Freestyle: Blazing a trail to Burning Man

Jul. 19, 2013 | 1 Comment

Cyclists ride near Burning Man. (AP Photo 2006, Ron Lewis)

Cyclists ride near Burning Man in 2006. (Associated Press)


It’s getting down to the wire for those planning their annual trip to Burning Man, held in the Black Rock Desert north of Gerlach, Nev. Participants from all over the country and the world participate. I’m going, too!

Want to find out more about what Burning Man is like, or meet up with Burning Man enthusiasts here in Hawaii? You have two more chances before many of us begin moving toward the playa.

» On Saturday, July 27, Ka Pilina Interactive Arts Society will host a newbie orientation and Burner Social. This one’s for people who are planning to attend Burning Man for the first time — “virgins” — who want to know more about it, including “tips that aren’t on the Burning Man website,” as well as veteran Burners who want to socialize with other Burners. Here you can find out more about services offered by veteran Burners to help you get to Burning Man, how to shelter yourself and other bonuses — like how to make costumes, utility belts and tutus.

The meetup is a potluck, and will take place near Waimanalo Beach. Email to RSVP and get directions.

» On Aug. 3, PREcompression: Oahu’s Pre-Burning Man Party is set for The Loft, 115 N. Hotel St. in Chinatown. This one is a goggle and dust mask decorating party for those 21 and over; bring your goggles and Ka Pilina will supply the rest. There will be a costume exchange and music from Hawaii DJs; organizers are also looking for suggestions on Ka Pilina’s annual gathering, “Collidiscope.”

Once Hawaii’s Burners get to Burning Man, Ka Pilina expects to organize a group photo in the desert. Stay tuned to Ka Pilina’s Facebook page and for more on that.

The Burning Man blazes in 2000. (AP Photo, Debra Reid)

The Burning Man blazes in 2000. (Associated Press)

I WENT to Burning Man for the first time last year, and fell in love with it, much to my surprise.

I expected clowns, exhibitionists and aging hippies, artists, environmentalists and new-age hipsters, and found them.

I expected heat, cold, blazing sun and dust, and found that, too.

But I also discovered “the secret” of Burning Man: The desert is big and bad enough to absorb all kinds. And the dusty backdrop of this remote, high-altitude playa only highlights the creative color, communal joy, challenge and accomplishment that are to be found.

Burning Man is a lesson in possibility. Its participants pay money to go to a place where nothing much happens unless they make it happen, and build a temporary city. It’s an amazing, hopeful thing.

There are 58,000 tickets being sold to Burning Man this year (sold out except for a last-chance sale of the final 1,000 tickets), with attendance expected to be about the same as last year. Yippee! I can’t wait.

Anticipation builds as the days of Burning Man approach. I’m excited, but I also have a healthy respect for the effort required. I’ll be blogging from the desert every day while there, or at least every day that I have power and access to the Internet. These things aren’t just “there,” they must be generated, as the Black Rock Desert is not on the grid.

I was talking to Burner and local fire-jam participant Clem Chang about this, and he sparked my creativity, suggesting that a project for a future Burning Man trip could be an “interview bubble,” given the way dust storms, heat, cold, art cars, pretty lights, music and half-naked people make it hard to concentrate long enough to have a talk. I think he might be on to something. I can set up shop at Burning Man and invite interesting characters to “enter my bubble.” Ha! What do you think?

Throughout the year, Hawaii’s Burning Man enthusiasts keep the flame alive, with occasional gatherings and one big Oahu regional Burning Man event, “Collidiscope.” This year’s event took place in May, sponsored by Ka Pilina, Burning Man’s designated regional group.

More recently, with proceeds from “Collidiscope 2013,” Ka Pilina and other Burner sponsors in Hawaii brought two experienced Burning Man Rangers to Honolulu, giving would-be Hawaii volunteers the chance to train for Burning Man’s participatory peacekeeping and problemsolving force. The trainers, known as “Crow” and “Keeper,” met at Ka Pilina leader Mac Kaul’s Ewa home on June 29. (I’ll be telling you more about that in the Star-Advertiser soon.)

Most Thursdays, Burners and others who want to soak up some of Burning Man’s fireplay and dance music elements gather at Kakaako Waterfront Park at sunset.

Here’s a YouTube clip of some Kakaako fireplay from last year:

Elizabeth Kieszkowski is editor of TGIF, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s weekly arts and entertainment section. Reach her via email at or follow her on Twitter.

  • ElizabethKieszkowski

    If you’re going to #BurningMan from Hawaii, I’d like to hear from you: ekieszkowski [a]!