Some Big “Picks”

Teams guided assembled pieces into place at the Temple
Teams guided assembled pieces into place at the Temple

It’s such a weird deal to get an actual cloudy day in Black Rock Desert. At this time of year, it’s usually just plain sunny and hot. And dry.

But it’s a bit different today. There’s a heavy cloud cover, which we are all very thankful for. Yesterday was bad. It was scorching hot (estimates I trust put the temps close to 120 on the desert floor), and there wasn’t a breeze to be had. Perfectly still. And stranger still, the humidity was high. High temps, no wind and high humidity make for a very challenging day.

“A lot of people had that look,” Dan was saying in the commissary. It seemed like there wasn’t a crew that didn’t feel crisped by the conditions. You really do have to respect the desert and give it its due. The DPW handbook encourages everyone to allow themselves a day to get acclimated to the conditions, because you are not only in a desert, but you are also at 4,000 feet. The conditions can suck the life out of you. So here’s your pro tip for the day: when you get here, don’t go too hard too fast too soon, or you’ll wind up missing a lot of the week. Take time to get your bearings.

And this heat and exhaustion that everyone is feeling just makes the amount of work accomplished by all the work crews out here that much more impressive and amazing and worthy of respect.

There was some mighty big pickin’ going on yesterday, and we’re not talking about banjos. The big cranes were out at the Man base and the Temple, helping those crews get ahead.

The top pieces of the flying saucer at the Man base were being plopped into place, and the Temple was up to the fourth layer of six eventual levels. (The last two levels are being assembled on the ground and then will be lifted into place as a whole.)

One of the upper trusses was attached to the Man base
One of the upper trusses was attached to the Man base

We don’t think we’re being overly dramatic to say that what is happening at the Temple is just plain amazing. Giant pieces of the six-story pyramid are being maneuvered and cajoled and pried into place, all without a single nail or other fastening device. The genius of Gregg Fleishman is on display every single day. Imagine the most elegantly designed Lego set in the world.

Crews are sanding each of the pieces before they are put into production. Then many of the big pieces are put together on the ground before they are lifted onto the structure. “It’s a basic A, B, C operation,” Bunker said.

But even the construction on the ground is on an enormous scale. Heather was at the helm of one scissor lift, and Cyn was on another. The two pieces on each lift had to be fitted together before the crane could left them away.

Other teams were ensconced all over the Temple, and they would guide the segments into place. Many of the assembling teams seem to have developed their own way of communicating, and when a team starts to click – which is to say, they can read what each other needs before even having to speak – they stick together.

The sanding, the assembling, the guiding into place – it was all happening all day long, and then well into the evening, as well.

Everyone is hearing the drumbeats of the opening day deadline. Gregg said he still has lots more building to do, and the artists who are collaborating with him must wait until the big work is finished before they can begin. There are shade, light and sound projects that will be installed once the heavy lifting is done. But there is still a lot left to do.

The same is true at the Man base. The lighting crew will have to scramble all over the structure once the main construction is finished, and there are still the giant slides to install. And of course late in the event week, everything will be taken out so the demolition team can go in and do its thing. Big Wig Mig, Joe the Builder and all the rest don’t seem perturbed by the pace or the challenge, but you have to wonder what’s going on inside.

PICS FROM THE TEMPLE

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The French film crew on site doing an Imax movie were at the Temple yesterday

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Big pieces were joined together with the help of two scissor lifts

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PICS FROM THE MAN BASE 

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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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