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Burning Man Themes and Dreams

March 9, 2012

Serving a frosty brew at the HoeGarten, Burning Man 2012. Small camp, big impact.....

Having been out-of-town for 10 days, I finally came home yesterday and raced to fill out my theme camp application before the deadline. Right, I know, the deadline application is in April, but if you want a shot at any of the 10,000 tickets that were held back after the original ticket fiasco, you had to fill it out by yesterday.

It was an experience like none other. It was like writing a thank-you note to an ex who showed up at your wedding that you didn’t want them at, and gave you a gift that was not only lame, but a passive aggressive inside joke, and you wrote the thank-you note because even though you know you should just let it go, you secretly still want to “win.” And you hate yourself for wanting to “win,” and for playing.

Yup, that’s what my long and loving relationship with Burning Man had turned into.

As I always do, I looked back at applications I’ve submitted in the past, I found beautiful layouts done in AutoCad dating back to 2007. Last night, I sat with a piece of copy paper and one of my daughter’s cheap markers and scrawled out something.

The idea for this camp, “The Dude Ranch” is about a year old, and arrived when I was watching The Big Lebowski for the 4,567,893rd time. I caught an extra glimpse of the neon stars dripping down the side of the bowling alley and imagined making them out of el-wire and making a bowling alley  on the playa. I imagined the rug in the lounge, cheezy painting of presidents I hate, White Russians, a costume rack with green bikinis, bathrobes…..  and of course, two bowling alleys. Yup, it was a perfect theme camp. Interactive, simple, fun, funny, inviting and although it’s a bit of work to set up, it doesn’t ask much of you once you’re down there.

I asked a local bowling alley (at which I was a member of a league) if I could get pins and balls from them, as they toss them out often.

I could feel all the usual enthusiasm.

Then the ticket fiasco. I actually decided to walk away from Burning Man, because I was, simply, insulted that they could treat their community with such disrespect. I haven’t gotten over that feeling 100%. Then I wrote that blog that was seen around the world and I got fairly close to the organization itself. These are SUCH GOOD PEOPLE. At least the ones that I’ve gotten to know and love. And I renewed my enthusiasm. I could be one of the old-timers who keep it alive and share with the newbies. I wanted to be part of the solution.

Though I still don’t have tickets, and despite my relationship with the org, have no reason to believe I will get tickets. In fact, I am starting to think the opposite.

I’m not whining. I have said all along that I am truly ambivalent about going this year. I was going to take a year off anyway, before this whole ticket thing was announced and exploded. Then I met the man of my dreams, who had already taken a few years off and was determined to get back this year. There were talk of ceremonies and great costumes. My old campies and I started talking and getting excited……  So I was in.

Then the fiasco. And I was out. Not just because I didn’t have tickets, but because I was pissed. Then…..  So you see, I’ve been wavering.

But the truth is, it is my home.

I am happier there than anywhere else on the planet. To me, it is a quiet and contemplative time. Wild and colorful, but I don’t do drugs, I don’t have wild sex, I don’t feel any pressure to do anything other than be there and be fully human and share that experience. Until last year, I had never even seen the man burn – I always left early, when it got too crazy, and in time to get home and be there when my daughter starts school.

And I am curious about this year. I want to see what it will be like. It is at least possible that this is a rebirth. I will admit that I have come to know what to expect from Burning Man. I see the same people, the same camps, hear the same music, see the same cars…..  Maybe this is good. Maybe this will force change.

You know, like finding out your husband is sleeping with his secretary forces change.

And I want to be there for it. I want to see it. I want to be part of it. I want to sit there in my green bikini (not offering blow jobs for $1,000, but if I do, please know I am joking) and share my bowling secrets. I want to know that when some errant Burner goes bowling back in the default world, they’ll remember my tips, get a strike, and say, “some burner chick in a green bikini taught me that.”

You see, that’s what I love about Burning Man. Not the parties, music, dancing, debauchery….  I love the way we touch each other in small ways that burn as small embers the rest of the year. Or, in some cases, the rest of our lives.

So I filled out my application yesterday, and I was upset, even though I wanted to be excited. They wanted me to detail where tents, cars, shade will be. How much space I needed and how I would use it. And all I could think was that they haven’t even done me the courtesy of letting me know if any of us have tickets. There are 20 of us. 3 of us have tickets. And you want me to detail plans that are nothing more than wishes, stolen?

I did it, in marker. If we get tickets, this is what it will probably look like. At least, this is where the bowling alleys and lounge will be……  I guess those could be set up by 3 people…..  As for  how much space we need beyond that? I don’t know, you tell me. Every space I drew for a tent, yurt, car made me a little bit sadder. My imaginary friends.

They said, in the application, “don’t submit a placeholder, we need your real plan.” And I laughed. First, it has NEVER worked out as we drew it, surely they know that, right? But beyond that, ya, I’d like to be able to make a real plan. To make any plans. To know who’s coming and what resources we have. That’d be great.

I doubt we’ll get tickets. We’re not a name brand. We change our name every year, we are small. We have a perfect record, but I don’t think it will matter. And I am sad.

Very sad. I have always felt like an important part of this event, even though I am small and quiet. I have always valued the diversity. Now I just feel lost. Like lint in a pocket (not as bad as a leaky pen, but not valued like a surprise $20 bill.)

Thanks for the memories. I’m glad YOU were able to attend.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. Anonymous permalink
    March 9, 2012 9:36 am

    we are a small 12 person placed theme camp and were offered tickets so stay positive!

  2. flying monkey permalink
    March 9, 2012 10:43 am

    Hi Alyssa,
    I’m with you in feeling sad, ambivalent, hopeful, confused, etc. Thanks for sharing your process thus far.
    Here’s the rub…Even if enough people can buy tickets to build a modest theme camp, and they invest the time and resources to get it built, who will live there?
    Perhaps a lottery can be held to award membership to the camp…of course, only from those who already have tickets…
    I suspect that camp organizers are thinking this through right now. Why invest in the tickets and the expenses to do a theme camp if there’s no way to know who can populate the camp. I can’t imagine many organizers who will simply cast about for random camp-mates.
    This “investment” has to be scrutinized before pulling the trigger to buy tickets and all the rest of the resources. I don’t think many will pull that trigger.

  3. Fofer permalink
    March 9, 2012 11:03 am

    wise words… grace, and love. Thank you for this — you’ve put to words, so elegantly, how I feel… rather precisely.

  4. Anonymous permalink
    March 9, 2012 11:24 am

    Please keep writing these. Whether they all get heard ’round the world or not, you’ve twice now (that I know of) put into words exactly what many of us have been thinking, feeling, and wrestling with. Both times I came away reminded that I love being home more than anyplace else in the world, and that no matter what I’m grateful that such a place exists. Thank you for this. I’m sure you’ll get tickets. And I hope to bowl a few games with you on the playa.

  5. dean jordan permalink
    March 11, 2012 3:39 pm

    I feel ya. We are a mainline camp, and we were offered tickets(@$400)which would have meant only about 8 or so would miss out unless they had a miracle.

    We just couldn’t do it. It just really took the wind out of our sails. We all realized, we no longer do it for all of the reasons stated, though they are, and will remain that special thing that is hard to find anywhere else on earth.

    We know now, we do it for each other. For the love that we found through this miracle called Burning Man. For the simple joy of working hard together, building the best looking camp on the Esplanade. We love that time together, and we’re going to miss it this year.

    We all feel that Burning Man is not over, and hope that next year, after whatever happens this year, we’ll be back, still loved by the org, and mainline once again(15 years)and right where we need to be.

    Thank you for your words, they sure crystalize so much of what we feel and think.

    Let us know how it goes and if you need a ticket, I can’t think of any one that should have one more!

  6. Timmy permalink
    March 28, 2012 5:22 am

    “I actually decided to walk away from Burning Man, because I was, simply, insulted that they could treat their community with such disrespect.”

    i’m really sick of bitter old-timers. this will be my second year, and between my friend and i we have 4 tickets. our extra tickets will NOT be going to old-timers, as we noobs have been insulted enough by those types.

    it’s time for new blood on the playa and to reinvent this thing.

    so while you’re at home and we’re rocking the playa, we’ll drink a toast to y’all.

  7. Anonymous permalink
    August 20, 2012 12:55 pm

    was your dude ranch lebowski camp placed? whats the address? email me at playapatrol at gmail
    Everyone is invited to visit black rock french quarter, 7:30 and A.


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