How GroundScore Got His Name

All photos by Cloe

It was just another day on the playa. Line Sweeps crew was walking around, noses to the ground, mooping the Temple site. Bobtuse was driving through the major sand dunes, dragging a metal square to flatten them and expose any litter. Special Forces were roaming the city, going from one orange cone to the next to clean up the worst spots.

On Line Sweeps, we were taking an early morale break when DA called over the radio: Special Forces had found a bad hot spot, and could use some backup. “Finish your break,” he said, “and moop your way over here.” Easy enough.

Coyote was the first to arrive at the spot, where he found Special Forces raking up debris – and Super Dave on site, pretty worked up. Look at all this rebar they’d pulled out of the ground! Look how bad this site was! It was the sort of thing that the BLM would be very unhappy to see – the sort of thing that could get the event canceled. And then, he lifted one of the orange cones to expose the worst part of all:

The head of Blackbeard Matt, who was buried up to his neck in playa.


Chew ‘Em Up Lions

The Gerlach high school challenges DPW to volleyball

The Gerlach Lady Lions

This is a small town, and it would be impossible for the locals to ignore all these DPW kids roaming around with strange haircuts and black clothes. In truth, I think we provide them a little entertainment, you know?

A week or two ago, it was announced at our morning meeting that the Gerlach High volleyball team – the girls’ volleyball team – had challenged us to a tournament.

Needless to say, we took the challenge as seriously as we possibly could. We planned extensively: what are we going to wear? Who has zombie makeup? What cars should we drive into the high school parking lot in order to create as much disruption as possible?


Final Chapter, Burningman, 2005

by Dave Darling

I’ve been coming to Burning Man since 2003, but this year, I decided to buy a 1975 Winnebago for Burning Man. Without really testing it, I cast caution to the wind and took off a week or so early to attend the pre-event, and do some DPW stuff.

On the way there, I received a speeding ticket from a very polite officer in the town of Wadsworth, Nevada. I was speeding, and I only got a ticket, so I went on my way to enjoy my burn.

On the way back, after countless adventures, journeys, debaucherous episodes, and personal insights, I was cruising at about 35 miles an hour in my ’75 Winnebago with my new Canadian girlfriend whom I had met there. Once again, I got pulled over just shy of Gerlach. Looking out the window, I saw the SAME cop that gave me a ticket on the way in.

“Didn’t you see what happened?” he asks in a very obvious voice. Oblivious, I respond that I didn’t see anything happen. “You didn’t see ANYTHING?” he yells.

“Follow Me.”

At this point, I realize that fleeing across the state in a 1975 Winnebago isn’t going to work. My imagination is usually overactive, so perhaps it isn’t so bad.

We turn around and head back down Highway 447 for approximately one mile against the flow of 30,000 burners all leaving the playa. As soon as I pull up, the officer directs me to park on the side of the road. I get out, and I notice immediately on the opposite side of the road a black water sewage tank, about 100 feet from a huge pothole. Immediately following the pothole is a huge splash mark. As I begin to put the pieces together, I go back to my RV, and notice that I am missing a black water sewage tank, and could now see straight up into my toilet!

With my head hung appropriately low, I make my way back to the officer, just as two other cop cars pull up. “So what happened?” I ask, thinking that I know the answer already, but still trying to pretend that I haven’t figured it out yet, and hoping that this would be the end of the story.

The officer simply points towards his brand new 2005 Suburban Cop Car, and as I look over, my worst fears are realized. Sure enough, there is a brand new cop car with dealer tags, dripping from the top down with urine, vomit, condoms and whatever other disgusting entities that could exist in a Burning Man RV sewage tank!

Turns out, my tank decided to disembark at the exact time the officer was passing the other way on the freeway. He hit it head on, thus covering his unit with all of the freeborn playa pee that had been building up for the past two weeks! And there it stood, with the sunset over the mountains in the backdrop, minus that “new car” smell. It would have made a perfect postcard. You could see the trail the pee followed, as the car was dirty before, and it left a perfect “urine” explosion all down the driver’s side and down the back.

I hang my head lower, thinking that this was it. Jail in Wadsworth can’t be that bad, I’m thinking, and besides, I have a clean record, so maybe I’ll get off with just a year or two.

Never mind my new Canadian friend whom I am giving a ride to the Reno Airport, sitting in the passenger seat, totally unaware that I’m going to Jail, and that she is probably going to miss her flight. It was a great burn, and totally worth it, I keep telling myself, as the officer busily writes things down, and scrambles his report across the airwaves to other officers who are surely on their way down to crucify a Burner for the defecation of state property.

The officer looks at me, staring blankly in my face. He’s looking at me, to make sure that I know they are on their way, and they are coming for me. How could I not know, I want to scream. Just then, another officer pulls up, and they stand grouped together, staring at me. With my florescent orange dreadlocks, wearing nothing but shorts and sunglasses, they begin sizing me up. Visions of a crucifixion that I saw earlier in the week begin to take hold. As I see myself nailed to a make-shift cross, strapped to the hood of a freshly fouled cop car, left out to die as a lesson to all burners.

As I make my way back across the highway, I notice the officer getting into his car via the passenger side! As he settles in, I make my approach. “Sure glad you didn’t get hurt,” I say, trying to gauge what he is going to do. “Sure glad you didn’t have your window open!” I mention, secretly wishing that he did have his window open.

He scribbled down his report, shaking his head. “I’d love to write you a whole list of tickets” – raising my excitement that I may get out of this with only some tickets – “but there isn’t a judge around who would convict. It simply isn’t your fault,” he says with a very disappointed look. “Now get that tank off the road, secure it, and get your ass out of here.” At which point I turn, load my now empty sewage tank onto the top of my vehicle, and proceeded to crawl back in, laughing, trying not to run.

“Can I use the potty?” asks the Canadian girl. “NO!” I shout. Then I explain what has been going on out there, and we begin laughing hysterically about the entire event. I got away with it. Laughing, I blare the last remnants of good burn music and cruise to enjoy the night in a Reno Hotel with a hot Canadian girl and eat a good meal. I had more fun in two weeks than that officer has had his whole life. I dumped my urine and other bodily fluids all over his car, and laughed about it. I got away with everything, and somehow I knew I’d probably never top this.

I’d like to thank the Wadsworth Police Department for participating, all of the people who helped fill up that tank, and of course my 1975 Winnebago for its perfect timing. I couldn’t have had such an ending without them all!


Fifty people, lost in the desert

The morning was cold but clear. I wore shorts, expecting it to be a hot day. We all did.

Around 10:00, Deanna looked up at the sky and exclaimed, “hey guys, look at that cloud!” It looked like some sort of spaceship: round, dark gray, with multiple layers. We dubbed it “the Mothership” and went back to work, pulling little tiny bits of green wax out of the playa. Wax! Why? It took us over an hour to unearth that particular scar, and our noses were in the dirt the whole time.

The next time we looked up, it was noon and the crew was gathering for lunch. The Mothership had stretched and grown, and started producing offspring. Then, the winds came.


My Thoughts about Burning Man 2005

by Leon (Big Urb)

The days were great, but the nights were MAGICAL! Very hard to explain in words; it must be seen to be believed. My senses were constantly bombarded with color and lights emanating from the city, theme camps and the people all dressed up in magnificent costumes all bedecked with blinking lights (many created just for Burning Man). Black Rock City is Disneyland, Las Vegas and Times Square all packaged together. If you want to get away from the sounds and lights of the city, you need only venture on foot or bike into the desert past the Man. The sounds become muted and the only lights you see are the billions of blinking stars high overhead. That is worth the price of admission!

OK, so let me see. I’ve been fed, pampered, chauffeured around the desert, offered alcohol, plus I’ve been entertained with wonderful music and seen great (and not so great) works of art rise from the desert floor and then destroyed again. Is that why Burning Man is so special? As wonderful as all of that is, (and believe me it is), what makes Burning Man so special to me is the freedom everyone has to fully express themselves. Upon entering the front gate you are greeted with a “welcome home” from the people who work there. And, for all of the many return visitors, that’s exactly what it is, home! The freedom to be yourself, without worrying what other people think or say, became intoxicating. Everywhere I looked, I saw people dressed, or undressed, in any costume or piece of clothing that the “outside world” would probably find objectionable. Nothing at Burning Man is objectionable to the people that attend.

After two days I no longer felt that sharp twinge in my neck (probably caused by my constantly swinging my head around to see all of those undraped bodies). What was not “normal” for me before I entered the gates became perfectly normal and acceptable. Within two days my belief structure was permanently changed and it felt great! It was wonderful to see people give of themselves because they truly wanted to. There seemed to be a mutual understanding that the community of Burning Man will form a temporary society dedicated to creativity and fun. There are no bystanders at Burning Man because everyone puts in an effort to entertain, build something, or give something away just because it feels good. It was wonderful seeing people doing what they feel comfortable with, knowing that in this oasis of community people will only applaud their uniqueness, not deride it.

I didn’t see many handshakes. I saw hugs, many wonderful hugs. The handshake stems from an old practice of making sure the person your meeting doesn’t have a weapon in his hand the hug is given because you care. I like the hug better!

So now you know everything there is to know about BM, right? I think not. You still need to experience it for yourself.

Before signing off, I would like to share three personal experiences that made Burning Man so special to me, (I won’t bore you with the other 50 odd stories). My son, Marc, better known on the playa as the Sonic Connector or Urb to his friends, has wanted me to go with him to BM for more than three years. In January, I called Marc and told him that 2005 was the year I would attend, (many of you can guess what the impetus was). Marc and I went up on Saturday night and Lynnsey was to follow four days later. Sunday and Monday were brutal with sand storms and wind gusts exceeding 40 mph. It was impossible to put up a shade structure let alone pitch a tent. But we finally put up a tent, however, the netting we put up for shade was torn to shreds by the sever wind gusts. The second night the wind died down and Marc suggested a bike ride into the desert.

I need to give you a little background before I continue. When Marc was a young boy I took him to the NYC Planetarium see a laser show choreographed to the music of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. If you are a Pink Floyd fan you would have loved it; hell Marc and I went three times. OK, let’s fast forward to the desert. Marc and I are riding our bikes with headlamps on to see were we are going. He has his iPod with him strapped to the handlebars of his bike and a baby carrier behind to house the speakers. All you could here were the wheels rolling over the desert floor. After 20 minutes, Marc suggested we turn off our headlamps. We were immediately bathed by the light of a trillion blinking stars and off to my right I could see the outline of the moon appearing over the horizon. My senses were immediately awakened with the playing of Dark Side of The Moon. Tears immediately began to flow. We continued to ride for a few minutes then stopped and got off our bikes. Marc and I didn’t need to connect, since I have always cherished the relationship we have. However, being there with him was incredibly special. We spent a lot of time talking about love, relationships, children, and a whole lot of other stuff, just the two of us in the middle of the desert.

One day I decided to take a stroll around the city. After two hours or so, a magic carpet floated past me so I decided to jump on. It was hot and dusty and it felt great just sitting and taking in the scenery. A few moments later a woman ran from one of the camps along the road and asked if we wanted a hot dog, with that a man from another camp yelled out “hell, you can’t have a hot dog without cold beer” and he immediately poured beer from his pitcher to anyone that wanted it. As we kept riding through the city I began to chuckle. Here I was riding on a magic carpet through a desert city with a hot dog in one hand and a beer in the other. Wasn’t life a beautiful thing?

Marc, Lynnsey and I left the playa after the burning of the Temple on Sunday. The Temple has four or five wooden structures and is located in the desert past the Man. During the week the Temple is used by many people as a resting place from the heat of day or cool of night. Many people write all sorts of things on its walls and place personal notes between its cracks. I visited the Temple on a very hot day, two days before the burn. I placed a note hidden away from all others to see. The night of the burn, I was standing with Marc and Lynnsey when a cool breeze went through the crowd. Just then a lone voice rose up and sang Ave Maria. There are no words to describe the feeling. After she finished, the temple exploded in cascades of fire. As I watched my old life burn away I held Lynnsey and Marc until the fire died down. We turned and left. Being there with them, at that time, is something I will always treasure.

Next year, when I hear the greeting, Welcome Home, I will understand!

Meet me on the Playa!

Love to you all

Leon (Big Urb)

How To Make an Awesome MOOP Bucket

(and how to use it: Line Sweeps are here!)

Everyone needs their own mooper scooper. Here’s how to make one in four easy steps!

1. Find a water jug (one- or two-gallon will do nicely)

2. Locate your knife

3. Cut hole in jug

4. Fill with tiny pieces of trash (pictured is one day’s spoils).

…So you wanna be hardcore? Try doing line sweeps for two weeks, kid. I’ve only made it through two days, and my brain is already fried.

DPW Cleanup Crew is getting grungier and grungier, and every day things seem just a little more absurd. People’s work clothes are slowly turning into bizarre costumes, and attitudes get brasher and surlier as we all inch our way toward mass insanity.


Fence Down

The demise of Black Rock City 2005

It was good while it lasted, our little town. We had ourselves a good time, didn’t we?

But anything this good is destined to end; sometimes I even think it’s better that way. And whatever this social experiment-cum-art festival was in 2005, it will never be the same again. Am I right?

The fence came down today, not with a bang, but with a cloud of dust and lots of idle chatter.

It was a lot easier to get the fence down than it was to set the thing up, but it’s still an all-hands job. We split into three teams; each team had rope cutters, t-stake pullers, fence rollers and the all-important moopers. Coyote circled from team to team, gathering up bits of junk fence and telling dirty jokes…


The Ancestors

I met the Ancestors tonight, saw them rise up full with power.

I felt so small. I had walked through dust devils, congratulated myself for my bravery. Now, seeing the Ancestors’ proud march, I realized those devils had just been flirtations, caprices, a flick of the wrist –

We were driven from the playa in the mid-afternoon, forced to leave by a massive bloom of dust that infiltrated every crack and cut off our vision in every direction except out. We left obediently, and I saw black clouds looming over the mountains, and the wind turned cold, cold.

In town, trees began to whip and scold, tossing leaves and branches into the road. Rain flew in bunches at the tired dust, beating it into submission. I, for one reason or another, soon found myself speeding along the highway overlooking the playa. I think maybe they were calling to me: I had just written of them, misnamed them, appointed their title to mere dust devils. Insulted their pride, and they wanted to humble me.

Driving along beside that great procession, I felt tiny, miniscule. The road seemed to buck beneath me, the ground tossing with laughter. The air crackled with excitement and joy; the horizon brimmed with lightning. The clouds broke. The wind had reversed its direction. The Ancestors were marching to reclaim the playa.

Kingly regal, leading the procession, a great plume of dust rose hundreds of feet in the air. He did not twist or turn; he simply forged ahead from out of the deep playa, leading an offensive on the defenseless town of Gerlach. His feet were brown where they drew from the soil; his hair was white and wavy, flicking long trails upward into the sky. Behind him streamed hundreds of his subjects, servants, nobles, all with arms reaching upward to throw the earth into the sky. Along the edges of the procession, mischievous devils hovered along the highway, skipped along streambeds, danced from dune to dune, swirling in the sage and jumping to disappear in the air. As my car approached, they ducked away into the turmoil, tails whipping behind.

The moon rose, low and yellow over the mountain, and the clouds reached down with the last of the sunlight to catch the dust from the Ancestors’ arms. The sky turned a livid pink. Behind me, one last flicker of lightning –

and then, a rainbow as bright as neon flashed from horizon to horizon. The clouds curdled and melted away behind the mountains’ sharp edges. The Ancestors had finished their march, leaving a wall of white dust to protect their city. Gerlach lay squalid, flattened, humbled in their wake. And I, smaller than a bug, thought of the dust I clean from my skin, nose, ears, hair. The earth I have shoveled and raked, written my name in. One month from now, the playa will show no sign that I was ever here. It will have no memory of me.

I, however, will not forget.