Burning Man 2014: Before and After

This post comes to you a day late because I had another priority yesterday: sleeping.

Before Burning Man

Before Burning Man

I did none of the things in last week’s blog post, and, just as my friends had warned me, did not make or keep plans besides trekking home every night for camp dinner.

After Burning Man

After Burning Man

My first impression of Black Rock City was that it was very small. I learned to ride a bike at Burning Man (I am serious) and did not realize right away just how much more ground I was covering with two wheels instead of just two legs. Lol what are miles? For the first couple of days, I felt like a happy little boy in a tiny town, singing, “I want to ride my bicycle,” in my head.

Remember the space koozie I was so proud of....?

Remember the space koozie I was so proud of….?

My first foray into deep playa, with my friend Alexis, was also on bike. I don’t have bicycle muscles. Soft playa is impossible. The word “disaster” stood out among jagged pieces of painted-black plywood and I moaned that that was where we belonged. “We can make it past disaster!” Alexis said and steered us toward what appeared to be a hairy purple caterpillar. I just wanted that caterpillar to eat me right up, it looked so friendly.

...it didn't last two days.

…it didn’t last two days.

Correction, not caterpillar; balls. Two huge testicles, dubbed “Resticles.” We crawled inside the giant genital orbs and “hung out” in the lower sack for at least 2 hours. The scrotal skin, a dappled purple and pink, shimmered beautifully above me. Goddamnit, my first deep playa art was a gargantuan pair of bollocks and I really fucking loved them. I returned to this installation at least two more times during my burn.

On the third day I spent more time on foot and finally realized BRC is huge. I never made it past 7:00 in any of my wanderings (everything is laid out in a radial “clock” pattern, so that means I did not explore about the first 4th of the city). On foot, I also interacted more with themed campsites, such as the “TSA” who ushered in partiers with orange safety vests and runway lights, and “Strangers with Candy” who gave me a lollipop and a margarita.

Beyond the third day, my memories begin to blend together. I recall feeling stunned by the beautiful, handmade books with thick, pulpy pages in the library. Someone wrote, “If you knew you couldn’t fail, what would you do?” As an answer, someone wrote in slow, large, childish letters with a hot pink marker, “I would have a baby.” I nearly cried.

It isn’t quite true that Burning Man is beyond imagination, at least not for me. Once I solved the distortion of scale caused by bicycle, the city was about as large as I expected it to be. The people were about as weird and wonderful as I expected them to be. The art was as varied from bizarre and/or obvious and/or large as I expected it to be. My emotions were about as powerful as I expected them to be. I am familiar with burners, I am familiar with festival art, and I have quite the ability to imagine.

The one thing, I suppose, that really surprised me was Burning Man at night. I had not anticipated the overwhelming lights, sounds, and flurry of bicycles and art cars. To describe it in two words: “Camping Vegas.”

welcome home burning man

Packing notes for next year:

Bring more:

  • lights
  • bike decor
  • juice

Bring less:

  • clothing
  • beer (I always think I want a 30-rack of Tecate and then I just end up drinking mostly water when I camp in hot places)
  • baby wipes (6 packs were excessive)


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