Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Burning Man "Rapture": Is It Real?


If you're late to this, here's the theory behind the so-called "Burning Man Rapture": every year, tens of thousands of San Franciscans decamp to the famous dust festival in the Nevada desert, transforming our Fair City from a Skinnerian warren of crowded streets and jam-packed restaurants into a leisurely, spacious redoubt by the sea, wherein one can simply stroll into otherwise inaccessible restaurants at prime dinner time, look around the empty rooms, and say "I'd like that table."  To hear adherents tell it, the city essentially empties out and you can go anywhere you want without waits or lines.

I've been a long-time Rapture Truther, and I'll tell you why: It's total bullshit.

Maybe, at one point in time, it might have been semi-true.  Maybe in the late 90's or early 00's, it might have actually seemed like there were fewer people in the Mission, although it's hard to know how much to attribute to Burning Man and how much to any of the other 10,000 places people could go on Labor Day.  (I say the Mission because that neighborhood has always been a hotspot of Burnerism, but maybe not so much anymore what with the $1.5 million condos and the $5000 one-bedrooms.)

Anyway, a simple bit of math should clarify.  There were about 70,000 people at Burning Man this year (the most ever - it used to be in the 20-30K range).  Even if HALF of them came from San Francisco (a highly doubtful proposition), that would represent 35,000 people out of a population of 800,000 - hardly enough to make a dent.

But don't take my work for it.  Here are some data points:

From an email I got from a trusted correspondent:
1. We went to new restaurant Plin at Valencia and 14th. Big room. Only available seating was at the bar. In other words, the restaurant was CROWDED.
2. We went to Dalva. It was fairly populated circa 10 p.m., but was NOT crowded.
3. Went to Elbo Room thereafter. CROWDED. Had to "elbo" our way through the crowd.
4. Sidewalks were navigable, but certainly not empty.

I think Fred Sharples probably nailed it.  Many Burning Man types, whatever that is, have probably been priced out of SF in the last 5 years.  Maybe there was some noticeable effect in some East Bay locations, but maybe not.  Anyway, our New City is not particularly conducive to renting warehouse space for your Fire-Breathing Dragon Car any more.

So there you go.  To the extent there ever was a Burning Man Rapture, those days are gone.  Stop resurrecting this nonsense every year.


Ryan said...

Can we just all agree not to tell people that Dalva is an awesome bar that is rarely crowded so that crowds won't start showing up?

Erik said...

Any Burning Man effect was probably masked by people thinking "hey that trendy bar/restaurant might not be crowded this weekend, we should all go!"

inger said...

Burning Man rapture might be an illusion, but the Labor Day rapture was in full effect in Noe. 11pm on Saturday night = 5 open parking spaces within 50 yards of my house, and that never happens.

TK said...

R - Agreed on Dalva, but it's been around for so long that if it hasn't blown up yet I think we're safe.

E - The reverse self-fulfilling prophecy! Perhaps.

I - That's nice. In my neighborhood, if anything, the parking was WORSE than normal.

Anonymous said...

I am a big believer in the Super Bowl rapture. I don't give a crap about the Super Bowl, so Super Bowl Sunday is an awesome time to go somewhere that's usually crowded.

Of course, we have a kid now, so we're planning on going to the Exploratorium this year. Shhh, don't tell anyone.

Stoney said...

Rapture was in effect around the Panhandle. Certainly partially Burning Man-related. There are a lot of burners in my neighborhood and a lot of burner RVs that park along the Panhandle. Parking was noticeably easier than normal last week/weekend.

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