A Journalist's Perspective
I took a break from BM this year since my wife was 8 months pregnant. Playa dust and childbirth
probably don't mix. Just a hunch.
I actually grew to love Burning Man in the three years I attended. Here's how I saw it from a purely selfish and
experiential point of view:
Year one ('96) left me pretty bedazzled, as I had never seen anything like it, and was invigorated by the rampant
creativity and anarchy. Besides, I was working, and I had never covered such a fun story.
Year Two, my Times photog/pal Alan Hagman and I spent a good deal of time handmaking mirrored armor and wiring
a tandem for lights, and felt like proper BM citizens - participants and not spectators. (Why does
that now ring like a Scientology trope?)
Year Three, we sort of treated it like a beachfront stay, where the people-watching is simply a bit more interesting
than in Venice. Go, set up a few interesting structures, wear a few odd garments, take part inwhatever entertaining
games, shows and activities were offered, ingest a few amusing substances, make photos for ourselves, etc. Did
a little cursory work with QTVR, photos and video and called it a good party. By now, Black Rock City began
to feel like
an actual place that we liked to hang out for a few days every summer -
and thus, maybe no longer special nor energizing.
At that point, we had begun to burn out on it, and decided a hiatus would be no big deal.
From a purely sociocritical standpoint, it's not a Bad Thing. Burning Man is, in fact, probably a Good Thing in
that it gives license to people who perhaps felt otherwise restricted in life, inspiration to those who needed
an artistic kick in the ass, and solidarity to a terrific cultural melange of folks who probably felt somewhat
isolated as individuals back in the "Real World."
On the other hand, the Prankery site makes quite a few great points, and I'm glad SOMEONE'S deflating Harvey's
scary-sized ego. Not to mention, he's done a shitty job keeping costs down, the ticket prices are now a fucking
outrage, the rules against people doing irresponsible shit to themselves are depressing and frankly, anti-Darwinian,
and the whole thing is feeling a bit like a chaperoned picnic. I'm glad we're staying
home in 2000, and I can't say my wife and I will want to bring our son out there in another few years if it's going
to cost us $200 a head.
Bottom line: What a great, preposterous, holy mess of an idea. Thank god someone thought of it. And what the hell
were they thinking when they said 50,000, no, 1 million, no, 2 million souls could live in BRC every
year? That's insanity. The thing is too big for its britches.
And finally, shit: I miss cruising across the faceless surface of the desert to that "hidden" wide-open
middle-of nowhere playa site the first year. The permanent site now in the crook of Gerlach's armpit is almost
meaningless, geographically speaking. There is little sacred grandeur to it, and no frisson of danger in that you
can always hop on a bike and ride into town for ice, water or whatever other comestible you were
stupid enough to forget. It's no more adventurous than camping in your back yard with a Halloween mask on.