Visitors enter Container Park in November in the shadow of a praying mantis sculpture that breathes fire from the Burning Man festival. The writer argues “it seems disingenuous to me when Container Park tries to capitalize on underground culture” while embracing corporate culture and pushing away teens.
Last month U.S. District Senior Judge Robert C. Jones attacked lawyers representing both the Burning Man Festival and Pershing County where the festival is held.
He said the legal arrangements they’d agreed upon in regards to the festival were “virtually a fraud.” He also attacked the lawyers personally, calling one “mealy-mouthed” and telling another to “go back to law school.” He also mocked and laughed at them on record.
No one’s entirely sure what sparked his outburst, but some speculate that he simply hates hippies.
Other than the fact that he gets to wear a long black robe to work, there seems to be nothing remarkable about Judge Jones. He was born here in Las Vegas, is very active within his church (LDS) and is against gay marriage. He’s clearly concerned about the innocence of children being protected at this festival of taboo. But so are the parents who bring their children there. They might be offering up prayer at a different kind of temple, but they still love and respect their children as much as anyone else.
When the local entrepreneurial class discovered Burning Man early on in the downtown redevelopment saga, I wondered if somehow they missed the whole point. The fire-dancers, fire-breathing robot sculptures, costume parades, tiny spaceships and burning 20-foot tall effigies have all been pretty cool, but I always thought of Burning Man as a rebellious and socially transformative force, something the entrepreneurial class would run away from in shame and fear.
Then again, it’s a long time since I’ve been to Burning Man.
Still, it seems disingenuous to me when Container Park tries to capitalize on underground culture, with that big praying mantis and geodesic dome stationed out front like a gateway to the playa. Container Park is nothing like Burning Man. There’s a Disney store out front and they don’t want teens hanging out after dark. Adding insult to injury, the Las Vegas City Council ordered a 9 p.m. First Friday curfew and started frisking, searching and asking people to show identification like Stasi foot soldiers on Fremont Street.
The under-aged crowd has so few public places to hang out that they’ve descended on First Friday like locusts with earlobe plugs, turning what was once a pleasant arts and crafts gathering into a bottle-necked cavalcade of noise, revelry and covert marijuana tokes. Making these kids suddenly disperse at the moment some arbitrary curfew sets in will only make them more vulnerable.
Don’t treat them like cockroaches. If the goal is to protect the innocent, the first step is for everyone to stop attacking the innocent.
Need we go down the long list of all-age venues that have fallen by the wayside? Even the cool coffee shops have disappeared, like Café Enigma (the one that the old local hipsters still talk about) or Espresso Roma, where The Killers got their start. Starbucks and the rest of the cookie-cutter coffee shops just aren’t cool hangouts, and proudly displaying a copy of Naked Lunch on the front counter doesn’t exactly make you a beatnik. If a coffee shop wants to be cool, it’ll have to put up with at least half a dozen kids continually hanging around not buying anything.
So maybe it’s time to give a little ground to all those teens you can’t stand or understand. Let them have more public space and let them at least get a foot in the real world before it’s too late. Get them off the internet and away from the television. There’s plenty of room out here for them to dream and to explore, especially since this city was built on idiotic wish-fulfillment fantasies. Is it the new normal for teens to be shunned from the streets, or can Las Vegas find room for them? If we can’t, then I believe any kind of culture we build here will be, in Judge Roberts’ words, “virtually a fraud.” CL