Postcards From Burning Man

Black Rock City's annual festival produces a surfeit of art, alkali dust and unbelievable stories

Illustration by Cierra Pedro

Illustration by Cierra Pedro

True fact: Black Rock City, the ad hoc metropolis created annually for the sole purpose of hosting the Burning Man festival, has its own volunteer post office. You can actually send letters there, if you know what camp to send them to. What’s more interesting, however, is that mail can actually come out of this strange, alkali-dusted parallel universe. Every now and again, a Burning Man story can escape into the real world.

Below are a few Black Rock postcards from Las Vegas Burners, collected on Facebook while they prepared to travel to Burning Man 2015. Most of these desert dispatches are figurative in nature, but a couple of them are literal—and nearly all of them are kind of unbelievable.

Randy Winsett

Burning Man stories are like government secrets. The good ones you can’t tell anyone, and the really good ones no one will believe.

Danielle Duffey

Jeff Jones and I were riding our bikes along one of the lettered streets. We noticed that we were being offered drinks everywhere we went, and we made up a game that we would have to stop and have a drink at every place that offered us one. After we had too many, we acted like we couldn’t hear them anymore and pedaled on.

Nate Miller

The first time I ever drank Champagne on a yacht, it wasn’t in the middle of some body of water; it was in the middle of the desert during a massive dust storm that blocked out the sun. At that point, I knew my “normal” was forever skewed.

Cory Mervis

I almost died out there. Saw a tire up close, heading for my noggin, after falling off a car from a seat strapped to the roof of the car. Those were the good old days.

Lisa Thibodeau Paulson

In 2011, while a perimeter was getting established for the Trojan Horse burn, a huge cake-shaped art car drove right through the area. The best part was hearing a volunteer say, very seriously, “Who let the cake through?” My husband Gregg and I yelled, “Rogue cake!”

Nikki Balesrere

I let strangers lick acid off my nipples, but I didn’t take into consideration it soaking into my skin. Forty people later, I was burrowing into the ground like a prairie dog.

Anthony Bondi

A Rainbow Elder thought we should form a procession from Center Camp where the fashion show had been, out to the Man, on burn night. We all looked at him and said, more or less, “Why should we march behind you? Why don’t we all just mosey over there without any organization, and when we feel like it?” In later years, the crews who favored processions won the debate.

Mario Gomez

One night I saw a girl wandering around dressed as a jellyfish. I’d ask her if I could take a photo of her. After I took the photo, the girl walked up to me and zapped me on the neck. She took her role as a jellyfish very seriously.

Alia Nicole Hajaj

Niyen Iredia and I were adventuring one day, and he turned to me and said, “I get irrationally excited over trampolines.” I just shook my head in disbelief, grabbed his hand and ran to a camp that had a trampoline that overlooked the entire city. The playa provides!

Leslie Bocksor

Years ago, our friend Chris contacted my wife, Cory Mervis, and I prior to the event, and he said, “I’m not going this year. I even took apart my playa bike, and I gave the blinking lights and decorations to these girls that I know, so they can have great playa bikes.” We told him that we’d miss him, but we respected his decision.

Then, about two weeks before the event, we got a phone call from him: “Can I camp with you? I’m going.” We said, “Sure! What changed your mind?” And he said, “I went out to my mailbox today, and in it was a postcard. On the front was a picture of James Dean. And on the back it said, ‘Chris: If you should ever forget what life should mean to you, or how you should feel living it, this postcard will appear or be discovered. Love, Chris.’”

It was a postcard he’d sent to himself 49 weeks earlier, from the Black Rock post office. That’s how efficient they are: The postcard took 49 weeks to get there, but it got there at the exact right time.

Melissa Cassidy

I was sitting inside of an art piece in deep playa. A guy joined me inside of the art piece and we exchanged flasks and watched the sun rise. Before he left, he pulled out a postcard to gift to me. On the postcard, he explained, was his original art. I gasped: I had been packing an identical postcard with my Burning Man gear for years. I can’t explain why I had this ritual of taking it to the playa every year, other than an appreciation for the art on that postcard. To meet the artist that way was nothing short of playa magic.

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