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 site, and you can read a detailed article about this decision at

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 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  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
  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
  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.

Are You Kidding Me? Yes!

It was around midnight on March 31 when I spotted an article about Burning Man on my Google News feed.  It declared that the 2021 Burn would take place under a huge dome that could house 60,000 people, all of whom would be protected from the outside world and its lethal germs.  This dome was made of a material that the Burning Man org had invented and patented, and which they were prepared to offer free-of-charge to other events because – well, because we’re good guys.

According to the article, “Burning Man’s Chief Science Officer Nicholas Riviera said. ‘Housing the festival inside a dome will ensure no dangerous particles can enter Burning Man and it will mean our family can congregate and celebrate life on this precious earth in peace and harmony, as the founders of the Burn intended.’”

That one made me scratch my head.  I’ve spent some time at Burning Man headquarters in San Francisco and never heard of a Chief Science Officer.  Then the article mentioned “Burning Man’s Head Of Innovation Christine Chapel”, another job and person I had no knowledge of.  By that point, the clock had turned past midnight and my wife reminded me that it was April Fool’s Day and this article was probably an April Fool’s joke.  By the time the article described how the smoke from the Man Burn would go out of the dome and only fresh air would come in, we were laughing out loud.

Burning Man to take place beneath "Truman Show-esque dome"Burning Man will take place beneath a ‘Truman Show-esque dome’ later this year.” — MixMag

Then came the best part.  It seems that Google had secretly become Burning Man’s sponsor in 2019 and would pay for the dome.  I started imagining Google logos all across the Playa, and the elimination of our “no commodification” principle.  Larry Harvey must have been rolling over in his grave.

Anyway, the story seems to have disappeared from the news feed and was clearly a full-on April Fool’s joke, so there’s still no reason to believe that Burning Man 2021 is a certainty.  My understanding at this point is that a decision will be made in May.  Even with that possibility still extant, I’m personally not optimistic about going for reasons I’ve already stated here:  age, underlying medical issues, the inability to hold Burning Man with social distancing in place (will we have to do “air hugs”?).

But I have to keep in mind the great value of Burning Man to people my age, and search for ways to keep such youth-inducing activities in my life.  I don’t want to just shrivel up and grow old simply because there’s no Burning Man to give me a jolt every summer.

As I’ve noted before, there are some things about Burning Man that are specific to infusing my life with that youthful feeling: the diverse and mostly young crowd of people; the abundant creativity blossoming everywhere on the Playa; the erotic environment that helps remind me I’m still a living, vital human; and the constant state of joy among attendees.  All these elements combine to have an effect on my spirit and my body that take years off my chronological age, and echo throughout the rest of the year.  I want those feelings back.  And that’s no joke.



Living Like a Burner When there’s no Burn

I read a report in my Google News Feed the other day breathlessly announcing that the heads of major camps have been told to start the planning process for a 2021 Burn.  The implication was clear:  there’s going to be a Burning Man in 2021.  I’m not so sure.  The source of the Google News report was most likely Burning Man’s Placement Department Newsletter that recently went out to people key to theme camp operations.  The newsletter requested preliminary plans from heads of the bigger camps, including location requests and proposed camp layouts.  It’s certainly a positive sign, but I believe it’s premature to consider it anything more than that.  The Placement Newsletters are SOP, and the requested information is necessary to even the most preliminary planning for the build-out of Black Rock City.  So I’m not ready to whoop it up and start packing yet.  It’s a wait and see for now, at least for me.

Meanwhile, we try to keep the Burning Man spirit alive despite this horrid pandemic when we’re stuck at home with nothing but booze to ease our souls.  We’re pretty involved with Temple Guardians throughout the year and are constantly in communications with members of our team.  In fact, we participate in regular meetings of the Guardian leadership team.  So, if you’re part of a  theme camp, you can volunteer to help throughout the year.  You’ll find yourself welcomed by the camp leaders who always have more work than they can handle.  Apply your personal skill-set to whatever the camp needs and you’ll soon receive buckets of appreciation for your efforts.

It also helps to keep Burning Man’s 10 principles in mind, perhaps by picking out one to concentrate on each month.  For example, Radical Inclusion has particular resonance for me right now as we’re going through another round of hate speech against an ethnic group – in this case, Asians.  I like to make an extra effort to re-direct my natural prejudices toward “the other” into efforts to reach out to those who don’t look or act like me.  By making certain I practice diversity in my life choices, I feel I’m honoring the radical Inclusion principle.


The 2019 Temple

Last year, we hosted two wonderful young ladies from Peru in our Tahoe home where we live and work every winter.  They were serving as TA’s at our ski resort during their summer vacation from college, and they became part of our family for ski season.  Then the pandemic hit and our ski resort was precipitously closed down.  It was no big deal for us.  We just had to pack up our stuff and take it back down the hill to our home near Sacramento.  But for the girls, it was a bit more traumatic.  Just as they were preparing to head back to Peru, that country closed its borders to minimize transmission of the virus.  They couldn’t go home.  Meanwhile, their classes were starting for the fall semester.  So we ended up packing them and us into our car and heading “home” together.  They stayed on for several weeks, taking their classes online (at very odd hours due to the time difference).  Eventually they got a call from the Peruvian embassy and were told a plane had been booked to take them and other ex-pats home via LAX.

Over the months of our hosting these two Peruvians, we grew to love them as if they were family.  We still talk to them every couple of weeks just to catch up.  It’s a joy to include them in our lives, but it still took a leap of faith – one that was at least in part sparked by Burning Man’s principle of Radical Inclusion.

Will We Burn in 21? Should We?

As time has passed since the last Burn, I have felt more and more disconnected from the Playa and the spirit that makes Burning Man so important to my life. I know many of you feel the same, which means a lot of people are eager to see the return to BRC this year. I’m just not sure that can happen yet. And I’m absolutely certain that I’m not ready for a week in the desert with 70 or 80 thousand people while the virus remains active.

I’m now 76 years old, which makes me a prime target for Covid-19. In addition, I’ve recently been diagnosed with early-stage multiple myeloma (a blood cancer) that puts me even more at risk. So there’s almost no way I would feel comfortable attending a full-scale Burning Man even if it does go forward.

But, in truth, I don’t think it will happen this year – at least not in the form we know it. The risk of Burning Man turning into a super spreader event (perhaps the biggest of all time) is high, and such a result would do more than cause sickness and death among attendees and their families; it would irreparably damage the event’s reputation. Burning Man might never recover.

Beauty on the Playa from the 2019 Burn

However, there are some things that the org could do to mitigate the potential for super-spreader results. First, they could mimic many of the states’ rules on attendance at sports events – say, limit the Burn to 25 percent of last year’s number. They could also require any attendee to be verifiably fully vaccinated, and they could test everyone daily. Social distancing rules could be put into effect at seated events and where lines (such as the Center Camp Café) exist. That all sounds painful, costly, and the antithesis of our desert love-fest (how would you handle the Orgy Dome?), but it would be a way to keep the Burning Man culture alive because skipping only one year will cause far less damage than missing two in a row.

I hear rumors from time-to-time about BLM and whether it would even permit Burning Man amidst the pandemic. One positive note I heard was that the BLM budget is sorely missing the money we bring in, so they may be eager to have us back as soon as possible. A smaller Burning Man would provide less revenue to everyone – BLM, the Org, the state of Nevada, and the two counties that gain tax revenues. Reno merchants usually make a ton off of Burners, and I’m sure they’d like a little of that money back. So there are plenty of economic reasons to re-ignite the Burn. But the risk/reward equation still seems out of balance, so my bet is that we’ll have to wait for 2022 to return to the wonders of Black Rock City.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

On another topic, I watched Nomadland the other night on Hulu and felt remarkably close to the Playa. The main character (played by Frances McDormand) lives in Empire, NV at the beginning of the film. She lost her job when the gypsum plant closed and when her husband dies she gets on the road to join other nomads. Her journey begins on what sure looks like NV 447, the road we take from I-80 to Gerlach and on to BRC. Nomadland is a unique and magical film with a few reminders of our desert home.

Preparing for a “No Burn” 2020

I’ve begun to set my expectations for a “no Burning Man” year.  Logic tells me it’s unlikely that in the age of a virulent virus and failing fortunes our love-fest in the desert will take place in 2020.  This reality is just one of the reasons I feel an unsettled sense about life right now, as if the foundation underpinning my 75 years of living has weakened. 

What does it mean to set an expectation for no Burn this year?  First, the good news.  All the hard work required to get ready for our two weeks in the desert may not be needed.  Money that has not already been spent might not need to be spent (it’s expensive just to drive our RV out to Black Rock City).  On the negative side, I won’t experience a joyful week that is always the highlight of my year; I will not camp with mostly younger friends who help make the years slip away from my aging body and mind, and I won’t have that spiritual and creative charge that comes from walking among the art-pieces that dot the canvas that is the Black Rock desert.

I’ll also miss serving as a Temple Guardian where I am privileged to help ensure that visitors experience what they need as they work their way through their grief over lost family and friends.  And I’ll miss that erotic charge that it always part of Burning Man and that helps keep us and our marriage young.

I went to my first Burn dreading the experience because I feared the harsh environment.  Now I miss everything about the desert – the dust, the wind, the daytime heat and the chilly nights.  I used to worry about sunburn, but I’ve never burned out there.  Although I use sunscreen religiously on playa, I’ve come to believe that my body is protected by the layer of dust that quickly forms on my skin.  Playa dust may well be the perfect sunblock formula.

2019 Temple Burn

As we hunker down in our ever-more isolated life, I think about the diversity of people that I’ll miss seeing if Burning Man is canceled.  My relationships at Black Rock City are distinct not only from my immediate family but from my neighbors and co-workers as well.  One of the best aspects of Burning Man is that I meet and get to know a spectrum of people from geographically and emotionally diverse backgrounds.

Can I live without Burning Man?  Of course.  Will my life be lessened without it?  Absolutely.  Let’s hope for a positive outcome for the world’s health this year so Burning Man happens and we’ll all be back together sooner rather than later.

UPDATE:  I attended Burning Man’s Theme Camp Symposium on March 28 and heard the latest information on whether Burning Man will go forward this year.  According to Marian Goodell, CEO of the Burning Man Project, no decision has yet been reached about the 2020 event.  Marian described the situation as “too early” to know whether the virus will still be a threat in late August.  The org is considering a number of possible steps, including delaying the main sale of tickets that is scheduled for April 8, with registration on April 1.  Check for more info, and review this Burning Man Journal entry for a summary of the current situation.