Early burn is a lot like the regular burn, except that it’s completely different.
The work is very much the same. The Estonians out at the Man base were working like crazy to finish the Early Man in time for the burn on Saturday night. They worked right through dinner, with Big Stick and Roo doing the heavy lifting to get the not-so-little guy loaded onto the burn platform.
(Pretty much everything is done on a burn platform out here, with burn sand laid around the base to protect the playa from damage. Come the morning, everything gets scooped up and hauled away, and there is very little scarring left on the desert floor.)
The carpenters were really hammering to finish on time. It was the biggest Early Man I’d ever seen, but that really isn’t saying much. I’ve only seen two. Some of the long-timers were saying that there have been bigger ones, but it would be hard to believe they had more heft. The Little Man, as we’ll call him, was built in the same way as the Man base is being built, which is to say, bang a bunch of trusses together, then whack a bunch of 2x4s to them, and hope that it comes out looking cool. At least, that’s what seems is happening. I’m sure it’s all much more complicated, but they just seem to be winging it. And it’s coming out spectacularly, at least to these eyes.
(There are some nicknames popping up for the Man base, too. My favorite, because it harkens back to the Belgian Waffle that the base somewhat resembles, is Eggo. Another name heard now and then is Hash Brown. … Feel free to offer your own right here.)
When darkness fell, people and vehicles started moving out beyond the Man. The Lamplighters had all the spires glowing in the twilight. The wind was really blowing, and it felt very much like burn night a year ago, when the wind was howling all day Saturday and you couldn’t see five feet in front of you and it never stopped blowing until about 10 at night, just in time to get the Man torched.
The Early Burn felt a little like a Halloween party, because a lot of people were dressed up. But instead of dressing up like well-known characters, the best costumes were of Logan and Camera Girl and Gameshow and Dylan Blackthorne. Now, I realize this doesn’t mean a hell of a lot to you, because you don’t even know these people, but think of that episode of the The Office when Jim dresses like Dwight, with the nerdy hair and glasses and short sleeve shirt. It was pretty funny on TV, and it was pretty damn funny last night. People were walking around like their dopplegangers, and it just worked.
We’ve talked about it before, about how the Early Burn might be a little bit like what the whole Burn was 10 or 15 years ago. Everyone is into it. There aren’t dance clubs going off full tilt (although Sgt. Slaughter was bemoaning that fact in the morning), and there aren’t a million other things going on that you can lose yourself in. This is a group of people who have been working like maniacs who got together to watch some stuff burn. Pretty simple. Pretty fun.
It’s all just on a very small scale. You know pretty much everybody, and the ones you don’t know you try to make a point of talking to. You hear stories. You find out what people do in the real world. (Let me guess: You’re an IT guy, and you figure out ways for computer systems to talk to each other. … The guy paused and looked at me and said, “Um, yeah, pretty much.”
It’s funny sometimes. It’s funny how you feel like you know people even before you know them.
Or you talk to the kid who is spending his 21st birthday out here building Black Rock City. “I talk to a lot of older people,” he says, talking to an older person again, “And they all tell me … just make sure you have stories. So that’s why I’m out here. I want to live my life in a way that I get a lot of stories.”
Or you talk to some of the people who just made it onto the playa this very same day, just in time for the Early Burn, and you haven’t seen them for a year, and you didn’t know you were going to be friends with them last year, you didn’t even KNOW them last year, and then you find that there was a place in your heart that they were there to fill, and you give them a hug and say JESUS it’s good to see you again.
And you didn’t know that any of this was going to happen this way.
And then you see people dancing, and you see others cuddled up together, and you see still more standing around drinking and feeling good about the way the thing they built is burning, and you think, yeah, this isn’t a bad place to have a birthday party, or to dance, or to bullshit. It all kind of works in its way.
And yes, I will have some Jameson’s, thank you. Would you like a PBR?
Here are pics of some of the people out there enjoying themselves and each other last night: