Thursday, January 22, 2004

Burning Man #2: People, Food and Water

I'd committed to going, against my better judgement. I had some money, and I had quite a bit of free credit (something you really have to watch on cross country journeys), and I began to feel like I was about to start an adventure. Which I was, but let's not get ahead of ourselves here.

The group was simple enough. There were only four of us, in a small space in Center Camp. The conspirators:

Ethan: Hep California documentary film maker and all around visual artist. Went to art school with Dan. Knew Cosmo. Did not know me.

Cosmo: Another film maker and visual artist from CA. I can't imagine a school that could have taught Cosmo to do what he does. Knew Ethan. Did not know me or Dan.

Dan: Abusive, drunken stepfather of Little Orphan Annie. Visual and multimedia artist with an unfortunate fetish for tools. Knew Ethan and me. Did not know Cosmo.

Me: You know me. The only non-artist (even, at that time, a sort of anti-artist) of the bunch. At the time, I thought I was brought along mostly to tote stuff around and plug stuff in. Knew Dan. Didn't know Cosmo or Ethan.

That's the crew. As you can see, Cosmo and I were at a slight disadvantage, just knowing one other person. If I knew then what I knew now, there's no way in hell you'd get me into the desert with two people I didn't know and Dan Pugh. It just wouldn't happen.

But anyway...I imagine I was a bit of a problem for Ethan and Cosmo as well, because I didn't check email and had no clue what a listserve was. Any and all communication from the camp to me came through Dan, who must have taken good notes because we did most of our planning late at night, with suspiciously slurred speech. The legend has it that we were actually at bars in different cities, scribbling on napkins and such. I don't know where Pugh was, but I was mostly lying naked on the kitchen floor, since that was the coolest room in the house.

And I made no notes, yo. I was along for the ride. As long as I had enough to eat and drink, and enough illicits to get me through, I was completely willing to tote bundles and trench extension cords. Visual artistry? Not interested--already done enough acid, you won't crash my brain, no matter how fucked up your imagery is.

I'd committed later than the deadline for tickets through the mail, so I had one placed at Will Call, three states and thirteen hundred miles away (in the middle of the desert, don't forget). This was a little bit of a stretch for me: driving all that way with nothing to show that I'd paid them $200 already. Just to be safe, I stopped at an ATM in Kansas and got $200 more in cash--almost the last of it.

I spent a couple of good weekends tooling around town throwing my credit card at various camping and military surplus vendors, making sure that I had enough supplies. That was fun. I personally chose to go with MRE rations and collapsible water containers. You can't beat MRE's--there's a good variety, every one of them can be eaten directly out of the package with a spoon, and to cook them all you have to do (at least in the desert) is throw them on the hood of your car for half an hour. The packaging isn't recycleable, I don't think, but there's not much left after you've eaten it, anyway.

Which brings me to a good point: packaging. I was smart enough to figure this out without being told, mostly because I knew the size of Dan's truck (small) and I knew his tool fetish. This means I would have a minimum of space to pack in, so I spent an afternoon shucking packaging from everything I'd bought. This a) cut the volume at least in half, and b) reduced the amount of trash we had to haul off by quite a bit as well. Trash is not fun at all, even with the best of organization, so anything you can do to minimize it, the better. ALL trash (and everything else, for that matter) gets hauled away (by you) at the end of the week, so if you can leave it on your living room floor instead of driving it both ways, you'd best do so.

And really, who needs packaging? What's a cereal box but a label for the bag it contains? Leave the fucker At Home. Bring the bag. MRE's are cardboard boxes that contain the meal (also in a container) and a little bag full of potentially useful crap. I imagine that stuff's handy to have around if you're in combat, but for my purposes, no. So, no more cardboard box, no more tiny cellophane bags full of instant coffee and Chiclets and matches. Envelopes of food and a good spoon. Oh, and those little bottles of Tabasco. I love those.

The water was another issue. I purchased enough 5 gal collapsible plastic jugs for me to drink and bathe out of for a week, going by the published guideline of 2 gal/person/day. This, incidentally, I threw out the following year, as we used about half of the water we brought, and wouldn't have used that much had Pugh not washed his feet four times a day. But for the first time, definitely 2 gal/day.

Finally, a word about the sleeping situation. Dan asked me specifically if I "had a tent." I told him no, that I didn't have a tent, but not to worry because I'm sure I could round up something. In fact, I bought a fairly nice one, with a little extra room in case I happened upon one of those lusty playa ladies I'd been reading so much about (lots of BM legends include serious drugs and/or wild sex--not that this is what Burning The Man is about, but some people look for any excuse to party). I even purchased a queen sized air mattress. I was set, now.