August 20, 2007
Black Rock City, NV
[begin Live-blogging sporadically from backstage at Burning Man]
Apologies for the late posting today — someone knocked over the Internet tower in their vehicle last night during random festivities, so I was forced to foray into Gerlach to be a computer dork. It’s alright though, as I hadn’t yet completed my pre-Burning Man in-town rituals: 1) eat at Bruno’s, 2) call my Mamaw from the dusty payphone outside, and 3) have a beer at the once-where-Flash-got-shot-and-now-volunteer-gathering-center Black Rock Saloon and carve something into the bar (it’s allowed).
Ahhh, Bruno’s. Air conditioning is nice. But it feels weird and alien to the human system of how to cool yrself. Anyway, I recommend the chicken fried steak. It’s cholesterol-tacular.
For the first time in two years, I’m home. I know it’s cheesy when people say that — all the “welcome home” crap you get at the Burning Man greeters’ station along with unwanted hugs and spankings — but for about 500 or so of us, it really is home. We are the workers, and we make the city run.
On the drive in, down the beautiful gypsum-flecked desert highway, I caught myself being a little ho-hum about it all. Bored, but content — not like a vacation, but like going home. I should be concentrating more on the splendor and the glory than mentally reviewing checklists of what to do when I get there and how to be a good Gate worker. This feels like the commute to a job.
But it IS a job, even if I’m only volunteering. For a long time now, I can’t tell the difference between work and life any more. I think that means I’m doing it right.
ITEM! Welding goggles are the cat’s pajamas. And they’re cheap. They come with shade lenses in for daytime (welding) and they unscrew for clear lenses at night. You can see in a dust storm when nobody else can. Forget all those other cheezy goggles you see in the City and go to the welding store.
Arwen and I arrived on the Black Rock Desert at the Magic Hour — sunset, when everything turns pink and purple and shimmers like it’s been lit for a special photograph — and pulled over onto the open playa (translation: hard-packed alkali prehistoric lakebed) to put a protective coating of shea butter in our hair and dig jackets out of the trunk.
Then, with the burning of the things. Early Man was a good one, with Otto fabricating a 25-foot Burning Dude in a recliner chair with a beer in one hand and a funny cigarette in the other. Someone else made a Viking ship-thing with angel wings. Big Daddy fashioned a tribute pyre to the yer-doin-it-wrong even two days ago when Dan Das Mann tried to crane one of his humongous statues for the infathomably massive Crude Awakening project, and the statue took a walk and smashed two porta-potties.
Whiskey bottles passed around with frequency both spreads and kills germs. I played designated driver in Doyle’s new truck with the awesome pixillated-camouflage paint job and we cruised around for a while — again, magic time, before all the tourists arrive — and then Doyle passed out on a couch in the DPW ghetto. He followed the rules and took his boots off, but then someone put his boots back on him just so they could beer elf him. The Sharpies came out and the cameras too, and the duct tape and a couple unrolled condoms just for good measure, until someone felt sorry for him and took his boots back off. Someone else put them back on and duct-taped them on and then it started to feel like the scene in Young Frankenstein where the monster gets chained up and the villagers finally feel like they can fuck with him. By morning, someone had washed his face off and re-buttoned his pants and Doyle played it off like he meant for it all to happen.
Tonight is my and Arwen’s first Gate shift. Last night we laughed through our first on-playa Gate meeting and I got a sweet pin that says THANKS FOR NOT HUGGING. We’re excited about the themes for Gate crew this year: 1) they’re bringing sexy back, and 2) tongue-in-cheek fascism, since ticketholders are going to get mad when we tell them they can’t have plants, we don’t care if the theme this year is the Green Man, you still CANNOT BRING PLANTS, and then we burn them up right in front of their eyes. No swastikas, of course, but a little Hitler mustache and a clown nose goes a long way when you’re rifling through people’s stuff and looking for stowaways and poking blankets with your golf club to see if they say “ouch.”
…and I swear this cloud and its four minions beneath it were watching us on the 447. It just sat there in the sky for ages.
Tomorrow: Dust and Hot Weather