Home > Fire Bug Blog Entrys, Stuff About Carisa > Fire Mecca, The Story of my First Burning Man – Part 2

Fire Mecca, The Story of my First Burning Man – Part 2

My expectations are as follows; poi spinners and hoop dancers from a variety of skill levels would fill the streets, I’d be hit with a sense of belonging and maybe even completeness, I would run into a few of the hundreds of people who had told be they would be at the burn and would “see me there” and I’d be teaching at least some fire eating classes.

First Impression

We get in a few days after the official start of the burn, due to our adventures in RV repair. As we drive down the entrance road on the way to our camp, people wave to us and call out “welcome home” as we cruse past at the recommended 5MPH. Giddy with excitement, I imagine jumping out into the dusty chaos and being instantly sucked into the mad culture of it all.

Second Impression

I successfully avoid the urge to jump out of the moving vehicle and we soon find our camp, Root Society, and start logistical planing for how and where to park the giant RV and trailer. There’s just no where for something 56 feet long so we end up unhitching the trailer and leaving it in an adjacent camp (they seemed happy to have it, likely for the wind cover) and park our home sweet home beside one of the giant geodesic domes. After this 2 hour trial it is still not time to go play.

I’ve come with Cypher Zero for whom this will be burn number seven and he has the art of comfortably surviving the harsh environment down to a science. We spend another hour finishing prepping the RV for dust: laying sheets down, ensuring windows are firmly closed and sealed, shoving electronics into plastic baggies, ect. Still we are not ready. Next we sanitize and ready our hydration packs. We clean and fill them with cool water and pack all it’s little zipper pockets with what I am told are the essentials; lip balm, flash lights, baby wipes, googles (one pair with clear lenses for nighttime and one with shades), a dust mask, a sweater, snacks and my set of keys in case we get separated.

I’m failing miserably to conceal my anxious impatience, I feel like a dog who’s just hear the word “walk”. Cypher reminds me that it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and not take care of yourself in a place like this, we are taking the time now so we can stay out and explore comfortably all night. I couldn’t argue with that logic, but I wanted to. We slap on some sunscreen (even though I can see through the blinds that it’s almost dusk), have a bit to eat, throw on our packs and finally head out.

Catching rides on passing Art Cars and walking will be tonight’s mode of transport, rather than the other popular solution, bikes. This is a secret relief for me since I only learned how to ride a bicycle a little over a year ago, a day that ended in me eventually feeling confident enough to ride down a steep hill and executing a “fail blog” worthy face plant. I haven’t rode since.

After a mild wind storm we hop a fun-fur covered float, blasting dance music which is heading “deep Playa”. As we get further into the empty desert I look back and see the cityscape of Burning Man. It seems everything is lit up with thousands of lights, or on fire, and in many cases both. It looks like a miniature steam-punk Vegas. I look over at Cypher, and smile.

Like I said Cypher is a veteran Burner which makes him a great tour guide. He has some really interesting insights on how the event has evolved and where it all came from and I’m enjoying the stories of the art from past year. He does his best to avoid comments like “it’s not like it use to be” that might take away from my experience, but fails often.

A Fire Bug’s Wet Dreams

Everything seems to revolve around fire. I hung off the barrel of fire spewing machine gun as the art car it was attached to cruised the dessert. There was a dance floor surrounded by a circle of propane fueled fire a foot high, fire works, fire canons, fire pits, things propelled by fire. This is truly the happiest place on earth.

Surprisingly, I see relatively few fire spinners, I’d say less that 20. We brought several fire toys along but I have been to distracted to remember to bring them out on our night walks. Then it hits me, surprise number two; I can’t find anyone!! I am on high alert for familiar faces, scanning each place we explore and nothing.

Up in Smoke

Sunday hits. I’ve managed to almost get away with a bike free week, but tonight I will have to be brave enough to look stupid and risk another intimate encounter with the ground. You see we are late for the temple burn and it’s far away enough that we’ll need to break out the wheel. I think that this is maybe the most comfortable place to look idiotic, and boy do I ever.

We get to the temple burn, the heat and smell of cider ingulf us and we watch quietly as the ashes rush up into the night sky. It’s all over. I made the pilgrimage to the city that worships fire and now I would have to go back to my private love of the hot glowy stuff. I try to soak up everything about this place, and then fire works go off in the distance so we hop back on the bikes and go play.


We decide to stay a couple extra days and help out at the camp. I learn the joys of MOOPing (MOOP stands for Material Out Of Place, a nice way to say trash) raking the desert floor for every tiny sign that anything happened here. I love the stewardship of it and it gives me some quiet time to decompress and think about that I just experienced.

As I scoop up discarded boa feathers and taped-out glow sticks, I am surprised by the unexpected sense of belonging. I am 7 hours from my return to the default world and for the first time I feel like a participant rather than a spectator, as if burning man belongs to me in some small way. After seeing people survive and thrive in this harsh environment for a week I am overwhelmed with a new belief that all people are competent, powerful and intelligent.

A paradigm shift, we as a people are all capable and fascinating.

  1. October 27, 2010 at 9:49 pm

    I’m very jealous. Sadly, I think the desert heat would do me in.

  2. November 18, 2010 at 6:34 pm
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