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Burnt out
by Summer B.

Nobody ever writes about "coming down" from Burning Man. Getting all the corrosive but strangely sweet-smelling alkali dust off and out of everything it covers; putting away boas and grass skirts and glitter and shiny silver jumpsuits and unpacking everything that hasn't been set on fire; shooting evil glares at tokens of this modern world's technology, convenience, and obligation; heaving expansive and weighty sighs (and in the case of some of my more emotional friends, giving in to unexplained and intermittent crying jags) in the weeks following the festival in the desert.

Burners who previously caught shit from non-Burners for endlessly planning for, making costumes for, and rhapsodizing about what non-Burners see as either a useless waste of resources, an unsanitary pyromaniac's heathen-fest, a very very silly party, or a straight-up budding cult hear nothing from their dusty and sunburned desert rats upon return, who leave off their normal social routines to burrow and hide and share pictures with others who were there. ("Nobody told me about this nobody mentioned the aftershocks," a first-time Burner tearfully exclaimed on the phone last week. "I want my mommy.") It's pathetic, really, but it makes complete sense: like children who've come home from a weeklong carnival, like red pill takers who get pulled off the Matrix, like adventurers who've returned from the wilds of Borneo to be slapped in the face with McDonald's and car alarms, we whine.

Last year, a few days after I had returned from the playa, I was nursing my comedown at a film screening, when I noticed two glum and stunned-looking kids next to me talking in hushed and listless tones. I overheard the words 'SpaceLounge' and 'wind storm,' and we struck up a suddenly animated conversation. Together, we made a list.

The social habits of the "real" world, as seen from the vantage point of Burning Man:

1. Even the most stylish hipsters, mavens, divas, and superfreaks look funky, but frighteningly clean.

2. It is not socially acceptable to pick your nose in the presence of others.

3. People are subdued, and not inclined or encouraged to draw out neighbors, peers, or entire rooms with spontaneous performances. There's no unsolicited intangible gift exchange, aside from the occasional compliment or well-put-together outfit.

4. People keep to themselves and their friends and don't generally walk around giving thumbs-ups and "woo"s and feel that there's something to celebrate.

5. People make an effort to blend.

6. People don't have to consider the unpredictability of the weather in every action, as most nighttime activities "worth doing" are enclosed and separated from the natural world.

7. People don't hug strangers, and if they do, it's weird, and grounds for arrest.

8. Art is nowhere near as relevant or important or revered as it should be to everyday life on earth.

9) The world is composed of 95 percent spectators, and those of the 5 percent creators and participators who aren't accepted in the mainstream are generally doomed to a misunderstood life of ridicule and financial instability.

10. People absorb entertainment rather than create it. Commerce, not community, is the basis of diversion and recreation. Gimme.

Later that night at a party, I ran into the Salami Sisters, a performance art troupe, who shared my Burning Man comedown experience. "I know we're all depressed about leaving the desert," Salami Sister Number One said, "but you just have to remember that Burning Man, or any other holiday, couldn't possibly last all year, because specialness is nothing without mundanity. Just make sure you're never mundane yourself."

Reprinted in part from the San Francisco Bay Guardian

2002 Piss Clear
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