I spent today with Harley Dubois, Director of Community Services and Playa Safety. As such, she’s in charge of one or two little things like:
* Theme camps & villages
* Ingress & egress
* Playa Information
* Earth Guardians
* Bus Depot
* Black Rock Rangers
* Gate & Perimeter
* Emergency Services
Like I said, just minor stuff. :-)
I met Harley at First Camp around 8:30 am, bedraggled after two hours of sleep, and she looked resplendent in white, radio in hand, running things efficiently and proficiently from a shaded table in front of her trailer.
At Burning Man, each department has a radio channel or several, and Harley moves between them as easily as a teenager flips through the cable stations. She is, throughout the day, responding to questions and concerns from her people in the field, making decisions quickly and dispatching solutions. She’s got a notebook in front her to keep track of meetings and appointments, but everything else is in her head, the result of 18 years of experience and probably at least part of the reason her radio handle is “Heady.”
First up is a meeting with Big Bear, Law Enforcement Liaison between Black Rock City and the BLM, county Sheriffs, and local police. He tells Harley that the BLM has been issuing citations for open containers more aggressively than years past, and that BLM interns were at the gate last night counting cars and occupants. There are also reports of BLM using binoculars to look into camps. They discuss the higher ratio this year of first-year BLM Rangers to experienced staff and what implications that might have. Also, the head BLM honcho from Washington DC is here, and that might make a difference. All in all, everything is going smoothly, and they plan to touch base later in the day.
A word on population and the BLM: when you give your ticket to the gate, they tear off the little stub and hand you back the large portion to keep. They take those little stubs and count them (by weight I think) in order to track population. Population is important for a multitude of reasons, one of which is the permit fee to the Bureau of Land Management. Burning Man pays the BLM $4 per person per day for the right to use the playa for the event. So everyone is interested in keeping track.
Next is a meeting with Marsha, Headmistress of Arctica and the Center Camp Café. This year there are two additional ice stations, at the 3:00 and 9:00 plazas, and they’ve been having problems with the drivers from Crystal Ice- some of them have never been here before. Now, I know for some of you getting around BRC is second nature, but if it’s your first time at the gate, you might have some trouble finding your way to 3:00 and Boreal- polar coordinates aren’t necessarily intuitive to everyone. Crystal Ice had to ramp up their staff and use more trucks this year, so they are busy trying to iron out the kinks.
During their meeting, Harley found out that the lines for ice at the 3:00 and 9:00 plazas were really long and interfering with traffic, while there was virtually no line at Center Camp Arctica. Hmmm, people seem to have found the new shops. Time to re-route ice and personnel. Marsha gets right on it, used to the pace after 14 burns. She oversees everything at Center Camp including lighting and décor, 1,000 volunteers at the coffee shop alone, and all the artists and performances. She bids adieu and promises to check in later.
Harley meets briefly with Dave Galat, head of handicap services, and reschedules a placement meeting for 11:30. She talks to Marian about issues and services at First Camp then meets with Miss Foam, the Black Rock Arts Foundation (BRAF) Executive Director they managed to lure away from the Exploratorium in San Francisco. During a brief moment of relative calm, Harley explains that she already met this morning with the gate and Seadog, who runs the Black Rock Rangers.
The Placement Team arrives and tells Harley that there have been a lot of border disputes between the camps. Shadow spent an hour and a half watching people try to take space at 3:00 and I, explaining the system as best she could between placements, and when she went back two hours later somebody had set up an entire camp right in the middle of the designated theme camp area and pulled out all the survey flags. They all agree it’s getting almost impossible to keep people out of theme camp spots. One suggestion is to open the gate at 8:00 am next year instead of midnight so it’s easier to see the survey flags and figure out where to camp.
The placement meeting ends with a round of swag for the group, and everyone heads back out. Harley and I walk over to the Senior Staff meeting and take a seat on a bench. Ever wonder what it’s like at the upper levels during the event? Well now you’ll know…
Joseph from Emergency Services opens with radio issues. Marian in particular has been having trouble with delays and inaudible transmissions. A lot of other people agree and Joseph handles their concerns one by one. Radio performance is critical out here.
Danger Ranger reports that the gate opened smoothly at 11:45 last night and that the Krishna Temple Camp at Estuary & 9:00 is getting press in India.
Odwally says that the DMV was busier on Sunday than usual and that there’s too much driving on the Esplanade. They need better signage next year since the Esplanade is off limits to motor vehicles.
Will Roger tells us that the airport is up and running with scheduled flights landing and departing daily. There is currently a Russian bi-plane out there.
Coyote has been on rumor patrol and has nothing of substance to report.
Cujo brought the group up to date on ticket sales and population and says that he was super impressed with the Burning Man staff at yesterday’s law enforcement meeting.
Bex reports the Regional Information Center is up and running with events scheduled during the week, and Steven tells us about Los Angeles and New York Regionals radio PSAs. He also mentions café performances and decompression schedules.
Mean Bean said the box office was hopping last night (Ya it was!) with six windows open and 50-60 people deep.
Kimmi and Robin reported briefly on HR and accounting.
Hazmatt told us all to look out for illicit potable water sales. Some company is driving around vending to participants.
Playground has been putting out fires (virtually not literally) and doing last-minute hiring.
Entropy started to speak but was interrupted by a loud round of applause for the gate. He said that they’ve got a great crew and 80 new volunteers. They burned a lot of sticks and twigs last night (no plants allowed), but otherwise things went really well.
Marian reported the arrival of a billionaire bigwig by helicopter for yesterday’s bike ride. She was also very moved by the professionalism at the gate last night and caring for volunteers.
C-Load gave props to Jake at the D-Lot.
Harley thanked everyone for working so hard and doing a great job.
Super said things are going really smoothly and heavy equipment is keeping up with demand. Marian chimed in that Support Services & Heavy Equipment are the heroes of the playa.
Camera Girl gave a quick summary of internet access and tech stuff.
Andie Grace told us to be sure and check out happy hour at Media Mecca.
Lady Bee said that the keyhole piece at Center Camp is excellent. (I think she means the bike sculpture.)
Marsha said that Center Camp Arctica is slow, the slowest start in years, due to new locations at 3:00 and 9:00.
Crimson Rose let us know that the Artery is up and running and very busy. They are a little bit behind at the Man Pavillion. Also, the cauldron is still missing and she is bummed. There’s an APB out for it, but no one has been able to find it.
Big Bear reported no major problems but told everyone that the #1 BLM Ranger is here from D.C. There have been some questions about surveillance and questions about federal versus state jurisdiction. People have been getting pulled over for no registration tags while they are driving on the playa and there has been a zero tolerance approach for any open containers in a vehicle.
Last to speak was Larry Harvey, and I’m just going to let you wonder…