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Last year's page starts off with "It was the dust of times ... ." We asked people if last year was worse, and the answer was always, "Yes, but that's not saying this year's good." Nobody said last year was better, but it was a close call.
This year the word was out early, in July. The New Moonies had camped at the site on the Fourth of July and reported dust devils soaring to 10,000 feet, and a playa surface like the top of a brownie cake after it has cooled off from the oven. The newspapers in Reno reported the annual rainfall (measured from October 1 of 2000 to September 30 of 2001) to have been 2.04 inches, a quarter of the norm.
The result was that the playa did not have enough surface water in the winter to plane its surface and to make it cake into the dense, almost cement of previous years. Any walking and driving on the surface broke it into its fine powdery makeup, then the winds came. And all hell rose up.
With the warnings from the New Moonies and the additional alerts of dust storms
from the Jack Rabbit Speaks, we knew to make sure goggles were in our supplies.
It may look like the pilgrim in the adjoining photo is wearing dark glasses,
but those are lab goggles protecting the eyes from the all-too-evident dust.
>Subject: Directions: > >Lather. > >Rinse. > >Repeat. >Repeat. >Repeat. >Repeat. >Repeat. >Repeat. >Repeat. > >Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! > > >-Chef Juke >"Everybody eats when they come to my house!"
Our shade blew down, or got loose on one end and flapped, or we just took it down. We'll go back to the drawing board yet again on that issue. Our Sierra Design Mondo Condo had a broken pole last year, so we decided not to take that tent. This year we brought a Walrus Armadillo. The tent has roughly the same floor space as the Mondo Condo, but it is somewhat cylindrical with ends that taper to the ground (picture an armadillo), and it has four poles instead of three. The winds were from the same direction as last year, we had the tent oriented tail into the wind, and it held up with no problems at all.
One of our friends did duty in the Information Center, and later in the week he realized that people who had come in 1999 or 2000 had not faced the heat. Our official REI keychain thermometer never reached higher than 95 degrees Fahrenheit in the shade, but there were many heat- related problems in the medical tent this year, as people who had been in the two preceding cold years failed to drink enough water and get enough shaded rest. It is a hard lesson to learn. You end up carrying a bag of saline solution over your head until you get rehydrated as it drips into your IV.
(We got up every morning about 6:15, and the temperatures were either 50 or 55 every day. Depending on the windiness, this was fine or too chilly.)
The burn itself was the best choreographed we have seen. We got there early so we could take photos of the lighted man against the sunset sky, so we happened to be able to sit right at the front line of the crowd. It happened that many of our surrounding participants were from Reno for their first burn. It was a hoot to listen to them recount the history of the event to each other, and they were very polite and attentive.
The fire dancers were incredible. It takes amazing strength and endurance to twirl their batons and lighted balls at the ends of lines or chains, and they went on for quite awhile. We were so close that we were spattered with unburned alcohol from the fire eaters when they spit flames. The coordination between the dancers, the Black Rock Rangers, and the safety crew was a testament to many hours of rehearsal and training. Rock on, guys.
The dancing was recorded by still photographers and video crews. One dancer had a flaming ball get loose, and it landed on a video camera. The videographer turned his camera to the crowd for a reaction shot. "Fuck the camera," the crowd reacted. "Fuck the camera, fuck the camera," till it turned back to the dancers.
The Man blew off a couple of explosions from his arms, electrifying the crowd. The Man himself was somewhat shorter this year, but he was built on a two- tiered wooden base, giving him the usual height above the ground. After the two blasts from the Man's arms, the fire started in the base, and the crowd went wild. Eight dust devils spawned from the fire traced lines along the same path away from the Man to the crowd. We believe there were fewer fireworks, and there seemed to be fewer explosions this year. The fire was intense, and after a long wait, the Man collapsed straight down into the pyre. We suspect this was the plan, to keep it all on the burn blanket, and it was perfectly executed.
On Sunday morning, we were wandering along Infant picking up debris when a man approached us carrying a double handful of trash; he asked us if he could put it in our garbage bag. We view this as an opportunity to educate, so we thanked him for thinking about proper disposal instead of just dumping it on the ground, but we declined to take his trash, saying instead that he should pack it out just like he packed it in. He then started walking toward center camp, and we heard him saying something about paying $175 for tickets. Now this was really just a joke, right? He was pulling our legs about having no trash cans for the price of admission, wasn't he? Really?
On the good side, the porta-potties were in excellent shape through out the event. Apparently, the call was heeded not to put any thing in the potties that had not been in your bodies. (We assume this accounts for the three drowned gerbils found in the potties during the week.)
All in all, this was an extreme year. Very high winds, horrible dust, and some
not so high heat, but still in the nineties. The playa powder was very hard on
our feet, and when cars, bikes, and whatever wheeled vehicles were rolling
along the streets, it actually looked like they were in a couple of inches of
water, with dust raised in front of the wheels like a bow wave, then spreading
out in a Vee. This year goggles were definitely our friends. In the last two
years of heavy dust storms, Phil (who wears contact lenses) switched to glasses
for a day or two or three. This year, the goggles allowed contact lens wear
without worry of either dust or drying from the wind.
This is not the official Burning Man site. That Web site is located at Welcome to Burning Man.
Copyright © 2001, The Civilized Explorer
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.