Flame Retardant: a questionable account of Burning Man 2012 (7 of 8)



I’m watching the Man burn from roof of the Death Star art car. It’s owners were generous enough to give a few of us Ducks a ride out into the playa. We couldn’t have asked for a better view. The burn itself is a fine display of pyrotechnics, even though it hasn’t emotionally moved me since my virgin year. Likewise, the Duckpond has become adept at breaking down camp and packing the trucks by mid-afternoon. Very few of our veterans and de facto leaders stay for Burn Night anymore. It’s ultimately a night for the virgins. I’ve come to vicariously enjoy this denouement of their week-long adventure. I’m with a group of them now. Seeing the firelight and wonder on their faces reminds me of my own virgin year.

I’ll continue coming back here until the light is too far from me to validate the effort. I miss the innocence of my first couple of burns, but have no need to mourn them. Most people’s taste for this event has a finite timeline. I’m already a relic. The magic of Burning Man will favor the newer burners, the newer Ducks, as much as it will be shaped by them. The sooner I embrace this reality, the more gracefully I’ll age.

But a couple of them did wear their clubhouse T-shirts tonight instead of actual costumes. Maybe we’ll work on that for next year.


So the Man is burning and I had to go drop a deuce of spades. Blame it on the Adderall. Unfortunately I couldn’t find a port-a-potty and ended up walking all the way back to the ones across from the Duck Pond. When I came out the fireworks had already begun. I’m circling the blaze from a mile away like some wary animal. Walking towards it doesn’t seem like a realistic option. I don’t know where to go or what I want. Too tired to dance and too numb to care. It’s fitting. The event and I have grown estranged. Some time apart might be in order.

I can hear the faraway cheers of the city’s population declaring in no uncertain terms that they are where the action is. They are a mirage. I’ve been chasing them for years but have never pinned them down.

I see the Man and it sees me. The party rages on and leaves me in the dust. I can admire the poetry in that.


They burn the thing. Great.

The massive assembly scatters quickly and the chaos of Amateur Night begins. Maybe that’s a little harsh, but Saturday is the time of the week that feels most like a Spring Break free-for-all. As the effigy collapses, so do many pretenses of civility.

Just today, Nadine caught two strangers fucking in her tent. Right on her bed. The dude had the casual, apologetic attitude of someone who had just caused a light fender bender.

I’m with Medium Tim, Nat and a couple of other Ducks making an abridged exploration around Burning Man. A few of us need to sleep enough to drive the trucks in the morning. But who knows? Maybe we’ll get into some last-minute mischief.

Probably not.

We find a bar that’s only serving drinks to people who pick up 10 pieces of MOOP (ground litter). I try but can’t find any. A rotund young fellow in a lizard-print kimono looks way more frustrated than I am. I let him have my flask and its contents.

Passing by Ashram Galactica, there’s a woman sitting outside with a boy maybe 8 years of age. His face is painted up. He likely did it himself. The kid, who I assume is her son, looks tired and unhappy. It’s clearly past his bedtime. Tim tells me to shut up even though I don’t say anything.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s