The Evolving World
Burning Man 2009
Monday, the last day of August, I woke to the sound of a rusty hinge.
It turned out to be a bird. The Sun was already up, bright sunbeams poking
through the tall trees. I figured I’d slept about 9 hours that night and
felt pretty rested. It was 7 AM Nevada time. Since I’d be living on Nevada
time for the next week, I reset my watch. I took another shower at the
restrooms, had a can of V-8 for breakfast, and hit the road about 8 AM.
It was 13 miles to Fernley.
I saw a sign for a local pizza place that actually delivered to the state
park. Their slogan: “We toss ‘em, they’re awesome!” I got to Silver springs
just before 8 AM. Fernley was 13 more miles, through dry, rolling hills.
I stopped at one of the truck stops near the interstate. I filled up Satori
with gas, got beer, extra batteries and a lighter. They didn’t have propane,
but the True Value store back in town did. I took off down the long road
At the Nixon store, I got a bag of ice. It seemed pointless to get ice
until the last minute. The girl in front of me had a bad cough. “Not an
opportune time to get sick,” she admitted. The lonely road to Black Rock
wasn’t so lonely that morning. At one point the line of cars in front of
me and behind me stretched to both horizons.
The Empire Store was doing a brisk business when I stopped there. I got
some cheese and tomatoes—something to eat if I couldn’t fire up the stove.
A pretty girl stood in the road outside with a hula hoop and a sign: “Need
ticket.” I wished her luck. Another guy stood beside his parked car: “Need
cheapest ticket possible.” I thought that was cutting it awfully close.
When I got to Gerlach, the line of cars waiting at the lone gas station
was 17 vehicles deep. I drove up north of town towards the playa. It was
right at 11 AM when I pulled off the pavement… where a girl in a black
top and goggles held a “Need a ticket” sign. Did these people not know
they were selling tickets at the gate? There was lots of dust in the air.
The dirt road was especially rocky, and I thought the car was going to
shake apart. I pulled around a guy pushing a station wagon for a friend.
I made it to the Greeter station. A pretty Greeter named Elizabeth told
me “Welcome home!” and gave me a big hug. Driving in, I was surprised at
how empty the playa seemed, even though there were already hundreds (maybe
thousands) of people there. As I drove into the huge campsite, I passed
a pretty blue-haired girl that reminded me of Princess Amidala from Star
Wars. I found the 6 o’clock street and spotted the Silicon Village archway
ahead. The big shade structure next to it had to be Hair of the Dog. Tarps
were being lashed down to the frame by a group of people. I helped D-Mo
put up a windbreak before he realized it was me. He laughed and gave me
a hug. I met Steve and a beautiful blonde girl called Cirque; she had really
nice teeth. I said hi to Alex, who remembered my face. Dot was there, and
we had a beer at the bar. Dot said Lisa and Anne were running late because
their catalytic converter died just outside of Reno. Hair of the Dog had
a figure-eight-shaped space within Silicon Village. I situated my camp
off in the far corner, pointing out to a side street for an easy exodus.
As I was setting up, I met KathyKat, pretty in a star shirt, and Wristy,
the man in charge with a mustache large. I put up my tent. I had to move
my car a couple of time to find the best way I could use it to shade my
|The big curve on Highway 447, where it goes around Marble Bluff, scares
the heck out of me every time I go around it.
In the bar, D-Mo shared a Mexican beer with me. He’d been on-playa since
Friday (and was running low on beer). Dot shared some of her lentil soup.
Alex brought some hand moisturizer to the bar for people to use. I decided
that the bar really needed a picture of dogs playing poker. Painted on
velvet. Someone behind the bar described an odd-shaped bottle of Canadian
Mist as “cleverly disguised as dishwashing liquid.” I walked across the
street to the homebrew camp. Pandora’s was right across the street from
them. They had a pool table set up, and people were playing a game. I brought
them a bottle of my own homebrew. I had one of their homebrews and sat
down to write a little. That’s where I met a pretty girl named Nina. She
was next to a big guy in a cowboy hat who talked about once weighing 400
pounds. He blamed genetics. He said that when he was born, he was 24 inches
long and weighed 13 pounds. He was also a month late being born. His mom
kind of gave up the idea of having more kids after him.
The playa was fine for bike riding. I had been worried about early reports.
I found Ranger HQ around the corner from Center Camp and checked in with
Frog. I was scheduled to go on a shift with a Ranger mentor to finish my
training. After that, they’d decide if I qualified to be a Black Rock Ranger.
Back at Hair of the Dog, I met up with J.C.! I told him about my upcoming
mentoring shift. He said the Rangers would let me know pretty quick if
I made the cut. I wouldn’t have to wait until the rebar ceremony on Thursday.
P-Nut arrived, to much celebration. He needed something sharp to fix something,
so I loaned him my Swiss Army knife. I met Rupert, who said folks at Hair
of the Dog were “a better class of drinkers.” He was still “tweaking” his
art for Center Camp, which was a little late. I met Shay, who had dark
hair and a Burning Man Petting Zoo tramp tat, and Susan, a charming girl
with pretty eyes. Since the camp was on a corner, and so close to Center
Camp, people kept stopping at the bar for directions. An art car shaped
like a giant bumblebee lumbered by. I went back to my tent and made a couple
of cheese and tomato sandwiches for my lunch, the first food I’d had to
eat all day. The porta potties were just a couple of blocks down the 6
O’clock Street. As I was walking down the dusty street, I kept thinking
I felt sprinkles in the air. Rain? A pair of Rangers confirmed the
I went to Center Camp and found a good seat for the contact juggling. Someone
brought the Ball of Pooh back. I got to say hi to the pretty blue-haired
girl I’d seen on my way to camp. Plenty of people with cameras were walking
through. The rules said cameras had to be registered at the Gate, but the
whole week I was there I only ever saw one camera with a registration tag.
Haunting, mystical music played on the loudspeakers. A small, beautiful
girl with her hair in cornrows and carrying a green bag wandered through.
A guy in a paintball mask started to play the lute. Through the center
opening above the center court, happy, fluffy clouds meandered across the
sky, not in any rush at all. A shirtless guy with a misting bottle walked
around squirting people. A pretty redhead girl dropped off copies of Burning
Man Live, the compilation of Piss Clear articles. There was an engineering
camp facing Center Camp, so I stopped by to see if they could fix my glasses.
They didn’t have the springs to fix it, but said I earned “engineering
cred” by repairing them with duct tape.
I walked out to the Man, surrounded by an impressive structure that reminded
me of the “Belgian Waffle,” but put together with two by fours. Hidden
speakers played the sounds of running water. The wind blew dust everywhere.
I walked out to the Temple, but there was still work being done so it was
roped off. It looked amazing. Walking back across the playa, I felt sprinkles
again, and they didn’t stop. I stood there, out in the desert, as rain
fell down from the cloudy sky. I had to laugh. It was what some might call
a “three-inch rain,” in that the drops on the ground were all three inches
apart, but it was nevertheless refreshing. Walking back to Silicon Village,
I found the blue bus I’d passed in New Mexico! It was an art car, and when
they got it fixed up it would have music, a DJ and everything. I said it
sounded worth waiting for. Back at Silicon Village, I met some friends
named Loren, Alex and Buttercup. The winds were relentless, but Dot had
been on-playa for days, and said the winds should die down about 10 PM
or so. I talked to a girl from Portland named Eliza. MacGuyver worked behind
the bar and made some wonderful margaritas with fresh strawberries. As
evening fell, music played at the bar. A slim, blonde girl started dancing
on the stage, but mostly did what looked like yoga stretches. I later found
out her name was Dawn.
The Party Snail arrived, so I decided to go for a ride. I had been wanting
to go on more art car rides. I was joined up on top (under the shell) by
Dot, a guy called Elion and Dawn. The Snail took off, and I waved to the
folks at Pandora’s. The Snail rolled up to the Esplanade, where dozens
of other art cars waited at the DMV (Department of Mutant Vehicles) for
licenses to drive at night. The Snail was going to be a while, so I climbed
off. Dot wanted to walk out to the Man, so Elion and I went with her. On
the way, we passed an art installation dedicated to some obscure Communist
writer. “That is so f*cking random!” Elion cried. The Man was awesome at
night, lit with neon and blue lights. Nature sounds came from the speakers.
Elion needed to use the restroom, so Dot took him off to the porta potties.
|At HOTD, I had another margarita and started talking to a blonde girl
from Hays, Kansas until she got lured away by a handsome guy from a massage
camp. I got a beer and was just sitting by the road watching people when
someone emerged from the darkness… it was Jenn! I hadn’t seen her in three
years. She was walking with two friends from the Poly Paradise camp, so
I walked with them.
Poly Paradise was a huge camp, with a big, comfortable shade structure.
I ate some cooked meat. They gave me a button, then gave me another one.
“Since it’s poly,” they explained, “you get more than one.” The wind did
indeed die down after 10 PM. I went walking with Jenn, and we passed the
Black Rock Beacon newspaper, which was having technical difficulties.
At HOTD, we met up with Spoon. He said he always has change with him to
give to the homeless. Jenn headed back to her camp. I think I went to sleep
about 1 AM.
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