|Monday: I dreamed about a circle of light, slowly
running over a page of text. The circle was so small --or the text was
so big-- that I couldn't make out the words, just the edges and curves
of the serif font... It was about 4:30 Monday morning, September 4th, when
I woke up. I climbed out of my tent and stood under the desert sky. I was
reminded of the old Peanuts cartoon where Linus is looking at the night
sky, and he says the stars must be having a great time. Lucy asks him why
he says that, and he replies, "They've got all their lights on!" It was
still deep night, but off to the east I could see the faint glow of the
approaching Sun... Wait, that wasn't east. It must must've been the glow
of the "Belgian Waffle," which was set afire after the Temple on Sunday
night. I hit the porta potties, then went back to camp. It was warm out;
I could've slept outside in my short sleeves, if I wanted to. I didn't
need to curl up inside two sleeping bags anymore...
I woke again just before sunrise. I rode Jenn's bike out
past the Esplanade into the open playa, which is where I was when the first
rays of dawn peeked over the mountains. I rode out to the remains of the
Temple. Each of the towers had burned down to the sheet metal that had
been put underneath to protect the playa. Someone was wandering among the
ruins, collecting random pieces of memorials that survived the burn. A
couple lay cuddled-up in a sleeping bag between the blackened piles of
ash. They must've spent the night there. I rode out to the former Belgian
Project, the remains of which were still smoldering in a red, glowing pile.
A small crowd wandered about, serenaded by a trio with a guitar. They were
welcoming the dawn by singing "You Are My Sunshine." I love that song.
The Sun crept slowly above the mountains. My shadow looked a mile long,
stretching out across the playa. There's nothing like sunrise in the desert.
I rode out to the Greeter's Station to see what the exit
lines looked like. Vehicles were lined up two lanes deep as far as the
eye could see down towards the Gate. The lines stretched back past Greeters,
up the two entrance lanes, and back up around the City, at least as far
as the 4 O'Clock Street. Nobody was moving very quickly. It looked like
it would be a long day. The Twins had already packed up and left with I
got up, and Colleen and her friends were in the process of loading up their
vehicle. The sounds of frisky lovemaking started coming from a tiny tent
in the next camp over, where two girls had been camping next to their car.
Colleen heard it, too, and pointed it out to her boyfriend. Somebody
was having a festive morning. (I think it was the brunette.) Colleen and
her friends all gave me big hugs when they took off.
I started packing. There was one particular corner of
my tent I wasn't looking forward to cleaning out, but I did it, anyway.
I couldn't pack up the tent until I cleaned it out and packed up my clothes.
I also needed a clean surface --okay, a cleaner surface-- to roll
up the sleeping bags on. So, I pulled the tarp off the top and turned it
upside down. That gave me a place to pack. As I was packing, I took a long
look at my shoes. My feet were killing me, and I'd already decided to wear
my sandals on the train. That meant packing my shoes. There wasn't any
more room in my packs. I couldn't see packing something that was so torn
up I'd have to throw away, anyway. So, I bid farewell to my old workout
shoes. They lived a good life.
I still had some water left, so I took a quick shower
to wash my hair. That's when I found Jessica's razor; it had fallen underneath
the shower, between the cracks, but she and her friends had already left
in the night. Mark was busy cooking up some bacon. It was thick, tasty
and delicious. That was breakfast, along with some romaine lettuce and
a root beer. I gifted the camp some of my stuff, including my folding chair,
but my packs were still thick and heavy. "Packing out is always harder
than packing in," Anne said.
The line of cars waiting to leave the City extended from
the outer streets back up 4:30 and into the Plaza. Spanky was out with
his megaphone yelling at the exiting Burners. "What are you doing? Where
are you going? Quitters!" He started doing his own talk show before
the captive audience. "Welcome to the Exit Show!" It was spontaneous, original
performance art. He started going from car to car, interviewing people
for his show. ""Hi, what's your name? What did you think of Burning Man
this year?" It was all just hysterical. Spanky started inviting people
over to Hair of the Dog, "the only drive-thru bar on the playa!" The funny
thing was, people actually started showing up, leaving their cars to get
a drink. It's not like they were going anywhere anytime soon.
The lines of cars just went on and on, with nobody moving
fast. The day wore on. Three guys in a VW bus pushed their vehicle along
tather than waste gas. In two hours, they made about 100 yards. One girl
that stopped in for a drink said she'd been sitting in her car for four
hours. Anne finished packing up her car. She had wanted to leave by 11
AM, but by that time we would've had to backtrack deeper into the City
just to get in line. I walked down to Hope Street. There was nothing but
vehicles everywhere, lined up in every street. The City was completely
gridlocked. Unpacking and just setting up permanent residency looked very
tempting. I envied the guys at the airport, who just got in their planes
and left. I spoke to a naked girl named Rachel, who followed me back to
the bar for a beer.
A tall, lovely girl named Beatrice (my Mom's name) showed
up with a plate of cheese and crackers. That was very kind of her. Victoria
stopped by and gave everyone a big hug. I met Lara, a spry girl from Spokane,
Washington. She had moved away for a while, but recently moved back. "I
love it," she said. I also met a winsome girl from New York named Dana.
She had three belly button piercings. Spanky was out in the Plaza talking
to people on his megaphone again when one of the art cars sped through.
It was the Pac Man car. Spanky made all the game noises on his megaphone,
and it was hilarious.
|I returned Jenn's broken but drivable bicycle back to
her. Iron Rose was in the middle of dismantling their camp. Most of the
camp folks were staying over until Tuesday, to avoid the rush. That seemed
an extremely smart thing to do. Jenn bid me a warm goodbye. I don't know
how I would've gotten through the week without her generosity and
kind heart. It was really great to see her again.
I met a super nice lady called Caution. She was smart and
funny. I was under the impression Exodus didn't operate after dark, but
she said she volunteered overnight, helping people get out of the City.
I gave her the last of my Exodus buttons. She earned it. Caution said most
of the traffic flow that day was being directed by DPW people.
I caught up with Lotus, the super cool singer, whom I
thought had left already. We exchanged email addresses. She was friendly,
charming, and very gracious. A girl named Susie came through the bar wearing
a teal dress. I had to ask her name a couple of times– I don't know why
I had trouble remembering it. The stage had already been taken down, but
she got out a guitar and started playing anyway. Lisa D. was close by,
getting a massage.
The day wore on with very little progress. By 2 PM, we
could still see cars that were next to the camp at 11 AM. A redhead from
Dallas named Dana sat in the shade with us. "I feel like I've wasted my
day," she said. The backup messed up many off-playa plans. People that
had evening plane reservations were just out of luck-- and there was no
way to call to reschedule until they got out of the desert. A dust devil
blew through the Plaza, rolling over the line of cars. Someone gave me
some green tea-flavored candy. The banana car drove by. Two girls
from a neighboring camp stopped by, a smiling blonde girl and her friend
named Jesse. The blonde girl shared a sack of cookie with everyone. A girl
named Mara, with amazing blue eyes, borrowed the empty chair next to me
with a kiss on the cheek. "Much love!" she said. Her hat had a stick of
incense sticking out of it. She stood on her head, and gave everyone a
nice wave when she left. I spoke to Sandstorm, a very smart girl from Toronto.
The wind started picking up shortly before 4 PM. Before that,
it was hot but calm. The wind added friction to the heat. I went to the
porta potties about 4:25. One of the guys in line said BMIR was reporting
a 3 ½ hour wait to Gerlach. It was getting late in the day. The
decision was made to close the bar and take down the shade structure. Anne
got to yell "Last call!" –something she'd always wanted to do. Right about
that time, the traffic glacier cracked. Vehicles moved in line –and kept
moving! By the time the shade structure was down, the line of cars through
the Plaza had moved on. We worked to load everything into Sparty, the big
storage van. Someone set out some chips and salsa as an afternoon snack.
It was the best salsa ever! About 6 PM, Annie and I decided to go.
We went around giving everyone hugs. D-Mo was having to lie down; the heat
had got to him. Hair of the Dog was full of terrific people, and it was
great to camp with them. I always felt at home. They are my playa family.
We got in Anne's car, toasted our last beers, and pulled out of camp. It
We got in line. All things considered, I thought it was
moving pretty well. The DPW had 4 lanes going out past Greeters, each line
moving along fairly equally. We passed the Pac Man car, bundled up on its
little trailer. I thought I saw Anabel: there was a girl with rainbow curls
leaning out a passenger side window, chatting with a girl in blue riding
on that vehicle's hood. I couldn't see her face. About halfway between
Greets and the Gate we passed the Flower and the Venus Flytrap in the open
space beside the lines of cars. They were gracefully playing with each
other like a pair of friendly dinosaurs. I thought, if I told people back
home I saw the Flower at the Man, most wouldn't know what the heck
I was talking about.
The sun set as we moved along in line. The mountains to the
west were a coal-black silhouette against a smoky blue sky. We passed the
Gate at 8:45. We had to go around an RV that had broken down in the outside
lane. A guy's feet stuck out from underneath as he tried to fix it by meager
flashlight. Traffic merged from 4 lanes to 3, then 2, then finally one
as we crawled up the gravel road. Everybody just wanted out. At 8:40, 2
hours 20 minutes after leaving camp, we pulled onto the highway. There
were several people on the road, all DPW, but none in reflective vests.
There were no Exodus people in sight.
Unless Burning Man wanted a traffic jam like that to happen
again, they needed to recruit for Exodus early, get volunteers trained
and certified, and build some kind of team to keep things under control.
--Or, just make it manditory that everybody in DPW take flagger
training and let them handle it. That would create a ready, licensed labor
pool (that would be sure to be on-site) to draft workers from should the
situation warrant it. I don't know how DPW would react to such a suggestion,
We crawled through Gerlach at 8:55. Down the road, I
was surprised to see the Empire general store open so late. We began the
long drive to Fernley. A line of red tail lights snaked down the road ahead
of us as hundreds of cars headed south. I'm afraid I wasn't the best conversationalist
that evening-- I felt overwhelmed and not very talkative. We played music
to pass the time. At 10:10 we passed through Nixon. There was a traffic
accident that closed the main road into Fernley, so we took a different
road west. Connecting with Interstate 80, we headed towards Reno. The lights
of the city soon surrounded up. We found Circus Circus easy enough. Anne
dropped me off at the front door, and I checked into my room. I put my
bags down at 11:45 PM. As quickly as I could get my clothes off, I took
the hottest shower I could take. It was the best shower ever! The
playa dust swirled down the drain like Janet Leigh's blood in "Psycho."
Anne got checked in. She was going to shower and head on to bed. I changed
into my cleanest dirty clothes and found the only hotel restaurant still
open that time of night. I'd been hungry for a steak all day, but when
I saw spaghetti on the menu I had to get that. They brought me a huge bowl
of pasta, with three fist-sized meatballs. I ate and ate. There must have
been some Burners in the restaurant that night; someone was laughing because
the breakfast menu included "Belgian waffles." I climbed into bed about
1 AM, between the wonderfully clean sheets, and fell right asleep.