HOW NOT TO DIE AT BURNING MAN
This article originally appeared in the 2018 edition of the BRC Weekly. http://www.brcweekly.com/BRCWeekly2018_int.pdf
I’ve been going to this goofy dirt rave for over 20 years now non-stop – and I’ve done almost everything you can do out here at one point or another – but ya wanna know what I’ve done a fucking AWESOME job of every time? NOT FUCKING DYING AT BURNING MAN. I crush at that shit. So far – I have both a black beltanda Nobel prize in not dying at Burning Man.I’m motherfucking gifted that way.
A long time ago, when an half of you were still in high school negotiating either side of a nervous finger bang administered across the emergency brake of your parent’s Ford Focus – the ticket for Burning Man wasn’t some highly designed miniature art piece full of foils, holograms and embossed UFO death cult symbols.It used to look just like a regular-ass ticket to go see Blue Oyster Cult play at some hockey rink or whatever.The only difference was it came with the ominous warning YOU VOLUNTARILY ASSUME THE RISK OF SERIOUS INJURY OR DEATH BY ATTENDING. Now mind you – this wasn’t jammed on the back like it is now in four point type in a raft of legalese – that shit was on the FRONT of the ticket in bigger type than the name of the goddamn event itself. And with good reason. As dangerous as you think this shitshow is now – back in the 90s virtually anything could potentially kill you out here. In fact – shit used to be built cartoonishlymoredangerous just for laughs. Let me give you an example. Once I built a bar for the Black Hole that was basically just an 8x8 wooden box built out of some bullshit we were too lazy to even burn the year before. At some point – we thought it would be a cool idea to put a roof on it so we could get on top of this piece of shit – which we did. The problem was that we ran out of lumber – effectively leaving a 4 foot gap that anyone not paying attention could easily drop right through and directly down on the head of the unsuspecting bartender below. The solution – fill the gap with a roll of fucking razor wire we had laying around. By making the thing more terrifyingly and visibly dangerous – we decreased the likelihood any one would even gonearthe gap.
All of this makes sense when you understand that Burning Man was partially an outgrowth of The Cacophony Society – which itself was an outgrowth of something called The Suicide Club. The Suicide Club was an extreme urban exploration group that among other things climbed bridges and did all kinds of goofy stuff, but at least one component of being in the Suicide Club meant actively courting danger as a way of feeling more alive. Less interesting people achieve the same thing by going on roller coasters or jumping out of perfectly good airplanes for kicks.
Burning Man is dangerous on purpose, which is ironic considering how completely and reflexively litigation adverse the event itself is as an organization. Danger is fun though. Danger keeps your senses sharp. Being surrounded on all sides by wonky contraptions built by cracked-out amateurs barely functioning within even their own poorly considered design parameters will keep you alert and on your toes – regardless of how much you whacked yourself over the head with drugs or alcohol.
There are reasonable people that have made a perfectly valid argument that the attempts to make Burning Man safer have lulled people into a false sense of security, thereby decreasing their situational awareness, and in effect making the place even more dangerous.They aren’t wrong.
So how do younotdie at Burning Man while still whooping it up in a way that makes you feel like the $2000+ you spent on being here was worth every penny? Well it’s easier than you think.
Before I got sucked in to paying off my community service through the Gate, Perimeter and Exodus department - my alma mater out here was Gigsville – which has a rich history going back two decades as being a group of incredibly smart people who take immense joy in doing incredibly stupid things. Our first mayor – Mayor Jim – the George Washington of bad ideas as a cultural touchstone – laid down one simple rule. The Whole of the Law if you will for not dying at Burning Man.
“ONLY DO ONE STUPID THING AT A TIME.”
That’s it. That’s the whole ballgame. Everything that’s really fun to do out here is commensurately dangerous. Which is perfectly fine if you don’t combine 2 or more of any of these activities. You can’t multi-task more than one dumb idea at a time out here and expect there not to be consequences.You weren’t that smart before - and the last 4 or 5 days of heat exhaustion, sleep deprivation, malnutrition and shoving every powdered or pill shaped thing you found on the ground in your head like a goddamn toddler sure as hell didn’t make you any smarter or more agile.At this point, you’ve likely got the motor skills of a 30 year old push lawn mower and sloth-like reaction time. Its gonna take everything you got right now to just monotask getting through heating up a tasty bite on the windshield of your car – so let’s not try and be a hero, okay? Dedicate the totality of your attention on one act of idiocy at a time, and your odds of survival are going to fuckingskyrocket.
If you do this shit right – you’re gonna walk out of this desert alive AND have a bunch of barely believable stories that will get better every time you tell them right up till the day some boring asshat that never did fuck-all is calling bullshit on them in the day room of a nursing home.At least you’ll have lived to tell them.