Posts for category Building BRC

August 21st, 2013  |  Filed under Building BRC

Law Enforcement’s Comin’ To Town

[Editor's Note: John Curley is one of our best and most respected bloggers, however his original story didn't include important details that give a more complete perspective of law enforcement onsite. The Burning Blog editorial staff will always reserve the right to expand a story to provide a deeper understanding. We have made these edits with John's permission.]

Law enforcement arrived in a very visible way

Law enforcement arrived in a very visible way

The Man is not the only Man who arrived on the playa yesterday.

The other arrival we’re talking about is that other Man, the police, aka law enforcement officials, who have joined us in town and made their presence clear.

At least two people onsite for setup were cited for peeing on the playa (which carries a $275 fine, plus the threat that the offense could, at the officer’s discretion, be elevated into an indecent exposure rap, which would make you a sex offender and really make a mess of your record). Burning Man supports the event being all ages, and it’s important we keep that in mind even pre-event when it might look like there’s no one there to see you pee. Read more »

August 20th, 2013  |  Filed under Building BRC

Lots of Lightning, and Some Rain

Lightning was striking all around Black Rock City last night. The green glow in the lower left of the photo was the green neon of the Man, which was lit up for the first time Tuesday night

Lightning was striking all around Black Rock City. The green glow in the lower left of the photo was the green neon of the Man, which was lit up for the first time Tuesday night

A powerful storm cell hit Black Rock City about 10:45 on Tuesday night, causing staff to put into effect a Level 0 rain contingency plan, which meant that all driving was halted, and people were told to seek shelter.

Lightning had been striking all around the city for most of the night, but when the storm hit, a whiteout wiped out any view of the skies.

Consistent weather forecasts in the previous days calling for rain and thunderstorms had put Burning Man staff on notice, and supplies of water were monitored, and light towers were set up around the city as the storm cell approached.

Even though there had been lighting for hours, the rain came with a sudden fury. Playa dust turns almost instantly to impassable mud, and even walking becomes difficult as mud builds up inches deep on shoe bottoms.

There were no immediate reports of any significant damage as a result of the high winds and driving rain. Radio communications were maintained, and power was continuing to flow throughout the city.

The initial rain only lasted for 20 or 30 minutes, and it was hoped that the high winds might help conditions dry quickly.

August 20th, 2013  |  Filed under Building BRC

The Final Piece

Heather practiced moving around inside the last Temple piece when it was still on the ground

Heather practiced moving around inside the last Temple piece when it was still on the ground

To hear Gregg Fleishman tell it, there was never any doubt.

Gregg is the creator of the Temple of Whollyness, the modern yet very ancient manifestation of the power and elegance of geometry. And this morning, the topmost piece of the 60-foot pyramid would be dropped into place. All the planning, all the measuring, all the careful calculations carried out on paper, on computer, and simply in Gregg’s head, would either work, or they wouldn’t. The thing would fit, or it wouldn’t. There could be no “almost.”

“I was a little cranky this morning,” Gregg admitted. “I was barking at people, ‘Do this, do that,’” he said. “I just wanted to get going.”

Lighting and Syn and Carmel, husband, wife and daughter, nervously donned safety harnesses as the crew prepared for the lift. Safety procedures were reviewed, crew assignments were made, questions were asked and answered. Then it was time to go.

“Ok, ok, huddle up,” J.J. said suddenly. He drew the crew around him, and he spoke his heart. “I just want to say thank you,” he began. J.J. works on the Temple build crew, and he also works in the camp’s kitchen. On this morning he had either forgotten to take off his aprons, or he had decided to keep them on. “Oh, look at him,” Heather teased, “making cupcakes and building Temples.”

J.J. spoke at some length with the bodies pressed close around him, hands clasped tightly above their heads. “I’ve had the best time of my fucking life out here,” he said, and a cheer went up, and then it was truly time for the lift to begin.

There always seems to be a special closeness among the people who come together to build the Temple, the most sacred (if that’s not too strong a word) of all the installations at Burning Man. They eat together, camp together, and work together, and they do it away from the rest of Black Rock City. The work – and the heartaches and drama – ultimately binds them together. They will never forget what they did here, and neither will we. The DPW crews that do so much of the other work here are rough and gnarly on the outside, but no less gooey inside. But the Temple folks are much more likely to acknowledge the spiritual nature of their work, and the intention behind their task.

And why not?

The Temple is the place at Burning Man where the people who are no longer with us are remembered and honored. It is a place of joy and sadness, but maybe most of all it is a place of stillness. We remember the people who gave us solace, the people who took us under their wing, the people who gave us the opportunity to redeem ourselves, and we thank them.

There is a great trust placed in the hands of the people who build the Temple, and they are mindful of that trust.

J.J. huddled the crew before the lift began

J.J. huddled the crew before the lift began

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August 19th, 2013  |  Filed under Building BRC

Taking a Hero Along for the Ride

Hero in the Fluffer truck

Hero in the Fluffer truck

Who doesn’t like a good dog story?

You may not have known it, but there are many dogs on site during the building of Black Rock City.


Now that that’s out of the way, we can tell you that yes, many DPW workers have dogs with them during the build. But you should also know that very extensive preparations and paperwork have to take place before that can happen, and even after the dogs are here, there is much care and special attention paid to them. Honestly, you would NOT be able to pull it off, so please don’t try.

But we understand. You love your dog. And you will miss your dog. And we think the dogs who are here are very lucky dogs.

There are almost too many dogs to mention, and each of them seems to reflect their owners’ personalities in ways that only dogs can. (Blondie and Red are inseparable, and Jake, who pokes his out of the camper next to us, has a Mohawk that matches his owner’s.) We don’t want to play favorites, but we will, anyway. We are especially fond of Hero, the wolf/Malamute mix who rides around in the Fluffer truck with Katelyn.

Hero is four months old, a striking shade of tan, and he seems to be socializing with other humans and other dogs quite well. He also seems to be growing about an inch a week, and he does that sideways walk that dogs do who haven’t quite grown into their bodies yet.

Socialization is very important for Hero, because as we mentioned, he’s got a lot of wolf in him. He’s mostly wolf, in fact.

“He’s really good therapy,” Katelyn says from the door of the Fluffer truck as Hero licks and nips at her hands. It’s unclear if she means that the therapy is good for her, or good for everyone who comes up to the truck. But there’s no doubt that you get a lift after being around Hero for awhile.

Hero has his own special place in the truck that has both shade and water. The Fluffer truck is an especially good place for him because there is lots of ice inside to keep water cold for the crews, so the temperature inside the truck is always moderated.

It takes a lot to keep a four-month-old wolf in line, but we’ve watched Katelyn working with Hero, and we’re impressed. “It’s really about dominance training,” she says. Which means that when Hero gets too rambunctious, she puts him down on his side and reminds him that she in fact is the leader of this pack. She never does it in anger, but she’s always firm. “The Dog Whisperer” would be proud.

You won’t see Hero (or any other dog) during the event. They will be moved to another location, because even the DPW dog owners know that the event is just too much for a dog’s mental health.

But Hero’s probably one of the reasons that the crews haven’t eaten each other yet. So even he has played his role in the building of Black Rock City.

Hero and Katelyn

Hero and Katelyn


August 19th, 2013  |  Filed under Building BRC

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.

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August 18th, 2013  |  Filed under Building BRC

The Burn That Comes Early, and Other News

The early team from the Lamplighters crew hung lanterns on the spires on the way to the Man.

The early team from the Lamplighters crew hung lanterns for the first time this year

So we had a couple of big events over the past couple of days, and we are moving inexorably forward. The time has become impossibly short – the gates open in *gulp* seven days.

It doesn’t seem real.

We get this feeling every year, that “Oh my god there’s no way we’re going to get everything ready in time” feeling. There’s not enough art! The Man is still on the ground! Where is everything??

But it’s probably just us. Because Burning Man happens. Every year it happens. Like we’ve said earlier, it’s like someone pours Jamesons on the playa and the city and the art and the camps and the people just pop up overnight and before you know it things are in a full-throated roar.

But there is a cloud on the horizon, though. Actually, many clouds. The National Weather Service has issued a “hazardous weather outlook” for this area that will extend through Wednesday. They forecast showers and thunderstorms, with possible hail and wind gusts to 50 mph. It’s unsettling, at least to us, but not everyone is worried.

“I’ve seen big clouds roll in,” D.A. said, “and then when they get to the playa, pffff, they just go around us.” So let it be this year.

The playa is still in amazing condition from the rain that came the week before last. It’s firm in most places, with the occasional thigh-busting mounds. But overall, it’s really really good. More rain would of course foul things up royally for the artists, because they go into high gear this week. But for the playa, wow. Once it dries out, it is left smooth and hard.

And we hesitate to say it out loud for fear of jinxing things, but there has not be a single whiteout so far this year. Not one. The wind has been blowing, the days have been hot, and a dust cloud will occasionally blow through, but overall … beautiful. The nights have been warm and still. Couldn’t be more perfect.

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August 17th, 2013  |  Filed under Building BRC

More Faces From the Desert; Some of the Folks Who Are Building BRC

None of these fine folks have the time to take pictures, but they know you like to see what they’re up to and how they are doing out here. So without further ado, here are some snapshots from Black Rock City:






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August 16th, 2013  |  Filed under Building BRC

A Family Story

Sometimes sparklers can be even more fun than music

Sometimes sparklers can be even more fun than music

Burning Man is about a simple thing, really. The burning of a wooden totem in the shape of a man, his arms upraised in … what? Exultation? Supplication? Who knows? … Maybe his arms are raised because he just looks good that way. It doesn’t matter, really, and you can ascribe any meaning you like to it.

And maybe that’s how Burning Man has come to mean so many things to so many people – a rave, an art exposition, a grand human and civil experiment, one which only coincidentally happens to feature massive explosions and fire. But there’s more – the ten principles, written ex post facto to describe the values exhibited by participants: The radical self reliance, the radical self expression, the communal efforts, and the immediacy of the experience.

Still, much of Burning Man began simply, as a simple response to direct need, and yet now is layered with ritual and remembrance.

Another of those Burning Man rituals takes place tomorrow night, the early burn, where crews gather to burn their own stylized effigies, meant to symbolize their specific participation in the event. A giant radio, perhaps, or the replica of an office, or maybe even one giant stake pounder. Again, who knows? … It’s up to the people involved. But there will be something different this year. Someone will be missing. And that absence will say a lot about the nature of Burning Man, and the people who attend.

A million years ago, when Burning Man was still wild and untamed, there were no fluffers, there were no radios, there was no commissary. You took your shade by the side of a truck, and if that wasn’t enough, you climbed under it to get out of the sun.

You entered a Black Rock desert that did not have roads, and certainly did not have thousands of bright orange cones lining the way. There was only blackness and the scribbled directions that said to get off the highway at a certain spot, travel six miles east, then turn left. It was terrifying and strange, just like the people you were with.

Eventually, though, order had to be pulled out of the chaos if the event was going to survive, and so a navigable city was laid out. The center of the city was always marked with a stake where the man would eventually stand.

“But we could never find the damn cone” that marked the stake,” Coyote remembered. “We’d have to go back to the ranch in shame and defeat.” To rectify the situation, Peter Mars, who at the time worked in the wood shop, constructed a four-by-four triangular-shaped man that the survey crew could put on top of the stake that marked the center of the city. But everyone grew fond of the the early man, and when the time came, they decided to give him a proper, that is to say flaming, sendoff. And thus the early burn was born.

You're never too young to learn how to play

You’re never too young to learn how to play

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