The Build Begins, and a Perfect Storm

The first cut, 2008


Black Rock Station, NV. June 21st, 2008 – Sawhorses are arranged, and the main timber that forms the spine of the Man is hefted into place. Measurements are made, checked twice, and with all eyes upon them, Otto Von Danger and Big Daddy make the traditional first cut. The building of the Burning Man has begun.


As the day progresses, the weather, expected to remain hot and clear all week, takes a turn for the dramatic. A thunderhead moves in from the east, darkening the sky. Metric, who lives in Gerlach year-round and is quite familiar with the unique weather patterns of Black Rock, confidently predicts that lightning will strike to the southeast within a half hour. Fifteen minutes later the ranch is rocked by a long, rolling thunderclap, extremely loud and incredibly close. With it, a heavy rain starts to fall.


The thunderstorm is strong, but relatively brief. Within an hour, the rain has passed and the sky begins to lighten. By evening, all that remains are scattered pools of muddy water on the ground, and a swirl of cotton candy clouds on the western horizon, lit pink by the setting sun. All in all, an unforgettable beginning to our week, and a reminder of the unpredictable beauty of the desert.


Fortunately, the workshop in which we’re building the Man is located inside of a large metal quonset hut, so apart from having to hastily cover some of the supplies that we were storing outside, the sudden weather had little effect on our progress. Today that progress included the design and creation of a jig which we will use to scribe out the Man’s elliptical ribs, the ripping (lengthwise cutting, done with the grain of the wood) of the lumber used to create the Man’s many braces, as well as a lot of general layout.


In contrast to last year’s heroic two-day rebuild during the event, our pace now is still strong and steady, but far less rushed. This allows great attention to paid to each small detail, and the amount of pride with which each Crew member does their job is already becoming apparent. Although we’re all aware that the Man we are building will exist only briefly, we still create it with the utmost regard. Understanding, perhaps, that everything is impermanent, and deserves to be done with mindfulness and honor despite that fact. Or indeed, because of it.



About the author: Aaron Muszalski

Aaron Muszalski

Aaron “Slim” Muszalski has been burning since 1995. As an artist he’s created such notable honoraria projects as Rubber Ducky (2002) and SYZYGRYD (2010). Since 2007 he’s been a member of the Man Crew, the DPW team responsible for creating each year’s Man effigy. After surviving stage IV cancer in 2016 Aaron founded Burning Wish, a community of survivors, caregivers and volunteers dedicated to making Burning Man more accessible to cancer patients and their loved ones. Learn more and help support Burning Wish at

5 Comments on “The Build Begins, and a Perfect Storm

  • daMongolian says:

    I was fortunate enough to see a rare close up image of last years original man, so I could fully appreciate some of the fine work and handicraft that went into making the Man when you have the time to do it right.

    Thank you all for your hard work, and especially the hard work last year, DURING the event.


    Report comment

  • Ghostrider says:

    Each day my excitment grows and the photos of the “Man” in the build progress makes my heart pump even harder. I’m a man that has enjoyed Burningman for only 3 short years but, has become so captured by the ability to share my art, my art car and to meet new friends and begin the joy of escaping the “default” world.

    I so look forwrd to this year and many more….burn on!

    Ghostrider & SassyPants

    Report comment

  • Miranda says:

    Thanks for the post, as carefully written and well wrought as the Man. It’s nice to get this sort of insight- a snapshot into the many aspects and lives that co create that week in the desert we so love.

    Thanks guys!

    Gate Crew

    Report comment

  • Ali_Baba says:

    Great post. Nice to have moments such as these captured, and with style.

    Report comment

  • Comments are closed.