The moon hasn’t risen, yet there is a pirate armada rising from the sand. In this desert a tree springs up and we gather to confess to it. We have entered the gates of Black Rock City.
- Soundtrack of the report
- Mad Max 2
Many friends asked, “What exactly is Burning Man?”
To explain Burning Man is to explain fire - easy to describe to someone who’s seen it, but a little tricky to explain to someone who has never seen it. Fire is a myth, until it sparks and explodes, and then it is truth and no one can deny that fire exists because we all feel its scorching power. Then it melts into the wind.
All year round, Black Rock City is flat desert - except for the week when the gates open, and thousands of people come. Then this city ignites. There’s yoga classes. There’s home-brewed beer. There’s a giant scaffold you can climb to get an amazing view of the Playa and the price of admission is a spanking administered by a handsome gentleman who blows a whistle. Like plumes of smoke, people on bicycles, on their feet, on mutant vehicles gush to and from different camps. Someone makes hundreds of servings Challah French toast for breakfast, and someone else makes hundreds of servings of Ethiopian food for dinner. They ask for nothing in return.
At night, there’s a skybridge constructed of lasers spanning one end of Black Rock City to the other end. There’s mixed drinks. There’s music (I hope you love bass). There’s a swing. A see-saw. A trampoline and a lot of bicycles that are lit up. An ex-school bus pulls up, it is now working as a roving lounge/nightclub with a full service bar. There’s a giant, robot octopus that shoots out flames in rhythm to the speakers that shoot out sick, sick bass. There is a traveling pirate ship with carousel horses that go up and down the mast you can ride. We dance in the desert, and everyone gets a hug.
There is also warmth here. Someone hands me a necklace made of a miniature bottle with black string running through it. “This red sand,” he explains as he puts it over my head and around my neck, “is from the shores of Australia.”
There is the Temple of Juno. An architectural masterpiece made of wooden lace, painted with stories and tributes to loved ones lost. When I entered, there were masses of people either standing or sitting to listen. I find a small corner outside, and I write two letters, each no more than a sentence.
All this builds to the ceremonials. Lasers target the Man. Fire spinners warm us up. Then there are explosions in the sky and the desert night sky becomes spring as fireworks bloom over and over again into each other. The Man erupts, and though we are nowhere near it, we can all feel the scorching heat.
And slowly, slowly, just like a flame, Black Rock City melts into the wind - until next year.