For years I thought about going to Burning Man so that I could experience this ‘self reliance’ and radical expression’ that I heard so much about. In 2008 I finally subscribed to Jack Rabbit Speaks and lived vicariously through the newsletter and photos. Finally making it to the playa was surreal, for lack of any word in existence that could possibly describe it.
Like many virgins, I thought I was prepared. I mean, c’mon; I read the newsletter for years, I knew the principles, I had signed up to volunteer, I scoured the internet for tips and I checked my packing list twice. I knew I needed a tent (I doubt I would ever RV it, personal preference), food, water and a bicycle. You definitely need those things to survive on the playa. There were still things that I forgot, things I was glad that I packed and things I learned along the way. Here’s my shortlist, in no particular order:
10. Participation. Participate. Participate? Participate! This cannot be repeated enough. Just because you don’t want to join a camp or can’t commit to four hours of work a day as a ranger doesn’t mean that you can’t give back to Black Rock City (BRC). You can spend a few hours at Playa Info, get on stage in Center Camp, support an event or create your own event to share with the other citizens of BRC.
9. Lights At Night. There is nothing worse than literally running into some unlit being on the open playa after dancing it up at Disorient on Tuesday night. Be a dear and put some blinkies or glow sticks on your bike as well as yourself when you head out at night. Mutant vehicles and art cars may not see you stumbling across the playa and we would all hate for you to be that inevitable fatality that we have grown to expect annually.
8. A Vinegar/Water Concoction. Be sure to label the spray bottle that you put this mixture in. After spending hours exploring the playa your sweaty feet will thank you for keeping them from learning what playa foot is all about. Simply spray a little of this on your hands and feet and pat dry. Be sure to finish this ritual off with some lotion or sunscreen.
7. A Backpack. This sounds obvious, but it’s not. Couples tend to bring one bag and share the space. It’s not fun being the designated bag carrier with 2 water bottles, sweaters and other essentials strapped to your back. What would you do if that bag carrier of yours just so happens to wander off? Now it’s getting dark and your thirsty, what are you going to do? Don’t even let this become a potential situation, each person should have a backpack! It also makes it a little easier to get to the things you want when you want them instead of pestering the person holding all of your super cool stuff.
6. Earplugs. I even do this when I go to parties in the default world. Earplugs will help filter out the noise that will cause eardrum damage and it makes it easier to understand what the cute person in the elephant costume is screaming in your ear at Nexus. Want to get a few restful hours of sleep in your freshly pitched tent after a six hour entry queue? Pop in those earplugs and let the playa dreams roll.
5. Baby wipes. Some people feel icky after going seven days without a proper shower, but consider it a right of passage when you live in BRC. You can always head over to Nectar Village for a steam bath if you do not want to undertake creating your owner shower structure and in between make use of baby wipes to get your clean, quick fix. Remember that you’re only going to re-dust yourself two seconds after stepping outside. Save your water for drinking and your energy for playing, baby wipe the dust away.
4. Reusable Cups. It’s easy to just buy a pack of paper or plastic cups, but they’re wasteful and will become MOOP a lot quicker than you expect. Instead opt for a sturdier cup. Pimp out your favorite plastic reuseable cup or invest in a shatterproof thermos that you can attach to your bag for easy access.
3. Chapstick. I like to lovingly call the effects of chapped lips on the playa Playa Herpes. Just like the default world version, this is something that you just don’t want and your friends will probably stop sharing their cups with you. Do yourself a favor and buy a six pack in case you lose a tube. You can always gift an unused tube to someone that appears to be in need!
2. MOOP Bags. There will come the time when you are peddling down 4:00 between Engagement & Divorce (2011 street names) and you come across a half dozen used glow stick bracelets waiting to be picked up. Help keep the playa clean and carry a little bag to collect matter out of place. When you make it back to your camp empty out your travel size MOOP bag into your camp MOOP bag.
1. Your Own Personality. Just because some people choose to dress themselves up with EL wire before hitting the town each night doesn’t mean that you’ve got to do the same. Some folks prefer a simple floral shirt and cargo shorts when they head over to Center Camp for a coffee while you’ve got others that feel incomplete without their hula hoop, yarn extensions and green fur coat. Do what feels comfortable to you and just be yourself. You know the saying, ‘Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.’ Keep in mind that this is also the time to step outside your comfort zone and try something new without the fear of being judged.
Keep in mind that there’s one thing you don’t need on the playa; a bad attitude. We all get tired, dusty and possibly dehydrated at some point during our short time on the playa, but that does not mean that Oscar the Grouch needs to make an appearance (unless that is planned ensemble for burn night).
Whether it’s your first burn or your 27th you’ve got to remember that you make the city and the city also makes you. Don’t forget the bacon. The gate opens in 193 days and the Man burns in 198 days. )'(