I dreamed of a crazy Nazi, running around, shooting at rocks… Something woke me up. I looked for my watch and a flashlight. It was 4:47—I’d slept right through the alarm! I got dressed in a hurry, skipping the long underwear, but taking my gloves. I’d set out a tuna cup for breakfast, but I didn’t think I’d have time to eat it, so I chugged a can of V-8 instead. It was already after 5 when I took off for HQ.

There were a lot of people at the Hookadome when I rode past it on my bike and out onto the open playa. There were only a few bikes in the racks when I pulled up to Ranger HQ. When I checked in for my 6 to 12 shift, I told them I needed a Green Dot mentor shift, because I couldn’t volunteer for Sanctuary until I was a full Green Dot. No less than Ranger Paragon himself came up and told me the Green Dot mentoring was only for new Rangers. Since I was a returning Ranger, I could just sign up to be a Green Dot. So, that’s what I did.

Right about then, Ranger Katpaw (whom I'd rangered with at Interfuse) showed up for her shift. She was happy to see me and gave me a big hug. She was wearing her tiger tail. She introduced me to her partner, ranger Jedi. All week, I’d been carrying something for her. Way back in New Mexico, I found a novelty license plate that said WILD CHILD, her Interfuse handle, so I got it for her. She was very delighted to get it. I told her about working Greeters Wednesday morning. It was exhausting, because you had to be up and excited the whole time. I demonstrated how I cheered and hopped around for people when they arrived. Katpaw laughed and said, “I didn’t know you could be so animated.” I admit I was a little surprised. “What?” I said. “I’m… animated. I’m an animated guy.” “I’ve never seen you animated,” she continued. “You’re always so… even.”

So, I guess I’m just an even guy.

At 6 AM, a senior ranger came out to give us our assignments. Lazarus was Green Dot shift lead, and he took the only female Green Dot on duty over to Sanctuary to help with an ongoing issue. We were a little short on Rangers that morning, so everybody had big areas to patrol. Gropaz put me and Stingray at Center Camp, so that we could be reassigned easily if necessary. Stingray was from near Berkley, and worked with solar power.

We took off down the 6:30 street. A girl from the DOTA camp asked us about water trucks. Apparently, they’d contracted with someone to have water delivered to their camp, but they hadn’t seen a truck in two days. I wrote down her information. A couple of hours later, I spotted a water truck on the Esplanade. The lady driver said DOTA wasn’t on her delivery list, but she’d check with the other companies. She said it was possible the camp was on contract directly with the BMORG. I thought we rangered the heck out of that issue.

In Center Camp, we met up with a BLM Ranger named Eric. The BLM was working 12-hour shifts all during Burning Man, crashing between shifts in Gerlach. Eric said Bruno’s Motel was “like something in a third world country.” After making sure everything in Center Camp was secure, we started patrolling the surrounding streets. Down 5:30, a woman stopped us to say her child was “misplaced.” This was potentially a huge deal. Burning Man takes missing children very seriously. A missing child report will get the whole event shut in lockdown. Before putting in that call, we looked around first. The kid’s name was Kaylen. He was nine years old, and had orange & purple hair. The mom seemed embarrassed to even say anything. We followed her back to her camp in Kidsville, wandering through the tents and vehicles. We asked around, and after a few minutes we spotted him. That was close. I had a feeling we’d be hearing from him again.

A call came over the radio to be on the lookout for a “vintage” 1980 (1980 is vintage now?) Winnebago Elandon, 30’ long and beige. An important message needed to be delivered to that RV. We went back to Center Camp to ranger some shade. A girl came by giving out fruit cups. A girl in a gypsy outfit did a very provocative dance to the music. When she removed her veil, I don’t think she could’ve been more than 15 years old.

While we were at Center Camp, a call went out for any rangers near the Esplanade. When I responded, Stingray and I got assigned to “the Stick"-- security duty at the Man.  We rode our bikes out to the structure, relieving two other Rangers, Marker and Harlot. 

The main thing seemed to be keeping people from riding their bikes on the gravel immediately surrounding the main structure. The DPW guys were very particular about keeping bikes out. I met Blackjack, a DPW lady that had been on-playa since August 8th. She said it only took her 2 ½ hours on duty for someone to yell the first “F*ck you!” of the day at her. I thought, You never forget your first. 

When Stingray left for a potty break, I must’ve stopped a dozen bikers in 5 minutes. I met Ken and Tink, a nice couple who said they live “in the backyard” of the playa, but it was their first time at Burning Man. 

There were not supposed to be any motorized vehicles inside the perimeter around the Man, but the exception was the DPW truck which showed up bringing us water. Water was very much appreciated. A beautiful girl named Lulu was one of the girls handing out granola bars. Someone called them the DPW Fluffers. As they backed their truck out, one girl leaned out the window yelling BEEP BEEP BEEP…  I met a girl called Now, who was camped at the big yacht parked near 5 O’Clock. 

At noon, we were relieved by Ranger Red Robin and another ranger. We clocked out and headed over to the Commissary for lunch. It was a wonderful meal. Outside, the Sun was relentless. Standing out in direct sunlight, I could almost hear my skin sizzle. I wondered if that’s how vampires felt in the sunlight. (Except for the sparkly ones.) I rode back to Hair of the Dog, changed into civilian clothes, and relaxed in the bar. I met my “neighbors” in camp, Kim and Connie, who were sleeping in their SUV. They gave me a glowing Frisbee. In the bar, I met Puma the Huma, a wonderful, tall, slim blonde girl whose chest had been painted for the upcoming Critical Tits parade. She wore lots of pink ribbons and kissed me when she left the bar, riding off into the distance. I never saw her again.
That afternoon, I braved the soul-sucking heat to find Beaverton Camp. That was where the girls riding in the Critical Tits parade were going to have their after-ride party. I had gifts for the riders, but I couldn’t see making it way out to the Man and back in that merciless sunlight, so I figured I’d leave my gifts at Beaverton. When I got there, I found a big crowd of people huddled under a wide shade structure. Rather than being a CT-related event, it turned out they were all there to listen to a guy give a lecture on anal sex. I stopped to listen for a while. The presenter said that no matter what you put in somebody’s anus, be sure to remove it slowly. The line I remembered was, “It’s not like starting a lawn mower!”
I didn’t stay for the demo.
There was a girl walking among the tents at Beaverton, so I dropped of the handkerchiefs with her. On my way back to HOTD, I went by the post office to drop off a couple of postcards, but it was so crowded with people I couldn’t get in. Anything mailed from there was postmarked Black Rock City. I went on back to Hair of the Dog and had a beer.
I and sat down with my notebook to catch up on my writing. Steve the bartender commented on my notes, saying my kids would end up cherishing my journals “like Leonardo’s notebooks.” I met a wonderful blonde girl named Leslie. (Not the Leslie I met at Greeters.) She was from Vancouver, British Columbia, and had a long drive to get to the playa. She was camped across the street from Silicon Village. She said the live music kept her awake at night, so that she kept oversleeping and missing the sunrises. 
I met a guy named Rob, who was from Seattle, but originally from Connecticut and New York. He was interested in writing. Towards sunset, I talked to a guy named Levi. He was trying to finish his beer so he’d make it to the local Seder in time to flirt with the “cute Jewish girls.” I spoke to Captain Apocalpyse and his lovely companion. She said, “I’m going back to camp,” and the Captain responded, “Is that a sign that we’re going have ravishing sex?” She laughed, and as she walked away he winked at me and whispered “It is!”
Mark made some amazing tacos for supper, and they were delicious. I had two. I went to my tent and lied down, the plan being to nap for a while, then get up to take some night pictures. I woke about midnight, the tent flapping and shaking under the wind. Outside, I could see off onto the playa: huge clouds of dust that would have made it impossible to get any good pictures. On one of the access roads I was passed by about a dozen people all riding Segways, all lit up the same way, all going exactly the same speed-- a squadron of Segways. I passed people making out at the Kissing Booth on my way to the potties. There were mostly guys at the Kissing Booth, and the times there was a girl there, she was awfully busy. I wasn’t interested in kissing a girl that had been licked by dozens of people… so recently.
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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