The Evolving World
Burning Man 2009
 
 
Friday morning, my alarm clock went off at 5 AM. I’d slept for about 7 hours. It was time to go to work.

I washed my hair, went to the porta potties, and got dressed for my Ranger shift. Breakfast was a can of V-8. It was suggested to me to try wearing socks with my sandals. That helped cushion my feet. I found that if I rolled my right foot with every step, it didn’t hurt to walk. I walked over to Ranger HQ and reported for duty. I was issued a radio, but I had to make a run back to camp because I needed my ID. All that was in my wallet, back at camp. I had all my gear in my hydration pack, but I still forgot my goggles. I hoped it would be a quiet morning, wind-wise.

Ranger Grofaz made the assignments and sent me out with Twinjammer, an experienced Ranger with 2 kids back home. He’d been on-playa for two weeks. We were to patrol everything between 6 and 8 O’Clock. We walked over to Center Camp and had a cup of hot tea (one of the Ranger perks) and talked a little. Twinjammer said he’d gone camping in Yosemite Park many times. We walked out to the Esplanade, where we saw a colorful hot air balloon being set up for launch. It was a quiet morning, not many people out at all.

The air was fresh and cool. We stopped to talk to an older guy named Klaus. His daughter brought him to Burning Man. He spoke with a thick accent; it turned out he was two years away from from his 50th anniversary in America. It was his first burn. I asked him if he might maybe come back again. “No maybe about it,” he said. Twinjammer (TJ) was a self-described “gearhead,” and we stopped to talk to a guy who had brought a 4-wheel drive vehicle with him all the way from Utah. Down the road, we stopped and talked to a guy about the mountains surrounding the Black Rock Desert. He pointed out one pair of peaks that looked like a gunsight and said it took four hours to get there by Jeep.

Walking along the outer road, we spotted someone on a bike riding along the orange perimeter fence, way, way out on the playa. TJ thought he was on some motorbike, but I thought I could see him pedaling. We took a break in some shade and watched the Sun come up over the playa, a sight that never gets old. Off on the playa, the Man was framed by far-off Trego Peak. I shared some beef jerky with TJ, and he gave me a Cliff bar. We’d both packed snacks. TJ found a very cool medallion on the ground. He kept finding all sorts of cool stuff; I just found moop: junk and garbage. We found one of the stops for the Nowhere Bus, a double-decker British bus that ran a regular schedule around the whole campsite. Off in the distance, I spotted the Cupcake Cars! I love those guys. The radio brought a call for a Green Dot Ranger on Jurassic Street, out of our patrol area.

A water truck rolled by. We walked out past the Esplanade to check out a giraffe statue made out of hammered metal. We walked by a guy with an art care built to look like a giant Chinese take-out box. The driver was giving out fortune cookies. I forget what mine said. We thought about borrowing a couple of Yellow Bikes to ride out our shift, but we couldn’t find any anywhere. The Yellow Bikes (painted green) were to be shared by all burners.
 
We swung by Ranger HQ to refresh our canteens. A couple of Rangers waited outside for a Sheriff to arrive so that reports could be made. I met Ranger Sugarfoot, and Longpig, one of the “movers and shakers of the Rangers.”  We went back through Center Camp and found one of the Yellow Bikes—with a lock on it! Obviously, someone didn’t understand they were to be shared by all. The Sun was getting hot, so TJ and I went “shade hopping” from one camp to the next. We passed Silkscreen Camp where they were screening beautiful reproductions of that year’s Burning Man ticket on shirts for free. Another camp had a big wooden dinosaur out front. Twinjammer spotted oil leaking from underneath a mechanical spider car. He told the engineers they’d have to dig up the playa that had been soaked with oil and take it with them after the festival. Twinjammer warned me against accepting treats from strangers. There had been instances of people trying to trick Rangers into taking drugs. One guy was going around squirting water in people’s faces to cool them off. A Ranger got squirted in the eyes, and soon he was seeing things. We did accept some can cozys a burner was gifting to passers-by. TJ said we graduated 150 Alphas that year, possibly a new record. Someone asked me what the population was. I remembered the sign at Playa Info said it was 40,099 as of noon Thursday.
 
I met Ranger Gemini. In almost no time at all, my shift was over. That was a rush! I passed Martin Jay and met Ranger Pollyanna as I returned to HQ. I checked my radio back in, and I was given a coupon for a meal at the Commissary, its location a secret to the population at large. I walked back to camp, feeling on top of the world, and not a little dusty. I took a short shower. I took my sore feet to the porta potties and saw Spoon on my way back.

I changed clothes and headed off to find the Commissary. I followed the directions, and found myself heading into a camp with no signs, flags or anything that would draw attention. Through a door, there was a huge tent. I could smell food. Inside, I presented my coupon and got a tray. Lunch was sloppy Joes, with potatoes, salad and juice. A real meal! I sat down at a table with a guy called Big Daddy Nate. He was one of the truck drivers that brought ice into the city. “we’re looking to move a million pounds this year,” he said. I spotted Wild Child at another table, talking to someone. Madalene from Pandora’s came by with a tray of food. She said her camp was “keeping busy” with bicycle repairs. She also heard the Wedge, which I chickened-out climbing, was a “menace,” with people ending up with all kinds of scuffs from it.

I finished eating and went back to camp. I found the khaki shirt I had mentored in and took it over to Silkscreen Camp. There were about a half dozen people in line in front of me. The guy directly in front of me “didn’t get the memo” and brought a black t-shirt to be silkscreened. The image would not show up on black cloth. The camp was nice about it and just gave him a new shirt. They silkscreened the 2009 ticket onto the back of my shirt, and put an original graphic on the front pocket. Then, they ran the shirt through a little oven to bake in the colors. It looked great! On my way back I got a cup of mead from the homebrew camp. By then, it was mid-afternoon.
 

At HOTD, there was a stage full of musicians jamming. The music was heavy and nonstop. Two young burners juggled off to the side. There was a cantaloupe left over from the wedding, so I cut it up and left it for people at the bar. That was the last time I saw my blue plate. The bar was packed. A girl in a tan ball cap shimmied to the music. The wind picked up. I thought I saw Gibbon playing onstage. A pretty brunette girl in a turban got up to sing. 

I got my camp chair from next to my tent and pulled it over to the bar. I sat with my sandals off to air out my feet. The music was constant. A sax player showed up, and everyone was having a good time. The big heart decoration still hung over the stage. A guy next to me smoked a joint. While I was making some notes, a dusty guy asked me what I was writing. “Just random stuff?” 

 
The keyboardist was very good. The group played a mixture of bluesy jazz tunes. A girl with lovely blue eyes came through and gave me a copy of the Black Rock Beacon. The musicians finished their jam session, and a whole different group of musicians got up to play. A couple named Toby and Connie danced to the music, while their friend Jessica (in a cowboy hat) watched; Connie wondered where else you might overhear a sentence like, “Flash, do you remember Spoon?” I gave Connie my website address. A gorgeous French girl painted with ivy walked through the bar. I tried to take some pictures, but the digital camera continued to frustrate me. I was about ready to throw it away. I lost track of the pictures I missed because the camera wouldn’t snap the picture when I wanted. By then it was 5:30, and a whole other bunch of people filled the bar. Lisa D. gave me the last of her salad. She was going to make supper, but at the last moment Curly got a gig. She wouldn’t be able to make supper until 8 or so.
 
I decided to cook up some supper of my own. I called it playa pasta: 1 cup of macaroni, one tomato, 1 8 oz. can of tomato sauce, 1 teaspoon of Italian seasoning. Dice the tomato, boil and strain the macaroni, add the tomato sauce, diced tomato and seasoning. Eat. It turned out better than even I expected. I cleaned up by sopping up the sauce with bread and rinsing out the pot with water. Done and done. Dawn the French maid walked by as I was digesting. By then, it was 6:45, and the sun was very low in the sky. 
I walked down to the porta potties. When I got there, the sewage truck was there cleaning them out. I thought, Didn’t they just clean them out a few hours ago? How poopy could we be? After doing my business, I was cleaning up outside when a pretty brunette girl noticed my kilt. She was curious why I wore it, and I said because it was comfortable. She then asked what I had under my kilt. I forgot all the traditional ren faire smart aleck answers and just said, “Everything you can imagine.” She laughed and went on her way. I thought, If I can get a stranger to laugh, maybe I’m not such a bad guy.
 
The Sun had just set. Down the road, a girl in sand goggles was trying to take a picture of her friends in sand goggles. A guy on a squeaky bike rode by, and a sudden gust of wind blew the feather boa off his neck and onto the ground. “Hey, bike guy!” a tall blonde girl yelled. “You dropped something!” The guy kept riding. I lit up the boa with my flashlight. “Hey!” I yelled. The blonde scooped it up with a smile, saying, “It’s mine now!” As she walked away, I said to her back, “Merry Christmas.”
 
Back at the bar, I asked the bartender how he was doing. He was doing fine, and asked me how I was doing. “I’m okay,” I said, not feeling completely okay, but enough to make it stick. I kept thinking about Dad. Most of the pictures we had of him were staged, posed—there were very few of him just being himself. If someone told me they had pictues of him just cutting loose and having a good time with his friends, wow, I’d give almost anything to see them. Ten years gone, and I still missed him. I hoped people weren't mad at me for trying to take a picture, but it’s candid pictures that always capture a person’s real character. I got some vinegar from Dot and soaked my feet for about a half hour. I really needed the swelling in my feet to go down by Saturday night. There was also a disturbing black bruise of unknown origin on my right big toe. 
 
Above Black Rock City, the full Moon rose triumphantly, commanding the night sky. The flags at Center Camp flapped in a steady breeze. The wind picked up as 9 PM approached. A giant rubber ducky drove by, followed soon afterward by the Joyism art car. The bar lights flickered. Anne came back from Curly’s gig, and said it was fun. I cleaned a ton of dust out of my tent. When I went back through camp, HOTD was dark and silent. The whole city seemed to have hunkered down for some approaching storm. I was worn out and eventually turned in, the only sound the gentle hum of the nearby generator...
 
  
 
LINKS
Playa Info 
Pandora's Lounge & Fix-it Shoppe 
The Yellow Bike Program 
2009 Theme Camps 
All original content copyright 2009 by Tim Frayser. If your image appears on this site, and you'd rather it didn't, drop me a line and I'll remove it. Pictures appearing on this website are for personal use and are not for sale. 
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Introduction  Day 1  Day 2  Day 3 
Monday  Tuesday  Wednesday  Thursday  Friday  Saturday  Sunday 
Day 11  Day 12  Day 13  Day 14  Day 15  Epilogue