One Year After The Burn
By: Marcus Malloy
During August of 2014, I was in full preparation mode for what would turn out to be one of the best experiences of my life thus far. A bucket list type of experience. I was preparing to attend Burning Man. For those that do not know, Burning Man is a gathering of over 80 thousand people, from all over the world, who come equipped with everything they would need to survive a one week stay in the desert, about two hours north west of Reno Nevada. It is not EDC, it is not Coachella, it is not a festival, it is Burning Man!
I had heard about Burning Man many years ago. Being that I work in the entertainment industry and DJ, it’s something that has come up over the years due to the outstanding DJ roster that normally performs and the massive production that takes place. When I first learned about the gathering years ago, I remember thinking, that’s something I would never do. A week camping in the desert, why would I do that? I had never slept one night in a tent, let alone camped anywhere, especially in the desert.
That was my thinking until a very good friend of mine began explaining her experiences the previous years that she had attended. One night in June of last year, I was having a beer in my favorite watering hole, doing a bit of research on the gathering and I decided, what the hell, I’m going to go, why not? What’s life without a little bit of adventure? I remember texting my friend explaining to her that I would like to take this trip with her. Her response was so her, “I would love for you to experience this, but if you pull out, I’m going anyway”. I thought that was fair, so the planning began. She found us a group to camp with, and I was fortunate enough to obtain a ticket through the final ticket sale opportunity. The stars were aligning!
There were about to be many first times for me! We flew from Newark NJ, to Houston, then finally to Sacramento, picked up our rental SUV, drove to Reno, went to Walmart and Target four times, picked up our camping gear, bikes, enough water to fill a pool, made sure I had enough beer and Jameson (very important), all types of other stuff and we were ready to roll into the burn. I remember thinking the night before we drove to Black Rock City, Nevada, I have never done so much preparation to go to what I thought was going to be a big party. But, it was so much more than one big party!
The Burn is real! I had a fantastic week on the playa, that’s what we call Black Rock City. I laughed, cried, philosophized, danced, explored, thought, and only wigged out once or twice. Trust me, you try camping in the desert for a week, your first time camping anywhere, with people you barely know at the time, your gonna wig out a little too. My good friend made sure I was ok though, and showed me so many cool things I can’t begin to explain, and there’s nothing I could do to re-pay her for the experience. The group that we camped with, Lazy Skool Daze, turned out to be some of the best people I have ever met. It takes me a while to get to know people. I don’t just accept people on sight, so although I was enjoying myself at the beginning of the week, it was taking me some time to feel everyone out, let alone trying to figure out what the hell was going on around me! During the day, people are literally building a city and art pieces, just to take it down and/or burn it a few days later. I’m not talking about shabby little structures either, some of things built were amazing. At night, the city lights up. Burners hit the sound stages to dance the night away, dressed with plenty of blinkies and LED lights, even entire outfits lit up. It’s a sensory overload that’s kind of hard to put into words. Imagine Disney World for adults?
I can go on and on with stories from my week in the desert, but what I really want to talk about, is my year after the burn. When I returned to the “default world” as many Burners look at Burning Man as the “real world” and call the playa “home”. I had read about the idea of this prior to going, but I understand it after having been. When my friends would ask me how was it, I would tell me them, I had been to a place, and it was true. You can be whoever you want to be at Burning Man, and nobodies judging you. There’s no judgment, you are accepted. What if the world was like that?
Upon my return, some thought I was acting a bit weird, and I probably was. I had seen some shit, and my mind was still trying to process what I had experienced. My mind was still in the desert, a very beautiful place. Because of some of the things I saw, I was still trying to comprehend how some people built some of the structures, even how and why they would even dream the stuff up. I thought and still do think now, that there is no box. The experience was a reminder that anything is possible and I started applying that to life. I began to grow as a person, my level of understanding seemed to rise and I started thinking about everything differently, even interacting with people differently. I started accepting new people in my life without vetting them, something I never did prior to the burn. Because of that, I have made some great new friendships, ones that I would not have if that character flaw had not been tested. In addition, I have no problem getting weird now, it’s actually fun. I had a blast wearing my red tutu on Tutu Tuesday, although I had shorts on underneath.
Here in the NYC, there are plenty of “burner events” to go to throughout the year. For one party, I borrowed a pair of green and black polka dot leggings from a camp mate for my outfit. I got more action from the ladies in those leggings that night, than if I had on my favorite pair of “on the scene jeans”. I’m a straight man, and wearing these type of outfits could be looked at as something that those in an alternative lifestyle do, when you approach the situation with judgment in mind. After my experience, I’m now in the mindset of who gives a shit what you have on. Now, I love putting these outfits together. I actually spend time and thought coming up with them. You couldn’t have paid me to wear some of this stuff pre Burning Man. There was one incident the day after one of these NYC events, I messed up the varnish on a friend’s new ottoman using nail polish remover to take off my glitter nail polish. I felt so bad, I didn’t know, it’s not like I wear nail polish all time, I was shaking things up!
At The Burn, it is very important to “leave no trace” at the end of the week. We must return the playa to it’s original form. Whatever trash you have, you carry it out with you. At that time, I was a heavy cigarette smoker, and I would have to carry around a container of some sort to put my cigarette butts in, since you can’t just toss them like we normally do. What a pain in the ass! I noticed when I got back, I had a serious problem with just throwing the butts anywhere, it felt so wrong. I would have to find an ash tray or garbage can to dispose of them. Now, I’m even at the point were I’m thinking of quitting them all together. That started because of the experience. This might be insignificant to some, but a smoker knows how difficult it is to quit, even more so how difficult it is to even decide to quit.
I have not even begun to describe the idea of gifting that takes place at The Burn. People that you just meet are offering you food, drinks, playa gifts they made, anything and everything. One night, in the middle of the week, I had noticed that I had a decent surplus of beer, which I calculated on purpose. Better to have more than less right? So, I decided to just start handing them out to people as they passed by our camp. Everyone was so appreciative. It was just a beer, but I think it was the gesture that everyone enjoyed most. Me handing out those beers, ended up turning into a thirty person jam session with two guitar players, a guy with some bongos, and a few singers jamming out. Hippy shit! It was one of my best nights there because I gave back. As a first time Burner, not really knowing about the gifting aspect, I had found a way to give back. Back home, I started looking at things in that way more. I wasn’t stingy before, but now I’m more giving, and I’m learning that the return is even greater.
Thus the the beginning if ItsAll.Love. Through this organization I’m continuing to give back through events, music, art, and charity. This organization is a direct result of my experiences at and after Burning Man and this is just the beginning.