Chaos, who runs the heavy machinery yard, made a stunning announcement on the second day of the building of Black Rock City.
“We’re all set and ready to go,” he said. “Just tell us what you need.”
Heavy Machinery has one of the biggest setups out here, and the fact it was all squared away within a day of everyone getting here was nothing short of amazing. Sure, there are still fine details being worked out, and the camp will continue to take shape over the course of the build, but the fact that they were in place and rarin’ to go by the second day is an incredible achievement.
This is Chaos’s first year of running the whole show. Last year, he was connected to three radios at a time when he was the main dispatcher. He knew where every piece of equipment was, and where it was going, and what time it needed to be there. You get the feeling he still knows all that stuff, but he’s not the radio voice of the operation anymore.
And it’s quite an operation. There are trucks and lifts and towers all lined up in the yard. How many? Glad you asked:
— four reach forks
— six boom lifts
— four skid steers
— two ride-on trenchers
— one walk-behind trencher
— nine scissor lifts
— one backhoe
— three hysters (big fork lifts)
— forty light towers
The Heavy Machinery camp has shipping containers that have been remodeled so that crew members can live in them. “It’s a safety issue,” Aristotle was saying. “If an operator has heat stroke, they’re going to kill someone.” So the containers have air conditioning, and they’re quiet, and you can get some sleep there.
There are 33 people in the Heavy Equipment squad overall, and they’re all kept hopping. There are camps to build, art to lift, trenches to dig … all the things necessary to get the city off the ground.
But it’s not only an equipment yard, it’s also a theme camp, right there where the Esplanade meets Ring Road. There will be flame-poofers out front for the event, and during the build, the lounge entertains visitors just about every night. There’s a well-stocked bar, and because this is a gift economy, your money is no good there.
Stinky Pirate has been around Heavy Equipment since … well, since before there was a Heavy Equipment department. He came out to his first Burn in 1996 (I paid $65 for the only ticket I ever bought,” he says.)
He had left the playa that year and was getting ready to ship out on a sailing gig when he got a call from Will Roger, one of the founders of Burning Man and one of the people most responsible for setting up the organization the way it runs today.
“He asked what I was doing and said they needed help cleaning up,” Stinky says, so he went back out and stayed for weeks. The next year, he came out as a part of the DPW crew and set up the Center Cafe.
The year 2000 was the first year that Ron Garrison’s big, beautiful tent went up, and Stinky’s experience as a rigger was very relevant to the project. “In a lot of ways it’s a giant sail,” Stinky says. That first year, they had to adjust the tension on the inner and outer rings every day, reacting to what the wind was doing. “We’d go where (the posts) were screaming the loudest,” he says.
Now, Heavy Equipment is functioning at incredibly high efficiency, and that’s a reflection on Chaos. He hit the ground with a plan, put it in place, and now it’s a matter of carrying it out. And he does it with a calm, businesslike professionalism that can defuse situations, rather than inflame them.
In a lot of ways, Heavy Machinery is setting the pace for how fast Black Rock City is being built. Although there’s a lot of equipment, is has to be used right to get the most out of it. And for two weeks now, it seems as though there hasn’t been a call the Heavy Machinery folks couldn’t answer. Just the opposite really: It’s more like they’re saying “Let us know when you’re ready to do something, because we’re ready to roll.”