Burned Out

By Lexi Feinberg

Burning Man may only happen for one week every year, but many Burners spend the other 51 weeks fantasizing about it. It’s the Holy Grail that helps them tolerate tedious corporate jobs and the monotony of the default world. But for various reasons in this year of recession, some won’t be joining the festivities on the Playa.

“In my opinion, the event has gotten too large and has too high a percentage of people just there to party,” said six-time attendee Michael “Chef” McQueary. “The last time I went was 2007. While I had a wonderful week, the event had changed in ways that I don’t like … I’d rather leave with fond memories than come to hate what I’m seeing happen.”

Is it getting too mainstream? “Burning Man is changing,” said automattew, “and in ways that I don’t like particularly. It feels too crowded and too diluted. Part of the cultural difference that made it such a powerful experience is getting lost, and that’s unfortunate.” automatthew first attended eight years ago and hopes to take a break to fall in love with it again.

For others, the no-show is circumstantial. “I am serving in the United States Air Force,” said SSgt John “Kamikaze” Kelly, a former member of the Department of Public Works. But “the experience of working for Burning Man and living in the desert for a year was life transforming.”

Mayor Ratti can’t make it because he’s starting his own business, though he fully intends to return in 2010. “I’m so bummed I can’t go because I have this amazing Godzilla project that would be easy, inexpensive and awesome. I’m just going to have to save it for next time,” he said.

Speaking of money, the ailing economy is another factor that is crashing the party. Xian Lee, a graphic designer, has taken the trip seven times but can’t afford it in 2009. “It’s too expensive for me right now,” she said. “I live in New York City and would have to pay for airfare, car expenses, camping, equipment and accommodations, in addition to taking unpaid time off from work.” The current price for a 2009 ticket is $300, though some of the walk-in outlets

in California and Nevada may still have $280 ducats. Supplies and transportation can easily lift the total cost to $1,000, more if you’re coming from far away.

Tickets will be available at the Gate this year, last year’s presales-only policy having been rescinded, but they’ll run you $360.

The deadline for low-income and scholarship tickets has long passed, but for radically self-reliant Burners who are low on dough yet aching to go, there is one possible subsidized route to the Playa: volunteer to work at a theme camp that needs help.

You can post your availabilty on the social-networking site Tribe.net and Burning Man’s Eplaya bulletin board but brace yourself for some snark from Burners who disapprove of this short cut.

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