The Man is dead, long live the Man

BLACK ROCK CITY — It is quiet here this morning. The rave camps have settled down, fire-spewing trinkets have ceased exploding, and the only citizens of Black Rock City out at this hour, just after 8 a.m., are dazed as they wander through the detritus of dead glowsticks, dusty embers, and unconscious hippies.

The Burning Man, wooden centerpiece of the Burning Man arts and countercultural festival in Black Rock City, Nevada, burned just around 10 p.m. last night, amid cries of "Last time was better!" (It was; the Man didn't catch on fire so well.) Such fond memories of Burning Man arsonist Paul Addis's handiwork were, shortly thereafter, completely obliterated by the detonation of San Francisco artist Dan Das Mann's wooden sculpture, "Crude Awakening."

The ;piece began with the wail of an air-raid siren that announced the 1,000-foot safety perimeter was in full effect. The impromptu carnival of art cars, roaming robots, fire twirlers, and drunken frat boys came to a halt as everyone gaped at a fireworks show so spectacular ... how spectacular? The only thing this reporter can say about it is that there's certainly no carbon footprint there, oh no — Burning Man sure is sticking to its Green Man theme. Not.

The moment was capped by a refinery's worth of propane and jet fuel pumped at high pressure through
the centerpiece of the project, a nine-story-tall wooden replica of an oil derrick. The biggest mushroom cloud outside of wartime welcomed us to our newly warmed environment as the jet fuel burned with a
shriek like the world's largest police whistle. The tower took a fair time to fall, and when it finally did the Burning Man participants surrounding it did what Burning Man participants always do, which is run, mostly naked, toward the raging inferno. Survival of the fittest is a wonderful thing.

Afterwards, the chaos of having no Man in the center of the city by which to navigate led to loud, raucous, and crazed revelry in the streets. Grown men hugged each other. Impotence compensation in the form of bigger and better flamethrowers took over the darkness. Drunken frat boys became BFFs with tripping hippies. The party lasted until well after dawn, with art pieces burning here and there, the bass on the sound tents cranked all the way and thousands and thousands of citizens of Black Rock City making the desert shake with their dancing.

It was like that rave scene in The Matrix: Reloaded, only tragically real.