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StraightEdge at BurningMan

Do sober kids have fun with users? Fuck yes. We have more fun than the users!

The following is an old blog-post written by Mark McBride in 2008; It's fair length.

Some background on terms here for those of you that may not be familiar: "StraightEdge" is a movement that sprung out of the American Hardcore punk scene of the early 80s. Back then a band called Minor Threat started railing against drinking, smoking and doing drugs. The kids rebelled against being "poisoned". At the same time you had a band called 7 Seconds who was putting out positive hardcore in an otherwise very violent and negative genre. Other bands started getting on board with music that is aggressive and exciting but the message became about living clean, unity with your friends, anti-addiction and such. The movement is built on the punk ideals of rebellion and anti-authority so it is very poorly dogmatized; that is to say there are 3 rules: Don't drink, Don't smoke, Don't do drugs, but everything after that is up for interpretation. People sign on for many reasons and have reshaped the cause a million ways, but the core is still their: strength through clarity.

On what would seem like the opposite end of the spectrum is an arts festival held each year in the desert 70 miles north of Reno called "Burning Man". Forty to a hundred thousand people (depending on who's numbers you believe), head out to a dry lake bed to camp and party. It is a raver and hippie paradise. A week long party with techno music, crazy art installations, rolling bars that look like a parade that got broken up, optional clothing, and (relatively) unenforced drug laws, culminating in the burning of a giant wooden structure called The Man. It's like the Love Parade in Berlin or Carnival in Rio thrown forward into a post-apocalyptic, Mad-Max wonderland.

As you may guess (or perhaps thought yourself reading the subject line of this blog) Burning Man, with its bright colors, poor bathing, rampant drinking and drug-use, and lack of social bounds, would seem to be in stark contrast to the rigor, aggression and unsedatedness of being Straight Edge... but yet I thoroughly enjoy both.

At one point in history I was asked in a dark apartment by a woman sitting naked with a stiff Jack and Coke, "Why do you go to Burning Man? You don't drink or do drugs. What do you get out of it?"

"It's a good time."

This year I got to Burning Man on Monday and left six days later on Sunday. Once I get there I put my wallet, phone and keys in a plastic bag and lock them in the glove compartment of the car until I leave. What I carry with me is earplugs, chapstick and a grin. On Friday I thought it was Thursday. It was around 3am and someone was talking about how the Man was going to Burn tomorrow, Saturday.

But tomorrow is Friday.

Nope, it was Saturday. I skipped a day and I still haven't figured out where it went. My buddy Miah thought that this was the funniest fucking thing he'd heard in a while. The only sober guy around was missing time like the drunkest of them.

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