Good morning DPW!
That’s how the Cobra Commander opens his 7:30 morning meeting in the lovely al fresco dining area of the Gerlach Community Center, where the work crews take their meals while they are bivouacked in town.
We’re a couple of days into the build, and all systems are go.
The 4.2 miles of Gate road, the long and winding dusty trail that gets you from the highway to the entry gates, was pounded with stakes yesterday, and over the next day or so ropes of flags will be attached.
The Commissary tent, which fits in so well with the circus-y Hall of Mirrors theme this year, was lifted into place yesterday. What a bear. Of course there was more pounding – this time 3-foot long steel stakes that hold the tent to the ground. We got to see who could wield a sledge, and the best roustabouts (those people as yet unattached to crews) were quickly recruited by other teams.
Sledgehammers play an unusually large role in the early days of the build. Those things are heavy, as you know, and just to make things interesting, people will hold sledge-tossing contests during break hours. Some prefer the spin and toss technique, others the pure power move of the underhanded toss. The definitive contest will be held after the last Spire is put in the ground, and we’ll handicap the field as we go along.
Today the intersections of the city will be laid out. “Fifteen hundred more stakes,” Booya said as he put out a call for help. Around the playa, the king posts at Center Camp are up, and the beginnings of the Depot are taking shape. The Heavy Equipment yard already looks in midseason form.
There are a couple of points to be made about all this.
The first is that if you miss a day, much less two, you will be stunned at the amount of work that gets accomplished in your absence. Craig, an EMT doing his first build, was astonished at the Commissary tent-raising. “These people are maniacs,” he said. The funny thing was, eventually he couldn’t help himself and he jumped in to hold support poles and ratchet lines. “Don’t hurt the EMT!” someone yelled.
The thing is, if you’re not around, life goes on without you. If you arrive late, you just do your best to catch up. And we’ve all got our own horror stories of why we got out here late, for the build or for the event. And every one of them is exactly the same: The car broke down. We had too much work to do. The kids had to go to school. WE had to go to school. We got the flu. Whatever.
We were self-absorbedly lamenting our plight of missing Fence this year when Wilde Childe reminded us why he couldn’t get out to the playa a couple of years ago. “I had cancer.”
Oh that. Right.
We’ll shut up now.
(But all of us are happy that he can use the past tense in talking about the cancer.)
There are other people who’ve helped build Black Rock City in the past who aren’t around this year, either. And some of them said they’d gotten a new job, or were going back to school, or had new families to tend to. The point is, their lives are moving in new directions, and that’s good. That’s encouraging. That’s great. There’s a big wide wonderful world out there, but Burning Man sometimes has a way of making you forget about that.
So to all of the people who’ve moved on, we say good luck, godspeed, and we’ll miss you but we understand.
And the other point to be made about the incredible speed of the build is this: EVERYthing happens in warp speed out here. Things move in a blur. One day caroms into the next. It’s easy to forget to stop and take it all in, and if you don’t do that, you’ll miss it.
We were struck by this yesterday, when we saw the beginnings of the city taking shape. There are just skeletons of structures around now, but in another week, they’ll all be in place, and roaring with business. Electricity and wireless and food service will be almost taken for granted, and the artists will begin to arrive to build their big statements in the desert.
And remember, there was nothing here but a bunch of flags only three days ago.
So if you don’t stop and look around, the next thing you know, it’ll be time to leave. You’ll miss it.
One of the things we do in the offseason is take pictures at weddings. I always tell couples beforehand to remember to stop, look around, forget about me and take a mental picture of what’s happening. Everything will be coming at you so fast, and so much attention will be focused on you, if you don’t take moments now and then to really look at what’s happening, really feel it, it’ll all wash over you like a wave. And by the end of the night, you’ll wonder how it could be over so quickly.
It’s like that here.
There is such a furiousness to get all the things done. Everyone is laser focused on making it happen. Heads down, moving forward, what needs to happen next?
But now and then people do seem to remember to stop and take it all in. Pope Phabulous was walking around the trailer lot last night, looking up at the sky. “There’s another one,” he said. It was another comet. The annual Perseid meteor shower is peaking this week, and we can’t imagine a better place to be able to see it. The nights are moonless, there’s very little ambient light, and the stars are splattered all over the inky black sky.
“Yeah, the Milky Way looks so thick,” we said to Pope, trying to get all specific and analytical.
“I’m just looking up and taking it in,” he replied.
How about some more pictures from the day?