After Pat badly shanked his dirty Callahan 4 into the shrubs for what he swore was the last time, he proclaimed two things: One, he was rusty. He quickly qualified his first statement by adding the reason for his severe slices were the two weeks he spent in Reno. Pat attended a rib and BBQ festival in addition to taking his boat on various Nevada lakes. We were about halfway thru 18 holes and conversation had been strictly reserved for cussing at your ball, swearing at the pock marked greens, and eternally damning your irons. I found this an appropriate time to chime in and relate to my sweaty, foul-mouthed friend.
“You know I was in Reno as well, I went to Burning Man.”
“What!? What did you do that for? Burning Man is just one big orgy, that’s all.”
“Have you been?” I asked.
“Well you know it’s not JUST an orgy right?
Pat dropped another ball he found in the ditch and put his formidable pudge behind his approach shot. As he waddled back to his cart, cursing how hot it was, he muttered, “Well, if it ain’t an orgy, what is it then!?”
Surveying the contents of my two packed bags, one might assume a long-weekend camping trip to Joshua Tree. Take a step back, however, and you begin to admire the menagerie tightly trucker knotted into the bed of the rented Dodge Ram 1500. 40 pre-made burritos, 70 gallons of water, glow sticks, oriental rugs and drop crotch pants, and that’s just one section of the truck. I felt like I was preparing for an earthquake at a Deadmau5 show in Abu Dhabi.
In the weeks leading up to Burning Man, my friends who had been seemed more concerned with how many wacky clothes and Middle Eastern themed chotchkies I could get my hands on, after all this year’s theme was Caravansaryingaarny… Those who had never been seemed more worried about my survival, general well being and if I would come back a changed man, like in the irreparable mental damage kind of way. I found myself defending Burning Man before I even stepped foot on the playa. Pat and everyone else like him thought they had it all figured out. Drugs, orgies and taking uncomfortable poops in unfavorable conditions, and they’re right! But it’s so much more.
I came to Burning Man armed with three freshly purchased moleskins in hopes of dazzling myself and others by carving out some kind of important meaning from all this desert debauchery. I left with only two pages filled. One page had a crude drawing of a lizard man sticking out his razor sharp tongue at the sun, and the other was just a bullet point list, which stated the following:
- Robot Heart Sunrise
- Red Sun from Abayoyo as Skydivers fall
- Giant Hummus, I mean Hammock
- Dream Recorder
- Dead Guy in Ball Pit
- Talking to God and Timeshares in Jacksonville
- Honk Music
- Trash Fence No Water!
- Jumanji Bowling Team
- Thin D Collective Dust Tours
- Drugs Have a Reason/Embrace Burn
- LED Balls, Gotta Collect ‘Em All
- Center Camp Zombies
- That Damn Octopus and Those Frickin’ Teacups
Those who have been may share similar tales, but more likely they have a completely different list of bullet points. My notebook’s pages stayed relatively empty because going into Burning Man looking for meaning or some transformative experience is a bit like fishing out a small piece of cracked eggshell from a bowl of yolk. I prefer to look at Burning Man like a Madlib where various part-time authors come together for one week every year to write a very silly story together.
The playa still carries some “default” world annoyances like lines, theft etc… but the beautiful aspects of humanity tend to shine thru more brightly. Where else do 30,000 people stand in voluntary silence and watch an intricately designed temple twist and burn in the desert dusk? Where else can you bicycle block by block and be met with genuine smiles and thought provoking conversations that aren’t some screenwriter’s utopian view of the future? Most importantly, where can the Pat’s of the world camp next to a group sex geodesic dome, and never step foot inside but still have an amazing time?
As we turned in our carts to the pro shop and started to put away our clubs it occurred to me I never gave Pat an answer. It would be difficult to convince him of all the amazing experiences that await him and anyone who chooses to make the brave journey in the little time I had left. Pat closed the mammoth door to his truck, and thru the cracked window I blurted, “ You’re right Pat. It is an orgy, but there are ribs too.”