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The Onion writes a story about me.

No One Makes It To Burning Man Festival
GERLACH, NV—The Burning Man festival, a prominent artistic and countercultural event that draws tens of thousands of people to the Nevada desert annually, is in danger of cancellation this week because "no one had their shit together enough to even make it," organizers said Tuesday.

"Jesus Christ, this is pathetic," said event coordinator Ethan Moon as he angrily gestured toward the empty Black Rock Desert basin expanse, known as the playa. "We've been promoting this thing all year. You can't start panhandling quarters for gas the week before the festival and expect to make it here in time, man."

Moon listed some of the most common no-show excuses, among them oversleeping, forgetting to request time off work, faulty van-borrowing arrangements, a shortage of ochre body-paint, and the last-minute realization that transportation to the Burning Man festival requires money.

"As of a few weeks ago, or even a few days ago, there were 30,000 people who honestly planned on coming," Moon said. "In every case, however, there were, well, you know—shit happened."

Although Burning Man festivals have had no-shows in the past, Moon said he's never witnessed absenteeism on this level.

"You have to figure out a way to get here, stock up on water and extra clothing for the cold nights, and make sure you have adequate shelter," Moon said. "Apparently, the advance planning it takes to arrange those three basic things was more than anyone could handle. Sorry to be on this uptight trip, but check out the playa. Not a single nude dude in a homemade papier-mâché tribal mask as far as the eye can see."

Although Burning Man is billed on its web site as a "temporary community dedicated to radical self-expression and radical self-reliance," it became evident that the no-shows were more capable of the former than they were of the latter.
Weirdly enough, this is more or less exactly what happened to me. Up to a few weeks ago, I was saying "I'm on the fence" and secretly hoping that I'd be able to pull the whole thing together out of thin air at the lasat second.

There are a lot of legitimate reasons that I'm not going this year. First and foremost, it's pricy to get to Black Rock City. $200something for tickets, another $300something for flights out there, inevitably another $200something for gear and costumes and shit, $200something for rental car, and maybe another $100something for provisions. I could have probably pulled it off with half of that, though, because I have a free flight on Southwest, and the camp I go with every year is pretty well stocked and would have taken care of me if I'd forgotten something essential. But as the summer wore on, things kept piling up. Trips to New Orleans, Las Vegas, New York and Cleveland were exhausting and though each one was relatively inexpensive, it began to pile up.

The final straw, though, was the $400 electrical bill for June and the realization that my ancient air conditioner just doesn't work for the kind of heat we get in Houston. If the AC people ever call me back, I'll be spending about $5500 on a new airconditioner in the next few days.

And Graham isn't going. He's gone five years in a row, and just needed a year off. It would have been weird not to have him there. Today is our sort-of Anniversary. Or maybe a week from today is. We celebrate the Thursday of the burn. Usually it's the last Thursday of August, but this month is fucked up. We hooked up in the middle of a whiteout on August 30, 2007 and never unhooked.
Los Angeles silkscreen artist Goldi Trewartha was among the tens of thousands of Burning Man devotees who stayed home this year.

"Yeah, I was supposed to go with Ari and Shel, but they couldn't score [Ecstasy] in time for the trip, and I forgot my bartering beads at my friend Marnie's place in Los Feliz," Trewartha said. "Oh, and I forgot to get a dog sitter."

Added Trewartha: "Shel made this great suit out of old stuffed-monkey pelts and duct tape, and he was going to hop up and down on this old trampoline he found. But his ex, Nikki, made him babysit [their daughter] Gaia while she headed out to Big Sur for a few days. I love Nikki, but sometimes she can be real flaky."

Chaz Bullard, a University of Vermont undergraduate and veteran mud person, had multiple excuses for his failure to attend the Burning Man festival.

"I totally spaced that August is 8, and I wrote down 9 in my sketchbook," Bullard said. "Oh, and I got evicted. Yeah, fuckin' Dyl up and ditches me, right, and I'm stuck owing $700, because he wasn't on the lease."

Bullard added that he contracted hepatitis from his ex-roommate's tacos.
A bunch of my friends aren't going either. Our camp was about 40something people last year. This year it's 20something and the majority are newbies. Buttery, Smash, Annaconda, Juniper, Hero, Abundance, Renal. None of them are making it this year. Gigsville has a lot of no-shows too. I'd heard that ticket sales are down a little. Maybe it's the economy. Maybe it's just this year didn't have the right vibe to it.
Hippies were not the only counterculture group to miss the Burning Man festival. Portland-area Linux user and self-described cyber-conceptualist "Free" Lance Kaegle explained his absence in an instant message from his studio.

"I was organizing this boss techno-art project called 'Off The Grid,'" Kaegle wrote. "We were going to set up computer terminals in various parts of the playa and have people use them. Then we'd feed the binary data from those terminals into this fractals program that [Silver Lake, CA software designer] Ricky [Thomas-Slater] wrote. Those fractals would be sent, on the fly, to a group of exiled Buddhist monks I befriended online. The monks would transform the fractals into a temporal sand painting, the making of which we would webcast live to everyone on the playa."

Added Kaegle: "But I had to stop working on the monk thing to finish up this Pam's Country Crafts web site I'm working on. I really need the money."

While most absences were accidental, a few were not. Doug "Crazyroot" Pycroft, a former smoothie-stand employee, has a history of missing countercultural events.

"I thought about going, but then I decided I don't need some dudes pushing their rules down my throat," Pycroft said. "That's the problem with these things. If they're so nonconformist, how come you gotta obey some fascist wearing a lanyard just to use the Port-A-John? Same reason I refused to go to [The Church Of The Subgenius'] X-Day back in '98. Hell, I ditched the very first Lollapalooza one hour in."

As a cloud of sand whipped across the desolate playa, Moon could only shake his head. Although the weeklong festival traditionally culminates in the igniting of the Burning Man, a 50-foot-tall wooden structure strapped with fireworks and other incendiaries, Moon wondered aloud whether he and the handful of other staffers should even bother.

"I guess we could burn what we've built, but it would just feel anticlimactic with no one around to watch," Moon said. "You gotta look at the bigger picture here, folks. You shouldn't think of Burning Man as a burden. Burning Man is about being part of a community. Unfortunately, it's a community of people who can't get up before 1 p.m."
On facebook, livejournal and the various lists I'm on, friends have been leaving for the playa for the last few days. Last minute online requests keep flying out, and I'm sort of sad but happy that this is still going on. This year there's sporatic internet access from the playa and apparently there's an actual cell tower. I imagine we'll hear more about what's going on out there than those who stay at home usually do.

This isn't the first year that I've stayed home while some of my friends went out to play in the desert for a week. In 2005, I was hiking with Liv about 400 miles away from the Playa. In 2006, I should have gone, but was in the throes of depression about a break-up. Both years, I helped my friends get ready for their adventures and wished them well.

I'm absolutely certain that I'll be there next year. And there's talk of a Burn in the Dead Sea next spring, which could be absolutely amazing.

Comments

( 1 comment — Say something )
jasheffe
Aug. 27th, 2009 05:47 pm (UTC)
I've been watching people kill themselves getting ready for BM over the past few weeks and I'm LMAO remembering when it was a simple come as you are event and enjoy the art and the company social experience.
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