Things to do in Sacramento and Beyond

The Bee's guide to events, activities, arts and entertainment

September 6, 2006
Feel the Burn. No seriously, feel it

Well guys, I did it. I finally went to Burning Man. Been thinking about it for years, talking a mean game about how I was TOTALLY going to go this year and omg it was going to be so awesome. And then the end of summer would roll around and there would be no Burning Man in my datebook, if I were organized enough to carry such a thing. Part of it was because I'm kinda lazy, but I also had a nagging little suspicion that I would either love it or hate it, and there aren't too many worse places I can think of to be miserable than in the middle of the Nevada desert, choking on playa dust, reeking of Porta Potty and looking at the saggy parts of aging hippies. All of which I did, by the way.

So I'm particularly delighted to report that I came, I saw and I'm a total convert. I heart Burning Man, and The Man hearts me.

I went under the auspices of work - something I do not recommend and probably won't do again. It is just too hard to work in an environment like that, and my notebook started to feel like a mean little shackle. I thought working while at bars was distracting, but there aren't 5 million absolutely bizarre and fabulous things to see and do at the local dive.

AOC_BurnMan_0289a.jpg I wanted to make my own tutu, do yoga with bellinis and windsurf the playa, and I wanted to do it immediately.

So I worked, but I found time to play. A Bee photographer (to view more of Autumn Cruz's photo gallery go here and I stayed at a theme camp called Kairos - a wonderful, welcoming, friendly, naughty, fun, random theme camp organized by some guys down in San Diego. The best part was the food, which was absolutely gourmet and, best of all, not prepared by me. Power bars do not a meal make, and when I'm roughing it in every other aspect, I want a thick slice of pork loin for dinner, dammit. With ice cream cones for dessert.

Having arrived alone and friendless, with no time to rally my peeps, who do not have an extra $300 lying around for admission, I was initially concerned I would be bereft of companionship and flying a sad sack solo. Not even Partner in Crime, who is bound by marriage to accompany me on such excursions but currently bound by a broken foot to the couch, could attend.

I needn't have worried. The instant community of Burning Man enfolded me, and I spent the rest of the week running around with The Brooklyn Boys - three hilarious and entertaining fellas who were not, to my knowledge, from Brooklyn - and The HoneyBurners, two fabulous Canadians who came south for their post-wedding celebration. I almost cried when we had to say goodbye.

It's a funny thing, really. I formed these incredible connections and never knew a single person's last name. I would be riding my bike by myself (one of my favorite things to do there) and people would just usher me into their camps, offer up a drink or a story and send me on my way. Gifts and favors are exchanged like greetings, and "the nice thing to do" is always the default rather than the exception. At the risk of waxing poetic for too much longer, Burning Man is kinda like a party full of only people you like. And that's a rare thing.

Two more points and then I will wrap up The Longest Blog Entry Ever. First, the city. Coming into a vast, teeming, crazy city of 40,000 people is like nothing I've ever experienced. My first ride out to The Man was a lesson in disorientation, and the distance between my camp and the outer playa seemed hopelessly long. I got there surprisingly fast and learned how distance and time meant nothing there. And then I turned around and realized I had no sense of where I'd come from, or where I should go from there. I should note, by the way, that the very first thing I did when I set out was get completely lost from my group, and with not the smallest shred of hope of finding them, was on my own. Which turned out to be the best thing that could have happened, as this is how I learned the delight of the solo bike ride. Anyway. It's funny how that first glance back at the city was like peering over the edge of something dizzyingly tall. Then, as I spent more time there, the fact that I was in a city (the fifth largest in Nevada, by the way) finally hit me. I knew, for instance, that the guitar/hammock guy was a block and a half down the way from my camp, that my camp was located between the giant red heart and the twinkle-lit tree, and that the non-nasty bathrooms required a bike ride and five minute's notice from my bladder. It's funny how quickly you adapt.

AOC_BurnMan_0223a.jpgFinally, the most incredible thing about Burning Man is what it brings out of yourself. I was going through some stuff, as so many who make their pilgrimage there are, and Burning Man provided me a surprising forum to work it all out. I drove out of there with a clarity that had been eluding me for months, and it had nothing to do with the art or the music or the naked people or the all-night parties. It's as if there was so much stimuli that my brain was able to go silent for awhile, allowing the rest of me to figure things out.

Now that I'm back, I'm still cleaning playa dust off of my bike and out of my ears and seeing and smelling traces of it on everything I own. But I'm not throwing away the irreparably dusty pair of boots that kept me going out there in the desert. I'll be walking in them next year.

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