I dreamed I was opening the van, and a dog came out of the back seat—Binnie? No, Binnie passed away a few months back; this was a different dog, smaller, but still colored black & white. I’m not even sure it was my van… I woke to total silence. My trusty yellow flashlight which I’d taken on many campouts got destroyed in the Lahontan dust, so I found my krill light to check the time: 4:15. I’d slept almost nine hours. I must’ve been tired. Interestingly enough, it didn’t feel as chilly.
 
Outside my tent were lights. A car pulled up beside my tent. I mat a guy named Bryan who had just arrived from Berkley after getting some sleep in a Reno motel. He wanted to be at the Gate when it opened at midnight. (I didn’t have the heart to tell him the Gate opened early—For contract reasons, it wasn’t advertised.) It had taken him 4 hours to get through the line at the Gate. With a slight British accent, he asked me where the “loos” were. The bar was still up and running with about a half dozen people still up.
 
I got a hug from a different guy named Bryan. “That was a good hug!” he said. I drank a Dr. Pepper and went to the potties. Even without a flashlight there was plenty of ambient light from the camps already set up. I wanted to go to Center Camp to catch up on my writing, but I figured if I went all that way I might as well check in at HQ, but I didn’t have my ID… so, I just went for a walk. I bundled up with my hoodie and BDU shirt, layering-up for warmth. At the potties, a group of people walked by in the dark, and I heard someone say, “F*ck you, butch! We’re Canadians!”
 
I walked straight out from the 8 O’Clock Street to the Esplanade. I passed a swirling cone of lights that changed colors. I walked out to the Man, which opened up at midnight. It was green neon with red highlights. The tower had gargoyles peering off the high corners. A Ranger truck, amber lights flashing, pulled up and parked. I remembered Ranger Tool saying there were no vehicles allowed near the Man, especially fire-breathing vehicles, the exception being amber-flashing official business vehicles. I asked the Ranger how things were going. “Too early to tell,” he said. Apparently, he was there for a face-to-face with one of the other Rangers working “the Stick.” There was a truck spraying water all around the perimeter around the Man; he seemed to be following me around. I could tell he’d just done the 9 O’Clock approach, so I started heading back towards the Esplanade.
 
I passed a fascinating art piece with cubes of various colors, swirling and growing into one big sculpture. It was still very dark out. The Moon was high, with scattered clouds. I realized that was about the time I’d be getting up for my Ranger shifts. Missing out on being a Green Dot was a big disappointment, but maybe it was for the best. Maybe I needed more dirt experience before taking on added responsibilities. I had put my mind in a state preparaing to be a Green Dot, and now I had to switch that off. One of the lessons of Burning Man was No Expectations. You can prepare out the wazoo, but once you get to the playa all bets were off.
 
I passed three people at a trampoline. A girl and a happy guy named Darius were watching their friend bounce around. The friend turned his ballcap backwards, assumed a pose, and said, “Yo. ‘Sup.” “Dude,” said the girl, “you are the least gangst guy I know.” Two drunk people were helping their drunker friend look for a buddy. “Brian! Brian!” they called out from a street corner. I passed the Whiskey & Whores camp and the Whiskey & Dust camp, both dark and empty. I got back to HOTD right before 6 AM. Walking back, I kept noticing the eastern sky behind me getting brighter and lighter. I wondered what to do next, and going back to bed sounded like a great idea, so I did.
 
I dreamed of a big, fancy hotel lobby. There was a guy with feet that were five feet long, which he’d named Foot One and Foot Two… The Sun was up when I woke up Monday morning. It was 7:20, so I’d gotten another hour of sleep in. At the potties, I overheard one girl say, “I have to go back to camp. I can’t remember any more Stevie Nicks songs.” Back at my tent, breakfast was a can of V-8, an orange, and a dinner roll spread with a packet of strawberry preserves I’d saved from eating at a restaurant. I needed to get some food in me. I’d already lost weight before leaving for the playa. I even punched an extra hole in my belt because my pants kept slipping off. That morning, they were slipping again.
At Center Camp, I found a comfy spot and got caught up on my writing. The coffee bar was closed until 3 PM, and the workers kept a running count of people that came up to ask “Are you open?” The big sign they’d stand next to said
 
CLOSED
Period
For Everyone
Especially YOU

A little Japanese girl came up to the counter and asked for a cup of water. The worker explained everyone coming to Burning Man had to be responsible for bringing their own water. The girl walked away with a very worried look on her face. Had she not brought any water? At the center of Center Camp was a huge map of that year’s street configuration, laid out like a London subway map. Theme camps and art installations were highlighted. All around me were people scattered among the benches, some reading, some sleeping, some writing like me. A guy in a dusty vest went up to a young man with a notebook and said, “Can I borrow a sheet of paper?... Okay, wait, I won’t be giving it back. Can I have a sheet of paper? I’ll trade you a shot for it,” he added, waving a half empty bottle of whiskey.

The wind picked up, sharp and chill. I went by Ranger HQ but it was too busy, so I went by Radio Electra, parked right on the Esplanade, but it didn’t look like anybody was up yet. Back at Hair of the Dog, I met up with Gomer, and Spoon!  Spoon paid me a big compliment by saying I was one of his “role models,” because he was inspired by my writings to look for unusual, exceptional beauty in everyday life. I felt very humbled. He was staying at the Hindenburg camp, which had a big art car that looked like a zeppelin. 
Gomer, Mark, Alex me and several other people set up the kitchen tent back behind the bar. It looked like a good place for me to set up my propane stove. In the bar, I was gifted with some Reese’s Pieces from a guy from New Jersey. It turned out the TV show “Jersey Shore” was not an accurate representation of Jersey people. “They think they’re famous,” the guy said, “but they don’t realize everyone is laughing at them.” It was a quiet morning. I watched people stream in and set up camps all around me.
 
Shortly after noon, I was feeling a little flushed, so I drank some water and cut up a tomato for a little salad. That afternoon, I loaded up my hydration pack and rode my bike over to Ranger HQ. I needed to pick up my ID laminate (my “lammie.”) At the window I spoke with Ranger Doll. She said I didn’t pick up my lammie until I checked in for my first shift. I’d signed up for Green Dot training on Sunday but I missed it, so I asked her to take my name off the attendance list. I didn’t want to get credited for time I wasn’t there. Doll said they don’t count hours from the schedule; they take roll at the time of the class. She pointed me to a Ranger with bunny ears on his hat who said there would be a second Green Dot training class Tuesday at 10 AM. I had signed up for a morning shift that day, so I checked back with Doll and rescheduled. It looked like I might get to be a Green Dot Ranger after all. Sometimes, I thought, the universe provides.
 
I ran into Ranger Twinjammer, whom I’d patrolled with the year before. He was glad to see so many returning Rangers. He said there were some folks that go through the training, go through mentorship, do one shift, and are never heard from again. He and I helped a couple of people get pointed towards Playa Info. Thhat was when I discovered the outside of my backpack was wet. Apparently, my hydration pack was not house trained. Next to HQ was a new building called the Hatrack. It was supposed to be a place where Rangers could go to chill between shifts, but there wasn’t any place to sit inside. I bumped into J.C. back near the potties. He said he was camped out way over by the 3 O’clock road.

Back at HOTD, I found my missing glasses case at the bottom of the backpack. I must have left it there while I was checking the hydration pack for leaks. I was having trouble finding all kinds of stuff that day. I’d recorded some music on CD’s to give to the radio station, but I couldn’t find them anywhere. Likewise, I couldn't find my event ticket, which I’d had when I went through the Gate. My ticket turned out to be stuck inside my notebook all along. I did find my gloves and long underwear, which I would need later. The kitchen tent was short on tables; a couple that were supposed to be there never made it to the playa. Mark thought I could build something with some spare 2 X 4’s, but I just made a table by propping a door up on some empty storage bins. As long as nobody tried to have sex on it, I thought, it should work. “You rock, dude,” Mark said.
 
I sat in the bar to write. A guy in a full Robocop costume walked through. There was music playing on state, and a topless girl in brown boots got up to dance. A different girl dressed like a cowgirl was drunk and crying at the bar. She insisted she was a federal agent, and was upset that nobody would believe her. When she started to leave, the cowgirl tripped over some chairs and had to be helped up. Steve the bartender sat with her until she calmed down. I was later told some Rangers came by and took her to get some help.

The wind picked up, as did the number of people in the bar. Dust was blowing everywhere. A girl in a tiger suit walked through. I sat at the bar and talked to Alex about traveling. She said she went to Europe for 6 weeks, traveling alone until she met up with Brian for the last two weeks. She said Brian had an airplane, and sometimes when they fly they’ll see something interesting and buzz it. She liked the “orderliness” of my notes. It was nice to see Persnickitty again. I asked her how her past year had been, and she said it was “pretty sh*tty.” The weather started turning crazy. Off to the northwest, I could see dark clouds brewing.
 
An art car shaped like a big salt shaker pulled up to the bar. I met Vision, “V,” and a girl named Suzanne who insisted I met her two years before. I helped the bartenders hook up the beer keg. A gorgeous girl with a flowery blouse rode up on her bicycle; she had a very nice smile. I met an outgoing guy called Hot Rod. He wore a leather jacket and had a pierced lip. He liked to draw the Rolling Stones lips logo, and drew one on a page of my notebook. A guy named Tom came by looking for a camp that was serving “habanjero shots.” He was wearing a red Japanese outfit. I was very impressed with a beautiful brunette girl who called herself Pope Catherine the First. She wore foamy purple ribbons in her hair. Pope Catherine had a very nice smile. I was glad to meet her. We talked about the Rangers.
 
When KathyKat got married the previous year in camp, I took pictures of the ceremony, and when I saw her I gave her copies of my pictures. She was happy and gave me a big hug, but just as she started to look at them it began to sprinkle. She hurried to put them someplace safe as thunder boomed across the playa. A curtain of rain was visible in the distance, and lumbered along for most of an hour before dropping down on us. Cold rain came down in a heavy shower. Everyone in the bar stayed put under the shade structure, but it didn’t help. The wind picked up blowing the rain under the shade. Every surface got wet. Gomer and I grabbed some trash bags and hurried to cover up the sound equipment on stage. When the wind died down a little, I went back to check on my tent. The wind was still fierce. My tent was still in one piece, but flattened by the wind. After more than a half hour the rain moved on, and we could see blue skies again. To the east, the tail end of a beautiful rainbow appeared… and then it became a double rainbow. The rainbows seemed to come down right into the campsite. It was a beautiful sight.
Darkness began to fall on the playa. Things had calmed down, so I figured I’d better eat something. In the kitchen tent, I fired up my propane stove and boiled some macaroni. I figured I’d better use up my tomatoes before they went bad, so I cut one up and added it to the strained macaroni, along with some tomato sauce and Italian seasonings. Brian provided a lantern to cook in the increasing darkness, so when I was done cooking my supper I let him use my stove to cook his. It turned out pretty good. After cleaning up, I was exhausted, so I climbed into my tent to take a nap.
I woke about midnight. A big, silver duck the size of a bus had arrived across the street. On my way to the potties, I passed a bunch of RV’s arriving, lined up all along the side streets. At some point, I heard people talking, engines running… I woke up about a quarter after 4. I could hear someone with a megaphone shouting SHUT THE F*CK UP! PEOPLE ARE SLEEPING! When I unzipped my tent flap, there was a big, brown pickup parked just a couple of feet from my tent. A girl with a headlamp had just arrived. Her name was Terri (“I don’t have a playa name,” she said.) and she was going to set up a yurt and shade structure—but not now. For the moment, she was going to sleep. That sounded like a good idea, so I went back in my tent. I took off the blue jeans I’d been wearing for three days and went back to sleep…
Prologue Aug. 26  Aug. 27 Aug. 28 Aug. 29
Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday Monday
The Long Road Home  Epilogue
Original content (c)opyright 2010 by Tim Frayser
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