Saturday, September 04, 2010

Burning Man

According to my facebook, I have two friends, who don't know each other, who are currently at Burning Man. My friends are way cooler than I am.

I've never been to Burning Man, but for years I've thought about it - Burning Man itself I mean and not going there, which would be different. I have always kind of wanted to go and I think what I'm actually saying is that I have always wanted to be the kind of person who would go, because I'm not.

I am prone to falling madly in love with the ideas of things rather than the actual things. We've discussed this at length already. I think Burning Man would be the same. I love the idea of getting wild out in the desert with thousands of other people and I love the idea of the art and music and sense of community and spirituality that some people claim is a part of the event, but I know myself. I'd be there for about ten minutes and want to leave because it would be hot, crowded and dusty and knowing me I'd get diarrhea and panic because of the porta-potties and then there wouldn't be anything I'd eat. The people would get on my nerves. I'd probably think most of them were pretentious and there were just too many of them. If people were doing drugs this would probably upset me because I'd want them to stop and they wouldn't. Loud music makes me want to fly out of my skin and can set off fits of panic. I know myself and Burning Man wouldn't be good for me, although I wish it were.

I'm conflicted about Burning Man. From one angle it looks creative, freeing and beautiful. From another angle I see a Road Warrior/ Fear and Loathing Outside of Reno hybrid and I don't mean that in a good way. This morning I saw a show about Burning Man on TV and my first impression was "Wow it looks exactly like Tatooine. Where are the Jawas and does everyone have to hide from the Sand People at night?" And I meant that in a good way.

There was a time in my life when I would have gone, or at least I think I would have, but it was a brief window of opportunity before I became chronically uncool. This morning, as I watched the show, I brought this whole Burning Man ambivalence thing up with my husband who knows lots of people who have gone and has had many chances to go himself which he has declined. He doesn't share my ambivalence. He has no desire to go to Burning Man at all, which surprised me, because like me, my husband was once briefly cool too. He explained that while he had dreads and worked at Whole Foods and used to love Reggae shows that he was never into the dirt and sweat involved in enjoying a long outdoor festival and that he'd heard about some very unpleasant dust storms in the area. He appreciates the creativity of Burning Man but sees it as a bunch of white people seeking some kind of "authentic" experience, which is annoying. But then he immediately felt bad that he said that and asked if he hurt my feelings because I wanted to go and if I wanted to go we certainly could arrange it next year. I said no. My husband is that nice and I guarantee if next August I said that my life would not be complete if I didn't get to go just once, that he'd immediately set to finding a way to get me to Nevada.

Then we talked to the baby a little bit and I asked her if she's going to grow up and be the kind of person who would go to Burning Man and my husband answered for her and said "No" which made me laugh. I secretly hope she is, although I don't want her doing drugs.

It all got me wondering when I stopped being cool and then again, was I ever really cool in the first place? Probably not, but I wasn't the suburban housewife I've morphed into now. The truth is though that I only look normal. The truth is that although I look normal and live a structured life wherein I do not travel to hedonistic festivals and dance for three days straight while on Ecstasy and while I don't make out with strangers and have peyote induced visions of goddesses, that I still live a creative life dedicated to my art, which is writing. My younger self might be disappointed that my older self isn't very bohemian anymore, but she'd be thrilled that I never sold out and gave up on making a life out of art.  I did that.  I never folded and went down the practical path. I didn't go to school based on which degree would make me the most money. I chose the only path that I really loved. I went to school for what made me happy and that was writing. I followed my art in a truly authentic way and I chose to make a career out of sharing my love of writing and telling stories with other people, because I love it that much.  I know I did the right thing, even though sometimes I long to spin fire at a desert moon on the first weekend in September. Knowing me, I'd probably ignite my hair and end up with third degree burns on my scalp anyway, so maybe it's better I stay at home each Labor Day weekend.

13 comments:

Living in Muddy Waters said...

There's a spiritual retreat center in Asheville that does a women's circle weekend that might fulfill your longing for the Burning Man without the drugs, sand, sweat and poop. And no, it's not a Christian spiritual place, it's more a crunchy drum circle type place.

OOOO...my word is libledly. I LOVE that.

Anonymous said...

Wide Lawns, you're so damn cool that you don't even know it. And I think that's funny!

Sharon said...

I so get this! I spent an hour at work the other day (yeah, I know, don't judge me) reading the entire Burning Man website. Yay on the creativity and freedom and community, and boo on the weird food and portapotties. Still... if I could magically pop in and out during the event (popping to my luxurious clean hotel room when not there, of course), I'd love it.

Hee. My word is ashie. I bet you really are, after Burning Man.

kerry said...

I love that you made a career out of your writing! Everybody should be as happy as you are about their job.

I think you're pretty cool. :)

Burning Man does sound amazing, but I think I'd be with you on the heat and the dirt. I think the idea of it is probably more romantic than the reality. :) Personally, I keep the dream of it as a "thing that would be nice to do" knowing full well I'm not likely to go. Ever. If I did, I'd probably just feel old and cranky which seems like it would defeat the purpose of being there.

I like the dream of Burning Man. I'm ok with that.

booda baby said...

Nothing is less fun and creative than 'cool.' Happily, it all works out. It seems that people who participate in Burning Man and other wild, theatrical events do it for genuine love of making the experience. When cool enters into it, it'll be parodied on South Park. :)

MtnMama said...

I know several people that go to Burning Man, and if I ever had the desire to go, I'd have done it already.
Foremost in my mind has always been "August in the desert?!" and I laugh.
I do not like that kind of heat - and more so as I get older. I don't like dust, or being sweaty and not being able to wash, or big crowds, or random mystery food. I can not stand porta potties.

I'm 49. Old enough to remember the 60s and have had plenty of my own 'authentic' experiences. I grew up in the Bay Area of Northern CA, and spent much of my time in Yosemite, and have communed with nature in the mountains and at the beach, where it is cooler and far more comfortable.

The Burning Man craze, as I see it, is rather (as you mentioned) pretentious. I've heard the accounts of the fabulous times these folks have had, and I think "no thanks."

Robin in Ohio said...

Burning Man...heh, heh, heh! Every time I hear it I think of the "Malcolm in the Middle" tv show. In the episode, Malcolm and his clueless family end up at Burning Man. They camp in an RV in the middle of the festival and the festival participants think the family are performance artists mocking suburban life and values. It's pretty funny and you might enjoy watching it. I'm sure you probably can find it on YouTube.

Anonymous said...

I've got friends who have flown to Burning Man. From Australia. They have there own one there, and those who love it go the the USA too! They're computer scientist geeks who aren't into drugs, spirituality or anything, they just love how many new friends they make in such a short space of time. Sounds awesome to me ;)

bigfun said...

Drugs and sweat and nasty bathrooms. Sounds like the flu.

JoeinVegas said...

Some things are best left in your mind.

Suffer Kate said...

My baby sister is having a girl in January! I just wanted to trumpet that...I'm very proud and excited. BTW, by 'baby,' I mean she's 28. We're beside ourselves.

Jennifer said...

I went to BM when I was in college. If my job didn't prevent me from going (I am required to be here the day before Labor Day, period, for ever) I'd keep going. I have a friend who works there and she always has fabulous stories. It's a cool place. I love me some weirdos and weird art. As long as dust storms aren't going on, it's really not that bad. And oddly enough, I was sober the entire time. Yeah, go figure.

It's actually pretty funny that I did like it, considering I don't like cold (honestly, that desert is not hot most of the time) or PortaPotties the rest of the year.

But...oh well. Stoopid adulthood and jobs and being unable to say, "I want out of the company retreat to go to a notorious drugfest, even if I'm sober." :P

clynne said...

Hee, I read your blog regularly but I only just now got to this article because of being backed-up on my blogs since, you guessed it, Burning Man.

I go every year, and I am largely sober (although I do occasionally drink). The most fun I have out there is when I'm sober, because I'm so much more aware and tuned-in, whereas when I drink, I'm tired and, well, drunk. Plus, I've had exactly *one* hangover in the desert and let me tell you. Ugh.

Anyway. My husband hates being dirty and portos, so when he decided to go, he spent a lot of time thinking about how to cope with all that, and figuring out what he needed to do in order to be happy despite his aversion to such things.

He ended up having a great time, but if he hadn't been mentally prepared to cope with the things that bug him, well, he'd have had a lousy time. I know lots of people who think "Oh, I'll just bring an RV and have my own toilet/shower," and that's it. That never really works out for them, because it turns out to not be that simple, and they end up having to use a porto or not shower one day and they end up unhappy.

This is my long way of saying that I think your decision not to go because of the things you don't like is absolutely a good one. There's lots of other cool ways to have fun and be creative, and I love reading about them in your blog!

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