After I left Black Rock City and the playa of Nevada, I had a hard time processing everything at once. Dov urged me to just write, stream-of-consciousness style, and just see what happens. So I got out my sketchbook, drew a bit, and then started to write. This is as far as I got before sleep overtook me last night.
And, unfortunately, the camera I took to Burning Man is currently MIA, and it would be so much easier to express this with accompanying photos. I took the liberty of browsing through the Burning Man Flickr account to link to some of the gorgeous, breathtaking photos that have already appeared there. So, no, none of these linked photos are mine. Take a look through the galleries, though – because none of this writing even begins to break through to what I experienced on the playa.
What is this place?
Everything and everyone seems wilder, crazier, and kinder here. It is a Carnival, lit up in LEDs and fire, where alcohol and stories flow freely and endlessly.
The Temple Burn. Imagine over 40,000 people, waiting in absolute, reverent silence, all facing a beautiful, lotus-shaped, inscribed, burning Temple. Gasp and cheers accompany each falling petal. As the last wooden supports begin to topple, one shrill, animal scream pierces the air, somewhere in front of me. One man has made that noise.
The whirling, dancing flames release a collective catharsis. Like a rolling wave, shouts and howls and screams rise up from the circled mass of people; a crescendo of raw emotion. All around me are people hugging, people crying, people laughing. The agony is intense and sharp.
That is what I remember feeling most strongly: Agony.
I still can’t believe the time, effort, and money put into creating mutant vehicles and art cars. I still can’t believe that 50,000 people materialized onto a high elevation, desolate, dry lakebed. Half the time, I felt like I was on a movie set for a sci-fi, post-apocalyptic film. There was so much leather and metal. Piercings and tattoos. Sculpted idols and personal gods.
The city is most alive at night. Lights shine from domes, tents, decorated vehicles, and people. The atmosphere is festive and wild. There are blue mohawks, cowboy hats, wrist cuffs. Sometimes on one person. There are LED fairies, unicorns, grotesque steampunk-esque creatures that paced the playa on stilted limbs. There are Victorians, nudists, fetishists, pixies and elves, drag queens, gypsies, hippies, ravers, rennies, pirates, vampires, and everything in between.
I have never seen so many intensely beautiful people.
What is this place?
I spent the afternoon – one afternoon in a place where time ceases to function normally – tying people up in the Lamplighter lounge and watching others get tied up in my rope. Others watched on, or complimented a tie. I got to teach a few, encouraging those who came up to me, expressing their interest and enthusiasm. I have never felt so relaxed and comfortable in my own skin.
Order doesn’t matter. It seems chaotic, but somehow, things don’t all break and fall apart. A community is formed. Many smaller ones, as well as the greater playa community. It is both spoken and unspoken law: “We are here, together, in this harsh, inhospitable, unforgiving place. We look out for each other.”