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 joined Black Rock Solar in 2009 as an environmental journalist and project manager who had recently organized a worldwide sailing expedition and global warming lecture series. While growing up in New Mexico, Marnee played tennis in the high-desert sun, ripped it up at local ski resorts, and rode bikes with her friends. She’s lived in Reno for more than ten years, after stops in Jackson Hole and southern California– where she played beach volleyball and studied math at San Diego State University. Marnee traded in her tennis racket and bikinis for carabiners and climbing shoes when she hit the Sierra Nevada, and she recently graduated from UNR with two master’s degrees in Environmental Science and Environmental Policy. She organized the Tour de Nez bike race for three years and sailed with Greenpeace International before turning her attention full-time to Black Rock Solar. In her spare time, Marnee counts her lucky stars for being able to work with the Holland Project and March Fourth Marching Band.