king posts

how we began the night
how we began the night

I’m told the raising of the “king posts” used to be a pretty big deal.

The king posts are the 11 big beams that hold up much of the rest of Center Camp. The whole shebang is really a stationary sail, Devo told me, and he oughta know. He’s not only been working on the Build for years, but he also knows his way around boats. (He’ll be teaching disadvantaged children the joys of sailing when the Burning Man event his finished.)

So last night, after the big barbecue at the Saloon hosted by Camp Q (and oh god was it good: ribs, chicken, steak, mashed potatoes … completely fantastic. Absolutely delicious. And  they worked liked dogs for four hours to  feed the DPW crew after another back-breaking, sun-baking day of labor. The lines for the food sucked, but hey, even the liquor was free, and what’s wrong with that? Nothing.)

laying them out
laying them out

So after the big feast, we went back out to the playa in the gathering gloom. The sun was already down, and the big big sky had all those shades of pink and purple and blue that make a light show even before the first generator is fired up.

There was a time, Joe the Builder and Niko were telling me, that the raising of the beams was a pretty major deal. Everyone would be partying, and after each post was laid in the ground, it’d be time for another round. That didn’t sound too bad, honestly.

But last night, no. There was only a pretty small crew out there in the gorgeous night. There wasn’t a hint of wind or dust as Joe and Niko and Big Stick and Devo and Blondie and Jamie and me went about digging the holes and distributing the beams and then hoisting them into place. Let’s put it this way: There was plenty of work to go around. And me, being merely Picture Boy out here, I’m not much good at anything except shoveling and pulling and pounding. I don’t have the skills that the DPW people have. (And as Nikko likes to say, DPW’s reputation has come  a long way. “You can say it stands for “Doing Professional Work” now,” he said leaning on a shovel.

digging that hole
digging that hole

We finished about midnight and then hit the Jameson’s pretty good  (thanks Nikko!) and chased it with maybe a couple of PBRs. The quarter moon had already turned orange and then sunk below the horizon before some of us headed back to Gerlach.

That was an adventure, too. More than a little on the trippy side, if you want to know the truth. There aren’t many lights out on the playa yet. Two, to be exact: The ones set up near Center Camp so we could work, and the flashing red tower of Johnny on the Spot.

But you know what? Trying to get from the red blinking light all the way back out to the highway in total darkness with no road to follow, and with the headlight on my scooter putting out about as much light as your average LED penlight … well, it took awhile. Plus, the tires on the scooter aren’t really meant for playa dust. There was plenty of rocking and rolling.

But we made it.

the last one goes in
the last one goes in
done, baby
done, baby

About the author: John Curley

John Curley has been Burning since the relatively late date of 2004, and in 2008 he spent the better part of a month on the playa, documenting the building and burning of Black Rock City in words and pictures. John is a longtime newspaper person and spent many years at the San Francisco Chronicle, where he was a deputy managing editor in charge of Page One and the news sections of the paper. Since leaving the Chronicle in 2007, he was a contributing editor on Blue Planet Run, a book about the world's water crisis, and for the past two years has been a lecturer at UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism. He has also started an event and editorial photography business, and is also working on a book about the "Ten Dollar Doc" from Arco, Idaho, which will make a lovely film someday.

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