A few hours after you arrive at Black Rock City, a new mood takes hold.  You pull on an outrageous outfit, set a propeller beanie cap on your head, and discard your inhibitions.  You’ve become one with Burning Man, the yearly anything-goes celebration of being whoever you want to be for one week in the Nevada desert.

But it’s after the Festival ends that you begin to realize how much Burning Man has affected you.  Your mind seems sharper, your mood is more buoyant, and you feel, well, younger.  It’s not just your own observations that tell you something has changed, because friends, family and business associates remark on the difference.  Life is more fun than it’s been for years, you no longer “act your age” and you approach new ideas without fear or trepidation.  Best of all – you’ve made this transformation without the expense of therapy, the boredom of self-help books, or the side-effects of a pile of pills.  It’s as if you had found the Fountain of Youth in a hot, dry desert two hours north of Reno, Nevada.

I’ve gone to Burning Man for past four years, and will be attending again in 2008.  It all started when my 20-year-old son asked me to accompany him to the renowned counter-culture Festival.  When you’re 40+ years older than your kid and he wants to spend a full week of quality time with you, well, you simply have to say yes – even if it requires a Biblical-level trek to the desert.  But I had my doubts.

First, I hate camping.  I’m just not a tent-oriented kind of guy.  And we were about to embark on a seven day camping trip.  Even my friends who like to camp thought I was crazy.

Then there’s my sunburn problem.  I’ve always tended to crisp up in the sun, so I make every effort to minimize my exposure.  And here I was planning to spend a week in the desert, in August.

I also worried whether I was hip enough to be there.  What will be demanded of me?  Do I have to get naked?  Will I be expected to take drugs?

Little did I know what a pressure-free joy Burning Man would turn out to be, nor did I anticipate the freeing effect it would have on my mind and spirit.

…to be continued

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Alan Markow, president of AM Communications, has worked in marketing, public relations and corporate communications for more than 30 years. His experience includes senior management positions in communications and Investor Relations at companies as diverse as National Semiconductor, GTE (now Verizon), Praxair, VLSI Technology, C-Cube Microsystems and JPMorgan Chase. He is now a free-lance writer for newspapers and magazines, and a blog writer on politics and other issues. Prior to starting his corporate career, he had been a broadcaster, journalist, advertising and PR copywriter and speechwriter. He served as a Navy journalist and broadcaster during the Vietnam era, where he was television and radio news director for the Armed Forces Radio and Television Service station in Keflavik, Iceland.