DPW’s Volunteer Appreciation barbecue at Frog Pond
Y’all know that Frog Pond is a hot spring, right? It’s a beautiful spot: a collection of grassy pools surrounded by reeds, swaying branches, and, lately, a lot of Burners.
DPW had a little barbecue at Frog Pond last night after work. I think the managers are trying to butter us volunteers up for all the t-stake pounding we’ll be doing this weekend. It’s working well so far. Who wouldn’t be swayed by food like this? Highlights were Pope’s smoked chicken, Rachel’s killer paella, and trays and trays of root beer floats. I’m sure I’m leaving people out – but let’s just say that dinner made happy gluttonous campers of all of us.
In the metal shop, you mostly listen to metal. Fitting, no?
They like their job, these kids. It’s a cool job, too. You get to get really dirty and have sparks flying and loud noises, and bang on things, and cut things. In addition to which, there is obviously a certain amount of skill involved. A few of the crew members work in shops in the outside world, and some of them are clearly very experienced. There are also those like Natalie, who joined the crew to learn new skills and who is already a good welder. Doyle – the new metal shop manager – put Natalie in charge of me, and with her help I made my own burn barrel. AWESOME.
I like working at the DPW Work Ranch. Yes, it’s hot and the work is tough and usually tedious… yes, I’m adding a lot of electrolyte powder to my water and trying to squeeze myself into two-foot shade patches for a little relief… but I still manage to enjoy myself. There’s just something about it.
Maybe it’s the fact that the whole place is full of strange debris (and I use this word loosely) from past events: the giant metal heart sculpture, or the metal dragon, or the firefly. The narwhal. The three giant faces made of metal, driftwood, and earth. The bone tree, now consistently inhabited by screaming ravens… Too good to be dismantled, they are now on display along the entrance to the Ranch.
The place is a gold mine, to tell you the truth. There are cars all over – cars that look like boats, cars made out of boats, cars with guns and (fake) bombs and flamethrowers, cars that are also bars, just everything you could want. There are huge piles of burn barrels, cords of firewood, rows of trailers, and countless containers full of pieces of the City. There are two big hangars that serve as the auto shop and the metal shop –
And through this giant parking lot of weird art, roam the DPW. Punks welding burn barrels! Guys in ripped pants, building giant platforms for the Man to stand on! Beautiful girls driving trucks and Hysters! And me, today, doing a little grunt work.
I started out with Spoon, cleaning out a trailer that will be parked at the DPW Rodeo. We washed out years’ worth of grime, wheedled Little Matt into spraypainting the insides a nice clean white, and fitted it out with an Astroturf floor. Spoon plans to feed the entire DPW throughout the event, so it’s fitting that he should have a nice place to do his cooking. He promises he’ll serve me a Kahlua milkshake. I say, okay.
It’s a serious gig, this DPW thing. We number over 80 now, and my little room has four girls sleeping in it. The trains pass directly behind the trailer, which shakes as they go by. Breakfast is at 6 am (which, for most of us, means waking up at 5:55 and jumping straight into our boots). And if you miss breakfast, then you miss lunch: everybody fixes their sandwich in the morning, before they go out for the day’s work. The work itself ranges from helping out in the office, to gardening and cleaning, to welding and construction. Because there’s a short timeline and a lot of work to be done, everyone has a schedule to keep, and they do what they have to do to get the job finished in time. With a few exceptions, that means working right through the weekend. Today, I was lucky enough to have the day off, but let’s just assume that won’t last, okay?
Yesterday was my last day with the Survey team: their job isn’t finished yet, but tomorrow I start working in the metal shop. In honor of it being Saturday and all, and because the survey is going smoothly and ahead of schedule, we had a short day out there. We laid out all of the Promenades leading out from the Man; then Coyote called it a day and we all drove out to Squaw Reservoir to swim in some nice cool water for a change. In this heat, a natural mountain lake is, in Coyote’s words, “a little slice of Paradise.”
The plans have been laid; now we need to find Black Rock City in the dust.
I’ve spent the last two days hanging out with the Survey crew. Led by Coyote, this little group lays out every street, every point from Hysteria to the Temple and all the way out to the Gate.
The octagonal shelter was set up yesterday around the Golden Spike, and it serves as a makeshift shade structure – the only shade for miles around.
While I’ve been spending my evenings blogging, this crew works in the early morning and late evening. They sleep in the shelter, get up at dawn, and try to get as much done as possible before that white light, white heat, and desert shimmer make it impossible to see.
In two days, they’ve marked the Esplanade and the first four streets (Amnesia, Bipolar, Catharsis, and Delirium – find out more at the City Plan); later tonight, they’ll finish Ego. Each street is meticulously measured out and marked with flags; later, the roads will be driven over and over until they’re clearly visible.
Today was a momentous occasion, folks. This morning, the first stake was pounded into the playa. This is the Golden Spike (represented, in this case, by a normal stake painted yellow), and it marks the absolute center of the city. From that point, all the streets can be mapped, signs posted, lampposts raised, and structures built. In fact, the perimeter fence is going up in ten days or so; after that, good luck getting in!
The ceremony was simple: everybody gathered around with champagne to celebrate and join in pounding the stake. Coyote started it off with a few words, followed by Maid Marian. One by one, each of us took a turn at the hammer. There were several heartfelt dedications to good friends who couldn’t be here, a few stunts, a little goofing around. One poor soul introduced himself by saying “I don’t have a playa name yet, but if you catch me doing anything stupid -”
And with a resounding cry of “Stoopid!” the crew named him right then and there.
At the end of the ceremony, Coyote called for a moment of silence for DPW’s lost team members: Craig, Tex and Stevie.