August 18th: Early Man

After a really good morning workout and breakfast at the commissary, I drove to Gerlach to work in the office.  Andie Grace was there, and so was Tom Price, Mishka, and Tomas.  I was so tired that I fell asleep at one point right on the desk.  I woke up to Logan asking me a question over the top of the cubicle, paper stuck to my forehead and confused as to where I was.  I recovered and spent the rest of the afternoon helping Mishka. By “helping,” I of course mean “bothering.”

I headed back to the playa in a huge dust storm.  There was so much dust that people were wearing goggles inside the commissary during dinner.  Visibility outside was reduced to about ten feet, and every car was tan.  And yet, everyone was totally ramped up for Early Man, a traditional celebration that marks the transition in Black Rock City from the Department of Public Works to the artists and theme camps.

As it started to get dark, the residents of BRC made their way out to the Man base.  Lots of people dressed up for the celebration, and I ran into friends from Reno I hadn’t seen in weeks.  Libations were abundant, and the energy level was high.  There must have been 400-500 people.  Over the past two days, art cars and mutant vehicles have started to show up on the playa, so the area around Early Man was especially crazy and loud.  The best part was the first ’07 appearance of a car with fire cannons.  You know the sound, boof.  Boof, boof.

Early man this year was designed and built by Otto Von Danger, and he called it Barley Man.  It was a big wooden dude sitting in a big wooden chair drinking a big wooden beer.  The beer mug was filled with gasoline for better combustion.  Last year some DPW made art to burn alongside Early Man.  They were inspired by a Burners Without Borders tradition from post-Katrina Mississippi, and the idea has stuck.  This year, there was a piece by the Temple crew that included fireworks and a piece by Big Daddy that stopped me dead in my tracks.  It was so freakin’ funny.  It was a perfect 10-foot replica of Dan Das Mann’s art crane, along with two little porta-potties, still in tact.

People partied all night long.  They’ve been working really hard for weeks, and everyone was ready to let loose.  We lucked out with the weather.  The wind died down before we set everything on fire, and there wasn’t very much dust.  It’s starting to feel like Burning Man now.  Anything can happen.

– Juan de Power

About the author: Marnee Benson

Marnee Benson

Marnee is Burning Man Project’s Associate Director of Government Affairs. Her work focuses on permitting and relationships with the Nevada Legislature, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, Pershing County, and multiple other Nevada agencies. She helps Burning Man navigate Nevada politics and federal issues affecting the Burning Man event. Marnee’s first trip to Black Rock City was 2001, and in 2007 she worked with the Department of Public Works and the Communications team, writing and photographing content for the Burning Blog “Building Black Rock City”. From 2009 to 2013, she served as the Deputy Director at Black Rock Solar. She loves the way Burning Man expands her world and flips ideas upside down.