Lovely Dusty People

camp_guysThe weekend before Gate opens is approaching and a certain feeling has set in. I’ve been out here early before and felt the change from being part of a small group of people building Black Rock City, then having the big art come in to start on the Temple and other huge projects, then watching as the big Theme Camps arrive and suddenly landmarks you’ve been using to navigate are replaced. The great unpacking begins with enthusiastic Theme Campers smiling as they create their fabulous spaces. Once the Gate opens, it becomes a free for all as you beautiful people flood in to stake your space in Black Rock City and build then share what you’re bringing.

Towards the end of pre-event, you realize that you’ve forged bonds with people out here that can only happen in a place as dry and desolate as this. There have been challenges met and there has been solemn sadness. There’s been triumph and a lot of hard work. It is tribal and essential, sometimes feeling as if we’ve stepped into another time where big personalities build things just because they can. My job is nothing compared to what the infrastructure groups like DPW, Tech, IT and their support do out here to build this place, and it takes a certain larger than life type of person to make Black Rock City happen. During the build, meals bring everyone together and it is there that you find old friends and make new ones. I sit there eating and face after dusty  face passes on their way to grab grub  and these are some of the most lovely dusty people I’ve ever had the honor to live amongst, if only for a short time each year.

camp_tentAs big Theme Camps begin their build, you no longer navigate in straight lines to your destinations. You’ll smell your first BBQ. You hear the hammers pounding all around and containers are opened with last year’s tarps and lights and everything that makes Theme Camps strewn about. You will see the groups of serious campers standing around, hands on hips, evaluating how many people they’re going to need to raise up that 60 foot wide shade structure. Work lights are running all night as massive tents are erected and decorated. People begin visiting you because they can tell you’ve been here for a while and maybe they can use your stove to make some coffee and share it with you, or borrow some zip ties.

Bring your own zip ties people.

camp_maxwellRiding my bike around I met Seth Maxwell Malice and I asked him how it was going. He said, “Don’t forget to bolt things together. Gravity doesn’t work like it should.” Passing all the camps that are setting up you’re greeted with constant hellos from happy folks setting up in the friendliest city on earth. They’re insanely happy to be here, but what rational person would consider packing, hauling all your stuff to this dry lake bed, working for days to build a camp, dealing with the weather, then tearing it all down and hauling it out while leaving no trace a vacation? We are a peculiar bunch.

Camp Upsie Daisies with their tower

When we got here a week or so ago, you could clearly see the one red garden LED and a white lit solar rope light on top of my Camper when leaving Center Camp at night. It was the only light out here around 7:45 and E other than the BLM compound with its billion plus lumen’s worth of towers.  Now my little lights have been entirely blocked by other camps.

Work building the city isn’t complete yet, but it is getting very close. More new pilgrims arrive every day to add decor and meaning to the structures the DPW has built. Center Camp is pretty much complete, with all the camps that define it including Media Mecca, Lamplighters, CampArctica (with new wall murals this year who threw a small soiree’ last night because … ICE!) Recycle Camp, BMIR, Playa Info and Census. Administrative and decor crews are arriving. BRC Rangers can be found in the Commissary and their group seems to double in size every day. The population is still small, but different departments are arriving. Nights have been splendid and cool with camaraderie at an all time high, perhaps because we know what is coming.

Build it and they will come.

camp_2_2People who have never been here sometimes don’t really understand how much work goes into making Black Rock City a reality. You hear all the time, “oh, it’s a bunch of hippies or ravers or rich people landing to just party for a week” and while that is in part true, before the gates open, this is one huge construction zone in one of the most inhospitable places on earth. We are off the grid with limited water. Ice is in demand and like gold right now. Huge art projects are going up out on the playa, being built by crews of artists who are dealing with oppressive heat and blowing wind and dust. We work hard and play hard, sitting in the shade between shifts wearing goggles and dust masks sipping drinks that are at least 20 percent alkaline dust and enjoying it immensely. This environment washes away the previous year’s worth of not being here.   Out here the cobwebs dry up. You are among friends and dreamers and lovers creating something somewhat unique in our culture. People talk to one another and help each other out. They listen and they get the job done.  They gift each other and they participate. There is very little opportunity to just go through the motions in Black Rock City.

Just escaping television, or perhaps a job that is deadening your soul for a week can rejuvenate you. The fact that there aren’t vendors in your face every five steps or some hyped music event sponsored by a corporation that you have to get to gives you  time to create your own experience and share it with everyone else. The environment, even without all the insects, is still harsh. This is not the kind of vacation most  people take because  it is a challenge in every respect and that harsh never-ending dessication heightens the senses.And that is all part of the journey.

We are living in Post Apocalyptic style with a pound of playa dust, sun burns and work so brutal you pass out for a nap before celebrating the days’ achievements.

camp2_1We talk about how Burning Man is changing and it is. That’s a by-product of success. Today someone said “Burning Man was so much better Next Year” which sounds like a good sticker. But the early build feels right. It feels genuine and that is something that can be hard to find in our culture today. I’m not sure if the people who first brought the Man out here had any idea what this would become and how many people would keep returning each year to build this canvas of a city for so many people to paint with their art, but I’m happy they did.  Yea, I’m an unapologetic fan, but make it what you make it.  We need to keep Burning Man weird and we can. I’m glad I can come out here each year and hang with these wildly enthusiastic Theme Campers and such a fine bunch of lovely dusty people.

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.

3 Comments on “Lovely Dusty People

  • Daniel says:

    I think you guys are doing a fantastic job creating the buildings, structures, art and so forth. You all have a hardy frontier spirit with a lot of industrious enthusiasm. I will be going out there for the first time, and this morning, I felt a little apprehensive about whether or not all my support systems will work to keep me safe and alive.

    Perhaps this is last minute jitters. I frankly was surprised I felt this way. Previously, I had only enthusiasm, curiosity, and a sense of hope. This is not an easy undertaking, physically, mentally, or financially. You guys set and inspirational example.

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    • jacob says:

      Glad to hear your nervous. That’s a good thing, mostly because you should be. But don’t worry, aside from your own support systems, you are essentially joining a “hive”. Just about anyone out there will be willing to help and someone out there will have what you need just when you need it. You are not alone, but assuming and planning like you’re going to be will help strengthen the entire system. Sounds like you’re in that mindset already.

      By Wednesday, you’ll understand it all and have your routine down, by Saturday/Sunday, you’ll be looking forward to your own bed, a long hot shower and a cold, crisp salad. On the way home or while waiting in line during exodus, make a list of stuff that worked and stuff that didn’t so that you can evolve yourself and your camp/contributions for the next year. You’ve got a great attitude for a Burgin. Hope to see you in the dust!

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  • X-ray says:

    Our camp is out there for initial setup too. Thanks for the update. Can’t wait to arrive on Monday!!

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