What is BURNING MAN
Burning Man is the third largest city in Nevada that appears for one week in the desert. To different people it is different things. For some it is a giant party. For others it is a chance to experiment with radical art. For others it is a chance to enjoy a new kind of community that is not available in the default world. Burning Man is many different things to many different people.
What I tell most people is that... if you want to find something at Burning Man... you will find it; and much more.
The following article will tell you almost everything you need to know about the Burning Man experience. Since it This can't be an exhaustive explanation. The reader should bear in mind that there will always be something that is not included here.
The Physical Layout
- Radical Inclusion
- Radical Self-Reliance
- Radical Self-Expression
- Communal Effort
- Civic Responsibility
- Leaving No Trace
On The Matter of Moop
On the Matter of Poop
Death and Injury
Minors at Burning Man
Burning Man for the Handicapped
Burning Man for the Medicated
Emergencies On and Off the Playa
Safety on the Playa
The Burning Man Ranch
Burning Man Public Relations
The Yahoo/Frat Boy Factor
How to get more information
One of the most unique things about Burning Man is the environment in which it takes place. Currently, the Burning Man gathering is held in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada near the town of Gerlach. (Population: 600)
Quoting from Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Rock_Desert) "The Black Rock Desert is a dry lake bed in northwestern Nevada in the United States. Considered one of the flattest surfaces on the earth, the desert is part of the extended playa of the lake bed of prehistoric Lake Lahontan, which existed between 18,000 and 7,000 BC during the last ice age. During the lake's peak around 12,700 years ago, the desert floor was under approximately 500 feet (150m) of water."
It is a large, flat, dry lake bed. You've seen it in plenty of car commercials, but never known what it was. It's been used as an area to set land speed records because of it's length and it's flatness. The remoteness of this desert allows rocketeers to test hobby rockets to a ceiling of 100,000 feet. It is dry during Burning Man, but at other times of the year you will find a lake on the Playa. The lake is not mapped anywhere because the wind can move it around. (A good reason not to camp next to the "shore")
During the time that Burning Man is happening the weather can vary from pleasant to unpleasant. Like any desert it can be hot during the day, and very cold at night. It's a "high" desert so the heat is not unbearable, as long as there is a shade structure. At night it can vary from pleasantly warm to pretty darn cold. It can also rain. I've yet to experience significant rain on the Playa any year I have been there, but I hear it gets muddy fast. And the mud is sticky - to this I can attest.
Rather than rain you are more likely to experience dust in the Black Rock Desert. The ground is a dry lake bed. The background of most of the pages at this site is what the ground looks like. As vehicles drive over this; as people walk on it; it breaks up into a fine dust that the wind can easily pick up. This dust will hang in the air and look like snow in flash pictures taken at night. You will be covered in it. Veteran Burner's look forward to the dust as a sign that they are really home.
Of course, when the wind picks up, the dust picks up. You can experience a white or brown out where the dust is so thick you cannot see 15 feet in front of you. You lose all sense of direction, and simply have to wait it out. This is why you will see many people with dust masks or bandana's; this is necessary equipment for wanderers at Burning Man.
The Black Rock Desert is in a remote area of Nevada. There is NO cellular service out there. There is NO electricity out there. There is NO water out there (at least during the time that Burning Man is running - there can be a lake at other times of the year.) There is almost no RADIO out there... the population of that area of Nevada does not get much in the way of commercial radio.
The Physical Layout
Burning Man is also known as Black Rock City; named for the Black Rock desert in which it takes place. It is the 5th largest city in Nevada while it is populated. It has many of the same features of your more common city, including, named streets, public services, sanitation facilities, and even a Department of Public Works and a Power Department.
Prior to the event, the DPW folk show up in the desert and start laying out the city plan. Everything starts from the location of The Man; he will be the literal center of the city. Once the location of the man is selected, the street plan for the entire city is laid out. The town is laid out in the shape of a giant letter "C" with the man in the center of the "C". The "C" is quite thick and has "streets" laid out within that follow the shape of the "C". These are named according to the THEME of the year. The streets are named Alphabetically, except for the inner most street being called the ESPLANADE. Going inward you can think of them as; Esplanade, A, B, C, D , E, F, G, and H.
These circular streets would be useless without cross streets. These are laid out according to the as if they were times on a clock. Due north of the man is the open end of the "C". Due south of the man is 6:00, and is the location of CENTER CAMP. At 3:00 and 9:00 are also large theme camps and public service camps.
A map of the Black Rock City for 2003 can be seen here. To see what Black Rock City looks like from the air click here
The street that runs around the inside perimeter of the "C" is called "The Esplanade". Along the Esplanade at 3:00, 6:00 and 9:00 are open plaza's that cut into the "C". The ones at 3:00 and 9:00 are smaller open areas, where you will find smaller off shots of various city services (medical tents, and ranger stations). The plaza at 6:00, due south of the Man contains "Center Camp"
CENTER CAMP is a giant circular tent that is one of the main gathering place of Burning Man. In it you will find the cafe, where you can purchase, coffee, lemonade, or chai tea. It also has several stages for various performances, and a central area where, at any time of the day or night one might find any kind of entertainment happening.
Around Center Camp is the RING ROAD. Around the ring road you will find several city service organizations run by volunteers. These include:
The Medical Tent: 24/7 Medical Emergency help.
Camp Arctic: Where you can buy ice.
Playa Info: the Burning Man information Booth.
The Artery: the people who place and assist the artists at Burning Man.
PED-EX: the Burning Man post office where you can send and receive mail.
LAMP LIGHTERS: the people who carry the lamps out to light the main streets at night.
As well as the outline of the city, the DPW also lays out the entry ways, from the highway, onto the desert, through the greeters station, and into the city.
The greeters area consists of several parts. There is the ticket booth, where tickets can be purchased or picked up at WILLCALL. There is the inspection area, where vehicles entering Burning Man are checked for stowaways. And there is the greeters area where everyone entering Burning Man is greeted with maps, a WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, hugs, and directions to camp if needed.
The DPW also lays out the area for the airport. Yes, Burning Man has it's own airport manned, again, by volunteers.
Finally, the entire city is surrounded by a trash fence designed to catch anything that the wind is carrying along. Many people never even see the trash fence, but it's out there, surrounding the entire city in a pentagon shape. In the distance it looks like an orange line on the horizon.
Within the city there are areas reserved for theme camps, utilities, and porto-potties.
Theme camp areas are set aside for the use of theme camps. Theme camps are supposed to submit plans for how they are to be laid out, but layouts are not enforced by the BMORG. Street encroachment is not allowed, but other than that, your area is your area to do with what you please.
Utilities are largely in an area south of Center Camp. Here you will find power generators that run the lights at Center Camp, the Medical Tent, and other utilities.
The lines of Porto-Potties can be found within the city located within walking distance of almost anywhere.
Burning Man is based on a set of philosophical principles that make the event what it is, and make it unique compared to other large public gatherings. All the participants at Burning Man are expected to have some idea of the the thoughts behind it.. to help make it what it is. The following is quoted right off the Burning Man web site (http://www.burningman.com).
1. Radical Inclusion
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.
4. Radical Self-reliance
Burning Man encourages the individual to discover, exercise and rely on his or her inner resources.
5. Radical Self-expression
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.
6. Communal Effort
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.
7. Civic Responsibility
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.
8. 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."
These 10 principle have interesting results that are reflected in the experience of Burning Man. These will become obvious as more is explained.
On the matter of Moop
In particular, the LEAVE NO TRACE, ethos requires a discussion of the term MOOP. MOOP stands for Matter Out Of Place - and refers to anything in the desert that wasn't there before Burning Man arrived. Moop is everything you brought with you. In theory, everything you brought with you should also leave with you. If you do that perfectly, then, in theory, you are leaving no trace.
But moop can sometimes take sneaky forms. Your vehicle may leak on the playa - leaving an oil stain. You may drop food on the playa without even knowing it. Part of a costume can fall off (hence the absolute prohibition on feather boas). Your bike might lose a light, or part of a reflector (depending on how hard you drop it). Matter can get away from you, and when it does, it's MOOP.
Too much Moop, and Burning Man comes to an end. The BLM is tasked with preserving the various environments that come under it's jurisdiction. If Burning Man were to leave a trash covered desert then the BLM would be within it's rights to prohibit the event from happening.
So Moop is a big concern for everyone at Burning Man. Tips are offered in the Survival Guide on how to avoid creating it. Read them.
On the Matter of POOP
POOP is exactly what you and your 2 year old think it is. A big deal is made about POOP because it is the only sub-class of MOOP that you are not personally expected to take back with you. Porto-Potties are provided. What you ARE expected to know is that the only things you can put into the Porto-potties are substances that come out of your body, and 1 ply toilet paper. No tampons, sanitary napkins, wet-naps, diapers, or 2 ply toilet paper.
Now, the BLM does not care what goes into the toilets, but the Porto-Pottie contractor does, and he can shut down Burning Man as fast, or faster than the BLM should he decide that the Porto's are being abused. Don't abuse them. If you feel an absolute need to throw those old sneakers into the Porto-pottie, then you MUST eat them first.
One of the organizing principles of Burning Man is radical self-reliance. You are expected to bring everything you need to survive a week in the desert. This does not mean, however, that absolutely nothing is available there. There are some basic city services that you can find if you need them.
Things For Sale
Yes, it is a very short list. At Burning Man you will not find food vendors, souvenirs, t-shirt sales men, or any of the other myriad of things that appear at other commercial venues. Two parts of the Burning Man philosophy come together to make this happen - radical self-reliance and decommodification - means that you need to bring what you need to survive. Burning Man is not going to provide for you.
Coffee, Chai tea, Lemonade are available 24/7 at the cafe in Center Camp. The people who run the cafe are volunteers, which means the service can sometimes be an experience. One time the counter folk were doing a survey of the most unusual places people have ever had sex (not something that might happen to you in Starbucks). Um... I won. This also means that they are under no obligation to serve you at all... so no bitching.
ICE is available on the ring road around Center Camp at Camp Arctic. This is NOT open 24/7 so plan to get your ice during the day. Why sell ice? Because it's the one thing you can't bring from home and hope to have last a week. The ice is in blocks or bags; reasonably priced; and again, manned by volunteers. Proceeds from the sale of ice are donated to the local school districts around Gerlach Nevada. This is a not-for-profit; community building; public relations service of Burning Man to the community in which the event takes place.
Things For Free
(or at least included in the price of the ticket)
You will find the following services provided directly by BMORG and paid for via the price of your ticket.
The Burning Man organization provides Porto-Potties for the elimination of Human waste. These are serviced daily by the brave crews who drive out to suck out the contents; wash out the Porto's, and fill the toilet paper holders. It is extremely important that nothing but human waste and 1 ply toilet paper ever go into the Porto's. If the service company stops servicing, Burning Man will be over very fast.
Porto Potties are located within the city on about the end of the blocks of E street. So, for example, if you find yourself at 8:30 and Daffy, you are within one block of a row of Porto-potties.
Again, as stated before, the ONLY thing that can go into the Porto-potties is human waste and 1 ply toilet paper. No Tampons, sanitary napkins, wet naps, diapers, dead pet goldfish, kitty litter, or used tires. Vomit is okay since it came out of you, the only problem being that if you do stick your head in to vomit, you may vomit much more than you initially intended.
Also, something I learned int 2015 - The porto service guy camp outside the city in their own village. There they transfer waste from the smaller trucks to these huge trucks for off-playa transport. Yes, they live at Burning Man too. And, they are allowed, when not working, to come into the city and party with the rest of us. They do, however, have a midnight curfew. I can't imagine how bad it would be to have to clean out porto-potties with a hang-over. (See note about vomiting in the Porto-Potties above.)
These guys are probably the most important people when it comes to making our city run. Treat em with respect and schwag!!!
The Burning Man organizations provides space and equipment for medical problems ranging from minor dehydration to emergency medical transport. The main medical tent is located next to Center Camp. There are also smaller medical facilities at the 3:00 and 9:00 plaza's. At these locations volunteers with medical training act as staff to help injured and ailing burners recover, or help forward those burners on to full hospital facilities in Reno, NV.
Emergency Medical evacuation is accomplished by helicopter. It's never a good sound to hear the helicopter arrive and take off. The area for the emergency helicopter to land and take off is separate from the airport, and is laid out on the outskirts of the city.
An ambulance is also available for transport on the playa.
The Center Camp facilities are put up by the Burning Man organization. This is one of the few structures actually built by the organization. Other structures include "non-public" areas (such as power generation) and pseudo-public areas like Camp Arctic, Playa Info, Medical Tent, etc. The Center Camp tent covers a large area and contains 3 stages (I consider the central area a stage), the Cafe, and seating for hundreds. Center Camp is the cities communal gathering space, open to all at all times.
At Center Camp you will find plenty of sitting space. Benches and couches are scattered around. The benches can be re-painted and re-used, but the couches are kaput after sitting in the dust all week. I do not know for sure if the couches are re-cycled or trashed... but they sure never end up in Better Homes and Gardens.
The BMORG builds and sets up the MAN, the central icon of the gathering. The man is made from wood, lit with neon, packed with fireworks, and stands about 40 feet tall himself, not including any building on which he may be standing.
Also, with the man are the fireworks that go off before, or while, he burns. It's a good show, and included in the ticket price.
The Burning Man organization provides for the safety of burners on site in several ways. By organizing fire safety for the various large burns - professional fire fighters and EMT's are on site when the large week end burns occur. Fire safety professionals oversee the burn itself, as well as any fireworks setup ahead of time.
The BMORG negotiates with local law enforcement to provide law enforcement capabilities within Black Rock City. Many people think this is not necessary, but assaults have taken place and it's nice to be able to call the police. BMORG works closely with two local law enforcement agencies since the Burning Man site straddles two counties. NOTE: If someone is to be ejected from Burning Man, it will be done by Burning Man Rangers, and not law enforcement. This was a sticking point in negotiations in the past with law enforcement, but Burning Man wants to be able to control the Burning Man population. Course, if someone refuses to leave....
It is important to note that all laws are still in effect at Burning Man. Citations and arrests will be made for illegal substances and lewd behavior. Nudity is not normally considered lewd - however, there are exceptions. If your child is nude, law enforcement may ask you to cover them up as pictures of your child could be considered child pornography. This actually happened to a couple I know who's four year old was nude on the playa. They threatened them with Child Protective Services and they complied. (Typical law enforcement. If you don't comply to an illegal request on their part they start to threaten you. See the section on how to deal with law enforcment. To note: A nude picture of a child is not automatically child pornography - if it were then millions of parents would be in violation of the law. Also, on federal land there is no law against nudity in general. The cops don't really care about the law. They just want to make trouble for people based on their opinion of what is right and wrong and not what is legal and what is illegal. This year, 2015, the sheriff of Pershing County, announced in advance that he was going to be a hard ass. His reason; He didn't think his office was paid enough to provide service to the city. It boils down to money, and this ass didn't think he was getting enough. So he and his officers decided to be assholes. Proof that its not about the law, but about the money. So much for my rant.)
The law enforcement agencies present at Burning Man include:
Legal Assitance for Burners
Should you ever get stopped by law enforcement at Burning Man, and end up under arrest or with a citation, there is a group out there specifically to help Burners. It is called LAWYERS FOR BURNERS and their webpage can be accessed HERE. They are well aware of what Burning Man is, how law enforcement operates there, and what sorts of legal situations can arise on the playa. I highly recommend that you visit this webpage, as it is updated yearly and has current advice for what is going on both on and off the playa.
BLM Permit Costs
The Bureau of Land Management is responsible for issuing the permit for Burning Man to take place on public land. This federal department conducts inspections of the site at several times during the year to be sure that Burning Man is not impacting the environment via trash or other pollutants (e.g. chemical/grey water stains, burn scars, etc.). The Leave No Trace ethos is very important in maintaining our good relations with the BLM.
The BLM also charges a fee per person/per day for everyone at Burning Man. In 2005 for example, the BMORG paid the BLM $710,404. This is one of the reasons that cars are checked for stowaways, and the population of Black Rock City counted very carefully. The fee averages out to about $7.00 per person per day, and is included in the price of your ticket.
The BLM also sends representatives to attend Burning Man. These representatives will explain to anyone the job of the BLM, and issue citations for irresponsible behavior that damages the playa. This person's tent can be found one the Esplanade close to Center Camp.
Part of the infrastructure of the city that is set up before anyone arrives are posts for street lanterns. That's right, LANTERNS. There is no power for most of the city, but certain streets are lit at night by hanging lanterns. A group of volunteers makes the nightly pilgrimage to all these posts to hang lit oil lamps on them to mark the streets. The Esplanade is marked this way. So is a straight line street that runs from the Man to Center Camp. Straight line streets from the Man to both 3:00 and 9:00 are also marked. The Plaza's at 3:00 and 9:00 are marked as well.
What, Where, When
When you arrive at the greeter's station coming into Burning Man, you will receive something called the WHAT, WHERE, WHEN that details many of the events that will occur in the city throughout the week. This is compiled before the event, and comes from the various camps sending in the things they want included. Burning Man takes no responsibility for the descriptions or the scheduling. It's the menu of Burning Man.
The BMORG runs a shuttle service from BRC to the nearby town of Gerlach (about 11 miles away) There are charges for this service above and beyond the cost of the ticket. You will need your ticket stub to use this bus as well.
Since the streets are walked on, driven on, and biked on, they tend to pulverize into a very fine dust very quickly. Periodically a Dust Abatement water truck will pass by spraying water down to try and re-coagulate some of that dust. The water sprayed from these trucks is non-potable - meaning, you should not drink it. There's nothing to prevent you from running after the truck and trying to grab a quick shower, however. Many people do this to get clean, or to cool off. It is shocking cold water.
The trash fence is a long orange plastic fence that surrounds all of Burning Man. On the inside it is Black Rock City. On the outside it is a vast empty plain. Though installed by volunteers of the DPW, the trash fence is required by the BLM for the BMORG permit, and is provided for that purpose.
Yep, like any real town, Black Rock City has street signs at all the intersections. If you are ever lost you can go to an intersection and know exactly where you aren't; and hopefully where you are.
Course, this only applies while Burning Man is a going operation. Once the Man burns, the street signs have a tendency to disappear mysteriously. I believe that they become remembrances of someone's great time.
Everyone who purchases a ticket(s) to Burning Man will receive in the mail a copy of the Burning Man Survival Guide. This is packed with useful information regarding how to get by at Burning Man. Sections on Moop, Weather, Environment, Rules are all included. It's a good idea to read it. If you want to read one from years past click here.
Things provided by volunteers
and supported by BMORG
Black Rock City Rangers
The Black Rock City Rangers are the LEO's of Burning Man. They will enforce the few regulations that Burning Man does have (like licensing of art vehicles), but they are under no obligation to do this like other law enforcement. If they see someone doing something stupid with a vehicle, they might just chain it to something immovable. They won't issue you a citation. They will just make sure it doesn't happen again.
The real job of the Rangers is to smooth things over, and help with crowd control. Physical intervention in any situation is a last resort. They are more likely to talk than to react like normal police. But, they have the power of real police, including the power to evict you if they feel it's necessary.
Near to Center Camp you will find a place called Playa Info. This is the information booth of Burning Man. Manned during the day by people called Oracles, who will answer any question you have. Where can I get the bus to Gerlach? Where can I get and RV pump out? My <item> is missing, where can I find it? How do I find my friend <so and so>?
You ask the question, they might have the answer. Or, might tell you how to get the answer yourself. One way or the other, you will get a response that has a good chance of being helpful. (ex. Question: "Where can I throw this cup away?" Answer: "You have a trash can in your kitchen at home? That's a good place." .. a real question and answer...)
Other than people to answer questions, Playa Info contains open bulletin boards where people can post whatever they want... messages to other people... ads for events... etc. These become pretty chaotic pretty quick.
A better place to look for information is the PC network that Playa Info sets up. Several stations are available where you can enter information about yourself, your camp, your project, or your event. Other people can then search this database via a number of key words. If you want to hook up with someone at Burning Man, setting up a meeting via this database is your best chance of doing that.
The other thing you will find at Playa Info, is Wi-Fi access to the Internet. In the Playa Info tent you will find a number of couches and people typing away on laptops. The people who provide this open wireless network make no claims, or promises about how far out the network will reach, but you might be able to pick it up in your tent as I did one year at 7:30 and Eager.
Volunteers at Burning Man run a radio Station - the Voice of Burning Man. Good to have on Exodus; they will keep you informed of events, and how long the line is to get out of Burning Man.
Department of Mutant Vehicles
This organization of people is responsible for inspecting and licensing so-called "art cars". The inspection makes sure that the vehicles are safe, and thematic. If the vehicle contains any sort of flame-thrower, the a pyrotechnics specialist will inspect the mechanism.
Once, BRC was a two paper town. I'm not sure what the future will bring, there may be 2 daily papers.. or 1... but I'm pretty sure it won't be less than 1. The first is the Black Rock City Gazette. The other is called PISS CLEAR. These will contain articles about events at the event, and are passed around the city when they arrive. You can also find them at:
The Media Mecca volunteers handle requests from the Press, and people who might want to make commercial use of images from Burning Man. Every year the press covers Burning Man, and the Media Mecca keeps track of the press. They maintain a location near Center Camp on the ring road. Questions about using images or video should be directed to them.
There have been video's made at Burning Man that are available for sale to the public. These were all made under the watchful eye of the BMORG.
The folks who run the Artery assist the various artist who come to Burning Man with things to display. Each year BMORG sponsors various art installations, and subsidizes these with funds drawn from ticket sales. But there are many artists who create works on their own, or with a group, that are not BMORG sponsored. These artists go to the Artery for placement on the playa. Normally, the volunteers at the Artery has most things mapped out ahead of time, but there is always the last minute thing that needs just the right place on the playa.
The Artery also maintains a map of where everything is placed, so that you can look up where that strange sculpture you heard so much about is located.
Yes, Black Rock City has a post office. This is not a United States of America post office. Instead it is a group of volunteers who will accept mail to be taken into town for shipping, and pick up mail that is addressed to residents of Burning Man.
You can receive mail while you are at Burning Man. The format of the address would look something like this:
Your Friend or Enemy
Their Camp Name
Gerlach, NV 89412
An actual address might look like this:
7:30 and Eager
Gerlach, NV 89412
If you should get mail at Burning Man, the letter carrier will show up at your camp and call out your name. He may deputize one of your camp mates to deliver the letter. I have sent mail to Black Rock City and it arrived there just fine.
IMPORTANT WARNING: re: Postal Service
DO NOT SEND ILLEGAL DRUGS IN THE MAIL TO BURNING MAN. The police have been known to line up all the mail going to Burning Man in the parking lot of the post office in Gerlach. They then let the drug sniffing dogs go through it. In 2015 there were at least 5 cases of dogs "hitting" on packages. When that happens, the post office in Black Rock City will deliver your package, and they will be followed by agents who will ask you to open the package in front of them. They will say that they have probable cause because of the dog. And, naturally, like all police, if they don't get their way, they will start to threaten you - regardless of the 4th amendment. So, I reiterate:
DO NOT SEND ILLEGAL DRUGS IN THE MAIL TO BURNING MAN.
There is a camp that will recycle your cans. Feel free to bring your steel and aluminum cans to this Recycle Camp and watch as the amazing human powered double tired crusher mashes them flat for packing and shipment off the playa.
Bikes being such an important part of the transportation network of Burning Man, you would think that a camp for bike repair would be pretty popular. Yes, I hear it is. I have not needed their services as yet, but if you go to Playa Info and ask, they will direct you to the fine folk who speak spoke and can fix your flat in a jiffy.
Every skill is represented at Burning Man, even car thieves.. er.. road side assistance. If you are locked out of your car a trip to Playa Info will direct you to the people with the means to get your car open. In the past this used to be provided by volunteers, but I've heard that this may be changing. Like RV pump out, this may be a paid service in the future.
Yes, you read that right. Just like a real city, Black Rock City has an airport. Many people fly into the event. I've been out to the airport a few times and counted plenty of planes there. I know nothing about how it is run.. how you approach.. air traffic controll.. none of it. But you can read about it HERE. And there is even more information HERE.
I do know the official abbreviation for the airport. If you want to book a flight there on, say, Southwest, then your destination is 88NV!
And here is something fun I found. A video of what it is like to land at Burning Man HERE
Things NOT provided
One thing you will absolutely NOT find at Burning Man is TRASH CANS (with the exception of a few at Center Camp). The LEAVE NO TRACE ethos means everyone is responsible for the trash they generate. You are expected to take it home with your for proper disposal there. There is no other event in the world where this many people get together and a mess is not left behind. Just try, for a few seconds to imagine what the following would look like without trash cans:
A baseball park
A NASCAR race
A company picnic
Give it a couple seconds thought, and you will realize what an impressive thing has been accomplished at Burning Man. No trash cans, and NO TRASH. It's not perfect, but it's better than anything else in the world. And there are people constantly working to MAKE it perfect.
Yes, even at Burning Man, the chaotic, apocalyptic, new age, drug and dust hazed environment, there are rules.
Oh.. not many.. but here they are:
5 Mile Per Hour Speed Limit
There is a strict 5 M.P.H. speed limit within Black Rock City. No! It's not for safety reasons, though sometimes if the dust is bad or the bike/pedestrian traffic is thick, the speed is safe. No. It's so that passing vehicles will not kick up a dust cloud and cover everyone and everything they pass in a layer of playa. People who disobey the speed limit are not ticketed, but they are shouted at by everyone they pass. Sometimes things are thrown at them, until they figure out what they are doing wrong, and slow down.
When you go to Burning Man, you drive your vehicle to your camp. You park, and you camp. Your car does not go anywhere until it is time to leave. The only vehicles that are allowed to move around Black Rock City are:
If you need to go to the town of Gerlach for some reason, a shuttle bus is provided.
Everyone who comes to Burning Man must purchase a ticket. The ticket sales determine the amount of money paid to all the people who have their hand out asking the BMORG for money - BLM, LEO's, Fire Safety, Porto-Pottie Cleaners, Dust abaters, etc. It's important that everyone pay their fair share. So when you arrive at Burning Man your vehicle will be checked for stowaways. Stowaways will be escorted off the premises, and so may you.
In 2003, the BORG decide to stop allowing dogs on the playa. The major reason was for the health of the dogs. The dirt there is not healthy to walk on for bare foot people, and it's no better for dogs. I can't imagine anyone wanting to bring any other kind of pet out there, and hope to go home with it alive.
Register your video equipment
In this day and age of "Girls Gone Wild" video companies, the Burning Man organization takes great pains to make sure that NO COMMERCIAL PHOTOGRAPHY can be done at Burning Man, without the consent of the BMORG. People have made videos for later sale at Burning Man; and all of them have had to negotiate the rights to do this prior to starting their project.
To aid in this protection, the BMORG requires that every camera capable of taking video pictures be registered. If you see someone shooting a video you should see a tag on the camera that identifies it as being registered. If it is not registered, and the taking of video is bothering you, you can confront the person and ask them to stop, or refer the matter to a Ranger, who may or may not confront the person themselves.
Still cameras do not need to be registered, but you should know that you cannot use any pictures taken at Burning Man for any commercial purpose what-so-ever. All pictures are for personal use.
The taking of video and pictures is always controversial. Some people would like to see camera's banned, while some enjoy sharing the experience with people who cannot attend. Some people will rudely take pictures without permission, while others are very circumspect and will seek permission when a photo involves individuals.
The guidelines are clearly stated on the Burning Man web site at: http://www.burningman.com/preparation/event_survival/video_cameras.html
Obey The Law
The BMORG supports all federal, state, and local laws. Participants are expected to obey all these laws. Participants are subject to arrest if they do not obey these laws.
This includes the serving of alcohol to minors. Some citations have been issued for this infraction.
Now, having said this, important to realize what Law Enforcement is there to accomplish. It's there to ensure an environment that works for the people there. For example: Public nudity is against the law in most places, but the LEO's at Burning Man do not care. Drugs are against the law, but the LEO's at Burning Man are not there primarily to enforce those laws. Drug citations are given, but mostly to stupid people acting blatant. Law Enforcement is there to assist when legal authority is needed.
Example: A man taking some bad drugs assaults a woman breaking her arm. The police investigate and make an arrest. The woman declines to press charges; so the man makes an appearance before a judge and receives probation. The police in this case were immediately on the scene of the assault, but took their cues from the woman and the Burning Man rangers and did not file their own charges of resisting arrest or drug possession.
Most of the time you will see the police wandering around, or parked out on the playa just taking it all in. The senior officers get first dibs when it comes to this assignment, and the remaining slots are filled by lottery from volunteers. (At least for the county police.) So the LEO's you see on site are the ones that wanted to be there; who enjoy the vibe; and are glad the event is taking place.
IMPORTANT: The above applies to the two COUNTY police organizations represented at Burning Man. It DOES NOT apply to the tribal police who monitor the roadway to and from Reno to Gerlach. They STRICTLY enforce the speed limits through tribal land, and will happily pull you over and look for cause to search your vehicle. Lot's of people get tickets every year for speeding because the limits change rapidly in the few populated areas on that road. The simple way NOT to have a run-in with the tribal police is to OBEY THE SPEED LIMITS... it's a simple as that.
If you are pulled over - KNOW YOUR RIGHTS. You do not have to consent to a search of your vehicle. If you are asked to step out of your vehicle, lock the door behind you. Just say, "oh.. habit" if asked why you did that. State clearly, "I do not consent to a search of my vehicle. Can I go now?"
The Department of Mutant Vehicles issues regulations about what vehicles can drive on the playa during the event. No vehicle that has not been passed by the DMV is allowed to drive on the playa. Enforcement of this is up the the BRC Rangers. They could decide to confiscate your tires for the event... whatever it takes to make sure it does not move after they pull you over. And don't bother the Police if they do... the police will back them up.
Once upon a time, Burning Man included a drive by shooting range where people could discharge their guns from moving vehicles. With the increase in population this is no longer possible. No firearms are allowed at Burning Man
No Commercial Vending
You can't sell anything at Burning Man. Don't even try.
You can't even sell the pictures you take at Burning Man. You agree through your ticket purchase that any pictures you take are for personal use only - i.e. you can post them on the web. But if you try to sell them as posters or some such, BRC LLC will have the option of coming after you in court.
NO FIRES ON THE PLAYA
Now, this one might seem odd, but it doesn't mean what it sounds like. Basically you cannot build a fire on the ground. The heat will scar the playa and LEAVE A TRACE - called a burn scar. Burn Barrels are permitted, and the rules for how they should be constructed are on the Burning Man web site. Burn barrels, and the public burn platforms are raised platforms so that the heat is dissipated between them and the playa, and no scar is created.
Burn Barrels have to be at least 50 feet away from any structure. Imagine if people did not pay attention to fire safety - imagine Black Rock City going up in flames as thousands of tents, RV's and other structures catch fire.
Burning Man is very much about fire. And it is very much about responsibility. Mind both.
Your travel experience to Burning Man will depend on where you are coming from, but will include some common experiences in the last 90 miles. Assuming you are coming from the South (I-80) you will exit at a place called Wadsworth (near Fernley). You will then turn north on the 447. You will take this 2 lane road north for about 80 miles until you reach the town of Gerlach.
It is important that you pay attention to what you are doing on this stretch of road. You will see lots of other Burners traveling with you. You will see that the locals have set up booths on the side of the road to sell you Indian Tacos. And you will see the sheriff and his crew out in full force looking for speeders. The speed limit changes suddenly near the few small towns on this road, and kids to play in the streets, so be careful. Slow down and enjoy the scenery because you do NOT want to get stopped by the local cops.
It's really important that you pay attention in the fast areas too. The side of this road has a soft shoulder, and if your tires go off the edge your instinct will try to make you steer back onto the road. I've seen more than one vehicle flipped over by this mistake. One was a flat bed truck and it looked like a whole theme camp was strewn all over the road and weeds with the truck upside down. If you get drowsy and slip off the road.. slow down.. get control.. and then slowly steer back onto the road way (and by slowly I mean about 5 miles and hour.. not 50).
You will be passing through some of the most desolate land in the U.S. This is a great opportunity to look around and enjoy the desert. Okay.. some of you don't like deserts. I do. Deal with it.
Oh.. did I mention you should have gassed up in Wadsworth? Oh well, too late now.. hehehe
When you see the sign, Welcome to Nowhere, you will know that Burning Man is not far ahead.
Arriving at night is amazing... You can see the man just after you exit the town of Gerlach. He is still 10 miles away, but you will be able to tell it's him standing in the middle of that giant glowing area that is Black Rock City. This has always been one of the best moments for me, right from my first time. Seeing that amazing place in the distance and knowing I was going there. Oh Boy !!!
Day or Night, the arrival will be the same. Follow the road until you come to the entrance to Burning Man. It will on the right about 9 miles from Gerlach (assuming they are using the 9 mile entrance. There is a 12 mile and a 14 mile entrance to the playa too... but you only use those during non-BM times.) There will be a line of cars and RV's in front of you. Just get into the line you like and move forward. No hurry.. you are here, the hard part is over.
Someone is going to come up to your vehicle and ask to see your tickets. Now, if you have not taken care of this tiny little detail, you will have to pull over and head to the ticket booth. NOTE: No ticket sales after Thursday at Midnight - or whenever they decide to cut them off that year - you can check on the BM web site.
This same person is going to want to make sure that the number of tickets you showed him matches the number of people in your vehicle. This entails a quick search of any potential hiding spots. For reasons stated elsewhere the population count of Black Rock City is carefully monitored. A stowaway is grounds for good-bye.
Having passed this test you will continue to drive forward until you reach the greeters station. These are the fine dust covered people who will give you your literature (The "What, Where, When", a map of the city, plus whatever else they are passing out) They will make sure you know how to get to where you are camping - with the aid of the map. Or direct you to where you can set up your tent/RV. They make sure you know how both MOOP and POOP need to be handled (knowing what Moop means is a good idea). They will collect from you any video camera registrations you have. And they may make you perform a ceremony depending on who you get. I got to ring the bell as a Virgin Burner... yeahhhh.
Having passed the greeters station, you are now IN.
I split arrival out because sometimes that is an experience in and of itself. First there are the "Burma Shave" signs... a series of signs with some interesting things to say. Among them the reminder to drive 5 miles an hour. Hopefully you know where you are going, because you will come to the fork in the road at the back of the "C" forcing you to go left or right.
During the day this is not hard. You can see the street signs, and the people, and it's pretty easy to find where you want to be.
At night... well, driving at night is very different. The roads are going to be clogged with bikes, and pedestrians. Your headlights might just pick up dust, so you might want to drive without them - please keep the running lights on. You need to navigate around all the other traffic with confusing lights pointed at you, or maybe another driver who didn't turn off his headlights. Can't see the damn street signs so you try to just keep count. Hum.. this should be it.. park.. get out... Damn.. I went a block too far. Drive a little more. Park.. yeah.. this looks right. Looking for someone you know. BAM.. Friends.. You are home.
For me, after I find where I am going to park the vehicle for the week, and talk to the people in my camp I know, and figure out where I am going to set up my tent... after all that, the first thing I HAVE to do, is take a walk out to see the MAN. He is the center of town, the Rosetta stone of your nightly navigation, the main piece of BRC art. I have to walk out and say HI to him first. Day or Night I do this.
Standing before the Man means you have really ARRIVED.
The layout of the city has already been explained, and navigation should come easily from it. However, you do need to know your location, otherwise you could spend a lot of time looking for it.
During the day things are easy enough, but at night it's a little more difficult. The street signs help, but you need a flash light to see them.
I ran into a woman one time who was a virgin burner, and was completely lost. She came up and asked me where the Esplanade was. I chuckled until I saw the look of panic in her eyes. I realized that her friends had let her wander off without even the rudiments of navigation. I asked her where he camp was and she said 3:30 and Esplanade, but it didn't really mean anything to her. If you have been reading this carefully you should be able to point right to it on a map. So I walked her in the general direction of her camp, and we eventually found her camp mates.
The place is magical, and overwhelming, and amazing. But take the few minutes to figure out how to get around, and where you belong, so that this sort of thing doesn't happen to you. It sucks to be lost in the dark and the cold when all you want to do is hit the sleeping bag in your tent.
One nice thing to do is to find a land mark that you can see from anywhere on the playa to find your way home. I will never forget the year my camp was right next to E-ville; they had set up a giant radio tower with green lights like a pyramid on it. You could see this clear across the playa. When I was in stagger mode.. I sure appreciated the land mark.
If, like me, you never did much camping, then Burning Man is an experience. If, you have spent lots of time camping in the woods, then... Burning Man is an experience. Get rid of the pictures of a group of tents gathered around a camp fire. There won't be a camp fire. There might be a burn barrel but you'd be stupid to camp within 50 ft. of it. In fact, that's one of the rules.
Your tent is going to get dust in it. Thinking you may keep it clean with a rain fly; forget it. The dust does not drift down.. it shoots up. Every time you open your tent you are going to track dust into it. If you want to keep something clean, seal it up until you want to use it.
The ground is not sand. It's dry lake bed; hard as concrete. If you are used to sleeping on a pad on loamy forest soil, or sand at the beach - well - that pad is going to get mighty hard mighty fast. My first year at Burning Man I slept on a pad. After that I got a cot, and a tent big enough to hold it and my belongings. I toss a large sleeping bag on top of the cot, and another that I actually sleep in. My oh my is it comfy. Think carefully about how you are going to be sleeping.
If you are a night owl like me, you might think that you can sleep during the day in your tent. A good plan, but the desert sun will change that plan. After about 10:00 am the sun is up high enough to start to heat up the inside of your tent. Sleeping becomes impossible. By about 11:00 all you want to do is get out. Many people bring a tent for their tent... a shade structure that goes over their tent to keep it cooler during the day. In years past I have always tried to place my tent behind something that would block the sun. One of these times I think I'm going to start looking at building a tent for my tent.
NOTE: Sleep deprivation is the NORM.
Days can be cool to blazing. Usually they are pretty mild and pleasant. There is often a breeze, and frequently small dust storms on that breeze. Some years are hotter than others, but the only time I ever remember it being unbearable is when there is no shade to climb under. At tear down time, the shade disappears, and you begin to really miss it when 14 of you are trying to squeeze into the tiny shadow of the rental truck you are packing.
Nights can be balmy to freezing. The balmy nights are the best. You can walk around in a short sleeve t-shirt and it will feel great. But better to layer up. Carry an extra shirt in your back pack, because if the temperature drops suddenly the walk back to your camp might be a zig zag course between burn barrels. The alternative is to stop trying to get back to your camp and sleep where you end up. I've snoozed at Playa-Go-Round, and with the crew from Ambiance (who set up mattresses and blankets in the middle of the playa and served grilled-cheese sandwiches to cold wanderers like myself). I've snoozed at Space Virgins and Center Camp.
One particular night I will never forget. I was at 2:00 and it was 3:00am (confused yet.. grin). Decided to call it a night and go home. Wandered past Playa-Go-Round - the couches looked comfy. Not sure when I woke up, but when I did it was freezing and I really wanted my warm sleeping bag and comfy cot. So I cut straight across the playa to 7:30 (which was the street my camp was on). It was cold cold cold. I just trudged and trudged.. cursing the cold and wondering why nothing was getting any closer. And then, horror of horrors - I looked over my shoulder and saw that the sun was coming up soon. OH GOD NO.. I DON'T WANT TO SEE THE SUN. So I walked faster. I wanted to be in my tent and dead to the world before the sun came up. I know perfectly what a vampire feels like now.
I think there was a point there... yes. It can get really cold at night. Layer up and be ready.
The food at Burning Man is FANTASTIC. Why? Because it's food serving it's real purpose - keeping you alive.
Okay.. well, the food at Burning Man is as good as you care to make it. The people I camp with eat well. Every dinner is sponsored by some camp mates, and contributed to by others. Mexican night, Surf and Turf night, Soup night... whatever someone wants to make, the main dish is theirs and lots of others contribute food. As a group we buy snacks for everyone, so they are free to dig into any time. And people bring extra stuff for breakfasts and lunches.
Because Burning Man is a very physical environment (you will be doing a lot of walking or biking) you will be hungry and the food will taste great. You won't care if there's a little dust around, you will be used to that being everywhere anyway. Grab some tortilla's, wrap up some cheese, lunch meat and a pickle.. mustard and yum.. heaven.
If the food doesn't taste great, then you ain't doing enough.
Our camp also has a full kitchen with pots, pans, utensils, and propane burners for everyone to use. Clean up after yourself and you are welcome to it.
Advice about food - Spend a little time and think about what will and will not work in the desert. Since cold stuff has to stay in an ice chest, it's unlikely that frozen food will be an option. Think about what can be quick and easy. 10 heads of lettuce will be useless. A 50 lb. bag of carrots... um.. no thanks. A 10 lb. can of chick peas... I couldn't eat that in a month. Smaller portions of things you can grab and eat on the run from daytime wandering to night time wandering.. or while you are passing through your own camp work great.
Also - de-moop your food before you go. Take the cereal out of the box and just take the bag - or put it into a recloseable bag. If something has an outer wrapper, take it off because you are just going to have to haul it back with you anyway.
And for GOD SAKE don't bring watermelon. If you don't eat it early enough in the week, the insides will be cooked mush when you cut it open. And even if it is great when you eat it, you have a huge rotting rind to deal with at the end of the week. Remember, you have to take your own trash out.. and this thing will be smelling up YOUR car on the way home.
This is what I mean by, "Think about your food in advance."
You must bring your own water to Burning Man. Since you are not allowed to come and go from the event, you will need to bring all you need for the time you are there. There will be no place to buy water - unless you want to buy ice and melt it.
You should also think about the container in which you buy water. Cases of small bottles are just going to leave you with a bunch of small bottles. The two gallons jugs are pretty good with the built in spout. I personally buy the 5 gallon bottles of water. I then put these into one of those round coolers you see at construction sites that my camp has. Ice is added to this, and you have cold water all day long. Camel backs, cooking pots, and other containers are then filled from this.
How much water to bring? Depends on what you want it for. If you will be taking a shower, then you will need a gallon for that. Plus another gallon to drink during the day means an absolute minimum of 2 gallons a day. Cooking? Another gallon. Washing Dishes? Another gallon. The Burning Man Survival guide states you must have a minimum of 1.5 gallons of water per day you are there. I would up that to 2, but then again, I live in a water intensive camp... we run the Human Carcass Wash, and that always requires more water to start.
Of course, at the end of the week in 2006 I was stabbing a knife into unopened plastic water jugs so they could be flattened and pouring perfectly clean water onto the playa. Better to have to much than too little.
Oh, and like the food, the water will taste great too.
The dust is the one thing at Burning Man that you can read about and read about, but not really understand until you experience it. The dust is all pervasive. If you cannot deal with dust... DO NOT GO. I had heard all about it, but really didn't get it until I got there. And what an eye opener it is.
The ground is dry lake mud. As people walk and drive on it, it breaks up. The wind can pick it up and move it around. With 30,000 people all moving around, there is plenty of dust. It is in the air. It is in your tent. It is in your food. It is on you. It is everywhere. It is unavoidable. Flash pictures taken at night don't come out because they look like they are taken in a blizzard.
Now, having said that, there are many Burners who look forward to the dust. It has a smell that, when you first smell it says, "Welcome Home!!!" You don't mind that it is all over you. You don't mind that it is in your food. It's a condiment as far as you are concerned. You might actually put some in a jar to take back to the default world, just to have a little bit of home with you.
When packing, take the dust into account. I pack using those giant zip lock bags so I can see what I want in a bag before I open it. I only open it when I have to, and keep it sealed at all other time. Your tent will NOT keep the dust out. During the day I turn my sleeping bag over so that the when I climb in at night I can get in on the "clean" side - clean being a relative term here.
When the wind picks up enough of the dust you get a dust storm. In severe cases you get white out. Once I was in one so bad that it started really blocking the sun and became a brown out. When you get caught in one you will wish you had brought something to breath through. I wear a bandana around my neck at all times just for this purpose. Some people prefer those hospital dust masks, and some people have down right gas masks. A pair of ski goggles helps too - Since I wear glasses I use shop goggles that fit over them.
The art at Burning Man varies from the tiny to the huge; from the interesting to the down right strange; from so-so to spectacular. I think all mediums are represented. Sculpture, Paining, Ceramics, Architecture, Interactive, and whatever else I am forgetting.
Some of the art makes a political statement. Some of the art is strictly for fun. Some of the art tries to make you think. Some of the art makes you wonder what the artist was thinking.
Pretty much no matter what, if you go looking you will find something that will just blow you away. David Best's amazing temples. Giant Lamps that have fallen from the sky. Thirty foot tall mother and child frozen in the act of walking across the desert leaving flaming foot prints behind them. Tiny inch wide composite boxes, buried in the playa that you have to get down on your hands and knees to look at. Moving lights that you seem to be able to control. Water bottles that moan in the wind. A desk with writing tools and paper, dictionary, thesaurus, and envelopes so you can write and post your thoughts. If you go looking, something will amaze you.
Much of the art is out in "the great unknown"... the space past the Man that is the open desert. If you want to find something in particular, the Artery can help. Most of what is out there is mapped by them.
But much of the art is in the city. It's in the camps with facades that reflect the camp. The costumes people are wearing. The body paint. The lighting. The is absolutely NO way you are going to see everything at Burning Man. After you get back from he event people will say, "Hey did you see such and such?" and you will think.. no, where was that. You will see pictures of things you didn't see and think, how could I have missed that?
The art is big. The art is small. The art is everywhere.
And some of the art is MOBILE. Art Cars are a big part of Burning Man. Some of these are small, like the eyeballs mounted on bicycles. Some of these are HUGE like the La Contessa Spanish Galleon - a full size ship that roamed the desert. Or the HUGE White Whale - mounted on a school bus and lit from within - swimming along, its tail fluke going up and down as it went.
Many of the art cars are roving bars. Some are private affairs belonging to and for the use of a camp. Some are public affairs available to anyone who can find the space to get on. Most are loud and well lit. Some have flame throwers. All kinds of music can be heard drifting by any time of the day or night.
The Department of Mutant Vehicles is responsible for inspecting a licensing art cars. They have gotten stricter in recent years, and insist that you register prior to the event, or you may not get licensed. A few bits of gauze and some lights to not an art car make. Check out the pictures to see what sorts of things pass muster.
Like the rest of the art, the art cars - the creativity people use to come up with them, and the amount of time and money they take - will amaze you.
If you think the desert is a quiet environment at night... oh are you sooo wrong. Burning Man comes alive at night. There is no electrical grid there, but that doesn't mean there is no electricity. And with power comes Lights, and Music, and.. noise. If you need quiet to sleep, you will need to bring ear plugs. No matter where you camp in the city you will hear it around you all night.
Now, there is a camp called HUSHVILLE - where they have their own set of rules to keep things quiet within the camp. But there is nothing anyone can do about the rave camps who pump music at full volume all night.
The BMORG tries to locate the loudest camps; those that power the all night raves; out at the end of the "C" of the city (2:00 and 10:00). So if you are looking for quiet you don't want to be camped anywhere near these areas. Problem is just about anywhere you go there is going to be some noise generated. People play music. Camps throw parties. Passing art cars blare whatever it is that makes them happy.
The sound of Burning Man at night is amazing.
Daytime is another story. Days can be quiet, even peaceful in parts of the city. So catching up on sleep during the day is always an option, if you can't seem to do it at night.
One thing you will hear talked about constantly is how Burning Man provides a sense of community that people don't get in the outside world. Some people create communities there that don't exist in the outside world. A set of shared values and shared fun make for pretty close knit communities. Even if you are camping alone, you are among a large group of people, many of whom share the same values with regard to tolerance, fun, art, LNT, and other values that are common at Burning Man. Just being among a group of like minded people will give you a sense of community you do not get in the default world.
If you are with a theme camp, this is enhanced. A theme camp has a set of values that include and go beyond those of Burning Man. For example, the Recycle Camp may share common goals in terms of making life on earth more sustainable. The Pee Funnel camp wants women to be able to piss standing up like any man. The members of the Temple of Atonement share a belief that BDSM is a means to enhance life in general. Find a camp with values that match yours, and you will find a community that welcomes you.
Course, a community is what you make it. It's perfectly possible to make a community out of just a group of friends with no particular theme or meaning. There are people who meet up yearly on the playa, being the only time they see each other all year. The community per se only exists while the group is on the playa.
And another thing to remember about Burning Man... it's a small town. It may have 30,000 people, but that's not large compared to a lot of communities in this country. You will see the same people over and over.. get to know people from a distance.. and get a feel for your town's pulse that you might not see in your own hometown. And when everyone comes together to share a single moment - like the Burning of the Man, you realize how much of a shared vision it is.
Alcohol and Drugs
Drugs and Alcohol at Burning Man!!!??? I am SHOCKED.. SHOCKED I SAY.
Remember, drugs are illegal. If someone comes up and asks you for drugs they could be an undercover LEO looking to enforce drug laws.
I personally am not a drug user, other than alcohol, so I will limit myself to discussing that.
Bars are plentiful at Burning Man. Bars are a gift. You won't be paying for drinks with cash. You may decide to gift the bar keep back with whatever it you have to share (an original poem, for example). Some of the bars are pretty good. I have a favorite that appears year after year, but I have enjoyed good times at several others. I've never been cut off at a bar, which is great. I'm pretty much officially done when I fall off my seat. The fare at most bars is pretty basic... you may not find the drink of choice. It all depends on what they have, and as the week grows old, the selection get slimmer. Which one of the reasons I like to gift my favorite bars with booze. Keeps them in business longer. Ice is also a challenge to keep in stock at some bars.. so drinks may come without it. Finally, bringing your own cup might be the only way to get a drink. It is wise to have a container strapped to your backpack for such occasions - a mug with a handle is perfect for this.
As far as other drugs go, if you are into them, you can find them. Asking around is a good way to draw the wrong kind of attention. Having friends already there is best.
If you find nudity disturbing, then Burning Man may not be for you. There is nudity present at Burning Man. Not everyone runs around naked. In fact the portion of the population that is fully nude is pretty small. However, partial nudity is quite common. Burning Man offers people a chance to "dress down" or "dress up" - however you look at it. One will frequently encounter women dressed in lingerie, or men dress in a cross manner (and I don't mean angry). Costumes are common and sometimes revealing.
If any of this would be overly disturbing to you, then you may want to think twice about it. However, if this makes you think, "I always wanted to feel the sun on my body while walking down the street." Then, as Bob Barker used to say, "Come on down!" The beauty of being nude at Burning Man is that it IS accepted, and so your enjoyment of it can be that much more fulfilling.
There is one large semi-nude event that happens annually. The Critical Tits ride is done in support of Breast Cancer Research. In it, literally thousands of women will ride a course around the Playa, most of them bare breasted. On the few occasions I found myself out next to the course as they were going past I found it a fun event, and applauded the fantastic women of all shapes, sizes, costumes, and yes.. colors (red, green, yellow, etc.) who rode by in the name of a good cause. Bravo for you. As long as its fun for all concerned, I hope it continues.
Now: having said all that I will add the caveat that I am male, and have never been accosted on those occasions that I have gone naked at Burning Man. I cannot speak from the female perspective. I do not know if the experience of nudity at Burning Man is different for a woman, and in what manner/degree it is different. I wish I could speak to this, but I can't. Answers to this can be obtained at e-playa (see below).
Perhaps I am the wrong person to tackle this topic. I've been to Burning Man 6 times, and have never had any kind of sexual experience on the playa. But I can tell you this.. compared to the default world, sexuality is more open on the playa. I've encountered people having sex, and it's really no big deal. Usually this is not out in public, and law enforcement, though not caring about nudity, does care about open sexual intercourse. We have been asked as a community (Burning Man) to be a bit more discreet about open sexuality. This is NOT an adults only event. It would be a bummer if some social crusader decided to try and close down the whole thing because minors were being exposed to open sex.
Now, having said that you have to realize that my definition of sexuality might be a little left of mainstream. I have seen open BDSM on the Playa... I don't consider that sexual. It's more of a kind of foreplay. I've seen naked body contact between strangers, and in the context of the Human Carcass Wash, this is not sexual. I've seen D&S on the playa, and I don't consider that sexual. No, I'm pretty much limiting myself to obvious sexual contact, homo or hetero, between 2 or more people.
Burning Man is a highly charged environment. If you are a woman looking for sex, you will find it at Burning Man. Guys, the ratio of men to women is not in your favor.
Anyway... as I've said, I am probably the wrong person to ask about this.
Entertainment.... Let me put it this way, if you can't find something entertaining at Burning Man, go climb into your grave; you are already dead.
On any given day/night you might see... Fire dancers, jugglers, trapeze shows, bad movies, nude dancing, poetry readings, fashion shows, yoga classes, seminars on all topics, music shows, comedy shows, magic shows, challenge fights, strange vehicles, communal bathing, desert vistas, dust storms, beautiful women, handsome men, strange costumes, laser shows, flaming art, bars bars bars, games to play, slave auctions, fossil displays, video games mixed with flames, gambling lessons, parachutists, barbershop roulette, paint your body stations, bowling, strippers, trampolines, New Day's Eve celebrations, world famous DJ's (Tiesto) .... I've seen all of these. And I've only seen a portion of what is out there.
And if you can't find entertainment, then BE entertainment. Any contribution is appreciated. If you want to try your hand at stand up comedy... go to Center Camp, a stage is waiting for you. If you like to do dance in the morning sun.. get a listing in the What Where When and people will join you. Teach people a new skill... maybe you are the master of knots. People will love it (especially the bondage crowd).
Entertainment is in no short supply at Burning Man.
Perhaps the thing I had the most trepidation about, going to Burning Man the first time, was having to use a Porto-pottie for a solid week. Like everyone's, my past experience with Porto-potties varied from "ok" to "ICK!!!". I was sincerely worried about it being a week long "ICK!!!" It turned out that the whole experience was far from ICK... but there are some tips that are good to know ahead of time.
1) Leave plenty of time to go - Especially if you are in an unfamiliar part of town. You may head for where you think they are, but in the dark, discover that they are a block away from where you thought they were. And once you arrive there you may find a line of people ahead of you... and you need to leave time for everyone to take turns.
2) At night, bring a light - All the Porto's have the little indicator to show if they are occupied, but you can't see these in the dark. One night I failed to bring a light.. and I was in full stagger mode, so... I gamely asked for help and a well lit person helped me find the empty one. Another good reason to bring a light is so you can check out the inside of the thing before you commit to using it. It is possible that the inside may be disgusting in any of a number of ways, but without a light at night, you won't know to move on to the next booth.
3) Bring your own toilet paper - The service provider does a good job of papering the booths, but things happen and they do run out now and then. Keep some 1-ply paper with you (it must be 1-ply). I've found these small rolls in the past, and if I find that a particular Porto is out, I have left them behind as a gift to the next user.
4) Avoid using the handicapped Porto's ... unless you are handicapped - The reason is simple if non-obvious. The handicapped Porto's are larger in size than the normal ones, but as a result the actual container area is smaller than the normal Porto's. If these are used as much, they fill up faster, and you could get a kiss in the rear when you sit down. Besides, the handicapped people on the playa need these, so let em have em.
5) Knock - I can't count how many times I've seen people open up the door to a seemingly unoccupied Porto, only to find that, yes, it is indeed occupied. The person inside having forgotten to turn the little latch (or having exhibitionist tendencies... who knows). I give a little knock before I go in, unless I just saw the last person come out.
6) Lines - Lines form up at the Porto's like they do at a bank. If there are 20 Porto's in a row, then you might see 4 lines informally formed. The person at the front of the line is scanning the Porto's in front of them until someone exits and then they enter. This is something to remember if your need to go is urgent. Of course, you can advertise the greatness of your need, and people will probably cut you some slack and invite you to take their open door.
7) Urinals - At the end of many Porto lines you may find a larger Porto that is simply a urinal. If you have the means to use a urinal, then you can enter and go. There is little privacy, there may not even be a door, so this is something that is somewhat open to the public.
8) Pee Funnels - You many have noticed that when I talked about urinals I DID NOT say, if you are a MAN you can use them. If you have a pee funnel, then, as a woman, you are also perfectly capable of using the urinals. There is a camp - CAMP PEE FUNNEL (catchy name) that hands out hundreds of these (thousands) every year to women who would like to avoid sitting on the seats whenever possible. NOTE: Each individual Porto has both a seat and urinal. Women can use either as well as men - according to the need. (If you want to know where CAMP PEE FUNNEL is, just go to the Porto's. They usually advertise on the inside, posting poetry and other entertaining reading inside - or outside - on the door.)
9) Hand Sanitizer - There may be a hand sanitizer dispenser at one end of the Porto-potties. If may or may not be filled. Feel free to use it, but carry your own.
If you want to volunteer at Burning Man, there are a ton of ways to do it. I would not recommend volunteering your first year there. Honestly, you are going to be so awestruck with everything that the idea of working might not be your top priority... It will be more like - what's that over there... and over there... and what are they doing over there... and how can I do some of that... and look at this.. and I hear they are doing a trapeze demo at 3:00 and Brain... etc.. etc.. etc. Use your first year to take it all in, and decide what aspect of Burning Man works for you. Then, when you know you want it, find a job that suits you and give it a try... or find more than one that suits and do them all. Being part of making Black Rock City happen is great.
Below is a list of the ON-PLAYA volunteer opportunities. There are OFF-Playa organizations too, but you can look those up for yourself.
Each of these is a link.. if you want to know more.. just CLICK.
The Burn is a raucous, chaotic, celebration of whatever it is you want to celebrate. Nearly the entire city comes out to the Man to watch him burn.
The Rangers will have set up a circular perimeter around the man, and will be vaguely enforcing it - i.e. putting people back in the crowd who cross the perimeter.
The professional fire fighters will be on hand to take care of things should they somehow manage to get out of hand.
Around the crowd, every art car will be parked and fully packed with people to watch the burn. Music of all sorts is blaring from every vehicle. This is a night to party.
It's a good time to socialize and to think about what the year behind meant, and what the year ahead means. It's a little like New Years in that way, and Burners count the days between burns all year long.
The Man will be standing atop his structure. No one will have been in there for at least 24 hours before the burn so that fireworks and combustibles can be set up, and exhibits to be saved are removed.
At some point, the neon lit man will slowly raise his arms over his head. All week long he has stood, arms down. But now, minutes before his demise, he raises his arms triumphantly to tell the world he is ready. The crowd starts to go crazy.
As the time gets closer for the Man to fulfill his function, the fire spinners will take the field. Along with the drummers they will put on an amazing show of fire juggling skill. It's a great show to see, and these people practice all year to do it.
Eventually the fires will die down, and the drumming will cease. The crowd is ready. The man is ready. Everyone is shouting, "BURN THE MAN!!!!"
Then, the first explosion happens... the first burst of flame and fire works shoots up around the Man. Everyone is shouting even louder now. The fireworks are spectacular, all the more so because you know they are part of what sets everything else on fire. The Man is about to make his name... Burning Man.
Everyone is looking for that first sign of flame. The crowd is hollering. The fireworks are going off. .... and there it is.. look.. The building is starting to burn.
The building catches fire... the flames rise... The man stands there untouched. The blaze gets bigger. Everyone is cheering..
AND LOOK.. There.. The Man has started BURNING. His leg is on fire.. the flames traveling up his body. The neon lights on his body flicker and go out. His arms still up, he is slowly engulfed in flames. Everyone is cheering him on...
One arm drops. His body twists, but he is still standing. The building is nothing but a skeleton now... how can he still be standing. He is totally in flames. His other arm drops. The crowd shouts... It looks like ... It looks like.. he's starting to lean.
With one final farewell, the Man tumbles flaming into the giant flame below. The crowd screams it's approval and rushes toward the flames. There are those who want to be as close to this primitive right as possible. And there are others who watch from a distance and miss the Man. We won't see him again for another year... and so much can happen in a year.
This description is idealized... every burn is different. One year the Man stood so long, there was almost nothing left of the building below, and as he toppled he threw one arm up as if to say "SCREW YOU.. YOU CAN'T KEEP ME DOWN". Another year one arm fell, and the Man burned with one arm up, until it too fell before he went down. Every burn is different... and yet every burn is the same. It symbolizes whatever you want it to symbolize. Burning Man places no symbolism on it. Radical self reliance means you make of it what YOU will.
The Man burns on Saturday night, and marks the end of Burning Man - The partying goes on till dawn.
The Temple and the Temple Burn
Every year there is a temple. This is usually located out past the man in a straight line from Center Camp to the Man. The temple is different every year, but it's function is the same. If no temple was built I think people would make one because everyone has the need for a sacred space. The sacred space at Burning Man is where people come to remember, to grieve, to leave something behind, to unburden themselves, to contemplate whatever they need to contemplate.
At the temple you will find thousands of things, placed there by the population of Burning Man in remembrance of people who are not there. Poignant letters to dead parents, brothers, sisters, children. Pictures, and mementos of lives now gone. Letters of forgiveness, and letters asking forgiveness. Prayers, jokes, some eloquent, and some just a name. People bring a part of themselves to the Temple, and leave it there.
The temple is a sacred place.... and the temple burns. It burns on Sunday - the day after the man.
The burn of the temple is a completely different affair from that of the Man. In a similar manner the crowd gathers in a circle, and the art cars around them. But it's a much more subdued crowd. People will talk and the art cars may have music, but once the burn starts, everything goes quiet. People are thinking about what they left there... about loved ones missed and memories. It's strange how quiet the burn can be. There are no fireworks before hand.. just a group that lights the fire and leaves. (There may be firecrackers inside the temple in the Chinese tradition, but nothing that shoots up into the sky). People might shout out names, but that's about all you are going to hear as the temple burns. Everyone watches until they are personally satisfied, and then leaves. I've never heard the kind of mob hysteria at the temple burn as I have at the burning of the Man.
If you have someone to remember - or something your soul needs to share with the universe, this is a good way to do it. I've used it myself, and put things there for others.
Once the Man burns, Exodus begins. Now, if you leave right after the Man or the Temple burns, you can probably avoid traffic. If you leave at any other time be prepared to sit and wait. Getting into Burning Man might have taken you and hour or so... getting out can take half a day. This is when Black Rock Radio comes in real handy. They will have exodus updates going the whole time. There are volunteers who will direct traffic, but with 30,000 people trying to leave all at once.. one one dirt road that leads to a two lane road through a town where the speed limit is 20 miles and hour... well.. your gonna sit for a long time. Be prepared to entertain yourself.
Course, before Exodus you have to break camp. Somehow, things never pack back the way you packed them out. And now, everything is covered in a layer of dust that you will never fully remove. The tent does not go back into the sack it came in; neither does your sleeping back. And how did you end up with all this left over food... dang. And then there is the Moop. You pull your tent down and for some reason there is all this stuff under it that wasn't there when you set it up. Glow sticks; bits of paper; a cup. Got to de-moop your camp. Got to de-moop the common area. And should spend some time de-mooping the public areas around your camp. Maybe even some time out on the playa.
Things that can burn, you don't have to take home. Public burn tanks have appeared at the ends of the spoke streets, and you can toss some things in there. Make sure the go in and stay in... and don't fly out in the wind. You are supposed to take your ashes home with you, but honestly the thing is too hot to even get close too - forget taking home your share of the ashes. Just make sure that whatever you put in burns clean (non-toxic) and stays in until it burns.
Okay.. you broke camp. You de-mooped. You packed up. You packed your garbage and your grey water. You contributed left over's to the DPW on the way out of town (canned food for example). You sat in Exodus for hours, until you finally hit the highway. And you got through Gerlach and are now on the open road. The same rules apply ----
Don't get caught speeding - they will be looking for you, and now they know you are anxious to get home.
Don't leave trash on the road. Every year you see people who failed to tie stuff down out picking up what fell off. It might be bikes, tents, whatever.. it all flies off. And if it's trash and it's not picked up, that means that the DPW will have to do it later. (NOTE: The DPW has the chore every year of cleaning up the entire stretch of road between Nixon and Gerlach - all 75 miles of it. Don't add to their pain.)
Drive safely. This is particularly important because you will be sleep deprived and physically worn out from the desert environment. You windows will be filthy from a weeks worth of dust. And there will crazy people in a hurry who will be passing you in a dangerous manner only to get a few more yards up the road. Be patient, it's just as bad for everyone else.
The last thing I do that is my little Burning Man tradition is to stop at the Arby's on route 80. And order my first meal that doesn't come with playa dust. I hit the rest room and wash my hands - 4 times. I eat my meal. Then I wash my hands again - 3 or 4 times. It doesn't matter. Some of that playa is not going to come out for a week.
And that... is Burning Man.
When you arrive at Burning Man you are expected to have everything you will need to survive in the desert for the period of time you will be staying. Burning Man does not sell food, or water. It does not provide shelter or trash removal. It does not arrange RV pump outs, or provide gasoline.
If you are going to need it at Burning Man, you better bring it with you.
So a check list is a good thing to have. The following is gleaned from experience and from other people's checklists. There is probably much on here you will not need, and things missing that you will. This is, however, the best checklist I could come up with and the one I use every year.
For those of you NOT camping with a theme camp that has these facilities you might want to think about bringing even more stuff:
Your car should be well equipped as well. Some of the roads are pretty desolate, and you are responsible for yourself from the time you leave home until the time you return.
And last, but not least, bring your common sense. If your brain says don't do that it looks dangerous...DON'T DO IT.
Not previously covered
It's hard to answer every question - hell it's hard to THINK of most of the questions. I've tried to be as thorough as possible here, but I know there are some topics that didn't fit in anywhere above, but that are worth a mention. So this is my catch all area for topics not addressed above.
Death and Injury
Black Rock City is a city in almost every sense of the word. With a population of 60,000 you would expect, in any given week, some percentage of injuries and deaths.
Injuries happen. Some are self inflicted (like severe sun burn). Others can be accidents (like being hit by a bike). They happen and the medical team handles them. Things that can be handled there will be (like that severe sun burn or dehydration). If they cannot handle it, then transportation to a medical facility is arranged (I don't think they set broken bones for instance). You may be out in the desert, but you are not far from decent medical help (you are not close either, so don't be stupid).
Death is another matter. Burning Man used to maintain that no one had ever died at the event. This was usually because they would die at the hospital, or while being transported off playa. However now, people have died on the Playa. The first death at Burning Man during my experience was a young woman named Katherine Lampman who attempted to exit an art car while it was in motion. She lost her footing and fell. The generator wagon hitched to the art car may also have run over her, but, from what I heard, she died due to blunt force trauma to the brain. The playa can be as hard as cement. It is not soft. Her death was a tragedy that everyone felt. If you want to read more details about the accident, the best can be found here
The second death in my experience happened in 2015. A friend and I were walking at night, and I pointed out lights near center camp. "Those are not happy lights", was my comment as I could tell it was a gathering of police vehicles. An hour later as we walked to center camp - the were still there - which meant something very bad had happened. Sure enough, another person, while trying to get on a moving art car. Alicia Cipicchio from Wyoming, tried to jump on the Shagadelica bus while it was moving to climb a ladder to its roof, between the bus and trailer. She died at the scene. More information is available here.
The moral of the story. DO NOT TRY TO ENTER OR EXIT AN ART CAR WHILE IT IS MOVING
Death does happen at Burning Man - which is why it is specifically mentioned on the back of your ticket.As in any town of this size, there are many ways to die. It is up to you to be responsible for your actions and safety so that DEATH (hopefully) does not come looking for you while you are at Burning Man.
If you want to read more about deaths at Burning Man from someone with a greater historical perspective than mine check this link.
A note about Emergency Transport
Should you find yourself injured at Burning Man in a manner that will require the services of a hospital, you will be sent to the hospital. Your transportation will depend on the seriousness of your injury - Ambulance or Helicopter. THIS IS NOT A FREE SERVICE !!! You could find yourself waking up in RENO with a tranport bill of $20,000 for the helicopter ride, or a little less for the near 100 mile ambulance ride. (To provide some perspective, my wife and I were in an auto accident, and we were charged $1,500 for a 4 mile ambulance ride to the hospital - EACH!). You can buy insurance for $55 that will pay for this transportation; a wise investment depending on the health of your heart or the amount of partying you expect to do.
Suicide at Burning Man
In 2007 Burning Man had its first ever suicide. It was widely reported in the outside world that the person hung themselves from the Man, and the thousands of people thought it was some work of art. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The suicide happened in a very large tent set up by Comfort and Joy - the camp right across the street from where PolyParadise, and I was camped. (It happened about 60 yards from my tent). This tent was huge, near 2.5 stories high, and contained a chandelier. The person who committed suicide used the rope from the chandelier to hang himself.
The guys at Comfort and Joy are some of the nicest people on the playa. They sure didn't deserve to have this happen at their camp. But then, I am sure this person did not mean anything by the location he chose, other than it was available. The whole thing is sad. Especially since mental health services were just down the road about 150 yards away.
The following is a letter sent out by the Comfort and Joy camp after the event.
On the morning of Thursday, August 30th a young man from Colorado chose to end his life in the rafters of a public tent at Comfort & Joy.
Though he was unknown to us, in the wake of his passing we're learning from those who knew him that he was creative, kind, unconventional and smart, and that he was regarded with affection by many.
His final act, committed in solitude, has one lasting effect as it brings us together to mark his passing. To all who have offered our camp their sympathy and support during this time, thank you. To all who knew him, please accept our sincere condolences.
It is estimated that there was an one hour interval between the last visit to the tent by a camp member, and the discovery of the body by a second camp member. It is believed that the tent was unoccupied during this time, and that there were no witnesses to the suicide.
One other individual, not associated in any way with the camp, was in the tent at the time the body was discovered. Emergency personnel were immediately contacted by camp members. Authorities responded within minutes and closed the scene upon arrival.
The Black Rock City Rangers, Sheriffs and other law enforcement officials who assisted us with this incident were very professional, supportive, and helpful to us at a difficult time. We are grateful for their services. We are also thankful for the warm and organized support we have received from the grief counselors from the Black Rock City Mental Health Team. They helped us openly discuss what had happened and come to a shared understanding of the morning's events.
Much of our camp was quarantined while the coroners did their jobs and we canceled that day's events (a yoga class, a queer discussion group, glitter body painting and a watercolor painting workshop).
As a camp, we decided to make a contribution to David Best's Temple of Forgiveness, where people can mourn, remember, write messages and leave items to be ceremonially burned on Sunday night. We felt the rope the young man used represented the terrible violence he committed upon himself and the people around him. By sending the rope up in flames, we hoped to allow some of that pain to disperse. None of us believe that this young man wanted to trouble us with his actions.
The members of Comfort & Joy extend their deepest sympathy to all who knew this young man. Our hearts go out to his family, friends, and special people in his life. Although we will never know or understand him the way you did, he indeed touched us as well, made us grow, and hopefully become better individuals. May the rest of his journey be peaceful and lead him to the joy we all seek in our lives.
We look forward to continuing our mission of creating positive, warm and supportive queer community both in Black Rock City and the Bay Area.
With love and respect,
The Comfort & Joy Family - http://www.playajoy.org
Minors at Burning Man
Burning Man, though an adult event, is not an adults only event. Minors accompanied by a parent or guardian are welcome. I've seen every age from infant to teen at Burning Man. It's actually kind of fun to watch families enjoying the experience together.
Some might not agree, thinking that Burning Man should restrict the age of participants, and I can half see their point. There are many things out there to which you would not want to expose children. Drug usage, and open sexuality being two of those.
But, if you monitor your kids, they won't encounter any of these. Instead they will encounter a magical world that celebrates art, celebrates community, and is open and accepting of diversity. The experience can be magical for them, and be a means of bringing families closer together.
There is even a camp devoted to providing the kind of environment that is safe for kids at Burning Man. KidsVille (http://blackrockkids.org/) is where many families camp. In this environment there are always adults looking out for the youngsters, and for inappropriate behavior of the passers by (they have signs up requesting G-Rated behavior on the streets around the camp).
It's something to remember while you are there, that Burning Man is open to everyone, and that your behavior matters - to everyone.
Water. You need it to live. You will need it MORE at Burning Man. Dehydration is probably the most common medical problem encountered at Burning Man (other than sunburn). The following is quoted from Wikipedia:
Dehydration is best avoided by drinking plenty of water. The greater the amount of water lost through perspiration, the more water must be consumed to replace it and avoid dehydration. Since the body cannot tolerate large deficits or excesses in total body water, consumption of water must be roughly concurrent with the loss (in other words, if one is perspiring, one should also be drinking water frequently). Drinking water slightly beyond the needs of the body entails no risk, since the kidneys will efficiently remove any excess water through the urine with a large margin of safety. A person's body, during an average day in a temperate climate such as the United Kingdom, loses approximately 2.5 liters of water. This can be through the lungs as water vapor, through the skin as sweat, or through the kidneys as urine. Some water (a less significant amount, in the absence of diarrhea) is also lost through the bowels. In warm or humid weather or during heavy exertion, however, the water loss can increase by an order of magnitude or more through perspiration—all of which must be promptly replaced. In extreme cases, the losses may be great enough to exceed the body's ability to absorb water from the gastrointestinal tract; in these cases, it is not possible to drink enough water to stay hydrated, and the only way to avoid dehydration is to reduce perspiration (through rest, a move to a cooler environment, etc.). A useful rule of thumb for avoiding dehydration in hot or humid environments or during strenuous activity involves monitoring the frequency and character of urination. If one develops a full bladder at least every 3-5 hours and the urine is only lightly colored or colorless, chances are that dehydration is not occurring; if urine is deeply colored, or urination occurs only after many hours or not at all, water intake may not be adequate to maintain proper hydration.
In other words you want to PISS CLEAR !!! (hence the name of the BRC newspaper).
Coming to Burning Man you will need to bring at least 1.5 gallons of water for every day you plan to spend. That is a minimum.
You should also have a means of carrying water with you. I recommend a camel back as it leaves your hands free to play.
Drink BEFORE you feel thirsty. If you wait until you are thirsty, it may already be too late. Make it a habit to drink every couple of minutes (like every 15 or so - convenient to do with a camel back). Don't think that alcohol is a substitute. It will add to your dehydration. I drink a lot of alcohol at night, but I also have my bag of water, and I drink from it often.
It's a strange sensation when you are way out on the playa, and suddenly drink your camel back dry. I've done it a few times, and I don't carry a small one.
Burning Man for the Handicapped
Burning Man is for everyone; including the handicapped.
Okay, let me state right off, I don't know anyone who is handicapped (other than myself in some ways), and I don't know all the politically correct words that someone writing this piece might want to use. But I've interacted with handicapped people at Burning Man, and found them to be no different than any other Burner.
And, like everyone else, there is a "handicap-oriented" camp at Burning Man. Hot Wheelz is a camp run by and for handicapped persons. If you need assistance, these are the people that can make it happen for you.
One bit of advice I can give, and have confirmed, is that wheelchairs work better than electric carts out there. The larger wheels work better on the playa than the smaller cart wheels. If you run into problems with your wheel chair or cart, the HOT WHEELZ camp has the spare parts, people, and know-how to fix you up and get you going again.
If you are in a wheel chair, don't let that stop you from coming to Burning Man if you think its the kind of experience you want to have. You will survive and thrive.
If you want more information about Hot Wheelz Camp hit http://groups.msn.com/HotWheelzCamp (by the way, I love their logo)
And if you want to read the official Burning Man advice on wheelchairs and handicapped accessibility, it's right here http://www.burningman.com/preparation/event_survival/wheelchair.html
Burning Man for the Medicated
I am diabetic. There are specific medications I need to take on a daily basis, or risk losing control of my blood sugar levels and doing myself permanent harm. There are many people at Burning Man who require medication or medical attention. The basic rules for these people is the same as for everyone else - YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOURSELF.
Bring DOUBLE the medication you may think you need. When you arrive, put half of it in one location, and half of it in another (your vehicle and your tent). If necessary, make your camp mates aware of your medical condition and the location of your meds.
Monitor yourself - your level of hydration is very important - if you are not adequately hydrated, your meds may not work as well, or your symptoms could kick in faster than you expect.
Sleep deprivation is a common problem. Ask your doctor if this will impact your condition and watch your sleep. It is NOISY at Burning Man, and it does not stop at night. Bring ear plugs if you think you will need them. Also, be aware that as the day proceeds the inside of your tent will get hotter - and harder to sleep in. Fear not, as there are plenty of cool places to sleep at Burning Man (for example: you will find many people asleep at any time of the day at Center Camp, but the couches fill up fast.).
KNOW YOUR PHARMACIST - Fully aware that you are expected to obey all federal, state and local laws, it may come to pass that you decide to "give in and give <fill in blank> a try". As difficult as it might be, discuss with your doctor how different and possibly unprescribable drugs might interact with your particular malady. And, upon making the decision to give something a try, make sure you are getting what you think you are getting. KNOW YOUR PHARMACIST!!!!
As a medicated person you just have one more thing to look out for compared to other Burners. Know your limits; Prepare ahead of time; and monitor your body, and you will be fine.
There is specific medical advice on the Burning Man site. The following is quoted from a bulletin that was sent out some time ago:
The health and safety link for Burning Man is: http://www.burningman.com/preparation/event_survival/health_safety.html
Here you can read FAQs and information about a variety of topics, including:
Emergencies on and off the Playa
The following is what BMORG has to say about emergencies....
Q: What do I do if I get hurt or sick on the playa?
A: We hope, of course, that you won't get sick or hurt...but being radically self-reliant also means remembering to bring a first aid kit (http://www.burningman.com/preparation/event_survival/playa_firstaid.html) and self-treating yourself and your campmates for minor first aid needs. Should your illness or injury be more severe than you can manage without help, there are Emergency Services medical stations on the 3:00 and 9:00 plazas, and behind the Center Cafe at 6:00. Look for the neon blue cross on top of the buildings. These stations are staffed by emergency health care providers (doctors, nurses, medics, etc.) who donate their time and medical expertise to the city as their gift to us all.
Q: What if they can't manage my problem?
A: If the on-site medical providers feel that you have a medical emergency that requires a higher level of care than can be provided on the playa, you may need to visit a hospital in Reno. Depending on the seriousness of your condition, that can be accomplished by either getting a ride from a friend, or being transported by an ambulance or helicopter. Remember to bring your ID, insurance card, cell phone, and wallet when you go, so you can take care of yourself accordingly. Also, note that if you get transported by ambulance or helicopter, you'll need to arrange for a friend to pick you up after your care. There are no shuttles from the hospitals back to the playa.
Q: Is there a clinic in Gerlach?
A: The Gerlach Medical Center <http://www.nvrhc.org/gerlach.htm> is open Monday through Friday, 8 AM - 12 PM and 1 PM - 5 PM. The Gerlach Medical Center is a family medicine clinic offering limited urgent care, laboratory, x-ray, and women's health services.
Q: How much does it cost to see a doctor in Gerlach?
A: An average doctor visit usually costs between $100 and $300, plus the cost of any laboratory tests, x-rays, and prescriptions you may need. The clinic accepts insurance as well as Visa, MasterCard, Discover, traveler's checks, personal checks (with identification) or cash
Q: Where can I get a prescription filled?
A: It's best to bring adequate supplies that you need to the playa. Should you need to get a prescription refilled, though, the closest pharmacies are in Fernley or Reno. The Gerlach Medical Clinic has a "closed pharmacy", meaning they can only fill prescriptions written by their physicians during a visit to the clinic...not refills of your existing scrip .
Q: What if friends or family at home need to reach me for an emergency?
A: Unfortunately, given the nature of the event, finding a participant on the playa is usually quite challenging. Cell phones don't work, and people don't generally have satellite phones. There is but limited internet access. Now add the fact that addresses on the playa are inexact even if you _do_ know where you're camping ahead of time, and finding a person's camp can become very difficult. Preparation will help you stay in touch in an emergency.
Q: How can friends or family send me a message?
A: Emergency messages should be sent to 911(at)burningman.com . The message will be passed to the Black Rock Rangers, who will do their best to deliver it. We will also make the message available at Playa Info in Center Camp, so if you're awaiting news or expecting emergency transmissions, you might want to plan to check in each day.
Q: What details should be included in an emergency message?
A: The message should include first and last name, as well as any known nickname that you might go by around camp. It should also include the name of your theme camp or other affiliation (volunteer team, etc.), and its location if known, along with your vehicle make/license plate and any other unique features that will help with the search (such as, "camp has a 20 foot inflatable duck," etc.)
Q: What can prevent me from getting the message?
A: Just a few of the variables that can get in the way: your camp relocates, or nobody's ever in camp when we come seek you out; your camp spot is obscured from view by other camps; the 20 foot inflatable duck deflates due to a leak; there are three camps with 20-foot inflatable ducks, and none of the neighbors know anyone named "Chris" because you have been introducing yourself all week as "Captain Underpants, Lord of the Duck People!" You get the picture. In other words, you're heading to the middle of the desert, and there is no guarantee that we'll be able to deliver a message in an emergency; it's important to weigh that before you leave home. If you are awaiting news, you can actively check in at Playa Info, and in truly dire circumstances, you can take the bus into Gerlach to use the pay phone there.
Note: In addition I would add that, if you bring a laptop that is Wi-Fi enabled, you may be able to use e-mail. There is usually Wi-Fi in and around Playa Info, so check there. Don't look to then to provide you with a laptop or a computer with internet access. Bring your own or borrow one from someone helpful.
Safety on the Playa
Of course, the Burning Man website also has several safety tips for life on the playa, including things you might not think about...
The Burning Man Ranch
The BMORG maintains a "ranch" near the town of Gerlach where equipment is stored from year to year. The Man is made here. You may hear of it from time to time. I had heard of it, so decided to drop in and see the place for myself, and contribute an afternoon's worth of work. Felt good to do something for Burning Man before the event ever occurs.
Burning Man Public Relations
The BMORG does plenty for public relations. First and foremost is the Burning Man web site. This is the face that most people see when they start to think about Burning Man. One the web site is everything you could want to know... and if you can't find it there is a link to something called E-playa.
E-Playa is the public forum where people discuss, joke, rant, rave, and generally have at it on any topic anyone cares to mention. If you have ANY question or comment on Burning Man, this is the place to raise it and see who salutes. It's well worth a browse.
The BMORG realizes that it has a huge impact on the small town of Gerlach, NV. This tiny mining town is inundated yearly by huge crowds of strange people who completely destroy their life-style for 2 weeks (before and after time included). There is also a year round impact as the Burning Man Ranch stores material, art, and people who work on projects year round there.
To mitigate this impact Burning Man makes contributions to the community. Profits from the sale of Ice and Coffee are donated to local school districts. Money has been contributed to restore historic artifacts within the town. And, newly started, Burning Man is going to attempt to make Gerlach the first town in America that generates more electricity than it uses by installing solar panels in/near the town. This as part of the Greening of Burning Man.
In 2007 Burning Man, realizing the impact of global warming, and it's own contribution to the problem (burning the Man is not exactly carbon free), began a greening of Burning Man effort. The BMORG will be switching to vehicles that run on alternate fuels (cooking oil) and carbon credits will be purchased to offset the carbon footprint of the Burning Man event.
When news of the disaster in New Orleans reached Black Rock City people immediately started donating goods to be sent there. Piles of material appeared during Exodus. An organization was formed called Burners Without Borders. Not only did they help in reconstruction in New Orleans, but as volunteers with Habitat for Humanity. One small recent accomplishment was the return of bon fires to Ocean Beach in San Francisco. The National Park Service was ready to ban all fires until Burners Without Borders stepped up and offered to make 12 large, safe, artistic fire pits which the Surf Riders Foundation will monitor and keep clean.
Burning Man is about ART.. and has sponsored artists both on and off the Playa. If you drive the Embarcadero in San Francisco you will some giant metal people who debuted on the Playa. Other examples of organizations that have received donations from Burning Man..: Crisis Call Center Empire 4-H Club, Friends of the Black Rock, Gerlach General Improvement District (GGID), Gerlach High School, Gerlach Medical Clinic, Gerlach Volunteer Fire Department, Leave No Trace, Nevada Museum of Art, Nevada Outdoor School, Friends of the Library, Kid's, Horses & Rodeos, Lovelock/Pershing Chamber of Commerce, Marzen House Museum, Pershing County Humane Society, Pershing County School System, Pershing County Senior Center, Lovelock Boy Scouts Association, People to People Programs, 23five, Black Rock Arts Foundation, Epic Arts, and The Crucible.
Also.. Marzen House Museum, Pershing County School District, Friends of the Library, Pershing County Senior Center and the Pershing County Humane Society. Burning Man is also pledging funds toward the repair of the antique Seth-Thomas clock located in downtown Lovelock’s historical Courthouse Park. Additionally, Burning Man is partnering with the Pershing County Chamber of Commerce to create an online resource guide on the official Burning Man web site. The guide will encourage Burning Man participants to visit the inns, restaurants and shops of Pershing County
As you can see, Burning Man is about much more than a party in the desert, and has a positive impact on many of the things it affects.
The YAHOO/FRAT BOY factor
Even Burners are guilty of using stereo-types, and "Frat Boy" is not a good one. It may be a stereo type, but it's an effective shorthand for a minor problem that occurs at Burning Man. Toward the end of the week a certain percentage of the population represents those people who either don't get or don't care about what Burning Man is about. To them it's a chance to drink, watch naked girls, gawk, and watch rather than participate. I would imagine that this is a factor in any large crazy event ... e.g.. Carnival in Rio, Mardi Gra in New Orleans, etc. These are the people who will litter, throw things in the Porto's that don't belong there, and generally stand around with beers in their hands wondering if they can get laid. Boorish.
The biggest impact this has had on me in the past is that they are like "ring around the collar" when I want to go dancing. I'll find a place that is pumping out the music I want to dance to, locate a place to drop my bike, and then have to fight my way through this band of (usually tall, beer drinking) guys who have surrounded the dancing venue. They are not dancing. They are not talking. They are just standing and staring. It's kind of creepy. Sometimes a small group of them will wander through the dancers.. no, they are not dancing.. just looking to see what they can see. Happy to bump into you, and always a beer in hand.
Search for the phrase FRAT BOY on the e-playa bbs and you will get lots of hits. And lots of complaints. It's just something to be aware of if you find the vibe around you changing.
How to get even MORE information about Burning Man and Burning Man associated events
BMORG has a regular (semi) e-mail newsletter packed with information for Burners, about Burners, etc. It's called "Jackrabbit Speaks", and you can subscribe for free. Here are the instructions:
TO SUBSCRIBE: email@example.com
You'll get an email to which you must respond to complete the request.
To UNSUBSCRIBE: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you have questions:
email@example.com any time with questions.
And to look at old versions of JackRabbit Speaks, go to http://www.burningman.com/blackrockcity_yearround/jrs/
The following section contains tips not mentioned before... Remember:
Good judgment comes from experience....
and experience... well.. that comes from bad judgment.
So you be the judge about whether these ideas are useful for you.
What to carry with you wherever you go...
From experience I carry a few things with me at all times while wandering around the Playa. These are:
Much is made of foot care on the playa, and so it should be. The playa dust is very alkaline. You can go barefoot if you wish, but the drying ability of the playa dust will cause your feet to crack - you will get a case of playa foot. Daily foot care is very important at Burning Man. You will be walking more than normal; dancing more than normal; and doing it in an environment that is not conducive to good foot health. Clean feet and clean socks are important in the morning. It is not unusual to see people sitting around giving group foot massages as part of this regimen. A second pair of socks later in the day will feel great and help keep your feet healthy so you can party through the night.
The Burning Man web site maintains a whole page devoted to this. Take a gander at it here.
If you plan on getting around in Black Rock City - doing significant exploration of your town, then you will need a playa-bike. My first year, I walked everywhere. This is fine, but by the end of the week I could not stand, literally. So the next year I spent a whopping $40 on a bike, and it's been my playa bike ever since. I still walk a lot (hell, it wasn't until 3 years later I decided to try riding my bike while in stagger mode... hey.. it worked... hey.. it was scary), but for getting around quickly, there is nothing like having a bike.
DO NOT BRING YOUR BEST BIKE TO THE PLAYA.
DO NOT BRING A BIKE YOU WILL REGRET LOSING TO THE PLAYA.
Jump on Craig's List and find yourself a cheap or free bike. Do a little maintenance on it before you go to be sure it's up to snuff. Bring a few extra parts (a tube and some lube is good). And you should be fine.
Decorate it. Light it. and you are good to go.
And remember... if you have a break down and want your bike fixed... there's a camp for that at Burning Man. Just go looking for it.
Now, bike loss is a big problem at Burning Man... notice I don't say bike theft. Much of the time someone picks up a bike, rides if to where they are going, and only THEN realizes that it is not their bike. Hey.. it's hard to pick out your bike from a stack of a thousand or more. So bring a bike lock
Now, your bike lock does not have to be made of kryptonite... no one wants to go to that much trouble. I just put a master lock on the spokes so that if someone does try to ride off with my bike it will rattle and clunk and eventually they will think either, "Hey, this ain't my bike" ,or, "Man, this bike sucks" and quickly abandon it. Either way, it's unlikely they will go far with it.
Also, put some lights on your bike.. and leave em on. Glow sticks work great for this. If your bike is lit up in some way, then you will be able to find it when YOU want. Also, EL wire which is discussed below.
Don't forget a headlight. You will need a headlight on moon-less nights. It's easy to run into some bit of unlit art in the dark, or some unlit person.
When you drop your bike, memorize where. Check around for some landmark that is nearby so you can go back to that landmark later (and make it a unique landmark... just saying, by the lamp post won't cut it.. there are a couple hundred of those - by the 3rd lamppost south of the Man - is much better - Under the Man's left leg - bingo). I have to believe that half the "someone stole my bike" stories are really, "I dropped it and don't remember where..."
Lastly, Burning Man does have an official line when it comes to stolen bikes. No bikes are considered lost or stolen until the event is over. Playa Info will not help you find your lost bike, until the final day when Burning Man is clearing out, and bikes are left on the Playa. At THAT point in time they are considered truly LOST. The advice most given when someone says my bike was stolen is to go back to where you last saw it... it's possible the person who took it by mistake may bring it back in exchange for their own (which logically should be somewhere nearby)
Gifting at Burning Man can take many forms. Things, events, experiences; can all be gifts. I've had people recite a poem for me. I've had people issue me citizenship cards into newly invented countries. I've gotten a massage. I've received bits of crafted items. And I have received alcohol in mass quantities. A gift is anything you want to give freely without the expectation of something in return.
My first year all I had to give was labor and volunteer services at my camp.
The next year I started crafting objects to hand out - wearable art.
One year I gave out buttons - the art of which is on another page here somewhere.
I still give labor and volunteer services at my camp. I've worked shifts at Playa Info, and provided labor to prepare the Temple for burning one year. I spent an afternoon at the Burning Man Ranch re-enforcing stage sections. And one year I simply let people vent - by manning the complaints desk.
A gift is anything you want to give freely ... feel free to be creative. Though it might seem silly, people will love you for it.
A few notes about gifts: Make them moopless. It's probably best not to give "wrapped" things - because now someone needs to figure out what to do with the wrapper. Feather Boas, or items that won't hold up in the wind are out. Useful things are always appreciated (lip balm and sunscreen come to mind). Some people may refuse your gift, and that is fine. And gifts are not just for your fellow Burners - the LEO's and Fire fighters enjoy them too.
Regarding alcohol as a gift: I confess, I drink much more alcohol at Burning Man than I do in the real world. I would say that I consume more alcohol in a week at Burning Man than I do in a year of default world drinking. Now, I know that most bars will make a gift of alcohol to anyone who walks up. But if I find a bar I like, I like to gift back, thus ensuring the supply later in the week when things are getting low. I used to buy the large bottles of liquor thinking that this was cheaper and more efficient. Might be true, but for gifting purposes, the smaller bottle work better. A) I can carry them more easily in my back pack and B) I can bring several more of them and gift more bars with better liquor. (I myself always carry a flask of Johnny Walker Black - and bottle of JW to gift and various kinds of Vodka. I'll start the evening with something pre-mixed - like screwdrivers, switch to vodka and whatever they are offering mid-evening, and end by trying to drain the JW Black.)
Gifting is fun. I wouldn't worry about it my first year. You will find plenty of opportunities to give of yourself without having to bring material goods.
Lights Lights Lights
It's best not to walk around at night without wearing some kind of lights. Every year about a month before the event I jump on E-bay and buy 2 tubes of 8 inch glow sticks. These come with ends to make rings out of em. I put them on my bike and my back pack, so whether I am walking or biking, people will see me. Get GLOW before you GO.
Also, there is a thing called EL wire (Electroluminescent wire). This is a wire that, under a small current, will glow like neon and comes in lots of colors. You can read all the technical stuff on wikipediahttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/El_wire. The point here is, this is great stuff to use on your bike, or yourself, to provide light at night. I usually tape some around the frame of my bike and when I ride I turn it on to give my bike a nice look. When I walk away from the bike I leave it on to make it easier to find in the dark. A couple of AA batteries will power these things for a long time.
A flash light to check out Porto-pottie occupation (as well as other uses) is a good thing, mentioned before. Keep this in your camel back. It doesn't have to be large.. just bright enough to see the doors from about 8 feet back.
A CAMP light. If you are setting up your tent in the dark you will want either a nice powerful lamp, or a head lamp. I like the head lamps. I find them best for utility work. But for general lighting I like something that will send light in all directions. One for outside sitting around, and one hanging from the roof of my tent on the inside is perfect.
A light on your bike is good. Now, you could get away with the head lamp you have for setting up camp, but that doesn't work for me because I wear a hat while out on the playa. So I have to have something mounted on the bike so I don't run into things on the playa (things being people, art, or deep ruts that may exist out there).
Finally, keep a flashlight in your car. If you are like me, your car becomes part of your storage space while at Burning Man, and though it may have an overhead lamp, you'll like to have a flashlight in there to do the deep searching (FRACK!!!! Where did that extra film go.)
So, to summarize... I bring the following lights with me...
Bring a camera to Burning Man, but remember, the environment is harsh, and can affect the way things work. I bring 1 digital, and 2 film cameras. The film cameras are primarily for taking time-exposures at night, but make good backups should the digital fail. The digital is a good one; people think I am crazy for bringing it, but I want to take decent pictures, and I'm the kind of person that expects things to do their job - including my camera. Okay, so you never quite get the dust off the body ever again, but I like using it.
You can read lots of tips about how to protect your camera from the dust - putting in in a plastic bag, even using it that way. Different ways to keep it clean. The only thing I believe is an absolute MUST is to put a U/V Haze filter on it to keep the dust off the lens. Cleaning a U/V Haze filter is much easier than cleaning a lens, and playa dust on a sensitive lens cannot be a good idea.
Remember, when using your camera - ask permission if you are photographing individuals. Try not to be a troll... if people don't want their picture taken, don't take it. Always ask permission when taking pictures that include minors - parents could have problems in the default world if pictures of their children at Burning Man show up on the Internet. And always register video cameras.
Driving on the Playa
From Jack-Rabbit Speaks
A public service announcement about driving on the playa from the Intercept Crew of the Black Rock Rangers:
As you may know, the Special Recreation Permit that allows Burning Man to take place contains a number of stipulations specifically related to motor vehicle use. Addressing vehicle safety concerns within Black Rock City is the responsibility of the Black Rock Rangers. The Rangers' Intercept Program was created in 2004 to address concerns that internal vehicle safety issues would otherwise be dealt with by law enforcement agencies. This is the most important point in understanding the rationale behind Intercept--If we don't address these issues ourselves, someone else will.
As a Citizen of Black Rock City, what do I need to know about driving on the playa?
First and foremost, if you are not authorized to drive on the playa, DON'T DRIVE during Burning Man. The ONLY people who ARE authorized to drive on the playa are registered mutant vehicles with visible licensure from the Department of Mutant Vehicles, artists placing art on the Playa with permits from the Artery, registered disabled persons displaying licensure and a placard, and limited staff vehicles.
ALWAYS operate an APPROVED vehicle in a safe manner. Remember that Black Rock City is primarily a BIKE AND PEDESTRIAN CITY. Take that in to account when operating a mutant vehicle.
Our established community standard is for vehicles to operate at 5 MPH or less. The unique characteristics of many mutated vehicles require drivers to exercise particular care when faced with limited peripheral vision and/or loading and unloading passengers. Please take this into consideration.
All of the laws and restrictions that apply to driving in the default world also apply on the playa. Additionally, playa conditions require that all vehicles STOP during white-out conditions, that you not drive on wet roads, and that you operate at speeds of even less than 5MPH if your vehicle is creating a dust plume in its wake.
What do Intercept Rangers do while interacting with vehicles operating on the playa?
First and foremost, we are Black Rock Rangers, volunteering our time to assist the community. We are available as a resource for vehicle safety, ensuring that citizens, drivers and mutant vehicles are operating in a responsible manner when it comes to driving/riding on the playa in our primarily pedestrian city. We are prone to stopping people to just chat about their kick-ass vehicles ... please chat with us if you can.
If you are placing art on the playa and your driving permit is a temporary slip of paper that we can't see from afar, please be patient with us if we stop you more than once; it's what we have to do.
We track interactions based on the VEHICLE, not just the driver. One person on your crew driving unsafely can ruin things for everyone.
Remember, in Black Rock City, driving is a privilege. More information about driving protocols can be found on Burningman.com: www.burningman.com
If there is more you need to know, you can find it at www.burningman.com - if there is a specific question you want to ask, try the e-playa section of that web page. If you want to see pictures, there are plenty on other parts of THIS web site, and all over the Internet. Video too.
What is Burning Man?
Burning Man is what you go there to find. If you want a wild week long drug crazed party, you can find that. If you want a spiritual experience with like minded people, you can find that. If you want amazing art, you can find that. If you long for people that share your interests and passions, you can find that. Whatever it is you want to find at Burning man, you can probably find it there. Burning Man will give back to you what you put into it. It is greater than the sum of its parts; the most important part of your experience being YOU. Not everyone who goes will enjoy it. It's not for everyone. If you expect to be served, respected, and entertained for just being there, it may not work for you. But if you come looking for something and willing to give something back - even if it is just an open mind and a smile - then Burning Man might just be for you.