The ultimate Trenz®Walk, bar none, would be to actually travel to another planet and then return a week later to report on your observations as a journalist and futurist. A veritable peripatetic prognosticator at large. Going to the edgiest areas of the world’s most creative cities for over twenty-something years has proven that there is surely a commonality that exists in all of these neighborhoods. Those common factors are what I’ve used to connect the dots and build global scenarios that will impact the consumer of tomorrow. The same can be said about attending important annual events, such as the Salone de Mobile in Milan. There are specific places you can go to see evidence of the future bleeding into the present, but there is only one place where the future actually IS the present. When you get to that place, the only edge left is the desert horizon that surrounds you.
Before Jeff left for the airport, his instructions were, “If you’re serious about coming, 1) get tickets right away (in 2010 you could still do so two weeks before), 2) get a friend to join you, because you don’t want to be by yourself, 3) bring camping gear, because on such short notice I can’t guarantee a place for you to stay, and lastly, and most importantly, 4) read up as much as you can on what you’ll need to have with you, because this is no joke.” He gave me his cell phone number, told me to call or text as soon as I had an answer for him, and took off. In an interview with the Boston Business Journal, Jeff was asked if he had any pet peeves. “People who don’t show up,” he replied. Two weeks later - I showed up. Jeff told me he’d been inviting people to Burning Man for years, and I was the first person to actually take him up on it. Part of me wanted to prove something to him, but a big part of it was certainly proving something to myself. Show up. Be there and be ready or not, but give it everything you’ve got to get there. Wherever there is.
Burning Man is a world of contradictions and challenges to your concept of what creativity and community are capable of. It’s been 100o (F) during the day, and 40o (F) at night. I’ve been alone and I’ve been with 15,000 others. There are dust storms that white-out your field of vision and sunrises that blind you in their brilliance. During the day, it’s like a small village of makers and dreamers, while at night it’s like an amusement park on another planet. There are poetry readings and tea parlors as well as naked yoga and an orgy dome. There are families with kids, Boomers on holiday, ravers, and jammers. I’ve never witnessed a fight or even an argument of any kind. Never saw anybody getting sick or carried away on a stretcher, but I did have a front row seat when Aaron Joel Mitchell decided to run into the blaze during the actual burning of THE Man.
Things can go horribly wrong in Black Rock City, and before you even decide to get a ticket, you better know that this place can kill you. It is a dangerous place to be, which is why Radical Self-reliance is one of the most important principles. Like life itself, come prepared for anything and everything or suffer the consequences. Once you finally do arrive, if you don’t have whatever it is you need to survive for the time you’ll be there, you’re screwed. Except for Center Camp which offered coffee, tea, or a flavored electrolyte beverage, there is nothing to buy in Black Rock City except ice - and in the desert ice is gold. Other than that, there are no souvenir stands, no vending machines, no commissary, no hotels, and no guarantees. There is no water, and there are no birds, bugs, sticks, rocks, electricity, or internet (for the most part). There are however, hundreds and hundreds of porta-potties, but no guarantee there’ll be toilet paper.
Burning Man primarily features large scale interactive installation art inspired by the intersection of maker culture, technology, and a connection to nature and the elements that cannot be denied. Many of the works are fully-immersive, inviting participation through all of the senses: touch, taste, smell, sound, and of course eye-candy to almost over-stimulation levels. In other words, it’s a Sensorium® on steroids. The level of creativity through the guiding principles of Radical Self-expression and participation is absolutely positively the greatest I have ever witnessed or been a part of. While it is, in a sense, always the same event year after year, it is never the same twice. Not for a minute.
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