Sunday was the day to strut your dusty playa duds one more time before putting all those summer outfits away for the season. It’s getting chilly and wet now, and sparkle shorts and bikini tops won’t work so well when the days get short and the temperatures dip.
Sunday was the day of Decompression in San Francisco, and this gathering of the clan will have to do until the next time we get together in the desert.
That is, if there is a next time.
Oh, we’re not saying that there WON’T be a Burning Man in Black Rock City next year (even if the 2012 theme is still an enigma wrapped in a mystery.) And we’re not trying to be all melodramatic and end-of-times.
But there does seem to be an inordinate amount of self-examination and Burning Man examination going on, and we can’t say that it hasn’t made us thoughtful.
There were so many good and amazing things this year. By many accounts, it was maybe the best year ever — great weather, great playa, more and better art, one of the most amazing Temples ever, the Regionals stepped up … lots of stuff to like and to feel optimistic about.
But then, the grumbles: My friends didn’t go because they couldn’t buy a ticket. Or … the city has gotten too big! The Esplanade was so crowded! Or … there were soooo many art cars, I felt like I was missing out if I didn’t have one or wasn’t on one. … And the RVs! Everybody was in an RV! They were having their own good time and not being part of the community! That’s not Burning Man! Air conditioning is not Burning Man!
Sigh. It almost makes you want to wash out the playa dust and be done with it once and for all.
And that’s exactly what some folks are going to do. They’ve been to their last Burning Man. They won’t be going back. And you know what else? We honestly and sincerely think they’re doing exactly the right thing. And we wish them nothing but the best.
Because here’s the truth about Burning Man: it has changed. And here’s another truth: it will continue to change. It won’t ever be the same as it was in the ’90s, or five years ago, or six weeks ago.
And that’s good. It’s not a museum piece, or a stage play. It’s jazz. It changes. It’s not the same every time. It’ll never be like that again.
Gather round the campfire now, and let me tell you tales of the olden days, when there were only a few hundred people out there in the wilds, and they built and lifted the Man into place themselves, and they had to follow a map to get to the site, and they huddled in the shadow of their vehicles to escape to the heat. They weren’t quite outlaws, but they were definitely fringe players — jokesters, pranksters and artists and musicians.
But here’s another thing: Not all of the old timers had the experience of a lifetime. Some of them were miserable and out of sorts and felt disconnected from the other people there, who all seemed to be loving everything and were being fabulous. They didn’t know if they fit in, they didn’t know if they were doing it right, and they weren’t exactly sure of just how to act under the circumstances. And yes, there were even a few people who were just along for the ride.
Does that sound familiar? Did you have moments like that this year? Of course you did. That part hasn’t changed. It was always better last year. And it’s always been crappy for all the people some of the time.
Burning Man always has been an event for the people who have the time and money to be there. Are there more trust-fund babies in the population now, proportionally speaking? Maybe. Maybe not. But there are still people there who have to scratch and claw to come up with the dough to make it happen.
So what’s to be done?