"Hope and Fear: The Future"
Burning Man 2006
"Gentility is not just the renown     
Of ancestors who have some greatness shown,     
In which you have no portion of your own.     
Your own gentility comes from God alone;     
Thence comes our true nobility by grace,     
It was not willed us with our rank and place..." --The Wife of Bath's Tale 
 

Thursday: Early Thursday morning, the winds died down, and it turned into a perfectly beautiful day. The dawn was bright and hopeful. The skies were amazing over the playa all that week, with high, feathery clouds and deep blue heavens. I saw Jenn at Iron Rose camp. She said a friend was going to watch one of her belly dance shows. She sent Jenn a postcard explaining she missed it because "I got high." It got to be a running gag for stuff not done. I was gonna do that, but –I got high. A gay friend of Jenn's had been going with the same boyfriend for a whole year. She said, "That's, like, seven in gay years."  Jenn let me borrow her bicycle, because every place she wanted to go she could ride on the Iron Rose art car. I rode back to HOTD. The big opening the night before was kind of a bust: the generator blew up. Anne said, "It was literally a brief, shining moment."  

A camp down the street advertised, via a guy on a megaphone, that they were giving out pancakes and bloody Marys. I headed down the street with my bowl. Just then, the water truck drove by, spraying water on the streets to hold down the dust. Immediately, a dozen or more people appeared out of nowhere, peeling out of their clothes and running after the spraying water. It was an easy way to get a quick shower. A girl with long hair didn't even bother taking off her big butterfly wings. One guy slipped and fell on the slick playa but bounced back up and kept running. "Good save!" someone yelled. The funny thing was: this happened pretty much every time the water truck went by. After a while, they got to honking their horn to announce to everyone they were coming down the street. The truck passed me and circled around the 4:30 Plaza. I thought, if someone timed it right, he could run under the spray as the truck entered the plaza, quickly shampoo their hair, and then catch up to the truck for a rinse before it completed its circuit.  

At the camp serving breakfast, the pancakes had chunks of peaches cooked into them. The bloody Mary's had lots of veggies. There's nothing quite like a bloody Mary in the middle of a desert. I dined back at HOTD, then helped myself to some of the corned beef hash Brian cooked up. Spread on a bagel, it wasn't bad. Across the playa, just about every camp had some bacon cooking up for breakfast. What was the deal with all the bacon? Everyone had bacon. Mark had a supply of bacon in his cooler, frozen inside a big block of ice. Somebody in camp said they even tried bacon sprinkled on ice cream, and it was "really good." An impressive girl named Jessica arrived in camp with an RV full of friends. There was still problems with the generator, but with power from Jessica's RV they hoped to get the stage up and running. That was encouraging.  
 

I went out for a ride on Jenn's bike. I rode out to the Man, then decided to try to find Anabel's camp one more time. A bar called the Wet Spot turned out to be Spank the Monkey camp after all. I talked to Taser, the bartender, who had been through a lot of the places in Colorado I passed through on the train. I also met Caeser, who knew a lot of Steven Wright jokes.  
  
Just then, Anabel arrived! She had her hair done in rainbow-colored curls. She was very glad to see me, and we sat & talked for a good half hour.  She talked about her multiple surgeries ("Wanna see my scars?"), and her recent move to San Francisco from Florida.  She was on the lookout for some focal point in her life, some cause she could put her energy into. She hoped we could get together again before the week was out. I was glad we got to talk.  

Riding past Center Camp, I found the Greeter's Camp close by. I asked about Greeter training, and they just told me to show up for my shift Friday at 8 AM and they'd show me what to do. I felt great. 

Back at camp, the bartender gave me one of his "special" drinks. I had to run to the porta-potties first, so I told a girl I was gonna let my booze "steep." The power for the stage was ready to turn on. While waiting, I got out my djembe drum and I performed some free-style drumming on the HOTD stage. Granted, it was a very low-key performance, but hey. I performed onstage! It was fun. There was also a camp across the Plaza playing Ravel's "Bolero" on loudspeakers. The band got electrified, and the joint really started jumping.  
 
I got a drink from the Costco Soulmate Exchange, across the Plaza, and that's where I met up with Melanie, the gorgeous girl I'd met there the year before. I also met a nice girl named Julie.  
At HOTD, a girl called Hella Delicious drew a naughty picture on the wall behind the bar. I took some pictures of her, and got her email address so I could send her copies. She was with a friend called Ribbon, and I met up with Lucy, the pretty cowgirl I'd met the year before. Supper was rice with pumpkin curry– very tasty.  
 
Night fell, and Hair of the Dog was really bouncing. Spanky even got me up to dance with everybody. A powerful singer named Claudia was burning up the place.
By 9 PM, the music was really going, I was really tired and feeling really drunk. I figured it would be a good idea to take a little nap to refresh myself. I took half-hour naps at home all the time. So, I crawled into my tent, pulled the sleeping bag over me, and fell fast asleep...  I awoke to silence. My watch said it was  1:30 in the morning. I climbed out to a clear, starlit sky. The bar was dark and quiet. I walked around the corner to the porta-potties, and strolled around the Plaza a little. One of the other camps was showing "Rocky Horror" on a big screen, and later showed some sort of "Porky's"-ish teen comedy, with pickles. The pulsing beat of the City was everywhere. Off towards the Man, someone was setting off some illegal fireworks. Part of me wanted to go exploring, but I knew I had to work a 4-hour shift with the Greeters in the morning. So, I went back to my tent, adjusted my sleeping bags for a warmer position, and settled back for a quiet, restful night–  

And that's when I realized my wedding ring was gone! I turned on my little camp lantern and looked all over my tent, but finally decided it was useless to try to search before daylight. So, I turned off the light and tried to sleep. I couldn't sleep. I couldn't remember the last time I remembered wearing it. Did I have it on while riding around? At the Greeter's camp? During supper? In the bar? I couldn't remember. When something's always there, you don't think about it. I got my flashlight and retraced my steps, carefully sweeping the light across the ground like some CSI cop. Outside the bar, I passed Brian, who was surprised to see the bar closed so early. I told him I lost something, and he said I needed to find it soon, before it got "grounded" into the playa by feet and vehicles. I worked my way down the street, down to the porta-potties and back, then all around the Plaza. Nothing. It was gone. I went back to my tent, wondering what I was gonna tell my wife. Ever since my left hand got hurt in May, I'd been wearing it on my right pinky, waiting for the swelling to go down. I had actually been thinking of having it resized, in case my left hand never fully recovered. I remembered when my wife accidently threw her wedding ring away that one Christmas, and we had to go get her a new one... but that didn't make me feel any better. There wasn't anything for me to do. Gone or not, whatever the consequences might end up being, I needed to get some sleep. I figured I'd somehow work things out in the morning, one way or another. I fell into a restless sleep... 

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