Sunday was the first morning in days I didn’t have to be up early... so, of course, I woke up at the crack of dawn. I think I got about 7 hours of sleep. It was wonderfully quiet on the playa.

The bar was a mess, with moop (litter) everywhere. I tried to clean up a little, and rolled up some loose electrical cables. As I was picking up, a small group of people showed up.  There was a guy called Gordon, a pretty girl called Ellison, and a jumpsuited guy called Goodtime Frisco Willie. They were all from Cirque Cliché camp, and they had to be looking for Gomer because they wanted to play some beer can baseball. I served them some drinks from the bar, and they shared some garlic wine with me. As we were talking, a girl in a salmon-colored outfit jogged by. She was making a circuit of the whole campsite and just wanted a drink of water. I didn’t catch her name; it turned out she used to work as a secretary in various churches, and didn’t think much of any of them. Concerning one particular religious group: “[They] don’t read the Bible!” she said. “They just drink and f*ck!”

Out on the streets, people were packing up and leaving. I watched a trailer covered with graffiti pull out from across the street. The guy that had been camped out with his own shade structure two tents over from mine was already gone. One of the Silicon Village people came to use the shower, so I showed him how the buttons worked. In the kitchen tent, my cellphone was all recharged. In fact, it had picked up a text message from a friend back home. When the shower was clear of other people, I took my own shower and scrubbed myself clean.
I joined in with a bunch of people to help take down the big Silicon Village artwork arch. Afterwards, I noticed Leslie packing up to head home. It was a long way back to British Columbia, so she wanted to get an early start. I invited her to check out my website (even though BurningClam sounds like an STD). She gave me a big goodbye hug. It was very nice to meet her. I took my cellphone by Center Camp. It was able to get a signal, but I couldn’t send anything. One of the camps brought their own cell tower, but I didn’t know where it was. While I was in Center Camp, I talked to a guy called Griddle who was interested in being a Ranger. I told him to fill out the forms online.
That afternoon, before the pin ceremony, there was an ice cream social at Ranger HQ. It looked like most of the Rangers were there, a sea of khaki. I met up with Marker, who said he had to deal with a drunk driver. Malachite was there—I hadn’t seen him since working the burn with him the year before. I met a lovely lady Ranger called Jeopardy. She said she saw Robin Williams on playa; in fact, he fought in the Thunderdome. (When I mentioned that to Ranger Chris at Hullabalu, he said he often gets mistaken for Robin Williams.) She also said she saw Mick Jagger camped out that year, with a beard. She asked, “When have you ever seen Mick Jagger with a beard?” The ice cream was great. Ranger Bourbon was there, too. Inkwell was there, talking to a friend. I ran into J.C., who was with the charming Ranger Harvest. Service pins got handed out to everybody. I also got some patches, and somebody gave me a nifty toy raygun.
I went back to camp and chilled out until it was time for me to check in for the Temple burn. I spoke with a lovely blonde girl called Lodestone. At 6 PM, we marshaled up at HQ, and then all marched out to the Temple. The wind was blowing the dust all around us. Once we were on the perimeter, it turned out we didn’t get special laminates like they handed out for the Man burn. That was because there were no fire dancers for the Temple.
The Sun set at 6:58. I got placed in the 10 o’clock position in quadrant four. I was told to protect my immediate area. People slowly drifted out to watch the Temple burn. I had to keep them outside the perimeter in the safety zone. Some people brought bicycles, and I had to remind them to park their bikes further back, so that folks wouldn’t trip over them in the dark. There was a couple off to the side making out while we were setting up. It was obvious how much the girl got the guy all worked-up. They left before it got dark, riding off together on a Segway.

As I stood there on station, a fire truck pulled up alongside the perimeter and backed up right up to me. That was where fire safety decided to put up their command post. It looked like I had the most protected spot on the perimeter. The fire truck itself was actually an art car owned by a theme camp, but they’d been helping out the fire safety people for years. I met Jess, one of the designers of that year’s Temple. “It’s always interesting,” she said, to create something unique “and then give it away.” The fire control folks and me took turns warming up next to the fire truck’s engine. The rash on my legs still hurt, but if I didn’t move around much it was okay.

I met a nice girl named Rebecca, who was wearing a dress of fire engine red. The call went out for some perimeter tape, and who should bring some by but Ranger Chris from Interfuse. He was on the team that put the Temple together, and was very proud of how it turned out. I was glad to see him. Night fell, and the crowd increased. I watched ghostly shadows walk around the Temple, getting it ready.
Finally, the word was given, and little flames appeared all around the structure. In no time at all, the Temple was engulfed in flames. All around me, thousands of people stood silently watching. It burned bright, and was very hot—almost comfortably hot, in the chill air.
I kept an eye on my little corner of the perimeter, like I was supposed to, so when I heard someone cry out “Wheee!” I figured it was somebody that just didn’t get the meaning of the Temple. When I heard it again, it sounded closer. A couple more times, and a guy in a white hat ran past me yelling “Wheeeeee!” As Rangers on the perimeter, we were supposed to keep people from going towards the fire, but this guy was running around the fire. His hat looked kind of like a Ranger hat, so I think he got as far as he did because folks thought he was a Ranger... a Ranger running around like a crazy person yelling, "Wheeeeeeeeeee!!!" He got about 30 yards from me when somebody tackled him. Just a couple of minutes later, we declared a porus border and let the crowds in for a closer look. I overheard somebody talking about the runner: “If he’d waited five more minutes, he wouldn't’ve been led away in handcuffs.”

We were released from duty, so I stopped off at HQ to sign out for the night. I said I’d come back the next day to see about signing up for an extra shift. I didn’t want to hold up the line. In the darkness, I helped another ranger get her bicycle loose from the bike rack.

After stopping off at camp to pick up my hoodie, I rode my bike out to Outpost Tokyo, where the Rangers were having an after-burn party. There was a good crowd there. I sat at the bar and ordered a drink. The bartender mixed it up with a blender powered by what looked, and sounded, like a motorcycle engine. The drink was good, too. 

Ranger Judas was there, and we spoke for a minute before I went to get warm at the burn barrel. That’s where I talked to another Ranger about homebrewing. The fire was warm, the desert stars were bright... It was a beautiful night out. 

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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