Burning Man is just what it seems – only better first hand
Appeal Staff Writer
Most Thursdays Appeal columnists Bob Thomas and Guy W. Farmer and I break bread at lunchtime, discussing the political woes of the world, America and Nevada. Our chats rarely become heated and the world doesn’t pay much attention to what we decide is the way it should go when we give it 24 hours to shape up.
But that doesn’t protect us from a little backbiting at times, such as when Farmer writes a column about his pet peeve, the Burning Man celebration on the Black Rock desert up by Gerlach.
His motives are lofty – kids seeing naked people and kids seeing people smoking dope may give them bad ideas. Quel debauch! The fact that he resolutely refuses an invitation to see what it’s like for himself carries no logical weight with him. He’d rather read some magazine to see what the Burn is like.
As a writer I’ve been to two Burns and will go this month to another. For an event (not a festival, the organizers maintain) that is supposed to welcome alternate lifestyles it’s really pretty tame. Yep, some bare boobs, a few ugly naked men, a lot of people smoking fat cigarettes and kids taking it all in. I enjoy myself; I don’t do dope and I keep my pants on, but I enjoy the scene greatly. (I do put light tubes on my bike and try to remember to give crazy gifts to strangers, preferably women).
For some reason Guy seems to feel that putting 39,100 people out on a desert for a week shouldn’t involve such things as money. He is horrified that the nonprofit organizers actually came out ahead in recent years. He accuses the Bureau of Land Management of greed, totaling up their take to about $843,000 (last year 39,100 took part, not 40,000). He doesn’t realize that the money goes to pay the BLM cops and the Pershing County police watching things, and to build new campsites on the nearby Calico Mountains.
He even feels that the Black Rock City LLC owning 200 acres of land around Black Rock has evil connotations (the land is used to store reusable parts of the temporary Burn city). And he appears stunned that the LLC takes in $10 million and has accountants to tend to it (he doesn’t note that the permanent staff is about 30 people).
He sniffs that the LLC doing business deals with corporations is untrue to alternate lifestyles. Well, try to pay for umpteen Porta Potties with good thoughts.
Guy isn’t all wrong, he’s just got his priorities wrong.
In the real world, like it or not, people do drugs – right here in Carson City! And kids see them doing it. Ditto booze. Nakedness? I guess so, but have no evidence. And if my family were any example, my European wife never sweated nudity with the young kids.
Guy doesn’t note that there is a family section at the Burn, complete with outdoor toys and things, and that it is separate from the rest of the city. But I bet kids see dope and alcohol and nakedness there as well.
He sneers at the LLC for clearing $50,000 every year, but he doesn’t note that much of that is doled out to charities, including Gerlach, which has a WiFi system, courtesy of the LLC. He doesn’t point out that every year the BLM inspects the Burn city site for trash and finds next to nothing. Burners clean up better than most who use our parks.
Now I note that I’ve used some pejorative words here. Probably should go back and take them out, but then what’s the fun of doing that? Guy will chuckle and fire back that it’s the kids, stupid! It’s the use of public lands, stupid! That it’s people not wearing suits and neckties, stupid!
Right. I’ll be thinking of that when I’m at the Burn, trying to match the yoga guru positions. And I’ll be writing about it. First-hand.
• Appeal Editor Barry Ginter, whose column normally appears in this space, is on vacation this week. Contact Nevada Appeal staff writer Sam Bauman at 881-1236 or Sbauman@nevadaappeal.com.