The Stiff: Chapter 6: Page 240

The Stiff: Chapter 6: Page 240

240 pages!! And I’m back from Burning Man.

Burning Man is an experience which I both love and dislike but, in the end, I value what it has to offer. It’s refreshing and eye-opening being away from the internet (not that I don’t love you, internet), being away from all my normal contacts and friends, being in a completely different world. The saying “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” applies here, and indeed, for many people it’s just an excuse to wildly party and take alcohol, pot, acid, molly, ketamine (!?!?), and other drugs I’ve never even heard of. Oh, and the random sex! And the weird nudity! It’s also dusty and filthy and hot and loud, and you have to maintain a little campsite, and for some people this activates their “Lord of the Flies” territorial trigger and leads to petty squabbles, the dark side of every small community. Even I’ve gotten grouchy after working in a camp kitchen all evening and I’m not proud of it.

But then there’s also the strange, unexpected encounters with friendly, welcoming people, folks from all over offering you water, or food (rarely), or alcohol (always), or hookah, or books and stickers, or whatnot. The chance to be equally welcoming to strangers. The bizarre giant installation artworks, the jerry-rigged and totally unsafe modified cars, the way el-wire and other luminescence transforms a dusty tenty city by day into a rainbow-colored glowland (I’m told it’s extra beautiful when you’re on LSD) at night. The rituals and dances and giant bonfires. The seminars and consciousness-expanding exercises and yoga/chakra practice and games (some madman, not me, has even run tabletop roleplaying games at Burning Man) and discussions and other little ways to do things you don’t do every day.

Getting away from other people, today as always, is a privilege: a Burning Man ticket costs ~$300, not counting food and tents and supplies. On the lamest level, Burning Man is basically a boutique hipster refugee camp, despite the praiseworthy decommodification elements (no corporate logos allowed, no exchanges or sales allowed within the gates, except for the inevitable cafe at the center camp selling coffee and ice). But getting away is also a vital human necessity: you become a different person in different surroundings and this is one of the greatest blessings (and sometimes, one of the scariest risks) a person can experience. I enjoy Burning Man. Going to unfamiliar territory, on more or less your own terms, is a gift. I like to escape the world, even if I know it’s an illusion, it’s not permanent, that the world will always have the power to snap its fingers and call me back.

NEXT UPDATE: Wednesday!!

(UPDATE: Sorry for the delay, the new page will take a little longer than expected. Please hang in there…)

Discussion (2)¬

  1. Night-Gaunt49 says:

    $300! What does that actually pay for? Sounds like a means of siphoning money, lots of it.
    Sadly LSD never worked on me much. Disappointing in fact. Weird nudity is a curious phrase to get one thinking.
    Much less costly just to drive into a desert go get away from people with a price tag much less than $300. But I don’t have the funds to blow that amount of money as an entry fee or cost of the spot you plant your stuff. Glad you had fun.

  2. Jason says:

    Burning Man costs $$ because they have to rent the space out from the government (it’s national land), plus pay for a bunch of cleanup afterwards, etc. They apparently reserve some special lower-income tickets, although yeah, the cost definitely affects the composition of the audience! Like camping in general, it seems to tend to attract a more affluent crowd. I don’t know what the solution is…