Someone HAS to Be That Guy! (A trip to Bat Country)

Photo from MDCarchives; cropped by Beyond My Ken (talk) 05:04, 31 August 2011 (UTC)

After I wrote a blog post called “Is there too much positive energy at Burning Man?” several commenters invited me to come visit their camps and soak up their darkling ambiance.  One of them was Bat Country, a Hunter S. Thompson themed camp.

In fact I actually have visited Bat Country.  Here’s what happened. 

A few years back I was standing in the Will Call line for two hours.  A line like that, you get to know people, and I met a married couple.  The man’s name I can’t remember … it was something playa-generic … but the woman was named “Dirty Sugar.”  You don’t forget a name like that.

They were camping in Bat Country, and invited me over for outdoor movie night on Tuesday:  a double feature of the Johnny Depp version of “Fear and Loathing,” followed by “Gonzo,” a documentary about Thompson’s life and career, would be playing against the wall of an RV.

I said I’d be there.

The night was gorgeous.  I showed up about two thirds of the way through “Fear and Loathing.”  I asked around at the bar, but Dirty Sugar wasn’t there and I didn’t know anybody else.  Suddenly I saw an empty chair sitting just the right distance away from the structure the movie was playing on.

I pounced.  I sat down.  Took a swig of water.  Oh yeah:  this was a great seat.  I’d lucked out.

Ten minutes later, a guy walked out from the structure. He walked over to me.  “Hey,” he said, “would you like some tequila?”

I said sure, and he filled my glass.  I didn’t think anything of it.  I mean, hey, people offer you tequila at Burning Man.

It was a little odd when I realized that he wasn’t offering it to anyone else … but then again I’d only just arrived.  He’d probably hit them all before.  Plus he was a little drunk, so, whatever.

10 minutes later, he came out again.  “You want some chips to go with that tequila?” he asked.

“Um … yeah, okay.”

He gave me a plate full of chips.  Didn’t offer them to anyone else.  What was that? I asked myself.

“Fear and Loathing” ended, and “Gonzo” started.  For the next 45 minutes he checked back in with me periodically, asking if I wanted more tequila, more chips, needed any water.  I was the only one getting the royal treatment.  It was nice, but … what the hell?

I was thinking of leaving and going to see if some friends were over at the temple when he walked over again.  “Hey,” he said.  “It’s taco Tuesday, and we’re making fish tacos back there.  Do you want some?”

“Well …”  I was completely at a loss.  “Sure, but, you don’t have to do that …”

“No, man,” he said, “I WANT to do that.  Because you … you’ve stuck with us the whole time.”

I had?

“You came on time and you sat down and you believed in us right from the start, and even when we were having problems with the computer, you stayed with us and never gave us any shit and were so supportive, and so you’re special man:  we’re taking care of you!”

Oh shit, I realized:  the person who was sitting in this chair, who’d been here for all of that, had gotten up and left and I’d grabbed the chair immediately afterwards … and my host had missed the whole thing and in the dark, after drinking tequila, couldn’t tell us apart.  He thinks I’m that guy!

What do you do in a situation like this?

Well, you eat delicious fish tacos.  And then you stay through the whole movie, desperately asking people who pass by “Hey, I’m about to leave, do you want this chair?”  And you don’t leave until you find someone who does, because by sitting down you unknowingly took on a sacred responsibility to Be That Supportive Guy, and there’s no guarantee that if you walk away someone else will pick up the torch by sitting their ass down.  Someone HAS to Be That Supportive Guy.

Then, about ten minutes after the movie’s over, when someone finally says “Yeah, I could use some time off my feet,” you run like hell.

I love ‘ya, Bat Country.

Caveat is the Volunteer Coordinator for Media Mecca at Burning Man. Contact him at Caveat (at) Burningman.com

About the author: Caveat Magister

Caveat grew up wanting to be a Russian novelist, but the closest he ever came was getting personally insulted by the first democratically elected president of Poland. Now the volunteer coordinator for Burning Man's Media Team (itself a volunteer position), Caveat has been messing with Burners for the last five years, and has a hard time believing some of the stuff they've let him get away with. He is a publisher at Omnibucket.com, served as editor of Chicken John’s philosophical autobiography “The Book of the Is,” and archives his publications and personal blogs at www.TheWachsGallery.com.

10 thoughts on “Someone HAS to Be That Guy! (A trip to Bat Country)

  • I think the moral of that story is remember to wear comfortable shoes. You know never know who’s seat you might be stealing at camp Bat Country….

    So…where do we sign up to get dosed and shaved by Dirty Sugar?

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  • Sounds like you have basically proved your original article to be misleading. This camp sounds really nice at a core.
    There are tons of camps and projects on the playa that are basically designed to mess with people. They are the “bastards” you talk of. The camp I have been affiliated with “Driven by Profit” aka “Mobile Boardroom Systems” is one of them; we have a boardroom shaped art car and drive around telling people to get a job and basically yell at them with megaphones like we are their bosses. I even ran CRITICAL MEGAPHONES one year and took over centre camp and debilitated any organized event happening in there. However I would argue that most of these projects are not intended to be truely “negative” but rather sarcastic or dark humor. I personally would hate to think that a persons burn was ‘ruined’ because we made fun of them so bad they were genuinely offend or scared. We have had to struggle with this as some members of our camp (in their intoxicated state) have made racial slurs or said really hateful things, of which I am not proud and I would say is really negative. Your previous article seems to imply that the war was negative energy, where as I bet most of the participants actually had smiles on underneath and recount it as very playful. I suspect the war would have stopped if someone had been badly injured or so offended/violated that they got a cop involved, so it really couldn’t have been that “negative” as in consciously and selfishly detracting from others needs or enjoyment for one own pleasure/needs.
    Basically I agree with you that BM needs to let the ‘rough edges’ continue and I hope people keep messing with each other (like the fake portopottie doors, or dosing and shaving as above?), however I still hope we can continue to attempt to reduce the real negative energy such as the thief, the physical fighting, the rape, the injuries, the illegal searches and criminal charges…etc that sadly happen annually.
    Good luck you dirty bastard,
    Love
    TallNeil

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  • a bunch of douche bags driving around talking shit is cool? those things lead to the physical altercations and negative energy you say your hoping to reduce.
    did you get beat up in school?

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  • Jesus, man…. Do you have any idea what damage you have done to our reputation with this slander? I will not stand by quietly while my camp is dragged through the mud with these libelous accusations!
    I was there that night and remember things differently. In fact I rarely leave Bat Country as for some reason other camps aren’t nearly as open to my particular eccentricities.. But I digress….
    First, movie night was not hosted by Bat Country. The dude with the RV and movie equipment was so rattled by our behavior that he was in the wind shortly after the movies ended. Gone, and likely never to set foot in BC again.
    Second, our behavior that night was obnoxious even by Bat standards. Shouting the dialogue over the movie despite repeatedly being shushed by the poor rubes trying to enjoy the movie, Bats plowing over and through the crowd in a motorized wheelchair. I find the lack of any mention of these events to truly place your credibility at question.
    It’s Hunter S Tuesday, you swine, a damned sacred holiday in which we honor the good Dr in ways which would make him proud. We have never hosted a taco Tuesday, my friend. Any hippies thinking of hitting us up for a handout this year are likely to be met by a naked, alopecian giant with one huge testicle we keep on hand for just such occasions.
    The tequila, that could have been us. We aren’t completely uncivilized. But the last “drink” I was handed at Bat Country was supposed to be whiskey and had a baby cobra in it. Turned out to be formaldehyde, and these were my own campmates! If I ever remember which one of you that was…
    Dirty Sugar though, she truly is a sweetheart. As are most of us, I suppose. But anyone thinking about stopping by our flaming bar, Bastards, does so at your own risk.
    Mahalo, and good day, Sir.

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