Burning Man Can Wait 2003
by Stewart McKenzie
Few participants at Burning Man have a terrible experience on the playa. For most, BM is an earth-shattering experience that is unbelievable the first time around and continues its energy and eloquence on every subsequent visit. Why else do we keep coming back, year after year, away from our everyday mundane world and into a space and time where we have meaning?
I love Burning Man and I have been coming to Black Rock City since 1993. For every major change, for every major crisis, BM has endured. This is why I implore you, the teeming masses, to consider a year - maybe next year- in which you don't make the trek out to the playa.
I'm sure the BMorg doesn't want you to make other plans. You and your brood are figured into the annual budgets now, the annual impact on every town from here to Reno, and your absence would not be a welcome trend to the folks that run this multi-million-dollar extravaganza. They do not want to hear about the Take Back My Labor Day Dammit Project, or the TBMLDDP. They do not even want to spell it.
But why not? These are tough times for many people and money doesn't grow on them dot-com trees anymore. The days of getting a job based on knowing how to surf the web, update your Palm calendar, and use a company phone to transfer friends to free long distance are way over. The Old Jobs, the ones many of us used to work before 1995, are back in vogue: coffee barista, office temp, and retail whore. These jobs used to be able to pay our way to BM, but fare badly in paying for today's trip to Black Rock City. After you get used to that Cruise America RV rental and the $200 shade structure, it gets hard to go back to that shredded tent you borrowed from your neighbor that you never gave back - perma-playaed and bent poles are the hallmarks of a sixty-mile-an-hour windstorm, you know.
One thing that I've learned though, as we've swung from the No Money era to the Fake Money era and now in the Owe Money era: BM prevails. It has survived the dictum of the Bureau of Land Management, the premiums of the insurance industry, and the hostility of (some of) the locals.
So relax! Just TBMLDDP, I say. Go to Hawaii next year. You can be wet a lot, not wear much, let someone else cook your food, and not be dusty. And you don't have to start packing six weeks before the event and finish unpacking three weeks after, when the dust has settled in as far as it will go.
(As a matter of fact, a 7-day vacation package to Hawaii right now, including airfare and hotel, can be had for about $700 a person. But I digress.)
Okay, sure, Hawaii's more expensive than mere airfare and hotel. Plus you don't have a life-altering experience that makes you question your existence, with or without hallucinogens. But BM will be there next year, I swear! It is part of our shared American and worldwide culture. It actually has more staying power than the Dot Com world, hallelujah.
In fact, there are many things you can do, not being at BM, and not being on some expensive, consuming, and capitalistic vacation. Here's your TBMLDPDP itinerary:
Buy things besides ice and coffee. Some things are obvious, like food and alcohol, but others are less obvious, like rent and electricity.
Rename your house. Who needs a theme camp? Just think, your little castle could just as easily be Gigsville or Fandango. Or Jiffy Lube, for that matter. Maybe it already is and you just haven't cashed in yet.
Drink lots of water. Because you can pee it all away, in a bathroom that's not overflowing.
Keep up on BM on the web and in the news. There's always a major article or two on the wire, and it's Just Like Being There.
Most of all, taking time off from BM refreshes and rejuvenates you, and you're that much more stoked the following year to put even more energy into the process. Think of it as a vacation from Black Rock City. If we collectively whine about it enough, the BMorg may consider writing artist grants for folks to plan their BM Vacation properly. And what would their interest be? Wouldn't it help to spread the word in the Real World on how we live our lives in the BM world?
Stop the playa, Larry Harvey, I want to get off!