The Man Is Gone, Long Live the Man


Just a brief note for now to report that yes, the Man burned last night, on a gorgeous, windless evening, without a hint of major trouble. All official channels report a beautiful burn.

The beefed-up fire perimeter was staffed with hundreds of extra volunteers, and everyone seemed to realize the importance of getting this done right, and safely. And it was.

We honestly can’t remember a burn week so insanely beautiful. After a big blow on Sunday, the hard-baked playa lost most of its loose powder, making for the smoothest riding surface in many years. The evenings were cool but not chilly, and the days were sunny and bright, without a trace of the haze and smoke that clouded our environment for so many weeks.

It was the kind of week that leads newbies to believe that hey, Burning Man isn’t so hard at all.

And for this week, the conditions were glorious.

The relatively windless nights helped make the spectacularly choreographed drone displays, involving 600 tiny color-changing lights in the sky, mesmerizing and worth the trek to the far playa to witness, though you could see them from just about everywhere. We were reliably told that getting the drones on playa was one of Larry Harvey’s last goals, and we salute the flawless execution. More details about how and why it happened will come in subsequent, more ambitious, posts, but we’ll keep to the facts for now.

Metaphor alert: Last night, the Man was set ablaze even as the fireworks filled the sky, and he was fully engulfed even as the explosions in the sky continued. Soon, giant propane blasts set the

Man Base roaring, but the Man was gone lone before the structure and foundation on which he stood collapsed. We took it as a good sign.

Once the last upright pieces of wood fell into the blaze, the perimeter was released, but instead of there being a mad dash to circle the blaze, most folks seemed to realize that being out right after the blaze was too much like Times Square on New Year’s Eve: too crazy. It was the best time to head back to camp, eat and drink around a fire, and recharge for the late-night adventures ahead. It was lovely and sane.

Tonight the Temple will burn, and no doubt a mood of fiery somberness will pervade. It’s the last official night of the event, before all the hard work of helping the desert return to its natural barrenness will dominate the next days and weeks.

For now, though, it’s enough to know that the Man burned, and to the best of our knowledge, all is well. But there is also the realization that the last Man to bear Larry Harvey’s direct imprint went up in flames last night, the cinders twinkling like stars in the night sky.

Here are some more pics from burn night:




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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