A Year Ago This Weekend...
Tom Mills, Hal Linhart and I loaded our gear into the back of Danielle's Mazda for an insanely early ride to the Kansas City airport for a flight to DFW and then on to Reno. Our mission was to do the set up for our Burning Man crew, partially pictured at right. Danie and the others would follow the next day.
We spent that day criss crossing Reno in a rental car, searching for essentials like the Mother of all Tent Pegs, a good straw hat, and bungees-a-plenty. Most of our gear was found at a great place called Twin City Surplus. If you're ever in Reno and think you might get stranded in the desert, make sure you swing by this place and load up on nifty stuff.
The next day we picked up the rest of our crew at the airport...Danielle & Tara, brave maidens that they are, Barry & Marjie (You brought your daughter?!? To Burningman?!?!), Rusty and others, some who we really hadn't gotten a chance to know yet. That night, at a friend-of-a-friend's home in Reno, we hit our first snag. Those responsible for bringing the extensive list of cooking gear that I had sent them revealed that all they had assembled could be fit into the rusty little pot that they suggested we could cook with. For 18 of us. For a week. In the wilderness. The grill I asked for? They had an apartment sized 18 inch round charcoal grill.
I swallowed hard and went straight to Home Depot, where I plunked down cash for a portable gas grill.and two or three tanks of propane. You should have seen the face on the clerk when we asked how to connect a twenty five pound propane bottle to that little thing. He had no clue. We figured it out, bought twice as many fittings as we needed, and headed for the parking lot. The folks in charge of arranging the cooking gear got into the spirit of it and drove to Wal-Mart where they purchased a reasonable amount of pots, pans, spoons, etc to outfit an army.
Monday morning we gathered behind a supermarket. Our entourage now included a Toyota truck and trailer, two rental cars, a minivan, an RV, and a full sized semi truck hauling 10,000 bottles of water, a lot of groceries, and the rest of our gear. Nothing like making a subtle entry to the playa, although once you're there you'd understand that nobody looked twice at us...they were too busy gawking at the self propelled plywood zebra unicorn with optionall flamethrowing horn. That thing was spooky fast, by the way...
It was an amazing week. We met wonderful people and saw amazing things. Also a few sad moments...a man passing out in front of us and laying there in the dirt while we tried to revive him...young people wandering with hearts dying to burn for something...an 9 or 10 year old boy whose mother han named him Ruin. Ruin. Who would do this to a child?
Tonight, the tribe is beginning to gather on the playa. The event doesn't begin until Monday, but anyone with a lame excuse can get on the playa early (one year I gained access simply by insisting that our team was too inept to be expected to set up our camp in one day.) The desert is alive with the sound of generators and techno music, nail guns and espresso machines, punctuated by the occasional testing of a homemade flame thrower. I wish you could meet this tribe. They are unlike any I have known. Faulty, searching, exuberant, questioning, full and empty all at once.
Tribe of Burners, I am glad to call you my friends. Tonight, on the leading edge of your week in the desert, I wish you safety. And clarity. And a radical encounter with the Living God of the universe. May He reveal Himself with the same power He did in last year's wind. He's relentlessly searching for you even more than you're searching for Him.
For a better explanation of why we love these people, follow this link to an article I wrote for Burning Man back in the fall of 2002.