But once you're at the festival, what do you actually do for a week?
Unlike what you've heard, it's not just drugs and partying in the desert. If you don't want to be a sparkle pony (a helpless, gaudily costumed newcomer), there are at least a dozen hours of manual labor to do. Burning Man's as much about radical self-reliance as it is about self-expression.
HERE'S HOW WE SPENT A TYPICAL DAY AT BLACK ROCK CITY LAST WEEK:
7:30 a.m. — Wake up to dubstep blasting from 12 different art cars. Find that your tent's as hot as the inside of a mouth.
8 a.m. — See people parachute into the desert on the horizon.
8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. — Groan in misery of dehydration. Nap more. Chug oceans of piss-warm water.
9:45 a.m. — Report to your camp's leader, who may or may not be called Alpha Bitch or B-Love (some of the most adoring folks, by the way). Start cooking lunch for 200 people.
Or compost your camp's leftovers for three hours.
Or wash pots and cooking utensils for your camp. Remember that there's no running water here, so this is how you rinse dishes:
12:30 p.m. — Eat lunch in a communal tent.
1 p.m. — Get dressed to explore the city. Bring a liter of water (at least).
1:15 p.m. — Check the event listing booklet. Decide on things to do.
1:30 p.m. — Start biking across the desert. Gawk at incredible sculptures. Take shade under them to drink and chat with people.
1:40 p.m. — Stumble upon a wedding ceremony in the middle of the desert.
Be unexpectedly moved as you witness complete strangers exchange vows.
1:50 p.m. — Watch as a dust storm engulfs the ceremony. The groom and the bride pay it no mind.
1:55 p.m. — Han Solo pilots a Cheshire Cat across the horizon. You learn to accept this as daily life in the city.
2 p.m. — Get invited into a bar in the desert.
2:01 p.m. — To earn your drink, you must be spanked. Or yell an embarrassing story in a loud speaker.
2:30 p.m. — Lie down in a zen garden of ribbons as solemn banana priests scuttle by.
3 p.m. — A stranger walks by and doles out mango-flavored penis popsicles to everyone. He becomes instantly popular.
3:20 p.m. — Attend a meditation workshop. Or a storytelling open mic.
4 p.m. — Visit the Temple, where people scrawl messages and leave memorials to people they lost this year.
Write your own message.
4:30 p.m. — Get lost in a dust storm. Stay where you are. Don't try to bike in this.
4:40 p.m. — Doodle on the walls of a Porta-John. Feces may or may not be piled rim high, but most of the time the desert dust keeps it dry and clean.
6 p.m. — Drop by Center Camp (in the middle of the city). Watch a performance, or look at the gallery. See a ton of naked people.
6:59 p.m. — Howl at the sky with everyone as the sun dips behind the mountains. This happens every night.
7 p.m. — Dinnertime! It's getting dark. And cold (close to 50 degrees). Head back to camp before all the food's gone. Dress warmer.
7:30 p.m. — Take a nap. You'll need it, I swear.
9 p.m. — Wake up. Walk out of your tent to find that the entire horizon is literally on fire.
9:20 p.m. — House music sprays from every direction. Watch as a metal octopus lights in a chandelier of propane fire.
Or watch people get doused in fire for failing Dance Dance Revolution.
Don't worry, they're wearing fireproof suits.
See this dude walk by.
And this car drive by.
10 p.m. — Go to the French Quarters camp, where this lovely couple will give you champagne and handmade lavender soap.
11 p.m. — Play a round of flaming Skee-Ball.
12 a.m. — Gawk and giggle into a hall of mirrors.
12:30 a.m. — Watch people fight with foam swords at the Thunderdome.
1 a.m. — Stop by the Porn and Donuts camp, which screens hilarious 1920s French porn.
1:30 a.m. — Drunkenly paint on the walls of Firehouse Camp.
Thanks for the paints, Firehouse. You are my favorite camp.
2 a.m. — While wandering in the desert, stumble onto a DIY movie theater. Watch a movie.
5 a.m. — Watch the sunrise.
And that's a typical day at Burning Man: It can be as vulgar, holy, sexual, chaste, sober, or drunk as you want. Better yet, it refuses to distinguish among them. No two people's experience is the same.
See Also: 55 Things I Learned At Burning Man.