Burning Man: Chapter 1 The Journey Ahead

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This is crazy. This is crazy. This is crazy. My childhood brain recoils back flashing images of a near naked Chevy Chase about to take the plunge for a moment of skinny dipping glory with the other-worldy gorgeous Christy Brinkly. I’m on a plane, purposefully headed to a desert. Where I will purposefully try to live for 7 days. The research has been done. The checklists have been checked, burned, and then rechecked. I know I’m forgetting something.

“Fuck I hate traveling.”

The woman next to me shifts a little in her seat. Jesus I am speaking out loud now. What am I doing? Why did I say yes to this? This is the kid that literally petitioned the Boy Scouts asking if it was mandatory to go camping in order to get the outdoorsman merit badges. Now, I find myself hauling 100 lbs of hunt into the harsh reality of Nevada. No, Spielbergian mirage can remotely prepare you for Nevada. It’s comforting. That;s for sure. Those moments when you are driving about in the rental car, getting th least minutes items you will need. You know. The little things like, food, and water. You see these little manufactured neighborhoods, and immediately images of ET and Poltergeist, for some reason, give me comfort.

“We are going to fucking BURNING MAN DUDE!!!!” was literally on repeat by my best friend Donovan. This asshole. Well, he got me here. Of anyone to convince me to go camping in a fucking desert, it’s this guy. He’d probably convince me to go drilling on an asteroid to save the world if he wanted to. The kids got an absurd energy about him. Everyones best friend.

Admittedly, this is exciting. As someone who lives for the study of urban design, play and experience design. This is it. The mecca. The end game. I came out here to try to put some semblance of my life together. To find that spark. For the past few months I’ve been, well, all over the place mentally. Job. House. PlayCincy. Art. WRKP Co. Freelance. I don’t know why but for some reason I feel like I am in a flatspin of creativity. It just keeps going in circles and I can’t control it. Push left, thrust right. Nothing works. Just an endless cycle of going no where, but everywhere at the same time. This is not a good feeling. I like control, or at least the closest semblance to it. Maybe that’s not the right way to put it. I like to remove myself from control, so long as I know there’s tracks up ahead that this locomotive will be staying on.

So yes. going to Burning Man seems like a brilliant idea to lose myself in the mess of myself. That’s how I justify it. I need chaos in order to get order. Shoot a nuke at a supernova, see what happens. I really have no idea what to expect, and for the first time in my life I don’t care. I’m going to let the ocean of whatever this is, pull me in, and I’ll learn how to control it later. Oh hey look. Rocks.

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So here we are, driving through Nevada. The conversation twists around, we lose cell signals which is actually kind of soothing, although with that we lose the ability to fact check each other. Wait how close are we to Area 51? No, Breaking Bad took place in New Mexico..didn’t it? Not sure. It all looks the same out here. That same damn hill..is that a hill? or a mountain? Whatever the fuck it is it taunts us in the distance. What is that distance exactly? I have no sense of scale out here. Shit. And it’s quiet. Real quiet. Sound absorbing quiet. Murder your best friend and no one would know quiet. Putting that in my back pocket..just in case.

This journey out here though, the 1 hour and 45 minute trek from Reno to Black Rock City, amps you up. It prepares you. You can feel the lure to The Man. Unfortunately, what did evade, all of our research, was that right when your GPS says you are 15 minutes away (20 miles, give or take), your car will stop on the road. Your car will stop. You will get out. You will peer down the line of other cars, stopped, on the road. You will then break out the guitar/frisbee/soccer ball. You will meet your new German neighbors. You will honk the horn at the couple making out in front of you instead of driving those 40 feet up the line. Because in all of that research about surviving in the desert, you forgot the one, very key detail in all of this. There are 60,000+ people, trying to squeeze through 1 door. Well, god dammit.

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For the next 12 hours, you will be tested. Mentally. Physically. Having already been flying for 5 hours, and driving about for 2, the first hour is the humorous one of stopping and starting. Stopping and starting. Now, I lived in north Jersey for the better part of my life. I’ve sat in both Friday and Saturday shore traffic on the GSP. I’ve been privy to the many plans to avoid it. Take 287. Leave at 2 am. Drive on the shoulder. But at the end of the day (when you finally arrive), there is absolutely nothing you can do about the situation you are in. It’s a single file line. You can’t go around, up, over or under. You just have to sit. Manage your body. Manage your mind. And try to find a way to not use the spoon/pen/headphone jack lying about to gouge out your own eyes in an attempt to bleed out.

Yes. The wait to get INTO Burning Man, was so grueling, so unexpected, and so beyond my level of comprehension that a 20+ year old event can’t figure out the simple logistics of entry. It was around hour 4 of going from 40 feet away from the entry to 6 feet, that I had my first real breakdown. Donovan was asleep, I was behind the wheel. I was staring, STARING at the gateway, 1 car in front of me, and I wanted to go home. Bad. I wanted to just hard turn my rental car and blast through the crowds straight back to Reno. I felt, madness, for only the second time in my life.

Little did I know, this wouldn’t be the last time I’d feel that this week.

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One comment on “Burning Man: Chapter 1 The Journey Ahead”

  1. thanks for sharing your awesome trip. your words and pics just come to life as i read them, looking forward to more.

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