I only slept for an hour or so, but I woke up surprisingly refreshed. I was ready for my first graveyard shift as a Ranger. The alarm clock was still busted, so it was just plain luck I woke up when I did. The inside of the tent looked like a laundry had exploded; I’d have to do something about that. At HQ, I spoke to a charming blonde Ranger called Chipmunk. She said Sanctuary was full of people. Right after I checked in, in face, a call went out on the radio for female Green Dots. I met Ranger Magic while getting some water for my canteen. It was also his third year. At the burn barrel I met Rangers Lemon Jello and Pterodactyl. Creech had a can of Reb Bull explode in his pocket. Stonebeard showed up, and I got to speak with Tank Girl; she recommended the potties at Outpost Tokyo.
I got paired up with Ranger Quandry, who seemed young, but he’d been coming to Burning Man as long as me. He knew his stuff. He was the only Ranger I partnered with that week that asked if I had any trigger issues. We got assigned all the streets between 2 and 4 O’Clock, basically 1/4th of the city. We rode our bikes up the Esplanade, then down 4 O’Clock to L Street. On Quandry’s suggestion, we dropped off our bikes at his camp and took off on foot. He was camped right on the Esplanade. It was a big camp of New Englanders, and it had a great setup. A guy from North Carolina gave me a hug. On the radio, we heard various reports come in from across the city. About 2 AM, we heard of a disturbance at Hair of the Dog—my camp!
We walked all the way out to the very edges of the city. There was a big camp right on the corner of L and 2 O’clock. We wondered about lights way off in the distance. Were they the lights of Gerlach? We went past the Pier, which was a fascinating piece of construction. It was built to look like an old pier, jutting out onto the water, weather-beaten and wobbly, it even emitted the sounds of the ocean. We patrolled around the big sound camps along the outer fringe of the city. They were positioned there so that the big speakers could be pointed out into the deep playa, and away from the sleeping city.
Around 4 AM we got reassigned to the opposite side of the city. Things got a lot quieter after that. Quandry had a sunrise wedding he had to be at, and he calculated how much time he had to get there after the shift was over. It got cold out that night. I was glad I brought the trench coat I found at Goodwill for $10. Out in the open playa, we spoke with the artist responsible for the strings of balloons I’d been seeing all week. It was such a simple design: a long string of balloons, each holding a bright LED light, stretched out in a loop over the city. The amazing thing was that the string was over a mile long, and the loop reached up to a thousand feet. He had to coordinate with the airport to keep planes and skydivers from getting tangled.

We made it back to HQ at 5:45, just as the first blush of dawn was lightening the eastern sky. He checked out while I went to the potties. I got some water and was waiting for my shift to end when two people approached HQ, a guy and a girl dressed in black. The guy was wanting to know where the Medical tent was, to help the girl, but the girl kept interrupting with questions about the Rangers. I didn’t know what was wrong, but I offered to walk with her over to Medical. After a few steps, however, she threw her cup of milk in the air, splashing milk all over her shoulder. She was shaking, she was so upset. I talked her into sitting down on one of the HQ benches. She said she hadn’t slept and hadn’t had any water since arriving on the playa. Apparently, she hadn’t read any of the materials about preparing for Burning Man. She thought Burning Man should provide water stations where everyone could get water, because she was an artist and apparently artists shouldn’t be expected to know anything about personal survival. “I am counting the f*cking seconds until I can leave this f*cking place!” she cried. I got her settled down, and went to get her some water—and maybe a lift to Medical—when she just took off walking back the way she came. I guess she just needed to vent. It's hard to get help if you don't stick around. I wondered if I could’ve handled things better, but I wasn’t running on all cylinders myself. I checked out and stumbled back to my tent. It was freezing in there. Peeling off my dusty clothes, I cocooned myself inside my sleeping bags and immediately fell asleep.

Sunlight seemed to be coming from everywhere when I woke up. I’d slept about 3 hours and felt much better. I still had on my long underwear. I drank some water and found Star outside writing in her journal. She said she already made her pilgrimage out to the Temple, but still wanted us to do something together. Mark later explained the 2 AM altercation in the bar. There was a guy and a girl and another guy, and things got a little out of hand. Cops and Rangers had come and gone. Also, someone stole the big red dog again! About 5 AM, guys from a Mad Max car swept in, snatched the dog, and took off. Spoon gave chase, grabbing the dog’s tail, but it ripped, leaving a trail of Styrofoam down the street. The trail went cold after 2 blocks. All that remained of Clifford the mascot was a bag of his residual abdominal styrofoam. He was gone.

Billy made everybody some amazing breakfast burritos. Marilyn talked about samurai movies. Tigger showed up, fresh from his trek down the Appalachian Trail: 2,100 miles, all on foot. It took him just under six months to complete. He said towards the end it was like, “sleep, eat, walk, repeat.” Speaking of feet, my foot was much better. The healing had begun. The moisturizer Steph loaned me was working. The cracked spot on my heel was much better, and didn’t sting when I walked any more. I already put moisturizer on my list for next year. I got out the vinegar and soaked my feet again.

At the porta potties, somebody left behind a supply of toilet paper, but stole the toilet seat! There was theft all over the playa that morning. It was Friday, September 2nd. Brian shared some beer. Star had me doodle in her notebook. She was doing a project where she would make artwork from “random squiggles.”

At 2 PM, I headed out to Outpost Berlin. At Juplaya, one of the things we worked on was a reorginazation of the Sandman program. On the night the Man burns, there's a ring of Rangers that maintain the safety perimeter, helping to manage the crowds. Sometimes, however, people break through the perimeter and, for whatever reason, get too close to the fire. These people are called "runners." To protect participants, an inner ring of Rangers keep these people from getting too close to the fire. As anyone who saw the movie "Logan's Run" knows, the people who stop runners are the Sandmen.

I got recruited to help out with the Sandmen. At Berlin, I met up with Rangers Legba and Roadrash, who were spearheading the project. We worked on strategy and tactics, keeping the emphasis on the safety of participants. We did lots of tumbling and rolling around in the dust. I even got to teach a little. We drilled all the procedures. We got a lot worked out. I was on my bike headed back to camp when I realized how much fun I was having. I was dirtier than I’d been in a long time and felt great. I even laughed out loud. On the way back to camp, I stopped to watch a guy fly a bird-shaped kite. Skydivers did a high-velocity dance over the city.

Go-Go was in the bar when I got back, listening to music. I started to heat up some supper, when I realized: I had a meal ticket. I arrived at the commissary a half hour early. People slowly arrived as I waited. Someone played music. I got to meet Purple, a lovely brunette Ranger with purple highlights in her hair. Supper was very filling. Sir Bill was in the lunchroom. After supper, I rode my bike out to the Trojan Horse. It was set to burn at midnight, and there were already thousands of people milling about on the playa. That was where I met Ranger Hoopy Frood, who seemed like a nice guy.
I found out when the Trojan Horse got rolled out onto the open playa, the designers forgot something: brakes. When they got it where they wanted it, it just kept rolling! That was exciting. I watched the floating island and the Christina, a big yacht retrofitted for land use, which was overflowing with people.
I rode through the dusty twilight and took my time going back to camp. That’s where I saw Femcar in a big, black hat, sitting and talking under the shade. I had no other duties that night, so I relaxed in the bar as night fell. There was a great band playing on stage. I watched a guy making out with a buxom blonde girl. Captain Apocalpyse and I sat watching them go at it on the dance floor, and then up against the bar. The Captain went to bartend, and then I was joined by Ranger Harvest, who was waiting for J.C. After Harvest and J.C. left, I sat at the bar next to the couple as they continued to fool around. After another 20 minutes, the blonde said bye and just left with a friend. The guy was like Whaaaaat???
After dark, Kathy Kat invited me to come along on a Party Snail excursion, but I was starting to get dizzy again. After only 3 hours of sleep that day, everything was getting blurry. She understood and sent me on my way. I went back to my tent, which was now completely surrounded by other tents, and passed out.
Prologue Aug. 24  Aug. 25 Aug. 26 Aug. 27 Aug. 28 
 Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday Monday
Sept.6 Sept. 7 Sept. 8  Sept. 9 & Epilogue
Original content (c)opyright 2011 by Tim Frayser
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Links: Christina, Queen of BRC  Logan's Run The Pier