The Destruction of the Universe
according to Kiki
Illustrated by Amacker's pictures

F-Space was putting together a show called "How To Destroy The Universe, part 2" for Hiroshima Day -- the first being held on Pearl Harbor Day last year -- and since the Shipyard had already committed to "entirely rebuilding the Universe from scratch" as a long-term but central goal, the show seemed altogether too perfect to host at the Shipyard.

The Shipyard is the brainchild of Jim Mason -- a lot with a small warehouse on it, surrounded by metal trans-pacific shipping containers -- each one a workshop for a Bay Area metal artist.  These shops are small and cheap, but have access to a shared outdoor work yard -- perfect for cash-strapped large-scale artists would could never afford such a resource individually.  Also, an amazing community of top-notch artists, intelligent and wise in the fire arts.  We help eachother, and share knowledge and resources.  Together we know the correct orifice size for a given flame thrower size, the proper mix of gas and diesel for a good liquid fuel flame effect, how to keep your propane tanks from freezing, where to get stainless steel wool to keep your pilot light from blowing out in the desert winds, and so on...

We had committed to running Egeria -- our 3-tier, 12' tall water fountain on fire.  Ryon committed to retrieving his giant Eye sculpture that sits a top 30' tall legs.  [He had moved it to another warehouse for a party there, and needed to bring it back anyway.]      Barbara, of Therm fame, also committed to finish her Harpie sculpture for the show -- two-headed fire breathing bird made of stainless steel, run with propane, that pops, billows, spikes, sparkles, and many other effects.

Jim Mason [a bit burned out from 3 years of managing the Shipyard itself] also talked about doing another Ice sculpture -- a frozen body of ice with gears and bolts and bits of metal frozen inside so that as it melts, the bits fall onto noise-making pieces of metal, and adding throughout the night to the general sound and chaos of the "music" being made by the bands playing. 

Jim built a 14' diameter Ice Ball at Burning Man in 1997 -- so he is well known for his ice.  He also bought 2 refrigerated ["reefer"] containers among the 27 shipping containers that make up the artist studios at the Shipyard, for the purpose of being able to make more ice sculptures in the future.  This, he hoped, was to be one of those times.

The Eye:
Barbara's sculptures:
The Ice Ball:
The show itself:

The line up of bands and artwork grew and expanded.  Newspapers advertised, and some claimed it as "pick of the week".    Radio stations advertised incessantly.    Barbara's harpie swelled into "Barbara Kruse's three headed dragon" in one writeup.  This was going to be BIG.    This was to be the biggest show the Shipyard had done since Berkeley tried to shut us down and took our electrical meter.  We now have a Use Permit.  We're legal.  We bought the permits for the show.  It was Time.

The show was packed with some of the best fire art in the Bay Area, and some of the loudest and bizarre acts across California.  It was to be loud.  It was to induce trance.  It was meant to disturb.

And even before the first show began, some cracks in the Universe began to appear...

It began with Ryon starting a betting pool that Jim -- notorious for not quite finishing projects on time -- would or would not get his Ice project done in time for the show.    The bet was whether he would be done by midnight saturday night -- by the end of the last of the two shows.

This all because Jim had begun to waver, even though he had some volunteers wanting to see it get done.

The bets came in.  Insults started to fly.  The stakes started to rise.

Ryon's Eye appeared sometime sunday, I think, but remained loaded on the flatbed until around wednesday -- two days before the first show.  On thursday, Ryon started cutting some pieces off and rewelding them back on.  He had some "minor" changes he wanted to make.  I thought this was ridiculous -- "just put it up!"  But Ryon is the true artist.  And true Shipyard artist -- not content with an easy install...

Jim took a look at the reefer, I think, tuesday.  It was low on refrigerant, and not getting cold enough.  Since I had fixed one of my vending machines [with direction and lots of help from Peef], Jim asked me to help.  Well, a reefer is a bit bigger than a vendo, and I had my own projects going on, so I couldn't help.  It wasn't looking good for getting ice frozen.

The reefer containers
[Jim's using the upper one -- the lower one is occupied.]

About this time, Chicken John put $200 riding for anyone who could make Jim cry.

Jim called a service man, and the reefer got serviced on wednesday morning.  Bets increased for Jim succeeding.  Jim put out a "cry for help..." in Ryon's name, because the Eye was still laying on the ground.

Charlie rearranged all the stuff in the yard, cleaning it up for the show.  He and Jim decided to put in Jim's military DUKW to use for the stage.  [This is actually a much longer story, but I'm trying to stick to the point here.]    The DUKW looked *awesome*!!  The show was being published everywhere.  The tension in the air that this was going to be an AMAZING show was starting to build!!

...and the reefer was actually running and getting cold.

Note, that since Berkeley took our electrical meter, the Shipyard has been off the grid.  We run on a giant 35kw generator, and have recently created a battery bank and inverter system so huge that we can actually weld.  Shipyardians built the system practically from scratch from mostly salvage parts, hacking the inverters -- built originally to handle a backup system -- to run 24/7 for a group of 25 metal artists.  It is an amazing and powerful system.  But it has its issues.  The genny overheats when the hot tub is on.    There are brownouts when the 3-phase, 15 horse lathe starts up.  It is *NOT* the grid.

On friday, around 6pm -- note the doors open at 8 -- Ryon gets his Eye in the air.  It towers magnificently over the DUKW stage, while F-Space does their sound-check.    The pounding of their instrument named "Thor" reverberates around the hard metal shipping container bunker, and outward into the sky.

Jim has the fiberglass body opened up and ready to receive the ice.  He brings in 2 trashcans of ice from the Odeon Bar [owned by Chicken John], and takes them into the reefer.
The first show starts.

Scott and I were busy getting Egeria ready and running, so I don't remember much of what happened at the show.    Though I do remember Black Ice, because I really liked what they played  -- they're a lot like F-Space in their intense percussiveness, and depth of sounds.  Also, it was just simply an *amazing* show, well attended for a friday night, and much the kind of shows I hope to see at the Shipyard more often!  I was dancing so hard to F-Space I kept falling over.  I got lost in my own head.  It was awesome!

Once the show was over, Ryon pulls out the Shipyard fire barrel.  We load it up with wood and sit around peacefully, basking in the glow of a show pulled off well, discussing the show to follow.  Ryon works the crowd for their bets.  "C'mon, Scott!  Put your money down, man!  C'mon!  Whatcha got??"  Ryon had to accost Ethan Port [F-Space memeber] three separate times to get money out of him.  His bet: "finished but lame."  The Vendo [my little vending service] bet a $10 roll of quarters: "Jim won't get it done in time for the show, but *will* get it done in time for SIGgraph, which starts on monday."  [This was an inside joke -- his "G7 Stock Puppets" were not finished at all for Burning Man, or even for the Burning Man "Decompression" party, but he did get them installed and working the following year for SIGgraph.]

Ryon cons Jon Serregarti [sp?] outta some cash

Jim slinks out around 4am with two more empty trashcans.  This is about when we left for home.

Ryon reports that he returned around 5:30am or so with ice that he probably got from every gas station he could find ice at.  Barbara was also working all night on her Harpie flaming bird heads.  Jim asks her to wake him.  She's been thinking about that $200 bet, tempted not to wake him...

Saturday dawns, bright and sunny.  The partial mess of the night before has already been cleaned up by the time we arrive at the Shipyard, but there's a big puddle in front of the front gate.  Jim posted to the list, typed with his claw-like frozen fingers [here's an excerpt]:

>last night the bands sounded great, or at least what i could hear of them
>from inside the refer container.  jesus christ it is cold in those things. 
>i can barely type at this pont from the frostbite.  but the BODY OF BOLTS is
>solid as a rock as of 1pm.  now i just have to figure out how to get the
>thing17' in the air, plumb it for gasoline, and build some interesting heap
>of metal scrap below it for all the stuff frozen inside to fall on as it
>melts.  help on these minor details this afternoon and early (or potentially
>late) evening would be much appreciated.
>shit, the generator just shut off.  i need to go.

When we walk in, the generator sound-door is wide open and a giant fan is leaning up against it.  I'm laughing my ass off.  The generator overheated, and Peef put the garden hose on it to cool it.  The puddle in front of the gate now makes sense.

By the late afternoon, Jim is getting smug.  The betting pool is nearing $200 -- with still some pledges not yet handed in.  This is looking to be a serious thing.  Another excerpt from Ryon:

> The odds so far: Pretty close, with those who bet for him pulling it off
> doing better should he succeed. 5:7, roughly. Jim's percentage is yet to
> be determined, but he put $40 on himself. Among those who bet, YOU THERE
> had better do something extreme in some direction soon, meaning make
> something dramatic happen immediately to alter the course of our futures
> here, or be forced to sit and suck on it...Your monetary fattening depends
> upon winning a meaningless made up art contest, so GET OVER HERE AND
> HARASS OR HELP JIM! NOW! We're down to 10 hours and 29 minutes...

The show starts with Ryon's band -- my first time seeing them!    They are loud and punk and ridiculous.    Ryon is wearing some giant 70's sunglasses, and a fez with a HUGE eyeball on it.  He forces me and Scott into a mosh pit -- my second ever.  [I'm no punk rocker...]  Binky, I believe, was next -- an all-girl punk band that was actually really great!  They wore white and pink, and the lead singer could scream like a man.  It was great.

Sometime around then, Jim drives the forklift through the crowd.  [Note, this ain't no trivial forklift -- it's a 12,000 pound, 33', two-stage forklift we bought salvage from the Mare Island Navel Shipyard auction.]  He drives it into the skinny allyway next to Barry's 40' container -- it barely fits.    The body is on the ground, and volunteers are gathered around.

The Body Of Bolts ready to rise...

Peef [left] and Dodger [right] help Jim.

F-Space is playing.  It's after 11, and things are getting tense.  Betters Against are stealing tools from Jim and volunteers.    Someone keeps turning the forklift off.  Someone stole the forklift key at one point.  Jim hotwires it.  They steal the battery.  Twice.  F-Space music is pounding, building...  I shimmy by in the narrow space and climb up on the forklift to get a better look.  With the sawsall stolen -- and Scott refusing to loan his to the cause, his 1 penny bet burning hot -- volunteers are removing the fiberglass mold with hacksaws.  Jim crawls out from under the forklift after hotwiring it yet again, with Max hovering over.  I didn't see what Max was up to, but Jim starts wielding a heavy chain, whipping Max with it ferociously.  At this point, I was getting a bit scared.  Jim does not look sane.  I quickly climb back down and get out of there.

Scott and [Girl] Mark steel tools from Dodger while Ryon relaxes with a giggle and a beer

Jim installing another battery
Jim installing another forklift battery

Max [hat] and Ryon [suit] chuckle as they look on.
Ryon is probably writing booky notes on the back of his hand

F-Space blares, fire spewing out of their instruments, we're getting ready to run Egeria once their set is over, so I keep having to turn away from the ensuing mayhem happening in the ally beside Barry's container.

F-Space spewing fire behind this cool robot sculpture from Germany
[it was fully articulated, very intricate, and danced to the music]

We hook up the fuel, get the igniter ready, then head back over to watch.

Kiki [left] peeks cautiously around the corner

By this time, someone is squirting water on Jim as he's driving.  Jim guns the engine, fogging those watching with billows of diesel exhaust.  It doesn't help.  Insults are shouted.  It's 15 minutes to midnight, Jim rages outwards, swinging the chain around his head at the crowd -- innocent and guilty alike.  The fear is real and I run...

F-Space finishes and we have to run our artpiece.  But we hear second-hand the outcome: Jim made it, with 2 minutes to spare.

Josh skootches out of the way as the Body Of Bolts begins to rise...

Darrel watches the Body Of Bolts as it melts
the pieces cascade down, crashing onto the metal sheets below.

When we're done, we head back over to see what's going on.  Jim has a water fire extinguisher filled with diesel, and he's flame-throwing the contents on the ice sculpture.  The Body Of Bolts melts and giant chunks slowly peel off and crash satisfyingly loudly on metal sheets below, and it reverberates with the sounds in the rest of the yard.

Jim uses a quickly devised flame thrower to get the Body Of Bolts to begin melting.

The Body Of Bolts engulfed in flames.

Closeup of the head

Whole portions of the audience have no clue of the significance of what just happened.

Ryon walks by, shouting, "I'd like to thank you all for attending my remote control, interactive artpiece of Jim Mason that I created through words and email.  Thank you all very much for being a part of it."

Jim pulls the forklift back out for the next act -- the Aesthetic Meat Front.  I've seen them before.  They're too intense for my delicate nature.  The forklift is for hanging one of the members from hooks in his back.  Egads.  Yeah, I leave.  I hear later that Jim had a bowl of blood -- typical with their performance -- and was anointing the audience with it himself.  He and Ryon apparently battled with some of the skinned cow legs that are a part of their "decorations".  I couldn't stomach that, but I'm sure it was as apocalyptic as the rest...

Ryon's summary of the event:


I agree.

I love it here!!!!!!

Kiki -- where else in the entire world can you watch the Universe come to a chaotic and spectacular end as that?!?!?!?!?!  GodDAMN that was amazing!!!

PS Here's Amacker's pictures.

Thanx Amaker for permission to use your pics!!!