Getting ready to go to Burning Man gets a little bit easier every year as you come to understand what you do, and don’t, need to make you happy in the middle of 69,980 strangers. Can you guess I’ve got about 20 old friends there?
One thing I won’t need is money, once I get there. Last year I think I spent about $20 on ice, and coffee was the only other thing I could have bought. The amount of money I spent on ticket and transportation is a whole other conversation and that part wasn’t cheap. You arrive on the playa prepared for anything and everything.
Dragging out my boxes of assorted essentials I immediately got sucked into my “memory box” of all the goodies Burners have gifted me with over the years, and printed materials I’ve saved about Burning Man. Did you know Burning Man has its own lingo, like Anderson Valley and its created language of Boontling? There are words and phrases that convey ideas particular to one place, the Black Rock Playa.
A Darkwad is a person out on the playa at night with no light on themselves or their bike. Add a black hoodie and dark pants and you’re a walking dark hole in a frenzy of activity and just inviting a bike or and art car to run into you. A Sparkle Pony is a sweet young thing who will spend hours primping in her tiny sparkling costume to go out and be admired by everyone whole ignoring the fact she has responsibilities and jobs in her camp. MOOP is matter-out-of-place, trash and tiny litter, and we are all encouraged to carry MOOP bags to pick up loose stuff and recycle it. Chasing Ghosts is that futile search for a really cool piece of art out on the deep playa (3 miles of art exhibition space), only you’re not really sure just exactly where it is because someone told you about it at 3 a.m. and you were just a little bit drunk and sleep deprived. The Playa Provides is a catch-all phrase but it’s true. You ask enough people in enough places and you’ll find what you need.
Every year now I take less stuff to Burning Man because I’ve learned new tricks. Everyone arriving is supposed to have one and a half gallons of water per person per day. I bring one five gallon water jug for a week but every time I buy ice I pour it into gallon ziplock bags. As the ice melts I pour that clean water into my water jug…and yes it’s easy to drink gallons of water in the heat of the playa. Since there are no trash cans at Burning Man and you pack all your trash out I bring a mesh bag and anything compostable goes in it. You can desiccate an apple core or a banana skin in the dry heat before it has time to rot. Instead of numerous fancy facial cleaning products I mix apple cider vinegar and water in a spray bottle. Each night before I go to bed I spray down with this mixture to wash the alkaline playa dust off my skin. I may go to sleep smelling like a salad but my skin’s happy.
Some things are essential…like making my Hippy Juice. My campmates expect a big bottle of the yearly for sharing. Mix Coconut Rum, Triple Sec, Watermelon Vodka and Pink Lemonade together. Doesn’t really taste that alcoholic... at first…My hubby informed me that in the 1960’s this drink would have been referred to as “panty remover”. Duct tape and zip ties are essential. Goggles and a face mask are essential but I find a broad brimmed hat and a wet silk scarf wrapped around my nose sufficient most of the time.Sunscreen is essential unless your fashion statement includes looking like a boiled lobster.
The most essential things to bring to Burning Man cost nothing and take up no space. Smiles and hugs are easy to pack. The need for patience, and a strong bladder, are necessary for long unavoidable traffic jams. Your sense of silliness and a love of adventure are carried in your heart, Excitement and a sense of wonder stay stored in your brain.
A postscript: I’m looking for a fellow traveler/driver if someone has a ticket but no ride to Burning Man. Heading over the 28th and returning the 3rd of Sept. It’s not every day you can say you went to Burning Man with a grandma. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.