"Hope and Fear: The Future"
Burning Man 2006
"A pleasing life was the custom he'd won,  
For he was Epicurus' very son,  
That held opinion that plain and pure delight  
Was true happiness, perfect and right..." --General Prologue 
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.  
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.  
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 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 was 6:20.  
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, though. 
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. 

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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