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Thursday, February 25, 2016

Burning Man 2015 - Reflections from a Veteran

Ticket sales for Burning Man 2016 are imminent.  This will be my third burn and it reminded me to share my experience from this past year, my first year as a Burning Man veteran.

Better? Worse?


Inevitably, some of the magic is gone.

Nothing will ever match the curiosity and wonder as you explore the camps for the first time, the dust rising in spirals around you, coating your body in protective layers.


Nothing will ever match your first dark ride into the deep playa's arms, greedy to steal you away from your friends with promises of disruptive lights, throbbing sound and whimsical character.


And nothing will ever match your first sunrise, the pink rays spreading warmth across the sky to the sweet pop of breakfast champagne and the gentle pulse of Robot Heart.

But with veteranhood comes new magic.

The magic of returning Home.  The relief, the anticipation, the thrill.  For those of you who haven't experienced it....It's the bursting happiness of seeing a loved one for the first time in months. It's the chilling anticipation down your spine of the festival bass greeting you before you even enter the show grounds. It's the heady ache deep in your stomach from a first kiss.

This swirl of old emotions only intensifies as you reunite with your burner family.  It's been a year since you saw them last.  You are reminded that for all texts and emails and phone calls throughout the year, nothing replaces the physical force of a well-aimed hug.  These people have seen into your soul and made a home there.

And the original magic isn't completely lost because you share in it with the new Virgins you've brought along.  Like a proud parent, you revel in their innocence.  You send them off alone on their first art car ride. You show them the wonder of the Man and the Temple.  You share champagne for their first sunrise.  And you welcome them into your family of gypsies eager to share with these newcomers.  You want them to know everything you have known and discover new things you haven't.


And therein lies the final magic of Burning Man.  Each year, Burning Man reinvents itself.  In some ways I felt at home and in some ways I was a stranger.  It's like returning to a place where the streets are the same but the sights and the people are different.  You get to fall in love with this place all over again.

But it wasn't all magic.  The cracks have begun to show.  Not just in the hard-baked earth, but in the essence of the event.

There was more garbage.
There was more mainstream music. 
There were more people who had come just to drug up and party.

During Major Lazer this past year, I had a moment of intense anger.  I looked the show and realized I was surrounded by zombies with no respect for human space and decency.  And the generic music? I could've gone to Brochella.  I jumped on my bike and cruised to the opposite end of the playa where I found a handful of people kicking up dust to some weird ass DJ. Phew! Escape.

But that's just one girl's opinion.  I respect the tenants of Burning Man that it is a place for everyone even if "everyone" is not for me.

It wasn't my place to judge these people, but I could choose not to coexist with them so I removed myself.  Luckily for me, Burning Man is large enough that there are still places to escape. I worry that those places will eventually cease to exist.  It's a cautionary tale.  I know my burns are numbered because of it.

But in the meantime I will be returning to the Playa this year to soak in the magic that is still left.

If you are coming to Burning Man for the first time this year ignore what everyone else tells you.  Ignore everything I've just said.  Form your own opinion.  That's the whole fucking point.

And if you see a purple dragon clapping her hands at sunrise you'll know it's me... Because I still believe in magic and at Burning Man it still does exist.  And I can wait to share it with my most important people once again.