The Cauldron
Diary from Burning Man 1999
1999: Construction - Burning Man - Winter
2000 - 2001


Burning Man, 1999: And a crazy week it was... [written Sept 21, before I forget...]
      Saturday: Sushi for DPW
      Sunday: Water barrel
      Monday: Windstorm
      Tuesday: purple feather
      Wednesday: Breakdown
      Thursday: Finally running!
      Friday: Another minor disaster
      Night of the Burn: Blue flame-cloud!!
      Favorite moments: What made it all worth it!

Burning Man, 1999: And a crazy week it was... [written Sept 21, before I forget...]

Saturday: Sushi for DPW

[I make sushi all day for DPW.]

I finally go on a quest to talk to the Ranch folks about the fuel. They weren't able to get it friday and so planned on heading into Reno early in the morning. It was about 2 when I went by, figuring they'd be getting back about now... But they had been far too busy, and when I arrived, they decided to just head out now. Zsuzsu was driving the truck, and I'm afraid I forget the other woman's name -- she was Sir Vesa's sweety. We decide to head into Gerlach and call to make sure they were open. They weren't. I kinda had a bad feeling they wouldn't be... So we bought ice and ice cream sandwiches instead and made some small adventure out of it.

We get back to the camp, and decide to go ahead and unload the truck. They were all the way at 10 o'clock, and we were at 5, and I take the chance of leading them straight down Mercury instead of taking Neptune like I was supposed to -- but the farther out you go, the longer the arc-length and longer the drive. And at 5 miles an hour, it's a LONG drive from 10 to 5. [Note: you have to drive that slow to keep from kicking up dust.] I discover my car idles at 5mph, so I have fun and sit on my sunroof and steer with my feet. I felt like the homecoming queen! :)

We unload the stuff. Nothing at all is missing, and nothing is broken, except for the plastic water barrel I was using for the pedistal. Well, it was really old and cracked already, so I wasn't too surprized. Sir Vesa looked like he felt pretty bad about it, but, jeese, if there's anywhere I'll be able to beg for a 55 gal drum and be able to get it cut open, it's Burning Man! I don't think I got a good chance to tell Sir Vesa not to sweat it AT ALL, because I was so happy with how they treated me and my stuff. They're such awesome guys and really came through with their word.

They were also worried about not getting the fuel. They had to set the truck up to be their kitchen, and wouldn't be able to move the truck on monday. I also knew I could probably get help from DPW, so again I wasn't all too stressed about it. [And again, I don't feel I took the time to let them know how much I appreciated their help!] I did kind of a mean thing and didn't tell them I was pretty sure I could get help elsewhere, just in case I couldn't, then I might still lean on them to help. :) I regret I took that attitude.

Bill Carson rode up on his bike laughing saying I drove my car like I did in front of someone who would definitely not approve, and that person didn't even notice! heehee! :) Bill then said he would get my fuel. Oh my God, what a gem of a guy! So the Ranch folks left, knowing I was in good hands.

Sunday: Water barrel

[Trying to remember sunday...] I think this was when I went to DPW to try to get a barrel. I kinda felt bad, since I knew they were far too busy for my measly request. I talked to Bill about asking the petrolium people if I could buy one. And I also talked to Tom [aka Mustang] and he said he had a plastic barrel I could use and to return the next morning at 10. I gave Bill the instructions how to get to the petrolium place.

Monday: Windstorm

I went by at 10am and, though Tom is very reliable and always comes through on his word, wasn't too surprized that Tom wasn't there because the wind storm was far more important and no doubt had dragged him away. I wandered around for a while then returned to camp empty-handed. But I really wasn't disappointed. I just knew I had to keep working on it.

The wind itself storm was brutal and only got worse. We all spent the day battening down everything, tearing down tents and the dome, and putting anything which could blow away somewhere it was safe. Unfortunately, a box of neon belonging to Joy blew away and broke everything. George talked of leaving. I was at the limit of my strength, but crisis, I find, energizes me. I can't say I enjoyed the storm, but I came out of it stronger, and it was kind of a thrill. At the same time, we were all pretty exhausted by the time it was over, and I felt pretty beaten by everything. Just as the storm finished, Don and company arrived, bright and cheerful. It was in stark contrast to the previous 12 hours we all spent huddled in the wind... I can't remember much of what else happened that day. I did wonder what happened to the water tank I ordered and also what happened to Scott who was to arrive saturday...

And I have to tell this next part with the whole weight of what it meant.

I was calm, but beaten. I was walking with Bill and talking about the barrel and about getting the fuel. I just felt like I was asking so much of him and DPW, and so much still needed to be done on the firefall...and at one point I said, "you know Bill, if the firefall doesn't happen this year...then that's okay." And Bill put his arm around me tight, and said, "oh, don't say that! The firefall will get done."

It was a pivital moment.

As soon as he said it, it all came into perspective. He was right. It wasn't so daunting a task as it felt. I could do it. Yeah. YEAH! I could do it! And it's going to be fucking awesome!! I hope Bill reads this, because the firefall may not have gotten done had he not said that. Not only because it inspired me to get back to work, but it also gave me a lot of strength. If I had kept trudging along, I wouldn't've made it, but his words energized me, and gave me just enough to pull it through. I thought of those words over and over the rest of the week as I worked. It was a pivital moment.

Tuesday: purple feather

Again, I don't really remember the chronology of events, but these are things which happened between monday and wednesday:

Dan Lyke and Todd Gemmel dropped by. I was pretty stressed and was trying to work up the energy to line the bowl inside and out with aluminum but I wasn't really even sure how I was going to do that! So I visited with them for a while instead. We chatted and caught up and I saw Dan's projects: a quadra-cycle and a goddess tent, complete with vulva entrance. It was awesome! And I talked about needing to get the aluminum on...and they were both like, "well, let's help you get it done!" Again, their help was the difference between getting it done and not. Not only having the extra hands, but also the brain power to help me figure out how to handle the problem. Together, we figured out how best to do it, and got it all done in a couple hours! Wow. I can't express the dept of my gratitude to them for their help.

Norm also helped out at the time, by helping me cut off the left-over ends of the bolts that held up the aluminum. It's so amazing how wonderful people are out there and how quick they are to help out! I was at the end of my rope, and really REALLY needed the help.

Also, as I was setting up, a purple feather has blown up against the body and stuck in some duct tape. I was enthralled by the sight -- this little purple feather kinda fluffing happily in the wind underneith these HUGE 3" hoses and raw, indifferent duct tape. It was worthy of a giggle. Scott was taking pictures of me setting up, and I showed him the feather and didn't really know how to explain just how cool it was and all the emotions it evoked, but Scott seemed to understand. "You just gotta take some pictures of the feather!" I said, as if that was an obvious universal truth. Scott laughed and did.

Later in the day tuesday, I went back to DPW to see if the fuel made it home. It did. I ran into Bill, who took me over the to barrels. Three barrels of Naptha, shiney new blue barrels. And a fourth -- the folks at the petrolium company gave me a barrel for the pedistal when they heard my plight! I am still speechless at this! They have been so amazing and generous! I really cannot express what I felt when he showed me four blue barrels. The fuel had arrived. It was coming together.

That night, I went by First Camp to meet Billy Bob, who was the water guy. He explained that the water truck had to be empty before it headed back to Reno every night, and he would arrange my water. Actually, maybe this was monday, since tuesday, I remember being frantic because I wasn't ready for water, but then water didn't arrive, so I figured I needed to be there myself to make sure it got to me. I kinda relaxed about this because then I wouldn't get water before I was ready...

Wednesday: Breakdown

I broke down Wednesday morning. I had gone over my limit of strength and woke up crying. I was worried that I wouldn't use all that naptha and what the hell was I going to do with it?? I couldn't ask DPW again to take it all the way back to Reno, and I couldn't ask such nice folks at Barry-Hinkeley to take it back... Though it wasn't much, it was a straw, and it broke my back.

So I cried for an hour before getting up, but pulled myself together. [At this point, I was putting some serious strain on mine and George's already a bit shakey relationship. He broke down and yelled, "I can't be supportive if you're yelling!" He had worked so hard helping me with my projects that it took time away from his own. Things were not good...]

I sure had no strength to work. So instead I went on a quest to figure out what the heck happened to the water tank that I had ordered. I spent the day on that quest, and it is a story that will have to be told another time. But the end was getting a tank finally for our camp.

I was exhausted after a long day, and about to sit down to dinner...when the water truck arrived! Ak! And AK! So I go into a panic. The firefall cannot be filled until the pump is hooked up, and the pump couldn't be hooked up without the piping in place, and the piping couldn't be put in place without the pedistal, and the pedistal still needed to be cut...

It quickly became obvious that I could not be filled. And thank GOD that Bill had suggested I bring water storage with me, because I had 10 30-gallon trash cans with me. So we filled those up.

The water folks were so amazingly nice!!! I cannot express! The guy said, "I heard you brought sushi for the DPW..." I said I had indeed, and he hinted that he loved sushi... I felt bad he hadn't gotten any, but I ran back into camp and grabbed the full half-gallon of saki and the mostly full half-gallon of plum wine. I ran up to them saying, "you know, it is such a shame that these will go to you think you could find a use for them??" :) They appreciated the gesture. :) The water folks are great, I love them and hope to see them again next year!

So there I stood, with about 250 gallons of deep clear water. It was luxurious touching the surface of it. I ran a rope through the handles and covered the whole thing with the tops first, then a tarp, which I tied tightly. The water folks said last year some folks had done the same, and someone had tipped over their water for fun. This was sobering and frightening. Humans are humans everywhere, even at Burning Man.

I now HAD to get the barrel the next day and get this puppy fired up!

Thursday: Finally running!

I met again with Koke, the guy who brought me the water tank. He was very cool and had offered to help me cut the barrel if he could use some tools. So we went down the DPW to cut the barrel. I stand in line to talk with Flynn. This was difficult, because he is so obviously the center of attention, and the problems before me in line were serious and needed his attention. So Koke steps up for me and gives my story. Flynn immediately gets on the radio and arranges for someone to help me. He is a great man, Flynn.

So someone comes over to help, asks me what was in the barrel before he starts to cut -- a good question to ask, and one I had asked Bill myself the day before [you gotta think of these things] -- and just before he starts, Flynn runs out, "what was in that barrel?" "Oil." "Okay, good. Also, to make a fire barrel, you can put feet on it by..." "Flynn, I'm making this for the firefall, I don't need feet." He waves his hands, "oh, okay, it looks like you've got it under control." and he went back inside. Wow. I am speechless. Yes, a great man indeed. He is always thinking and making sure things are okay.

We get the barrel cut properly, and for lack of anything better, I just kick the barrel all the way back to camp. Walk-two-steps-kick-the-barrel in the hot sun all the way home... I made quite a weird spectical. :) It was nice just relaxing and not feeling hurried. I needed not to think for a while...

I wipe out the oil as best as I can and hook up the pipes.

[BR Gazette interviews me!]

I was in the Friday edition of the Black Rock Gazette -- front page! I was in the article about women doing art at Burning Man. I was even mentioned twice! It was quite an honor!

Loren was running his Ejaculauncher, and every so often, I would hear a shhhhhhhhhthoomp! as the bottle filled with water was forced into the air by liquid propane. I'd get showered with a fine spray of water and a cloud of propane. I smiled at Loren, "hey, you know, when the firefall is lit up, I would appreciate you move the launcher so a ball of flamable propane doesn't drift inbetween the firefall and my 55 gallon drum of fuel, okay with you??" Loren agrees. :)

pics: "pics/990901-Burning_Man/Paul_Rother/watertruck1.jpg" ALT="Water truck arrives!" pics: "pics/990901-Burning_Man/Paul_Rother/watertruck2.jpg" ALT="Water truck adds water to the bowl" align=RIGHT The water folks return to give me a little more water. Not as much this time -- probably 75-100 gallons vs 250 the day before, but it was good having a little more water.

The firefall is constructed.

I hook up the pump and then proceed to use the pump to put the water into the firefall itself. I cannot express the thrill it was watching a 260 gpm pump empty a 30 gallon trash can. 260 gpm is about 4 gps, and when I say it emptied it in 10 seconds, you would not be able to visualize it had you not been there. Imagine sucking down a glass of water with a straw as fast as you can. Now imagine that with a garbage can. Now imagine that faster than that!! :)

It was a thrill holding the suction hose myself. That 3" moster hose that had a bend radius of about 3 feet. The pump had to keep prime so it was very important to switch trash cans quickly. Sluuuuuurp-CHANGE-CANS-sluuuuurp-CHANGE-CANS! It was exciting! And knowing I was really close to being done was like the roller coaster going over the top hill! I was almost there!!!!!!!! Folks and friends and strangers all gathered around. I was feeling great!

Kiki takes a breather to explain how it works Loren came over and helped me level the firefall. He had a far more systematic method than just making guesses like I was doing. :) He would actually figure out how much it needed to be raised, rather than it simply needed to be raised. I certainly didn't have braincells left to figure that one out! :)

You taking a picture of me? The proud mama smiles I just let the pump run and enjoyed that soft laminer flow over the surface. Ah, the luxury of water. I had not showered or even washed. The feeling of water was only something I had felt on my lips every long drink I was forcing myself to take. And here was this extravagance in front of me! I drank deeply of that feeling. Water.

I went back to camp for dinner, elated! Scott had been working all day to get the wiring done on the fuel pump. He had a wonderfully elaborate safety switch set-up but just couldn't get it all done by that evening. As I walked by him, I was awash in his mute expression. I took him aside, "hey, don't sweat the fuel pump, okay? Don't worry if you don't get it done tonight. Go eat your dinner." I think he was as surprized as I was how that took the stress off him.

[Later, after Burning Man, he told me he didn't believe me that it was really okay, but I said, "do you have any idea what mood I was in at the time??" I had just gotten everything I needed to get done, done!! All of a sudden, the stress had been lifted! I was free!! I was so utterly blissful and happy that nothing else mattered. I needed him to finish the fuel pump, but I no longer was stressed with my part. It really was okay. I was done!!]

It was finally done. The firefall was all set up and ready to go except for the fuel pump. I felt like the stress was off too. I also grabbed dinner.

I went back out after dark, and turned the pump on again. I was dark in that dark playa. Only faint distant lights reflected on the outer aluminum, the bowl, and the surface of the water. It was a dark ominous figure in the night with no flames.

I gathered a small crowd. I was too excited to contain myself, and I said aloud, "I want to just dump some fuel on it and light it up..." And, of course, the crowd encouraged. No real disaster happened, but I must say in retrospect, I wish I hadn't done this...

I went back to camp and got my gallon of fuel. A good friend and camp-neighbor from last year, Dr. J, was there, and held the lighter. I dumped, he held and we waited. A bit of a whoosh and the surface was alight! A big more than I wanted though, and I think Dr. J burned his hand a tad, and certainly singed his hair. "Do it again!! Do itagain!!" they cried.

So we did it again...

I dumped a little bit on and Dr. J held the lighter, but this time it didn't light. "More fuel! More fuel!" But I knew better. I knew there was fuel built up in the bottom, so I didn't put much more at all... But a rather large ball of flames roiled out of the bottom bowl, and the crowd cheered wildly. It didn't hurt, but I felt it wash over me as I quickly closed my eyes. It singed my eyelashes and my hair and caught the fuel can in my hand on fire.

[Note: I've had a can of fuel catch on fire in my hands before and there's really not much danger -- fuel can't burn without air and there's only fuel fumes in the can. The time it happened before, I was emptying the water out of a spent plastic bottle fuel tank into the bottom bowl of the Ceramic Thing...while it was burning. Bad mistake, because there was air getting into the bottle as the water glugged out. The opening caught on fire and I quickly took it away and tried to blow it out. I blew harder and harder until finally I blew it out, and I realized that blowing on it was the worst possible thing I could have done because that was forcing air into the bottle itself! I promised myself I would be wiser next time. It caused no harm at the time, though, and even though there was a heafty amount of air inside that bottle, along with plenty of fuel fumes, the flames never went into the bottle anyway. So having a fuel can catch on fire in my hand wasn't so scary a thing to have happen.]

However, I ask the reader: what would you have done?

Anyway, so the fuel can caught on fire, and I instinctively tried to blow it out, but I stopped myself and slapped my hand over the opening and held it there until I was sure it was out. I kinda held it up to the crowd and they laughed. I was very embarrassed, and apologized to everyone. I knew better and my enthusiasm had gotten the better of me. It was jusy plain bad, and sobered me up quite a bit.

I'm not really all that reckless, and I'd planned very VERY carfully to make everything safe. On the whole, I had been doing okay, but it made me realize that I could let my rationality get the better of my judgement, and when it comes to fire, you have to have more judgement than normal, not less. Lesson learned. Still, I was elated!

I couldn't help myself! I went to Scott and said, "is there any possible way we could run the fuel pump? Just hook it up directly and keep a close eye on it?" I felt so bad, because he had been stressed with the pressure of getting it done, and I wanted him not to feel pressured...and here I was pressuring him again. I really felt bad about that. But he said yes.

So we hooked up the fuel directly, not with his fancy switch set-up, and I used the power supply button as the off-switch. I felt really bad asking Scott do work on the fuel pump again when I'd told him not to stress over it. And I still feel bad about that, like I wasn't keeping my word...

Now, I can't remember which night this next incident happened on, and I don't think this was the same night, because I would have really thrown in the towel if I'd had two disasters in one night... So I really think this happened friday night...

But I had noticed a leak in the stop cock in the fuel line...

[Yes, I'm sure this was friday, since the naptha had to soak in to cause this problem...]

Friday: Another minor disaster

I had two valves in the fuel line, how I designed it. I had a needle valve with which I used to control the amount of fuel, and I had an emergency stop cock that I could quickly shut down the fuel if needed. The needle valve, I placed deep inside the "fuel tunnel" so folks wouldn't have access to crank up the fuel. I knew that I had to be careful of the plastic tub, and heating the water too much and the safety aspect of fuel to the point of not burning up completely and flames getting higher and higher...I worried someone would get the notion that some flames were cool, and more flames would be cooler... I didn't want anyone else but me to have control over how much fuel. The Ceramic Thing is one thing, but the Big One was something entirely else.

The sealing lubricant for the gas-line stop cock dissolved when used with liquid Naptha. I had already had a trash-can lid under the fuel tunnel to catch some water that was dripping out. [Note: the leak wasn't from the tunnel or the bulkhead, but from the plug for the fuel in the top bowl. The fuel plug leaked water terribly -- I could hear it dripping a stream of water inside the pedistal barrel -- and knew the water was dripping down the fuel hose and running onto the tunnel opening. I tried turning the top bowl to get the water to drip down instead of stick to the hose, but there wasn't much slack to turn...

But as I checked the trashcan lid...I ominously noted that fuel was building up on the lid too. This was very frightening to me. The idea is not to have any fuel near to the flames except what was in the water. Fuel leaks were okay as long as they were within the walls of the bowl. This was not -- it was just outside the bowl near the fuel tunnel...

This was trouble, and I knew it. I felt a sinking feeling every time I had to empty the trash can top every ten or so minutes. It was a bad leak -- maybe a tablespoon each ten minutes! I didn't want the crowd to know there was a problem -- duh, stupid me. So I just kept emptying it while I tried to figure out what to do. [I was so stressed and exhausted I wasn't thinking very fast or well...]

To make matters much MUCH worse, the fuel was injecting into the water on that side of the bowl -- get it? The fuel plug was directly over the fuel tunnel, and the leak was also near the fuel tunnel. This meant the flames were pretty much right above the leak and only above the leak...

And folks were playing, and occationally a small flame would jump out and land on the ground and quickly go out...I watched it happen over and over and though -- very slowly -- "but if that had landed in the trash can top, it would be disaster."

I tried turning the top bowl so the fire came out farther away, which helped a bit, but as I said there was no slack in the fuel hose to go very far.

Dammit, I should have shut down. I am angry at myself for not. And so when it happened -- a flame splashed out and into the top -- I didn't even have to think about what to do, I ran over, turned off the stop-cock, turned off the fuel pump, tossed the fuel and water leak to soak up into the playa, then turned the top over to smother it [unsuccessfuly.] Someone said, "extinguisher" -- duh, Kiki -- and I thanked him as I grabbed it and quickly put out the last of the flames.

I felt like a total idiot. "Shows over folks. I'm shutting down." I knew I had to fix this problem ASAP before I would ever lit it up again... The firefall would not run anymore that night. What an idiot. What a stupid moron. I knew better, and I pretended that it was not going to get out of hand. Use your head Kiki. Ug.

I want to be perfectly honest about my little disasters. I've learned a lot from my little "mishaps", but more importanly, I hope my readers will also be VERY careful when they play with fire. I'm not against playing with fire, but I AM VEHEMANT about my respect for its power. Fire can kill, mame, cause painful injury, and cause huge amounts of damage. You MUST always err on the side of cautious!! As I said, I learned a lot that night. And no matter how well I think things through, there is always the unexpected lurking on the shadows...

So I think that was actually friday, so I will continue this story for saturday, the night of the Burn.

Note, I want to finish this story as far as construction goes, but I would like to take a moment on a lighter note [pun intended! :) ] and talk about some of my favorite moments with the Big One... But construction first.

Night of the Burn: Blue flame-cloud!!

I had run the firefall Thursday night for an hour or so, and Friday also not very long. But folks came by all day asking what time it would run. I had no idea. I was spent, and knew that running it meant "when I was good and ready to run it, that's what!" I also had not seen much of the event itself. I wanted to watch the Burn and have some fun on the Taxi again -- were it not for the Taxi, I would not have seen any of the event at all. So I finally decided on a time: one hour after the Burn. So this is what I told folks.

Joey stopped in from the camp next door -- Burning Band, a wonderful group that played music for us practically all night long. They were all very awesome and kept my spirits up with their music.

Joey and his friend [I forget his friend's name] had arrived in these HUGE military box trucks with huge wheels. I remember the two of them driving by, and I wave cheerfully, and they don't wave back. I figure it's yet more NV militia keeping the crazy hippies under strict control, so I turned around and snickered, "they didn't wave back! heehee!" and then watch in horror as they pull up right next to our camp! They are our direct-contact-next-door neighbors! Yikes! :) But we go over and introduce ourselves, and man could I ever have gotten a wronger first-impression! They were absolutely awesome!

Joey, in his military kakies, seemed like a man hard to impress. Crisp would be the word that would come to mind first with him. I found myself ever so slightly embarrassed by him about my project. What did these guys think of so much fuel and fire so close to their camp? And my plastic bowl, and so many hand-made parts which were certainly inadequate... I felt like an ameture and -- after a few months of being patronized and questioned at just about every place of business I went to -- I felt helpless to make an impression that I knew what I was doing...

But I chatted with Joey about my problem, and he came over. And he said -- and this still floors me -- "I checked out your system there, and it's really top-notch. You've done a really good job with this. You must have really put a lot of thought into it." Wow. No one could praise me higher with those words...

So he came over and checked it out. Again, I was so worn out that I really needed another brain to help me think. So he suggested that I simply take the stop-cock out entirely and shut the fuel off using the needle value. Duh. Excellent idea. I also had a bunch of left-over fuel line, so I used all the rest of it to go from the plug in the top bowl to a loop of slack inside the pedistal then out to the needle valve. That way water and/or fuel would run down to the bottom of the loop of slack and fall off, rather than follow the hose into the fuel tunnel. I also zip-tied the needle valve to the suction hose where it wouldn't get kicked accidently and cranked up. Problem solved. And since it's really only a 1/8-1/4 turn for enough fuel, it was fine enough to use as a shut-off. I felt SO much better. I was back to my original safety plans of no fuel where there's fire.

Folks were asking me all day when it would be fired up. I had no idea -- esp. since I wanted to be sure the same problem didn't happen again -- but eventually, I decided on an hour after the Burn. That would give me since time to watch the Burn itself.

I set up again, a bit tired, and Scott helped to spot me. The goblet that Dave had gotten me didn't work very well, so I went back to lighting it with a lighter. I had to be careful, because if the flint got wet, it stopped working until it was dry.

I ran it for about an hour when Scott suddenly said, "Kiki!! Come over here, quick and check this out!" When the water sheet was "cut" with a finger [you stick your finger in the sheet and the water falls to either side leaving a hole] the fire wraps around and gets into the inner area under the top bowl...and caused a slow-motion ball of blue flames! I was speechless! Those around watched it with us. The flare would billow ever so slowly around and under the top bowl, roiling as it went. The color was mostly blue, with flecks of orange in it. Unbelieveable to see!! I got it to happen a number of times but then I had to adjust the top bowl [I forget why], so I rotated it by hand while it was running...which caused the piping to unhook. Darn it! This meant I had to shut everything down, climb in and get the pipes hooked back up! Not fun in the murky, 3-days-old water... The crowd dispursed immediately after I shut down.

So I took a deep breath, rolled up my black leggings, and stepped into the cold water. I got the pipes hooked back up, and relit everything, but we were never able to get that effect back again! boo-hoo!! We hope we can get it to happen at home someday...

Favorite moments: What made it all worth it!

[written Nov. 11, 1999]

Okay! Now that I have the bad stories and the "business" all told, I want to share my favorite moments with the firefall!

The firefall was a bit of a mezmerizing piece. Folks seemed to be drawn in and then watch without speaking. I kept watch over it whenever it was on to make sure folks were safe. I had my little schpeels: "you might want to roll up your sleves, since fleece melts..." "would you like a hair-tie?" "you might singe your hair, so make sure your arms are wet first." :) This was actually a mixed blessing. I hoped to be able to leave it and go explore and have fun, but it was very clear this could not happen. Yet, it meant that I got to see the reactions of folks who saw it running.

The first day it ran, some guy was totally captivated by it. He must have played with it the whole time, just scooping his hands in the water and sort of dancing with the flames on his arms. This was what I was hoping for! Folks making it into something more simply by they way they interacted with it! I felt so distant from him, just watching how he played with the water and fire...that when he came up to me, his mute, focussed face turned to a happy, playful smile, I was kind of taken aback. He introduced himself as Daniel [are you out there? Please send me mail!!] and said it was the best thing he'd seen at Burning Man so far and then thanked me bashfully. I thanked him too, but I don't think he understood why. :)

Once, during the day, a woman came up to me and said, "is this your project??" I said, "er, yeah." And she fell to her knees and held out a plastic "boomerang bat" and cried out, "you are a goddess!!" :) Wow. That's the best gift I got!

Here's an awesome poem someone wrote about The Cauldron at Burning Man 1999.

The night of the Burn, a woman in a silver wig [who are you?? Please send me mail!!] played and played much like Daniel did. Since the flames came out only in one spot, she would "push" the flames to the folks on the other side who couldn't play with the flames. Their reaction was just great! From standing silently, it drew them in closer to play. Soon, everyone was pushing the fire back and forth on the top surface. Like Daniel, she was one of my favorite folks who showed up to play!

I got other gifts too. All pretty minor, but they made me happy! A got a piece of candy [it didn't "do" anything, thank goodness! :) ], a blow pop, a piece of red fimo that had "Burning Man 1999" stamped into it, I got my own "personal treason device" [a lighter with a paper toothpick flag taped to it with duct tape], I got a fimo square with a burning man in it, I got two Giggsville cards, then later, three more, and I got a butterfly barrette. I found a gold square scarf [please let me know if this is yours!] I made a little "alter" of them on my bookshelf.

The best story, though, is my only "spectator" experience at Burning Man. The night of the Burn, a couple cowboy-types showed up, being a tad bit loud and drinking their Budwisers across from the firefall from me. At once point, they broke into song, singing "Rhinestone Cowboy" at the top of their lungs. Another cowboy-type guy, also drinking Budwiser, stood next to me and kinda elbowed me, saying, "oh, you know you love it!" I kinda looked at him and shrugged a little bit, not really knowing what to say. And suddenly, he fell silent, realizing that not all things are appropriate at all times, and turned back to the firefall. And at the same time, the other two cowboys also fell silent, and began to really stare at the firefall, mezmerized. I like to think at that moment that the firefall had won-out over them -- that suddenly, for the first time, they got it about Burning Man. At least I hope so. :)

Last of all, I have to tell my heart-warming story here. :) The night of the Burn, George and I broke up. Sunday, the day after the Burn, I was so frazzled, I just had to get away from the situation, so I left camp and didn't return until dark. My friends with the fish-bikes were wanting to see the firefall, so I finally returned and went up first to Scott and asked if he'd already packed up the fuel pump power supply... he had, and since I was still quite frazzled, I just said forget it and decided not to run the firefall sunday night at all... The fish-bike folks showed up again, but I had to give them the bad news: I would not be running it again. I was pretty upset still, so Scott took me with him to take pictures at the random fires going on. Walking with him, I felt at my lowest, when he said, "oh, I got something for you." He handed me a ziploc baggie. I took it, and it and inside was the little purple feather. It made me feel so much better to see the purple feather again. He said, "I was afraid it would blow away, so I saved it." So from now on, I have a new vocabulary word: if someone gives you something that is worthless to anyone else, but is priceless to you only, then they have given you a purple feather. :)

Please check out the Burning Man picture gallery. There's too many pictures to include all of them here!