Beyond the border

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The sun seemed to be sinking faster than usual, and the sky was transitioning from blue to gray, with streaks of sunset orange. We knew it would get dark soon, and even though we were in a hurry to get where we were going, we couldn’t help but stop, get out of the truck to take in the views and the stillness and the quiet.

This won’t seem like a big deal to all you off-road desert explorers, but we got out of our comfort zone last night and went to visit Will and Crimson at their Meteor Camp, deeper and further into the Black Rock Desert than we’d been before.

We told the nice Gate folks manning Point 1 that we were heading out. We had extra clothing, water, goggles, lights and a radio, but if we went missing, at least someone would know where we had been headed. (We also had booze, because hey, radical self reliance.) We weren’t really going that far, five miles out and three miles in, but when you haven’t ventured far outside the event site before, your mind is filled with images of squawking ravens feasting on a desiccated corpse.

Looking back toward Black Rock City
Looking back toward Black Rock City

We needn’t have worried. We came upon the desert markers (the first was a double set of poles with tires on them, then a single pole with another tire) and made the appropriate turns. We could see a small group of trailers and campers in the distance, and there were tire tracks to follow. When we arrived, a lot of people were laughing, and the smell of barbecue was thick in the air. There was also a giant cooler of what turned out to be lethally strong margaritas.

Will and Crimson, two of Burning Man’s founders, have been heading out to the open desert before the event for more than a decade. It used to be just them and the night and the stars. “We just wanted to get some quiet time beforehand,” Will was saying as he reclined on a camp chair, gazing skyward, watching for shooting stars at the tail end of the annual Perseid meteor shower. There were little dots of light on the ground — a far-off gold mine, a camper or two – and thousands and thousands of shining stars in the sky.

Old friends and new arrivals were welcomed to Meteor Camp
Old friends and new arrivals were welcomed to Meteor Camp

But Meteor Camp has grown from just two people to about 100. Everyone seems to know each other, and as you made your way around there were offers of more drinks and food. At one point, the president of the Friends of Black Rock High Rock took a megaphone and welcomed the new arrivals. He encouraged everyone to have fun and join the group.

Will was saying that there are four star-gazing outings a year now, in addition to the other educational and explorer programs under the Friend’s auspices. And you can go to them; Sign up at their website, maybe make a donation to help people learn about the desert and help preserve it. And when you roll through town, you might want to visit their visitor center in the middle of Gerlach.

The morning meeting. Get in, get out
The morning meeting. Get in, get out

A brief note about meetings. All of you who work for other people no doubt have gone to your share of office meetings, so you know how stultifying and pointless so many of them can be.

We’re here to tell you of a better way, of the best daily meeting we’ve had the privilege of attending.

We know from meetings. In our corporate life, it was not unusual to have six, seven, eight meetings a day, from early in the morning to end of the day, with about half an hour squeezed in for actual work. One of our colleagues was fond of saying, “There are two kinds of people – people who meet, and people who work.” Many days we were a part of the former group.

But Logan’s morning meeting is how all meetings should be done.

It is predictable, happening at 7:30 every morning. It brings everyone together to jump start the day. Necessary information is conveyed: who’s arriving on the playa, the new speed limit for Black Rock City, fuel and shower hours. Maybe there’s a weather report if it’s pertinent. Occasionally there are social notes — who’s having a gathering that night,  and thanks to the person who had one the night before.

And that’s pretty much blessedly it. If someone talks too long, Logan or the crowd will yank them. There’s work to be done. If the meeting lasts more than seven minutes or so, everyone starts getting antsy to wrap it up. There’s no pompous bloviating. You meet, you hear stuff, you are done. You are not told things you already know, and you are not told things you have no interest or need to hear.

Tell your bosses to do it like this. Take back your life.

More pictures of people and things:

Our dust trail drifted off to the hills
Our dust trail drifted off to the hills
Last light of the day out at Meteor Camp
Last light of the day out at Meteor Camp
People wandered off as night fell
People wandered off as night fell
The lights from Black Rock City glowed against the night sky
The lights from Black Rock City glowed against the night sky
The road works crew out dropping road pegs
The road works crew out dropping road pegs
The largest art object on the playa
The largest art object on the playa
Monkey Boy is on the Oculus crew
Monkey Boy is on the Oculus crew
Wear some flowers in your hair
Wear some flowers in your hair
Yes it does, sometimes
Yes it does, sometimes
You don't often get a glimpse under her welder's mask
You don’t often get a glimpse under her welder’s mask
Always a smile and good conversation
Always a smile and good conversation
A bright light in the bright sun
A bright light in the bright sun
Nips is celebrating an anniversay
Nips is celebrating an anniversay
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The only thing available currently at the Ghetto Bar is a dusty screw. That’s not a drink, it’s an actual dusty screw. But we do need to concoct a drink to fit the name
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Lonesome containers
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Palinor was helping out the Temple crew
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The Temple crew has arrived, and the first outline of the site is taking shape
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The Center Cafe site changes every day
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No shade yet, but it won’t be long
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Flags denote the area devoted to walk-in camping
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The 2 o’clock plaza
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Hills dwarf the containers on the playa

 

 

 

 

 

About the author: John Curley

John Curley

John Curley (that's me) has been Burning since the relatively late date of 2004, and in 2008 I spent the better part of a month on the playa, documenting the building and burning of Black Rock City in words and pictures. I loved it, and I've been doing it ever since. I was a newspaper person In a previous life, and I spent many years at the San Francisco Chronicle. At the time I left, in 2007, I was the deputy managing editor in charge of Page One and the news sections of the paper. Since then, I've turned a passion for photography into a second career. I shoot for editorial, commercial and private clients, and I'm especially fond of shooting weddings. I'm also the editor at large of the Tasting Panel magazine, which is devoted to the beverage industry. I've also taught a bit, including two years at UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism and a year at San Francisco State University. I live on a (house)boat in Alameda, California.

8 Comments on “Beyond the border

  • B says:

    “Always a smile and good conversation”
    Truth~good to see his face!

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  • Dave R says:

    Nice work John, I have never gone to BM but always enjoy your thoughts and images of this event. If you see Alan say hi.

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  • Star says:

    The best thing about the DPW family is how much they are willing to share; the gifts that keeps on giving for your entire life, herpes and HPV.

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  • squishelle says:

    THANK YOU so much, John Curley! Wonderful blog posts!
    I’m getting so excited to be out there…
    See you in less than a week!

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  • Truck Driver says:

    There was talk last year about how DPW as a community can avoid some of the problems they faced in previous years, namely trying to control the usual outbreak of pinkeye. We talked about distributing an information pamphlet, but it has happened this year. So as a PSA:

    How Can I Prevent Pink Eye?
    Bacterial and viral pink eye are contagious. To prevent contracting pink eye or spreading it to other people, follow these preventive measures.

    Wash hands thoroughly and often, especially if you touch your eye or the area around it.
    Keep hands away from the infected eye. Infection can also enter the body through the nose and mouth.
    Do not share washcloths, towels, pillowcases, or handkerchiefs with others, including family members.
    Change the above items after each use and wash them thoroughly.
    Do not use other people’s eye drops or cosmetics, particularly eyeliner pencils and mascara.

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  • Sanders says:

    We wouldn’t need a trash fence if we just tied together all the DPW chicks with bullring piercings and left them on the perimeter for the week. For every bit of trash they catch they’d get a drink of water or a cigarette or a stick of beef jerky.

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  • Keru says:

    Morning Meeting! Best way to start the day dang I miss that.

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  • Creating more openness at the land border for legitimate travel and trade will allow for the free flow of goods and services between Canada and the United States. This creates immense economic benefits for both countries.

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