Archives for August 2014

Striking Burning Man



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In years past, I would have felt a certain twinge of regret during this, the last week of August, because I am once again not at Burning Man, the annual desert arts festival that for half a decade became more or less the organizing principle of my life. I met some of my best friends there, had some of the greatest times I can remember, as well as a few that I can’t.

But that was a long time ago — the late ’90s and early ’00s, to be precise — and parenthood and geography and the rising costs of the objectively ridiculous particulars of surviving in an unambiguously hostile climate have combined to keep me away.

Whatever lingering desire I may have had to go out there again was strangled last year, when one of my best friends, with whom I attended all six of my burns back in the day, came back and reported that he’d waited in line in his car for eight hours to get into the event. That was pretty much a wrap on Burning Man for me, at least until I can afford to parachute in. (The soaking rain that closed the gate for a day earlier this week, and exacerbated the already ridiculous wait for Will Call tickets, was just the icing on the No Thank You cake.)

This week was also the week that we finally got our contractor to show up and do the job that we agreed on in the spring: removing our old backyard fence and replacing it with a nicer, taller one, fixing a piece of rusted-out crown molding at the edge of the roof, and taking away the four barrels full of dirt in the center of the yard. (The boy and I are playing a lot of catch these days and those barrels are in the way.)

Disposal of all this stuff required that we rent a dumpster and have it parked out front for a couple of days, which I saw as an opportunity to get rid of some of the considerable amount of clutter our basement and back yard have accumulated. The old AC unit, the scrap wood, the old paint cans… I asked my wife what else we should toss.

“The windows?” She said this tentatively, knowing I didn’t want to hear it, but also knowing that this was not the first time she had made this suggestion.

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Confronting Ferguson

vigil-missouri

Like everyone else, I’ve been sucked into the Internet rabbit hole that is Ferguson, Missouri over the last two weeks, watching with horror as a town just a couple of miles from the house my parents first brought me home to erupted in a series of clashes between protesters and police that would not seem out of place in 1960s Mississippi or even 2004 Iraq.

The inciting incident, the fatal shooting of an unarmed 18-year-old by a police officer, is tragic no matter how you look at it, but the fact that the officer was white, the kid was black, and this happened right after the NYPD strangled a guy on the street for no apparent reason, and while the Trayvon Martin debacle is so fresh in all our minds, charged the whole thing with a racial tension that quickly spiraled out of control, into a full fortnight of rioting and looting and arrests and tear gas.

As with so many hot-button issues these days, some clear battle lines have been drawn here, and everyone seems to be firmly on one side or the other: A racist cop killed an innocent, college-bound 18-year-old kid for no reason, or an upright police officer with a spotless record killed a thug who assaulted the cop and got what he asked for.

Why is everyone so certain it’s not a little bit of both?

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Forgetting Robin Williams


Robin Williams

I wasn’t going to write about Robin Williams in this space. When I heard the news about his death I didn’t really feel shock or sadness or anything. He’s a celebrity, not my uncle. With very few exceptions, celebrity deaths have never much moved me for reasons that are as unclear as they are uninteresting.

I was even kind of glib about it for a minute. Probably 15 minutes after I saw the news and digested the few but painfully ample details, I tweeted:

I chuckled to myself, I thought it was a good joke. Because instead of thinking about the man, I was thinking about this huge ridiculous Bullshit Machine that we’re all living in, and how it was going to take this sad news and use it to blot out the sun for at least a couple of cycles, help us forget the taste of Iraqi quicksand and domestic police rioting by wallowing in this man’s consummated pain. (I happened to be at a lake house with my folks when we heard the news. My dad’s reaction: “The good news is, the TV here is broken.”)

I was thinking about this insane Bullshit Machine that will poke and prod at every detail about how this man died, and pretend that they made it easy on him. I imagined all the same pop-culture bloggers (who I eagerly read on a daily basis) who have been shitting all over everything this man has done for the last 15 years lining up to lionize him and mourn the loss of an artistic voice they’d all long since quit paying attention to.

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