I haven’t really been up to much the past few days — just getting ready for Burning Man. I had my truck checked, my trailer checked, I packed up all my wigs and costumes, and I went to buy groceries –which normally I don’t, since I eat all my meals for free in the employee dining room at work. Normally my fridge contains little more than vodka and eyeliner pencils (to keep them from melting). But I had to go out and buy trail mix and beef jerky and all kinds of other nonperishable foods to nosh up on the Playa.
I’m leaving tomorrow morning, and from Vegas it’s a long, lonely 9-hour drive up thru the state of Nevada — i.e. the middle of Nowhere. Seriously, aside from a few trucker-friendly brothels and a mining town or two, there ain’t much to look at — although the route does pass through Hawthorne, NV… aka The Most Patriotic City in America. Everything in this dusty little town is painted red, white & blue, and the surrounding desert is peppered with munition storage bunkers (apparently they keep a bunch o’ammunition out there, in keeping with their patriotic motto).
Thankfully, my sister is flying down here from San Fran to make the drive with me, so at least I won’t have to go it alone. She has driven up with me the past two times I went, as well — it’s sort of a ritual. Once we get up near Fernley, NV our plan is to rendezvous with her husband and his friend, who are driving their RV from the Bay Area, and we’ll drive the rest of the way together. My sis married into this kooky clan of Israelis, and it’s always a party with those people — last year, her hubby insisted on hanging an Israeli flag up in our camp, so that his countrymen would find us and share their drugs with us (Israelis are known to have the best party drugs). In fact, we were originally gonna camp with a bunch of Israelis from the Bay Area, but it turned out that those Israelis were “shimonim,” aka no-goodniks…so we camped on our own.
Anyhoo, once I get out to Burning Man, the cell reception/WiFi is practically nonexistent, so I won’t be able to update til I get back around Sept. 6 or so. So I thought I would leave you with one last blog alllllll about Burning Man and why I go.
People have been inviting me to Burning Man for at least 10 years, but I never went because it seemed too dirty — plus in those days I rolled around in a pink 1986 Lincoln TownCar, which was hardly playa-worthy. But a few years ago, my sis had something of a quarter-life crisis, divorced her policeman hubby of 10 years, and basically went buck wild. She decided we should go to Burning Man, so in 2009 we made our first trip.
I bought a pop-up camper for us to stay in the first year, but it ended up blowing over and being completely destroyed at another party I went to later in the year (these desert winds don’t fuck around!). So I got another one, and now I make sure to stake it down properly! I like pop-ups because they’re lightweight, easy to tow…and cheap — my current rig was only $500, and when opened up it’s pretty nice inside. My dream one day is to get one of those fiberglass Casita trailers, because while I dig my pop-up, it does take 15 minutes to set up…and sometimes you just wanna park and crawl directly in bed. And one of my long-held desires is to travel around the USA like a gypsy..and for that, a Casita is what I need.
The first year I went to Burning Man, I was actually sorely disappointed — I expected a life-changing experience with a crowd of scientists, artists, free-thinkers and difference-makers. Come to find out, for many (if not most) people Burning Man is just about sex, drugs and alcohol…and the chance to ogle half-naked chicks. YAWN!
But in among all the lecherous swingers, drunk frat boys and bimbo party girls, there are actually a lot of cool people…and a lot of really cool art. So even though my sis and I spent much of our first Burn sitting around grousing like Statler and Waldorf (those two grouchy old men from the Muppet Show)…we had enough fun that we decided to return in 2010.
2009 was cool because it was the first year the population actually shrunk — normally, the number of attendees grows each year, but due to the recession, only the real hardcore Burners made it out. 2010 was busier…and you could really tell by the amount of MOOP on the ground (that’s Burner-speak for “Matter Out Of Place,” i.e. litter…Burning Man is a “Leave No Trace” event where you’re supposed to pick up every last speck of litter). This year, 2011, is the first year the event actually SOLD OUT — so I project a record amount of MOOP (my sis and I are what you might call MOOP Nazis, and have been known to travel around with a plastic bag picking up litter).
Anyhoo, back to the why. Why spend $1000 every year (that’s about what it costs in food, ticket, gas and missed work) to go camp out in the middle of a hot, dry dusty desert with no running water and only the foulest of Porta-Potties to pee and poop in? Well…it’s FUN! Just look at my photos if you don’t believe me — it’s like a big playground where booze, drugs, nudity and radical self-expression are ENCOURAGED, not frowned upon, as in the default world. Need I really explain more?!
For those who don’t know, Burning Man is basically a week-long party in the remotest desert about 2 hours north of Reno…in the middle of NOWHERE. There is no running water, no electricity, no toilets…nothing by a flat dry lake bed. But thousands of people (50,000 this year) come out and turn it into this amazing crazy temporary settlement called Black Rock City. All the staff does is set up the Man (to be burned at the end of the week), a central meeting place (Center Camp, a huge tent where you can buy coffee and hang out)(the only things you can buy at Burning Man are coffee and ice…other than that commerce is strictly prohibited), a temple (which they also burn at the end of the week) and the street signs — everything else is created by the participants. People come up weeks in advance to start setting up their artwork and interactive displays, and some of it is on a HUGE scale. Meanwhile, everyone brings generators and propane and stuff so that at night, the desert lights up brighter than the Vegas Strip!!! Seriously!
One of my favorite things about camping there is the hardcore mentality — as mentioned it is a Leave No Trace event, so you can’t even spit out the water you use to brush your teeth unless you do it into a jug, and tote it back out with you. You bring in all your water, and tote out whatever “gray” water you end up with. Meanwhile, unless you’re one of those pansies with an RV, you clean up using baby wipes and washcloths — which works so well for me that people are always commenting on my amazing cleanliness. Hours are wasted on elaborate solar-shower setups at many camps, but I don’t see the need for that nonsense.
One of my other favorite parts about Burning Man is that it’s better than any fat camp you could ever go to! Between the dancing, drumming, walking, hula hooping and bike riding (you have to ride a bike everywhere to get around), it’s a non-stop workout. Plus, all you’re eating is trail mix and jerky…so it’s a recipe for fitness!
Anyhoo, pictures do the best job of explaining all this, so check these out…and think of me next week, when you’re sitting at your boring-ass desk doing your boring-ass work. I’ll be running around, naked in the sunshine, doing what I do best: drinking, smoking and cursing! Woooooo Hoooooooooo! Peace out, friends!
Last year it rained, and these double rainbows appeared in the sky…causing many a high hippie to wander around exclaiming “What does it meeeeeeeeeeeean???”
It’s all about the costumes for me and my sis!
This awesome tube of revolving lights…you get inside, your friends spin the lights, and it’s a TRIP!
This mirrored box that you get in, and they jiggle it around (it’s hanging from bungee cords) while you freak out inside. FUN!
One night we were wandering around the deep (outer) playa (the wide, flat expanse beyond the camping area)…and we stumbled onto this ad-hoc Italian restaurant some people had set up! They had tables with checkered tablecloths, red roses for the ladies, a violin player and lots of delicious piping-hot pasta, which they were cooking on a ginormous camp stove they’d hauled out there. Plus, a maitre’d exhorting you to “Mangia, mangia!” FABULOUS!
These weird spinning chairs, tilted at an angle, that were suuuuuuuuper fun to twirl around in, when in a state of altered consciousness!
Riding a “bull” some redneck Burners from Idaho had set up!
This one tent serves up free grilled cheese sandwiches at midnight. YUM!
Laying in the dust, looking at spinning lights. Whee!
This ADORABLE little man who pops up at every drum circle and does this bizarre little elfin dance, with a blissed-out smile on his face. I’ve seen him both years, and I hope to see him again — he’s a good omen!
This SUPER AWESOME man named Dr. Rosen we met up there one year…he claimed to be a pediatric neurologist in the straight world, and he was SOOOOO COOL! (He’s the one in the pink furry hat.) He invited us to a Jewish wedding the following day at sundown, but alas we were too hungover to make it 🙁 I spent many hours trying to look him up online to no avail…wherever you are, Dr. Rosen…you rock!!!
The temple. People write messages and post photos of lost loved ones all week, and then they burn it on Sunday night. Very emotional! I’ll be putting up a note to my dad, who committed suicide this past April!
Walking a tightrope while drunk and wearing platform wedges!! Another thing I LOVE about Burning Man is that you sign away all your rights to sue when you buy your ticket…so there are all kinds of crazy, dangerous towers to climb and games to play. Yay!!
Riding a giant San Fran city bus some nutty hippies had tricked out and driven up there…no cars are allowed on the playa except for “art cars,” which are only allowed to go 5mph. Some people get REALLY crazy with their art cars!
Riding in another art car, this one designed as a rocket ship!
Some super-cool science nerds had rigged up a display to demonstrate the power of one joule. You grab the fork and spoon, and you’re jolted with one joule.
The man-made shit is all well and good….but it’s the desert itself that puts on the best show!! Sunsets are BEAUTIFUL out there!
So, now you see why I enjoy Burning Man. I don’t go up there to have random sex or prove a point…I just go for fun. And funnnnn it is!
See you in a week!
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Been away for a while from my project to read the Wonderhussy Archives in their entirety, but nice to come back to a Burning Man post. It was your 2014 entry that I found on Burners.me that hooked me on to your literary gifts and addictive sense of snark. I think I went in 2011. 2014 was my 12th burn since 1999. Noticed you took a ride on my friend Captain Nemo’s art car Nautilus X (SF bus). Hanging with him and his husband Hyena is always a playa highlight for me. The first year I attended I was working for E! Entertainment Television as a sound guy and we were covering the event to include in our show “Wild On the Wild West.” Since we weren’t bringing the talent (host Jules Asner who would shortly be replaced by Brooke Burke), the Producer Paul, who was a good friend from USC film school, made me the star of the segment as we spoofed “The Blair Witch Project” which was all the rage that summer. I recently posted the block on YouTube to share. The quality is not great as I shot it off with my web cam off a CRT monitor from a VHS tape. Old school! You can see it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jYzN0U73riM