Has Burning Man Flamed Out?

Chai Steeves
3 min readSep 5, 2023

Torrential downpours leaving thousands stranded to their knees in muck and with little food and no transportation out… is this where it ends?

Photo by Sam Mathews on Unsplash

Burning Man has been on my bucket list for years. A week of kick-ass music and art, a sexy vibe, and party drugs with thousands of like-minded travelers — yeah, that has always appealed to me in a big way.

But when I started getting texts this weekend from friends who were there, telling me of the brutal storms, the rivers of muck, the closed roads, and the food shortages, I started to have second thoughts.

Let me try to capture Burning Man for those less familiar with it. It’s a week-long music and arts festival deep in the Nevada Desert each year. It’s built on radical inclusion, cooperation, and self-reliance — nothing is sold, and all participants bring all they need, expecting that they and others will share so that everyone has enough food, drink, and drugs to have a fabulous bonded week together. And it’s huge — approaching 70,000 people in this remote patch of desert a hundred miles from civilization.

The highlight is at the week’s end when the giant ‘man’ art installation is set aflame, with thousands of tiny notes of regrets and resolutions of the Burning Man attendees seeking redefinition and redemption from the party in the desert. There is a lot to like.

Up until now, it’s worked amazingly well. It’s become so popular that celebrities regularly show up in their well-appointed RVs. Many friends have gone and reported great times, transformative moments, and fond memories they will keep forever. Thus, it’s been something I’ve wanted to do for years.

But, there has been something holding me back. My one hesitation on going to Burning Man has always been the camping/showering situation. I will own it that I’m a bit of a pretty boy, and the idea of a week with no showers if sleeping in a tent with no easy access to showers freaks me out. Sleeping night after night on the cold ground and waking to an absence of latte, showers, and a daily newspaper — that’s a challenge for me.

So, this year, I’ve been hearing that they’ve gotten unprecedented rainfalls that have left the fairgrounds in a pool of deep mud and the roads closed; I found myself happy that I was not there. A first-timer friend texted me on Sunday, pretty freaked out and wanting to be home. Another more experienced friend also texted, saying he was taking it in stride but it definitely put a damper on things.

The environmentalist that I am was left wondering if these storms might become a more regular feature of Burning Man — climate change being what it is.

So, I feel that my time for Burning Man may have passed. I love the shorter festivals, and there is no shortage of new ones cropping up.

Maybe I’m more of a Burning Man-light or Burning Man-bougie type of guy.

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Chai Steeves

eclectic guy - likes sexuality, politics, business, relationships, celebrity trivia...