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My Burning Man Experience - A Guide

by Loee Love (re-posted with permission)

              Loee Love!

Warning: The following blog contains vulgar language, crude humor, and sexual content.  If you are offended by any of these things, I suggest you stop reading now.  Mom, this means you.

So, everyone wants to know how my trip to Burning Man was.  What did I see?  What did I do?  What did I learn?  Do I have any advice for the first-timers going next year?  I’ve decided the easiest way to address all of this, is to do it blog-style.   My own “Burning Man Survival Guide” of sorts.  And, in keeping with the Burning Man attitude, I will curse like a burner, be rude, crude and as vulgar as I wanna be, and then spank your ass when I’m finished.

I think the easiest way to go about this, is to just type things as they pop into my head.  There may be no continuity or grace in this, but fuck yer continuity.  What do you want from me?  I just got back from Burning Man.  I can’t think straight, or stand fully upright.

Please remember, these are my own opinions, based on my own experience.  Obviously, everyone’s experience is going to be unique.  This is meant to be fun and maybe slightly informative.

)’(           THE DUST! Ok, so we’ve all heard about the dust, read about the dust, seen pictures of the dust.  We all know there is a lot of dust at Burning Man.  Here’s what I have to say about that: FUCK what you think you know about the dust.  Unless you have been there, you don’t know shit about the dust.  There is no amount of reading, listening, or picture looking that can prepare you for this shit.  This ain’t your average “top-of-the-TV” dust.  This is the “Mark McGwire” of dust.  This is the “cling-to-you-and-everything-you-own-like-a-barnacle-to-the-bottom-of-a-pirate-ship” dust.  This dust is not fucking around.  It penetrates every crack, crevice, and hole of everything and everyone it comes into contact with.  It hangs in the air, blows in the wind, and sticks like mud to everything it touches.  You eat it, breathe it, drink it, fucking fart it!  It’s EVERYWHERE!  It’s unstoppable and unavoidable.  And it’s not going out like no bitch-ass dust either.  No amount of dusting, blowing, wiping, sweeping or praying is budging this shit.  Once it’s there, it’s staying.  It’s moving in and bringing the in-laws.  Be warned, dear friends, do not take anything to Burning Man that you do not want permanently altered by this shit.  However, (comma) I can say that it WILL wash out.  With a washing machine, or high-powered sprayer, or carwash, you can get your shit back to an acceptable resemblance of normal.  Of all the things that I saw at Burning Man, the playa dust most blew my mind.  That’s no joke, folks.  Ok.  Enough about the fucking dust.  I’m sick of that shit.

)’(           Baby wipes.  For realsies.  Take hundreds of those damn things.  It’s the only way to deal with the dust.  And may be the closest thing you get to a shower in a week.  Baby wipes saved my ass out there.  Literally.  Just wait.  You’ll thank me, when you finally get out there, and it’s 4:00am and you’re just dragging in from your first night on the playa, and you realize you have dust clogging your nostrils and smeared up your ass-crack.  Baby wipes, yo 

)’(           Goggles and Bandanas.  Ok, so, I’m still kind of on the dust subject.  But, man, I’m telling you, it is a force to be reckoned with!  That dust has no sympathy.  It isn’t going to give two shits if you are out running around in a beautiful new $100 costume, and didn’t bring along a pair of goggles or bandana because they didn’t look good with your outfit.  The wind isn’t on your side either.  It’s going to kick up a dust-devil with your name on it.  An all-out-white-out is headed your way, bitch, and you best be prepared!  DO NOT LEAVE YOUR CAMP WITHOUT GOGGLES AND A BANDANA AND/OR RESPIRATOR.  And make sure you pack multiples.  You’re going to lose some. 

)’(           Speaking of losing shit.  Label everything with your name and address.  You can put your real address and phone number if you want, but that won’t help you in the short-term.  I suggest you put your camp address on everything.  Anything you want returned should be labeled.  They do have a lost and found, which seems to work for some.  I lost a bag with my camera, UV laser, goggles, and Hulagans bandana at the first Beats Antique show.  I went to the lost and found the next two days, and it wasn’t there.  But late that second day, it showed up on my door-step.  I had written my name and camp address in permanent marker on my camera.  Everything was returned, with the exception of the Hulagans bandana.  Odd?  Yes.  UV laser pointer?  No thanks.  Goggles?  Got some.  Camera?  Nah.  Hulagans bandana?  OH HELL YES!  Those bitches are hot!  Anyway, my point is, you are going to lose something, and there is a really good chance you’ll get it back, if you label it.

)’(           Hoops.  This one is for my hooper friends.  I even labeled my LED hoops with permanent marker.  I never let the things out of my sight though, and barely out of my grasp.  My dear friend, Mird, had a brilliant idea, that I think very well could have saved my Atomic Hoop.  She suggested putting tape over all the holes in my hoops.  I took  electrical tape and covered the crack, the on/off switch, the charger port, anywhere dust could enter.  I saw multiple hoops quit working out there.  I can’t say for sure why, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the dust didn’t have something to do with it.  My watch started resetting itself.  Matt’s car charger stopped working.  My camera’s shutter lense started sticking.  I’m telling you, that dust is a bastard!  Protect yo shit!  Anyway, back to the hoops.  I would also STRONGLY suggest building some sort of hoop carrier for your bike.  At the hoop jam I saw that there was a basic type most everyone was using, made from pvc pipe.  It created a “y” shape on a long pole that was fastened to the bikes in a variety of ways.  Matt and I also talked about possibly using a bike lock to chain the hoops to your bike when you get to a sound stage and want to get into the crowd.  I had a big problem with that.  I took my Atomic Hoop with me every night, but didn’t actually want to use it every night.  Then, I was stuck with the damn thing, and couldn’t get up into the crowd very far.  I know you all know what I’m talking about.  We’ve all been there.   It’s not cool.

)’(           Your hair.  Ugh.  Ladies, take my advice: shave your head before you go.  Burning Man is the worst thing that ever happened to my hair.  The dust, grease, sweat combination forms this playa helmet that is impenetrable to brushes, combs or water.  When I finally got to wash it (twice), half of it fell out, and what is left is dry and brittle and breaking off.  I have so many split ends.  It’s awful.  One of my campmates had hers done in cornrows before she came out, and that seemed to work really well for her, except that she said it itched pretty bad about halfway through the week.  I heard tales of head-washing camps, but good luck finding them!  The guys didn’t seem to mind it so much.  It’s kind of like a molding wax if you have short hair, and you can create all sorts of fun hair-styles without the use of a product!  :D 

)’(           Your skin.  It’s going to dry out.  That dust I keep going on about is very alkaline.  There is 0 humidity out there, so you don’t really sweat.  You pretty much just dry up and crack like a piece of burnt bacon.  Take some really good lotion.  Unscented is probably best.  After you do your nightly baby wipe bath, (aka “whores bath”), lotion yourself and/or your partner down.  Especially those feet!  Take care of your feet.  You don’t want to get playa foot.  It’s a condition caused by that evil dust, that dries out your feet, makes them crack, and is apparently horribly painful.  You can use vinegar or lemon juice on them after/during their baby wiping, and then slather them with a thick lotion, and put some socks on when you go to bed.  Repeat every day.  I wore boots most days to try and protect them.  I only did the flippie-floppy thing a few times.  I tried to put lotion on every day, and my skin still looks scaly.  Eeeeew.

)’(           Sunblock.  People, don’t forget your sunblock.  You would not believe how many people make it all the way to the desert and realize they forgot sunblock.  Seriously?  Put that shit on first thing, every day, and reapply often.  Don’t forget to throw some in your backpack when you leave camp either.  You WILL need it.  You don’t want to get burnt so bad you look like a fucking lobster, and then have to spend the rest of Burning Man looking like an idiot, and feeling like one too.  Find someone to help with your back.  Get every inch of exposed skin.  If you don’t, it WILL burn.  If you do find yourself out and about without sunblock, and you are in need, there just so happens to be a totes badass camp that would be happy to help you out with that.  Camp Pleasure Garden! [now Camp SPF -- ed.] These fabulous folks stand out in the sun (or under a canopy) from 10-2 (Burner Time) and apply sunblock to the sunblock challenged.  It’s full-serve, or self-serve!  Need help reaching that hard-to-reach-spot?  Really want someone to rub your boob?  They are there to help!  Oh, and don’t forget chapstick with SPF.  I don’t know how many people I saw with dry, cracking lips.  I took a bunch and gifted them.

)’(           A Camp.  I was fortunate enough to camp with Pleasure Garden [now Camp SPF --ed.].  I feel like I hit the Camp Jackpot!  Not only did we land an amazing address (6:30 & Esplanade) but everyone in the camp was wonderful.  Such an amazing group of people.  People from all across the US.  Different backgrounds, ages, lifestyles, all coming together to form this tight, short-lived community.  I really cannot say enough about how grateful I am to have been a part of this camp.  You can certainly camp on your own, if you want, but camping with a group camp is so much easier.  It takes a little of the “radical” out of “radical self-reliance.”  Of course, you must be radically self-reliant, and prepare for everything, but being with a group sure does take a burden off of you.  We had a shared shade structure, and kitchen.  We shared a lot of meals, craft ideas, costumes.  If you forgot something (which you will) someone else there is bound to have it, or know someone who does.  A lot of the people in the camp have probably been there more times than you too, and have advice, and tips, and tricks that can save your ass, or improve your experience.  It’s a great way to meet new people, and make friends.  You’ll meet your campmates, and their friends and acquaintances, and it spirals out into a big, happy, martini-drinking family.  Just make sure you pitch in and do your part.  Our camp did sunscreen, and we all had to do a few shifts to keep that booth going.  Take turns cooking meals, doing dishes, bagging trash, moop-checking, etc.  If everyone works as a team, it’ll leave more time for fun!  And, actually, you’ll find that doing all those camp-duties turns out to be pretty fun too, when done with your new friends.  Ok.  *puke* That was way too sappy for a Burning Man blog.  Sorry about that.  Let me just throw out a random cuss word to dirty it up a bit.  Piss.

)’(           Peeing.  Speaking of piss!  A seldom talked about aspect of Burning Man is peeing.  Everyone does it!  The weird part is, you are going to do it in your tent.  Yes, you will!  Trust me.  The portapotties aren’t nearly close enough to wherever you are at any given time.  When you wake up in the middle of the night, or there is a massive dust storm blowing outside, or you are just too tired/drunk/lazy to walk/bike/run/windsurf to the nearest portapotty, you are going to want something to piss in.  Even if you don’t think you will, go prepared, just in case.  You are going to want something that seals and is water tight, so it doesn’t slosh all over you when you are biking it to the portapotties the next morning.  And something large enough to hold a few pees.  A Gatorade bottle will only hold one.  Consider a jug.  And a pee funnel, if you’re a lady.  ;)  I’ve heard tales of “good systems” and perfect containers, but haven’t seen them personally.  I guess it’s just not something people go around showing off.  Oh, and don’t forget your toilet paper.  SINGLE PLY, of course.  There are 50,000 people at Burning Man, and not nearly enough tp.  Take your own each time you go, or you’ll likely be sorry!

)’(           Bikes!  Omg, if you don’t take a bike to Burning Man, you are a tard.  Seriously, the place is huge.  You do NOT want to walk everywhere.  You’ll enjoy your time and get to see so much more if you have a bike.  Don’t take your best bike either.  Take an old bike that you don’t care about, because the playa is hard on a bike, and there is a chance it will destroy it.  Make sure you decorate your bike too.  You don’t want to be a lame-o out there with a boring bike.  The Pimp Yr Bike guys will yell at you too.  Paint, decorative tape, fur, stuffed animals, anything goes!  The more your bike stands out, the better.  There are 50,000 people and 30,000 bikes.  It’ll be nice to be able to tell which one is yours when you are peering into a sea of handlebars and tires.  At the VERY least, make sure you have lights on it.  A headlight and taillight are essential, but some spoke lights, EL wire, Christmas lights, etc. is much better.  You want to be able to find the damn thing at night too!  And be seen.  Nobody likes a Dark Tard.

)’(           Dark Tards.  Don’t be a Dark Tard.  What is a Dark Tard?  A Dark Tard is that asshole walking around the open playa in the middle of the night with absolutely no lights on.  There you are, cruising at a maximum speed of 5mph on your bicycle, beer in one hand, laughing at the naked guy dangling from the sex swing hanging off the back of an art car, when all of a sudden some jackass pops up out of nowhere!  You are forced to slam on the brakes and/or swerve, spilling your beer all over your furry leggings and/or ass-less chaps, and possibly wrecking your bike.  Now the naked guy on the sex swing is the one laughing.  All because this jerk-face decided to walk/bike around in the darkness like they are some sort of a Ninja.  You are not a Ninja, you are a Dark Tard; an accident waiting to happen.  You do not want to be creamed by someone on a bike, or raging-party Mutant Vehicle, so for fuck’s sake, put on some lights.  Glow sticks, EL wire, Christmas lights, anything that blinks, flashes, strobes or glows, so long as you can be seen.  Get creative, people will appreciate it more.  Everything at Burning Man is art.  Have fun with it!

)’(           Food.  Don’t take as much food as you think you’ll need.  You aren’t going to eat it.  I think Matt and I ate more food in the car than we did the whole week we were at Burning Man.  You do need to eat while you are there, but you’ll eat a lot less.  Breakfast and dinner are good to shoot for.  If you are camping with a group, there will probably be group meals, or you should try to plan group meals.  It’s a lot easier, and you get to eat some pretty good food you otherwise might not have.  Bring good snack foods, salty snacks, dried fruit, granola bars, things like that.  Forget fresh fruit and veggies unless you plan on using them in the first couple of days.  We got the great idea from….someone somewhere, to go to our favorite restaurants before we left, and order food, then take it home and freeze it flat in a Ziplock bag.  Then, when you get to the playa, you can throw it in a skillet for a one-pan meal.  Voila!  That worked pretty well, except our dry ice kept them REALLY frozen, and we weren’t able to eat them until late in the week, which was ok.

)’(           Water.  You probably don’t really need as much as they tell you to bring.  We took 28 gallons for the 2 of us, and it was way too much.  I think everyone had tons of water left over on Sunday.  Definitely don’t short yourself, because water is crucial, but you really don’t need to go overboard with it.  You won’t die.  That much water is heavy and takes up a lot of space, and is a total pain in the ass, so if it’s stressing you out, and taking up too much room in your Volvo, you can probably afford to lose a couple gallons.  Don’t forget to take something to haul your grey water off in.  Remember, nothing goes on the playa.  All your dirty dish water, shower water, left-over beer, etc. has to leave with you.  You are going to want something to carry it out in.  We took a 5 gallon bucket, and it was BARELY big enough.  We would have been more comfortable with two, I think.  However, it wasn’t water tight, even with the lid, so on the ride home, it sloshed out in the back of the truck, and that is gross.  Some big jugs might work better.  I don’t know.  Just remember, that whatever you take out there collapsed, or stacked or nested, once it’s full, it’s going to take up a lot more room on the return trip.  You are also going to have bags of trash, and recycling, and dirty laundry.  We had less room on the way home than we did on the way out there.  Keep that in mind when loading your vehicle!

)’(           A Camelbak.  If you don’t have one, get one.  If you aren’t familiar, these are the little water backpacks you wear around with the convenient drinking tube that comes right to your mouth.  These things are lifesavers.  Fill it up often and drink the shit out of it.  Water!  Not booze.  You alcoholics.  Drink more water than you think is necessary.  Anytime someone mentions water, drink water.  Anytime you see water, drink water.  Anytime you think about water, drink water.  It’s like a drinking game.  You alcoholics are familiar with those, right?  You’ll see Camelbaks everywhere.  Everyone has one.  Better label yours.  Might as well spring and spend a few extra dollars to get one with pockets, that way you only have one thing to carry around.  You are going to want some sort of a bag or backpack to carry all your gear (goggles, bandana, chapstick, sun block, snacks, smokes, butt tin, etc.) in.  Camelbaks aren’t cheap, but worth the money.

)’(           $$$ Speaking of not being cheap!!!  Burning Man is expensive!  That is probably the #1 complaint I heard from Burners while there.  This isn’t your average camping trip folks, this is more like a trip to the Bahamas, but with less water.   (Drink!)  By the time you get a ticket, they are probably going to be around $300, and it doesn’t get any cheaper from there.  Regardless of how you get all the way to NV, driving, plane, rv, etc., it’s going to cost you a pretty penny.  Then there is all your gear, and lights, and food, and costumes, and hotel rooms, and crap you never dreamed you would need or have to pay for, and the total just keeps getting higher and higher.  I’m not talking hundos people, I’m talking grands.  Better start saving now.  Shit, you should have started saving last year.  The good news is, once you get there, you don’t have to spend any more money, except for ice.  Don’t forget to bring some cash for ice!!

)’(           Be in the moment.  It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the city.  Running around, trying to see it all, photograph it all, catch that special moment on video, spend an hour getting your costume on, fussing with the lights on your bike, etc.  But all that shit really does is take you out of the moment.  You really can’t enjoy the most spectacular fireworks show you have EVER seen in your whole life, if you are watching it through the viewfinder of your camera.  By wandering around the temple, taking pictures of everything you see, you might miss out on a special opportunity to emotionally connect with the one you are with.  By spending too long getting dressed for the party, you may miss the highlights.  The pictures, videos, costumes and lights do not make your Burning Man experience.  It’s the moments filled with energy and magic! It’s the connection and camaraderie with your friends nearby.  Don’t let that slip past you.  BE PRESENT

)’(           Gifting.  So, we all know it’s a gifting economy, right?  Well, a lot of people stress over what to bring to gift, and a lot of people end up bringing cheap trash.  Gifting isn't something you HAVE to do.  It’s something you want to do.  You don’t have to bring a bag full of trinkets to give to every person you meet.  Gifting can be a hug, or helping someone get the roof on their hexayurt, or a massage, or helping them with that hard-to-reach spot on their back (scratching or sunblocking), or maybe helping someone carry ice back to their camp, or lending a friend your bike to ride to the portapotty.  These are all gifts.  So don’t stress over it, and for Pete’s sake (whoever the fuck that is) don’t buy some cheap piece of shit that is going to break as soon as you give it to the person.  Just because it lights up, doesn’t mean it’s cool.  If you do want to buy a bag of tricks, think about what you are getting.  Is it something that is durable?  Is it something that you would want to bring home with you?  If not, don’t get it!  The best gift I got out there was a handmade necklace by one of my campmates.  He burnt the Man into little pieces of wood, and gave one to everyone in camp.  Those are the kinds of things people want.  Something you make.  Something they can keep forever.  Something COOL!  The best gifts I saw were handmade necklaces.  People get really creative out there, and come up with some cool stuff.  And chapstick with SPF.  I told you I took a package of those out there, and they went quick to some grateful people in need.  Gift wisely, my friends.

)'(          A journal.  I didn't do this, but thought of it late in the week, and wish I had.  You do so much, and meet so many there, it's hard to keep track of and remember it all.  I wish I had kept a journal.  Each night, wrote in it what we did that day, who I met, the highlights, etc.  I'm afraid there is so much that I have already forgotten, and all the days and nights have blurred together.  I suppose in the long run it isn't important.  But a journal each year would probably be a lot of fun to look back on.

)’(           Get up early.  At least a few days.  Matt and I both regret not getting out more during the day.  There is so much to do, and night time is especially entertaining, so it’s easy to stay up late, and sleep the day away, but I think you miss a great deal if you don’t get out on the playa in the daytime hours.   This is your best opportunity to see and photograph all the art.  It’s also easier to meet and talk to people during the day.  This is also when most of the workshops, parties, activities, etc. are going on at the theme camps.  Be sure to check out your Who, What, Where, When guide for the low-down on how to get down. 

)’(           Brrrr!  It’s cold!  Yes friends, it’s true.  It’s gets cold as shit at night!  I’m talking “shiver-in-your-boot-covers” miserably cold!  Be sure to take warm clothing, and a coat, and gloves, and a fuzzy hat, and warm bedding.  A good sleeping bag, or two, and a snuggle buddy should do.

)’(           Sex?  You probably will get propositioned.  Be prepared!  It’s not as scary or as gross as you might think.  Most everyone respects boundaries, and are very polite.  It can be a little shocking when it happens, and a little flattering too.  Do what you feel is right.  If you want to get it on, then by all means, enjoy yourself.  Have fun!  Be safe!  Wear a condom!  If casual sex ain’t your bag baby, that’s ok too!  Politely decline.  They won’t be offended, and usually leave with a compliment and a hug. 

)’(           Touching?  So, even more prevalent  than sex propositioning is touching propositioning!  Damn near everyone wants a hug, so if you aren’t touchy-feely, you might be in trouble.  Then at least ½ the people will want to smack your ass.  ¼ of them will want to kiss it.  Again, everyone is respectful of boundaries, and ask before grabbing.  You are in control.  Again, if you aren’t into it, just politely decline.  It’s not a big deal.  But I’ll tell ya, it’s a lot more fun if you just give in!  Let them smack your ass!  Let ME smack your ass!  It’ll only sting for a minute 

)’(           Get some rest.  Burning Man is exhausting.  The size of the city, the amount of activities you attend, the biking, walking, standing, talking.  The elements: the wind, the dust, the sun, the heat, the freezing cold.  It all takes a toll on you.  You will be amazed by your own body.  How strong you are, but remember, you aren’t Superman, you need to have some restorative time.  Make sure you get plenty of quality sleep, (and water) and maybe take it easy one day….or two.  It’s really easy to get tired and crabby and dehydrated.  You (and everyone around you) will have a lot more fun, if you are energized and well.

)’(           The one(s) you love.  My last point leads directly into this one, because, when you get tired, crabby and dehydrated, who is going to have deal with your sorry ass?  Your partner.  (Or friend, or neighbor, whoever you went with.)  This is probably the single most important point I have to make here.  Fuck the dust, fuck the water, fuck the money, fuck your partner.  Wait…..that didn’t come out right……well, I mean, it kind of did……… }:)  Be nice to your partner.  Be patient, and kind, and loving.  Even more than you normally would.  Burning Man is overwhelming, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  Your partner may be running through the gamut of emotions, a flaming emotional roller coaster barreling out of control through the center of their brain.  This, coupled with the physical stress, can leave a person feeling overly emotional and vulnerable.  Emotions run higher at Burning Man.  Try to be patient and understanding with your partner.  Compromise.  They may want to go listen to the 5th dubstep dj of the night, and you may want to go chill out in the temple, they may want to grab a coffee at Center Camp and you want to go to the pantsless party at Camp Orgasmic Lava Buttons.  Things like this happen.  They aren’t worth fighting over.  Try and make plans at the start of each day, so that you know what each other is up for and expecting, and your day will go a lot smoother.  When your partner starts crying for no apparent reason, give them a shoulder to cry on.  When they lash out at you for not putting the lid back on the can of peanuts, try to keep in mind that they love you, and are only reacting to the elements.  I heard laughter, and tears, shouts and cursing.  Saw kissing and groping, and storming off screaming.  I don’t think there is any human emotion that isn’t felt and expressed at Burning Man… everyone.  Love the one you are with!  They are your partner, your rock, the only other person who will carry your bottle of piss to the portapotty, and your way out of this crazy place!  They love you, or they wouldn’t be there with you.  When you are tired, and crabby, and not feeling well, and being kind is far from your mind, look in their eyes, look through their eyes.  Smile.  It’s all going to be ok.  Take some extra time to show them some love.  A date night, massages, a make-out session, a shower, love-making, even a stroll hand-in-hand.  Anything to connect you, bring you back together, into the moment.  It’s so easy to get carried away by all the magic, but don’t take the one(s) you love for granted!  It’s a long ride home.  ♥

)’(         So, will I ever do it again?  FUCK yes!  I’m already packed for next year!  See you there, bitches!