Breathing Sea Monkeys

my old neighborhood
my old neighborhood

When you’re on the playa a certain number of hours, you acclimate. That number of hours depends on your constitution, but after all the preparation and anticipation, the packing, driving and making it to the event sign on 34 and pulling off the pavement then making your slow progress through the Gate and later, through Greeters, you find your camp and get your essential shit together. You unpack everything you brought with you because we have a tendency to bring everything just in case we need anything and you set up your essentials shelter and water. For a few hours you’ll spend time with camp mates who were already here and have acclimated, or you’ll wander, or you’ll just collapse into  sleep, submersed in an ambient glowing soundscape of a City that is coming alive around you.

That first sleep comes on strong, cool and windswept beneath shivering shadows cast by tents and shade structures, to sleep and to dream in this wide open space where nature is the ultimate governess. And each breath away from the barrage of the default world we are all complicit in creating, complete with alluring suggestions regarding what you should believe and buy, each breath will clear your mind of any unhappy maniacal anxious material monkeys that our society packs on your shoulders all year, those screeching little rascals who crawl up your spine and tend to make you insane daily. You’ve worked on your art to gift, planned and set aside some of the tribute you pay to the world behind to come and camp out here to contribute to a community that’s one some of us believe is something that could be better than the one we leave behind.  We’re experimenting each year, trying to fine tune this on playa situation and some of us are hoping enough of here seeps out into there.

Corner of 6:30 and Antioch
Corner of 6:30 and Antioch

The alkaline powder out on playa settles inside your psyche and clears out cobwebs of the last 40+ something weeks you’ve been gone. Regardless of what your involvement with Burning Man is:  if you’re a virgin, a wildcat who builds the City, a drifter who keeps drifting back like a tumble weed rolling along 447, a worker year round for the org, a long timer, or just recently fully integrated citizen of Black Rock City, you are not out here for most of your days and acclimation to the desert environment plays a huge part in the experience.

Then, with each day you awake, your dreams and new experiences begin replacing lazy TV, ousting internet and “smartphone” addiction and your time is yours and not owned by whatever job you may have to do to survive. Mr. Eggchair once told me that at least for this week you get to do what you WANT to do. You can be a DJ, you can be mayor of a village, you can create art or show off your fine self. You can be a bartender, even if in the default world that isn’t what you find is your calling.

Burning Man DPW has created, as Coyote says, “the biggest art project out here: Black Rock City” and it  is ready.  The canvas has been stretched out for you to fill it up. Now you have a place like none other to interconnect and share, gift, be fabulous, be kind, make art, make music, appreciate, learn and just be that haphazard humanity swirling around Art, Community and all of our better urges.

towards playa
towards playa

Evidently when it rains enough in the Black Rock Desert, the playa is suddenly host to a billion fairy shrimp called Anostraca. They can lay dormant for years then with enough rain, they thrive in the hypersaline lake that forms on the playa. They are reincarnated. Right now in Black Rock City these sleeping crustaceans are everywhere, just below our tarps and tents and RVs and feet as we walk along, just waiting for enough water to reanimate. It reminds me of those Sea Monkeys they used to advertise in comics in the last century. You probably aren’t old enough to remember those ads, with the typical brine shrimp family posing together in front of their castle, all regal and smiling like the nuclear families of old, but those Sea Monkeys were a “just add water” for your enjoyment toy, and when we’re out here, we’re breathing in the Anostraca and drying out a little to become reincarnated, away from our other home. Fairy shrimp like pixie dust, are all around just waiting for some rain to wake them up.

Our little Sea Monkey City is growing quickly this year.

Yesterday they gave the Man his head and Mr. Curley encapsulated what happened perfectly. I was lucky enough to overhear the conversation from where I was and it went something along the lines of:

“All com, the Man is getting head right now.”

“Oh, it looks small”

“Size Queen, over”

“It isn’t the size, but whether it BURNS”

“uhm, I think if it burns there’s a problem.”

“There’s ointments for that. I think Taz is going into Reno and he can pick something up for you.”

Setting up
Setting up

Turns out small head was an illusion as we saw his head behind his body and he is perfectly proportioned.  We are all very pleased with his size. These are the kinds of things we are very concerned with out here. As our friends arrive, we ask them about the gate, about the drive in, “how long did it take?”, where are you camping?  In my little neighborhood you used to see the Cafe’ where flags are now flying even though it isn’t open yet, the ARTery, the Black Hole and you would just walk there in a straight line. Now, as people move in, the streets are defined. Your walk takes longer and you pass hundreds of pilgrims measuring their plots of dust, setting up their structures, kitchens, towers, lights and sound systems. Everyone is working to build  their camp so they can have a nice long stay in Black Rock City.

And with each day, more and more is added to the City canvas. Curious structures with nonsensical signs, totems and flags of countries you aren’t sure really exist sprout around you. Saturday night was the first night I smelled barbeque and the sound of machines trenching and stakes being pounded, in my neighborhood at least, is being replaced with laughing and cheering of dinner parties held in partially constructed camps. Last night I saw my first pod of people on bikes all glowing with EL wire and blinkies pass by. This is when you realize you have to wear something lit up at night to prevent being hit by someone on a bike.

Nurse with Chuck Floyd
Nurse with Chuck Floyd

Friends are arriving and stopping by for hugs and drinks to let you know they’re here. Nurse came over with her new bike handlebar pet made from dessicated and taxidermied animal parts she and Mr. Ra$pa put together, “Chuck Floyd”. Chuck was the iguana and Floyd was the squirrel. We aren’t sure who the chicken was.

Early setup isn’t for everyone though. Matthew (aka Michelle) who’s helping us build says, “I was feeling a little antsy last night. I like popping shit. I don’t want hugs, I don’t want to talk to people, I want to go out and look at stuff.”

Nuff said. He’s acclimated.

I was able to get a golden ticket out of 12 mile, aka .1 to avoid Gate and go to Empire Store on Friday to fill up our gas (Bruno’s gas station ran out of gas again, me and a guy on a motorcycle got the last of it)  to do laundry and to buy enough bourbon and water to last into the week after the event.  As we drove out we saw half a coyote on 34 and while Mike was at Bruno’s hanging out with Mr. Clean and Lacy, I met a BLM Wildlife division officer at Empire Store who was wearing an impressive uniform. I was loading the car with all my provisions, and the BLM guy, Joe was his name, told me they’d seen that coyote and pulled over since they are wildlife management and all. He said that the front half of the coyote had been pulled off the road and they were looking around until they saw a huge golden eagle on a post watching them and they realized this raptor had dragged the entire top part of the dog off the road and was eating it until they’d pulled up.

He and his partner proceeded to take the coyote head half and drop it just up a dirt road, safely away from the caravans that are increasing in frequency every hour now. They pulled up the road far enough to not have a presence then they watched the golden eagle as it flew away above them and returned circling then landed. Once they saw him return to the coyote and start eating again they drove away. Joe told me, “That bird earned his lunch. We just didn’t want him near the road where he might have been hurt by some big vehicle.”

That seemed perfect for some reason.

the neighborhood now
the neighborhood now

Out on the playa, it is still very much hustle and bustle as each day the number of Art installations doubles. The ARTery had a record day of art checking in yesterday and artists are everywhere, constructing their pieces. It looks like Embrace is all but done and the Temple has a spire. The Souk around the Man is getting finishing touches and of course, the Man has a head.

Once the gates open, there won’t be any open space left. As they say, “Burning Man was so much better yesterday”. There will be camps upon camps being built by wild wide eyed pilgrims and another boom of activity will begin as this temporary City comes alive. And those camps will be full of acclimated people who will have been breathing sea monkeys for days and have been letting their dreams replace the monkeys from back home. The scene will be set and you will arrive to build your part of paradise out here. It is all very close now.

Just drive safely and be careful of coyotes and other critters crossing the road and when you finally get inside the City, breathe deeply and let those sea monkeys help you acclimate. Take your time and share what you are and help us create this wonderful experiment. I’m optimistic. I like to think that while those Anostraca shrimp are of a “just add water variety”, maybe we all just need a little alkaline dust, some community and an entire City to fill up with the best of what we want to be to reanimate and come alive.


About the author: Moze


John Mosbaugh aka Moze is a SF Bay Area heretic and writer who's been hauling himself out to Black Rock City since the Nebulous Entity first beckoned him to check out this phenomenon known as Burning Man. Moze is a "Life Collector" who scribbles down encounters with you to share on the blog. He enjoys the hyper reality of that week in the desert enough to keep coming back. He's been on the Burning Man web team since aught two and has written for Piss Clear and the YEP (Yahoo Education Project). He doesn't speak for the org and he finds you fascinating. He celebrates you and loves it when you take away ideas from Burning Man and share them with the rest of the world. He likes to make grilled cheese on Burn Night afternoon and gift it to you because you're probably hungry. Moze is a big fan of fire, art, freedom and community.

One comment on “Breathing Sea Monkeys

  • Tiger says:

    The Anostraca produce a type of methane when exposed to the Sun for long periods. This creates a fire danger for any flame on the playa surface and up to 4 feet. In particular camping stoves are at risk.

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