[[Image:BurningMan-2003.jpg|frame|right| Central monument of Black Rock City : The Man]]
'''Black Rock City''', [[Nevada]] is an ephemeral town that exists for only one week each year, during Burning Man [http://www.burningman.com/], a radical
arts festival. At its maximum occupancy, the town has about 50,000 citizens and a post office, an emergency services crew, a volunteer police department, roads, houses, bars, clubs, restaurants, and hundreds of art installations and participatory "theme camps". After a week, the city is completely disassembled – much of it burned – leaving the stark, white desert exactly as bare as it had been when the event started.
The '''Burning Man festival''' is an annual event started in San Francisco in 1986 and moved to the harsh and unforgiving Black Rock Desert of Nevada in 1990, where it continues today. The event happens each year in late August and early September, during the week before Labor Day weekend and over the weekend itself. Around 50,000 artists, partiers and eccentrics converge on the desert location – otherwise empty throughout the year – to create a temporary city on the desert lake bed ('''"The Playa"'''). The event culminates on Saturday night when the event's eponymous mascot – an 80-foot-tall anthropomorphic statue known affectionately as '''The Man''' – is set on fire in a huge bacchanalian party.
The Burning Man community, although widespread and anarchic, has some guiding principles (codified and exemplified in catch phrases) that make the event manageable and possible. First and foremost is the concept of "self-sufficiency". With few exceptions (see [[Black Rock City#Buy|Buy]] below), there is "No Vending" of any kind in Black Rock City. Attendees are expected to bring along all their own food, water, shelter and any other supplies they need to live in the desert during the week. Most attendees are helpful and generous, but travellers should do as much research as possible before leaving for the desert in order to be ready.
Burning Man is organized by a small group of volunteers and paid employees of the '''Burning Man organization''', who deal with the local, state and federal officials in charge of the desert region, and who provide most of the infrastructure services such as emergency medical care and media relations. According to the principle of '''No Spectators''', however, ''all'' Burning Man attendees are expected to '''participate''' in some way: by making art, by doing performances, by doing volunteer work, or just by being freaks. The idea is that spectators feel no ownership – or the consequent responsibility – for the event, while participants will consider the event their own, and will act as responsibly as if they were throwing the party themselves. In fact, they are! There's some "us vs. them" feeling between participants and the "Org", but by and large the No Spectators concept ensures smooth operation and wide participation. A "burner" is common title or descriptor for a participant of this event and this community.
Lastly, the community encourages '''radical self-expression'''. There's an "anything goes" atmosphere, pretty much only limited by legal and safety concerns as well as respect for other participants. '''Nudity''' is widespread – although many participants will decorate their bodies with paint or ornaments. As a component of the "anything goes" atmosphere of personal freedom and personal choice, drug use is common, though generally discreet. Furthermore, out of respect for other participants and their individual choices, it would be very unusual for anyone attending the event to ever feel any pressure towards drug use whatsoever. Alcohol, however, is plentiful, and '''free bars''' exist throughout the city. Fundamental elements of the
festival are individual choice and personal freedom. Numerous art projects on the Playa have an element of danger; and the use of '''fire''' in art is quite common, as well as explosives or other dangerous substances. Many participants speak later of the '''life-changing''' nature of the Burning Man experience: that the experience of self-expression changes the way they look at the world.
The City itself is laid out in a circle – centering on the Man – about one and a half miles in diameter. The center of the circle is empty desert, punctuated by large art installations. Participants live on a series of 8-10 circular streets that ring the outer edge of the circle; about 20 radial streets cross these at various points. The inner 2-3 streets are reserved for registered '''theme camps''': groups who build large structures and installations with a particularly "interactive" point. Theme camps are open to the public for investigation and use; a typical theme camp has 20-50 members, but some grow to hundreds of campers. Some groups of theme camps agglomerate into '''villages''', which usually share an overarching meta-theme.
Some things are constant, though, in an unofficial way. The radial streets are usually labeled according to clock time (e.g., "10:00" or "4:30"), and spaced about every half-hour. A large circular village known as '''Center Camp''' is (almost always) located at 6:00 on the circle; most of the Burning Man organizations services are located here. Other villages are usually placed near 9:00 and 3:00. The innermost circular street – which looks out directly to the central desert area – is called '''The Esplanade'''; most of the bigger theme camps line this street. And, of course, The Man is always dead in the center of the City, a convenient landmark.
The Black Rock Desert is an ''extremely'' harsh environment. Temperatures are regularly over 100°F, with no natural shade, and almost zero percent humidity. Hundreds of Burning Man participants are treated for dehydration every year; all attendees should drink about
4 liters of water per day, one of which has added electrolytes. More important survival information is available in the Burning Man Survival Guide [http://www.burningman.com/preparation/event_survival/], a copy of which is given to each participant.
Black Rock City is in the remote Black Rock Desert about 2-3 hours north of [[Reno]], Nevada. Most travellers arrive by car, bus, truck, RV, or other motor conveyance. From Reno, take Interstate 80 east to exit 43 (Wadworth), then highway 447 north about 100 miles to Gerlach. Head east (right) at the fork in the road north of Gerlach, and exit onto the Black Rock Desert after about 11 miles (signs should be posted). The
festival requires all participants to hold tickets ; they run about $ 200- 360, and can be significantly cheaper if purchased early in the year.
Attendees from locations too far away from driving usually fly to Reno or [[San Francisco]] and either rent cars or other vehicles there, or hook up with locals for rides. Rideshare boards are available on the Burning Man Web site. There are special air shuttles offered this year through Advantage Flight Solutions [http://advantageflight.com/specials.html] from Reno and the Bay Area directly to the Black Rock desert for a reasonable price.
The Green Tortoise Bus Company [http://www.greentortoise.com] runs a few bus tours from San Francisco to Black Rock City during the event; food, shelter, and transportation are all provided in the tour package.
Black Rock City creates its own airport [http://www.burningman.com/on_the_playa/airport/] (
ICAO: no code assigned) for small private planes, run by volunteers. The field is (very hard-packed) dry lake; most flying clubs do not allow non-emergency landings by rental planes on dirt fields. Mountainous desert regions are '''extremely dangerous''' for inexperienced and experienced pilots alike, and it's not recommended to fly into this airport unless you are experienced with desert flying.
Once participants have arrived in Black Rock City, they are expected to leave their cars or other motor vehicles parked and travel around the city under their own power. Cars should only be used in an emergency, or when leaving or entering the city. Law enforcement officials and the Black Rock Rangers will stop vehicles and
may give you a ticket.
'''Bicycles''' are ''de rigueur'' for most BRC citizens; the alkali dust of the Playa causes severe damage to bikes, so bring a cheap one that you don't care much about. A good lock is also important; many bikes every year are "accidentally" borrowed and later abandoned, or stolen outright.
'''Walking''' is also a great way to get around; although slower, it's easier to stop and see the many sights if you don't have a big clunky bike to park, lock, unload, etc.
*'''Weddings''' Legal, temporary, faux, and every other possible combination. Get married to your true love by a legal minister or marry yourself to a sock.
*'''Massage''' - ranging from legitimate bodywork to Reiki to Rake-ie to "You look tense, let me rub your shoulders in my tent"
Thunder Dome''' Watch some of the greatest warriors of our time battle for their lives
*'''Roller Disco''' Enjoy some funk-a-fide jams as you skate the rink (skates provided for all burners)
Because of the no-vending rule, there's really not all that much to buy in Black Rock City. However, many artists, performers and participants bring '''trinkets''' of various worth to the event – pins, stickers, buttons, clothes, jewelry, doodads and tchochkees – to gift to other people there . Stopping to talk with anyone at a theme camp or at an art installation will probably garner you a tchotchke of some kind. Bringing your own personalized trinkets, or commercial products like cans of beer or sticks of lip balm, to give away or trade can help grease the wheels when meeting new people.
There are four places you ''can'' spend
US tender, however. One is at the '''Center Camp Cafe''' (see below) for coffee and other snacks. Another is '''Camp Arctica''' (in Center Camp and at the 9 o'clock and 3 o'clock plazas), where Burning Man volunteers sell bags of ice at $3 a pop for participants to use. (The short lifespan of ice in the desert, even in the best of coolers, makes this nod to commercialism an unfortunate necessity.)
Outside of these four locations,
vending of any kind, including barter exchange for goods and services of any kind (including illegal substances) is , by general communal consent, frowned upon. This can range from "trade you some of my poetry for some of your food, man" to "yo, I gots lots of goodies for sale, come back to my camp". Most individuals will automatically assume that anyone requesting to purchase anything, from food to water to ice cream to illegal substances, is either a new participant who didn't bother to read the Burning Man website, or (in the case of requests for purchase/sale of illegal substances) law enforcement officers. In either case, while vending does and continues to occur at the event, it' s generally considered classless on par with selling life insurance at a funeral home.
To avoid this, most participants purchase all of their items prior to entering the event , and/or make do throughout the week without the things they didn't bring.
*'''Center Camp Cafe''', Center Camp (''large circular canvas tent in the middle of Center Camp circle''). Open 24 hours. Run by the Burning Man organization and staffed with volunteers, this large dusty cafe is one of the very few places in Black Rock City where money changes hands. Only specialty coffee drinks and tea drinks are available (no food). There are also musical performances at all times of day or night, as well as yoga classes and the like. You can meet veterans and newcomers alike in the Cafe. $3-$5 (''per item'').
Black Rock Diner''' [ http://www. blackrockdiner.com] Grilled cheese sandwiches and good vibrations served from midnight until the supplies run out.
*There is a "Burning Man Survival" guide at [http://www.burningman.com/preparation/event_survival/] It is important to read this guide and take it seriously. It outlines the basic necessities to be self-sufficient and survive the event.
*There is widespread drug use at the event; it is an open environment but do not tempt fate. There is law enforcement, and they WILL arrest you if they see you in possession of, or especially selling or purchasing. Don't be stupid. Also be leery of any drugs randomly offered to you by strangers.
*Make SURE that you drink enough water so that you are pissing clear (the name of a local event newspaper is "Piss Clear". The desert environment at a high altitude will make you EXTREMELY sick if you do not respect it and take proper precautions.