Burning Man 2011 – I Was Wrong

I’m Not a Natural Traveller:

Burning Man 2011 – I Was Wrong

Penguin is a friend of mine.

Penguin has a big head.

 A physically big head.

 This head houses a big brain.

 The brain accommodates a lot of words.

 Resultantly Penguin talks a lot.

 If Penguin dislikes something he tells you about it.

 If Penguins likes something then he also tells you about it, possibly more so than if the reaction is negative.

 In fact definitely.


Last year Penguin went to Burning Man for the first time.

 I don’t think Penguin has ever liked anything more.

 For nine months Penguin told me about how good Burning Man had been. As his word use grew his message began to switch from ‘it was so good’ to ‘I think you’d love it Pedro, I really do’.

 This message continued, growing in strength and volume as time passed.


When I left the country to begin my travels he recruited a fellow advocate living in my first stop to continue the gentle persuasion.

 By the time I left Seville (the first stop) I’d already begun to buckle.

 By Budapest I’d cracked, what little willpower I possess called it quits.

 I booked the ticket, I booked the flight

 Normally I would struggle to utter the necessary and appropriate words to confirm Penguin’s correctness.

 In this case I couldn’t thank him enough for his incessant noise.

 I’ve read countless articles and blogs about how non-Burners would never understand what it was to attend a Burn. I’d love to say they weren’t right; I’d love to say they were being overly loved up passionate Americans. I’d love to say that my natural cynicism and realism proved overwhelmingly accurate. That whilst Burning man was good it wasn’t the all-encompassing seven days of brilliance that had been advertised. Alas I was in the wrong.

 Deeply wrong, so blissfully incorrect, so badly mistaken, yet so happy to be such.

 The weeks leading up to the Burn were a blitz of emails

 “We should make Hexayurts”

“We’re making bike racks this year too”

“Pedro, I’ve marked us down for the first two bar shifts”

“Oh and we’re making dinner the first night….for 25 people”

 Within two short weeks I’d either been volunteered or put myself forward to be a part of the construction, catering and alcoholic provision service. As the emails swarmed in it was clear that this was not your simple ‘turn up to a big field with a tent’ type festival.

This was serious, and what’s more, I was representing Penguin.

He had invited me, he had put the necessary calls into the vital people, he had verbosely explained who I was and why I’d be an asset, or at least a funny additional mess. This was a case of national and social pride.

 As I reached the meeting point in San Francisco’s Mission district I was ready to tool up and contribute to the cause, despite a broken toe sustained running away from a spider…..web..  A hobbling Kiwi/Australian/silverback gorilla-hybrid answered the door, Samwise.

I was to learn that Sam  had a sprained ankle and somehow had become responsible for all things that needed building in the next four days. This included making four bike racks, three hexayurts, oh and confirming that the art car’s brakes were fixed and it was safely picked up by Eliot.

 What the fuck is an art car? And why the fuck does the kid from E.T. want to come pick it up?

 I questioned nothing. I drilled holes, screwed screws and put Liquid Nails on anything without an Irish or Antipodean accent. I directed a difficult German (a force of nature I could have never realised at that point) and a gentle Spaniard to cut large swathes of insulation board whilst wondering who the jetlagged Irish guy was.

Occasionally he’d stagger downstairs mumbling like a degenerate. In the evenings a chap with bleached white hair turned up and began fussing over electrical cables and batteries. He would occasionally stop to talk to Eliot in a very rare electrical engineer dialect; I kept my head down and checked my Liquid Nails reserves. Days rarely finished before 2am and a raft of visitors would call by throughout. Aussie couples with beer, an Aussie DJ nurse, Irish non-attendees and a self-proclaimed bitch from the city. All wielding their advice and stories like badges of honour.

 My Sevillian host soon arrived, casting his soon to be famous shadow on the Californian pavements. He was closely followed by Penguin. Who was positively tripping over the surplus of excited prose gushing from his mouth. A welcome sight if ever there was.

Excitable Canadians arrived in packs, a  Porsche driving woodworking Filipino took control of the circular saw. And to my utter amazement there was even a loquacious, intelligent bearded man from Brooklyn, what more wonders could this place throw up?

We hadn’t even left California yet.

 This is why Burning Man is hard to explain, the preparation, the participation and the amalgamation. It’s not about fifty thousand people getting off their faces in the desert; it’s about fifty thousand people dragging their homemade creations across a couple of states and putting them in the sand for everyone else to enjoy.

For me personally, a group of twenty five people building their own bar and a few bike racks so they can feed people with mojitos all day. A small delinquent family made up of twelve nationalities that hammered in rebar stakes and complimented each other’s fur coats. Some made music, some made bike racks, some had blue balls, some connected amps and some ran around naked making sure everyone else had a sandwich.

 That’s what it became for me and that’s why I’m going back. Thousands of camps all trying to make everyone they come across a little bit happier and a little bit more likely to return next year.

I could write more about what happened when we were actually there but I could never do it justice, it just remains to say;

Thank you Penguin, thank you DeMenthians and thank you DeMentha.

See you all at Capp Street next year.


Travel article shared by ReborKoala