The Old and the New

Coyote, Lightning and Booya take the measure of things at the Temple of Whollyness site
Coyote, Lightning and Booya take the measure of things at the Temple of Whollyness site

There was a clash of cultures out at the Temple the other day, as the old and new ways of doing things met face to face, shook hands, and went their separate ways.

The Temple crew has embraced technology and all its many charms. They’ve even named the Autodesk company as one of their contributing artists (there are four others as well, and we’ll write more about them in later posts.). The main reason Autodesk was included was because they lent a sophisticated – and very expensive – piece of equipment to help the crew map out and survey their very complex and geometrically precise design.

“Some of their executives had been out at the Otic Oasis,” Gregg Fleishman, the project lead, said. “They couldn’t believe we designed it without computers.”

But that was then, and this is now. And there were Fleishman and Lighting, way out in the playa, laying out the survey and dropping the flags that would guide the construction. The technician running the Total Station Robotic device was having some difficulty plotting his points. It is a marvelously complex device, capable of determining exact locations to within a hundredth of an inch.

And then DPW survey veterans Coyote and Booya came rolling up to see how things were going.

While the tech was still fine-tuning his machinery, Coyota, Booya and Squirrelly got to work surveying the camp and parking areas. Lightning came over and started planting flags based on their measurements. The DPW folks were using nothing more sophisticated than tape measures and some Pythagorean geometry to get their measures and square up their lines. They moved quickly and easily, eyeballing straight lines when necessary.

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Now this is not to say that the precision of the Autodesk equipment won’t be vital when it comes time to build the Temple itself, which also depends so heavily on the geometry of Fleishman’s design. But it seemed pretty clear that Coyote and the others believed they could have had things squared away in no time. “I don’t need that much tech,” Coyote said. “I’m just drawing circles.”

For his part, Gregg seemed simply happy to be where he was. “We’re pretty much at the center of things,” he said. Of course the Man is at the center of the city, but the Temple does feel like it is at the heart of activity. What did it feel like to be so accessible, so different than the placement of his Otic Oasis in the walk-in camping section of the city?

“It feels good,,” Fleishman said.

Meanwhile, just outside the Temple perimeter, Blackthorn and his crew were surveying the places where the spires would go, the ones that will line the road to the Temple. They were also using a decidedly low-tech solution known as “The Apparatus.”

It is a system of cables that allows the crew to triangulate the proper position of the spires on either side of the road, plumb with the road and square with each other. But there had been innovation there, too.

“We finally found the right cables,” Blackthorn said. String wasn’t sturdy enough, and wires tended to tangle. “These are perfect,” he said.

Technology marches on.

Temple placement posts were printed out on a long list
Temple placement posts were printed out on a long list

 

Coyote, Lightning and Booya measured the desert
Coyote, Lightning and Booya measured the desert

 

Squirrelly held the tape measure while Coyote marked off distances
Squirrelly held the tape measure while Coyote marked off distances

 

Blackthorn peered out from under his hat as his crew plotted survey points
Blackthorn peered out from under his hat as his crew plotted survey points

 

The flag that had been marking where the center of the Temple would be
The flag that had been marking where the center of the Temple would be

 

 

 

 

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.

5 thoughts on “The Old and the New

  • I can’t tell you how much that last picture blessed me – just to know that you all have not forgotten my son, Joey Jello (Carroll). I means so much to know you still think about him and miss him.
    God bless you all.

    Mama Jello

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  • JC.

    Thank yous, as always… for freezing time for us – drawing account and describing in prose the unfolding love that the community imagines less than we would without your witness. I appreciate you.

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