19 Days and Counting

August 15, 2011

Click below for Parts 1-7 of my  Burning Man essay:

Part 1    Part 2     Part 3     Part 4     Part 5     Part 6

Part 7

*          *          *          *          *

Unlike The Man, I am uncertain what fate lies ahead.  But I am alone, like him, standing on a pedestal, watching thousands of people staring up at me, looking for some truth, some answer, waiting for me to burn, wondering how long it will take before I crumble and fall.

The BM festival is essentially about survival.  Surviving the harsh winds of the desert, the sun that scorches your skin, making you delirious, confused, like that game where you place your forehead to the butt of a bat and spin and

spin and spin then try to weave your way back to home base, running into opponents, trying to make out your team’s shouts to lead you back.  Even with all the people running around you and your own team calling you home, you are still alone on that playing field.  It is up to you and you alone to find your way home.

Instead of overcoming life’s realities I merely found a place to escape where those fears were not present.  They still existed, but were stifled by acceptance and the magnitude of art and creativity.  The burning man festival will change you.  It’s hard not to be affected in some way by the massive art pieces, bass-heavy electronic music, costumes and commune-type life-style.  But it will not equip you with the armor you need to go back into the real world and face your real problems.

It’s depressing to go back home, to realize the festival is a living breathing entity that can’t exist forever, disappearing into the dust storm until the next year when it is resurrected again, just like the Man.  I went to burning man with the hopes of returning empowered, but in the weeks that followed, I was more depressed, more worried about my future.  This is what i called Decompression.  The BM website claims it is about returning home and reconnecting with friends and family, sharing and creating new art.  For me, decompression was depression, realizing I would only feel accepted and self worthy for that one week.  That a majority of the people back home wouldn’t understand the appeal of this type of lifestyle.  Months after being home, eyes gloss over when I talk about the festival as if I just returned the week before.  Coming home made me realize how alone I truly am.

And i can’t wait to return.  To be amongst like-minded people.  People who share their map with you and escort you to the bathroom.  People who will hug you just a little bit tighter and a little bit longer than normal.

81 Days and Counting

June 14, 2011

Disclaimer:  Last year was many things, but the most memorable was by far my trip to the desert of Nevada for the annual Burning Man festival.  It truly changed me in ways i’m still discovering.  And the more my friends and i discuss our plans for this year’s Burn, the more excited i get.  

While taking a writing class last Fall, i wrote a piece about my experience at the festival.  Actually, all my pieces were in some way tied to Burning Man as it was all i could talk about.  I’ve decided to publish some pieces and parts of that essay here in various installments.

No one can really describe Burning Man.  Trust me, i had a whole peer group of writers constantly telling me to describe it more.  You really have to see it for yourself.  It’s like nothing else in the universe.

So for all you Virgin Burners out there, I can’t wait to welcome you home along with the rest of my burning man fam.

*     *     *     *     *

“Ready?!”

“Fight!”

I clung to the small steel triangle through which my face was pressed.  Two girls with swollen foamy bats were bobbing in baby-swing harnesses strung by bungee cord rope that was tied to the top of what looked like a massive dome-shaped spider web.  I felt like I was in the middle of Tekken, a video game where you battle an opponent, equipped with special moves and powers.  Only this was real life, not a game.

Two girls were in the center of the replicated Mad Max Thunderdome, one with neon blue hair while the other sported pink, both with knee-high striped socks matching their hair and chunky black boots.  A bald man dress all in black motioned them to their corners before shouting the battle cry again.  They flew towards each other with Matrix-like poses, batons raised.  Pink Girl struck Blue Girl in the left breast sending her spinning to the right.

The dome, which was crawling with people, filled with cheers and shouts.  People in funky hats, superhero garb, bikinis and nothing at all lined its walls from the ground up, some leaning against its curves while others chose to dangle their furry boot-covered legs over the steel structure.

I looked back for Justin, who’d given me an encouraging nudge to check out the structure, making sure he was nearby, panicking for a brief moment as without him I would not be able to find my way back to camp.  I snaked through the crowd to where he was standing.

“I totally want to do that!”

*     *     *     *     *

Every year, during the month of March, i get the privilege of working for the Cleveland International Film Festival.  This will be my 10th year as a ticket sales staffer.  I love working the festival and look forward to it every year.  We like to refer to it as camp.  We are reunited with old friends we only get to see once a year and meet new ones who we then look forward to seeing the next year. Once the festival is over, we slip back into our lives, exhausted and smelling like the The Tower City food court.

As a staffer, the festival is like heaven and hell combined.  I always have a great time.  And by Day 11, i never want to see the inside of Tower City again.  Here are some of my thoughts Day 1 vs. Day 11:

Day 1: Yeah, Opening Night!
Day 11: Yeah, Closing Night!

Day 1: These stools remind me to have good posture.
Day 11:  Would someone please get me a frickin’ chair with a back?!!

Day 1: It’s so great having a job where i get to interact with other people.
Day 11: Don’t talk to me!

Day 1: I can’t wait to catch up with everyone.
Day 11: How many times are you going to tell me the same story?  I haven’t seen you for a year and this is all you’ve got?

Day 1: I’m going to bring healthy meals with me to work so i don’t have to spend money and eat gross Tower City food court meals.
Day 11: I’m going to need to detox my body from all those Tower City food court meals i ate.

Day 1: Oooh, Yay, FREE popcorn!
Day 11:  That popcorn smell makes me want to vomit.

Day 1: I can’t wait to check out some eye candy!
Day 11: Why are all the hot guys gay?

Day 1: [Energetically] I love working for the Film Festival!
Day 11: [Exhausted and somewhat delirious]  I had a great time working for the Film Festival.