Thursday, August 30, 2007

burning my eyes open

A few of you asked for more Burning Man stories and I will happily oblige because I know there are people who haven't had great experiences at the Man but mine were filled with magic. It's not an easy week, the heat is unbearable and you are completely responsible for your own resources and unless you are rich and go in an RV there is little escape. The days are spent recuperating under makeshift shade structures, but as the night falls the action kicks in.

We had found a campsite across from the Soylent Baby Camp. They had a conveyor belt where you'd place a can of food and it would go through some sort of motions and spit a baby out on the other end. The fact that there was a naked old man with a long beard and a bottle of scotch cranking them out sealed the deal and the baby was a gift. Baby in hand I began the long walk to the center of town where the most spectacular displays are featured. I'd been imbibing in the spirits so things were a bit vivid to begin with and as I walked through town I ran into Jesus and the Devil hand in hand. The Devil gave me a long hug and absolved me of my sins while Jesus smiled and nodded. The next stop was a walk down a trippy subliminal memory lane, and then we paused at a downtempo lounge where exotic women were dancing to their own groove. I caught a few fire handlers and encountered some strange, strange electrical squids. I was hugged countless times and by the time I was done my day glo body paint must have been shared with a hundred new found stranger friends.

It's no exaggeration that you are completely overwhelmed with creativity every single square foot of your journey. And everyone is welcoming. I was offered food and drink and gifts everywhere I went and by the time it's over you stumble back to your camp and fall asleep under the wide Nevada sky. And the next night you head off in a different direction and it's a whole other explosion of sensory delights. It's dehydrating and unbelievable and magical and freeing and out of this world because every single thing is okay as long as it's not hurtful to anyone else.

And I really think we are onto something with a Burning Bloggers Camp. We can do it, but it'll require commitment and organization. We can do communal everything and we can bring kids or not bring kids and it will all work out just fine. It might not be for everyone, but I think with a little letting go and a sense of adventure it would rock your world and change the way you want to live in it.

As we were leaving the festival we were one of a thousand dusty cars on caravan through the desert. The wind can bring serious dust storms and everyone and everything is covered in fine white dust. As we edged our way out we came upon a man with a sign that said he needed $100 to get home. We rolled down our window and went to hand him money and he replied that it was ok, he raised what he needed in 10 minutes and didn't need it. And that alone summed it all up because he wasn't taking more than he needed and in a few moments everyone who passed by lended a hand.

Three days after I returned from Burning Man that year 9/11 happened and the world turned on it's head. It was impossible to reconcile where I'd just been from the horror that was unfolding and the juxtaposition of the two is something that still confounds me to this day. That the potential for love and light and utopia exists alongside the capacity for terrible horrors and yet each day we soldier on and do what we can to move forward in this great big world of ours. And how a little burn could go a long way for all of us and might even change the world.

I've got a new review up over at my other spot so check it out before you go because I made a book. Or personalized a book. But still, it rocks.

33 comments:

Gorilla Bananas said...

Anything that makes people feel so good is worth its weight in gold. I'd rather not touch the electrical squids though - maybe with rubber gloves.

Blog Antagonist said...

To be honest, it doesn't sound like my kind of thing. I'm totally a hotel with air conditioning and mini fridge kind of gal. Bet you could never have guessed, huh? But I can see how it would be an uplifting and empowering experience for people. I hope you have a great time!

mamatulip said...

I don't know if I could do it...I mean, I can barely camp. But I'm fascinated with the idea of it, and I love the stories. LOVE.

I can't imagine coming home from that and having 9/11 happen three days later. Talk about going from high to low. That's astounding.

kiki said...

I got all teary-eyed at the end of this post, about the dude and the money. That's a beautiful spirit captured out there in the desert...I think I've been wrong about Burning Man, in fact I know it.
I'd so go to a Burning Blogger camp - that would be incredible. I'd probably want to leave my kid at home, I'm selfish like that and would want to experience the time at camp not worrying or being responsible for someone small.

And dayglo paint! Were you naked and smearing dayglo paint on people? I hope at least topless. I think that would be my M.O. to be topless at Burning Man - it feels so good to be unemcumbered by clothing and totally decadent to walk outside without clothes.

You plan it, I'll join a committee to help and be there with bells and whistles and needles to barter with. xoxo

Gwen said...

With the right frame of mind, I could give up my need for comfort, but only for a minute. I think the experience sounds amazing but not sustainable in its intensity (brings to mind T.C. Boyle's fabulous book Drop City about the implosion of a hippie commune because of the more unpleasant aspects of human nature). Still, if we could figure out a way to carry a little wonder with us, a little of that humanity, that kindness, every day, it really would be a thing of beauty, wouldn't it?

Binky said...

I don't know if it's my frigid New England upbringing, but all that hugging skeeves me out. I'm good with the naked camping aspect, though. Bring on Burning Bloggers!

QT said...

I am down but I will have to think of something I can barter, as I do not think there will be a trading floor in the middle of the Nevada desert....the juxtapostion of this with 9/11 might have made my head explode.

Kyla said...

Burning Bloggers. Excellent.

I think if we were all more honest and open, that if we didn't spend so much time hiding our true selves or being made to feel that we SHOULD be hiding our true selves, the world might look a bit more like Burning Man. For some reason, this world doesn't value real truth and beauty, and so we keep it locked away inside of ourselves, letting it out in short bursts whenever the opportunity arises. But there is so much power in it all.

Lawyer Mama said...

Some of it sounds like my thing - the people (even though I'm a square, I love originality and personality), but dude I could not handle the heat in the desert with no a/c! I'd totally be up for a burning bloggers thing in a slightly cooler clime.

The contrast between Burning Man and 9/11 must have been catastrophic.

NotSoSage said...

I'm so in. Seriously, sign me up for the organising committee.

Jenn said...

I'm with you on betting that a little burn could change the world.

It could bring enough light to fill the dark corners and change all of us, I bet.

slouching mom said...

It would require some work on my part to get to a place where I felt comfortable enough to go, but once I was there, I think I'd find it transcendental.

Bon said...

i'm in.

though i'd be far more free without the wee one...two totally different souls seem to live inside me, and only one of them is capable of getting up at six am. now, STILL up at six am...that's the soul i'd like to bring to Burning Blog.

seriously. let's do it.

thailandchani said...

I have to admit that it's probably not really my thing, either. I'm far too conservative and modest... would probably be uncomfortable with the excess.. but just the same, I can see the value in it. It reminds me a bit of the Michigan Women's Festival which I would like to attend one day.


Peace,

~Chani
http://thailandgal.blogspot.com

painted maypole said...

thanks for the story and hope.

I'm so going with you to burning man. Seriously.

Julie Pippert said...

Oh wow how cool...what a trip!

The Soylent Baby belt thing, OMS! LOL!

Thanks for the stories.

Julie
Ravin' Picture Maven

urban-urchin said...

i'm in but i'd want to bring the monkey's and the man..... and on a total downer but practical note, for the reason that the boy can't travel where there isn't a medical facility close by- is there a medical facility close by or doctors there?

Mrs. Chicky said...

The whole experience sounds beautiful. I so wish I could attend one year.

flutter said...

It is so totally you, jen. Dance for me?

Christine said...

i have always wanted to see the man burn. always.

what would we burn at a burning bloggers camp? a computer? ;-p

mitzh said...

It sure is pure bliss and one can't help but wish that it is the kind of world we live in.

Jennifer said...

This sounds a bit like the Dead show circuit. A place where kindness for the sake of kindness is at the forefront. (Though Burning Man sounds like a Dead show scene times one thousand!) And yes, it does change the way you see the world and the way you want to live. But then, there is this, which you described with such heartbreaking beauty:

That the potential for love and light and utopia exists alongside the capacity for terrible horrors and yet each day we soldier on and do what we can to move forward in this great big world of ours.

*sigh*

Note to self: Go to Burning Man, someday. !

Hetha said...

One of my friends who has burned for several years was telling me about the noticeable difference after the tech boom fizzled. The more spectacular creations that are at burning man take some serious cash to put together (in addition to committment and creative energy).

Another friend tells me that one month post burning man, San Francisco has some type of gathering of burners where they sort of "come down" from the experience together. I can't remember what they call it, but it had a very fitting name. Maybe you know about this?

(I answered a question or 2 of yours over in my comments at E's World)

The Chick said...

I was so intrigued I had to go to the Burning Man site. I've never experienced anything like that...but I'd like to.

Her Grace said...

Very cool, thanks for sharing your experiences. It sounds amazing.

Oh, The Joys said...

Nina is crazy out of her mind. Nothing to barter? Pah! We're holding the freakin' blogger version in her backyard!!!

bgirl said...

so there sister.

free expression, clothing optional, body paint..costumes....

i've been following it for years...life just took different turns, i can't wait for it to turn in the direction of the desert.

Momish said...

Ok, I admit, I went reading this with much too much alchohol. But still the same, it is Jen. Lovely jen. Again, you reach places both physical and emotional I may never see.

I have been to several rainbow events and even Grateful Dead concerts which bring up the feelings of unconditional love and giving not found elsewhere. I have reveled in their pureness; their untainted need to give.

Is this what you speak of? It is the scenerio and the environment that I image every time I think of you?

KC said...

It sounds so alien to everything I've ever known, and yet intriguing. Crazy-intriguing.

crazymumma said...

And I would love to be absolved by the devil. I think, like wolves and Darth Vader he has been dealt a bad hand.

I think I would feel at home at Burning Man...it sounds like art school with PMS.

Susanne said...

I kept hearing that there is such a thing like that festival but in your posts I have for the first time been able to get a closer look so to speak.

It sounds fantastic (and I'll be chuckling about crazymumma's image of "art school with PMS" for a while) but I think I'd rather go in an RV...

Ally said...

Very, very interesting. This juxtaposition between the burning man and the 9/11 tragedy. It's hard to believe they both occurred in the same world.

luckyzmom said...

Now I no longer have to wonder why I have seen REALLY dusty people looking exhausted walking through casinos with backpacks on their way to the hotel check in or getting gassed up at service stations or walking the aisles of grocery stores, around that time of year. Now I can give them a big knowing greeting!