I know that millions of words have already been thrown like MOOPy glitter at the subject of Uncle Larry’s Family Reunion not happening in person this year. No Zoom will do. Since we are all such a creative cult of people, there must be a way around this, right? I know many are thinking, “By August everything is going to be semi-tolerable and even if Burning Man isn’t there, the playa still is. I think several thousand of my friends could peaceably assemble and it would be no big deal.”
That’s not going to work. Stay home and BRING no trace. I was there when Burning Man was only 5,000-ish, and it still created a mess that needed weeks of restoration. So please — and I don’t use this expletive lightly — Rainbow Gathering the place. Hijacking public land never ends well. Stay home, build a Lego Burning Man, make mini backyard burns or whatever it takes to distract yourself from that August urge to spawn.
This is coming from one of the least “burny” Burners you are likely to meet. I love Burning Man, but always with a lower case “love.” That said, this would have been my 24th consecutive year at Burning Man and 20th consecutive year building Media Mecca.
What is Media Mecca? I think one of our first slogans was, “We cover your ass, so you don’t have to.” There is plenty of free nudity on the internet, why our hot dusty place to see it? Of course, our task was a lot easier when photos and videos were analog and there was no internet or cell coverage on the playa. Media Mecca continues to exist to discourage the media who want to monetize the event and encourage those who want to experience and explain the event. In other words, honest journalism. We are also the cliché police. There are only so many documentaries that people will watch on “first timers’ experiences” or “what the founders of Burning Man envisioned.”
Beyond media wrangling, one of the highlights of my year has been building Media Mecca. Since I started in 1997, the Center Camp structure has changed from a pile of dusty couches and carpets to near theme-camp artistry; generally taking a team of 10 people a week to build. Last year we decided that Mecca had been around so long that we would build a museum. If you saw it, Media Mecca was the really white thing near Census and Arctica. Inside were memorials to ancient recording devices and Media Mecca team members who have passed through this life.
It is with much sadness that I reiterate, “please delete August 2020 playa from your COVID-19 freedom bucket list.” Just use the extra year to pack smarter and make all that art that you never got around to. Like other annual events, Burning Man just sneaks up on you. This time it will be sneaking up at half the speed.
I don’t want to leave you sad. I want to help. Remembering all those crappy times at Burning Man will help us get through this. I will dwell on all those meltdowns over two yards of plot space, the smell of porta-potties in the morning, the rebar wounds, everybody else’s annoying music, the uninvited naked guy, the entitled journalists, those two times I got pink eye from swimming in Pyramid Lake on the way in, all my tools destroyed by playa dust, the 10 days away from my dog, and that clown thing that ended up in the Pershing County court. I’m sure you have your own demons you can resurrect for de-inspiration.
Anybody can make it through good times. The bad times are what strengthen our bonds. Here’s hoping for lots of awkward hugs in 2021.
Top photo: Dennis Hinkamp “contemplating” (photo by John Curley)