The Tao of Tickets

So how did your ticket buying experience go this year?  For me, it was a combination of frustration and irony.  The good news, we got our tickets.  The bad news, I spent more than three hours online trying to complete the process – despite getting in the queue just a few minutes after the noon start time.  At one point, I even received a message that there were no more tickets available.  Fortunately, I didn’t give up based on that message, and, indeed, after less than 30 more minutes of waiting, the sales portal opened up and I was given the privilege of spending the better part of $1,000 to attend yet another Burn.

And now for the irony.  On my way home from work, I called one of my sons to make sure he remembered to get his tickets.  He had forgotten, but said he’d get right on it.  I feared for his sanity, much less his ability to actually obtain a ticket.  But 10 minutes later he called me back to say, “Dad, I got my tickets.”

Lashes, son Eric and girlfriend Natalie soaking in the playa ambience.

Lashes (center), son Eric and his girlfriend Natalie soaking in the playa ambience.

The lesson may be, let the system work out its kinks with the early adopters and just wait until the dust has cleared to go after your tickets.  Or maybe not.  A number of Burner friends have posted on Facebook that they were unable to get their tickets and would have to wait for one or another re-sale opportunity.  And of course there’s the usual posting about some idiot trying to sell a Burning Man ticket for $10,000 on ebay.

The greatest wisdom I can offer for those who failed to get a ticket or forgot to register is to wait patiently for tickets to become available through Burning Man’s own ticket re-sale program (STEP), or via Craigslist.  I’m pretty down on ebay because people seem to use that venue to inflate ticket prices.

The risky part of purchasing tickets from non-Burning Man sources is the possibility of getting a counterfeit ticket.  That’s why your best source of tickets is either Burning Man itself or a person you know and trust.

I’d love to hear your anecdotes about this year’s ticket purchase process.

Drug Store Thoughts

Note: Thanks to my friend and Lamplighter colleague Hey You of Houston for the idea of this post.  Suggestions for topics are always welcome and sincerely appreciated.

Some of you in the 50 and over age group may be considering attending Burning Man as a return to your halcyon days as a hippie or as a way to rekindle your rebellious youth.  If so, then sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll may be on your mind as you envision your Burning Man experience.  Here are a few thoughts about drugs on the playa.

There’s a known availability of recreational drugs at the Burn.  It’s just part of the ambience, and considered by many to be a good thing.  But there are some risks to keep in mind.  First, illegal drugs are illegal on the playa.  This is not a Burning Man rule, it’s federal and Nevada law.  The state has no medical marijuana protection, so a license is of no use, and cops from federal, state and county jurisdictions can and will arrest people for drug possession.  Be cautious.  Your vehicle is subject to inspection as you enter the Festival grounds, and you don’t want to start your Burn with a free ride to Reno for booking.

Most drug arrests are reversed or avoided with the help of volunteer attorneys who gift us with free services on and off the playa.  Also, there is an especially trained group of Black Rock Rangers (called LEAL — Law Enforcement Agency Liaison) whose job is to intercede with law enforcement on the playa on behalf of us Burners.  Also, many of the officers who patrol the playa are volunteers who consider themselves part of the Burner community and who take a fairly lenient view of innocuous drug use.

Why is this woman smiling?

Why is this woman smiling?

But there’s another risk that is especially important for us older Burners who may not have imbibed in years.  Marijuana in particular is a much stronger substance than was generally available back in my youth.  You can get knocked on your can with the same dose that once provided a mild high.  If you haven’t been doing marijuana regularly but plan to try it on the playa, take into account the higher quality of today’s pot and go a little easy at first.  Of course, there are other drugs on the playa that can be even higher risk than marijuana.  Be aware of what you’re doing, and don’t allow yourself to get caught on the open playa in a state of drugged confusion.  Someone will always help you find your way to a medical tent, but in the meantime you could suffer from exposure or genuine panic before you are rescued.

Also, you’re likely to be “gifted” drugs by people on the playa.  If you don’t know the individual, you could be accepting something other than what they claim it to be.  Take care.

I’ve often heard stories about people being “dosed” with LSD or other drugs when they accept gifted drinks or food.  I’ve never had it happen to me, or seen it happen, so I tend to think of these stories as more legend than reality.  But it’s helpful to keep your judgment radar on even as you’re turning all of your inhibitions off while at Burning Man.

Use the comments section below to share your own experiences, or send me a PM ( if you have suggested input on this or related issues for a future post.

Tickets go on sale at noon on the 13th.  It’s first come, first served, so get in line early and secure your passage to Burning Man 2013.

Annual Theme Wrapped in World War II Lore

On the South Pacific island of Vanuatu, there is an annual parade honoring an imaginary man-god named John Frum.  Frum is pictured as a black U.S. Marine who brings the bounty of “cargo” to the islanders.  Like so many religious traditions, this one can be traced back to actual events; specifically, the presence of hundreds of thousands of allied soldiers on the island during World War II.  Along with these U.S. warriors came regular deliveries of cargo, mainly by air.  Hence, the fervor of the Vanuatu natives has become known as a “Cargo Cult.”

For reasons that remain a mystery to all but Larry Harvey and his inner circle (Harvey is one of the founders and the current leader of Burning Man), Cargo Cult is this year’s Festival theme.  The Vanuatu traditions around John Frum are as colorful and, in many ways, as whimsical as Burning Man itself.  The natives dress up as American military men (think of the Seabees from South Pacific), raise their best version of a U.S. flag, and don gear such as wooden air traffic controller headphones to make themselves look like the proper recipients of new cargo.  Hence, Burning Man’s costumes and art cars, parades of various sorts, rituals and spirituality fit well within the context of Vanuatu’s Cargo Cult.  Like World War II Vanuatu, we even have an airstrip and paratroopers overhead.  And, of course, we all bring tons of “cargo” with us to Black Rock City – including our food and water.

Searching for spiritual answers inside the 2012 temple

Searching for spiritual answers inside the 2012 temple

So what does all this have to do with the way we will celebrate Burning Man in the Black Rock Desert in 2013?  Essentially, very little.  The announcement of the annual theme for Burning Man, while awaited with great anticipation each year, has only a minimal effect on the event itself.  Certainly there will be art projects around the theme as well as costuming and possibly even a special event or two (I can imagine groups worshiping at a fake Vanuatu volcano – known as Yasur, or God).  But overall, Burning Man will be about the same as always as opposed to a distinctively John Frumian-tinged event.

So what’s the purpose of the theme?  I’ve never been really sure about the answer, but I know how my wife and I treat it.  For us, the theme is a unifying direction for our gifts and costumes, and for the flag we make to hang from our RV.  Others may take it as a mindset orientation for the entire week.  The point is, everything about Burning Man is highly individualistic; so whether you do something involving the theme or pay no attention to it really doesn’t matter all that much.  But if you happen to find ways to enjoy the theme and celebrate it with the typical whimsy that marks so much of Burning Man, then you’ll become part of the celebration of the Cargo Cult that is honored every February 15th by the islanders of Vanuatu.

Here’s to John Frum, his eventual return to the South Pacific, and bounty for Vanuatu and its people.

More Ticketing Info; Burnal Equinox Upcoming

Ticket sale pre-registration has begun.  Click here to fill out a Burner Profile and pre-register.

We’re almost at ticket sale time for the Burn, and I wanted to encourage all of you who are even the least bit interested in going this year to pre-register for your tickets.  Below is information lifted directly from the Jack Rabbit Speaks email newsletter that is sent out irregularly from Burning Man Headquarters.  This article details the steps required if you want to purchase tickets.  Let me reiterate that there is no lottery this year.  Tickets will be sold on a first come, first served basis, and priced uniformly at $380 per person.

Review the info below and mark your calendars with these important dates.  I want to again encourage everyone in our 50 and over group to come to Burning Man this year to experience a unique slice of Americana and a week that will make you feel young, vital and excited.



To access the first-come first-served Individual Ticket Sale on February 13, you MUST pre-register between Wednesday, February 6th (at noon PST) and Sunday, February 10th (at noon PST).

To pre-register, go to and follow the instructions.

Within 36 hours, you will receive a confirmation email containing a link to access the sale and your verification Passcode.

To access the ticket sale on Wednesday, February 13th (starting at noon PST), click the link in your confirmation email OR go to and enter your verification Passcode.

Full information about Burning Man ticketing can be found on our ticket page ( If you have further questions about Burning Man ticketing, please see our FAQ ( or visit our interactive online support forums (

DSCF0627Burner Art from 2013

The Burnal Equinox

One way to ease yourself into Burning Man is to attend one of the multitude of alternative events occurring at locations around the world.  The upcoming Burnal Equinox (the mid-point between Burns) is celebrated in locations around the world.  The current JRS details the celebration to be held March 2 in San Francisco.

Burning Man events such as the one described below, as well as de-compressions and pre-Burning Man parties are normally one-day affairs held in locations more accessible and less harsh than the Black Rock Desert.  They give you a sense of Burning Man through art, gifting, costumes and the whimsical, loving spirit that is the hallmark of the Festival.  They’re also usually inexpensive.

Here’s more about the Burnal Equinox from the current JRS:


The Burnal Equinox marks the midway point between Burns, and offers an opportunity to celebrate together in the spirit of Burning Man. And so we shall, on March 2nd at Public Works in San Francisco. We’ll have more information to come, but in the meantime, here’s the Burnal Equinox 2013 event page on Facebook:

AND a sharable version of the poster:

A Final Note

So if you’re looking for a taste of Burning Man or an opportunity to experience the event without committing to a full week in the desert, make your way to San Francisco on March 2nd and celebrate the Burnal Equinox.  Or search the web for a local Burnal Equinox celebration in your vicinity.

Next post:  this year’s theme.