Monday night they began tearing down the Center Camp Café. I was walking back from dinner where entire camps were disappearing with great expediency, leaving gaping holes in the once urbanized wall of themecamps that were there only one day before. Gone were the Home Brew camp, the Beacon and Eggs bar. As I passed the Café I saw two of the last stragglers; a tall naked man stood with his back to me next to his female companion who wore a flowing paisley robe, both staring wistfully into the Café that had become a deconstruction zone. I could tell they only wanted just one more Tai Chi or Chai Tea but the Café is closed for business.
Driving around the city on Monday, I was surprised by how many camps were still up. We’d had a steady dribble of folks fleeing ever since Friday’s nice dusty night storm but on Monday they seemed to be staying put. Over here by the ARTery, we had a potluck dinner and a long table of friends eating all the event leftovers. There was hearty laughter and stories told by the light of fire barrels about what a great burn it had been. There was wine and absinthe and smiles all around.
I woke up a bit absinthe minded Tuesday, but made my way out to visit some camps. We stopped by the 3 o’clock plaza, then out to the edge of the city. Radio Free Burning Man was all packed up and MOOPing with rakes and magnetic rollers to make sure they didn’t leave a trace. Actually all over Black Rock City, citizens were breaking down and finding a lot of MOOP. If you don’t know what MOOP is, you should. It is “Matter Out of Place” and it is anything that is on the ground that shouldn’t be there. We had some great first timers (aka Newbies) this year who I met everywhere I went in the city. They did a great job acclimating and becoming acculturated as far as I could see, however one point should be made just in case it wasn’t clear enough. Leave No Trace means not only not dropping your trash on the ground, but also picking up anything you see blowing by. We’re all in this together and leaving not a trace of the event afterwards is a huge job that takes everyone to pull it off. Every little thing you pick up helps to make that a reality.
By Tuesday it seemed we had a bigger Exodus and the dust picked up considerably. I checked in with Collexodus and am happy to report that they had a banner year so thank you for bringing the DPW stuff to keep them going and working to tear down Black Rock City once you’re at home all showered, in clean clothes and looking at the pictures you took this year.
We’ve been in day long dust since Tuesday morning with occasional breaks where the sky above is bright blue with cookie cutter bright white clouds that cast strange shadows on the sides of the mountains to the west. Along Black Rock City’s roadways in a few places, you could see piles of those big two gallon water containers with a sign that read “FREE”. People, no one wants those. Take them with you. And bikes… oh my, I had no idea how many of you either just get wasted and forget where you left your bike, or decide to “donate” it to the organization. If your bike is broken or if you don’t want to take it home with you, do us all a favor and TAKE IT HOME WITH YOU. I was riding up 6:30 out to the Gate and I passed some FREE water, quite a few abandoned bikes and a youngish hippie girl with a hitchhiking sign that read “ANYWHERE”. She was the only thing that made it out of here.
A few of the larger villages are still tearing down. I was over at Mansonian and Insane the Transpo God who has a button with a Hyster on the other end of it, was joking and said, “I tell them, take your driver’s license, read your name to remember it, and right below your name is an address. Go there now.” You don’t have to go home, you just can’t stay here.
They’ve graded the service road and long trucks and semis are arriving to take out the thousands of porta potties and pick up trailers from the depot. Staging areas for campers are being set up. You can once again see all the way across the playa where once there was a city. And the DPW are again running things as the last party camps hit the pavement. There is heavy equipment movement everywhere. People are excited knowing this is almost done. They’re almost giddy but also ready for hard work days aheaed. Dave X was spotted wearing a panda hat and I heard an anvil explode off somewhere on the Esplanade to a great chorus of cheers. There are random explosions of an indeterminate nature and at night, as structures become more and more sparse you realize just how different one feels living in a vibrant city as opposed to staying in a camper next to two containers at the end of a dusted out expanse of nothingness.
It becomes more and more apparent with each wall of alkaline powdery grit shaking your domicile that this will all be gone very, very soon. Teardown is a lot easier than the build I’m told. Erasing the evidence of us being out here happens like clockwork and that’s how it is meant to be. All the hours of work to build the place, then the hours of preparation for people to come out here to be with friends or to discover something they’ve never seen before, and all the hours to tear it down are part of this process of creating something new and beautiful in our world.
We don’t leave a mark on the ground out here, but rather in the spirit we bring with us. The spirit we give to each other and then take back stronger into the world to share so that next year even more will arrive with their dreams and inventions and inspirations. I’m convinced that we’re on to something. It sounds kind of ridiculous, but we really seem to be doing something more than just having a big party out here.
But for now, the roughneck, frontier wilderness is stretching and stirring back to life as the insane week long party of Burning Man empties out gate road, first in hectic exhausted bursts then slowing down to a dribble, like this is some hourglass we turn over each year and watch all the grains of sand flow into then out of Black Rock City.
The hourglass will soon be emptied and readied to flip over again. But for now I’ll be cleaning the sand out of my camper.