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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...

Once again, 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.

Iāve been 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 feel nothing.

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...

Perhaps 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

Even if 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 wholesome.

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).

Because I 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 Man, dammit.

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