Brett Rants

Burning Man
is not
Burning Man

or at least

It's Not My
Burning Man

or possibly most accurately

I Do Not Yearn To Burn


A Liminal Communitas Of The Self... Writ For Two


An Infrared self portrait I took of my self at one of the local museums... or at least, I think it is infrared

I Do Not Yearn To Burn

Twenty to twenty-five years ago, for about an hour and a half, going to Burning Man sounded fun. It was probably during the year (which year it was I am not entirely sure) when the tickets first sold out and the event hit the Mainstream Media.

I did not go... nor did I ever seriously contemplate going. And even now (the why for which, I am sure we will get to eventually), if I were to 'go' to Burning Man, camping on the far side of the valley miles upon miles upon miles away from the action seems like it might be preferable to setting up shop in the thick of it all.

I am not an overly social person. And saying that 'People Suck!' seems like it would flow logically from context. To which, of course, the logical retort might be to state that people do not suck at Burning Man. But then, that's a spurious assumption, which remains to be seen.

Either way, back in the day, I was completely uninterested.


And then, a few weeks ago, I was watching Mad Max...

Good old Mad Max. He's angry, you know.

Anyway, in the movie (Mad Max, rent it, today) there is this scene wherein the Motor Cycle Gang (there is only the one) hits town. And this caused me to think of The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally (or whatever exactly it is called). And I decided to read up on that event... call it a happening.

I'm sure I do not read like other boys. In order to learn about Sturgis, I obtained two event fliers, a treatise comparing Sturgis to a Fur Trading Meet Up, and a few South Dakota State Tourist documents... one for the tourists and one for businesses in the state.

So, like, when it comes to 'facts', I am not to be trusted. {DISCLAIMER: all the (apparent) facts on this page are best guess estimates (at best) and the remainder is nothing more than (possibly misguided) opinion.} Besides, I did not keep notes and my memory is not the greatest, so there is inevitable slop on my end (and on the other, as well, I presume, as there were items of interest noted amongst the pamphlets that I simply did not believe), but no matter how one slices it, The Sturgis Rally is huge.

+/- $500,000,000 in direct expenditures. Note, I could be wrong.

+/- $800,000,000 in indirect expenditures. Please be advised, I really do not care about 'facts'. If one cares about such things, one is best served by seeking primary sources, of which this page is not one. Also, please note the lack of any date-stamp information included with the datum.

And from there, I am just going to call Sturgis the Premier Motorcycle Rally event in the whole of the USA... not really knowing or caring if such a statement is true or not.


I had a great time reading about Sturgis. {I like taking Virtual Vacations.} So, I thought I would read about Burning Man, next.

Thus:

Mad Max -> Sturgis -> Burning Man

And from my reading about Burning Man, I will estimate that it's a slightly smaller event (when compared to Sturgis).

100,000 Participants x $2,500/each = $250,000,000 a guestimate

{Note, in one of the case studies I read, the individual participant self-reported spending around $2,000 (if I remember correctly, as I took absolutely no notes) and I'm using that figure (quite arbitrarily) as a base and adding another $500 to it as a buffer (also, quite arbitrarily).

Um, Please Note: This Rant is not a Scientific Paper. The figures are not facts. The words that follow are quite simply a Rant... a random expression of reactionary second hand opinion, which is almost certain (nay, it is certain) to be wrong in many ways... many major ways... but which ways (but, of course) being wholly dependent upon the viewpoint of the reader.

Anyway, and moving on...}

In both instances, the measurements are tangential to the event. Sturgis may well be measured best by Motorcycle Miles Driven... a figure to which I haven't a clue. But I could wing it and throw out the totally unsubstantiated numbers of:

500,000 Participants x 500 Miles = 250,000,000 Motorcycle Miles

I have no idea what the corresponding figure would be for Burning Man. Maybe, Total Preparation Days.

100,000 Participants * 60 Days = 6,000,000 Freak Days

{I was going to say Man Days, but that's wrong. And once we are changing Pronouns (or more accurately, Nouns), Freak sounded better to me than Person. Freak is not intended to be a slur. I consider myself a benign (if misguided and/or increasingly disinterested) second-hand observer.}

Though, even 6,000,000 Freak Days isn't a very helpful number. What is likely more relevant is that portion of one's life that one spends in pursuit of the goal (Sturgis or Burning Man). And since I don't actually care about the result, this aside has gone on long enough. Besides, any guess would be totally inaccurate (based on false assumptions, don't you know), so I am just going to call it a tie and move on.

Ride to Live
Live to Ride

Burn for Life

{I do not swear by the accuracy of either slogan. In fact, I don't know if either event has a formal slogan.}

Riders Welcome

Welcome Home

In my reading of Burning Man, I went through the same sort of Media (and even more so, as I did a better (more thorough search, in my opinion) than what I had done for Sturgis), which included Survival Guides (for both participants and volunteers), numerous theses (which may or may not, go a long way towards explaining my lack of respect for the genre, no footnotes will you find here), presentation slide decks (PowerPoint slides) that would have accompanied a verbal presentation (I presume) to the BLM (Bureau of Land Management, don't you know), the Closure Order (what the BLM issued), and so on and so forth... meaning documentation of that general ilk.

{All this means is that although I like technical writing and going to primary sources for my input, I ignore such things on output. In fact, I will be going down the Rabbit Hole of make-believe before too terribly long. Still, this is my process... for what such a process is worth.

Further, I will say that I wrote the first draft of this document prior to viewing any Burning Man Videos... or more accurately, prior to viewing (and/or listening to) any PsyTrance Music Videos, juxtaposed against Burning Man Imagery. I have a much higher regard for Burning Man Art after watching the videos. Night time photography is a special skill set. And flashing lights require motion photography to adequately capture. Thus, I am more than happy to concede that to have any hope of understanding Burning Man, one would have to attend the event.

But I am not going to attend Burning Man.

All of which leads to the obvious conclusion that my understanding is limited and my viewpoint second or third hand at best.

Of course, that's just another way of saying, I did not find the stories I heard about Burning Man to be overly captivating, which is not odd. Such is the nature of Adventure Narratives, Tall Tales, and Fishing Stories about the one that got away... if you catch my drift.

Moving on...}


I am finding Burning Man to be a much more captivating topic (than Sturgis) in part because of the Theses. Of course, these same theses tend to use inaccessible language: e.g. a discourse discernible to the proletariat is discouraged. And they, seemingly, cannot relate the most trivial or banal idea without citing an authority.' (Brett 2019) So, like, in one of these Theses, I learned about the new trend regarding the inclusion of pictures (yes, photographic images) in Scientific Papers (FAKE CITATION NEEDED), mainly in the field of Contemporary Anthropology (<DEAD LINK>) and the Social Sciences. (PAUFLER, Why I Don't Take Your Degree Seriously, 1965-Present)

So, there is a level of stupidity in Scientific (and/or Intellectual) Writings. But they, also, take my mind to different places.

All of which is to say, the event known as Burning Man has been written about much, in a wide variety of formats, often with colourful pictures (VOYEUR, AM I. 1995) and a unique (to me) point of view. (Paufler, B.H. Never Thought of That Before, QUITE OFTEN)

So, um, after breathing all of that Media in, I might just want to breath a little of it back out. And that is what this page is about.

Breathe In
Breathe Out


As shown is The Green Man, a plant which has taken on the facial features of Jumping Jack the Trickster, in the white area, facing left, nose in the middle height, with eyes and mouth as they should be, the nose is a little pointy, as the noses of woodland imps tend to be
You see him, right?
It's not just me.

Transformation

When you stop and think about it, everything is a Transformative Event. If you've ever been married, I'm willing to wager the experience (be it in the past, present, or future) has Transformed your life. The same with High School, College, that summer you spent in France (hey, that was me, no, sorry, I just remembered, if it was either of us, it was most definitely you), and almost any other Major Event in One's Life (Redundancy, Circular Reasoning, and You, pg 54) can be times of Transformation.

So, like, I don't have any problem with folks (could be you, could be me, but it most definitely be folks) saying Burning Man is Transformative. What I do have a problem is with those very same folks (could be you, could be me, but, eh, let's face it, it probably is me) overlooking the obvious.


The Cult of Burning Man
Is Burning Man a Transformative Event? Heck, yeah! But then, so is snorting a pound of Cocaine...

{Note: I do not condone (that is to say, I do not endorse) the use of drugs. Fundamentally, they sound like cheating. But more importantly (and as I understand it, so go talk to your doctor for accurate information), drugs can have some really bad and really long-lasting unintended consequences... for a result which (I hear tell) is amazingly close to dreaming. So, um, why not take a nap and dream a little dream?

Anyhow, the aforementioned 'long-lasting unintended consequences' is just another way of saying transformative (for the good or for the bad, there is no doubt psychotropic chemicals can have an effect), which is what this subsection is all about.

Is Burning Man Transformative?

Or are drugs, as a class (and which are rumoured to be consumed at Burning Man in great quantities), Transformative?}



{The above doesn't seem like it is clear enough to me (or at least, like it would be clear enough to others) nor does it seem like it contains enough disclaimers for my overly paranoid mindset.

So, please, let me try again.

Physical Exertion (as, say, may be brought about by nine days of harder than usual play (call it partying) in the hot desert sun) tends to wreck havoc on the body. And a body in failure mode does many strange and wonderful (and/or quite painful and God Awful) things.

Please consult a medical treatise or your attending physician for further details. But as a start, I am willing to believe (naive fool that I am) that dehydration and delirium often go hand in hand... you know, as precursors to death, bodily failure, or worse.}


Thus, I am not arguing against the Transformative Nature of Burning Man. All I saying is that lots of things are Transformative. And if we are going to be honest, I think Sturgis is just as Transformative (important, and/or a let down) to just as many people as Burning Man... except for maybe (I don't know, but I doubt it), the Sturgis Design Committee isn't so much trying to Transform people as it is trying to exchange money for a good time.

Whatever.

To complete the picture, I probably need another item in my summary breakdown.

Human meet Human.

It's a meeting of the tribes.


Mine and Yours!

Yours and Mine!


What's Yours Is Mine!

What's Mine Is Yours


There are other (crowd based) social events (parades being the first that come to mind) that come close to breaking down the normal Social Boundaries.

At parades, we are all pushed together as we line the route. I communicate with strangers in a way I normally don't.

But I'm going to guess, at Sturgis the feeling of Brotherhood is much stronger than that which is typically experienced by a Modern American in their day to day lives... even at a parade

And I'm going to guess that at Burning Man, this destruction of the walls which separate us is the entire point... part of the point... or a nice side-benefit. But I really think it is central to the event.


I do not speak for either organization... nor have I attended either event.

So, I could be wrong.

But what I am going to guess (something I seem to be doing a lot of, oh well, it is nothing new and how I live my life) is that it is this Interpersonal Contact which is the real lure of both events... and is that which brings the same folks back year after year... after year.


A face or dual eyes or a reverse doubled image of an old style lightbulb in outward radial lined lamp cage which sort of looks like a pair of eyes when all is said and done... or at least, that is my intent... and so, that is the filter through which I interpret it

The Ten Commandments
Whooops! Sorry!
The Ten Principles of Burning Man

I am not a Fan Boy. I am not a True Believer. I do, however, think The Principles (of Burning Man) can be used as a starting point from which to foster a sort of community.

But then, I don't even like the wording of The Principles or their names... so, I will not be using either.

Nor do I want to spend a week in the desert, communing with dust. I'd much rather walk around The City (almost any city will do) and when I get tired, sit down and have a picnic with like-minded strangers... until that gets boring... and it is time to move on.

Potluck Picnic™
A Guide

Now, prior to outlining my guide (based ever so loosely on the Ten Principles of Burning Man) I will note two things. First (for me), it's not really Ten Principles, it's a single idea laid bare for analysis. So, really, we are talking about the Essence of Potluck Picnic™ rather than the principles thereof. The separate ideas need to come together and merge into a cohesive whole. Any one point only makes sense in conjunction with the other nine. The names are totally arbitrary... as is the fact that there are ten principles in total. And secondly, this is not an analysis of Burning Man and how an outsider (me) may think the actuality falls short of the idea. That will come later. Rather, this is a sort of guide (not to be taken seriously and more as a metaphysical thought experiment) on how to create a Potluck Picnic™.


Anarchy
No Hierarchical Structure

Since this is not a critique of The Ten Principles of Burning Man, I need not note that the actual name for the first principle in the Burning Man Universe is Radical Inclusion nor note how silly such a name is, as there is no meaningful difference (that I can decipher, anyway) between Radical Inclusion and the more mundane Inclusion... unless of course, one is of the mind that any Inclusion in a Desert Oasis is Radical by its very nature, given the inherent Exclusionary qualities of such a remote location (out on The Playa's), far removed from ready food, pre-existing shelter, public transportation, and all the other benefits of modern society.

But then, I digress.

In my world (this being an imaginary place, where I am king, rule all, and get the final say on what words mean), Anarchy describes a condition (call it a state) wherein there are no leaders, no followers, no externally imposed hierarchical structures, no barriers to entry, and no barriers to exit.

{In fact, I'm pretty happy to observe that as I've defined it (i.e. limited to the aspects I have noted), Anarchy and a Free Market Economy are pretty much the same thing.

Booyah!}


If you want to be part of Potluck Picnic™ and you play the game, you are part of Potluck Picnic™. But since you even get to decide whether you are playing the game, whim and desire denote the bounds of inclusion.

Do you want to have a Potluck Picnic™?

Fine!

Then, let's do this!

Now!


It's Free
No Money

The Principles call this item 'Gifting'. But I think No Money is clearer.

And more importantly, I think that's enough reference to any other list that may (or may not) exist.

So, you and I are sitting down, we are eating our sack lunches and I pull out a foil wrapped pile of ribs. They may look good to you. Then again, they may not. But if they do look good to you, you are free to ask for a rib and I am free to give you a rib. Now, there is the very real expectation that I will comply with your request. But the ribs are mine to give. And I can deny your request. But one thing I definitely cannot do is to suggest a trade.

I either want to give... or I do not.

You either want to receive... or you do not.

There is no quid pro quo.

We (the Potluck Picnic™ Community) are not bartering. And we are certainly not creating a rib, sandwich food, or soft drink based economy.

We are sharing.

Share and share alike.

It's like the Three Musketeers, baby.


Home Grown
Home Made
F! Big Business!
F! Small Business!
F! Your Business!
Thus, the ™ in Potluck Picnics™ is an ironic joke

I have nothing against Store Bought Food. I buy a lot of it. Same goes for Fast Food or Restaurant Food.

But when I go over to someone's house for dinner, I want a Home Cooked Meal... from scratch... and I mean, scratch.

And in our little Potluck Picnic Community™, we (or at least, I, I guess I am the only one in the community at this point) value home-made lemonade or ginger beer over soft drinks, hand-made cookies over anything store bought, and your grandmother's recipe (for whatever, surprise me) over anything that comes off an assembly line.


Bring Enough to Share... Of Everything
How can you have a Potluck Picnic™ for two if you don't have enough for one?

Yes.

Yes.

I know.

Ribs are hard to make and if you were to bring three slabs, you would be bringing more than your fair share of food.

But then, even if you brought three slabs of ribs (thank you) with extra barbecue sauce (ditto), would you be bringing enough?

When I eat ribs. I like having something to drink. So, maybe I'll want to pack some liquid refreshments. Further, pickles go pretty well with ribs, so maybe a few of those should go in the bag... along with a tub of coleslaw and a roll or two.

Got it?

A person hasn't really brought their share until they've brought all that they need and then some.


Knock Yourself Out
I've never even heard of that. What's it taste like?

Now, you probably have some conception of what ribs taste like. But do you know what Chicken Bones taste like? Like how I make them?

First, I eat a chicken... all the good meat. And what's left over I cook over... and over... and over... adding barbecue sauce and salt as I go, cooking out the grease until everything is crunch.

And these Bones™ (because if I am going to pretend trademark anything, these Bones™ should be in the running) are divine.

Or at least, I think so.

So, you can have your ribs. And I'll eat my bones and be quite content about the entire thing, I might add. But if you'd like to try my version of Heaven, I must admit your ribs are looking pretty good, as well.

Got it?

I want to try your grandmother's recipe for... whatever. Granted, I may only want to try a single bite... and may well have a hard time not spitting it out. But I do want to try it.


The More the Merrier
Potluck Picnics™ are first and formost Potlucks. Eating by myself in corner goes by a different name.

All for one and one for all.

Or really, it takes two to tango.

And for a good Potluck Picnic™, it really is a more the merrier sort of endeavour.


Laws Be Laws!
No Hash Brownies!

Look, I am talking about Potluck Picnics™, here. It's all fine that you like Drugs, Alcohol, and all the rest. It's just not what we (or I, but then, you are with me, so it really is a we; and breaking the law is not what we) are doing, here.

So, no Hash Brownies. First, it's against the law... well, in some places. Second, it's unfair to the little ones. And three, um, most folks are not as much fun while high. Sure. Sure. You are different. But then... um, probably, you are not.

Whatever.

That's just my personal hang up. I am an uptight square and there is no getting around it.

Suffice to say, when folks have a Potluck Picnic™, it's important for them to respect the rights of others, keep the music down, not hog all the picnic tables, and remember that although we descended upon this community park en mass (like, all ten-thousand of us), the locals (by definition) live here (sucks to be them), so let's keep it down a little.

If that's not clear, don't be a cad.


Clean Up!
All Of It!

Littering is a big problem in America. It's sort of ironic, as the fine in some places is upwards of $2,000 for a single instance. And at that rate, I'm thinking many a jurisdiction could rake-in their entire annual operating budget by simply enforcing that single law for just one day every year.

But whatever.

As a Respectable Potluck Picnicker™, I clean up after myself. And if you are eating with me, I'm going to see to it that your mess disappears, as well... because it would reflect badly on both myself and the institution of Potluck Picnicking™ if I did not.


No Leftovers!
No Doggie Bags!

Potluck Picnics™ are about sharing in the moment, eating in the now, satisfying a concurrent hunger.

No, you do not get to take my ribs home and feed your family. This isn't a Soup Kitchen. That isn't what a Potluck Picnic™ is about.

Have a cookie. Have a donut. Have two. Have three. But don't be putting any in your pocket to save for later.

And although I am happy to share my recipes, others may not. Either way, do not think for a moment that you get to blog about our Potluck Picnic™.

Yours, maybe.

Ours, not a chance... some of those present may be claiming to be Vegan back in the Real World and pictures circulating about with their faces smeared over with juicy delicious animal fat are not only an invasion of privacy, it's uncool.

Just don't do it.


The Swirling Maelstrom

Having read the Potluck Picnicker's Guide™ one must (but of course) read it again.

You see, Potluck Picnicking™ is this free thing, where everyone is invited, to share and share alike, where recipes are celebrated for their intrinsic worth, food is shared, and meals enjoyed. It's not about money or factory food or who can afford to buy the most expensive cut of meat. It's about keeping Grandma's Old Recipes alive and sharing them with strangers. It's an excuse to try that new recipe (to cook or eat). And to foster this experience, to make this Potluck Picnic™ possible, everyone must be tolerant, respectful, clean after themselves, pitch in, and do the dirty work, so when folks see us coming, they want to join our party.

They want to join our Potluck Picnic™.

And then, of course, one needs to read the guide again (and again and again) and swirl the root concept about ever tighter.

Suffice to say, one will either get what they want out of the experience or one will not.

If is swirls about and one gets to try new food, meet new people, and have a good time, success.

But if one is perpetually trading ribs for salad... well, I don't want to knock salad...

OK.

Fine.

Knocking salad is exactly what I want to do at this juncture.


I guess what I am saying is that I think folks (as I am not one of those folks) who are into Burning Man are experiencing a positive feedback loop that is winding ever tighter.

But when I visualize The Burning Man Experience, I see dirt, dust, a hot miserable place (call it Hell On Earth) with a bunch of mid-level crappy-art being enjoyed by drunks.

But hey, that's just me.

Also, what I just said sounds a bit negative.

But I can see how it works for some folks, how getting caught in the circle isn't being caught at all, it's an uplifting whirlwind, a rising column of air, on which to float... call it a refreshing respite... a party... as enjoyable to (some nameless) others, as an intimate meal for two is to me.

Still, I seem to have let the words get away from me.


There are these ideas, right? Well, it's not just reading the words through once. Just like the Ten Commandments, they are to be studied (or savoured), letting the possibilities of the positive feedback loop take a person where they will.

And for some that is deep into the desert.

And for me, it was playing with the idea until, talking about a Potluck Picnic™ seemed like the perfect metaphor... for a Food-ie Commune-ity.

Off white, beige, glaze weathered, made to look weathered tiles with ripped and torn sticker applied which reads I Still Love You

Burning Man is not Burning Man

I will leave it for you to find the Real Principles elsewhere. Having read them and decided (in this section, at least) to use their words against them, I would say (and thus, I shall say) that Burning Man falls short of its ideals in a number of ways. Of course, this is just an opinion. And more importantly, it's not really possible to instantiate ideals, so falling short isn't so much a short coming, as the nature of the beast.

Still...

My observations.
And all of that seems highly negative. Well, OK. Fair enough. The entire purpose of that particular list was to point out some negatives... or perceived negatives... or misconceptions on my part.

After all, I am not a believer. And yes, I do view Burning Man as a bit of a Cult, because when I look at Burning Man (the event), I think hot miserable dusty day spent with drunks looking at mediocre art.

But I seriously doubt that is what Burners think of when they think Burning Man.

{If I was really going to get snotty, I would mention the concept of 'Leave No Trace'. And then, idly wonder about all that human activity going on in the desert. Now, on paper (and from what I hear), Burning Man is an incredible 'Leave No Trace' event, going so far as to disallow bathwater from hitting The Playa. But let's be ridiculous for a second. And focus on the sweat, the spit, the single drip of oil from a car... multiplied by tens of thousands of cars and admit that all those humans are having some effect on The Desert. Oh, far less of an effect person-for-person than if I were to camp in the distance and overlook the event, as I'd plan on pissing on the rocks at the edge of my campsite. But still, that many people simply breathing are expelling quite a bit of moisture. And when they drive away, they are carrying no small amount of dust, taking The Playa with them, as it were.

So, I want to read the Environmental Impact Report. That's all I'm saying. The Real Report. A God's Eye View.

Because as I'm throwing my (well gnawed) Bones™ to the wind (actually, I have no idea as to legality of this, so let's just assume I would be obeying all the rules, for I am a very law abiding citizen), I would want to be upwind of The Burn, lest I choke on all those fumes.}


Born To Burn
a.k.a.
But For Why?

I like to complain.

Hey!

Want to hear me really complain?

Gads that Witcher show sucks. I mean, if the Witcher was a festival it would take place in the middle of the desert in the dead of summer.

I kid.

But not about the Witcher sucking. Oh, my lord does that show suck. It truly is awful. Now. I will give it costumes and aesthetic. But for story, plot, and character development it blows.

And yet, I watched it... all of it... well, when I wasn't talking over the lines, which was non-stop... and may have something to do with my bewilderment as to the plot.

But that's another story.

For all its suckitude (which is legend), I get something out of the Witcher.

And other folks get something out of Burning Man.

I think (in some ways) Burning Man is like watching television... hence, the Witcher reference, which starts this section.

Television is sort of stupid. And if it were not such a big thing, it might be very difficult to explain to others what one got out of staring at a small screen, watching people in funny costumes, perform silly actions, saying silly things, and whisper-yelling all the time.



Still, I watch my fair share (perhaps more than my fair share) of television.

I like it.


In other news, I've been reading about LARPs, as of late.

I can see the appeal.

And if I interpret Burning Man as a Free Form LARP (and downplay the effects of Drugs, Sex, & Rock 'n Roll), the whole thing makes a lot more sense, to me.

An old brick wall, brownish bricks with a very small area of red brick infill, the focus of the picture being a large red splotch of red paint

Let's Play Hippy

I could interpret Burning Man as a Ritual. Lots of folks want to. EXAMPLE CITATION MISSING DUE TO LAZINESS But it does not ring true, to me. The Ever Present Qualification

Sure, watching The Man Burn is a big thing. But then, so is watching Fire Works on the Fourth of July. The corollaries are astounding. We sit and watch a big display. There is a periphery of safety. There is much fanfare. And finally, it looks pretty darn cool. But I don't interpret the Fourth of July as a Ritual... unless we are allowing all of life (or any repetitive or seasonal activity) to be a Ritual. In which case, Ritual has lost all meaning.

So, let us assume a Ritual must at least (at the very least) be Proto-Religious in nature.

As such, I do not believe (so, in theory, I could be wrong, but it seems unlikely) the average American approaches Fire Works on the Fourth of July with a Ritualistic Mindset. Nor do I believe the average Burning Man Attendee (a.k.a. Burner, one who Burns, it being an active construction and not one who Watches Others Burn) finds the Final Immolation of The Man to be a moment of great spiritual wonder.

{If they so desired (thus, I do not pretend to speak on their behalf), I am sure those present at The First Burn could argue (quite convincingly, I might add) that Ritual was at the forefront, that it was the goal, that in short, Ritual was (in point of fact) the reason (de existence) for The First Burn.

{{Of course, being who they were (I hear tell some of the founders were members of or had close associations with one Anarchist Society or another: The Cacophony Society of San Francisco coming rapidly to mind), it is just as likely (if in fact, not more likely, so really, we are saying it is anybody's guess) that Anti-Ritual or a Mocking of Ritual was part of that First Burn... perhaps as an equal and offsetting factor to any Ritual in Earnest... if not for all, then at least (possibly, maybe) for some of those in attendance.

I really don't know.

It's just an idea, a theory, a possibility.

What I do know is that thirty odd years after the fact, I am unwilling to take anyone's word regarding the initial motivation for something that has grown from 100 to 100,000 (in rough participation numbers) and which has gone from a spur of the moment (let's just do this) sort of thing to a major cultural event with the associated fame and fortune... and hence, motivation to reframe history.}}

Thus, given (so, I will give them this, once again, if they so desire) that if the First Burn was Ritual, then so was The Second Burn... The Third Burn... and so on.

Thus, if a member of the Inner Circle (please, call them a member of the cadre) wishes to argue that for them Burning Man is (was, and always will be) a Ritual, I will concede the point.

I mean, that in turn may raise some troubling questions (or at least, questions that some might find troubling), as to the nature of the Ritual (it's purpose, provenance, and so on). But that is neither here nor there... even if hinting at the questions such an assumption might raise is a major reason for this aside.
"This is ritual? This Burning of The Man in The Desert is the cornerstone of a New" or very-very old, "Religious and/or Spiritual Movement? Please, tell me more!"
I mean, this I want to hear.

But whatever.

Given a Ritualized Core for the first few Burns, I will happily concede that many (for their numbers are legion) are drawn to what otherwise appears to be a party in the desert for Ritualistic Reasons.

But that doesn't mean the vast majority of attendees see the event as anything more than a festival or a party.

I guess to answer the question, attendees could be asked to fill out a questionnaire.
"What is your primary reason for attending Burning Man?"
And if 'Ritual' (or the like) comes back as a leading response (and not necessarily the leading response; for I like to think I would be happy to interpret the results liberally and/or with an open mind), I will admit the error of my ways.

But I don't think I am wrong.

And I do not think 'Ritual', 'Religious', 'Spiritual', or similar would come close to describing why most folks attend Burning Man or become (repeat) Burners.

Rather, I think the top responses (to any mythical questionnaire) would gather around the concepts of Drug, Sex, & Rock 'n Roll... and/or wishing to join a community of like-minded (that is to say, party-minded) individuals.

Thus, rather than looking to 'Ritual' for insight into the phenomenon which is Burning Man, I would look to Music Festivals and other Outdoor Camping Based Parties.}

Now, I could be wrong.

And there is ample evidence that I am. When The Temple Burns (on the day after The Man Burns), it's a more somber affair. And one could even postulate that for many, prayers are being offered up, as their handwritten notes on the walls of The Temple burn in flames.

I mean, I can buy that.

It is symbolic.

But is symbolism enough to make something Ritual.

Along with The Fourth of July, I celebrate both Thanksgiving and Christmas. And I could tell you how Thanksgiving is about Family and how Christmas is about the birth of Jesus Christ Our Lord, God, and Saviour. I mean, I could. But I would never bother. Because for me, Thanksgiving just means a Feast. And Christmas means the exchange of Presents. That is the up and down of it.

So, are we saying Thanksgiving is a Ritualized Feast? If so, are the Barbecues marking the beginning (Memorial Day), middle (The Fourth of July), and end (Labour Day) of summer Rituals, as well?

If so, it seems (to me) to be stretching the concept a bit thin.

I do not consider any of those Feasts to be Rituals. And when I think about Burning Man, I, like personally, do not think about Ritual.

I think about Drugs, Sex, & Rock 'n Roll.

But let us assume more. I mean, I am willing to assume more... just not the more that Ritual would involve. And my mind has settled on LARP, in lieu, as that more.

LARP: Live Action Role Playing

LARP is Interactive Theatre where roles are ill defined, fleshed out in the moment, and exist in a world of make-believe and pretend.

And I would posit Pretension Assured in the Colloquial that LARPing is a better framework than Ritual for looking at Burning Man.


Burning Man: The LARP
Obviously, I do not have a problem cramming The Burning Man Ritual into a LARPing Hole. No, seriously. I can make it fit.

And as to a Ritual? Well, not in my reality.

I will say, I have as about much interest in going to Burning Man The Ritual as I do in going to Burning Man The LARP.

And I'm willing to concede that has a lot to do with a lifetime of other folks not playing nice with me... to the extent, I'd much rather play with myself... and/or with my exclusive full-time playmate.

Also, I think its downright misleading (if not an outright lie) when folks downplay the importance of Drugs, Sex, & Rock 'n Roll to the Burning Man Experience.

Seriously, that Rock 'n Roll stuff Rocks!

{
Cultural Terms
LARP -> Immersive
Burning -> Immediacy
Ritual -> Liminal

That is to say, in the world of LARP, they use the term Immersive to mean very much what Burners might call Immediacy and an Anthropologist studying Ritual might call Liminal.

I mean, they are not the same things, not by a long-shot. But if a serious reader (read, academically minded reader) were to recognize two of the terms on that list, they just might want to figure out what the third term meant.
}



And Now For Something Completely Different

Hey! Want to know how I get high?

Well, first I call up my buddy Mescal. He's a mule... drug runner, escaped beast of burden, and hoven-footed imaginary friend all rolled into one. And he's got a ready stash.

So, I ask him for some of the good stuff.

NOTE: He always has the good stuff.

So, He obliges.

And in mere moments, I am sucking through fingers, inhaling the pure crisp clean air of an Imaginal High.

Dude!

You do not know what you are missing.

Now, if you'll excuse me, it's time for lunch... i.e. I've got the munchies.

And I feel like staring off into space... as in, the lights on my Christmas Tree are looking particularly interesting at the moment.



Long Break


Time Passes



Amidst the woods, a rather tall pile of logs, turning to red coals, maybe the size of a small car, perhaps a bit smaller at this point

Bonfire of the Bonafides

I went to a Bonfire (almost) on the Winter Solstice. It was actually on New Year's Day. But close enough. I did not attend the Bonfire for Ritualistic reasons. Rather, I like Bonfires. And I believe this was the principle reason for most everyone's attendance.

As I have been saying (as it is the impetus for this page), I have been reading papers (documents, and so on) as pertains to The Burning Man Festival. And in the last (thesis I was reading), they (he, she, and/or it, sorry, I cannot remember their preferred pronouns) kept on harping about the Ritualistic meaning behind The Burn and The Man. But, I don't buy that.

I went to an Art Museum, yesterday... world class, top of the line. And there was going to be a lecture later that night by someone who was planning on...
Examining the intersectionality between the valourization of the communal marketplace of ideas and the personal labour of the artist viz-a-vie a juxtaposed transgression against a vocabulary of the status quo and what words normally mean, spotlighting the absurd in the inane and ridiculous in the otherwise pathetic. not an exact quote
Take such a blurb for what you will. I am a smart man. REALLY? I can find the intersectionality between this, that, and the other thing. And will do so quite happily to amuse myself, those I am with, as part of a web-post, or as I sell my soul for a few bucks. And (in my opinion, most humble) it is that few bucks and a bit of notoriety (aka fortune and fame), which drives most art.

I am an artist.

So, I know.

Trust me. Big Mistake

And if I do not believe Art is done for the highfalutin reasons given at the gallery, I'm hardly going to buy into the Ritualistic Aspects of Burning Man. I mean, they may exist. They're just not primary... or secondary, but I will give you tertiary or quaditionary.

But then, I'm not a Burner. I've never gone. And from beginning to end, it is not my scene. So, what can I possibly know about the scene?

An image of stonework, masonry, granite blocks stacked together, an detail of a wall

College Drop Out

If you disagree with anything thus far (or anything I've ever said, really), the obvious place to start (in looking for the cause) would be in my failure to finish college at the normally prescribed time.
    Berkeley Fall of '83
    Freshman Year

    A   Economics
    C   English - Junior Level
    F   Physics
    F   Calculus
And in there, we have my life in microcosm. I retired at 50, thus an A in Economics. I write pathetic rants, let's give it a C. And as to my purported major, I stopped attending classes after the first few weeks. But even then, I had no idea I was going to flunk my midterms. I remember the Physics Professor muttering something about how folks who scored so low (7 out of 100, maybe, I really should have kept those tests) usually didn't bother to come pick them up... or even take them. What can I tell you? I'd never flunked a test before. I didn't recognize the warning signs.

Anyhow, I like to believe if the Passion (whatever that means) had hit prior to my thirties, I might have made a decent professor at some local community college, had a tryst with some young thing, broken my wife's heart, and joined the Merchant Marines as I tried to find myself, once again.

As it was, I did that last bit first (no, not as a Merchant Marine, but that would have been cool) and started travelling around.

Hitchhiking

The original goal was to walk down the coast from San Francisco to Los Angeles. But I started my journey on January 8th. So, it was cold... real cold. And as such, I put my thumb out and started hitching after that first freezing night so as to get somewhere (anywhere) warm.

Once I started hitchhiking, I would engage in the activity off and on (in-between vehicle ownership and other modes of transportation) for the next half-dozen years.

The first month of hitchhiking was the best because I had no agenda. Later, it became a mode of transportation with me every bit as interested in the destination (if not more so) than the journey.

But at the start, I did not care.

I'll relate the experience to writing. I've got hours and hours to go, before I'm done with this page, this writing project. And if I try to rush the process, the result will be crap. But if I can be bothered to luxuriate in the endless asides (as I am wont to do), the result tends to be pleasing... to my eye, at least.

And hitchhiking went the same way. I think I literally crossed the country (San Francisco to Chicago) in two days once, which is about as fast as a person can drive. So, I was hauling; and as a result, the countryside went by in a blur.

But for that first week or month (or season or however long it lasted) of hitchhiking, I barely had a destination. I was going south to get away from the cold. This road, that road, I didn't care. If someone was willing to let me ride along, they could have switched around and started heading north again. I just didn't care.

Here's a few good stories.

Down LA ways (though in truth, I don't even know if I was in California at the time), I was at some crappy on-ramp. Almost every on-ramp (then and now) has a sign near its start that indicates Pedestrians, Bicyles, Farm Equipment, and so on are not allowed (any further, past the sign). But standing right in front of the sign is allowed. So, that's where I'd stand... or sit... or in this case, lie down. I don't know. Maybe, I had to wait an hour for a ride. Maybe, it was two hours. Maybe, I was just tired (or didn't care if I got a ride or not), so I lay down on the curb next to the road with my thumb out. After a bit, I may have stopped holding my thumb out. I think I fell asleep. Or at least, that is how the story goes. And I woke up to some do-gooder honking his horn. Ironically (seeing as how he wasn't such a wonderful do-gooder, after all), he didn't really want to give me a ride. I think he said as much. I was hardly a people person. I'm still not much of one. So, it wasn't some feeling I got. He used words: maybe, something along the lines of "I wasn't really planning on giving you a ride." But he had stopped, saw how young I was, let me get in his car, and gave me a ride for a few miles... going on the entire time about how when he had seen me, he thought I might be dead; and it was dangerous to lay in the road like that.

Hey, whatever it takes to get a ride, dude.

A similar thing happened in the mountains. All I really remember about this was that it was a nice afternoon, a nice moment in time. I think I was cold, the sun had finally came out, and I was going to enjoy the moment, the sunshine. My last ride must have dropped me off miles back. I can't remember. It was a mountain valley maybe ten-twenty miles wide. And I'm going to guess he dropped me off at the start of the valley. So by then, I'd walked a few miles to where the road crossed over a small burbling mountain stream. And that was enough of a walk for me. So, I sat down on the bridge railing. Sense a theme, here? Lay back, put my arm out, and started whistling. Another do-gooder stopped, gave me a ride, and lectured me about how dangerous it was to have my arm hanging out like that.

I mean, that was sort of true. In the 90s or so (do your own research), some guy died on the way to Burning Man, riding his motorcycle and playing chicken with a van. The van won. He lost. And now, he is dead.

So, out on that road, the same thing could have happened to me. But it did not. As it was, danger seemed miles away.

{So, in keeping with all the warnings and disclaimers, I am sure walking along the side of a road is dangerous. In fact, numerous members of the Law Enforcement Community took it upon themselves to stop and talk to me, warning me about the dangers inherent in walking down the side of a road and being a pedestrian... and/or enlightening me as to how many times they had to deal with dead pedestrians and the like.

Actually, I'm being a bit more forward than the Police Officers typically were. They'd mostly shake their heads and sort of mention offhand how folks died out here (truckers, usually) after getting out of their vehicles, not paying attention, and being creamed by the next vehicle in line.

Also, since there are more Law Enforcement Stories ahead, I should mention that I've been detained and questioned (my words, not theirs) hundreds of times. Now, it might be hundreds upon hundreds of times (probably not a thousand times, certainly not thousands upon thousands of times). But when I say hundreds (as in, 100+), I am being conservative.

I mean, it got to the point if I saw a police car, I just sort of stopped walking and waited for the cop to flash their lights, turn around, and stop for a chat.

And in all honesty, most of those Police Officers were nice... not all of them, but most.

On the other hand, the net effect was to turn me into a paranoid individual who no longer trusts The System... one who believes The System will do whatever is required for it to stay in power and control the masses... regardless of morality or what is right and wrong.

Or to state the same thing in more legalistic terms, since Police Officers have what is known as Qualified Immunity, they have to behave extraordinarily badly (like, over the top, crazy psycho bad) before risk of punishment becomes a reality for them, whereas I spent a weekend in jail, basically on the whim of a man with a gun who happened to be wearing a badge.

I think my mistake was in discussing my Constitutional Rights in such a way that indicated I thought I might have some... or any.

Though, in the moment, I did not care. I still had faith in The System. And besides, I was more than a little curious regarding what a little time in prison (or more accurately, the county jail) would like.

Pretty hassle free, it turns out.

A few days later, the judge threw my case out of court (on the grounds that there wasn't a case and I hadn't broken any laws, which I hadn't... or at least, I hadn't broken the particular laws I was being accused of breaking, that I can tell you for sure, talk about trumped up charges) and I was on my way... and back to being a wise guy.

Jail: Free Meals & A Hot Shower!

But, whatever.}


This is how impervious I felt back then.

At one point a Vietnam Vet picked me up... or at least, he said he was a vet. You would not believe how many vets I met... and basically, no longer do I. But at the time, his saying he was a vet was good enough for me. Anyway, this guy was being the good host, feeding me and giving me a couch to sleep on for the night (along with a much needed shower). And as he drank (I can't remember if I drank, I learned all about the vice filled life on the road, but it was a slow process of accumulation, so I probably didn't drink), he started to lecture me (gads, not again) on the inherent dangers of what I was doing. And to prove his point, he got hold of a big old bowie knife from somewhere (I guess it was something he got as a concert promo... that is, assuming you like piss-poor puns) and explained how he (or someone) could just kill me. And I was like, 'Yeah, maybe someone, but not you, so I'm not really worried.' Ah, to be young, carefree, and have some stranger holding a knife to your throat in order to prove some point about your mortality and you laughing them off, basically egging them on, and telling them they haven't got the guts.

{I did not have a death wish. But I do remember falling asleep in the freezing cold that first night and before I did coming to an acceptance regarding the possibility of death. "If I die, I die." It wasn't a desire, it was simply what seemed like a realistic possibility given my actions... and a keep-on keeping-on attitude towards those very same actions.

Very simply, by the time I knew I was going to die, it was going to be too late.

"Wow! You're right! This really is a great view! And based upon the knife that has suddenly appeared in your hands, I'm guessing it's a pretty darn good place to kill people, as well."

Ah, good times.

I wasn't robbed once. Though, at one point, a travelling 'Partner' told me he had talked some others out of doing just that. I did tend to flash a bit of money. Say, if I met a bunch of bums under a railroad crossing, there would be what some folks want to call a Throw Down, which is really just a fancy term (trust those railroad bums to have a fancy term) for getting together enough money (call it pooling their dough) for a bottle of wine (dinner, chips, a snack, or whatever). And very often, I would be the only one who was contributing cash. 'So, like, how much is fair?' Keeping in mind that this is before I drank (so my share could have easily been nothing... or everything if you value your life) and most of the others were tossing in Food Stamps, which didn't convert as readily to alcohol (or tobacco) as some (almost everyone I ever met with Food Stamps) may have liked.

{Actually, I do not know the mechanics of any of this. I threw down money. And others would then come back with supplies (food, drink, and so on). Meaning, I never went on a buying run. And as such, I can't remember seeing anyone use Food Stamps at the till (or even watch as Food Stamps changed hands, as I just didn't pay that much attention during any Throw Down, so I cannot relate what a more observant correspondent would have witnessed). But I can assure you that in the discussions surrounding a Throw Down (best to think of it as an emotionally charged negotiation event with very important consequences for those involved, as those with limited resources tried to extract as much as they could from other similarly situated individuals), cash was king and Food Stamps a distant cousin.

Also, I should mention that Throw Down is just a bit of slang. If you think for a second some wino (railroad bum, or whatever) is going to toss script (of any sort) on the ground only to watch it blow away in the breeze, you haven't spent enough time on the road. I handed my cash to whoever I was travelling with or whoever I thought was in charge. And if they said I was good, I was good.}

So, whatever.

I wasn't robbed, the once.

I wasn't killed, the once.

And no one so much as hit me.

Sure it was dangerous... but in an abstract sort way that did not hit very close to home.

I don't know how long I Hitchhiked... or how much of my Alternative Living (please, call it a Lifestyle Choice) would best be described as Hitchhiking.

I really maybe only spent 100 Days on the road. And rather, for the next six years, I would work crappy fast food jobs (off and on) and sort of drift through life, putting my thumb to the road when that made sense and bunking it up when other opportunities presented themselves.

Like, it was not unusual for me to get a job, negotiate a shift (opening or closing), walk across the street, get another job for the opposite shift and pull 80 hour weeks for a month or two, before deciding work utterly sucked (and at 80 hours a week, I can assure you that it did) and it was time to do something else, anything else... maybe camp out on the beach for as long as my money would hold out and keep me in chili and crackers... sardines on Sunday.

The trunks of many Balboa Trees or maybe just the one making a nice open patch in the middle in which one could picnic or set up a camp, there were no Balboa in Arkansas, if I did Arkansas now, I would do it differently, and perhaps the biggest and best difference would be doing it in Hawaii
This is not Arkansas

Arkansas

Is that all Hippie enough for you? Do I sound like some Old Time Burner, yet?

It's not for me to say.

I'll tell you this, though. I was more like a Hippie when I had short hair than when my hair was long.

Anyway, working crap jobs for insanely long hours did not endear me to civilization. At some point, I decided I'd settle down somewhere remote and live off the fat of the land.

Yeah, I probably should mention that in the Hitchhiking days there was this perpetual rumour on the road about these folks called The Rainbow Family (or something similar). And every year there would be a gathering: The Rainbow Gathering, Rainbow Family Reunion, or something like that.

I never went.

I never hunted it out.

It was not my scene.

It was a real oddity for me to hang with more than a single other person... or two... or three.

There'd be these huge camps. Homeless Camps, I guess, they'd be called today, but the phrase had not yet been invented. And when not a hitchhiker, I was a hobo or a bum. Anyway, I'd pass by on the outskirts of these camps, never joining, never saying hello, never trying to meet anyone or make a deal.

So, I was hardly going to hunt out some Rainbow Gathering.

Actually, this policy had its advantages and disadvantages. One thing I do know, one morning everyone in the big camp (so, I was not as socially isolated as I may let on) was complaining about the tickets they'd gotten the night before, during some raid. Me, I wasn't with them, so I did not acquire that particular (and much coveted) Brush with The Law!

Anyway, I was a near social isolate. And as such, being completely separated from the herd did not seem to be all that inconvenient, negative, and/or disastrous... please choose your own adjective.

So, I bought a slice of Paradise in the Ozark Mountains.

Let's see. I owned the land for maybe five years, during which time I spent maybe twelve months on site (off and on, so 365 days is a better descriptor) and this is a complete listing of everyone (every last one of those) who came down into the gully, during that time, of which I was aware.

It's not a long list.
And right here, I'm going to stop (or at least, pause in) my list so I can interject (yet, sigh) another story. As I grew older, I got more cash. And with $250 of it (I may be wrong about the price, maybe it was $500), I bought an old car with a head gasket that was about to blow (who could know) and that also had blown shock absorbers. As in, it was a bouncy ride, swaying on springs without any dampers, which is what shock absorbers are for. And in this contraption (best not to call it a vehicle or a car), I was making my way from Chicago to San Francisco, fully loaded with all sorts of gear (i.e. merchandise and/or material items unknown). Coming out of the mountains into Salt Lake, I had the road to myself and decided to make a sandwich or something. Let's say I was driving in such a way that an Officer of the Law saw fit to pull me over. He was a nice chap, even younger than I. And part of his questioning involved guns. 'You got any guns back there?' Hey, I recognize a question when it is accented properly. And so, I said no. One thing led to another. What a nice guy. And before you knew it, I was popping my trunk. But I guess he wasn't all that interested, because had we taken out the lawn chairs and thrown back the Green Wool Army Blanket, he would have seen I was transporting my belongings in (old, worm wood infested) Army Surplus Ground to Air Missile Crates. Honest, injun. I lie not. But we never got that far.

Thus, if you will allow me to connect the dots. An Officer of The Law inquired about munitions and a cursory inspection of the most disinterested sort, likely (as I know the law not), would have yielded probable cause for a more complete deconstruction of the vehicle. But since the cursory inspection essentially never happened, things never went any further. And I am free to maintain that the kindly Police Officer would have found nothing but clothing and personal effects as normal for the day had he had conducted a more complete investigation.

Another time, the fine Officers of our Law Enforcement Community (who took me up on the offer to search my truck, really rooted around and) got as far as a bag of Homemade Beef Jerky.
'What's this?'
'Beef Jerky.'
'You eat this?'
'Sure.'
'Get out of here.'
So, I'm just saying, the first cop never looked closely enough to see Ground to Air Missile Crates (repacked with other stuff, but of course), while the second group of fine-fine officers never went so far as to look inside the spare tire (or any other place a paranoid young man might want to hide his stash, you know, if he had a stash, which I never did have), and those two Deputies (of Ozark fame who started this aside) could not have found their backsides without the help of an instruction manual with the important parts highlighted.

They were expecting me to lead them to a patch. As if.

And I was expecting them to lead me to where my neighbour had set up shop on my side of the property line. Also, as if.

Um, this really was the back woods. After I bought the place, I walked my land (all forty acres of it) and guessed at the property line. One neighbour (kitty-corner diagonal) threw a bunch of barbwire and other crap (all willy-nilly) across the creek to alert any ginseng hunters (or noisy neighbours) that trudging up the creek any further might be a bad idea.

Oh, they were fun neighbours. The rumour is that they built their house out of railroad ties, which in retrospect isn't so odd, as that's what the lumber-mills in my neck of the woods produced.

Anyway, Sunday afternoons, they'd shoot off their guns.

{In truth, it wasn't every Sunday afternoon. But it happened on at least one Sunday, so I made the generalization.

Also, I never tracked down the source of the gunshots. It was always my assumption that it was these neighbours. But gunfire would echo about in the gullies, so who really knows?

Not me.

All I really know is that I heard what I took to be gunfire on a fairly regular basis.}


So, I bought a gun of my own (a .22 lever-action rifle, good for target practice and little else) and proceeded to echoed my response, just to be all neighbourly like. And come nightfall, they (the freaks) would scream their lungs out at the setting sun. So, I'd do the same thing... until the old man at the country store told me it was Screech Owls making all that noise.

Have I ever mentioned what an idiot I am?

Whatever.

Forget all that.

I was making a list of all the folks who visited my property during the time I owned it, before selling it to the aforementioned 'freaks' (I use the word in a kindly warm-hearted fashion, as I am completely ignorant of its truth or accuracy in this particular instance), who I am going to guess bought my acreage just to make sure they never had to deal with another neighbour like me ever again.
"So, who's the freak, now?"

Um, maybe I should just get on with that list I was making of folks who bothered to step foot on my property (that I know of) in the five years I owned it.
So, what's the point in all that?

First, I've lived a bit divergently. Great. I'm no Hippie. I'm no Burner. But I know a thing or two about cutting loose and leaving society behind.

Secondly, I was the only one on my land and I knew it.

I won't say clothing became optional, because I'm not much of a nudist. If I were a nudist, I'd be naked as I type these words, but I prefer wearing clothes. What did happen was that I explored varying degrees of dress in the privacy of my own homestead. Nobody was coming. Nobody was looking. It did not matter.

I showered in waterfalls. Truly, the land was amazing... full of poison ivy, but amazing.

I probably chopped down a tree naked.

I'm sure I walked down a path or two naked... to fetch water or whatever.

And I am sure (as a drunkard can be) that I tipped back a bottle of wine (the gallon, jug size) as I warmed my nether regions in front of a blazing camp fire and serenaded the moon.

Absence of society and/or the eyes of others provides a certain freedom.

I owned those trees, so I chopped some down. In retrospect, that was a mistake. But what are you going to do?

Eh, me?

I'd tell another story...

So, I was chopping down trees. I do not recall my exact state of dress. What I do recall was being hot, tired, and sweaty. My forehead itched. Thus, like anyone else in my position would do, I swung that ax up to scratch that itch. I almost (almost, not nearly, not by a long shot) planted an ax in the middle of my face.

Later, I'd have a chainsaw. Buying a chainsaw was a mistake. All I ever really needed was an Ax, Hatchet, Machete, and a Masonry Hammer. But I had the chainsaw, which was a mistake... as I eventually used it to spray a case or two of motor oil over my land, as I felled way too many trees.

{Um, if you've ever used a chainsaw and filled it with motor oil to lubricate the chain, you know what I mean.

And if not, let us just say, I poured a few cases of motor oil into that there chainsaw, which means, I sprayed a few cases of motor oil over my land, using the chainsaw as my applicator.}


But really, the only reason I mention chainsaws at this juncture is because the Old Guy at the County Store (the one I really liked) decided his boots were too muddy one day. And so, used the chainsaw that he happened to be holding in his hands to clear away the mud.

Um, he's lucky he still has toes.

Whatever.

In the wild, a person does as they wish. You've maybe seen Dances With Wolves. Well, in that movie, he does indeed start Dancing With Wolves... as most anybody in his position would most certainly do.

Bonfire

And now we get to the putative reason for this section of my rant. Suppose I was in a situation of Freedom from Society... and me and a bunch of my friends (I'd don't have a bunch of friends nor am I likely to ever do) decided to have a bonfire.

Like, suppose instead of buying the Forty Acres I did, I had settled on Five Acres closer to the Buffalo River.

After all, as rumour had it, growing Marijuana on your own property was a big mistake, because if one was convicted, they took your land. It's why I thought maybe my neighbour was growing stuff on my land, in the first place.

'I mean, if there's some down there, I didn't plant it. I'm not watering it.'

Lots of folks (so was my understanding) grew their crops on the Buffalo River, as it already being government land, the government couldn't really confiscate it.

The government for its part, tended to identify patches (of crop) by looking for paths leading up from the river from folks tending said crop. Of course, a real confounding variable would be that good ginseng land and good marijuana land (I'm going to guess) have a fair bit of overlap. So, why anyone would think their weed was going to stay hidden from the Ginseng Hunters is beyond me.

{Wild Ginseng was worth upwards of $60 per pound of dry weight. And though, it may well have taken a person hours to harvest that much after finding a patch of the stuff, minimum wage was $3.35/hr. And even at that rate, one was considered lucky to have a job... or so, nearly every grease monkey or gas jockey I ever talked to would have me believe. To put it all in perspective, the cabin the neighbour who had appropriated my lantern was renting cost him $200/month.}

Anyway, in this fictional world where I am social, I bought land closer to the river. Also, for some reason (mainly, because why not), I hang out with growers. And after the cops leave (the harvest lasted 2-4 weeks, and that's about how long the confiscatory effort lasted), it would be September, October, or November.

Since the hunting Season starts in November (does it, did it, I have no idea), I will propose that me and a bunch of friends would get together, celebrate the harvest, and camp out down by the river... a few weeks prior to that.

Obviously, there would be a lot of chemical stimulants involved. But like I may have already said, 'Make mine a bottle of wine, please.'

And obviously (isn't this obvious, does it not flow as naturally as night follows day), there would be a huge fire involved.

What games would we play?

What would happen?

{Please note, this is all imaginary. This entire section is a What If. It's make believe. It is a bit of story telling. None of this happened in the real world. And though I often think I would have been better off if I had bought 5 Acres nearer to the river, I never grew. I'm not a grower. I just happen to be really good at connecting the dots between what happened to me and what could have happened to someone else.

Or if you like, I'm not very good at playing that game and I suck at telling stories.

Either way, this is not reality.

This is fictional story told in non-standard format.}


I'm thinking that over time that fire would get bigger and bigger. And as the years went by, the party would get big enough and the fire would get big enough that the Local Authorities would start to patrol the event... and in a benign world, the Local Chamber of Commerce would see the potential of such a festival, as the few nearby hotels would sell out and the local stores would experience a surge in business. As such, the event would become nurtured.

But that's down the line.

I'm talking about that first year... when so and so thought it would be fun to piss on the fire... and no one would let them.

Seriously, I don't know how many camp fires I've stood/sat around wherein some idiot wanted to piss on the stupid thing.

Whatever you do, it seems you got to deal with the idiots.

I mean, all I am saying is that I prefer being idiotic in a different way.

As a teenager, I loved playing Kick the Can, Ring Dinglio (or whatever it was called), and/or Ghost in the Graveyard, which are all pretty much the same game. I can easily see playing some such game around a bonfire (which has grown quite large at this point) with the fire itself being the goal... the safety... the base.

So, rather than kicking the can, one has to touch a log on the fire, or something like that.

Eh, fires are dangerous. Do not play with fire.

{WARNING! WARNING! WARNING! FIRES ARE DANGEROUS! THEY ARE NOT TOYS! GETTING 3rd DEGREE BURNS OVER ANY PORTION OF ONES BODY IS A GOOD (AND PAINFUL) WAY TO DIE, BECOME DISFIGURED FOR LIFE, OR WORSE!}

On the other hand, wild ones will be wild ones. And I can see running through the smouldering coals as it burns lower (while playing the aforementioned game of Ghost in the Graveyard). And I can see folks showing up in full flame retardant suits after a year or two so as to enjoy the festivities all the more.

Back in the real world, along with an Ax and a Machete, one of my favourite 'tools' was a pair of welding gloves, which enabled me to rearrange my smallish camp fires however I wanted, without worry about grabbing a red hot log by the glowing coals and burning my hands. Sure, on occasion the gloves would get too hot. But I'd shake (sort of throw) them off. And that would be that.

{Or course, this was back in the day when folks considered themselves lucky to have a job paying $3.35/hr and Welding Gloves were likely (like I know) lined with asbestos. So, who knows how a person would have to equip themselves to yield the same results, today.}

So, back in fictional land, folks start showing up with fire protective gear (much like how dust masks are a thing on The Playa). And as such, the games become a little more intense. Now (as in, that second or third fictional year), the idea is to move the fire to the other side of the river. We can have two groups and call it a race. Or a fire on either side and turn the entire thing into a glowing hot game of Capture the Flag with the idea being for one group to carry the fire in one direction, as another group tries to carry it in the other.

And as this whole thing is a game played by a group of anarchist (so really, it's just a bit of random fun), the activity can change from moment to moment.
'You are going to do that? Fine, I'm going to shoot bottle rockets over the top of the lot of you and recreate that scene from Apocalypse Now.
Or better yet, as folks get more into the game (year after year) and show up with wheelbarrows, fire proof canoes, and eventually one of those Ducks (a WWII Landing Craft, essentially), it becomes a bit of a joke to throw M-80s in with the coals to frighten those on the other team as they carry their buckets of booty away, because anything goes.

Anyway, this is where my mind goes.

It's all a Make Believe Party, which (WARNING! WARNING! WARNING!) one should not try to recreate in the real world.

And what does one not do at such party... out in the middle of nowhere... where there are no rules... and the starting point for next year is where it all left off the year before... in a never ending effort to make it bigger... better... and bolder?


Ritual?

I don't see it.

I see party.


Transformative?

I don't see it.

I see party.


But twenty years later (more like thirty, I would guess, now), when we're no longer teenagers, we might want to spin The Great Buffalo River Bonfire Bonanza into something else. We might want to downplay the drugs. Heck, we might want to completely forget that (in this fictional story world I am creating) the whole purpose of the first party was to put some Buyers and some Sellers together, so as to unload (or pick up) the crops from the harvest in as expedited fashion as possible. And as such, we might want to spin it off, hire a PR agent, start talking about anything beyond the fact that Boys Will Be Boys and that playing with Guns... and Fire... and Girls, if they are available (or just other Boys if that's what the Boys in question are into) is exactly what Boys (or at least, This Boy) given freedom and autonomy would do.

{I see no point in commenting on the Deviant Desires of Girls as I am not a Girl, I am a Boy, with the favoured pronouns of Master, Lord, and Sire... you miserable worm, you.}

It's not a History of Burning Man... not by a long shot.

But if I am trying to reconstruct what happened, how it happened, why it happened, thirty years later (to a group of people thirty years younger) that's the (type of and/or colour of) lens I am going to view it all through.


Given Freedom...

Given My Youth...

Given Boredom...

Given a Careless Disregard...


Eh, it's all a game of What If... and if there is anything I have learned about playing What If over the years, it's that nobody plays it the same way.


Still, if me and my friends back in High School thought we could get away building Bonfires in the Forest Preserves, we probably would have.

And having gotten away with breaking that rule, I'm sure we would have gone on to see what other rules (call them transgressions) we could ignore in pursuit of ever grander adventures... call it a good time.


Of course, it's all a lie.

I'm not a party guy.

If I see a Bonfire in the Forest, I walk the other way.

I always have.

And I always will.

So, my analysis it likely not worth a hill of beans.




The End Times





A White Wall with a sign, heavily weathered with paint which reads... Dont Even Think About Parking Here

It is time for me to pound the rest of this essay out, lest the file sit on my desktop for the next six months growing cold.

I no longer care about Burning Man as an intellectual destination.

I spent the morning listening to thumping dance music. They called it Hardstyle... or at least, that was the search term that began my journey. It's a thumping beat. It drives out the thought... or at least (and there is always an at least), deadens what thought remains to the point I can grow anew. It matters not if you fail to understand.

I need my escape.

The Double B
Bᴙ
Bacchus ᴙeborn

See?

I already have the name of my fictional PsyTrance Rock Group, which should provide some indication of the lens through which I view reality. The Philosophy of Optical Distortions & The Hidden Agenda of Reality Paufler, et al, 2020



Still, I have one last thought-stream down which I want to travel before I lay Burning Man to rest.

And before that, a few random notes (most of which have already been pulled out and used in the Bonfire Section above.


It matters not if these notes make absolutely no sense.

More often than not, what I do, I do for me.

What I will say is that the last (and only the last) could just as well be the focus of this last section to come... maybe, it will be... but in retrospect, I can easily say it was not.




LARP 2.0 INITIATED





Have I mentioned? I read subjects. Burning Man lasted a few weeks... maybe a few months. The last document (which was Building a Renaissance in your Back Yard), I deleted after a few chapters.

I'm not a believer.

I don't believe.

What they are building out there in the desert (sorry, on The Playa) doesn't mean much to me. It isn't me.

I wear normal clothes. I don't wear feather boa's.

I mean, here's a weird thought for you. I do like to daydream. And it is easy enough to imagine doing that which I will not. And in this imagining, I can see myself going to Burning Man, being who I am not, and dressing as I would not.

Being a guy, I can see myself (let's build it up from the bottom) in combat boots, fishnet stockings, plaid schoolgirl mini-skirt, pasties, gas mask, and hair bows.

I'd have to buy (or acquire) every last item on the list. None of those things express who I am or how I would go about sharing my inner self with somebody else. But if I wanted to 'fit in' at Burning Man, I think (sight unseen, so it is just an unfounded belief that) I would have an easier time fitting in at Burning Man if I dressed thusly.

It's ironic, but if I wanted to show you who I really am (or at least, if I wanted to dress in costume and be as I would), I would be much more likely to wear horns.

{NOTE: After watching a few videos, I feel like I would be much more likely to attend Burning Man (not that I am ever planning on attending Burning Man) with horns and as follows. So, sorry about putting into your head the image of a Combat Boot Pasty Wearing Sissy of a School Boy, lest you were looking forward to such an appearance.}

Doing that bottom up thing again, I'd start with combat boots. I admit it. I have a fetish for combat boots. I really need to get myself a decent pair. From there, I'll go with ripped jeans... and not those styling, want to be a girl, black jeans with holes in the knees, but the old-school kind, which were bought new and worn to rags. So really, to do it right, I'd have to buy the boots and the jeans at the same time. Of course, I never wear jeans. And what I really should do is simply wear a black pair of the paramilitary pants (which are so paramilitary they don't even look paramilitary, I mean, that's how paramilitary the pants), which I currently wear (look). From there (and to trick the pants out as much as I have any desire to trick anything out), a nice silver belt buckle might look nice.

Enough said.

Moving upwards, I need no shirt, because, you know, sex appeal... I bring it. Throw in a silver necklace, because you all know you want more from an outfit than a mere pair of horns. So, fine, I'll wear a silver necklace (made in the same style and from the same high-end trendy shop as the two the slutty girl at my side will be wearing, only thicker). And finally (to top it off), I'll have the granddaddy of all racks on my head (antlers, my friend): a twelve pointer (I'll let you guess where the thirteenth point lays) stretching out three or four feet in all directions.

If I'm daydreaming, that's my outfit... or closer to it.

That three foot rack is going to be impractical. And I am all about the practical. So, I've thought about toning it down to curve-around ram's horns. But I am not a ram horn type of guy. I am a Grand Daddy Rack Master Type Of Guy. But then, I don't want my neck to get all twisted up in the trees. Meaning, I imagine this all taking place more at a Bonfire in the Woods than out on some dusty Playa. And in the woods, wearing such a rack seems like a good way to break one's neck.

So, I don't know. Maybe, some sort of chain-mail headdress might work better.

Or you know what? I imagined the entire outfit. Why don't you do the same thing. And whenever I want you (you know who you are... or at least, you better know who I want) to play along, I'll put on my silver necklace... as of yet, not acquired.



That was fun!

Or at least, it was fun for me.

I like the imagining.

And I can see how making some of those musing manifest (and not just as words on a website) would be highly satisfying.

And I can see getting together with a bunch of friends (or soon to be friends) on a yearly (or more often on a regional) basis.



All of which begs the question: Is anyone a Natural Born Burner?

I doubt it.

No, I take that back.

Obviously, someone is. Someone (some group of ones) created this thing.

But me coming to it 20-25 years after the fact. It's not me. It's them.

I would have never started this thing in the desert.



Eh, I don't know if I told this story above, but my most intimate encounter in the desert took place on another one of those cross country trips during which I was not running drugs, because that would be illegal and an amazing stupid thing to admit in writing... ever.

Besides, I wasn't running drugs.

But I might as well have been.

And like most drug runners (which I most decidedly was not, as hundreds of interactions with the Law Enforcement Community and no convictions will attest), I had a crap car...

No!

Now, as I remember, it was a truck. But that truck was a total piece of crap. It's the one that ended up on my land in Arkansas with a blown transmission and a carburetor that couldn't carry a tune.

Well, before I got to Arkansas, I found myself in Nevada on Hwy 50: The Loneliest Highway In The World. And my truck was overheating. So, I pulled over for the afternoon, found myself a muddy river, and had the time of my life.

I could see going back there.

But I could not see going back there to camp for the weekend.

There are easier ways to get away from the world... and I am far more partial to mountain peaks, glaciers, and the (scared smooth) rocks they leave behind.



Anyway, the thing is, I question how many folks would build Burning Man from the ground up to where it is... you know, if they had the choice.

But that's no fun.

That's a naysayers attitude.

In fact, a big part of this rant has been a naysayers attitude.

So, let's change that around.



I like parties. I like crowds. And although it is true in most crowds one just disappears... and perhaps, that is part of why I like them. But at Burning Man, there are no observers, only participants.

To be part of the crowd, one must be of the crowd.

And disappearing isn't really an option, as this crowd has certain rules.

And from there, I could wind this entire rant around back to the Ten Principles. But you either know them already (and by heart) or you are like me and really do not care.

Still...
And in this sense, Burning Man makes a lot more sense to me... or at least, it's a lot more compelling.

Oh, you want to go into the desert and play at being hippies for a week?

Well, that could work.

And if I am going to be honest about it, in a week, you might just get further at pretending to be a hippy than I ever got in my entire life.



And if you want to play at pretending you're part of a social movement that is going to change the world... eh, it can hardly be worse than standing in front of your computer day after day writing senseless rants for an imaginary audience.



Now, if you'll excuse me, it is time to listen to the Thump! Thump! Thump! of that Electronic Dance Music.

And if I get really lucky, I will completely disassociate and forget who I am for awhile.


VOID OUT


next Brett Rants entry

Home Brett Rants Index


Mescal Is In The House!

The Mule not the drug.

Though, my imaginary friend packs a full array of imaginary pharmaceuticals and that's not so bad, either.

Thump! Thump! Thump! Tha-Thump!
Thump! Thump! Thump! Tha-Thump!
Thump! Thump! Thump! Tha-Thump!


© copyright 2019-2020 Brett Paufler
paufler.net@gmail.com