The Essayist

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The Old Man at Burning Man

Wells Tower takes his Dad to Burning Man. (This is bliss.)

We pick a campsite in a quiet neighborhood on an outer ring of the city. To one side of us, some rather abject fraternity gentlemen cower in the lee of their Subaru having Heineken brews. Our closest neighbors are several women in their thirties whom James Dean promptly diagnoses as “horny” by means of divination lost on the rest of us.

The professors mix up a batch of gin and tonics while Cam and I lash our miserable little Walmart gazebo to the chassis of the RV. I am tempted to nap in its washcloth-sized patch of shade, but my father has other plans. My father is dressed in adventure sandals, cargo shorts, a muslin tunic he bought in Thailand, and a nouveau legionnaire’s chapeau complete with trapezius snood. Through a pair of dime-store spectacles ($4.99 price tag still on the lens) he is reading today’s schedule of events. We have a happy range of activities from which to choose. Something called the Adult Diaper Brigade is welcoming participants. There is also “Make a Genital Necklace,” “Fisting With Foxy,” “3rd Annual Healthy Friction Circle Jerk,” and “Naked Barista.” Not all the offerings are lascivious. Some are educational (“Geology of the Black Rock Desert”), creative-anachro-geeky (“Excalibur Initiation and Dragon Naming Ceremony”), culinary (“FREE FUCKIN’ ICE CREAM!!”), and spiritual (“Past Life Regression Meditation”). None of these options are seriously entertained.

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