Day 5: Early Tuesday morning, I woke to a lunar landscape... with flags. I figure it was a couple of hours before dawn. The bright full Moon shone like a failed sun over the camp. Pale light made its way among the charcoal shadows. I saw no movement, no people. A beautiful, bright star was low in the sky. It appeared just before dawn every morning. The wind was fierce, causing the tarp over my van to flap annoyingly. I was afraid the racket would wake the neighbors. So, I got out and tried to secure it better. That's when I discovered I didn't have my big sack of paracord. I don't know why it wasn't in my toolkit, like always. The air mattress had also deflated, after being inflated less than 10 hours. I finally decided to work it all out in the morning. As I curled up to go back to sleep, someone started playing music. It didn't matter...

Dawn came howling across the playa. The sky was pale blue and featureless. It was  Tuesday, August 31st. I got dressed and headed for the portable toilets. The fifth one finally had toilet paper. Breakfast was the first MRE out of the bag –white rice– with beef jerky and V8 Juice. I saw Idaho Amy's roommate and asked if my flapping tarp kept them awake. She said not to worry about it. "Wait ‘till the drumming starts," she said. A naked man danced a jig down the street. I went by Playa Info and posted a note to Deborah, the girl I met the night of the Temple burn the year before. I wanted to let her know how much I appreciated her company. I didn't even know if she was going to attend that year. In Center Camp, a man was walking around dressed as a giant chicken. I met a couple of very nice girls, one named Feldspar (I think–it was some kind of gem) and her friend Ona. I met a nice guy named Spencer as he came out of the camp shower. I also met a nice girl named Lenore. She and her friend Said were going to ride their bikes out to find Camp Israel, and invited me along. We rode way the heck out to the fringe of the encampment, out where the tents were few and far apart. But we found it. There was a little sign next to their tent. Lenore and Said spoke to a guy in Hebrew for a couple of minutes. I found the others in the camp, a guy named Adam and a pretty girl named Sara.

There was a mandatory camp meeting at 11, so we hurried back to find they had started the meeting early. There was a lady giving a little speech about "excretemental correctness," or how to not catch anything in the port-o-potties. The rest of the meeting was pretty basic stuff about the kitchen, and the shower and various things... then, they dropped the bombshell. The guy in charge said that they had a lot more people coming in than they had anticipated, so space was going to have to be reorganized. To be specific, they were only going to have room in camp for tents – no cars. People with tents could set them up in camp, but all their vehicles would have to be moved out of camp to a different area. I asked, But, what about people that don't have a tent, that are camping in their car– like me? He just shook his head, and said all cars would have to leave the campsite. Someone else in the camp tried moving his vehicle to a different spot, but the guy in charge said that wasn't good enough.There would be no exceptions. All vehicles would have to leave. I felt devastated. It was like I was being singled out for doing something wrong, like I was being punished. The head guy said that wasn't the case. He said I could still have full run of the camp and all the facilities... But it wasn't the same.

I packed up the tarp and equipment I'd so happily unpacked the evening before, and moved my car to the designated area. It was five long blocks away, in a wide, empty space with nobody else around. I felt terribly alone. Suddenly, Burning Man wasn't any fun any more. What was the point of being part of a camp if you weren't in the camp? It was no different from camping on your own and visiting somebody else's camp. How can you be part of a camp if you're sleeping five blocks away? I felt stupid and poor for not having a tent. I'd spent all those months planning to be part of a little community, looking forward to the experience... and then suddenly I wasn't part of it. I felt abandoned, cast-out. I thought about packing up and just going back home. I mean it. I almost packed up everything, turned around and left.

Instead, I went for a bike ride. I ended up passing Hair of the Dog, and happened to see Spanky crossing the street. He recognized me, and asked me why I was looking so down. I told him about being sent away from the camp I'd been planning to stay with... and he said, "Well, bring your car down and park it here!" Really? I didn't want him to get in trouble. He said he'd take care of any hassles. So, I raced back to my car and moved it up to the HOTD campsite. I parked it right next to Spanky's van– he was sleeping in his car, too. All of a sudden, I was part of a camp again! When I saw Lisa D., I thanked her, too, and told her I wouldn't be a problem, and that I'd pull my fair share of work. She said she knew I would. What a relief! I felt like a lost puppy that had been adopted. I did pull my weight, too. The bar/ storehouse needed a lot of work after being in storage over the winter. Tigger supervised the reconstruction of the unit. It looked like they needed somebody that knew how to use a circular saw, so I jumped in. I helped cut new floorboards, but the plan was to replace the underlying braces. I felt useful again, needed, part of the community. Human beings have a deep, hard-wired need to feel loved, and to feel safe, but I think it's also important for people to feel useful, like they're making a contribution.

I met more of the people in the camp. There was a nice girl named Ann, who had an online journal. I talked to her about her recent camping trip down the coast of Baha California, where she got to see whales. The camp also included Star, Tigger, Joann, Teri, Bob, Mark, and a nice blonde girl named Marie. When work got to a stopping point, I stepped down the street to the Golden Café for a drink. That's where I met a brunette girl called Sahara, and her boyfriend (Rascal?). While sitting with my drink, I watched the various women walk around down the street. Some were in elaborate costumes, some were topless, and some were completely nude. One topless brunette girl caught my eye: she just had one breast. On the right side of her chest was a mastectomy scar where her other breast used to be. But that didn't stop her from going topless at Burning Man. I thought, wow. I saw that same girl off and on all week, always topless. I should've introduced myself.

While working back at HOTD, a glittery girl came by. Her name was Lisa. Her face was painted and she seemed really nice. She had to leave, but she said she'd be back. Behind the bar unit, the camp had a big army surplus MASH tent, and that's where Mark set up his kitchen. We had the most amazing supper! Two kinds of fresh fish, with rice on the side– after days of beef jerky, it was like entering Heaven. I was part of the camp now, so I got to partake. What a feast! I met Spoon, a friendly guy from another camp, and his girlfriend Tray. After supper, I went walking around. One of the camps on the Esplanade had built a 1950's-style gas station, complete with office and bell-ringing cable out front. The "Gasso" neon sign was rigged to blink the letters so that it read "GO... ASS... GO... ASS..." The two "services" they provided included an automatic, pneumatic-powered butt paddler, and a device they called the "orgazmo." It was a motorcycle-shaped device for women to ride that had one addition: a vibrator installed in the banana seat. Women were lined up to try it out, and the women I watched riding it were having a grand time. When they were "done," the women rang a little bell on the handlebars. After a while, the stresses of the day weighed heavily on me, and I think I crashed in my van about midnight.
Sunrise on the playa, Tuesday morning
Morning bicyclists
Art car
Satori without...
...Satori within (my home for a week)
Hair of the Dog takes shape

  Prologue -- Day 1 -- Day 2 -- Day 3 -- Day 4 -- Day 5 -- Day 6 -- Day 7 -- Day 8 -- Day 9 -- Day 10 -- Day 11 -- Day 12 -- Day 13 -- Day 14 -- Epilogue
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All original content (c)opyright 2004 by Tim Frayser