Random Scenes From Burning Man 2009
When our merry band of 'Burner's attended Burning Man this year, it meant a 20 hour road trip from Phoenix, Arizona to a nameless spot on a map in northern Nevada. On any such road trip, things are bound to happen. Bizarre iPod play lists will be created, countless bags of junk food will consumed and strange conversations are bound to come out of the most random comments.
Somewhere north of Las Vegas but south of Tonapah, while savoring a bag of Nacho Cheese Dorritos, I asked my fellow burners if they had any idea where the Nacho Cheese on the chips actually came from. They all shrugged as we listened to the eighth song by "The Doors" in a row. "Tank Car #47." was my response. My fellow passengers glanced at me with a collective, "Huh?".
"Tank Car #47", I repeated. "Allow me to explain.", and I related the following tale.
While attending high school back in 1974 I had to take chemistry class. I don't know if they still require these types of classes in high school, but considering the liability of using Bunsen burners and playing with chemicals in modern society, I sort of doubt it. I can't say I was a great chemistry student. Most of my mental ability as a 16 year old was taken up by thinking about girls and cars. Molecular structure and chemical reactions were not high on my list. However, I was lucky to have an old school chemistry teacher that was no slouch. He knew how to impress.
So on one cold, fall, South Dakota day, I sat in the front row of chemistry class as the teacher handed out a list of chemicals along with instructions for what to do with them. I could have cared less. What was the point? But since I was stuck there for 45 minutes, might as well make the best of it. I mixed the chemicals together, then emulsified them (dissolved them in water) and then I put the mixture on top of a burner to vaporize (boil) it, and then trapped the emitted steam in a jar and placed it upside down on my desk. This took about 30 minutes in all. Once the seemingly empty jars had cooled the teacher told us to pick them up, remove the blotter from beneath them and smell the contents. Smell the contents? WTF?
As I did, a rush of Juicy Fruit gum invaded my nose. It smelled like there were 30 packs of gum inside the jar. "This smells like chewing gum.", I exclaimed!
"Where do you think the flavor comes from? Juicy Fruit Trees?", was the teacher's response.
That was the eye opener. It was then that I realized that all the stuff I put in my mouth, didn't necessarily grow out of the ground. It grew out of a factory. So when ever I am stopped at a railroad crossing and watching the freight trains roll by with dozens of tank cars in tow, I guess what is inside each one; cooking oil, red dye #3, nacho cheese emulsion, juice fruit syrup, motor oil, windshield washer fluid...etc.
At the thought of this, my fellow burners made a collective 'ewwww' and stopped eating their processed, packaged snacks....for about 2 minutes.
After that, our fellow burner from back east pointed up at the sky and said, "See those chem-trails? I read that the Federal Government puts additives in jet fuel that secretly seeds the atmosphere in order to change the weather.
We all looked at each other in silence. For the rest of the trip we never looked at a freight train or a jet contrail the same.
The trip just got more and more strange after that.
For more images of Burning Man, visit my Flickr Page