look, ma, a city …

Center Camp is going up fast. Really fast.
Center Camp is going up fast. Really fast.

First, an admission.

I was off the playa for most of two days. The details are boring; just mark it down to the demands of the default world.

Still, you can tell the people who’ve been out of the dust and the sun for even a little while. Their eyes aren’t as red, their clothes aren’t as dirty and their mental state isn’t quite as blasted as those who’ve been out in it each and every day.

So I’ve become one of “those” people now, and it’s not a happy thing.

Everything got bigger when I was away. Three of the platforms for The Man were constructed, and one of them was even hoisted on top of another one, creating a second level. Eventually, there will be three levels, each of them 16 feet high. And there’ll be spiral staircases inside that you’ll be able to walk up  when the the construction is finished.

The platforms for the base of the Man have been assembled
The platforms for the base of the Man have been assembled

“It’s like an obelisk,” said Brian as he squinted into the sun and worked to make the fittings just right. “You know, like the Washington Monument. Or a big prick.”

Oh yes. A mighty big prick.

Center Camp is also taking shape fast. The headers are in place, and the crew even finished the cabling by Wednesday. By Thursday, the netting was going up for shade. Believe me, you will appreciate the shade. And you simply have to marvel at the work ethic of the Center Camp crew. They are just unstoppable. “Everyone on the crew is trying to impress me,” Joe the Builder said. Whatever the reason, things are  ahead of schedule.

Out a little further at the Temple, more of the pieces have arrived. Huge wooden poles will support giant walkways are lying prone in the dust, waiting for a three-crane lift later in the week. There will also be a “double-helix” circular staircase in the middle, the handiwork of Brandon, who’s got years of experience building stairways and took a lot of that knowledge with him out to the desert.

A detail shot from the decor that will grace the Temple
A detail shot from the decor that will grace the Temple

ALL the crews are working hard so that 40-some thousand people will have a safe and sane place to play when they get to Black Rock. Sure, there’s a lot of history behind taking the Burn to these proportions, and you have to wonder how long it can continue to grow. But for now, we’ll stay in the present and what’s going on out here right now. And we’re amazed.

And just so you know, we’re writing to you from a corner table in Bruno’s. My little patch  of Gerlach lost its wifi signal a couple of days ago, and that, combined with my off-playa time, have slowed down the posts. I’m sorry about that!  I should be moved out to the playa in the next couple of days, and the outages should be minimized. But I just want you to know how much I appreciate the thoughtful comments and attaboys left here. And I’ll see you when you get here.

And one final note for now; a couple of you have asked about the state of the playa this year. I’ve seen some reports that it’s the worse it’s ever been, but that hasn’t been my impression. True, some of the dunes are doozies, and they’re going to test your skill on a bicycle. But mainly, I’ve been astonished at the LACK of dust this year. (And yes, I am jinxing things by commenting on it.)

But still, the air was so still the other night as I came off the playa that dust trails left by a barreling big rig just hung in the air like low-lying fog. In five years out here, I’d never seen anything like it. And I’ll tell you what, the scene made me long for some of that beautiful cooling fog near the coast back home in Pacifica. It has been really really hot during the day. I mean, really hot. Did I mention hot?

But the nights? Oh, god, so beautiful.

you can't see her from here, but that's Roo at the controls.
you can't see her from here, but that's Roo at the controls.

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.

8 thoughts on “look, ma, a city …

  • Thank you for giving us a glimpse of the playa and BRC as it goes up. Hmmmm, the Man’s platform looks like a giant prick. I’ll take that as a good omen. . .
    Best wishes to all you hard working, beautiful people. Can’t wait to smell the dust!

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  • Thank you so much for your posts! Please thank all of the hard working members of the crew out there for creating such a beautiful city. We really do greatly appreciate all your hard work! When you see a fire shooting igloo gliding across the playa please stop by for a shot off the shotski. And/or come by the penguin bar at Spudsville (yup, we’re from Idaho) for a refreshing refreshment. See you in just a few days!

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