Playa Lung, Desert Sunrises & Other Tales From a First Time Burner
Brothers don’t shake hands brothers gotta hug…
And this was our first introduction to Black Rock City, welcomed by some scantily clad Burners whose sole purpose was to greet the exhausted and initiate BRC virgins into this weirdly loving week long experience/experiment. If ringing a giant bell and doing playa dust angels doesn’t get you a ticket into this family the only thing left to do is a cinnamon roll hug to make sure you end up being best friends with your fellow Burner within the first five minutes of stepping onto the playa – it works! While the initiation is oddly foreign to those who don’t enjoy the awkward invasion of personal space, it’s beyond reassuring to those Burners who are coming back to an uniquely familiar place…home.
In reflecting on our Burning Man experience it’s hard to describe what actually happens to you on the playa. Pictures are worth a thousand words and the mantra of “Radical Self Reliance and Inclusion,” are spoken in any recap article you read inside any publication covering this event.
If anything Burning Man has an evolving definition that always changes because of its participants. It’s not really a music festival because no one really knows who’s playing, no one knows what time they’re playing at or whether they’ll actually show up at a scheduled art car or sound camp. You just fucking go with it.
It’s not really an art festival in the traditional sense of an art festival because no one knows the artists who produced the work; often times it’s a collaborative effort that takes years to come to life and ends up in flames and ashes on the playa floor. This credit always goes back to the collective and not the individual. No item is ever sold and your opinions of the piece don’t effin’ matter because the only thing that anyone really cares about is that you witnessed someone else’s self-expression about life in the one moment in time the piece actually existed. And for whatever reason this encounter is only really understood by the community looking on knowing first hand the piece isn’t a mirage on an oasis but something you can actually touch, experience and feel. This is some deep metaphysical shit but ask anyone who saw it take place and they’ll tell you it’s true.
What Burning Man really is as hippie as it sounds…is a gathering of collective energy. A place where each individual is responsible for their respective contribution to their camp, their neighbors and their Burner community. This was a burgeoning theme as the week progressed and as we began to feel more comfortable in our newly acquire Burner skin. And there are countless small examples throughout the week that attest to this theory, simple ones like; picking up moop off the playa, offering a fellow Burner a sip of your flask, a pull off your can of beer or a hug while bonding at a campfire or checking out a performance. This led to larger examples like: sharing gas with another camp that ran out so their generator could keep the party going or rescuing another camp that ran out of water with an extra barrel so everyone could stay hydrated.
It’s the sum of its parts that make Burning Man and the aforementioned playa a sacred place to the many that play orphanage to its dusty sand storms and excessive desert heat this time of year. This type of care and compassion, interest and reverence is something when you leave the playa you miss in your everyday because let’s be honest real life sucks and doesn’t work like this. But these examples are what every Burner takes back with them in principle to share with the world when they break camp and Black Rock City vanishes into thin air. It’s also what they hope to return to when the city rises like a phoenix from the ashes the following year.
Who could blame them?
Burning Man leaves the awesome taste of playa dust in your mouth and a mind full of countless memories and vivid experiences to look back on when it’s done.
Some of our favorite moments from last week include: randomly biking into Jack U’s set at Root Society, Embrace, solo adventures into the deep playa, the Discofish & Jankey Barge art cars, dinners with our Fresh ‘N Dirty campmates, two in the afternoon champagne bottle popping, F’nD Boiler Room sessions in the dome, biking on the playa as fast as you possibly can or what your body would allow you at the time, reflecting about life in the temple, the nudist luncheon/photo session we ran into, randomly walking into camp Comfort and Joy at three in the morning (everyone loves deep house ;), BAAAHS, school bus ballpits, Carlton Cox and the Playground Experience, the phone booth to God, our champagne toast at Disco Knight’s sunrise set with Seth Troxler & Jamie Jones, the Miso Horny camp with their delicious miso soup and funky disco beats, camp Dark Sparkle, Ego Trip, some dude named “Sparrow” we met on the deep playa, the naked guy eating a cheeseburger on the coals of the Burning Man – where’d you get a cheeseburger at in the middle of the desert? All the girls who want to know where Robot Heart is, the sunrises on the playa and all our new Burner fam who made all this good shit and positive vibes happen.
The takeaway from this when it’s all over is that Burning Man is a wonderful, harsh, eclectic, fucked up, beautiful, inspiring place. Its conditions test those not ready and reward those prepared. It’s not easy spending five or six days getting your ass kicked by white-out conditions, dehydration and whipping winds, but it becomes part of the fun and part of the magic the playa creates while you’re there.
While some festivals can hang their hat on their over the top expensive curated line-ups, exclusive VIP sections and Super All-Star Jam Bands blessing their stages. Burning Man relies on the lonely Burner; the one ready to build, support, love, participate, thrive and survive proving to everyone when it’s all said and done…it’s not where you’re at when you’re on the playa but what you find along the way when you’re there.
That’s transcendent and irreplaceable.
Writer & Photographer: Ditto Ramirez
Additional Photo Credit: Ben Hsieh