For the past couple of days, we’ve been gleefully celebrating Black Rock City’s successful inspection, meaning Burning Man 2016 is like. SO. on. However, many of you don’t yet know how your individual camps scored! It is time to release the penultimate iteration of the Moop Map: Day Seven is here for you.
In truth, the reason I keep coming back to this place is for the people. THESE people. And today I’m sharing a story from one of the seriously undersung heroes of Burning Dude: Mr. Blue. This is a man who, if he took a day off, the whole thing might actually implode.
Mr. Blue’s current job titles:
- Man Pavilion Lighting Manager
- Project Manager, Recycle Camp
- Waste Stream Logistics Manager
- Black Rock Trucking Manager
- Facilities Manager, Burning Man HQ
I believe he’s the most managerial manager in the Borg. But what’s cool about Blue is that he’s a really good dude, and that’s why he ended up with all the titles. He just kept volunteering. To wit:
I left Michigan in 1995 and moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, oddly enough because after twelve years of working in the entertainment business, nightclubs, bars, rock&roll shows, production companies and throwing events…I was tired of, if you can believe it, cleaning up after events.
The vibe there was: four to six people threw a party, 400 people came, four to six people cleaned up. I said, ‘I’m done with this, I’m going to go do something else.’
In 1996 I saw a flyer for Burning Man Decompression, and I went. It was nothing like Burning Man, though I talked with some friends who went to Burning Man. The more I learned from them, the more I thought I didn’t want to do this.
I actually think I said, ‘Yeah, I’m gonna go out in the middle of nowhere and pay $75 to go to a rave, no way.’
Fast forward to 2001, and I ended up looking for a place to live in Oakland. I found a really good situation, and it turned out that my new roommate was getting ready to go to Burning Man.
One of the things I’d said when I moved from Michigan to California was that I wanted to do things with some environmental consciousness intention behind them. Everything I’ve pretty much done has had that vibe, in fact I had been running a lighting business for the past few years that was very conscious of energy efficiency.
My roommate was like, ‘Why aren’t you going to Burning Man? You should totally go, you’d really like it.’ She told me, ‘You should camp at Recycle Camp, that’s where I’m going.’
So I went to the website, and I was immediately blown away by this aerial shot taken by Gabe Kirchheimer. I realized it was a city, not just a party. I looked at this picture and I said, ‘Wow, I need to figure out who makes this happen, and get to know them.’
So I went, and we got there a couple of days early, in the middle of the night. The next day I realized really quickly that I was going to help build the camp.
It immediately hit me: I went out there to figure out who makes this happen, and I found out I am one of the ones who makes it happen.
That was fascinating to me. I’d never thrown a party where there so many people helping set it up. It was pretty amazing.
After the event, I hung out with Simon (one of the founders of Recycle Camp) and he asked me if I wanted to run it. So I interviewed with Harley DuBois, and she liked me, and she let me run the camp.
In 2002, I answered an email from Tony Coyote, asking if anybody wanted to ride a truck run to the work ranch.
I said: “Me.”
About halfway up, he asked me if I wanted to do that, and I said, ‘do what?’
‘Drive the trucks for Burning Man,’ he said.
Over time, driving trucks got a little bit out of control and I ended up redesigning the system (now known as Black Rock Trucking). In 2005, that job followed me when I started working full time at Burning Man HQ.
That was because I answered another email: Harley was looking for someone to answer the phones in the office. I essentially never left after that. I just passed ten years of full time employment.
In 2004, I wrote an email to Larry Harvey and told him that I do lighting design. I had just shut down my lighting business and I was looking for something to do. That’s when I started doing lighting for the Man Base. It’s a little different today: there are two other teams doing thematic illumination and of course the neon. I light the Man Base structure, and a couple of times I’ve been able to light the Man [including in 2014, when he was lit from the inside].
In 2002, when I started running Recycle Camp, I also started a staff recycling program. Burning Man was not recycling anything. There were just landfill dumpsters for the staff and infrastructure. That didn’t seem right to me, as the guy who was running Recycle Camp and telling all the participants they needed to recycle.
So I spent about ten years telling everyone they needed to recycle. The staff recycling got so big by 2011, that I needed to get serious about stepping away from it.
The DPW decided to take on recycling as part of its waste stream management. Of course that meant I was managing it.
In 2012 we were told we could set up a transfer station and hire a crew of people: the Transfer Station Authority. Now technically my title is Waste Stream Logistics Manager, and I manage the TSA crew.
I’m really here because of of the freedom I feel, personally, in my own life.
I have always heard everyone talking about what they want – their goals. I feel like I’ve gotten to exactly where I want to be. Why would I spend any more time in my life searching for something else, when I found it so early? Why not just enjoy it?
It sounds crazy, like ‘what do you mean, you don’t have any more goals?’ But that’s not it, exactly.
I left the idea of wanting to climb any corporate ladder and then jump to the next corporate ladder. The freedom I feel in my life, to just be me, was one of my biggest goals when I had my epiphany – when I realized I don’t want to be doing what everyone else is doing. I want to be happy.
I first volunteered with DA and the cleanup crew (now Playa Restoration) in 2004. This is my twelfth year now.
I wish everyone could see it the way I see it. Even though it wasn’t 100% clean at the end of the event, it was so close – it was so obvious to me that so many people cared.
Just the idea that 90% or more of the people who come out to this event actually care about cleaning up…
DA has said it over and over: We’ve got your back. I can feel good about that.
I feel good about having the back of a city of 70,000 people who care. I would not be out here if it was cleaning up after 70,000 people. I don’t think I would have been impressed with the event at all if that’s the way it was.
I recently had one of those moments, where you’re in San Francisco and you’re wearing your DPW shirt, and somebody just comes up to you and gives you a big hug and says, ‘thank you for what you do, I really appreciate it, I wish I could be out there with you guys.’
That’s pretty awesome.
Thanks Blue for all you do! Now let’s see the map!
If the cockles of your heart weren’t warmed by that story, well then let’s see if this Moop Map can spark a little flame in your soul. Because, folks, it’s really starting to look GOOD around here.
Good, though not perfect. No matter what neighborhood you were in, no matter how much time you spent mooping this year, the dust dunes held surprises for everyone. It was a year where raking out your camp was the only way to find all the moop – and even if you did that, you could have missed it.
Remember, Black Rock City, Playa Restoration has your back. You just keep throwing an awesome party and cleaning it up, and we’ll come through and restore the playa. That’s the deal, and we’re all in it together!
I’ll have the remainder of the map in just a couple of days. For now, thank you, and thank Blue, for being awesome in every way. We sure do love ya.