Sam Bauman’s notes from Burning Man

After 10 years of prowling Burning Man’s Black Rock City, I’m surprised to see that it all looks the same. But different.

Take the Temple, for instance. In the past a rather four-square building that showed its wooden structure. Not in 2014. Now it looks like a Thai temple, beautifully done with all the bare wood inside still plain for leaving messages to go to the sky when it burns. Yes, there are still meditation rooms with soft music humming and people sitting entranced. It’s beautiful place, ideal for getting out of the sun and just contemplating life.

Then there’s the Burning Man himself, still 65 feet tall but with a new design. Nothing radical except the he stands on the ground, not atop a wooden building. Still impressive with his triangular head and raised arms. I’m sure he will burn Saturday night just as usual.

Not far away is a half torso of a man and woman embracing out of the sand. Gleaming and beautiful much like the 100-foot nude of metal strips two years ago. The pair look perfectly natural, even when emerging from the sand.

(Incidentally, the sand under the Black Rock Desert playa is several hundred feet deep.)

And the Love word display is back, but instead of one 50-foot word “Love” there are six duplicate “loves” repeating the message. Time gone past we would climb into the “O” and relax. Now Burners stand atop the “O” and look down on the world.

And the drive along Highway 447 through unsettled Nevada at its barren most is a pleasant ride, particularly if you’re not driving (and I wasn’t).There are two ranches tucked back into the mountains, splotches of green amid the dull gray of the desert. One hopes the residents are good neighbors.

As friends are everywhere, new and old. The man parked in front our RV opened his car trunk and pulled out a warm bottle of beer. I didn’t really need a beer warm or cold, but I took it gratefully. And an old friend, Dan O’Day, gave me a ride through the playa in a real car. Much easier than our three-man bike lashed together. It was an easy way to admire all the art works displayed about the playa.

We parked at Journalists’ Camp, off street 6:15 and H (Black Rock City, home for 65,000 Burners this year, is laid out in a semicircle, the spokes named after the hours on the clock, the circling streets alphabetically). We’re welcomed here,despite the lack of parking space. A pot luck lunch bar is open to all.

Then every year I look through the booklet listing all the hundreds of activities for the day and am amazed at all the subjects covered, everything from yoga to cricket club party, with an accent on lectures and demonstrations. I always mean to take in a lecture, but the fun of the open playa with its astounding collection of art lures me away.

This year nudity isn’t as common as in the past. Only a few a few nude men or women and little of the topless ladies of the past. Burners going conservative.

Anyhow, it’s still a grand gathering of people, kind and easy going. No fights at Burning Man and this is a city larger than Carson City. (We passed out tangerines to fellow Burners in lieu of the usual trinkets.)

There’s something to enjoy in these days of police-citizens strife. No tanks or tear gas at Burning Man.


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