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A Burner Lexicon: Decompression

Posted in A Burner Lexicon, and Burning Man

Giant Marble Maze at Burning Man Decompression. San Francisco, 2007. Image by Mik Scheper.

Decompression, –noun, If you’ve been underwater and you come up too fast, you can get the bends. If your re-entry to the default world is too abrupt you may suffer from the psychic equivalent, as your brain struggles to readjust to a world where everyone isn’t potentially your friend and you can’t wake up every morning to free pancakes and mimosas served by your kindly neighbor in an airstream. Decompression is what happens as you adjust to reality camp.

Happily, there are Decompression parties and sometimes even small campouts. These are typically held in the first weeks or months following a major event. Much like with regional events, the Burning Man organization has attempted to control what events are “official” Burning Man decompression with others using alternate terms. As usual, no one pays much attention to this: decompression is decompression.

I happened to be in San Francisco for that city’s Decompression party in 2007. They shut down a couple blocks near a bar and all kinds of attractions from that year’s event were recreated. In addition to the giant marble maze and the monkey zoetrope, what I remember most was a very special theme camp.

You stepped inside a sealed environment and high-powered fans were turned on. The tent was full of playa dust, creating an artificial dust storm. It was the perfect way to get the feeling (and look) of being back at That Thing In The Desert. It was also a perfect example of how Burners romanticize even some of the least pleasant aspects of their events.

Other entries in A Burner Lexicon can be found at

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