August 19th, 2008  |  Filed under Building BRC

out and about

August 19th, 2008  |  Filed under Building BRC

Monday, Aug. 18.

The wind arrived last night, and it didn’t stop all night, or all the next day. And with it came the dust.

It’s been curious to be so relatively windstorm-free for what, 11 days? (counting the off-playa hiatus). Every other time I’ve come out here, there’s always been a whiteout as I was arriving. The first time, I’ve got to tell you, it was pretty unsettling. But it was also one of those moments you don’t ever forget; you don’t forget who you were with, or what you were wearing, or what music was playing, or exactly how you felt.

So coming in and out of Gate road now that the wind is here puts the community imperative on you. Yes, you want to get where you’re going. And you probably want to get there faster than 5 miles an hour. But if you do, you kick up the dust. And the wind carries the dust across the whole camp. So you don’t go faster than 5 miles an hour, and if you DO see someone going faster, you give them the palms up sign out the window, or you hear them get scolded on the radio.

(A little word about the radio. The radio is the only way of communicating out here, other than talking face to face. There are no phones; don’t be silly. So there’s no texting, either, can you imagine? And no IM. But there are radios. Quite a few of them. And there are trunks and channels to route all the conversations. I’ve been on DPW Site channel 4 until today. It’s a great channel. Busy. Important. Vital to the building of the city. But I switched over to Media Mecca today, because that’s more where I belong, really. So goodbye to HazMatt and Playground and Reyposado and Sleep Dep and Big Stick and dozens and dozens of other voices, and hello to Meow Meow and Action Girl and Kid Hack and all the new crew. Nice to be here!)

Every day things happen and you can’t keep up. They put the triangular top of the obelisk up on the Man base today, and I wasn’t there. Last night, they dropped the spiral staircase in the middle of the Temple, and I wasn’t there. Crap. … It’s just like the event week, really. You check out the What Where When booklet and mark it all up with the great things you’re going to do — oh yeah, I DO want frozen eclairs and champagne at 3:30 on Wednesday. Elk dinner? Yes please. Oh, and I really want to go down to that camp where they’re making the cool necklaces.

And then stuff happens and you get distracted and maybe there’s a windstorm, so you duck into a cool-looking dome and there’s a nice crowd at the bar and they’re serving icy margaritas and what the hell, let’s just hang out here for awhile. That’s just how it goes.

So when I went out to the Temple today, there was the staircase, all in place. Brandon, the guy who built it, was there, too, but he had a migraine, and he probably wasn’t enjoying the moment as much as he might have wanted. What, the heat and the dust and wind and the stress, that doesn’t help a migraine? No, he said, laughing a little. So I suggested a Coca Cola, which I’d heard somewhere was good for a migraine. I hope it helped.

The "double-helix" spiral staircase. It weighs 5,001 pounds.

The "double-helix" spiral staircase. It weighs 5,001 pounds.

Because Brandon’s been working every weekend for months and months, and every waking moment for the past two weeks, to see his staircase finally dangling on the end of a crane and being lowered into place in the Temple. “We know it weighs 5,001 pounds now,” Brandon said, because a gauge on the crane tells you how heavy the load is.

Shrine spoke about the power of transformation.

Shrine spoke about the power of transformation.

Shrine was walking around the Temple, too, giving out hits of his very delicious iced tea. “Lots of good stuff in there, too,” he said. Shrine is the artist behind the Temple (but not, he is quick to tell you, the engineer or the architect. “I’m not a math guy,” he said. But he wasn’t being dismissive in the slightest. Just the opposite. He seemed profoundly grateful that there were people around like Tucker, the project director, who could understand his vision and then actually make it happen.

Shrine’s done this kind of thing before. He did the tea house at last year’s Burn, the Tasseograph, and he does lots of other large works. He had a piece at the Glade festival, and the Boom festival in Portugal, and even the House of Blues in Chicago. (“Four months of Chicago winter,” he said. “That was tough.”) But this is the biggest thing, at least in physical dimension, that he’s ever done. Lady Bee called him over the winter and asked if he wanted to take the torch from David Best, and now here is is. Twenty-two years without a day job, and still busy as hell.

He’s had a work schedule like Brandon’s lately. Like, 11 hours a day for two months straight as he’s come down the stretch. And there’s still tons more to do. In the big geodesic dome that I mistakenly took for a chill space the first time I was out there, half a dozen people are zip-tying crushed aluminum cans together, and painting elaborate patterns on wood, and generally getting ready for the transformation.

Palomar and Brandon were out there with the staircase early last week

Palinor and Brandon were out there with the staircase early last week

Everything you’ll see on the Temple is recovered material. By that I mean, it’s stuff that other people have thrown away, or has washed up on the shore. The only exception is the lumber for the poles, and they were harvested in sustainable fashion. But mostly, it’s stuff other people don’t want any more. The discards. The Basura Sagrada, the sacred trash.

“It’s transforming,” Shrine said. “You’re taking what other people have no use for and giving it new life.” Shrine knows the power that the Temple can have. People take things out there all week, things they’d like to put behind them, maybe, or mourn, or try to forget. “There have been women who’ve taken the dress they were raped in and put it out here (to watch it burn),” he said. “They have intentions for a new life.

“The toughest times are when you have to let things go, but it can transform you.”

The drawings Shrine submitted for the Temple project

How it all began: The drawings Shrine submitted for the Temple project

I have a few things for the Temple this year, too, including a couple of photos of my dog, Gracie, a chocolate lab who died in February. The Temple burn is one of the few remaining days of ritual in my life, and I know I’m not alone (not in the belief, and not on that day).

Genevieve was working on a Temple paint project. In a couple of weeks, she'll be pursuing her masters in sociology at the University of New Hampshire. Yeah, typical Burner.

Genevieve was working on a Temple paint project. In a couple of weeks, she'll be pursuing her masters in sociology at the University of New Hampshire. Yeah, typical Burner.

In other news, the Center Camp Cafe continues to rise. In fact, there’s a bit of a changing of the guard going on there now. I was going to say that most of the heavy lifting is finished, what with all the holes dug and the poles placed and the cables strung and the screens hung, and all of it holding rock solid in the steady wind. But that would diminish the work of the Decor people, who’re starting to become the center of all the energy now. But still, you understand how he feels when one of the old crew talks about what’s going to happen next and he says, “You know, all the art s**t.”

All the art s**t. That and more, brother, that and more.

Whiskey Devil and the Decor crew were getting going at Center Camp

Whiskey Devil and the Decor crew were getting going at Center Camp

Marsha, on the right, manages everything that's for sale on the playa -- meaning, coffee and ice.

Sandwich Girl, Dangerass, and Marcia, who manages everything that's for sale on the playa -- meaning, coffee and ice.

25 Responses to “out and about”

  1. Joy Says:

    Thank you John. I am living vicariously through you…now that I can’t be there. Hug all the playa peeps from me…I miss them all.

    Report comment

  2. Chango Says:

    This blog has been a wonderful part of my day every day. I can’t wait until I can take the time and space in my life to be part of the set-up crew.

    Report comment

  3. Linzama Says:

    This playa journal is awesome! Thank you so much for all your wonderful posts. Monday can’t get here soon enough. I’ll see you all soon!

    Report comment

  4. Richard Dahl Says:

    It has been awesome watching the BRC come top life.. I was out there on July 25th just to see what it looked like with out the thousands of people and wow.. and to see it going up each day on your blog is totally super..
    Thanks. can’t wait till Monday to see it all in person.. and up close ..

    Report comment

  5. Kat Says:

    I agree with Joy. Im slightly living vicariously through reading others’ experience while I regroup for 2009. Anyhow, the lack of communication besides face to face is rather comforting and a feeling I like. Nice to be disconnected for one week and just see what is in front of you– who you meet, random experiences to treasure.

    Report comment

  6. steve boyett Says:

    I can only imagine that writing this blog is sometimes the last thing you want to do after a hard day of this, but I want you to know that I really enjoy it. It reminds me of the work that goes on to make this happen (you mean it wasn’t just *in* the desert to begin with?), and builds my anticipation. Thanks so much for being a conduit for the keeping us aware of something many take for granted.

    Report comment

  7. Anna Bo Says:

    I’m so excited I can barely stand it….only 4 more days until I head “home”. Thank you so very much for the blog — it gets me more excited (as much as possible considering I’m already excited beyond explanation) each and every day. I crave the calm of my soul and the dust in my…well, everywhere.

    Report comment

  8. Chango Says:

    Thank you everyday for your valuable insight into the construction of our home!!!

    Report comment

  9. emperor bunny Says:

    I’m not heading out there this year, but am in spirit. I wish you all the best time ever.


    Report comment

  10. Thunder Says:

    So that’s Whiskey Devil! Yay! See you soon! Curley you RULE>

    Report comment

  11. Karuna Says:

    thanks for the writing, and the details it makes me miss the playa even more this year, but if I was getting ready to go, or was already there, I wouldn’t be reading this, so thanks for the depth! I loved reading more about the temple artist/builder. I can’t wait to see the evolution of this year’s temple, which I always feel is the heart of the playa.

    Report comment

  12. Mark Says:

    This blog is so awesome!
    Thank you so much for keeping it up – it keeps the fire burning!

    Report comment

  13. Josh Says:

    Wow, so wonderful to see the Temple crew again – Shrine, Palinor, Brandon, someone painting a skillion little dots. And the stairs – in the air! Badass. Rock on guys, we’ll see you out there next week!

    Report comment

  14. Blair Golson Says:

    Senor Curley,

    I’ve read all your blog postings and they’ve left me breathless with anticipation for the burn. I woke up this morning at 6 am thinking about glitter glue, moved on to Poly Paradise, and then found myself unable to fall back asleep — giddy at the prospect of all that’s to come.

    Thank you, thank you for your updates. They’re, like, the best foreplay, I’ve ever known.

    Report comment

  15. Paula Says:

    Thank you for the photos of all the hard work that goes on out there. I’ve been attending since 97 and can not attend this year. Seeing the photos and hearing the stories makes me feel like I’m there. Keep up the great work.

    Report comment

  16. Ladydi Says:

    You write with such clarity and fierce reality the experience of returning to the playa. Thank you for these quiet snapshots and lyrical encounters. I am ready to come home…

    Report comment

  17. Lisa Says:

    THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU. Love reading the blog and it is truly amazing what you all do for the entire community, and you are right, we really have no idea how hard you are all working, but reading this is really enlightening, inspiring and we are grateful.

    Report comment

  18. rock steady Says:

    rock on jcurley.
    great post! i’ll be back in under 18 hours after a 4 day hiatus from building the temple. i left just as the staircase was being strapped to the cranes. what was i thinking?!?!? i was there for the raising of the other pieces…can’t wait to work on it again.

    Report comment

  19. Crash the Amir Says:

    wow. this will be my first Burning Man. And I am SO impressed with all the work that goes into it! though I am already sick of the word “playa”…kind of like in women’s communities where everything was “intentional”…Can’t wait to see you!

    Report comment

  20. Genevieve Says:

    hi, dear. thanks for the glorious pictures and documentation of our burn and our temple. i got back to the east coast just as i assume the man was burning last night…the temple building was one of the most magical experiences of my life…i grieve as all of you continue to be there this evening to burn the temple we’ve created in love.

    kisses and love for the rest of this year’s magic….genevieve

    Report comment

  21. Palinor Says:

    Brandon and I want to thank you so much for including us in your journey of Burning Man. Many people came up to me on playa and said they saw me on your blog. We are so glad that you enjoyed the temple. It was a joy to have you as our daily visitor. Please keep in touch!!!!
    much love
    palinor and Brandon

    Report comment

  22. Karen Says:

    Brandon is my son, reading this was very special. Of course all of Grants Pass Oregon will see it now!

    Report comment

  23. Darryl Ferrucci Says:

    Who are you? I mean, who the f*ck are you?! I mean that in the friendliest way. I’m having a long cruel decompression, 1 week out, & your writings on the building of BRC are beautiful, & very helpful as I land. Nice stories & pix, thanks. I’m Darryl, & I don’t have a playa name. I had doubts this year, felt like maybe I should stay hunkered down in the default world & get some bills paid & get some shit together. Thank god I came to my senses, & went out to “the event” for my fifteenth time. I was well rewarded. I’ve been lazy, haven’t made anything on the playa since 99, but next year I’m coming out early to help build. So write to me, I want to meet you. darryl here: darryl (at) . And you can see some of my off-playa art at

    Report comment

  24. Cheap home insurance quotes >> Tips on getting home insurance quotes ... Says:

    ..]another interesting source of tips on this issueis ,,..]

    Report comment

  25. Says:

    These pads can also be used to provide support
    to your back. These sorts of pharmacies can be found independently, within grocery merchants
    and drug retailer chains. Hormones work by binding to specialized areas of cells known as receptor sites.

    Report comment

Post a Comment

The comments section will be moderated for the benefit of all readers and at the sole discretion of the editors. Our comment policy is here.