Feel the burn

Burning Man participants write their impressions of what the Man and Black Rock City mean to them

Photo By David Calvert

Every year, Labor Day rolls around, and with it come the Burners. We see them in the Albertson’s and The Home Depot or hanging around the Melting Pot and Twin City Surplus.

Every year, too, we see the media coverage, first-timer reporters slack-jawed looking for the “why” of Burning Man. And the Burners, upon return to the default world, wonder how these blind can so blindly lead the blind.

But spend a few minutes alone with Burners—on the playa, perhaps in a dust storm where the conditions are too harsh for television cameras or made-for-TV makeup—and the “why” of Burning Man becomes apparent: Black Rock City is a place for some people who want to feel like they fit in. It’s a community. It’s a rebirth.

Take several notebooks from camp to camp. Take a point-and-shoot camera. The Burners will tell you why they’re there. They’ve just come home.

Erica Brandon Bennett

Erica Brandon Bennett
Santa Barbara, Calif.

Nighttime brings dreams of incredibly surreal experiences. You can fly, visit dead relatives, other dimensions. You can even make love to those you can’t have in real life or those you’ve never even met.

Burning Man is the waking dream that allows you the freedom to integrate your night world with that of the day. It facilitates the ability to consciously dream.

When we all become conscious dreamers, we will see the world we all know is possible come to life.

In the “reality” that encompasses us in the United States, we are incessantly forced to accept and buy into a toxic, disposable materialistic world. We are taught to fear individuality and creative expression. Survival of the fittest is the typical motto, and fear is perpetuated by government, schools, parents and media. In this crazy world, we are so removed from that which is truly important—breath, love, happiness and community. Burning Man acts as one of the few places where those things are reignited.

Jesse Lombardi

Everyone shares, listens, parties, dances and creates—just for the sake of life—and ultimately respects and accepts each other’s differences.

For me, Burning Man is an integral part of existence and healing. We are all like the phoenix rising from the ashes of our attachments. Here we are all special, beautiful, the same. One.

Have you been to a place that you can say these things about?

In Lakech is a Mayan greeting that means, “I am another yourself.” It sums up what I see and feel at Burning Man.

Jesse Lombardi
Malibu, Calif.

Laurence Alvarez-Roos

Burn, baby, burn! What a life-changing experience. Burning Man came to me. I was not planning or thinking about going. A small seed was planted. I checked out the Web site, and tears immediately began streaming down my face; the pre-burn was the next day. When I awoke, I decided I was not going and that it had been a poor idea. By Friday, I finally committed to the ticket, then the instant planning began. The fire began to burn all my past even before I got to Black Rock City. I must tell you, Burning Man was the happiest, most blissful experience: the instant creation, healing and all the destruction and the release of all the past.

I have finally come home. I love the people, the art, all the music. Burning was not an endeavor, as I feared. It was a healing of all our creative empowerment. Thank you, Burning Man community.

Laurence Alvarez-Roos
Truckee, Calif.

My experience at Burning Man has been an exponential series of visits—going from one hour to 24 hours to an eight-day week, and I like it. Nowhere, nothing and nobody is like it. How else can you become a penniless king of experiential learning but by coming to this festival in the desert where the dearth of water is complemented by the creative juices flowing like a flood?

What I have loved most is the surprising people with delicious morsels of love (i.e. food) whipped up in the heat of the day to satisfy a torrential hunger suppressed by lack of sleep and bright sunshine. Sometimes you don’t realize how hungry you are until the food is presented or how lonely you are until you are surrounded by thousands of intelligent, compassionate people who welcome you home with as much heart, if not more, as family.

Rex Jarrett

This is how the world should be, or just maybe, like a pebble thrown in a pond, the ripple effect will transform us.

Rex Jarrett
Santa Barbara, Calif.

Burning Man! I first heard of the event on a TV newscast—people burning a man in the desert. Then my partner said that she wanted to attend the burn this year. She had attended the year before. So we started the quest to come home to the playa. Arriving with $100 to my name in my van, which is home, joining a tribe of people on the playa—some I’d known, some not. Within a short period of time of meeting them, then becoming family along with those camped near us, all giving gifts of themselves and other resources.

For me, Burning Man is the place where, by expressing yourself and opening your eyes to other ways, each person at the burn expresses him/herself. The energy is so intense it fills the desert air.

It was spiritually moving for me. The symbolism, the Burning of the Man and the Temple. Burning the past, pain or whatever holding you from going forward with your life.

Jessica Lunsford

Jessica Lunsford
Santa Barbara, Calif.

“Welcome home,” the greeters say at the front gate of Burning Man. Home is exactly what Burning Man is to me. It is a place where you can be who you are without any judgments being passed. A corporate businessman and a garbage truck driver would be in a conversation and having a drink, which would be rarely heard of in regular society.

It is amazing what humans can do. In a few days, we build a fully functioning city in a dusty desert where the elements can kill you. Burning Man is my inspiration for the year. I can’t wait to get back.

This year was special for me because my grandparents passed away right before Burning Man. I reburned my portion of their ashes in this year’s fire. I thought this year’s theme was ironic, “Vault of Heaven.” I will always come here every year because Black Rock City is my home.

Brian Chandler
South Lake Tahoe, Calif.

Brian Chandler

Connection, communication, love. These things are all but missing from our world, cities, towns. We come here to enjoy human kindness and connection once a year.

I travel all over and find all sorts of mindsets and personalities. Most of them seem closed and ignorant. There are a lot of people out here who agree with me on this issue.

The freedom experience out here at Burning Man and the energy we all cultivate here, through art, music, dance, cannot be found anywhere else.

We should take this into our everyday lives. I usually feel this way for at least a few months after the burn. By the time the next burn rolls around, I definitely need to feel the human kindness again.

Oxnard, Calif.


Through the naked body parts,

colorful hairdos, and audio

soundscapes piercing the dry

unforgiving desert air, I

left my old body on some

Mark Tuchman

stranger’s art car and was

given a new one

by a friend.

It had new eyes, new skin

a new heart and a new profound

Tianna Fallgatter


Cherishing my rebirth, I relaxed

humbly, in the shade smiling

“I’m equipped for Babylon’s weight

come Tuesday.”

Kathleen O’Brien

Mark Tuchman
Brooklyn, N.Y.

This is my fourth Burning Man (third for my wife). We seem to go every other year. We love the community and the creativity, and we love being in a place where surprises are around every corner.

Here are just a few of the things that come to mind about this week.

· An amazing zoetrope the size of a merry-go-round that at night creates the illusion of a man diving into the sand.

· The seesaw with a wheel attached at the center so we can go up and down and move around the playa at the same time.


· At one theme camp, we got to peek inside the “God Box,” but we were sworn to secrecy, and we can’t reveal what we saw inside.

· And we finally found the “free speech zone.” It was a little cage in the open playa equipped with a megaphone.

We love meeting people here—it’s easy to do. Camping is fun until the shade structure buckles under high winds. And last, we always look forward to the warm meals and hotel stays in Reno on the way in and out of Black Rock City.

Tianna Fallgatter
Bakersfield, Calif.

The anticipation of my first time was almost unbearable. I had heard so much about it from my friends. For too long have I been told I’ve been missing out on one of life’s most intense pleasures. I decided I was ready. I couldn’t sleep the night before, so I checked to make sure that I would have everything I would need.

Sean Hunt

My wait was over, and my palms were sweaty, the energy high and heady, like a drug. I absorb this experience straight to the vein. The glistening sweat and hot skin cooled only by the sweet kiss of ice and wind.

It’s sensory overload now. I can’t take much more. The sights and sounds pulse through me, filling me to overflowing. I must shout to the winds, tell all who have ears about this epiphany I have.

Do you know harmony does exist? Laughter, friendship and acceptance can be found. Now no longer a virgin, I yearn to experience the ritualistic burn where all as one, we reach our climax.

Once returned to normal existence, some may ask, was the wait well worth it? Time will only tell, I suppose. The Vault of Heaven is wide open and much unknown. It is my mission to listen to and learn from all around me, to possibly gain a grain of wisdom that I swear to share with others.

Kathleen O’Brien

Mimi Richardson

BURNING MAN FESTIVAL. VAULT OF HEAVEN. BLACK ROCK CITY. Ticketholders in this lane. Just the two of you? Have you been searched? Welcome home! Go slow, no dust! The playa is composed mostly of prehistoric fish shit (got a mask?). In dust we trust. Do you have your goggles? If it wasn’t in your body, don’t put it in the potty. Thunderdome Rules: … We are always right. … Don’t bitch. NASA gave drugs to spiders, and here’s what happened. Where’s our Sandinista? Punani trim parlor—come in. Welcome, traveler. Confession booth open, sinners welcome. Here, have some beads. Come to pee funnel camp—never sit down to pee again. I hide my life away and hope they will not find it and dream of that place called home where my people and I will live safely some day. Dip your nipples! Come on in, we have caramel chocolate nipple dip right now! I brought tons of Emergen-C, if you guys need any. Brr—Come in Here—Cool and Dust Free Playa Playard. Please burn untreated wood and paper only. Come forth and receive the blessing of Water Boy. 1:2,739,960,630: a demonstration of how small we really are. There’s No Better Outlet—Burn the Man. Burn Bush, save the man! Burn the man! Free the man! Burn him! This we love. Muchas gracias.

Bakersfield, Calif.

As they dare to dream, they set out across the dust. Does anyone know what their dream is? Do they themselves even know? And still they journey across the vast expansion. What is it we all have lost to make us search so long and so far for? Wind, dust, freedom, diversified plateaus of epiphany?

I have found my treasure, locked it inside deeply and carried it here today.

Not to exhibit or trade to discuss or analyze, merely to rest assured that no pirates will find my stash because I know that they have traveled so far to find what lives in my soul the other 358 days.

Sean Hunt
Dublin, Ireland

From Interstate 80, we drove east to a small town called Gerlach. A small city, two miles over again, lit up in the dark with a blue man calling us into a festive rave and cultural experience. I was taking a week’s break in this weird, crazy environment.

Walking on the playa at 4:30 in the morning, everything goes. After a few hours, I was a bit daunted and headed back to the truck. The sun came up, and I tracked out to some dance tent.

Center camp, riding on off-the-wall floats, being drunk and watching people who look like crazy ancient warriors and beautiful princesses. We like it. Yes, this is not a project but an experience. Put yourself in the right frame of mind, and you can hold onto this place.

Mimi Richardson
Montecito, Calif.

I became a part of this beautiful place we at home call playa where we expand our minds, open our hearts and truly become one. Friends, you made it happen. The dust in your hair, that freaky, difficult night’s flair. No wonder I find it such a happy place. That particular you. I get lost in deep green, if you know what I mean. Hammock time was so real, so fine, so sweet. You are what made the burn happen for me. Now with the burn in our hearts, I’m going to make a fresh depart. I love you all. That’s my part.