Freestyle: Burning Man blues

Aug. 29, 2014 | 0 Comments

El Pulpo, a flame-throwing art car, at Burning Man 2012. (Star-Advertiser photo by Elizabeth Kieszkowski)

ELIZABETH KIESZKOWSKI / 2012

El Pulpo, a flame-throwing art car, at Burning Man 2012.

BY ELIZABETH KIESZKOWSKI / ekieszkowski@staradvertiser.com

By the time this blog is published, you have probably figured out that I’m not in or at Burning Man, if you were interested to know.

EK-Burning Man heels

COURTESY DESIREE K. SMITH

On the first day of Burning Man 2013.

I haven’t published the list of supplies that would have been needed. I didn’t go through the agony of entering the lottery for a ticket. And I didn’t schlep a week’s worth of survival equipment into the high desert in Nevada.

I’m not kicking dust as I trudge through the streets and open playa of the temporary Burning Man community, or carrying ice back to camp for my volunteer bar-back stint, or riding my bike through a pitch-black night while wrapped in LED wire.

And I’m sad as hell about it.

I’m not getting hugs from random strangers, or happening upon an ecstatic dance party, or sharing stories with travelers who’ve come from halfway around the globe to see what this experiment in open-mindedness and commercial-free living is all about.

What a pity!

I’ve been through a lot of changes since, and because of, last year’s Burning Man. The gathering requires extreme participation — high levels of motivation and endurance, along with an open mind and heart. After helping to build my own habitat, teaming up with brand new friends to form a village and experiencing the sheer force of all the creations and attractions, I had a real feel for the power of (wo)man. Some friends and I are already plotting our future involvement.

A voodoo altar at Burning Man 2013. (Star-Advertiser photo by Elizabeth Kieszkowski)

ELIZABETH KIESZKOWSKI / 2013

A voodoo altar at Burning Man 2013.

THIS YEAR’S THEME is “Caravansary,” inspired by the idea of travelers along the Silk Route from Europe to East Asia in the days before engine-powered travel. When folks traveled slowly, they relied on caravansaries — “oases and sanctuaries,” as Burning Man envisions them. This year’s gathering is meant to evoke an idealized, contemporary version of that concept.

“These bustling caravan stops offered more than just shelter from the desert wilderness; they were vital centers of cultural exchange, bringing together traders, pilgrims, monks, nomads, traveling entertainers, and wild-eyed adventurers from all points of the compass to share their stories around a common fire,” the Burning Man website notes. “Their legacy to us is a grand commerce of ideas — a swirling exchange of languages, legends, technologies, philosophies and art that helped shape nearly every aspect of our modern world.”

It is most definitely not the same as being there, but if you like to watch, you can catch a glimpse of the playa and the comings and goings around the central Man via an official Burning Man livestream. (Bonus: It includes uncensored audio from the on-playa Burning Man Information Radio.)

As I watched on Wednesday, I saw a couple — one light-skinned, one brown-skinned — holding hands while riding bikes toward Burning Man’s immense desert statue of lovers rising out of the playa, Embrace. Awww.

If the feed doesn’t get overloaded, you may able to watch as The Man burns. That’s scheduled for 6 p.m. Saturday (9 p.m. in Nevada). On Sunday, the Temple is scheduled to burn at 5 p.m. Hawaii time.
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Elizabeth Kieszkowski is editor of TGIF, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s weekly arts and entertainment section. Reach her via email at ekieszkowski@staradvertiser.com or follow her on Twitter.