Burning to go

I’ve been going to Burning Man since ’92, when the event wasn’t much more than a rumor. Back then, I was the typical Nevada “participant,” showing up mainly to look for scandalous and outrageous behavior at which to gawk. Three years later, I was still doing my fair share of gawking—how can you not?—but I was also dancing around the Man on the night of the Burn wearing a giant papier-mache eyeball on my head. I was, obviously, getting into it.

Over the past 14 years, we’ve seen B-Man grow from a chaotic tribal stomp of 400 Bay Area freakazoids to a well-organized tribal stomp of 35,000 international freakazoids. Remarkable. Here are some tips for making the most of your time in Black Rock City.

1. Don’t be afraid to paint your face. And if you do, for God’s sake, make sure you don’t look like a yo-yo.

2. Don’t be afraid to paint your ass. It’s good sunscreen.

3. Take a hard-sided trailer or motor home out there. This is the best way to deal with the dust. There’s no way around it, these now common “dirt tantrums” are a pain in the ass. When Black Rock City was 1,000 people, the dust wasn’t that big a deal. Now, it’s a big deal. That’s what happens when you get 30,000 people agitating the playa with their presence, and there’s not much anybody can do about it. So when the dust kicks up, hanging in a motor home allows you to ride it out with some comfort. If you don’t have an RV, make friends with the nice pagans next to you who do.

5. Sometimes, it gets really hot. Like about 104. If that happens, don’t be riding your bike all over the playa at 3 in the afternoon. That’s unintelligent behavior. Act like a mouse. Lay low. Hide out in your burrow. Save your energy. And remember, there’s a payoff: blazing hot days mean beautiful, warm nights. Nights where you’re not freezing your glow sticks off at midnight while you scurry around in search of a burn barrel. So, in a way, it’s very cool when it gets very hot.

6. Never shave while high on ecstatogens.

7. Being at Burning Man doesn’t give you a free pass to smoke reefer. There are dozens of cops out there, and they spring into action whenever they see the passing of a pipe. Take it from my neighbors of a couple of years ago, it’s a bummer of the highest order to be hauled off to jail in Lovelock when you’re supposed to be getting ready for a margarita party at Pole Dancing Camp. Pot smokers should remember to be just as furtive, private and paranoid as they are in the “default world.” Brownies have their place.

8. Don’t knock yourself out to get into the innermost circle of revelers immediately following the collapse of The Man on Burn Night. It’s hotter than hell in there, and you’ll be claustrophobically surrounded by raving bandaloons who are a lot drunker than you. Not as much fun as you might think.