And we’re off …
The gates opened last night and the cars and trailers and trucks and mutant vehicles came streaming through, to the whoops and hollers of those just arriving, and from the people welcoming them Home. All the weeks and months of work had coalesced into this moment of relief and joy and anticipation and excitement. The guests have arrived, and dinner is served.
It was a beautiful night in Black Rock City. There had been steady winds of about 25 mph all day long, and the forecast was for increasing gusts, but when night fell the air was calm. It made for a festive night.
“I love this place!” one person shouted, for no apparent reason. “I love this place more!” answered another.
Out at the Man, cars and bikes and blinking people lined up around the perimeter of the base, waiting for the clock to strike 12 so they could climb the winding staircase to the top. BMIR was broadcasting the countdown, like some mutant version of Dick Clark’s New Years Eve show on TV. When the witching hour arrived, and the radio was playing “Consider yourself, at home! Consider yourself, part of the family!,” up and up the people went to get a view of the Man and a view of the city. Poor Betty June was stationed at one side of the staircase, patiently telling people that the “up” stairwell was on the other side, and then helping people as they made their way down. She’d be on duty till 4 in the morning, and there will be someone stationed there round the clock, all week long, letting people know that one way’s up, and the other way’s down.
Over at Kate’s Raudenbush’s “Altered States,” the work lights blinked off, and then the birdcage glowed red in the darkness. It is just so gorgeous. There was a sweet moment for Kate and the crew; appetizers were spread out inside the dome, champagne corks were popped, and heartfelt words were spoken. “This is for all of you,” Kate said, tearing up. “It just couldn’t have happened without you.”
Then she had everyone, on the count of three, pull out a branch from beneath the table, each person coming away with a little piece of the whole. It was very touching, and they all seemed like family standing there celebrating together.
And the piece really does look like a glowing Capitol building from a distance (it’s designed after the U.S. Senate building). But when you pull up closer you see the Native American-inspired scrollwork on the dome. And then you see the swings in the center and then you are struck by the troubled relationship between Native Americans, the U.S. government, and what it’s like to live where someone says you must.
The open areas beyond the Esplanade have filled in nicely with beautiful and provocative art. The giant red poppy field was glowing in the night, a completely different experience than coming upon it during the day, when the red petals leap out against the ridiculously blue sky. A nearby piece featured centerpieces of translucent multicolored dildos, again, all glowy in the night. More than a couple of people broke out laughing when the came up close enough to see what they were looking at. “Don’t forget to touch them,” one girl squealed.
The morning broke beautifully (after a very obnoxious wake-up call from some person or persons at Center Camp, who thought it would be really cool, I guess, to really really BLAST some early ’80s crappy disco music at, oh, around 5:30 in the morning. All I can say to that is, dude, you are affecting my experience.) (And while we’re on the subject, have you ever noticed how often there is an inverse correlation between the loudness of the music and the number of people at the party? Like, the loudest places are often empty. Not true at all at the kicking dance clubs out on the edge of town; that’s where it really happens. It’s loud, it grooves, DJs get flown in for the gigs, it’s all incredibly smoking. But Center Camp at dawn? Not so much.) (PS: end of rant.)
So the people have been streaming in all day, and now the wind is just blowing and blowing and blowing. The dust blots out everything. It’s not sunny out anymore, it’s just varying shades of brown. I haven’t been able to see the Man all day. Sometimes, you can’t see across the street. Sometimes, you just can’t see a thing; you just stand there and wait for it to pass.
I wonder what it’s like on the perimeter. My guess is the sun is shining out there, and all this looks like a bad dream.
New York camp was spreading out all over the city. For days and days now, Big Apple Burners have been picking up their gear from three huge containers that were shipped across country. More than 300 people rented space in the containers, so that they didn’t have to haul all that stuff themselves. It’s an amazing operation. Everything was packed up in Jersey City weeks ago, put on rails, and three transfers later the containers were put on trucks in Reno for the trip to Black Rock. Of course, the truck drivers got lost, missed the entrance to the Burn, wound up 30 miles down the road, tried to turn around and got stuck in the sand … but all that’s another story.
New York is one of the huge regional Burner operations, and they’re a big part of the scene here. Down the road from where New York was unloading, two huge containers from Boston and another from Philadelphia were distributing gear, the scene something like a pickup dock at Best Buy, only gone all funky and nuts.
Tigger, one of the New York crew, has two camps at the Burn, “one on each side of the Esplanade, so I can sleep where I wind up at night.” Sounds perfectly logical. She calls one place her “pied a tent.” Sweet.
So welcome home, all you who have arrived today. Just a few things to remember:
1) You’re going to lose stuff. Just accept it. Have faith that the missing merchandise will reappear when you make your way home. I haven’t seen my iPhone in 10 days; I’m trusting that somewhere, in all my stuff, it’s waiting for me to find it.
2) This dust will cease. It will. A cold front is coming through, and when it arrives, the wind will die down, it’ll be cooler at night and then only in the 90s during the day, instead of the 100s that it’s been. 3) Understand that by the time you have finally arrived at the most efficient way of organizing your gear, when you know exactly where to find the things you need when you need them, it’s going to be time to go home.
4) WD-40 works really well on messed-up zippers. In a pinch, Chapstick or soap might help, too; and
5) It sounds gross, but it’s true: Piss clear. It’s the way to know you’re hydrating properly.