Getting Ready to Burn

We live in the mountains during the winter so we can ski.  Winter conditions can be harsh.  You have to prepare.  We have a closet full of ski wear, including thermal underwear, warm ski outer clothing, gloves that keep our fingers from freezing, skis and boots.  It’s similar for Burning Man.  We bring goggles and dust masks to protect us from the frequent dust storms, a large supply of water and sports drinks to keep us hydrated, clothing to stay cool during the day and warm at night, and bikes. The point is, when you have the right clothing and equipment, you can overcome even the harshest conditions.

So how do you find the gear you’ll need for Burning Man?  Dusty Depot is a fantastic site run by experienced Burners.  It shows numerous types of dust masks, goggles, playa-appropriate clothing and other needed paraphernalia.  I like the site because it doesn’t actually sell anything, but instead links to a variety of retailers such as Amazon and Costco.

There are great ideas and suggestions on Dusty Depot, but everything they describe comes with a price – a high price.  We’ve never spent anything close to those retail prices.  However, Dusty Depot is a good starting point for your preparation because it lists everything you’ll need to equip yourself for the harsh Playa environment.

Lashes, ready for a day on the Playa.

We prefer to re-purpose existing gear.  Ski goggles that you may already own can protect your eyes as well as an expensive set of new goggles.  A kerchief can be turned into a dust mask. We purchase used bikes on Craigslist or at flea markets and plan to use them for around three Burns before replacing them.  If you bring a fresh new bike, it’s more likely to be appropriated by another Burner than a crappy looking old bike that works okay.  I personally prefer to be able to shift gears as I bike through mini-dunes that the wind piles up, but I’ve successfully navigated the Playa with gearless bikes (the loaners provided by Burning Man don’t have gears).

Our big expenditures are on lights, batteries, bottled water, and sports drinks. Maintenance on our vintage RV (mid-1990s era) can cost a lot.  One year the dust invaded our generator and it stopped working.  That meant no AC.  Fortunately, TPP (The Playa Provides) occurred and we soon had three loaned generators at our disposal.  But fixing our generator when we got home was pricey.  By the way, if you decide to rent an RV, you’ll have to pay double the normal cost because of the wear and tear of a trip to Burning Man.  Some people don’t tell the rental agency where they’re going and meticulously clean up their RVs before returning them.  My recommendation would be to negotiate a deal where the rental company agrees to reduce the penalty fee if the condition of the RV is satisfactory upon return.  If you’re going to rent, you’ll need to make arrangements early because there are a limited number of RVs available around Labor Day.

As I’ve noted before, lighting yourself and your bike is an absolute necessity if you want to be safe.  Headlamps are particularly useful for both biking and walking.  But you have to remember to turn them off whenever you’re in a face-to-face conversation with another person.  There’s nothing more annoying than seeing one of those LED headlamps bobbing up and shooting directly into your eyes as you’re talking to someone.  You’ll find plenty of suggestions for lights at Dusty Depot.  Start there, then shop around.

If this is your first year, spend minimally on Burning Man-specific items.  Once you’ve decided you’re coming back, you might want to spend a little more on items you know you’ll need.  Good shopping!

Some of my friends have wondered why I didn’t write a personal note about Larry Harvey’s passing.  I felt that Marian’s letter was far better than anything I could say.  While I had met Larry a couple of times, read about him in Burning Man books and stories, and seen him interviewed in numerous films about BRC, I did not have the kind of close relationship that gave Marian the insights she expressed in her letter.  I’m saddened by his loss.  He contributed an idea to the world that has resonated with hundreds of thousands of people.  But that idea will carry on beyond his lifetime.  Can any of us ask for more out of our short time on the planet?

Passing of Larry Harvey

Larry Harvey, shown at a party during the 2011 Burning Man event.

I wanted to be sure that all of my readers were aware that Larry Harvey had passed away following a massive stroke.  Some of you may already have received the letter I’ve reproduced below from Marian Goodell, the chief executive officer of Burning Man and a founding board member of the organization.  It was distributed on Saturday.  I’ll let Marian’s letter speak for itself.

Friends,
I have very sad news to share with all of you. Larry Harvey passed away at 8:24am PST this morning. He passed peacefully, with his family at his side.
We resolutely held out for a miracle. If there was anyone tenacious, strong-willed and stubborn enough to come back from this challenge, it was Larry. Your outpouring of love, support, and prayers was felt deeply by his family and friends as we each spent time at Larry’s bedside 24/7 these past three weeks. I truly believe Larry felt your thoughts, healing energy and prayers. I know I did. The love sent to him filled more than his room in the hospital — it overflowed onto each of us at his bedside.
Larry was never one for labels. He didn’t fit a mold; he broke it with the way he lived his life. He was 100% authentic to his core. For all of us who knew or worked with him, he was a landscape gardener, a philosopher, a visionary, a wit, a writer, an inspiration, an instigator, a mentor, and at one point a taxi driver and a bike messenger. He was always a passionate advocate for our culture and the principles that emanate from the Burning Man experience in the Black Rock Desert.
As he told one of us recently, Larry liked to create “scenes” that made people consider the world in a new way. He was extraordinarily successful at doing just that.
The Burning Man Project has lost our original Founder. He liked to joke and say “finders, flounders, founders, a little bit of all of those… at our best we are finders.” The culture has lost a great leader and inspiring mind. He adeptly interpreted the manifestation of what became a movement. I have lost a dear friend who I’ve known, loved, and worked beside for nearly 22 years. The loss of his presence in our daily lives will be felt for years, but because of the spirit of who he is, we will never truly be without him.
We have begun a meditation vigil to help guide Larry on his journey through Monday morning, and invite you to join. Please feel free to participate from wherever you are. We also encourage those in San Francisco to visit Baker Beach, the original home of Burning Man, to honor and celebrate Larry this weekend.
We will also be planning a celebration of Larry’s life in the weeks to come and will share details when we have them. If you would like to share your photos, stories, and videos, you can post them on larry.burningman.org. You can also send your thoughts to TheHat@burningman.org which will also be shared directly with Larry’s family.
Stuart Mangrum, a dear friend of Larry’s for 25 years, has written a tribute to Larry. You can read it on the Burning Man Journal. And Larry’s brother Stewart Harvey has shared a photo essay of Larry’s life, which is also on the Burning Man Journal.
Larry would be the first to say this isn’t an ending, but the start of a new chapter, and we all have a hand in where we go from here.
With love, ❤
Marian

I Have Nothing to Wear

We have four trunks filled mainly with clothes that we wear on the Playa, but we don’t actually need any of it.  For my first couple of years at Burning Man I wore jeans and jeans shorts every day. I brought a variety of tee shirts, assorted underwear, and a couple of hats to protect me from the sun.  I owned zero “costumes” until year three.  Now we shop year-round at thrift stores and second-hand shops for Burning Man outfits, customizing them for Playa use with lights, colorful fur trim, beads and other paraphernalia.

I recall at my first Burn my amazement at seeing a woman who looked like the character Leelu from The Fifth Element.  Because Lashes and I had always loved that movie, I was excited to tell her about the striking appearance of someone who looked exactly like the film character on a dusty road in Black Rock City.  Leelu’s appearance during my first Burning Man inspired me creatively, but it lit a much bigger fire under Lashes, who started to learn more about the costumes typical of Burning Man.  She eventually gained expertise in areas such as EL Wire for lighting up clothing, bikes, etc; she also began exploring different kinds of material that could be turned into costumes appropriate for the Playa.

She started shopping in second-hand stores for retro-style clothing and ostentatious hats, all of which she modified for Burning Man.  At one of our early burns, she noticed the large number of colorful flags waving from tents, RVs, and art installations; so, she began designing and sewing flags based on each year’s theme (some of which were quite challenging, such as Rites of Passage, Cargo Cult, and Caravansary).  We’d often brainstorm ideas for both flags and costumes together, agree on an idea, and then move forward.  It was a year-round effort – especially on Lashes’ part.

Some costumes require a lot of work. This group of Burners dressed themselves as The Stepford Wives

But the reality is that you don’t really need costumes, flags, and other home-made paraphernalia to be prepared for the Playa.  However, there are some necessities:  first, you ’ll need clothing that is light enough to wear in the hot desert sun, as well as clothing that can keep you warm in the cool (and sometimes cold) desert nights.  Lights to make yourself and your bike visible at night, and headlamps or other wearable flashlights that help you see your way around the variable surface of the Playa are also necessities.  Without appropriate lighting, you stand a chance of being invisible to oncoming bikes, or of tripping over something laying on the Playa (such as a sleeping Burner).

You don’t need costumes for the Burn, although you may want some in order to have more fun and make a splash in BRC.  You can always obtain a free outfit from one of the costume shops (such as Kostume Kult) after you’ve reached Burning Man.  There are plentiful choices – especially if you shop early in the week.  Also, you can shop at one of the Prepare for the Playa events held by regional Burner groups around the world.  There you’ll find everything from playa wear to lighting to dust protection gear.

So, there’s no need to stress over shopping for Burning Man finery.  Even if you “come as you are,” you’ll quickly find yourself outfitted for the Burn in the basic attire that everyone wears on a daily basis: a layer of dust.

Overcoming Trepidations about Burning Man

A few days ago, I made a Craigslist purchase just outside a Starbuck’s in Sacramento.  It happened that the item was for our Burning Man camp and that fact sparked a typical exchange.

“I’ve always wanted to go, but my wife is dead set against it.  I’m not so sure either.  We don’t want to take our clothes off in front of other people,” he told me.

I sprung into Defender of Burning Man action.

“You don’t have to go naked; you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do,” I told him.  “It’s the most chilled out place you’ve ever been.”

“But I’ve just had my 71st birthday.  I’m too old to go,” he said.

“You’re perfect for Burning Man,” I told him.  “I’m 73, and this year will be my 11th Burn.  In fact, I write a blog about Burning Man for people 50 and older on why they should go.”

After showing him the site on my smartphone, I made him promise that he’d read some of the posts and give it serious consideration.  So just in case my Craigslist friend finds his way to this site, I thought I’d reprint a piece I did in October 2011.  It is about my initial trepidations about attending, and why I came back over and over again.  Here it is:

Posted on October 18, 2011

I felt great trepidation once I had agreed to attend my first Burning Man Festival.  My fears focused on the many levels of misery I would experience during what seemed like an endless seven days in the desert.

Would I have to get naked? Would I have to take drugs? Would I suffer sunburn and dehydration? Would I get lost in a dust storm?

I was hoping to survive the event, and I certainly never expected to enjoy myself. What a surprise then to realize that Burning Man turned out to be not only fun but also the most pressure-free environment I had ever experienced in my life. Nothing was expected of me. Others may have gone naked (a small percentage, I might add), but no one expected it of me. Others might have done drugs (I definitely saw some marijuana being imbibed, but there was no demand that I do drugs). Others might have partied day and night, but I rested whenever I was tired. It was easy to take care of myself in the desert heat, and one of the prime directives of our camp was to “take care of each other.”

Best of all, from the moment I entered the gates, I felt a freeing spirit descend on me, and the weight of troubles and concerns lift off of my shoulders. It’s no wonder that I came back home noticeably younger looking and feeling.

Year One: Eric and I Lamplighting together at Burning Man 2005

Rather than my week in the desert being a miserable experience marked by sunstroke, sunburn and deep bodily embarrassment, it was the experience of a lifetime between myself and my son –remarkable since he was 40 years my junior and had little reason to stick around with his old man in this clearly youthful environment.

But stick with me he did. He watched me like a hawk, making certain his old man was not only okay, but having a great time and getting adequate rest and nutrition. In fact, the one time I had a bit too much to drink, he looked askance at me and said, “Dad, you’re drunk” in an accusing voice. I turned to him and slurred out the words, “Yes, I am,” and began laughing.

It was the greatest bonding experience ever between the two of us, and one we have never forgotten. Although we attended several more Burns together, we never went again without his mom’s presence, and it was never the same special “guy’s” event.

Year Two:  Judie enjoys her Barbie moment.

As wonderful as my experience with Eric had been, my fears would have been allayed if I had come alone. Nothing I have ever done, and no place I have ever gone, puts less pressure on you than Burning Man. Of course, that was my experience. And I would always caution you to carefully check out the group with whom you’re camping. Some rare camps do not observe the Burning Man spirit of “taking care of each other” and may haze newbies. It should be easy to find that out in advance. If you are camping in a theme camp, do some advance research to determine the history and reputation of the group. If you don’t like what you learn, find another group.

More about theme camps vs. camping on your own shortly.

 

 

Everything’s Sexier at Burning Man

Love is in the air at Burning Man, and it’s a great feeling.  From the moment you arrive, you’ll be inundated by hugs – beginning at the greeter station and continuing throughout the Burn.  There are hug camps and kissing booths, compliment camps, and smile camps.   Hugs are the greeting du jour of Burning Man.  If you have an aversion to being touched by other humans, be prepared to jettison that phobia and embrace another self – your Burner self.

Your first visit to Burning Man can cause some cultural shock waves in your life – and that’s especially true if you’re settled into belief systems and habits.  At my first Burn, I was startled one morning when I stepped out of my tent and saw a group of naked men and women running behind a truck that was spraying the road with water (done regularly to keep the dust in check). After a couple of days of exposure to …  well … exposure, I became accustomed to nudity.  It had quickly lost its shock or titillation power.

However, the nudity, partial nudity and provocative dress combined with the many erotic activities (such as couple’s nude photos by a professional photographer, camps devoted to pleasuring one sex or the other, orgy domes, etc.) made for an immersive sexual atmosphere.  The hugs were fun, but the eroticism was fabulous.

Nudity at Burning Man was startling at first. But I got used to it.

I’ve always believed that sexuality is a life force, and that embracing your eroticism makes you feel young.  What I’m talking about is different from random sexual hook-ups on the Playa; instead, this is a ubiquitous and energizing state that infuses the entirety of Burning Man.  For my wife and I, it has changed our life together for the better, prevented the dulling down of our romance (even after 51 years), and made us act more like a young couple than a couple of old fogies.  We embrace the physical aspect of our marriage far more today than we did prior to the year we fell in love with The Man.

I believe the life-affirming erotic power of Burning Man has its greatest impact on people a few years beyond the “hooking up” stage.  It puts us back in the game of living life to the fullest.

My first Burn was 2005, the theme was Psyche, and the atmosphere was even more erotic than it is now.  Each day was named for a sex act (e.g., Oral Sex Tuesday); nudity was more commonplace than it seems to be today; and it felt like every other camp had some sexual purpose.

I realized after my first Burn that I felt a lot younger, but it took me a few years to make the connection between feeling younger and feeling sexual.  I’m convinced that the connection is real, and that my life is made better by feeling sexy for a week in the desert every year.

Opinions about Burning Man Can Be Wrong

Many of the people who have heard of Burning Man have some deep-seated misunderstandings of the Festivals. Among these misconceptions are:

1. Burning Man is music festival, like Coachella
2. Burning Man is a hippie rave, where everyone is on drugs
3. Burning Man is a one-week orgy, where everyone goes naked and has sex with each other constantly
4. Burning Man is liberal; conservatives are not welcomed
5. Burning Man is for the young – there’s nothing there for older people
6. Burning Man’s art isn’t serious – it’s just part of the entertainment

There’s a touch of truth in all of these statements, but for the most part, they are all inaccurate. I’d like to examine both the realities and the origins of the misperceptions:

First, while there’s plenty of music at Burning Man, it is not a music festival. In fact, the vast majority of music you’ll hear on the Playa is recorded and the biggest “stars” are the DJ’s. While there are a few live bands, there’s rarely anyone famous who performs there. For live music, Burning Man is far more noted for its rag-tag marching bands, drum circles, and volunteer performers at Center Camp (who range from excellent to ludicrous). Music constantly wafts out of art cars as they roam the Playa, but it’s rarely live.

Second, while there may be rave-like parties here and there in Black Rock City, they are neither universal nor part of the scheduled events. They just happen at times among Burners who enjoy raucous parties. The desert is big, and one party can’t influence the whole of Burning Man, so you may never encounter such parties. By the way, few Burners consider themselves hippies, and most of those are in their 70s or older. Many of the attendees don’t even know what a hippie is. And while some people do drugs while in Black Rock City, this activity is not ubiquitous and there’s absolutely no pressure to partake if you’re disinclined.

Burning Man art featured at the Smithsonian show running through next January

Third, orgies are neither universal nor “required” activities. Some people enjoy sexual activity with individuals they have just met on the Playa; others remain monogamous or even chaste. There’s no question about the erotic atmosphere that pervades Burning Man, but how you act on it (or don’t) is entirely up to you. Nudity or partial nudity is common, but not universal.

Fourth, Burning Man attendees probably lean liberal, but there are plenty of committed conservatives who come annually. In fact, the Playa is a haven where you can escape the constant drum of political talk or any form of news. Some of the art may reflect a political point of view, but subjects such as concern for the planet and human rights are far more typical of Burning Man art themes than politics.

Fifth, if Burning Man were strictly for the young, why would I write this blog? There are families with toddlers, young adults, mid-career men and women, and people as old as their 80s. Walking or biking across the Playa, you’d be hard-pressed to identify an “average” age group. Activities are open to all ages, and accessible alternatives with those with disabilities (age-related or not) are plentiful.

Finally, the creative value in the art created for Burning Man is subjective, especially given the frequent whimsical or provocative content. But one measure of the artistic integrity of what you’ll see at a typical Burn is a new exhibit at the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery entitled No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man. The show began on March 30 and will run through January 21, 2019. Click this link for more information. We’ve always considered the art our favorite aspect of Burning Man, and feel this new exhibit validates our sense of its importance.

Burners Bored? They’re Too Busy

“Seven days in the desert!  What are we going to do for all that time?”

Plenty.  But you won’t know about the myriad activities until you read your What When Where guide, which you can obtain only by entering the gates of Burning Man.

I’m here to help, because I have in front of me one of my guides from a past Burning Man, and I’m going to share with you some sample activities you can expect during your week in Black Rock City.

The events are broken into two sets of groupings:  first, by whether they are repeating or one-time events; and second, by one of 11 categories, specifically:

  • Care/support
  • Adult
  • Fire-based
  • Food
  • Games
  • Kid-friendly
  • Parade
  • Party/gathering
  • Performance
  • Ritual/ceremony
  • Workshop/class

The book itself contains more than 150 pages of listings (in small type).  One example is belly dancing class (probably taught by a professional) at 3 p.m. Monday.  At 9 p.m. on Wednesday, there’s a night art tour with introductions to the artists.  Up late?  From 11:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. there’s Midnight Warmup at the First Kiss Café.  It features tea and hot toddies.  Even later, there are a number of dance parties from midnight to 4 a.m. (such as the famed Spanky’s disco).  Each features a different type of music.  An early bird?  Try Energetic Yin Yoga at Naked Heart from 7 to 8:30 a.m. (I don’t think you have to be naked while you’re practicing your yoga exercises.)

If you’re looking for Burning Man’s legendary sexuality, enter the Slut Olympics from 2 to 4 p.m. Wednesday at Slutgarden (not sure what’s required but it’s suggested you bring knee pads).  Or, if you’re truly adventurous, take your lover to the Orgy Dome.  But be ready to share – it’s required.

Every day you can roller skate to vintage rock music at the Black Rock Roller Rink, play Bumper Cars and pick up Burning Man-themed swag at the Swagmart.

Whatever time you’re out and about, there are plenty of bars open, all of them serving straight liquor, wine, or specialty drinks at absolutely no charge.  If you don’t want to cook breakfast, head out to one of the playa’s pancake emporiums such as the Pancake Playhouse.  There’s no charge, but remember to bring a plate or you’ll be licking syrup off of your hands.

Nights are alive with burning art, outdoor movies, circuses and more.  And if you find yourself under-dressed for the Playa, there are several spots devoted to finding you the perfect outfits for your stay in the desert.  The largest is Kostume Kult, staffed by classic New York schmata salesmen (it’s Yiddish – look it up).  Speaking of desert, if you feel too dusty to move after a few days in Black Rock City, you can visit either the Astral Hair Wash or the Human Carcass Wash.  Just remember to bring a gallon of water with you and leave your modesty behind.

Bikes are crucial to your Burning Man experience, and if yours breaks down you can take it to one of the many bike repair shops such as Bike Repair@ShangriLa.  Again, there’s no charge, and you may even avail yourself of a lecture on do-it-yourself repair or bike safety.

Each year, we mark our What When Where Guide with all the happenings we don’t want to miss.  But there’s so much going on, that we rarely get to half of the events.  Sometimes that’s because as we’re biking our way to one event, we see something along the route that attracts our interest and we go there instead.

So, if the potential for boredom is stopping you from attending Burning Man, push that excuse off of your chart of “no’s”.  If anything, there’s too much to do in just one week on the Playa.  Hope to see you there.

 

 

 

Brain Games on the Playa

It was well after midnight (our favorite time on the Playa) and we were trying out food and drinks gifted by different camps when we began to hear some music wafting toward us. We were drawn in like moths to a flame only to discover that a live hip-hop group was performing at an intimate tent-based nightclub. As people in their 70s, we have never been especially fond of hip-hop. In fact, we’ve found most of it repulsive – especially the “gangsta” style rap with its violent and misogynistic lyrics. On the other hand, we’ve enjoyed work such as Common and John Legend’s Oscar-winning song from Selma, which combined Legend’s singing with Common’s rapping. And that was the very type of hip-hop we ran across that night at Burning Man.

The group consisted of two male rappers and a female singer. They were uniformly excellent. The music track was pre-recorded, but it was their own composition and performance. We fell under the spell of this group. The woman’s singing was tuneful and enticing. Best of all, it meshed perfectly with the rap, which was poetic, funny, and pointed. This may have been the first time we listened so carefully to rap lyrics. We stayed around for the entire set, dancing and joining others in urging the group to “play one more” whenever they announced that this was their final number.

The jellyfish from last year’s Burn. Is this what made my brain work better?

We’re never going to be hip-hop aficionados, but we discovered that rejecting all hip-hop out of hand was limiting our artistic experiences. So now we’re paying more attention to rap, aware that it’s both poetic and musical, and watching as the art form evolves and broadens its appeal. Without this Burning Man experience, we’d probably remain in our musical bunker and continue to avoid rap/hip-hop as an art form.

Finding and engaging with new experiences (whether it’s music, art, or the people we meet), is a positive brain exercise – especially important for older people. It’s probably one of the reasons that we return from Black Rock City energized and feeling younger. So, you can choose to dine on jellyfish (or take Prevagen) or go to Burning Man for a shot of youthful energy and brain stimulation. I don’t know if Prevagen works, but I am certain about Burning Man.

On another topic, many of you may already be aware that the 2018 theme for Burning Man is “I, Robot,” which is the name of a hit movie starring Will Smith. The film was originally inspired by a short story by famed Sci-Fi writer and biochemist Isaac Asimov. But this year’s theme is not the only Asimov-inspired aspect of the 2018 Burn. The Temple (artists’ rendering above), which is currently in early stages of construction, will also be named for a work linked to Asimov, “Galaxia”. According to the Org, the Temple is “inspired by Gaia in Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series, GALAXIA, which celebrates the hope in the unknown; it is the ultimate network, the fabric of the universe connecting living beings into one entity.”

So BRC in 2018 will be a sci-fi lover’s feast, and personally, I can’t wait.

No Pain, No Gain

I understand why people find Burning Man intimidating and feel resigned never to attend – even if they have an interest in the art or participating in the Burn’s unique, principles-driven culture. Given the harsh desert environment, the requirement to bring your own food and water, and the presence of those dreaded porta-potties, I can’t fault anyone for such a decision. In fact, that’s the way I felt as I approached my first Burn. I had to fight through personal apprehensions as the date neared and felt fairly certain I would not survive the experience (I have a tendency toward overblown fears). But the minute my son dragged my sorry ass through the gate back in 2005, I felt a sense of freedom, unlike anything I had ever known. The experience of that first Burn, and each one thereafter, has made a permanent impact on me and enhanced my life. Let me count the ways.

People: After more than 30 years as a corporate executive, I found myself judging people largely on external factors – how they dressed, speech patterns, grooming, etc. At Burning Man, I learned to see through many of the surface features to find the real people underneath. I wasn’t just interested in “accepting” a broader array of people, but in embracing them. And while I began this practice at the Burn, I have expanded it to the whole of my life ever since.

Awareness: For reasons that are hard to explain, I seem to be more aware of the world around me since attending Burning Man. I’m particularly alert to natural beauty, which is especially pleasant during the winter months when we live adjacent to Lake Tahoe. Maybe it’s because spending a week or two in the flat, lifeless Black Rock Desert has taught me to find beauty everywhere.

Sunset over Lake Tahoe. Now I see it. (iPhone Photo by author).

Love: After 51 years of marriage, my wife and I love each other more than ever. Has Burning Man played a role? I think it has. It’s a shared experience that we both love and reflect on throughout the year. It’s a period of time when we rely almost entirely on each other. It’s provided us with a whole new set of friends – many of them quite young – who inspire and energize us and renew our own relationship.

Sex: Burning Man is suffused with eroticism, and its presence adds a dimension not just to our time on the Playa, but to our lives as a whole. Since we began attending Burning Man, our love life has blossomed. Sex is not a fading aspect of our marriage, but an ever growing and improving wonder.

Creativity: Year in and year out, we are amazed and inspired by the creative energy on display at Burning Man. The art is not just aesthetically pleasing, it is clever and innovative in ways that make you re-think your own ability to add fun and enjoyment to the world. Typical Burning Man art engages both sides of your brain by employing both technology and traditional art to create something unique. Sometimes, the best art at Burning Man is of the mobile variety. The art cars are something to behold.

Would it be worth enduring the trying negatives of Burning Man for the plusses I’ve listed here? It is for me.

Free to Be Burners

I’ve written numerous posts on this blog listing reasons we love Burning Man and feel others our age will love it as well. Those reasons have included the creativity, the diversity of people, the whimsy, and the eroticism that are hallmarks of the event. But one factor I’ve never mentioned – possibly because I didn’t notice its presence until this Burn — is freedom. This year, arriving as we did to a raw and unstructured Playa, it was clear the moment we stepped out of our RV that we were unencumbered by our day-to-day lives. We felt totally free – untethered to anything outside of the next two weeks. The feeling of weightlessness was palpable, and energizing. Here we were, parked in an empty plot of desert with practically no one in sight, and feeling totally fine with our situation. It was exhilarating.

We may have noticed this sense of freedom, this absence of pedestrian constraints, because we had been away from Burning Man for two years; hence, 2017 felt a bit like our first Burn. But because we were experienced Burners, we weren’t overwhelmed as are most first-timers; we were instead aware of our deeper feelings. In the nothingness we encountered arriving this year, we found liberation.

Tent-top light show underway in Deep Playa

This lightness of spirit permeated our entire experience and left us at ease in the face of challenges such as leading a camp for the first time and dealing with the typical harsh elements of Black Rock City. It also allowed us to revel with abandon in the joys we’ve always found at Burning Man. I remember watching a deep playa light show, transfixed at the movement of the LED’s synched to mostly classical music. Burners laid on the floor of the tent-like structure watching the light show projected onto the “roof”. You felt like you could watch forever.

That same night we saw a gigantic puppet created by a French artist. I had seen her before, but she was attired so differently that I thought this was a second such art installation. It turned out that the artist’s crew changed the puppet’s look daily – quite an undertaking for a figure that was probably 25 feet tall.

Giant puppet in open Playa. Her outfits changed daily

The art not only inspired us with its beauty, creative effort, and remarkable desert-ready execution, but also spoke to the sense of freedom in which we basked the entire time.

weather largely cooperated in giving us leeway to set our own schedule. In fact, this year’s greatest meteorological challenge was not dust storms, but heat. The temperature reached at least 119 degrees and confined us to our air-conditioned RV between 11 and 4 most days. The nights cooled, but not as much as usual. As a result, our lighted outerwear was too warm for the balmy desert evenings – even at the 4,000-foot elevation of the Black Rock Desert – and remained back in the RV or hung on our bikes. Desert weather is fickle and I would recommend bringing warm clothes for the evenings despite this year’s warmth. I also think we made the right decision staying out of the heat during the hottest part of the day. Some of our young campmates were fine taking on mid-day activities, but I’m certain it would have sapped our strength.

But even the heat could not dampen our sense of liberty at being at Burning Man. It was, without a doubt, our best – and freest – burn ever.