The intimacy of Burning Man started immediately after I was invited to join an amazing service camp named Cafe Surprise. Lucky for me, I got a last minute ticket to BM(only 15 mins after I reached out on FB looking for one, thanks Nan!). I immediately started getting messages, texts and emails from friends saying they were going to BM too and that we needed to connect. This was going to be fun!
Rod and Greg invited me into their home one evening for a full debrief of all things Burning Man, along with some of the best tips to prepare for a week in the desert. (Taping a photocopy of your driver’s license to your cup was one of the best). I had never been to Rod and Greg’s home before. I only met them a few months prior and yet they invited me into their home to help prepare me for BM. The intimacy had begun.
I knew I didn’t want to drive alone to the playa. My next goal was to find a person to ride up with me. I reached out on the Queer Burner FB page and was directed to a BM ride share page. I contacted the first person I saw who needed a ride from Reno to Black Rock City. His name was Jason. He lives in New York and was flying into Reno. We chatted on the phone and made our plan to coordinate. We had a few text exchanges over the week then it was finally time! I picked him up at the Reno airport.
We hugged like we had been long time friends. We went back to my hotel room and he showered and regrouped after his long travel day. I know this could be weird and awkward for some people but it would be totally normal for friends to do this and if you are going to BM you are already friends.This is the thing I noticed about BM, most of the people are really like minded. They share the same views of connection, openness, acceptance and empathy. It’s amazing to me that with almost everyone I met and talked with at BM I felt like I’d known them forever. Who knew that a hug from a stranger could feel so healing? I was healed over and over again through the week.
Jason and I headed to Walmart to grab his supplies. We ran around the store like teenagers. The energy was so palpable. The store was filled with Burners, even though it was 2:00am! We loaded up all of Jason’s supplies into my car in the Walmart parking lot, put on some Chance the Rapper and headed to BRC!
The conversation started immediately and didn’t end until we got to BRC. We pretty much went straight to the intimate talk. Real life shit. Relationships were our main topic. How awesome to connect and share our personal stories. The time flew by. The next thing you know the sun was rising and we were on the playa and in line to get into BRC. It was incredible! The excitement of everyone around you, watching the sunrise, taking pictures. Pinching yourself to see if it’s a dream. It’s hard to even describe the feelings I had before entering the gates. I already felt like I was wrapped in a blanket of love. Everyone making eye contact. Arms outstretched for a big bear hug and a “welcome home” greeting. I started to cry before I even did my mandatory dust angel or rang the bell. I had an incredible feeling of belonging and being understood. It was so liberating.
I dropped Jason off at his camp. We hugged like old friends, took a pic together and said our goodbyes. I saw him one more time and that was it. We have stayed in touch, as he will always be the one who was with me the first time I drove into BM.
I headed to my camp. I couldn’t even process what I was seeing. The sensory overload was real and I was digging it. It felt like very organized chaos. I set up my stuff and met up with another new BM friend, Eric, who I met two weeks prior in SF. This was his second burn and he knew his way around and so we went and explored. The people watching and vibe was so refreshing. It was Monday morning so it felt bustling and yet still felt intimate. Every passerby saying “welcome home”. Smiles for everyone. Eye contact! I was in heaven.
My friend Nabiel, from SF, told me to look for his art car and say hi once I got on the playa. His car is pretty iconic on the playa and you can see it from most places. It’s got amazing 20 ft sunrise colored flags and an incredible sound system with some serious bass! Imagine my excitement when we saw it. We followed the flags and were so happy to find Nabiel working on his art car. I will say his first words to me were “hold this”. He was making sure his lights and sound system were ready for the week. Nabiel explained to me how he loved having the car as a way to enjoy time on the playa with his friends. We finished on the car and went in his RV. Nabiel, Eric and I sat around his table for an hour and just shot the shit. I’ve known Nabiel for more than 25 years, yet we never have the time in SF to sit and just chill. To slow things down and connect with a new friend and old friend felt so satisfying.
Nabiel took us out in the art car. We were driving around, music blasting, people on bikes riding alongside of us with their arms in the air pumping to the house music pulsing from the speakers. At one point Nabiel told me to stand on the platform above where he drove. I was standing on the top of the car, 15 feet in the air and I was feeling on top of the world. Completely surreal. I felt connected to every person on the ground. We were all experiencing an incredibly magical moment in time together and we all knew it. The happy tears flowed down my face.
Nabiel gave us a tour of the camps he loves and introduced us to so many new people. More hugs. More “welcome home”. I asked him if he could take me to see my friends Rod and Greg. We drove up to their camp and they weren’t there. A friend said they were at Celestial Bodies. I asked her to have them go outside as I wanted to make an entrance. She agreed. We pulled up to Celestial Bodies with me on top of the art car, house music penetrating the air. I catch Greg’s eye and his mouth dropped open. The girl who had been sitting in their living room weeks before asking a million questions about BM was now making an entrance on an art car! It was the best entrance ever! A day I will NEVER forget.
My emotions were all over the place. So many hugs, so many smiles, so much love and so much intimacy despite being in the middle of a barren desert. It was a dream come true in every sense. This was only my first day on the playa!
More to come. Stay tuned.