August 2nd: The Golden Spike & Office Space

A Day at the Office

The Office I spent most of the day in the Burning Man Office. You may have guessed, this isn’t a typical office. It’s way better. First of all, it’s on Main Street in Gerlach, Nevada, USA. Second of all, it’s got character: two-way radios, Burning Man art, random furniture, boxes of corn and melons, unplugged electronics, and playa pictures everywhere. Most importantly of course, this office is populated by burners. Burners who get shit done.

The place is buzzing with DPW crew, checking in and out on their way to and from the Ranch or the playa. Managers are on the radios, phones, and computers- checking schedules, tracking progress, and coordinating every detail of the event. Mayfield’s figuring out computer stuff and handling new arrivals to Gerlach Estates. (And laughing of course, always the fantastic laughter.) Pearl is organizing First Responder training. Sherry’s running the front of the operation. Evelina’s getting the laminates ready and generally giving the place more sass.

Speaking of Evelina… She’s such a rock star. She met Marian in a bar in Chicago, asked about helping out, and showed up in Gerlach two weeks ago. She looks great, fits in perfectly, and she’s never even been to Burning Man. Awesome.

While I was at the office I filled out the DPW Round Up. This is the document that tells you safety rules, emergency procedures, and orientation information. Also comes with a liability waiver and indemnity agreement punctuated by skulls and crossbones. After all, DPW works with heavy equipment, power tools, table saws, blow torches, arc welders, vehicle engines, toxic chemicals and sharp metal while having to contend intermittently with heat stroke, sunburns, dust storms, dehydration, sleep deprivation, 100-degree temperatures, 12-hour days, and hippies. I’m telling you, they’re badass.

The Golden Spike

At dinner, we were all anticipating the evening’s Golden Spike ceremony. Marian
arrived, and the energy level at Bruno’s rose even more as she went through the room
greeting everyone. She brings an uncommon liveliness with her everywhere she goes, and so many people were glad to see her, including me.

Coyote and the Golden Spike Later in the evening everyone loaded up and headed for the playa. This was not a typical playa arrival though. Cars aren’t going 5 mph in an orderly fashion, careful not to kick up dust in the face of their fellow burners. This is a 90 mph free-for-all. With all manner of vehicles blazing along the spokes of a bicycle wheel toward the hub that is the Golden Spike.

Everyone settled into a wide circle around Coyote, Golden Spike and sledge hammer in hand. He spoke about the importance of this ceremony and the changes in the DPW since its inception ten years ago. How it was crazier and less structured back then, and how different people have left their mark over the years, both on Black Rock City and on the DPW. Will Roger How big of a job it’s become to set up the city and take it down, and how many skilled, dedicated people it takes to make it happen. Coyote took a few solid swings and put the Golden Spike in the ground. He handed the sledge hammer to Marian, and she talked about the cycle of Burning Man. Beginnings and endings, and how it feels to be at this point, before the event starts but on the playa. She mentioned some of the people who have been along for the ride, hit the spike, and handed the hammer to Will Roger. Then Super Dave, Playground, Hazmatt, Cobra Commander, DA, and so on until everyone had a go and the stake was all the way in.

Group hug around sherry Some people had a lot to say, others just tapped the spike and walked away. A few people hit the spike so hard that sparks flew. Sherry spoke so eloquently about being a part of Burning Man and Burning Man being a part of her, that tears were shed and a group hug broke out with her at the core. After the ceremony, champagne was popped and passed around as the sun set over the hills.

Here’s the thing. The Golden Spike is the center of the center, the middle of the Man. The heart of Black Rock City. And it’s in the ground for ’07. The DPW is in the house folks. Tell your friends.


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.