Burning for a chance to be a burner
April in Glenwood
I consider myself a risk-taker. Sort of. Sure, I’ll try new a new adventure if it’s something I’ve really wanted to do all my life. Or I’m sweetly talked into it.
I respond well to encouragement.
I can’t say I wouldn’t try anything that could kill me. Technically many activities in life can cause our untimely, or seemingly untimely, expirations. Simple actions like walking down a sidewalk. Mowing the grass, on a riding lawn mower. Or drinking from a mountain stream.
The risks are everywhere.
“So why don’t you just skydive already?” a skydiver once asked me.
That’s going to take some built-up courage, buddy. And plenty of sweet talk. Maybe even a meatloaf sandwich.
After the flight, of course.
One adventure high on that old bucket list of mine — which is somewhat populated after a busy summer last year — is Burning Man. Yes, this is the week-long expression of art and dance … with an effigy set on fire on Saturday night. Not exactly like a college football homecoming bonfire. But maybe close.
Only if the college campus looks like the set of “Mad Max.”
Burning Man takes place every year on a dry lake called Black Rock Desert outside of Reno in Nevada. If that sounds dry, that’s because it is dry. I’m guessing it’s a dry heat, but that’s stemming from a brief moment I flew through Reno.
And that time I spent at the Hoover Dam.
The heat’s not really what worries me. What keeps me at an Internet-gazing distance of Burning Man is the dust. Too put it simply, I can cough. I cough when I laugh too hard. I cough when I’m around a campfire too long. Call me a wuss, but that would just be picking on my lungs. And we all know we shouldn’t pick on my lungs because they had walking pneumonia last year.
That just wouldn’t be nice.
If I did have a doctor’s clearance to become a burner, I would have to wear a dust mask. Actually, a gas mask would probably be more like it. I would have to buy most of Factory Surplus’ inventory. I’d be mistaken for a Cold War propaganda poster child.
Really, I’d look more like a prepper than a burner.
The dust is not even my biggest concern. That’s just more of an excuse. I am mostly afraid I’m not really cool enough to hang at Burning Man.
I was just wearing khaki capri pants yesterday, for goodness sakes.
The concept that I might be chill and cool enough to hang around kids half my age in the middle of a desert while dancing to electronica and dub is daunting, no doubt. What if I needed a nap? What if I ran out of costumes to wear? What if I needed my space?
I imagine there’s no lack of space.
I am mostly interested in going to Burning Man for the art. The whole project, actually now being called The Burning Man Project, is a living, breathing, moving work of art. The people are the art. The desert is the art. The dust is the art.
The dust is definitely the art.
The art is the beauty of it all. And that is why people keep coming back to Burning Man, year after year. Burning Man is said to have started in the ’80s as a bonfire ritual on the summer solstice with the effigy burning of a man and his dog made of a wood. To these original burners, burning these effigies were forms of radical self-expression.
And look what it has become.
Along with the art, Black Rock City as a community sparks my interest in Burning Man. Money is no object at Black Rock City because there is no money. The whole show runs on gifting.
I’m not going to lie, I love gifts.
At least that’s what I’ve heard. There are favors and communal cooperation. There’s an understood rule of leaving no trace. There’s a speed limit (5 miles per hour). Who knew? No fireworks are allowed.
I wouldn’t have guessed that one.
I hear bikes are the way to get around Black Rock City, but mutant vehicles are allowed. This is the first I’ve heard of mutant vehicles outside of “Mad Max.” OK, maybe not the first.
But my mind is officially blown, or burnt, whichever is most appropriate.
Black Rock City has a DMV, a Dept. of Mutant Vehicles, which approves the mutant vehicles. And these vehicles should be as creative as the burners who operate them. They basically shouldn’t look anything like how they started. These could look like pirate ships to Lego masterpieces.
I imagine the mutant vehicles continue to become more and more mutated as the Burning Man tradition continues. The art becomes more radical. And the self-expression becomes even more expressive.
That is the greatest risk of all.
— April E. Clark is thinking maybe 2014 is her year. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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