Pro Tips for Black Rock City
Listen in as longtime Burners talk about the aspects of thriving in Black Rock City: mental, physical, material, and relational.
Andie, kbot, Molly, Stuart and Vav explore:
- socks secrets
- FOMO variants
- saying yes and saying no
- giving and accepting help
- No Friends Monday
- and all else!
Featuring cameos from longtime Burners: Anjelika, Chef Juke, Crimson Rose, DA, Dave X, Halcyon, KJ, and Lulu Lurine.
They discuss doing it all, doing it right, and doing it wrong as access to being real. Don’t just pack. Prepare. Here’s how to have BRC be overwhelming in a good way.
KBOT: I’m having so much fun because everyone’s advice is so unique and you never know what it’s going to be.
STUART: Hey everybody. Welcome back to another episode of Burning Man Live. And just when you thought we couldn’t talk about Burning Man anymore, today we’re gonna talk about going back to our beloved, dusty, weird home in the desert, back to Black Rock City. It’s back on. It’s looming, it’s coming soon. And as people’s thoughts turn to spreadsheets of supplies and what to take and what not to take, and trying to do it all right, I thought it might be good just to kind of have a little bit of a chat here with a few people who’ve been doing it a long time.
Not to say we’re doing it right. In fact, I would say every one of us is still doing it wrong on a pretty regular basis because that’s Burning Man. Here in our imaginary studio, we have at least a hundred years of Burning Man experience.
We got DJ Toil.
MOLLY: Yep. Since 95. That’s a lot of years.
STUART: Our man in the booth, Vav.
VAV: 1996 was year one for me.
STUART: Holy Cannoli. And, ActionGirl.
VAV: Andie Grace. 97 was her first year.
STUART: And kbot.
KBOT: 2004 was my first year. Are Burning Man years different from other human years? Like, you know, they’re like dog years?
STUART: Dog years. So that means I’m like a hundred and something… kbot I’m really glad that you’re on the line here because you just got through building a Journal piece about pro tips about Burning Man. What was that process all about? And can we read it?
KBOT: I’m having so much fun because everyone’s advice is so unique and you never know what it’s going to be.
The first one was very philosophical. I spoke with Raspa. And the second one is about how the heck do you bring your burn when you live really far away from Black Rock City? And the whole series is called, Remember How to Burning Man—not just “How to Burning Man,” because you can also forget. That’s true. We’ve all forgotten a little bit about this whole thing. I know I have.
STUART: I’ve forgotten more than you will ever learn, young person, and I’m getting really good at it too. kbot I know that you’ve got some clips for us here too, so we have another couple of centuries of Burning Man experience of people doing it wrong again and again and again. Did any one particular thing stand out from all the different people that you spoke with?
KBOT: I really loved Andie Grace’s pro tip: the minute you leave your house, you’re already at Burning Man. I think that’s really important because there is that middle ground between leaving your house and arriving in Black Rock City. It can be this extremely stressful and weird time where you are neither here nor there. The way she philosophically frames it is not like, oh, the minute you leave your house you’re at Burning Man, so let’s start having fun.” It’s more about, let’s go on playa time. Let’s take it slow. Let’s enjoy the journey. Be in the moment, focus on the people around you have that qualitative I’m on the ply sort of state of mind. The minute you get in your car or on the airplane or in the bus.
STUART: Now you surprised me. I could have sworn you were gonna say “socks.”
MOLLY: The most important pro tip.
STUART: Socks, socks, socks.
MOLLY: I mean, like, that should be the header of everything is socks.
STUART: I was never big on going barefoot, but. It took me a while to realize that playa dust is so goddamn fine. It is like twice as teensy as a gram of talcum powder. It gets through your shoes. It gets through your socks and it gets on your feet, whether you like it or not. So for me, that little revelation of like, when I went and bought just like a giant jumbo pack of socks, so I could change my socks twice a day. But, um, I think we’re getting ahead of us here.
VAV: Socks are so important, or at least prevalent as advice, that we’re saving it for later.
STUART: Let’s zoom back out and talk about survival. No show like this is a substitute for reading your Survival Guide.
I don’t care how many times you’ve been, you at least had a couple years off. It’s always good to get refreshed on that. It’s really, I would say, required reading, particularly if it’s your first Burning Man, but even if it’s not.
You know, we called it the survival guide for a reason. And I’m old enough that I remember when we wrote the first ones and it was very much a survival experience. And it was very much based on a few of us who’d had actual survival training in the military. As it says on the back of your ticket still, I believe, you know, you can die out here, right?
VAV: Yes. I knowingly assume all risk of loss, injury or death which may occur by attending the Burning Man event. I assume responsibility for my participation. Something like that.
And the group that we went out with then was a bunch of City Slicker Cacophonists from San Francisco. Most of them didn’t really even know how to go camping, much less go camping in one of the worst places in the world. I had fairly recently gotten outta the Air Force where I went to all of the aircrew survival schools.
That was my first transformative experience. Military survival school, you just imagine it must all be about MacGyver tips, like how to turn your zipper into a fishing lure or whatever, but it’s really much more psychological. That was where I first learned about Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs. When you’re a hundred miles from any services, which was really the case back then before it was a city, those human needs can become very urgent and very particular.
Actually I just went back to the Air Force Survival Bible (AFR 64-4) and refreshed myself on how they break down any survival situation into four things. And I think we can apply all four of those to our conversation of Burning Man.
The first is your psychological condition, your mindset. Back in the days, that very first Survival Guide that I helped write I included a phrase there. Under the heading of YOU MUST BRING was “common sense, an open mind, a sense of humor and a positive attitude,” because how you go into the experience, the way your mind is beforehand is super important. The second is physical condition. Obviously your physical wellbeing. The third is materials, gears and supplies. And the fourth, from survival training, they call obligations. And that’s your expectations of yourself and others with say your campmates, your significant other, even with yourself about how you’re going to behave, as a community member. Are you gonna live up to the 10 Principles?
So those four things percolate through anyone’s survival experience. Even in our modern, postmodern, city-fied Burning Man experience, they’re all still at play.
I wanna talk about mental attitude. Anybody here have any stories, any fail stories or win stories, about having the right attitude going in?
MOLLY: We had a camp member who had been to Burning Man several times through some really great weather years and had never experienced the kind of inclement weather that we can get on Playa. I believe it was 2014, was that the year that it rained so hard in the morning and we had to shut down? Well, the evening before we were watching lightning, outside myself and a buddy, we were sitting in lawn chairs, just watching it play across the horizon and it was brilliant and beautiful. This woman came up to me in a total panic, you know, there’s lightning. I’m like, “It’s a couple hundred miles away. It’s not right here.” She’s like, “Well, we need to do something.”
I thought about it and I thought the best thing I could do was give her a job. So I had her cover up all of the electrical connections that were in our camp with cellophane and tarps and things like that, and she was still panicking, so I told her to take a nap. I’m like “We’re safe, we’re fine. Take a nap. If something happens, then you’ll be rested and ready.”
And she ended up sleeping all night, got up in the morning in the pouring rain, and she’s like, “Yeah, things are really okay. We didn’t burn down. We didn’t get hit by lightning. It’s not terrible.” It was a big revelation for her. And she actually came back to me a couple of years later and thanked me for — instead of just lecturing her about “don’t be silly” — giving her something proactive to do about something that she thought was a problem. I see that as part of what you’re talking about with attitude, Stuart is making sure that, you bring your best intentions towards whatever the challenge is that you are gonna face, ‘cuz we’re gonna face a lot of ’em out there, whether it’s rain or loneliness or forgetting your medication or whatever it might be.
STUART: Or basing your wardrobe on last season’s weather.
STUART: Yeah. Where it never got cold. And you forgot to back your sleeping bag.
MOLLY: That was me.
STUART: Oh, I’m not the only one who’s ever done that.
MOLLY: No, you’re not. I slept in a pile of clothes.
STUART: For a lot of people, I know that getting ready to go to Burning Man and getting there can be a very anxious experience. So you can come in with a lot of anxiety in your head.
KBOT: Crimson. She said something that a number of us have been saying to each other over the last few months.
STUART: Kbot, you wanna play that clip?
CRIMSON: Don’t let Black Rock City be the first large gathering you should go to. Because we have been sequestered for a while, it’s not a bad idea to maybe go to some smaller events just to get your feet wet, so that Black Rock City doesn’t become overwhelming. Because it will be overwhelming no matter what.
STUART: Now when you’re there, I think a form of anxiety that I’ve personally never experienced, but I’ve heard is a thing, is something called FOMO. What are some coping strategies for that Fear Of Missing Out?
KBOT: My friend Peter, the way he dealt with FOMO at his first burn was just to say yes to everything that crossed his path. It was “Say Yes Day.” He just left the camp and he walked around and he said yes. That alleviated his FOMO because he was in the moment, immediately swept up in his environment and with the people that were around him.
STUART: Do you guys read the What Where When, the playa events guide?
MOLLY: I read it when I get home, which is kind of great. I’m like, look at all these great things that all these great people were doing.
STUART: or might have done or or might never happened there.
VAV: For years I would read it and put in some bookmarks and some notes and dog ear it, and make some plans to get there. And I would never get there unless I got there and it had moved time or moved location or, yeah, so I let go.
STUART: I’ve seen people really using that as if it were like a Frommer’s Guide to Burning Man, like, I have to do this and I have to do this and I have to be at six 30 and X at 8:30 in the morning for, you know, for a Yoga Banana Breakfast and whatever, and trying to build an itinerary, which generally doesn’t work. Here’s a clip from Chef Juke talking about that.
JUKE: If you can come to Burning Man with the fewest number of expectations, they will all be exceeded, good, bad or otherwise. Plan as little as you can and be open to experiencing as much as you are able.
I have known people who have gone through the What Where When guide and literally planned out every hour of every day they expected to be at Burning Man. And within a day and a half, they were either incredibly frustrated because nothing happened where or when they thought it was going to, and they either went off and hid in their tent crying, or they threw their little list and calendar away and then just went out and explored and experienced.
Make sure your basic needs are taken care of, and maybe look at figuring one or two things a day that are of interest to try and go out and find, but be open to not sticking to whatever plan or script that you have.
Exploring is, to a great deal, what Burning Man is about whether it’s exploring things internally, externally, a combination. I know people who’ve gone there who were worried because they felt “I’m an introvert, so many people. I’ll get inundated.”
And I say, but you know, you can find your space. If your space is with a lot of people and that’s where you want to be, you can find that. And if your space is out by the trash fence alone, looking off into the distance of the incredible desert out there, you can find that as well, and everything in between. So, bring a mindset of exploration and see where that leads you.
MOLLY: Yay, Juke.
STUART: Yeah. We also have one from the fabulous Lulu.
MOLLY: I can’t wait. Good combo.
STUART: What did Lulu have to say about this?
LULU: Say yes. When someone asks you, “Do you wanna go out to this crazy spider web art piece?” you say yes. If a group is getting together to go to the Dust City Diner, don’t wait for an invitation; ask if you can come along. And also say yes to your body. If your body is saying “I’m really tired and I wanna stay in tonight,” do that. Listen to the people around you, listen to yourself, and get involved. And when someone says, get in the truck, get in the truck, or the mutant vehicle as the case may be. And at the same time, say no. Set your boundaries, know what you’re comfortable with and what you’re not comfortable with.
If what you need to do is say no to doing more, to staying up till Dawn Patrol, then don’t do it. FOMO is real, but FOMO is not something that needs to control you. So, say yes and also say no.
You are living out there. This is not going to Burning Man. This is going to live in Black Rock City. And so if there are things that you need to live your life, you should bring them. If that is your humidifier, bring it. If that is your mirror, bring it. If that is your yoga mat, buy another one and bring that. Don’t bring your nice yoga mat. Nobody wants a Manduka full of dust. Don’t skip on the things that make you, you and the other, like I talk about yoga and weightlifting and running and stuff quite a bit because I know a lot of people have those as regular components of their life, and they’re really helpful for stress alleviation. And when you stop doing that immediately, and also start being in a super high stress environment, working weird hours and sleeping weird hours, it just messes your body completely up, so bring the things that you need to live your life.
I first went to Burning Man in 1995 when I was six, and I’m still going every year. All the time. Can’t stop, won’t stop.
KBOT: Yeah. So I just need to ask this question. What keeps you going back?
LULU: The people I think, and the expansive nature of humanity at Black Rock City. Anyone can do everything and anything. I feel like when you’re a kid, people tell you, you can be whatever you wanna be when you grow up. The people in Black Rock City are being whatever they wanted to be when they grew up. And they’re showing their children that, and they’re living that every day, and it is inspiring and stimulating to be around people who are doing and being exactly what they want to do and be every day.
KBOT: Wow. I think I’ve done it wrong.
LULU: Well, you can start now.
KBOT: I just did.
MOLLY: Well, I can tell you that when I first started going to Black Rock City, my child was very small and I had ideas about things that I wanted to do, and my child, as small as she was, was very headstrong and determined. And I gave up after about half a day and decided there was so much going on, that there was no point in trying to make it to places on time, at times, and to just do what the kid wanted to do because there was plenty of entertainment to be had. I didn’t have to stress myself out about it and I didn’t have to argue with a small child who wanted to go that way when I wanted to go the other way. So that made me understand how to easily give up FOMO, and go with the flow, the FlowMo.
STUART: FlowMo. And in the interest of full disclosure, that child of which DJ Toil spoke, is the fabulous Lulu now in our ticketing department.
MOLLY: That’s true.
STUART: Born and raised at Burning Man, or at least raised, at least growed up, as much as anybody ever grows up at Burning Man.
VAV: One of the behind the scene heroes of our podcast is Anjelika, who had this to say about FOMO.
ANJELIKA: For me the cool new fashion is JOMO, and that stands for Joy Of Missing Out. That’s when everybody drinks more Red Bull and I go to bed!
STUART: I just gave up leaving camp, more than I have to. For me, the big psychological break, it’s kind of, it’s a psychogeographical insight: Black Rock City has no center. There’s what we call a Center Camp, and then there’s the Man and all that stuff, but the center is anywhere you want it to be. It’s kind of a spiritual thing, but if you just stay still. Burning Man will come to you. Trust me. And it will very often carry off on its own adventure that you never could have looked up in a book.
During the event also one thing that can affect our mental attitude is burnout, both physical — one of the top reported conditions at our on playa a hospital is heat, exhaustion, not heat stroke, but heat exhaustion, right? Severe dehydration makes you silly, makes you stupid. You know, we don’t often see it in ourselves. In fact, we can just about never see it in ourselves. So this is a team sport, right?
As we say sometimes in my camp: Look for signs of stupid. And if someone, you can tell if somebody is acting, you know, more contentious than usual or more stupid than usual. Our answer is pickle and a nap. Eat a pickle for the electrolytes and go take a nap, drink some water, come back later. You’ll be better. there’s also psychological. I mean, you can just get burned out because you’re having so many peak experiences, right? How do you deal with that?
KBOT: I think you need to talk about them. That’s why camps are so wonderful. You can wander off and have your peak experience and then you need to come back and tell some stories. That’s why we tell stories as Burners is to assimilate the things that we maybe have never had a vocabulary for before.
STUART: That’s really good. You talked to KJ of our education team on this topic. Let’s hear what she had to say.
KJ: I always leaned into the acronym HALT. Someone taught me that early in my Burner years. HALT stands for hungry, angry, lonely, and tired.
And if you find yourself at a breaking point or you have been HALTed, check in with yourself and more likely than not, you are either hungry, angry, lonely, or tired, and then you need to address the thing that is going on for you before you can move forward. Um, “hungry” can also include “dehydrated.”
Black Rock City is so overwhelming, but having an acceptance that you are not going to experience it all. Give yourself a time out. HALT. What is the thing? Do you need a nap? Do you need a hug? Do you need to talk it out with someone? Do you need to cry? Do you need a granola bar? Do that thing, and then try to do the next epic adventure.
There will be more things burning, more explosions happening, more like ooohs and aaaahs, more fun music. You will get there, but in this moment, your body is trying to tell you something, your heart, your, being is trying to tell you something and listening to it is like a really profound lesson and skill that you can take back into the world of concrete and running water.
Here in this world, year-round, it’s easy enough to kind of ignore your instinct or your intuition. You’re like, something’s off. I need to check in, I need to… No. I just gotta keep working or I gotta keep making dinner or I gotta keep doing whatever I’m doing.
But out there it like just becomes so visceral and such a matter of survival. I’m over stimulated. I’m feeling frustrated with my campmates. I’ve had a fight with my partner. And I just need a moment to sit and breathe and eat a granola bar. Just do that. Black Rock City will be there. The art will be there until it’s gone, but right now what you need is to ground and center and that’s the most important thing.
We joke about it being, you know, jaded old timers, but like you’re at Burning Man right now! You’re figuring out your plan. You’re stitching together your hopes and dreams for the thing. You’re planning your fabulous costume. You’re like figuring out your bike decoration or your big art project, or like how you’re gonna really dial in your cool shade structure. That’s it, that’s part of it. And then you get out there and you manifest the thing, your costume, your bike, your shade structure, and it’s like, you made a dream come true.
So be in the moment. And right now, the moment is planning and preparation. Soon enough we’ll have seven days of the thing, and then we’ll have another year hopefully to figure it out again.
KBOT: To understand what the hell happened.
KJ: Yeah. Be excited. Take good care of yourself. No rush.
STUART: And last bullet point under the broad umbrella of psychological well being or mental attitude is that notion of being a good citizen of trying to live up to your obligations. That can be rather onerous, particularly if you’re new to the culture you’re trying to cram those 10 Principles as if there’s going to be a written test on them. Our friend Halcyon had something to say about that.
HALCYON: First off, bravo for desiring to do it right. Now kind of let go of that a little bit, because so much of our life, we have been trained and pushed to do it right, and to do what we’re supposed to do. And this is one of the rare places in the world and the communities that actually doesn’t want you to do what you’re supposed to do, they want you to listen to your inner calling, and listen to your inner artist and, and start to really follow your impulses. However… you wanna do them within the principles.
So the two paths I would suggest to you is one, make sure you educate yourself on the principles. And two, start listening to that inner voice. And sometimes that inner voice is gonna tell you to do stuff like, Ooh, I’ve never thought about doing puppetry. That’s when you go, “Yes, grab a puppet, do it, do it!”
Everyone here is what makes this event. So you might have an instinct that I’m here to check it out, but really everyone here is making it better for everyone else. One of the principles is Participation and you’re gonna find that the more that you participate, the more that you’ll get out of this, and that includes saying yes when you get offered to do things, as well as saying, “How can I help” when you see people building things.
There is a big difference to going to the coolest event in the world and participating as a person who is taking it in, and going to that same thing and feeling like you helped make it happen. When you can look around the city and feel like “I helped create this,” that will change your life. So if you get an opportunity to help build, to pick up something, to pound something in, to say, “Hey, do you need a hand?” Do that and it will make all the difference.
KBOT: Receiving rather than taking is fundamental of yes.
KBOT: Yeah. And it unlocks differently for different people. I remember my aha moment was when someone stopped their bike, got off their bike to pick up a piece of MOOP off of the ground. And I was like, “Oh, we’re all doing this.”
HALCYON: We have so many, so much evidence and so many experiences that are contrary to these ideas that sometimes it takes a little bit of multiple things.
The guy who invited me, brought me out onto playa, open playa, and I saw all the huge art and I was like. The scale, of course, even in ’98, the scale was like, “Whaaaaa!” and I’m like, “Wait, so does my ticket price go to funding these projects?” And he’s like, “Oh no, no, no, no, no, no. These people have been fundraising year round for the opportunity to blow your mind.” Yeah. And in that moment, my mind was blown. Yeah.
To see this incredible energy put into purely wanting to enhance my experience that I was like, “Okay, I now wanna spend the rest of my life giving to this.”
KBOT: And you did! You do.
HALCYON: Our project’s a little different this year, a little different this year, but it’s still the best job in the world.
MOLLY: Yeah. I was thinking about the notion of doing it right, being the good Burner, taking care of yourself, Radical Self-reliance, all that. People often feel like accepting help is an admission of failure, and they don’t need to do that. They should remember that the help is being offered, that somebody that comes by and sees you struggling with a piece of equipment that you’re unfamiliar with and says, “Hey, I can help you,” that’s not them telling you you’re doing it wrong, that’s someone offering you a gift. Accepting that gift is part of how you can keep that mental attitude positive, because it’s not about you failing. It’s about letting somebody in and letting somebody support you and then being better for it in the long run.
STUART: Yeah. That notion of carrying your default world expectations along with you is really interesting. There’s so many things that we do in our day-to-day lives that we’ve just internalized. We don’t really think about the lengths that we are going to, to present ourselves in a certain way, to look a certain way, to interact with people in a certain way. And when that starts to fall apart, when you realize that nobody cares, you have a license to kind of be yourself and not have to live those external expectations.
Okay. Do you wanna talk about physical wellbeing and taking care of our bodies out there? First I just want to say how much I hate playa dust. Can I just say that?
VAV: It’s a necessary evil.
STUART: It’s a necessary evil because it’s a dry lake bed and there’s like about 60 gazillion tons of it in there, right? And lately I guess with climate change and with the drought we’ve been having, there’s more of it than ever. What are some of the things you guys have developed over the years to cope with dust? ActionGirl? Do you love playa dust?
ANDIE: No, I hate it. Yeah. I don’t like it on my fingers. I don’t like it on my toes.
STUART: So do you wear gloves particularly when you’re working around camp?
ANDIE: A lot of the time. The grossest thing is to handle cardboard.
MOLLY: Oh, I know that feeling.
ANDIE: Oh, it makes my skin crawl just thinking about it. So yes I do. And I definitely do the vinegar treatments. Some people are not bothered by it. I know this is true.
MOLLY: I’m one of those.
ANDIE: For me, it’s gross.
MOLLY: Once I finish packing, after I’ve opened up all the bins and rearranged everything, I’ve already taken the plunge into the playa dust. It doesn’t bother me all that much.
VAV: There it is. There’s that reason why when people go into Black Rock City and they’re met by the greeters and they’re invited to stop, drop and roll in the dust is because it’s time to surrender, to accept that it will soon be everywhere. Why not now?
STUART: It’s alkaline and it’s corrosive and, uh, yeah. Here’s the tip. Everybody knows the benefits of vinegar for neutralizing the alkali. I just found a product called Calgon. Can I say a product by name? Calgon is this weird, old laundry additive that was designed to soften water. This shit is like vinegar on steroids. Put that stuff in your power washer, if you got an external tank for your power washer. That will clean the underside of your car. Put a little drop in your laundry. It’ll clean all the dust outta your clothes. If you just wash it just keeps coming back because it’s chemically bonded to the surface because it’s so corrosive.
VAV: It’s science, people.
MOLLY: It’s science. Exactly. We need some science in order to deal with that fine, fine, fine dust.
STUART: Molly loves it.
KBOT: I slept in a tent pretty well every year that I’ve been to Black Rock City. And once you’re tenting it, or I’ve slept in a dome, but pretty well the same thing—you’re not escaping it, and it just becomes the normal. It’s just all over me. It doesn’t bother me anymore. I admit that the first few minutes, maybe it’s a little bit, Ugh,” and then it’s just like, I’m living this now.
ANDIE: I’m fine with it. Everywhere except fingers and toes.
STUART: And cardboard.
MOLLY: I used to tell our newbie campmates that this is the cleanest dirt you’ll ever eat. I’m not encouraging them to actually eat it. It’s like you pull the plate out of the kitchen box and you just kind of shake it off and then put the food on it.
STUART: It is an irritant, especially on cardboard. I’ll tell you what my pet peeve is: shoe laces.
MOLLY: Oh yeah. I’m with you there.
STUART: Your shoelaces get, it makes this like squeaky, blackboardy kind of a feeling. Uh, it’s just horrifying. So I don’t take shoelaces anymore. I just wear like pull on boots,
ANDIE: zippers and stuff.
MOLLY: It’s sterile.
STUART: Well, Science. Isn’t really sure about that, are they?
MOLLY: It’s pretty darn sterile.
STUART: It’s a prehistoric lake bed. How many decayed organisms from the micro to the Leviathan are included in that playa dust? I don’t know.
MOLLY: You can deconstruct it on a molecular level.
VAV: However, once we leave the very arid hot area, everything that is covered with playa can start to stink more than it did on playa.
MOLLY: That is true.
ANDIE: Yeah. When I turn on the car’s air conditioner, the kid says “It smells like Burning Man in here.”
MOLLY: I rented a U-Haul truck one year to help Lulu move, and got into it, got to driving, Lulu turned on the air conditioner, and I just started laughing. I’m like, “I know where this truck has been.”
ANDIE: Those big gallon, two gallon, five gallon sizes of zip top bags. I didn’t say the brand. You can put every single outfit in those, including when you’re gonna leave in. And if you don’t wear it, it’s not dusty when you get home and you just put it away.
VAV: Yep. That’s great. A couple people had said new socks are like a spa day. Your drive home outfit in a Ziploc bag under the driver’s seat is magical. Yep.
KBOT: And speaking of the drive home treat, I always buy a couple of canned iced coffees, stick them in the glove compartment, don’t tell anybody. And then as we hit the highway, I pull them out, and they are the best thing. No one falls asleep with the wheel. Everyone’s happy.
ANDIE: Pro tip.
MOLLY: That’s a good one.
STUART: Yeah, let’s talk about leaving because Exodus can take longer than you might expect. It took me a couple of cycles to figure out that I should have a cooler with me in the front of the truck with cold beverages and snacks in it. Because once they start pulsing cars, you’re gonna be sitting there for hours at a time waiting for your chance to get back out on the highway.
MOLLY: Well, you’ve gotta look at pulsing too as, you know, you’re still at Burning Man. It’s another opportunity to get to know people. Maybe you’ll see like pieces of an art car that you never actually got up close to and you’re pulsing and you stop in your vehicle and you can walk over and say hi, and how much you enjoyed their piece. It’s people handing out snacks, people talking to new car neighbors that they never would’ve met otherwise. Thinking that you’ve left Burning Man when you get on Gate Road heading out, you’re wrong, you have not. Right. That’s true.
VAV: So leave before you’re ready to be gone. Leave while you still wanna be there.
MOLLY: That’s a very good piece of advice.
ANDIE: Especially with all the little towns you’re gonna be passing through and they’re excited to have us and also don’t need us being exhausted, little broken bunnies as we pass through.
STUART: Yes, saving a little bit in your reserve tank for that journey home is really important. DA actually had a good comment about that.
DA: Well for Leaving No Trace for sure is remembering that this is a big picture. This is a marathon. Not only do you need to get the Burning Man safely and you’re gonna have your burn, you’re gonna need to pack up your camp and everything you brought to it. And you’re gonna need to sweep it and leave no trace, and make it look like you never were there. And then you’re gonna need to go home safely. And, that’s the big picture of it right there: Getting to, having your burn, Leaving No Trace, and getting home.
KBOT: It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
DA: It is certainly a marathon. If you take it like a sprint, you’re gonna burn out, which is your choice, but it’s not sustainable.
KBOT: What you’re really saying is that Burners should save their mojo for the end because they’re gonna need some of it.
DA: Yeah. You need to pace that out, your mojo. You peak too early, you’re out of the game. And next thing you know, you’re looking at your camp and you have no energy, and nothing’s getting done on the back end. You have to uproot, and that takes effort. And then Leaving No Trace takes effort. And then getting home safely takes effort and focus and energy. So the big picture of things is to do everything in a nice, safe, sustained manner. Have your burn, but just know that there is a big picture game going on.
MOLLY: Yeah, that’s important.
KBOT: Dave X also had a really great bit about that. The “No Friends Monday” thing.
ANDIE: No Friends Monday!
STUART: It’s real.
MOLLY: Plan for it.
DAVEX: Well, the one tip that I always give to all Burners is after the Burn. The Burn is pretty predictable. You’re gonna have a good time or you’re gonna struggle, or maybe some combination of both, but in that process, you’re gonna meet new people. And there’s this chance in life that these people will become meaningful to you in some deep way going forward. Going to Burning Man can be like going to the airport. Really. You could go into any gate and pop out anywhere in life by going to Burning Man.
But there’s a treacherous part, which is the Monday after the event ends. By that time, all your dopamines are gone, any extra reserves of energy or compassion you may have are long gone. It’s the end of the event. And even though you may have committed to doing cleanup at your theme camp after the event, that plan goes out the window and you go over to the camp and you tell people, “Hey, I’ve got a reservation at the Peppermill in a couple hours. We gotta head out. You guys got this cleanup covered, right?” And then you’ve destroyed all the friendships that you’ve made.
And that last day on Monday, sometimes like that new friend that you made drops a cigarette butt because they’re completely out of their minds with tiredness or whatever, and you lose your mind. You’re gonna snap and you’re gonna yell at them.
So you gotta watch out on Monday that you don’t wreck all the great friendships and new inroads in life that you made throughout the week. Remember to let stuff slide. If somebody says something idiotic to you like “I gotta go to the Peppermill. I got a reservation at noon,” you gotta just let that slide. You can hate them in the moment, but later you gotta think through, “Well, they weren’t in their right thing,” you know, “They’ll make it up to me later.”
And also if you’re that person thinking of cutting out early to go to the Peppermill, whatever, remember this lesson and think “I don’t wanna let my new friends down. I gotta like push myself a little further.”
The benefit of Burning Man that we don’t charge extra for is that pushing yourself one step further than you thought that you, you thought that you might not make it to noon to get to the Peppermill, but once you push yourself the six hours further, then you thought you could go and you go into some kind of dream quest state, and then somebody shows up with an amazing steak, and you have the best meal of your life with the new friends that you made while you were staying for cleanup, that’s the win.
So I just encourage everybody to remember on Monday when things start going sideways, you risk losing all those great friendships and connections that you just made. So let it slide, and do your part, and get out of there gracefully, and remember not to let No Friends Monday bring you down or ruin those new friendships.
KBOT: No Friends Monday. Oh, man. I have been on both sides of that, so yeah.
DAVEX: You know what I’m talking about.
DAVEX: No, you’ll yell at people. And then all of a sudden you’ve crushed all those new friendships because you just had nothing left to give. And it’s common. You could predict it. You can see it coming. And that’s the thing that I try to remember on Monday. When I hear people saying crazy stuff, I just let it go. It’s like the last day in prison, you don’t want to get stabbed, you know.
STUART: Doesn’t matter how close you were, how long you cuddle-puddled. Yeah. On Monday…
ANDIE: You wake up and they’re gone. And it’s just you.
STUART: Or if they’re still there they’re getting in your way and not pulling their load.
KBOT: Yeah. The tent that is just standing there after the rest of the camp is gone. You don’t know where they are.
VAV: Under the guise of they donated it to you. It was a gift, right?
ANDIE: Oh, it’s a gift. Yeah.
STUART: On the periodic table of gifting that’s called LEAVEium. Somebody just left it behind. Thought you’d like it. “It was a gift to you. It was my gift.”
KBOT: Did you just make that up? Or is that like a thing?
STUART: No, actually we should probably do a whole episode on the periodic table of gifting.
VAV: Again with the science!
STUART: LEAVEium. Obtainium. Aquireium. Uh, Demandium. That’s like, “Where’s my gift?”
STUART: Let’s talk about water. Come on. We’re in the desert. Everybody knows it’s dry. Do I really, really need to take a gallon or two gallons per person per day? Is that real or couldn’t I just take beer instead?
VAV: Isn’t the dust actively sucking all of the liquid out of your body at every moment and the heat and the wind?
MOLLY: The sun is.
ANDIE: And the elevation.
STUART: The lack of humidity. It is ridiculously arid. It is like 15 to 20% humidity out there. No other place on the world is even close to that. It’s really, really dry. And yeah, it just wicks it right outta you.
MOLLY: Absolutely. I have another kid story for you. The first year that we were there, I did not heed the water recommendations. We had enough water, but we were being careful. And it was one of those moments where all of a sudden it’s way too quiet and you’re like, “Uh oh, what is the child doing?” I went around to the other side of the car and she was sitting there with a one gallon jug, pouring it down a crack in the playa going “Look, mama. The water just goes away.”
“Yeah, it does! Stop.”
STUART: Yeah, until it turns into a pluvial lake. And you can go sailing in your tiny one inch peel sailboats out there all winter long. Let’s go to Crimson Rose. She had a pro tip about this.
CRIMSON: By the time we get back to Black Rock City it will be three years. Now that can seem like an eternity. I think being kind to ourselves, I think some of us will become overwhelmed, emotional. We wanna do everything, try every piece of interactive art, jump on it; go to the temple; go to the Man; dance all night. Just be kind to yourself, and remember it’s a high altitude and that sometimes you wanna be hydrated, and drinking booze does not necessarily mean you’re hydrating. So drink lots of water and be kind to yourself.
KBOT: It doesn’t matter how many years you’ve been going. That is a really important reminder.
STUART: Hey, I got a tip. All that ice that you have will melt and can be water if you do a little bit of advanced preparation. Part of that is to sanitize your ice chest and to keep it sanitary. That means keep your food all in double Ziplocs and all that stuff, so you don’t get, say, blood from your steak into your water and fall it all up. The other is to freeze lots of one gallon jugs of water and use those as block ice. Pour a little off at first it’ll explode in the freezer, but the more of those you can create the better; that’s just gold cuz it all turns into good cold, clean drinking water.
KBOT: You can take lemonade and freeze that, and make that as your ice, and then you have lemon slushies.
STUART: So you’re saying if life gives you lemons, drink lemon slushies?
MOLLY: Drink slushies.
KBOT: I am, I am saying that. The other thing that I like to do is to get a block of ice from Arctica and put the whole block of ice in my big plastic water cooler. And then that block of ice becomes your drinking water and just melts slowly over the day or the two days or whatever.
STUART: Melting Man.
ANDIE: So you mean the big sort of construction style drinking coolers?
KBOT: Yes. Like the ones the fluffers use. Exactly.
ANDIE: I want to say to people not to touch the nozzle of their drinking vessel to those because that is a contagion vector. Just speaking again from experience.
STUART: Stay safe, kids. Great, pro tip.
Okay, so clothes. I know a lot of thought goes into what I’m going to wear on playa. It’s funny, you go back and look at the old photos from the early Burning Man, everybody is dressed like a dork. They all look like a bunch of city kids on their first camping trip, wearing fleece and, you know, and cargo cargo shorts and all that stuff.
Is it possible to bring too many clothes to Burning Man, too many changes of costume?
ANDIE: Ask my husband.
MOLLY: I’m gonna say yes.
STUART: How do you know when it’s too much?
MOLLY: When you have changed 14 times in three days.
ANDIE: What’s wrong with that, Molly?
MOLLY: I’m not saying it’s wrong, but it’s a lot. And that wasn’t me. You can guess who that was.
ANDIE: I go for like three outfit changes, from wake up to to bed, primarily because it’s cold, then hot and cold. and it’s really good to have that one layer that you can always rely on.
STUART: I wanna go back to tents. Here’s a pro tip. Do not take a tent out there that you have never put together before you got to Burning Man, whether it’s when you borrowed from somebody else, which may be missing a tent pole (arg!) or one, you just, your addled brain can’t figure out how to put it together. Second, look for tents that have as few of those screens as possible on them, or try to cover those vents up so that less dust comes in.
Let’s talk about adhesives. Duct tape falls to pieces out there. What works? Does blue tape work better?
MOLLY: Blue tape is great for taping up gaps to keep dust out of your vehicle and stuff like that. But it’s not really good for holding things together that might have any pressure on them.
ANDIE: There’s not really a tape that works really well.
MOLLY: I actually tape up Christmas lights now because the aluminum tape that’s used to repair motor homes or campers, it’s made of aluminum and that stuff actually sticks. It’s not cheap, but it works.
STUART: It’s used on ducts, but it’s not duct tape. That silver metallic duct tape. Good call.
ANDIE: Let me know when you see a duct out there.
VAV: I’ve seen an art car that looked like a rubber duckie.
MOLLY: I’ve never seen ducks, but I’ve seen chickens. I’ve seen pigeons, fly chickens, actual chickens in Center Camp.
STUART: Not the legendary playa chicken?
MOLLY: No. That’s a whole different story.
KBOT: Wait, what year did you see chickens in Center Camp? Is this like old time stuff or like last year?
MOLLY: It was like late nineties.
VAV: Molly saw them, but no one else did.
MOLLY: Lulu told me about them and I didn’t believe her. And I thought she was giving me a hard time. So we went back to the cafe and sure enough, there were chickens running around.
KBOT: Ooh. Did you figure out who brought them? Why were they there?
MOLLY: No, they were just visitors. I don’t know what they were doing.
ANDIE: They had tickets.
MOLLY: Well, I didn’t ask them about tickets, but they seemed very self-assured.
STUART: I have seen a goat. I’ve seen a camel.
ANDIE: I saw the camels.
MOLLY: I saw the camels. There is a wonderful photograph of Lulu holding ferrets in Center Camp. That was a fellow who rode his bike out from Gerlach, apparently, who had a basket on the front that was a cage for his ferrets, and he brought them to Burning Man.
STUART: Public Health disclaimer, please don’t bring your ferret to Burning Man.
MOLLY: Yeah. Don’t bring your animals. It’s really not a good place for them. I mean, we’re laughing about it, but it’s not really…
ANDIE: Yeah, yeah. Not even in your RV.
STUART: No, because that air conditioning might not stay. It might go out. Power might go out.
ANDIE: Don’t count on it. Yeah. That’s absolutely true.
STUART: You guys know the original reason why we did not allow dogs at Burning Man?
ANDIE: Because they will get shot if they run onto a local ranch.
STUART: That’s exactly it. If they get loose, local ranchers will just kill ’em.
ANDIE: They’re harmful.
VAV: To protect the chickens.
MOLLY: Yeah. The whole shebang.
STUART: The whole circle of life. Okay. Speaking of chickens, how about food? You guys got any ideas about what to eat or what not to eat? Actually, Molly, we’ve got a clip of you. Let’s play some of that. DJ Toil, excuse me. I’m calling you lots of different names.
MOLLY: I have a lot of different names.
STUART: Can I call you Rocky?
MOLLY: You can call me Rocky.
STUART: Let’s hear what Rocky had to say.
MOLLY: You know, the getting-in-and-out is always a struggle and there’s plenty of stuff to read on that. But one of the things that I’ve learned over the years living out of coolers: If you get one of those, sun shades for your car window, that’s made out of, , Mylar bubble wrap, and just cover your cooler with that, it really makes a difference because it reflects the sunlight and the heat away from your cooler. It’ll keep your ice icy a whole lot longer than if you just even leave your cooler in the shade. That’s a big one in my book.
One other thing is what I call my nighttime sunglasses because dust storms happen at night, too. There can be dust and dusty places and people put on their goggles, which 9 times outta 10 are dark, and then they can’t see, so that doesn’t work. If you look for safety glasses, welding glasses, that are tinted yellow, you can still see at night, and you can keep the dust out of your eyes. Nighttime sunglasses, this is life changing.
The Playa food groups. We were participants for a very long time. People get so many crazy ideas about what’s a good idea out there, and they’re often wrong because there’s no other environment really like it. Until you’ve experienced it, you just don’t really know.
KBOT: Okay. So my first year we brought chocolate and I had it packed down the side of my suitcase, these chocolate bars. We had no idea.
ANDIE: You sounded so professional about all this Burning Man stuff until just then.
STUART: Chocolate. Bad idea.
KBOT: Oh God. Our first year was a train wreck, train wreck. I think we did everything wrong.
ANDIE: What was the wrongest thing you did besides the chocolate?
KBOT: It’s not about food, but do you really wanna know? We decided to build a small geodesic dome using bamboo and we built it in a park in Montreal and it worked and it was glorious and we were delighted with our dome.
And so we bought more bamboo and then we took it to the desert and we tried to build our dome and it just shredded and MOOPed everywhere and it cut our fingers.
VAV: You took it from 70% humidity to 20% humidity, and it just freeze dried in the heat.
KBOT: It was awful.
STUART: Well, okay. I got one I’ll share then. And it was not my first trip and I absolutely should have known better and did know better, but a friend of mine in my camp persuaded me that yes, he could build a parachute shelter that would withstand the winds. Okay.
ANDIE: “Withstand”? Weren’t you in the Air Force?
ANDIE: You know what parachutes are for?
STUART: They teach us to build parachute shelters but no, and, the guy who built it was one of my Air Force buddies, Big Wave Dave.
To compound mistake on top of mistake, that year we also brought one of those double carports. The mistake was we were setting them both up at the same time with not a very large crew. Well, the wind came up and started picking up that parachute and everybody had to run over there to hold that thing down. When the squall finally passed over, we looked back and was like, “Um, where’s the carport?” It took me 45 minutes in my truck to find it downwind. Thank God it didn’t kill anybody. It tumbled all the way and it ended up wrapped around the front of a Class A motorhome, like a big nose bra.
It was okay though. We cut a few poles here, cut a few poles there, and a two car carport turned into a one car carport, but it still got that job done. All right.
ANDIE: Back to clothing, wait, we were on food clothing.
STUART: I got food on my clothes. Wow.
MOLLY: What are you gonna do now?
STUART: I would add a food observation is that you’re gonna crave salty foods out there. It’s a way of your body to retain moisture. If you’re not getting enough salt and you can drink all the water you want, you’re still gonna get dehydrated.
MOLLY: Absolutely. I always tell people to think about salt and sugar and protein and fiber. Those are the things you end up craving out there. Who knows what you’re really gonna feel like eating, but you’re gonna think I want something salty, or I really need to get some digestion going with some fiber here.
STUART: I need a pickle!
ANDIE: I like to make a lot of (or purchase from delivery) a lot of pre-prepared meals, and then put them in big Ziploc bags and freeze them on a cookie sheet that makes them flat pack in a cooler like little soldiers. And you can eat so much food that way. I just yesterday made a potato soup base that I can send with me and my family and add whatever fresh BS we want to at the end. You can fit 30 of those in your cooler.
KBOT: That is ingenious.
STUART: That’s a great one. Yes. Boil in bags. Just saying. A vacuum sealer.
MOLLY: Yeah. The vacuum sealer, man. We used to, we’d like barbecue, do one day of just cooking everything. We did Seal-a-Meal lasagna, Seal-a-Meal barbecued chicken and ribs, tamales. Everything. Works great.
ANDIE: Most of us are not necessarily staying in a camp with a developed kitchen, and as much prep as you can do at home, package removal as you can do at home. Freeze and save. You’re not gonna feel like cooking and you might not feel like eating as much as you think you will.
STUART: Yeah. And that packaging removal is a great way to reduce your MOOP footprint too, and make it easier to clean up on the way out. Absolutely.
How about evapotrons? What do you guys do with your gray water? Anybody ever had success with an evapotron? By the way, folks, that is a contraption designed to evaporate your gray water or a portion of it so that you have less of it to cart out. I’ve had nothing but disasters. Is there a good one?
ANDIE: I want to love it, but no, I haven’t seen success.
MOLLY: Our funky structures never worked as well, and we spent a lot of time funneling gross water into five gallon bottles to take it home.
KBOT: I think no matter how you decide to evaporate, it requires diligence. There needs to be that one individual who’s really committed to evaporating the water, and whether you’re using a pond or you’ve got some kind of towel system, or whatever you’re doing, if you don’t have that person who’s paying attention, nobody wants to deal with it, and it’s gonna fail.
VAV: Yeah, create the least amount of gray water possible.
STUART: It seemed like drunk and stoned people are always like stepping in them and, and mucking ’em up.
ANDIE: Also true.
STUART: What about injury avoidance? People step on stuff a lot out there. I believe that actually the number two complaint at Rampart, at the hospital, is soft tissue wounds. So a lot of people don’t even have the luxury of playa foot, they just have a puncture wound in their foot.
KBOT: And those things don’t heal out there. You get a puncture wound and that thing’s not gonna heal till you go home.
STUART: Yeah. wounds generally don’t heal.
ANDIE: You should definitely bring your own first aid kit for camp, and like have bandaids, and have disinfectant, and have…
STUART: Super glue.
ANDIE: not Neosporin and not super glue. You know, have those things. You don’t really wanna have to interrupt your day and go to Rampart just for something that minor. You’re not wrong.
STUART: Try to maybe avoid injuries in the first place. KJ had something interesting to say about that—her clip about “just wear stocks and boots.”
KJ: If I’m gonna go out on playa it’s socks and boots 100% of the time. I don’t mess around with it. I know it feels good to be barefoot. I know it’s hot. And it’s socks and boots.
KBOT: I think the move away from rebar and towards lag screws is actually probably saving people a lot of puncture wounds.
ANDIE: Yeah. Rebar is a common injury.
MOLLY: The other thing is guy lines.
STUART: Oh yeah.
MOLLY: If you don’t mark your guidelines with something that people can see in the dark, somebody’s gonna get clotheslined. My ex has a nice scar across his cheek from one, but he was dumb and wouldn’t go to Rampart. So, you know…
ANDIE: Even just tie something to it that blows in the wind. Yeah. But ideally something that lights up and recharges.
KBOT: And also creating established paths in your little tent village so people aren’t like running between tents, they know that they can sort of follow a lit area.
VAV: Rebar and other pokey-outy things. Maybe put something over your rebar, like a tennis ball or a plastic bottle or something stylish and classy. That’ll help.
ANDIE: A stuffed animal.
STUART: Tiny stuffed animals. Good call.
KBOT: Little teddy bears all around your camp. Beautiful.
STUART: And keep your shoes on kids. Yeah. I started out with boots and then I was like, oh, these are two. I wanna be free. And now I’m back on boots because, oh, I don’t wanna step on something that punches through the bottom of my foot.
ANDIE: But don’t make them too heavy.
STUART: No, no; lightweight desert boots. Yeah.
ANDIE: And don’t make it the first time you wear them. Break them in.
STUART: More good advice.
VAV: What about socks?
SOCKS SOCKS SOCKS SOCKS SOCKS SOCKS SOCKS SOCKS SOCKS SOCKS SOCKS!
STUART: Okay. So you packed all your clothes, half as much food as you think you need, you packed all your water, you packed your first aid kit. Please tell me that you packed whatever medicines that you take, because there is no pharmacy out there. You can’t get what you need.
I can’t think of a possibly a worse place to go off your meds, whatever those medications are. That’s enough said about that. Although that leads pretty well into the next section.
I wanna talk about our relationships with others. That’s one that could definitely put a cramp in your relationship style. If somebody’s, uh, mood is altering more than it usually does, what are some ways that we can get ahead of those relationship disasters and crises that sometimes happen out there, right?
Action Girl, you had something to say about that, didn’t you?
ANDIE: I helped write the first Relationship Survival Guide that was on the website, and I know there’s a lot of information, but it’s often a thing we don’t think about. Not just your romantic relationship, but your friends and your campmates and how you expect to experience Burning Man, it might be really different. And if you don’t have a conversation about that and make it okay to talk about that while you’re there and encourage people to have mindful communication, you can end up in a lot of hot water.
If you’re a person who likes to stay around camp and cook for people, or ride around on your bike at one o’clock in the afternoon, or stay up and party until 4:00 AM, you should talk about that. Pretty simple.
STUART: Yeah. I don’t think it’s possible to over-communicate on your end of trip plans and to keep bringing it up again and again, and again, to avoid the No Friends Monday syndrome.
The surest way to leave Burning Man with fewer friends than you showed up with is to not have a good cooperative strike of your camp and leave no trace effort and have somebody left feeling like they were stuck with that. That can build some very nasty resentment that, believe me, can carry over for years. So don’t do it.
ANDIE: Yeah. and I mean, you might have that person in your camp who is willing to play that role and be quiet about it. That doesn’t mean it’s good for them; doesn’t mean it’s good for your camp or your community. So it’s really an awesome idea to have that conversation ahead of time with your campmates and build a plan for throughout the week, and also at the end. Strike is super important.
MOLLY: There’s a values aspect around that too of really listening to the conversations that you’re having ahead of time. And when you see you’ve got someone sitting in the corner, really not contributing, or you know, they’re just trying to slide through. You gotta get everybody on board.
KBOT: Also there needs to be forgiveness because you’re living with these people for 10 days. So if something does go sideways, it’s really important to reestablish those relationships, and make sure that everybody’s okay with each other again, at some point, if they can be.
ANDIE: That’s way more necessary than going to the dance party that you had planned.
STUART: So you’re gonna try to keep the friends you showed up with. You’re probably gonna make some new friends though, too. There’s a whole lot of strange people out there at Burning Man. How do you guys deal with giving and receiving gifts out there? I always tell people if it’s your first time, don’t worry about it too much. It takes a while to learn how to receive a gift well. When you come out of a culture where gifts are so commodified and so based on reciprocity. If you doubt that, think about Christmas lists, and if somebody doesn’t get you a gift two years in a row, are they gonna stay on your list?
Or, you know, if I got you something for your birthday, I expect you to get something back. What are some ways to deal with that?
ANDIE: Even your Christmas card list, when you think about it.
ANDIE: As a person who’s been out there for, like, half of my life I’ve been given gifts that I didn’t really want to receive, but they were often by a really well-intentioned early Burner, if I may, who was handing out plastic stuff. And you’re right, if somebody shows up for their first time and feels like “I gotta bring a gift, I gotta bring a gift,” bring yourself. Bring yourself and bring a little time and contribute and like go out and pick out some MOOP before you leave, that’s a gift. That’s enough of a gift.
MOLLY: And referring to what I was saying earlier about people wanting to help. If somebody offers you help with something that you’re struggling with, accept it. Go with it. Be that person when you’re walking down J Street and you see somebody, I mean, it might even just be somebody looking lonely or somebody that looks like they’re struggling to do something in their camp. There’s a hundred ways you can help people out there that’s far more valuable than any necklace you might make.
ANDIE: I know a really cute couple who met because he said, “I know that you’re a strong, independent woman, but I would really like to help you set up your tent right now.” They’re married and they have two kids.
MOLLY: Great way of putting it. “I would like to help you,” not, “You look like you need help.”
KBOT: Presence is also a gift and it’s something that I try to practice where you’re just there for that person to listen and for whatever they wanna do and share. It’s a kind of variation of immediacy in a sense.
ANDIE: We used to say “No spectators,” but sometimes observing someone else’s sharing of who they are, it feels a little bit like spectating, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. “No spectators” is a weird statement when in fact sometimes being seen as exactly what the person needs in that moment.
MOLLY: I always really liked that phrase. It made me feel like I needed to do something instead of just hide in the background. I think of people who are out there with their fabulous outfits on, they want to be spectated. They want people to appreciate the work that they’ve put into their appearance.
ANDIE: Requesting attention is a fine thing. And sometimes I think we’re a little shamed for it in our culture. Whereas out there every person I meet is a rock star. They might be dressed fancy. They might be wearing khakis and a vest that matches the khakis, but how they show up and bring it is a gift.
KBOT: if we weren’t spectating sometimes as a form of participation, it would be chaos. Like the playa pop symphony is playing and everyone’s running around trying to do, that’s not a very cohesive situation. If someone has created a beautiful gift and they wanna share it, and it’s a beautiful work of art, you can’t always just be doing your thing, you have to appreciate that.
ANDIE: See also the burning of the Man?
STUART: Well, that is far less participatory than it once was. That’s true. Now I’m reminded of Desert Siteworks, which was an art happening out in the desert that was very much a formative influence on early Burning Man. It was so participatory that they realized in their second year that they needed to create a designated observer position of somebody to just be the audience, because it’s not really a show unless somebody’s watching.
MOLLY: Good point.
STUART: All right. I think that’s about it for today. We could go on and on and on, but we all gotta pack our stuff, right? Alright, thanks to all of you, my friends, to kbot, and to Molly slash Rocky slash DJ Toil, to you Vav, to you Andie Grace / Action Girl, and to all of you who listened. Who knows. Maybe we’ll see each other in the dust.
VAV: Thank you to you, Stuart. Thanks also to Anjelika, Crimson, DA, Dave X, Halcyon, Juke, KJ, and Lulu for sharing your experience. And thanks to John Cragie for the song.
Burning Man LIVE is a production of the Philosophical Center of Burning Man Project produced by a ragtag group of rebels with some duct tape, zip top bags and meal sealers.
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Thanks to all the people who made all this happen. And, thanks, Larry.
JOHN CRAIGIE: Come on baby, let’s go climb on some crazy-ass art.
There is so much that we could process, girl
when we get back to that old default world
but for now let’s enjoy the city while we can.
We could talk about some serious stuff
but I hear there’s a wooden man that they’re gonna blow up.
Let’s talk this over when we’re sober
and we’re not at Burning Man.
Yeah, we could redefine our relationship
or we could make love up on top of a pirate ship.
Let’s talk this over when we’re sober
and we’re not at Burning Man.