Work began today almost wordlessly. Everyone on this year’s KCrew is a veteran Man builder, and by now well familiar with the steps involved. The Greenlees – refrigerator-sized metal toolboxes – were unpacked yesterday, and the myriad tools of Man-building now stand ready, awaiting our use. Sawhorses are unpacked and assembled: two for the torso and two for each leg. (The arm horses will follow later.) The lumber that will become the Man has already been delivered and now, three long timbers are carried from it and placed across each pair of sawhorses. These beams will form the Man’s spine, and the long bones of the legs.
Given that the Man KCrew draws its members from the wildly eclectic citizens and creators of Black Rock City it should come as no surprise that we too are a broadly diverse group of folks. For example our oldest builder is 62, our youngest only 24. Similarly (and perhaps despite its name) the Man Crew is by no means a boy’s club. Many women have helped create the Burning Man throughout the years. 2009 is no different, with five incredible women lending their unique skills and personalities to the task.
Yesterday, the DPW workshop stood empty, a nondescript metal quonset amidst the low, gravelly scrub that rings the Black Rock desert. Today the workshop is full.
Full of people. Full of movement. Full of sawdust.
Full of activity and creativity and – to keep things balanced – a little destruction.
Full of music from a dusty stereo, doggedly fighting its hopeless battle with The Carpenter’s Orchestra: the bass drone of belt sander and shop vac, the baritone buzz of table and chop saws, the three tenors, jigsaw, Sawzall and drill, and the 30,000 rpm soprano herself, the trim router, ever the diva.
Full of intention, the magickal force necessary to resurrect an icon from the ashes, so that it may once again take its place at the center of Black Rock City, our dear dusty Brigadoon.
Full of the elaborate dance of lore, luck and skill that gives birth to the Burning Man.
I first met the MAN when he was still on the hay bales. Oh how he loved those hay bales.
Back in those days he was almost standing on the playa with the rest of us. There were no arching staircases, no MAN BASES, no contraptions to turn him, no snarky clowns in porticos, no pavilions or groves or observatories, no nothing but HIM atop a pyramid of highly flammable hay bale possibility.
Sure, I’d heard the MAN’s story, repeated incessantly by my friend who was an acolyte who’d known him for several years prior. My friend told me how the MAN was just a BOY on Baker Beach, born from the fertile loins of Larry and Jerry and how, at that tender age HE was raised and how HE drew the lucky few to him who happened to be there on that fortuitous day: punks, drunk ascetics and hippies, lackeys and MAN CURIOUS revelers. It was evidently the Solstice way back when there was the first MAN RISE.
I’d heard about his rebellious youth, how word of his Burning Sensation spread around San Francisco like an out of control fire in 1906, and how those big bonfires on the beach started to draw intellectuals and village idiots, artists, dangerous free rangers, musicians and assorted crazies to him for that toast and roast kind of inspiration celebration fruition rebellion. When that first little MAN stood there surveying all those around him, he realized that his ruckus dared to free some of those minds from self imposed prisons. HE saw the delight in their faces and it was good.
Each year the YOUNG MAN became more and more popular in spite of himself and around him developed a scene, a happening, a gathering, a CATHARSIS if you will. He was a fire burning, burning bright, growing each year in stature and reputation.
I’d also heard the legend of that fateful year when he outgrew his humble beginnings because he was becoming too dangerous, too much of a rebel and a renegade. Yes, HE was kicked off the beach for being a BAD BOY. The authorities needed to get that MAN out of their jurisdiction and banish him from the fair City of St. Francis, before his flame grew too big for them to contain.
Fortunately though, by the time the powers that be decided to try to extinguish him, the MAN had drawn around him an intimate circle of ideological ruffians who appreciated the MAN’s braggadocio because they too were young, dumb and full of … ideas. They were swarthy pirates searching for the new Temporary Autonomous Zone, they were masters and mistresses of Cacophony, the Saints of Stupid, the clever Evans, all Lawless researchers of Survival, Eaters of Souls, the Shiva who believed that the metaphor of life swirled around creation and destruction and they wanted that MAN to join them in a Zone out on the fringes of society where there could be a true few days of autonomy and madness.