The Great Metropolis Face-off, Burning Man vs. the Big Apple, round 7: living the dream

The Big Apple, thanks to a rehabbed image (i.e., I heart NY), now inspires visitors and denizens to live the dream. Visitors avidly pursue a checklist of the hot restaurants, coffee shops, clubs, museums, shows, and parks that they should patronize, lest they miss out. Others imagine that their social and cultural lives will improve with a move to the big city. For those of us who live and work here, enjoying NYC’s amenities requires effort, particularly when coping with a demanding career and other responsibilities.

Recently, two Burner friends and their 1.5 year-old baby visited NYC. Normally, we only get to visit while living and volunteering at Black Rock City, so it was interesting to duplicate some activities with them in the Big Apple.

Getting together with a bunch of people in…
…the Big Apple: everyone arrived between 20 to 40 minutes late due to public transportation, work, etc.

…Black Rock City: everyone rolls in on playa time.

Enjoying participatory art in…
…the Big Apple: We visited the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) where the baby’s presence triggered interactions and reactions that even the notoriously “odd” sociologist Erving Goffman or performance artist Marina Abramovic’s participatory art could not provoke. One person immediately bestowed upon my friends an extra, free ticket that they couldn’t use. Several patrons smiled at the baby, including two young women who turned away from watching Abramovic at work to interact with the baby. Two different security guards, a man and woman, both cooed at the baby. However, a few patrons displayed or verbalized their displeasure within earshot of my friends when the baby let out a few complaining noises. To soothe the baby, my friend pushed her stroller around me and Abramovic’s vehicle; she counted off the circles, in homage to one of Abramovic’s performances.

…Black Rock City: lots and lots of art, small and large, that don’t involve climate control, guards, or a bag check.

Finding a bathroom in:
…Black Rock City: relatively easy, just look for the colorful banks of portable toilets and bring your own hand sanitizer.

…the Big Apple: not-so-easy, after a fruitless stop at a fast food restaurant, we had to go to a friend’s apartment.

Learning about art-making in:
…Black Rock City: easy, just walk up to the artist and ask. Maybe s/he will give you a lesson.

…the Big Apple: possible if friend whose apartment you need to visit for the bathroom happens to be a working artist.

Commuting in:
…Black Rock City: easy to walk, bike, or hitch a ride with an art car. Bicycling is a lot of fun under the starry sky.

…the Big Apple: involves lugging a baby carriage up and down the stairs because some subway stations don’t have working elevators, triggering a group effort. No stars, unless you pass by a movie set on the way.

Our friends have returned home after a whirlwind visit; hopefully, we will get to repeat our activities in Black Rock City.

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