Thursday, August 28, 2008

Burning Man 2

The temperature drops considerably on the playa at night, so it felt cozy in the sleeping bag when I occasionally awoke during the night. But by 10 AM the sun had turned the tent into a little oven, so I got up. In the Whiskey & Whores tent, I sat at a table and had one of the sandwiches I'd bought and a Red Bull for breakfast. I decided to venture out into the open playa beyond the City circle to see some of the massive art sculptures out there. The playa dust was pretty loose and thick this year, making pedaling off the Black Rock City (BRC) streets (which are watered down regularly by tanker truck sprayers) really difficult. That, and the incredible heat of the sun, wore me out after a short while, so I doubled back towards the camp. I stopped at the Weenie camp for a couple of free hot dogs before retiring to the tent once again for a late morning nap. In the afternoon, I walked back over to Main Camp again, where the talkers had been replaced by various folk singers. Again, the hippie crowd was fascinating, but only for a while. One old guy was sitting there giving out free pasties, which afforded him the opportunity to wipe off the nipples of women who took him up on the offer before rubbing them on nicely so they'd stick. (Nice schtick, why didn't I think of that?)

The political atmosphere at Black Rock City was predictable. Besides the mocking tone with which the term "American Dream" was always mentioned, scattered throughout the camps of any theme were various defaced pictures of Bush, Cheney et al - even one portrait of Alan Greenspan captioned "Father of Global Misery". With all due disdain for the swindle that is the Federal Reserve System, somehow attributing the purported misery of the globe to him struck me as a bit much. And of course, thousands gathered to swoon as Obama's acceptance speech was blasted from a sound system outside the Black Rock City radio station (I was fortunately far from that scene). The only response I could muster up was to bring out my old 2-inch red, white & blue "I LIKE IKE" button that my father had me wear to 5th grade back during the 1956 election (saved by my mom, bless her soul). You want American Dream, here's a flash back to a time I remember before the ragged masses thought you had to be asleep to believe it. Not much of a costume in that environment, but I enjoyed the puzzled looks in reaction to my T-shirt bearing the 9-year-old zombie from Night of the Living Dead with that button on her forehead.

I struck up a conversation with some guys from Chicago, bought one of them a coffee, and we walked around the city for a while.
After another sandwich back at W&W, the techno blasting from Mal-Mart across the way sent me hiking off again. I try to be open to all different kinds of music, but to me techno is a substitute for music. I consider music to be something generated by humans, expressing inner feelings. When someone cleverly programs a digital circuit to make regular sounds simulating drums and such, it isn't music. And when humans dance to it, they're not tuning in to the emotions conveyed by sounds produced by another human, but allowing their bodies to be controlled by a machine; an experience which I think separates them from any humanity, a distortion of what music is. So the more techno I heard coming from the many camps, the more repulsion I felt for the entire environment. I came across many interesting works of art and theme camps on my wanderings, but there was always that.

The Man that towers over the crowds that mill about in the center of BRC is a totem of sorts, the central theme of the whole festival to many. There was a DJ booth set up out there, playing (you guessed it) techno beats, and a crowd dancing beneath The Man. The Man, standing there waiting to be burned on Saturday night, also serves as a beacon of orientation; when you're out on the streets and have lost your way, you look around till you see The Man in the distance and get your bearings again.
I'd had enough by 11 PM, and was greatly relieved upon returning to my tent to find that Mal-Mart had indeed closed down early again, allowing me to go to sleep. I decided I had had enough of the entire Burning Man experience, and that I'd get the hell out of there Friday morning instead of Saturday as originally planned.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

See? Aren't you glad you accepted my sleeping bag?