Dude, the playa is in really rough shape.
I’d tell you to get ready for it, but what are you supposed to do? Put fatter tires on your bike? If you have an art car, great. You’ll be getting around just fine. If you don’t? You’ll have thighs of steel in a matter of days.
Still, it’s always a crapshoot when you hear someone say that the playa is in this condition of that condition (and this report is no different), because it will all depend on where you are. The playa is a hard lakebed in some places, but six inches of muck in others. But it sure seems like there are more upwellings of crumbly desert dirt this year, just waiting for car wheels to turn them to dust. And then the dust will get into places you didn’t even know you had.
As you’ve probably heard, it’s rained here very recently. Does that help the situation? In some ways, sure, it dampens down the dirt and puts a nice dry crust on the surface when the water evaporates. But the moisture seems to gather randomly here and there, eventually forming giant crumbly mounds that are just waiting to be turned to airborne talcum powder.
But what does it matter, really. You already know it’s going to be plenty dusty. It’s just a question of degree. And maybe, as Drew said over breakfast, maybe the playa is just in generally worse shape as the years go by.
And while we’re on the meteorological beat, there’s also this: It’s been blowing like crazy. Like, really crazy. The whiteouts have gotten an early start as well.
Why does it seem like the affairs of the heart are so intensified on the playa?
And it’s not just what happens here (and of course there’s plenty of that), but it also seems like there are a lot of people here who have just gone through or are in the very throes of a painful breakup. This must be a place that heals the heart, or makes you feel it more intensely.
Or maybe you feel more free to talk about … you know, stuff. I’m a guy, so of course I’m not going to be as skilled at talking about stuff as the womenfolk. Yes, I am generalizing and stereotyping and being cliche. But hell, cliches work because they’re true, right?
The other side of the equation is true, too. There are lots and lots of connections being made. You can watch them happen. And later, there will be a steady stream of couples getting married at the Temple at sunset.
But all the emotionality seems much more intense here. Like it says in the Burning Man guidebook, this is a great places for couples. And it’s a horrible place for couples. But it also seems like this is the place where people come who used to be part of a couple, and you hear about it, and you hear yourself giving advice you didn’t know you had. And you find yourself looking at your own relationships through the prism of somebody talking about what used to be. And it makes you wiser. It makes you say the things about yourself you didn’t know you were going to say.
And one final thought; if you’re a playa virgin and want to be, I say good for you. But if you’re a playa virgin and don’t want to be, I say this is your year. :)
It really is amazing how fast things happen when operations get under way. Yesterday morning, there was no fence. Yesterday afternoon at 2:46 in the afternoon, seven and half miles of fence was finished. Yesterday, the Man base was nothing but a spike in the ground. The Golden Spike, around which the spokes of the city are laid out. Today? Holes dug, concrete foundations laid in (although it seemed only Ludy got to write his name in the wet cement). The whole camp was set up sharply, with RVs and a shade structure and generator and a HAMMOCK. A lovely hammock in the lovely shade. Hi, hammock. Hi, shade. We like you. We shall return.
There’s a really fine description of all the Man bases over the years written by Will Chase right here on the Burning Blog. This will be the ninth year that the Man will sit atop a structure that is meant to tie the theme of year’s event to the most iconic structure on the playa, the Man himself.
So I casually mentioned to the Man base crew that I thought last year’s effort would be hard to top. The answer came pretty quickly: “Did you see the one the year before?” And hell yeah, the Man on top of the Washington Monument in the year of the American Dream was huge and amazing and beautiful. And Metropolis looks like it is going to be very huge and grand, as well. But the point is, no one’s keeping score. There will be no Oscar handed out for Best Man Base. Which is exactly the way it should be.
And also? The really key issue is, how is that sucker going to burn?
So we were talking the last time about how things are the same in a lot of ways, year after year, and how after 20 years in the desert you’d expect people to get jaded by it all. Marnee Benson was posting some really nice things over on Facebook the other day, about the survey crew putting the flags in the ground, the better to know where everything is going to go. It didn’t matter a single bit that the piece was written three years ago; it read like it could have been written three days ago. (Well, except maybe for the parts about World of Warcraft. That seems to have lost its grip on Burning Man staff.) And then she sent another one along, also from three years ago, and also perfect:
“Good news! The porta-potties were delivered today. All 1,000 of them. It’s funny, they’re lined up just like they will be during the event, along all the radius streets, just as I’ve seen them for years. But now they’re out there all by themselves. Like toilet sentinels. Guarding the playa against pee and poop.”
Yep, exactly right.