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to Burning Man because I saw the huge festival in the Nevada desert as the epicentre of the three things that most interested me in 2013: sexual experimentation, psychedelic drugs and futurism.
But everyone said Burning Man was over, that it was spoiled.
The greeters at the gate had given us a guidebook; the lists of events read like mini prose poems in futurist jargon: ‘ … resiliency, thrivability, open data, mixing genomes and biometrics with our passwords and cryptocurrencies. Social entrepreneurs and free culture makers, hack the system and mash the sectors.’ For someone interested in sexual experimentation, the possibilities for self-education here were endless: there were lectures on orgasmic meditation, ‘shamanic auto-asphyxiation’, ‘ecosexuality’, ‘femtheogens’, ‘tantra of our menses’, ‘sex drugs and electronic music’ and the opportunity to visit the orgy dome. I supposed that since then I’d been non-monogamous, in the sense of sometimes having sex with several different people within a specific period of time. It was smaller then, just serious environmental activist types with a leave-no-trace ethic. A Buddhist anvil dominated the centre of the room, and several hundred people sat around it on the floor in silent meditation. We couldn’t find the wedding we were looking for, but another couple were getting married, and we cheered them.
I went to a lecture on new research on the use of hallucinogens in treating illnesses. As I said this both the idea of counting people and the idea of grouping them within a timeframe seemed arbitrary. Afterwards, sitting together in the sun and dust, we assembled a hexagonal plywood structure that joined other hexagonal structures in a sort of plywood molecule. We went to a chapel containing an organ that Jean wanted to play before it was set on fire. He picked out ‘Here Comes the Bride’ on the organ and we cheered the happy couple. Instead I went back to my caravan and took a synthetic hallucinogen on blotter paper called 2CB.
I climbed the spaceship with the effigy on top that gives the festival its name. Earlier in the summer we had spent a week together in Portugal after getting together at a wedding. in Lisbon, when he left to catch a plane to a bachelor party in Austin, Texas. When the subject of the festival first came up we both talked about how we wanted to go, how we knew people made fun of it but that we were drawn to it. Jean told me about the first time he had come to the festival, in 1999.
Burning Man, which started in 1986 when twenty people burned an effigy on a beach, was turning into a dusty version of Davos. If someone were to draw a portrait of the people who were ‘ruining Burning Man’ it would have looked like us. We paid a company from San Diego to drive our caravan to Nevada and get rid of our trash afterwards.
I listened to someone describe her research on ‘Transpersonal Phenomena Induced by Electronic Dance Music’. Next to his bed, a small landfill of plastic water bottles had accumulated. I went out alone and walked past a plywood booth painted yellow. A rainbow flag blew taut in the wind, the words ‘Yes Please’ printed on it in white. He opened a rainbow umbrella and I opened a black one and we looked at each other from beneath our umbrellas. This was just my life: I lived it and sometimes had sex with people. He mentioned that the last time he had gone into the steam bath he had been coming down from acid. We were supposed to write something on it, but we didn’t write anything. ‘This is normally when I go back to take a nap, but this day,’ Jean said. We shared his dinner, a grilled cheese sandwich with some tomato soup. (Later, a friend suggested it was a chemical in the family of drugs known as NBOMes, which the administrators of the website Erowid call ‘the defining psychedelics of 2013’.
I wasn’t sure if he wanted to hang out with me, or share his lifehacked body with the naked free spirits of Burning Man. The second night, to give everyone space, I biked over to the outer playa, where it was silent, empty and very cold. Beneath that was a black flag with a skull and crossbones. Sometimes I wanted to commit to people, or them to me, but in the past two years no such interests had fallen into alignment. At this point he admitted it was not his first time here, but his fifth. We watched as it was placed with the others and then we left. ‘I don’t know what to do about this day.’ I knew what he meant. They were invented in 2003 by a Ph D student in Berlin and first hit the market in 2010.
“Burning Man is the single largest gathering on any sort of public lands in the country and needs to be treated the same way we treat a gold mine, an oilfield or an off-road vehicle race.”Hall said the agency intends to issue a final impact statement in July after deciding on options to either boost capacity to 100,000, keep it at the current 80,000, cut it to 50,000 or deny a special use permit altogether.
He indicated the no-permit alternative is unlikely to prevail.
(AP) — In a story April 9 about a Bureau of Land Management hearing on a new permit for the annual Burning Man event, The Associated Press erroneously reported that Burning Man’s associate director of government affairs is Marmee Benson. A corrected version of the story is below: Burning Man festival backers oppose new federal restrictions Some supporters of the Burning Man counter-culture festival are complaining about new restrictions the federal government is proposing for the event By SCOTT SONNERAssociated Press SPARKS, Nev. Bureau of Land Management held a public meeting Monday on a draft environmental impact statement that includes proposals to step up security searches and erect new barriers around the event if it is permitted to expand its capacity to 100,000.