photo of the month
from randy kato


Some of you will instantly know what this is. Others will have no it a crop circle?...a tire mark?...???

This is a city. Black Rock City. It is one of the largest cities in Nevada, and it only exists for one week each year. This is Burning Man - as seen from an altitude of 15,000 feet.

I chose this image for this month's photo because it's where I am right now. Actually that statement is both true and false at the same time. I am in Black Rock City right now, but not the Black Rock City in this photo from 2009. That city disappeared without a trace two years ago.

So how did I wind up 11,000 feet above the city (which sits 4000 feet above sea level)? Well, I volunteer at the Black Rock City airport. Yes, there is an airport - vaguely visible at the end of that road out of the city in the top left of the picture. Surprised? You shouldn't be; what major city doesn't have an airport?

I was new to the airport and at the bottom of the pecking order, so I took on the unwanted early morning shifts. I impressed my supervisors by actually showing up, and on time! That and my gifts of freshly pulled espresso shots earned me a place in their hearts, and consequently a seat on the skydivers' jump plane.

Of course, skydivers are not ordinary people, and burners are not ordinary people. So skydiving burners are a rare breed. I won't go into too much detail, but I can say it was a ride I'll never forget, not just because some of the jumpers wore nothing more than a parachute and helmet, nor because of the pants-less pilot.

Actually the most memorable thing was what happened the instant the last jumper stepped out of the plane. You see, the pilot's job is to get as many jumpers up in the air as possible before the afternoon winds pick up and ground him. That means as soon as the jumpers are away, his goal is to get back on the ground as quickly as possible to pick up the next group.

That means that one second we're cruising along and I'm marveling at these human beings disappearing into thin air, and the next second we're spiraling into a nosedive straight down. Nobody warned me, but then I guess I should have expected a sick joke like that from a pilot with no pants. It was the ride of a lifetime!

So please excuse the black blur in the corner, that's the edge of the plane window. It's tricky to get a perfect shot when you're weightless and screaming and shaking with adrenaline.

Anyway, I'm down there right now, having more of these magical experiences. Consider this a digital postcard...."Wish you were here!"


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