This is the third year I have gone to that big art/culture festival two hours north of Reno in the Black Rock Desert. Here are the basic answers to your questions. Yes, there are naked people. Yes, people do drugs. Yes, there are a lot of police (some undercover) attempting to find the people dispersing and using drugs. Yes, people get arrested. Yes, people bring their kids. (I don't, because I'm not sure how to explain a 10-foot penis on a golf cart to an eight-year old.) Yes, it is dusty. Yes, you do lose the inhibition of picking marble-sized boogers out of your nose in front of other people. Yes, people die out there. Yes, there is some crime although statistically it is far safer than most American cities. Yes, it is weird. Yes, there was a biblical dust storm on what I like to call Whiteout Wednesday. No, I did not visit, see or hear about any orgy tents. Yes, almost 40,000 people in the desert using port-o-potties for a week gets rather disgusting. No, I did not pick up any strange women, pets or diseases, but I did return with a couple of abandoned bicycles. (OK, one drunk woman wanted to see my package for "comparison" purposes, but I politely declined) Yes, I did camp with and witness many Boiseans having the time of their lives, but what happens on the playa stays on the playa, right? Yes, people give away free cocktails. Yes, it is still an expensive trip. Yes, it is hot. Yes, it can get cold at night. No, I did not see your friend with the red glow-stick on the night of the burn. Yes, there are what are called "shirt-cockers," ormen who run around with a shirt on but no pants.
Attempting to explain this 360 degree, technicolor world of 24/7 sounds, smells and sights is impossible. You've just got to go yourself to experience it. Even here, these black and white photos cannot capture the assault on the senses that Burning Man does to human beings. Burning Man isn't for everyone, so if you have any doubts about ever attending, don't go. But have fun looking at these photos. Each one has a story that would fill a page, but I'll just let them speak for themselves.
To see more pictures and these ones in color, visit the Photo Feature Gallery