Burning Man 2018 – Back to Black Rock City

This August, we again found ourselves waiting in a dusty line, inching onto the Playa.  Burning Man 2018 was about to begin and we felt calm and ready to view and take part in the madness that is BURNING.  Unlike Burners of the past, we wouldn’t be setting off explosives that leave massive craters, or eating piles of LSD and firing machine guns off of cars driving nearly 100mph.  Burning Man was different now, still a deadly beast but a beast that was maybe, could you say manageable?  This year, our 4th and 5th burns, respectively, Care Bear and I (Scattered Showers) planned to have a completely sober, and spiritual adventure in the desert.  What took place was far greater than we could have ever imagined.

burning man shade structure
Our camp, the abduction zone!

burning man shade tent

The first night of Burning Man 2018 we were greeted with a gloriously giant and red full moon.  It was a great chance to let go of the last month of struggles and usher in the new month of possibilities.  I saw my first glimpse of one of my favorite art pieces, a large helium balloon floated anchored from a bicycle.  Half painted black and half illuminated, the balloon spun through the moon cycles beneath the real thing creating a trippy dual moon effect that was stunning simplistic perfection among the larger and more complicate attractions.

Here is a video of our adventure.  We tried to be respectful and only film with consent.  We did film inside the Temple which I have mixed feelings about.  However, I tried to keep the camera focused on the beauty of the Temple itself, and not on the people or what they left in the temple.  We only filmed on a couple excursions, as I feel it violates one of the 10 Principles of Burning Man –  Immediacy.

We Burned, we Burned hard.  Skipping the bar scene, skipping the raves, skipping the hours wasted staring at shiny things (mostly), we found ourselves with an abundance of time for self care and personal growth.  We attended cacao ceremonies with ecstatic dancing.  It was so very refreshing to dance with so many beautiful souls who were not smacking their lips on molly or shoveling cocaine up their noses.  The connection was so much stronger, deeper, the energy in the space feeling more intoxicating than adrenaline pumping straight to the heart.

burning man 2018 rainbowburning man 2018 rainbow

burning man 2018 rainbow

We attended gong baths, 1.5 hours long but they felt like they were over in the blink of the eye.  We stretched in dusty yoga classes, embarked on shamanic drumming meditations, breathwork meditations, manifestation trainings, and even a workshop on sensually manipulating the energy of your partners’ chakras.  After packing into the geodome with around 100 people, we were told that we could take off our clothes and play with each others “chakras” any way we pleased.   We laughed and left, not feeling like having such intimate chakra play in front of so many strangers.  We are weirdos and usually say “yes” to new experiences, but we found where our boundaries lie and are happy to keep the line drawn.

Burning man 2018 yoga dancer

After a good night of sleep, we woke before Thursday’s sunrise to catch the yearly Tycho sunrise set on the Dusty Rhino art car in deep Playa at the Trash Fence.  Tycho makes some of the least pretentious and most beautiful electronic music that exists, bringing in the new day in a way only a master could.  As the sun popped over the horizon, new life filled the tired crowd, the loving smiles so infectious.  Check out the set on Soundcloud through this link to relive the beautiful moment in time.

burning man 2018 tycho

Burning Man 2018 dusty rhino tycho
Tycho’s 2018 Burning Man sunrise set on the Dusty Rhino art car!

This was the first year that I felt that I accomplished all of my goals.  I never (almost) felt FOMO as in other Burns, and slept enough to stay happy and healthy throughout the week.  We ate well every day, showered several times, had time to give each other love and were able to give of ourselves to help others who had less fortunate experiences than us.  Abundance and gratitude continued with us throughout the week as we lived lifetimes quickly and expanded our thinking to higher and higher levels, once thought unimaginable.  We truly are boundless souls, only limited by our own thoughts and desires.

Burning Man 2018 intense sign

While Black Rock City is the closest thing to a utopia we have experienced, it isn’t perfect and we experienced several dark and unkind moments in Burning Man 2018.  We had a sober campmate who was dosed with LSD, ruining several days of their Burn.  They ended up recovering fine, but giving anyone mind altering substances without their consent is sick and cowardly, no matter how much you enjoy the substances yourself.  Having been roofied ourselves in a different environment, finding yourself under that spell is a hell that I wish for no one to ever endure.

I have some other gripes to submit to the complaint department.  MOOP (Matter Out Of Place) AKA litter was everywhere.  This is becoming more of an issue every year and I believe that this is because of the overall rise of infamous “PLUG-n-PLAY” camps (sherpas that get paid to set up luxury accommodations for the wealthy) which litter Black Rock City like the moochers that stay with them.  This different crowd of people don’t care about the principles of the city and their camps don’t explain to their guests about the importance of leaving no trace on the Playa (or the 10 Principles in general).  These plug-n-play camps also eliminate another of the 10 Principals– Radical Self Reliance– which is an essential part of the Burning experience.  When you lose the need to take care of yourself, it pulls energy from other parts of the city and collectively lowers the vibration of the entire infrastructure.

These MOOPing, radically RELIANT “sparkle ponies” (Burner lingo for people who show up with nothing but their pretty smiles and a bag of shiny clothes) are NOT Burners in my book and for all I care they can take their glitter, feathers, Segways, and douche-ey DJs straight back to Coachella where they belong.  This would free up A LOT of tickets for the good Burners who belong in the city and contribute to our glorious dusty way of life.

dust in curious places burning man

Rant over.   Besides those points, you can still have the classic Burning Man experience in 2018.  Just don’t trust anyone who looks like they’ve had a few too many showers, combs their hair, or wears glitter or feathers (super MOOPy and culturally inappropriate unless you are in fact a Native American).  This isn’t to say that all of the people who look like this have bad intentions, they just haven’t been ridiculed into submission yet by real Burners who abide by the rules.  I just follow this simple to remember rule: DUSTY = TRUSTY.  This rule along with some well-timed mockery which can go a long way 😉

The Playa is a place where you can rediscover an intense connection with your self.  This can be frightening in its own sense but, if you can get through it, can be one of the most rewarding experiences that radical environments like Burning Man can offer.  The default world (what we Burners call real life) can separate even the strongest spiritual souls from the magic the human experience, and coming back into balance has deeply altered more than a few destinies.

Some other highlights of Burning Man 2018:

  • Being chased by a man on 5 foot stilts.  He was stamping passer-bys with his camp logo.  I pulled away on my bike at top speed, the chase lasting longer and growing faster than I could have imagined.  It was a great race but I won by an arms length, stilts man missing me by an arms distance as I reached full biking speed.
  • Finding all you can eat ice cream (3 flavors) about a kilometer out into the deepest part of the Playa under a giant statue of a chameleon.
  • Finding a tribe of people who don’t drink but have more fun than all the wasted people combined.
  • Getting magically gifted an In-n-Out burger on Friday night.
  • Leaving with a clear mind and easily reintegrating with the default world, hopefully bringing what I’ve learned back with me and leaving my negativities in the dust.
  • Controlling the giant Sextant Tesla Coils with a piano keyboard.  I played some deep scary bass and received an unexpected applause at the end (it’s in our video above).

burning man 2018 deep playa ice cream

 

I’m not here to tell you to go to Burning Man, in fact quite the opposite.  Its hot, long, dirty, and loud, with lots of unruly individuals.  You shouldn’t go unless you have time to research how to Burn properly, being respectful to the city and those who have giving so much of their love to create it.  There are already far too many people out there who don’t belong or deserve to be there, so if you have any doubts then stick to your local music festival.  Burning Man is NOT a music festival, hint hint.

Burning man 2018 man burn

burning man 2018 drone
After the Man burn from the sky.

If you think you have what it takes to be a real Burner, consider checking out a regional Burn first.  These events are numerous and take place all over the world.  They are easy to get tickets to, less environmentally challenging (sometimes), and can have much more intimate atmospheres.  Many Burners much prefers these smaller events to the BIG Burn, as they are usually shorter and as said, much more accessible.  A Google search will help you find them, figure it out yourself.

To all those wild-eyed weirdos out there who made Burning Man 2018, my 5th Burn, my best Burn, I thank you.  Although we have a different kind of strange and epic adventure planned for 2019, we will see you in 2020.  As our camp neighbor Fermat liked to flirt, “Wanna get dusty with me?”

burning man 2018 orb
The Orb, a 100 diameter disco ball.
burning man aa
Marking our glorious achievements as sober Burners!

Carrie recently wrote an article for The Fix about how to have an awesome time at Burning Man without drugs and alcohol.  Check it out here!

She also was quoted in SFGATE, a San Francisco newspaper, about things to do sober at Burning Man.

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Like this story about our Burning Man 2018 experience?  Check out some previous meanderings through Burning Man 2014 (and here’s Carrie’s take)and Burning Man 2017 (Burning Man 2011 and Burning Man 2016 were lost in space time). As always, please like our Facebook page and follow us on Instagram @laaventuraproject for more travel tales as we meander through this strange and wonderful planet and beyond!

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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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¡Otra vez!

Northern AZ sunset
Northern AZ sunset

Funny how things come full circle.  Three years ago today, I sat in this same house, in this same town, Williams, AZ, planning the very first La Aventura Project.  Tomorrow we leave with the same initial destination in mind–Burning Man!  We’ve wanted to go back every single year since that first epic week.  It’s never worked out, until now.  As 2nd time burners this year I hope the experience will be more mythical, more colorful, more educational, more productive, shadier (as in…Zach’s very Boy Scout-ish hand-built shade structure) and just as exhilarating.  I also plan to write more about it and take more pictures!  (Yeah GoPro!)  , planning the very first La Aventura Project.  Tomorrow we leave with the same initial destination in mind–Burning Man!  We’ve wanted to go back every single year since that first epic week.  It’s never worked out, until now.  As 2nd time burners this year I hope the experience will be more mythical, more colorful, more educational, more productive, shadier (as in…Zach’s very Boy Scout-ish hand-built shade structure) and just as exhilarating.  I also plan to write more about it and take more pictures!  (Yeah GoPro!)  !  We’ve wanted to go back every single year since that first epic week.  It’s never worked out, until now.  As 2nd time burners this year I hope the experience will be more mythical, more colorful, more educational, more productive, shadier (as in…Zach’s very Boy Scout-ish hand-built shade structure) and just as exhilarating.  I also plan to write more about it and take more pictures!  (Yeah GoPro!)

Thoughts from on the road to Burning Man:

I REALLY hope Java Johnny is there again.

Man, that last bath felt so good.  I’m going to hold it in my memory dearly for awhile.

I’m so excited that we have a solar shower!

What did we forget?  Oh well, other citizens will let us borrow theirs.

I hope my outfits are rockin’ enough!

I wanna go to yoga every day! (Hope this happens.)

Will we be able to find all our friends there?

After the burn we head once again to SF (just like last time) to catch up with old friends and stuff ourselves on gourmet vegan food.  We will probably find ourselves sitting in a lot of bars on my laptop while I finish up last minute video work, but that will be totally worth it, because, then…

The next overseas venture begins!  On September 8 we fly to London by way of NYC (gotta have some fun there too!) for 6 weeks of western Europe and Morocco.  Couchsurfing, hitchhiking, train-riding, museum-going, backpacking, wine-tasting, face-stuffing, camel-riding, surfing, people-watching extravaganza!  Hopefully we’ll survive one trip involving four different foreign languages (more if you count Basque and Catelonian).

So stay tuned, although it’s only 8 weeks as opposed to a 7-month “aventura”, we’re still sooo excited for our first stint in Europa!  And I can’t believe I am finally going back to Africa!!!!!!

Now to wrap it all up, here’s a video of a very angry frog found in Arizona.

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/104949980″>frog</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/journeylostproductions”>Journey Lost Productions</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>

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