You’re Gonna Bring That Wood Where?

The Vancouver CORE team
The Vancouver CORE team

The Vancouver Regional burners were on their way to Black Rock City to participate in the Circle of Regional Effigies – the big ring of art installations around the Man that will go up in flames en masse on Thursday night.

The first folks from the Vancouver team were on the road with a big load of wooden pallets with which they would build their Artifactuary project. But when they got to the U.S.-–Canadian border, a moment of truth arrived with them.

Somehow, at least some of the pallets the Vancouver team had purchased had not been treated with the material that would prevent insect infestation. So the border patrol took a look at the wood for the big art piece and simply said nope, that thing’s not going anywhere.

The road to Burning Man is often a journey of frustration and despair, and so it was for the Vancouver team this year.

“We’ve had plenty of years when everything went smoothly,” Ryan was saying at a morning get-together for the various CORE teams on Sunday, “but this wasn’t one of them.”

So they were not going to be able to bring the wood for their project with them. And they worried that they wouldn’t have enough time to go back to Vancouver and get what they needed. So they made a decision to leave their project right there at the border, continue on to Black Rock City, and then sort things out when they got here.

“We were going to have faith that the playa would provide,” Carnie said.

And to make a long and difficult story short, the playa did indeed provide.

Ryan and Carnie stood in the dust and hooked their thumbs over their shoulders and gestured at the Man sitting atop his giant flying saucer. “The wood came from him,” Ryan said.

The Man base is a gargantuan project this year, and a thing of such scale generates a lot of scrap wood. So it was decided that the Vancouver team would get a lot of that leftover scrap. That helped a lot, and so did Betty June, who stepped up and found some last-minute money for them so they could get some more wood, too.

Carnie and Ryan from the Vancouver team
Carnie and Ryan from the Vancouver team

“We just feel so much love,” Ryan said. “We can’t believe how many people came forward to help,” he said.

The CORE project is a big part of the Burning Man organization’s effort to spread the word about the value system that is on display in the Black Rock Desert every year. Along with radical self-reliance, radical self-expression, leave no trace and all the rest, there are core principles that get to the nature of communal action. And the Vancouver CORE project is a pretty good example of that.

“It blew us away,” Ryan said simply.

The other teams from the twenty-four CORE projects have their own stories to tell, and you can hear them at the Tour de CORE on Monday night from 7-10 p.m. The teams are being encouraged to meet and talk with people, tell what their projects are about, and make new friends from faraway places.

The tireless Squishelle told all the CORE folks that her favorite night at Burning Man is now Thursday night, the night that all the CORE effigies burn. And Megs, another of the people who work year round on the Regionals, said, “What you’ve done is artful and elegant, and you’re inspiring everyone out here.”

At that, the CORE folks raised their glasses of Champagne and mimosas and toasted Squishelle and Megs – and themselves. Cheers all around, and see you Monday, and see you Thursday.

Here are some more pics from the CORE breakfast:

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The Dust CIty Diner had breakfast treats for the CORE people

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Megs and Squishelle told the CORE people how much their efforts are appreciated
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Dixie was slinging breakfast at the diner

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Sometimes the documenter is documented
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More folks from the Vancouver team
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The New York team was well represented

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Betty June was surrounded by appreciative people

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Megs was pretty happy with the way the reception went
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The pancakes from the diner were excellent

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The Indiana team was having a good time

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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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