More Reports From All Over

The playa surface is mostly smooth and firm in BRC, but there are still plenty of mounds to negotiate
The playa surface is mostly smooth and firm in BRC, but there are still plenty of mounds to negotiate

Black Rock City is just a busy beehive these days. The weather’s been great (wish you were here), and momentum is building. It’s hard for us all to believe, but the gates to the city open in *gulp* 12 days. How is THAT possible?

Heather was talking about it out at the Temple the other day. Burning Man is something that always seems like such a long time away. You have the whole year to think about it, and then there are months and months to make grand plans and get yourself ready.

“And then whoooosh,” she said, “It’s right in your face.” And that’s where we are now. It’s here. It’s in our face. We can almost feel you breathing down our necks, dying to get back to the playa.

So we’re going to take a deep breath, keep putting one foot in front of the other, and try to remember that it’s all going to get done. The city will be ready for you.

So with that as our prelude, here’s a roundup of what’s happening from here and there:

The Man Base crew got together after work.
The Man Base crew got together after work.

MAN BASE

There’s something very special going on out at the Man Base. As we’ve noted earlier, the rain and mud early in the build has bonded this crew together. And good thing, because there’s lots of work going on, and still lots to be done.

The work begins every day at dawn, and it continues until dusk. Remember, this is a very ambitious project: a giant spaceship upon which a rotating Man will stand, plus ramps for you to slide down. The bigness is mind boggling.

There are 19 people on crew now, although it’s likely that number will swell. The crew is camped together in the Ghetto, and they seem to move around the playa as one unit.

They gathered on the second story of the structure at the end of the day to share a beer and look out over the glowing landscape. It was one of the last days to enjoy the truly open playa, because artist camps will begin moving in Tuesday to set up their installations.

The days have been long, but there’s humor about it. “Hey, we’re only working 12 hours a day,” someone said. “Half a day is no big deal!”

Goatt, who used to be on the Center Cafe/Oculus crew, is among the more enthusiastic and seemingly tireless workers on site. He’s like some Kerouac character from “On the Road,” constantly moving, constantly talking, constantly philosophizing.

“I’m a Buddhist, and this is perfect,” he said. “There is pain, but there is no suffering. …There’s no time when I ask myself what the hell am I doing here?”

THE PLAYA:

All sorts of misinformation is flying around the internets about the condition of the playa. Just to be clear, we are not covered with mud. Most of the roads in and out are relatively smooth and dry. You will NOT need a four-wheel vehicle to make it to BRC.

That said, there are still lots of wet areas outside the perimeter fence. Everyone who is up here early likes to go to the hot springs, but this year it is very difficult, but not impossible, to make it.

The advice for getting to Trego or Frog Pond is always the same: Don’t drink and drive, bring a radio, tell people where you’re going, and bring water. You could get stuck, and it could take a long while to find you. Also, the normal routes will not work this year. Talk to someone who knows what they are doing before even attempting the trip.
And as ever, this is all kind of irrelevant for most everyone anyway, because the springs are closed during the event.

Meanwhile, in BRC, the rain has tamped down the surface of the playa very nicely. There has been virtually no dust. Mornings are crisp and clear. Evenings are so ridiculously gorgeous, it’s almost not fair.

Work crews are doing what they can to keep conditions the way they are. Roads have been established, so the less aimless driving around the playa now, the better. Even so, things are going to change dramatically when there are 50,000 or so people out here, and much dust will be kicked up and there will be whiteouts. That’s just a given. But we’re starting from a pretty good place, and that’s a great thing.

The Jerk Church Orchestra played at the Ghetto
The Jerk Church Orchestra played at the Ghetto

SOCIAL LIFE

No, it is most definitely not all work out here. There are … entertainments, shall we say. The quantity and quality of those entertainments is quite amazing, just like it is during the event. Don’t get us wrong, it’s all about the work right now. But in the evening, the many multitalented people out here almost can’t help themselves from putting on a show.

— The bar at the DPW Ghetto was christened very nicely the other evening as various and sundry members of the Jerk Church Orchestra, from chapters in Oakland and points north, played for hours. There was fine singing, great picking, and lots of voices joining in. … Live music is one of the more heartening developments in BRC. May the gospel of the Jerk Church spread far and wide.

— The crew at the transfer station welcomed guests Monday night with an open bar and and an open glass recycling container. People put on safety goggles, went inside one at a time, then shattered glass bottles against the wall, the better to release pent-up frustrations. (Note well: this is a STAFF operation, taking care of all the stuff that is generated by putting the city together. There will be no recycling on the playa, no trash collection of any kind. What you take here you must take away with you. Leave no trace.)

— Maria (Mark) of Man Base Crew hosted a craft night at the commissary which also featured scientific discourse. She describes it very well: “Apparently, we just had the first DPW Skeptics meeting, in the guise of Brain Atrophy Salon and Craft Night. After a talk by Dave X about his piss-to-fuel experiments and a murder ballad involving science from Blackthorn and Dan Abbott, we listened to a short lecture by Dan Ariely about placebo effect. BIG ASS conversation about skepticism and behavioral economics and irrationality studies broke out, while various people sewed and patched things. Also, there was scheming about a practical joke involving beer and placebo effect.” Outstanding.

— Preparations are beginning to take shape for Saturday’s “Early Burn.” Crews will make their own janky effigies that will be set afire simultaneously outside the perimeter line of the Man. Think of it as the worker version of the CORE burn. Dave X has ambitious plans for an office burn, and he encourages org staff to bring all the Excel sheets and Word docs that have been the cause of vexation and annoyance for lo these many months. Should be quite a blaze.

FITNESS
Astonishingly, KT is leading morning calisthenics at the Depot every morning at 6 a.m. Like there’s not enough work to get you in shape out here? Apparently not, because a hardy band of fanatics is gathering to do pushups and sit-ups and all the rest of it before the bleary-eyed troops arrive for their morning meeting. We will have more extensive reporting on this activity soon. … No, really, we will.

The Man Base crew at the end of the day
The Man Base crew at the end of the day
The humble beginnings of the Man Base project
The humble beginnings of the Man Base project
Every day the base seems to get bigger ....
Every day the base seems to get bigger ….
.... and bigger
…. and bigger
Giant struts are being constructed on the ground
Giant struts are being constructed on the ground
Then they are "skinned" with the outer covering
Then they are “skinned” with the outer covering
More from the Jerk Church
More from the Jerk Church

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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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