The Commissary tent went up yesterday, and the DPW crew will soon be taking their three squares a day there.
The raising of the tent is the biggest communal work effort after the fence. An all-hands radio call went out just after breakfast; it was time to get this sucker up.
Like so many things (and people) out here, the tent has a checkered past. Back in the late ’90s, it was owned by a truly raucous traveling show, Copper Lingus (if I got the name right). Hayseed, who runs the Commissary, was talking about the things that went on there, and Burning Man sounded like Sunday School in comparison. Wild. Crazy. And now pretty hazy. It sounded a little like the ’60s; if you could remember them, you weren’t really there.
The tent is a bit of an anachronism these days. It’s decidedly old school, and more than a little tattered around the edges. A crew spent the better part of Tuesday morning patching holes in the canvas. Meanwhile, the catering service on the playa, Spectrum, had their four huge pop-up tents squared away by Tuesday afternoon, with a crew of only four doing the heavy lifting.
The Commissary tent, in contrast, needs as many people to put up as you can muster. Stakes and rebar need to be pounded, the four center poles have to be positioned in place with the help of a sledgehammer, and four or five people need to be pulling for all they’re worth to maintain tension before each of the tie-downs can be knotted. It’s a bear.
It’s a funny thing about eating in the Commissary: there is always bacon. Every morning, bacon. This is not a bad situation, and a point of pride for Shelly. “Bacon’s my thing,” she said. The other morning, while she was out on the playa and the bacon was being cooked at Bruno’s back in Gerlach, she said she could smell it. “I thought they were screwing with me!” she said. “Did someone bring some kind of spray out here?” But no, it was just that the wind was right and she could pick up the scent a good seven miles away.
It’s the second year for Spectrum at Burning Man. It’s a Texas firm, and Shelley says this event has become her favorite. “It’s about the people,” she said. “Other places, people load up their plates and they wind up throwing half their food away. … Here, there isn’t a scrap left. And they’re all shy when they ask if they can have more. Of course you can! That’s what it’s there for!”
The affection is mutual. Last year at the end of the event, some DPW folks made up a poster and everyone signed it to show how much they loved Shelley and her crew. “That’s on my wall right now,” she said. “It’s why I’m back. I love it here.”
We love you too, Shelley. And not just for the bacon.