I think in addition to checking tickets and early arrival passes, Burning Man should institute playa-specific passports. You’d have a stamp to indicate and remind yourself of all the years you’ve been going. The gate people would know whether you’re new or an old timer. Plus traveling to the playa is like visiting a whole new world with its own language: MOOP (matter out of place), leave no trace, Arctica (ice sales), portals (plazas at 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock), flame effects, exodus, default world, and decompression.
I felt very much on my own this year. Dean didn’t come. Several of my really good friends decided not to attend. Others were camped elsewhere which can make a big difference. Biking from 6:00 to 3:00 or 9:00 takes extreme effort and preparation—sunscreen, hat, goggles, water. It’s no easy feat. And you have no idea whether your friends will be there by the time you arrive exhausted and damp with sweat.
I remember walking to the commissary after one of my never-ending volunteer shifts in a mopey over-worked woe is me temperament. I had decided to get my food to go, skedaddle, and mope even more back in my trailer. But I came across a dear friend I hadn’t seen in a couple years. I screamed happy joy joy and we spent the next hour catching up over plates of carnitas, guacamole, and sour cream. If you asked me what I liked best about this Burn, I’d say it was the lunch conversations or happy hours with everyone circled around our camp burn barrel. I also got some damn good swag. Best ever necklaces, t-shirts, hoodies. I will be sporting the gear like a newly-admitted college student. Burning Man ought to have its own mascot too. But I guess that would be the Man. GO MAN!