Friday, September 10, 2010

Hard Entry, Hard Landing - Burning Man 2010

“So how was Burning Man?”

“Good,” I say. “I worked a lot.”

It’s true, I worked seven shifts with the gate crew for a total of about 46 hours. Next time I plan to work more.

It’s a totally different Burn from that perspective. Being among those who make it happen makes a big difference in the experience. We participate, but with far more commitment. I marveled at the Gate Crew veterans, their dedication, their stamina. As a new crew member I just did my best to keep up on the shifts that I covered.

It was a hard entry into the Burn this year. After weeks of preparation, my anticipation went into a fever pitch the week before the Burn. So did my anxiety. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but something felt out of wack. Low level nervousness turned into low level panic, but I had no logical reason why.

Thursday, the week before my departure brought the first blow. While in UN Plaza, in San Francisco, I somehow, lost my Burning Van keys. Gone! No where to be found. And…no spares. Several phone calls, about 5 hours and two locksmiths later, I had a fresh set of keys and a set of spares. Tragedy averted. Or so I thought.

One week later, I was in SF again, this time to pick up equipment for my riders. It all seemed to be going well, but I couldn’t help but have a serious case of the Heebee Jeebies. I was anxious for no good reason. Everything was packed. We would leave in the morning. But I felt like something wasn’t quite right.

My fears were finally realized as we started ascending the Sierra Nevada. Blinking warning lights that would seal our fate hastened my blood pressure to raise. We managed to make it to Truckee, but not without causing damage to the engine.

The news from the mechanic wasn’t good. What made it worse was that he didn’t think the work would be completed until the following Wednesday. My heart sank. He gave me a card for the local rental car company, that maybe a little to coincidentally had a Suburban available for the week. I jumped at it.

With my blood pressure causing a light popping in my ears, I drove the rental back to the mechanic’s where my travel companions took over unloading the Burning Van and loading the Suburban. We arrived on the Playa about 6 hours later than we had planned, but we made it. But, for the first time I wasn’t overjoyed to be there. I didn’t want to be there at all. I needed comfort. I needed to not have spent a small fortune to get there. I needed my blood pressure to go down.

The next morning, after some restless sleep in the truck, I found my way to medical. The popping in my ears had stopped but I still felt loopy.

“130 over 92” the nurse announced when she checked it a second time.

“It’s a little high.”

After contemplating my options, I decided to at least set up a basic camp, and work my first shift with the Gate crew, before deciding to leave. So I did just that. I set up my tent, stowed some gear, had enough time to grab some water and my Playa pack and headed to the Black Hole, headquarters for PG&E, Perimeter, Gate & Exodus crew.

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