So I’m going to Burning Man.
The question must be asked: Why would an aging East Coaster travel to a desert two hours away from any city of note and spend a week with no electricity, no food, and no water, except for that which he brings with him?
The answer is not simple. Part of it is that I am aging: I turn 60 in May, and this is a kind of birthday present to myself. I’ve known about Burning Man for years and have been fascinated by it; especially after being let go from GHP last July, the idea of going really presented itself, although I had already thought about the possibility of taking off a week in August anyway. So it’s kind of a bucket list thing. In fact, it’s the only thing on my bucket list.
Another part of the answer is that I’d like to have a “life-changing experience” like GHP. Sure, each summer was wonderful, but I was in charge. At Burning Man, I will simply be one of 68,000 campers. (For a week, this barren desert is Nevada’s third largest city.) I get to experience the art and the music and the fun without worrying about whether someone’s going to have to be taken to the emergency room.
I figured I’ll document my journey there and back again, because what could be more entertaining than watching a stable member of the community morph into a dirty hippie freak?
Part of the deal that is the phantasmagoria of Burning Man is the Ten Principles which guide the entire enterprise. You should go and read them—they’re pretty solid.
The principle that I worried about first was Participation. You can’t just go and watch; you have to be a part of the show.
That immediately raised the issues of expense and logistics.
If you go and look at some of the theme camps, you’ll notice right away that these people are committed: huge art projects, mutant vehicles, large structures where hundreds of Burners can gather—there was one guy who schlepped nearly a ton of king crab from Alaska and served it to whoever showed up. (Another principle in operation here: Decommodification. The only things you can buy at Burning Man are ice and coffee. Everything else is to be bartered or given away.)
Whatever I chose to do to participate, in other words, had to be dragged all the way across the continent, set up, and then taken down and dragged back across the continent. (When they say Leave No Trace, they mean it.)
I should note that I’m not alone in this venture. When I announced my intention to celebrate my 60th like this, my friend Craig said he’d join me for the same reason, and then another friend David said he’d like to go too. (He’s turning 50, I think.)
So our parameters are: three men of a certain age, participation, inexpensive (or at least not involving either my life savings or fundraising), easy to transport.
I will pause at this point to allow everyone to consider the possibilities. If there were any actual readers of this blog, they could leave comments. (No fair peeking, those who already know the solution.)