This year marked my 17th trip to Burning Man, the enormous arts festival in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada, but Zevin’s first. Leading up to it, I was worried whether the heat and dust would make it too difficult for him, but for nothing. In the line to get in, a white-out dust storm blew in, and Zev’s reaction was “awesome, can we go out in it?!” Of course we can, little man, of course we can.
At the gate, he rolled in the dust and rang the bell (as first time “virgins” do), and our adventure was off.
We had initially planned to camp next to Hippocampus, so we could be near friends who were also bringing their kids for the first time, along with the Lemon Car, an art car that we had worked on with them, but that didn’t work out. Instead, we opted for Kidsville, a “village” within the city dedicated to parents and kids, and it turned out to be perfect. Zevin spent much of his days roving around Kidsville with the other kids, visiting Candy from Strangers camp, hanging on the trampoline, playing Man Hunt and just having a ball.
At one point, when we were out biking and exploring the city, he saw someone tying a string to a pair of sunglasses in the road, so I explained the Burning Man tradition of “People Fishing” (or “raver fishing”, when it’s done at night with a blinkie light), and of course he wanted to try it himself. I dug out some twine and showed him how you leave them in the road, then wait nearby until someone comes by and stops to pick them up, then yank it away just as they were about to grab them. When I returned an hour later from running an errand, there were about 9 kids from Kidsville, sitting by our van enjoying the pleasures of fishing together. A tradition passed on to the next generation!
Most people got a kick out of it and loved to be part of the kids’ fun, but he didn’t like that it felt like you were playing a mean prank on people. Ever the problem solver, he went to Candy from Strangers camp, got some candy, then hid it with the sunglasses so that after he yanked them, he would tell the person “Congratulations for picking up MOOP [Burning Man lingo for litter], here’s some candy as your reward!” That’s my boy.
While he was digging a trench to hide the twine, a videographer doing a documentary on the multigenerational aspect of Burning Man came by and interviewed us. He was really excited about the fact that we had worked on the Lemon Car together, as well, so he returned later and we brought him to see the car, interview Harley about it, and he even came out for a night time Lemon Car excursion. It sounded like he loved what was said on the interview, so I’m looking forward to seeing that when it comes out.
Our days were a mixture of hanging out with kids in Kidsville, some biking outings early in the day and late afternoon, and then retreating to the van for the hottest parts of the day. We made grilled cheese sandwiches and handed them out to passerby one day, Zevin stilted around camp (I brought stilts to teach other kids on, but we didn’t end up getting any takers), and we took a load of kids and parents out for a playa tour on the Lemon Car. Thunderdome came by and led mini-Thunderdome battles with the kids in Kidsville, and, of course, Zevin was first in line.
When Zevin flopped into bed at night, exhausted, I would head out on my bike for some night-time, kidless fun, making it back to camp before sunrise to squeeze in a few hours of sleep before we started it all over again.
I’m so proud of my young man that Michelle and I have raised. He was confident in meeting the other kids at the camp, willing to try new things, but also confident in knowing what he wanted to do and didn’t want to do, kind and gentle to others when they were in distress, and just so exuberant and “all in” throughout. I promised myself that this year would be “all about Zevin”, and that I wouldn’t stress that there were things I couldn’t do because I was single-parenting, but it turned out to be easy. He was the perfect mix of independence and him-and-me bonding.
I am over the moon with the adventure we shared. The week flew by, both of us can’t wait for next year.