Hello My Beloved Playa Brothers and Sisters,
I don't know if you've already read this but I liked it so much I wanted to come share it with you.
We weren't able to go this year because I had weight loss surgery in March and my surgeon and doctors thought it might be a bit risky for me to deal with the dehydration factor, or to be far enough away from a hospital when my intestinal situation is still a bit delicate. I miss you so much. I miss my community, my world. But on the good side I've lost ninety-eight pounds and maybe by next year I'll be feeling even better. I love you guys sooooooo much -- Jacqui from KidsvilleJust Another Vital Pagan Orgy
Sex, drugs and glow sticks: Our columnist survives yet another
Burning Man, perspective intacthttp://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgif=/g/a/2003/09/03/notes090303.DTL&nl=fix
By Mark Morford
Oh sure you've got your giant floating neon dragons and your epic
desert sculptures and your hissing Mad Max-ish art cars shooting
flames 400 feet into the air, and every single thing everywhere
smells like some combination of sweat and dust and marijuana and
urine and fire and tequila and glue.
And sure there's your rampant glittering nudity and writhing all-
night dancing and improvised kitchen-sink costumes and sudden vicious
unrelenting alkali dust storms that could choke a cow and make your
throat feel like it's been rubbed with sandpaper and your eyes dream
of saline solution. This is pretty much a given.
You've got your requisite body painting and drum circles and kite
flying and giant kickball and rope-bondage class at Camp Arachnid,
music at the Church of Wow, penis gourds on parade, yoga and massage
and the ragin' Thunderdome bash-fest and the famed Critical Tits all-
female all-topless bike procession.
All topped off by the glory that is the ever-present Pinky's
nightclub/libation station, stuck somewhere on the spoke of Imagined
between the roads known as Faith and Evidence. Bless you all.
And of course there are always, always the rows of mandatory and
simply indescribable porta-potties stuck out in the middle of the
Nevada desert in 102-degree heat for a week. For this, there are no
Just another Burning Man, really. Sort of pedestrian, all this
astounding otherworldliness, this sense of entering another planet,
of stepping out of reality as you know it an into a place where
anything goes and usually does and no one really thinks much of it
except that it's usually pretty relaxed and ridiculous and surreal
and friendly and half naked and grinning.
Do we need to be clearer? Are there still those who don't know, don't
really understand? Is it even possible to describe the indescribable?
Because you can't explain Burning Man to your parents and you can't
explain it to the religiously terrified and you can't describe it to
those who, no matter what you say, refuse to see such events as
anything other than some sort of freaky-deaky druggie Grateful Dead-
esque Satan-worshipping sex-romp thing, one that they pray their kids
never get sucked into lest they become kinky beautiful liberal
atheists who like anal sex and weird art and vodka shots and open-
OK look. Burning Man is not an orgy. It's not a sweetly blasphemous
pagan love-fest. It's not a giant drunken drug-addled overly hot week-
long rave party with lots of beer and margaritas and bikes and
exposed nipples and unshowered flesh and flashing shiny things and
dust and crazy nouveau idealistic neo-hippies and breathtaking
starlight. Not solely, anyway.
What it is, really, is a chance at unfettered self-expression, with
drinks. And this is why it's still so vital, so important.
What BM is, really, is 30,000 people who erect this bizarre gorgeous
temporary fully functional art-filled dust-drunk city in the middle
of nowhere sans money sans phones sans work sans rules and tear it
all down a week later, and that, in effect, is what makes it so
gorgeous and strange.
And you'd think this lack of rules, this lawless inebriant-fueled
glitter bomb of an event, would result in this teeming screaming free-
for-all, this haphazard mess, nothing but violence and mayhem and
rape and sodomy and hey you jerk quit grabbing my ass.
When in fact you might be amazed at how civilized and generous and
open and friendly most people can be in such circumstances, how
relaxed and smiling and accessible, with the notable exception of the
camp that played very loud and very mediocre techno 24 hours a day,
nonstop, right next door to my camp, and we nicknamed you Annoying
Music Camp and you were unfathomably obnoxious and I wish you ill.
What BM is, really, is a chance to hang with like-minded creative
nutballs who, at the conservative end of the spectrum, are so
urgently in need of release they look forward to Burning Man the
entire year so they can finally cut loose and be the type of person
they always want to be, at least for a week, at least a little,
before they dive right back into their oatmeal lives and hunker down
for another paycheck and sigh wistfully.
And on the other end, there are those who live on the fringe of the
culture all the time and view BM as the pinnacle, the cumulative
blowout result of all their nonconformist energies, the status-less
judgment-free dream utopia they've always felt could exist year-
round, if we all just tried really really hard and gave up money and
air-conditioning and ATMs.
And Burning Man can, in fact, become a little tiresome. A little
stale. A little less than magical after a few trips and what's
amazing is how you can begin to take it for granted, begin to forget
that there's nothing like this happening anywhere else on the planet.
And it was my third year at the famed alt-everything festival, and
despite the same old hot pants on thousands of semi-naked women, the
same old random dust-choked large-scale mega-art, the same old
countless REI tents and parachute domes and odd playa mobiles and
mutated trucks and funky signs and clever camp names and huge
thumping sound systems and what must be a million bucks' worth of
glow sticks, it just didn't quite have the magical zing, the flavor,
the electric transformational punch it once did.
But of course, that's just me. It happens. Because Burning Man is
just exactly as much or as little as you need it to be. It is exactly
the experience you make it, and as any seeker of intense
transformational pops will tell you, if you aren't craving a step
outside your normal reality, or if you aren't really needing a sticky
injection of semi-radical, liminal vision questing at that particular
moment in your life, Burning Man might not yank you the right way.
No matter. Because regardless of how powerfully it slaps your
spiritual ass on a given year, the truism remains that this event is
still one of the few bright glimmers of rabidly creative, pro-
individuality hope in a snarlingly uptight, lockstep BushCo world.
Because in the end, it doesn't really matter what anyone thinks of
this stunning festival. Burning Man shrugs off criticism as easily as
it defies definition. You simply take one look around the playa, one
glance at the art and costumes and the people, and no matter how
tired or ennui filled you might have become, you can only feel an
overwhelming sense of, well, gratitude. That it's still happening. That it's still here,
still strong and still diverse and outrageously imaginative, still pulsing with funky
divine alt-vibes, retaining its core sense of release and evolution
and joy and well-lubed creative flow.
This is more important than you know. This is more vital than many of
us realize. In the age of Homeland Security and bludgeoning deficits
and a government that would love it very much if everyone with any
independent opinion whatsoever would please shut the hell up so they
can pillage the world at will, you realize how precious a commodity
this sort of energy has become.
Ultimately, BM reminds you of just how desperately undernourished is
the world when it comes to exactly the mind-set the event itself
illuminates. No matter how it hits you, no matter how deeply you
connect with it, you can't help but look around and say to yourself,
sweet Jesus with a tequila shooter and a sequined Buddha costume,
thank God this event still exists. And flourishes.
Because this ain't hippie-dippy New Age crap, not some Grateful Dead
Rainbow Coalition acid-trip hemp expo. It's raw, it's dirty, it's
hot, it's ugly, it's beautiful, it's surreal and funny and strange
and uncomfortable and incredibly freeing and connected and honest and
man are you ever grateful for a shower when you get home.
And if that's unreality, it sure as hell feels like the real thing.