Burning Man Sketchbook: Sunday

I woke at sunrise. I should have slept in, but instead I lied in my tent, listening to the sounds of early morning: footsteps, car doors closing, engines starting people talking... I rose to a city already awake. The air was clear and still. Lots of people were packing to leave. The storms of Burn night had spooked a lot of people, and they were getting out while the getting was good. A bunch of the dome tents at the Green Tortoise had already folded up. I was surprised to find out there wasn't just two or three Green Tortoise buses, but a whole fleet of them. It had expanded from a Burning Man service into a travel business that took people all over. Good for them.
At Moonbeam's camp, bacon was being served, along with pancakes and tasty mimosas. Moonbeam was extremely gracious all week, and her generosity was greatly appreciated. It turned out there was a barbecue in camp after all, late after the Burn, after I'd already gone to sleep. Nuts. I also missed Star leaving. She took off early in the morning, but left a message on the white board that she loved us. I was glad I got to see her. Becka's ankles had bothered her earlier in the week, but by Sunday she was feeling much better. She seemed to enjoy her first Burning Man. "Wonderful" was a good start at describing Becka.

About mid-day, it was time to start taking down the bar. We took down the big American flag, which had looked great all week. I carried it over to where the Silicon Village truck was loading, and got yelled at for leaving it in the wrong place. We broke down a couple of the bar sections. Each section was a box made from two 4' x 8' sheets of plywood, cut so that there were nothing wasted. A very ingenious design. I was helping to clean out the bar. I was pulling trash and empty bottles out from the back of a shelf when something started spraying on the ground. The line from the beer keg had ruptured, and beer was spilling all over. I must have leaned on it wrong. The damage was minimal. Michael the beermeister managed to get it stopped, and I helped him get the line reconnected. First, I had to cut off the torn end of the hose, about as thick as a pencil. I cut off the end, then made Anne laugh when I looked up and said, "I feel like a rabbi." 
Anne was trying to get rid of the leftover booze by dispersing it amongst the camp. Someone donated a case of wine bottles, so I took one. I'd never heard of the brand before. Anne said it wasn't bad, "for $2 wine." I never considered myself a “beer snob,” but even I had to balk at taking the case of Coors Light someone donated. I suggested donating it to the DPW.

I helped take the stage apart and stack the components for transport. I'd brought a small bottle so that I could bring back some playa dust with me. I collected a handful of dust from in front of where the stage had been. I took one of my water bottles over to the camp shower and washed my hair. I hauled a total of 14 gallons of water with me to Burning Man, and managed to use pretty much all of it. I went for a walk through Center Camp. I had some more swag to give out, like some books of quotations I printed up, so I left them in plain sight. As I was leaving, one was already picked up. I also made up some bandannas, which I gave out to HOTD people. Lisa D. had a video camera, and got a shot of me with my bandannas. I also brought copies of my comic book, which I gave out to several people. Claudia thought it was funny. I gave one to Jen, too. I'd brought a couple of books to donate to the Black Rock City Bookmobile, but I never got around to finding it.

I saw lots of people packing up and heading out all day. As I walked back to camp, a carload of people heading out was stopped in an intersection by a guy with a bucket. "Would you like a car wash?" he asked. The driver rolled up her window, and the guy splashed a bucketload of water across her windshield. A pot of spaghetti and meatballs was cooking on a camp stove when I got back. I had a plate, and would've gotten another helping, but a couple of people who hadn't eaten yet finished it off. A little was enough. One of the lessons I've learned from Burning Man was that, if you had something on your stomach, however little, you could still keep going.

A guy came by looking for his lost camera. He described it, and the case it was in, but nobody in camp had seen anything like it. He felt really sad, not just about the camera, but for the lost pictures inside it. He said he got a picture of an 86-year-old guy attending his first Burn, and regretted not being able to send the guy a copy of the picture. We told him about web pages that list found objects from Burning Man. I hoped he'd get his pictures back. Someone suggested bringing a new, clean toilet to the bar next year, and using it as a punchbowl. Someone else wondered what kind of drinks you’d serve out of it. Anne suggested, “Mudslides?” The camp’s last can of Vienna sausages got opened-- they had flavor!

Earlier, I had walked by Playa Info, where the lost & found for Burning Man was centralized. I was surprised at the stack of found car keys, all lying in a pile. I asked what happened to unclaimed items from past years, and it turned out they eventually got distributed to charitable or art groups. The population of Black Rock City was over 49,000. Pandora's bicycle repair was closed for business. The "closed" sign they'd put out didn't seem to stop people from coming, so they put up a bigger sign that said "so fucking closed!" It wasn't the crowds of people that showed up for bike repair that was the problem; it seems a bunch of bad apples came with "a sense of entitlement" and ungrateful impatience with getting their bicycle fixed-- for free. The camp did have fun with the nuclear power plant workers that came by and sat around talking.

Dusk fell, and I walked out towards the Temple with Becka. We passed the remains of the Man, still smoldering. We lined up at the perimeter like we’d done for the Saturday night Burn. Soon, hundreds, probably thousands of people joined us. It was a solemn moment for Becka. Included with all the memorials at the Temple was one for Chip, her late husband. She told me he didn’t always join in with her fan interests, or her SCA activities, but he always supported her in everything she did. I said it sounded like he was a good guy. “He was a good guy,” she confirmed. We could see people still working out on the Temple. A fork lift scurried around, moving boxes and combustibles closer in. A group robed people marched around the perimeter, chanting and ringing bells. It seemed to be taking them a long time to get started. The chanters came around again.

At last, the fork lift departed the scene. Far off to the left, we saw silhouettes with torches come forward and throw them into the Temple. The interior began burning immediately. The flames quickly spread up the structure. Around us, everyone was quiet and respectful. A scattered few tried to get a festive spirit going by shouting curse words or whistling or yelling “Wooo!” But their prompts were not answered. There were no woos at a funeral, and that’s what it was. Everyone held their tongues, lost in their thoughts, as the flames climbed higher, swallowing the Temple in fire. Becka said nothing. We watched as the higher tower crumpled and fell into the fire. The supports went next, and finally the poles, demonstrating the strength of something constructed to withstand the desert winds.
The last pole fell, and as if on cue the wind suddenly kicked up. The crowd dispersed quickly as walls of dust crashed down on us. The air grew very cold. Goggles on, we bundled up and headed back towards the city. In moments, however, everything seemed to vanish. The dust was so thick, the city, the art cars, the stars, indeed even the thousands of people that had to be all around us suddenly disappeared in a cloud of white and beige. Becka kept her head. She knew the city was shaped like a horseshoe—all people had to do was head in the general direction, and the city would catch us.
We trudged on blindly through the frigid wind, and soon came to the Esplanade. I worried about the ones still out on the playa, the thousands of people slowly finding their way back to their camps, maybe some not so level-headed as Becka, probably some prone to panic… I could only hope they’d make it back okay. Huddled in a drafty tent, the air grew downright cold as the wind howled through the city… And then, something fell on the top of the tent. More sounds followed—I couldn’t believe it. It was raining! In five years at Burning Man, I’d only seen it sprinkle once, and here we were, a population of artists and dancers, slammed by a freezing thunderstorm, huddling for a bit of warmth in fragile, nylon tents…

Black Rock City to Provo
The Journey West
The Sketchbook
The Journey East
Broken Arrow to Albuquerque
Black Rock City to Provo
Albuquerque to Las Vegas
Provo to Pueblo
Las Vegas to Beatty
Pueblo to Broken Arrow
 Beatty to Black Rock City
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