by Summer B.
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.
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 ö 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.
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.
habits of the "real" world, as seen from the vantage point of Burning
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
10. People absorb entertainment rather than create it.
Commerce, not community, is the basis of diversion and recreation. Gimme.
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