15 September 2015
10 Surprising Things I Learned at Burning Man:
(Written on the plane while transitioning back to New York)
1. It’s not like going to another country, it’s like going to another planet.
2. You will become one with the dust. Burning Man takes place on a dry lakebed covered in a fine talcum-like powder that is actually home to tiny brine shrimp. In the wet winters these shrimp birth as food for the migratory birds. Think sea monkeys. You will sleep in the piles of dust, you will wear it, you will eat it. It will become embedded in your food and every minute crevice of everything you bring. The alkaline gypsum turns your hair and skin white as it sucks all moisture from your body and clogs your sinuses, leaving one to imagine the uncomfortable orifices of the roaming naked people. If you stand still long enough you will actually become the dust. Which is probably why everyone is in constant motion and always dancing.
3. You will never eat as many breakfast bars as you think you need to bring.
4. A bicycle is madatory but having an art car rocks. If you ride your bike along every street on the playa you will have covered 60 miles. When the lights turn on at night and the sheer scale of over 500+ acres and 70,000 attendees finally hits your brain it will expand to depths unimaginable. It is an absolute wonderment. The mind boggles at the sheer vastness of it all: The City of Impermanence that wasn’t here a week ago and will soon disappear again completely. There are no words.
5. “Do not lock your keys in the car.” You question why, as you read the literature, would they tell you something so ridiculously obvious. Until you do it. Then, just as you’re lamenting the silliness of your predicament a random locksmith drives by. The playa provides! The camp breaks out in celebratory Bloody Marys at the serendipity of it all. Turns out Bloody Mary’s, bacon and birthday cake are not a half bad breakfast combo after all.
6. There are attractive people and there are naked people but there are very few attractive naked people.
7. You will hear yourself uttering sentences that you’ve never heard leave your lips before.
“Oh wow, I have the same color wings!”
“Look at that angel in the snail car riding past the Medusa head with the dust devil in back of it.”
“Hey, a polar bear driving a sneaker!”
“Watch out for the flames dancing from those octopus tentacles.”
“Shane! Get out of the fire.”
8. It’s a city that never sleeps. Literally. Ear plugs are key if you have any hope for a few hours as there’s no escape. There is an ever-present thumping tribal pulse, competing rocking music from art cars and infinite pop-up dance clubs. It embeds in your psyche and infiltrates your dreams even after you’ve departed.
9. The days are a magical mist of sand storms, colorful costumes and strolling through art projects. Stop at center camp to stretch out with some acrobatics, jump on trampolines or have ice man cool off your neck. It’s a gift system with only coffee and ice for sale. At night the playa comes alive in unimaginable ways. LED lit people, art cars and bikes attempt to dodge and weave amongst one another through the middle playa, esplanade and side streets. It’s amazing that no one gets killed. Oh wait. They do.
10. The man this year was made of sustainable (!?) bamboo and dressed like a harlequin, looking smaller and more insipid than one would imagine. During his long slow burn he dropped his outer layer to bare his skeletal remains and suddenly appeared bad-ass and seemingly indestructible. Until he fell. It was impressive to see how close smoldering people could sit or dance exposed to such close proximity of the licking flames. Kudos to the fire patrol. It’s worth it to stay for the burn and you there are ways to avoid the long lines to leave. Leave at sunrise and you’ll be eating a fine breakfast at Peg’s in Reno before everyone else has even started to think about packing up their bunny suits and leather bikinis.