity’.

    With everything stripped away and no-one or any benchmark to compare yourself to you are able to realise the potential of your own being.

    You arrive in the middle of Black Rock City, a sparce and barren area of land and home to Burning Man.

    For one week it becomes the third largest city in Nevada. People travel from all over world to come ‘home’to find their sanctuary.

    I met people from Russia, Mongolia, lots of Europeans and of course lots of Americans.

    My pictures don’t and won’t capture to essence that runs through your veins on the playa.

    For that week it is the happiest place on earth. Everyone is family and welcomes you home with hugs, kisses and gifts. I have never experienced such unconditional love from so many people at one time.

    Fifty thousand people all wishing each other love and happiness does something to the ether.

    The air is charged and you can’t help feel euphoric.

    I now know I have felt the power of what the Buddhist’s call the chant of loving kindness.

    Sabbe satta sukhi hontu.

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  • Brother Love says:

    A Virgin Speaks – The Morning After

    This was my first Burning Man and can safely dispel the mythological notion of what I believed it to be. The words magnificent and extraordinary come to mind in trying to describe it, but truthfully fall well short of the mark in capturing the magnitude and depth of my own experience. It is a playground for the mind, the body and the spirit – where spirits run free as well those of dust storms – and with the core tenets of Burning Man based on radical self-reliance, radical self-expression and art, I was stunned to laughter as well to tears as I was witness to a new level of freedom in my fellow “burners”, with which I was quite unfamiliar.

    I was humbled by the creativity so vast and diverse, and could only gaze in awe at the brilliance and imagination of each piece of art, each art car and each burner – all bringing their unique energy, to complete the whole of Burning Man. The sum of the parts created a surreal experience as the incongruity of it all emerged from the playa or moved across its barren vastness – the art, each knowing their fate would be the same as the tall Man standing at their center. The Burn symbolizes the dis-attachment from the material world or whatever it is that may keep us rooted where we are, rather than freeing our spirits to move in whatever direction may serve us to the highest. The temple for me was my daily sanctuary both by day, then by night as I sought a place to bring my heart that was safe … and sacred, while honoring my spirit and my own personal journey. Hordes of burners made this pilgrimage to bear witness to their hearts, pain, curiosity and to honor those who have gone before them, or to answer whatever called them to this magnificent architectural tribute to Juno, Roman Goddess of fertility. It’s energy and life force grew as we placed upon the alter or upon its walls, letters, photos or other memories of pain and suffering,, seeking cleansing of these wounds as the flames licked our offerings, while the Temple followed in the footsteps of the Man who burned.

    I began my 3rd trimester on Wednesday of this most amazing week, turning 60 while on the playa and celebrating with 50,000 of my dearest friends – most of them nameless to me, but nonetheless connected through a soul-quenching web of Love and community – like-minded voyagers all …. each seeking whatever it is we felt we desired – co-existing on this barren wasteland which left to its natural means, would support no life whatsoever, save for this celebration that occurs for 7 days each year, a million miles from nowhere.

    To say that Burning Man is an experience that can change our lives is true – but it is truthfully We who have the opportunity and ability to change our own lives as a result of our Burning Man experience. For so many of us on the planet, our lives progress based on the social contract that is presented to us from the moment we are born – for with the innocence of a new born babe, we can only accept the picture of life given to us by parents and caregivers for we have not yet developed the ability to process the difference of what we see, from that which we do not. Whether we are showered with love and abundance in our lives, or presented a reality of anger, neglect and abuse, we are nonetheless compelled to grow into our lives with the pain and the wounds that invisibly shape who we are to become. At Burning Man, if we truly set ourselves free – and step out of the boundaries we, and society have accepted as the norm and those we believe to be true – we provide ourselves the opportunity to truly liberate our spirit and connect with our essential selves. At this point in my life, I feel as though I have come full circle – remembering that which I once knew so well in my younger years but seemingly forgot as my life evolved with increased responsibility to others rather than myself. To see the freedom of spirit reflected in my fellow burners, I too was reminded of that same truth that burns so brightly within myself – and once baptized by the dust and the wind and pure creative spirit that was everywhere to be found, and especially when my EGO burned upon the Playa, I experienced my death and rebirth as a simultaneous event – delivering me into a new paradigm of youthful vitality, optimism and belief that life is most importantly about LOVE – and if we were to strip away all the struggles and the worries and the stories that we rely upon to shape who we believe ourselves to be and rely more committedly that LOVE in fact has the ability to heal the emotional wounds we all carry with us if only we invite this truth into our hearts – life, in fact the entire default world, may look a lot different than it does.

    I have been given a gift – and I have given myself the gift of being a Virgin Burner this year. I find myself in humble gratitude to each and every one of us for the creation of this magnificent experience. I have a new found body of knowledge – rather I have begun to remember that which I have forgotten – and feel a moral obligation not only to bring this back into my life in the default world, but with it, begin to change the world …. One heart at a time. This is my commitment, for this is my truth.

    I am Brother Love – it was my honor to share the Playa with each and every one of you – as it is my privilege to be your Brother.

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  • Jake Kobrin says:

    This first year for me was a cosmic regeneration of biblical proportions. It was a catalyst for personal metamorphosis that I’ll certainly look back upon as being one of the most significant events of my life. The problem is that now the “consensus reality” appears to me as flawed and tainted in the face of the divine beauty of the Burner world. I deeply believe we have the potential to integrate the Burner mindset into the general culture through our daily actions. Burning Man shouldn’t just be a week, it should be our lives. We should always live by the laws of Love and Creativity.

    My problem is that I simply can’t wait another year to experience Burning Man again. I don’t know how I’m going to endure the wait…

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  • Azul says:

    For seventeen years friends have tried to get me to go, this year I finally said yes and so grateful I did. Friends keep asking me this questions, How was it? By far the hardest thing to explain to someone whose never been, I simply say transcending. I was blessed to be with an amazing camp, Time Of Your Life, my RV mates, of the three only one of them I had met once before, all veteran burners, they are now my family. I love and adore them. I was blessed to be mentored by them, to understand the burn, but also have the support when things got emotional for me and they did. I knew to be quiet during Temple Burn and throughout the week I allowed myself to be me, to open up and know the 10 principles not only in BRC but how to use these principles and the experience in my everyday life. I am reminded of the scene from the movie Contact (1997) when Jodie Foster enters the Wormhole and she says to herself, “I had no idea”. <3

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  • Greeter Dan says:

    Sorry to interject the experiences of a longtime Burne here, but I have to weigh in (briefly):

    Reading some of these lovely comments, I’m struck by how this year’s first-timers seem to be reporting back feelings so similar to what I felt in 1999 (my 2nd year, but that’s another story). It just makes me feel once again, as I have so many times in the past, that Black Rock City is a continuous, timeless, existence, and those of us that visit are really time travelers, hopping into the stream that is Burning Man, and then dropping out again for 358 days, and then hopping back in.

    Thanks, friends!


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  • Somi says:

    I’ve been dreaming of going for years and it finally happened.
    My experience was beyond words. I was so blessed to have long time burners around to help me out and make me ready for this amazing experience.
    I’m extremely inspirired and highley motivated in my work and life more than ever!
    As my friends noticed I’m a calmer person now and definatly more patient.
    I can’t thank enough to people who made this trip as amazing as it was.
    I’m already working on some design ideas for next year…
    Can’t wait!

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  • Kheddarz says:

    I enjoyed my 13th straight Burn watching a few virgins discover bliss, and that was like losing my virginity all over again :). Let’s keep it going, evolving; it’s a positive force that reaffirms my faith in humanity. Could/should anyone ask for more?

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  • Jennifer says:

    My first burn was incredible. I have been wanting to go for years now, and I finally made it. It was so much more than what I had expected. I had the time of my life with some of the best friends I have. I felt that sense of community and collective thinking. There was a level of openness between people in the community that was unparalleled. I have never felt so comfortable while outside of my comfort zone. I now totally understand it… Welcome Home )'(

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  • Richard Harris says:

    What can I say , what can I say ! Words won’t explain it. I quit taking pictures after a day because they can’t give Black Rock enough justice ! I have had a close encounter and can’t find enough dust to throw on my kitchen floor to convey what has been going on in my head ! I was there in the 60’s and I am home again ! All I can do is smile and say, ” Yep ” !

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  • Sassafrass says:

    I have never been to a place that is so full and had so much going on yet was so healing and calming. It was home like I have never know it before. I came back with focus and in love with my world. More strong, and more accepting of those around me. I am more able to express myself, more able to connect, and more able to reatch out for what I want, because I now know I am able and willing to give out that much more to the world in genral. I hope I will be back next year. I know I will be back.

    Thank you. To every one of you.

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  • Cedron says:

    We’ve been interested in Burning Man since the early 2000s, but never made the trek. We’d watch as our neighbors and friends came home to Seattle from the Playa, covered in dust and exhilarated, bursting with joy. This year, in light of the ticket fiasco, we decided we would wait, yet another year, and see how the cookie crumbled in terms of newbies taking over the event. But, as luck would have it, our local group called us about a week before the burn started and said,’we have 3 extra tickets, and you must come.” So we did. It was as if the Universe unfolded for us. 3 valid tickets, 2 free bicycles immediately plopped into our garage, a 50 gallon barrel for water magically appeared for our camp, we got a free tune up for our old RV, everything fell into place. We drove through the night without a car stereo, 12 hours of talking, singing, silence, then repeating the cycle.

    We rolled onto gate road at sunrise, giddy and excited, when suddenly our radio turned on, by itself and tuned into BMIR. It was yet, another sign. We met Quantum at the ticket gate who was intense and peaceful at the same time, submitted to a vehicle search and continued on. Among the greeters was an absolute doppelgänger of my aunt. Same facial features, same voice, same accent, except covered and dust and apparently from another planet. We rolled in the dust, rang the bell and thanked them for having us to the party.

    Burning man turned out to be beyond my expectations. It was the most amazing thing I’ve ever witnessed or participated in. I would put it right up there with childbirth in terms of incredible things I’ve seen. It has affected us in ways we are still unraveling.

    As a result of Burning man, we hosted a mini decompression party. (We don’t live in Seattle anymore, we’re in rural eastern Washington now). Complete strangers showed up and joined in. I’ve become a better person because of Burning man, more hopeful for the the future of humanity, more open hearted, and in some ways, more introspective.

    I regret that it took me 10 years to get there. But I’m so glad I went. We will definitely be back next year. The flood of ideas we’ve had about how to do it better next year, haven’t stopped since we arrived there in August. Our local community involvement has really just begun, but we have big plans for big tents and big feeds next year. We’re excited to not be virgins, evermore. Thank you BMORG.

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  • Derek says:

    It changed my life. I fell in love, I saw the world as i never have before: with an open mind, open heart, and wide eyes, embracing the warmth and loving aura i felt on the playa. I’ll be back home next year and every year i can!

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  • Nancy Soares says:

    I posted an article on BM 2012 on my website:


    It pretty much sums up my experience as a “virgin”. I enjoyed myself and I may be back.

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  • Peter says:

    This was my first burn and it was an amazing experience. It was everything and nothing what I thought it would be and I cannot wait to go back again next year. The music, art, and most of all people were all amazing!

    Some highlights:

    – Seeing a 6 ft all guy dressed up in a Cookie Monster costume
    – Dancing all night at the Osiris camp till the sun came up
    – Growing closer with my friends
    – Serving ice cream at Spanky’s Wine Bar on Wednesday
    – Alex Grey and other amazing art at Fractal Nation

    Some of the few things that put me off a bit were:

    – Shady old guys taking pictures of naked girls
    – Observing people being made fun of because they were dressed too “normal”. If people want to wear jeans and a t-shirt they should not be called out for that
    – Children in some areas that were somewhat inappropriate

    Overall a very positive experience though. Thank you BRC!

    -Kookie Monster

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  • CJB says:


    Having been to my regional for 5 years straight I went to Burning Man knowing the atmosphere and principals really well as a Birgin. What I didn’t expect was the enormity in comparison and the desert weather. You can look at pictures all day but no way be able to wrap your head around the variety and size of art and involvement that is at BM.

    A weekend in the woods of a regional is vastly different than an entire week in the desert. I had to plan way harder and in far more detail for BM than for my regional but the ratio of planning for these events and the ratio of size for these two events were equal. That was a huge relief. It was so incredibly worth all the extra effort because what I got out of it was so much more too.

    I want to take my regional experiences to a new level at Burning Man next year with a collaborative project. Than once it is fine tuned in 2013 and most likely again in 2014 I will return my focus to my regional again and apply all I’ve learned about taking art to a larger scale. I will of coarse attend my regional as well but involve myself in other ways. I can only do so many large art projects a year!

    See you in 2013 :-*

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  • Karen says:

    This was my first burn, and I had been given a lot of advice from many others who had gone, so I felt pretty well prepared. In some ways I really wasn’t, but the items that I needed had a way of finding me just at the moment that I needed them. In my camp of about 40 I was very well cared for.

    It was dusty, but not that big a deal. In fact, I came to love the dust. It’s a great styling aid for short wavy hair, fyi.

    I was surprised by how spiritual an experience it was. I was told it would be, but there’s nothing that can really prepare you for the way in which spirit comes in. I cried my eyes out at the man burn. Not what I expected to do! I loved it.

    I am very glad that I went for the whole week, and will only do it that way from now on. I am also very glad that I did not plan anything, but let my experience find me. It was perfect. I partied some, stayed up until sunrise 3 times. But I also rested, had sober days, and many solitary moments. I had my head trip and cranky day on Saturday, when I wrestled with the question that I think many very good rule followers such as myself would ask… “of all this freedom, anything goes, crazy behavior, how much of it is for me? Should I go naked? Should I be hooking up with someone — coz everyone else seems to be. Am I really a burner if I’m not going balls out with all the partying?” I was with a pretty lively camp of seasoned partyers, and didn’t feel very connected. Not that I’m un-seasoned, I’m just a bit past it — for me.

    My answers came to me as they needed to. I learned that in that magical desert, where time and space are altered, and culture, convention, and rules are all null, I was faced with myself. Without all the rules, who am I?? My burn was a tremendously healing experience as I found a new level of love and acceptance for myself. Or rather, I let that love find me. My heart opened right up that day, which is why I cried so much at the man burn.

    And no, I did not hook up with anyone. That’s not why I was there, it turns out. And it was perfect.

    Next year I will plan and participate more. I will teach a workshop or two and offer a formal massage event (did lots of massage, but informally). And I will dance more – not just bouncing around to the music but really move like the classical dancer that I am. And hopefully I will bring with me another virgin who can have their own burn, and it will be awesome.

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  • Michael says:

    Having read all the comments above I would say that what I experienced could been approximated by adding them all up and squaring the result. This means I enjoyed the sum of all possible combinations of what people have described so eloquently above. Nerdiness aside, I came as a 66 year grandfather and BM exceeded all my expectations. I had no idea I would miss it so terribly much. My heart-felt thanks to all those who toiled so long and hard to givethis experience to so many more. So profoundly changing the lives of so many must give incredible satisfaction.

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  • Holly Chimicles- Hologram says:

    That was pretty epic.. it was my first burning man but i have been to a bunch of the east coast regionals and as many pix and stories that ive heard it was deffinatly nothing like anything ive experienced.. I felt that i was very shy this trip.. maybe because the events is sooo soooo sooooo much bigger and i felt smaller.. and wearing a bandana/dust mask doesn’t help when trying to get connected with new potential friends.. other than that i had an amazing time.. didnt do any of the things I planned but thats whats to be expected.. Next year i know what to bring and not.. and to a more epic burn for us all :)

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  • ChrissyP says:

    I am grateful to have been a part of. I’m a norcal festival volunteer/staffer for decades, and build a camp for about 80 each July for the past decade, plus, ongoing. We sleep on the ground about 80 days a year. I’ve studied and studied, the burning man website for many years, and went to the playa prepared as I could be. I did build a beautiful home, 48 x 20, covered deep shade, carpets, dry ice in the chests, etc… all that was good. We never even started our generator or swamp cooler….. I was not as prepared for the gray water as I needed to be for a camp of 10, but was able to scrounge many empty gallon jugs from other camps around and sent home dirty water with everyone who left my camp. I was very pleased with the home I built… we didn’t even need our bandanas on Tuesday afternoon! My husband and I worked 3 separate volunteer shifts, after being part of our regional CORE project all year… those things were all good.

    I’ve been sick all this year, and finished a 2 week course of the stay out of the sun kind of antibiotic on Wednesday. Friday, I hit the critical tits ride.. I broke out in intense hives that are still not entirely healed… so, I would advise others to either avoid that type of antibiotic, or at least keep their long sleeves on throughout.

    Some things I will do different next year? I will READ THE BOOK as soon as I’m able, mark everything I’m interested in (while hubby does the same) and then make a list of the things I would most like to do each day, with him, by myself, etc… there were so many things that I missed because I didn’t know about them……. I loved the partner yoga, steam baths, and workshops… I loved riding around, checking out other folks’ camps, I REALLY loved riding along and having my name called out by a friend I hadn’t seen for a long time. I absolutely loved our conversation, and the spontenaity of that experience.

    I will bring less stuff. I will build a smaller space (still comfy, safe, and beautiful, just smaller) I will have only people that I know and love very, very well living in my camp. I will not plan to share my kitchen, but may invite folks in. I will not plan to need to cook for others. I will not be anybody’s mother there, not even my husband’s or children’s. I will bring a more sufficient gray water dispersal system. I will stay up all night at least once. I will make sure to go deep, all the way to the trash fence. I will get it together to wear at least one of the tutus I bring. I will be more self-serving, and I honestly acknowledge that some of my service to others is a way in which I hide…..

    Some of the lessons I learned are painful, and I’m still working through them, and developing tools to work them into my life so that I do not need to repeat those lessons.

    We had fabulous neighbors. I fell in love over and over again. Spontenaity is my goal for this year, as community was my goal last year. I tend to over plan, over commit, and I will work to change that this year. I am the ant rather than grasshopper type, but, I need to work a little grasshopper-ish-ness into my soul.

    Simple things: bring something like bike shorts, in all the appropriate colors, for every day of the week, and at least wear them the first part of the week. I will make sure to have lightweight, long-sleeved cotton shirts, in the appropriate colors, for each day of the week. I will bring more lotion. I will bring only one or two bins of costume crap, rather than the 12 I brought this year. I was able to gift out a lot though, and only brought 4 bins home full of stuff!

    Finally, I intentionally scheduled my sinus surgery for the day after we got home from the playa. It sounded brilliant when my boss suggested that I do that, so I could recover from both the playa and surgery at the same time. If you have a choice, do NOT do this. Especially not sinus surgery. I had my sugery 15-1/2 hours after we pulled into our driveway post-playa…. we both started coming down with a horrible head cold/flu thing the day after my surgery, which really complicated my healing. I finally felt well enough to begin cleaning some of my gear last Saturday. I used the leaf blower on a batch of carpets, before I vacuumed them, before I power washed them, before I used the carpet cleaner to extract as much water as possible, prior to hanging what I could on our utility trailer to dry…… well, I created a white out in the neighborhood, totally dusted my nice shiny clean car, and messed up my sinuses,, setting me even further back in the recovery process. In the meantime, my festival carpets, parachute, and gear are not getting clean, and I’m at risk of losing the heat of summer to get them all dry…..

    I am grateful that we were able to afford the cost (over $200 each) to get both of the vehicles we took into the shop, to have the engine compartments cleaned, the air filter, compartment air filters, and even gas filters replaced. Our shop has worked on cars through the years when folks weren’t able to, and the cost was much higher.

    I loved it. It was so much more than I could have learned through my endless research….. I will bring less stuff and more self next year. Thank yuo.

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  • Kagan says:

    It took me a week of daily writing to semi-process the incredible time at BM, for myself, and for my friends and family who will probably never have a first-hand experience.


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  • Andrew says:

    I was so nervous coming to Black Rock City. I had nightmares for a week prior. I knew I had to go, wanted to go but had huge self doubts. Once I got there and hugged the Greeter everything melted away. I finally understood why I was home.

    BRC was amazing, incomparable to any description. I think I experienced every emotion in just a week. Amazing, exhilarating, Hot, Cold, Beautiful, Hilarious, Lonely, Intimate, Tranquil, Raucous, Awesome. Some parts were fabulous and inspiring, other parts were difficult and draining. On the whole though it was totally amazeballs. Perhaps the challenges made the high points even better.

    My two suggestions:
    1. Bathrooms should be closet to center camp
    2. Art cars blasting music should be kept a bit further away from the temple

    I shall return to BRC.

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  • Marina E. says:

    It was absolutely amazing. What first comes to mind is how much worse I thought the weather would be. It was extremely managable. I thought the worst came during break down on tuesday.

    I have to say, this was the first time in my life I understood what it means to meet somebody in the present. Without regard to what they do, what they’ve done, who they’ve been, or anything but rather who they are right now. Everyone I met was an amazing, open and loving human. It helped me open myself up and just be me.

    The art was beyond real or imaginary. The sharing was glorious. I can’t wait to come back and be able to share more.

    Home is so beautiful. It’s not a place, but a feeling.

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  • Andrea Suriano (Italy-London) says:

    We came for the first time at BM this year in 5 people (all Italians though 2 of us live in London and 1 in HK) and individually we lived one of the most touching experience of our life. You guys have created something really unique and amazing. I do honestly reckon that BM reflects (perhaps a bit too much) the Western culture of the States but it is an experience I will personally never forget. Many thanks to you all guys for welcoming us so warmly to an amazing and spectacular Nevada and really hope to be able to make it another time in my life…
    A final consideration, we have paid our tickets USD 1,240 each and I believe this is the only downside…

    Un abbraccio a tutti i Burners!!

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  • Jennifer says:

    My girlfriend got me to go with her this year, my first, her third. We only started making plans three weeks prior. She was the best guide, having been through it before. We went alone, didn’t join a camp, built our own shade structure, and I felt, lived on a different planet for a week!
    I had the best burn! What an amazing experience. BRC is truly an amazing city!

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  • Franny says:

    I would say that BM has been the closest I have gotten to understanding the meaning of life. Those who get the most out of BM are either those who think they have come pretty close to knowing themselves and want to explore the next level or those who feel lost and need to find home. We live our whole lives trying to get to know ourselves and a BM experience can really bring one closer to understanding onesself and the world around them. It certainly takes humility, open mindedness and patience but at the end of ones journey is where the road really begins.
    Upon entering Black Rock City, NV., the first thing that becomes a significant change from the outside world is that there is no cell phone or internet service. The moment I entered the nearest town Gerlach, NV was the moment I turned my phone off with no intention of turning it back on until nearly a week later. I immediately felt relief. It was the feeling of FREEDOM. I could go wherever I wanted without having to let anyone know, my friends, my family, my work, my school. I didn’t constantly feel watched, I didn’t “have” to check my facebook and honest to God I completely forgot about my phone the entire time I was there. Although I was with a good friend of mine and was planning on meeting new and interesting minds and bodies, in my heart of hearts I was free from responsibility except for surviving on my own.
    The second thing that becomes very noticeable is the weather. The desert gets very hot in the day but one thing I didn’t really take into account was how cold it gets at night. We arrived at Black Rock City around midnight and the weather was nice and cool.. And, very dusty. There were windstorms that blew around catching us by surprise with clouds of dust sinking into every crevice of our skin and some specs eventually finding homes in the depths of our throats. Because the weather can be a challenge, BM becomes an even more exciting place. To realize that all these people around the world have come to this spot in the middle of the harsh desert is incredibly fascinating. I was on a mission to understand why.
    From the first day at BM, my living situation was already radically different. Living for a week in the same camp forced everyone in it to be friendly and get to know each other. Cheerfulness and generosity quickly became a spreading disease. What was mine didn’t matter because what was mine was theirs and what was theirs was mine. There was no concept of objects having any importance. The only thing that mattered I realized was respect for one another. This atmosphere created a wonderful peace that circulated throughout the whole event. Shaking hands doesn’t exist at BM. We embrace. We breathe together and exchange positive energy. The difference between a handshake like we do in our society and an embrace are two completely different feelings. One is so cold whereas the other is so warm and loving. A handshake merely greets whereas an embrace recognizes.
    Through self expression, one may find camps of almost anything imaginable. There are those who enjoy flying through the air and have created an aerial camp where people can come in and flip upside down on hoola hoops and silks! There are those who enjoy playing music and meditating where people can come in and close their eyes to your beats! There are those who like to pull their pants down and get spanked where one can come in, pick a flogger or a whip, a shot of tequila and get smacked to their pleasure! There are those who like to stay clean and hence have made a camp where people can come in and get their hair washed and their bodies erotically massaged! There are.. Shall I go on?
    The entire city of BM is made up of ART! Let us take a moment and not forget that Earth IS art: eARTh! Beautiful sculptures recognizing this year’s theme, fertility was presented in the desert sitting magestically waiting to be taken in by curious onlookers. One of the most beautiful pieces I thought was the Temple. An elaborate temple made of what looked like balsam wood made to shelter photographs of loved ones who had passed on, candles and the hopes and dreams of those who shared them by writing on the walls. Other favorite art projects included a giant sculpture of the word EGO made up of images of war and sex and “The Bank of UnAmerica” and the burning of Wallstreet.
    Nothing at BM is “strange” or “weird” in fact, there ARE NO LABELS! How can ANYONE judge or label someone when humans are SO dynamic?! One of the most noticeable dynamics is that of sexuality. Alfred Kinsey came up with the Kinsey scale. It says that between being homosexual and heterosexual, there are spots in between too. So if a 1 means that you are heterosexual and a 6 means that you are homosexual, then a 3.5 means that you are totally bisexual. What about the 2s, the 3s, the 4s and the 5s? At BM people celebrate all aspects of themselves. There are no borders. We color outside of the lines. I met a 1 (heterosexual) who was wearing pink underwear and a lacy pink hat. In our society I would have judged him as gay. That certainly went out the window! At BM people experiment with thier sexuality. They don’t put themselves into any molds. It’s okay for a man to wear a g-string just as it’s okay for a woman to wear briefs! As long as you are expressing who you are, there is NOTHING wrong with you!
    That’s the other fabulous thing about BM. Although sexuality is very prominent because we are all sexual creatures, LOVE overrules any misbehavior. I only ONCE in my entire week of being half or fully nude felt like I was being looked at in a creepy way (probably by a newbie). Out of the hundreds of people I interacted with, that is a blessing. I felt comfortable in my underwear as men and women alike would smile at me and feel comfortable in theirs. Besides that one time (and trust me, he was chastised by his entire camp!), I was never touched inappropriately or made to feel uncomfortable in nothing but my own skin. There is so much RESPECT at BM. Everyone wants to feel happy. Part of happiness comes from satisfaction of one’s self-expression. Some people don’t feel comfortable going “against the norm”. Fortunately, there IS no “norm” at BM. You are who you are! I am who I am! And You and I together create harmony!
    One thing that makes the camps so wonderful is that money does not exist. One can walk around to the camps, get fed, get water, find a place to sleep, get a massage, make new friends and new lovers etc… without paying a dime! People genuinely care about each other out there. When I found myself sitting alone in the middle of the desert taking everything in, at least 20 people stopped and asked me if I needed anything. Does this EVER happen in our busy society? Do people take time out of their own days to make sure that a stranger is doing okay? This is one of the main aspects that makes BM such a magical place. GREED does NOT exist!! Selflesness is an unspoken decree! Nobody cares about anything except for helping each other because THINGS don’t matter, only survival and love.
    Nighttime is like moving from one planet to another. From the quiet peace of the heat waves, comes a vibrant loud energy pulsating to the point of explosion. There is an excited hummm and deep throbbing bass coming from various stages around the playa. In the middle of the playa, loud buzzing screams, laughing, cheers, waves, bells, melodies, drums and the thumping of hearts beating rapidly emerge. Energy is exerted at night where everyone’s playa art comes to life! Giant L.E.D scupltures with DJ sets, booze and dancers on wheels stride through the sand, illuminating the magic of BM! The desert suddenly smells sweet and goosebumps point in all directions at every star of light and beat of Electronica!
    The stars out there in the desert are incredible. They are so defined that I wouldn’t hesitate to say that I witnessed planets and possibly UFOs circling around us. The sky was absolutely breathtaking. I feel so lucky to say that for every single night I was at BM there was a full moon beaming down on us.
    Now I would be lying if I didn’t mention the fact that many of those who choose to explore BM enjoy partaking in psychedelics. Drugs such as Marijuana, Ecstacy, Mushrooms and LSD are very common. Where Marijuana calms one down in the daytime, psychedelics at night keep one awake and vibrating until morning and the pupils expand, taking in all of the lights and creating a different view of the artwork. This isn’t to say that one wouldn’t have just as good of a time without them, but for some, psychedelics greately enhance the Electronic music and L.E.D experience.
    BM is called the Adult Disneyland because you truly do feel like a little kid. You have no responsibility, no cares and no inhibitions! You can dress how you want, move how you feel and your individuality is sacred unto everyone. YOU are what makes BM the insatiable place that it is. BM is a desert and YOU are a grain of sand helping to create the heavenly atmosphere just by being who YOU truly are.
    To stay awake until sunrise is an experience that everyone should at least partake in one time. The transition from night to day is cleansing. The air seems fresher and the wind blows by a tranquil silence. One morning as I sat on a couch in the sand, I was directly between a full moon AND a full sun at the same time. It was breathtaking. Sunrise brings a clarity to one’s mind. At this time I began to understand why people come from all over the world for this very special event. Here is a place where we can express ourselves without being pounded down by society. Here is a place where we can take in natural beauty and not have to comply with the “norms”. I didn’t have to wear make up, I didn’t have to have an even tan, I didn’t have to wear clothes, I didn’t even have to have clean hair and people still embraced me, smiled at me and offered me solace.
    At BM everyone wants to help one another. At BM people are not afraid of sexuality’s broad spectrum. At BM we all realize that we depend on one another to survive and be happy. At BM we also realize that the oneness comes from within. At BM we are not afraid to laugh out of nowhere, to cry in front of strangers, to scream into the sky, to look into each other’s eyes and smile. BM is a home away from the un-natural society that we force ourselves to be apart of. BM helps us find meaning to our lives by celebrating every bit of being that we are and sharing it with the world.

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  • amber v says:

    It was my first time this year and I was expecting to want to leave early… but oh contraire! By mid week I was planning my trip back and by the end of the week, I was one with the desert.
    Now I am different… Life is different… the real world is different.
    I loved the overwhelming amount of art and creative spirits.
    I was blown away by the openness, generosity and spirituality of ALL the people.
    I am in awe at the way perspective changes when you allow yourself to let go in an atmosphere of “try anything, do anything, be anything”.
    It was a truly unique experience. Words cannot describe. Whether it’s my only experience or the beginning of a new part of my life, I feel grateful for the journey.

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  • kerryalina says:

    “I’ve had dust-covered strangers hug me and welcome me home to a p
    lace I’ve never been. I’ve wandered the desert in dust storms so dense I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face… and ten seconds later looked out over a vista that was clear, still and without boundary. I got engaged to a man I’d met 5 minutes earlier… and left him at the altar when the priest got distracted by stripper poles. I’ve been with 50,000 people as we danced and screamed and howled at the moon when the fireworks flew and the Man burned… and sat with the same crowd the following night, holding each other and weeping as the Temple burned in silence. I’ve seen twenty million artworks without understanding a single one, but still fell in love with them all. I’ve met the purest souls and the most beautiful people I’ve ever encountered, and had the chance to connect with my dad in a way that I didn’t know was missing from my life. I’ve challenged every preconception I had of who I am and what I can do, and I damn well broke most of them. I was home for that one week… and I can’t wait to go back.

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  • Katy Tahja says:

    An Elder on the Playa

    Why, a reader might ask, would a perfectly sensible woman old enough for Social Security allow herself to leave the peace and quiet of Comptche for a trip into the inhospitable middle of no place in Nevada for the Burning Man Festival? Simple answer? Curiosity. As a retired librarian I’ve always enjoyed watching the human parade and what better place to do that than in the most amazing party on earth.

    For years my sister and daughter tried to get me to go to Burning Man with them and I’d rejected the invitation. First, I’m not particularly artistic or musical and second, I’m on crutches and the Black Rock City is three miles wide. That means a lot of walking. But then someone turned me on to the Black Rock City Department of Mobility, a camp for the disabled sited right in the center of everything. After e-mail correspondence with the camp coordinator I thought “What the heck…” and threw my name into the ticketing lottery and promptly got a ticket (at over $400) in the first drawing.

    Along with survival planning for the event I became familiar with the 10 Principles that govern this event. I won’t bore you with listing them all but let’s just say that for anyone who was a hippie in the 1960’s there is a lot we’d relate to…radical self reliance, civic responsibility, communal effort, self expression, participation and leave no trace land use. For those unfamiliar with the Burning Man Festival there are 50,000 campers and the organization sells two things, coffee and ice. Everything else you bring in with you and pack your trash out with you. Your ticket price pays in part for the infrastructure you live in as part of the third largest city in Nevada for a week. Campers bring water, shelter, food, costumes and come ready to party.

    I tired without luck to gather statistics about what it took to keep 50,000 people safe and happy on a dry lakebed. With 26 years of practice and a gazillion volunteers it’s an evolving work in progress. The Black Rock City Department of Public Works literally builds a maze of roads with city block long campgrounds, gets a thousand porta-potties in place and the people to service them, builds shaded gathering places, places 242 art instillations on the playa, gets power to where it is needed, develops emergency services and a volunteer fire department, offers 24/7 radio broadcasting and lines up volunteers to answer questions. It’s an impressive undertaking. I’m also in awe of the Black Rock Rangers. These non-confrontational mediating entities were between every cop and every suspect the cops questioned keeping everything calm and mellow. Rangers knew what the rules were and explained them if you were dazed and confused.

    My hometown Comptche has a couple hundred people scattered through miles of forest. Black Rock City had 50,000 people in five square miles. Everything you could find in an urban city that size you could find on the playa with one surprising exception. Remember that coffee and ice? That’s the only thing that requires cash. You’ve entered a gifting economy. People don’t barter but they give or share. In many ways it was like a giant 1960’s hippie commune. Everyone worked together and shared what they had. You could share food, skills, shelter, artwork, hugs or laughs, but money never entered the picture. I had made stone bead necklaces I swapped for everything from sno-cones to Margaritas.

    I’m of the wrong generation to have ever been in a rave, but I’ve been to love-in’s. Yes, alcohol and recreational drug ingestion reached heroic proportions there, but so did the level of hugs, smiles and laughter. My guess was 75% of the revelers were in there 20’s and 30’s, but we elder burners were considered cool. My daughter laughed at the number of times someone said “You brought your MOTHER to Burning Man…my mother would never do that…” (Please note daughter and I did not camp together, but near each other).The Mobility Camp I was in was half full of elders with disabilities and half full of younger disabled people and their attendants. We all got along great.

    I can honestly say that I have never been hugged more in one week in my life by total strangers. I have also never seen more naked people in one place. My one disclaimer to any elder considering a first time visit to Burning Man is that you’ve go to be comfortable around naked bodies 24/7. Not just partially clothed, buck naked, though shoes were commonly worn as alkali dust dries out your foot skin. After the first day you get used to it and nudity makes the passing human parade more interesting. My daughter talked me into participating in the Critical Tits Bike Parade, a 17 year old tradition at Burning Man. Imagine thousands of women covering miles through Black Rock City letting it all hang out. There were entire camps dedicated to decorating the female form in paint and pasties for the parade. With creative use of large flower stickers, clear packing tape and sparkly string I made myself minimal coverage for my aging form to provide some modesty. Needless to say there were thousands of men, and cameras, along the parade route cheering the mothers, daughters, sisters, and grannies as they passed. I got sunburned.

    Did I mention the sun? We were blessed only to be in the 90 degree temperature range daytimes but the playa had only six inches of moisture this past winter and dust storms were a daily occurrence. Alkali playa dust actually formed mini dunes in the wind and got into everything and inhibited mobility equipment moving through the playa to see the art. I don’t think words can express the impossible art you see. Photographs could. Honestly, never had I seen such creativity of every form in one place. The 160 page “Who-What-Where” guide told you about events daily and the accompanying art map showed the way to more than 240 art installations you could visit. Word of mouth directed you to really impressive ones, and many of these burned.

    The statue of the Man, the Temple of Remembrance, and core art instillations go up in flames. Some burn with cheers and some burn with tears. I’m only a first time burner so I can’t comment on this fascination with burning down exquisite art, but that’s what happens at Burning Man. A wooden temple with southeast Asian art influences honors the memory of souls lost, both human and pet. Remembrances in word, photo and art are left to go up in smoke. Lost to us this year was Ryane Snow, an extraordinary teacher to my daughter and I, and we left a drawing of a Chantrelle mushroom and abalone shell as offerings in his memory. I sat in a circle of probably 20,000 people on a Sunday night in absolute silence and reverence as the temple burned. At my age I’m not given much to use the word awesome, but it was. It’s hard to watch something as beautiful as the temple disappear into smoke and ash but burning it is supposed to help people move beyond grief over loss. It was a uniquely moving experience I will never forget.

    Our camp took disabled people on art tours pulling a trailer with seating for 12 and wheelchairs behind a golf car. We’d drive all over the playa to art instillations you’d never reach pushing a wheelchair or walking on crutches. We hauled people from all over the world on our tours and reporters visited our camp for interviews about our services. We passed out crutches to people who hurt themselves having fun and took the walking wounded to the fully staffed medical center for help. For me though, I just enjoyed watching the human parade. Take bicycles…decorated to look fuzzy and furry…or look like fish, or swans, or ponies, or flower gardens. There was a “Pimp Your Bike” camp to decorate your bike. The festival theme was Fertility 2.0 and there was a bike covered to look like a sperm and it was constantly chasing a bike that looked like an egg all over the road in front of our camp .A man passed with his bike pulling a big stuffed bear in a red wagon, followed by 10 littler stuffed bears in 10 tiny red wagons stretched out behind him. Burning Man specializes in art cars and mutant vehicles to diverse to describe here, but Mendocino’s Larry Fuentes and his fantastical art cars would fit right in.

    Like any kind of big city every kind of human activity was offered. Every sport had a camp and an event. There was a library, newspaper, post office, beauty shop, barber, a Farmer’s Market, dance classes, comedy clubs, AA meetings, church, solar recharging stations, movie houses, yoga sessions and someone doing singing telegrams, without money ever changing hands. There was even a ACLU office if you got a ticket. (And yes, the cops were ever present). Every kind of food and drink was available someplace and there were social events galore. I went to a Librarian’s Cocktail Party, to which I brought an excellent single malt Scotch, and met 20 younger librarians, half of whom were men. There were never ending educational events. I enjoyed a lecture on Black Rock Playa geology and one night my daughter’s camp was debating an evening presentation on United Field Theory or the Visionary Art of Alex Gray. They wanted to learn something new for an hour or so, then party all night long.

    It’s noisy in Black Rock City. There are large scale sound camps at the far edges of everything with speakers the size of VW busses. One type of bass music is called dubstep that pounds in the background day and night. I slept in a tent with no sound protection but exhaustion and single malt scotch helped me sleep.

    Before the Temple burned I went out with a few thousand of my new best friends, most of who had been up all night, to watch the sun rise over the playa. With John Lennon’s “Imagine” playing over a mobile sound system we listened in silence to lyrics we loved as the sun rose over mountains to the east, then everyone cheered. Here’s another lurid note of interest for readers. I never saw a sex act on the playa. Admittedly I only walked and drove through about a quarter of Black Rock City, and I’m sure it was going on all around me, but not in public where I was. Like any metropolis there were neighborhoods for everything.
    Also, I got flogged (politely) by a man in pirate garb. What? An elder librarian being flogged? The youngster had a whip with a leather lash in the tip and he flailed at my arm gently with a piratical “Arrgh” as he wandered by. I can now add being flogged to my life list of things done along with drinking from a ShotSki. Envision a cross country ski painted with neon pink glow in the dark zebra stripes with shot glasses glued to it and my bottle of scotch close by .I again was the hit of my daughter’s camp pounding one back with the youngsters.

    The end of the party is called Exodus and I joined it Monday afternoon headed for Reno. Before leaving the playa you could turn off at Collexodus and unload extra food, water, booze and non-perishable food for the volunteers who will clean up the playa for another month. I was thrilled and startled when I saw a green tree again. Mown grass the next morning outside my motel smelled intoxicating.

    Before I went to Burning Man I joked this was a one time only “bucket” list thing I was doing. After all, who wants to spend precious vacation time frying your brain out past the edges of the known world. But Burning Man pulls you in. What will next year’s art instillations look like? Will I meet old friends? What wonders await me? So, yes, I’d go again. Maybe not for eight days but I’d go again. And to anyone out there of any age considering the idea, I found Burning Man life affirming. If you can deal with nudity and you like art and the human race it can be an unforgettable experience. No matter what your physical condition there’s help available, given with a hug and a smile. It reaffirmed my faith in my fellow man and I had one hell of a good time.

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  • Light Bearer says:


    Can’t wait till next year!

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  • Anonymous says:

    I thought I was going to be camping with a theme camp full of veteran burners. While technically true, they also turned out to be burned out pot heads and drug dealers. I, a virgin, was the only one to bring any functional infrastructure. Additionally my wife’s jealousy and depression meant that I really couldn’t go anywhere or do anything without hurting her; which I’m not willing to do. I felt very alone; in a crowd.

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  • jerzy cohen says:

    i have been to burning man this year. i saw it and wept at the lewdness and tried to fly but was unable to. my congressman had no advice other than campaign donations, so how is one to view this in an even-handed light?

    the answer has occurred to me–it is the high rate of inflation. i cannot countenance what this is doing to burning man. it is, as a direct result, only “warming man”. when the sea levels rise, as we are assured they will, it will muddy the desert and sweep it all into the Pacific Inferno (née Pacific Ocean).

    what would the late hunter s. thompson have said about that? i will search in a book for the answer: “duryodhana sought in various ways to kill the pandavas”. it is not a hunter s. thompson book, but the answer will suffice, as it is a book full of much wisdom of the orient.

    which brings me to burning man. there were indian tacos outside but not inside, colors inside but not outside, colors blending with the dust, onward, upward, and–most crucially–INWARD.

    and anonymous above, you need not fret–i boned your wife when you were away from camp. so your experience was complete(d).

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  • It took me over a decade since first finding out about BM to get here. Thanks to my wonderful camp mates who took me under their wings and all the beautiful colorful new friends I now have. Yet, I had a more personal internalized experience. Little did I know, that for all the hoopla and grandness of it all that it would have a profound personal effect on me… https://www.facebook.com/joseph.h.tiu
    Love, peace, hugs, and drums!

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  • It took me over a decade since first finding out about BM to get here. Thanks to my wonderful camp mates who took me under their wings and all the beautiful colorful new friends I now have. Yet, I had a more personal internalized experience. Little did I know, that for all the hoopla and grandness of it all that it would have a profound personal effect on me…


    Love, peace, hugs, and drums!

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  • Montana Blue says:

    Beyond words, Amazing! For the first time in my life, I felt truly at peace and at home! I explored and participated as much as I possibly could! I didn’t want it to end, and I can’t wait to go back for a second year, with an art car, more bag balm, less clothes, and a heat reflective tent structure… Thank you to everyone I met along the way! You ALL were amazing!!

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  • Tabicat says:

    I brought WAY too much stuff. I had no idea just HOW much other people would take care of me. This extended from food and water to costumes, accessories, borrowing their bicycle and sharing stories. A much older first time burner make a profound observation that no matter how loud the art cars and music were, unlike a club, the ground remained solid and still. I’ve never been happy for an entire week before. I’ve never been able to leave my “baggage” at the door so easily. I learned how to take risks (again) and I’ve brought home an expectation that I will converse and engage the people I encounter each day, even if they might not say “good morning” back to me. While I came to spend time with two VERY good friends, I will be back regardless of their ability to come with me. I said and heard “I love you” more from the “strangers” I met in Black Rock City that week than I have heard in my entire life.

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  • Rick Scott says:

    This was my first burn and it most definitely will not be my last. I went with my son Josh and his fiance Heather. Both had been several times before. I had no expectations and I was not disappointed in the least. This trip is tied for first place with my all-time experiences in life. The other trip was a month long, unsupported river trip in Alaska. Both changed my life for the better. From the time I returned from BM 2012, all that I have been able to think about is BM 2013. I have spent the last few weeks planning and preparing for next years burn. The enviornment on the playa is one of the harshest I have ever been in but the reward, especially the spectacle of the man burning on Saturday night, was way beyond anything I could have imagined. I could go on for hours about my experience but I will save my enthusiasm for the LA Decompression on OCT. 13th. Thanks to the BM staff and all the voulenteers for what you do. See you all soon.

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  • Razor & Cat says:

    After ten years of open arm invitations were met with ten years of defaultia excuses we committed to attending our first Burn in 2012. We were met with obstacle after obstacle that seemed to indicate we weren’t meant to go. With patient trust and belief though, each locked door blocking our path, including a last minute unpleasant surprise, opened one by one allowing us to arrive on the playa on Tuesday, only a day later than we originally planned.

    Wow. Welcome to a world where a person’s age is meaningless, their smile priceless, and a stranger’s hug heals. Even the coldest soul will melt in the warmth and acceptance of the community. Radical self expression opens the floodgates of unconditional Love in a way that is unmatched by any other experience.

    Every person Burns in their own way through the camps, community service, art, gifts, and their expressive appearance. My lifelong soul mate of more than 30 years and I are typically quite stoic and emotionally strong. Our Burn was milestoned by sobbing uncontrollably in each other’s arms in the courtyard of the Temple, surrounded by the community’s loving memorials, continuous weddings, and our own penned expressions of love and forgiveness. Although we shared and enjoyed ourselves immensely, our hearts are warmer and smiles easier as a result of Burning Man 2012.

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  • Cheryl Lynne says:

    Burning Man? AMAZING! Pretty much what I expected. All good. Not having been there before I was at a lack for words when the wind picked up and we were uncertain as to whether we’d make our way to the entry gate before dark. With a little patience and some humor we made it! We pulled in Friday night and couldn’t have been luckier having a superb view of the sun and moon at the same time. With a big shining Blue Moon, I know that Gods were with us that night! Our only regret is that we didn’t stay longer. Just as we were acclimated to the scene, it was time to pick up camp and drive home. Our mingling was limited and next year we’ll get do more visiting. What a wonderful group we did have the fortune of meeting up with! Next event we’re hoping to attend with an art car! Peace burners!

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  • Fetilyna says:

    It’s good to see that so many people had such an awesome time. I’ve been told that the experience my husband and I had on the playa was atypical… and I’m starting to believe it.

    We got in Monday night, after the sun had gone down. The greeters were wonderful, giving us hugs and showing us in with enthusiasm, though they were on speed greet, so as Burgins we didn’t get to do a playa angel or ring the bell. They directed us to our camp, which was located near 4:30 and A. We’d elected to actually stay with a bonafide camp for our first time, figuring that as virgins, we’d forget something vital, and having a camp to help support us would be a good idea. We *thought* we’d picked a camp of like-minded, open and friendly people. I guess that was our first mistake. The camp was a sausage fest all week long, and me, as one of the few 20-somethings in the camp that was willing to go around nude without being utterly shy about it… drew way more attention than was desired. I spent the entire week fending off the attentions of four different guys who were all at least 60 and didn’t seem to think that asking was a necessary part of negotiations before touching my breasts (or before objectifying me simply because I have breasts, for that matter). I might add that I come from a kinkster lifestyle, so negotiation and consent are huge for me. I thought they were huge in the camp, too. Instead I discovered that radical self expression meant you had the freedom to be an utter asshole and have zero concern for how your lewd behavior would affect someone else. I guess I was hoping the playa was somewhere I could not have to deal with the typical 15 year old male reaction to his first sight of breasts of “ooooo… boobs. *insert fantasy here and blank expression*”. I certainly have never had to deal with that at any kinky club, and many of the Burning Man tenets are very close to how kinkster clubs are set up.

    On my first day, I went and participated in the Human Carcass wash, not knowing the reputation it had. As a professional in health care, I’ve given dozens of baths and know the exact boundaries and how to handle delicate situations. However, when I was my turn to be bathed, I discovered just how vulnerable that position is when someone decided it was okay to finger me… again, without consent. I was so shocked I froze. Aside from that, I also had a reaction to the soap and was forced to stay under cover the entire next day because I’d developed a rash that made wearing protective clothing painful. As a very WHITE person, I will not go out under the sun unless I am covered. I know how easily I burn. Thankfully I’d brought an amazing lotion that allowed the rash to heal within a day, versus within several days. And no, for the record, it wasn’t simply “playa rash.” It was a combination of the soap and the annoying little orange vest that actually put dozens of tiny cuts in my skin, which the soap then got into and didn’t get rinsed out of.

    An amazing gentleman helped restore my faith in humanity by offering me a foot massage after the carcass wash. To him, I am very thankful. Sadly, his work was destroyed later when another gentleman approached me and had expressed a desire to nibble. I gave consent for nibbling. He left hickies that last until after I got back from the Burn. Needless to say, I was furious, since giving consent for a form of touch and giving consent to be marked are two entirely different animals. And he was very much a smug bastard when I confronted him about and and totally did not care that he’d seriously crossed a line.

    By this time, I obviously was not feeling safe at all. Then that night, came the noise. As I had understood it, being near center camp as we were, it should have been relatively quiet because we were no where close to sound camps. No where had anyone written that just because you weren’t near sound camps, it meant you were still going to be bombarded by music. As someone who is a migraine sufferer and has extremely good hearing, being constantly bombarded by the 3 camps around us with the music cranked up in an all out war, plus the art cars screaming past constantly, it was not a good thing. At least I had read the survival guide and brought ear plugs. That was the only way I got any sleep, though a good portion of every day ended up being spent in pain because of the noise that could not be escaped.

    There was some solace to be found in the Temple in the following days, a place where thankfully it was peaceful and relatively quiet. After everything, Burning Man had started to feel like a hell hole and the Temple was the only place I found with a modicum of safety to it.

    I took most the week easy, giving massages as my gift to people. Even that, though, was sullied, because as soon as one gentleman found out I was giving free massages that were on the level of medical massages and could do massive wonders for his cluster headaches, he wouldn’t leave me alone. Giving gifts means I GIVE it, not that someone else sees that I have a gift, and DEMANDS it. That, also, was frustrating, as I had to chase him off several times because frankly, after 3 hours of work, I’d done all I could for him. And it’s very irritating to be dogged for things like that.

    Then Friday came, which was an utter nightmare. Somewhere around 11-12, I left to go to the tent to fetch something, leaving my husband in the common area. When I came back, he’d vanished. I saw that his shemaugh, camel back, and goggles had been left on the back of the chair, so I figured he’d simply gone off to the porta potties. Then an hour passed. Then two. I was starting to worry, knowing that my husband is just as white and prone to burning as I am, and he was out on the playa, somewhere, without protection or water. Knowing that he has a history of sunstroke did not help. Then, the white outs started happening. I was really starting to freak out now, because it had been hours since he had vanished. Was he hurt? Was he lost, like I knew he was prone to doing? Where had he gone for so long without telling me? Without water? Without protection? In two whiteouts?

    That was perhaps the most horrifying five hours in my life. I was ready to report him missing to the rangers (some were walking past) when thankfully he came back. Some random person had tagged him with a stamp… and drugged him. He’d wandered lost and senseless for that entire five hours, through two whiteouts. There’s nothing quite like knowing how narrowly you just missed losing the person you love. He spent that night and most of the next day recovering from the side effects.

    Burn night was amazing, I will admit. The temple burn was also gorgeous, though the sheer number of inconsiderate people was frustrating. I don’t think the playing of Freebird was anything negative, as it was played at the request of a gentleman who had died during the building of the temple. At least, that was the story I’d heard.

    We left late after Temple Burn, hoping to avoid the crowds Monday since I had to be back at work and we had a two day drive. Sadly, there was NO ONE helping with exodus that night. We left around 1 am. We didn’t hit pavement until about 5am, simply because fools kept falling asleep behind the wheel. There also, was no pulsing. We did the insane crawl. It was also mildly infuriating that instead of helping each lane keep everyone awake, if someone feel asleep, the next lane over would just merge and fill in the empty space. Since I’d read that you explicitly were NOT supposed to do that, it was mildly infuriating. Sadly, sometimes it would also be 3 cars in a row that were asleep and, since we were all bumper to bumper, the one person awake couldn’t tell that there was an opening up ahead. They’d just sit there waiting for 20-30 minutes for people to wake up, wondering why all the other lanes were moving when theirs was not.

    So. THAT was my first Burning Man experience. I came home not to decompress from missing the playa, but to release stress from the anger and frustration at the whole experience. My husband and I had many long discussions about how infuriating the whole thing was, and well, frankly, there obviously is STILL emotion there, and not positive emotion. We came looking for that transformative, coming home experience. We didn’t find it. We instead found a giant frat-boy party where anything goes and you better watch your back. One day, a few years from now, we may try again. We’re really not too keen on the idea, though.

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  • Ryan F says:

    Words cannot describe the experience I had… so i made a short video!


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  • Mary-Frances says:

    I camped with Lamplighters this year, and they gave me the best first year experience. I made lifelong friends, and gave back to the community in the best way — and Lamplighters made that possible. I can’t imagine camping anywhere else on the playa! I want to do more next year! I want to give back in a bigger and better way so that I can leave at the end of my time on the playa knowing that I helped make even one person’s burn that much brighter.

    Burning Man gave me a glimpse into a world without judgement. For the first time in my life, I felt comfortable in my own skin, and free to do whatever I wanted without second-guessing. I could strike up conversations with total strangers, and they would answer back in kind instead of looking at me like I had another head growing out of my shoulder. I became so much more in touch with myself, and felt this connection to other people and the collective conscious that resides within Black Rock City. I saw such intense beauty, joy, pain, and gratitude, it caused me to break down into tears more than once.

    Coming from the South, this was a radical experience for me. I have tried to practice and spread the ten principles in Texas as much as I can, and I have seen it returned in spades. Burning Man helped me love and trust people again, and I can’t thank the powers that be for making this great experience a possibility. THANK YOU!

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  • bacomplayboy says:

    First time and I know I have/had internal issues “insecurities, fear anger” all still sitting in there…. but when you are around 52,000 people that are all loving caring and peaceful you are FORCED to look inside yourself and find why or how these feelings pop up into your head (my head) ….. having the variable of other people being negative taken out I was forced to solve or face my problems …… I GOT EXACTLY what i needed and wanted out of burning man …. I’ve never had more fun more love and peace in my heart then at the burn…. THANK YOU to each and every one of you that was part of my life changing experience …. love love love

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  • Grace says:


    The above is a link to an article about sexual assault that happened on the playa this year. I left a comment some days ago and I mentioned feeling the darkness of this gathering as well as sheer-mind melting-ridiculous joy. I’m offering this article here to highlight how WE AS PEOPLE can be better to each other. Black Rock City is just another place where people live – and rape.

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  • Muggywuggy says:

    I’ve heard about this festival since 2002/2003 from a coworker when I had mentioned another festival I was attending. I was a wee lad, and the idea of spending a week in 100 degree weather was not my idea of a good time. I’m glad I didn’t just jump into this experience. I went and did many other festivals over the past decade, I’ve seen some amazing music and art at them, little did I know much of the art was from Burning Man. As I spent several years growing jaded of the same festivals I was doing, Burning Man kept itself in my thoughts….”One day when you’re ready”….

    With the whole ticket lottery, I decided to take my chances and get a lower tiered ticket, which was all I could afford at the time. I didn’t get it. I accepted I wasn’t going this year, I felt I needed months of prep to do this festival. Boy was I wrong. I went to many festivals year (Coachella/Symbiosis/EDC/HARDs) – spent a lot of money on them too…Starting doing more tribal events after Symbiosis (<3) and the festivals I started attending (Five Points/Firetribe/Moontribe/Vortexs) were better than the mainstream ones I had been to for years. People weren't assholes, barely anyone littered, a child could roam in a festival and have complete strangers hook him up with some water/food.

    Amazing community vibes resonated within me, new friends made which brought me to buying a last minute ticket to the burn. I ended up getting one of the 1000 tickets released in August. My money situation was JUST RIGHT so I could buy the top tier ticket. Everything else fell into place perfectly. I told myself I would get a bike for $60 or less. Craigslist blessed me. I said I would make a jelly fish bike and some tye dyed dust masks for gifts. It happened. I talked to my buddy who was driving, we ended up getting a trailer to borrow instead of paying for one!

    We all took off from SoCal with our hearts filled with joy and excitement, then we hit some heartbreak on the way. The journey to The Burn is apart of the experience I feel. We got checked by fortune, and had to replace a power steering pump on the way and stay in Bishop for two days. We all had JUST enough money to get the part/pay for a hotel for two days. The journey continued, and along that journey, a person I normally don't talk to in my facebook friends list asked me if I was going. I said yes and found her a ride, she also got her ride his ticket. I played the role of the match maker ;)

    Constantly on this trip, I surprised myself, especially with following thru, I always stack up tons of projects and end up barely finishing any….thankfully The Gypsy Monkeys who allowed our group to camp with them worked some Gypsy magic on me.. Crow from our camp, a fortune teller/Queen of the Sock Monkeys told our group, we would all change, but especially me. From that moment, I was curious, what did she mean by that? What changes would happen….

    I never realized it until I got back home; I finally started jumping in the deep end and committing to something until completion. I took a step away from my usual desires to consume illicit substances while looking for a warm body for the night, instead I took a journey with the lost person within. We saw the playa as a foreign planet, we had conversations, laughs and hugs with people who's names we never knew. Biking for the first time in nearly a decade, I was free on the playa, like a dolphin in the waves…just swimming through the universe, embracing the energy I felt as I sped through the empty outer playa.

    The whole week went by so fast, so many doubts I had about myself were washed away, I am no longer self conscious about my body, I no longer believe something is too hard to do, nor is it too hot/early/etc. Do or do not, there is no try. I did Burning Man, and now all I want to do is Burning Man when it comes to the idea of festivals. Even if I come to Black Rock City till the day I die, I love it that I will never be able to experience it all.

    Thank you everyone who was there, my camp The Gypsy Monkeys and especially my buddy Terrence. He's been one of the true enablers I've met recently and how the universe had us bump into each other is quite stupid/fascinating. We look forward to being permanent burners and are even more excited to bring more to the Playa next year. We will get our boys day out with a manicure/pedicure & a margarita at the Leopard Lounge Spa (hopefully they are there again) – we both learned to go with impulses at The Burn, rather than putting something away for safe keeping, as we missed our opportunity this year, and the camp was literally across the street from ours.

    So anyone who reads this: Don't hold back.

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  • Bruno says:

    How to even start… I did my research for several years before this year came, so I was pretty up on what Burning Man was about. The lottery? The dust doom forcasts? The old-timers who said that Burning Man was lost because things had changed so drastically? Well, frankly, since I’d never been before, none of the doom and gloom ever had an effect. How would I know bad dust conditions from good ones? Just plan on dust and roll with it. Tickets? Got two in the lottery, first try. And was it all I dreamed it would be? That and so much more.

    I got connected with a newly formed clean and sober camp, Camp Run Free and began participating in building our home from about April onward. I got a job making our signage and flags and loved participating. My partner and I were welcomed with open arms, given jobs, and even early passes to help set up… which I have to say is a huge blessing as a burgin! But that’s just it… Burning Man is about serendipity, about being in the right place at the right time, taking in the bad with the good and seeing the beauty even in the challenge. It tested my patience at times, pushed my boundaries. But that was oh so needed, and healthy. I let go of all control of what happened while there and learned control is an illusion anyhow. Choice is all I had, and indeed all I ever will have. I gave and gave… and received so much without expectations. I cried and screamed and laughed and felt broken open, alive and able to feel again. I spent 10 days there sober, which I wondered would even be possible… and saw people come to their first circle to begin a process toward a life of sobriety, in an environment like Burning Man! It left me speachless and humbled. I chanted, played, stayed up late, saw sunsets and sunrises, sang, danced, rode my bicycle, got married, and made friendships that will forever live.

    Burning Man left a mark on my spirit that I brought back here to the wider playa that is our world. Burning Man changed me forever. I shall never forget and I carry it out into the streets now. I long to return and will leave it to spontaneity to lead me there in 2013.

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  • Rand Salisbury says:

    As soon as I returned home everyone I know asks “How was Burning Man” As I think of this question I realize that there is no answer that can begin to describe the experience my wife and I had there this year being virgins to the playa. They all want to know where are all my pictures and all I can do is point to my head and my heart because that’s where my memories and feelings are stored and pictures do not really capture what it’s all about. I can’t wait to return next year and bring a few friends that I know will understand what a truly unique and blessed event Burning Man really is. Being close to 60 my only regret is that I didn’t discover the people and feelings that are everywhere on the playa 20 years ago but I’m sure my wife and I will have many more years and new friendships to be made in BRC. Hopefully both my kids now in college will be able to make the journey with mom and dad and understand that we aren’t just a couple of weird old farts but that there is no other place around like Burning Man1

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  • Jessica Read says:

    I was OVER prepared, all the reading worked me up to bring WAAAAY to much water food and medical things. Being Canadian I should of know I didn’t as much warm clothes being used to the cold. Never used a sweater once let alone my winter coat! Next year bring less, simplify and explore MORE!
    My husband is a producer/dj being used to festies like BM I was a well seasoned trooper. So naturally LOVED it! Will need a better shower system for next year tho.
    Bring on BM 2013! See you home!

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  • Markel Sparkle says:

    Well where to start…

    My girl friend , lover, bestest buddy in the world had been to BM 4 times by the time I meet her. She tryed hard to communicate what BM was about. In 2011 she went for the first time in several years and came home to New Zealand full of joy and love for the community that make up BM. Unfrotunatly I was not able to join her in 2011 but I took the bold step of inviting her to BM 2012. She accecpted my invitation. Through friends she had met, we were able to join a fantastic camp (Garage Mahal). They were really well set up and even had an art car. Garage Mahal welcomed us with open arms and made us part of the family.

    The trip from New Zealand was the first time I had left my homeland for over 15 years as I had been focused on taking care of my son. So the trip alone was an adventure.

    Arriving in San Fran and shopping for food, clothing, water etc heightined my sense of anticipation. We hit the road early Sat morning as we had been granted early tickets to help set up our camp. Driving through the Serria Nevada mountains, stopping at Truckee for lunch and getting back on the road all seemed easy and relaxing. A quick stop in Reno to pick up a rented bike from NV Desert Rat saw us meet other Burners on the same mission. Leaving Reno and getting into desert country, I started to think, should I be doing this? It looks like a very harsh landscape. And the we get to Gerlick, a funny little town and the last stop before we hit Blackrock City.

    Ah the greeters! What fun loving people,hugs, sand angles, bell ringing more hugs! Thankyou for the warm welcome.

    Then into the city and we find the Garagew Mahal Camp, meet fellow campers and start the work of seeting up the camp infrastructure. A great way to start the bonding with my new family. We sleep well Sat night and wake sunday to continue the setup. By late afternoon the work is done and we have a shared dinner.

    Then we climb on to the art car and head out to the playa. Then it hits me. From my elevated position on the top deck of the artcar I can see for miles. All I can see is art, flashing lights, people. People walking, riding bikes, on art cars, dancing and more. It then hits me. This is so big and I am overcome by the scale. I cry. I don’t know why, but I do know it is not because I am sad or hurt. My lover holds me and we cry together, tears of joy at the intense creativity that we are part of.

    The following 7 days are full of love, fun and joy interrupted by a couple of short spells of “what am I doing here”. People gift all sorts of things to me and I gift to them. The feeling of meeting a stranger and gifting a small token is hard to explane. I love it. Burners are extrodinary people, so open and happy…

    I see so much creativity, openess and genuine human interaction. I spent a bit of time thinking about how I would communicate Burning Man to friends on my return to New Zealand. I gave up thinking about it and came to the conclusion you must be there to understand it!

    I have made new friends, seen things I could not have imagined, done things I could do no where else on our planet and gone home changed in my outlook about my place in this world.
    I will return. I must return. there is no choice in this.

    Thanks BM

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  • Drew "Skinny Bitch" says:

    It was my first year at Burning Man for Fertility 2.0 after having known about it for many years. I was inspired to go after re-hearing about it in 2011. I was expecting something artistic, creative, and slightly crazy. I wasn’t wrong, although it was at least 10 times more than what I expected. And I also put some pretty heavy expectations on finding clarity about myself at Burning Man. I found clarity, but not in the way that I expected. There were many nights and days that I thought were “perfect” (in the complete sense of the word) and I’m extremely glad I went.

    Adjusting back to the default world is difficult (especially because in my area there aren’t many burners that I’ve met). It’s difficult because the easy, genuine authenticity of Burners is so unlike people in the “default world.” Out here it’s like you have to drag it out of people. But that doesn’t mean I won’t try! :)

    I pick up more garbage than I ever have before. And I’m taking many more walks. And I’m more motivated in my own life to do what I’ve always wanted. And I’m noticing that I’m taking time to do things I want. And I’m calmer in dealing with things I don’t want. And things seem clearer… and simpler. It’s beautiful what Burning Man has done to me.

    I want to go back. And I want to do more this time. So. Much. More. I want to completely and totally immerse myself within Black Rock City.

    I just wanted to also thank the organizers. You have impacted so many, including me. Thank you.

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  • waynerd says:

    I’ve been wanting to come for about 5 years, it wasn’t in the cards. January I was blessed with my one ticket. I commenced reading, watching and absorbing everything I could about Burning Man that I could. I emailed and talked with many burners, asking questions, learning. I decided early on that I could not be a tourist. Even-though I didn’t have a clue what I was in for I knew that I could not simply receive.

    I built an art/photography project that I towed behind my bike. I registered it with Media Mecca long in advance and when on the playa, I took peoples portraits, my gift back to them. I’ve been editing photos since returning and will soon have them online for them to download and use as they wish. While out on the playa one day an experienced burner asked how many burns this was for me, I told him “my first”. He looked at me and my small cart and said “you’re doing it right”. The best compliment I received all week.

    Before my burn I watched videos and saw the amazing temples from years past. I learned that David Best had started them and why. Monday night I was walking and saw him feverishly directing his crew while they nail-gunned intricate pieces of left over wood to their camp fence. I interrupted him to simply say thank you. After 15 mins, with tears in my eyes I walked back to my camp, completely full of love and respect for what that man brings and the energy he emits to all of us. As far as I was concerned my burn was already complete. I will never forget that night.

    I embraced the dust, quite a feat for this borderline OCD card holder. I realized while starting my truck to leave on Monday that I had not looked into a mirror in 8 days. I didn’t care.

    I think I worked through a few things, I’ve been told after the fact that it takes one burn under your belt to truly “get it” and that next year will be even more rewarding. I believe this as well, as I already feel like my guarded shell, built over years of being a bit of a loner is starting to crumble. I have Burning Man and all the wonderful people I met there to thank for this.

    …and to the beautiful (I’m talking out of my league beautiful) girl that shared her blanket with me while we watched the Temple burn. Thank You for a wonderful chat and cuddle.

    Overall, it was amazing. I will be back and hopefully I will have even more to give. See you in the dust.

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  • It took me over a decade since first finding out about BM to get here. Thanks to my wonderful camp mates who took me under their wings and all the beautiful colorful new friends I now have. Yet, I had a more personal internalized experience. Little did I know, that for all the hoopla and grandness of it all that it would have a profound personal effect on me…

    My bm blog: http://peripheralexplorationsoftheunfamiliar.blogspot.com/

    Love, peace, hugs, and drums!

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  • Chris Tucker says:

    Need better camping gear. Burning man is an experience. The highs were high, but the living conditions made the lows even lower. The living conditions were atrocious. The people and the experience were amazing. Would return if I could find a way to mitigate the living conditions.

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  • Cara says:

    Lesson #1: don’t let your dearly beloved asshole DPW friends talk you out of a cheap version of ugg boots. they are cruel, spiteful individuals with no souls. you can love them but don’t trust their fashion sense. bring comfy footwear.

    Lesson #2: if you plan to lug a loaner playa bike across the damn country, ride it first to make sure you aren’t gonna need to morph into a gumby doll to get from one place to the next, perched precariously on your privates and your fingertips. ouch. and know where the bike repair shops are! badasses.

    Lesson #3: stop giving two fucks, relax, venture, stay in camp all day, sit down with the Wine Dr for a midday chat on E, do what the hell you wanna do. sleep thru the burn if you need to, but you’ll be upset if you don’t see the art up close, so go do that.

    Lesson #4: make sure if you start your day with whiskey (expecting breakfast “any moment” on your breakfast clean-up day) that breakfast is anyway near actually being cooked, so you aren’t covered in bacon and shame three hour later. what am i saying that was fucking awesome, do that.

    Lesson #5: kept me alive: saline nose spray industrial size 2x/day, awesome hand lotion, neosporin for patchy dry chafed skin, pee funnel, bandanas, hi-calorie, dusty-finger-lickin good sandwiches!

    Lesson #6: I knew this all along, but this is for the rest of you: Freebird was played by DPW during temple burn to mark the passing of a fucking terrific person this past year in a car accident. so put a sock in it. great song. if you weren’t pissed off by the hymn, you can’t pass comment on Freebird. RIP JJ

    Lesson #7: bathing is unnecessary 90% of the time

    I’ll come back one day. But it’s a pricey hike from Tejas. One day when I have an art project to contribute would be ideal. I enjoyed it. It was an ass-kicking spectacle. My attempts at participation were low according to my regional experiences, so I’m gonna make some changes to strategy and attitude next time. The people were fairly terrific. Go!

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  • Thumper says:

    I sort of feel like anything I say will be inadequate, but here goes: I camped with the terrific folks of VICE (Vietnamese Iced Coffee Experience). The first couple of days I wasn’t sure how I felt about the Burn. I mean, there was clearly an amazing vibe and great art, but I didn’t quite have that connection to it. But on Wednesday I worked the first shift of our camp’s coffee service, and I got it. People were so happy and grateful and loving and it really made the Burn for me. As did seeing the Playa Choir service on Sunday! I still feel like I can do it much better the second time around — and there will be a second time for me, for sure — but by the time I left I really felt the Playa spirit. I’m so glad I went, and can’t wait for the next time!

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  • Harmonious says:

    I really wasn’t going to post- because why should I? So many post about how amazing and incredible this experience is- how could I improve on them. The funny thing is- real life intrudes on our preferred life. I frequently have TV on at certain times- Big Bang Theory in particular- and I heard a song that brought a flash back to me. It was a Subaru commercial- and I don’t know the song- but it was the sound track to one of the you tube videos I watched about Burning Man. When I learned I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to go, I did what I do, I went to You tube and found video after video of Burning man- which showed amazing art, bizarre attire, a rocking good party, the promise of acceptance. I am a FL man, so not many of us out east know much about Burning Man, but I have been fortunate enough to create a relationship with a woman from SF and with her friends. We attended a wedding at Burning Man on September 2, in the deep Playa. I celebrated my birthday on the night of the Blue Moon, 8-31. I spent 6 days in heat (better than Fl’s, dust, not so good, great companionship) So what did I experience? Wonder- at the openness of friendship. Amazement- quite frankly at the money involved. Enjoyment- of the discomfort, the dust, the spanking at Bal-Mart, the dancing at clubs- the gifts, the hugs, the total feeling of inclusion. I had a wonderful time- I hope to return one day- but I have to say- that ride out of the Playa- I don’t care how you try to spin it- when your 54, it hurts your back. Love you BRC, love you burners- you made me feel the best I have felt in a long time. Harmonious in FL

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  • BeeWeeDee says:

    I have no idea where the notion of going to Burning Man originated.
    In mid-July it did. In my brain. And what a brain. Hang on it said to me.
    Anxiety and angst in the draw for a ticket on the Aug 3. YES!
    So many days of vacation in a row – may I please have some more Sir. Camping in the dessert is all it is. Can anyone spare their used milk jugs for water?
    Preparation. Reading. The Jackrabbitspeaks. Monkey hut, Hexa Yurt, RV? – Oh MY!
    Shade, water, food. Details and lists. Events where, what and when.
    Wear WHAT? Can I remain sober? Leave no trace – I’ll take my low impact camping gear.
    Costumes? Be a BEE and do the honey bee – BeeWee. Wandering Arab nomads know how to stay cool. The crossdresser comes out of the closet. I can be anything – can I really be who I am? Tutus for tutu Tuesday – 2 to 2. Sarongs were cool in the tropics.
    What shape is the bicycle in? Fake boobs, rubbers, fishnet, wings, bee eyes and antennae. How is this all going to fit in the back of my hybrid? Food. Can I do this ice-less? Grey water hanging basket passive evaporator – check. Lights, lights and more lights. Rebar stakes, bungee cords, carpet and chairs. Table, batteries and cigars.
    Time to go. How much gas? Yellowstone, fires, dessert and Nevada. Water in Winnemucca and insertion and immersion in the dead of night. Wow – it really is kinda dusty. Hey! How you doing? Is this the way to the Republican National Convention? Nyuk nyuk. Dawn and first light on gate road to will call. Note to self – get your ticket earlier next year and skip will call. Don’t skip will call say my new friends. Drop Flop and Flap you dust angel you. CLANG. “And every time a bell is rung a virgin gets his wings” This spot looks OK. Wind, sun, flapping tarps, more duct tape Scotty. Check out the MAN. Checkout that TEMPLE. Get involved! My Lamplighter robe is measured and carrier pole is loaded. The crowd loves us and my shoulders are shouting. First night a darktard AND wearing sunglasses so I can at least focus. Music, dance and exhaustion. Where in the Hell did I camp? This is overwhelming. At least the dust is not gritty and I can’t say it tastes all that bad with a swish. Gifting is easy – receiving is hard. Thankyou. The events list and timetable is in shambles. Some camps have moved on me – time is playing tricks. Serendipity – splendid serendipity. I become a vagina comparison judge – “Yes! I agree. Yours looks just like number 21 on the chart.” The sun on my tutu Tuesday tush is too much to avoid sunburn –ouch. Hey! There’s a sun screen booth around here somewhere. Thankyou thankyou. Smmoooootch from the cute girl at the kissing booth. Oh why not? Smoootch from the cute guy at the kissing booth. Hmmmmmmm. Art tour at 10 on bicycles. I can just make it on time. Time doesn’t seem to matter much. Thankyou art lady. I find chilled water with a hint of cucumber – TYVM. Thank God there are other recovering alcoholics here. Serenity ensues. “Love more, fear less. Float more, steer less” Thank you Pink Heart! Cosmic forces collide while taking the census and just like that a new friend. Art cars and the engineer in me wants to know how this thing works. I ride an elephant car out and back into the deep playa. It occurs to me this is all art – art pieces, performance art, music, self expression, architecture, nature. The earth revolves around me – at least for a little while I helped push the outer ring. Center camp and my cup, with coffee, live music and a soft couch – I receive a back rub!!!! Now where did I park my bicycle? What the Hell is THAT????
    Where is my plaid skirt? Pancakes and Plaid Wednesday. Can you believe that wind and dust on Tuesday?? I take my late wife’s portrait out to the temple and find just the right spot for her. I feel a physical force for the remainder of the week each time I start to grow close to the temple and Juliet. I also offer up my alcoholism. That artwork wasn’t here yesterday! I can still ROLLERSKATE!!! Thankyou Thankyou, TY. I timed it so I caught the full moon rising just as the sun set out in the deep playa – stark beauty. Sleep seems like such a waste of time and I pass out exhausted in any soft welcoming couch, chair or thing. Nightime on the Playa – Damn I should have brought a jacket. FIRE!
    I get dosed. Moderately. Thank you. The music, the lights, people are intensely vibrant and emotionally I become overwhelmed. I re-enter in the serenity of a yoga breathing exercise and get some sleep in the heat of the day. I stumble upon fresh fruit of all kind – nicely chilled and exactly what my body needs. Lemonade stands are heaven. Thankyou bike repair men. My essentials are now down to dust mask, cup, and goggles. Damn that coffee tastes great. I walk into the walk-in camping area and draw the mountains. Dust devils are amazing. Gee, I don’t want this to end. ZOA burns. The CORE burns. And dueling art cars have a flame out. Fire dancers at dawn. Pony girls, bridled and pulling rigs. A spanking machine – oh why not? The burn and the rub. A nice erotic afterglow.
    Did you see the lightning show last night? I think it rained. The dust was kinda bad Friday night – ya think? Is that a Cuban cigar!? Thank you very much. I don’t think that art piece was here yesterday. OMG there goes an ambulance – at least I feel better.
    Ya know, the best thing I brought with me was this here PEE bottle. Let me try that drum – but you should know I am rhythmically challenged. You mean their going to burn wall street tomorrow night after the man? Wonder where that girl went? Do you think they will find her? I’m exhausted. How the Hell does this thing work – OH! Wow. Thankyou. One more little plate of that curry would sure taste good. Thanks. You mean you have ice cream sandwiches in there? I haven’t taken a shower for a week now and I don’t seem to be too smelly – maybe it’s the dust. The man burns tonight – I think I’ll get the car packed with what I can and walk down for the burn. Nice night for it. Yep. How did I manage to get all that in the car. I think its time I head out of here. Damn I don’t want to go. This line is actually moving. Bye Juliet – I miss you so very much. Boy am I glad to be on pavement. Please let me make it to Winnemucca before I fall asleep. This Bonneville salt flat has nothing over the Playa. I think a good hot soak in the hot springs is in order. I wonder how the cat is doing – I better get there before the place closes. Home. Utter solitude at the end of the road lies my ranch. What was that all about? How was the camping trip in the dessert? Amazing. I have so much more to do now.

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  • Alex says:

    My burn was life-changing in ways I’m still discovering. First and foremost was the social aspect: I am shy and somewhat anxious when I know I have to meet new people. In this case, I was camping with 1 close friend and 50 new people. All of whom turned out to be awesome, supportive, and inclusive.

    I’m visibly more at ease in social settings, more comfortable giving/receiving gifts or even just compliments, more positive, and more comfortable with people I don’t know touching me. Which sounds creepy – I don’t mean it that way. Get your mind out of the gutter. I’m talking about when someone at a packed party puts their hand on my back as they move through the crowd, fitting 3 people in a loveseat, or even a fat person next to me on the plane. I used kind of jump forward, simply not sit down, or spend the whole flight in some contorted position to avoid making contact. Now I act like a (more) normal person.

    This happened in part because of the 50 people I camped with were awesome, but the main reason was the ethos of Burning Man. It gently encourages you to be yourself while making it clear as day what the outcome of being yourself will be: you will be loved unconditionally. By everyone. And they will hug you and then offer you a drink and/or something tasty. Badass.

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  • Evo says:

    Burning Man was incredible. I first heard about it 6-7 years ago and thought it would be an incredible experience because I love art and was drawing at the time (in highschool). Now I do some pottery when I can. I knew the art aspect would be wonderful, but I honestly had no expectations – good or bad – for the community experience of BMan.

    I work in Nevada, and have been to the Black Rock Desert 3 other times: twice for work, once for a backpacking trip. It was surreal coming to the playa knowing there would be thousands of people there, not just my 20 coworkers or 4 friends. The week before, I was actually kind of nervous, thinking, “Will I have enough gifts to bring? Will I get dehydrated? Will my relationship survive 6 nights in the dusty desert? What kind of drugs will I do, or not do? Are my outfits funky enough?” So much ran through my mind… as we drove onto the playa I just thought, “Calm down. Experience this.”

    My man Hydro signed us up to camp with the Black Rock Beacon, so we and the rest of our crew could automatically be interactive and give back to the community: he could write some articles, and the rest of us could write if we wanted or just deliver papers during the week. The Beacon was SUCH A GREAT IDEA. On Tuesday I set out on my first delivery route… within 20 minutes I biked up to a little tiki bar on 2:00 and drank a bloody mary and talked about life with two dudes who had set up a massage bar. (I severely regret not venturing over there again for that massage… but I was on playa time.) Delivering papers was an awesome way to meet people and quickly figure out what the community is all about.

    … Mostly I was blown away by the inclusion of Burning Man. With so many like-minded people there who just want to enjoy their life and savor every moment of it, what’s not to like? It has already changed how I live my life, how I treat others, how I accept opportunities, give gifts… so many other things. I loved it. Yes, at times it’s like Disneyland for adults, but most of the time I found it was like being with 50,000 of your closest friends.

    At some point during the week, I thought, “So, this is why they call it home.”

    And I will go home again.

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  • Mamma Blaze says:

    I had done allot of research and read every Jack Rabbit. I reach out to Portland Request List and got help from a burner. I met with him and his friend for dinner. We e-mailed after that, he was amazing and I know his help made my burn so much better.
    That said I loved the people and all the art~~my struggles was with my heath conditions and heat and of coarse the dust. I had a broken foot and did not leave camp during the days. My daughter had us in a camp with an art car so I did get out to the playa on the car. It took three days for his car to get put together and licensed. I was out in the car for the man to burn which was awesome. My daughter heard that he was complaining having me on the car so moved me to a different camp the last two days. That was hard sense my comforts were at the first camp. Tent, cot and portable toilet. I will e-mail the details of what medical conditions were involved. I truly loved being with my daughter and enjoyed watching her have her experiences. It was spiritual in allot of ways. If I can figure out how to deal with my issues and be able to get around I really want to come back. Thank You to all that helped and all the beautiful art and art cars. Words cannot say how amazing what I did see was, and the amazing and loving people I met. Namaste

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  • I have been reading the blogs and viewing the photographs that come out of Burning Man for many years. I knew what to expect from the environment, the people, the art, etc. But what I was not prepared for is how the entire experience made me FEEL, both during and after the festival.

    After returning to the “default world”, many friends asked what was my favorite part, or what was it like. I realized that no matter what I would say in a few sentences, I could not really describe the experience. Only after longer discussions was I (possibly) able to communicate some of what Burning Man was about, to me.

    I was involved with an art project (the Bottlecap Gazebo), and I felt that contribution was a critical component of my experience. If I return in the future, I will make sure I am involved in a project that I can be proud of.

    The whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
    The spirit can live on.

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  • colton perna says:

    Hello burning community,

    I lost my virginity this year and came home. I just wanted to comment on how amazing the buzz was at the beginning of the week, when the playa was still under construction and we were serving up the yummiest coffee at the Cafe de la fin du la monde in the French quarter. To all of you BEAUTIFUL, AMAZING, WONDROUS, GRATEFUL, LIGHT AND JOYOUS people i was blessed to serve coffee THANK YOU!!! You made burning man for me!

    To my fellow campers in the cafe and french quarter, I LOVE YOU and again how blessed do if feel to have shared space and heart with you all.

    I will return and hope to be early and help set things up as that feels like when the 10 principles and community burn hottest.

    After waiting 10 years to go I can say it was very much worth it.

    I am taking it to the extended playa every minute of every day.



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  • joanna says:

    It was as otherworldly as I had been led to believe. I expected to be overwhelmed with awesome art and activities and caught up in a sense of community, but that did not happen for me. Over the first couple days I gradually adapted to the heat and dust (which bothered me much more than I expected). Then I really started to enjoy it and feel that Black Rock was “my town” too. However I didn’t really have many cool interactions with strangers, and I did have a few bad ones. New people came on too strong and old hands were grouchy about new people. I think Burning Man is better geared towards extroverts or non-shy people at least.

    I spent a lot of the time whiling away the uncomfortable daylight hours, wishing time would move faster.

    I was blown away by the art in the playa. I am not that into art, but I couldn’t get enough of those incredible projects. I also hadn’t really considered the burn itself. But all 3 big ones were beyond awesome. I’ve never seen big fires like that. It was my favorite part. I’m also not normally into the raver dance scene but I checked it out a couple nights and had a really great time.

    It was a place like none other and an experience like none other, but for me it was not a life-changing experience. If I go again (and I’m not sure I would) I’d want to be part of a project so I feel like less of a loafer and have more to do in the daytime. Burning man was really cool and surreal for me, but it was not that emotional.

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  • Desca says:

    i felt much like joanna did.
    but when i was able to let go of old habits and “jumped in”, things got better.
    it was very emotional and impressive. i learned a lot.
    althought there have been bad things as well as good things,
    ive never experienced such a balance before.
    i took part in a week of freedom that showed me how things could be.
    i’m so thankful to everyone.
    especially the templecrew.
    the temple is a place i will never forget as long as i live.

    it was worth every minute.

    thank you =)

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  • Skiddo says:

    When I returned from my virgin burn this year I realized it was hard to put in words because it was simply the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. So instead of trying to explain myself I wrote it in a poem…enjoy!

    Last night I woke up from a dream
    In a dazed and dusty confusion
    A bittersweet feeling burning behind my eyes
    That my dream was just an illusion

    I visited a city of the future
    Where everyone welcomed me “home”
    They said their city would change my life
    Just as it had their own

    “We live a life you’re not used to”, they said
    We expect nothing in return
    All we ask is for you to run free
    live life, and enjoy your burn

    I danced through the darkness of dust
    And through the flashing light
    An energy consuming me
    Making me one with the night

    Never before so high on life
    Never had I felt so free
    Every aspect of this city of angels
    Is everything the real world should be

    In the end the city was burned
    gathering its community built on trust
    Torn down as fast as it was put up
    And dissapeared into the dust

    I could have stayed forever
    In mind body and spirit
    But in a flash I awoke
    Just as I had feared it

    Although my dream ended much too quick
    Reality accepted my return
    And suddenly I realized
    This was never a dream….It was my virgin burn

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  • Although my first and only Burn was in 2008, as it is the virgin experience I thought it might be appropriate to post an essay I wrote subsequent to it and my scholarship ticket here, which follows.

    Burning Man and the American Dream: Or How I Broke My Twenty Year Acid Fast

    The pain is excruciating, the loneliness is unbearable; but how still everything lies in the sun


    I traveled from 38,000 feet out of Chicago to Reno to my first Burning Man in the last year of eight of President George Bush Big Ears, exponentially more miserable than even the Clinton years. The heart of my life has been to endure – and I nearly didn’t – eight years of the Christian-in-Chief.
    I hadn’t flown in over twenty years, twenty-two almost to the day when I looked back on when my blood-brother, Terry, was killed in a car accident outside of D.C., and I had to fly home to Chicago for his funeral. About forty-five minutes into this flight, I was still nervous shitless at hovering my ass so exposed, backwards, looking up into the cabin.
    Before my plane had even left the tarmac from O’Hare, I’d already landed a ride to Black Rock City on the playa, the venue of Burning Man, from Bor two rows ahead of me on the plane, who was also going to playa. If it wasn’t obvious from him chattering delightfully, if his neighbors’ laughters weren’t an indication of his being a different breed, it was his to represent it in many different ways after we had started to negotiate our way from Reno to Black Rock City. He repeatedly mentioned how vital and important are amity among friends, acquaintances, and strangers. He confirmed what I have always believed, even if my conceptualization of it was at a nadir in my consciousness and conscience just then: that the definition of culture is a close connection between the citizens of a social milieu. That’s why I have always thought Native Americans had a better culture than the capitalist West. It seems to me this characteristic is the prerequisite of culture, and everything else follows. In its absence you have the spiritual and cultural bankruptcy that is the United States – symptomatic in for example, the absurdity of road rage..
    Bor’s friends call him Bear. When I had heard him entertaining his travel companions as we taxied to takeoff with stories of the Grateful Dead and his many travels I thought he must be going to Burning Man. So I asked him whether he were going to Burning Man. When he said he was I asked him how he was getting there. He said he was renting an SUV. I asked him if he had any riders. He said he didn’t and when I asked him if I could ride with him, he said of course. When I asked him how much he wanted for the ride, he said “nothing” as passively as a leave on an autumnal tree, an indication of his character.

    Bear kept his travel mates in stitches practically the whole way to Reno. His mentioning the Grateful Dead was like a pitched tuning fork to me indicating his destination. He later told me he had been to over 500 Grateful Dead concerts. In the two weeks leading up to Burning Man, I was anxiety-ridden as to how I was going to get from the airport to the playa. Here I hadn’t even lifted off from the tarmac at O’Hare, and I had a ride from a Deadhead. When the plane started experiencing turbulence outside of Reno, Bor told tall tales of how he had been in a plane once, he said he’d done lots of flying, in which the overhead compartment doors flew open, the oxygen masks were released, and the plane flipped on its side and righted itself. How, he didn’t explain. Bear didn’t even make me cling to him for the ride. For he said as little more to me until we touched down in Reno as his cabin mates ceased laughing.
    Bear is an indication of the magic of Burning Man. It is no wonder most of the men at Burning Man are half-fag. When I heard Bor talking about the Grateful Dead, I figured he was probably going to Burning Man. I also figured him to be a good guy, as was the freak who was later to dose me, gratis, the following Thursday. It was a safe bet, but even as a Grateful Dead lyric has it, nothing’s for certain, it can always go wrong.
    As my life is entirely subsidized, I thought it only fair that I try to subsidize my fellow-worshipper in this case. Hell, my life is entirely financed by the US government. Not that I have any difficulties rationalizing that. In short, the US probably spends at least $450 million a year, through the National Endowment for Democracy (sic), and the United States Agency for International Development, trying to rig elections against Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. It sends $5 billion annually to Israel that it could repress the Palestinians. It spends $400 million daily in Iraq. It will spend almost a trillion on its military this year. And I’m supposed to be embarrassed that I receive the equivalent of about $15,000 a year in subsidy? I don’t think so. Indeed, it should be three times that much.
    Also on the plane next to me were the only thing that made me feel a connection to my humanity, a nice couple Ron and Maxine, whose reassuring tone of chit-chat and offer of a stick of gum as we taxied and took off, eased the extreme nervousness I was experiencing at not having flown for twenty years.
    I had to pee incessantly on the plane. I was instructed by Keith at a Chicago Burning Man orientation for newbies that I should hydrate on the way; which I started immediately after two cups of morning tea. Were I more experienced I wouldn’t have drank the tea and I would have known that I should have started hydrating about an hour before touching down in Reno. Corporate economics again. I was jammed against the window inside Ron and Maxine and had to pardon myself six times to pee before Ron gave up his aisle seat and took mine. Each time after the second I lamented to Ron and Maxine that I hoped this would be the last time. And I had to piss twice more after getting the aisle seat, luckily.

    The theme of the 2008 Burning Man, from the website, is as follows:

    In 2008, leave narrow and exclusive ideologies at home and carefully consider your immediate experience. What has America achieved that you admire? What has it done or failed to do that fills you with dismay? What is laudable? What is ludicrous? Put blame aside, let humor thrive, and dare to contemplate a larger question: what can America contribute to the world.

    This is a really tough subject, especially with the initial qualifying of leaving ideologies at home, because my first response is to think politically. Nor do I think the question can be answered without thinking politically. But to be political is not necessarily to exercise “narrow and exclusive ideologies.” What has America achieved that you admire? It’s tough for me to answer this in reconciling the relatively decent life I lead with the political realities that the United States stands for. That is something huge America has achieved, now I think about it: Social Security. That is perhaps the only government program that works.
    What stands out first and foremost when I think about what America stands for is its militarism, imperialism, and obscenely bloated military budget. Burning Man has reinforced for me the idea that one must delineate between the US government and the American people, for the latter are warm and kind. When Bush the more criminal took office in 2001, the US military budget was already a swollen $316 billion. That’s only the official number. There are also hundreds of billions hidden in the Energy Department’s budget to stockpile and maintain nuclear weapons, military intelligence, and other miscellaneous. The newly created Department of Homeland Insecurity’s budget almost matches that of the Pentagon. Isn’t defense homeland security? Guess not.
    After 9/11 you have to wonder whose brilliant idea it was to address the problem by increasing the Pentagon’s budget by $50 billion. Any mathematicians out there? Since Bush, official military spending has almost doubled. Voila; I did it, thinks Bush. Add in Homeland Insecurity, the portion of Energy’s budget devoted to militarism, Intelligence is some $70 billion annually, the supplementals for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the US will spend three-quarters of a trillion dollars on its military this year; more than the rest of the world combined. So-called defense is not defense at all; it is a corporate handout, and a tool the economic elite, the owners, the capitalists, use to maintain and extend their economic hegemony. The catastrophes of Iraq and Afghanistan speak for themselves. The US is spending some $400 million a day in Iraq. What social needs could be provided for the US citizenry, for the world citizenry for that matter – and make no mistake, the US is only a part of the international community, John Bolton and his clique be damned – with just a fraction of that money?
    Once you admit the floodgates of the US’s foremost iniquity, the second is obviously corporate domination of every aspect of our lives. Everything from the grossest necessary to the tenderest, most vulnerable embrace, has been commercialized and commodified. Concomitantly, the US jails more of its citizens than any historical precedent, over 3 million, which is a quarter of the world’s prisoners for a country with four percent of the world’s population. Much of the reason for this is outright racism, for blacks and Latinos comprise about 85 percent of the prison population, even though they’re about 25 percent of the population in the US. The capitalists warehouse what they think is a superfluous population. Much of this is apologized for by the calamitous war on drugs. Blacks are something like eight times more likely to be arrested for drugs, even though, at 13 percent of the population, their illegal drug use is on a par with that of whites. And even saying that is to say too much. For the term “drug” has no meaning. Aspirin is not a drug? And you want to live in a country that doesn’t have aspirin?
    Look at our current pResident, George Bush the Dumber. He can’t even read fer crissakes. In a country of 300 million that is the best we could do? No it’s not; but the crux of the issue is what the owners, the capitalists want, and every four years they allow us to ratify one or the other of the candidates they select. It is their decisions that effect the reality, and Bush was the winner of the elections in 2000 and 2004 for that reason, such as it is. Indeed, Bush lost in 2000, and it follows that Al Gore would have been as amenable to the capitalists as Bush; or as Clinton was before them for that matter. The fiasco of the Bush regime is apparent. Although how the American people at one point gave Bush historically unprecedented approval ratings is as inexplicable to me as the advent of the SUV. The really precedent-setting wonder of the Bush regime for me is that for the first time in history we had a pResident with a higher approval rating than his IQ: ninety versus thirty-seven.
    What really galls me is progressive, well-meaning people giving the likes of Bill Clinton and Barack Husein Obama a pass. Clinton should have been impeached about seven times, but not for a blow job. For that he should have been awarded a Congressional Medal of Honor. He bombed Iraq almost every other day of his presidency and presided over two-thirds of the twelve year, US-led sanctions on Iraq, which killed upwards of a million people, half of them children. He bombed Kosovo without surcease for seventy-eight days. Arrests for simple possession of marijuana increased to over 700,000 under Clinton. He deformed welfare, and rammed NAFTA home, something no Republican would have been able to do. Clinton initiated the Plan Colombia boondoggle, which, despite the rhetoric and propaganda, resulted in peasant crops of plantain and food crops, and even sometimes the peasants themselves, being fumigated for coca. I’m no fan of Clinton so please don’t misunderstand me. But to Clinton’s credit, he supported the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty that the Repugnican Senate refused to ratify, and left to Bush the Dumber $250 billion surpluses that the latter took exactly eighteen months to turn into equal deficits. True conservatism.


    The fifth time already I’ve had to pee, and tossed in a little shit only halfway into the flight. I’ve had to crawl over Ron and Maxine, away from the window to get to the aisle and the bathroom. I guess you say lavatory on a plane. Already I’ve got to go again. It’s embarrassing to have to excuse myself over my travel mates.
    What has America achieved? Gore Vidal wrote something very interesting. He said the US Constitution was nothing new. You could scrap the whole thing and start over and you wouldn’t have lost anything. But the Bill of Rights, that document in its time, was without historical precedent. It’s hard to make this answer as an affirmative of something America has achieved, because it almost seems to excuse the gross excesses and international crimes of the US government. Is there anybody who doesn’t believe, that on January 21, 2009, the Bush Regime, Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Rice, Powell, Feith, Kristol, Norquist, my list is up to about thirty already and includes the Corvette-driving Pat Robertson, and that whole gang of war criminals ought to be locked up and prosecuted? We need government, lots of it and strong. It is only through government that people can pool their efforts and act collectively. But we need government of honesty and integrity. Answering in the affirmative about the Bill of Rights as something I am proud America has achieved seems also to contribute to the inexcusable, constant neglect to mention that the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a document that makes the US Constitution look like toilet tissue. Housing is a guaranteed right? Food? Education? Health care? Work? The US is a signatory to the UNUDHR, and it is thusly, under the US Constitution’s Supremacy Clause, “the supreme law of the land.”.
    Is the US government synonymous with “America”? America includes Hugo Chavez, who the Bush regime tried to oust and assassinate. It includes Evo Morales, whose truly elected democratic government the Bush regime tried to destabilize and topple. Indeed, the only hopeful signs for real democracy in the contemporary world are coming from South America. I don’t think the US government is synonymous with “America”. One can find character exemplar of American citizens, while at the same time acknowledging, as I do acknowledge, that the US government, for some of the reasons I’ve already outlined, is hands down, the biggest terrorist organization on the face of the planet. A feller named Lal from Australia said to me at Burning Man that his American Dream would be for America to be less self-absorbed, and see itself as part of the international community. I subscribe wholeheartedly to that notion. Then too, I have to reconcile the many rights and privileges I enjoy with the egregious military excesses of the US.
    For example, I collect a Social Security disability check and other social services: subsidized housing, electric, nominal food stamps, reduced bus, which make for a pretty comfortable physical existence. There are concomitant spiritual and cultural bankruptcies to which I am subjected. Indeed, past youth, I often if not overtly, then subconsciously recriminate myself for leading such an entitled idle life. I guess the question is, which corruption came first, the societal or the personal? Course I’d like to answer the former, but you can get so enmeshed and roiled by what sometimes passes for life in America that you begin to question and doubt yourself. Just what the owners want. How to escape the fake world?
    On the other hand, I see people, if not much like me in personality and demeanor, then economic class, abandoned to the streets and elements. As indeed I was for many years. But I was younger then and could meet impossible circumstances much better then than I can now. And these people abandoned to the streets…it’s just not right. The US government has a moral responsibility to provide for its citizens’ welfare – the “common welfare,” being a constitutional mandate.


    Bear and I rambled over to the car rental where he was renting an SUV for the week, some $280. Then we made provision stops at Wal-Hell, Lowe’s, and another grocery store.
    What has America achieved that I admire? What a loaded question. For when you refer to America, to what are you referring? Canada? Venezuela? Mexico? They’re all part of the Americas. To the American government? Its people? Two distinctly different entities. What America has achieved that I admire is kind of encapsulated in Bear. Not Bear in particular, but what he represents. I’d never felt a romantic longing for a man before, and it was about friendship, not sex.
    People at Burning Man are so nice, so open, and so friendly. When I first met him that was one thing Bear extolled about his life and Burning Man, and about those segments of society in which he had found value – which he didn’t say, but instinctively expressed. He said how important were other nice people. It was something I reacted to emotionally with a bit of acquiescence and incredulity; as if I were, and was in fact, disorbiting, disengaging, and disgorging from the American, capitalist cultural and spiritual nightmare. It reminded me of something Nietzsche wrote.
    Burning Man is about culture almost to the point of vice. There is an attendant lack of authority, which is wonderful and refreshing. People here live together in a world Thoreau envisioned of no government. At Day Two the only thing I can’t reconcile of my appreciation for the sights and lights at night is a Paul Simon lyric: while they pray to the neon God they made. But I think there is a fusing of plasticine arts and techno that is more than just about the blinking Burger Bun neon signs. What can I appreciate about America? Little but perhaps that represented by Bear and Burning Man less than a day in.
    There is something about the way sexuality and provocativeness are expressed that make them go beyond a frustration cashiered by capitalist manipulators; and rather make for a humane concern and appreciation for the fashion. For example, this morning this incredibly sexy, young girl was riding around on a bike with a short skirt that was higher than her panties; even when she stopped to check her bike chain. Rather than be lost as to how I might could suck and fuck her, or her me, I was more concerned that her pretty fanny were well-clothed on the bike seat. Maybe I’m just getting old.
    The point is, were I to try to point out something America had achieved it wouldn’t be anything like what is most solemnly pronounced holy in the air-conditioned nightmare called America. To take a particularly salient point right now, John McCain’s war record. I’ve even heard David Letterman say in his jesting, and thusly most serious mood, that “This guy is a real American hero.” John McCain is a hero? Because before he was shot down in a war every reasonable person agrees was immoral and unjust, he was bombing defenseless civilians in Vietnam? Hospitals and schools? That’s heroic? It’s not what Bear did or gave to me, but what he represents. He turned me on to two chocolate truffle shrooms. They were such a delight. I had only done shrooms once before and I didn’t really like them. I didn’t have a bad trip, but it wasn’t pleasant either. I ate a quarter ounce of them and it was too much. I didn’t really have a “Bad Trip” as not pleasant veering toward unpleasant. So I really hadn’t had much of a desire to do them again. But Bear really titrated the dose nicely; not too little, not too much. Talk about purple mountains. I had gone to Burning Man first and foremost because I thought people who created art such as I had seen in linked video to a Burn, whose outward finery was expressed in the way it was, had to appreciate the primacy of the psychedelic experience. It tells you the lengths of the absurd you have to go to. Religious freedom indeed. Far as I’m concerned the word religion in the Bill of Rights could be changed to Christianity, and you’d have a more apt description of your rights in the United States. The painful part is to acknowledge, as many of the below described lectures did, that maintaining the right of religious freedom with respect to these sacraments is not going to paddle a boat in this political climate, but that what we’ve got to do is postulate and prove the medical applications of the psychedelics and marijuana. MDMA, for example, Ecstasy, is currently showing promise in clinical trials for the treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
    By Tuesday evening I was exhausted. I must have walked ten miles by then, and pitched my tent in the blazing playa afternoon. It finally cooled and someone near my camp was smoking some skunk. I thought at first I was too exhausted to walk ten feet to bum a hit from him, but actually I wasn’t. Sharing the freedom and constructiveness with which the psychedelics and medical marijuana are treated at Burning Man have stimulated my desire to get busy with Illinois NORML, and the Illinois Medical Marijuana Initiative when I get home. It’s an important, important issue, for which I will be acting in self-interested as well as altruistic motives, for I qualify for chronic pain.


    My feet ache. It’s dark out here heading toward a new moon on the night the Man burns. I doubt I’ll be able to orderly unpack in my newly pitched tent. Last night I helped Bear pitch his shade structure. That was a lot of fun. In the wee hours we were. What an ingenious structure he prefabricated of hollow steel stakes driven into the ground at precisely measured points, with ten or so foot long pieces of PVC pipe fashioned into an arch to support a tarp sunshade. I crashed out on a couch under an adjacent shade structure and slept for about three hours. I feel so exhausted I fear I won’t be able to sleep tonight. But in the cool of the night I’ll try to fall. My stomach is acting up. In yesterday’s excitement I forgot to take my Zantac, and am thus two behind after managing two today. Hopefully I’ll remember to take a compensating third tonight.
    What has America achieved that I admire? It certainly isn’t its history of exterminating the American Natives, slavery, prohibition, imperialism, three million behind bars. I can same something America has achieved of which I’m ashamed, as there is so much of America to be ashamed about: it’s policy, and leadership of the prohibition charge worldwide is, to put it delicately, criminal.
    The so-called war on drugs has a single fruit: the penitentiary-industrial complex. The drug war is a sham, often fought to protect the profits of the powerful pharmaceutical industry. At one time Anheuser-Busch, beer maker, was a major contributor to the farce known as Partnership for a Drug Free America. Alcohol isn’t a drug? Duh.
    On Wednesday morning I feel like I could die. I’m tired and dirty. Entheon Village, with whom I’m camping has yet to finish the showers they promised. I finally got my tent pitched yesterday which meant negotiating the blazing sun all afternoon, traveling back and forth between my designated camping spot with Entheon Village and Bear’s camp, a couple of miles, where the luggage I carried with me was. I was unsure where to pitch my tent, and nobody could help, one of the fundamental principles of Burning Man being radical self-reliance. Bear was also the one person I knew would smoke me up, and ease the now acute pain, but the day before I had made three round trips between our places. I’m jonesing now for a smoke, and could probably find one if I could but way fare. Above all today, I feel like I need to stay out of the sun.
    I didn’t get any sleep again last night. My stomach problem flared on me and I was having stomach cramps all night. Not that that necessarily mattered. Fireworks were blasting off into the midnight, and especially there was loud music.
    So here I sit in the Entheon Village kitchen where there is at least a community shade structure, alone with my pain, estranged thereby from everyone who chats amiably around me, broken, tired, sore, dirty and bored. I raised a blister on my cane hand yesterday, which nursing also limits my mobility.
    My whole reason for being intrigued and interested in Entheon Village and Burning Man was that I hoped the spirituality they claimed to want to create and express was founded on the primacy of the psychedelic experience. But save for Bear sharing with me the sacrament, and a smattering of sundry pot smokers, I haven’t seen anything focused on my hopes for this event. I almost, hell I do, wish it were over already.
    Friday morning. Omigod, what an adventure! What a difference a day makes – both in the pleasure and the pain department, for they are equally acute right now. And what a difference a good night’s sleep and a shower make. Not to speak of being dosed by Denver. It was pure, organic, and non-toxic. Not a trace of paranoia. The dose was delivered in a sip of sweet whiskey Thursday morning, and along with it an adventure, and a state of consciousness of psychedelic dimensions.
    Which is to say work. For I worked my ass off Wednesday, but it was so much fun it wasn’t hardly work at all. I assembled a futon bed as my first assignment, and was rewarded thereby by Bobcat with a fistful of kind buds.
    It struck me, I don’t know if as a result of Bobcat saying so, or doing it, that work is part of the American Dream; although I wouldn’t go as far as saying as Bobcat does that work is the American Dream. Pain, I realized at least this morning, is an essential part of the American Dream. Not a something to be pursued but as a natural byproduct of the pursuit of your dream.
    Alexander Shulgin and Ann, and Rick Doblin spoke at Entheon Village. I missed them because just as Alex came on, my port-a-chair collapsed. It is almost a medical necessity for me. So I had to leave. But before that Chuck Shaw spoke on the hidden history of the drug war. Geez, I thought I was well-informed on the issue. Poor Chuck was busted and served a year in the penitentiary for Ecstasy. Capitalism okay; Ecstasy not so much. Chuck drew the history of the drug war from sixteenth century India, through the two wars of the British to open Chinese opium markets, through the US Harrison Act of 1914, to the CIA running crack into the inner cities in the 1980s, to the ouster of the Taliban in Afghanistan and their prohibition of the poppy trade, to its explosion under the US-backed Hamid government. The most profound thing I learned from the lecture was that the US fought the Vietnam War to protect and expand heroin markets in Southeast Asia. I hadn’t even thought of that, but when Chuck mentioned it and the connected circumstances, it was obvious. I reviewed and would recommend the book, Under the Influence: The Disinformation Guide to Drugs. In that book, a collection of essays, several writers note that the illicit drug trade is part and parcel of every modern day military enterprise, including those of the United States. Legalization, medicalization would itself reduce armed insurgencies around the world.


    People’s utter kindness is an essential part of Burning Man, i.e. the American Dream. Today has been an oppressively hot, dry day. The showers are out of order, but that’s all right because a lot of cool things have happened in between the moments of harsh pain. After I got a shower yesterday for the first time since I’ve been here, I felt rejuvenated and got to work my ass off from morning to midnight yesterday. I assembled a futon bed for the Entheon condos and helped in the kitchen. But again, it was more fun than work. The food here is unbelievable. The next day I was walking past the kitchen to collapse in the dining room, but the food smelled so unbelievable that I rather volunteered in the kitchen. Even the garbage here smells good, literally.
    The people here are incredibly kind, warm, and open. It’s hard to make out just what’s going on here. I have also landed on a playa name of Affluenza, and a loose definition of the American Dream: that Burning Man could build a permanent city out in this part of the desert. I guess that’s not possible because fer as I can cipher it, there is no local water source. I guess it makes you wonder about the expenditure of resources for 50,000 for a week. But then I have thought many times to myself over the last couple of days that this is real. In questions of ecology, it’s not solely the amount of resources that are spent that is at issue, but toward what end they are spent.
    What has America achieved that I admire? It isn’t what America has achieved that I admire, but what, as represented by Bear, it still could achieve. And that is premised on the primacy and inviolability of the psychedelic experience. My American Dream is that psychedelics are recognized as the invaluable and miraculous substances they are, and made available under clinically supervised and medical conditions.
    I thought I was going to lose thirty pounds in the harsh, desert climate. That would be a good thing. I must have walked twenty miles in the broiling sun by Thursday. It was indisputably a good thing I worked hard Wednesday. Next to Bear turning me on to the chocolate, it is the best thing that has happened to me so far – among a thousand others. As far as I’m concerned, psychedelia is a precondition of the Burning Man thing, and it takes me amiss that a too-large fraction here express bewilderment and outright rejection of my query as to whether they’ve run into any good psychedelics; or as one of the few affirmative remarked to me, that they run into him.
    I mercifully got some spotty sleep at Burning Man, and even a couple of nights of six solid hours; which is an indication of how exhausted I was, because parties here never stop. There is mercy at Burning Man, but it’s a scant commodity. It’s not a commodity at all in fact, because at Burning Man there are no commodities; except entry fees. I got a scholarship however, and scored my ticket for a paltry $95. Getting some sleep, whether spotty or solid, is just one of countless miracles I’ve experienced on the playa. The desert is brutal. Pity the Mexicans at the Arizona border. You know the ones who pick our broccoli and tomatoes, the ones who have been driven off their farms in Mexico by NAFTA, and that die annually in the hundreds in the scorching West Texas Desert. You know, the bill that was rammed home by that lesser evil, that good Democrat, Clinton.

    The Better I Am, the Better Are Those around Me

    I’m glad I stepped outside my boundaries
    I’ve been given back my beauty and wonder.
    I am so high right now, so high
    It is so pleasurable, so innocuous, so mind-expanding.

    I am so high, right now, so high
    And I feel fine
    So take your laws
    And reform them.

    I’m trying to count the miracles that I’ve experienced at Burning Man. Survival in the brutal desert is one. Most of the others have been in the traces of other people’s kindness and effervescence. Part of the American Dream is not to hoard things – to borrow an oft-apt Gibranism, to withhold is to perish. Part of the American Dream is pain and dirt and grime. What has America achieved that I admire? Ken Kesey and the Grateful Dead, Yes, Ralph Nader, my mother, and father, my shaman. My grandmother is one of the dearest people I’ve ever known. It was her who subconsciously rammed into my head as a child what a waste the military-industrial-congressional-media monster was. My grandmother always said that when America falls, and all empires do, it wouldn’t fall by an outside enemy, but that the enemy would come from within. And that the enemy is greed.


    What has America done or failed to do that fills you with dismay? This is another question that at first blush would seem to be answered only in the negative. But maybe that is because I am a negative person. Nothing wrong with negativity, as long as it is Yin-Yang balanced with positivity.
    What has America not done that has filled me with dismay? Not to acknowledge and extol, let alone adhere, to the principles of its preeminent historian, William Blum. Which is to say, not slashed its military spending by 90 percent. All the other ills, and there are many, of America, the US more precisely, spring from this fundamental problem. When so-called gang members seek to solve their problems with the iron bullet and the mailed fist is it any wonder? They are merely following the example set by their government. Yesterday a ten-year old schoolgirl was gunned down on the streets of Chicago, caught in so-called gang crossfire. I don’t believe there is any such thing as a gang or a gang member. It is a convenient term used by the over class to stigmatize the underclass. I doubt the so-called Second Amendment booster won’t bat an eye at this tragic loss if it means sublimating their so-called rights. But the Second Amendment was written in the time of the single load musket. It was a gun right that allowed for the establishing of a militia; not that any half-crazed redneck could get off twenty-four lasers in ten seconds. That slaying is neither well-regulated nor the action of a militia, and ought be actively prohibited. It’s too late to redeem the life of someone lost to a flowery ideal of the right to gun ownership, but not too late to make sure it doesn’t happen in the future. In homes with a gun, a family member or acquaintance is more likely to be slain with the gun then a criminal or intruder.
    The US government is spending some $600 million a day in Iraq, while at the same time there are homeless people abandoned to the streets right here. Bush announced yesterday that he is sending a billion dollars to Georgia. That’ll show those Russians who the king capitalists are! I’ll bet that goddam billion will be delivered to Georgia posthaste. Meanwhile, three years later, New Orleans – at least the black parts of it – lie in shambles; or more precisely have been ethnically cleansed. To call these circumstances of America ludicrous is to pay them a compliment. Mayor Daley wants to bring to Chicago the 2016 Olympic Games, bamboozling the taxpayers into believing the games will pay for themselves. The reality is it’s going to cost the taxpayers of Chicago one to two billion dollars. Chicago already has – at least one of the most regressive – sales taxes in the country at 10.25 percent. A year or so ago Governor Blagojevich proposed a corporate excise tax to fund Illinois government. He got exactly zero votes of support from the Illinois legislature. Seriously. It was actually voted on and such a brilliant idea did not get a scintilla of a vote in the Illinois congress. Recently to fund a serious shortfall in Chicago’s mass transit, Blagojevich unsuccessfully fought an increase in the sales tax, the most regressive of taxes. Now he is being linked to an Obama confidant, Tony Rezko, just convicted of bribery, in much the same way Governor Ryan before him, a Republican, was convicted of fraud after he instituted a moratorium on the death penalty in Illinois, for obvious reasons. Blagojevich also rammed home a measure in the public transit bill that allowed free rides to seniors. Bravo, G-Rod! And I just read today that he has signed an executive order allowing free rides for the disabled. Moi! I have long thought that all mass transit riders ought get paid a quarter for riding the bus. A conductor would stand in the doorway, with a cheery “Thanks for protecting the environment,” and would hand out a quarter to every rider. The homeless could hop a hundred buses a day to make twenty-five bucks. I admire Governor Blagojevich, and that America could produce him.
    What is laudable in America? Gun control is laudable. Atheism is laudable. The medical marijuana movement is laudable. A history that includes Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Timothy Leary and Ram Dass is laudable. The American Dream too is scars and heartaches and heartthrobs of survival. And those too are laudable. The American Dream is contractual disobligations, and wise and kind and bright and talented people like Marilyn Milian to strengthen them out. As Burning Man suggests, the American Dream is survival in the desert. And above all, kind people; the American Dream is kind people. The American Dream is several kinds of tears. Some of gratitude, but too few. The American Dream is pretty women; and that it was capable of producing Leo Buscaglia is laudable.

    On reentry
    Systems spiral down
    The community is one
    On reentry

    If I perish the community perishes
    on reentry
    If the community perishes so do I
    on reentry
    things aren’t what they seem on beautiful, windfalling

    There are lectures in midair on reentry
    In the dusty sultry playa
    There are a million caring people
    With outclasped hand to break your fall
    on reentry

    On reentry you might find
    The backside of your life
    As worms of wisdom wind
    Does LSD help one to be more creative?

    Given its unmistakable ability to catalyze
    Mystical-religious experience?

    This was the Pantheogenesis schedule, which might give you some idea of the rightness of action it is to undertake a spiritual quest to Burning Man.

    Entheon Village presents…The DreamRise Lecture and Workshop Series

    Tuesday August 26 – Sunday August 31, 2008, 2-7pm

    The Heart Dome of the Pantheogenesis Temple @ Entheon Village

    The Entheon Village Lecture and Workshop Series returns for its third straight year with a diverse collection of presentations on cultural shift and re-imagining the American dream. Let our dreams rise.

    Tuesday, August 28th

    2:00 p.m. – 3:00.p.m.

    “Creating Sustainable Communities”

    Shena Turlington of the DoLab and Lightning in a Bottle is an Environmental Sustainable Designer, specializing in sustainable business models, working with natural materials, renewable energy technologies, and ecological design principles to improve the way we interact with our environment. She works with organic architect Eric Lloyd Wright, and consults with clients ranging from Fortune 500 companies to festival producers on greening events, environmental cost-benefit analysis, feng shui, and earth accupuncture. Shena is passionate about the grand unification of ideas through inspiring community environments. In her presentation she will break down the current constructs of how to live in the built environment.

    3:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.

    Urban Sustainability and the Greening of Nightlife

    Mike Zuckerman is an urban ecologist/activist and the director of sustainability for Zen Compound,a 40K square foot entertainment complex in SOMA which includes Temple Nightclub, Prana Restaurant, Zenter Healing Center among other things. He is the co-founder of Greenlaces.org and served on the original Advisory Board of the Business Council on Climate Change, a UN Global Compact He is working to reduce the entertainment empire’s footprint through business practice innovations and cutting-edge technology solutions, as well as to create a community for driving industry change. Mike takes a holistic approach to urban sustainability by working closely with and linking the political, corporate, spiritual, industrial design, science, permaculture, non-profit and activists leaders together to come up with actionable solutions for the eventual goal of environmental behavioral change*

    4:00 p.m.- 5:00 p.m.

    Permaculture Panel (participants TBA)

    5:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

    Allen (“PlayaPhi”) and Holisys – “The Secret Is Terrain”

    “Terrain is all” is a statement you may have heard said before. It is both little understood and historically controversial. Why? Because a lot of money is made keeping this awareness hidden from your view. Learn how to apply this hidden Gnostic truth – from growing food to living your life in perfect harmony. See how the elements of terrain, such as Sacred Geometry, the “Feng Shui” of time and place, and our collective consciousness effects everything – and most importantly, what you can do about it! Prepare to have your world view widely expanded as your tourguide, PlayaPhi, weaves a tale of the seen and unseen in our world – from Earth’s landscapes to our local soil, our bodies and our communities alike, the application of scientific fields such as cymatics, Emoto’s work on water, and how many other dots connect up.


    The Mysteries of the Magical Structures and Crystal Grids of the Pantheogenesis Temple.

    Alex Gordon-Brander (aka “Brilliant”) will discuss the vision, design and operation of the thousands of crystals and hundreds of interlocking crystal grids woven into the Pantheogenesis Temple. He will explain his understanding of how reality becomes manifest, how synchronicity and other non-local connections shape reality, and how to build the magical architecture required to harness those forces.

    Wednesday, August 27th

    9:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

    Holotropic Breathwork
    Holotropic Breathwork is a powerful healing and self-exploration technique, based on modern consciousness research and developed by Stanislaf and Christina Grof. Holotropic Breathwork is a purely experiential method combining controlled breathing, music and focused bodywork. Holotropic Breathwork touches the deepest levels of the subconscious, helping to contact old traumatic memories, archetypes, birth experiences, karmic patterns and transpersonal experiences which go beyond everyday understanding. With Sheelo Bohm and/or Ingrid Pacey.


    DreamRise Opening Ceremony

    2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.

    “Re-Imagining the American Dream” – An Entheon Village/Pantheogenesis Temple Round Table Discussion

    This year’s Entheon Village came together under the auspices of serving greater needs in the world around us. Our container build-out project was designed to provide durable kitchen, shower, bunk, and toilet space inside shipping containers that can be dispatched to disaster relief scenarios wherever they occur in the world. The Pantheogenesis Temple was conceived to provide a deep spiritual experience through a vision of unity, embodied divinity, and healing.

    Core members of Entheon Village and the Pantheogenesis Temple will come together to talk about this year’s camp, and share their visions for reinventing the American Dream.

    3:30 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.

    Burners Without Borders Panel on Burner Activism, Social Change, and Peru Relief

    Over the last 3 years, Burners Without Borders has emerged as a community led, grassroots group that addresses gaping needs where existing cultural and societal systems are failing. Burners everywhere are taking the initiative to take the vibe off the playa and bring it back to their local communities in meaningful ways that make a difference. They worked in disaster relief after Hurricane Katrina, and last year, they went to Peru following an 8.0 earthquake that devastated the region. Come hear about what they lived, and how you can get involved.

    5:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

    Renewable Energy Panel with Matt Atwood of Our Future Now and David Shearer of Black Rock Solar

    David Shearer is the chief scientist at California Environmental Associates and one of the principles of Black Rock Solar. He was a member of the Toyota Advanced Tech Group that designed the Prius.

    Matt Atwood is a partner in Our Future Now and a project manager for Biodiesel Systems. For the last three years he has helped create Entheon Village.

    The two will be on hand to lead a panel discussion on renewable technology.

    6:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.

    DIY: Global Transformation #1

    Open group discussion on Gender, Sexuality, and Relationships with Lady Rain and Ora Uzel of Sacred Spaces. Anyone can come and participate, all ideas are encouraged.

    Thursday, August 28th


    The Pachamama Alliance – “Creating A Bold New Future”

    A symposium, on sustainability, spiritual fulfillment, and Social Justice featuring Jeromy Johnson.

    Designed by some of the finest scientific, indigenous and spiritual minds, the Pachamama Symposium explores the current state of our planet. Through dynamic group interactions, leading edge information, and inspiring multimedia, participants of this event are inspired to reconnect with their deep concern for our world, and are empowered to make a difference.

    Designed with the collaboration of some of the finest scientific, indigenous and spiritual minds in the world, the Symposium explores the current state of our planet from a new perspective, and connects participants with a powerful global movement to reclaim our future.

    It is an exploration of four questions:

    • Where Are We? – An examination of the state of environmental, social and personal well-being.
    • How did We Get Here? – Tracing the root causes that lead to our current imbalance.
    • What’s Possible for the Future? – Discovering new ways of relating with each other, with the Earth and looking at the emerging movement for change.
    • Where Do We Go from Here? – Considering the stand we want to be in the world and our personal and collective impact.

    If you are ready to be disturbed, inspired and moved to action, and to be introduced to a thriving community of other committed people, then join us in exploring the most critical concerns of our times, and discover new opportunities to make a real difference in accelerating the emergence of an environmentally sustainable, spiritually fulfilling, and socially just human presence on this planet!

    4:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.

    “The Secret History of the War on Drugs”

    Charles Shaw (Alternet, Huffington Post, Grist, Reality Sandwich) leads us on a fascinating trip through the secret history of American drug policy, where nothing is as it appears. Learn about US involvement in the global drug trade, the domestic prison crisis, and what all those drug laws are really all about.

    5:00 p.m.- 6:00 p.m.

    Sasha and Ann Shulgin answer questions about Psychopharmacology, Psychotherapy, and Drug Policy Reform (MAPS)

    6:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.

    DIY: Global Transformation #2

    Open group discussion on Politics & Economics with Charles Shaw, ST Frequency of Reality Sandwich, and author/activist Bryan Brickner.

    7:00p.m. – 9:00pm

    PostModern Times Short Film Screening with Daniel Pinchbeck, Joao Amorim, and Lewis Kofsky

    A series of short animated films presenting new ideas about global consciousness and techniques for social and ecological transformation, shamanism, sustainability, alternative energy systems, the Mayan Calendar, quantum physics and synchronicity, human sexuality, and a host of other subjects. Featuring interviews with Daniel Pinchbeck, Kevin Danaher, Dean Radin, Neal Goldsmith, Jim Fournier, Maria Alice & Bia Labate,and Rick Doblin.

    Friday, August 29th

    9:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

    Holotropic Breathwork
    Holotropic Breathwork is a powerful healing and self-exploration technique, based on modern consciousness research and developed by Stanislaf and Christina Grof. Holotropic Breathwork is a purely experiential method combining controlled breathing, music and focused bodywork. Holotropic Breathwork touches the deepest levels of the subconscious, helping to contact old traumatic memories, archetypes, birth experiences, karmic patterns and transpersonal experiences which go beyond everyday understanding. With Sheelo Bohm and/or Ingrid Pacey.

    2:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.

    Neal Goldsmith on change and psychedelic psychotherapy (MAPS)

    2:30 p.m. – 3:30p.m.

    MAPS Panel: “The Psychedelic Renaissance and the Use of MDMA in the Treatment of PTSD”

    – MAPS president Rick Doblin giving a wide-ranging talk on the “psychedelic renaissance” and MAPS’ psychedelic drug development plans
    – Vancouver psychiatrist Ingrid Pacey on Altered States (Holotropic Breathwork and MDMA) in the treatment of PTSD

    3:30 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.

    MAPS Panel: “Psychedelic Psychotherapy for End-of-Life Anxiety and Depression”

    – Sameet Kumar on psilocybin for cancer anxiety and as a tool for existential and spiritual psychotherapy
    – Alicia Danforth on the UCLA psilocybin cancer anxiety study
    – Matt Johnson on the Johns Hopkins study of psilocybin for cancer-related anxiety and depression

    5:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

    Daniel Pinchbeck – “From American Nightmare to Universal Dream” (MAPS)

    6:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m

    DIY: Global Transformation #3

    Open group discussion on Technological Progress & Environmental Guardianship with Matt Atwood and David Fulton of Entheon Village and Our Future Now. Anyone can come and participate, all ideas are encouraged.

    7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.

    Alex & Allyson Grey – “Opening God’s Eye: The Creative Force of Love,” an illustrated talk with poetry from Alex’s soon-to-be released book “Art Psalms”

    Saturday, August 30th

    2:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.

    Andrew Sewell of Yale on his research on using morning glory seeds (lysergic acid amide or LSA) to treat cluster headaches (MAPS)

    2:30 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.

    Valerie Mojeiko talks about Psychedelic Harm Reduction: Rethinking the “Bad Trip” (MAPS)

    3:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.

    MAPS Panel: “Psychedelics, Meditation and the Study of Mystical Experience”
    – Matt Johnson of Johns Hopkins on hallucinogens in the study of mystical consciousness
    – Vanja Palmers on psychedelics and meditation

    4:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.

    Amanda Neidpath of The Beckley Foundation – “Investigations into Consciousness: Psychedelics, Cannabis, Trepanation and Cerebral Circulation” (MAPS)


    MAPS Panel: “Toward a Sensible Drug Policy: The 21st Century American Dream” – Featuring Rick Doblin, Randy Hencken, and others

    6:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.

    DIY: Global Transformation #4

    Open discussion on Spirituality and Religion featuring Veleda and Alex Gordon-Brander of Sacred Spaces and the Pantheogenesis Temple. Anyone can come and participate, all ideas are encouraged.

    Sunday, August 31st

    2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.

    “Homeopathy: Integrating Alchemy, NanoMedicine, and Real Healing”

    Dana Ullman, America’s leading advocate for homeopathic medicine, will draw from ancient alchemical principles and modern/futuristic nanopharmacology to describe some basic scientific research and clinical trials that verify how these powerful natural drugs augment immune response. Some additional discussion topics include: the place for homeopathic medicines in treating people with environmental illness and/or toxic exposure; the usage and application of homeopathic doses of LSD, cannabis, Ayahusca, and opium; the impressive status of homeopathy worldwide.

    3:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.

    The Holographic Living Model featuring Matt Atwood and David Fulton of Entheon Village

    The Holographic Living Model is an information-intensive, multi-dimensional, blueprint of life energy that reminds us, or awakens us, to the realization that:

    • Everything in creation is energy vibrating at different frequencies, from the pure ethereal light of our souls to the material density of our physical bodies.
    • All expressions of life, from microcosm to macrocosm, including us, are holographic in nature (holo, whole; graphic, made visible).
    Everything is multi-dimensional, can be viewed from many angles, and contains the blueprint for the whole within each of its parts. The tiny acorn is encoded with the ability to become a magnificent oak, and a tiny piece of cell tissue contains the blueprint for the creation of a whole human being.
    • Life is an elegantly ordered energetic tapestry of interwoven, interrelated, inseparable energy elements.
    •The whole of existence is a dynamic, inherently ordered continuum that is simultaneously the structure of our consciousness and the reflection of it.
    • The cosmos, from the Greek word kosmos, is order operating as both structure and process.
    4:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.

    Brad Templeton of the Electronic Frontier Foundation – “Protecting the American Dream”

    Thanks to contests run by the U.S. military, computer-driven cars that can move on ordinary city streets are closer to reality Brad Templeton, who is chairman of the cyberspace civil rights organization the Electronic Frontier Foundation and also a director of the futurist Foresight Nanotech Institute, has been investigating some of the consequences of self-driving cars or robocars.

    Those consequences are remarkable, and developing robocars may be the greatest computer project of the early 21st century. Human driving kills a million people every year, with accidents costing economies trillions of dollars. But the fact that robocars can park, deliver and refuel themselves has other remarkable consequences. Such vehicles can result in highly marketable electric cars which are several times more efficient than today’s cars or transit systems, solving a serious component of the world’s energy and pollution problems. Computer driving will result in revolutions in manufacturing, energy and cities, not just transportation.

    5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.

    The Resonance Project – “Crossing The Event Horizon: Jamie Janover presents the Grand Unification Theory of Nassim Haramein”

    Learn about Nassim Haramein’s lifelong journey into the geometry of spacetime, which has lead to a coherent understanding of the fundamental structure of the universe and our existence in it. In this presentation, Jamie Janover will take you on a journey through humanity’s evolution, exposing the changes necessary to produce a Unified Physics; a unification of not only the four forces of nature, but also evolution and the occurrence of consciousness. Haramein’s theory demonstrates as well a parallel between ancient codes in documents and monuments. This all-encompassing theory may prove to be one of the most important discoveries of our time.


    Wow! In exhaustion and busyness, I only made it to a couple of these. But I did spend some meditative time in the Feminine and Masculine Yurts, and in the Temple at Entheon Village which was more than dreamy. I also worked a short shift as a Temple Guardian, which was about as peaceful as it got on the playa. A stunning young woman, Neima, gave me a crystal as a token of my time as temple guardian, and as high as I was when I received it, I marked it as something I would carry with me with my keys and wallet, and remind myself of this lovely moment when I found myself lost from the fake world.
    A veteran flower child with the Beckley Foundation (q.v.) spoke enchantingly until she had to be brushed off the stage. She remarked that nearly all research into the medicinal properties of marijuana have been done with injectable THC only; a completely different animal than smoked-titrated marijuana. She observed that psychedelics are very, very valuable adjuncts to consciousness-expansion. Many of the speakers and scientists pointed out that the substances are not the alteration in consciousness as such, but the portal through which it takes place. The flower child noted that we have to demonstrate very clearly what these benefits are. There are rational reasons why the drug war is counter-productive. We also need to clearly demonstrate this. One of the tools drug war proponents use is to exaggerate the risks of these substances in particular and drugs in general, and deny their benefits. However, it is important for us proponents of drug law reform to empathize with the fears parents have of their young children being damaged by these substances. But then we proponents are not advocating these substances for children, but for adults; and we believe they should be conspicuously regulated much like alcohol is under the current model. Indeed, many on the panels believe they should be regulated even more highly so that the psychedelic experience would take place only under medical supervision in a safe/clinical setting. Those of us who have found a creative outlet in psychedelics must recognize that in one way or another we’re going to be in conflict with the dominant social paradigm. The important this is how we react to these circumstances.
    The week was even better than I could have imagined. How rarely do I say that? More times than not American reality is even worse than I feared. I almost missed the Burn itself. A more spectacular display of art is virtually non-existent. It’s a different kind of art in that it’s not plastic or musical as such. More like its medium is high-tech; and a gargantuan work load. I heard of a person spending $150,000 to create an art car, and that much again to transport it to the playa. The amount of work it must take to create Burning Man is unknown. As little as is known the amount of work that doesn’t get done.
    The question of survival in this oppressive climate always hangs in the air with anxiety. The only hope is that one is relegated to community; a different kind of hope than the hypnotic metronome of the Obama campaign: hope, change, hope, change. I’m no booster of hope, which is often a disfocus on the present misery, for a promise never realized. Let’s remember that hope was the one ill that didn’t escape from Pandora’s Box. When one has hope, one will endure any injustice. But in the case of Burning Man, a hope which is a reliance on such a community is reassuring. One has to consistently remind oneself that there is something special about all these people just by virtue of their being here. The Burning Man was spectacular. The people were incredible: bright faces, wide smiles, hearty laughter, tears of joy, warm embraces, and dancing. Which came first? The Burning Man chicken? Or the shiny happy people egg?
    Burning Man is not a plastic or musical art, as such. But it is something that has evolved from those and contains their rudiments. But a significant difference in Burning Man is a cacophony of tinkling Christmas lights in the blinding light of the desert. Burning Man is as cold in the nighttime as it is sirocco in the day. Burning Man is work and pain and heartache. I wanted to come to Burning Man most fundamentally to reconnect with my psychedelic self, from whom I have been estranged for some twenty years. I wanted to be part of a community that recognizes the primacy of the psychedelic experience. I was taken aback by the large volume of people who responded to my query as to whether they had run into any good psychedelics, with a dumbfounded look of bewilderment; or worse, answered cheerily to the query with a downright disaffirmation. These often stated outright or intimated that one can have the psychedelic experience at Burning Man without utilizing psychedelics. It ain’t me, I don’t really get that. How could you recognize the psychedelic experience without opening the psychedelic chakra, so to say, without unlocking the psychedelic door?


    Your pain is the Earth’s longing to feel your bare feet
    Know, then, that the Earth is a sentient being

    What is ludicrous? How about the ethanol scam? In the 1980s the federal government was subsidizing Archer Daniels Midland’s ethanol production to the tune of $240 million annually, under Reagan’s free market capitalism. ADM’s particular PAC was out to lunch that season insofar as propagandizing the virtues of free market capitalism. Setting aside the intuitive obviousness of it being wrong turning food into gasoline while people are starving, it is a net energy loss – it uses more energy than it returns. Back then it was mandated in Texas that a certain amount of gasoline at Texas pumps had to be ten percent ethanol. In other words to provide ADM another opportunity to kick taxpayers in the groin. I guess Bush must have been president of Arbusto in Texas back then. That is what lunatic Republicanism has come to. Not that the Democrats, setting aside the likes of Dennis Kucinich, Barbara Lee, and Maxine Waters, are any better. The ethanol scam is a net loss to everyone and the ecology, except for a sliver of the already economic elite. How much is enough for these greedheads that are endangering our beautiful planet?
    What is ludicrous? How about that Social Security payroll taxes are capped on incomes over $90,000; so that a bus driver who works fifty hour weeks for $90,000 pays the same Social Security taxes as Donald Trump? How about that Social Security is always a prime target of Wall Street, which licks its wolf-like chops at the commissions to be made so-called investing private social security accounts, with scare stories of its insolvency? Social Security as it stands is solvent for forty years, and were this cap alone to be removed, it would increase revenues by $80 billion annually. That this country refuses to tax the rich and instead taxes the poor is ludicrous.
    National Missile Defense is ludicrous. This thing, which has never been proven to work, has been likened to shooting one bullet out of the air with another. But it has been deployed nonetheless, and already cost upwards of $100 billion. Even were it to work – which it won’t – it will have a destabilizing influence. The Bush regime claims it is a defensive weapon, for a rogue state like Iran. But everyone knows whatever the Bush regime says it lies. It is a first-strike weapon for Russia. I saw a bumper sticker at Burning Man about summed up the historical Bush regime: No lie left behind. And the countless American flags flown proudly, upside-down at Burning Man? Priceless.
    What is ludicrous? How about the Democrats? They’re ludicrous. They had all the ammunition in the world to act clean Bush’s clock in 2004, quite subsequent, do we have to be reminded of him stealing the election in 2000. they’ve somnambulated through the entire dance. And Gore, rather than fighting for his presidency and his constituents’ presidency, rolled over like a dead dog. Has there ever been a worse, more ineffective Speaker of the House than Nancy Pelosi? Go Cindy Sheehan! Just when you thought it couldn’t get worse than Bush, along come John Kerry, war zero. All Kerry had to do was admit bush was a moron and an incompetent, challenge him on his catastrophically failed presidency, and like Gore, he would have won. What did the Mickey Mouse Democrat do instead? He promised to do Bush, but a little less, and a little better.
    What about the fifty of so interventions of the US military and CIA since World War 2 that William Blum documents in his book Killing Hope? They include the 1973 CIA assassination of President Salvador Allende of Chile, the assassination of President Jacobo Arbenz of Guatemala in 1953, the 1954 deposing and house arrest of Iranian President Mossadegh, and the installation of the Shah in his stead, who ruled with US backing and terror for three decades, and Vietnam, completely forgotten to the US historical imagination. Ever wonder why Iran today is ruled by religious fanatics? And that the American people are either, and either as bad, unaware or don’t care about these things is ludicrous to the point of injustice. Indeed, there is nothing ludicrous about America. But here my blood-pressure wavers and I hold my tongue. What is ludicrous? The US government is ludicrous; and to call it ludicrous is to pay it a compliment.


    I haven’t smiled and laughed so much as I did at Burning Man as the interval after the time I smoked my first joint as an adolescent. I danced a little, but not as much as I would have liked, but the compensation was that when I wasn’t dancing, invariably someone was. I worked two volunteer shifts at the ice station, which itself was a dance; literally. The first day I worked there, there was a veteran woman burner who, halfway through the shift announced “new rules: you have to dance for your ice.” That was so much fun seeing the customers boogie down for a few seconds. Some of them tried to get their ice for free for the dancing, but sister informed them that the dancing was to qualify them to be able to

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  • bernard Surprenant says:

    Well i finally made it to burning man and it was everything i wished beautifull, kind and lovable human beings, great art, and music everywhere and nearly all the time if one does not like music burning man is not the place for them i enjoyed it fully of course knew i could not possibly see and take it all in its physiccally imposible thats why there is a guide next burn 2013 i want to bring some sort of electric bicycle a 4 wheel contraption with solar panels for a roof to power the thing and at the same time give me shade, because black rock city is a bit too big to pedal all over all the time during the full day sun, i think i did a fair amount of pedalling with a regular bike this burn but that full afternoon sun is something else, there are many more places i would of liked to check out. As i was travelling to burning man my main worry was a major mechanical breakdown prior to arrival whitch might of prevented me having my fifthwheel there and i was wondering how i would handle the heat once there without air conditionning since i did not bring a generator to power my trailers A.C unit witcht i used at the rv parks with plug in , well the secret for me is stay in the shade as mucht as possible , my 9 day stay was quite confortable indeed the nights are wonderfully confortable i must say i enjoyed a lot of conforts thanks to my fithwheel electric lights fans nice stereo radio system water pump toilet thanks to deep cycle batteries and solar panels i never ran out of power and i enjoded brc wonderfull radio stations all in all a wonderfull experience i will be back for burning man2013

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  • paul says:

    Yes, it was quite something to get back at reality “default” camp. Although I was aware of my desire to make sense of the whole thing, which helped to just let it simmer. It was rather overwhelming and I realize that the thing that captures me most, right now, is the weird and estranging sense of wanting to find finding a way to belong or rather to participate within the BM community, that started nagging after the initial 2 day sensory overload. The funny thing is that this question is also a current in my “default” life. What makes is more startling for me in brc, was that I did not have clue HOW I actually could contribute. Whereas in real life I have got the idea that I have something to offer. Another thing was the absence of monetary transactions, which gave me the idea that everything is for free. That lead to a feeling of guilt until the point that I realized that there is always a transaction between people. I would call that “intent”. Whenever your intention is the right one in a relation, and you find a way of expressing that, energy starts to flow and stuff will exchange and a transaction is there. Pfooh, that made life easier for me, not to worry about necklaces and stuff.

    I believe I will be back, with a better sense of what is needed there, and how I can actually even feel a full member of BRC. I also think that BM is a beautiful metaphor for reality camp and could be a interesting context for people to learn what life is really about. In the context of my current activities with management teams, this offers an interesting perspective for future assignments. I am not done with BM.

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  • Denice Smith says:

    My husband and I work in an environment that makes you dislike human kind, for years friends were trying to get us to go, so we caved in. Well, its changed our lives; there is hope, and it’s Burning Man. The kindest, friendliest, generous, smart, creative and beautiful people we have ever met.


    P.S My husband is working on a art car for next year, can’t wait to go home.

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  • Red Velvet says:

    Burning Man has truly touched and changed my life, and like a ripple in a pond, the effect reaches further with each passing day.

    There are many unexpected things in this world and as I discovered, a week at Burning Man will shower most of them upon you. But it was the deep embrace of a shirtless stranger at 7.30am, somewhere between an open tent and a line of porta-potties, that unexpectedly made my heart melt. He looked at me straight with kind eyes and told me, “welcome home”.

    What a relief it is to be a part of a metropolis that is united in familiarity, compassion, generosity, kindness, physical touch, affection, laughter and love, even as it flaunts all of its earth-trembling creativity and the wildly unique, radical self-expression of each and every participant.

    I feel like I saw the full potential of the human race and it moved me to aspire to that every, every day. I want to give, and give more.

    And what else? In the absence of regular showers, well brushed hair and my daily war paint, I found the notion of beauty and my own physicality transforming: my stature taller, my body leaner, my smile unabashed. I “made eyes with” over a hundred people and each connection was significant. I called out compliments, and gratefully received them. I’ve never been more exalted or liberated by my pure physical presence, at least not for such an extended period of time.

    Such an incredible experience. I’ll be back for sure.


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  • Simon says:

    My burning man experience was a bit like Groundhog Day. We seemed to do similar stuff each day. Get up very early, start drinking and then party until we dropped, occasionally eating/cooking and meeting random folk. Musically I think the place could do with some variety – I think we went to one reggae party the 8 days we were there. Never found a good place to chill out (we camped on esplanade). We also missed the point on the gift economy. We brought stuff from the UK to give out to people as and when but this wasnt very successful – I had thought there was more of a personal gift idea going on, people making individual somethings etc. and giving them away during chance encounters. Mostly I saw gifts in the form of collective effort – eg in all the camps etc (which is awesome make no mistake – just we misread the idea – or did we?) I didnt make the most of the workshops unfortunately, in future I’d like to explore that more, though its hard to do stuff in the heat of the day, better to try relax for a bit. I’d like to hold a night time workshop – midnight something. I thought the kaleidescope of night lights was phenomenal and the burning of the pieces/man/temple etc was breathtaking. I’d bring more lights in future. I’d also like to stay in a village – I didnt understand fully the benefit of camp vs village vs freelance camping. Now I do. Toilets were impeccably clean and with toilet roll (this never happens in the UK). I didnt feel a sense of a gathering at BM. I know there are 60,000 people but they are so spread out and everyone is always running around, there isnt really a place where people gather (apart from the temple or robo-heart!) I like the primal feeling of being in a huge group. Its designed as a city I suppose. I think I’d like everything of interest to be on the playa in a mass of lights and chaos so you could bounce around it all like a pinball. One final thing I’d say if that the counter culture there seemed to be focussed more toward sexual freedom. Perhaps my misunderstanding but I was expecting more green undercurrents. Sustainable living/energy/efficiency, that sort of thing, but its actually the complete opposite of that – its all about consumption. I wanted to bring a solar cooker (as an example). “Leave no trace” really only applies to the ground of the playa. The real impact/trace of the festival can be felt all the way to the bank balance of walmart. I was joking that it was a walmart run festival, we spent so much $$$ in Reno. Its definately a unique place and I am glad I went. It didnt leave me smiling for days on end though. But it did to some of my friends. :D

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  • Donchawanna says:

    my first burn this year was f..ing amazing! i cant stop thinking about the energy, the culture, the openness, the amazing people and art. even when i was hanging around in my camp, rarely 5 minutes would pass without some sort of unexpected encounter.

    I thought that i would enjoy BM because i love the desert, love interactive art, and love music. But the synergistic energy created when all of those things and so much more combines was completely unexpected and intense.

    what i really enjoyed was the way that you create your own experience… if you are not totally amazed and inspired by what is happening in front of you, just walk a 100 feet! the few times that i tried to walk/ride to some specific location always ended with me getting distracted by something more awesome than my original goal, then going somewhere else and doing something completely else with people that i hadnt expected to meet… beautiful!

    the event was a huge recharge for me… and i never knew that i had been “de-charged”. i look forward to being out there again next year, and to our camp creating an even bigger positive impact in BRC.

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  • Dustbunny says:

    My first Burn was like going to Saturn.

    There is entirely too much to say.

    My hands will never be the same again, the texture on my hands has not changed since BRC. When they say Burning Man stays with you for life, They are clearly referring to Playa Dust. But I met a lot of amazing people. and seen a lot of amazing art. It is all still being internalized. all I can say is I have my Black Rock and I have my BRC CITIZEN logo branded on my belt.

    Thank you BRC. Thank you Burners. Keep the light. but respect the Dark.

    (you need negative energy and positive energy for a battery to work) thats for you OBI-ONE! :P


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  • Tatine G. Faylona says:

    Just a Little Mad-Crazy
    a.k.a. Testosterosa at 4:05 and F

    Ten years ago I went skydiving on a dare on the same day. I liked that it’s a nice round number – 10 – and thought to myself: I should do something as adventurous (a.k.a., a little mad-crazy) and see where it leads me.

    The search brought me to a place called Black Rock City desert – around 150km north of Reno, Nevada and an ephemeral city built only for an annual 8-day festival called Burning Man. Despite months also of frenetic search, I only found one other Filipino who has been to Burning Man but his only comment when I sought him out was: Call me after you return from BM!

    More than a month since my first Burning Man experience, I think that I now fully understand what he meant.

    When it comes to Burning Man, there are simply no words.

    As friends and family ask me how it was or what it was all about, I fumble and I grapple and resist articulation since Burning Man is one of those that you’d rather bring someone to rather than attempt to describe.

    Burning Man, to those who may have heard about it, is an annual event that brings all kinds of people from all parts of the world to an antique lakebed called the playa and where anything and everything imaginable happens. One finds all manner of creative and radical self-expression in costumes (or complete lack thereof) and in various theme camps and art installations in the desert. Depending on your preference or even mood for the day, you can bike to a homebrew camp and sample all kinds of beer or begin a pilgrimage to the Man and the beautifully ornate Temple of Juno. Made mostly of intricately designed filigreed wood, this Temple is burnt on the last day of the festival to symbolize letting go of past hurts or brokenness, or to commemorate loved ones lost. Some burgins (first-time burners like myself) could similarly venture farther out into the deep playa past midnight and chance upon a movie theatre-art installation actually screening old Cary Grant movies at 4am while scouring for some Skittles displayed in a make-believe vending machine! Everything is inevitably fascinating and you simply marvel at how the best kind of creativity also provides hilarious escapes into flights of fancy. How else could one call jumping into unknown adventures provided by random art cars that only follow rules established by the DMV – a.k.a. Department of Mutant Vehicles?!

    Despite the city being huge and literally offering a smorgasbord of all kinds of performances (open mic, anyone?), musical stops (my new favourites: March Fourth Marching Band and Pfbbt!), jaw-dropping art installations (from a giant E G O installation to the fire-breathing octopus tentacles of La Pulpo Mecanico to the unique sinking ship experience inside La Llorona), and a guide book that lists the schedules (sunrise to sunrise!) religiously, I mostly decided to go off the grid and just let the playa magic do its work. No handy iPhone camera clicks, no journal scribbling, no recording of anything except sensory perceptions. I found myself observing myself in the sea of interesting people in and around my French Manila and Third Creamery camp which, in Black Rock City map, was located in 4:05 and Foxglove (F) street.

    On an evening when I decided to simply ensconce myself in our camp’s warm sofa, our next door neighbor’s karaoke antics became too irresistible when Little Mermaid’s Under the Sea melody wafted through my chill out space! So I sang and danced some in their Hammock Camp hangout. Then with some whiskey-kombucha combo I unexpectedly tagged along with Bill and Atira (TBT forever!) from whom I learned how to let out the monkey in me. Otherwise I don’t know how I could have climbed the almost 10-storey wobbly scaffolding Mal-Mart installation and still have the energy to belt out, with feet (and lives) dangling, We Built This City on Rock and Roll! Testosterosa, my playa name, was born on this night of the trio monkeys.

    One late afternoon I biked all the way to the middle of the Esplanade and took in the Burning Man landscape of giant art installations with the backdrop of unicorn flags and mountain ranges. Infinite space and unexpected serenity cast in a whirlwind of burners biking off to their next adventure. With my colourful-party-flags-and-sunflower-decorated bike (Salamat, Arthur! Thanks, Jazzzy!) parked beside me, I took my time looking in one direction and slowly turning to the next horizon until I made a full circle. My fingers tentatively touched the beautiful sunset which was quite easy to imagine was within my reach. After all, it is not every day that one’s spirit dances to that fire-belly in the soul.

    Another day in Center Camp I decided to walk in and volunteer at the Cafe. Never having worked in a coffee shop before, it was a unique experience of learning how to work the cash register and assisting the barista with the inflow of orders in the only place in Black Rock City where monetary exchange was allowed. Unique of course was working with costumed fellow volunteers whose team leader, Gogo, would suddenly announce: “Ok everyone, time to stop working and time to dance!” So there we were, volunteers in full revelry behind the Cafe counter as four lines of likely thirsty Burning Man onlookers smiled at the antics of folks who would later take their orders but not before being naughtily asked, “What’s the secret password?”

    Quite expectedly, I thought that I would suffer from the dry heat and cold evenings but I miraculously survived the harsh elements. In a special way, this was made possible by the kindness of campmates (especially Captain Ryan!) and their unstinting devotion to detailed logistical arrangements for almost-30 people. We had a stellar kitchen, a monkey hut shade structure (so that’s what I was trying to sledgehammer to the ground!) for all our tents, a tepee, bike racks, hammocks, solar camp shower bags, and yes, a hexayurt cum acoustic-and-all-kinds-of-things lounge!

    Not even able to recall when was the last time I rode a bike, I surprisingly found myself riding through everything (tremendous thanks to Nick’s moral support); even during an evening dust storm wearing blurry goggles and barely breathable respirator mask just to quickly hear Armin van Buuren and Carl Cox make the desert crowd dance like unbridled pagan gods in a place aptly called, Opulent Temple.

    At moments when the sheer creative humour of the playa and its people caught me unawares, I would quite literally cackle to myself and sometimes just laugh uncontrollably. Even my daily morning walk to the porta-potty was an adventure as the folks at Dirty Bodies Dirty Minds camp tempt and tease me into a naked public shower experience. Nothing could also compare to being fully woken up by our very own porta-potty maître d’ dressed in his feathered hat and penguin coat finery, checking off our imagined reservations to the porta-potty cubicles and just engaging us in funny repartee. In wacky response to his, “How was the food, Madam/Sir?” query, folks just coming out of their morning ablutions would let it all out by either saying, “Compliments to the chef!” or “Ah, shitty service!” Now is that not hilarious imagination at work?!

    Burning Man was definitely surreal, undeniably indescribable, but very much a personal experience. One makes Burning Man however they want it to be – whether as a playground for music, sex or all kinds of libations, or as a huge expanse of transformative space that leads one to reflect on where your little dot in the universe belongs. Or it could even be all of the above! One defines their own radical participation and freely chooses the manner in which they wish to do so. One lets go and one takes in according to their personal rhythm and I think that’s how an authentic empowering experience liberates. To some it took the form of participating in Critical Tits parade or Furthursday or Tutu Tuesday (Merci, Dina and Tibo); for others it was venturing into an open mic performance, or giving free creepy hugs (a couple walked around bearing this sign!), or simply engaging in authentic interactions (Kirk, you’ll forever be my BM soul brother!). I especially liked that in a true Burning Man community, one does not dictate how you should be or what you should wear. I believe that this is fundamental to its radical inclusion principle, one among 10 core BM principles. To simply be, to let others be, and to live each present moment well comprised the challenge and answer to burgin me. Happily so, there are no regrets.

    I left Black Rock City after the burning of the Man and after witnessing an impressive pyrotechnics that accompanied this 26-year old ritual. At the time, I recalled a similar evening in the interior mountains of Oriental Mindoro, around a circle of young and old indigenous Mangyan peoples, where the latter shared their oral history through chanting and poetry. These are moments that stay with us because the rituals and the circles signify more than an evening with the moon and stars. Very likely, these are moments when we unquestioningly savor simply existing, simply being, and relish the unique community of humanity.

    Barely a week after arriving back in Manila from Burning Man, I travelled again to another continent for work-related training in the Netherlands. In the 8 days that I was in Europe I crazily decided to insert some side trips to Oslo (where I fell in love with their Operahus and Vigelandparken) and to Barcelona (where I discovered a latent Catalan in me – but that’s for another story!).

    Unlike my skydiving experience that was essentially a 13-second free fall, I’m still up in the Burning Man sky and not sure yet when and where I want to land.


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  • I don’t want to talk about it. That was MY experience for ME. You want to know about Burning Man? So go yourself.
    (Aside from the Temple) what haunts most persistently is a young man with a huge concert accordion, strolling along in the sunstruck afternoon near Rainbow Sapiens camp & playing some Eastern European folksong. Like flowerpetals tossed by a breeze
    I’m participant, not spectator. Looking to be deep in the machinations of LL & the Temple in 2013

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  • jet set says:

    It was my Virgin Burn…epic indeed. And reality is….people keep talking about needing ‘Decompression’, but Burning Man was the Decompression for me.

    After spending 6 conservative humbling years in Asia working, I really needed to be with my freaky tribe, and Burning Man realigned my soul chakras.

    I drank deeply from that well. I

    t was delightful to have a forum for accepted and expected PLAY! Yay!

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  • Krazy! says:

    It was freakin awesome! I had several revelations at my first burn! I already understood why everything is the way it is! It’s amazing! I completely understand why the man is “the MAN” and why the temple is where it’s at! You can never get lost there! I always felt safe! And where else in the world while you are riding your bicycle in the middle of the dessert storm, a beautiful person appears in front of you and give you free ice cream!?!?!? Then when night falls all the glowing creatures comes out! It’s like the electric parade but ten times better! DJs and booze on every corner and on every moving vehicles! I love the whole experience, the community and the kind gestures! There are so many smart and talented artists and engineers! To me, it’s all about art, self expression, giving without any expectation BUT most important of all, it’s about not being judge for who you are, expanding your mind and people welcoming your unique differences. It has a deeper meaning that some people will never understand! The man is there to guide you and when you finally feel safe and found your place, that is when you know you are home… ♥

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  • Shannon McIvor says:

    Before I went down to Nevada I read an article about people whose lives had been changed at Burning Man. Because of something they had seen or experienced they came home and changed their name, their job, their geographic location… they changed crucial things that they KNEW to be true about themselves up until that time.

    I left I told my friends and family that this wouldn’t happen to me. I said, “I’m pretty well set in how I am. I can’t envision me changing anything much.”

    I read that now and shake my head at the words…

    Because of all of you, every single one of you who I met or spoke to or spent time with or sat beside, because of the playa and the music and the fire and the beautiful banquet constantly laid out before me: edible, visual and spiritual, I have come home to find myself eating those unconsidered words. I now know that I have been a side line participant in my own life; never committing to anything or really working hard to find out what I was capable of.

    The inexplicable shift in direction of every single bird in a flock at the same time… the simultaneous expansion and contraction of a school of fish… the change in yourself, your heartbeat, when you walk out into an emptied lake and see a version of you that has never been there before.

    There is no way to thank all of you. In fact I think there is little I could say as you were just being you and not knowing what, if any, effect you were having on the people around you. I just want to let you know that everything you did for me, to me and beside me was not lost or unnoticed. It all contributed to letting me glimpse what it would be like to live my life free. And I will.

    Thank you and I love you.

    “You need not leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. You need not even listen, simply wait. You need not even wait, just learn to become quiet, and still, and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked. It has no choice; it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.”

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  • Kim says:

    Thank you so much for the experience of a lifetime! This was our first time at Burning Man. My husband and I left our 2 children (7 & 3) w/ my parents, and began the trip from Boston to Black Rock desert not knowing what to expect.  Words cannot describe how impressive and amazing Burning Man is. The art installations were incredible, everyone embraced us with open arms, and the desert is absolutely beautiful, harsh at times, but beautiful. We began this experience thinking it would be a one time thing, something to cross off the bucket list, however, during our time in Black Rock city, we fell in love. The entire trip home we talked about how excited we are for next year, and how we cannot wait to bring our children. I feel as if I am part of something bigger than myself. I have been walking around suburbia since we returned giggling inside because I feel as if I have this great secret most people will never experience. I admire and applaud all of the artists, volunteers and participants.  All of the hard work is obvious from the moment you step onto the playa.

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  • Avand says:

    Burning Man changed my life.

    Lasers that blast right into space, an octopus that transforms a cold nowhere into a fire-breathing dance party, fire and lights as far as your eyes can see, all of it, total pandemonium, under the crystal light of a moon so bright you think you could just pluck it out of the sky and lick it.

    “Oh, the places you’ll go!” Yeah, no kidding. I watched the videos, read the literature, and talked to friends that have been. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Burning Man was this enormous shimmering question mark. And though I didn’t know why, I knew had to be there.

    As I arrived, I went through a complete physical reset. I remember just moving gear from one place to another. I was stuck whirring and when I finally looked up, I was overwhelmed, exhausted, and scared. Everything came out.

    “What the hell is this, where am I, how are the toilets so clean, is everyone else wondering the same thing?” These were some of the questions that buzzed through my head, while we played under the sun. The answers, I realize now, aren’t relevant.

    I got totally and completely lost in an infinite-loop of awesome.

    I watched the sun rise with strangers. I watched the moon set with friends.

    I realize, now, that when you’re willing to participate, life becomes an incredibly beautiful place. And that’s a belief I want to share.

    Please come say “hello” next year. I can’t wait to meet you,

    Avand (Scarbutts @ 9H)

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  • Johnnybitchin says:

    What a great time…met beautiful people and was welcomed into a camp as soon as I arrived. (I was by myself and new nobody) with my little Teardrop Trailer..thanks Trixie and the rest of the camp…delivered the newspaper for 5 days and I met hundreds of great people and was offered drinks and food in many camps..thanks again…looking forward to next year to see old friends and make new ones….Burningman Rocks…and I was the “Paperboy”!!!!

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  • Tracy says:

    I decided to go this year because it was on the bucket list of a friend with terminal ovarian cancer. I am also an ovarian cancer survivor, and while I had an interest in the event, I probably wouldn’t have prioritized it were it not for these circumstances. After six months of planning, renting an RV, gathering a crew to join us and all the other logistics that go into preparing for the event, my friend’s doctor told her a week in the desert wouldn’t be a good idea in her condition and forbid her from going. This immediately made me doubt my own participation, but I was committed, so I went anyway.

    I am soooooooo glad I did. Far from the drug-fueled out of control party I expected, this event occurred for me as an incredible community and place of wonder. The people I met, visual and auditory stimulation I received, generosity of spirit I experienced and sense of safety and security were unexpected. I can honestly say I experienced one of the most perfect days of my entire life on day two when I set out on my own to take a workshop, attend prom, meet someone cool at a bar and then hang out at his camp for two hours, and connect with someone in a tea shop that I then spent the rest of the night in a hammock with. The entire week was magical, and I can’t wait to return. I have been thinking, talking and planning with others about how we might contribute with a project or camp in the future. Amazing!

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  • Nesta Rae says:

    Burning Man was everything I hope it would be and more. To exist in the love and bounty of the Playa is to truly feel one with each other. I feel like this was great first year as we got to experience a little bit of everything..: dust storms, rain, and an incredibly warm night. I was truly blessed to become part of this tribe and will definitely be planning my year around the burn from here on out. You can check out a blog I wrote on it here! http://nestarae.com/home/?p=468.
    Blessings! Nesta Rae

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    Hope you get the problem fixed soon.


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