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The Assless Chapel Newsletter #52: Leave No Trace Edition - Wastewater

The Chaplain’s Screed

Those of you who are regular readers of this newsletter know that I distinguish Leave No Trace (LNT) from the other 10 Principles as the only one that is prescriptive.  The other nine Principles describe what makes Burning Man Burning Man.  This one is a hard and fast rule.

That is true for our camp, too.  Here is what all of us have agreed to, to be part of this camp:

Everything LNT is covered in the required reading for being part of the camp, but here are a few points of re-emphasis:

o   We will all clean up garbage every day, all day long.  Know where the trash receptacles are and know what goes into each.  Everything that is made by humans is MOOP and needs to be cleaned up.  Everyone should do at least one MOOP patrol every day and, while you’re at it, look at our infrastructure to make sure it’s safe and secure.

o   Do not leave stuff lying around.  As hard as it is, we should all strive to make sure everything has its own place in order to keep our supplies from turning into MOOP.

o   MOOP is best prevented in advance.  This is particularly true with food.  Whatever you plan for food, make sure that you plan how to keep it from becoming a problem.

o   I mentioned this under Self-Reliance, but let’s emphasize it again: we do not want anyone trucking water to the Port-a-Potties or leaving water marks on the Playa.  If you need help planning for how to deal with grey water, please ask The Assless Chaplain, Curtis or another campmate.

I think we’re veteran enough to be on top of LNT.  I expect that we will, as we did last year, get a perfect score from the BORG clean up crew.  In this newsletter, I’m going to focus on wastewater management.  That was our greatest LNT challenge last year, and I want to make sure we do it right this year.  We’re going to look at this through 4 categories of wastewater: drinking water, bathing water, spraying water and packing water.

Keep in mind that the main LNT issues with water are puddling and leaving organic matter on the Playa.  Either of these can harm the fairy shrimp (aka sea monkeys) that live on the Playa (this is a real thing).

Drinking Water

If you follow my advice for cooler water from the last newsletter – the Curtis method – you’ll know that the melted ice is preserved as quality drinking water.  This is the best way to make use of wastewater: to drink it.  If we end up with too much at the end of the Burn, this water can be applied to the Playa, if it isn’t allowed to puddle (picture putting a cooler on the back of one of the tricycles, opening it up and riding around).

Bathing Water

I don’t plan to use the Curtis method for my beverage cooler.  I’ll just dump ice in.  This ice gets handled by everyone and gets lots of Playa in it.  You don’t want to drink it.  But it doesn’t have any bad odors, so it’s perfect for filling up the shower set up or putting into a sprayer to cool down your campmates.  It can be applied to the Playa as with drinking water.  Everyone should bring at least 2 spray bottles.

I will bring black, plastic bins to gather used shower water.  In this way, they will slowly evaporate off.  They will not evaporate fast enough this way.  To speed evaporation, I will place hand towels along the sides of the bins partially in the water, partially out.  This creates a wicking effect that speeds up evaporation.  In a really hot year, this may be enough; it likely won’t be enough.  The main solution is to drop a full-size bath towel in the bin and throw it onto the bed of the truck that the shower is set up on.  This pulls a lot of water out, which evaporates quickly.  IF YOU PLAN TO USE THE SHOWER, BRING A TOWEL SPECIFICALLY FOR EVAPORATING WATER!!!  This is not the towel you dry off with.  It will be gross – it is only for evaporating away water after you shower – you should do this every time you shower.

Nothing else goes into these black bins!  Don’t wash dishes into them; don’t brush your teeth into them; don’t puke into them. 

If we have a rainy or cool year and have leftover, used bathing water, we can use the towels to lightly apply the water to the Playa, without causing any puddling or we can pack it out.

Spray Water

I plan to bring a 1-gallon sprayer that can be filled with water that isn’t too icky to spray on the Playa but is too icky to let run onto the Playa in a stream and far too icky to put on our bodies.  In theory, this could be used bathing water, but we would make a mess trying to transfer the water into the sprayer.  The other sources of this water are food coolers that don’t use the Curtis method.

If you fill your food cooler with ice, it will become tainted with organic matter, no matter what you do.  It will smell bad.  It will also increase the chance that your food goes bad.  If you choose not to use the Curtis method, have a plan for rotten food and tainted water.  What should that plan be?

For the tainted water, make sure you have a bottle – marked GROSS WATER – or something of the sort.  Empty the tainted water into this bottle and you can spray it on the Playa, which, in theory, will also keep down dust.  As I said, I will try to have a large sprayer to assist with this, but you must have your own plan.

For the food, the only option is to truck it out – which is why you want to really think through your food situation and reduce the amount of food that will go bad (preferably to zero.)  I will have a 5-gallon bucket for organic waste (including, ladies, emptying your diva cups).  It will have holes in it, so the sun desiccates the contents to reduce volume.  I’ll take this home to my compost pile.  But you should be ready to truck out your own organic waste.  Five gallons is not a lot.  Don’t be the buttmunch who fills up the bucket and fucks up the rest of the camp.  It’s really meant only for the incidental small piece of waste.  If your whole cooler goes bad, your plan becomes to spray out as much of that water as you can and then take that cooler home.

Packing Water

If water has visible detritus in it, it must be packed out!  Do not dump it in the Portas or on the Playa!  That’s what campers from Sacbe do.  Where do you spit out the water you used to wash toothpaste out of your mouth?  In a bottle of some sort.  Where do you wash your dishes into?  That’s your problem.  I’d recommend you not eat food that requires dishes or that you not eat anything you can’t clean up with a wet nap.  Otherwise, you’ll need some sort of bin you can wash water into and truck out. 

OK, I’ll give you a plan, if you really want to wash dishes.  Use a black oil drain pan – something like this – and wide-mouthed liquid containers of some sort (like empty one gallon water jugs.)  You can wash dishes into the drain pan, put it out into the sun to reduce the volume of water and then pour it out through the built-in spout into one or more containers to truck out the wastewater.

All right, that’s the deal with wastewater.  Please be on top of this!

Group News

I spoke to Kayla on the phone yesterday!  She won’t be able to make it to the burn this year, because she’s starting a master’s program in Hawaii!  She is committed, however, to keeping the burn alive in her heart; I shared some suggestions with her.  Who knows, some of us may get a chance to see her at something Burning Man-related before next year’s burn!

Current camp roster (get me your travel plans when you can):

[camp roster redacted]

Camp Planning

Wedding Planning

I continue to work on the logistics of this.  The French wedding of [redacted] has been rescheduled to Tuesday at sunset.

Other Camp Planning

Seamus and I are planning to start getting our camp infrastructure ready this coming week.

Red Folder Video: Camping Together aka Doing It Right and Not Being a Douche

Here’s your Red Folder assignment for the week (I’m putting them on YouTube now to save my own cloud space).  If you want a podcast, download it here.

Black Rock City News and Acculturation

I’ve got only one thing for this section and it is definitely worth listening to:

·         Burning Man Live has an episode called Live to Burn Another Day on being safe in BRC.  Please do listen to it.

Placement / Ticket News

Placement News

No new placement news.  I’ve heard through the grapevine that we’ll have Camp Not a Cult near us.  Mocktails, yoga, alcohol-free space – so not somewhere you’ll find me – but great for some of our campmates.  BAAAHS will also be near us.  That’s the folks with the sheep mutant vehicle.  Peaches, Thursday night there will be a burlesque show and party at Glam Clams (4:45 and G).  Also, we have competition for weddings from the Temple of the Flying Spaghetti Monster at 4:45 and C; they’ll also have a bar and Talk to Mom phone – time to turn it up Assless Chaplers!  Ebb and Glow will be at 4:31 from C to D (whatever that means) – they’re doing a ton of cool stuff, but I’m pointing them out since they’ll be our closest bike repair shop.  I learned all this from a Google doc shared between camp leads in our neighborhood.  I put us into it, too.  Molly, I repped Tiny Camp and Mojito Monday, too.

·         July 10th (est.): Placement announces neighbors.

·         August 19th: First WAP entries.

·         October 24th: Post-Playa Report due (opens in September).

Ticketing News

Support Access Passes

I have arranged for an early access pass for everyone who requested one, except for Ellie.  Tickets should be sent to you July 7th-9th.  Let me know if there’s a problem.  Ellie, if you can’t get one with BxB, let me know and we’ll get one from Tatiana.

[WAPS list redacted]

Ticket Allocation Plan

Below are the updated charts summarizing our ticket and vehicle pass situation.  Seamus, I think I found someone to buy your excess Vehicle Pass.  After the charts is an updated explanation of what each of you needs to do.  Please make the appropriate arrangements and let me know.


Adding New Camp Members

Seeing as it’s a reasonably easy ticket year, we can add campers right now.  If you have

someone you’d like to add to our camp, let me know.  Just think long and hard whether this person is a good fit for Burning Man and The Assless Chapel.  S/he must read and sign the agreements and get them to me.  I also need to do a Zoom with any additions to the camp but am mostly relying on you to bring someone who is going to be a good campmate.  We have a couple people interested in joining our camp.  I’ll let you all know more as I find out.

Ticketing Calendar

Here is the ticketing calendar this year (these events usually occur at noon PST):

·         July 20th: WAPs allocated.

·         July 24th: OMG registration opens.

·         July 26th: OMG registration closes.

·         July 30th: OMG Sale.

·         August 10th (est.): WAPS sent to Assless Chaplain.

·         August 12th (est.): WAPS, tickets and vehicle pass distribution finalized within camp.

Current Pre-Build, Build Week, Burn Week and Exodus Schedule

Here is our current schedule for pre-build, build week, burn week, Exodus and post-Exodus (keep in mind there will be many changes and additions):


Upcoming Tasks

To Do in the Next 10 Days


   Send me any updates on your plans to join us or bring friends.

   Buy / sell your Burning Man tickets to one another!  Then let me know.

   Make sure you have whatever you need to deal with waste water.

   Send me your travel plans.

   If you haven’t yet, please look through the spreadsheet, so you know where to find essential information.

   Let me know if you have any news you want to share.

   Schedule an all-hands meeting.

   Let Mo know what you can do to help with Mojito Mondays.

   Here’s your Red Folder assignment for the week.  If you want a podcast, download it here.


   Write a script for Thomas and Alexandra.

   Obtain permit to marry Thomas and Alexandra.

   Schedule 2nd meeting with Jolanda and Marcel.

   Print out wedding certificates.

   Write a script for Elodie and Neil.

TAC and Stupid Seamus

   Pull out altar and old signage and spruce up.

   Spruce up the Dusty Altar Bar and consider adding wheels.

To Do in the Next 30 Days


   Create new nighttime signage

   Put up shade structures

   Tune up truck.

   Tune up bikes (replace chains.)

   Print wedding certificates.

   Check in with County Clerk


   Get food permit

To Do in the Next 60 Days


   Finalize WAPs.

   Template for impromptu weddings and another for Deep Playa weddings.

   Buy carbon offsets.

   Buy a hanging work light


   Buy actual bubbles

   Get champagne flutes


   Get food permit


   Inventory EMT and shade cloth

TAC and Curtis

   Get tarps for ground cover

TAC and Stupid Seamus

   Build mirrors for costume dome

   Obtain and fix up bikes, as necessary

TAC, Stupid Seamus and Curtis

   Get earth anchors and/or spreaders


   Buy booze and mixers for the bar

   Make sure you have tickets, SAPs, VPs, wallet and IDs

   Pack a backpack with toiletries, clothes, water, food, medications, phone and charger.

   Get muck boots.

   Get all your personal stuff squared away

Closing Thoughts

Last year, for the Leave No Trace edition, I spoke to my belief that it should really be The Campsite Rule: leave a campsite better than you found it; same goes for people, animals, organization, places, the world – leave them better for having come into contact with you. 

A lot of us in this camp are going through rough times.  My divorce continues to be amicable, but it’s still stressful, difficult, painful.  I won’t share anything personal about anyone else in the camp, but I know that a lot of us are going through major changes and, for many of us, they’re not easy.  When we were together in camp last year, the camp was unanimous that I was Camp Dad and Curtis was Camp Mom.  In a recent survey, 86% of Americans reported that their moms influenced them more than their dads did.  Sounds right and probably a healthy dynamic inside and outside our camp.

But one of the main reasons that I write this newsletter, make requests of you all, nag a little bit, is that I want all of us to live at BRC within the campsite rule.  I want us each to leave each other better off and to end up feeling we are better off for having shared a camp with one another.  I want each of us to leave the burner community better off and to be better off for having been at Burning Man.  In short, I just want us to do good and experience goodness.  It’s why we do this.  We will each do our part; we will each do right by each other; we will each do our best; and some of us may even do each other (while following the campsite rule!)

As many of you know, I started this camp to honor the memory of my closest friend Danny.  I lost him in a tough way.  When, in response to a mid-life crisis pivot, I decided to return to Black Rock City, I was determined that I would start a camp.  I wanted to honor and celebrate him – something I consistently failed to do – I always ended up just mourning him.  This camp meets that need of mine.  And, by being a part of that, by making it happen, by filling my life and our couples’ lives with joy: you all have left me better than you found me.  Thank you, my loves.

You may have noticed that this past year, I’ve been using a lot of Hunter S. Thompson quotes.  I was an HST fanatic when I was young and Danny loved that and enjoyed it.  So, in his honor, I’ll end this newsletter with an HST quote that sums him up better than anything I could come up with myself:


“There he goes.  One of God's own prototypes.  A high-powered mutant of some kind never even considered for mass production.  Too weird to live, and too rare to die.”

-Hunter S. Thompson

The Man Burns in 56 days! 

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