I’ve been home from Burning Man well over two months now and I must tell you that the one thing I miss the most about being on the Playa is how present people were. People were actually engaged with one another and you could see it in their eyes, faces and smiles. It was once again an amazing trip for me.
It’s always funny to hear people speak about Burning Man and how they know so much about the Playa, but they’ve never actually been. The ONLY way to truly experience Burning Man is to get your butt there. No picture, video or story will ever come close to the amazing experiences and exchanges that take place there. Let me also tell you that there is far more to Burning Man than being drunk and high, but if that floats your boat up and down the river, then more power to you.
This year was truly awesome for me because it was the first time on the Playa in over 9 years and it was my 9th year attending. So much has changed in my life since the last time I attended. My parents have passed away, my 5th battle with cancer and 29 months of homelessness is in my past and I am now HIV-positive. All but three of the people who were in my life back then have changed, I’m no longer the globe trotter, don’t have a BMW or an AUDI and my only trips to Saks Fifth Avenue in Beverly Hills are on the 720 Rapid Metro bus that basses right by. I no longer have a condo just blocks from the beach in Santa Monica, I’m no longer catering and I certainly cannot afford to eat in the places I use to dine all the time.
So why was Burning Man so special to me? What made this year better than any other year? Well for starters I am the same person, it’s just that all the fancy stuff or window dressing is gone. I still love making people smile; jazz and gospel are still my favorite styles of music with a huge mix of classical, tribal, breaks and deep Chicago house. I still enjoy volunteering and doing all I can to make a difference in this world. My camera and art are still a huge part of my life and my faith is as strong as it ever been. Yeah, my friends are now different, but they are far better than those I used to know. I’m older, wiser and much stronger than I ever thought I was.
Being back on the Playa was a celebration of myself making it through the storms in my life with a huge smile on my face and joy still very bright in my heart. There are amazing people in my life and a direction or path that I would not change for anything. It was a celebration of all that I hold dear and true, but most of all it was a journey to be thankful, let go and say my goodbyes - a time to celebrate what I’ve created and all I’ve been able to accomplish even as I was dealing with so much.
I’ve heard it said that going to Burning Man changes you for the better and this is so true. It transforms you and encourages you to be better, do better, dream harder, go further and push yourself to live the very best life you possibly can. It encourages the spirit of caring for your fellow man, fosters your inner most creative desires and drives you to make them a reality. Burning Man is a lesson in being completely responsible for yourself and all your actions while encouraging those actions to be responsible not just for you, but others as well. It forces you out of your shell and into a world where there are no judgements, not even from yourself. It encourages YOU to be YOU and LOVE IT.
This year’s bonus for me was all the people I had the honor of meeting for the first time, but people who already knew me through my blog, community work, Youtube channel and even from my articles here on PositiveLite.com. The experiences were powerful and so encouraging for me. They were life changing and direct answers to the one thing I asked God for when I left Los Angeles with my best friends heading for Black Rock City.
BREAKTHROUGH: Blog entry from Burning Man 2013
As I made my way back to base camp someone yelled to me “those are great pants” I smiled so big and was going to keep on riding but I turned around to thank them and as I started talking about my best friend Andy teaching me how to sew, I became even more overjoyed in talking about what it has been like for me to be at Burning Man. “Sometimes I get so fucking tired and want to just walk away, but being here has refreshed my spirit in ways you can’t imagine……” and this is when a woman from the camp reaches out to hold me and as she’s holding me I could hear her crying and then saying “thank you” over and over. As it turns out her son recently died from AIDS. They are extremely poor only able to make it to Burning Man because her friends wanted her to be able to release her son. Her son read my column on PositiveLite.com and saw my YOUTUBE Channel. She started telling me how I helped her son “Louis you have no idea of how much good you do. How much your blogs, articles, videos and your tenacity helped my son fight for himself and die with dignity………………” While she was talking I just broke down hearing her ask me “Don’t you ever stop speaking for and fighting for those of us who cannot fight ourselves. Don’t you ever think your work doesn’t matter or is small and meaningless compared to large organizations because through your voice you’ve done more for my son than they ever did………”
When I say my soul was being fed, I was so blown away by what I was hearing from this woman who I do not know - and she only knew me through the internet. This was far better than having my face on some fucking magazine, far better than some damn award and certainly better than any paycheck. She asked me not to allow my work to be censored or watered down so that others could feel comfortable. She asked me to keep speaking up and my soul received her request. We hugged for so long I felt as if the world had stopped, both of us crying in each other’s arms and in that moment I said “thank you…thank you so much.
“Welcome home Louis. Welcome home young man.” Everyone at that camp site was in tears and we each embraced each other and I made a point of thanking each and every one of them for their kindness and energy.
The answers that I asked God for prior to leaving for Burning Man were answered in such clear ways. My heart and soul was clear and sure of the choices I made prior to leaving. Even though I knew my journey of LIVING with HIV would change, my soul was at peace and my mind was free.
I’m so happy being me and I’m regretting NOTHING about me.
to be continued…….