NOTE: This is not the review. The Burning Man Review is here.
Burning Man Redux
By Patrick Mulroy
(note: we wrote this about a week after writing the Burning Man Review. This is a collection of our thoughts regarding the feedback we have received from writing the review.)
I’ve enjoyed the huge response we’ve had from my Burning Man essay: over 10,000 readers in four days. Yow! My friend Tim has enjoyed his role as queen bee and mother hen in arranging your responses. To the humorless few FnFers who picked on him, I suggest less ecstasy in your future. Your serotonin deficiencies have left you GRUMPY. In truth, if not for our awesome history of fun at FnF camp outs, we would have had nothing to compare our dismal time at Burning Man to. We expected Burning Man could be like the FnF Summer Camp Out times 100. In truth, it was all the fun we had at FnF divided by a hundred. In any case, many of your responses were hateful, angry and not in the spirit of FnF. Note: The alleged “bitter” and angry narrator of my piece was a character in a meta-fiction, not a real person, certainly not me. As for me, I don’t believe cannibalism or full-blown fascism will come to Burning Man until at least 2009.
The majority of readers seem to understand that my piece was meant to be creative and humorous -not investigative journalism. Though my facts were all accurate, my interpretation of these facts was personal and exaggerated. Some loved it, others hated it-few were indifferent. Most long-time burners agreed that the event has gone downhill over the years as the crowds have increased, along with the price of admission. In any case, the essay led to much lively discussion on the past, present and future of the event.
I was touched and proud to be invited back by many long-time burners and others with a sense of humor about my review. Many of you know that Burning Man is in trouble as an event, but you keep the faith and keep contributing to its potential for success. The event has morphed over the years from a gentle child with a wild streak to a wild gigantic insane child with a gentle streak. I applaud your courage for babysitting this deranged and ape-strong unpredictable child.
If you love Burning Man, it was not my intent to crap on your Christmas. I know that for many the annual trek to Black Rock City is Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years and Halloween all rolled up into one week. You spend a lot of money and time preparing and always have a great time. My rant was never aimed at you. If I had met fewer thugs and more cool burners, I know my trip would have been more enjoyable.
I was especially not aiming my rant at those burners who mainly serve others at Burning Man. Your goodwill and service is likely the only thing keeping Burning Man afloat, despite the growing influence of the bullies and yahoos. Burning Man will end one day, Larry Harvey will retire a very rich man, but your kindness will be remembered by the people you served with love on the playa. Of that I have no doubt.
Some of you were offended by my paragraph about the greeter. She was greeting us in a full on dust storm wearing the flimsiest of dust masks. Her enthusiasm and good cheer were amazing considering the shit conditions she was laboring under. I don’t really think she was on acid. That was a joke. It’s just that I could not imagine someone being so positive and perky under the miserable conditions she worked under that night. Her charm and enthusiasm, and that of her fellow greeters and underpaid workers and unpaid volunteers was wonderful and was not meant to be mocked. I’d French kiss you all, but I won’t since I know where your tongues have been.
I am not opposed to nudies, wild drug use and promiscuity in principal. However, when I’m shivering from exhaustion and altitude sickness, my tolerance for other people’s weirdness diminishes. Add some bullies and yahoos lecturing me on my missing “costume” and you can see how BM starts to look like a bunch of jerks and bullies telling me how to behave and dress. I was over that sort of bullying in high school. “Fuck your day” yahoos. I paid Larry and his cronies $300 to walk around in the worst time-share on Earth: I’ll dress any way I goddamn please.
If there is one redeeming quality of Burning Man it is the idea of letting people be their true selves for one week. For some, this is achieved by walking around with their cocks or coochies in full view or perhaps by dressing as a furry dog with no pants. In my mind, this is the most dull and superficial kind of weirdness and is about as creative as trick dog poo. However, everyone has to start somewhere on their journey to true perversion and weirdness. I fully support these weirdo kindergarteners as they try to be interesting. All I ask is that I not be attacked for being weird in my own way. My weirdness does not involve costumes, glow sticks, pacifiers or gratuitous nudity, but is no less profound. My friends and I could all teach postgraduate courses in weirdness, despite our pedestrian dress.
Some objected to the odd political turn at the end of the essay when I linked the playa bullies to the current failed regime in Washington. This moment surprised me too when I wrote it. It was clearly out of step with the rest of the piece but it seemed true so we left it in. I’ll gladly surrender all my Christmas gifts from here on for impeachment hearings next year. Please God, as we Irish say.
Note that despite my rant vs. Burning Man, I don’t call for it to be abolished or banned. If Burning Man continues to go downhill, it will disintegrate on its own. If the bullies are not reigned in someone is going to get killed, an “Altamont moment” which will end this twenty year adventure in a horrible way.
I hope that Burning Man improves, becomes less fascist and less all-white, and lives up to its potential for fun and creativity. I don’t expect life-altering “magic” but a cool party where all were welcome and none were bullied would be nice. Also, sexier nudies and free ice would be sweet. See what you can do Larry.
That’s all for now. Peace on the playa.