Let it begin

Trip Start Sep 01, 2010
Trip End Aug 01, 2011

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Where I stayed
in a beautiful tent

Flag of United States  , Nevada
Wednesday, September 1, 2010

8.31.10 6am

We left a little early if you ask me. Our 5am wakeup call was made a bit easier by that first cup of coffee and a visit by a banana and sushi roll. Our friends Christina and Francesca had dressed up and greeted us in the aforementioned costumes to see us on our way, making us shriek loudly, waking up the local dogs in Denise's Wallingford neighborhood.

Rewind 12 hours.

The first tenants for our basement apartment, Bennett and Kelsey, were an hour and a half early to their move in appointment, causing Amy to panic a bit that we hadn’t yet had a chance to move the last round of stuff to the garage and vacuum, etc. Bennett grabbed the vacuum and got to work, while I moved our last 3 loads of stuff into the garage, careful to leave just enough room for Amy to back her car in there. Which we did, in perfect time for Doug to pick us up to spend our last Seattle night at his and Denise’s beautiful Wallingford home. We slept well, knowing that the hardest work was over, and our world was about to go sideways for a year – starting with the most sideways spot on earth: Black Rock City.

For those who don’t know, BRC is unique among the world’s cities in that it is only there for 1 week a year. 'An exercise in temporary community’ is how the Burning Man organizers describe it. And I’m not sure I could come up with a better 5 word description.  ‘Crazy freaks creating eyepopping art' might be another.  The good news is that Amy and I both have our freaky side, so we were happy to join the experiment if only for 6 days.

Doug and Denise had borrowed their friend’s killer RV for the week, and we were the lucky beneficiaries of a ride to the desert. After 13 hours in the rig, stopping only for gas (bathroom and food were on board), we arrived to the famous Black Rock Desert in northwestern Nevada.

I had the privilege of saying to BRC’s gatekeeper upon arrival, "Well I was here at Burning Man 2006, but I bring with me 3 virgins" – and upon hearing that, our greeter forced them out of the RV and onto the playa, each of them ringing a gong and rolling around on their backs, effectively merging themselves with the super-fine playa dust which would be our constant companion for the next week.

Now, its been said before that it would be impossible to sum up Burning Man in any amount of words – and I agree – which is why I’ll only give the quick effort below. I hope you can forgive me.

Imagine 50,000 people of all shapes sizes and ages who come to the desert from all over the world to celebrate our collective creative spirit for one week every year. Unimaginable artwork is installed on an insane scale, temporarily, out onto the open desert. Mind blowing creativity is on display around every corner. Only there are no corners. All of this takes place on a flat-as-a-pancake desert that goes far beyond our city of 50,000 – extending to glistening mountains 5, 10, 20 miles away. The city is organized in a circle around ‘The Man” – a 100 foot tall work of art that burns at the end of every festival.

Yes, of course it’s hot there during the day. We’re in the Nevada desert during the summer. But Black Rock City really shows its true colors at night – both literally and figuratively. One of life’s great pleasures is to ride your bike out onto the playa after the sun dips over the horizon and take in all those colors.

The night is lit up 360 degrees all around you – and it is HUGE. Imagine Times Square, and then turn it (mostly) horizontal, and turn all the ads into incredible artwork, and you’ve got maybe a fraction of what it looks like. Now, what it feels like is another thing entirely. The whole endeavor is built on the collective spirit. The only things for sale in the whole place are coffee and ice.  Everything else is given away freely – the art, the sno-cones, the pancakes, the friendliness, the joy.

It is this dynamic that impresses me the most. In an era (and country) that increasingly seems to say ‘whats in it for me’ Burners ask, ‘what can I contribute to the community?’

Misting tents to keep you cool, sex workshops to heat you back up. Free bike repair shops to get you moving, beanbags and hammocks all around to stop you in your tracks. All night parties to get you dancing, endless chill lounges to nurse you back to health. All so you can do it again the next night.

At the end of the day, Burning Man is not something that can be described. It must be experienced. But even after you do, its hard to understand just what happened. Really unlike anything in the world. That I’ve seen anyway. But I really hope my travels in the next year prove that statement wrong.
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