out and about


Monday, Aug. 18.

The wind arrived last night, and it didn’t stop all night, or all the next day. And with it came the dust.

It’s been curious to be so relatively windstorm-free for what, 11 days? (counting the off-playa hiatus). Every other time I’ve come out here, there’s always been a whiteout as I was arriving. The first time, I’ve got to tell you, it was pretty unsettling. But it was also one of those moments you don’t ever forget; you don’t forget who you were with, or what you were wearing, or what music was playing, or exactly how you felt.

So coming in and out of Gate road now that the wind is here puts the community imperative on you. Yes, you want to get where you’re going. And you probably want to get there faster than 5 miles an hour. But if you do, you kick up the dust. And the wind carries the dust across the whole camp. So you don’t go faster than 5 miles an hour, and if you DO see someone going faster, you give them the palms up sign out the window, or you hear them get scolded on the radio.

(A little word about the radio. The radio is the only way of communicating out here, other than talking face to face. There are no phones; don’t be silly. So there’s no texting, either, can you imagine? And no IM. But there are radios. Quite a few of them. And there are trunks and channels to route all the conversations. I’ve been on DPW Site channel 4 until today. It’s a great channel. Busy. Important. Vital to the building of the city. But I switched over to Media Mecca today, because that’s more where I belong, really. So goodbye to HazMatt and Playground and Reyposado and Sleep Dep and Big Stick and dozens and dozens of other voices, and hello to Meow Meow and Action Girl and Kid Hack and all the new crew. Nice to be here!)

Every day things happen and you can’t keep up. They put the triangular top of the obelisk up on the Man base today, and I wasn’t there. Last night, they dropped the spiral staircase in the middle of the Temple, and I wasn’t there. Crap. … It’s just like the event week, really. You check out the What Where When booklet and mark it all up with the great things you’re going to do — oh yeah, I DO want frozen eclairs and champagne at 3:30 on Wednesday. Elk dinner? Yes please. Oh, and I really want to go down to that camp where they’re making the cool necklaces.

(more…)

center camp so far

In the beginning, there was nothing but flags
In the beginning, there was nothing but flags ...

So I thought it would be a good time to take a look at how things are shaping up so far. First up is Center Camp. The shade screens are still going up (which involves the tedious and difficult task of attaching ties to each and every grommet that attaches to the cables), but already the shade is significant.

Do me a favor: When you get here, lavish the work crew with every gift and kindness that’s in your power to provide. (more…)

ok, ok, it’s not all work out here

Magellan and his dad ... er, mom for the night, kind of had matching outfits
Magellan and his dad ... er, mom for the night, kind of had matching outfits
Felony and Joe, whose high heels put him at a whole new altitude
Felony and Joe, whose high heels put him at a whole new altitude

Thursday night was ladies’ night at the Commissary.

Men had to dress like women to get into the party. There was an inspection at the door. If you didn’t look feminine enough, you didn’t get in, simple as that. Your correspondent barely passed the test; he had borrowed a skirt that was semi-flattering because it covered up a lot, but he only had a man’s white formal shirt for a top. Once Lexy tied it up around his sternum, thus exposing plenty of midsection flesh, he could take his place inside. (more…)

look, ma, a city …

Center Camp is going up fast. Really fast.
Center Camp is going up fast. Really fast.

First, an admission.

I was off the playa for most of two days. The details are boring; just mark it down to the demands of the default world.

Still, you can tell the people who’ve been out of the dust and the sun for even a little while. Their eyes aren’t as red, their clothes aren’t as dirty and their mental state isn’t quite as blasted as those who’ve been out in it each and every day.

So I’ve become one of “those” people now, and it’s not a happy thing.

Everything got bigger when I was away. Three of the platforms for The Man were constructed, and one of them was even hoisted on top of another one, creating a second level. Eventually, there will be three levels, each of them 16 feet high. And there’ll be spiral staircases inside that you’ll be able to walk up  when the the construction is finished.

The platforms for the base of the Man have been assembled
The platforms for the base of the Man have been assembled

“It’s like an obelisk,” said Brian as he squinted into the sun and worked to make the fittings just right. “You know, like the Washington Monument. Or a big prick.”

Oh yes. A mighty big prick.

Center Camp is also taking shape fast. The headers are in place, and the crew even finished the cabling by Wednesday. By Thursday, the netting was going up for shade. Believe me, you will appreciate the shade. And you simply have to marvel at the work ethic of the Center Camp crew. They are just unstoppable. “Everyone on the crew is trying to impress me,” Joe the Builder said. Whatever the reason, things are  ahead of schedule.

Out a little further at the Temple, more of the pieces have arrived. Huge wooden poles will support giant walkways are lying prone in the dust, waiting for a three-crane lift later in the week. There will also be a “double-helix” circular staircase in the middle, the handiwork of Brandon, who’s got years of experience building stairways and took a lot of that knowledge with him out to the desert. (more…)

flag day

Flags are everywhere.

Posts, beams, cables, spikes … eventually, all these flags will have something put in the ground where there are only flags now.

Surveyors have been out walking, consulting maps, stepping off distances, trying to make sure that drawings and plans become actual facts on the ground.

the orange flag marked the very center of where Center Camp is being constructed
the orange flag marked the very center of where Center Camp is being constructed

Yesterday, Monique and Danny were working their way around the rim of Center Camp, repeating the same process over and over and over again: Go to the pink and green flag, put a stake on the digging machine, slowly rotate it into the ground,  adjust the sheath, put it in a little further, adjust the sheath again, then sink it so that only a  loop of steel was peeking out of the dust.

Later, cables will be attached to keep the shade sturdy.

Danny is very much like a lot of people out here: He’s got another life in the default word, but more and more the Burner life and the default world are intersecting.

Earlier this year, he went to Peru in the wake of the earthquake there to help put devastated villages back together again. He’s got a variety of skills — plumbing, electricity, carpentry — so he brings a lot to the party. He planned on spending a week helping out, then he’d spend a couple of weeks traveling around. “Two months later, I was still there,” he said.

Danny adjusts the sheath
Danny adjusts the sheath

The villagers were accustomed to having water for only an hour a day, and that was before the earthquake.  “But they were happy,” Danny said. “They’d just say, hey, it’s Peru.”  So he and the other Burners Without Borders were building concrete tanks that would gather water, so the villagers would have water when they needed it, not just when it was running.

So how does a guy find it possible to go helping people out around the world? “I sold a software company at the right time,” Danny said.

Monique in the cab
... and just because we've declared this flag day, and because of this year's theme, here's one that seemed appropriate ...
... and because we declared this flag day, here's one that seemed appropriate.