Even with two sleeping bags, it was a frosty morning on the playa. I climbed out of my van to find a huge RV parked right behind me! I don't know how they got that huge thing in the tiny space behind my car. Right away, I spotted Gomer Hendrix coming into camp. Somebody saw him and said, "I thought you weren't coming until tomorrow." Gomer replied,"It is tomorrow." When I returned from the porta-potties, there was a big rental truck in camp. It was Senor Spanky! He made it! He'd had several adventures of his own getting the truck to the desert. J.C. was indeed riding with him, but... he was still at the Gate! There had been a mix-up with his ticket, and the Gate people weren't going to let him in until he bought a new ticket. The current price was $350! Spanky got on the loudspeaker and started asking for donations. Just as the sun was coming up, Spanky's voice was booming across the playa, soliciting funds "to bring our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, here to Burning Man." He also put the bar up for sale, offering everything "except that can of WD-40 over there."
Right about that time, a car drove by giving away frozen ice cream sandwiches. That was a treat. That was when a pair of charming twins showed up to join the camp. Chris and Steph weren't just twins, they were the Twins. Several people came to the bar that week, asking, "Are the Twins here?" They were a lot of fun. Eventually, J.C.'s ticket situation got worked out, and he joined us in camp. Mark was whipping up some more of his famous breakfast eggs, but as he cooked I was watching the clock. I had to be at Playa Info at 11 AM for Exodus flagger training. Exodus was the group that helped the thousands of people leaving the Burning Man site quickly and safely on Sunday and Monday of the event. According to Nevada law, however, anyone directing that much traffic had to be certified by the state as a "flagger." That required everyone to take a class, followed by a test. My initial information said the training would take at least several hours. So, as soon as the first breakfast batch was done, I got a plate and scarfed it down as quick as I could. I hated to scarf and run, but I didn't want to be late. When I finished, I only had 10 minutes to get all the way over to Playa Info, across from Center Camp, but I made it right at 11. I didn't see anybody from Exodus, no signs, nothing.
Playa Info was pretty crowded, with people using the computers, filling out census forms, and just relaxing in the shade. The guy at the information desk, who was wearing a fuzzy white vest, didn't know anything about it. So, I waited. As I stood there, a girl walked in wearing pink underwear. She looked familiar. Finally, went up and asked, "Excuse me, are you Sarah?"It was Saraslicious, one of my LiveJournal friends! I'd never met her in person before. She was such a delight. I met her boyfriend Nick, too. She said she was camping at Boob Theater Camp, which I imagined to be some sort of Muppet camp, and I promised to drop by later. I waited some more for the Exodus crew. I asked the information guy again, and he said it was possible I had missed the Exodus people. "You were a little late," he said. No, I wasn't. As I waited, I looked up at the sign I had left on the announcement board. Someone had written something on the bottom. It said, "EMOLI 4:44 & Ego." Who wrote that? Was someone trying to contact me? Was it somebody I knew? Just then, someone said "Exodus," and I realized the gang had shown up.
I met Evacado (real name Chelsea) and a tall guy from Washington called Sailor. Transportation was on the way, but we still had to wait a little longer. I met Erin, sort of Evacado's deputy, Pauline, who spent her spare time knitting a hat, and a remarkable woman called Peach, who was Evacado's soon to be mother in law. Evacado was going to be married out at the Temple that Thursday evening at dusk. Peach was actually already qualified as a flagger, but wanted to retake the test anyway. There was a pretty good crowd of us heading out for flagger training. We were led to a rickety old bus, which had been marked as "Nevada Department of Foreskin," and piled in. We got rolling, and it was like one of the old buses I used to ride back in high school, banging and jumping along at every bump and curve. At the Gate, we got hung up by one of the Gate staff, who demanded everyone leaving had to have their ticket stub with them. I had brought mine, just in case, but about half of our group left theirs behind. It took some talking on the radio by the Forces That Be to allow us through. We took off down the dirt road, kicking up dust behind us.
We left Burning Man–
the bus took us offsite, out of the playa and back up on the pavement.
That was really strange. Traffic was lighter than I had expected. We drove
into Gerlach and pulled in at the saloon across from the Burning Man office.
The classroom was wonderfully air-conditioned. A retired guy named Paul
gave us the class, which covered how to direct traffic through construction
zones. The first rule was, don't die. Stay on the curb, don't walk
out in traffic, and always have space to dive out of the way. We took a
break, and some of us walked down to Bruno's Restaurant, in the same building
as Bruno's Saloon, and down the street from Bruno's Motel and Bruno's gas
station. Pretty much all the businesses in Gerlach were run by a guy named
Bruno. In the rest room, somebody wrote a joke on the wall: "How does
Bruno celebrate Christmas? He puts parking meters on the roof." The
rest of the flagger class went quickly, because Paul glossed over stuff
he knew we wouldn't need at Burning Man. The test was open-book, and I
really wished I'd brought my glasses. But, I passed! Paul gave me my card
which made me a certified Nevada State Flagger. Actually, we could've missed
ten of the 50 questions and still passed; Paul said the worst of us only
missed three questions. As soon as I was done, I raced back to Bruno's
and got a cheeseburger to go. It was typical diner fare, but it tasted
really good. Sailor got the "double cheeseburger" --I guess "heart attack
on a bun" wouldn't have fit on the menu. We got on the bus which bounced
us back to the playa. The same Gate guy climbed on board to do a head count,
then let us back in. Erin commented we got through the training in record
The bus dropped us off near Playa Info, within sight of the G-Spot. I found the G-Spot again! I recognized the bartender from the year before, but I'm not sureshe recognized me. They had camouflage netting up for shade, and a stripper pole for dancing. In order to get a drink, customers had to hold their cups under the crotch of a nude female statue, then reach around the back to find "the button" that dispensed the drink. I needed a little help. They had been so nice to me the year before that I brought them a souvenir shot glass from Oklahoma, which the bartender put with their other bar swag. While walking back to Hair of the Dog, I stopped off at Citrus Camp, which had big flags flying overhead. Jenna, the pretty bartender, was very cordial. Among the drinks they were serving was a concoction of vodka and Tang breakfast drink. They called it poon tang. It wasn't bad. They had a guest book, so I wrote in it, "Best poon tang on the playa!" I also walked down the street called Ego, looking for the address that had been left on my message. There was an old-time western saloon at 4:44 and Ego, but they didn't know anybody I knew. Over the next day or so, I asked everyone I saw on that block and checked with every camp– nothing. I never met up with whoever wrote that message --and I still don't know what EMOLI meant.
Back at HOTD, the big RV that had so suddenly appeared behind my van had just as suddenly disappeared. With the help of a bullhorn, enough people were gathered together so that we could put up the big MASH tent. Over at Costco, I chatted with Annie, the very nice bartender. That was where I met Clarity, a beautiful girl who came all the way from Cambridge, England for the festival. She had a lovely accent, and pretty Indian bindi paint on her face. I met Chrissy, a cowgirl adorned with blue swirls, and Melanie, a gorgeous blonde girl from Los Angeles. She used to live near Scranton, Pennsylvania. In camp, I met Pamela, Billy's girlfriend, a classy, very swanky lady whose voice reminded me of Angie Harmon. I had seen her picture before, in shots from Burning Toast Man. Supper that night was linguini. I didn't get in on it until after the first batch. Although the pasta was a bit al dente, the homemade sauce was excellent. Mark commented on the work I'd done putting in the fenceposts for the shade structure. He said I was "second to none" when it came to "pounding rebar."
As the sun set, I helped tend the bar. A guy whom I'm gonna call S. sat down and started rambling about the problems he'd been having. It seems he was part of a camp that did massages, but then he got in trouble with his camp. He was from India, and happened to be assigned to give a massage to a girl from India. One thing led to another, his "emotions" got a little out of control, and he ended up massaging the girl in places she hadn't asked to be massaged. S. claimed the girl didn't complain, but the other guys in camp did, and soon S. was sent packing. He was clearly drunk and/or stoned, and I couldn't tell how much of his story was real and how much was imagined. I tried to be sympathetic and understanding, but he wouldn't listen to me, and just kept rambling on about what happened. I finally got a chance to excuse myself, and took off on my bike. It was after dark, so Spike's Vampire Bar was open again. I went inside, and it was really crowded. There was a girl doing a dance up front, but not on the high stage. I was trying to get my cup unfastened from my belt, so that I could get a drink, and just then some guy sitting against the wall kicked me out of the way! I couldn't believe anybody at Burning Man would do that. At the bar, I waited and waited for the bartender to notice me, but she just kept chatting with her friends. I finally just left. I didn't go back. That may have been when I bumped into Bad Doggie, one of the girls I met when I first arrived at the playa that week. She remembered me.
That might have been the night I looked up the Boob Theater
Camp and found Sarah. We sat and talked for about 20 minutes in the darkness
of their camp. Her boyfriend stayed close by. Overhead, the stars were
amazing. The night skies that week were mostly Moon-less, so the stars
were incredible. Heading back to HOTD, there were flashing lights ahead.
As I got closer, I counted seven police cars, from various jurisdictions,
all parked in front of the bar. The cops had S. sitting down in a chair
out near the street. He was wearing a white shirt which someone later told
me was a straight jacket. I overheard one cop tell him they were going
to take his bicycle somewhere, and that's when he was led away into the
darkness. I never got the full story, but I thought of two reasons the
authorities might have intervened. Either they decided he was hopelessly
stoned and they took him away for his own good, or they arrested him because
he confessed to sexual assault. It was all pretty dramatic. The
playa grew chill quickly after dark. Late that night, I sat around
the burn barrel with Francie and warmed up before heading off to sleep.
The Hair of the Dog Lounge
Bruno's Country Club
Burning Toast Man
|All original content (c)opyright 2005 by Tim Frayser
Last Updated: September, 2005