Burning Man ’07: Ramp of Death; Exodus = poisonous

In this one time at burning man by summerburkes1 Comment

We think we saw someone break their neck yesterday. We don’t believe in breaching the privacy of the injured so we’re not going to give details on how it happened. But we’d rather not see a sight like that ever again.

A drunk human who is probably awesome, lying on the dust in a pile of still-burning coals, unconscious, shaking and convulsing, with the panicked significant other weeping off to the side and asshole spectators taking pictures of the whole thing. We did real good though; we didn’t break their cameras. Just almost.

You’d think people would know that in emergency situations if you can’t help, you should stand back, be quiet, and think positive thoughts. But no — we’ve got the bossy drunk telling people to clear the area even as he’s wobbling and threatening to fall on top of the victim and the paramedics.

We’ve got other dudes trying to restrain the drunk, which turns into a shouting match right beside the victim’s ears, when the victim might or might not be struggling to go towards the light and nobody else needs the distraction either.

We’ve got freaked-out self-righteous spectators loudly proclaiming what idiots we are to put ourselves at risk in such a way, and how none of this would have happened if dirtbags like us had a higher sense of self-preservation. And we’ve got the naked guys gawking on bicycles, which is never a good time — especially when someone might or might not be dying.

Call it prayer, call it intent, call it positive thought, call it whatever you like. Just DO IT when someone gets hurt. We can talk about what a dumb idea it all was later on, when the victim’s being helicoptered on a Life Flight to Reno.

It’s called the Ramp of Death and the whole point is that you voluntarily assume the risk of serious injury or death, even when you are fucked up on booze and drugs. Meanwhile, keep your mouth shut, and stand back.


Yesterday was the day when 30,000 people endeavor to exit the Black Rock Desert on a single road, in three to six lanes of traffic. Trying to keep participants wrangled in the lanes when they’ve been sitting in their cars and RVs in the hot sun all afternoon is hard.

But you know what’s harder? Standing in the middle of thousands and thousands of cars idling for 11 hours in a row. Nobody wants to turn the engine off, because if traffic moves, someone else who hasn’t cut their ignition will snake in front of them in line and then they’ll get home five minutes later than they would’ve if they’d just kept the car on.

Those who think they’re special enough to take a shortcut or break the fence get dealt with first by perimeter, and then if that doesn’t work, by law enforcement. Our staff was stretched as thin as could be last night because everyone wanted to see the Temple burn, but we handled it. Even though we all took years off our lives with the amount of exhaust we breathed in.

Woohoo! Burn it! More carbon!

Woohoo! Burn it! More carbon!

Someone threatened Arwen’s life and threw a beer bottle at her when she tried to stop his car to do the exit procedure. She tapped on his window with her bare hand and he lost it. Of course it was an expensive car. Dude had a problem with anger and with women, to say the least. Now he’s got a big ticket and a court date.

Another cracked-out raver chick in a Ryder truck, honking in line every time the car in front of her dallied even for a second, supposed if she played chicken with this writer standing in front of her vehicle that we would just move out of the way and she would get home quicker.

We stood our ground, and avoided crapping our pants out of fear, and then we got to stand on the running board with our shift lead on the other side of her, explaining to her the difference in size between ourself and a GIANT MOVING TRUCK and how maybe she shouldn’t play around that way … while all the cars around her continued apace through the lanes.

They don’t call us “Gatestapo” for nothing.

Within 30 minutes of starting shift, we radioed down to the DPW depot for proper respirators. Regular old dust masks weren’t cutting it at all. By the eleventh hour, we felt like baby seals covered in crude oil. Both Thirteen and this writer literally almost passed out, multiple times.

Crybaby finally came to rescue us on The Void (second best art car ever) and brought us each a glass of milk to draw out some of the toxins. Then he ended up working for an hour while we laid on top of The Void and pretty much had a fossil-fuel-induced meltdown.

We’ve been sick off propane before a couple times, working at the Fire Arts Festival, surrounded by belching clouds of art-flame. Now we can say for sure that the exhaust from gasoline is much more evil. It’s a crazy-maker. No wonder bridge-toll workers have one of the highest rates of suicide.

Crybaby took us to the Steampunk Treehouse, which we hadn’t seen yet, and all the drugged-out E-tards up inside it were asking us if we were OK. That’s when we knew we were in a bad way. Back flashes in the spine going crazy; twitching and convulsing like a person with a broken neck.

Gasoline is death. We’ve got to figure out another way to live. What’s it going to take? Right now, as we type this, all comers to a supposedly “green” event are inadvertently poisoning the workers who make it happen. God bless America, right?

Embarrassed at our oil-slicked baby-seal-ness, we climbed out of the Steampunk Treehouse (without hurting anything, magically) and stumbled home alone. No less than 30 people asked if we were alright.

We kept looking into the sky for the meteor shower that was supposedly happening, and started to hallucinate (not on drugs). The stars above seemed to group together into three words, and flash like a Reno casino sign: THIS IS WHY. THIS IS WHY. THIS IS WHY. THIS IS WHY.


We woke up to discover we’d lost our voice completely. Not sure how we’re going to handle working another shift in the toxic cloud of death today, but we just turned on the radio and it sounds like we’re short-staffed again. So it’s time to get off the computer and go inhale more dinosaurs, and pray humans give extraction industries the boot in time to stop planetary chokeout.


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  1. great blog summer! I can only imagine how terrible it feels to ingest all of that exhaust. yuck! all the waste out there gets to me, too…..and I think I’ll be taking a break from the event, maybe permanently. great to see you at the gate. too bad we didn’t run into each other at deep carp. I stopped by a few times. take care.

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