Red Rock City: Burn Night 2063

by Terry Gotham

(This is a minor experiment on my part, instead of thinking about what is, I’ve decided to meditate a little bit on what can or will be. Let us know in the comments if you want to hear more about the story of Isabella Pope & the first burn on Mars.)

It was so beautiful I could hardly stand it. The glittering, supremely temporary city, a blinking triumph to anti-authoritative striving, stood. But, for now, a brief reminder of how we got here.

The provisional government only gave the greenlight for the first attempt after the Deputy Magistrate revealed himself to be a Burner. Even then, the cowboys weren’t coming if things went tits up.

While travel to Mars had become accessible to the elites, the lucky & the ambitious, the red planet didn’t have much of a party scene. Mostly because of necessity, but with more corporations touching down all the time, the “Zone of Freedom” where movement was permitted outside of The Domes grew steadily. For years they refused to light any structure on fire inside. For good reason, but they’d gotten pretty massive at that point, so we pleaded.

You get tired of people telling you it can’t be done. You get tired of the excuses, the attempts at mollification, the distractions and the cries for sensibility. That didn’t get us to the desert in the first place, so of course, they were ignored once again. After a little over a decade after M1 Touchdown, scouts with jump jets moved as far out as where Curiosity landed way back. A couple of weeks into the nightly close range topography scans, Crystal Gypset took one look at this particular crater & thought “we can actually do this. We can burn once more.” Plans were made, secrets were kept, a date was chosen. Looking back, I’m still impressed that many of us managed to keep it a secret.

The party rovers, long used by high-stakes gamblers, frustrated venturepreneurs & wild kleptocrats were retrofitted in a style impeccably reminiscent of the Art Cars of yore. They kept you alive on the journey out to the Burn, as most suits would run short on O before you even saw the site on the horizon. The nicer ones stocked Red Bubble brand sparkling wine, with the Rough & Ready fire drone system they’d rigged up, patrolling the sealed dome on alert.

I’m not entirely sure how they managed to both build a Martian Man &  enclose it in that dome. None of us saw the dome coming and most didn’t believe we’d be able to get it up and burned safely without being spotted. We racked out after a particularly long build night and when we woke up, it was just there. A couple of militia exosuits must have wandered off base to pull this off,  as the thing was twice as tall as the Opulent Profit rover & could not have been built by any civilian-grade tech that we had access to. The word “Beginning” pulsed across the feeds for the rest of the day. The rest of the preparations went quickly, people work fast when they’re motivated. With all parties assembled, Isabella Pope lit the super structure.

You forget what fire looks like when you leave Earth.

Caffeine: Shut Up & Pour

Can you imagine if you had a caffeine vaporizer in high school or while driving that shitty delivery job so many of us had. The delivery system step is an overlooked point of interest for most people interested in drug culture, or when it’s not, the extent is largely as simplistic as “injection users usually live less long.” The widening of the market into non-coffee based products, like we’ve seen with energy drinks, gel for distance runners & now this vape and vape juice speaks to the way that the user base is directly going after it, and not products that have it.

Caffeine is the third rail of modern capitalism. In the digital era, there are rational, data-driven discussions about how to maximize your caffeine per dollar ratio. I read this article about doing exactly that and I was awe-struck by the tone of “get this drug as cheaply as possible,” which is so totally out of place discussing any other drug. This point is most enjoyable when people tell you they drink beer for the taste or consume hipster coffee brand 82343 for the taste. Yes, some definitely find an authentic offering of their favorite controlled substance & stick with it, while others are going to efficiency. Of course, few of us drink Everclear or shotgun 5-10 cigarettes in a row past the age of 22, particularly turbulent times excluded.

However, what interests me most is swagger, often seen, especially in heavy coffee drinkers. There are hundreds of people on my Facebook & Twitter feed that talk openly about the quantity of coffee they consume & how reliant they are on it. Why is this a legit thing again? I know people who post the craft brews they drink, but I don’t think I know anyone who boasts about the volume of alcohol they consume & how you shouldn’t talk to them until they’ve had their first martini. Obviously, the culture allowed for a less dangerous drug to run wild & free. Obviously it’s uniquely suited to the Western hyper-capitalist era we find ourselves in. If you could buy cocaine with your caffeine, many would, and we all know the guy at camp who starts his day off with a bump and a walk over to center camp for a cuppa. Interestingly, it’s so embedded in our culture that it’s one of the only items sold at Burning Man. A literal cup of psychoactive drug.

I’m not saying this to berate anyone. While I don’t consume coffee, my caffeine addiction fluctuates from mild to wildly out of control. Some months I get by on green tea, while others involve shotgunning multiple Red Bulls a day. I just think we need to be mindful of our own caffeine consumption habits, especially how they relate to both polydrug usage & hydration on playa. When I was told by friends of mine that they were giving away free Red Bull at retail EDM parties, I almost fell down. The proliferation, cost reduction & social stigma affecting caffeine use recreationally, or with other recreational drugs, such as alcohol, mdma & cocaine, I don’t believe is being given enough study. When most of us consume a cup or three a day, that’s at max, 450-600mg, spread out over a 6-8hr period. If you’re matching that by slamming a Red Bull every hour (~86mg, but only for the 8oz can. You can buy 20oz Red Bulls now, which pack 180+mg), while you’re rolling or you’ve been hard drinking, you’re going to see way more fucked up people and have way more hospital visits. The pearl clutchers have recently banned caffeine powder in Illinois, and a Senator from Ohio is calling for a nationwide ban. I know we are living in trying times, but for fuck’s sake, can the assholes in suits acknowledge that we’re adults and can have our morning stimulant of choice in whichever form we like please? While I’ve acknolwedged the substance isn’t totally harmless, the idea that we would ban the pure form of the drug but still have 30,000 Starbucks locations staggers the mind.

Berning Man: Notes On For-Profit Cultural Remoras

For everyone who lives outside of San Francisco, this post should come with little surprise. However, in speaking to many of my friends in “The City,” I was reminded that they don’t have to deal with a creeping phenomenon that people from New York, Boston, DC, Seattle & other satellite regions have been tolerating for years. That being: Burner Posers.

There is a small but growing community of producers who have realized that Burning Man-flavored parties tend to be the best parties in any given city. If you invite a bunch of Burners, have similar music to what you’d hear at a Burner event (warning, varies from city to city), throw it somewhere that doesn’t have a velvet rope & dot your Facebook invite with Burning Man-infused language, you win! People flock to your event to celebrate the costumes, deco & energy of a good crowd, volunteers work the party for free, and you make out like bandits because you’re not actually building a camp at that thing in the desert.

While this may just sound like someone showing up to a Kostume Kult party wearing their trading desk/investment banking costume, getting drunk & yelling fag a little too loudly to their friends, it goes much deeper than that. These are definitely the parties with girls rocking headdresses. These are definitely the parties that need a little reminder about inappropriate touch. These are the parties with $6.00 water. These are the parties with bottle service. Yes, that’s right, recently, someone sent me an event invite with pictures of the temple & talked about how you could get bottle service. It was literally titled “Berning Man” and featured VIP contact numbers to call ahead to get your table reserved. The event was taken down shortly after, but looked to be serious, unfortunately.

I bring this up because I think it’s important to realize that the farther you get from the epicenter of Burner culture, the more distorted the messaging & the more non-Burner organizations exploit the loose understanding of what those parties are.  They have trouble with consent, and you might have a problem with random people there.

Of course, you couldn’t get away with it in San Francisco and other places along the California coast. Why would I go to a fake burner party if Opulent Temple or False Profit were doing something the same night. However, in NYC, we get a legit Burner party once a month, if that? When DiSORIENT & Kostume Kult are busy building their bonkers installations for the Esplanade, weeks go by. Unless you’re heading to the Hamptons on a regular basis, things do dry up a little bit. 

While it’s easy to just brush these parties aside as posers & brand building awareness, one of the central issues I have with them is their rejection of the 10 principles. A lot of these events aren’t camp-oriented, they don’t build community, they’re in no way radically inclusive & there is no gifting or leave no trace mentality. These parties don’t fundraise for dope camps, though they may still ask you to work for free. I think we’ve all been to at least 1 or 2 of these events. These shindigs talk about gifting & decommodification, then charge 7 bucks for water & can’t be bothered to care about a keg pull that’s half foam.

Many of you reading this may not think it’s your problem and you’d largely be right. I’d say we all have a responsibility to respect the principles & vote with our dollars as often as we can. If there’s one thing we can do, it’s support events that are thrown the right way, and go to causes that we all can believe in. Like, art on the playa and social activism in our cities. Not “Let’s help the promoter explore his coke habit.” What do you think? Is burner poser culture a problem? Just harmless fun for the kids? Is it causing non-Burners to get a distorted view of what true Burning Man events are supposed to be? Light up the comments & give me an earful either way.