As far as your favorite Appeal columnist is concerned, Burning Man is the gift that keeps on giving. Just when I think there’s nothing left to write about, the Burners and their coconspirators at the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) continue to generate newsworthy column material.
This year’s main issue is a request (or demand) for $1 million worth of fancy — even extravagant — accommodations and amenities at this year’s version of the annual X-rated event. According to Jenny Kane, the Reno Gazette-Journal’s new “Burning Man reporter” (Good luck, Jenny), Nevada BLM officials have asked for VIP accommodations at Burning Man, including flush toilets, electric washers and dryers, showers, air conditioning, refrigerators and 24-hour ice cream service out there on the desolate playa where so-called “free spirits” allegedly eschew anything that smacks of capitalism or creature comforts. But BLM bureaucrats aren’t free spirits; they’re self-important federal officials, and therein lies the rub, as we say out here in Flyover Country.
Following are examples of what state BLM officials have demanded from the Burners for their “Blue Pit” VIP residential area at the festival:
“Rental, placement and service of combination, two-suite restroom/wash basin/shower portable trailer unit.”
“One mobile laundry trailer with 5 washers and 5 dryers, folding tables and laundry sink.”
And 24-hour breakfast, lunch and dinner service including a host of “mandatory” items like hot peppers (especially tasty during desert sandstorms), salsa and around-the-clock ice cream. But wait, there’s more: “Factory-wrapped or resealable individually wrapped snacks ... with a combined minimum nutritional value of at least 600 calories.”
BLM’s Winnemucca-based district manager, Gene Seidlitz, defended his pricey demands by accusing the Burners of “robustly exaggerating” those requests, adding the BLM compound “will offer basic amenities (like hot peppers?) to top agency officials,” high-ranking federal bureaucrats who will be attending a naked drug festival. Tough duty.
“A lot of folks think we’re like participants in that we’re out there to enjoy the event and party,” Seidlitz told Ms. Kane, “but my staff and I have to be rested, well-nourished and accommodated to the bare minimum so that we can ensure health, safety and security at the event.” Nevertheless, BLM’s national director, Elko native Neil Kornze, said the Nevada request is “over the top,” so he may cut it back.
“We stand by our (one-million-dollar) estimate to accomplish what the Nevada BLM has required ...” replied Burning Man spokesman Jim Graham. The work requirements “were submitted well into our production cycle ... (and) include construction of an entirely new facility,” so the Burners will have to scramble to meet the requirements. Meanwhile, the anti-capitalist Burners will rake in nearly $25 million while BLM collects more than $4 million for allowing a Bay Area corporation to dump up to 70,000 “free spirits” onto a formerly pristine desert playa in a National Conservation Area.
Some of my critics will object yet again to any mention of drugs and kids at an X-rated bacchanal. Well, I refer them to a pair of left-wing media outlets, the New York Times and New York magazine, for verification of my accusations. Nick Bilton of the Times last year wrote drugs “are easier to obtain than candy at Halloween” and magazine writer Kevin Roose referred to the “drug-fueled debauchery” that occurs at Burning Man. Why else would well-heeled participants pay $400 or more to bake in the sun for several days in late August and early September? You tell me.
Just one request to the Burners: Please leave the kids home this year. Thank you.
Guy W. Farmer, of Carson City, is a longtime critic of Burning Man.