2015 brought a different sort of Burning Man for me. As I was experiencing my tenth year on the Playa, my early 40s son was experiencing his first.
Over the previous few years, the renown of the event has grown enormously, leading to an ever increasing scarcity of tickets. And it has been reported that fully half of the attendees in 2015 were first timers. Though the allowed population cap had been lifted slightly to 70,000, the gap between the number of people who wished to attend, and those who would be allowed to has continued to widen. This has been increasingly the case from July 2011, when tickets first sold out, and ever since.
2015 turned out to be probably the dustiest year I have seen. The playa was enveloped by intermittent whiteouts by mid morning nearly every day. In the evenings, long past sunset, the sky would eventually clear allowing Black Rock City back its inimitable sparkle.
I recall thinking during those dusty afternoons that the newbies were not going to be ready for this and could not possibly be wanting to return. I could not have been more wrong. The ruggedness – the physical and psychological demands of the Black Rock Desert seemingly dissuaded almost no one. It all seemed to work, in fact, the other way around. Once you had survived the day after day dust storms, you realized your power. Challenged; invigorated; triumphant.
Damn. The newbies were hooked and those I asked were all planning to return. And this included my son. “I am returning” he said, “every year for the rest of my life.” Well something like that. Dissuaded? Ummm.
So now ticket scarcity has only grown. Fortunately, the character of the event can also evolve. These hardy new converts will bring their own energy and enthusiasms to the magic of Black Rock City, and I will be happy to share in that.
And so now Burning Man 2016 approaches. The theme this year is the Da Vinci Workshop.
The desert? It will be the same. Unpredictable. Beautiful. Harsh. As a setting for art – especially large scale and interactive art – unparalleled. The art will be amazing.
The neighborhoods and texture of the city: dynamic. strange. fascinating. Deeply imaginative and creative, amusing; as varied as the people who populate the city.
There are challenges. The weather will be what it is. The traffic will be what the traffic is. A city that comes together and then vanishes in a few short weeks inevitably stresses the few two lane roads that lead to the site.
The dusty and windy times, the rare rainy and muddy times, and the clear resplendent nights, sparkling and shimmering with a symphony of dim dancing lights. All this awaits us.
No wonder the newbies will return. We have all tumbled into a place, and a state, that is uniquely magical.
Black Rock City 2016. Fast approaching. Different again. Living in a different area of town than I/we have before. Excitedly anticipating some new large scale art being built. Sharing something I have loved for a long time with a boy I have loved since his birth.