“Finally Normal People”
It was a sign that instantly made me start to cry when seeing a woman holding it up at Burning Man. For me, it is just too true.
If you’ve ever asked a Burner to describe Burning Man, you’re probably familiar with a look of confusion and panic. To chronicle such a big life event feels nearly impossible to process let alone understand. It means so many things in so many ways and can very pretty extreme from person to person.
As the Burn tends to do, it started impacting my life before the event. It’s expensive, takes a lot of prep and a considerable amount of sacrifice. To the point where even experienced Burners start to question if our memories are true about it being worth it.
For most of us, it doesn’t take more than a day or two on the Playa to know that it is.
As they flew in, I met the amazing group of people from France and the two young ladies from the East Coast who were to become my Burner family of 2016 through the Burning Man website. Looking for a rideshare turned into camping together and while I was sad to not stay with my camp of 2015, The Twisted Swan, I needed to recoup by staying in an RV after that year, my virgin year, had come with some of the roughest weather Burning Man had ever seen. Especially the dust storms that almost gave me Playa Lung as the freezing temperatures at night that had only let me sleep an hour or two at most.
The few days before the Burn, my new crew and I did all of our shopping in San Francisco and Tahoe with a night to camp in the snow globe like setting of trees and a lake that could relax most anyone. The time to bond throughout this part of our beginning had already sparked a foundation of love and connection that was a big experience within itself. Seeing Burners at all the same stores and even meeting Burners in the Trader Joe’s parking lot in Reno for an instant RV party, complete with a palm reading, was already enough to make me want to stay right there.
The year before, I had been gifted a unicorn horn on Tutu Tuesday by a newlywed Canadian man in a pink tutu, a smile and nothing else. Because of him, I have put a smile on the face of countless folks both in the Burner community and out, as I wear it all the time and at the Burn of 2016, was never to take it off. If fact, I have become known as a unicorn and was given the Burner name of Hornycorn this year not only for wearing it without fail, but because everyone and everything at Burning Man turns me on.
Well, except for the harsh elements and exhaustion.
If you know this man, help me get word to him. He needs to know what magic he and his horns are putting out into the world and I definitely want more.
Being a part of the 70,000 people making our way into the gate of the Playa where the Burn is held was nowhere near as painful as I expected. The year before, it had taken around 12 hours of being pulsed in once we got to the actual line. That meant we were stopped for an hour at a time while we were all allowed in group by group. An aspect of which I have grown to love as it gives us a chance to start bonding and throwing a pulse party right there. As is one of Burner mantras, expect the unexpected.
Having already spent three days collecting the crew, camping and stopping to get our bikes (bicycles are to Burning Man as cars are to the default world) from a bike program offered through Kiwanis, we were more than ready to move onto the next stop by the time we got to that line. Finally getting in and finishing camp setup after dawn for the second year, I took a few hour snooze before hopping on my bike and heading off to find friends and explore art and camps with a couple campmates.
With exhaustion soon kicking back in, we invited ourselves into the well-known camp of Pink Heart in Center Camp, a camp I was also to return to another day to try to meet up with a Facebook group called Girls Love Travel (GLT) that I am part of. The plush pink couches were a welcome place to lounge on that first day of exhaustion, as was the ice cream they gift out on that next day I visited and waited in the heat.
Switching up hours, watching the sun come up in Deep Playa and only sleeping for a few hours at a time, most of the Burn and all of its magic tended to mix together. I remember finally finding a bud’s camp when I was dressed like a unicorn complete with unicorn nipple covers, gold hotpants and fuzzy rainbow boot covers. I never found him, but left one of the rainbow sippy cups I brought to gift as a calling card. Unless completely determined as well as setting up a solid time, day and location, it can be next to impossible to find people I’ve been told that one of the biggest jokes on the Playa is “I’ll be right back”.
Somewhere near the beginning of the week, I made it to the Naked Tiki Bar where I instantly loved the bartender and his green pubes who was cracking us all up by plopping his penis with glued on googly eyes on the bar. It didn’t take me and my pals long to get naked as well. Soon into the Burn, we also made it to a camp giving a scheduled body paint session where a darling little lady in one of the amazing and unique costumes seen all over the Burn painted her tiny little hands on my boobs while we chatted, bonded and shared our loving and accepting energy. Stumbling Glitter Camp at another time, of course I had to stop to have people rub glitter over my entire body.
Half way through the week after bonding with a couple of the neighbors, two awesome guys that my little ladies from the East Coast had introduced me to, the five of us formed the Leggings Crew to wander the Playa while chasing art cars and making our way to the sound camps. I may not be into EDM music but there’s always an exception. First, I will give it to this camp for the spectacular and larger-than-life stages set up that are in line with Burning Man’s art of surreal and grand magnitude. Second, I stood there in awe as tears started to fall down my face while listening to the musician Crywolf who was spinning while he sung soprano in a voice that filled my soul.
After venturing away from the sound camps, we made our way to other camps, danced and biked our way to Deep Playa. This is where there are no neighborhoods have been built and is full of art installations, small to gigantic, with vast sweeps of nothing but desert in between. It is also an amazing spot Burners go to watch the sunrise. Something I did three or four times this year, but this particular sunrise with the Leggings Crew was my favorite.
During the live music session of my celtic-themed camp from the year before, Twisted Swan, I got to bartend.
As happens throughout a week of nonstop activity and stimulation with little rest, I was at one of my more exhausted moments and soon after wandered off to find a camp named Valhalla nearby that had a viking in a huge tent of furs lining long platforms set up for relaxing. Inviting myself in, I snuggled up for an attempted nap and was soon greeted by someone from the camp who wanted to make sure I was comfortable and to see if I needed anything. He was also excited at the potential of my being there for a giant feast they were preparing for the couple hundred people they had randomly invited. I hadn’t been there for it before, but I sure was then.
After relaxing, eating, meeting fascinating new people, cuddling and a makeout session, I ventured through the Nordic crowd on my way back to the Twisted Swan to meet up with the group I was about to head to Orgy Dome with.
One of few things that I wish there was more of at The Burn is a variety of music being showcased but the live Celtic music session at Twisted Swan is an example of how it was still there. It may not have had the massive platform as electronic music, but there were still many camps in which I found it when biking by. My favorite camp of the year, Leopard Lounge, offered a setup in which people were free to come in at leisure and play music, usually classic rock, as well as a tequila bar where shots were offered and foot wash/massage stations were available to receive and jump in to give as feeling so inclined.
One of my most magical moments of this burn was when I was biking through a quiet neighborhood after one of the many days watching the sunrise and stumbling upon a woman in the light rays of dawn playing classical piano in a slumbering camp. Another was going to the porta potties on another morning in nothing but my gold hotpants to see another a mostly woman standing there and singing opera as she waited to use the latrine. She ended her ballad by shouting above the applause to thank people for shitting.
In the enchanted and weird world of Burning Man, Playa relationships bloom and are blissful. Whether for the day, the entire week, or far beyond, deep connections and levels of intimacy are formed and shared in a way that adds to the magic of the whole experience while exploring with that new person or people. For me, a massage lead to the connection with someone who was to become my main Playa partner for a tantric session, exploring and lots of laughs. For one of my French darlings, she stayed in America after the Burn to take a cross-country road trip on a motorcycle in order to meet up with her Playa lover and another met up with hers in Reno when he knocked on her door at 3 AM in a tux and top hat to take her to a glamorous hotel party. She has a ticket to see him this month in New York.
Connecting with others is a constant and comes in many different forms at The Burn. Even getting clean provides a platform to do so in camps such as the Human Carcass Wash. When visiting their camp, the experience starts with an introductory talk about being able to wear or not were what ever one likes and to be prepared to tell those doing the washing where is OK and not to be touched, participants then move on to join at the squeegee station where the last of the water is brushed off by hand. Following, it’s time to make one’s way up the line cleaning others until it’s the participant’s time to be washed. Something about human touch in a safe environment can be incredibly healing. Something that is a constant experience through camps such as this or in more simple ways such as the amazing and never ending hugs that come from every direction.
It’s important to be reminded that everyone makes the experience their own. Touch, nudity and sexuality is not what some find as healing or fun. There is still plenty for those participants as well. This is my story, not that of anyone else.
Most everything at Burning Man is a big experience. That includes The Temple. The dawn before the huge party and celebration of burning the Man is the burn of this magnificent structure. This is a quiet, reflective and somber place to go to for what ever you need. The Temple is a large art form structure and arguably the most spiritual of the entire Burn. My first year, the year before, Burning Man surprised me by becoming about dealing with the loss of my dog, Layla. I had lost her four days after her 10th birthday on my mom’s birthday and Cinco de Mayo, when she was hit by a car. She was everything to me and I didn’t deal with it well, both in general and the way I reacted to my family’s roll in it.
I mourned her throughout the Burn with the peak being when I fell apart at the Temple, in no small part due to the exhaustion that comes with the intensity of the Burn. A man had gifted me with a picture of me with her tags to put into The Temple as an offering. I couldn’t do it; I wasn’t ready to let go. I can’t imagine ever being ready to do that, but I have gotten to the point of moving on. This year, I took that picture and her tags to The Temple and cried as I finally said goodbye. I didn’t make it to the Temple burn since my Frenchies wanted to leave early, but I didn’t need to.
The randomness of Burning Man is a part of what makes it so incredibly amazing. The night of The Burn, I had quite a different experience of the year before when I had jumped onto a large and decked out two story art car bus with two darling twin brothers spinning music while we had drove to an up-front view of all the other art cars, flame throwers and lights.
This year, five of my Frenchies and I decided to go it on foot and watch from the outskirts. Hit by the worst weather of the week with a dust storm and even a few rain drops, we finally made it and experienced what felt like New Years Eve complete with champagne and a kiss. Of course the passionate and in love couple with us were as well, but the four of us was less expected. I pulled away from making out with one of my French campmates, the one who spoke the least amount of English and I was most attracted to, so he could make sure we weren’t losing his brother. Not only had we not lost him, but he was making out with one of our girls as well. That was the moment I laughed hardest this year. It was just so magical, happy and that particular moment, funny. Typical enchantment of The Burn.
Wanting to stay up to see the dawn for our last night on The Playa, I eventually said goodbye to this part of my Playa family of 2016 and randomly danced my way to a ship of an art car where I took a seat for a break from the partying. Before long, the camp it belonged to let those of us on it know it was time to start up the engine and hit the Playa. Going with it, I stayed and bonded with them as we made our way around to the different sights and parties in the freezing cold. Watching how excited they got about all the signatures on their art piece, a book on a night stand with a lit lamp in the middle of nowhere in Deep Playa was wonderful and they were even kick-ass cool enough to stop at my camp, which turned out to be close to theirs, so I could grab my cape.
Early in the morning before sunrise, we found ourselves stuck in an icy dust storm and then rushing to pick up an eccentric older fella to take him to catch his plane on the new landing strip on the Playa. Encouraging this strange little man to come cuddle with me against the freezing cold, we chatted until the topic turned to the book I wrote a few years before, how I knew most writers don’t get their first books picked up and how I was just starting back at it after being rejected so many times a few years before when I first tried. That’s when he asked me if I knew who he was and he instantly started to look more familiar.
It was John Gray.
As shouldn’t be a surprise based on the tone of his book, Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus, he then started telling me outlandish things and getting a kick out of the shock value they had on me. Especially when I, with a dramatic and comical expression while telling him to STFU, reacted to comments such as telling me that women shouldn’t masturbate if we want to lose weight since it produces testosterone. We should just fuck more.
2015 changed my world and 2016 just added to that. I can’t wait to see, fate willing, what 2017 will bring. I am still a new Burner and, contrary to the complaints of some buzz-kill longtime Burners who bitch about the way it has changed, I am excited about the way we will continue to transform together. The people, community, connection and shared love is what is most important to me at Burning Man.
We get brief moments of magic in our life. At the Burn, there are only brief moments without it.
Leopard Lounge – Anand (means bliss)
Naked Tiki Bar
Human Carcass Wash
To my Frenchies and East Coast gals: Eric, Marie, Samantha, Alice, Clara, Camille, Nico,Amandine, Aurelien, Guillaume and Godefroy
“Sometimes the people whom we’ve known for only a short amount of time have a bigger impact on us than those we’ve known forever.”- Maya Angelou
The 10 Principles of Burning Man
Burning Man co-founder Larry Harvey wrote the Ten Principles in 2004 as guidelines for the newly-formed Regional Network. They were crafted not as a dictate of how people should be and act, but as a reflection of the community’s ethos and culture as it had organically developed since the event’s inception.
Anyone may be a part of Burning Man. We welcome and respect the stranger. No prerequisites exist for participation in our community.
Burning Man is devoted to acts of gift giving. The value of a gift is unconditional. Gifting does not contemplate a return or an exchange for something of equal value.
In order to preserve the spirit of gifting, our community seeks to create social environments that are unmediated by commercial sponsorships, transactions, or advertising. We stand ready to protect our culture from such exploitation. We resist the substitution of consumption for participatory experience.
Burning Man encourages the individual to discover, exercise and rely on his or her inner resources.
Join the conversation in the 10 Principles blog series.
Join the conversation in the 10 Principles blog series.
Radical self-expression arises from the unique gifts of the individual. No one other than the individual or a collaborating group can determine its content. It is offered as a gift to others. In this spirit, the giver should respect the rights and liberties of the recipient.
Our community values creative cooperation and collaboration. We strive to produce, promote and protect social networks, public spaces, works of art, and methods of communication that support such interaction.
We value civil society. Community members who organize events should assume responsibility for public welfare and endeavor to communicate civic responsibilities to participants. They must also assume responsibility for conducting events in accordance with local, state and federal laws.
Leaving No Trace
Our community respects the environment. We are committed to leaving no physical trace of our activities wherever we gather. We clean up after ourselves and endeavor, whenever possible, to leave such places in a better state than when we found them.
Our community is committed to a radically participatory ethic. We believe that transformative change, whether in the individual or in society, can occur only through the medium of deeply personal participation. We achieve being through doing. Everyone is invited to work. Everyone is invited to play. We make the world real through actions that open the heart.
Immediate experience is, in many ways, the most important touchstone of value in our culture. We seek to overcome barriers that stand between us and a recognition of our inner selves, the reality of those around us, participation in society, and contact with a natural world exceeding human powers. No idea can substitute for this experience.