"Hope and Fear: The Future"
Burning Man 2006
"And above all, to slay me utterly,  
Love has his fiery dart so burningly  
Struck through my faithful and care-laden heart,  
My death was patterned before my swaddling-shirt." --The Knight's Tale
Tuesday: I finally made it to Reno. I changed my wrist watch to Pacific Time. We took Interstate 80 out of Reno, and then turned north on Highway 447 towards Gerlach. The long, lonely road to Gerlach never changes... of course, it never gets any better, either. It's still dry, desolate and dismal. We listened to tapes of R.E.M. and Stevie Wonder. There was one other person from Oklahoma, that I knew of, that was going to be attending the event that week. He told me he was going to dye his hair pink for the occasion. Anne said, "That'll set him apart." Going through Empire, the lone general store was doing a brisk business as Burners stocked up for the week. We decided to not stop and just keep going. We saw a freight train pass through Gerlach on its long haul to California.  
Just past Gerlach, traffic got heavy, and we got excited when Black Rock City came into view. It was already huge. The main campsite was moved to a new location that year, just northeast of where it had been held the previous few years. The new entrance was through the Twelve Mile Road. We pulled off the highway and onto the rough gravel lane that led to the Gate. That was when the wind picked up. Flying dust obscured everything for several minutes. There was a line at the Gate, but it wasn't bad. A guard tower had been set up to watch the flow of traffic, with camo netting on the sides and a tiny radar system rotating on the roof. There had been talk of getting the La Contessa Spanish galleon for the Gate to use as a headquarters, but I guess that plan didn't work out. The Gate took our tickets and we were in! It was another mile or so to the Greeter's Station. A Greeter named Helly welcomed us into Black Rock City. "Welcome home!"  
We already knew the address for Hair of the Dog: it was at the 8:30 position in the Plaza on 4:30 Street. Anne and I followed the outer road to 4:30 and turned in. The Plaza came into view, and we spotted Mark's RV right away. The stage was already set up, next to the bar. The bar yet survived. We parked, and I helped Anne put up her tent. Most of the regulars were already there: Gomer, Mark, D-Mo (who dyed his hair purple for the event), Billy and J.C. Anne set it her tent next to Gomer's tent, for support, and I set up my tent next to her's and behind her car, which I used as a windbreak. Or tried to, anyway; the wind was relentless. Instead of the tent's rainfly, I brought a big tarp to drape over the mesh parts of my tent. I used lots of paracord to tie down the tarp, and even ran some cord under the tent to help support it. The fancy tent stakes I found at a flea market for $1 each worked like a charm. The Twins, Kristine and Stephanie, arrived about the same time we did. They set up a big tent. By then, it was late afternoon, and the shadows were getting long. I helped Mark, Brian and J.C. assemble the camp shower. Both Star and Tigger gave me big hugs. By then, D-Mo had some delicious stir-fry cooked up in his wok, and I had two helpings. Except for that $6 Amtrak burger, it was the first meal I'd had in two days.  
Each year, the campsite for Burning Man is surveyed and  laid out by the organizations's Department of Public  Works (DPW). Streets and blocks are organized for the attending Burners.   
As the city expands outwards, the streets are renamed each year according to that year's theme. In 2006, the streets out from the Esplanade were named Anxious, Brave, Chance, Destiny, Eager, Fate, Guess, and Hope 
The radial streets, all pointing towards the Man at the center, are named after corresponding hands on a clock. The other streets form a semi-circle around the Man. The main avenue on the innermost circle of the campsite is always called the Esplanade, with Center Camp always at the 6 o'clock position.  In earlier years, all the Theme Camps were located up near the Esplanade, but that had since changed. The dark blue areas on the map indicated Theme Camps, while the light blue areas designated Villages (groups of Theme Camps). The lighter blue areas were for general camping --first come, first served. This plan spread the Theme Camps all over the City, and allowed people that weren't with any specific group to camp near a Theme Camp.  
The Hair of the Dog Camp was located   
on the 4:30 Plaza, at 4:30 and Fate Streets.
The sun set. I decided to go for a walk. I loaded up my bag and headed out down the busy streets. I walked out towards the Man. On the way, I passed a gigantic, stainless steel snake, still under construction. It was the Serpent Mother, and wound around in a big circle guarding a car-sized egg. A guy on a big tricycle rode up and asked, "Would you like a cocktail?" The back of his tricycle had jugs of tequila, vodka and various liquors, along with an assortment of mixers... and a human skull, which he said came from a dead punk rocker. A pretty girl named Christie ordered a whiskey sour. She rode a big tricked-out tricycle, as well, because she said she didn't want to mess with kickstands. She said her camp looked like a "hobbit house." I ordered a gin & tonic, which I took with me out to the Man. The green colors and curving lines of the base reminded me of the Emerald City from "The Wizard of Oz." Instead of a maze, the Man was surrounded with a series of rooms, each with a different theme. One room had a microphone where people could confess and record sins. Another room had headsets you wore that would stimulate the optic nerves; people said it was very surreal. I walked out towards the Temple, and watched the crescent Moon rise above the Man. Guys with fancy cameras were trying to get a good shot. I only brought my digital camera and a couple of disposable film cameras with me that year, so I gave up the idea of getting any good night shots.  

There was a light far out on the playa. As I walked towards it, I came across some wooden structures, dark and unfinished towers that reminded me of the temples of Angkor Wat, or some ancient site in India. A Black Rock Ranger appeared, who told me the Temple of Hope would be finished on Wednesday. I asked about the light out on the playa, and she said that was "the controversial Belgian Project." I continued walking towards the light. As I got closer to the structure, I saw that it was an assemblage of thousands of thin, wooden boards. It looked like an explosion in a toothpick and glue factory. It was massive, at least five stories tall, with swirling, curving lines, graceful, intricate and awesome. I knew I'd have to come back in the daylight. From there, I started walking towards the 9 O'clock Plaza. It was a long damn walk across the flat playa. Bundled up in my hat, goggles and bandana, the bright Moon overhead, it was almost like I was an astronaut walking across some alien landscape. With flags.  

I checked out the camps along that end of the Esplanade. Some were still under construction. Everywhere were the sounds of drums and music. Colorful art cars cruised the streets. At a place called the 7 Sins Lounge, I met a nice guy named Roy. He fixed me a very strong tequila drink. There was an assortment of paddles on the wall for anyone so interested. There were several camps I wanted to visit on that side of the City, and people I wanted to see, but I couldn't find anything or anybody that night. I walked through Center Camp, listening to the poetry and the music. At Playa Info, a note on a board said the population of Black Rock City was 23,000, so far. I think that was the night I tried to get inside Spike's Vampire Bar, but it was too crowded. On the Esplanade, an art car was giving out freshly-made pancakes, with delicious syrup. As I walked away, I realized my hat was gone; a couple of guys in a golf cart found it.  

A beautiful girl called Fox struck up a conversation with me. She wore butterfly wings on her back. She said she loved where her camp was located, close to the Esplanade, but it was a long hike to the porta-potties. As I walked along, my foot hit something. I got out my flashlight, and found a wire marker flag sticking in the road-- no flag, just a stiff wire, sticking dangerously up in the darkness. When I picked it up, a passing girl said, "You rock, dude." Back at Hair of the Dog, I ran into Spoon, who'd read my previous Burning Man reports online. Curly, the HOTD house band, was doing a set at Center Camp that night. That was neat. I went back out again, and ended up at a bar at some camp of very attractive people... and it may have been because I was tired, and my feet hurt, and they were just talking to people they knew, but I just went back to camp and curled up in my sleeping bag for the night. 

Introduction -- The Journey West 
 Tuesday -- Wednesday -- Thursday -- Friday -- Saturday -- Sunday 
Monday --  The Journey East -- Epilogue
All original content (c)opyright 2006  
by Tim Frayser 
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