Last night the 747 at Burning Man got hijacked.
I wasn’t there.
I so wanted to be there. I was planning to be there. But like an idiot, I expected the start time I’d heard from a reliable source to bear some resemblance to reality, and so I left a really great small party with friends to get to the 747 just before the hijacking was set to start, waited in the airplane for almost 90 minutes, and then was so bored I waked back across the playa only to discover that the party was over.
For those wondering, the 747 is basically a giant chill space on the lower floor, with fuzzy couches and a vague attempt at art on some of the walls, and a DJ area on the second floor.
Dejected, I went to the Misterioso bar and grumbled to the bartender about having missed this epic event and wondered if it had actually happened at all. The woman sitting next to me introduced herself as Lieutenant Cupcake and told me she was there, and been a hijacker.
It had started – of course – about half an hour after I’d gotten back to the party that was no longer happening. If I’d just stayed at the party and left when it was over, I would have gotten to do everything, instead of nothing. There’s a moral here somewhere.
But my inability to do Burning Man right isn’t the point. I asked Lt. Cupcake to tell me everything – everything – about the hijacking. Her details have since been verified to me by others, and while I was not a witness are true to the best of my knowledge.
The incursion began when hijackers secretly scaled the airplane and released a giant banner over the side proclaiming: “We will only negotiate with Larry!”
At that moment, a crew of rough-and-tumble (alleged) DPW and Gate types wearing angry steward and stewardess uniforms charged into the plane, taking over key sections.
Then they brought out the plastic snakes. Threw them everywhere. Naturally people shouted about getting these motherfucking snakes off of the motherfucking plane. I mean, you would have too if you were there.
Finally, the DJ booth was seized and control of the sound system taken.
“It was a really interesting clash of cultures,” another witness would tell me later the next day. “You had this airplane full of people who were perfectly primped, wearing elaborate costumes, designed down to the thread, whose whole purpose was to go there and be looked at, and then they were suddenly interrupted by a bunch of dirty hard core types who were taking over the space – who were doing something creative with it – and the elaborately costumed people had no idea how to respond. They couldn’t process it.”
Back in the bar, a highly costumed girl from Switzerland stared at Lt. Cupcake. “I was THERE on the airplane!” she gasped. “It was terrifying!”
We stared at her. “Oh come on …” I said.
“No, I was really frightened!” she insisted, although she didn’t seem to hold it against anyone.
I gave Lt. Cupcake a gift, as an expression of my admiration and gratitude. Swiss Miss may have felt a line was crossed, but as long as no permanent damage was done or changes made, I consider this fair game.
Pranking art is responding to it: it is participating with it. A giant spectacle of a plane section dragged down to the desert was plopped in front of everyone, and instead of passively accepting it, these people engaged with it in a creative an amusing way.
Dammit, I wish I’d been there.
My hats off to you, hijacking heroes.