Watching the Man Burn

Some five years ago, we were fortunate enough to help carry in the fire that starts the Man Burn, and it was an awesome experience.  We were as close to the burn as we’ve ever been, and since then we’ve put more distance between ourselves and the fire and taken a leisurely approach to the big event.  This year we sat on top of our camp container, with drinks and snacks, where we had an awesome view of the Burn and no need to locate our bikes among the mass of blinking lights.

We soaked in the image of thousands of festively lighted bikes and walkers streaming out of the city and toward the Man; observed the vista of lights across the Playa – all powered by generators and batteries; and waited for the Man’s arms to rise marking the beginning of the burn celebration.

Hippie Bus Redux

It was an awesome sight, humbling us before human creativity and endurance that makes Burning Man such an important event in our lives.  It is nearly impossible to capture the scope of it all in words or pictures.  You have to be there to truly experience it.

Last night’s Burn was one of the quickest we’ve seen, probably because of the five propane bombs used to kick-start the fire versus the usual two or three.  It’s possible that the Burning Man org was purposefully shortening the burn cycle to lessen the possibility of crazies running into the fire.  Last year, an individual avoided all perimeter patrols and ended up losing his life after he launched himself into the flames.  No such event this time around.

The shorter burn cycle seemed to make the entire evening more mellow and less raucous (although in fairness the raucousness is way closer to the burn then we were) and perhaps a little anti-climactic.  Everything this year was a bit less than expected, although still amazing and inspiring.  One of the top art pieces – a flaming, winged horse near the entrance to Center Camp – worked only intermittently.  Several major art pieces weren’t ready until the final couple of days.  And no single piece had the impact of some of Burning Man’s greatest hits, e.g. last year’s tree of lights or kaleidoscope of LED lights that shifted shape and color in time to classical music; however, the multi-hued elephant out in deep playa was a major attraction.

Sculpture on the Playa

Also, there was a magnificent structure far out in deep playa called The Folly, a two-tower building with a windmill on one of the spires that featured a top-notch musical theater performance.  The building burned with great intensity on Friday night.

However, this was definitely the year of the art car at Burning Man.  There seemed to be more and a greater variety than ever roaming the Playa.  But it was an oldie that seemed to draw the biggest crowds, “El Pulpo Mechanico” – a many-headed octopus that shot fire from its arms and head and whose eyes sprung out of its sockets at onlookers.  El Pulpo played music that seemed to be composed just for it and spit out its fire to the beat.  What a sight!

Space Vehicle? Not Sure

As Temple Guardians, we always keep a special place in our heart for the Temple.  This year’s edition was both simple and beautiful, using a Japanese theme found in many Buddhist and Shinto shrines.  Its atmosphere was calming and provided the perfect environment for introspection and contemplation of lives lost and found.  It burns tonight.

Five Big Concerns and Ways to Resolve Them

Art Car Magic at Burning Man

Here are the major concerns for older people about Burning Man, and what to do about them:

1. The heat. Yeah, it can be hot out on the Playa, but it is – after all – a dry heat! In fact, the extremely low humidity (usually single digits) is actually a problem in itself. We try to take care of ourselves in several ways. First, we try to go out only mornings and nights. Mid-day is rest time when we stay inside our air-conditioned RV. Also, we never go anywhere without adequate water or other thirst-quenchers (such as Gatorade).

2. The dust. Some days are worse than others, and some people are more sensitive than others. Successfully negotiating the dusty landscape requires goggles and a dust mask. These are not items to scrimp on so buy goggles and face masks that are both effective and comfortable. Getting them on and off easily is important as well. It’s fine to shop online, but be sure that returning items is easy because you need to try them out before making a final decision.

3. Transportation. The main mode of transport is biking, but you don’t want to bring your $4,000 elite mountain bike. The dust is killer on gears and other delicate bike parts. If you can afford a fat-tire bike, you’ll do better on the variable Playa surface. But stick to basic bikes, or even old bikes that you can pick up at flea markets or on Craigslist. If powering a bike manually is a problem for you, then consider a bike with a supplemental electric motor. Another option is a Segway (expensive, but you may be able to rent one). If you’re planning to bike, make sure you’re in shape to do so. Get some miles in on a bike as time for the Burn approaches.

4. Porta-potties. Yes, you’re going to have to use them here at Burning Man. And, yes, they can look and smell disgusting. But there’s this: there are thousands of these “portos”– as some people call them – placed strategically across the Playa. They are cleaned twice a day by the contractors in charge of them. Additionally, certain theme camps have “private” portos that tend to be cleaner. Check with your theme camp (if you’re staying in one, which I recommend) to find out whether they have their own portos.

5. Showers. Most of the major theme camps have rudimentary showers, but you need to supply your own water and privacy is minimal. Wet wipes are a must for between shower clean up and many other uses. Bring plenty.

The single best answer to all of these challenges for older Burners is an RV. You can have at least some air conditioning, your own bathroom and shower facilities and a place to ride out some of those legendary dust storms with their white out conditions. But you’ll need to bring a well-equipped RV with a top-notch generator that can be run for long periods of time and is well-protected from dust (which can destroy a generator in a couple of days). You can’t run the air conditioner without a generator, so it’s critically important. You’ll also need an RV with large fresh water, and black and grey water storage so you can make it through the entire Burn without the need to dump tanks or re-fill your fresh water. It’s possible to have your tanks pumped out by the suppliers who clean the potties, but there’s no way to get fresh water delivered. Also, it costs around $85 dollars to have your tanks pumped out, vs. around $10 to do it at a dump site in off-playa.

Make sure you carry enough extra fresh water to re-fill your tank, if necessary, and that you have the right kind of equipment (funnels, pumps, etc.) to do so without spilling tons of water on the Playa. Even fresh water can become a problem when so much is spilled in one place that it creates a hole in the Playa surface.

There are other comfortable ways to live at Burning Man such as Shift Pods and other innovative living units that stay cooler than a tent. Some can even be air-conditioned with the help of a generator.

If it all sounds like too much trouble, then maybe it is for you. But you have to balance your level of difficulty with the value of experiencing Burning Man. It’s well worth the trade-offs for us.

Playa’s the Place to Celebrate

I celebrated my 615th birthday here the other day. Well, it was actually my 75th but Lashes couldn’t find a “7” to go on the cake so she put a 6 and a 1 instead. It was a surprise to see two cakes come out of our RV because they were so well hidden – NOT. I just completely missed the fact that there were two cakes in our fridge, in plain sight. But Lashes knows how easy I am to fool.

She, on the other hand, was un-trickable until her own 75th birthday late last year when I pulled off a surprise party that was exactly that: a surprise. I was probably more delighted with myself than she was with the party. The heavy lifting was done by my kids and their spouses, so I really can’t take credit.

Nonetheless, it reminded me of the multiple celebrations we’ve had out here on the Playa over our 12 years as Burners. In 2006, we renewed our wedding vows for our 40th anniversary in a ceremony we’ll never forget at the Hotel International Ashram Galactica. Our youngest walked his mom down the aisle. The Ashram people actually gave us a honeymoon suite to sleep in, and fed us a gourmet dinner cooked by a celebrity chef from L.A. Six years ago, we held a “Lashes 7.0” party at Lamplighters Village for her 70th birthday. 2017 marked another vow renewal for our 50th anniversary, with our older son Carousel performing the ceremony. We returned the favor the following year as I married Carousel and Unisee in a Unicorn Wedding at dawn in front of the Temple (covered in an earlier Sunrise Burner).

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Bugs in Love on Playa

The great part of celebrating milestones at Burning Man is that everybody within sight and sound of the event joins in for what might be called “Kumbaya moments.” It’s so great to feel the hugs of strangers out here in the desert. There’s no stand-offishness about human-to-human contact. There’s simply joy.

If you find that thought a little Pollyanish, I can assure you that it’s not my nature to be this way. For years, I tended to shy away from people, avoiding touching them at all cost. The Playa has turned me into a major-league hugger who’s looking for new people to meet so I can bring their experiences into my life.

Serving our Temple Guardian shifts we are often approached by people with questions, which then flow into conversations about who they are and what they’re mourning, grieving, or celebrating at the Temple. As a result, we’ve absorbed others’ stories about lost dads and moms and the regrets people have about the absence of intimacy or the rejection of parents that is often part of adolescent rebellion. Burners use the Temple to put a balm on those wounds. They don’t heal completely, but they become tolerable once they’ve been acknowledged.

At the Sunday night Temple burn, the crowd watches in near silence as the wishes and memorials left there go up in smoke – releasing much of that painful baggage. It’s a moment of clarity for many Burners.

On a practical note, how do people our age survive the Burn? We do it by living in an RV that is air-conditioned and has available power through our generator. Without the AC, it would be difficult to take our mid-day naps that allow us to keep going late into the night. We’re also careful to pack adequate numbers of our meds and supplements so we won’t run out during the Burn. Planning is crucial, especially for us older people. You’re going to be on your own to a great extent out here, so you need to think through every day and bring what you need. There are no pharmacies, convenience stores, or Wal-Marts on the Playa.

We’re Not Too Old for Burning Man; And Neither are You

Why would two retired 75-year-olds with a comfortable home and children and grandchildren to spoil hit the road in late summer to spend two weeks in the desert for the Burning Man Festival? Let me count the reasons:

1. It makes us feel young. It’s not just about being with young people (although our camp is filled with what we call “kids”), it’s also about stretching your mind and your body and getting those brain synapses firing again. Burning Man is an adventure in non-comfort-zone living in a harsh desert environment, and having fun doing it. That’s why we’ve gone 12 times since 2005 and plan to keep going until we can’t do so physically.


2. The creativity inspires us. We see art installations and art cars on the Playa that are unlike anything you’ll see elsewhere. There are monuments to the spiritual (the Temple), inventive ways to show the power of fire (the Fire Tornado), and astounding travelling artistic statements such as the Porcupine mutant vehicle. The desert surface is the artists’ canvas at Burning Man, and that space provides artistic opportunities unlike any art gallery or museum. We come back motivated by the infinite power of the human mind and with the desire to do more with our own lives – and that means staying active and engaged.

Playa Butterflies

3. The whimsy makes us laugh. We love that Burning Man never takes itself too seriously. There’s a wink behind every artificial palm tree, and a smile hidden in even the most assiduously constructed art pieces. Whenever we begin to make too much of day-to-day life, we only have to think about Burning Man to take it down a notch.


4. The people teach us about life. We’ve learned to look beyond outward appearances and dress (or, in some cases, the lack thereof) to find the connections we never knew existed between us and people who simply don’t look like us. It’s added a deep appreciation of diversity and a powerful desire to bring new, often exotic people into our lives.


5. Eroticism is our fountain of youth. Burning Man is not as sexually outrageous as some people believe, but there’s plenty of erotic reminders out there. A bit of nudity, a touch of provocative dress (by women and men), a multitude of camps and sites devoted to sex from an intellectual or practical perspective; the Playa exudes eroticism and the life-force that it represents. For us, as a couple married for nearly 53 years, it’s a constant reminder that sex remains valuable in human relationships, including our marriage. In fact, everything about our marriage has gotten better since we started going to Burning Man.


6. The desert gives us courage. On my first trip to Burning Man, I thought I would die out there in the heat, the blistering sun, and the dust. But instead of diminishing me, the desert raised me up to a higher level of confidence in surviving and thriving in an environment that I had feared. I’m not a daredevil because of Burning Man, but I did decide to start teaching skiing last season at age 74. And while I still worry about “losing a step” as I age, I realize that my experience – including Burning Man – can easily make up for lost horsepower.

We’re deeply involved in our Burning Man community, having taken on the responsibility of running a camp each year as well as participating in numerous off-Playa activities and meetings, including those at Burning Man Headquarters in San Francisco. The more you do for Burning Man, the more it does for you.

Metamorphoses

With the announcement of “Metamorphoses” as next year’s theme, a vision of Burning Man 2019 begins to emerge from the dusty remains of BRC.  The theme was unveiled in the Burning Man Journal and while I find the idea fascinating and filled with possibilities, it’s nonetheless reminiscent of two earlier themes – Evolution and Rites of Passage — both of which featured imagery consistent with nascent butterflies and historical alterations in the natural world.

The introduction of next year’s theme may not seem like a big deal, but in fact, it affects the Burner community like a giant starter’s gun, alerting everyone that it’s time to begin working on the upcoming Burn.  Many of the major art projects for Burning Man are based on the theme; art cars are built that represent it, and events are planned by various camp reflecting their interpretation of the word.  Hence, unveiling the theme is the true beginning of Burning Man 2019.

For us, it’s a definitive starting point for the planning process and turns “thinking about” Burning Man into an action plan.  What are we going to do at our camp next year?  Are we going to design a new flag?  How are we going to assign out the different jobs?  What costumes would we like to bring?  What did we forget last year that we need to add to our packing list?

In my time at Burning Man, the theme has sometimes been revealed earlier and sometimes later than this one.  When I first came, next year’s theme was announced at the end of the current Burn.  Then it wasn’t and we had to wait for Larry Harvey to decide.  Or, at least, that’s what most of us thought was happening.  It’s part of the lore of Burning Man that Larry chose each year’s theme himself and he did it when the spirit moved him.  That may or may not be true, but much of Burning Man mythology revolves around Larry.

I was actually surprised at how early the new theme was revealed.  Perhaps now that Larry has passed away the team leading Burning Man decided to act more quickly, thus providing additional prep time.  Or maybe not.  Maybe this theme was already in the hopper and ready to go, which means Larry’s spirit continues to guide us.

Here’s the thing.  If the Metamorphoses theme inspires you, then take advantage of that inspiration and do something with it.  Perhaps it speaks to you so strongly that you will decide to make this your first Burn, or return after a long absence.  Perhaps it will inspire you to create art for the 2019 Burn.  After all, metamorphoses is one of the most image-eliciting words in the English languages.  It always makes me think about the caterpillar-to-butterfly miracle and the personal change in my life because of Burning Man.

Whatever the effect of seeing the new theme is on others, it impacts me in a very particular way by re-igniting my passion for Burning Man and letting me know that the on-ramp to Black Rock City has re-opened.

 

 

 

Couch Potato Alert

It’s Saturday afternoon and I’m vegging out in front of the TV watching college football.  It’s not easy to resist this and similar diversions – especially when all you have to do is reach for a remote control to do so.  In fact, it seems as if I couldn’t live without TV to entertain me.  But I do live without it in the desert.  And, unlike my sense of urgency to catch the shows and games that I’ve declared to be important to me, I suffer no pangs of withdrawal at Burning Man.  I’m otherwise engaged.

One of the healthiest aspects of Burning Man is that I get to live without mind-numbing escapism for a week or more.  It’s not like there’s nothing fun to do out there; there’s an entire book full of activities (see my earlier post on the What, When, Where Guide).  But none of it can be done with the press of a button while in resting mode on the couch.  You have to find out what’s going on, get your ass up to walk or bike there, and usually participate to get the most out of it.  Once in the habit of doing so, you begin to wonder the exact opposite of what you thought sitting in front of the TV:  who would ever want to go back to being a couch potato?

That’s one of the things that makes it hard to decompress from a week living within Burning Man’s Ten Principles.  What was enticing at home seems not simply boring, but a complete waste of time compared to the surfeit of fascinating hour-by-hour choices in Black Rock City.  And most of it is off the charts different from what’s available to you in the day-to-day (aka default) world.

I’m already sucked back in to couch potato heaven (especially during football/basketball/baseball/hockey season), but I miss the adventures I experience at Burning Man.  One of the best ways to get out of this rut is to engage with activities that re-ignite my passion for all things BRC – such as Decompressions and working on next year’s Burn.  Also, I’m considering putting together my own slideshow about Burning Man to share with friends and neighbors who might not understand why I go.

My wife stays occupied year-round with the event because of her role as our camp’s mayor.  I do what I can to support her in this work, such as helping her edit or craft communications to our campers.  I’m also part of the Temple Guardians communications team, so I remain in touch with this aspect of my Burning Man experience year-round.  Staying active preparing for next year keeps Burning Man alive in my mind, constantly reminding me that while I may be old, I still have a lot to look forward to.  That fact alone makes me feel good – and younger.

Of course, there’s also this blog.  Even though I’ve posted only intermittently over the past year (with the exception of my almost daily posts from BRC), I’m now determined to keep Sunrise Burners active throughout the year.  That requires me to think of new topics, and write regularly – something else that keeps me feeling vital.  Overall, then, Burning Man activities appear to be far better for my mental well-being than watching sports (or anything else) on television.  I’m determined to keep in mind how good life can be even if I don’t have access creature comforts and diversionary tactics.  I’m at my best without them … in the desert.

What’s Wrong with This Picture

I was reading a contentious discussion thread on one of the many Burning Man sites the other day, shaking my head in wonder at the energy put into proving that the event was bad in one way or another.  Here’s the gist (these are not precise quotes):

“The art’s too big”

“The art’s not good”

“The people are too rich”

“There are too many hippies”

“There are too many people”

“I don’t like the politics”

And, my personal favorite:

“It’s just a cock measuring contest”

It’s not the least bit troubling to hear all of these opinions, but most of the writers seemed hell-bent on convincing others not to attend Burning Man for the reasons they stated.  Here’s the way I see it:  Burning Man is whatever it is to an individual.  It is not the same for everyone.  If people don’t find what they’re looking for, they shouldn’t come back.  If they’re unwilling to put up with the harsh environment and the need to bring everything with you, they shouldn’t go in the first place.  But please don’t try to tell me what I should or shouldn’t like about the event, or convince me I shouldn’t go because of your experience.

Art or Fun? Who cares?

For me, every complaint I hear has validity for the individual voicing it; but it doesn’t matter.  I love Burning Man for the effect it has on my life.  I have always loved the art, but I recognize that much of it is gimmicky and fun rather than aesthetically important.  If people are wealthy out there, I don’t notice it.  Since there’s nothing but coffee and ice to spend money on, nobody’s walking around conspicuously consuming in front of me.  If someone has a better costume than me, I’m more likely to admire it than feel I have to compete with it.  And if there are lots of people there, it just makes the week more exciting from my perspective.  Since I don’t walk around naked, I’m not involved in any measurement competitions, and I haven’t seen anyone walking around with a ruler.

Hippies?  Not sure I can identify the look, speech pattern, or attire that would clue me in.  But I am certain that every year I’ll encounter people who are different from those I meet on a daily basis.

Dressed for Burning Man Success

I see the world turned on its head every day I’m on the Playa.  People are acting in ways that are different from how they act back home.  They’re more carefree, less concerned about how they look to others or whether they’re “dressed for success.”  People are invariably nice to each other at Burning Man, but they don’t twist themselves into pretzels to be who they’re not.

Burners are often overtly sexual – wearing provocative clothing (both men and women) and loving how that makes them and others feel.  They touch, they hug, they kiss.  But they do not debate the minutia of whether the hull of a 747 is art or not, whether it’s ruining their life that someone with lots of money is there, or whether they have adequately sized genitalia.  They just have a great time … or, they never return.

Decompression Blues

I don’t think I’ve understood the concept of “decompression” until this year.  After returning from a great Burn, and rushing into an array of planned activities, I found myself out of sorts.  I didn’t feel like my feet could touch the ground.  I missed the Playa and the freedom from anxiety that I felt while out there.  On Playa, I wrote with abandon; at home, I felt inhibited and unsure.  My thoughts constantly returned to BRC and the childlike sense of wonder I felt there; and I was (and still am) clinging to my Guardian bracelet, which is showing serious signs of wear.

Ready to depart the Playa

What I eventually concluded is I needed to get busy if I was going to successfully re-enter the default world.  There was certainly plenty to do.  Between the multitude of bills eagerly waiting to be paid and the chores, delayed appointments, and the Jewish High Holidays, I barely had time to breathe.  That busy-ness became an excuse in itself for doing nothing consequential and avoiding the challenging stuff.

Encouraged by friends, including some Burners, I’ve decided to explore a hobby that combines my love of coffee and technology. I’m now the proud owner of a coffee roaster and am diligently developing my skills at turning green beans into dark brown delights of aroma and flavor.  The roaster was a birthday gift from my kids (not exactly a surprise – I had hinted broadly that it was what I wanted), and, at the rate I’m going, I’ll have figured out how to use it properly by next year’s Burn.

I realized as I studied coffee roasting on the web and in print that doing something was far better than struggling to get my feet back on the ground.  But it hasn’t resolved everything.  I’m still feeling lethargic and unmotivated – longing for the sense of excitement that I awoke to daily during my 17 days in Black Rock City.  I loved knowing that I was “of use” (anybody who’s read Cider House Rules by John Irving will know what I mean).  Very few days went by where I didn’t contribute in a substantive way to the mission of the Temple Guardians, help with our camp, or assist a virgin Burner struggling to acclimate to the Playa.

What’s surprising about all of my struggles to come back to earth since the end of the Burn is that I’m actually a homebody who resists going almost anywhere.  So, I suppose I’ve not only gained an understanding of the difficulties of decompression, but also of the meaning of the greeting we get at Burning Man: “welcome home.”  The desert may well have become the home I never want to leave.

Mementos and Memories

When I left my first Burning Man in 2005 I was wearing a Lamplighter charm on a thin leather strap around my neck.  I promised myself I would keep wearing that memento as long as I could to remind myself that I had stopped gaining years and started losing them because of a few days in the desert. I wore it faithfully until the leather strap frayed and the charm fell off.

As I prepare this post, I’m still wearing my Temple Guardian bracelet from this year’s Burn, reminding me that although 13 physical years have passed since I began my Burning Man adventures, I’m feeling younger than ever.  Physical evidence notwithstanding, the glow of Burning Man remains with me in the default world.

On rare occasions, my Burning Man swag initiates a conversation that includes questions about why I go and what it’s like.  More often, such dialogues begin after I’ve said something about my experiences in the desert.  It’s always fun to hear responses, which range from neutral to negative, with only occasional spates of genuine admiration and interest.  What’s most fascinating is how quick people are to give me their opinions of Burning Man even when they’ve never gone.  One person told me that Burning Man might be all right if it was free, but charging for it made it a “one percenter’s thing.”  She had already judged that a “hippy event” that wasn’t free was immoral.  Okay.

I’ve also noticed how many media stories written about Burning Man are by reporters who have never gone.  As a result, these stories are filled with inaccuracies, reek of preconceived notions about the Burn, and are entirely too reliant on a single interviewee’s point of view.  Message to reporters:  you have to go to Burning Man to write about Burning Man.  Otherwise, your stories will lack authenticity.

I don’t just carry a physical remembrance of the Burn; I carry its memory in my heart and my soul.  Even if I lose my pieces of Burner swag, I’ll never lose the feelings I brought back with me.  Although wearing my Guardian bracelet arouses some wonderful feelings deep inside me, those feelings are present not because of the swag, but because I served in the Temple and saw Burners become emotionally engaged with those they had lost.

But there’s so much more to remember and keep close to me about the Burn.  The incredible kids who camped with us, the birth of a city out of nothing and its dissolution back into the land only days later; the art, the energy, the fire, the joy.  The first time I wrote about Burning Man I said it was indescribable because it seemed to go on forever.  Now I know that my inability to find the right words was less about Burning Man’s size and more about its scope.

I am floating in a cloud of my memories, and I hope this high continues for a while; and that even when it ends, I’ll still long to return to the magical place that is Black Rock City.

Want to Burn? Commit now!

Heading home from Burning Man 2018, we had hours to talk about whatever was on our minds.  So, what did we discuss?  Next year’s Burn and what we’d do differently.  If you’re going to BRC, you have to plan, and that planning should start now.

Because you’ve been reading this blog, I’m assuming you have at least a passing interest in Burning Man. If reading the posts has inspired and excited you about attending next year, it’s time to do something about it.  First things first.  Commit to going.  It’s easy to say, “I want to go next year,” then do nothing because it’s so far in the future.  Such delays often extend until it’s too late to prepare adequately, until you miss key deadlines, or until you just lose your sense of enthusiasm.  But committing to Burning Man now is the only way to be sure that when August 25, 2019 arrives, you’ll be heading for or in Black Rock City.

Put it on your calendar now.  Not just the dates of the event (August 25 – September 2, 2019), but some time beforehand to pack up, and a day or two at the end to clean off the playa dust and undo the rigging.

In addition to committing, there are steps you can take beginning now to get you there.  Start by going here, the Burning Man website for valuable information.  While it’s way too early to find details about ticketing for next year, you can sign up for the Jack Rabbit Speaks newsletter, one of the best sources of information about the upcoming Burn and related activities.  You’ll also see on the site announcements about Decompressions – events in various locations that follow the Burn.  We’ll be going to the San Francisco Decompression on October 20.  While Decompressions and other parties throughout the year are not the Burn, they give you an idea of what to expect and allow you to network with other Burners and get an introduction to some of the major theme camps.  It’s important to decide early whether you’re going to camp on your own or join a theme camp.  More about that later.

A yurt is another alternative for living at Burning Man

One of the most important early decisions is whether you’re going to tent camp or bring an RV or camper.  If you already own what you need to go either way, then you’re in great shape.  But many people rent campers for Burning Man.  Do it now.  It’s next to impossible to rent an RV or pull trailer late in the game.  Look into it immediately.  Reserve what you need with a reputable dealer that is used to renting to Burners.  It’s going to cost more to rent a vehicle for Burning Man than for normal camping (probably double the cost) because of the wear and tear and the cost of clean-up. But delaying your decision will almost certainly cause you to lose out.

For older people, I strongly recommend bringing a trailer or an RV with air-conditioning and a few creature comforts. You’ll need a generator to power the A/C, so make sure one in included with the rental and that it’s in excellent working order.  Signing a rental agreement for a Burning Man RV or trailer, even if it is cancellable, will feel like a commitment to attending the 2019 Burn.  Take that step now.

By the way, there are alternatives to RVs, trailers, etc. including innovative devices like Shift Pods (actually invented by a Burner).  Shift pods are aluminum living units that can be air-conditioned or equipped with a swamp cooler.  Given the low humidity of the Black Rock Desert, swamp coolers are excellent alternatives to A/C.

Also on the Burning Man site, you can investigate the various theme camps you might join (https://burningman.org/event/brc/2018-theme-camps/).  The long-term camps include camps supporting the major activities, including Greeter’s Camp, Center Camp Café Camp, Lamplighter’s Village and others.  You can read more about the various camps online and contact mayors or group managers for more information.  A theme camp gives you a ready-made community, particularly helpful if it’s your first year at Burning Man.  The larger camps serve at least some meals and provide other services, but require a work commitment.  So, check carefully before you choose one.

There’s lots more preparation I’ll be writing about over the next few weeks, but I can’t urge you strongly enough to make that commitment now so when next August rolls around you’re ready to become a Burner.