by Stewart McKenzie
party in the desert, an appreciation of survival in a harsh climate, a rockin'
good time building false gods with fifty of your best friends--all but two who
are, of course, tripping their brains out on ecstasy 'n' bourbon.
Burning Man--the most exciting and coolest festival ever conceived, the
greatest wonder since sliced bread, the hyped machine of Alternative Nation.
And I do
believe the hype. After all, I've been an avid participant and propagandist of
Burning Man for the past three years. But this year, things are different. This
year, I'm not there.
events beyond my control, I have found myself just too frazzled and bedazzled
at the moment to partake in the festivities. I can barely keep up with the
social constructs I've built here in square America, let alone the ones I'd be
building in hip Nevada. I just needed a break--physically, emotionally and
psychologically--from this whole Burning Man gig.
might ask? Ask yourself about the past few weeks. Did you start panicking,
wondering where you left the tent poles and kerosene, the Igloos and bottle
rockets from last year? Did you worry when you realized a week ago that there
were only two digits to the left of the decimal point when you checked your ATM
balance? Did your brain begin to hemorrhage at the thought of your rusted-out
Vega traversing the playa floor? Won't you feel like an idiot driving back into
the Bay Area two days from now, stuck in traffic for hours and still coming
down from that last hit of acid--only to go to work the next morning completely
burnt-out, trying to blow the playa dust out of your nose?
me, not this year. I simply sat back and did nothing--while everyone around me
went into conniptions preparing for Burning Man '96.
for example. He was planning this elaborate "train" to and from
Burning Man, in some gi-mongous RV or truck or something. Bands would rock and
beer would flow--that is, until the plan fell apart, after it became apparent
that it would be too cost-prohibitive.
Bryan. Last year, he hauled to the playa a complex set of equipment for a
raised time-lapse camera, which turned out to be such an enormous
pain-in-the-ass he vowed never to do it again. Last I heard, he and the camera
were making a return appearance.
about Stacey or Eileen or Bill or Adrian, along with the ten thousand other
souls, who have spent the past few weeks--months, even--planning, plotting,
dreaming. Everyone has to be at Burning Man. Everyone knows that right now, in
Black Rock City, there are more shaved heads and pierced nipples per capita
than anywhere else in the United States. Everyone knows that right now, out on
the playa, there are more naked bodies, funky vehicles, art installations, and
pyrotechnic performances than any Lollapaloozer or Rainbow Grunting could ever
hope to produce. It's our annual convention--a convention of freakdom. It's a
live gathering in a live setting, away from all of our telephones and computers
and shopping centers and billboards featuring chemically-dependent models.
you start thinking that I'm just a jaded, cynical bastard, let me tell you
this: I love Burning Man. It really is a hoot, and it's definitely worth the
energy people put into it. What gets me down is this: when it's all
finished--when the last tent pole is pulled from the ground, when the last
porta-potty is put on the flatbed, when the last cigarette is picked gingerly
off the playa floor--it's just...empty. In the meantime, we've all returned to
"civilization"--back to those miles of shoddy construction we call
our homes and workplaces, those environments we robotically return to...
the energy we invest into making Burning Man happen--where we create a world on
our own terms--it's always a shame to return to the world we left, a world set
up by people we've never met and have never known of our existence.
Put that in
your pipe and smoke it.