If we didn't attend the week-long Burning Man festival in Nevada every year, we probably wouldn't be the deeply spiritual, open-minded individual that we are today. We'd just be another emotional eunuch living in America, ignorant in the ways of radical self-expression. Sadly, we and our collection of fruit-flavored body paints and hovercrafts won't be able to go hang out on the Black Rock City playa this year, because last week festival tickets completely sold out for the first time in its 25-year history.
Tickets are still floating around in this great cosmic universe of ours, of course—you just have to buy them at grossly inflated prices, from capitalists whose business practices completely undermine the spirit and purpose of Burning Man's community-centric ethos:
People on eBay have bid more than $1,500 for a single ticket - more than four times the highest retail priced ticket at $360. StubHub is selling tickets from $1,270 to $250,000.
That profit-seeking spirit is quite the departure from the money-free economy that operates on the Burning Man playa, where the community thrives on gifting and communal welfare and the only allowed commercial transactions are for ice and coffee.
As one burner points out, festival organizers themselves aren't helping matters:
"You can't have it both ways. You can't say we're radically inclusive and then say we will only have 52,000 tickets," he said.
Mortgaging the house to go sit in a desert to share ice and coffee with some naked, scraggily-bearded performance artists riding around on DIY bikes has got to be one of the most tempting offers we've ever had to consider. But at the end of the party, after we've run out of laundered hemp loincloths and fresh cowboy hats, and listened to our KMFDM discography at least 12 times, and the symbolic man's been set on fire, we still need a place in the cold, unfeeling world in which to live, and money to pay for our smartphone and cable television. What to do.
Hmm, maybe host our own Burning Man-type festival? Now, I'm no events planner, but it seems that by following these simple steps it's possible to fashion a reasonable facsimile:
- Find a field, desert, farm, abandoned ghost town, empty shopping center, or barge, and work out some rental deal with the owner. Since this is your first festival, maybe limit the party to a long weekend. Make sure there's ample parking space for all the tricked-out vans and art cars.
- Make up a festival name that includes the word "burning," and create a website and social media strategy for promotional purposes. Don't forget to add a shopping cart feature so that people can pay for tickets.
- Recruit a bunch of volunteers to help you run the event. You'll need people to work the door, people to help out with minor medical issues, people to mediate disputes fueled by drugs or alcohol, and people to hand out balloons and glow sticks. Maybe your family will be interested.
- Hire a professional events planner to come up with a schedule of radical art and self-awareness activities. If you can't think of anyone off-hand who has this type of specialized experience, look in the phone book.
- With some of your volunteers, design and craft an effigy of some sort, for setting-on-fire purposes.
- Hire a vegan caterer to provide food for the event.
- Open the gates and wait for everyone to show up.
While we sit here and think about holding our own festival, why don't you go ahead and start organizing your own? Just make sure that you charge a reasonable price. Counter-culture's not supposed to happen over-the-counter, man. It's supposed to be something you feel in your heart.
[San Francisco Chronicle, Image via AP]