Burning Man 1999 Cleanup, part I

Hello all!  Me here.  Just wanted to send out a belated report on clean up
from last week.  Sorry it's taken me so long.  Still no email, and haven't
had time to work on getting my new dialup set up.  [Note, I can no longer
receive mail at darkstar nor my own domain.  This is most likely permanent. :(
This address is only temporary but feel free to write me here.  My new
domains will be up and running sometime this week!]

I went up friday night to the 80 acres.  I got a late start, and
discovered the power of Red Bull energy drinks. :)  I pulled in around 2am
and found no lights on anywhere.  I followed some music playing, and ended
up camping with two very sweet guys, Tom and [I think] Shawn.

The next morning, Tom cooked us an amazing breakfast, and Shawn gave me a
cookie.  It tasted a bit strong, but he encouraged me to eat it all.  I knew
better though. :)

The guy who gave me the ride out to the site said something very profound
[or maybe it was the cookie :) ]  He said he liked working for the DPW
because it was the only place in the world where you could come to work
hard.  I totally agree.  It's satisfying working hard.

I went out and tried to figure out what needed to be done.  In general, the
DPW folks had all but burnt out and bailed a few days before.  And the few
folks who were left were also quite crispy...  No one really much knew [or
cared?] what to do with the handful of fresh, eager faces who had arrived in
the night.  [Please note that I do NOT mean to diss the DPW.  These folks
had most of them been there since early-mid August.  I'm describing their
general mood at the present, but by all means the DPW is well organized,
cheerful and generally works miracles!]

Bill Carson showed me some cool finds he got out of the Man burn scar.  He'd
been meticulously sifting the ashes with a leaf-blower!  He had some
foot-long pieces of neon, plus a silver ring, a ceramic plate and other cool
stuff. He was rather posessive of the site and wouldn't let anyone else
clean it up. :)

I eventually found work with a couple guys digging up a burn scar.  By
then, the cookie had kicked in pretty hard.  They guys would say something
to me and smile and I'd just look back at them blankly.  They gave me funny
stares. :)  One of them was kinda dissing the DPW, and I just smiled and
gave them the "work hard" quote I just heard above, and said I thought that
summed up the DPW for me.  He shut up. :) He'd never even been to the 80.

At one point, they dug up some strange chunk of debris that looked
interesting, and I was thinking Bill might want it...  It took me a couple
hours before I finally decided I needed to dig it back out.  I mumbled
something about Bill needing it, and they just looked at me like I was
crazy. :)  But a few more hours later, Bill showed up and I gave him my
prize.  He was very pleased, and turned the piece over and over in his
hands, and thanked me.  The two guys kinda looked at eachother in disbelief.
:) I wasn't as crazy as they thought! :)

I spent the rest of the day sifting burn piles -- difficult work, and
depressing.  I want to state again that I was very impressed with Reif in
our Town who took all his ashes with him -- good for you!  [Did anyone clean
up the last of our burn pile in-camp?  Anyone know?]

The next two days, I am ashamed to admit, were unmotiavted.  It was so easy
to just not be very energized, given the mood... :( If anyone goes back out,
remember to bring an energized spirit out there and share it with others!
Also, be ready to take initiative and find something to do on your own.  The
DPW doesn't need to babysit...

I spent one day at Bordello, which is my favorite hot springs.  I went with
a bunch of new friends: Dave and Davis [who were planning on sailing around
the world with a group, but that trip got cancelled so they came for
clean-up], Jolynn [one amazing lady, who can cook up a storm, and who lives
in Oakland and who I hope to see again] and Emery [who's looking to move out
to the Bay Area and who'll probably be crashing at my place here and there.]
  I will post pictures when I get the chance.  [Don't hold our breath! :) ]

I ran into Steve Hechs that evening and said, "how's it going?" and he flew
off the handle and ranted for about 30 minutes.  He was obviously at the
very end of his rope.  His artwork had been burned on sunday after the burn.
  It was depressing.  He was not the same happy, joking person I met last
Memorial Day. :(  He was ranting about folks coming to work and then goofing
off.  Don't know if he meant me specifically, but I felt really guilty. :(

The last day, Scott and Uktena showed up as well.  Dave and Davis joined  us
and the five of us spent the day cleaning up piles of donated water bottles.
  Mmm...munster cheese and salami sandwiches without bread... :) Also, ice
cream frozen to dry-ice temp is fucking AWESOME!! <crunch-crunch-crunch>
Mmm...crunchy super-frozen ice cream sandwich... :)

Water bottles are the bane of cleanup.  They leak and cause a huge mud pit,
plus they don't compact and cause a lot of waste.  NO MORE DONATED WATER!
We spent the day just breaking the bottles, then sifting through the mud for
lables, tops and other misc. junk like pasta [?!] and a broken styrofoam
cooler.  What a freakin mess!!!  It was gruling work, but Dave and Davis
were cheerful, blasting away at bottles with the shovel, and playing drums
on them. :)  They were a ton of fun to hang with!

We then went to clean more burn scars and run a magnet through the ashes. It
was amazing how much waste a single burn scar was.  A small camp-fire sized
scar was about 5 bags of ashes.  Most scars were much larger.   [You can't
shovel much ashes in or you can't pick up the bag -- 7 shovelsful max was
Bill's rule.]

We had just finished cleaning up most of what was left of the old DPW site
[ironically] and we were all totally exhausted and were about to head out to
the springs.  [It was only about 5:30 -- but it was hard work!]  Bill wanted
us to move to another spot and continue working, but once he left, we all
shook our heads and snuck away.  We were just too exhausted.  [We got lost
on the playa in the dark on the way back...but I won't even begin to tell
that tale. >:-(  Probably pennance for sneaking away. :) ]

Wednesday, Scott and I went out to take some pictures of the desert for his
photography class.  In the distance, we heard Steve Hechs ranting about
folks goofing off.  We felt really bad, so we snuck around the back, broke
camp and left.  We'd been hearing rumors that we'd failed the BLM, that
though they would give us two more weeks, that they were unusually angry and
were threatening not to give us a permit next year...  Then it started to
rain and sleet!  My heart sunk as I wondered what the mood would be -- would
the rain dry up before spring even??  [The last I heard, the playa is
passable at least, so clean up continues...]

In conclusion:

Burn scars are the worst of clean up.  They were esp. bad this year
because they were covered with inches of blown dust from windstorms!  This
made them hard to find, sift, and caused us to take a lot more playa with us
than is probably good...

Also, the donated water bottles are a horrible mess.  At the least, I
think we should put them on a pallet as they come in, so they can then
immediately be taken off the playa to the 80.  Also, only unopened bottles
should be accepted...

The consensus was that theme camps and art work were the worst of the
mess.  These two groups seem like they'd be a captive audience for
education...  Hopefully things will run better next year.

On that note, I also have to note a few things about how we could improve
our own camp. This year I was again among the last to leave camp, so I was
among those responsible to make sure our camp was in top condition.  Even
last year, we left a burn scar of our own, thinking [wrongly] that DPW would
simply clean it up with the bobcat.  No, this is a hand labor job!

As one of the last to leave, I've noticed how easy it is for folks to pack
up what is theirs, but not to pack up what is nobody's.  No fault of anyone,
but a change of focus is needed here.  Pack out until your car is full,
not when you simply have everything of yours.

Also, don't ask someone else to take care of something of yours, even if
they agree.  Esp. don't ask someone to pack out something of yours if they
have not finished packing.  Stuff swells.  Pack out EVERYTHING you
brought, and then some!  If you have room in your car at all, fill it with
something, anything!  [You'd be surprized how much more stuff I got into my
little car after I'd finished packing my own things!]

Okay, off my soapbox. :)  It's easy to feel frustrated and preachy seeing
what's still left to do... :( Next year we can do better!

I was hoping to head back out for cleanup this past weekend [it just
seemed premature to party at Decompression when we were in dire need to
finish up!] but I just had too much to do and couldn't get away...  So I'll
be heading back out this coming weekend.  Again, I'll have an extra seat.
Please, please, please come out and help!  If you are at all able, please
come out!  Can't <whatever it is> wait until next weekend??  This is our
last chance!

As Bill says, "don't talk about it, DO IT."