Wistful Thinking

Five years after our 2018 visit to the legendary Black Rock Station described in this post, we returned to Burning Man’s work ranch on June 2. The ranch sits some 21 miles beyond Gerlach and about 10 miles past the point where we’ll enter the Black Rock Desert for Burning Man in a couple of months. It’s hard up against the desert proper and is a rough-hewn facility where DPW staffers work full and part-time on a year-round basis to ensure that Black Rock City rises on schedule from the near-empty desert. I urge you to read (or re-read) this post to learn a little about the team of loving misfits who make Burning Man happen every year.

We returned to this remarkable worksite where the thousands of theme camp containers and the bones of some old art cars are stored, and where such critical work as the construction of Black Rock City begins. The changes in the years since our earlier visit weren’t dramatic, but were noticeable. Pre-pandemic, the ranch seemed better equipped to support visiting theme camps on their work weekends. Meals were prepared and served throughout the weekend five years ago. Now, weekend food service is spotty (although the food that was served was delicious). New restroom and shower facilities have been added, which vastly enhances the creature comforts. The provided housing was about the same: minimalist boxes that had windows and air conditioners, but not quite as clean as I remembered from our earlier stay. Still, more than adequate.

DPW Burners tend to be a tough lot, but unlike the typical construction worker crowd, these folks show all the love and caring for others that is found on Playa. Hugs abound and everyone welcomes strangers such as our crew of visitors. Still, our stay at Black Rock Station served as a reminder that only a few people in the world can thrive as Burners. I’ve been one of them since 2005, and though I see myself as a citizen of the Default World, many of the things that Burning Man changed in me remain fixed in my psyche: I don’t look at people the same way I used to, making judgments based on dress, grooming, and body art. I am fiercely supportive of the rights of all people to take their place in the world and I still treasure the role of sex in human relationships – however, people choose to imbibe in this great gift that nature has provided us. I have less and less patience for the insane pontifications of our so-called leaders who are truly acting like B.F. Skinner’s rats seeking out their treats.

At this stage of my life, the discomfort took a greater toll on me than previously. That’s probably because aging is the toughest thing I’ve ever experienced – and there’s nothing I can do to stop it. I’ve begun to recognize that part of my reaction to aging is curmudgeonly in its nature and that has entered my behavior pattern. Maybe after this year’s Burn, I’ll feel differently. After all, it’s the art-filled Playa that has always inspired and excited me, and the ranch has only hints of that environment.

As we departed the ranch, we crossed paths with the cricket hordes that have infested all of the Northern Nevada deserts this year. They were everywhere, and our tires crunched over them as we headed toward Gerlach.

In my earlier post on visiting the ranch, I wrote that we felt a sense of nostalgia when we drove off – a feeling similar to that of departing Black Rock City at the end of Burning Man. This time we felt more wistful, in part because of the strange sight of so many living and dead insects scattered across the road, but in part because hanging out with young Burners made us more aware of our age. Like the plague of crickets, each birthday seems to arrive unexpectedly; but in reality, it’s inevitable.

The RV Metaphor

I think we’ve begun to resemble our Burning Man RV. Not only is it an aging model, but it needs some replacement parts. Foremost among the needed upgrades is a new generator. Ours bit the dust (pun intended) after the last Burn. It’s critical for us because it allows us to run the air conditioner. Without AC, the RV turns into a hot box in the desert. We also have a medical device that requires power so the gennie is a must-have for our stay in Black Rock City.

Fortunately, our son – also a Burner – recently found a used version of the exact same model built-in generator for a reasonable price. The new one will also need some repair, but we’re confident our old model will provide all needed parts. Of course, there’s still the issue of roadworthiness (for both us and the vehicle). Hence, we’re getting ourselves checked out medically while we kick the tires on the RV

As you can probably tell, the RV is the perfect metaphor for us. In addition to the aforementioned need for a replacement generator, the vehicle’s speed and reliability are far from ideal. I have some replacement parts of my own – titanium in my left femur, for example. And we’re both nearing the age when more alternative body parts may be required. Like the vehicle, we absolutely move slower and less reliably than in the past.

Taking the RV in for a tune-up and inspection will help; but, as far as we’re concerned, even our Primary Care Physician can’t prep us with an oil change and some new tires. So we and the RV will be heading to the Playa aware of possible breakdowns along the way.

Just as we know to pack extra oil and coolant and to bring battery cables, we have to line up the assortment of meds and vitamins that get us started and keep us humming along every day. That takes some additional preparation. We not only have to remember to bring the meds, but we have to recall where we’ve stored them once we’ve packed the RV.

We’ve also got to do more limbering up than previously. We can’t just head out to the Playa and jump on our bikes for the first time in months. We need to start riding now. We won’t have a good time if we end up with strained muscles on day one and spend the rest of the Burn in pain.

Worst-case scenarios are not our expectation, but guarding against them seems wise. How to Burn when you’re nearing 80 years old takes thought and planning. As it does for everyone prepping to spend a week in the harsh conditions of the Black Rock Desert. Check the Burning Man website (www.burningman.com) for tips on how to have a safe and fun Burn. If all goes according to plan, we’ll see you there.

Judging Burning Man

You have to give up a lot of creature comforts to spend a week or so on Playa. But one thing I gave up at Burning Man turned out to be a relief: thinking judgmentally. I’m not sure when I realized that I was no longer spending time and energy judging people, but I know that it happened in Black Rock City. After years of living a corporate life and gauging others by that standard, I instead embraced the value of differences, not only in others but in myself as well. I began to understand that inside me are all the possibilities of the human condition – male, female, straight, queer, sane, crazy. Not only did personal judgment largely fall away, but political judgment did as well. I haven’t changed, but I’ve stopped caring whether others fall into one or more of my preconceived “acceptable” standards.

No wonder I return from Burning Man in a completely relaxed state. But the world around me has not changed, and I continue to encounter people endlessly judging me and others. In that environment, it’s difficult to maintain the non-judgmental spirit of Black Rock City and to avoid falling into the habit of instantaneously measuring others against arbitrary standards. But after 13 years as a Burner, I’m better at sloughing off that tendency to judge others based on appearance, dress, or their own judgmental statements.

Recent political divides in the U.S. have made instant and arbitrary judgments more difficult to overcome because voices that had previously been viewed as well outside the norm have increased in volume (both loudness and quantity), challenging me to keep the non-judgmental spirit of BRC alive. I’m not always successful at doing so, except when I’m on Playa. There, politics seems to evaporate into the desert air. If only that spirit could be moved to the default world, lessening the impact of politics on all our lives and increasing our willingness to accept each other.

Alas, these days it has become common to refuse any form of interaction with those who disagree with us politically. This sense of acute judgment has polluted our community life and separated people even more than previously. So when you go to Burning Man this year, look for ways to drop judgmental thinking from your way of being. Then, see if you can bring that approach home to your default life. If you’re anything like me, you won’t be totally successful, but you may shift your thinking a little and by doing so encourage others to do the same. That’s the spirit of Black Rock City extended into the real world.

As you watch the rise of antagonism toward others – whether based on nationality, skin color, religion, sexual orientation, or other differences – you can insert the Burning Man principle of Radical Inclusion into your reaction. Even those who express arbitrary hatred of other human beings have a right to exist and to express their deepest-held beliefs, just as you have the right to disagree with them. Changing others may not be possible, but creating a world of love and kindness around your own way of thinking could help make the entire world more like Black Rock City. If we start by encouraging ourselves and others to accept that alternative lifestyles do not represent an existential danger, we will have taken a tiny step toward the ideals of Burning Man. And what a relief that would be.

Back to the Future: On Playa Again

I’m coming home. After a three-year absence (including Covid), I’ll be returning to the Playa for Burning Man 2023. It’s a source of great joy and excitement to know that in only a few months I’ll be surrounded by all the excitement, the art, the eroticism, and the dust that makes Burning Man what it is: a uniquely American experience that embraces the entire world.

My wife and I are coming dangerously close to our 80s, which reminds me of our first couple of Burns. In 2006, when we celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary on Playa, we met a group of “older” people who called themselves the Wisdom Camp. We thought we were ancient until we discovered this group of Burners who still had the fire within them. As the years passed, many of these folks disappeared from Burning Man. We worried about them but considered the possibility that they had simply stopped coming because of age and the stress of preparing for and attending the Burn.

Now, we are those people. While we’re far from the longest-attending Burners, we’re certainly among the oldest. And though we don’t claim to have the market cornered on wisdom, we can claim experience. The good news is that we still expect to be surprised by what we see at Burning Man 2023, and to come away feeling younger than our years.

That’s the heart and soul of this blog – to remind ourselves and others who are no longer chronologically young that Burning Man is a Fountain of Youth. It’s hard to come away not feeling younger – and for sure you won’t feel older from the experience.

That doesn’t mean we’ll be pretending that we’re twenty or thirty years younger than we are. We can’t operate on the clock of a 40-year-old with a 78-year-old body; we need more rest, and we build that into our experience. We’ve always stayed in our air-conditioned RV during the hottest part of the day, and that strategy will remain in place.

But we actually plan to see more of Burning Man this year. Our camp responsibilities are somewhat lessened now, so we’ll actually have more time to roam around, enjoy the art, meet more people, laugh at the displays of whimsy and joy, and eat and drink more of the gifted offerings. Staying out of the hot part of the day gives us more time and energy to enjoy the fiery night scenes, which have always been our favorites. We love the do-it-yourself artworks that allow some control over the effects. And we’ll take advantage of those Zen moments sitting under lighted art installations programmed to music.

Speaking of music, we’ll be searching out as many performances as we can fit into the schedule – especially by groups like the ad hoc symphony orchestra and the marching bands. We may even dance at one of the discos.  And if we tucker out, there’s always the center camp stage with its cushioned seating.

What we’re looking forward to the most is the renewal we experience at every Burning Man. Feeling younger makes us younger, and the infusion of that youthful spirit into our lives is something we’re eager to embrace once again. See you on Playa.

To Plan B or Not to Plan B

As the date normally reserved for Burning Man approaches, many Burners are heading out to the Black Rock desert for an unofficial event that’s being called Black Rock Plan B.  I can understand the need to get a taste of Burning Man after missing it for a year, and I hope everyone who goes has a great time, but we won’t be among them.  The reality for us right now is that we’ve canceled most of our travel plans awaiting the end of a pandemic that has become more deadly because of the Delta variant.  Many old-line Burners would call us wusses for letting a little health scare put us off from flocking to a “no rules” style Burn, but our true Burner friends – who know we’re beyond our mid-70’s and have some underlying health issues – would be relieved that we’ve made this decision. 

Plan B will be more like Burning Man was in its early years, prior to the mid-90s when the playa population reached into the tens of thousands.  Once Burning Man hit those kinds of numbers, it had to become a bit more civilized, requiring an elaborate infrastructure focused on safety and a certain amount of rule-making.   

My first Burn was 2005, and while the population was only about half what it was in 2019, it was already operating much as it does today. Since that time, most changes have been iterative:  more art burns, more and larger art installations, expansion of DPW resources and staff, bigger crowds, additional medical facilities, etc.  But Burning Man looked familiar to us each year, even with the changes. 

So what will Plan B look like?  Honestly, I’m not sure.  But I’m suspect it will be raw and unplanned.  From what I’ve read, there will not be much of the infrastructure provided by the org, such as medical facilities, porta-potties, DPW support for large art pieces, and safety perimeters around any burns. 

Graphic from the Plan B Website

But it’s not just the lack of org support keeping us away from the playa this year.  Even if a 2021 Burn had been held, we likely would not have gone.  The idea of partying for a week in the desert with 70,000 burners packed into Black Rock City sharing lots of hugs and even more signs of endearment simply scares the shit out of us.  We intend to live a few more years and are not prepared to take chances with large crowds right now.  But at least if the org ran Burning Man, everyone would have to prove they’d been vaccinated.  At Plan B, it’s doubtful that there will be any proof required of anything.  Attendees are just going out to the federally-owned Black Rock Desert to camp and enjoy themselves. 

I love Burning Man and can’t wait to get back to it.  But the structure supplied by the org, the rules, the 10 Principles, even the presence of both Burning Man and BLM Rangers provides a comforting sheen of safety.  And since this blog is intended for older people who want to go to Burning Man, I can’t recommend Plan B to those I’ve been urging to give BRC a try.  This is not the way to experience your first Burn.  For us, it’s not ready for prime time.  Wait another year and enjoy Burning Man as it’s been operating since the attendance numbers hit five figures.  I’m just not convinced that for me, Plan B will be the great experience I’m used to having in the Black Rock Desert.



Leaving Shangri-La

A couple of days ago, as we were looking through some of our old photos, we ran across one from a few years back at BRC taken with our Burner friend, Helen. We were shocked at how young we looked.  Today, after a year-plus in pandemic mode, we look and feel old, haggard and tired.  I mean, I get it, that we’re both beyond our mid-70s and it’s time to start looking our age, but we’ve felt differently about ourselves up until now – especially since we started going to Burning Man.  Each year when we returned from the Burn we felt ageless, youthful, exuberant.

That feeling hung with us like a positive aura for months, and as it faded we could pump it back up by recalling the previous Burn, talking with Burner friends, or working on camp activities.  But now we’ve missed a Burn and know we’ll be missing another this year, and – though we’re vaccinated – we still have concerns about our health because of our age and underlying conditions.  We’ve also both faced health challenges such as surgeries over the time since our last Burn.  As a result, we feel deflated; put another way, we’re feeling our years.  And finding the photo of happy us brought all of our feelings into sharp relief.

Burning Man 2013 with our friend, Helen. How young we were

This onslaught of negativity has had one positive repercussion – it made us recall why we love to go to Burning Man, and why we think it’s such a powerful experience for older adults.  As I’ve noted many times in this blog, Burning Man makes you feel young.  It’s almost as if going to the Playa subtracts years from your aging mind and body.  I’ve come to see it as a balm against the ravages of aging.  After my first Burn in 2005, I felt 20 years younger.  I’ve evaluated why I think that’s so in earlier posts, but I think it’s worth doing so again as my wife and I struggle with this sense of our age catching up with us.

The four factors I think bring about the de-aging effect of Burning Man are creativity, change in both people and place, whimsy, and eroticism.

 Creativity is all around you at Burning Man, and not just in the massive art installations and the clever art cars.  Most individuals take pains to add creative elements to their bodies and their attire.  The impact of the creative effort suffusing the Playa forcefully demands that your brain open up to new possibilities.  That’s a particularly good idea for us oldsters who tend to become calcified in our thinking (and doing) as we relax into retiring and resting.  I know I don’t have the energy I used to have and have begun to wonder how I ever got the energy up to do anything.  A shot of BRC creativity re-energizes me for months.

The change from our normal lives provides a positive jolt to our system.  Of course living on the Playa is different from living in our house; but, it’s more than that.  We’re also among friends who are unlike the people in our community, and unlike the people we knew during the pre-Burning Man phase of our lives.  It’s not that everyone out there is so different from us.  There are plenty of individuals who have similar lifestyles and experiences as we do.  But there are also a variety of lifestyles that are outside of our comfort zone, and it’s something that we love because it helps wake us up to the world’s diversity.

There is always something to laugh about at Burning Man.  People come up with whimsical ways to express themselves and to entertain others, and the joy we feel from these efforts – I believe – peels back the years.  It makes life worth living.

Finally, BRC has always been a city built on a base if eroticism.  I still remember the shock of seeing naked people running around during my first year.  At that point, days were identified by sex acts in the Who, What, When, Where Guide.  It was Masturbation Monday, Oral Sex Tuesday and so on.  While that practice is long gone, the presence of eros on the Playa remains forceful and exciting.  I think of eroticism as a lifeforce, without which our existence shrivels into the old age portrayed in the minds of most people.  The erotic nature of Burning Man enlivens our marriage and keeps it stimulating (even after 54 years).

Being away from Burning Man for too long is like leaving Shangri-La.  You quickly wrinkle up and gain all the age that has been suppressed by the magic embedded in the Himalayas.  We need to get back to our Shangri-La – our Fountain of Youth.

Onward to 2022

We now have the official word from Burning Man’s celestial headquarters in San Francisco hat an on-site Burn will not take place in 2021 and the focus will move to building Black Rock City in 2022.  You can hear Marian Goodell’s statement on the BurningMan.org site, and you can read a detailed article about this decision at https://journal.burningman.org/2021/04/news/official-announcements/into-the-great-unknown/.

My feelings upon hearing the message were split between the relief of knowing I wouldn’t have to face a challenging decision between my own health and well-being and my responsibilities to the Temple Guardians, and the abject disappointment of another year without the power of a Burning Man experience.  But the reality is that I was more prepared for another “no-burn” year than for a burn fraught with the problems of a pandemic.

As it turns out, I wasn’t the only Burner with such mixed responses.  Reviewing the various comments I’ve seen from our Guardians, my response looks more like the norm than an aberration.

Burning Man has a famously libertarian DNA, and that reality might have impinged my personal ability to enjoy Burning Man with a sense of safety and security.  There has already been a kerfuffle over Danger Ranger’s public protestations about mask-wearing on Playa.  So we know that many Burners would come and choose to flout health and safety rules, even if the source was BLM rather than the org.  That’s simply who we are.  If you’re young, healthy and vaccinated, that might be fine; but if you’re older and burdened with underlying health issues (like me), then libertarianism might not look so enticing right now.

But the reality is that some of the Burning Man culture can be enjoyed with the same virtual protections that have been the hallmarks of 2020-21.  As Marilyn put it in her talk, Burning Man will continue, even without the build of BRC.  There will be another online burn week.  Last year’s event, while not without its hiccups (I personally never figured out the interface), looked amazing in the portions I was able to see after the fact.  Attendance was sparse compared to a live event, but substantial by online standards.  Be on the lookout for more details about virtual burn week this year.

There are other activities as well, including working on funded art pieces and helping build the Temple, but perhaps the best way to keep the spirit of Burning Man alive is by staying in touch with campmates and members of your team.  I stay deeply involved with Temple Guardians, and also keep in touch with other friends I’ve made at the burn.   In fact, whenever I see tattoos, I think about the people I’ve met at Burning Man who look so totally different from me yet share my values.

So, there’s a second year of “no Burning Man,” and the organization is struggling to survive with limited revenues.  I personally find the $2500 “cut in line” deal an insulting knee-bend to the almighty dollar, hence the least inclusive decision ever by Burning Man.  But it’s clear that money is the critical component to keeping the flame lit so I understand it even if I hate the implications.  Oh well, Onward to 2022.

Making the Pie Bigger

My last post clearly resonated with people (and hit a nerve with some).  I’m happy that so many people visited the site over the past few days and I was thrilled with the dialog (much of which was on Reddit).

I’m a committed Burner, and have been since 2005.  In fact, there are stories in this site’s archives (which goes back at least as far as 2007) about my first Burn, when I was dragged out to the Playa by my son who was 20 that year while I was turning 60.  I would never have gone on my own and I was prepared to hate every minute of it; but the instant I walked through the gate and rang the virgin bell, I knew I was home.

When I returned from that first Burn I felt 20 years younger, and I couldn’t wait to tell other people my age about the Fountain of Youth I had discovered in the Black Rock Desert.  I’m an enthusiast, and even something of an evangelist for the powers of Burning Man – especially for people 50 and over.  I’ve even met people on Playa who came as a direct result of reading this blog.

Hence, I wouldn’t want anyone to take my last blog as a criticism of Burning Man or anything other than my own personal experience, and the viewpoint I’ve arrived at from those experiences.  Burning Man could not exist without the commitment of dedicated volunteers.  When I see what DPW accomplishes every year in constructing and then deconstructing BRC, I’m blown away.  These are extremely competent individuals who give up a significant part of their year to turn the blank slate of the Black Rock Desert into a city of 70 to 80,000 people.  I’m proud to be a tiny part of that effort; to participate with my team and campmates and to push myself to do whatever it takes to ensure a successful Burn.

The Temple 2019, from a distance

I just believe in honoring all the work done by Burners, even if it’s in the name of fun vs. something more “serious” such as Rangering, Lamplighting, or spending time helping people get what they need out of the Temple.  Burning Man wouldn’t be the same without the discos, the bars, the camps that provide free grilled cheese or slushies, and most especially the camp that provides Bluegrass music.  No one’s work is more important than another’s, and many Burners put in a ton of effort before and during Burn week.  I only become uncomfortable when people start laying judgment on others around being a more important part of BRC, or a harder working piece of the Burn.  There’s one “hardest working man in rock and roll” (it’s James Brown, by the way), but there isn’t a “hardest working team at Burning Man.”

If someone’s all caught up in their own thing, that’s fine.  Just don’t drag me into it.  I’m fully committed to the work I do, and to opening the world up to Burning Man’s principles.  But it’s not a winner-loser proposition.  Somebody doesn’t have to fail for me to succeed, and as competitive as I may be in sports and other areas, I genuinely believe the pie only gets bigger when we all do the right things for each other.  When I’m involved with Burning Man, I’m there all the way.  Otherwise, I’m doing the rest of the stuff my life demands.

It’s Just Burning Man

I recently completed yet another zoom meeting, this time regarding our Temple Guardians team, and it reminded me once again what’s both great and terrible about Burning Man.  Don’t misunderstand…I love Burning Man and love spending a couple of weeks out in the desert with thousands of other Burners every year.  But it’s a temporary situation, and when it’s over I return to my normal life; to my family and friends whom I see year-round.  I don’t live or die based on what happens in the dust, or what happens in the Temple.

But I realized during this meeting that not everyone experiences Burning Man as a moment in time.  For some individuals, it is their entire life.  If you’re shocked to learn this, then you may not have been deep in the weeds with some of BRC’s more emotionally connected participants.

My point is not to detail any such experiences or to call them out for criticism.  It is, instead, to advise people to keep Burning Man in perspective.  It’s there for having fun, for existing outside of yourself for a few days, for living Burning Man’s utopian principles for at least a part of your year.  But once you’ve turned it into the most important thing you do, the main support for your psychic well-being, you risk ruining it for yourself and for those around you.

It’s About Having Fun

We’re currently in our second major organizational upheaval, and the main reason for these seismic events is that a small percentage of our team have turned the Temple into their personal religion, or their raison d’etre.  Once this idea takes hold of Burners, they believe they have ownership of the work and demand ultimate appreciation and approval for what they’ve done.  It’s absolutely essential for people to take their missions seriously at Burning Man – especially if it’s a mission crucial to the event’s success.  Jobs like Gate, Exodus, Lamplighters, Greeters, and – yes – Temple Guardians must be done right in order to ensure a successful Burn that meets or exceeds the expectations of attendees.  But work is simply that – it’s work, and it’s not a test of your personal worth.

Most Guardians, as with most Lamplighters and others, take a balanced approach to their momentary roles at Burning Man.  They love the Temple, are devoted to their work, seek ways to support Burners who visit the Temple, and do everything in their power to keep the structure safe and secure before and during the Burn.  Carrying that work forward throughout the year makes sense as well.  We have to keep the organization operating smoothly, inform fellow Guardians of developments that affect their work, and solve problems that may have occurred during the prior Burn week.

But there’s a pit that some people stumble into, and it can result in a downward spiral into depression or – at the very least – expectations that cannot be met within the organization.  Balancing hard work with over-commitment is the key to avoiding disappointment, resentment, and self-loathing.  We all need to keep in mind that this is Burning Man – not life or death.  For us older Burners who may no longer have active careers, it can be tempting to transfer your lifetime of commitment to Burning Man activities.  And that’s fine, as long as we don’t commit our self-worth as well.

News from the Top

I just finished watching Burning Man CEO Marian Goodell’s April 10 update on Burning Man 2021.  This announcement – while rich with information – was not billed as a “go/no-go” report.  I wanted to review the content for all of the Burning Man enthusiasts who read this site but also to let you know that if you sign on to burningman.org you’ll find a link to the entire video.

Light at the end of the tunnel? Probably not.

So, here goes (in the order presented by Marian):

  1. Should Burning Man occur this year, proof of vaccination will be required for anyone to enter the gate. There’s also consideration of an on-site testing program, but details have not been worked out at this point.
  2. No matter what, the BRC population will be reduced if a 2021 Burn occurs. The org has requested a BLM permit for 69,000 people, vs. 80,000 at the last Burn.  Feedback from surveys among camp leaders has further reduced the expected population to 50-55,000 Burners.
  3. Additionally, there will be an international impact on attendance because some countries do not allow travel (or will not be allowed to travel to the U.S.) primarily because of the unavailability of vaccines.
  4. Burning Man is on solid ground financially because of the generosity of attendees and other contributors. At this point, the organization is not dependent on holding a 2021 Burning Man in order to survive.  Even art funding is continuing.  In fact, a group of donors has provided a $1 million grant that has allowed the org to fund art now, whether it ends up on Playa this year or next.
  5. Typical funding for art covers 70 on-Playa projects. Proposals have already been received for 59 projects, and the $1 million grant will expand that number.  Art proposals have come in from countries including Russia, Ukraine, Indonesia, Spain and others plus 15 U.S. states.  Proposals can be viewed online at burningman.org/2021art.  In Marian’s words, “Art is going to happen” in 2021.
  6. While BRC remains “up in the air” for now, work at Fly Ranch continues apace. Burning Man’s LAGI – Land Art Generator Initiative –resulted in 10 prototype projects on sustainability proposed for Fly Ranch.  One, from MIT Labs, has been selected for funding and will go forward, according to Marian.  Learn more about it and about Fly Ranch at FlyRanch.org.
  7. Another sign that Burning Man is alive and well is The Hive Labs, an interactive project to expand Burning Man’s cultural impact around the world. While “membership” is currently capped, additional Burners may be able to join in the future.  Check it out at hive.burningman.org.
  8. The Burning Man multiverse will take place this year whether or not BRC is built on the Playa. Last year’s virtual event attracted 165,000 attendees, including 100,000 on Burn Night alone.
  9. Tickets – Burning Man has begun working on DGS tickets (direct sale tickets for major theme camps and art cars) although this effort should not be interpreted as a decision on holding the Burn this year. On a more concrete level, the org is introducing “Invitation to the Future,” an opportunity to reserve tickets for the next two Burning Man events (whether that’s for 2021-2022 or later).  The ticket price will be face value, but the cost of the reservation has been set at $2500.
  10. Finally, Marian promised updates over the next few weeks and a go/no-go decision on 2021 by the end of the month.

My take:  While the meeting had all the positive vibes you might expect from an organization that has bucked the odds and survived the pandemic, I do not see any indication that there’s going to be a (non-virtual) Burn this year.  The safety and health obstacles are too great, and I suspect (based on my conversation with an insider) that BLM will not be willing to approve it.  The liabilities seem too high to justify the rewards.  But it’s great to know that the organization is so vibrant during this difficult period, and is continuing to expand its culture into new realms.