Meanwhile, at the Center Camp Cafe …

Pigpen held up the crew's signage in front of the Center Cafe build
Pigpen held up the crew’s signage in front of the Center Cafe build

Like so many of the crews and departments this year, there’s been a big turnover in the Oculus crew, the people who build the Center Camp Cafe. Some of the alumni have gone on to bigger and better – Niko Peachez is helping to run the ranch, and Goatt is out on the Man Base crew, building one of the most challenging designs ever.

Karl Not Karl is taking a year away from DPW, but Austin aka PigPen is back this time around after a year away. Monkey Boy keeps soldiering on, and he’s been with the Cafe crew since 2002. “It’s the best job in town,” he says simply.

At the helm this year is the guy they are calling King Pole (real name Paul King). He’s one of the more surprising additions to DPW this year, because for the last couple of years he was operations manager for the Gate. You have to understand, there’s not much cross-pollination between Gate and DPW, rivalries and competitiveness being what they are. But it would seem that is all subsiding, at least a bit. There’s a fair number of former DPW who have moved to Gate, and vice-versa.

Probably no switch is more surprising than King Pole’s, but he’s made the move appear to be the most natural thing in the world. Maybe that’s because so much of his life is inextricably linked to the playa.

King Pole made the switch
King Pole made the switch

“I’ve been coming for eight years,” he said the other day. “I met my wife here.” Not only that, but both of his children have been coming for their whole lives, and in fact King says one of them was conceived here.

‘I just plain love it,” he says in his amazingly enthusiastic and upbeat way.

And how has his reception been? Once upon a time, a Gate exile would have been shunned in DPW. “I’ve been shown nothing but love,” Pole says.

Someone might need to change their license plate
Someone might need to change their license plate
Taking some shade
Taking some shade
Like most things in Black Rock City, the Center Cafe begins life as flags in the ground
Like most things in Black Rock City, the Center Cafe begins life as flags in the ground
... then come the poles.
… then come the poles.
There's not been too much dust so far this year, but there's definitely been some.
There’s not been too much dust so far this year, but there’s definitely been some.

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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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