Burning Man: The Good & the Bad (and the Evil Twin)
On the way to the annual Burning Man art and fire festival out in the Nevada desert, I stopped in Reno and discovered the Sad Truth about slot machines. They aren’t any fun any more. THERE ARE NO MORE 25-CENT SLOTS! Now you just insert your credit card and the machine prints out a ticket if you win. Why waste time plunking in the quarters and pulling the handle and hearing that fabulous ching-ching-ching that announces to the world that "You are a Winner". No more fun for you! Now your money goes directly from your bank to theirs. It’s all very corporate. It eliminates the middle man – you.
I think that Diebold’s voting machines have done the same thing too. They have eliminated the voter -- you.
At Bruno’s Last Chance Saloon – your last chance to buy real food and use real rest rooms before entering the Burning Man desert – they actually had 25-cent slot-machines. I lost a whole roll of quarters but felt that I had triumphed over Corporate America just the same.
Arriving at Burning Man in the middle of a sandstorm white-out was really intimidating. Ghost-like men and women dressed like extras from the old “Road Warrior” film moved past me like shadows on a Hiroshima wall. I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t breathe. All I wanted to do was go home! Burning Man was bringing out the worst in me. Disgust and fear. “Burning Man will change you forever,” said my son -- and it had. It had unleashed my evil twin.
Thank goodness I had brought my burka. In the middle of a sandstorm, it is THE fashion statement to have. I never thought I'd say that.
Finally, after the wind died, I was able to set up my tent – right next door to what appeared to be a yuppie 30-something version of a 24-hour strip show. “Turn off that noise and get a life!” I screamed at about 2 am. This is what these guys do when their mothers aren’t around? I want to go home!
There is NO internet here. Unless you are an internet junkie like me, you have no idea how much that sucks eggs.
My glasses are coated with fine white dust. EVERYTHING is coated with fine white dust. No place to brush your teeth. No place to pee. I want to go home! Then I ran into some really nice man and he showed me Black Rock City – and Burning Man – through his eyes. “It’s all about community,” he said. “People here really work at being friendly and helpful and kind.” Kind is good. I started looking more closely. People smiled at me. I smiled back. That never happens in downtown America.
“I think the other reason that people come here,” the man continued, "is because they missed out on the 1960s and this is like another Woodstock.” You mean the young adults today actually CRAVE the idealism and hopefulness – and war-resistance – of the 1960s? I guess they do. There are 43,000 people here. At $250 a pop.
Then the sun went down. And the terrible world of heat and dust and "The Road Warrior" disappeared and a magical festival of lights came out. Up above me, I could actually see the Milky Way for the first time since I was a child. A procession of medieval lamplighters glided silently by, lighting all the kerosene lamps. All the bicycles have colored rainbow lights on them as they go by. Various theme camps glow in the dark. Hummm…. Maybe I WILL stay another day at Burning Man....