Well Hello There!


Hello again early Burning Man fans; look what time it is already!

Your tent might still be dusty, your headlamp batteries might need changing, and your playa bike probably needs a good going-over.

But I can confidently report to you that the couple hundred or so folks who have gathered here in Gerlach to get Black Rock City built in time for the big party at the end of the month have got things well underway.

Folks have been arriving for … oh, a week or so, and in some cases even longer than that. But a big contingent of willing and able hands arrived Sunday night.

Dozens of people were walking down the main street of Gerlach with their dreads and their boots and their bandanas and their yoga bodies and their piercings and their faces happy happy in the beautiful evening light. And lots of folks who hadn’t seen each other in a year were having many happy returns at the Saloon.

There were drinks and hugs and lots of laughs at the bar, and then the parade continued a few doors down to Bruno’s, where a major dinner was served. You could feel the energy in the air; people were gearing up, ready to go, ready to tackle the Fence in the morning.

Ah, the Fence.

burning-man-2You know about the fence already, right? It’s seven miles around the outside of the Burning Man grounds. And it goes up in a day. And they pound metal stakes into the ground by hand. … Oh, sure, you could get a machine to do that, but that isn’t the way of the Department of Public Works. It’s a point of pride to do it all yourself. And so they do. And this year they pounded seven miles of stakes in … wait for it … just over four hours. Amazing.

It’ll take another day to get all the plastic mesh and string attached to the stakes [UPDATE: Cobra Commander reports: “Fence tied and complete by 4:26pm. Done in ONE DAY for the first time ever. 8+ miles.”], and after now that the fence is up people will gradually migrate from town out onto the desert. (The BLM requires the fence be up before people can go out and camp.)

But there’s lots of other stuff happening, too. Flatbed trucks full of electrical generators
were pulling in, lumber was being dropped off, and stuff was being hauled from the Ranch out to the Playa.

It sounds like a lot of work, doesn’t it?


Well, it is. But don’t let anyone fool you, either.

I overheard a phone conversation last night. (I really wasn’t eavesdropping … there are some awfully close quarters at this stage of the operation.) … And that I could hear a phone conversation is worthy of note, as well. There is CELLPHONE service in Gerlach now. Isn’t that weird? You can check your email; you can get calls, you can send texts. … Hey, that’s not why we came here, is it?

So anyway, I’m listening to the conversation (or being subjected to it), and the young man was complaining to the young woman on the other end of the line about how HARD it all was. What, did she think he was out here just having FUN??


Yeah, it’s hot. Yeah, there’s lots to do. But dude. You’re in the desert. You’re with the cool kids. No one’s going to believe a word you say if you expect them to believe you’re not having any fun.

So chill.

And hang up that phone.

ps: more photos over here.


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, and I'm especially fond of shooting weddings. I'm also the editor at large of the Tasting Panel magazine, which is devoted to the beverage industry. I've also taught a bit, including two years at UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism and a year at San Francisco State University. I live on a (house)boat in Alameda, California.

42 thoughts on “Well Hello There!

  • Indeed! What work you are doing for us. Keep it up and I cant wait to see people there. Missed 2008 and it still feels like yesterday but it doesnt stop me from wanting to go Home.


    PS: I am amazed cell service is out there. Verizon service or not, my phone is going to be a $350 paperweight for the weekend. Thank god!

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  • In a couple years parents will be sending their kids off to Burning Man summer camp for some discipline and hard work!



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  • ya all RAWK! but then ya knew that already, Right? WOW! great pics, thanks, used to be all of us waiting to make the trek out there just sat and imagined what ya’ll were doin sweatin ballz out there, now we can SEE IT HAPPENING! THANKS for ALL you do, and for ALL of YOU!!

    Ice Mistress

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  • In any other context, we’d all be shouting “Don’t fence me in!” — but it’s so exciting to hear about this particular fence, and look forward to being surrounded by it.

    Much love & gratitude for the pole pounding and knot tying.


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  • can you please post the conditions of the playa? is the dust level as thick on the ground as last year? Or did it rain enough to flatten things out as in years past? from your pics it looks VERY thick, making bikes a serious challenge again. please advise…

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  • okay seriously, seven miles of plastic fencing into playa, don’t get to full of yourself. They should string barbed wire one year. That would be entertaining (I know, it wouldn’t grab as much trash).

    Lets see some more Man Krew pictures, that is a feat worth bragging about.

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  • Brooks, have you ever pounded a t-stake by hand in that desert? Over and over again hundreds of times? I would say this feat is nothing to sniff at, and this crew deserves heavy accolades indeed.

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  • i’m sure the department of public works could not have accomplished that, even with machinery. that’s remarkable!!

    i’m not against cell phone coverage on the playa, if it’s there. last year there were people i couldn’t find because they didn’t know how to use the info booth computers. don’t want em? turn em off.

    you can either turn every situation into an opportunity for greatness or you can whine about it like an old man set in his ways.

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  • Wow, it looks and sounds as good as I remember. In a couple of years when I’m back from Asia, I will be out there building that fence.

    Much love to the vets of the ’90s, Disco Headhunters especially and the old BRG. A toast to whoever gets elected mayor of Black Rock City this year!

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  • Amazing job you guys! Keep up the good work! Without you, the party wouldn’t be able to get started. And with all the work and support, I hope to see BM going for many years to come and I hope to attend it for the first time next year. :)

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  • YOU GUYS ARE ANIMALS!!!! thank you all so much for makingall this possible, this will be my 3rd year, i hope to do some vaulenteer work next year, be out there for at least 2 weeks!! see when we all come home!

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  • Why does Burning Man need a fence? Excerpted from Rod Garrett’s “Designing Black Rock City” page on the Burning Man website:


    “The pentagram that marks our city’s external boundary was dictated by (a) the need to minimize our footprint in the surrounding environment due to the concerns of other recreational land users, (b) the economic need to create one controllable entry point at which we could charge an entrance fee (sorely lacking until ’97), (c) the need to protect our community from the depredations of rogue vehicles, and (d) containment for wind born debris (Burning Man being the largest “Leave No Trace” event in the USA).

    The most efficient and obvious solution was a circle, but that was unworkable in that it lacked straight lines of sight for security. A triangle or square, while requiring the minimum number of vantages for sight lines, enclosed too much unused space in its angles and created an unnecessarily large perimeter. Six sides or more required too many security points, so the present shape was determined by default.”

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  • Glad you guys are doing the great stuff to prepare. really looking forward towards the week out there.

    regarding Cell Phone Service. which carrier is it? Just asking because I will need to check in 1x a day with my wife&kids. and don’t want to rent a satellite phone if i dont have to. No i wont carry phone around with me and crap.

    just want to let my family know im still alive, a key ingredient to my wife letting me go this year.

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  • Hi there John,

    Great photos. Hope you don’t mind if we steal one for the Black Rock Beacon. We’re doing an early edition this year (prepared pre-Playa), and we need one shot from pre-BRC. I saw on your Flickr page that you’ve done a Creative Commons license, and we publish under one too, so that should be okay. Was gong to credit you as Photo by john curley via Flickr, let me know if that’s good? Lux. Veritas. Lardum. Mitch (mitch (at) blackrockbeacon.org)

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  • The pics really depict what efforts are put into making this event happen. Many, many thanks to all. Everyone who participates and takes from the pleasures of this event should also remember to give something back. The gift of giving is always greater! Be safe

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  • Cell service is from a wholesale rural carrier – roaming services on the big carriers (ATT/Verizon/blahblahblah).
    Trying out a new Satellite backhaul with off-grid power – great test for disaster areas/quick one-off cell service.
    GSM voice and data (edge if things work).
    CDMA voice only (no data support – can you data me now? )
    100-200 total calls (both tech) at best at any time given volume and other tech issues.
    You do the math on how many people out of the uber-burningmass will have a phone stuck to their ear/be texting madly…..

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