Tales From The Playa are dreams and memories of events that took place at Burning Man, as told by its participants.
That moment when you’re leaning against the railing of some art car, dazed, head lolling to the music. It’s chilly and late, and you wonder if your night is over. Then again, it isn’t up to you. It’s up to the driver of this mutant vehicle, and she doesn’t seem to be very interested in the 3 o’clock plaza, your corridor back to camp. Your fellow Burner pokes you in the ribs.
“Wake up!” he insists.
“I’m awake,” you concede.
Photo: Mischa Steiner
The moment a passer-by smiles at you from underneath a carved, wooden wild boar mask with broken, black tusks.
The moment the man stands up in the sweat hut, as naked as everyone, and starts singing “Hey Jude.” You wonder what his job is in the default world.
The moment you slice your knuckle with the dull multi-tool trying to punch the last hole in the last tennis ball to cover the last stake, setting up your tent on the first day.
You would have been done, ready, finally at home, but now you’re washing blood and playa off your hand, opening last year’s dusty first aid kit, swabbing with alcohol, wrapping a bandage, and laughing at yourself. Read more »
I live next to the Green-wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York, where thousands of soldiers are on their backs, staring into the earth above them, their last memory a moment of pain in the Civil War. Their bullets were removed, and their bodies carried on wagons and trains back to New York where their loved ones stared at them hard and sang to them and wept, and then one by one they too lay down next to their fathers and brothers and sons.
Photo by magnetomotive via Flickr
In the United States, we won’t remember these things on Memorial Day. Not in the way of a strong memory that moves us. Our minds will be cleared of the images so that we are ready for our next directed act of consumption. For instance, we will be readied to experience war as visual entertainment, war as an event without meaning, battles as ads – so that we will forget Viet Nam and buy Iraq, forget Iraq and buy Afghanistan.
And personally, I live in a time of my life when my body is mimicking the memory loss of society at large. If the culture of the USA is memory-erasing, I too have to fight for the sensual details of my personal past. We are hyped literally out of our minds until Memorial Day turns into a three-day weekend. I hope today that we are able to remember the dead and resurrect the future.
The Massey coal blast, and BP’s poisoning of the gulf – these are interruptions that worry the corporate marketers because they revive our memory. These two disasters are man-made, but oil and coal is the Earth too and the Earth is finding inventive ways to excite our memory. That oil won’t stop because that bleeding wound is necessary. Nothing that comes from modern culture can shock us. There are no Picassos or Elvis Presleys anymore. But the Earth, the Earth can more than shock us.
We are Earth’s rogue species. The Earth says that this is the time that our drilling down into the ancient sunlight of oil and coal be replaced by a view of the millennia of life there, that we see the original life buried beneath the mountains and oceans, that we see it and remember it. Our personal ancestors live too, with untapped energy, beneath our mountains of disinformation. My neighbors died so that we would not enslave our fellow Americans. If we really remembered this on Memorial Day, we wouldn’t be afraid of the corporations and fundamentalists. Remembering is a radical act.