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A small man and a tall Man
by Kirk Souder

On my way back home from Burning Man last year, I stopped at a roadside convenience store just outside of Reno. I noticed a local eyeing me as I perused the aisles of junk food I had been kept safely away from for the last week and a half.

"On your way back from the Burn?" he asked.

I smiled, realizing the trail of playa dust I had left on the vinyl floor, and the remnant sparks in my eyes had given me away.

"Yeah", I said with a huge shit-eating grin, assuming he had just witnessed the same miraculous, amazing, and profound few days that I had.

"Wow. I miss it. My son was born a few years ago. I'm waiting until he's old enough to go back. Maybe when he's ten or eleven. We'll see."

I elected at that moment not to tell him that over there in the RV fueling up was my one year old, sitting next to his mother with the same sparks in his eyes that I had.

My wife and I have only missed one Burn in the last few years. Our son was born in LA during Burning Man '99. Despite my suggestion he be born at Burning Man and have his birth projected live on a giant scrim for all the participants to celebrate, my wife very pragmatically opted for the safety of a doctor and an epidural.

Nonetheless, we found ourselves back at Black Rock in 2000, celebrating his first birthday. This year we will be celebrating his second birthday there, as we will all his birthdays until he reaches that age when he becomes embarrassed of us, goes there to a separate camp with his friends, and pretends not to know us when he sees us dirty dancing at Bianca's.

Experiments with rats invariably shows that stimulus at a young age dramatically increases cerebral synapse formation, intelligence, and the ability to solve problems. Based on my observation of my son on the Playa in 2000, his brain did well there.

He lit up. Space to run, yell, touch, taste and love. Art that didn't hang on a wall out of reach of his hungry mind and hands, but that he could walk through, bang on, and clothe himself with. Falling in love with a little red-headed girl in the psychedelic wind tunnel, getting to actually ride a fire-breathing dragon, and dancing every day and every night with Mom and


It took a bout with cancer for me to learn later in life that the boundaries we put on ourselves that confine our thinking are delusions. My hope is that our trips to Burning Man every year will stop those delusions from ever forming in the mind of my son. And even more than that, that he'll be surrounded by individuals whom he regards as his family and tribe. We are by nature, tribal animals, and six million years of genetic training has made such social configurations more important than just a choice we make. The advent in the last hundred years of the isolationist nuclear family so far has not shown itself to be the greatest contributor to healthy and balanced communities, societies, or individuals.

No, I want my son to be surrounded by those described by Kerouac, "...the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars..."

Because that way, he may just see his life as limitless as a playa in the high Nevada desert, as opposed to as claustrophobic as a mall in Sherman


And every year a tall man burns down, a smaller one will be burning up. His name is McKinley Spark Souder, and he'll see you soon.

2002 Piss Clear
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