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Road Trip

Burning Man

Lawrence Kesteloot (Sunday, November 16, 2003)

Burning Man is a gathering of about 30,000 people in the Nevada desert each Labor Day. An entire city is built and destroyed in a week. The exchange of money is not allowed, you can only barter and give away things. Explaining Burning Man properly would take too much space here, so you can check out the Burning Man website.

The Playa (as the desert is called) is full of art installations. For example, this roller coaster, which unfortunately I never got to see run because they spent all week constructing it and the last day taking down. This other guy had a daisy chain of red wagons that he pulled people around on.

My favorite, though, was the Temple of Joy, a giant structure in the middle of the Playa. It was made of wood but looked like lace. One couple was married there. The temple was built by a man in memory of his wife, who had died of cancer. It was covered with notes that people had written on it to dead relatives and friends. I wrote something to my cousin Sasha. On Sunday they burned it.

One day we were hit with a pretty bad sandstorm, though the sand is so fine there that it's more like dust. It covers everything. It took over a year to get it completely off my car. On Saturday they burned the Man, a giant wooden structure of a man. (Notice the smoke tornadoes spinning off to the left.) It's the climax of the week, preceeded by an hour of drumming and fire dancing. It's very primal and pagan. There were wonderful sunsets.

It's hard to describe the experience of going to Burning Man. Those who go there obviously already buy into the idea of a temporary art-oriented utopia, so it works really well. You're surrounded by thousands of open-minded people who want to give things to each other and be nice to each other. It's great. We'll go again next year.

married.jpg sunset.jpg lace.jpg wagons.jpg jen_car.jpg
temple.jpg man.jpg roller_coaster.jpg temple_burn.jpg sandstorm.jpg


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