19 Aug 2014
Burning Man is an annual week long event in the Black Rock Desert, which is located a few hours north of Reno. It begins at the end of August and ends on Labor Day, and attracts well over 50,000 people to a piece of dry playa that is transferred into a city, and then after the event, back to flat and empty desert again.
The Burning Man organizers say that participants “dedicate themselves to the spirit of community, art, self-expression, and self-reliance. They depart one week later, leaving no trace. As simple as this may seem, trying to explain what Burning Man is to someone who never been to the event is a bit like trying to explain what a particular color looks like to someone who is blind.”
I went there two years ago, and hope to return again next year. While I have vivid memories of the experience, it is quite difficult to summarize what actually happens. Was it the worlds most incredible masquerade party? An awe inspiring compilation of artwork? An escape to fantasy land? Yes, it is all that, but what makes it most unique is that once you arrive, there is no money involved. You are both totally self reliant and totally dependent on the love and generosity of strangers. Once I got past the dust and learned to just get on my bike and ride to wherever it would take me I realized that The Burn would provide. And it always did.
Even for those of us who don’t get to go this year, the event still touches the Tahoe and Reno communities in a number of ways. There is the direct economic benefit we get from selling all the Burners food, water and some pretty interesting clothing. But there is also just the fun spectacle of watching the Burners going home: A steady stream of vehicles covered in white dust and loaded to the gills with everything they needed for a week in the desert, including a few colorfully decorated bikes strapped precariously to the top. You also might find the poor, exhausted Burners the day after Labor Day napping quietly on the beach at The Commons in Tahoe City after a cleansing dip. They are trying to recover all that lost sleep while dreaming of brightly lit art cars and large works of art going up in flames.