There are the things that you’re told again and again but cannot comprehend until you’re there—no matter how many pictures you’ve seen or longtime burners you know—things like the sense of community, the expansiveness of the art, the generosity, the dust, and the friggin’ mind-blowing infrastructure.
And then there’s the things your never-burned-before fellow middle class white folk warn you about that aren’t accurate, like to expect an orgy on every corner and a haze of pot smoke over every camp.
What it comes down to is that you can't know what Burning Man is until you go. And even then, truly like everything else in life, it’ll be what you make it.
Because at Burning Man, if you want it, you will find it.
It's 10AM and you want an ice cream sandwich from a broad in a Renaissance bustier? Done. Want buttered cinnamon toast from a pushcart at 2AM? Done again. Wanna applaud a tranny stripping on a trampoline? No problem. Need rolling paper? Okay. A tent decorated with a painting of a phallic ice cream sundae? Yeah, we can get that. You want a big hammock woven with glowing red and green EL wire? Well, you’re layin’ in it, friend. It can all happen and within just 20 yards of our camp.
Burning Man has the reputation of being a hedonistic haven for a bunch of naked acid-dropping hippies. That’s true. And it’s not. The high hippies are there. But so are business owners, microbiologists, carpenters, electrical engineers, accountants, and fully-clothed are-you-sure-you-shouldn’t-be-in-suburbia? grandfathers. Some are hippies themselves. Some are drunk. Some are sober. Some are baked. Some just hungry. But everyone’s wearing the same thing—a layer of playa dust.
Because status, occupation, and money are non-issues, these are the kindest, least judgmental people you’ll ever meet. They’ll hug you, hand you a drink, give you handmade gifts, put air in your bike tire, give directions, offer genuine thanks, mist you with cold water, get you a bandaid, and then hug you again. They won’t call on the power of peer pressure to get you to try ‘shrooms. They don’t care if you won’t drink. They won't hesitate even a second to help you. Honestly, plenty might be assholes in the “default world,” but when burners get out to the playa, they are eager to be accepting, practice radical non-attachment, make art, and give whatever you need.
When you arrive at the Gate, volunteer greeters wrap you in a dusty hug and say “Welcome home.” While I still consider Sparks home enough for me, I think I get why so many burners feel that way about Black Rock City. BRC is comfortable. It’s friendly. You can wear what you want and ditch your phone. And so far as I’m concerned, that’s exactly how home oughta be.
Want to know what I loved, what we’d do differently, what we’d do the same, hear about the 21-year-old in the next camp that I wanted to adopt and bring home with us, and get the answer to the question of all questions—would we go to Burning Man again? Come back for more later and you'll get satisfaction . . .