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today ::
posted :: 20-May-2001

S T A T S
LAS VEGAS:
N 36.09.282
W 115.07.960
ELEVATION: 2402
387 miles from Burning Man.


C R E D I T S
FUEL:
'Expresso Roma
Las Vegas, NV
A haven for fringe culture.
READING MATERIAL:
'I Am A Bullet, Scenes From An Accelerating Culture'- a photo essay book; by Dean Kuipers & Doug Aitken that documents the acceleration of change which affects such diverse areas as Japanese consumerism, long-haul trucking, cinema in India and land speed record-breaking in the Black Rock Desert.

:: the journal :: < last :: next >
"Las Vegas is less a town than a promise of instant Karma. Want to know how you are doing with the gods? There's an actual place where you can go to find out. You'll get your answer in dollars. One throw of the dice can get you ahead."

—from the book, 'I Am A Bullet'

[05.17.01 LAS VEGAS]
Welcome! [BIGGER]

[LAS VEGAS] :: Luck is faster than light and Vegas is a neon game of chance that runs on rocket fuel. Here, time is warped. There is no past and the future is undefined. Most of its inhabitants are from somewhere else, so there is no shared community history. The casinos have a short and competitive life cycle. It's a shell game with each new attraction dramatically increasing in size, scale and flash. The interior of the main strip is a bright fantasy where you can walk for blocks and never see the hot, dry desert that exists outside. The city of Las Vegas is a place apart, separated politically and economically from the rest of rural, frontier Nevada. It could be in orbit or in cyberspace. In either case, it has already been launched from Nevada.

Burning Man could only happen in Nevada, a state where anyone could take the gamble. Each year, we rolled the dice. The prize was community survival and we have pressed on against all odds. In the beginning, we burned through our credit cards. We pushed the table limit. In 1991, a miscommunication just two weeks before the event reduced the Man to kindling. A rousing effort by the construction crew completed a new Man just hours before the truck was due to leave for Black Rock. In 1993, we were so broke that we couldn't afford to pay the postage for the next newsletter. Then someone found booklets of first class stamps strewn on the desert– hundreds of dollars worth. That jackpot carried our next mailing. In 1995, the engine blew in the truck hauling the Man over the Sierras. Volunteers swapped the engine on a weed-filled lot in Placerville. In 1997 we were virtually bankrupt when the county skimmed all of our operating capital as payment for unneeded services. Then the members of our community dug deeper to keep the dream alive. We came to Nevada on a gamble. Soon we'll be in orbit.

The Silver Seed pulled into Vegas, where I had an invitation to park in front of the house of a participant that I met several years ago. Tony, who has been involved with Illumination Village at Burning Man, lives in a 1955 tract house with his friend Crystal and three pets; a dog, a ferret, and a cat. Tony grew up in Vegas and has been involved with art, video and the underground culture which exists beyond the casinos. I was here only fifteen minutes before he got a call which resulted in us jumping into his truck to go rescue a couple of orphaned, 7-day old kittens. Now there is a dog, a ferret, and three cats living here. I also connected with Tony's friend Doug, who began his videography career at Burning Man in 1994.

[05.17.01 LAS VEGAS]
The Vegas 3, Tony, Philip & Doug [BIGGER]

Later, Tony introduced me to Philip, an incredibly talented cabinetmaker and a potential burner. He lives below the radar, rides an original '39 Indian, collects old woodworking tools, writes beautiful letters with a quill pen and sleeps in an old brass bed covered with Pullman blankets. Philip is like a white buffalo which only comes out at night to graze on the grass that sprouts from the concrete cracks in the seedy, neglected, fringes of Las Vegas.

I also met Josh Abby of Desert Space Foundation. He is organizing an international contest to design a marker for the planned Nevada underground nuclear waste storage facility. It will be a monumental structure that must last for 10,000 years and it's message of warning must be comprehendible by any culture or life-form that may encounter it in the future. The goal of this marker is to 'Leave a Permanent Trace'. It must speak when we are gone.

-Danger Ranger

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