Burning Man 2011 has come to a close. Black Rock City is currently dissolving as I sit here in the Ghetto bar. Overall, it was an amazing year for incredible art, adventures, and interactions. I sway away from explaining every tidbit face-to-face, so I give you all the obtuse and obnoxious details in writing this year. Enjoy!
Times I was naked in public – 2
The first time was for a postcard. I wanted to able to say I was naked while writing it.
The second was going through the “net of re-birthing” my second time. Imagine a circus net suspended about twenty feet in the air with a long tube of net hanging from the center. Participants were encouraged to go up top and dive inside head first. This triggered some claustrophobia, but created a strange cocoon-type sensation as you were forced to wiggle your way through the long hole of net towards the ground and out the other side. My pants were surprisingly tight that day, but they still managed to come off on the way through, making for a more authentic birthing experience. I was wished “Happy Birthday” on the way out, and hit the floor laughing.
Times I ran into a T-Stake – 2
I was sober and it was night during both instances. The first was from walking backwards and talking, not paying attention. The second was on a bike. When it collided with my bike, I smashed my head into the top of it (it was rather high) and fell back onto my bike, pinching my scrotum. Mari fought the urge to laugh. It was painful.
Times I choked up – 2
The first was watching the Earth Harp during sunrise at the Temple. The Earth Harp was a large string instrument run about a hundred feet through the air and attached to the temple exterior wall. It was played by wearing gloves and running your hands along the strings in a wide motion.
The man playing it was incredibly good. He stopped between sets and joked about “calling the sun out to rise”. It sounded so warm and vibrant, I couldn’t help but tear up a little.
The second time I was getting serviced at the ESD (Emergency Medical Department) tent. I had worn a polyester scarf the night before and developed a rash on my neck. It was irritated and didn’t take well to anything I could find to put on it.
After arriving at the tent I saw a variety of people being checked out, or unconscious and resting. I had to wait around a bit while the nurse was getting supplies to clean and bandage my neck. I felt slowly overwhelmed by how amazing and easy it was to receive care there. I simply had to state my name and camp and they sat me down immediately to began helping me. The nurse seemed unattached and methodical, but the space was welcoming and compassionate. I knew none of them were getting paid, but no one questioned it or seemed to advertise the fact.
I also realized it was my first experience with free health care in America. The process was so fluid and calming it took me a few moments to realize how thankful I felt. I will never take such a wonderful thing for granted again.
New drugs I experimented with – 1
I decided to try MDA for the first time with a large group of close friends during the event and have a night out. I should say I have largely been put off by Euphoric Empathogens in the past and had never tried them previously. I generally perceived them as modern “Soma” or an equivalent. MDA is closely related to MDMA (Ecstasy), although it’s affects are said to be more psychedelic.
I did not find the experience even moderately psychedelic or overwhelmingly euphoric. I experienced a series of waves of warm tingling, empathy, and general uplift. I enjoyed touching and tasting things, but did not feel overly fixated or orgasmic in relation to them. I noticed I was able to hug myself, which felt unusually good, and there was a related emotional bonding with my friends in ways I look back positively on.
I do not think I would pursue the experience again, and certainly not in the default world. I felt giddy if forced to stand still too long in a single place even in Black Rock. I was also unnaturally willing to converse with strangers, something exponentially dangerous in any other city.
Overall, my experience felt simple and enjoyable. I bonded with my camp mates in a deeper way, had an excellent time dancing and moving my body, and discovered some amazing art on my journey I would not have otherwise due to an anxious appetite for exploration. Although, the drug seemed pleasantly addictive, in the psychological sense, and too artificial or easy a route to finding the most generic happiness and euphoria. I would only consider reusing it sparingly in Black Rock, or strategically for quickening emotional bonds with particular groups or individuals.
Times I played with Fire – 2
In once case, Outside Nexus, there was a large pool of opaque water, loaded with bubbles. I watched closely as a man picked up the bubbles and lit them on fire. Apparently, they were filled with propane, and would extinguish quickly enough as not to burn his skin. It was fun to see how many we could gather or how long we could get small chains of fire going.
In the second instance, there were four, twenty feet tall, metal obelisks arranged in a line with ropes hanging from them. Jason and I were biking near them when I suddenly realized there were people pulling the ropes and making large jets of fire explode from their tops.
I threw my bike down and skipped forward. Something about making huge strings of fire on command made me jump up and down with joy. It was equally fun to create a beat with the other three participants at the other three spires.
Times I played with money – 2
The Exchanghibition Bank was a new piece of interactive art on playa this year and one I high anticipated. The bank allowed participants to negotiate a thought-provoking contract, open a verifiable bank account, and receive one compensatory “bill”. The contract was the epicenter of the piece, forcing us to re-evaluate and assess our relationship with money.
The second instance I interacted with money was (oddly enough) immediately after biking away from the bank. I saw a man on Inner Circle road outside Center Camp in a funny suit and hat talking wildly with a tall French woman. Apparently, she was attempting to return a foreign bill she has just received from him. I noticed his briefcase said “BRC Bank” on the side and decided to wait to speak with him.
He informed me he was the official, walking Black Rock City Bank and asked if I would “like some free money?” I reluctantly agreed, considering BRC is typically “money-free” zone, but he was unnaturally enthusiastic and gave me series of pockets or the brief case itself to choose from.
Upon choosing his inside jacket pocket, he produced an $20 bill with a small burning man symbol stamped upon it. He then informed me I was “Karmically required to consume the bill,” meaning spend it and not frame it on a wall somewhere (I assume. He then offered no guideline as to how or when it should be utilized.
The weight of the bill felt strange and foreign to me. He observed this and stated it was not uncommon for his offer to be refused and noted how unwelcome our current type of interaction was in our good city. Although, I felt excited at the novelty of it all and decided it would be easy to give it away in a similar fashion, or at least have proof of the novelty to share with others.
Of course, I immediately escorted him to the Exchanghibition Bank and observed the following interactions. He offered the bankers his own money, which they quickly called ‘dirty’ and refused adamantly. I circled for a bit, thinking over the whole process. I eventually went to the front counter of Center Camp Cafe ahead of the line and paid for the following people in line and left promptly.
People who interacted with my art piece – ~100
I never suspected in all my previous years or wanderings I would have art, let alone the ability to display it in Center Camp. Center Camp is in the center of the city and acts as an opus or sampling of all the myriad of interactions and mediums found throughout Black Rock City. It was an excellent choice for the starting point of my mystery/ARG/scavenger hunt.
Although, my piece required a good deal of focus and puzzle solving, something I realized is not in surplus when distractions are so plentiful and aggressive. I was still able to monitor the flow of traffic through the stages of the game, and even encountered a group of players half-way through while checking to see the clues were still in working order. Thankfully, I did not inform them of my role, and they were more than helpful to give me a “cinnamon swirl” when I ordered one at the nearby Hug deli.
Lectures and open discussions I attended – 3
I attended a few talks and forums, but only two were notable. They were separate lectures by Adam Apollo and Daniel Pinchbeck. Both are authors and visionaries of a sort, although Adam’s focus is more on humanities initiation into a galactic community and Daniel’s on our shamanic roots and the practical evolution of the mind, heart, and body of society as a whole. Both discussed in detail their views on the current technological, spiritual, and ecological transformations occurring currently on our planet and their own opinions, projections, and strategies for the future.
I enjoyed both immensely and intend to pursue their work off-playa as well. Adam made the boldest claims, requiring the most fact-checking, but was also the most inspiring and charismatic. Daniel has had more “real world” contact with aborigines in South America and offered a more grounded, scientific view. I hope to expound upon their work and musings in the very near future.
Most hours spent awake consecutively – 28
I spent most of them babysitting, driving a golf-cart with two giggling companions venturing through deep playa and stopping at whatever art installations I could get my hands on. Having the cart felt like cheating, I was able to see more art in one day than I have during some subsequent years on playa.
Number of times I saw people having sex in open playa during daylight hours – 2
At least this year they were both straight couples.
Instances causing me to “Nerd out” this year – 1
I befriended a virginburner in our sister camp and only later found out he was the acting Production Assistant for the new Superman movie. After pestering him with questions on concept art and comic trivia, this solitary instance left me more than satiated and piqued my nerd quota for the event.
Overall level of enjoyment – Best Year Ever
Having Jason’s virgin burner eyes around, forging my own art piece and watching others interact with it, and witnessing the largest Burning Man to date all contributed to the most colorful and engaging year I have experienced on playa thus far. My thanks go to all the people and power that made it happen! See you next year!