by Stewart McKenzie
Editor's note: The
lovably cynical Stewart McKenzie wrote this two weeks before we set our for
Black Rock City. If you see him out on the playa this weekend, see if his mood
has changed any since he wrote this...
Burning Man is upon us. Once again, all of the planning, organizing, drinking,
screaming, purchasing, reserving, weeping, and gnashing of teeth is coming to
an end and all that lays in front of us is the wide open playa floor. It is our
palette and canvas, to create the world we canāt enjoy at home. Once again,
itās a hella lot of work to get here and itās a hella lot of work to get back.
Once again, it all seems worth it once the drug-induced haze has worn off.
going to Burning Man, off and on, for the better part of this decade. Every
year I write the same dumb article, about how bitter I am that it was sooooo hard to organize things last year
and how sick of it I am. I then vow in print never to come back, or at least take the year off. And finally I did
it÷I took the year off last year. It was very Anti-Burning Man for me because I
had to exist in The Real World. Of course, existing in The Real World had huge
drawbacks last year, mostly by coincidence. Princess Di kissed asphalt, and the
worldās media went into crisis. I took a ride on Amtrak and my train killed two
teenagers at a railroad crossing. Meanwhile, I got to read about Burning Man in
a dry Associated Press wire story.
And now here I am, writing the same dumb article that I
write every year with an important difference:
I know how
cool Burning Man is. I know the delight of sitting on my ass and sharing tales
with friends. I love looking at the creativity and debauchery that flows
through Black Rock City. I swelter in the heat and cool myself in a makeshift
shower or distant hot spring. I trip on the endless theme camps, decorated
automobiles, artistic talent, and scary food I create. I take a swig out of my
plastic water container and wonder when the drugs will hit.
I know all
of this, and yet Iām indifferent. I donāt feel like Iām breaking new ground or
going out on a limb to attend Burning Man anymore. Perhaps Iām clouded by the
responsibilities and turmoils of The Real World and the fantasy of Burning Man
hasnāt registered. I donāt know. All I can think about is: getting there will
be a pain; getting the supplies together will be a pain; getting the RV will be
a pain. Money, money, money, money, watch it disappear...
part of my indifference lies in the fact that, even after six years or so, I
still havenāt figured out what Burning Man is ćabout.ä Everyone has their
theories, but even Larry Harvey doesnāt know what itās about. Itās pagan. Itās
anti-religion. Itās a Trojan horse. Itās a cheapo vacation for the Mission
slacker set. Itās a chance to get out of town and hang out with some good
chaps. Itās sex and drugs and trance music. Itās artistic expression. Itās a
week of survival on chips-and-salsa and ClifBarsś.Ź
there is no there there, it isnāt exactly like a secret society or anything. As
mentioned before, Burning Man is well-known by the media outlets, from the Reno Gazette-Journal to CNN. It was
almost regulated out of existence by the powers that be in Washoe County, but
negotiation cooled the authorites. Shit, you could film The Donna Reed Show out here on the playa, itās become so goddamn
So, if I
feel nothing and Iām indifferent, why go? Because I want to see my friends,
something that's becoming increasingly rare as time incessantly creeps on.
Because I do like the desert environment and itās nice to leave California once
in a while. Because itās nice to see us adults eschew responsibility and act
like the immature spoiled First-Worlders we really are, like characters in a
Wim Wenders film. Because this is utopia, but none of us have to hang out for
very long to actually manage it. Itās Utopia-On-A-Stick. Because itās a nice
study of human anthropology (and increasingly urban planning, too).
write the same dumb article I write every year. Because once Iām at Burning
Man, I will feel something. Because I will feel different. Because itās Burning