Travels in the American Southwest

Burning Man Arts Festival 2003

Sunday - Wednesday, 8/24 - 8/27

Spent four days and nights at the Burning Man festival. Often called a counter-culture event, perhaps it can be more accurately described as a Temporary Autonomous Zone. Many rules found in society are not present on this prehistoric lake bed. Art cars, some which belch propane-fueled flames, would never be licensed for street use elsewhere. Rolling 'bar cars' serving a variety of libations freely cruise the streets of Burning Man's Black Rock City. Fantastic displays of artwork are found around every corner. Individuals in all states of dress and undress mingle freely and unselfconsciously.

But every society needs rules agreed to by its citizens. Black Rock City's rules are few but strictly adhered to. Most people might call these rules simple common sense. You don't hurt someone through your action or inaction. 'Leave no trace' means exactly that - you pick up your trash and don't make a mess for others to clean. The only commerce allowed is the sale of coffee and ice in a specific area of the city; All other commerce is banned. A gift economy permeates Black Rock City. Prior to our trip out west, MSO has collected a large assortment of trial-size beauty products; Shampoo, conditioner, tooth brushes and paste. These were placed in a plastic tub and left on a table in front of our campsite during our four day stay. From time to time, we'd replenish the supply, always surprised at the gifts others had left us - Necklaces, bracelets and the like.

As expected, days on the playa were hot reaching 114° one day. MSO and I offered icy cold drinks, electrified with a splash of alcohol if desired. The beverages went quickly.

Due to limitations in language, it's tough to describe Burning Man and what it is. Since a picture is worth 1000 words, these may help.

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