Is it hot enough for ya?

Joe the Builder checked on the Center Camp crew

Ok, so the word for today was hot.

I mean, hot hot.

I mean, really really goddamn hot. And you know what? It’s cooled off since yesterday.

Yesterday it was 108 degrees in the shade. Some say 109, some say 107, so we’ll go with the average. It was hot yesterday, and it was hot today. Sun beating down on your head and shoulders hot, and oh by the way, there is no pool. No beach.


There were warnings at the DPW meeting this morning to watch out for each other. “If one of you breaks yourself, the whole crew suffers.”

So the word went out that electrolytes were available, and to watch out for each other, and to watch for the signs of heat exhaustion. The question was put to the assembled group: What ARE the signs of heat exhaustion?

“Irritability!” someone shouted, irritably.

Of course, it might not just be heat exhaustion that causes irritability. I mean, this is a group of people who labors all day long in the sun, and again I mean realllly labors — digging, pounding, dragging, hammering, bending, you name it — and then at night carries on whole lot more. There might be a few PBRs consumed. There might be some Jameson quaffed. There also might be stories told in the morning about puking the night before.

And yet there they all are at the morning meeting, getting word about what’s on tap for the day. At 7:30 in the morning, and that’s AFTER breakfast. This is a tough crew.

The base of the Man has sprouted some funky spikes.

Every day it starts to look more and more like there’s a big deal going on in the desert. You come out of Empire at night now, and you can see the line of lights out there in the middle of the desert floor where there wasn’t anything before. A city is taking shape. … It’s just a shell of what it WILL be, of course, but already it’s a whole lot of light where there wasn’t any before.

And in the daytime, you can see the line of tents and trucks and RVs and STUFF out on the desert floor. There’s something big about to happen, you can tell, even if you’ve never heard of Burning Man.

It should go without saying by now, but we’ll say it again anyway. The sheriffs are lying in wait for you, so SLOW DOWN when you come through the small towns. I saw another car pulled over outside Empire yesterday afternoon. Hi, welcome to Empire. That’ll be $200 or whatever. Seriously. Watch the speed limit signs.

And if you’re coming out to the playa at night, watch for a bunch of other stuff, too. Like, kamikaze jackrabbits and field mice. Well, watch for them, but I wouldn’t recommend swerving to avoid them. The highway has brutally steep shoulders, and it’s not worth flipping your car for the sake of a jackrabbit who needs a lesson in Darwinism. But there are a lot of critters out there, including coyotes, too. But the coyotes are a lot smarter; they’ll be slinking off into the shadows by the time your car headlights catch up with them.

Bacon is served pretty much every morning at breakfast. I’ve taken to eating it pretty much every morning. For the SALT content, of course! Oh, and maybe the protein. Bacon and fruit. Breakfast of champions.

DA and Photo Mike haul a spire between the Temple and the Man. What? You thought they had machines for this?

So another big topic at the morning meeting, besides the heat, was  the cellphone situation.

What you might have heard by now is actually true. There IS cellphone service on the playa. It’s not just in Gerlach. It’s also available out in the desert, at least some of the time.

We were talking to Camera Girl, and she said a private outfit leased some land out near the Frog Pond and has installed a tower that is providing service to the playa. It has nothing to do with Burning Man. The Burning Man people are not behind it.

There were a lot of boos and hisses when Logan said he heard his phone making the familiar sound that he had a text message. “I looked down, and I had four bars!” he said. Someone in the crowd shouted, “I had five!” Someone else shouted, “Call me later!”

But it’s an interesting development, obviously. … You are no longer officially “out of reach” when you come to Burning Man. You can’t tell the office, or your significant others, “Hey, sorry, you won’t be able to get a hold of me.”

Of course, you have to remember that no one comes to Burning Man for “a solitary experience,” as E put it. I mean, if you want to get away from it all and be out of reach, this is not the place. This is a very social setting.

But still, cellphones will change everything. (There’s a lot of thought that after the first couple of hours after the gates open, the service will be overwhelmed and no one will be able to use the phones anyway, so it may be much ado about not much.)

I thought  Camera Girl had a pretty good common-sense take on the whole thing when she said, “My phone has an off button, and I know how to use it.”

Little Bash was having a good time out near the Temple

And I thought Blondie, from the Center Camp crew, had a good point too when he said that if you’re always able to be in touch with your group out here, if you never get lost and find yourself wandering around all alone, you’ll never have some of the unbelievably random but happy coincidences that happen when you’re forced to be off by yourself.

And I do think it’ll be weird if there are people walking around yakking on the phone. And I do NOT want to read Twitters or Tweets or Facebooks or anything else about what happens out here. I would not look on that as a good development at all. Annoying in the extreme for those people here and for the people back at home, IMHO.

Tomorrow night (Saturday) is Early Burn, and everyone’s getting kind of excited. It’s Burning Man the way it used to be, at least in my imagination. A bunch of improvised wooden structures … oh, say, like something someone might have built in their back yard and hauled down to the beach … will be torched for the general entertainment of the several hundred or so people who are out here now.

It’ll be small. There will be no giant sound systems. You might even have met the people standing nearby before. It will be on a decidedly smaller scale than what happens two weeks from Saturday. (Holy crap. Two weeks? Two more weeks before the Man burns? That is both an incredibly short period of time, and also an absolute eternity …)

Anyway. The Little Man burns (or the Little Men and Women and Other Stuff burns) tomorrow night. There will also be a costume party. You are supposed to come dressed as your favorite DPW character. (There are no lack of them.) So have some fun with that.

And one final word: when you see the pyrotechnic people running … it would be wise for you to start running, too.

Burn it down.

Dylan M. Blackthorn waved a flag at the Spire crew to line them up right

About the author: John Curley

John Curley (that's me) has been Burning since the relatively late date of 2004, and in 2008 I spent the better part of a month on the playa, documenting the building and burning of Black Rock City in words and pictures. I loved it, and I've been doing it ever since. I was a newspaper person in a previous life, and I spent many years at the San Francisco Chronicle. At the time I left, in 2007, I was the deputy managing editor in charge of Page One and the news sections of the paper. Since then, I've turned a passion for photography into a second career. I shoot for editorial, commercial and private clients. I've also taught a little bit, including two years at UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism and a year at San Francisco State University. I live on the San Mateo coast, just south of San Francisco in California.

15 Comments on “Is it hot enough for ya?

  • Jessi Leary says:

    Thank you! Thank you! THANK YOU so much for being out there and making it happen. There is no way you guys get nearly enough appreciation for all the long days you spend making the city work for all the crazy kids that will be driving their way out to the playa in the coming week.
    You are appreciated!
    Take care of each other out there.
    We’ll see you soon.

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  • Mike Hedge says:

    epic shots John! great info and recap of the activities. wish I was there!


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  • ans says:

    anybody know how to build a giant cell phone jammer?????

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  • THE JUICE! says:

    A warm buzzing fills my heart when I think two weeks away.

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  • suzanne says:

    109???? omg. i heard it was going to be cool out there. that’s just nutty. sweet to see the progress. would love to see it from the beginning. one of the coolest things i remember from going before was seeing the city just vanish into almost nothing. amazing.

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  • Kimo says:

    While there may in fact be cellular service ON THE PLAYA this year as confirmed by the people who are actually there, what we don’t know is which provider(s) have service out there. Just because AT&T might, that doesn’t mean that Sprint will, or Verizon or T-Mobile. While this can be great for making arrangements to find your campsite with your campmates, It would be sad to see people walking around with phone to ear, kinda eerie to think about that. So I for one will use my phone to contact my campmates upon arrival, and then turn it off for the remainder of the week.
    As far as the weather goes, the whole pacific northwest experienced some record heat this past week. I was checking temps in Gerlach all week and it would still be 90 degrees at 11:00 PM. But that was then and this is now, and who knows what it will be like in less than 2 weeks when we’re actually there? But one thing is for sure… I can accurately say that there will be a FULL MOON on Friday, September 4th. See you all soon!

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  • Denise says:

    THANK YOU…ONE & ALL!!!!!
    You are much appreciated & loved and I am with you in spirit.
    Great stories and pix.
    See you soon.

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  • Jennifer says:

    Alas, I will not be at Burning Man this year but I’ve been checking daily for your posts John. Thank you! I’m just that much more excited about returning next year.

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  • Scott says:

    Amazing reports, thankyou!

    What do you guys use for electrolytes?

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  • roissy says:

    Which cellphone provider are people getting service on???
    (guess I will find out myself in four days…)

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  • Sonal says:

    Thank you for this. It causesme to tear up- how much love I have for all of you setting home up. The pictures are amazing and my blood is stirring up in anticipation.

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  • Amy says:

    Muchas gracias, John, for sharing your photos and words!

    As for cell phones, Camera Girl’s got it right, and I’m still tellin’ my bosses and coworkers that they can’t reach me (c:

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  • Allen says:

    Love reading this stuff! Thanks for posting… Not sure how I’ll feel watching someone on their bike yakking on a cell phone. Live and let live I guess. The times they are a changin.

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  • zerosomething says:

    I love my iPhone but you can have your own personal no cell cell.
    not that I’m advocating anything.

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  • I love the once fact that no cell phone coverage was available. I say that we keep it that way. I don’t want to lose the freedom of being a city that survives on each other and nothing else outside. I look forward to that. I can also see from pictures that even though the playa is in better bike riding condition than last year, it is still not totally safe. Ride carefully. Can’t wait to see you all.

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