Burning in the Burbs 2019 Getting my Ego washed and other tales from the city that never/ ever was .

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Burning in the Burbs 2019 Getting my Ego washed and other tales from the city that never/ ever was .

Post by capnjonny » Thu Sep 12, 2019 3:55 pm

Burning in the Burbs 2019

Getting my Ego washed and other tales from the city that never/ ever was .

Chapter 1
Working for the Man
Six shifts in 7 days. That’s what I signed up for and that’s what I did. The first three 6am to noon and then three more Noon to 6.
Tuesday morning, after a relaxing journey to the Emerald city and setting up Cap’n Jonny’s Outer Rim Tea Room in the suburbs the previous day I was raring to go and woke myself up 5 minutes before my alarm went off at 4:15 am. Plenty of time to wake up, eat something, and ride over to the Black Hole bar where the bus waited to take everyone out to the gate for our shift. Getting to Burning man early during Build week has advantages. For me the most important is that there is virtually no line at the gate on the way in. I drive a small truck with a stick shift and no air conditioning and the idea of sitting in line idling in sweltering heat for 3 or 4 hours motivates me to do anything to avoid it. For this year I earned a staff credential and free ticket and had to go to the box office to get my special wrist band with the RFID chip before I could go through the gate. Even with that extra step I was into the park in 10 minutes.
On my first shift was I was a bit nervous that I would screw up. I had a cheat sheet telling me what to say but I still fought with the hand held scanner which had a screen that was virtually impossible to see in the bright sun. I had to periodically duck into the shade behind the shipping container we used for a command post so I could see to get it to work properly.
One thing that helped immensely was that my shift lead. “Quick” was a very nice person who never yelled and was constantly encouraging me. The morning shift was good because it was cool till about 10 am so you didn’t get overheated. By the time we got back on the bus to return to camp I felt pretty good.
That night I had 2 alarm clocks to wake me up so I went to bed certain that I would get up in time. I woke up about 2am to pee, then went back to sleep and dozed till I woke up with a start. I looked at the clock and it was 5:15 am. Somehow I had forgotten to set either alarm correctly and now I was screwed. The bus for gate leaves at 5:30 exactly and I was going to miss it. I threw on some clothes and raced over to the Hole but the bus had just left. I begged everyone I saw for a ride but everyone was going somewhere else. My guardian angel must have been looking out for me because someone managed to find me a ride and I was able to get to gate and work my shift.
The next night I set both alarms, checking them twice to be sure I had them set and making sure to set my own internal alarm in my head , then woke myself up 5 minutes before they went off. Goes to show that when you rely on yourself rather than some external factor for motivation you can make miracles happen.
For my last three shifts I purposely chose the noon to 6 pm time slot for two reasons. First, Sunday and Monday afternoon were the busiest times on the busiest days of the event for arrivals. I knew we would be jammed with people backed up to the horizon waiting to get “Home”. For some perverse reason I wanted to be a part of that, to be the one to welcome them, to tell them a joke and make them laugh, to see their faces when after the long journey and the wait I told them there was one last test they had to pass to get in. Do you speak Mandarin? No? Didn’t you get the memo? I’m sorry but you can’t come in. They would look concerned, then puzzled and then get the joke and laugh. Of course there was one English couple where when I asked the man started speaking Chinese. I told him they were good to go to giggles all around. Later on I started telling folks that were about to proceed that the water slide was on the right, the petting zoo on the left, and the firing range was straight ahead. Sometimes, when the people were not native English speakers they would listen carefully, certain that I was serious.
After I asked “do you have any live plants or animals, Fireworks or fire arms, Lasers or flying drones” I would ask “did you bring the cannon?” and would explain that we would be having target practice later in the week.
One thing we were especially looking for was anything that could create “Moop” or Mater out of place. Things like glitter, sequins, feather boas and bike decorations that could fall off were prime targets for inspection. One family with a 6 year old daughter, when I asked about feathers, showed me a beautiful set of wings on a harness that their daughter planned to wear. When I showed it to my shift lead he showed them why it could shed material and they agreed to bag it and not take it out. The little girl was heartbroken and sobbing and I felt terrible spoiling her day like that.
On Sunday afternoon, the first day regular attendees could arrive, it was all hands on deck. We had 8 lanes of cars with 3 people working each lane. It was hot and everyone was all jacked up with excitement. Then about 2:30pm everything stopped. No one was in line and there were no cars turning in from the highway. We found out there had been a terrible accident in Gerlach with a fatality and the highway was closed down so no one could get in. Eventually the bosses decided to send everyone back to camp. We all went back to the Black Hole and people started leaving. Then about 1 ½ hours later someone announced that they were going to start the line again and asked for volunteers to go back out. A bunch of us went and I finished the last hour and a half of my shift .
I made a few new friends this year at gate. The first was “ Quick”. We hit it off immediately and whenever I saw her she gave me a hug. Later in the week we met up in the Hole and I asked her what she did in the world. She said she had spent the last 2 years teaching science to freshmen high school students and that she had for the last 18 years spent most of the year doing field research studying bird populations for the government and private companies. Another Shift lead I liked went by “Chris’s Dad” and worked gate on a couple of my shifts. He complimented me on my enthusiasm and was another supportive person.
By working 6 shifts this year I earned a free ticket for next year’s event and the coveted Staff wrist band.
The only change I plan to make next year is to try to arrive on Monday of build week and work Tues, Wed, Fri, Sat, and Sunday. That will still earn me a free ticket and will give me more time to enjoy the city during the event. This year, working the noon to 6 shift I didn’t have time to really do anything before work and I was too tired afterwards to get out much.

Chapter 2
This year I made a choice to camp by myself in the burbs, the outer rim of Black Rock city, where there is open space that is not reserved and anyone can pull their car or Rv up and make a camp.
Because I arrived on Tuesday of Build week , when only people who were working for the org or building a camp or art piece were allowed in , the area I wanted to camp was virtually empty when I got there . I set up camp about 75 ft off the 5 o clock radial on J Street with my two 6 ft. tall Statues out front and my shade structure in between my truck and trailer. My intention was to set out an air pot of hot water, some tea bags, sugar cubes, and some instant coffee for anyone who wanted to stop by. I also had Recorded 450 Hawaiian tunes, which I played through a homemade juke box that would play all day. As the area filled in with campers a number of folks stopped by for tea when I was home and stayed to talk. Other people came by when I was gone and signed my guest book while they chilled in my shade. My next door neighbors, a couple guys from Calgary Canada became regular guests and we got to know each other. One woman named Peaches who was camped nearby asked me If I would accompany her on a cruise one morning. We biked around the Playa for a couple hours looking at some of the bigger structures. Later in the week she stopped by to explain why she thought I might be an introvert. She had done lots of reading on the subject and made a pretty strong case. I would have to say that I would never have pegged either of us to be one. Friday night as I was slowly dismantling my camp preparing for an early departure Saturday morning, her campmate came by to tell me that peaches had suddenly become very ill and had to be evacuated by ambulance to Reno with kidney trouble. All of her neighbors were saddened by the news as she was a vibrant, outgoing person who had made many friends that week.
Many people took pictures of my camp and its gold statues. My neighbors told me they were a great land mark that guided them home at night. They also liked my little solar fountain burbling away out front all day.
All in all I had a very positive experience camping there and plan to do it again next year.
Chapter 3
The Junkie and the vagabond
As I sat drinking tea in camp I never knew who would drop by.
One of the first people to sit with me was a self professed Heroin addict. I’m not sure how he made it to the event. He told me he used smack just to be normal and said he had been off it for the last 20 days. He seemed depressed and needed someone to talk to. I told him about my experience watching someone shoot up and then later trying to find him only to find out he was dead. I reminded him that there were numerous Alanon and Narcanon camps in Black rock City and encouraged him to check in with them. After he left I noticed he had left his satchel behind. I propped it against my fountain and left it there hoping he would return for it but he never did.
Somewhat later another guy stopped by. He looked about 50, scruffy, but not a bum, with a calm, self-confident air about him. I offered him some tea and he pulled out a small cone shaped paper cup and started to try to fill it. I told him I had a better cup he could use and he made himself a cup and sat down to talk. He said that he had been in Moab Utah and decided on the spur of the moment to hitch hike out to Burning man without a ticket and try to get in. Amazingly he convinced some one at the Gerlach office to give him a ticket and there he was with nothing but a story and a paper cup. My guess is that he lives his life this way, being in the moment and drifting with the wind. Unfortunately, he had the attitude that if anyone left their bike unlocked it was o/k to “borrow” it. Hopefully he will realize the harm he may be doing to others. Somehow I doubt it.
Chapter 4
Out and about in the Emerald City
I made a point of trying to see as many neighborhoods in my fair city as possible. Often I would check which way the wind was blowing and try to sail with it at my stern or on the beam. Peddling into a strong wind is hard work so better to go with it and when the wind changed direction I did to.
I stopped at just about any place that had someone out front with a megaphone, figuring that if they wanted me to stop by that bad, who was I to refuse. One of my first stops was at the Ego Wash, where they had groups of people enter their dome and do some partner exercises, looking into each other’s eyes and holding hands. Then we all had to crawl through a tunnel into another dome where we were led through a meditation, complete with incense, gongs, and being fanned with gentle breezes. Finally, we were led outside where we had a pillow fight. I left with my Ego squeaky clean.
One of my favorite stops was at the rain forest tent, where you could sit under multiple misters and cool off while talking to the other people sitting next to you. I had a conversation with one lady with a Christian camp who travelled throughout California visiting nursing homes setting up programs where the residents prepared meals for homeless shelters. She explained that just about anyone could participate. Even Alzheimer’s patients, many of whom couldn’t remember their names, were put to work and seemed to enjoy it.
One giggle was a camp where you were supposed to bend over and dip your nipples in a bath of ice water. I wasn’t wearing a shirt at the time and stepped up. As I bent over the lovely lady with the megaphone gave me a couple smart swats on my bottom, something I was not expecting, then offered me a pickle.
My favorite camp was the healing Foot wash. I go there every year as often as I can. The treatment includes a rinse with vinegar followed by soapy water then clean water and finally having a balm rubbed into your feet and calves. I went in three times this year, each time volunteering to wash someone else’s feet after mine had been done. On my last visit on Friday before coming home I made a point of seeking out Anna Lisa, one of the leaders of the group I have met in the past, and asking if I could wash her feet. She is always busy with customers and I thought she deserved a break. We talked while I worked and agreed that it was a pleasurable experience for both the giver and receiver of this service. After words I asked if Betty, one of the other camp members, could wash my feet. Betty was the first person to do that3 years ago when I first found the camp. She and I had had a long conversation then about life and religion. While she washed me we talked about what had gone on for us in the intervening years. She had lost her husband and was considering what to do now, since she had no responsibilities anymore. I suggested travel and we discussed ways she could combine that with service. We agreed to meet again next year for an update.
Chapter 5
Make your bike your friend
Take care of it and it will take care of you.
Probably the most important piece of kit you bring to the desert, and the most neglected and abused, is your bike. I have seen countless heaps riding around that are never touched or serviced from one year to the next that are constantly on the verge of disintegration. If you think it is necessary to have a bike on playa , and it is mandatory if you want to get out and about in the city which is about 5 miles across and home to 80,000 people , then you should bloody well make sure it is in good nick before you haul it out there. The dry air and caustic dust eats bicycles. I have seen bikes come into the repair shop with wobbly crank arms and when the bottom bracket bearings were inspected found nothing but rusty dust.
Buying a cheap bike in a box and bringing it out to the Burn to assemble is also a bad idea as you never know if all the pieces are there of if something is broken. Even buying a Wall Mart Huffy and having the store assemble it is a gamble as the kids they have do the work are unskilled and are not bike mechanics and sometimes tighten things too much or not enough.
If you bring out a bike adorned with fluffy stuff wrapped around the frame beware. After a couple years the material dries out and eventually starts coming off which we will check for at gate. If we decide it is moopy you will have to remove all of it before you are allowed inside.
Be smart. Buy a reconditioned mtn. bike from your local bike co op and take good care of it, stripping it down every year for a deep cleaning . If you do this you won’t get many surprises out in the desert.
Even then shit happens. Last year the crank arm fell off my burner bike, an old Trek mtn. bike. I put it back on and torqued it down but this year it started to fall off again. After having it come loose and re torqueing it several times I took it to the Black Rock welding camp and had someone spot weld the nut to the crank spindle. Now it absolutely will not come loose again.
Chapter 6
Home again
By Friday I started to feel like I had been at Burning Man long enough this year. I didn’t really care about all the spectacle that happened Sat and Sunday night when they burned the Man and the temple and leaving before the Exodus of 70 ,000 people Sunday and Monday is mandatory for me.
I packed up My camp Friday evening and first thing Saturday morning I was off.
Leaving the park I was alone on the road. I could envision the thousands of people Monday waiting in line for hours for their turn to get on the highway to leave, confirming for myself that I had made the right decision.
I slowly made my way to Reno averaging about 45mph. I kept an eye out for people getting stacked up behind my little trailer and as soon as it was safe for them to pass I slowed way down to give them room to get around. I stopped at Denny’s in Reno for a Lumberjack slam then went to the KOA at Boomtown to camp. Unfortunately they were full so I took off again, planning to stop at the roadside rest stop at the summit of highway 80. Pulling in I got out of the truck and went in to use the rest room. When I got back to the car I reached into my pocket for my keys. Nothing. Thinking they might have fallen out of my pants pocket in the restroom stall I went back to look. Someone was in there. I asked if they could see my keys. No was the answer. I retraced my steps back and forth to the car about 4 times and found nothing. Thinking they had to be in the bathroom I waited for the other person to finish and come out. He stayed in there over a half hour. Finally he left and I went back for a look. Nothing! I went back to the truck cursing the gremlins that did these things to me. Sitting down I looked over at the passenger side where there was a loose cushion sitting on the seat. I lifted it up and there on the upholstery were my keys. Saved again.
Back on the road I plodded along till I got to Gold Run where I pulled off the road for a half hour and took a nap in the shade of the pine trees. After that it was onward to Vacaville where I stopped for a burger, then straight home, arriving at my house just before six o clock.
All in all It was a good Burn. I worked a lot but that was by choice. I made some new friends and talked with lots of people from all over the world. My Tea Room was a hit with many people liking the gold statues and the Hawaiian music, and the trip up and back was as painless as you could expect.
Next year I will probably camp in the same spot but a little closer to the corner so the statues are more easily spotted. I may bring a more substantial shade structure with a better wind brake but if not the one I have will have to do.

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Re: Burning in the Burbs 2019 Getting my Ego washed and other tales from the city that never/ ever wa

Post by cryoguy » Fri Sep 13, 2019 2:31 pm

Thanks, I enjoyed reading! :D

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Re: Burning in the Burbs 2019 Getting my Ego washed and other tales from the city that never/ ever wa

Post by Miura-7 » Sun Sep 15, 2019 11:46 am

Ditto. Human just like me, glad you found your keys.

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Re: Burning in the Burbs 2019 Getting my Ego washed and other tales from the city that never/ ever wa

Post by Elderberry » Sun Sep 15, 2019 3:12 pm

Hey there, welcome to ePlaya!
When I was a kid I used to pray every night for a new bicycle.
Then I realized that the Lord doesn't work that way so I stole one and asked Him to forgive me

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Re: Burning in the Burbs 2019 Getting my Ego washed and other tales from the city that never/ ever wa

Post by airmedic98 » Sun Oct 13, 2019 3:56 am

Very entertaining read. I will make it a point to have tea with you in 2020. I was on the playa 12 days and worked 10 twelve hour shifts as a medic on one of the ambulances you saw running around the playa. That was stupid too much. I am aiming for half that in 2020. They shuffled us to different locations during our shift and one was the gate. Wonderful people who shared their food, cold water and hidden porta potties. I have been in the ambulance business since 1969 so I have smelled my share of things dead but never have I encountered a smell like the porta potties on the car line side of the fence.

On that note, see ya in 11 months or so.

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Re: Burning in the Burbs 2019 Getting my Ego washed and other tales from the city that never/ ever wa

Post by Savannah » Tue Oct 15, 2019 12:21 pm

Thread moved from The Greeters Station to Stories--accurate placing, and more people will see it. :)
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