“Press Button for Quick Service”
“A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between their work and their play; their labor and their leisure; their mind and their body; their education and their recreation. They hardly know which is which. They simply pursue their vision of excellence through whatever they are doing, and leave others to determine whether they are working or playing. To themselves, they always appear to be doing both.”
– L. P. Jacks in Education through Recreation (1932)
We had work to do—a contract to procure—but we wanted to turn it into play—performance art.
We were going to be in Reno, Nevada—that amazing city immortalized in song by Jonathan Richman—heading towards the Burning Man event. This was Tammy’s 3rd journey to That Thing In The Desert, AleXander’s 9th.
We got an idea.
The ability to get a quickie divorce in Reno is the stuff of movies and pop songs going back to the 1930s, but we chose to avail ourselves of that city’s equally quick wedding services. So on 25 August 2013 we signed on the dotted line at the Washoe County Clerk’s office to get—like you need to own a dog or drive a car or go fishing—a license!
We had been life/love/art partners for three years—prime-mates—living together happily, snug as bugs in rugs. We had both been married previously and were not interested in submitting to any of the traditional and/or sentimental customs surrounding this legally binding contract.
Our specific legal needs for the contract came from Mr Taxman — who offered financial breaks if we submitted to the social contract, Mr Capitalist Healthcare—AleXander had health insurance through his job and could get coverage for Tammy, and Mr Landlord—who would only allow AleXander onto Tammy’s lease for the rent-stabilized Manhattan apartment if he uttered those time-honored words: I do. And so, as soon as we hit town, we began the performance.
We were amidst the legal and cultural constrictions of “Matrimony”. Even at Burning Man so many of the connubial stereotypes get re-enacted. Our agenda—subvert the associated cliches into our own fun spectacle.
We chose a drive-thru chapel — in a rented mini-van!— and lucked out with finding a $50-off discount coupon online. There was the cigarette smoking pregnant minister—but that’s another story. The vows did not demand “forsaking all others” and ended with “from this day forward”—instead of “til death do us part”. We approved.
It was indeed fast, cheap and ironically out-of-control — serving our decision to subvert this “institution of marriage” — taking the parts we needed — while discarding the validations of the spiritual and romantic cultural baggage.
For us ~
Nothing old, nothing new.
Nothing borrowed, nothing blue.
No rings or names exchanged, no caterers, no gift registries.
No Mr. or Mrs.
No “wife” or “husband“, we!
No “anniversary” — just the annual “Reno Day”!
(We know we’re lucky and certainly grateful—thus no “congratulations” are in order.)
And so, freshly joined, off we went for our “honeymoon” night at the Sands Regency Hotel —with dinner at Mel’s Diner, with double-malt chocolate milkshakes to round out the day.
Into the van and towards the desert the next day.
We’ve been back to Reno and That Thing In The Desert four times since 2013.
It has been a very special way to refresh our sense of Awe and renew our WOWs.
[We would have been on our way towards the West Coast this week and been in Reno by Saturday, but because of COVID-19 Burning Man has been cancelled this year.
We’ve both written on Medium about our individual experiences there.
A couple links attached at the bottom of this page. Some years we put together videos from our experiences.]
So now we’re tossing this out there . . .
Who will catch this bouquet—who will be inspired to construct their own performance art?
Alas, The Chapel of the Bells is now defunct. What is happening to traditions?!
And here is the soundtrack to this piece.
© AleXander Hirka 2020. All Rights Reserved.
Burning Man Notes [Before & After]
2005 — Notes From My First of Twelve Journeys to the Desert