Here It Comes

Burning Man is pretty much inevitable at this point. There’s no stopping it now. Ready or not, here they come.

All things considered, we’re in a remarkable state of readiness. Ice sales have begun, the Man Base crew is hoping to wrap things TONIGHT (which is early), and Black Rock City in general has become the world’s largest yard sale (Hyperbole warning #1).

The semi-official end of the work season arrived yesterday, as crews from all over arrived to place the so-called “last spire” just off the Esplanade.

Like everything else, the occasion has become much bigger than it used to be. Now folks from all over the playa come to the 4:20 placement to watch as the Oculus from Survey is erected, and a janked-up spire is encircled within.

But that’s just the start of things now. The Shade crew puts up shade. The HEaT crew throws a car onto the pile. The power crew trenches a hole around the site (for no apparent reason). There are drinks and hijinks and spray paint. And it is all topped off with a sledgehammer-tossing contest. Probably three dozen men and women lined up to see how far they could toss a sledge, all in the direction of the Volare, which if hit, wouldn’t look any different than it does now.

Booya tossing the sledge (notice Brukka taunting him from the Volare).

Be Rad! won the contest, with a toss of 101 feet. But his throw was way wide of the target, and there was talk that accuracy will count next year. We’d also suggest that style points be added to the scoring system. [CORRECTION; 5:50 PM Friday: Apparently, my info was bad; I am told now that Bonus won the sledge toss! Apologies!]

The last-spire get-together lasted for almost two hours, whereas in the olden days it might have been a half-hour or so. People would come together, crack a beer, nail crap to the spire, and that would pretty much be that. Everyone would go back to work afterwards.

Maybe in an effort to bring back those not-so-golden days, Chaos scheduled a 5 o’clock meeting after the spire shenanigans. There was no word at press time about attendance numbers.

We are going to go out on a limb and say that you will love the Man base this year. The pagoda is beautiful. The detail work, on both the structure and the Man himself, is breathtaking. You walk into the area and you get goosebumps, it is that special. And the feeling is reverential, almost sacred. It is not even finished yet, but it is already one of our favorites.

Again, we think you will love it.

Notes From All Over: The event hasn’t even started yet, but someone has stolen our bike. It wasn’t a very good one, but it served us well and we had an emotional attachment. … Someone took at least one of the JuJu bags from one of the signs that Mel made, but apparently the bad juju from the act caused a pang of remorse. It was back the next day. … Smoke Daddy was out at the Man Base working on the neon. We wondered if it would extend all the way down the Man’s body, because the view of the Man is at least partially obscured by the pagoda. “Of course,” he said. “There’s only one way to do it – all the way.” … Shinobi worked with the Man Base crew in Reno, and among his tasks was cutting the red wooden tiles that clad the exterior. He cut 400 of them, using three and a half pallets of wood, over two days. … “Talk to your manager” is always a good answer to any question. … Just a reminder: Things are likely to go sideways at any time during Burning Man. You might not like your camp. You might want to go home, or wonder why you came in the first place. Things will not be as you expected. This is normal. And the feeling probably won’t last. … There will be another effort to Black Out Black Rock on Wednesday night at 11 pm. The idea is to turn off the lights of the city and look at the stars. …

A “Fluffer Olympics” is scheduled for tonight in the Ghetto. There will be a cooler-drop competition, lid-tossing, and other events. Prizes are promised. … It’s not known as of this writing whether the Man Base or the Temple will be the tallest structure on the playa this year. The Man stands 40 feet tall, the roof of the pagoda reaches 70 feet, and the spike on top will bring the overall height to about 105 feet. There was talk that the Temple might eke it out in height. …

This is how sheltered a life we have led:  The other night, a general invitation was issued for people to attend a “clear” cocktail party. We thought, oh, cool, like gin and vodka cocktails? Um no, it was actually a “queer” cocktail party, not a “clear” cocktail party. All were welcome, of course. … The Sheverb band played the commissary at dinner the other night. Very good. … The Shade crew set up shop outside the commissary, and they dined al fresco, sitting on their ladders. … Helen “Danger Ass” Hickman is back, working, appropriately enough, with the ASS team (Art Support Services). “It took me three years to break up with the Center Café,” she said. …

Stuart Mangrum has been coming to the playa for so long, he remembers the days that people would just get in random cars to escape bad weather or whiteouts. “It was a great way of meeting strangers,” he said. … The wait to get into Black Rock City was five to six hours on Friday. The hope was that the waits will not get any longer, or may actually decline. … If you haven’t heard, it’s going to be hot. Weekend temperatures are expected to exceed 100 degrees, with a slight cooling early in the week. Nighttime temperatures have been perfect, tho. … Good weather and relatively mild conditions are bad for Burning Man acculturation. People tend to think that it will be nice ALL the time, and it won’t be. …

The very famous foam/bubble camp (which ought to remain nameless here) invited DPW crews to come out early one day this week to get rinsed and refreshed. … If you are a well-heeled individual who is looking to make a contribution to the culture of Black Rock City, the famous soap maker would be an excellent source of inspiration. … Ditto the folks behind the Frozen Oasis. …

Having car troubles on your way to Burning Man is a thing. Water pumps, fuel pumps, entirely blown engines, transmission failures, serpentine belts … everything seems to happen just before you leave or while you are en route. This phenomenon is as real as playa synchronicity, but not nearly as pleasant. …

Here are more pics from the last spire:


And here are more pics from the Man build:


And here are some more random pics:

Sheverb played the Commissary


The Shade crew ate atop … the shade
Playa info has a mural of their most-asked questions


The Department of Mutant Vehicles is ready to roll


It never goes away, not even out here.
Inspiration at the Man Base


Where you can find us


Jordan the muralist


Flash has his trailer empire rolling.
Words to live by
Our art team, Rachel and Johnny the Newbie
All Artica needs is you
The Temple so far


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.

5 Comments on “Here It Comes

  • Tracey Schneider says:

    Amazing stuff. Hope everyone has a fabulous burn. We hope to be there with you next year. )*(

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  • Chango says:

    Dumbest looking man..,,,ever!

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  • tommy says:

    The Man looks great! You can almost see him in there.

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  • lalaplaya palooza says:

    thanks for this little pictorial story about pregateopening.. for those of us who probably will never be able to go (on oxygen and have huge issues with heat too) i really appreciate these little behind the scenes glimpses. i am an artist and so love what happens here. . . maybe there is a burning man somewhere that is not so …burning. i really love the way this all looks though and would be there in a flash if i could.

    i would if i could but i cant so i wont.

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    • candy mandy says:

      There is (has been for a while). They are called regional burns. There is BMorg sanctioned ones as well as a slew of non official ones as well. They happen not only all over the US, but the entire world!

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