To coin a phrase, boy does time fly when you’re having a good time.
While the rest of the city was out enjoying themselves on the last night that the Man would be standing, crews began getting him ready for the big burn.
You might think that setting the Man afire is nothing more complex than simply setting a torch to the guy, but you’d be wrong. There are a lot of preparations, and they began Friday night in a blowing windstorm that just wouldn’t quit. First the Otic Oasis crew got to work taking down the Pistil , the climbable sculpture in the center of the Man base. We had talked to Gregg Fleishman earlier in the day, and we discovered that he began making sculptures like the Pistil and the Otic Oasis as play structures for the grammar school that his parents founded in Culver City. “It’s not really much different,” he was saying of the Oasis. In case you were curious, it might comfort you to know that the Pistil had been load-tested to withstand 25,000 pounds, so figuring an average weight of about 160 pounds per person, the crew knew that as many as 150 people could be on it at one time without exceeding load. And really, there was no way that 150 people could FIT on it at one time, so things were exceedingly safe.
There was also a special reinforcing plate at the base of the panels at the top of the work that made them both flexible and strong – “It’s the flexibility that’s important,” Gregg said, “because that relieves stress.”
Even as the Otic crew was taking apart the Pistil, other crews were taking down the truly wonderful lighting from the inside of the base. One member of the Man crew told us that it was the first time that Crimson Rose said that she didn’t want to see the base burn. “This should be installed somewhere in Reno,” Brian said Crimson told him. “She’s never said anything like that before.”
Still, the work to get the Man ready to burn went on. After the lighting was taken out, other crews would be installing explosives and accelerants, the better for a big show. Joe the Builder always want to make sure that the Man burns in good time, and we think it’s one of his special pleasures to make sure the fires rage.
Altheus took us up 120 feet in a lift while the work was going on, the better to get a good view of the Man and the scene in general. As we said, the wind was really blowing, and as we looked down, the sand blowing across the desert floor below us looked like water. It became easy to imagine this whole Black Rock Desert under 500 feet of water, as it was a couple of hundred thousand years ago.
It struck us again too, as we watched all the people working on the Man, how short a time it is that everything made here stays pretty. It seems like the Man and the base were finished only days ago, and yet here it was, closed to visitors, never to be seen again in the same way.
This beautiful city is temporal, and the time of its shining is infinitesimally brief.Here are some more pictures from the evening: