The indescribable event called Burning Man
How to describe the indescribable. I said I could. My friends smiled and shook their heads. They said I’d never be able to do it. Burning Man has to be experienced – and even then …”C’mon!” I retorted. “I was on Dead tour! This can’t be a whole lot different. Right?”How wrong I was; how right they were.Burning Man is a party in the desert, an event in the playa, a city of 35,000 – Nevada’s seventh largest city, complete with a ranger station, post office, recycling and medical facilities – that appears overnight on an ancient lake bed in the Black Rock Desert.This year’s theme, Vault of Heaven, focused on the celestial bodies above. The playa was a half-circle of roads named after the planets; the cross-streets were named for the times of day. We were at 6 and Neptune.The event has been called an interactive arts festival in the desert, the biggest pagan orgy in the world. It’s music, it’s art, it’s paint and feathers and the ever-present, ever-gagging playa dust.Dust, dust, dust. Everywhere. It fills your nose, your eyes, your mouth.
You notice it, but you’re too busy noticing everything else that’s going on around you to care – much.The event is all about art.As the first day dawns, the drums begin. The rumble grows in intensity – 24/7 – all week long. The heartbeat of the Man.Mutant vehicles. Hulking, rusting moon-shaped art burning sage in the desert. A watermelon left in the middle of the desert, a green and yellow orb amidst a sea of dust and heat and dry wind.People painted blue, green, red, purple. Bare-breasted women spinning sticks of fire. A man scuba diving in an opaque plastic tank shaped like a body.It’s all here. And it’s all what you make of it. The more one participates, the more one gets out of the whole adventurous romp in the desert.Bikes are the primary mode of transportation and roll from camp to camp all day, all night. Neon eyeballs oversee the happenings on the Esplanade. And oh, those happenings.
Visit Costco Soulmate Trading Outlet, climb the Thunderdome or the Department of Tethered Aviation for some real interesting twists on life.There are camps where you can snuggle with strangers. Journal your thoughts. Fly a kite. Dance all night. Burning Attorneys camp wasn’t looking to torch lawyers, but looking for attorneys with whom to share a drink.There’s Twister with a twist: Twisted. There’s Stilt Camp. The Happy Humpday Purgatory Happy Hour.Santa on a Rampage.You can talk to God in a phone booth. He finally answered our question: “What does God do on Sunday?” Golf. And he always wins.Critical Floss Camp: “Join a couple hundred friends in a mass after-dinner dental flossing.”Head off the Esplanade and visit the “Gut Hut: Happy Entrails to You” for a serving of tripe and pig snout. (It’s not half bad. It’s not half good, but it’s not half bad.)
Spikes Vampire Bar was one of the few that didn’t serve up a drink layered in a coat of playa dust.Oh, the dust. The dry, ever-present dust. Meals in Black Rock City are a challenge. We ate smoked salmon, chili, steaks, shrimp and scallop kabobs, all laced with a layer of playa dust. Playa dust is a condiment. You cannot avoid the lure of the Man. Take a walk on one of three Promenades to the giant dome in the desert, atop which stands a wooden man with arms outstretched to the sky. He will go down in flames on Saturday night to the cheers of “Burn the Man! Burn the Man!” – and the counterprotests urging people to save him.Better yet is the serene, spiritual Temple of the Stars just past the Man. This year, it was a quarter-mile long, made of filigreed wood. There, people jot their thoughts – or notes to those who have moved on – in hopes they will be answered when the Temple burns. It goes down on Sunday night, to the sound of nothing.Then, even the drums are silent. The man is gone, yet the dust prevails.I can’t describe it. You have to see it for yourself.Jane Stebbins writes a Wednesday column. She can be reached at970) 668-3998, ext. 228, or email@example.com.
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