Sam Bauman: Seniors should find their inner-burner

By the time this gets to print I should be up on the Black Rock Desert enjoying a few days of the annual Burning Man celebration. It will be my ninth time of taking part in it all. I like the jolt the affair gives to my more humdrum moments.

Well, it's a chance to toss off all those day-to-day things and break out in something new and possibly challenging. You don't have to shuck all your usual ways and beliefs, but you can get exposed to the kind of thinking not enough seniors indulge in. It's a jolt into a new way of thinking for seniors.

What kind of thinking? Something new to get you out of the rut of everyday life.

I admit, it's too late to try it this year, but how about 2013? Early tickets are cheapest, so it's wise to jump early. As there are limits to the number of tickets that are sold, you've got to act. And as the organizers are planning to switch from a limited liability corporation to a non-profit, who knows what the future holds?

Burning Man is billed as a celebration of "alternate life styles," whatever that is. I have found it a wonderful opportunity to enjoy 50,000 people doing all kinds of weird things, such as being kind to everyone, to handing out small trinkets here and there, having to go without buying anything other than ice and lattes (profits from which go to Gerlach town and other charities) from the organizers.

The Playa, which was once linked to Lahontan Lake, 80 or so miles south, is a very flat desert, some 10 by 20 miles. It's several miles past Gerlach and then another several miles across the playa to Black Rock Village, a vast semicircle centered about the Central Cafe, where the lattes and served and where many burners dance, offer massages and yoga lessons, and where art works inspired by the man are on display. All kinds, oil portraits, color photos, improbable constructions. Some good, some not so good.

There's a roadway from the Central Cafe which leads from the Village to the 80-foot effigy of the Burning Man atop a wooden structure. On the night of the burn, acolytes walk the roadway hanging lanterns for the night ahead. On the night of the burn, always Saturday before Labor Day, the burners gather about the man in a wide circle, held back from danger by rope and guards. To get a seat on the rim, you have to get there early. For seniors, that's not a bad idea because standing for the couple of hours leading up to the burn can be tiring.

Before the actual burn starts, burning crews patrol the inside of the circle, offering gymnastics and flaming-torch throwing. Then the fireworks begin, and go on and on and make most Fourth of July displays look weak. Finally, fire starts up the leg of the man and slowly he becomes wreathed in flame, and he eventually tumbles to the ground.

Sunday night those hunks of imagination that dot the playa go up in smoke, including what I think is the most important thing about Burning Man - the temple.

This is rambling building of plain wood, haphazardly Christian, Islamic, Hindu, whatever. There's a clear space inside where gentle Mideastern and Western music plays softly. Some dance quietly, some take Buddhist positions, some just sit there. At the same time, burners come and with felt-tipped pens inscribe messages to friends, families, pets, heroes and heroines, to all manner of folk. To moms and dads, teachers and spouses, kids and old friends, even enemies. As a senior, I find this the most touching and meaningful site on the playa. The temple burns Sunday night, sending all those messages into the sky. Some may reach the intended.

The point of it all - make it whatever you want, roam with the crowds, watch the dancers at the Central Cafe. Find a new aspect to life. It's something to bounce you out of a rut and the kind of thing that gives birth to other off-beat ideas, something all of us seniors can enjoy,


Mary Bangert of Carson City mailed me two questions about the Affordable Care Act. One was, is Congress included in it? Nope, they weaseled out as usual. They enjoy pensions, health care, etc. to the bitter end.

Two: Is there a 3.8 percent tax in the ACA on real estate sales? Not unless the property being sold increases in value from when it was purchased, something pretty rare these days. Then whatever increase is subject to the 3.8 bite under the capital gains tax formula. So relax, unless you're making a killing in a sale, and then you should still be relaxed and wealthier.

* Sam Bauman writes about senior affairs, among other things, for the Nevada Appeal.


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