Hello out there, moop maniacs and line sweepers extraordinaire! The Hun here, checking in after a very R-E-A-L weekend.
Boy, did it rain in the desert.
Thursday brought a deluge, and by Friday the playa was limned with glinting streams – standing water just waiting to swallow vehicles and turn your feet into mudboots. And then … it rained again.
Now, we’ve been down this road before. As many of you will remember, early rains in 2010 caused the BLM site inspection to be delayed by EIGHT MONTHS as we waited for Lake Lahontan to dry. When the seasons change out here, they do it on a dime.
AND YET! Your Playa Restoration hotshots REFUSED to be grounded this year. I wish I could express to you what that means, what it takes to get people safely on and off the playa, not just people but busloads of DPW, fording actual rivers as the winds howl and the mud squelches. How many hours are spent by DA and his crackerjack team, just to find a route from the highway to the city. How many sleepless nights spent wondering… will we do it this time?
There was a thin morning sun illuminating the steps of the Saloon as workers gathered to hear whether the playa had dried out enough to allow Resto work to resume after a two and a half day wipeout. The air was chilly, bordering on cold, and if there were pumpkins on the porch, they likely would have had frost on them.
Coyote sauntered across the street, muttering “It’s not summer anymore.” No, for sure, it’s not. But the rain had stopped, and that was a good thing. “At least it wasn’t snow,” Coyote said. Snow? During Resto? “Sure,” he said. “We had to call it one day because it was coming down sideways.”
Ok, we’ll count our blessings, then, that it’s only been rain, and not freezing cold, too. People went inside for the morning meeting, and the Cobra Commander and D.A. gave the word that the BLM inspection had been moved back until Tuesday. That was the good news. The bad news was that the Resto team was going to need just about every minute of that time, because there was a LOT left to do.
“This is the year we are absolutely not going to fail,” D.A. said. The Cobra said there would be a full work day tomorrow, and a full work day Monday, as well. “We’re good,” he said. “Let’s kill it.”
So the troops loaded onto school buses and headed out to the playa. And you had to be on a school bus, or some other fleet vehicle, because there were no personal cars allowed this day. The playa was too wet, and if you tried to drive, you would likely get stuck, and no one wanted to waste time rescuing you.
The drive out Route 34 gave a hint of what was to come. The rain from the past several days made the playa look like it was covered with water, because the sun was glinting off the surface. But the desert was only wet, not submerged. But there WERE rivers of water in the depressions caused by off-roaders. Those were rippling in the morning sun, and the “tide” looked like it was carrying the water back to town. And when the buses traversed the desert streams, there was lots of splashing water and a pretty good jolt if you were seated in the back of the bus.
As roll was being called along the shoreline, Phoenix Firestarter was doing stretches off to the side. “It helps me get my mind where I need it to be,” she said. And what she needed to be, and everyone else needed to be, was focused. There were a lot of streets left to sweep, and there were orange cones all over the playa, meaning that the Special Forces team would need to give them special attention to get them cleaned up.
And then off everyone went, the line sweepers and the fluffers and the scribes and the line bosses and the special forces, maybe 80 people overall, off to to make the most of the day.
By lunchtime, it had become clear that people were making serious progress. The special forces reported “busting” 150 cones — six people in three trucks, cleaning and sweeping and raking the worst hot spots, and doing it fast and clean.
The regular lines moved through the middle of the city in the morning, then tackled the Esplanade in the afternoon. They were moving well, too, but then new clouds started moving in, and the wind picked up, and the weather forecasts that had predicted rain by 4 in the afternoon started to look pretty good.
The troops took a morale break around 2:30 in the afternoon, and by that time the sky had gone dark, and it looked like rain was already hitting Gerlach. There was also lightning in the distance, so the smart move was to get everyone off playa and back into town. And good thing, too. By 4 pm, sure enough, the rain arrived with a wallop, and with it came a lot of thunder and lightning, as well.
So that was it for the day — lots of progress, but more rain, and tomorrow’s work day looks threatened. The Hun will have her moop map update in another post, but for now, there are lots of antsy people wondering how it’s all going to get done.
Black Rock City got hit with some harsh wind this year. Not as apocalyptically near-tornado-level wind as the playa can whip up, but still, 2015 saw enough consistent and prolific dust to monopolize half the Burning Man experience for some people.
What this means for Playa Restoration, in general, is dustpiles on the moon.
It means the DPW stays busy combating dunes across the city’s site. On line sweeps, we look for little serpentines with rare MOOP treasures in them, and we rake long arrays of fine-dust layers until they smooth out and/or blow away.
Then there are the larger dunes where structures and fences once stood, which need to be manhandled and sometimes even heavy-machined.
Dunes have become Bobtuse and crew’s bailiwick. Bobtuse, DPW’s prime dunebuster since after he started volunteering in 2000 or 2001, drives his truck in large loops and pirouettes all day, pulling a huge flat heavy metal square thing.
“You might get seasick riding with me,” Bobtuse says on a recent crackling-hot day on playa. This is his sixteenth Playa Restoration, and he hasn’t gotten woozy yet.
“Sometimes it’s worse for the passenger than the driver,” he offers. Luckily, this writer doesn’t get seasick either, but on Bobtuse’ crazy-eights route, we begin to feel that euphoric and yukey carnival-ride feeling.
The dunebuster he’s pulling behind him with a chain smashes through tiny hills of playa — BOOSH — making miniature dust devils and wee windstorms as he tears down the dune. This huge tool on a truck chain, a square of metal-with-rebar welded by the DPW’s metal shop at the Ranch as usual, resembles a spiderweb.
Pen-and-paper note-taking becomes chicken scratch and we soon give up on writing and dunebusting simultaneously. It’s like mowing the lawn, this writer points out.
“Mhm, except it’s kinda random and irregular.” Bobtuse calmly drives in crazy patterns while we hold on to the truck’s oh-shit bar. Perhaps his relaxed and balanced manner, cowboy-succinct speech, and ninja-level composure are all due to his job requiring him to shake and spin his organs up all day long.
We reminisce about the first dunebuster Demilitia, then head of metal shop, created around 19-2000 or so. Her dunebuster prototype was basically a big chain to drag.
After the chain, Bobtuse says, Demilitia fabricated “one that was a railroad tie on a chain — but it was too heavy for most trucks to pull. It was hard even on the bigger engines. Then there was a big fence chain kinda thing with a tire for weight on top of it, but that one created dust. It was just abrasive.
“This one, we’ve had it for a while. There’s two edges that push — so it doesn’t really dig, it just displaces. We also have a new one now — more heavy duty. Because it’s heavier, it pushes more instead of just floating.” (That’s the one Mr. Blue’s driving this year.)
We ride out to the fence, with Bobtuse busting big dunes marked with Special Forces cones along the way. We are instructed to drive right behind him, right in his dust line, because to the left of us is unbusted dune, and to the right of us is fluffy, flat, freshly-busted playa. (more…)
Greetings, you moop maniacs and line sweepers extraordinaire! I’m writing this from the still-dripping eaves of the Burning Man office in downtown Gerlach, NV. We had a doozy of a storm that blew the crew off the playa Wednesday morning, then turned into a day-long rain. The playa turned to mud, and the entire Restoration operation was grounded Thursday and Friday.
After three days on the sidelines, we are all raring to go. Your Playa Restoration hotshots really love their job, folks, and can’t wait to get back out there and finish the job before Burning Man’s site inspection with the BLM. As a matter of fact, we’re planning to work through the weekend and right up until the moment our BLM representatives arrive.
If you ever felt like cheering on the Resto crew, now is the moment! Let them know you’re rooting for them. Send a prayer on the wind. Whatever good mojo you’ve got, send it toward the playa – we’ll take it!
So About the Red Thing
So listen, I want to answer a question that’s been popping up in the comments ever since Day One:
What’s that red spot right in the middle of the Moop Map?
Would you believe it’s Burning Man’s clown nose? (more…)
To start, it sometimes takes as little as receiving call from abroad with your friend’s voice on the other side and waterfall of words you hope you understand right. “I found great place, it is in nature, has enough space, they do festivals there and we can grow up to 2000 people. It is on the Austrian-Czech border. Let’s start the Central European Burn.” And your answer? Why of course “OK, let’s do it”.
This happened last Autumn and I can’t swear he said it like this word for word, but it is pretty close. It took 8 months and around 150 people from 12 countries gathered in Austrian countryside surrounded by fields and forest with a cold stream running in the middle.
Three days event with two days of preparations on site (and the eight months before over emails, Skype and calls, hours and hours of work) brought a bunch of creative people who share their love of Burning Man Principles and culture, and on a smaller scale recreated the thing we called Home. Because the reason we put ourselves through months of work and planning and sleepless nights is: we want to have Home closer to our homes.
When I arrived there was already Gate running and after some greetings, hugging and spanking, I jumped through the gate yelling Spaaark as loud as I could. And the world of magic opened in front of me. There was huge pirate ship with a swing and silk hanging down for acrobats. There was a treehouse on little island in the middle of the river and mud bath right behind our tents.
There was full timetable of workshops and performances from Japanese dance, shibari, human car-ass wash, screen writing to pimp your own cup. There was a cow with crazy projections. There was an installation of a camera which took pictures and shuffled them on three screens. The camera was supposed to take the picture every 30 seconds or so and after 20 minutes in front of we just didn’t figure out what the camera is really doing. I think the art project was actually to watch the people waiting for the pictures appearing on the screens. Funny.
And there was this white dome with mini(do)me inside and I had to wait until the darkness to come to really see this interactive masterpiece of lights. I was actually rushing to bathroom when I saw it in all its blinkiness and said to myself, let’s stop for a minute. Yeah, I know, what was I thinking. I spent over 30 minutes (until my bladder was screaming out loud already) playing as a kid with the mini-dome, because by touching it you could change not only the light pattern and speed, but also the colors. It was like DJing the lights on the cutest mini(do)me ever and when you looked up, the big dome was shadowing the mini(do)me.
We talked about Burning Man a lot and how to bring it home and how to repeat and improve this event for next year and involve more people and have more art and our brains were working all the time. It took a spark on the phone and Spark happened with everything that one could expect from such an event.
And then, at the end, during packing, pirates attacked the ship, but they didn’t see this coming (none of us did). A troop of mud people surfaced out of nowhere and fought them off and it was epic.
Hi all, we’re subbing today for the very capable Hun and her Resto blog cohort Summer Burkes to bring you news from the playa.
And in a word, there is no news.
No moop map update, no reports from the lines, no nothing.
The crews have been idled in town since midday Wednesday, when a dust storm chased everyone back to town. Then the rain moved in on Thursday, and it rained and rained and rained.
By the late afternoon, there was standing water where Black Rock City used to be, and when there is water, you simply can’t walk or drive on the playa, which really hurts Resto efforts. The sun popped out toward the end of the day, reminding everyone how ridiculously gorgeous it is here, but it was too late to begin drying things out.
This morning dawned beautifully, and the work crews duly gathered for their customary 7:30 morning meeting, but work was called off for at least the first half of the day.
A little after noon, people began to gather with their moop sticks outside the Saloon, hoping that things would have dried out enough to be able to get out there. But no go. Booya and Bubblegique and Phoenix had made an exploratory trip to the Shoreline, but the news was not so good. In fact, Bubblegique got stuck, and if the desert whisperer himself got stuck, you can imagine what would have happened to a busload of pent-up moopers. It would not have been pretty.
So we’ll try again tomorrow.
There’s at least one more street to go over, and the pressure is on, because the BLM inspection is scheduled for Monday.
Hello you moop maniacs and line sweepers extraordinaire! I’ve got more map, including the rest of the Esplanade, for you today!
How did your camp score? How did your favorite party spot fare? How did your mooping efforts pay off this year? Tell me about it in the comments please!
This year, I sat down to interview a few of the many fascinating people that make up our Playa Restoration crew. If you haven’t read Major Buzzkill’s story, you should – it’s powerful. And today I’d like to share a new side of the guy who started it all: D.A., manager and mastermind of Resto.
DA is somebody I’ve grown close to over time. We’ve done good work together over the past decade. But I always wondered: how did he get here? What path led him to this role? What inspires him to keep coming back, year after year, to lead an ever-growing crew in erasing the traces of an ever-larger city? (more…)
This one time at Burning Man, I saw a ridiculously beautiful cloudy sky, tasted delicious honey beer and met elves. Wait … well no, it didn’t happen on playa, but still, it did happen at Burning Man.
In late June, I visited Latvia for the second annual Burn Degošie Jani (DeJa), a Regional Event hosted by the Latvian Burner community and attended by people from neighboring countries. This gathering brought together around 170 people from Austria, Germany, Czech Republic, Switzerland, USA, Ireland, Poland, Australia, Russia, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Finland, Thailand and UK, all to participate, contribute and volunteer for magic to happen. I also made a quick stop in Estonia for Bling, an event organized by a group of like-minded people trying to create a participatory experience.
When I arrived in Riga, the capital of Latvia, it felt right. For some unknown reason I felt at home and even the strange language kind of made sense to me. The airport was tiny. The public transportation bus stop was just few steps outside the main entrance. As I waited, I noticed that everyone looked stylish and I quickly learned that internet lied to me because Latvians no longer use their own currency LAT, but switched to EUROs (damn internet liar). After my fight with the bus ticket machine, I looked up to the sky and felt in love. For the rest of my stay in Latvia, I actually had to try hard not to look at the sky ALL THE TIME. Seriously, I do have a stupid amount of photos of their cloudy skies. Tourists!
In the city, I met my dear local friend Aya, had traditional Latvian meatballs, tasted honey beer (and I wouldn’t believe, coming from the land of the beer, that I would appreciate this one so much) and after a while Steffen from Germany joined, then Sascha from Switzerland landed, and soon enough we were group of Burners, each from a different country, all excited to share the same adventure in Latvian countryside.
DeJa takes place on a hemp farm about 2 hours from Riga and the whole ride is lined by green fields and trees. There was a Newbie in our car and because one of the Principles of DeJa is “each one teach one”, we decided to put her to the test. She blew our minds by not only knowing the Principles, but also by the way in which she explained them to us. I can’t tell you what she said, but the way she did it left us with our mouths open. We were ready for DeJa! The ride was swift and we kept ourselves entertained by sharing stories. One time, we were storytelling so intensely that we missed the exit from the roundabout. It was an enormous roundabout, so our concentration on the exit faded away with another story and we missed it again. The third time was our time and we finally made it out of the circle with a lot of laughter and, after few minutes, we got to the last part of our journey to Deja. We had to follow exact instructions to get on the right dirt road, follow the right fence and end up in the right middle of nowhere in a giant green field.
DeJa is inspired by both the Latvian and Lithuanian Midsummer tradition and Burning Man. It is fascinating fusion and evolution of these two elements, incorporating the ethos of the Burner culture with the holiday that is integral to culture of Latvia to create a regional event. Old songs and stories, wreaths in the hair from flowers for women and from young branches for men, fires everywhere and of course jumping over the fire and dancing around it. It was beautiful to observe how natural all the traditions still are for people, not something “old” we do just because it is expected, but something we want to do because it defines us.
For entertainment, there was a mixture of old Latvian traditions, LED lights, drum circles, “new noise music” (i.e. everything from 60’s until today, even classical music as I remember), art, a Russian camp with a bamboo tower, Lithuanians with burn barrels, projections, and fog slowly sneaking in on us, the sky of such a bright colours with clouds so close you wanted to touch them. And, of course fire.
To attend Deja, you had to apply for a Visa. Once you were approved, you were gifted access to the event and were welcome to pitch your tent under 200 year-old apple trees, or next to the pond, or on the field further away from music. There was an outdoor common kitchen, a barn for electronic music, and even a barn for more relaxed music and gatherings. During the event, people built a sauna which, along with some art, actually stayed on the property after Deja.
“Leave a better place.”
The evenings were full of storytelling around the fire. We heard interesting stories about survival, about funny drunkeness, and even about scary experiences with voodoo. The days were full of conversation about the future and about plans for a bigger Baltic Burn, which would include Latvian, Estonian and Lithuanian Burners. These groups are already preparing projects together. This year in Black Rock City, the group is presenting a Midway project together as a part of the Man Pavilion. Baltic Altar was interactive installation which allows you to compose music along with other participants.
As I’m sure many of you can relate, once you’re at a Burn, it can be really hard to leave … even after it’s over. A few of us at Deja were intrigued by hearing about Bling in Estonia happening in Vango Wonderland with around 200 participants and we promised the organizers that we’d stop by. So we did! We all just jumped into the car in the morning and hit the road again. It was the funniest ride ever. I do not sing, usually for safety reasons. This time we all sung and danced on our seats and every now and then made “aww” sounds looking at the beautiful nature of the countryside and cloudy sky.
Once we made it to Estonia, we met elves. Estonians are elves and fairies. That’s it. I have no other explanation. Like elves and fairies, they are loving, joyful, laughing and open. This was also true of the Bling event itself.
Though Bling is not an official Burning Man event, it’s very much created in a similar spirit. In fact, it was one of the most beautiful events I have ever been to. My usual snark and sarcasm vanished away once we arrived and I enjoyed the fairytale site of wooden houses and soft grass while surrounded by beautiful human beings and lot of good tunes, workshops and talks. The sun never really set because of the Summer Solstice and how North we were and time just seemed to exist on a different level.
People were touched that we made the effort to come only for one day and they were blown away by the crew of the second car from DeJa, which came just for the evening to support their friends and be together.
The very bright night sky and great music kept us awake, dancing, talking, laughing. In the morning, when we were all gathered together and kids were climbing on the dome (and let me tell you, there are few cuter things than a five year-old girl in a dress learning how to climb), I heard someone make a speech to the crowd. Then, about seven guys stood up and went away. In few minutes, they were back with a huge pot of oatmeal and marmalades, fruits, nuts, coffee and tea and the whole meadow turned into the breakfast picnic. (The only thing which kept me from wondering if this all was really happening were the excessive amount of mosquitoes, serving as an ever-present reality check.) Then, the day rolled on into more workshops, talks, music, and even a sauna!
Before we left the event, it took us ages to say goodbye to all of this beauty. The burn of the effigy at DeJa was waiting and was absolutely worthy of coming back for. Girls had made elaborate wreaths from flowers, guys from branches with green leaves. We all made big circle around the effigy, some people started singing, some dancing and we all were present to the Midsummer night. The sky got surprisingly dark and the fire was consuming the wood and hemp while thousands of sparks flew through the air.