August 23rd, 2008 5:33 pm | by Brad McCray News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, CLEAN UP


Burning Man

Editor's Note: Throughout this coming week, Brad McCray will be providing WWire dispatches from Burning Man 2008 (as long as the techno gods cooperate). Set your bookmark here to read all the updates. Here's his first post:

DESTINATION: BLACK ROCK CITY, Nevada - Some of my friends hate it when I talk about Burning Man. That's all you ever talk about, they say while reminding me of some weird misunderstanding at a club or someone cutting them off in traffic.That's because some of my friends are lame.

The Burning Man Festival will take place in the middle of Nevada's Black Rock desert this week. By the end of it, 50,000 burners will make "Black Rock City" the third-largest city in Nevada. Or so they say. You see, Black Rock City (BRC) is beyond fact-checking. The only fact we need is that we are, as they say on the playa: "Home."

Burning Man has been described as an "underground culture and art festival." But that's like calling the Rolling Stones "a band" or Star Wars "a movie." Trying to explain the experience of Burning Man by its size, numbers or artifacts is like only watching a movie's credits. You may understand how it happened and why, but not what went down.

This week, I will attempt to give the Default World (that's what WE call everything else, except YOU, dear Willamette Week reader) what may be a journalist's first daily blog from the playa (pronounced "ply-uh." I called it "play-uh" at first too). If another journalist beat me to the gig, that's fine. But I believe it might be the first because (a) most journalists dislike the chaos of Burning Man, and (b) until recently, Internet access was impossible. Fortunately one of my campmates has his own satellite hook-up and I (supposedly) will have wi-fi all week. If this is the only blog from BRC, you will know what transpired.

I left the Portland area Saturday morning and the trip was uneventful, which is an event in itself. I am traveling with my wife, Tammy, in a 1985 Toyota Dolphin. Dubbed, "The Dance Commander," it cost me $2,300—at least at purchase. Since then, I've poured three times that into it. And it's still falling apart. It's held together by glue and tape. The exterior is pulling away from the chassis and nothing works. It's not even a real RV anymore. On our return trip last year, we dropped the shit tank in Albany. Yep, the old "What's that sound? Why are there sparks? What's that smell?" trifecta ended when we paid the AAA guy to cut it loose and haul it away. He was cool.

No shit tank, no water, no refrigerator, no stove. But it's comfortable to sleep in.


Ever wondered what possesses people to flock to the playa—a Spanish word for desert? It isn't the art (though the art is worth the trip. Last year's art exhibit climaxed with an explosion so huge it created a mushroom cloud) and it isn't anything crude or unseemly (It's nothing YOU haven't see at the strip clubs). In the coming days, I will describe the events that force all burners to adjust their calendars. Most Americans judge their year by Christmas and New Years.

Burners mark time as a countdown to the only week that matters.

Brad McCray is a freelance writer. He has has been burning all his life, four times in Black Rock City. He wrote for The Oregonian newspaper for 14 years.

[Image of 2006 Burning Man by]
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