Joanne Solomon | Longreads | January 2019 | 13 minutes (3,195 words)
Nine months into our relationship I take my relatively conservative, Argentine, businessman of a boyfriend who doesn’t yet speak fluent English out to the middle of the Nevada desert for Burning Man. My last boyfriend would have fit in perfectly. He owned a didgeridoo. But Eduardo is different. He wears a suit, has health insurance and approaches everything with a fair amount of caution. Asking me, his English teacher, out on the first day of class was a bit out of character. To be clear, this was not tabloid fodder; when we met, he was 34 and I was 35. My 20s were spent teaching puppetry in the South Bronx, and performing in alternative theater festivals. Desperate for a partner, I yearned to be moved up from the kid’s table, and Eduardo felt like a bona fide ADULT. In turn, Eduardo had just gotten out of a long stagnant relationship, and looked to me for levity and fun. I liked being the muse, for a time.
Burning Man is more of an art city than a festival. It pops up the last week in August and absorbs close to 70,000 inhabitants who camp in every form of temporary lodging imaginable: tents, campers, tiny houses. There is Art everywhere. This world is built on the tenets of self-reliance and radical self-expression. Many people are naked and many don costumes in which they weld, cut and busily construct their projects. Burning man commissions larger work from artists who spend their entire year constructing and shipping their work to the desert piece by piece. Artists build otherworldly, giant sculptures, often two or three stories high that participants can climb on, and crawl through. On every corner you can find some sort of installation that inspires, or titillates or offers you something unexpected. And while this world may initially feel lawless, upon deeper inspection you’ll find a hospital, a DMV, an around-the-clock sanitation department, law enforcement, and an airport.