This is one of the earliest posts I ever wrote and I still get annoyed emails from diehard burners. That was not really my intent. Mostly, I just wanted to point out that as much as I think the Black Rock Desert is a captivating place, the idea of hanging out there with 50+ thousand people pretty much ruins it. Add to that the sort of pseudo-counter culture mantra that surrounds the event...well, you get my point. I'm glad so many people love it and add tons of money to our local economy. And particularly glad that it funds great organizations like the Reno Bike Project. I just don't particularly care to hear about it. I've noticed in the last ten years since I wrote this a decidedly more pronounced anti-burner mentality surrounding the event.
I know many wonderful and interesting people that love Burning Man and spend the better part of the year making plans for their week on the playa. But I can’t drink the kool-aid on this one. It’s annoying enough that people are so cultish about it. “You HAVE to go! It’s the most fun ever! I can’t believe you’ve never been?!” I have literally had to sit through hours of acquaintences and friends practically chanting borglike: ASSIMILATE! ASSIMILATE!! When I tell them I have no interest they find me “square” and “uptight” and actually get annoyed with me.
Now, I’m no prude. I consider myself actively progressive, I love art meant to push boundaries and buttons, public nudity doesn't bother me, I’ve traveled and lived throughout the world visiting Buddhist monasteries in Sri Lanka to game reserves in South Africa. Hell, I even like to tie one on occasionally.
And given all the travelling I've done I can say unequivocally, that I think the Black Rock Desert is one of the most amazing places on earth.
I can also say unequivocally that the idea of spending time on the playa surrounded by 30,000 people to be one of the most horrifying things I can think of.
I don’t care if all 30k of them are the coolest people on the planet (I’m quite sure they are not). Don't get me wrong, large social events have their place. There are times I'm quite delighted to be surrounded by my fellow homo sapiens. Give me a great concert, a good New Year's Eve party, or even SOME sporting events to bond with my fellow men and women. Shoot, I enjoy standing in line waiting to vote on election days with politically active citizens no matter what political stripe they happen to be. It gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling inside.
But the Black Rock Desert is so amazing BECAUSE it provides such a great opportunity to marvel about how alone we are on the planet and in the universe. Whether it's a day trip or a camping excursion I have never failed to be thrilled by standing on the playa. For me the BRD is a place that begs for quiet contemplation. Not inebriated social interaction. No matter how dressed up (or undressed) it might be in the guise of providing some college kid, suit-and-tie lawyer, or soccer mom, a chance to have some venue to create their annual "peak experience," it's still just an excuse for a party. And more and more, in talking to "burners" or whatever handle they are giving themselves now, I know too many of the people who go out there who seem to be looking for this "peak experience" for a week out of the year that they find it hard to get in the other parts of their lives. Frankly, I find that sad. I have no such problem or hole in my life. I have "peak" experiences on at least a weekly basis. Paying to hang out with a bunch of intoxicated (albeit more creatively intoxicated) people does not a peak experience make (for me).
different strokes and all that...enjoy the playa next week! And after you've trashed your bike donate it to some kid who doesn't have one instead of throwing it in a dumpster or abandoning it on the side of the road.
For over 12 Years I wrote the Reno Rambler Blog covering everything from Bicycle Advocacy, Reno Politics, Popular Culture, and my experiences as a long-time cyclist.