The Man


– Little me (L); – Building the festival art (C); Our camp and water preparations (R).

Last week Ian and I took a few days off to go to Burning man festival in Nevada. Actually we ended up only staying a few nights and then headed to Yosemite and Lake Tahoe.

I have tried to explain a few times over the last few days what Burning man was like. And why we left so early. Now the second question is easy. The crunch came when we realised we had brought the wrong gas and wouldn’t be able to cook our food. The real reasons I guess are harder to explain. Frankly, I was kind of disappointed with the people of Burning man. Had I not been disappointed, the dilemma of no gas would have been easily resolved. But sadly the friendly helpful fun alternative veg friendly smiling open people I had imagined were actually few and far between. It is hard to say this but what I saw was a lot of self centred ego fiends. I think that maybe my preconceived impression of what Burning man should be like hurt me here. I wanted open sharing giving smiling happy tree hugging flower people – that is my freedom and alternative lifestyle. I expected that these people may be wearing leather or latex or nothing. I was expecting sexual freedom and lack of self consciousness. I expected total total respect for others and our world. I expected choice. I think I was naive to think that I could have “it’s a small world” in the desert – but that’s probably what I wanted.

Unfortunately, my first impressions were sad. People “pushed” in the queue to get in. Not cool. There is a line. We all have to wait. Let’s wait. Oh no… let’s drive down the wrong lane and cut in front of our new friends. That makes me feel sooo good about being here. Then came the intimidating welcome committee. A man in a girl’s kilt with no pants. But he was cool. He did respect that this was our first time and we were a little wary. He made me feel relaxed and more open. He was a true Burner, I believe. But he was in the minority.

There was a white out and we waited in the car. That was great to see. Or not see … because you can’t. We wore our face masks to avoid breathing in the dust. After that and getting the tent up, we noticed a naked older lady smiling by us. Nice. She looked nice and happy and free. She did some yoga and applied some sunscreen. This was what I thought I would be part of.

We went for a walk and were invited to a party. We were gifted some booze. We had nothing to say to the older (a lot older) men at this party. They asked us our “playa names”. We didn’t have any. We had to have one. Otherwise I would get spanked. Hum… moving on. We walked the playa. It’s big. And bright and loud. It’s awesome (literally) and chaotic. There are things on fire, exploding and burning. There was music. Mostly bad music. Sculpture. Photography. People are dressed up and running. It was unimaginable and I was happy to see it. It’s disorientating and hard to take in. We went to bed and I didn’t know what to expect for the next day.

Wow, it’s hot. Like hot. The 15 gallons of water were well worth it. You couldn’t drink enough. Needing to go to the toilet every 30 mins is frustrating in a desert when there are few loos and they are portaloos. You need a bike or a car or a van or all three. (I’ll get to that). The art was amazing. Impressive. Dedicated. Someone played a trumpet standing all alone at the edge of the playa. I appreciate that. And it was clean. That was cool. There was no litter. Thank you. I wish more places were so well looked after.

So I liked the environment and the art. And the idea. In reality amongst the never ending white dust, there were people with generators and air con (no survival aspects here), and hair straighteners. There were cars tearing up the desert and pumping out fumes. There were posters suggesting not everyone wants to be groped – you don’t say. Bikes were stolen. There were aggressive judgemental repressive people – just because I don’t want to ride your car doesn’t mean I’m not doing it right. Just because I’m not completely pissed doesn’t mean I’m small minded. A guy in the queue to the toilet told me I wasn’t tanned enough which meant I hadn’t been naked enough. Yeah dude, you just judged me. And I judged you right back. Jerk.

Strikingly, there were few Asian or Black Burners. I saw some, but few families. I didn’t see any disabled people (although the desert may have limited this). I wish it were more like what I thought it was going to be. Do go. I won’t be rushing back.

Originally posted 9/6/2006 at 12:54 AM GMT on Xanga


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