August 29th: Man II

As of this afternoon the new man, Replacement Man, is nearly finished, awaiting some neon.  The Man Krew built him on site, working round the clock, and he’ll be ready to raise tomorrow.  Access to the Man base since Monday night has been limited to authorized Burning Man personnel.  It’s been fenced off and surrounded by work trucks and heavy equipment.  It’s weird not being able to go to the Man and check out the displays or look back at the city after climbing up on the base, and I haven’t had any chance meetings there in the middle of the night like in years past.  BUT!  Today was awesome…

In the past, when someone would ask me about Burning Man, what is was like or why I went, I launched into a description of all the things that make it special and pulled out a pile of photos.  But it’s practically impossible to capture Burning Man that way unless you’ve got a lot of time, so I changed my tack.  One of the main reasons I love Burning Man is that I’m continually surprised and amazed.  When you’re a kid, everything’s new, but when you grow up, things aren’t as sparkly or interesting.  You’ve seen it all or heard it all, and new ideas are harder to come by.  At Burning Man, you get to be delighted.

Grand Prize Winner
I woke up bleary eyed and rode my bike over to the port-a-potties.  When I came out, I saw 15 or 16 people dressed nicely in red and black, lined up along the sides of a 30-foot long red carpet that had been rolled out to the door of one of the port-a-potties.  They were motioning with their arms like Vanna White toward the chosen toilet.  At the front, a guy in a powder blue tuxedo and ruffle shirt, looking sharp.  At the other end of the red carpet were three podiums, like at the Olympics but smaller.  Then an electric golf cart, decorated.  Everyone was animated but silent, including the few of us that had gathered around in anticipation.  When the person emerged from the toilet, everyone erupted in applause and cheers.  There was an applause soundtrack from the golf cart that soon switched to “We are the Champions.”  The bathroom user was presented with a trophy and t-shirt by the guy in the tux.  She had just won Burning Man.

She was given a bull horn to make an acceptance speech, which she did after walking down the red carpet and greeting her fans.  The paparazzi snapped photos and shot video.  It was epic, one of the best things I’ve ever seen.  Such a simple idea, but one that I would likely never have.  I went over to the guy on the golf cart and said hi.  Introduced myself and told him how much I liked the ceremony.  His name was Sven Liden and he told me to hop in.  They said that they had actually hoped to get me, because they saw my DPW shirt, but that right after I went into the toilet, someone parked in front of the door, and they didn’t want to ask her to move cuz she had her kid in a bike trailer, and they have to act fast.  Shoot!

I rolled with those guys for the next hour, awarding two more people with the Grand Prize.  It was so much fun seeing people’s reactions.  Blowing kisses as they walk the red carpet or jumping up on the top podium, taking bows.  It was awesome.  Sven just rolls down the street as his crew walks ahead and beside.  They target a row of toilets and look for someone carrying their own toilet paper, then spring into action, unloading the podiums, rolling out the carpet, and getting the trophy ready.  Sometimes the music is different, like the graduation theme, or some tunes from a compilation called Las Vegas Grind.

Sven told me that one day he and a friend were in front of his house welding something for a Burning Man project, when his neighbor, an older lady, came out and asked them what they were up to.  They told her about Burning Man and described their project.  She said, “Well, I hope you win!”  Beautiful.

Girls’ Night Out
Tonight was DPW Girls’ Night Out, a tradition started a few years ago by Hormel when she “borrowed” her boyfriend’s treasured Volare for a night out with her friends.  It’s grown a bit and tonight there were about 20 of us, on three art cars, including the now famous Sexy Bitches led by Panties No Panties.  After some legendary salmon tacos at Camp Carp, we rolled out to the Trebuchet to watch the launch (piano on fire), and then back to Carp to re-group.  We headed out for the next few hours, visiting some art installations and storming different clubs, running into people we knew and meeting new friends.  We went over to the Man base to dance with the weary crew and thank them for all their hard work.  On the way to the Depot around two or three in the morning, one of us got pulled over by the BLM and got a ticket for having an open container (beer can) in the car.  That was a bummer, especially since the girl who got the ticket is very cool.

I want to thank our drivers, who cruised with us all night, keeping us safe and happy.  Mel, Snatch, and PNP.  Hot Welder Heather who joined up later.  Miss Dixie for letting us ride on her Caddie.  It was a fun night with the DPW crew, and I was stoked they invited me along.  We disbanded at Carp and said adieu.

I hopped on my bike to head over to the Ashram.  As I was riding down the Esplanade, I saw my friends’ bikes parked near a spire.  40,000 people, all with bikes, and here they were, in the middle of the night, in the middle of nowhere.  I parked my bike and looked around.  They could be anywhere, but I decided to look anyway.  I went into Center Camp and there they were, pupils dilated to the size of saucers, having a great time.  Tory and I yelled in delight when we saw each other, and everybody hugged.  What have you been up to, where did you go, who were you with.  Did you see the thing in the place, etc.  We went outside and ran along bouncing the two rows of lit up green trees in front of the cafe.  It was one of those Burning Man moments you just love.

I heard a radio conversation this afternoon between Chaos and someone else where Chaos was verifying the location of a pick near 6:00 and Evolution, and was told to look for the big bunny ears.  Mobile bunny ears or stationary?  Stationary, and pink.  Past Media Mecca, right by Lanceland.  Copy that, Chaos clear.  Sounded perfectly normal at the time.

It’s 3:00 Thursday and the Man is up.  Headless, but up.  Once they get his head on, they’ll clear the area and light him up at dusk, so he’ll be glowing in neon for everyone to see.  A dust storm just started, and clouds have been rolling in all day, so I don’t know what to expect for tonight.  Could be exciting.

The stairs to the top of the oil derrick at Crude Awakening were finished today.  Now you can climb to the top and check out the city from 99 feet up.  Steve 23 and Juicy are getting married up there tonight- don’t forget to wear white!

I also heard from Andie Grace there are 41,500 people here now and more news stories about the event than ever before.  The arson seems to have sparked a lot of interest worldwide.  Yesterday afternoon I ran into Low Rent the Clown, and he had a new laminate.  On one side was the mug shot of the guy they caught and on the other was a photo of the charred man.  Nice.

-Wanda 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.