We made it. 2012. Year of the thing when all that stuff happens, supposedly. Not sure what. None of us. But personally, we bet it has something to do with the Internet.
Meanwhile, we quit that bartending job and went to work Gate at Burning Man again this year. These hands … ::Charlton Heston-whispers; looks at own hands:: … these hands no longer have to serve death juice. No more doling out therapy and breaking up fights in one of God’s little waiting rooms.
For now, we’re out in the dust at Point One lookout, surveying the landscape and waving water trucks through, or serving food to the gas-huffing Gate staph caught in the lanes.
The Gate is the first thing participants see when they drive up to Burning Man. We are the guardians of the — well, of the gate — to get into the world’s biggest temporary intentional arts-installation interactive community of radically self-reliant Makers and Do-ers of Stuff. Until Exodus we will work like dogs, and play like dogs, protecting the town border of arguably the craziest, chaotic-in-a-good-way environment on Earth.
Arrival to the Black Rock Desert crescendoes at sunset, when pink and yellow light rays dance with the smoke of distant forest fires in the thick fine mist of a ticked-off alkali flat. The DPW tells us newer arrivals the weather has been pissed: Record-breaking heat relented last week only for sudden, intense dust storms so powerful they knocked over rows of guy-wired Portajohns and sent nailed-down plywood sheets flying through car windshields.
Percraps that’s why there’s a glut of last-minute Burning Man tickets for sale … not only did scalpers find themselves SOL (thanks in part to years of Gate’s and Ticketing’s learning-through-doing), but ostensibly, some of the “virgins” — a rumored 50% of the total ticket-buying population — heard the news about the weather and decided it’s not quite so easy to attend this event as it is, say, Coachella or Lollapalooza or any other consumer-oriented stadium event in which the aftermath includes empty $4 bottles of water littering the ground and getting picked up by underpaid crews of immigrants.
The land-speed racers have beef with the Burning Man community because the dunes created further down-playa most likely result from us kicking up a ruckus every year. The desert, she never gets to hard-pack any more. We upset her every year with our world’s largest temporary autonomous zone.
A city of 50,000 with such little crime and so many dangerous things going on is bound to attract the attention of the world, and the Gubmint sure does love to pour on the surveillance and fees, too. Sometimes justifiably. Most of the original Burning Man founders who have left the Org had a certain idea about law enforcement: Tell them we’ll call ’em when we need ’em.
Alas, other founding Cacophonists were more friendly and surrendered some of their rights more easily than others would have. Now, although the “Org” enjoys a mostly agreeable relationship with local cops, the overabundance of police presence at the ‘fest — and some of some shady morality-policemen over-issuing expensive, time-wasting infractions whenever possible — stands in total and complete incongruity (or balanced opposition, maybe?) to the outrageousness of Burning Man itself.
Americans behave in much the same way, largely. In the greatest crime of three centuries, the civilians of this country, who were meant to enjoy ultimate freedom, tolerance, and self-reliance, have been systematically discouraged — and sometimes forbidden — to cut their own meat for themselves.Anyhoo. No matter how it’s exploded since this writer joined DPW in 1998, and how much of the meat’s flavor has changed, Burning Man event is still the only place where weird is normal — where we can practice living stylishly in a looming Apocalypse-without-central-services, which has been foretold since our birth by our Great Mother Television.
Then there is the matter of the Burning Man Project’s lawsuit against Pershing County. Apparently a Mormon judge has taken offense to the anarchist environment of Black Rock City, particularly the nudity. So he’s being the John Lithgow character in Footloose, marching out the whole “What about the children?!” routine to his equally squaresville residents in a vendetta for Heavenly Father. (Note: Our opinions are in no way reflective of those of the people who “own” Burning Man.)
This is where it will get hot: An ultimate battle of Order (“You must serve your children a decent USDA hamburger, not the wild game of your choice”) vs. Chaos (“don’t you dare tell me how to cut my kid’s meat, much less try to boss the flavor AND cut my kid’s meat for me”).
Like we said before: An ennabler will tell you “you can’t do this right without me,” while a FASCIST tells you “you may not do it for yourself.”
Woo! Burning Man! … They raised the Man a couple days ago, and the show opens at Sunday midnight. It looks like the city has already been built. Which means it’s gonna be crowded up in here soon. White-out conditions come and go today, but only with a mellow breeze, not angry whips of wind. We think the playa, she’s relaxed a bit. (NO JINX)
Meanwhile, if you’re a non-Facebooker like us, watch the Burning Blog. And remember, kids: Anarchy is when you instinctively hold open the door for someone without any law telling you to do so.
Follow Summer Burkes on Twitter.