The Steampunk World

Being the continued explorations of a living steampunk.

The steampunk world is all around us, lying just out of sight, in a continuous thread of steampunk builders and culture that extends from the Victorian era to the present. You'll find no science fiction here: This is real life steampunk.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Toasted Dude, part II
First off, let me say that there is no way I could accurately portray this event in mere words. You can browse pictures all day and all night and start to get an inkling but you still would be blown away if you saw it in person. Just think of it this way: 40,000 party people show up in an environment where there are very few rules. What happens? The answer is, everything. Any impression you have about this being a hippie event or a raver event or a survival event is wrong. There's 40,000 people there! That means that many, many sections of party society are represented. Besides hippies and ravers, there's the mad scientists who are only interested in a place where their creations are legal. There's the middle-age swingin' couples who hate wearing clothes. There's the club gays and their 24-hour sex fest. There's the dread-necks and their crazy brand of mountain man hippieness. There's the tank girls and the goths and the rivetheads and the oonce-oonce types. There's the bike club types and the radical marching band types and the ren-fest types. There's kinksters and bay-area artists and dumb rich kids looking for a good time. I met one guy who found out about the event because he was just out in the desert one day and saw something on the horizon. I met crazy military types just back from Afghanistan and weird-beard wasteoid types who coulda been juggalos. If you're one of those people who bitches about it but never went (like I was) then I'll tell you a secret: There's a huge party going on behind your back.

So who's not there? Well, anybody poor. The cost of getting there and surviving is so high that basically any nonpriveleged section of society is not represented. This event was whiter than a John Mayer concert. So the hip-hop party people weren't really there, and neither were the crusties and the punks (except those working for DPW which really isn't that many, there were 90 of us after the event so maybe a couple hundred total). There also weren't any religious types or any prudes or anybody trying to hold back the tide of sin and indulgence. Everyone you met was positive and supporting, every comment was an encouraging one, and you were welcome to walk up to any individual and start a conversation. Everybody was your friend.

It was odd seeing all this from the position of the inside. DPW jokes about the hippies like vampires view humans, as a sort of cattle that supports them. But it's friendly because they all know if it weren't for the rich hippies it couldn't happen. Still, a large amount of entertainment for DPW was making fun of the attendees. I think this attitude might be encouraged by the fact that everyone there was such a lightweight puss that DPW parts the crowd like The Warriors walking into a Care Bears bar. The only people that came close were the Death Guild types, and those fruity goths have a little too much eyeliner on if you ask me. Time and time again people told me that my dress and bike make me fit right in, and when I told them I had no idea and didn't change anything they said, "Welcome home". As cheesy as that sentiment is, I really felt it: Like Black Rock City is the place where all us freaks are from.

Before the event began, I liked to walk around and talk to anybody I saw working on anything cool. After the event begins there's a thousand people asking stupid questions so this becomes a little more difficult. Also, when it comes to gifts of booze and food, there's sort of a cascading expectation where new arrivals are expected to give to people who had been there longer. The attendees seemed to be in awe of DPW because they spend so much time out there, but come on it was rough but not THAT rough. Still, that just added to the element of feeling like the VIP at the party. Not to mention having access to places the public can't go and watching the higher-ups run the party from the inside. I think I would have had an entirely different impression had I merely attended. I might have even been more critical of the mass consumption and waste.

That's actually a common critique, that this is some event for the rich and it's all about consumption. That's certainly true, but by the end I understood it more: Most of these people spend the whole year trying to make the world a better place. As a reward, they get one week. Why not give them that? What's so bad about this party versus four hundred other parties with 100 attendees, happening all over in every city? It gives us hope and reminds us of the ideal society that we're working towards. It makes us believe it can happen.

So, anyway, in walking around I found the Kinetic Steamworks guys and their steam traction engine. That was it, I knew what I was going to do with my time. Every day after work I'd rush over to their camp and they'd be just getting up and going and I'd try to help as much as I could without getting in the way. I would rather haul firewood for a steam engine than go to some massive orgy of sex and drugs anyway. Probably the most helpful I ever became was just standing there answering the stupid questions: "Is that real?" "Is that really a tractor?" "Did you make that?" But I learned a lot and was tremendously inspired.

Actually there was a huge steampunk presence this year. Never Was had their victorian house on wheels and their weird steam-cart thing from The Makers. There was even a steampunk bar. The traction engine was there to run a carousel and a sauna, as well as pull a tender around and give rides. They had installed a locomotive whistle that sounded great, and whenever I heard it I'd bust over there on my chopper and run forward escort keeping the drunken hippies from getting run over. I'll tell you right now that my favorite moment of the whole week was just cruising around with these guys. They'd installed some propane torches to light the thing up and (thankfully) they made you take off your blinkies and neon and put on pants if you wanted to ride on it. So they'd have a tender full of folks and the whole thing was lit only by flame and it just looked so out of place and so, so, SO MUCH like my dreams.


Post a Comment

<< Home