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All The News That's Fit To Burn : 2003 Summer Newsletter

Coyote Nose
by Tony Perez

A dead-level, freshly washed chalk board. A blank slate Playa. That's all that's out there now. But to us, it's the largest canvas in the world, and the Magic Disappearing City is poised for its annual renewal. We're once again ready to etch the beautiful arcs of a grand city as sculpture into its hide — one with a population of about thirty thousand, or so. Miraculously, a traveler cruising the City site at this time would have nary a clue 'bout 2002. All his tires would find would be an occasional black pebble, or maybe a piece of brush that blew in. Even if you stood him right where the Man burned, it would be a very hard stretch for him to visualize an enormous art city that sparkles brighter than Reno.

For many burners, Black Rock City '02 ended when the Man burned. For many others, like myself, it ended when the playa was cleared in the fall. But actually, last year's city doesn't truly give up the ghost until the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) spring inspection, when the passing grade for clean-up is determined by the inability to find a trace of our fair city. Our permit to operate this year's city depends on our passing this test. Well this year, we got the big whopping gold star! We passed by the best margins yet. We're actually getting concerned that we might be setting the bar a little too high. (D'oh!)

But the city didn't just get up and walk away, and it's funny how this cyclical season called Burning Man finds its start and finish in the business of picking up litter and debris. The only way that our Shangri-La is able to vaporize is by the personal and concerted efforts of absolutely every one of its citizens. After most people leave, the remaining structures and debris (loads) are removed by those who remain under the direction of the DPW. There's no way that this Coyote can describe the magnitude of the effort. Just know that it never ends.

I was having a powwow with Larry Harvey and the Jack Rabbit concerning the categories of MOOP (Material Out Of Place, or litter). Here are a few:

  1. Hand Moop: The most abundant and frustrating are the things that simply leave the hand and hit the ground unnoticed: cigarette butts, bottle caps, candy wrappers, etc. This category is the most frustrating because it's the easiest to avoid.
  2. Set up and Tear Down Moop: Construction stuff like wood chips, zip ties, curly-Q drill bit shavings PVC, nails and screw — oh, and did I say NAILS AND SCREWS?! This is a frustrating type of MOOP because it can be avoided with a little forethought and a simple tarp.
  3. Accident Moop: The necklace that breaks during the DPW parade. The bottle that fell off the deck of some crazy backward boat at sunrise, etc.
  4. Art Moop: Installations drop leaves, twigs, grass, bits of metal, welding slag, sequins, beads, mirror ball glass — a very long list.
  5. Blow Away Floaty Moop: Ash, plastic bags, an entire tent once, wood chips, etc. This stuff can end up floating on the winter lake that forms on the playa, and gets deposited in the clay of the north fence line. Here it creates a "shore line" that is most difficult to remove.

Last year we slipped some (mostly due to the dust storms). We need to keep trumpeting out the usual messages along with some new ones. We must always remember and practice the basics: Never let it leave your mind, never let it hit the ground. Leave no trace. And this year's new mantra:

That way, the annual after-burn dust storm will just cover up an already clean camp. Hey, man, it could happen!

We must be mindful of the Porta Pottie practice. Too many crazy things are ending up in them. Mike Enos aka "Turd Burglar", owner of our portapottie vendor (Johnny on the Spot), said that one night his crew had to tong a pair of blue jeans from a toilet!! Coyote doesn't know the story on this one, and doesn't want to know! Objects such as this slow down the pumping process, cost our vendor money, and inconvenience everyone.

To keep the vendor happy and willing to contract with us, we must trumpet this message: If it wasn't in your body, don't put it the potty! Anything left in a toilet MUST pass through your body before it hits the tank. As DPW's fearless leader Will Roger puts it, if you've passed a pair of Nikes through yourself first, you can leave them in there! Any takers?

So let's go out to the Playa, etch the sculpture that is our city into the clay, live in it for a week, burn stuff and catch the ashes, zip it all out of there, then relax our shoulders into the swinging hammock of a job well done. Creating Black Rock City and making it disappear are two sides of one coin. The Coyote knows. Clean as you go.

Tony Perez is the Site Manager for the Department of Public Works. He both surveys the city and is in charge of cleaning it up.