What Do We Do for an Encore?


(photos by John Curley)

(Joe the Builder was having trouble with his radio; holding it up to the sun didn’t help.)

It’s still kind of hard to believe the fence was done in a day. It was a damn triumph. … The good people back in the SF offices updated yesterday’s blog post to point out that yes, the stringing and the tying and the FINISHING of the fence was indeed finished by the late afternoon. ONE DAY.

And I don’t mean to diminish for a second the efforts of the stringers and the tie-ers. There were more than a couple of people at breakfast this morning who were moving pretty slowly. Want to know what they feel like? Try trying doing deep knee bends for seven miles, which is pretty much what the tie-ers had to do after all the stakes were pounded. ..

So where do we go from here? Well, we start it all again, actually. Another early morning breakfast meeting at Bruno’s.  Eat up, then listen up, then pack up your lunch and off you go to  your crew out on the playa.

But it’s different now. The excitement and buzz of the fence is done. Now it’s weeks of work in the sun and dust. Pick up the lumber and move it to where it needs to go. Count the cables. Unload the trailers. And figure out what all those marker flags mean. (“What the f– are all these flags?” as someone yelled to no one in particular.)

The heaviest lifting is going on at Center Camp, the Man, Artica and, for lack of a better term, Electricity Land.

burnblogday2-6It’s strange, really. There are markers all over the place  And if you use your imagination you can KIND of get an idea of what everything is going to look like eventually. But right now there is nothing but open space. The marker flags just indicate where big things are going to go. And eventually, everything will be incredibly tight and you won’t be able to find your way home and one camp will bleed right into the next, but right now … nothing but space and sky and clouds and playa.

Ok. A word about the playa conditions, because everyone needs to know just how hard it will be to ride a bike on the stuff and whether there will be killer dust storms.

(And here’s the scoop: There will definitely be dust storms. It’s summer in the desert, people. There will be dust storms. It doesn’t matter what shape the playa is in, there will be dust storms. So bring your goggles and your masks, and be ready to duck into a friendly dome during the worst of it. You can make the best friends that way.

But ok, the actual conditions: The crust is pretty damn soft to a depth of a couple of inches. When it gets tracked out, and it will get tracked out easily, there will be dust. They were digging a shallow trench over at Center Camp, and the shovel was going 3-4 inches deep with no problem. And then the ground was getting a little moist. So it’s all pretty soft on the surface.

It doesn’t seem like there are a lot of the killer mounds that bring you to a lurching halt when you try to ride your bicycle on it. Out by 3 and 4 o’clock seems to be the thickest.

But you heard it here first: There will be dust.


burnblogday2-7We went out to the Man base to see how things were progressing. We timed our arrival pretty well, as they had just set the first big pole in place. So what’s the base going to look like? “Well, it’s kind of free-form,” Tony said. “Erratic. … Did you see the Waffle a couple of years ago? Kind of like that.”


So we made the point yesterday that you shouldn’t believe anyone who says that it’s all work and no play out here in these weeks leading up to the Event (as they call it.) There was more proof of that in the Black Rock Saloon on Monday night. As Goatboy said, he’d never been in a rowdier bar on a Monday night. (Which made me think of CBGB’s in NYC on Sunday nights, but that’s another story.) The music was blasting, the drinks were strong and the women were … oh never mind.

You should know, though, that the Joker game is still going on. There were five of us who had to pull out our Joker cards at the bar. I’m not going to tell you the rules and regulations here; you have to find out that for yourself. But if you play the game and things go wrong, it COULD  involve pulling down your pants and doing a little dance in front of a roomful of people.

I thought that maybe there might be a game reset at the start of every Burn. But apparently not. Once you’re in, you’re in. And it continues from year to year. Consider yourself warned.


Garth (EasyGoing) is heading up the building of Electricty Land.

More photos on my Flickr site right over here.

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.

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