A sweet, sunny day in late autumn, Philly Burners showed the world they know what “bringing the Playa home” really means. Over 30 people showed up with trash bags, work gloves and DJ equipment to make the mile-long trek to Devil’s Pool and clean up the months-old moop of summer shenanigans. Led by Gaetan Spurgeon and Evan “EZ” Kushin, this was the first of a new series of events that combines three of our favorite things: nature, music and doing good for the community. This event is called “Get Down and Pick It Up,” but may be changed to “The Moopets.” It is anticipated to be a quarterly event, with a new outdoor location to be cleaned by dedicated moopers to dirty beats every few months.
Devil’s Pool is tucked a mile down on Philadelphia’s Wissahickon Creek, and during summer, it is a lively community swimming spot. People perch on cliffs that mirror each other across a small waterfall and take turns making the 30-foot leap into unexpectedly deep water at the base. Families celebrate birthday parties here, teenagers come out to escape their parents and to smoke illicit cigarettes. The pool is so popular that on July 25 it had to be closed due to graffiti and trash, a time when many of us were busy with Burning Man preparations. Three months later the Philadelphia Burner community had not forgotten, and rallied to do something about it. It was a gorgeous scene to watch, with sunshine, trees, music, smiles and the toned burner butts of happy moopers all around. I wish we could make gifts for those who shared their time and energy for such a great cause. If we made stickers, would they say “I LIKE YOUR moop BUTT” or “YOU’VE GOT A GREAT MOOPER”?
The day dawned bright and unexpectedly balmy. People rolled out of bed and grabbed their sunglasses and work gloves. By 2 p.m. a table, generator and speakers were set up. By 2:30 there were basslines bouncing off the natural amphitheater of Devil’s Pool as people scoured the cliffs. A rope swing was set up to help the novice rock climbers reach those hard-to-get pieces of plastic, and several people in rain boots splashed through the creek, pulling out socks and tinfoil. The community encouraged members to bring their children and pets, which gave the whole event the feel of a family party. Even some hikers stopped to lend a hand. It was glorious to watch dancers atop beautiful moss covered cliffs, fist-pumping in work gloves, then reaching down and mooping to the beat. Self-reliant Burners even brought a canoe that they paddled upriver and gave a good show of prying a broken porta-potty from its half-submerged grave. After 45 minutes of valiant effort and multiple cold-water dunkings, the john’s stubborn attachment to its watery habitat prevailed, but the canoe was still useful in helping us carry bags of less obstinate but equally ugly garbage to their rightful home: the trash cans at the end of the trail. Seeing Burners exemplify the principles of Leave No Trace and Civic Responsibility in the desert is expected, but watching it happen at Devil’s Pool was wonderful. I loved seeing the faces of curious passersby as they asked us “why?” and we responded “for fun,” knowing that there was no other tie to this place, for us, than as a community spot that NEEDED HELP. This really gives me hope that people ARE taking the playa home, and sharing it with the world. Please keep this up, people! Pick it up while getting down!