“My body is not a temple, it’s an amusement park” – random quote.
Covered from head to toe in a fine alkaline talc while wearing a woman’s blouse, standing next to a completely naked middle-aged sun-baked man it hit me; Burning Man is not a story you cover, rather it is a visually mind blowing experience you endure.
I just barely survived and will be paying the price for a long time to come, but I relish the scars. I lost over eight pounds, got one long stretch of two hours of sleep and have fallen asleep three times trying to write this blog entry so far and all I have been able to do is write a sophomoric lead sentence; Burning Man still owns me.
I was assigned to cover this year’s 25th anniversary Burning Man festival with reporter Zelie Pollon. Luckily she had been several times before and tried to prepare me as much as possible beforehand. However, no level of preparation could have saved me from the almost debilitating mind-melting experience of being confronted by the amount of art and over 50,000 people living on the desert floor in a self-made community that never sleeps and thrives on free expression, sharing and gifting.
As a journalist you have to try to fit in. You are not a participant, but you need to feel and look like you belong there in order to survive. That was a tough challenge for a first timer like me; made even tougher by the fact I stood out by carrying professional cameras when many people had opted not to. As it turned out the cameras were my shackles in this environment, but it was up to me to figure out how to quickly fit in with a community that lived with little barriers and almost any behavior could be deemed socially acceptable.