Under the Big Top

By noon, the water trucks were back, trying to keep the playa dust free

With Sunday night’s rain quickly fading to memory, the all-clear to go back to work on the dried-out playa came a little after 11 on Monday. Temperatures were cooler, but only slightly. The hot sun brought dust back to Haul Road by noon, and the water trucks were sent to tamp it down again.

Rainstorm one day, hot dry dust the next. Such as it ever was.

In midafternoon, an all-hands call went out on the radio – the commissary crew needed help raising their tent. They were already behind by a day, after a rip in one of the panels scuttled an effort the day before.

If all goes according to plan (but honestly, out here that’s asking a lot), the first meal will be served on the playa Tuesday night. The troops that are bivouacked in Gerlach will begin their move to the playa for the rest of the season.

But before that happens, they’ll have to have a place to eat, and that’s where the commissary comes in. During the preseason, about 400 people are served at every mealtime. During the week of the event, when assorted other support staff come looking for chow, Spectrum catering and the commissary crew will see 2,000 people roll through for each breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Maybe not so surprisingly, the tent-raising required a lot of sweating, grunting and sledge-hammering. Oh, and some heavy equipment, too.

Tent-master D’Art said he and Top Shelf might have to spend an all-nighter to get the sides of the tent in shape for tomorrow, but it’ll all get done.

But this might be a story best told in pictures, so here we go:

The first thing you have to do is get the first side of the tent in place



And once one side is lifted, you have to tighten all the lines.


… and that’s not an easy task




And after you get the first side up, you walk around and do the other side


And when the sides are done, you get one of the ends


And you have to make sure the poles are straight
And after all that, you have to carry the heavy center poles into position so they can be lifted with a VR



And then Cars Are Real starts to lift the poles

And while he lifts one pole, you have to keep the other pole out of the way


Then it’s time for the second pole
And when you get it all lined up, you’re in good shape
And later, the sides will go up, and your tent will be ready to get a floor. And then a whole lot of people.



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.

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