BURNING MAN. Those two words contain so much! It’s hard to articulate what those words evoke in me exactly. Emotion and memories and fondness and yearning and love and depth and understanding and community, and the sense that I am still processing those seven magic days. It seems crazy that a festival (although that word can’t even begin to describe) can open your mind, create such solid bonds and impact your life so much but it truly is a transformational experience. There is so much to say about everything but I promise not to run away with myself and give you just the goods- my experience, condensed, in an easy to read yet humorous collection of paragraphs, with pictures that are not my own since I didn’t take a single one but gives you an idea. I want to keep this blog alive and what better to write about than motherf*cking BURNING MAN. Game on!
So. Burning Man round two. What a doozy! After last year, I thought I knew a thing or two. I could tell you all about the ten principles, the theme camps, the dust storms, the art (oh the art), the people, the vibe, the essence. Ask me and I could give you a fairly accurate rundown… at least I thought I could. Upon our arrival through the dusty gates this year, however, I quickly realized that everything I thought I knew was just my experience last year and this time, everything was completely different. Which is also the point when I realized that of course it was, and it will continue to be different every single year. Epiphany number one. Of course, many of the same theme camps are there, you will see some of the same majestic art cars, the ten principles remain the same, and there’s a big ol’ man in the middle of the playa, but the city and its inhabitants are a whole new world, literally. The theme this year was ‘Carnival of Mirrors,’ which not only meant there was a carnivalesque vibe of the festival, the streets were named things like ‘Freakshow,’ and ‘Illusion’, you may wander into a tent and see a woman bending giant pieces of steel with her bare hands (found piece of such steel in my tent later- weird), and there was a giant midway (games included) under the Man, but it was more than that- carnival of mirrors was an invitation for reflection: to reflect on life, love, choices, decisions, direction, on who you are, what you want, where you’re going… Anything. Everything. Going into it, I didn’t think anything of it but now, a few weeks later, I think that’s exactly what happened and dare I say that if you attended, the same would be true for you. So many lessons! Nailed it Burning Man, nailed it. But enough about that for the moment and let’s talk about the festival.
I arrived on Sunday afternoon with a crew of boys I had spent the past few days with- I was seeking a break from the testosterone so I headed to find my Canadian crew who were living just three blocks away. So happy to see them! Ended up spending most of my time with them at their camp (first year as a theme camp!) which was set up as the Canadian Cascadian Tiki Lounge where Canadian beers, cocktails and general Canadian awesomeness was served, not
to mention a couple pieces of UNREAL art of our own. Found a handsome playa buddy who wanted to do all the same things as me every day which was the best- they give you a book when you arrive with all the where’s and when’s of what’s happening around the city, so we spent a substantial amount of time adventuring to entertaining-sounding camps from the book- something I wanted to do last year and then got busy doing everything else instead. Usually in the morning we would set off towards some sort of food and then go from there. If you don’t know: Burning Man is a (temporary) city (Black Rock City, equipped with post offices that I did send mail from- you had to provide them with some sort of entertainment in order to get the postage paid so not only did I tell a joke but we sang a ‘build me up, buttercup’ trio), and it’s BIG. Everyone has (heavily decorated and lit up) bikes that are your main mode of transportation, so when every time you imagine me in transit, I am on a bicycle.
My very favourite day we woke up, went for pina coladas (might have eaten a waffle on the way, or maybe that was a different day), stopped at Distrikt which is a big, loud, daytime dance party with a major sound system, sat at the bar and drank (and drank- they had icy cold fruity blended beverages), boogied a bit, adventured down the road for some delicious but strong cocktails (absinth, gin and lemon?!), and cider, kissed for a guy collecting kissing photos, dipped my boobs in an ice bucket to get a pickle, got a banana stuffed in my mouth with whipped cream and chocolate, watched some strong people swing on some big rings that were surrounded by suspended hammocks while getting heckled over a megaphone, rode to the other side of the playa for bbq-d chicken which was right across from the orgy dome, checked out who was coming (see what I did there) in and out of there (more attractive people than you would think and no I did not venture in), rode back to see if the rumour that Skrillex was playing at 5pm at a small but awesome camp called the Duck Pond was true (it was), rode home and was enticed into a camp with the most delicious woodfire pizza (and we had been dreaming of pizza! The playa provides, every time), as well as mojitos and champagne (which we stood in the small lineup for twice), and then made our way home… and that was just the DAY! And not even a special day, it was just sunny and beautiful and I loved everything we did all day. I had also had an epic long cry at the temple the night before and released anything and everything I must have been holding on to so I must have woken up the next morning recharged and renewed and ready for the best day ever! Like a champ.
The thing about Burning Man, if you don’t know, is that is is a gifting economy: there is no money exchanged, at all, except for ice (thankfully) and coffee you can buy. So the bars, and the
food, and the love- it’s all included. You just need to carry a cup and it will be filled pretty much wherever you go. Alcohol flows everywhere and you will see costumed people in the streets enticing you into their camps with promises of espresso martinis or margaritas…. truly anything you can think of, really, and not just food and booze. Body painting, pastie-making, costume something-or-other, sex something-or-other, the playa is truly your oyster. On day two I scored a pair of flat, knee-high leopard print boots at one of the camps full of awesome free clothes- the most perfect. But as far as the food camps go- killed it this year. Feasted on grilled cheese, midnight poutine, snowcones, pancakes and bacon and waffles, homemade ice cream, popcorn with all the shakers, hit an organic fruit and veggie camp, pickles a plenty, that delicious bbq-d chicken (twice- and they give you cold beer in the lineup), not to mention a soup camp next door to camp where they served delicious warm soup every night! And it was COLD at night, soooo cold- one night we went to bed early so we could get up for a 5am set at Camp Questionmark but it was too cold to even leave the tent! Freezing, I tell you, however, I continued to wear no pants, ever. Classic. It was also the dustiest it’s been in a bunch of years- the dust storms lasted for ages, hours, and not just a regular dust storms but full-on whiteouts where you can’t see three inches in front of you. On the way home from the wedding of two of my friends (beautiful and amazing as you can imagine- the ring bearer was supposed to skydive in with the rings but it was too dusty- so unfortunate!), we were caught in one and a few of us stopped to wait it out… when the dust cleared, we were pleasantly suprised to find that someone had topped the kickstands on our bikes with tennis balls, to keep them better upright when parked on the playa. That is the kind of shit you deal with at Burning Man, people just doing amazing and nice things all over the place. But these dust storms- intense. Mother Nature is a force to be reckoned with, that is for sure. Makes you appreciate the clear nights where you can see every star in the sky and the sunshine and blue skied days, and that you made the necessary investment of masks and goggles.
Night time was crazy and so different than last year. My playa buddy had an internal compass like a boss and eyes like a hawk so I just followed him around all week and didn’t pay much attention to where I was or where we were going- last year I got lost all the time and had no trouble riding back and forth across the playa in the middle of the night. This year i could not IMAGINE doing any such thing, and I didn’t… I didn’t really have to but it was an interesting lesson relying on someone for something as fundamental as navigation! Especially since once of the principles is radical self-reliance. Epic fail, Jaime, epic fail. However, I only got lost once and then thankfully got found because clearly I had no idea where anything was. Didn’t hop on a SINGLE art car this year (art cars are what they sound like- an art installation that drives around, usually like a party on wheels with music and you can hop on them if you see one you wanna be on, or you can follow them on your bike and stop when they stop and party with them)- the only trouble with art cars is that you don’t know where they are headed so you could end up really far away without a bike. They come in all varieties and shapes and sizes, from fire breathing octopus to supersize yacht to a set of bleachers to whatever you can possibly imagine. And if you are on the playa thinking “hmm, i haven’t seen a giant fire-breathing leopard art car, that would be cool,” you will likely see one later that day. Just the kind of synchronicity shit that happens out there.
There is so much crazy art I can’t even tell you. Such beautiful and intricate pieces full of passion and soul and love…. you get to look at them, walk amongst them, touch them, feel them and then they BURN THEM DOWN! It’s crazy to fathom how much work goes into it, all year long, and them BAM. Engulfed in flames and you just feel so lucky to have been a part of it. I felt a lot of feelings this year, lots of thinking and reflecting (carnival of mirrors, I am telling you), and I had a couple a-ha epiphanies about my life and the people in it. Having no besties there this year was different than last year when I had a glorious handful of my best girls with me, and I definitely could have used one (just one!) a couple of times but I made some incredible new friends, had my playa buddy by my side, laughed a lot, cried, and realized how lucky I am to have such amazing and beautiful souls in my life that love me a lot. Not that I didn’t know that already but having none of them THERE and being there and experiencing it all was like a wake-up call that I am the luckiest! Also acid. Always coming in with the epiphanies. It was such a magical week, it went nothing like I anticipated but everything was perfect. In retrospect I keep thinking of what I would do differently, there was some people I truly wanted to at least attempt to find, but somehow seven days just slip away. And I think you are always where you are supposed to be there, if I was meant to be somewhere else, I would have ended up there. You don’t get the burn you want, but you get the burn you need, as they say. And I did. So thankful for all the magic moments and happy memories, and the not happy ones too! Already dreaming of next year… am currently in California and I think Guatemala after this so watch this space for updates!