Wednesday, August 27, 2014

They depart one week later, leaving no trace...Burning Man

Once a year, thousands of participants gather in Nevada's Black Rock Desert to create Black Rock City, a place dedicated to art, self-expression, and self-reliance. They depart one week later, leaving no trace.

Cleanup is done by the campers bka 'burners.' Anything brought in is taken out--even remnants of firepits. The desert is inspected for MOOP (Matter Out Of Place) for months afterward by restoration experts or "earth guardians" to ensure that sand is the only thing left on The Playa.

Black Rock City is a place dedicated to art, self-expression, and self-reliance. Ending the week and the year's Burn is the torching of 'The Man,' a huge wooden structure erected in the days prior, and the Burning of the "Temple" the next night.

What's the purpose of this ginormous bonfire? Should I bring marshmallows?

Burning Man has no one purpose. It's an act of self-expression that differs to each person who attends or watches the burn. The first burning man during a campout decades ago was done on the anniversary of a lost love affair. Definitely no marshmallows. It's anything but a bonfire, it's a very personal and meaningful time for those who attend. The Temple is christened and themed differently each year, but one constant are the soulful scrawlings adorning the structure that will go up in flames along with it. 

Sands of Time 

The history of this event goes back to 1986 when a few campers built an 8 foot plywood man, burned it, and it became a summer ritual. Now it has become a festivity that is capped at 50,000 people, and a 50,000 foot burning man. Initially camping was free, now tickets are almost $400. Burning Man is non profit. All money goes into  financing the festival: paying for land-use fees, fuel, artists’ grants, medical services, infrastructure, insurance, wages for a full-time staff of 37, along with eight part-time employees and several hundred seasonal workers. 

In most recent years, in addition to regular attendees who come year to mingle and soul seek, Burning Man has become a draw to entrepreneur power giants. This has caused some controversy. Since burning man is non-monetary, the lavish RV camps--some camps which are rumored to be accessible for 25k--are drawing frowns from some veteran burners, and hyping up this year's media coverage.

Truth be told, many of these power giants have been burners for decades. As for flying in fancy foods, living lavishly in the desert while others pup tent around them? This has been going on since the beginning of burns too. Burning Man has always had a sense of to each his own. And that guy in the tent over there? Don't be surprised if his burn budget included a cooler of gourmet food to randomly gift away, or tanks of liquid nitrogen for an impromptu ice cream party.

Almost nothing can be bought or sold inside Black Rock City's gates. 

The few exceptions are Center Camp Cafe, which has a few refreshments. Ice is sold, benefits going to the local school system, and a few other services beneficial to the clean and environmentally safe operations of the area, such as RV dump and gray water disposal. Before leaving the Playa, you must buy a re-entry band. And there is a shuttle service fee. Any other exchange of goods or services are gifted away.

Mutant Vehicles

Only approved vehicles, and a limited amount of these are allowed inside the area. Vehicles must go through a pre-inspection that will authorize them as a mutant vehicle and a pass will be issued for a fee. The exception to mutant vehicles is a few service vehicles. What is a mutant vehicle? Exactly that. An artistically mutated vehicle also known as Art Car. Vehicles only decorated, still recognizable as what they once were, are not considered mutated. The mutant vehicles, especially at night, are one of the aesthetic sights of the playa.

Theme Camps

An integral part of the burning man festivities include theme camps. A theme camp’s plans and mission must be submitted months prior to the burn and registered. They must be interactive and must include activities, events, or services that benefit the atmosphere. Creating a place to chillax and listen to music is not enough to get a permit. These are becoming more lavish every year. Sometimes the theme camps are a core for a larger event later. Many of these camps come return year after year. As with everything else on the Playa, they are cleaned up without a trace, sometimes burned. Pictures following are of a dance contest in a theme camp, areal plans of a camp, and a camp at night.

Follow Author Lisa Gillis's board Burning Man on Pinterest.

Wondering why you don't see more pictures floating around the internet?

Black Rock City regulations require all devices capable of capturing moving video to be registered, this includes cell phones, and a personal use agreement signed. Unless given approval, all pictures and video streams can only be shared between friends and family. They cannot even go up on a public blog. A copyright is assumed on such media, and any violation of it is not tolerated. Any press coverage of Burning Man is assisted by 'The Media Mecca.'

Sound like fun?

Burning man is not only an experience, but something better experienced with experience. Experience clearly the keyword! “The endless amount of tribal knowledge at Burning Man takes years to amass; trial and error are a way of life at Burning Man.”  Worthwhile to know include the simplest but vital things like how many gallons of water to bring for each day, wear a bandanna around your neck in case of a sudden dust storm, bring a bicycle for getting around the huge area, how to secure your tent from frequent gusty winds, extreme temps of the desert, the list goes on. Veteran burners are happy to give advice during the planning and packing stage, as well as when you get to Black Rock City. The website and blogspot burningman.com is a wealth of information, and don't over look the YouTube channel for tips as well as amazing videos of past burns. Connect on or @burningman to meet burners. Another great connection is

I talked to a 10 year burner and I want to go, but...

You Might Die

It's a warning that varies from year to year, but is always on the back of each and every ticket. You might die, and if you do, it's your responsibility, you understood that when showing up. Black Rock City has numerous law enforcement officials. They blend in with the culture of the city, but are on hand to ensure the rules and regulations are followed. In spite of that, tragic things happen, and have happened.

Group or solo camping? Both have benefits and advice varies.

“ My first year I went solo...if you feel like taking off at 2am on a hunt for Japanese tea camps you can just do it”

“Doesn't have to be a theme camp, but you should absolutely find a camp. It can be a lonely place out there”

“… if you don't want to wash dishes every other night while others are out having fun, then you might be best off on your own.”

Tent or RV? That's also been a lively debate for years.

“an RV kind of takes away from the experience in my opinion. You can make a shade structure and have a home camp in the matter of 45 minutes to 1.5 hours. And you'll enjoy it more…”

"RV campers vary just as much as tent campers, and some of our most awesome neighbors had a HUGE RV that they built a giant public communal shade off of."

Theme camp or not?

'Only join theme camps that you are actually interested in helping out their art mission.'

In any case:
'no one is expecting you to do very much your first year other than not being a burden to everyone else.'

Want to watch a live stream of 2014 burning man going on now?

Broadcast live streaming video on Ustream


Hi Rock Stars! Your Rock and Roll Drama Queen Here 

Burning Man has intrigued me since my first burn, an envy burn, and a future rock star novel centered around the event is in the planning stages. Labor Day weekend also means Jack and Marissa's publishing anniversary! To celebrate, Jack Who and the D-Strings Set is on sale this weekend for $0.99 AND the first ever physical book Jack Who? is now available!  Checkout for details!

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