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Bitch Bitch Bitch About Burning Man
by Stewart McKenzie

If you recall my ramblings from one of last year's issues of Piss Clear, you'll remember my brilliant reflections on why I wasn't going to go to Burning Man. But indeed, I actually did go last year÷just to spite you all!

This year however, I promise that I won't be there. Really. I have fears of people burning fires in the bad way, the way that causes surrounding brush and stuff to catch fire as well. Therefore, I thought I'd share with you my experiences from last year that made Burning Man especially enjoyable for me. Something that many of you probably weren't up to.

Yes, in many ways it was the perfect plan. Adrian, the editor of this esteemed rag, managed to convince me÷long after I had convinced myself of the opposite÷that I was going to Burning Man. Now mind you, I was completely relaxed and content to stay put in San Francisco last Labor Day weekend. And then, three days before the event, Adrian broke me down and convinced me to go. Besides, as it turned out, I was the best driver for the scary rental RV.Ê

But it ended up being good for me÷because going up incognito was the best thing. On top of that, we camped way out in the 'burbs, where it was quiet and pleasant! I was on vacation from Burning Man, at Burning Man. Fuck it all, dude.

Now of course, while I was having this bitchin' keen time out in the Black Rock boondocks, there were still way too many people getting wasted beyond control÷driving over tents and causing all sorts of general brouhaha. I was removed from the majority of it, but reading about it after coming home didn't exactly make me do somersaults. "Burning Man is finished," said conventional wisdom. "Everyone's gonna get sued."

Yet Burning Man has survived. Granted, it now has to be done in nearly a new setting, with new pricing, and even in a new county with new jurisdictions. Of course, in many ways it will still be the same old Burning Man, but now I realize that Burning Man is no different from any other festival or gathering of the tribes. It presents an image of anarchy and creative expression, in a setting of unquestioned emptiness and beauty÷and people, desperate for a sense of community and bored with the sameness of First World culture, come in droves. It attracts wonderful people from all over the country. It attracts suburbanites and college crowds and urban dwellers in search of "meaning" and "freedom." It attracts opportunists looking to make a buck or to experience a temporary feeling of power found lacking in their normal surroundings. And, it attracts crooks, vagrants, and scoundrels looking only for amusement and tomfoolery.

Like it or not, Burning Man is not about survival. At its most extreme, it's about projecting our God-fearing, red-blooded, American values of waste, greed, and debauchery on an empty canvas of dust and air. And at its most innocent, it's an escape valve from the societal rules that bear down on us daily.

Many of us want to return to the innocent model of Burning Man from years long past, but find it impossible÷we've "let" too many people know about our Own Personal Valhalla. If Burning Man is to continue, either it must end and begin in a fresh vein÷a new setting, a new focal point, a new organization. Either that, or its members must teach the experience of Burning Man to the newbies and the day-trippers. What is that experience? You must be prepared. Sharing is good. Inhibitions are banned. Learning is crucial. You must be responsible for your actions. You know the mantras.

For those that made the journey this year into a new setting, I congratulate you. You are all ushering in a new era of Burning Man. If the foundations you set this year are sound, I'll be sure to see you next year. Because we all deserve our own community and a good time. Because I like to sit on my ass. And, most of all, because there's just something about driving a million hours out into the middle of nowhere, where you and all your possessions get covered with dust a half-inch thick... just so you can feel like a human being again.

Stewart McKenzie is the former editor of the Black Rock Gazette, and a future mayoral candidate of Black Rock City.

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