Burning Man 2017 – Demons Exist in Nirvana

BURNING MAN 2017 – The dust, oh the dust.  I can still smell it if I think hard enough.  The Playa sticks to everything that’s ever been there.  Like a tattoo, it never comes off.  Whenever Burners are feeling sad or nostalgic, they can open up their dusty costumes bin and give their dinosaur print tights a shake, Playa poofing out.  The memories we make out at Black Rock City stick to us the same way.  They change who we are, and who we were at the same time.  The person you are when you are waiting to get into the city will never return to the default world.  Accepting this fact and letting it happen is one of the most important things you can accomplish at Burning Man.  The ego must die for us to truly be alive.

This is not a guide like “How to go to Burning Man” or “My Favorite Photos of Burning Man 2017″and this is not a memoir, but merely a reflection. Not everything is rainbows and unicorns in Black Rock City.  Things get hard and there are hourly challenges.  However, it’s these moments of struggle that make it all worth it.  If easy is your thing then go to Coachella, because I don’t want to hear you whining when I’m having a good time.

“Welcome Home,” oh how nice it was to see those words! Burning Man 2017 started with a bang and took off at the speed of light.  We somehow missed the gate line, getting in in under two hours.  We set up in the night, a windless night perfect for assembling our shade structure.  Before dawn we were all up and running, so we went for a bike ride to give our virgin Burners a sense of direction.  The stars were clear and you could see the Milky Way, letting us know things were good, beacons of normality in a city of the unimaginable.

The first few days we had perfect weather, then a huge windstorm came out of nowhere.  The normal dust blows in a shade of grey, but this was a deep orange tan.  Our shade structure was strong, but I yelled for everyone to grab a corner.  For what seemed like eternity we held onto that tent as I couldn’t see my hands that were holding the poles in front of my face.  I crouched down, fearful of less stable shade tents flying through the air like deadly weapons.  The storm left as soon as it came, leaving us to make some quick repairs.  My hand was bleeding but I didn’t feel it, the adrenaline pumping hard and WE WERE ALIVE!

We sure had some crazy nights.  A particularly memorable night went something like this:  rode our bikes to the center, left them near Pink Heart then wandered by foot.  Found a black light camp with a fish theme, they gave you 3D glasses than made you walk though a sort of 3D maze.  Upon exiting, we noticed the Charlie The Unicorn art car not far away.  We walked out towards the light and had a really good dance party; Charlie was a great host.  From there were heard the “crack clack tak tak tak ztaaa cap” of the giant Tesla coils.  I stared at them for what seemed like hours, unable to convince myself that they weren’t shooting electricity to the sounds of Charlie’s beats.  Eventually we went back to camp for a water refill or something, then stayed up all night laughing with our campmates.  Around 4am we went searching for the Dusty Rhino art car.  After about an hour we found it and followed it off into the desert where Tycho played his annual sunrise set.  The music was chill and when the sun peaked over the horizon, shining though the dusty haze, it was one of the most spectacular things I’ve ever seen.

By the time the man burned things had already gotten out of hand.  Everyone was strung out (Carrie interjection — not everyone!  Sober burners do exist!) and the weekend warriors had arrived the night before with their RVs, and drugs, and moopyness.  MOOP, (Mater Out Of Place) is one of the most important words on the Playa.  Not one piece of anything should ever hit the ground and one must always be watching for moop.  Some people are born moopers, leaving an ugly trail of trash through their entire lives.  Once you are mindful of mooping, it’s easy to avoid.  The Playa is generally spotless until the weekend warriors arrive.  Not really Burners, they just come for the party and fail to notice the details, the point of the whole thing.

Saturday night, everyone is sitting around the Man for the big burn.  Firemen made a circle at a safe distance to keep back the crazies.  The whole ritual is very pagan feeling, with masked fire baring dragons who light the fuse.  There were fireworks and, as always, a huge explosion that you can feel from the edges of the city.  Fortunately for us we watched from the 6 o’clock side as viewers on the 12 o’clock end had to witness a man break through the perimeter and end his life in the flames.

We didn’t hear about this until the morning.  The man didn’t make it to the fire, but collapsed from the heat far away from the flames.  When the structure had fallen, a team of volunteer firemen risked their own lives to drag the man out of the heat.  He was still clinging to life but died soon after rescue.  Many people had seen it, and it had affected them greatly.  Sunday is always a day for tears, but this time was different.  There was pity and grief, but lots of anger as well.  Suicide can be viewed as selfish, but it touches too closely to home for us.  Carrie and I have both had loved ones take their own lives and we have helped friends though times that they felt were the end.  There is always hope, never give up, never give up.

In the United States our health care is terrible.  Our mental health care is worse.  There are no cheap ways to get help and most sufferers of depression keep the feeling locked up inside for years, embarrassed or their weaknesses. It’s our society as a whole that creates this feeling, this lack of spirituality, empty living without purpose.  We are always striving for the next material thing, next vacation, next promotion, because then we will be happy! But the truth is, these rat races are fueling the sadness, perpetuating the emptiness that our lives have become.  Only through turning off, tuning out, and releasing ourselves from the chains of modern desires can we truly be free to be free from pain and suffering.

The Temple burn on Sunday is always a somber event.  The art cars mute their beats and its the first silence you’ve heard it weeks.  The fire burns slowly, the structure strong.  One soul in the middle of the crowd let out a howl of the wolf.  This howling spread organically through the masses until we were all howling at the moon, upset at ourselves and our inability to control the world around us.  Tears flowed from many of our fellow Burners that night; it was one of the hardest days I can remember in Black Rock City.

The experience ended in a rough way.  There were always mixed feelings when leaving, but this was not the way it was suppose to go.  We were supposed to be happy, high on life and our experiences, excited for next year and sharing our ideas for it.  But we were left far more questions than answers, the uncertainty of the whole things growing deeper.  What were we even doing out here, where life shouldn’t exist?  The idea of a shower and the comforts of home kept us going as we used our last bits of mental fuel to navigate the dusty exit road and reenter the hard pavement of the default realm.

We arrived at Burning Man 2017 as seven friends, and left as one.  The experiences you share create a bond that can’t be broken.  Once you truly see and you look into someone else’s eyes and you just know that they see it too, there is no turning back.

Like this post about Burning Man 2017? Check out my article on Burning Man 2014 and don’t forget to follow us on Instagram @laaventuraproject.

 

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Burning Man 2014 – Underrated or Overrated in Black Rock City

Burning Man 2014
Burning Man 2014
Burning Man, It’s an experience, a stream of thought, a party that doesn’t end, a desert that is uninhabitable. It’s underrated and overrated at the same time.  That’s what Burning Man is to me.
Burning Man is a group of friends that come once a year every year.  It’s everything you wanted, multiplied by sparkle ponies.  It’s forgetting reality.  Burning Man is letting all of your inhibitions drift away into the dust before anyone notices.  It’s life thrown into the fire and told: Feel something different!  It’s the difference between life and death, between real and reality, between the fake and the unfake. It does exist, you just ask “ Are you a virgin? “ and tell people never ever come back again.
But that’s good.  It’s IS NOT FOR EVERYONE!!!!!!!!!!  Please, don’t come because there are too many people already.  Burning Man is drinking Bloody Marys in the morning, not ‘cause you are an alcoholic but because they are there and you want it and you don’t care because you want it.  Burning Man is watching the sun come up over the desert and wondering if it really matters, then watching it go down and realizing that it doesn’t.  It’s not caring that it matters.  It’s not mattering.
You realize that there is another life but this is OUR CITY Black Rock City.  WE BUILT THIS MAN!!!!  And we take pride in it.  You can’t take it away, this feeling.  Burning Man is how life would be without the MAN.  Don’t even try to be without the Man after this.  His is with you and you will never be without.  Burning Man is life. It’s everything we never had.  Burning Man is US – the man, the woman, the “it doesn’t matter”.  It’s everything you hate being released from your body.  It’s a shard of life in this world.
Burning Man is you.  The only stop is that hour after you kill him that he is gone and there is nothing left.  But that never lasts and we all have to feel that same pain.  You can be sad, but you should pray to the temple that you can take it with you, that you can please, please, please try to take it with you.
I hate going but I love it.  I can’t stop going.  Please don’t let me stop and please don’t let you stop.  The world needs people like us to push the limits and find out where this thing goes.  Every year that we pack all of our junk and carry it out to the Playa let’s remember to always push it farther.  Let’s find the edge and jump off, at bottom of the cliff might be better.
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Going Home to Black Rock City

Going Home to Black Rock City – Burning Man 201410469724_10101264298662330_1765813326111657970_n

Going Home to Black Rock City is so impossible to write about.   Life on the playa is so radically different, full of childhood wonder and fantastical ideas that become reality.  It reminds us that life is art, that giving is good, and that surprises are around every corner.

We found Java Johnny, our favorite old coffee-slinging nonsense-talking character, right in the same spot he was 3 years ago.   (“Attention campers!  If you’re wondering what time is it, I have the time for you.  Get ready to set your clocks!  The time is….THURSDAY!”)   Naked Lady was there too, and so was an awesome couple from Portland who brought a whole box of Voodoo Donuts that stayed fresh enough for the first 2 days.

“It’s never too late to have a happy childhood.” -Java Johnny

I met a kid who went to Hofstra University with me and was in the same major a couple years younger than me.  We drank Zach’s homebrewed saison and reminisced about old professors.  “Come to New York,” he told me, “I’ll get you a job.”

On the first day it rained, which never happens.  The playa turned into thick, cement-like mud, which coated our shoes like glue until everyone had a 4-inch platform of mud.  My cheap old boots somehow didn’t attract the mud as much, but Zach and others went around barefoot or wrapped their feet in plastic bags and slid around the neighborhood.  It was fun.

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Our neighbors formed “Camp Let It Go”, a hodgepodge group of Americans, Aussies, and Brits.  They built an amazing multi-level shade structure with hammocks and a fully-stocked bar and DJ setup.  They also built a flower dome, one of those old playground domes covered in twinkly lights and lined with pillows and carpets.  The best part was the top level of their structure, an elastic-rigged hangout lined with sleeping bags and stuffed animals.  We fit a lot of people up there, watching the sunset.  You just had to make sure everything was arranged well enough that no one fell through the straps!  After all, “safety third.”

On Friday there was a dust storm.  It got terrible right when we got to the temple.  The only quiet place on the playa, people kneeled praying, meditating, honoring loved ones, as the dust swirled.  Biking back, you couldn’t see 4 feet in front of you.  I was terrified of getting lost out there, dusty and dried out like a lizard.  We made it back and laughed at how our faces were different colors inside and outside our goggles.

My bike got stolen.  It was right outside our camp on the outskirts, and we were only next door at Camp Let It Go.  Yesterday we got a comment on our blog from the thief.  He must have read the “La Aventura Project” bumper sticker stuck on there.  You can read it under the “Maps” section.  To whoever you are, I’m not that mad about it.  I didn’t want to carry that crappy bike back home anyway.  I just wish you wouldn’t have taken it on Wednesday!  Maybe you’ll keep reading our blog.

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There were more moments, more laughs, more awestuck-staring than I can ever remember properly.  New best friends whose names you’ll never remember.  Swirling stars and subtle realizations that you can’t put into words, but they change who you are.  It’s hard and dirty and difficult and immensely creative.  I hope I’m blessed enough to return.

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Going Home to Black Rock City is something we try to do every year.  Check out our archives for more Burn stories and don’t forget to follow us on Instagram @laaventuraproject

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