Is it just me or
Saturday night: the man burn. I'm standing on the top deck of Luci, the lamplighter art car, holding onto Babydoll, a virgin from Edmonton who I happened to fall in love with and get playa married to earlier that week (long story). It's a beautiful sight. Someone far away on a megaphone says, "All your memories from last year, all that shit. Let it burn. Let it burn." I'm sobbing.
Then the man falls. I'm remembering every past year, the rush of running towards the man, the cyclone of people around it, running, pushing, getting close enough to feel the heat of the flames licking against my face. I tell Babydoll, "We need to get down there. Now." We clamor down the ladder. "Lamplighters coming off!" the crew shouts as they let us down. We step off and all of a sudden we're in a sea of neon. I'm holding onto her hand and we're running, around the el-wired people, past the blacklit and neon covered art cars, continuing through, on and on. I keep looking back at her and grinning with excitement. Soon there will be the fire!
And finally, we get there I see and feel the fire, but we come to a dead stop. We've hit a wall of people. And they're not moving. They're just standing and watching. Spectating. "Let's get closer!" I shout. And we're worming our way through the people just standing there. That's when I see that star shaped thing get pushed onto the man pyre. Everyone starts laughing. It's awesome. But still we're at a standstill.
And then all of a sudden, there's a great push, people are being shoved HARD. A crew of vet burners are yelling "RUN GODDAMN IT! YOU HAVE TO RUN!" And it's just not happening. People are being jammed into each other. People are getting hurt. All the virgins standing around are alarmed. "What the fuck!" Babydoll shouts as she nearly gets bowled over and trampled by the jerking. "NO SPECTATORS!" I hear from somewhere in the crowd. And my first instinct is to join in, but then I realize that it's 60% virgins or more, nobody has any idea what the fuck is going on, and unless collectively people agree to run it's just going to mean a lot of frustration and bruises. I grab Babydoll by the hand and help her get out of the crowd. I stand there and resolve to let the man burn be what it is without my expectations as a veteran. Just then one of the vets who's leading the "running" (shoving) around the Man tells me disdainfully, "Hey, you have to start running man, it's a tradition, it's part of the experience." "I KNOW!" I tell him testily, and he moves on.
The more I think about it thought it makes my blood boil. The nerve of that guy. Despite myself I find myself shouting into the crowd, "I've been here since 2004, asshole, I know it's part of the FUCKING EXPERIENCE!" Babydoll calms me down. "Easy babe, easy. Just let it go into the fire. Let it burn." I breathe. Someone comes by with a drum and tambourine and starts playing a tune. I dance a jig. Everything is ok again. We watch the fire for a while, then we turn and walk away, to explore what the Burnday has to offer.
I guess what I'm getting at with that story is, in a city that is increasingly dominated by virgins, in what way can we communicate our traditions? Should we try to at all? Or should we organically let the city be what it is from the contributions of each new participant, even if Black Rock comes to not resemble itself in character as a result? Or is it even a choice? Can we do anything to stop this trend towards a collective confusion as to what to do at the man burn? Or how about this collective movement towards hippieish community and peace and love without the snark and sass which once was a key part of the burner character?
I guess the two key things I see as happen is that some of the traditions which bind the community are losing their hold, resulting in less of a feeling of communal vibe. Simultaenously and paradoxically, I see the event as losing its teeth, its bite somewhat.
I'm not sure if I'm communicating this effectively and I have to run to work, but I'm excited to hear what you guys think.