The Evolving World
Burning Man 2009
I woke just before dawn Tuesday, September 1st. I figured I got about
five hours of sleep, but I felt fully rested. There was not a breath of
wind in the air. I hooked up the propane stove and cooked myself a can
of ravioli, my first real meal since… a while. As I was cooking, I realized
I didn’t bring anything to clean out the pot. There were no towels, but
I did have… bread. After I finished eating, I used the bread to
sop up the last of the sauce and ate the bread. After a quick rinse, it
was all clean.
I boiled some water for tea. As it was boiling, a guy called D’nish
asked if I was making coffee. I had some instant coffee, but he decided
to look elsewhere. I took my tea and sat alone in the bar. As I sat there,
a young girl with bruises on her face walked in and asked for some water.
She said she “got drugged” in the night and “spent the night in the infirmary.”
She drank some water, then wandered off looking for her camp. I walked
up to Playa Info to see how many people were on the playa so far. It wasn’t
posted on the board, so I asked the girl at the desk what the population
was. She shrugged her shoulders and said, “Two?” Apparently, sarcasm was
just another service. When I returned to HOTD, the Joyism art car pulled
up, returning Dot from doing a Greeter shift. Silicon Village did a Greeter
shift early that morning. I would've joined in, but I needed to rest up
for my Ranger shift.
I was sitting on the empty stage when the charming Persnickity stopped
to chat with me. We traded Burning Man stories. She was really nice. She
said the box office had what they called “miracle tickets” that people
would buy and then leave at the office to be gifted to needy people. I
changed shirts and rode my bike out to the Raygun Rocketship. It was a
beautiful version of a 1950’s-style space ship, with fins and everything.
I took my film camera with me. When I want to make sure I've got a picture
of something, I use the digital camera. When I want to take a photograph,
I use the 35mm.
I rode out to the Man, which was even more impressive not veiled in dust.
Lots of people were out there, despite the early hour. People were writing
messages on the structure with permanent markers: greetings, opinions,
statements of life and the universe. The funniest I found said simply,
"I have a permanent marker." From there, I went way up to the 2 O'Clock
Street and rode along the Esplanade, looking at art. I found the Lost Penguin
Camp, where a friend of mine was supposed to be camped. It looked like
everyone was still asleep. Back at HOTD, I cleaned up the bar a little
and delivered the inspirational posters I made for the camp and Pandora's.
Lisa D. was serving up chicken and avocado sandwiches, courtesy of Jarvis.
It had been a beautiful morning, but about 11:30 the wind picked up again,
and it looked like it would be another dusty day. I relaxed in the bar
with one of my last soda pops and looked over the BRC map, familiarizing
myself with landmarks and theme camps. Lisa said I looked "official." I
was glad I got a good night's sleep. It was going to be a long day.
Tuesday was the day I was scheduled to do my mentoring shift with the
Black Rock Rangers. Earlier that year, I went through a day of Ranger training
at Interfuse, a regional burn in Missouri. I volunteered to be a ranger
there and at another, smaller burn that summer. If I didn't do a mentoring
shift at Burning Man that year, I'd have to take the training all over
again. I was set to do a swing shift in the company of a senior Ranger,
from 1 PM to 8:15 PM. The mentoring shift is an on-the-job test to see
if you've got what it takes to be a Ranger. I was ready way early. Jarvis
was going to be cooking all kinds of stuff for supper, but I would be on
duty. I showed up at Ranger HQ just after 12:30. I was issued a vest, identifying
me as an Alpha Ranger-- basically, a Ranger in training. To tell the truth,
I wasn't that worried. Whatever happened happened. I was just glad to get
the training. The Alphas were split up into teams, each team led by a senior
Ranger as a mentor. I was teamed with a guy called Magic and a charming
girl called Foxy Romaine. Our mentor was Martin Jay, and our radio code
was Team Haiku. We took off walking down the streets.
After a couple of hours, we headed back to HQ. That's where we split up
again and got teamed with a different mentor. The senior Rangers were intent
on making teams of Alphas that had not met before. I got teamed with Space
Cadet, a guy who was from Reno but who now lived in the Bay Area, a girl
from New Jersey called Inkwell, and a big guy from Chicago called Job Bless
(who kept having to correct people on his name). That team didn't work
out because our mentor knew one of us. So, we got split up again. I ended
up on a team mentored by Chameleon, with Inkwell and a guy from Philadelphia
called Draco. I spotted Chemistry, with whom I'd trained at Interfuse,
going on her mentoring shift. We took off walking again. In the second
part of the mentoring shift, they started running scenarios-- mock simulations
to test our responses. We were out on the Esplanade doing pretty good until
the battery in our radio died. So, we walked over to Tokyo Base to get
a replacement battery. The wind gusted off and on all afternoon.
|Each of us got to use the radio. We were on a special frequency so
that we didn't mix in with the regular Ranger radio traffic. Martin Jay
tested us on several points. We'd pass a group of people, and he'd stop
and ask us what they were doing-- or what they were doing wrong.
We took turns radioing in our position. The shift lead would make an announcement
on the radio, and each team had to call back confirming we got the message.
At Tokyo Base, we got to refil our canteens while the radio was being
worked on. I helped a couple of people who stopped by asking for directions.
One participant locked her keys in her car; a Ranger called Sledgehammer
was dispatched with the proper tools. Refreshed and recharged, we took
off again and ran through some more scenarios.
I returned to Ranger HQ at 5:30, but they weren't done yet. There were
no chairs, so I sat on the ground with my back against a post and almost
napped. A little after 6, a senior Ranger called Action Man came out to
congratulate us. We all passed! Boxes of uniform shirts and hats
were brought out. One by one, they called our names, and we received our
uniforms. I think I cheered when they called my name. It was a complete
thrill! As part of the initiation process, we all stood in a row and dropped
our hats on the ground in front of us. The mentors then all took turns
stomping on our hats. It was a long-standing tradition. I made it!
I'm a Black Rock Ranger!
I even managed to get back to camp in time for supper: burritos and lentil
soup. I couldn't stop smiling. The Animal Control truck was at Hair of
the Dog, and music was playing. There was a camp a block over that had
an art car built to look like one of the giant sandworms from the movie
“Dune.” It even had a mouth that opened and closed. I walked over to Iron
Rose. There was going to be belly dancining their camp that eveing. Their
big tent had lots of pillows to lounge on, like the home of an Arabian
prince. The dancers were very impressive. I met a charming girl named Sage.
She was from Spokane, Washington, and wished she could belly dance. Jenn
stopped by to see some old friends. I met her friend Wendy, who was wearing
a red top hat. I talked to a guy called Safari. It was his second Burning
Man, and he had a pith helmet but he lost it, so that evening he was wearing
a dinosaur hat. Dawn was there-- I found out she was with the French Maid
Brigade, which was going to have a parade (a French maid brigade parade)
||There was one where we had to figure out what to do with a camp that
was shooting bottle rockets at people. My solution seemed logical, if not
very flashy. At one point, Chameleon took each of us aside to talk to us.
When we returned to HQ, Chameleon said to just hang out. I thought we'd
be going out for more scenarios. After a while, the Alphas were told that
decisions would be made soon, and to come back at 5:30.
I walked back to HOTD. I was at the bar, waiting to get a beer when
a guy called Stargazer pulled one out of his pocket and gave it to me.
I met a girl called Cam from Iron Rose camp. Jarvis said supper would be
served at 6. I hoped I'd be back in time.
I went on a ride out onto the open playa on the Joyism art car. We stopped
at a light display called the Cubatron: hundreds of ping pong ball-sized
lights that changed color in patterns. Wild and mesmerizing. We got so
entranced with the lights the art car almost took off without us. We caught
up with it at the porta potties. The Joyism car took us way the heck out
to the far reaches of the campsite, out past 10 & E, where we found
a huge party camp. Someone gave me a drink made with vodka and Orange Crush.
Someone commented Sierra Mist was "the muscatel of soda." I found Jenn
and we went riding on a different art car, out to the Wedge-- a huge slide,
several stories up. I started to make the climb up, but when I got to the
halfway point my thing about high places got the best of me. Jenn and I
walked over to Center Camp, then back to Hair of the Dog. I was still excited
about becoming a Ranger, and had trouble settling down. I finally got to
bed about 2:30 or so. It was a magical night.
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