Burners Without Borders – Report from the Field

Biloxi, Mississippi

Here’s the latest from Biloxi sent in by Stuart Updegrave…

There has been a flurry of activity around here the last few days, with progress on a lot of fronts. Phil Lindsay (father of Matt of the BM temple crew) got a water heater installed in the temple on Wednesday, about two hours before he and the kids left. Phil also led the ongoing effort to replace the water-damaged drywall and insulation in the temple. As a result, we’ve been able to take hot showers (as opposed to using a very playa-style frame-and-tarp shower). Our washer and dryer are still out in the parking lot, though. But hey, at least we *have* them.

There has been a lot of work to repair the damage to the temple’s garden (which was recently graced by a turtle that Richard probably rescued from a soup pot).

We had a huge influx of clothing on Wednesday – after being picked through for a few days, the remainder got bagged up and is going to be made into quilts for Pakistani refugees displaced by the recent earthquake near Kashmir.

Richard managed to acquire a forklift for a while from Dave Romero, but Dave reclaimed it a few days ago. Richard, the consummate deal-maker, had already scoped out the other forklifts in the area (they make unloading large shipments of water and other goods so much easier), and wandered down the block to a marine supply shop down the street, owned by a Vietnamese man named Liam (ok, so that’s what it sounds like, but probably not how it’s spelled). They cut a deal that the temple crew would help Liam re-roof his store in exchange for use of the forklift – so Thomas and I spent a few hours yesterday and this morning working up on the roof, until the heat got too intense.

A lovely side benefit of doing this is that we made friends with Liam and his wife Twin (again, phonetic). She gifted us with about 10 pounds of whole shrimp, which I boiled this evening and served with a big pot of hoppin’ john (good southern food – rice, black-eyed peas, bacon, tomatoes, jalapeno peppers). Certainly the best meal I’ve had since I got here. This morning, Twin told me that she would bring over some fresh egg rolls tomorrow for me to fry up for the crew. After dinner last night, a few of the guys made jokes about getting me a skirt and keeping me in the kitchen – funny thing is, I brought down a few sarongs, and would be just as happy to cook for people as to do roofing, drywall, landscaping, whatever.

Richard has a line on a few items of heavy machinery – an excavator and a loader. We were sitting around last night and he was musing about how to find people who might need lots cleared for trailer placement. Shortly thereafter, a guy pulled up outside and asked if we could spare any ice (the freezer in his FEMA-issued trailer had broken already). Richard gave him a couple bags, and chatted a bit. Turns out he’s on the Biloxi City Council, lives a block or two away, and is willing to work with us on identifying local folks who might benefit from having their sites cleared once the equipment arrives.

We’ve had a big loss of population in the last few days – besides Phil and his kids, three of our other crew also left on Wednesday. Vu, a Vietnamese guy (who works as a policeman in Jackson) left this evening. On Tuesday, however, Thomas (one of the leads on this year’s project The Machine) showed up here, after working three weeks with the World Shelters crew. World Shelters is an organization from Arcata, CA, which has been setting up temporary shelters both for agencies and needy families. Many of their volunteers are also burners, most of whom came down from Seattle.

About the author: Tom Price

Tom Price

Tom Price is the former Executive Director of Black Rock Solar. Prior to that he was the Environmental Manager for Burning Man during the Green Man theme, and was in the Gulf Coast for six months during the genesis of Burners Without Borders. He's been attending Burning Man since 1997, and he's proud to say that his decade plus streak of breaking down from sun stroke on the playa on day three remains intact.