Raising the roof

An army travels on its stomach, and if the DPW is anything, it’s an army. A funky, sweaty, loud and brash army, and maybe not so big on the uniforms, but an army nonetheless, and one that builds up an appetite.

For the first days of the build, everyone eats  breakfast and dinner in the big back room at Bruno’s. Some mornings, the scent of sizzling bacon wafts powerfully down Main Street, and you can almost see the weary early risers being drawn to breakfast by the hypnotizing aroma.

But feeding everybody at Bruno’s is pricey, and the room gets  crowded and the lines get longer  as more workers arrive. So one of the first big tasks of the build is to get the Commissary tent up and running, so everyone can move from town out to the playa and start taking their meals on site.

The wind has been very strong the past few days, and putting up the tent in the gusts and the dust was a trial. It was a challenge to get the center poles in place while the wind was trying to take the whole thing airborne, but various crews came together from all the different work crews to get it done, with Bean and Hayseed providing overall direction.

Meanwhile, railroad containers full of gear are being moved out from the Ranch to the playa, so the Commissary staff can get going now that the tent is up. There are lots of containers on the playa for this early in the operation. Last year, there were 19 containers moved out the first day. This year, there were 60, thanks in part to the double trailers that carry four containers instead of two on every trip.

The huge generators are also arriving fast,  and trenches are being dug and lines are being laid to get the electrical grid up and running.

It’s all happening fast and furious in the dust and the wind.

(photo by Erica Bartel)

(photo by Erica Bartel)

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.

26 thoughts on “Raising the roof

  • Looks like a uniform to me!! Fabulous, thanks, I don’t remember seeing the raising of the Commisary before. One might have said that there are no new stories to be told, setting up for the Burn is just the same old same old. But you keep proving that that is not true.

    Lot of hard work out there!

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  • wow, this is truly something to behold. thank you for sharing these amazing photos and words! and for reminding me where the soul of burning man begins to grow. see you soon enough.

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  • The words “thank you” just don’t seem enough to express how much I appreciate all your hard work. I know it’s a labor of love & I love you all for doing what you do.

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  • It’s all true — what everyone is saying — “Words” and Thank You’s” just don’t seem enough to express the heartfelt gratitude toward this crusty bunch of work-loving, extreme, over-the-top, basic, good people… so we will dance, instead! PyroKlectic and AZ Conclave Village are (all) on our way(s) to dance and spin fire for you and for all you are doing. See you soon!!

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  • DPW, you suck! And by that, I mean miss you. I can’t be there working with you this year due to a new job, but I will be there shortly and will be helping as soon as I get there. Seeing the photos reminded me of last year and remember just how many people are required to raise that huge tent.

    Make sure you give the cooks a high-5 for all of us. They do a great job. I always I eat better on the playa than I do at home.

    I’ll be there soon, bottle of Jamison in my hands …

    Just Danny

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  • I unfortunatly have to say that I will not make it to the playa this year, and I also cannot tell you how sad I am about it. But, I would like all burners and DPW to know that I work at Shear Bliss Salon & Spa and am happy to offer waxing (bikini, under arm, leg, brazillian, sorry guys not for you) and I also can provide a shower after the Man burns….for a small fee, to be discussed…
    Shear Bliss Salon & Spa 5270 Longley Lane, Reno, NV 89511 775-750-1422
    on the corner of Longley and McCarran….this is my cell call anytime…..

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  • I didn’t have the same appreciation for the DPW when I was at the burn that I have now. The people I camped with looked at the DPW with some sort if disdain I didn’t understand but went with. That’s changed now. I won’t make it home this year and it’s already been too long, but I’m working hard to make it next year, and if I do, I have a cooler full of brewskis I’m taking over to the DPW camp to share. Thanks for all the hard work people.

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