Thursday, January 29, 2004

Burning Man 9: Setup, and The Boyscouts

I had no problems getting my ticket, which just shows that worrying WORKS, dammit! After this, we approached the Greeter's station, intent on our first official contact with that which is Burning Man. The stuff in the parking lot was nice, and the people at the ticket booth were friendly, but we were finally about to enter the Burning Dragon, I remember thinking. Later on, I found out they had one of those, too. Literally.

The Greeters are an admirable lot, especially those who operate during the wee hours of the morning. It's damn cold out there, and while there are people coming in at 4am, I expect those folks aren't very much fun. Greeters, it seems to me, perform several functions:

1) Welcome you home, which sounds corny until you've been through post event decompression. Once you wake up every day for the first week back at home wondering how your tent got square, and how come it hasn't been blown over yet, you begin to think of the Burn as home.

2) Give you valuable information about the current state of services, The Man, maps, and anything major in the news (busts, big accidents, fashion shows, etc).

3) Supply first timers with an inkling of just what exactly is going on here. These are the people who show you it's OK to let your freak flag fly, or at least help you begin to find and unfurl it. They're the ones who cadge beers, pinch your nipples, and in general give you the lift you need to begin meshing with the community as a whole. They'll also help get you set up, if you've been given a spot on the map to camp in (as we were).

We found our plot, with assistance from one of the Org, just before dark. We had just enough time to set up our tents and find the food and whiskey before it got dark (and cold). This, my friends, is when the first ripple occurred.

Remember, back in Burning Man 3 (or 4, hell, I don't even remember), when I talked in very specific terms about the Tent Situation? Well, unfortunately, Dan and I didn't speak in nearly so specific a term, which led to the following conversation, beginning when Dan began to help me set up my tent.

J: "Where's your tent?"

D: "I thought you brought the tent?"

J: "Yes, I brought MY tent. Where's yours?"

D: "I thought you said you were taking care of the tent?!"

J: "Yes, I took care of my tent....but...."

After thinking long and hard post-event, I came to the conclusion that we probably shouldn't have planned the whole thing drunk on the kitchen floor. Luckily, I'd bought a big enough tent for two people, so it wasn't that awkward. To Dan's credit, he did sleep on a couch in Center Camp most nights, when we slept at all. And disappointingly, there was only one (slight) chance that I could have had company in that tent anyway--which occurred on the night that it rained, and Dan was in there, so that didn't work.

So, tent set up, we were met by the first of our neighbors, a group of freaks called "Pulse." The Pulse people were a really together bunch of party goers from the Bay Area, if I remember right. They were basically a raver camp without the big dance floor and PA, but their decor was great--a lot of heart shaped stuff, and a big gazebo with lots of blood-corpuscule shaped pillows. Really well done camp, complete with shower and RV. Our first interaction with them was when they wanted to know how much power we'd need. Dan, of course, looks at me. I, I'm ashamed to admit, didn't know a watt from an amp at that point (although I'm a little better now), so I just guessed. I guessed high, which was better than guessing low, and we ceded the unused plugs back to them the next morning.

Pulse was to our right, facing the camp. I was never really sure what was on our left--I suspect Media Mecca, or one of the actual Burning Man "official" sites. A public service building, something like that. Behind us, an empty spot (on Sunday night, anyway). To the left of that empty spot, our new friends, the Black Rock City Speedway.

These guys were great. They were former BRC Rangers (something like cops, only more interested in keeping everyone safe from things like fires and speeding art cars than busting people for flagrant dope smoking), and had obviously been coming for several years. I immediately pegged them as big children, which is just fine with me, and my impression wasn't mitigated one bit when I found out they'd brought out all their RC cars to play with. Granted, they'd race RC cars with anyone who evinced interest, and in this way they were about as interactive a camp as you could get. Which was one of the major criteria for getting a spot in Center Camp--big interactivity.

These guys, hereinafter referred to as The Boyscouts, which nickname derived from the twisted mind of either Robert or TwinA, also gave us our first example of the "gift economy" we'd been hearing so much about.

But now that I read back on this, I think I've left some shit out. Next post will be an explanation of some of the terms, camp layout, and the arrival of Cosmo and Mr. E.


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