Mon, 07 Mar 2005

Home From Burning Man

And I've returned home. I filled up several pages in a spiral notebook with my diary and various notes about the event. After I get all of that typed in, I'll extract the fit-for-public-consumption bits and put them up here.

Playa del Fuego 2003

Yeah, I haven't even finished with my entry for Burning Man this year, but this PDF entry should be a bit shorter, so my lazy butt is doing it first.

This PDF was a bit different from previous ones, both in general and for me specifically. A lot of the planning for it happened at close to the last minute, but everything did manage to come together in time for the event. I also left my planning to the last minute, but I'm familiar enough with my camping gear that I can toss everything together pretty quickly.

I was only there from Saturday afternoon through Sunday afternoon; I worked on Friday and Monday. While I had arranged for a ride to PDF, I hadn't found one back on Sunday, a situation I will not allow again. It was simply too stressful looking for a ride on Sunday afternoon with the prospect of possibly having to call in to work and say I couldn't make it in on Monday.

Aside from that, the weekend was beautiful. This was a much more mellow burn than even previous Fall burns. At other times, I've had the feeling of a very active burn--go and do stuff and experience things. At this one, people set up their camps and proceeded to just hang out. I had a moment late Sunday morning where I just looked around the site and was nearly overwhelmed by how beautiful everything was. I felt forced to lay down and rest, for fear that I might explode with happiness.

I didn't really do a whole lot over the weekend. I hung out at the Gold Bar, a pastime I can easily recommend to others. I rangered a bit. I hung out at Primal Phred. I watched the main burn. I hung out in the pavilion. I had a great weekend with my friends.

And I made Jill very happy by finally consenting to a body shot. Yes, Jill has drunk a mudslide from my navel. She seems, oh, slightly pleased about it.

I'm very happy to have gone, even if for but a scant twenty-four hours.

Post-PDF Dump

Originally from an email sent to the baltwash-burning mailing list:

(Not that sort of dump, Dale.) :)

I typed all of this up for my diary then figured I might as well send out to the list (with some of the more personal bits removed--sorry).

As a result of being at PDF, I'm now very used to walking anywhere and running into friends. Now, of course, I expect this to extend into the rest of the world, so I keep catching glimpses of people and I get all hopeful for a moment or two. "Is that Dale over there?" "Hey, that looks like Sean!" "Red hair, hey it's Suz! Oh, just a red hat." Of course, at PDF, I almost goose--er, said, "Hi, Rob" to several people in orange hats.

I love my tent. I stayed nice and dry, at least when I was in it, and all my gear remained dry and mud free, despite the location of the tent in a river of mud. (It's a Sierra Designs Clip Flashlight CD. Only really sleeps one person with gear, but it works quite well for just me.)

Rob's radio station rocked. If I didn't like the current music, I could just pop in the earphones and listen to something I liked, especially if Rob or Dale was spinning at the time.

The main burn was beautiful. Declan got a great shot of it, too:

http://www.mccullagh.org/image/10d-3/the-burn-2.html

Once it was going well, I liked the view from the side, with the internal red glow coming through the gaps between the still-unburnt logs on the outside. And the fire team did an excellent job just getting it lit in the first place.

The wet ground was conducive to the "spin white gas onto the ground at your feet then light it" effect, though I was successful in not emulating Sean. (i.e. I didn't set the fuel dump on fire.)

I like Alex's (dancingmantis) poi. Three wicks, short, long life even with white gas, and metal rings for handles to facilitate movement of the poi. Now I need to make a set of my own like that. I think I'll work on my planned single wick monkey fist poi first, though.

I did burn myself with Alex's poi, though. (I wasn't quite familiar enough with the handles to have attempted an over-the-head thread the needle.) It's probably the worst burn I've had from poi (some blistering, which mostly subsided by morning) and also the most fun I've had burning myself. :)

Helping quadgirl lose her fire virginity was fun. And she looked good with the staff, too.

There was one particular woman spinning that had a very beautiful spinning style. I didn't get to talk to her afterwards and see who she was, though. (Too much other stuff going on.)

Many thanks to Tanya for lending me her pink wig, pink lipstick, and glitter on Saturday. They all went well with my pink dress and pink umbrella.

http://www.mccullagh.org/image/10d-3/camp-hon-1.html
http://www.mccullagh.org/image/10d-3/camp-hon-2.html

Once again, PDF Iron Chef was a blast. Many thanks to Leah for running it a second time. This time around it was vegans versus carnivores, with a theme ingredient of tofu. The vegans managed to win over the judges (even though the carnivores had sushi with eel; I mean, eel sushi, c'mon :) ). I wish I'd been able to taste more of the dishes. (In particular the vegans' oatmeal-fruit-tofu pie looked very good.) I was busy making sure things were coordinated (or micromanaging, depending on how you look at it) and by the time I got to taste the food, most of it had been eaten. But the vegans added more tofu to their curry, Magorn had a lot of chicken dish and sauce, and Suz saved me a piece of sushi. So I had some things, which was an improvement over last year.

The Gold Bar was again fun. I like just hanging out there, talking to Whiskey and company, and chatting with people as they drop by. It's too bad they were down a couple of people (having a baby right before PDF, how silly :) ) and that they packed up early and left on Saturday.

I was also sad to see Dale and Sara leaving Saturday evening. And while I'm missing people, I was disappointed not to see Alicia or Laura there. Silly people, moving away from Baltimore. :)

Primal Fred was fun, though a bit distant. Jill's body shot bar looked fun for those participating. Not really my thing, though. I'm too private a person (and too shy) to do body shots in public.

I think I'll camp in the general camping area next PDF. While I liked the theme camps, it's a good hike to get out there. And they can be loud (especially the DJ who set up across the way from Psychedelic Shamans; I probably should have tried to talk to him, but I was far too tired, even if I couldn't actually sleep very well through the loudness). I also like hanging out in the pavilion, which is really the hub of PDF.

There were so many other things I loved about this burn. You're all wonderful people and I'll see you at the next one!

Camping Gear

I am, on the whole, quite pleased with my current set of camping gear, so I figured I'd share with the Internet at large. This particular set may not necessarily be to everyone's tastes, but it works well for me.

I like travelling light, and I enjoy backpacking. Thus, most of my gear was purchased with an eye toward backpacking. It, naturally, serves me well in other venues; the reverse would not be true with bulkier stuff.

Tent

Sierra Designs Clip Flashlight CD. The specs say that this is a two-person tent. Even allowing for the traditional "that's how many people you can fit crowded, without any gear", it's small for two people. It works well for just me and my gear. It'll handle two people if they put their gear elsewhere and are very close. The vestibule is nice, and has room for approximately two pairs of boots.

While I like my current tent, if I had to get another one, I'd probably go for the REI Half Dome 2. At the cost of about a pound and a half packed weight, I'd get a freestanding tent with a little more floor space, more vestibule space, and an attic. The way I camp, I'd be willing to trade off that weight. Well, I'm happy enough with my Sierra Designs tent, at least.

Sleeping Bag

<mumble>. Something I got at B.J.'s for ~$30. Rated to zero degrees, works for me. Nothing really special about it.

Sleeping Pad

Therm-a-Rest standard. Popular choice with campers everywhere. Relatively light, self-inflating, comfortable. I've got my eye on the Therm-a-Rest Fusion EX, for overkill in flexibility, but this one serves my needs quite adequately.

Stove

Coleman Xpert Stove. This is a wonderful little stove. Very light, but very capable. It's got very good stability with its four-legged, four-armed design. The flame adjustment is very nice, being able to go anywhere from a light simmer to a roaring flame. Its main disadvantage is that it only works with Coleman's Powermax fuel canisters, which contain a propane/butane blend. It does seem that Coleman will be continuing to make the things for a while, but the fact bears consideration. Somewhat mitigating the existence of the canisters is their recyclability; when you're done with one, you use the Coleman-provided "green key" to puncture the canister, then collapse it and toss it in with your aluminum recyclables. Set at full burn, it took the stove about an hour to go through one of the 300 gram canisters. More practically, I typically get about two and a half camping trips out of a single canister.

Pots

GSI Hard Anodized Extreme 5-piece Cook Set. I love this pot kit. It comes apart into a large and small pan and a large and small pot. I generally use one or the other of the pans as my plate. The main thing I like about these it the nonstick surface. Cleaning them is generally a matter of wiping them off, and even burnt-on high protein foods come off with a bare minimum of scrubbing. On top of that, they're excellent conductors of heat and can get a pot of water boiling faster that most other kits I've seen.

Utensils

REI Kitchen Essentials Lite. Nice, small kit. Contains enough utensils to cook and eat a meal for two, as well as providing some nicely sized containers for spices and similar things. I've supplemented it with a Backpacker's Pantry U.T.U. Spatula/Knife; the provided spatula had too much of a propensity to melt.

Lantern

Coleman Xcursion Lantern. This lantern is a nice compliment to the stove, running off the same fuel. It has its own reservoir, so you just connect the canister long enough to fill the lantern. Fully filled, the light lasts about six hours. The lantern is light and small, so nicely portable, and the light is very bright--brighter than some propane lanterns I've seen. The mantles seem pretty durable--upon burning the first one I put on the lantern, I shook, hit, and dropped the thing rather abusively and the mantle remained happily intact.

Smaller stuff

Pillow:
Therm-a-Rest Pocket Pillow. Light and useful. Uses clothing (which is what comprises my pillow anyway), but gathers it together into a softer, more comfortable form that's very pleasant to sleep on. Other companies make these, too; mine just happens to be from Therm-a-Rest.

Toothbrush: Clever Toothbrush. It's just a neat idea. The handle of the brush is a reservoir for toothpaste. Very convenient, and allows me to pack smaller and lighter.

Lighter: Zippo Lighter. Tried and true. This thing has seen me through I don't know how many years of camping. The penchant for the fuel to evaporate is probably its main problem, but it's minor compared to the durability and functionality of the thing.

Knife: Swiss Army Cybertool 34. I always carry this with me, camping or not, and some of its features, like the torx bits for the screwdriver, aren't really applicable to camping. But the whole thing is a nice, generally useful device. There isn't a single piece of it that I haven't put to good use at least several times over the years.

Knife: Spyderco Endura. I first got this thing for cutting rope. It's more of an explicitly-for-camping knife than the Cybertool, but while out there it's very useful. The one-handedness has been helpful numerous times, and the knife has been put to a plethora of uses.

Pen: Fisher Bullet Pen. Collapsible enough to fit in my pocket and durable enough to last through numerous camping trips and quite a few abuses of the pen to be a long-pointy-thing.

Store: REI. While not gear per se, REI is where I get most of my stuff. I've liked the store for a while, but one particular encounter sealed it as my store-of-choice. I'd been having trouble with my stove. I bought it at the store, got it home, and opened it only to find that it had been assembled with one set of legs backwards. I returned it for a replacement, waited for things to get shipped back and forth, and picked up the replacement only to find it had the same problem. I talked with a store employee and he agreed that I would probably be better off talking to Coleman directly. Barring that, he said, it should be possible to take the thing apart and assemble it properly. Regardless, he continued, REI would take it back and give me a refund, even if I disassembled it and couldn't get it back together. In other words, REI would back me up even if the manufacturer wouldn't and even if I broke the stove beyond all repair. That's the sort of place I like to spend my money.

Self-Immolation

I probably won't type up most stuff from this weekend, but I figure I'll add an entry describing my bout of stupidity for later perusal.

This was on Saturday night. I'd finally decided to wear my loincloth, so that and my boots were all I had on as I headed up to the fire stack. We were burning a bunch of pallets and I helped several others carry them from their location to the fire area. When the stack was about halfway done, Rob dumped a bunch of white gas over the fire to prepare it for being lit.

We finished adding pallets. I put a bit more white gas on, fearing that much of the previous stuff had evaporated, and we were pondering ways to light it. Troy was going to use a fire staff, but I said I'd light it myself. I failed to remember the volatility of white gas, thinking of the manner in which kerosene-soaked fires light.

Troy handed me his lighter. I went to the fire, crouched down, and extended my right arm, placing the lighter up to the piece of wood that was sticking out most from the fire.

I then remember three distinct things. All of a sudden, there was fire all in front of me--the vapors in the air had ignited--and my sole thought was, "Away!" I pushed myself away from the fire and it followed me as I moved backwards. The next thing I remember is lying on the ground on my back, some distance from the fire.

Several people came over to me and asked very anxiously, "Are you okay?" I mentally checked myself, realized that my whole right side was hurting in a manner that suggested it had been burned and said, "No. Is there a wet towel?" There wasn't, but Rob and someone else got jugs of water, which we proceeded to pour over my body to cool it off.

(I was later informed that several of the women, among them Suz, Amy, and Christie, found the sight of people pouring water over my loincloth-clad body while backlit by the fire very sexy.)

I talked with someone about first aid stuff in the area, concluded that there wasn't any in the immediate vicinity, and set out with Suz toward my tent, with my first aid kit and its burn cream. We got down there, I got out the kit, opened it, and dumped out everything. I barely wanted to use my hands, because flexing my fingers hurt. Sean (Burning Sean) cut open the burn cream packets and I applied them to the places I felt most burned. Suz then used Sean's spray Bactine over everywhere I felt burned at all. I noticed that I had at least one blister on my left index finger, and it had already burst. I felt like my lips were blistering and had Suz (and, later, other people) check it, but everyone said it looked okay, just red and swollen.

After finishing the initial first aid, I felt my body feeling a lot weaker and realized that the adrenaline had just worn off, and said as much to Suz, as I sat down. When the dizziness and nausea continued, I realized that my body was starting to go into shock, so I went and lay down on the bench of one of the picnic tables. I kept babbling to Suz and Rob and Troy, who were there by then, just to make sure I stayed conscious and had something to focus on. Rob and Troy dressed the blister on my finger while I lay there.

At this point my memories blur together a bit. I remember seeing the bright orange glow from the fire reflected off the trees around me. I remember getting up and walking with Suz to see the thing (it was very big and very bright). I remember apologizing to Suz for being hurt and worrying her and for her having to essentially ranger me. At some point, Rob, Suz, and Troy left while Jill arrived. I recall having Jill check my forehead temperature, which was closer to normal when she checked than when Rob and Suz had (so I was coming out of shock).

That's most of the tale. After that, I tried going back up to the fire, but even at a distance the heat was causing my burns to hurt more, so I went back down. I sat around for a bit, just breathing and half-meditating to lessen the pain. Other people showed up, and I talked with them. As the night progressed, the burns hurt less and less, and after a number of hours (four or five?) I could wear a shirt without it hurting too much. A bit after that, I went to sleep, which my body gladly welcomed.

Thoughts for my next Burning Man visit

Remember to drink water before going to bed. A couple nights I didn't and woke up with a very dry, uncomfortable mouth.

Bring more costumes! Also, more playa-wear. Even jean shorts without a shirt felt a bit pedestrian at times. The loincloth worked well. Sarongs?

Go shirtless earlier in the week. My forearms tanned more rapidly than my back and shoulders, meaning that I had to deal with sunscreen over a longer period of time.

Either get sunglasses or a pair of goggles that fit my face better. I don't normally wear sunglasses, but the sun on the playa was bright.

Bring more food. Most sites said I'd eat less than normal when I went out there. I ate more. (Probably as a result of being very active and walking a lot.)

Relatedly, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are simple to make and reasonably non-perishable. Would make good lunches. I should still bring power bars for portable lunches away from camp.

Cereal is good for breakfast, though I don't like eating it dry. UHT milk needs to be referigerated after opening. Does Rice Dream?

Get a bike. I liked walking everywhere, and I walked a lot, but bikes are a faster means of going places.

Burning Man

I'm now off to Burning Man, for what will be my first visit to the desert. (Note to potential burglars: the martial artists are still in residence.) will see everyone when I return.


Phil! Gold