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Party pooper
by Stewart McKenzie

It's a 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.

Yes, it's 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.

Due to 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.

Why you 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?

Nope, not me, not this year. I simply sat back and did nothing--while everyone around me went into conniptions preparing for Burning Man '96.

Take Kevin 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.

Or take 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.

And what 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.

Now before 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...

With all 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.

2002 Piss Clear
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