What, You Didn’t Go to Burning Man Either?? What Kind of Silicon Valley Insider Are You??

So by now, most of you will have heard that Burning Man happened, on the playa at Black Rock, Nevada (I don’t know where that is either — somewhere near Reno, NV).

There were some incredible pictures of the artwork and semi-naked people wandering around covered in sand and dust and otherwise implying: “too bad, sucker, you missed out on all the fun we’re having!”.

A few years ago, Elon Musk (who, along with fellow Billionaire Mark Zuckerberg, is said to have attended this year’s Burningman), scoffed at another Silicon Valley entrepreneur: “He hasn’t even been to Burningman!”. It was meant to be an insult — as if the other guy (I can’t remember who it was), wasn’t a “real” Silicon Valley insider!

Life on the “playa”

I’ve lived in the heart of Silicon Valley for the past 10 years — in Mountain View, no less, where storied “real” Silicon Valley success stories like Google and Netscape hatched and grew. In fact, it’s a toss up whether Palo Alto (locaiton of Hewlett-Packard’s garage and Stanford University) or Mountain View (location of Fairchild semi-conductor and Steve Jobs legendary garage, in addition to the storied companies above), constitute the heart of Silicon Valley.

Alas, I didn’t make it to Burningman (or burningman, or Burning Man?) this year.

You didn’t either?

Well, don’t feel too bad. I get a pass this year since I was out of town and had doctors orders not to travel. I’m sure you had a good reason for missing it as did most of my “insider” friends in Silicon Valley.

Come to think of it, I was going to go a few years ago, but little things like runnig a startup, raising money, and my dislike of camping, dust, lack of hygiene, etc. all got in the way.

I remember a year, about 5 years ago, when it seemed like “jumping on the Burning Man bandwagon” was the thing to do and a friend was trying to arrange for a camper. Then again, I realized I really hate driving 5+ hours and then sitting in a car among thousands of cars for another 3+ hours to get into the playa. Good thing too because this year, after buying tickets for $1200 each, many attendees were held at the gates for hour s and hours — and could only go in when others left. My bladder can barely handle a drive to Berkeley through SF traffic, so I ended up not going. Come to think of it, I don’t think she went either.

Don’t get me wrong, I have lots of liberal friends who live in Silicon Valley (assuming you include SF in that broad definition), and like many of them, I support the idea of Burning Man, which was born out of the counterculture that was a key part of Silicon Valley in the 70’s and 80’s (and I suppose, 90s and beyond too). The idea of fraternity, artwork in the desert, anti-capitalism, relating to your fellow men (and women) freely and without pretense — getting back to basics, if you will, all sound great, in theory!

It reminds me a little of Woodstock. I read an article about Woodstock recently and alas, while I was too young to go (I was born a few months afterwards), I support the idea of a group of young people defying “the man” and the system — anti-war and free love and all that. They even had a yogi who led the throngs in meditation and yoga each morning — to which I say Yay!

But, I gotta admit, as I read the article about what it was really like — mud was everywhere and people didn’t bathe but stayed up all nigh listening to music all weekend. The Who (or the Doors, or someone like them), who was schedule to play Sunday night, didn’t get to play until Monday morning, and everyone was happy to stay up all night! Again, I like the idea, in theory — but the details — no deodorant, no showers … and all that facial and chest hair in all the pictures from the article … yuck!

Again, I like the idea of free spirited love and drugs and rock and roll just as much as the next liberal-minded tech guy. The truth is, in my mind’s eye i’m a super liberal suave connosieur of counter-culture who shows up at counter culture events, can handle orgies, free love and hobnob with celebrities like the Who and The Doors and Elon Musk and Zuck.

I guess the reality, though, is that i’m really just another computer geek who has never even smoked weed (maybe next year, now that’s it legal in California)and would rather spend time reading Lord of the Rings or watching Star Trek or coding in Solidity than wandering around half-naked on “the playa” being a “playa”. *sighs*.

The Burning Man

Come to think of it, I have probably 100+ friends on Facebook, including msany successful entrepreneurs who are well known in the halls of Silicon Valley entrepreneurship and VC-ship — and either because they are (or are considered) Silicon Valley “insiders” — I would’ve expected every self-respecting one of them to attend so I was looking forward to seeing pics on my social feed.

As far as I can tell —only two of my FB friends made it to Burning Man this year — they were both white women who are over 40 and have been going there for 20+ years. They were real “burners”, part of the community, so I can’t begrudge them the fun they were having and I wasn’t having. And of course, there was Elon and Zuck too — so I guess I know 4 people from Silicon Valley who were there!

So, if you are a “real” Silicon Valley entrepreneur (as opposed to a Billionaire or a burner), I wouldn’t worry if you didn’t make it to Burningman this year.

Like me, don’t feel so bad. Unlike Elon, I’m not sure that Burning Man qualifies you as a “real” Silicon Valley guy. Look at this picture — looks cool huh?

I’d say wandering around downtown Mountain View, the heart of the “real” Silicon Valley looks much more like the cast of “Crazy, Rich Asians” than the pictures of Burning Man which are circulating online (which are great, btw, love tehe models and the costumes)!

Maybe that explains it.

Wait, what?? You haven’t seend “Crazy Rich Asians” yet, either?

It’s OK, neither did I.

Though did I tell you that I live in the heart of Silicon Valley and I pretty much see Crazy Rich Asians every day just walking down the street …

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