Retro Post: Burning Man 2007: My Name is Tori and I am a Burner

One of my intentions for this place is to combine a bunch of my older properties into one domain for all my blog writing, both new and old. I’ve been thinking about Burning Man a lot lately, with ticket registration opening next week. I haven’t been to the playa since 2008, but it’s a part of me every day. I was thinking about this post the other day, so it seemed like a good time to dig it up and share it here. It was written after I got back from my 2nd burn in 2007, after taking 2006 off.

Pulled from snappedinsin.com:

Me & My Man, Burning Man 2007

I don’t have a playa name. I haven’t earned one yet. Out of 11 people in our camp, only 2 have names, the second earned and announced this year at the end. I tried one on for a minute at the gate for like 5 minutes this year…Sin…it didn’t work. That’s not how it happens. You can’t name yourself. It’s ok. It’ll happen when it’s supposed to. Me and that dust aren’t parting any time soon. Yeah, I’m going back next year. I can’t wait a year plus the weeks I am counting.

Me & The Man before the Burn, Burning Man 2007

You know, it’s weird, to finally call myself a burner. It took a random post, the approval of strangers and a comment by a respected friend and mayor on top of weeks of introspection to get to that point. “You are Ms. T.” he said, and “Damn straight” he seconded on top of messages and numerous replies thanking me for my poignant conversation topic — “Who or What is a Burner?” I’ve written more than once in recent weeks about my struggles with where my type of personality fits into the burner community overall, but I haven’t been very public about my struggle with my ownership back here in the real world of who I am out there. Understandably, the first time I announced to the world on a week’s notice that I was going, the immediate reactions made me doubt myself and expectations for the adventure ahead. It was hard to convince everyone that it was my thing when I wasn’t even sure what it was. When I got out there, it was harder than anyone can tell you and I spent the first night in my tent after puking from the environment change and stress. I thought they were right and I tried to make the most of that week, and I took in the art and the adventure and I came back feeling like it was a growing but isolating and I placed a lot of conditions on what I wanted if I returned. I wasn’t sure I’d go back but the longer and longer I was away from it, the more and I more I couldn’t stop thinking about it and I just knew I had to try again with the growth of a couple of years under my belt.

Cheese! We Come in Pieces, Burning Man 2007

This time, I stepped out of the car strong, unapologetic and ready. I have done a lot of work on myself since last time I was out there, and I am more aware of who I am and was open to what the playa had to give to me this time without being so afraid. I sprung into action, built camp, stayed when needed and went about life like it was here. Except I was reheating my famous chili on a propane stove instead of an electric one. I was enthusiastic about our camp, I brought the mailbox and I painted the old nasty patio table I had with the coolest krylon paint to make it all funky and then donated it to the life of the camp. I realize now I didn’t have to really be engaged with the camp in terms of night life or social interaction to feel the safety and comfort of having my “family” there if I needed them. My friends back here in the default world hadn’t had much of a chance to comment on Burning Man since if you don’t work with me or find me online, I’ve been absent since June. It’s also just too hard to explain and you tire of defining how it is not a sex fest or a hippie fest or a drug fest but all of those things are there. It’s just any old city like this one with a little bit more of a cooperative utopian value to build on and you get to cheer when big things burn, unlike here in the real world when fire is usually a bad thing. Those in my life that did hear about it in the months before were more supportive this time but I was still partially unaware and completely unable to describe the connection that was forming between me and the dusty world beyond. My living room swelled with stuff that I realized later I never needed or wanted and will now live in a costume box for the next 50 years of my life and I packed it all and headed out to build a temporary life for myself away from the crazy things that go on here. I learned a lot about what I need out there, and how “next time I’ll get this down”. I awed at a friend’s set-up at another camp and he said that we are building infrastructure and I laughed. From where we were 2 years ago when I was showering in the dish pan, yeah, we’ve built a bit. I need to keep that in mind, it’s a rolling investment, a hobby, and a lifestyle. I will probably have these coolers, tubs and costumes for 10 years and I am sure my collection of comfort items will grow.

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I can already see my shopping list for this year, and we are already brainstorming new camp names, concepts, volunteer opportunities and drive in dates. If I have to work the whole week that I am out there next time, I will. We already have 3 art projects for placement (1 returning and 2 new) and I am already trying to figure out what I am going to do as a solo project. This is actually going to be my biggest personal goal this year on top of the getting involved and building a solid theme camp building a future positive reputation on the playa. It is really important to the part of me that is an artist that I really recognize what the guys accomplished this year and how successful they were. People loved their idea and it’s hard in a city of 47,000 people to not impress someone. I mean, I’ve always gotten generally positive feedback on my art, so why not finally just dive in and think big. Like 20 feet by 20 feet by 20 feet big or bigger. Like not painting like building. What does the American Dream mean to me and how does that inspire me? Watch for news, I’m sure you’ll hear plenty. But next year, you can bet I’ll drive in early, I’ll be at that gate all week, I’ll work for the Bureau of Erotic Discourse (BED) and spread the word of respect and appreciation as well as make sure that my camp contributes to the overall growth and betterment of the community. I can’t sit back here in the default world another year while my community is changing and I have no control. If I want my world to be what I want and need it to be in 2009, that means in 2008, I need to take action.

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Right now, my eyes are on Decompression and establishing myself as a strong and vibrant member of the local burner community. I want to meet the people to help guide me to making the most positive impact I can on this community that I am no longer afraid to say that I am more than a member of, but an instigator of. There is nothing wrong with being a burner, and there is nothing wrong with being the type of burner I am.

Post rainstorm, Burning Man 2007

The man burns in 335 days.