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
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
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.
Original content (c)opyright 2011 by Tim Frayser
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