Several years ago, my father began attending Burning Man—the annual festival known for ambitious artworks, nude yoga, electronic dance music, and psychedelic drugs. Most of my family wrote it off as a mid-life crisis and hoped he’d get over the phase.
I never joined. I was pretty sure I never needed to see my 60-year-old father scantily clad, drinking slushy cocktails, and smoking hookah in the middle of Nevada’s Black Rock Desert.
This year, though, my father explicitly extended an invitation to me and my mother, and somehow I couldn't resist the call to Black Rock City, the temporary metropolis erected every year in an uninhabited dust bowl.
I joined my parents four days after the festival began. Leading up to my arrival, I received cryptic text messages from my father, including “find us at 445 and E, Pineapple Motel.” It took nearly two hours for me to find my parents. When I did, they were chatting with two naked men and drinking Bloody Marys.
Burning Man is surreal, to say the least. Tens of thousands of people congregate in the middle of a wasteland to form a temporary community. During the event, the whimsical art installations (towering pagodas, askew lighthouses rising out of the dust, a giant kaleidoscopic whale) provide a fitting backdrop. Most of the scenery is literally burned when the festival ends.
My parents and I rode bicycles around the massive complex, and danced with strangers while a bus in the shape of a dragon breathed fire in time with the music. Perhaps the only thing more outrageous than the festival itself was experiencing all the madness with the people who raised me. But it very quickly began to feel normal, even as we got lost in the very fluffy Billion Bunny March.
Together, my parents and I became something like burners—or at least Sparkle Ponies. And we're already looking forward to returning to the playa. Below, my favorite shots from the experience.