Burning Man, to me, is the epitome of amazing music, spectacular art and a comforting place for self-expression. After this being my second burn I am still only able to say that I have come back seeing only half of what was out there and even that might be an exaggeration. The mass quantity of things to do and see and hear is incomprehensible. It’s one of those places that one needs to experience first hand to understand its worth.
The heat (or lack there of) this year, the dust and the dust storms, the port-a-potties and the self sustainability; they all have their unique qualities that deter the faint of heart and help those who embrace them flourish in this environment.
This year was a special year for me as all of my closest friends and my loved one decided to come together and form a 35-person camp. We were called “The Traveling Tickle Trunk” and weeks leading up to the burn had found ourselves Skyping, emailing, creating spreadsheets, mapping out our camp area and finding a way to bond before we all headed out to the desert to spend a week together. The one thing I truly took away from my first burn was the gift-giving concept. It’s one of the 10 principles and to me is one of the most special. I had a hard time figuring out what I would gift someone my first year and really didn’t spend much time or give much thought to it as I figured a hug is just as meaningful as a material item.
To me a snow cone on a hot bike ride back to camp is one of the most spectacular gifts one could give to me; however, I found myself a minute too late and missed the boat. But it’s the thought behind this camp that made me smile and really appreciate their idea because I got the opportunity to walk away from them and see everyone else revel in something so simple as a snow cone. So this year I really wanted it to be something significant to give to my closest friends and people I randomly meet that I connected with.
This past year I was truly fortunate to come across Derin, the founder of DownBeats, at Spring Awakening festival in Chicago. After a few words were exchanged I found myself hard of hearing because I forgot I still had two rolled up napkins placed in my ears to block out the heavy sound coming from the stage we were standing behind. Derin was not pleased after seeing this. He introduced himself and gave me a pair of earplugs and discussed the concept behind DownBeats and how detrimental it is to not have something so simple. The best part is that I had no idea that there was such a notion as “sonic hangovers” and that I was truly suffering from them. This was my gift. Immediately after meeting him and testing the earplugs I knew that I wanted to gift this to everyone on the Playa.
Burning Man is loud. It’s loud because there are 70,000 people interested in attending dance parties, camps playing their own music, generators being used, and scooters without mufflers, people yelling, and people talking. It’s a city and city life gets loud. Those venturing out to deep playa to hear underground DJ’s like Lee Burridge or Bob Moses playing on Robot Heart want to feel the music in their chest. They want to watch the sunrise near the trash fence and still hear the music blaring from the large art cars. However, if you were to ask a random selection of 20 people if they had earplugs I guarantee you would find only 1 person using them.
Our first night out in the desert I gifted about 10 of my very dearest and closest friends a pair of DownBeats. From then on after watching all of them genuinely happy that their ears would be protected I tossed them to tons of people. On Thursday night a big portion of our group, probably about 15 of us, rolled out to explore and find some music. We ended up on top of a giant wooden structure called the Panda lounge that gave us a magnificent 360-degree view of the playa. As we all made our way up to the DJ booth to get our asses shaking and feel moved by the beautiful exotic music that Goldcap plays, I found one of my closest friends Tyler making his way down the wooden stairs to where our bikes were parked. I leaned over the side of the structure to inquire what he was doing. He and his girlfriend were about to make the trek back to camp to snag the earplugs I gave to him since he forgot them. It made me smile as I felt I truly gave a great gift this year. Luckily, I had an extra pair stashed in my camelback and was able to lend him another pair.
The gratitude I received is what gifting is all about. It’s beautiful to see someone happy and also to help protect them. Our ears are what help guide us out in the desert. We hear some wompy dirty beats that we want to get down to and we stop and park our bikes. Or we listen to some classical music under a ceiling of gorgeous lights that are moving to the beat of the music. We hear the fireworks explode when the man burns and we hear a person say, “I love you guys” when the temple burns. I am happy to report that I was able to give Downbeats to tons of burners to help keep them going through many more burns with perfect hearing.