Danger Ranger on the Playa
It's Independents Day at Black Rock and I have found water and a thriving community out on the playa. Not a lot but it's the beginning. The afternoon temperature was 114 degrees. I spend most of the day at Primitives Camp lying under a simple 5 x 8 shade structure, like a lizard under a rock just surviving waiting for the cool evening before venturing out.
Finally when the sun was low on the horizon, and more vigorous activity was possible, I loaded up the Rocket with water and went out to explore the north end of the desert. My excursion located 4 main encampments and during the course of the evening, I managed to visit each one. The Wind sailors were having their annual Holy Gale event and had selected a suitable piece of real estate near the west track of the playa for their activities.
Yonder Camp was one of the largest, being comprised of several groups. Upon arrival, an invitation for a fez night potluck dinner was graciously extended and I spent several hours there. And it was there that I found Charles Gadeken, the canvas & fire artist, just back from the Reno art installation, at his well-lit camp. Further north was the Blue Lamp/Diox Camp with most of the usual suspects on site. Closer to the Black Rock was the newly established Nephology Camp, which reminded me of the early days of the evolving Techno Ghetto. Their Space Lounge dome was up and open for business when I arrived. Each of the village camps had a unique light beacon, which allowed playa travelers to home in across the vast distance. It's a pattern that will grow in the future. Finding your community will depend on detecting and decoding a message somewhere in the electromagnetic spectrum. What's the frequency, Kenneth?.
I returned to Primitives Camp just after midnight and settled in for a good night's rest. The storm hit at 3 AM my hand instinctively grabbed the blanket as the wind was ripping it away for a ride to the far end of the playa. After jamming the blanket under the heavy sleeping mat, I jumped up and ran over to the Rocket Car to get the waterproof tarp out of the storage compartment. Bits of playa dust stung my bare skin and added contrast to the sensation of large drops of wind-driven rain. I picked up a knife and cut several lengths of cord from a 50 spool and then retrieved the tightly folded tarp. Lifting it up and holding one edge, it unfurled with a snap in the driving wind. With the knife clinched between my teeth, I tied each corner to the 3 steel stakes anchoring the shade structure. Now, protected from the wind and rain, I crawled back inside hoping that the cord would hold and the stakes would not pull out. When the morning sun arrived, the sky was clear and the wind was still.
As I pulled my stakes and packed up camp, the large encampments were also beginning to evaporate. Next week, only footprints and tire tracks would remain. These too would disappear when the winter rains flood the playa. Next year, we will return and there will be more villages to visit. The future will see tribal camps comprised of large, self-contained, mobile platforms, slowly moving across the playa surface, spending each night in a different location. Some will shine brightly, emitting light and sound, others will be silent running with navigation sensors operating beyond the human audio/visual spectrum. Prearranged gatherings will be held when camps converge on GPS coordinates for festivities, dancing and fire performances. Technology, old and new will be combined in creative ways to create a multidimensional network of experience on this vast new frontier.
The Primitives shall lead.
Danger Ranger , 04/07/2001
5.47 miles to the Man.
7.96 miles to Primitives Camp.
Children of Dune- Frank Herbert