THE BEST MADE PLANS…
After our assault on First Camp, we wander around the Esplanade for a couple of hours before we part company, with Jewel, Shoegirl, and Big Cock heading back to their camp while I drift home to the very, very welcome prospect of finally getting some sleep. With some kind guidance and company from a nice couple headed my way, I get back to my camp by about 2:00 am and mercifully collapsed into my sleeping bag. It has been a manic, epic, desperately joyful 46 hour day.
The next day, I awake full of purpose, for I have plans, things to do, people to see! ! In particular:
- Delivering Mail and Working the Postal Window: Again, I had a great camp this year (some of the crew is on display at http://www.brcpostoffice.com/suspectsbehindthebrcpostoffice), and after a little sleep I am both eager and proud to serve the team today.
- Chariot: My bicycle had finally arrived – delivered to my tent! – by the guys who had brought it up from San Francisco. It is time, finally, to put together the WheelChariot Version 2.0 as designed by Nate, and to start driving people around the playa. I had everything I needed to make this happen: PVC, bike, wheelchair, hose clamps, zip ties, rope, sarongs, and a 20 ft length of ELWire. I was planning to finish this before…
- Art Tour: Jewel and Shoegirl and I are planning to take the guided bicycle tour of the major playa art projects, which was supposed to start at 1:30 pm.
- Visits: I have compiled and printed out a list of people that I am planning to go to visit in BRC. This list included former campmates, former students, friends from the real world, and people who I had met the previous year and made plans with
- Chili: For the second straight year, I have volunteered to cook a massive batch of chili for my camp on Friday night. Although I had failed to step foot even once into my camp kitchen last year, this year I am determined not to flake out!
Of course, as one might expect, none of this quite works out as planned. The playa, it seems, has some more things to teach me…
After breakfast – it is great to be camped right next to the Pancake Playhouse, ‘cause those guys produce great cakes every single morning! – I do get off to a solid start working the Post Office window for a while in the morning. This is a total hoot, as our approach was to act like all-powerful bureaucrats and mess with the customers, who generally loved the whole schtick. I also take a small pile of emails with me to deliver in route to the Blue Light District. I have basically 3 hours to work with when I leave camp…
Chaos ensues. I head out from camp with a couple of fellow posties, searching for a couple of friends whose camps I never did find. Along the way, I leave my day pack behind twice and struggle first to figure out where in the world it is and then to go pick it up. And it’s hotter today…
By the time I get to the BLD to start working on the chariot, it is almost time to leave for the art tour. I’m thinking about just blowing off the chariot, but there is this old-time burner who Jewel and Shoegirl are visiting with who inspires me to try to complete the chariot and chauffer her on the Art Tour with us. I take it as a sign from the gods that it is time to focus on the chariot, while Jewel takes it as an opportunity to postpone the art tour, which she sees as an ill-advised bike ride in the middle of what was a really hot day.
Working on the chariot at the BLD is a stroke of genius that I had had the previous day. This was a hyper-competent camp full of true BM veterans (I learned later that people from that camp had at one time or another run every major function at Burning Man, including camp placement, power grid, greeter station, DPW, etc and there were tools and engineers around everywhere. I quickly find three guys with competing ideas about how to attach the PVC to the bike, and we come up with an elegant solution that features drilled holes through the pipe. There is also some debate about where on the chair to hook the pipes up, and all of this, of course, takes way more time than I had planned on…
My first test drive with a passenger ends unsuccessfully and it is concluded that the problem is the two little front wheels on the wheelchair. Power tools are produced and off come the front wheels. At this point, I load a case of beer onto the chair, secure it with a rope, and pedal off to meet Jewel and Shoegirl at the Booby Bar (the revised plan we have come up with over the course of the afternoon – sadly, there would be no art tour this day).
Now, it is important to mention that the playa sand was really, really soft this year, with lots of bogs and many dunes. So when my bike proves to be a bitch to pedal even without the front wheels and even with just a case of beer rather than a human rider, I chalk it up to the sand conditions. Meanwhile, I have inadvertently rolled into the Critical Tits parade. The Esplanade is even deeper sand due to all the traffic it had seen – remember, it’s Friday now – and thus I am not only out of position but also struggling to keep forward momentum.
At this point, a kind soul stops me to point out that the brakes on the wheelchair are on. D’Oh!!
Releasing the brake makes things somewhat more manageable. Still, I roll into the Booby Bar (3:30 and C, I think) sweating profusely and cursing the whole damn project. Fortunately, there are people in front of the bar handing out Icees and there are cold drinks served inside.
As you might imagine, the Booby Bar proves to be a fine place to be after the Critical Tits ride. I meet lots of people on my own and through Jewel and Shoegirl who had camped with this group last year. I provide some welcome therapy to a nice lady from New York whose 19 year old daughter has abandoned her during the Critical Tits ride, which has totally bummed her mood. I hand out lots of postcards.
When I finally roll out of there, the afternoon is nearly over, and I really ought to be getting back across the playa to my camp to cook chili. But, since I am in the neighborhood I decide to stop and see my Virgin Adam. Before I get to Adam’s camp, however, my friend Chris spots me and runs up, literally (this is great, since I had intended to go looking for earlier in the day anyway). Turns out that he is having a Burn Experience totally opposite mine: he has been in Black Rock since opening, he doesn’t have a bike, and he’s been mostly hanging out on his own. I coral him into my visiting spree and chili project, singlehandedly changing the direction of his Burn by 180 degrees. After a raucous stop at Adam’s camp, we start walking across the 3:00 – 9:00 road [Chris peocwa too heavy to pedal in the chariot in its current condition, alas], stopping to talk to almost every single person who came by.
I had asked all of my chili volunteers back at camp to be ready to start chopping by 6:30 pm. We come rolling into camp a little after 8.
But somehow – and this seems to be the theme for the day – it doesn’t work out the way I had planned, but it still works out fine. A guy named John who has arrived at our camp earlier that day turns out to be a trained professional chef and he has created a first course of burritos to feed people while the chili is stewing. I rustle up knives and cutting boards and can openers and borrow a La Creuset pan from the neighboring Texans and talk John into staying at the stove and stirring and two hours later we have two (vegetarian and non-vegetarian) steaming pots of chicken garbanzo chili.
I havn’t lifted a knife or stirred a pot once. I was just the vision and the management and the supply guy on this one. And somehow it has worked.
At was a little before 11:00 pm, and my day is just getting started.