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.