September 6, 2006

on bonobo mesa, pt. 1

I'm going to update the sidebar sometime soon (relative to the heat-death of the universe), but one piece I really wanted to make sure I linked to: my review of Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie's Lost Girls, over at Salon.

The project I brought with me to Burning Man this year was called Green Light, although I didn't use that name when I told anyone about it. Lisa designed permission slips from the Black Rock City Dept. of Permissions--an official-looking form, which we had printed in pads, with carbonless duplicates. I asked people what they wanted permission for, what its potential risks and rewards were, and if they needed someone to cosign. (Any action requiring someone's consent called for that person or entity to cosign.) Then I'd approve it--conditionally, if it needed to be cosigned.

There were some fairly evident patterns in what people wanted permission for, as you'll see. I discovered that it was nearly impossible to get good answers from people traveling in couples or groups, since they always had to confer with each other on what they wanted permission for, and had to come up with something that sounded bland and non-needy but also amusing. A number of people gave me the "I do whatever I want"/"I don't need anyone's permission for anything" response--much more often men than women. Occasionally I encountered somebody who was just aching to be given the go-ahead for something--usually to experience a particular emotion. I ended up filling out around 250 slips, I think.

Here are some of the things people asked for permission to do, with a few of the better risk/reward combinations noted:

Sing out at the top of my lungs
Stay out past my bedtime every night
Thump my ex-fiancÚ (Risk: won't feel better. Rewards: will feel better)
Get an emotional all-access pass
Bitch at people who don't help put up my dome
Fly, hover and levitate
Dance burlesque (Risk: hitting someone with bra. Rewards: enriching community with nudity)
Not do a goddamned useful thing all week
Round up a parade of boys painted blue, with pigtails, at least 20 of them, to schlep me around (Rewards: kisses)
Be fully honest internally and externally
Take a three-hour siesta in the middle of the day
Have lots of sex (Risk: lack of sleep. Rewards: giggles)
Hug strangers (Risk: weird flu. Rewards: spreading love)
Complain about BMORG
Make up new words (Risk: ridicule, lack of acceptance, belittling. Rewards: own Wikipedia entries, capture things in a gloopier way)
Be shaved by a stranger
Go through the gate of Spike's Vampire Bar at will (Risk: decapitation, stake through heart, garlic. Rewards: immortality)
Run around alone all day
Spank my kids, 10 or 11 times each (Risk: they might giggle. Rewards: obedience) [this woman's 3 young kids were standing next to her at the time, giggling]
Miss my Reno flight tomorrow without bad feelings
Let myself fail
Really silly dancing with my baps out (Risk: damage to soft parts, ego-worship. Rewards: minions)
Group sex with at least four people
Hide (Risk: people forget to look for you. Rewards: get to make small animal noises)
Find time to write in my journal
Have three threesomes or one ninesome (Risk: awkward geometries, elbowings. Rewards: joy multiplied)
Give my boyfriend's partners the evil eye
Hula-hoop naked
Three gratuitous flirtatious actions without karmic imbalance
Tapdance on a drunk person's head
Grow up a little bit (1/3 to 1/5) (Risk: too many martinis, forgetting how to play. Rewards: breakfast, see friends with smile lines)
Throw people away and not feel bad
Lose a little NYC
Be a shirtcocker (Risk: uncomfortable gravitational pull. Rewards: freedom (nether))
Accept that I'm leaving on Friday and still have fun
Fulfill all my wildest dreams
Stay faithful to my boyfriend
Frolic and lollygag
Be submissive and promiscuous
Use friend's shower in RV (Risk: sex. Rewards: sex)
Anger (across the board) (Risk: alienating people, breaking stuff. Rewards: getting stuff done, saying necessary things)
Boulder up the side of the main library naked
Next time at a strip joint, go to the back room (Risk: might like it too much. Rewards: might finally come) [This was a woman of 40 or so--heartbreaking!]
Open heart and receive
Be a fucken bad girl (sic)
Start a garden (Risk: miserable beginners' failure; terrible sunburn. Rewards: yummy food (self-grown); more beneficial bugs)
Chill the fuck out
Be absurdly late to everything all day (Risk: might get there after food & booze gone. Rewards: not leaving amazing things)
Wear edible candy costuume
Kiss sister on lips
Take advantage of [ ] for any given amount of time and degree of lewdness (Risk: could take > 1 wk. recovery. Rewards: overall sense of euphoria, childlike rejuvenation)
Start my own art gallery
Express love and joy, even though [ ] is in a "committed" relationship
Take a masseur or masseuse hostage
Sneak into Burning Man '07 (Risk: suffocation, dehydration, trouble. Rewards: keeping anarchy alive, using creativity fully)
Take a full day for myself
Adopt a gnome, no questions asked
Mock anyone with a bullhorn (Risk: unwanted projectile bullhorn injury. Rewards: make many new friends)
Not shower for a week
Let go of ego
Be a bitch
Stop worrying about body image and hipness
Work as hard as I can on my camp, but no harder
Forgive myself for betraying my boyfriend
Not have to see every single thing
Not drink alcohol
Get as drunk as [ ] (Risk: falling down on bike. Rewards: not having to babysit)
Be upset
Find booty
Go to the bathroom at 3 AM
Make out with a chick
Take more than an hour of refuel time for my brain
Not wait to find someone; be proactive and think about it a lot
Not hit my ankle with rebar
Excessively violent capture and subjugation of wild animals and other undesirables (Risk: diseases (blood-borne). Rewards: gold teeth pilfered from playa)


Lessons of the week:
1) Having permission to do something is not the same as having the ability to do it.
2) Needs are not the same thing as desires, and there are very few of them; desires are often mistaken for needs.

Posted by Douglas at September 6, 2006 9:43 AM | TrackBack
Comments

Seems that most people were actually aware that they had the ability to fulfill these needs. They were asking you if it was alright to feel good about it and not embarassed or ashamed.

For some reason I really want to know whether the "Kiss sister on lips" person was a man or a woman.

And what did YOU ask Permission for?

Posted by: liz_noise on September 7, 2006 6:34 AM

I really liked this. I need to remember you read this bloglet more often.

Also, I would have asked permission give MYSELF permission to do what I want to do. "What I want to do" being general amorphous and finicky. But, seriously, I waited for so many years for someone to give me permission to do what I wanted to do, before I realized I could just, you know, grant it myself.

My permission slip is downright masturbatory.

Posted by: bitterbyrden on September 12, 2006 3:08 PM
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