Other Afterburn reports highlight 2005 as an all-around great year for the event, so no one should be surprised that it was also a great year for the Department of Public Works (DPW). We had a lot of new faces among the crew this year, with more first-timers to the DPW staying for both set-up and clean-up than ever before. The energy and enthusiasm they brought seemed to keep morale at an all-time high, and helped make this work season an amazing experience.
Many changes from the previous year were stabilized and streamlined in 2005. Once again, work weekends proved to be an essential part of the set-up process. Between May and August more than 60 volunteers came out pre-event to help with preparations. Over half of the folks who came for work weekends showed up for more than one, or they came out for a longer stay during the regular work season. The crews got a lot done and had a great time doing it! The Lamplighters, Tech Team, and Café were all represented at the work weekends in a big way for 2005. More and more cross-departmental integration is going on these days, as participants become involved in more than one department. Familiar faces brighten up the crews, and it’s interesting to work with folks in different aspects of their involvement on the playa.
During the bulk of the work season (August 1st through October 5th), DPW crews lived in Gerlach. Interactions with the locals went smoothly and had a significant shift in tone from prior years. Residents lodged no complaints about us during the stay in town, and two of the ladies living in the trailer park actually said they felt safer with us there than with us gone. Black Rock Rangers maintained a local presence throughout our stay, dealing with little issues as they popped up. The local sheriff said “If more people in the world were like you folks, my job would be a lot easier.” During our stay in town, the DPW replaced the roof of the Gerlach railroad water tower, hosted another great meet and greet barbeque with the townsfolk, and took on the local girls’ volleyball team, fighting our way through six savage games. (It might be appropriate to mention that despite being both physically and psychologically prepared for the games, we were thoroughly and mercilessly defeated. If you have special skills in volleyball and an interest in event-based construction work, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org). We enjoy making a positive impression, and we’re glad that we’re becoming a more welcome presence in town. It’s good to be known as good people.
On the playa, the staff living space (affectionately known as the DPW RODEO) made a brilliant leap towards life this year, and the crew members were very appreciative of the event. Awesome grub got served up right there in our little spot of the city, and we had some fine nights around the fires. We added some runners to the DPW Parade this year to cut down on the number of random folks getting swept up in the chaos, and it seemed to work well. The DPW took a full tour of the city. We were gifted more beer than last year, and only one art project suffered any damage. (Two walls of the Dicky Box were knocked out of their housings by the charge of the DPW Ladies anxious to share their assets with Dicky. A well-prepared DPW fixed the walls right on the spot). Most importantly, no one got hurt, and DPW had a damn good time.
DPW stayed on schedule all through the build and even through clean-up, breaking several records set just last year. It seems that DPW is getting better and better at what we do out there in the dust, and that the methods we are putting into place are being refined over time. Playa restoration went particularly well, with a new crew structure put into place that managed the work a little differently. Morale stayed high all the way through line sweeps, and DPW had an unprecedented number of folks sticking around until the very last day.
We closed out the year with some great nights in town, including dim sum dinners, spaghetti western feasts, and a talent show that left deep marks in the psyche. It was a hard year to beat in Black Rock City, and a great year to be a part of the DPW.
Logan Mirto and Mayfield Jukes