Burners Without Borders – Report from the Field

Biloxi, Mississippi

In the field with Richard, aka Big Stick:

This week has been awesome, the weather cooler and no rain. Our distribution center is running well! Stocked with loads of cool stuff from all over the US. We are still seeing 200 people daily through the big red Pacific dome. The kids are great and the families are really starting to show trust and appreciation for us.

We unloaded 600 sacks of rice on Wednesday by hand and, when we found out that 36,000lbs (that’s 760, 50lb bags) were arriving on Friday we decided to steal a fork lift, “just for awhile.” Anyway, we as volunteers distributed more rice this week than any other grass roots bunch anywhere in the south. Rice anyone?

Three new Playa Pals that drove across country are really making a huge difference. After a day of travel recovery, all is well, just remember it is a climate of constant change. We are looking forward two new volunteers from the West and North West, the Machine Crew is here and clicking and we are tricking. The big shots are totally impressed with our “people power” attitude, and the professionalism. What did they expect!

We had a grand BBQ last night “Saturday” thanks to the fine folks that gave donations at the decom, that I heard was awesome. It was the first big sit down dinner we had in days. “Thanks to all that kicked in”.

Huge hurdles have been overcome, the temple now has electricity due to all’s efforts, no more generators Yea!!!

The insulation and drywall inside the temple is being installed by several groups of volunteers and the spirits are good. This facility is the shining star in a pile of blown out rubble.

Swag (in the form of Team Duke t-shirts from the John Wayne Foundation, via Patricia Arquette–don’t ask) bought us a ton of phones and wi-fi, two potential techy type burners who installed the system in our World Shelter playa worthy structure and message zone shined like a star on a dark night. We were able to check our mail and go on line for the 1st time without being rushed. It was glorious!

Some of crew have finished rebuilding a temple in Bayou La Batre (about 30 miles away and hit hard) and will start painting it on Monday.

We continue to struggle a bit dealing with the devastation and trying to find common ground with good people that have lost everything, but we know that the little difference that we make is making a change in the lives of East Biloxi.

Later, Richard

Burners Without Borders – Report from the Field

Biloxi, Mississippi

Hey-oh,

Things are still pumping down here in Biloxi. After a few slow days with no new shipments of supplies, the store is stocked once again. The slow days were actually a much needed little break for us. Because word got out that we had limited supplies on site, few people showed up to shop. During this time, we were able to go out and see the neighborhood. Several of us were able to clear out some yards. I helped clear out a man named Rudy’s yard. He had an amazing story of being swept away from his trailer when Katrina hit. He ended up in the water with 30 ft waves breaking all around. He washed up 4 miles away from his house. After living on the streets for 5 weeks, a kind person allowed him to set up a tent on their property where their house had been destroyed. He totally broke down on us while he told his tale. I got a little choked up myself. Rudy has nothing left in this world. We have been bringing boxes of goods to him. Truthfully, this has been the saddest story I’ve heard during my time down here (and I’ve heard a lot). I wish I could do more.

Yesterday, we received our first shipment of goods in 2 days. The news traveled like wild fire. I woke up this morning @ 7AM to people waiting outside the gate ready to shop. People were also waiting for a shipment of 45000 lbs of rice to be handed out. The group giving out this rice was also handing out $250 gift cards to the Biloxi police dept. I had no idea what was going on when I saw about 30 officers show up. It was a very bizarre scene.

3 new burners have shown up this week. It’s really nice to see fresh troops arrive. Most of the reliefspark.org members have left, except for my main man, Juan, so new faces were definitely a welcome sight. We have one more burner arriving late this week. Anyone interested in coming to Biloxi needs to be prepared to bust their ass. Hitting the ground running is a must. There is still a lot of work to be done.

Power was restored to the temple this morning. We plan to start installing the insulation and hanging the dry wall today. We also plan to lay down some sod around the temple grounds later this week.

If you want to contribute to our playa effort here in Biloxi, you can still call our volunteer coordinator, Richard @ xxx-xxx-xxxx.

Thanks,
Dan

Burners Without Borders – Report from the Field

Biloxi, Mississippi

We are still working really hard down here. Tuesday night, we had our biggest group yet stay on the temple grounds. A group of 3 www.ReliefSpark.org members arrived with a huge truckload of supplies. They were 10000 lbs overweight! On their cross-country journey here, they blew out 3 tires because of the heavy load. Also staying with us Tuesday night was a group of 3 independent filmmakers from Berkeley and a group of 5 or 6 random volunteers who helped us unload the truck. Our on site chef, Seth, kicked out another tremendous meal that left all of us rubbing our bellies. Every night, he dishes up a new gourmet meal. Thanks Seth. You rock!

Yesterday, Shawn and I traveled to Crowley, LA to pick up 5000 lbs of rice. I had no idea that it was 160 miles away. Always check a map before agreeing to go somewhere. It took us most of the day to accomplish this. The people in the community are STOKED.

Richard is talking to fellow burners daily who are considering coming here to volunteer. It’s great to hear that so many people are willing to sacrifice. He has done a fantastic job of assuming the role of volunteer coordinator. He is really holding this whole thing together.

We are very close to getting the electrical permit from the city of Biloxi. Once we have this we can install the insulation and dry wall in the temple. I can’t wait to see the temple with walls.

The weather here has turned much cooler. Last night it drizzled all night long. This morning temps were in the lower 60s. It’s not expected to get above 70 today (YEAH). It will remain cool for the next few days.

Spirits are still very high. Our group is working in a lot of different directions with the common goal of helping people who really need it. This is one of the best groups I have ever worked with doing anything. We all feel personally rewarded. I can’t tell you how good it feels!

The idea of Kamp Katrina at BM 2006 has been tossed around. Any sponsors or takers?

BLM Inspection

(and this blogger’s final wrap-up)

Coyote (Photo by Cloe)
Coyote (Photo by Cloe)

Coyote (Tony Perez) is our Clean-Up Manager. He’s also in charge of surveying (and superintending) Black Rock City, serving on the DPW Council, and telling bad jokes the whole time.

Jimmy
Jimmy

He drives around in a big yellow truck with delineator cones and empty beer cans in the bed, usually accompanied by a cute girl or two in the cab. He conducts the Golden Spike ceremony and the Green T-Stake ceremony, and the 4:20 Spire ceremony – then he goes back into town and tends bar at the Black Rock. Oh, and occasionally he’ll cook up a gourmet meal or two, while espousing common-sense philosophy and stories about Burning Man in years past.

This is exactly the sort of person you want in charge of things out here. It’s no joke when he tells you that the event hinges on him doing his job right. If he doesn’t run Clean-Up smoothly – if we fail that inspection – then the event doesn’t happen.

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Burners Without Borders – Report from the Field

Biloxi, Mississippi
from Dan

Things are happening down here in sunny southern Mississippi. The Biloxi temple crew is really making a difference in the Vietnamese community. Everyday our free store is serving about 200 families. We have cleaned up the temple grounds and some of the adjacent properties. Because of this we have created one of the cleanest streets in the community. Our crew has been committed to outreach. Some of us have been using a truck generously donated friends of the southern California crew members to deliver goods to people who can’t make it to the temple. We have even delivered goods to a temple in a neighboring town that was virtually wiped out.

Our group is made up mainly of 10 burners from all over (with several more arriving in the coming weeks), 7 film industry folks from southern California and Phil Lindsday and 4 of his kids. Our group is getting along fabulously. Spirits are high. Everyone has a real sense of accomplishment. It is a real special feeling that we all have when we sit back after a full 12 hour day of busting our asses and reflect on the good things that we our doing for this community that needs help.

The monks at the temple are really appreciative of our efforts, as is everybody in the community. They thank us from the bottom of their hearts everyday. They fix us meals and invite us to tea many times a day. I was concerned that the food distribution was beginning to be a distraction to the daily business of the temple. After all, we are taking up a large part of the parking lot and hundreds of people arrive each day. When I asked one of the monks about this, he said that if we were not there helping these people, there would be no reason for the monks to be there either. They are truly grateful. I feel warm every time I hear them thank us.

Our operation is totally pro. It is so kick-ass that many of the organizations like FEMA and the Red Cross are starting to base some of their services out of the temple grounds. Everyday, other groups come by to check out what we are doing. As far as the working conditions, it is HOT and SMELLY here. Temperatures hit 90 everyday and the humidity is 100%. The smell of rot is always in the air. We are situated across the street from a building that is filled with rotting meat (yummy). I think I’ve gotten used to it. I no longer have a gag reflex when I smell it. The nights cool off just enough to fall asleep. If it was 2 degrees warmer, I would probably toss and turn all night long. As bad as it seems, everyone really digging it. The playa really prepared me for these less than ideal conditions.

We now have a washer and dryer on site. This is very good because recycling clothes that you sweat in all day is not the best thing. Our playa style shower was constructed 2 days ago. We no longer have to raid the near by construction site showers late at night. It came in handy yesterday when I had to wash some rotten chicken juice off of me. I was tasked with moving the 250 lbs of salmonella infested chicken that had been living in our refrigerated truck to the trash. One of the boxes busted on me. I was mortified. Anyway, I promptly took a shower and washed my clothes.

Semis are dropping off supplies on a less frequent basis. The store is getting cleaned out daily. When I first got here, it seemed like trucks were unloading things all day long. People still need things though and will need them for a long time. We are expecting 2 big truckloads in the next few days. We need everything, especially diapers and cleaning supplies. Toilet paper and paper towels are big on the list as well as canned meats. If you would like to send anything, the temple is accepting mail now.

The address is:
Temple Van Duc
179 Oak St.
Biloxi, MS 39530

The people here have lost everything. Everyone has a personal tragedy story. They hide their sadness well though. They always smile when you help them out. I’m so proud of what we are doing here. The Burning Man spirit is alive and well here in Biloxi. If you would like to come here and help or donate anything, please contact Rich @ xxx-xxx-xxxx to see what our needs are. This is a dynamic environment with things changing hourly.

What City?

The Green T-Stake ceremony marks the end of DPW’s work

As they say in the biz, it’s a wrap. Today, the cleanup crew swung the last rake, picked up the last traffic cone, chased the last piece of runaway moop. Black Rock City is gone, leaving no trace…

Lucky

It was a good day all around; in fact, it felt a lot like the last day of school. Line Sweeps meandered through the outer edges of the city, then took a walk down Gate Road. There was so little moop that we ended up taking a few unscheduled breaks, just sitting around on the playa and chatting.

Breaktime
Breaktime, more

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DPW Talent Nite

Yes, it was as scary as it sounds.

Mayfield was really excited about having a talent show. He kept announcing it at the morning meetings, almost ad nauseam. It sounded like a pretty dorky idea at first, but Mayfield has a knack for convincing people – and besides, he kept reminding us that we could do it DPW-style.

He was right, too. He had wrangled up a big group of volunteers for the weekend; the Black Rock Social Club was packed to the gills for the best talent show this little blogger has ever seen.

Click any small photo to enlarge it. And please excuse the dust on my camera lens!

The show was hosted by Tremain Calm and Sleep Dep. Pandragon and Tom each performed spoken word (which was excellent, despite Mayfield’s repeated warnings that anyone reciting poetry would be fed to Lazlo). Next up was a very disturbing clown act by Fitz in Your Mouth.

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