How did your camp score? How did your favorite party spot fare? How did your mooping efforts pay off this year? Tell me about it in the comments please!
This year, I sat down to interview a few of the many fascinating people that make up our Playa Restoration crew. If you haven’t read Major Buzzkill’s story, you should – it’s powerful. And today I’d like to share a new side of the guy who started it all: D.A., manager and mastermind of Resto.
DA is somebody I’ve grown close to over time. We’ve done good work together over the past decade. But I always wondered: how did he get here? What path led him to this role? What inspires him to keep coming back, year after year, to lead an ever-growing crew in erasing the traces of an ever-larger city?
So I asked him, and this is what he said.
When it’s all said and done, I think I’ll be the most proud of the people who came through DPW. I feel like they grew up out here – I feel like I grew up out here. This place, these challenges and this work have really taught me a lot about myself and how I collaborate with the world.
I feel like I’ve matured out here, like I’ve stepped into myself.
When I first started coming to Burning Man, I felt I could be another version of myself. That was the superhero version of me, that I aspired to be and that mostly existed at the Burn. It was my own personal mythology.
My wings burned in the fire of the Man every year, and I would make new ones. I did that in 1997, 1998, and I burned it for the last time in 1999. After that, I didn’t need to embody it like this any more. I always knew I was evolving – burning those wings was about not holding on to that persona either – I always felt that Burning Man was about evolving and being born again and continuing to evolve. It just kept changing.
I think when I was in my twenties, I felt like I could be somebody else, but really it was more about burning everything away to find the authentic me inside. I feel like that’s what my past 19 years as a burner and 16 years with DPW were about.
Dark Angel to me was in a lot of ways about fire, but I discovered that my journey has actually been about grounding. I actually hit rock bottom in my late twenties … I just exhausted myself, which I actually think was part of the process. I burned out. Then I had to understand what I had left to give, if anything.
I joined the cleanup crew in 2000, and for some reason I loved digging in the dirt, the nothing and the process of restoring the desert to nothing. Whatever was on the playa [after Burning Man was over], it all had to go. I really connected with that, and I didn’t completely understand why, but I also didn’t question it. I felt very much called to that role. The accepting of that call was part of what I had to do.
I remember when I was first given a radio [note: in the DPW, people with responsibility also have radios to communicate with each other]. I remember trying to reject it. The gentleman who gave it to me was like, ‘DA, you have knowledge about this, you know what’s going on, people are looking to you for answers. Step up to it and understand that about yourself.’So I took the radio and I was like, ‘Shit, goddammit, fine.’ I was still a little bratty about it. Some of my friends teased me about getting a radio.
But you get over it. I started realizing that I did have information, and I did have insight on things, and people were looking to me for answers. I realized I needed to get over any blockages there. I had to learn to be comfortable with communicating and letting the information out – and also comfortable saying, ‘I don’t know the answer, let’s find out.’
The other day I had the whole crew together, and it was amazing. I had this swelling feeling of pride and awesome. I feel like I still have a lot more to give, but it felt good to know that the next generation is here now, and they can move forward on their own if they need to.
The Burning Man event itself is like one giant slow burning flash-mob where a city in the desert comes to life for a week and disappears without a trace. What the Burning Man community does, in the Black Rock Desert and globally, inspires positive changes in people’s lives. I consider it an honor to support that.
Thanks for everything you do, DA. And thanks to everyone who faces their life’s journey bravely and with honesty.
I’ve got some more interviews to share with you soon, but I won’t make you wait any longer:
What About the Map?
Day Four was a scorcher, by Resto standards. Eight hours of walking on the hard-packed playa without access to shade except during breaks – it’s no joke when the sun shines bright and the breeze won’t blow. And yet, the intrepid Playa Restoration hotshots marched on, covering 30 of the city’s moopiest blocks and returning them to pure, if fluffy, dust.
Folks, the 2:00 side of the Esplanade looks a lot like the 10:00 side: busy. Lots happened here, including lots of effort to Leave No Trace. Did it turn out perfect? No. Did those camps throw big parties in the middle of dust storms and cold nights, and still manage to clean up and leave the playa in a very short period of time? Yes.
Resto loves and supports our Esplanade camps in everything they do – and we love when the community supports them too. So the next time you’re ragin’ ’til the break of dawn at a big sound camp, remember to Leave No Trace of your good time!
That’s all for today, folks, but I’ll have more for you soon. Stay tuned!
Follow along with the Playa Restoration team: