The city is disappearing, returning to its desert roots. Driving along the now unmarked roads in Monday’s pre-dawn darkness ferrying one of our campers to the Burner Express bus stop for the start of his trip home, I was struck by the evanescent nature of BRC. What had been bright, lively bars and theme camps had devolved into piles of packed gear set beside dust-laden vehicles ready to take on Burning Man’s legendary Exodus. It had once again become difficult to navigate a city whose landmarks were rapidly vanishing. The connection between our first day here more than two weeks ago and today was striking. Déjà vu all over again.
Last night’s Temple burn was the opposite of the previous night’s raucous celebration of the Man burn. There were no fireworks or exploding propane bombs to ignite the structure. A group of Lamplighters carrying torches marched to the front of the Temple and touched fire to wood. The structure was soon engulfed in flames; it would take only a few minutes for the tower to collapse in on itself.
Most of the Burners watched reverentially. When a few started hooting and hollering, no one picked up their cause and the sounds quickly died back down toward silence. The Temple experience continued into its destruction, which seemed as spiritual as the building that is Burning Man’s center of spirituality. It had been a beautiful Temple, and it was an equally beautiful ending.
We noted with some bemusement and wonder that we kept seeing art and art cars that we hadn’t seen previously. It’s hard to fathom the breadth of art and creativity on the Playa, but you know it’s extraordinary when at the end of the event you’re seeing what appears to be new art.
Catching up on some events this week, our new Temple Guardians portal received an accolade from Burning Man that is so rare I had never previously heard of it. The award was for creativity that added substantively to the Burning Man culture. It was presented to our portal designer, artist, and builder who took on the Playa name “Portal” with joy and pride.
I’ve read a number of major media articles about Burning Man this week, some positive but some otherwise, and occasionally had to wonder if I was at the same event being described. So, I thought I’d address some of the negative issues. First, the “sparkle pony” presence. We did not come into contact with a single member of the glitterati that we could identify. I’m sure they were here, but their presence was invisible to us. The so-called concierge camps were also completely transparent to us. I don’t even know where they were located. Everyone we saw just looked like a Burner. Lashes did meet a tech billionaire at the Temple, and while she bonded with him and his girlfriend (that’s how she found out he was so rich), she was not made wealthy or changed in any way by the encounter. Also, on the racial diversity issue, we saw and met more African-Americans this year and I wouldn’t be surprised if the census reveals that fact. There was even a Black Lives Matter camp.
Time to clean up our campsite, so I’ll stop here for now. If I still have internet tomorrow, I’ll recap the reasons I believe Burning Man is so good for older people.