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Burning Man (Part 4: The Decadent Oasis)

October 1, 2010

in California, Creative Living

When I first went to Burning Man in 2004, I went as a spectator. A group of friends from San Francisco, we were John Cougar Melon-Camp. We played John Cougar music and handed out slices of melon on hot days, but I did little else for the community. Mostly I traveled through other people’s spaces, enjoying what they created and what they offered. By 2009, my friends had merged camps with another group to become Decadent Oasis. When I was reunited with them upon returning from Nepal, we started an epic year together. We envisioned our new camp from the backyard hot tub under a redwood tree (very California, I know), cooked dinners together and cooked up ideas, sorted out the logistics, rallied people for work days. We were somehow just the right amalgam of ideas, the perfect storm of skills, and we quickly became a full-on, highly organized, theme camp.

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Our little grove in 2009...

2009 was the initial run of our oasis, and we loved it! It was work, but it felt like play–this was what we did for fun together. For 2010, we decided to scale up, and it truly became a polished theme camp. We earned a place on the main street of Burning Man’s city (the Esplanade), we created a home for 80 campers, and we created a playspace for anyone who wandered by.

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...doubled in 2010!

The Decadent Oasis is 32 palm trees with computer-controlled lighting, plus a stage, a public lounge full of cushioned seating and swaying tapestries, a private bus lounge, a 30-foot tall palm tree on top of the bus, DJ’s, sound system, 2 dozen hula hoops, and a fabulous group of people. It’s also 75% recycled and reclaimed materials, with a bus that runs on biodiesel, and it has a comprehensive environmental plan–because we’re an eco-conscious bunch.

Burning Man 2010 - Metropolis: Camp at 4:30 Keyhole

Glowing Palm Trees in the Decadent Oasis

After my 5th Burning Man, it feels like I’ve completed a cycle–from showing up on the playa with little to offer all the way to producing a show and a space for other people to enjoy. I spent 12 days in the desert this year, helping to take our camp from nothing to finished and back to nothingness again. That’s the transitory nature of Burning Man.

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Planting palm trees

Working on the Decadent Oasis, watching it rise from the ground, seeing all of our planning and preparation come to fruition was immensely satisfying. The best part, however, was never the cool stuff we were building–it was doing it together. We have an amazing bunch of people in our community, who each give in a way that is natural to them. Some people construct infrastructure. Some people set up sound. Some arrange the lounge. One guy does all our lighting–from London. People cook and share food, make awards to hand out, tend bar, paint faces, give professional massages, teach acro-yoga, clean up, share costumes, or just make us laugh. And somehow, it all works really well. Burning Man 2010 was an incredibly rewarding experience and made me love and appreciate my friends all the more.

BM DO group on bus

Dedicated decadence: campers who came a week early to set-up.

Me & Anne

Playa style--Anne and I spend the day building fences.

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