Burn Unit: Euphoria

Compared to this, Alchemy was a walk in the park. As before, I arrived on Thursday, but I wasn't the last in this time. The weather that night was balmy, straddling the line between shorts and pants. The tent went up quickly, everything inside tucked away. I even had a chance to swap my street clothes for my amazingly tiny black shorts.

And then the temperature started to drop. This time though, we'd thought ahead and brought a propane patio heater to set up a "hot tent" in a 10x10 pop up with walls. Of course, the box didn't have all the parts we needed, to hook up the propane so it sat cold and lifeless in the middle of the tent for a few hours.

I switched from shorts back to sweats and huddled into a corner of the tent for a while before I got bored and decided to go wander around and see what there was to see. Euphoria is Alchemy's little brother; smaller, more intimate, cozier. Tickets are capped at... something around 1000. That being said, Euphoria is on the same level as Alchemy in terms of things to see and do. The area previously occupied by the fire circus was taken by a crew who apparently wanted to test drive their setup. That consisted of several plywood structures covered in white cloth and painted to look like giant skulls with giant LED lights for the eyes. Pretty badass.

When I got back, the more mechanically-inclined of our camp had gotten the heater hooked up and turned on, tuning the hot tent into an actual hot tent. It. Was. Glorious. I'll be the first to admit, I spent way too much time in there, but I don't handle cold very well.

As the temperature dropped, the wind picked up to the point where it was seriously compromising my ability to enjoy myself to I went to bed. Then it started raining. Really raining. When it wasn't raining, the wind was blowing hard enough that I was seriously worried about someone else's tent crashing into mine.

So yeah, that part sucked. The vast majority of the weekend was cold and rainy, just generally miserable all around. A lot of other campsites felt the same way and there was a steady stream of people packing up and bailing out when I woke up Friday morning. Not us though. Bitter end and all that.

The highlight of this burn was the ranger shift I'd signed up for. I like volunteering. Seriously, give me a radio and tell me to make sure something doesn't blow up (metaphorically or literally) and I'll be happy. Rangering at a burn is the pinnacle of what I look for in a volunteer posting. I'd debated doing a shift at Alchemy, but opted to just attend since that was my first burn. No excuses this time though, this was my jam.

First things first though, I had to get my training on. Normally when I volunteer, I have to be a voice and image of authority, the go-to person when things start to go sideways. Rangers are explicitly told not to think like this. We're not the authority, we're the helping hand. Burners assisting fellow burners, in a slightly more official capacity. Unlike my normal events where the radios are a free for all, rangers (and all volunteers) have specific instructions on how to talk and be talked at, definitely some ideas worth emulating.

Training over, I went back to camp and hung out in the hot tent some more. My shift didn't start until 2000 so I figured I'd take it easy and wait for time to march on. Around 1930 I started getting ready. Rangers have to be dressed appropriately for their four hour shifts and that meant I needed to slap on my underarmour, then some more longsleeve clothes. Not an easy task when it's in the low 40s, wet and windy. I managed to get through it though and dropped by the hot tent to bid my camp farewell for the time being.

Then I had my ass saved. Underarmour under long sleeves is sufficient, but not quite enough in these weather conditions. Luckily for me, one of my camp mates loaned me his fucking amazing soft-shell windbreaker. Having my chest and core protected from the wind probably saved my bacon and made the entire experience bearable. Bundled up, I headed off to my shift.

Rangers work in teams of two, no exceptions. I got paired with a fellow kinky dude from Atlanta. Radios, t-shirts, notebooks and maps were handed out and we headed off. My shift from 2000 to 0000 meant we were on duty during the effigy burn.

Since this was my first shift ever, my partner took the lead on deciding what areas to cover and check out. We started across the trail from my camp on top of a hill and chatted with another group from Atlanta before making our way towards the effigy. Unfortuantely we couldn't linger long as the effigy zone was saturatued with volunteers and our job was to make sure the rest of the campsite wasn't on fire/being looted/getting blown away.

My shift went like that. Walk, talk and walk some more. By this point the rain had turned every single trail into thick, red georgia clay mud. If we weren't sliding around we were continually running the risk of losing our shoes to the mud. A few unattended fires had to be put out, some propane heaters had to be shut off but that was about it. Litearlly one of the slowest "burn shifts" ever, apparently. Partner and I returned to basecamp, turned in our stuff and went our separate ways. It was just after 0000 and starting to rain again so I went back to my tent and passed out.

Sunday roared in with some of the worst rain of the weekend. By the time I woke up it had all blown through and given way to the glorious day star. Like Alchemy, we quickly broke camp, packed up and cleared out.

Euphoria left me feeling... underwhelmed. Compared to Alchemy, I was in a fairly crappy mood the entire weekend thanks to the cold, wind and rain. That said, the experience with rangering and being closer to the inner workings of a burn more made up for it. A few months after the burn I got recommended for a shift lead at this year's Alchemy, which means more responsibility for me. I'm counting down the days to Alchemy now that I've figured out what makes me tick at these things.