A little of this, a lot of that, and some more of that other thing

"Embrace" so far, by dawn's early light
“Embrace” so far, by dawn’s early light

A good part of this morning’s morning meeting was devoted to the imminent arrival of the Bureau of Land Management’s law enforcement officers. They’ve bivouacked in Gerlach for now, but they will be a presence on the playa starting tomorrow.

You’ve already no doubt read the excellent advice on the JRS and the Burning Blog about how to have a trouble-free time at Burning Man.  http://www.burningman.com/media/doc/preparation/blm_stipulations/burning-man-closure-document.pdf)

The work crews got a visit from event operations manager Charlie Dolman and Government Relations Liaison Marnee Benson, who were there to go over some of the finer points and to review best practices. There were a lot of questions, and a lot of answers, but maybe the most important message was this: Stay cool. Don’t escalate the situation. If you’re going to get a ticket, the best path is to accept it and live to fight it another day, when you are off the playa and can take advantage of any number of legal resources available to you. One such resource is Lawyers for Burners, a grassroots organization with lots of success representing burners in past years.

Know your rights, to be be sure, and keep your ship tight, for doubly sure. The best way to avoid trouble is not to ask for it. But if you DO have a law-enforcement encounter, stay cool! Be professional! Be a burner! Don’t ruin your time here – if you want to dispute what happened, document your facts and have your day in court.

Of the 400-plus citations issued last year in Black Rock City, nearly all of them were downgraded after the fact.

The clearest path to trouble lies in becoming argumentative or confrontational. Guess what? You’re not going to win that battle. But as Dave X says, it might be helpful to view any law-enforcement situation as an opportunity to display Burner qualities. Who knows what culture change you might facilitate.

There were some interesting and unique hypotheticals discussed, though. Such as, if you have people riding on the roof of your vehicle on a couch, do they need to be wearing seatbelts? More info as it becomes available …


A big day for the big Man

My, what big arms you have

My, what big arms you have

So the Man is big. Very, very big, as we know. His legs are somewhere around 75 feet high, and when upright, the structure will be well over ten stories. And the Man is truly decked out this year. Not only is his external cladding extensive and graceful, but it will be lit from the inside as well as the outside. Mr. Blue and Smoke Daddy are in charge of the lighting, and honestly we can’t wait to see what they’ve dreamed up.

But tomorrow is a very important day. The Man Base crew has been working on the legs while they have been on the ground. Tomorrow they will be lifted skyward, and once they are secured, the torso will be picked up and placed atop his legs. It’s all very tense and high pressure, because a giant 240-ton crane is being brought in for the task. Keep your fingers crossed that the weather cooperates.

Monday was the final day to get ready for the big lift. To that end, the Man’s two enormous arms were attached to the torso, and that lift came off without a hitch. “I’m not worried about this one at all,” Chaos said. “Tomorrow’s the day.”

 “Embrace”-able You

Annie Harper and Rachel Heather Lee Kennison poked their heads out of Omega
Annie Harper and Rachel Heather Lee Kennison poked their heads out of Omega

Matt Schultz, who is building the Embrace project in the far playa, likes to jokingly refer to the heads, Alpha and Omega, which are now perched on top of towers, as Pez dispensers. At this early stage, they do look a little like that, but the skinning project is proceeding, and the closer you come, the more beautiful the figures are.

Yesterday Rachel and Annie were ensconced in Omega’s noggin, working on their murals and lighting and other effects. We couldn’t get a sneak preview, though, because the only way to get there right now is by boom lift.

“We’re trapped up here,” Rachel called down. “We’re like Rapunzel!”

Wait, the Gates Open in How Many Days?

The Fluffers are your friends
The Fluffers are your friends

It doesn’t seem even remotely possible that the gates will open in (gulp) only FIVE DAYS. But the miracle of Black Rock City continues to take shape, despite our (annual) disbelief that it all will come together in time.

To tell you the truth, we miss the good old days, when the first night or two of the event was really low key, and virtually no one had their camp set up yet. You could walk around and talk with people and find out where they came from and how they came to be here.

But there are more and more early arrivers here, and that makes for a better event, and it eases the strain on the roads leading to Black Rock City. But although it might seem that partying is the chief activity leading up to the burn, we can assure you that it is not. People are working here, and working hard.

The Café crew and their Spectrum partners had to deal with DOUBLE the number of people in the Commissary today. Yesterday, you could go to the tent and walk right in; today, there was a line stretching past the hand-washing stations, and just to get a drink meant standing in another line. Yes, yes, we know: these are the problems of the entitled. But we mention them only to point out the complexity of the operation. More Burning Man Project folks came in today, more Media Mecca people, more Rangers, more artists, more of everyone.

Next week the Commissary will be comparatively empty – most folks have camps to eat with, and participants will be bringing all manner of goodies to share.

Um, at least we hope you will. Hi. We’re hungry. Oh and maybe thirsty. Hi.

In the meantime, the Power folks are still working from 8 am till dusk and beyond, the heavy equipment people are rolling 24 hours a day, and the Shade crew is still toiling in the brutish sun.

Helping them all are the lovely and beloved Fluffers, who refill Igloo coolers, offer sport drinks and ice, and generally give relief to a tiring crew. Thank you Fluffers!


Way out in walk-in

Lighting hauls Jonny First Load out into the walk-in camping area
Lighting hauls Jonny First Load out into the walk-in camping area


A portion of the city is set aside every year for walk-in campers. No vehicles are allowed, and the participants who camp there enjoy probably the most beautiful natural setting available at Burning Man. The pounding music and touring art cars and crowds of people are far far away.

For the past several years, Gregg Fleishman, Melissa Barron, Lightning Clearwater and their crew have had a high-profile presence on the playa. Three years ago they had the Otic Oasis in walk-in camping. Two years ago they built another Oasis as well as the Pistil sculpture in the Man base, and last year they built the Temple.

All three installations feature the geometric beauty that was originally inspired by Fleishman’s interlocking pieces of furniture. This year the team is returning to the outer reaches of the city, not only far away from the noise and the crowds, but also the dust. When you are out there enjoying the fabulous desert landscape, often you can look back at Black Rock City and see it enveloped in dust.

It’s a journey to get out there, but one absolutely worth making.


Music and more music

Sunday services at the First Church of the Jerk
Sunday services at the First Church of the Jerk

Yesterday was Sunday, and seeing as how there are many far-flung members of the Jerk Church on hand, services were in order.

The Jerk Church is an outfit made up of people who enjoy music, each other, and a beverage. It started in West Oakland, at Muse’s home, where, according to Minx, “We used to just be hanging out in her back yard. It was basically us, a bottle of Jameson’s, a 12-pack and shenanigans.” And there was the singing and music playing.

Their more familiar songs include, “The Worst Day Since Yesterday,” “Wild Rover,” and “Dirty Old Town.” One of our favorites in their repertoire is Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues,” because we just love the line, “But I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die.”

There are musicians and non-musicians in the group, but everyone is encouraged to sing and play. Miss Roach, one of the group’s shining lights, taught herself to play the accordion and now can lead groups of 50 in rousing choruses.

More than a couple of the Jerks also work the Gate, Perimeter and Exodus crew here in Black Rock City. You can usually spot them by their skull and crossbones, but down at the Gate, they’ll be dressed in costumes and clown makeup on opening night. The Gate’s bar is called The Black Hole, and that was the site of Sunday services.

Some of the members of the That Damned Band and some from Bobby Joe Ebola and the Children McNuggets sat in with the Jerks, and some others, too. We thought it was a nice gesture of solidarity, and we mentioned it to Sam X, of That Damned Band.

“Well, they play a lot of our songs,” Sam said with a smile. Plus, That Damned Band, like the Jerks, goes out of its way to help people express themselves with music. We got to talking about how the gathering was a great intersection of DPW and Gate people, who once wouldn’t have much to do with each other. It had always been a Sharks vs. Jets, Yankees vs. Red Sox kind of thing. But that’s been changing for awhile.

Sam told us a story of driving along with Coyote one day, and they saw a mini caravan of janky playa vehicles. There were DPW and Gate people aboard, and they were singing.

“You did it!” Sam quoted Coyote as saying. “They’re singing instead of fighting!”


Some more pics from the day:

At least four ravens have been seen flying across the desert, sometimes landing to scavenge about
The Temple so far
The Black Rock City work site by dawn’s early light
Much of the “Embrace” project will be solar powered
The “Embrace” working model
A dangerous perch
How can you have a bad day when this woman is your boss? You can’t.
Matt Schultz and Joe Olivier at the "Embrace" site
Matt Schultz and Joe Olivier at the “Embrace” site
Bruiser tightening the rigging for lifting the Man’s arm



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.

7 Comments on “A little of this, a lot of that, and some more of that other thing

  • Willow S says:

    Wow. Just. Wow. And “thank you” does not seem adequate enough

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  • Marc Evans says:

    What Willow said. Humbled and grateful for your updates, John. I hope the playa provides us with the opportunity to meet while we’re there.

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  • Rio says:

    I nominate John for the next Pulitzer Prize in Journalism.

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  • Daniel says:

    At which point I sadly have to stop reading the blog to avoid art spoiler photos. If the org has late breaking important news you’ll just have to communicate it through safer channels.

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  • Clarity says:

    I love that the man seems to have clothes this year! but does that mean he’s been naked all this time? Or even worse, was the Man shirt cocking?

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  • Internet Bunny says:

    Wow! People doing their jobs… I hugged my garbage man today and thanked him for building this city.

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  • Hedley Jones says:

    Total WOW….this will be my 8th year in a row ..I have been coming to the Burn 2007-13…this is the first time I have watched the city being built..this has truly become home for me….most people who come don’t realize just how much work is done before they come through the gates…this note is just to say thank you to all the people who work so hard to make this life changing event happen……. HAPPY BURN 2014.

    P.S I’m also getting married at the Temple at 6:am Thursday morning if anyone wants to come.

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