The Loh Life is writer/performer Sandra Tsing Loh's weekly take on life, family, and pop culture in early 21st century Southern California.
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Burning Man Made Easy, Part One: Burning Man Versus The Cheese Nun





Sandra Tsing Loh plans a trip to the "Burning Man" festival with someone who is not your typical "Burning Man" candidate.

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with The Loh Life. Today's topic: Burning Man Made Easy. Part One: Burning Man Versus The Cheese Nun.

So my friend Lily, not her real name, for reasons of residency in Los Angeles, is turning 50, in September.

And she's planning to do something about it, to attack it head on!

"It was either Paris or Burning Man!" Lily declared smartly. "And the euro is so strong."

Understand that Lily is not your traditional Burning Man candidate. She works in translation. She is a khaki pants wearer. She is a knitter. Her life is quiet. Her cat has allergies. It was Lily who turned me on to "The Cheese Nun" series on PBS.

But at a coffeehouse recently, she ran into a male friend of ours who has been going for years to Burning Man, that annual modern primitive celebration complete with drugs and nudity and pyrotechnics in the Nevada desert, because of the art! That's right, the art! The incredible art!

And it's true, if you look at the photos and news coverage and video that comes out of Burning Man, the stuff they build does look incredible.

"But if you attend Burning Man, Lily," I said... I was imagining Lily with her flotilla of cucumber moisturizers, the retainer she sleeps with, the orthopedic lifts, high-water khaki pants, and the big yellow Sunbrella hat, wrinkling her nose and irritably waving away the incense.

"I think if you and I attend," I amended...

For that was the proposition, that Lily and I attend Burning Man together. Like a flustered Emma Thompson and Judi Dench in some gentle Miramax summer comedy gone horribly awry.

"Lily," I said, "if middle-aged ladies like us attend, I think it will literally end Burning Man. As cosmically powerful as the Man is, ablaze with his orgasmic primitive communal luminescence, I think our very presence, and the indigestion, and the Clinique satchels of dermal hydrating lotion we bring along with us? I think even the 500-foot tall Burning Man is no match for the periomenopausal female unhipness we bring that will utterly besmirch his Dionysian festival."

"Because that's the thing," I worried further. "Due to the excessive heat, we're going to have to bare our flappy upper arms. And even in their mad ecstasy haze, fellow Burning Man revelers will recognize us as not being the nubile tattooed twentysomething libidinous females twirling fire that I believe the Man favors."

"I just went on the Web site," Lily retorted. Always a bad sign, when she goes to the Web site. "And the essence of Burning Man is that there are no boundaries. No one is excluded."

"Well then," I said. "I suppose we could build, to represent ourselves, a giant Cheese Nun."

"Not bad!" she says.

"Oh no," I say.