It's about that time of the year again, when IT department heads and quality control experts shake off the shackles of their workaday lives, drop acid and hopefully get busy with multiple, anonymous partners. That's right kids, Monday brings us the Grand Poobah of all summer festivals, Burning Man, known as “The Burn” by the attending pungent throngs.
I've never been to Burning Man, and you know what? I never will go. That's because I've got friends who attend regularly, and they unwittingly make it sound awful. I even know someone who was at the first year's event on Baker Beach in San Francisco.
The truth is, it sounded like it was awesome and interesting 20 years ago. These days, however, it's a bit more like Huey Lewis playing a casino show. You can't even bring fireworks or drive over 5 mph. Some Bacchanalian ritual.
I know, I know. “If you've never been you can't judge, maaan.” Here's the deal, though: No one actually believes you have to experience something to dislike it. If they did, they'd be hitting up ICP and Ke$ha concerts just to make sure it wasn't their thing. I only need to be a grown-ass man with a sense of pattern recognition to know Burning Man sucks. It's middle-class people behaving embarrassingly. The tales of spiritual enlightenment gained after six hours of dancing on ecstasy are as hard to hear as they are dubious. If I ever have to hear a story about how amazing a fire twirler was, I might actually light myself on fire.
Sure, a couple decades ago, Burning Man was — I've been told — more like Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome than Moonrise Kingdom. Neither the laws of God nor the laws of man were much respected on the Playa. These were the days when The Burn patrolled its own, consciously eschewing law enforcement involvement, the days when you could practice your assault rifle skills at the drive-by shooting range, firing off some rounds as you careen in your car down the playa.
Then someone got a scratch on their Lexus RX 450 Hybrid or something and Johnny Law came in permanently. Now, undercover officers with night vision goggles have broad powers to interpret your gift of coke to a college girl you're trying to lay as “trafficking.” Seriously. The Burning Man website carries a warning. Nothing makes a ten strip of acid go down smoother than undercover cops and some of the strictest drug laws in the country. Cut loose, brah!
Believe me, I get it. I'd love to be naked at a Hawkwind show tripping my balls off on mescaline, sexing on some college dropout dressed in nothing but a python I just met. Sadly, however, the '70s are over. More to the point, who needs to dress up their predictably safe petty-bourgeois debauchery in “cosmic” trappings? I have no problem getting so high that I shit myself. I just don't need New Age mumbo jumbo about “gift economies” and “the TAZ.”
Nowadays, Burning Man is little more than a caricature of itself. The core values — gifting, decommodification, inclusion, leaving no trace and running around naked (except for the body paint) — is exactly the type of hippie crap that nostalgic white-collar professionals gab about on their Bluetooths. If I wanted to hang out around a bunch of pseudo-bohemian trustafarians and smug yuppies slumming it, I'd move back to Portland.
Besides, as the regulars always say, I heard it's going to suck this year anyway.