Tuesday, September 04, 2007

With A Hey Ho, The Wind and the Dust

We arrived on Saturday, August 25, with steady winds blowing dust into our eyes and up our noses.

Two days before the official opening of Burning Man, the lines of vehicles entering the playa were already long. From the end of the paved road to our camp, several hours passed. We were allowed to enter before Monday only because we were involved with an art installation and even then we were detained for a while in the dreaded "D Lot" before passing the first checkpoint.

At the second checkpoint, greeters asked us if there any virgins in the car, and we said, "Both of us." Our barrel-chested greeter bellowed, "Two virgins!!" and ordered us out of the car. Sarah was made to climb up onto a bell tower, from which was suspended an iron bell. I was presented with a steel rod and told to hit the bell as hard as I could. Which I did. And the sound of that bell would tap my shoulder for days, as virgin after virgin followed us into Burning Man, the bell reaching us across the playa. As for me, I was ordered to lie on the ground and make "dust angels" front and back. "Welcome home," said our greeter, and gave us both hugs.

The wacky week that awaited us was foreshadowed by the remains of a truck fire right at the entrance to the event. Somehow, somebody's truck had caught fire right there, completely engulfing his truck and all the bicycles it was carrying.

Once we found our campmates, who had gotten in line ahead of us, we set about pitching tents and shade structures in the midst of insistent wind and occasional white-out conditions. Welcome to the playa.

Sunday brought similar conditions, plus sunshine so intense it was nearly audible. In this weather, we set up the museum on the playa close to the man. By sometime on Monday, the work was finished and the artworks put on display, all under the supervision of Treiops, the project's mastermind. The master carpenter, of sorts, was my cohort-since-2005, Christopher Nelson.

Those first two days were about working until we dropped. Besides all of this, we were trying to execute a bright idea for a solar-heated shower that would recycle and filter our greywater for bathing. Once we had the logistics worked out and a pyramid-shaped stall built, a defective pump short-circuited the project and it was bottle-showers for us.

With the Museum set up and the camp arranged by Monday night, however, we were able to settle into the revelry for which we had come. And thus the mind-bending weirdness unfolded.

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