Go go go go go …

Crews celebrated the big lift of the Commissary tent
Crews celebrated the big lift of the Commissary tent

Good morning DPW!

That’s how the Cobra Commander opens his 7:30 morning meeting in the lovely al fresco dining area of the Gerlach Community Center, where the work crews take their meals while they are bivouacked in town.

We’re a couple of days into the build, and all systems are go.

The 4.2 miles of Gate road, the long and winding dusty trail that gets you from the highway to the entry gates, was pounded with stakes yesterday, and over the next day or so ropes of flags will be attached.

 Almost as far as the eye can see, there are stakes, stakes and more stakes

Almost as far as the eye can see, there are stakes, stakes and more stakes

The Commissary tent, which fits in so well with the circus-y Hall of Mirrors theme this year, was lifted into place yesterday. What a bear. Of course there was more pounding – this time 3-foot long steel stakes that hold the tent to the ground. We got to see who could wield a sledge, and the best roustabouts (those people as yet unattached to crews) were quickly recruited by other teams.

Sledgehammers play an unusually large role in the early days of the build. Those things are heavy, as you know, and just to make things interesting, people will hold sledge-tossing contests during break hours. Some prefer the spin and toss technique, others the pure power move of the underhanded toss. The definitive contest will be held after the last Spire is put in the ground, and we’ll handicap the field as we go along.

Blackthorne got off a major toss during "down" time
Blackthorne got off a major toss during “down” time

Today the intersections of the city will be laid out. “Fifteen hundred more stakes,” Booya said as he put out a call for help. Around the playa, the king posts at Center Camp are up, and the beginnings of the Depot are taking shape. The Heavy Equipment yard already looks in midseason form.

There are a couple of points to be made about all this.

The first is that if you miss a day, much less two, you will be stunned at the amount of work that gets accomplished in your absence. Craig, an EMT doing his first build, was astonished at the Commissary tent-raising. “These people are maniacs,” he said. The funny thing was, eventually he couldn’t help himself and he jumped in to hold support poles and ratchet lines. “Don’t hurt the EMT!” someone yelled.

All the sledge-hammering took it out of most everyone, including Effin Andy
All the sledge-hammering took it out of most everyone, including Effin Andy

The thing is, if you’re not around, life goes on without you. If you arrive late, you just do your best to catch up. And we’ve all got our own horror stories of why we got out here late, for the build or for the event. And every one of them is exactly the same: The car broke down. We had too much work to do. The kids had to go to school. WE had to go to school. We got the flu. Whatever.

We were self-absorbedly lamenting our plight of missing Fence this year when Wilde Childe reminded us why he couldn’t get out to the playa a couple of years ago. “I had cancer.”

Oh that. Right.

We’ll shut up now.

(But all of us are happy that he can use the past tense in talking about the cancer.)

Rolling into Gerlach
Rolling into Gerlach

There are other people who’ve helped build Black Rock City in the past who aren’t around this year, either. And some of them said they’d gotten a new job, or were going back to school, or had new families to tend to. The point is, their lives are moving in new directions, and that’s good. That’s encouraging. That’s great. There’s a big wide wonderful world out there, but Burning Man sometimes has a way of making you forget about that.

So to all of the people who’ve moved on, we say good luck, godspeed, and we’ll miss you but we understand.

And the other point to be made about the incredible speed of the build is this: EVERYthing happens in warp speed out here. Things move in a blur. One day caroms into the next. It’s easy to forget to stop and take it all in, and if you don’t do that, you’ll miss it.

We were struck by this yesterday, when we saw the beginnings of the city taking shape. There are just skeletons of structures around now, but in another week, they’ll all be in place, and roaring with business. Electricity and wireless and food service will be almost taken for granted, and the artists will begin to arrive to build their big statements in the desert.

Crews lifted up the first wall of the Commissary tent
Crews lifted up the first wall of the Commissary tent

And remember, there was nothing here but a bunch of flags only three days ago.

So if you don’t stop and look around, the next thing you know, it’ll be time to leave. You’ll miss it.

One of the things we do in the offseason is take pictures at weddings. I always tell couples beforehand to remember to stop, look around, forget about me and take a mental picture of what’s happening. Everything will be coming at you so fast, and so much attention will be focused on you, if you don’t take moments now and then to really look at what’s happening, really feel it, it’ll all wash over you like a wave. And by the end of the night, you’ll wonder how it could be over so quickly.

It’s like that here.

There is such a furiousness to get all the things done. Everyone is laser focused on making it happen. Heads down, moving forward, what needs to happen next?

But now and then people do seem to remember to stop and take it all in. Pope Phabulous was walking around the trailer lot last night, looking up at the sky. “There’s another one,” he said. It was another comet. The annual Perseid meteor shower is peaking this week, and we can’t imagine a better place to be able to see it. The nights are moonless, there’s very little ambient light, and the stars are splattered all over the inky black sky.

“Yeah, the Milky Way looks so thick,” we said to Pope, trying to get all specific and analytical.

“I’m just looking up and taking it in,” he replied.

Good move.

How about some more pictures from the day?

You don't want the base to get away from you
You don’t want the base to get away from you
Getting one of the poles in position to be lifted by Heavy Equipment
Getting one of the poles in position to be lifted by Heavy Equipment
Suns out, guns out
Suns out, guns out
Getting the poles in place
Getting the poles in place
Keeping one side in place while the other side is lifted
Keeping one side in place while the other side is lifted
Christian ratheting for tension
Christian ratheting for tension
Getting ready to lift
Getting ready to lift
Christian gives instructions on moving the main tent poles into place
Christian gives instructions on moving the main tent poles into place
It didn't look too intimidating when it was lying on the ground
It didn’t look too intimidating when it was lying on the ground
Sylkia happily watch the crew put up her tent
Sylkia happily watch the crew put up her tent
Have we mentioned the pounding?
Have we mentioned the pounding?
The whole-body approach to keeping cool
The whole-body approach to keeping cool
Yet more damaged hands
Yet more damaged hands
Yet more pounding
Yet more pounding
When you're weilding a sledge, it's nice to wear heart-shaped sunglasses, too
When you’re weilding a sledge, it’s nice to wear heart-shaped sunglasses, too
The Professor pounding
The Professor pounding
Booya pounding
Booya pounding
This work takes a toll on your hands
This work takes a toll on your hands
The only place to find shade was under a truck
The only place to find shade was under a truck
Here are the bad boys that keep the tent from blowing away
Here are the bad boys that keep the tent from blowing away
Pounding
Pounding
After the stakes were in, cones were put on top of them for safety's sake
After the stakes were in, cones were put on top of them for safety’s sake
A combined Gate and DPW crew had the stakes pounded for Gate road by 10 a.m.
A combined Gate and DPW crew had the stakes pounded for Gate road by 10 a.m.

 

 

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.

5 Comments on “Go go go go go …

  • Kenneth J Carey says:

    Looking forward to some yummy commissary meals. It’s my favorite thing at Burning Man. Nice job getting the tent in place! YOU GUYS ROCK!

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    • Tim Lloyd says:

      It is great to show how much hard work goes into making something like this happen. I am hoping to get a ticket so that i can appreciate the efforts first hand. Keep up the great work for all to enjoy. Tim L

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  • Lynne says:

    Wow, its all really really happening again, and its always such a joy to see the city become a reality, THANK YOU EVERYONE WHO IS OUT THERE DOING ALL THAT POUNDING OF METAL TO METAL, AND WATCH OUT FOR THOSE PESKY METEORITES, JUST MIGHT HIT ONE OF YOU IN THE HEAD……NOT REALLY, BUT MANY,MANY MAHALOS TO ALL INVOLVED…….PEACE AND ALOHA, LYNNE

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  • HoneyBee says:

    Wow. Every year, I am amazed. And grateful. And a little envious…

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  • G-gizzle says:

    I. LOVE. YOU. PEOPLE. !! THANK YOU for your tireless work to make this beautiful city a reality for everyone. And John Curley, well, your poignant description of the process is a delight, and never fails to touch my heart. There wasn’t a dry eye among my campmates after reading your touching story about pounding in the golden spike this year. Amazing. Thank you. )00(

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