Thursday, August 21, 2008

Burning Man 2008: What the…… how did we end up out here in the middle of the desert?

By Matt Pierce

In 3 days, just 3 more days, we leave for a city unlike any other. The departure is sometime around 6 or 7 a.m. on Sunday morning, and from there, we'll have about 14 hours before we arrive in the Black Rock Desert. This is no ordinary journey though, no no, this is a journey to the savage heart of the American dream. For the 5 of us embarking on this journey, we are living the American dream simply by taking this long trip, as it is the thing that we have dreamed of. And yet, its everything that we can't dream of at the same time. We are gathering up supplies and getting our bags packed more and more by the day. The excitement that is currently mounting is comparable to that of a child going to Disneyland, and I can assure you, Saturday night will be a sleepless one for all of us.

This year in particular seems very sudden to me, and yet, we're far more organized than the last time I made this insane journey. Its been 2 long years since last I saw the Black Rock Desert, and yet, I feel as if I just left yesterday. I've been advising the Burning Man "virgins" as to what they need to bring, and what they will definitely want to bring with them out to the event that is known as Burning Man. There has been a lot of confusion among those who have heard of it and have not been. I've heard several people ask me if this is one giant drug-fest and I must say that the answer to that is a resounding no. This is the largest festival of expression on the face of the planet, and if you want to do something, go ahead and do it (provided that it doesn't hurt anybody else, that is.) All year long, people who will be attending the event work on art projects that are either on display, or an interactive part of the event. Art cars, also more commonly known to the inhabitants of Black Rock City as mutant vehicles, are everywhere to be seen.

My personal favorite thing about the event is the fact that once you walk through the gate, any money that you have suddenly becomes invalid, save for buying coffee and ice. This returns everything to an almost primitive state in the sense that the capitalist view that most of the world has which is centered around money is suddenly turned upside down and can no longer function. What does one resort to then? The first thing that comes to mind is trade. Yes, that's right, trade. That age old tradition of giving one thing for another. Anything that you could possibly need can be found and acquired simply by trading an item. Or, sometimes generosity can take you far, as gifting is also a regular part of the tradition. My favorite gift from last time was the one can of Dr. Pepper I got out on the playa, it was the one thing that I wanted all week.

Now, while all of the aforementioned things are great parts of the experience, the one thing that surpasses all of this is the people. The last time that I went, I camped with a group of people I had never met before, and I must say that it was probably about the best decision I could have made. I had more fun with the people in "camp no camp" than I think I could have camping with my familiar friends from San Diego. I made excellent friends with Coffee Camp and oddly enough we are going to be camping with them, or at least close to there vicinity this year. I find everything that happened to be some of the most insane and illogical things that I could have possibly done. Camping with people I don't know? Having the time of my life with people I've only gotten to know over the course of a week? Was it worth it? In short, it was worth every second of venturing into the unknown that way. The reasoning behind that statement would be that it jarred me a bit. My actions took me out of my normal everyday routine and instead forced me to interact in a way that I did not think possible.

While several reports are soon to follow from all 3 of us making the venture out to the playa, I must say one last thing before I go. Of all the places that I have traveled to, all the places that I will travel, there is no place like this home. The place that we are going is, in my opinion, the one place on earth that brings the bright side of humanity out. We depart from our every day lives and go far far away from that which we know to come together as a community.

Burn, baby, burn.