Friday, October 15, 2010
It's windy this morning...and...this being the desert, windy also means dusty. Out here, there is no escaping the dust. From the time you arrive and, as a "first-timer", roll around in it until the day you leave, the dust is always with you. It's in my camper, my vehicle, my clothes, my hair...everywhere.
I've got goggles to protect my eyes, but I really should have brought something to cover my nose and mouth (lots of people are wearing those paper "painter's masks). Fortunately, the nice couple camping next to me (Jason and his wife) are kind enough to give me a bandana to wear. So, now sufficiently protected, it's off to the "Porta-Johns".
The Porta-Johns here are quite a story. They have banks of twenty or so of them between streets B and C (Baghdad and Cairo) and H and I (Hanoi and Istanbul) at each of the clock positions (3:00, 3:30, 4:00, 4:30, etc.). So...for 55,000 or so people, you've got around 600 toilets. During the day, they get emptied and cleaned about very four hours. Four pump trucks and a bunch of guys pull up and empty, hose out and sanitize...it all takes about fifteen minutes, and then you're "good to go"...so to speak. I read somewhere that the cost for this service is several MILLIONS of dollars (the figure of $8,000,000.00 sticks in my mind). The cleaning is less frequent at night...and...if you're unfortunate enough to arrive in the very early morning, the conditions can be pretty bad. How bad? Well, let's just say that I have seen people come out reduced to tears.
Today, however, is my "lucky day"...they're just finishing up the morning cleaning as I arrive. Standing in line, I can't help but marvel at how "orderly" things are here. you'd think that, with a group of 55,000 people, the potential for "chaos" would very high. But...it's just the opposite. Lines form naturally and easily...people are polite and orderly...it all just "works". Everybody seems to share a deep sense of "community" here...and with that comes an equally deep sense of shared responsibility...it's really remarkable.
My morning "business" completed, I take a short walk over to the cafe at Center Camp.
The cafe sells coffee drinks, tea, and an electrolyte replacement drink...these, along with ice, are the only things that you can "buy" here at Burning Man.
So...now I'm sitting on a bench in the cafe enjoying my morning coffee...a few feet away, there's a gal on stage playing a guitar and singing folk tunes...very relaxing. Plus, I'm sheltered a bit from the wind, so it's slightly less dusty. A couple sits next to me, and it takes a few seconds to identify the language of their conversation...Italian. I say "Good Morning", and they switch over to English. Then there's another couple from Australia...a guy from New York...and two gals from Wisconsin. And we're having this discussion, the main point of which is...at what other event could you experience this kind of diversity? 55,000 people representing all 50 states and over 40 countries, camping together, for a whole week. And, thinking about it now, as I did back then, the only answer that I can come up with is the Olympic Games. And, for that experience alone, this trip to Burning Man has been worth it...for me.
Two more cups of coffee (really good coffee) and now sufficiently "caffeinated", I head back to camp...into the wind and through the dust. Standing or sitting outside in this dust is not an option...shelter is a must. So...I crawl into the camper and for the next couple of hours, I listen to music and read. I would like to be out exploring, but it's no fun as long as the wind continues. I finish the last of an excellent biography of Woodrow Wilson by John Milton Cooper...great read! Then I start yet another Nevada Barr "National Park mystery"...my fifth on this trip.
Around 1:00 or so, there's a break in the weather as the wind dies down for awhile. I wander over to our camp shelter where Stacey is putting together another interesting meal. There's a bunch of ham and bacon...I donate a can of tomatoes...some rice and...voila...we've got "Spanish rice". Two bowls of that, and I'm feeling pretty good and ready for some more exploring.
I have, subsequent to Burning man, procured the recipe for this dish...as follows...
* 6 to 10 bacon strips, diced
* 1 medium onion, chopped
* 1 medium clove garlic
* 1 medium green pepper, chopped
* 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped* OR small can diced green chiles
* 1 cup uncooked long grain rice
* 1 1/4 cups water
* 16 oz can tomatoes, chopped
* 1 teaspoon chili powder* OR 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper + 1/4 tsp ground oregano + 1/4 tsp salt
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
In a large skillet, cook bacon just enough to get some fat melted in the pan. Add onion, garlic, and raw peppers and saute until fatty part of bacon is translucent but not crisp. Add rice; stir until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Bacon should be crispy not burned. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low; cover and DON'T LIFT THE LID for 25 minutes.
Taste the rice-- I swear every bag of rice I buy cooks at a different rate-- it should be uniformly firm without any "kernel" in the middle.
If it is still a little too firm, put the lid back on and return to heat for two minutes before testing it again.
If the rice is very soft after 25 minutes, transfer it to a bowl to cool it down quickly and stop it from continuing to cook.
Now, after lunch, the wind has died down enough go back outside. As with every other day here, I walk far and wide all over Black Rock City. Along the way, I enjoy some freshly-made cheese popcorn...a cold beer...a Margarita and...best of all...a group of particularly ingenious souls are handing out ice cream bars...here...in the middle of the desert...amazing.
Back now at camp, it's late afternoon...time for a nap. It's plenty hot outside, but my "Little Guy" has a great little vent roof...with that going, it's pretty comfortable inside. I'm sound asleep in minutes.
When I awake, the sun is just barely above the mountains...just enough time to put dinner together before it gets dark. Rummaging around the cooler, I find my last prime steak from Costco...I've also got a few potatoes and an onion left. So...I open up a cold beer and get to work. Potatoes get peeled and sliced...onion peeled and chopped...that goes into a pan with a slice of bacon, and then on the Coleman stove. Charcoal and newspaper go in the chimney...another beer(!). Thirty minutes later, I'm having a great dinner with a nice bottle of Cab...here...in the middle of nowhere.
After dinner, I clean up my cooking stuff and lay back for a smoke. It's still windy with plenty of dust flying around, but there's another spectacular sunset down...over the mountains.
Then...it's time to explore the night once again. I want to see as much as I can tonight because I have decide to head for home on Sunday instead of Monday. Tomorrow night is the big event (the actual "burning" of the man), so I'll be around for that. There is something called the "temple burn" Sunday night, and I'd like to see that, but (like all my other trips) there comes a point when it's just time to start home. And, by leaving a day early, I'm hoping that I can avoid the massive traffic jam that I experienced on the way in.
Despite the wind and dust, there are plenty of people out and about tonight...thousands of people. I wander in, around and through Center Camp and, around the perimeter...out toward the "man"...there are more "mutant vehicles"...driving around...a few shooting flames or "belching" huge rings of smoke.
Further out on the playa, I see that there are even more giant works of art than the day before...huge metal statues, geodesic domes...all the more impressive at night.
After a few hours of pretty much aimless wandering, I turn back into the outer camp and start crisscrossing the avenues and streets. There is a LOT going on...there's the "New Wave Zombie Prom", playing 80's hits and lots of folks dressed as zombies. The first annual "Nuclear Powered Vodka Vodka Party" is pouring cold shots of premium vodka (it would not be polite to refuse!). The "Veg Camp" is showing a documentary exposing unhealthy practices in the egg industry...I skip most of that in contemplation of breakfast. At "Stupid Ticks for Drinks", I show off my Backtacker GPS...not exactly a "rick", but I get a free drink anyway. And there are quite a few places playing "techno", among them "Camp Beaverton for Wayward Girls", Rhythm Wave" and "Camp Fuzz Control".
By now, I figure that it's probably one or two in the morning...but...when I look at my watch, it's 4:00AM! Time to head back to camp and sleep. On this particular night, my Backtracker proves to be an invaluable resource...without it, I don't know that I would have made it back to camp. Even with it, the trip back takes almost an hour...through the dark, the wind and the dust. Back in the "Little Guy", I unde the down comforter...and I'm fast asleep within a minute.