Working for the Man

manbaseThere’s something wild and beautiful happening out at the Man base.

The carpenters are working to execute Rod Garrett’s design, and there’s a whole lot of creativity going on. The plans are more inspiration than detailed blueprint, which is leaving a lot of room for creative interpretation by the people actually building the thing.

If you remember the Belgian Waffle from the 2006 Burn, the Man base will look familiar to you. It’s a tangle of 2×4’s that form soaring archways, and from the minute you lay eyes on it, your first thought is, “This sucker is really gonna burn.”

Lude says the Man crew knows how to build a fire
Lude says the Man crew knows how to build a fire

It took a long time for the Waffle to go out in blazes, but this year’s Man base should be different. On the night of the burn, piles of extra wood will be brought in to make sure things get heated up in a hurry. “We know how to start a fire,” Lude, one of the carpenters on the Man crew, said.

But it seems the biggest challenge is translating Garrett’s dream into a playa reality.

“I’m a carpenter, but I’m also an artist,” says Hannes, one of the workers on loan from Estonia camp who are helping Lude and Brian of the Man crew bring the base to fruition. “So this is good for me.”

Hannes is originally from Estonia, but he’s been in the United States for 11 years. He’s a carpenter in San Francisco, and a dirt bike fiend. The other day he had just come back from a ride in the hills that ring the playa. Talking about his dirt-biking, he said, “I’ve broken¬† my jaw twice, I have metal all over my body, but …” despite all the accidents and the injuries, he just loves to ride.

Hannes, from Estonia, says "I'm a carpenter, but I'm an artist, too."
Hannes, from Estonia, says "I'm a carpenter, but I'm an artist, too."

And he loves to build. This is is second year as part of the crew that comes out early to build Black Rock City. “It’s not work,” he said, “it’s fun.”

All that wood will make a good fire, but it’ll also be tempting to climb. So will you be able to walk around on it? That’s an open question right now. Even though the structure is strong enough to support the people who have to¬† build it, it’s not clear how much weight it will comfortably support when it is finished.

“Maybe five would be fine,” Lude said the other morning. “But if there are five people up there, there are gonna be eight more who are gonna see that and want to get up there. … We might have to have the Rangers out here keeping people off.”

Oh Man. Good luck with that.

The challenge for the crew is translating Rod Garrett's design into reality
The challenge for the crew is translating Rod Garrett's design into reality

(There’s a collection of photos about the building of Black Rock City over here on Flickr)

About the author: John Curley

John Curley

John Curley (that's me) has been Burning since the relatively late date of 2004, and in 2008 I spent the better part of a month on the playa, documenting the building and burning of Black Rock City in words and pictures. I loved it, and I've been doing it ever since. I was a newspaper person In a previous life, and I spent many years at the San Francisco Chronicle. At the time I left, in 2007, I was the deputy managing editor in charge of Page One and the news sections of the paper. Since then, I've turned a passion for photography into a second career. I shoot for editorial, commercial and private clients, and I'm especially fond of shooting weddings. I'm also the editor at large of the Tasting Panel magazine, which is devoted to the beverage industry. I've also taught a bit, including two years at UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism and a year at San Francisco State University. I live on a (house)boat in Alameda, California.

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