Wednesday, August 29th started out very cool outside. Breakfast was a tuna cup and a V-8. I went up and sat behind the bar to catch up on my writing. Emory built an animatronic head of Anubis that he was wearing around, but that morning it was sitting at the end of the bar. Every time the motor would cycle around, the head would turn with a wheezing, asthmatic sound. Nothing says good morning like a sneezing Egyptian god.  Two folks from San Diego showed up. A guy named Gordon wore a yellow safety vest. Annette arrived, trying to decipher a number written on her wrist. She shared some hard boiled eggs, and Jarvis came through sharing some melon slices. Virginie whipped up a big cooler full of mimosas.

Steph needed help with the shower, but the problem was that the propane water heater melted a hole in the water line. She fixed it with some duct tape. Anne and Kris showed up that morning with Brian Bong. I hadn't seen Kris in years. Erin said she was going to shave her head. Jenn stopped by and returned my pot, which we’d used for cooking.

I washed my hair and brushed my teeth and got ready for my second Ranger shift of the week. At 11:30, I checked in at HQ. I brought a picture to hang up in the Hatrack, and asked if it was okay, but the girl at the window wasn’t sure. So, I left it in the Hatrack near the water jugs with some more gift journals. It turned out HQ was handing out its own Ranger gift journals that year. It had been an “interesting” morning, according to one of the Ranger leads. A morning shift Ranger had to deal with a pet bird somebody brought on-playa. We got word that if anybody reported being locked out of their vehicle, AAA was now on-site. They had their own radio channel. Playa Info said there were over 47,000 people on playa as of that day. Ranger Splinter made assignments, sending one pair of Rangers out to the airport, and another couple on special assignment to the Frog Pond. I got partnered with Ranger Phantom, and Splinter sent us out to the “outer streets” between 7 & 8:30.

It was a bright day, but not nearly as hot. I was glad to be on a bike after walking all over the city on Monday. A guy stopped us to ask for the best place to get Internet access. Some folks were having luck getting a weak signal near Center Camp. The Rangers at the airport asked for permission to do an “aerial reconnaissance” of the city. (They wanted to go on a plane ride.) On the outer streets, a suntanned guy offered us some Otter Pops, but settled for hugs. We stopped at a camp of Airstream trailers. They were all friends of Phantom. I met off-duty Ranger G, who said some kittens crawled up into a car engine and ended up in the city. There was also a small fire. I met Ghost Chaser and her friend, who served up tacos. We talked for a while. G helped work Perimeter, and said people trying to sneak in really showed up like a Christmas tree on night vision goggles. I said that my first year at Burning Man I applied to work for Gate, but they said, “You’re too nice.” While on patrol one night, G’s partner stopped their truck. “I’m gonna take a piss—turn off the night vision!” he said.

I spoke to Linda from Florida. Before coming out for Burning Man, she found a big game bird that had escaped from a hunting range. Back on patrol, we stopped at Sharky’s camp, which had more of Phantom’s friends. I met Barrabus, the bartender. They were just getting ready to open. Down the road, I pointed out the Playa Pail Kids camp, which Phantom thought was hilarious. We talked to Pizza Boy, one of the organizers, who also made clothes the Cabbage Patch Kid dolls they had on display.

At Mudskipper’s, we had to move a bunch of bikes out of the road. We stopped to speak to a guy at the Genital Portrait Studio. Down the road, the Flirt Camp taught people how to flirt, and to do it correctly. That was where I met Super Diva. Phantom’s bike got a flat tire. Fortunately, we happened to be near a camp that was fixing bikes. His was a quick fix, so they moved him to the front of the line. That was where we met a bicyclist from Boston. He rode a bicycle all the way from the East Coast, averaging about 90 miles a day. It took him 35 days to cross the country. It was also his first Burning Man. I asked him what he thought about it so far, and he said, “My mind has melted.” Phantom’s tire was fixed in no time. Adjacent to the bike repair camp was Costume Camp, where they were exchanging costumes, hats and shirts. That was where I met Tabasco, who was amazed at all the cars still arriving that late in the week.

At 7:30 and F, a camp was holding a special event, and the line of people stretched out across the intersection. We had to move a bunch of bikes out of the street. We were approached by a guy named Richard who was looking for a big camp of people from Europe. A big, black SUV stopped to ask directions to Family Hug Camp. On the radio, there was a call for Medical to check out an adult male at 4 & E who was dehydrated. Another Ranger reported a “found child” on the Esplanade. We headed to Tokyo to refresh out canteens. On the way, we passed an intersection that had 4 other Rangers, including Ranger Oblivious.

I noticed a bunch of art cars blocking the road down a side street. There were 7 identical cars, all 2-seater bug-shaped cars. As they drove away in a line, we saw that only the last two had licenses from the DMV. We caught up to the ladybug cars on the Esplanade, and when Phantom told the lead they leader they all needed to get DMV stickers, the driver just said, “Well, we’re with First Camp.” That’s nice, we said; you still need stickers on your vehicles. They were headed across the inner playa towards the DMV when we got a call for a Green Dot at Outpost Tokyo. We responded and hurried over there, where I got pointed to the Med Tent across the street. I spoke to the head medic, who said they hadn’t called for a Green Dot, and then got pointed to a tent next to Tokyo. It turned out to be a misunderstanding—everything was under control.

We took a breather at the 10-7 Lounge. That’s where I saw Ronin, who said someone parachuting into the city had to use his 2nd chute, but he was okay. (It kind of freaked out some people who saw his first chute come down.) At the French Quarter, there were more bicycle issues. Atomic Dan and his partner were already working on the problem, so we helped move bikes out of harm’s way. I spoke to Duct Tape Diva about the crowding. Most of the camps wanted to help out, and keep the streets in front of their camps clear, but one camp was like yeah, whatever. At Quixote’s, I met a very nice brunette called Mary Kay, who invited us to a show at her camp that evening. It included beer.

A Ranger on a golf cart pointed out more bike problems. We caught word of an issue way back on L Street; on the way, we saw BLM Rangers talking to people at Sharky’s. I slowed down to pick up a walkie talkie lying in the road, but someone had it on a string and pulled it away at the last second. "Very funny,"  I said. On the outer circle road, we found out the BLM was stopping drivers for not signaling once they were in the city. When a participant asked what was going on, the BLM guy responded to him, prompting the call. We joined back up with Atomic Dan, who got the camps talking with the DPW about putting together some bike racks. That was good work.

At a nearby camp, I finally found the unicycle built for two I’d seen the year before. Nobody back home believed me when I told them about it. I asked how people really ride it, and a guy in the camp said the inventor was the only one to “successfully” ride it, so far. It required two people who were the same size and shape to make it work. I was glad to find the elusive tandem unicycle. 
By then it was almost the end of the shift. We headed towards HQ, and watched some pyrotechs shoot off a fireball. The ladybug cars were lined up at the DMV. At HQ, we spoke with Uncle Dave, and met Cursor, a new Ranger. The bonk rate for new Rangers was pretty high that year; standards kept going up. Back in camp, everyone said I looked tired. Jarvis had salad for everyone, and Annette gave away some wonderful smoked salmon. I sat on the “porch,” under the shade of the MASH tent. Somebody in camp made pasta with very hot sauce. Billy commented, “It’s like a fire that never goes away!”

Michael said the power switch for the shower pump shocked him when he tried it; it had to covered up better. Someone wanted to know the Polish word for “sugar,” so that he could impress a Polish girl he just met. Shadow, a pretty redhead with lots of arm tattoos, sat at the bar, and we told bad jokes to each other. I think she was from Oakland. A girl named Kath had a wicker backpack.

After dark, I went riding around to get some pictures, but the batteries on the camera died. Hitting some bar camps wasn’t fun alone. Down Rod’s Road, a camp was playing dodgeball. I went by Center Camp, and watched some fire dancers juggling flaming batons... Just then, something amazing happened. I happened to look up, and right above me swooped… a bird. A big bird. My first reaction was that it was a pelican, with a wing span about 3 or 4 feet-- big white wings. It swooped over me and disappeared over the wall behind Center Camp. I couldn’t believe it. A bird that big, way out here in the desert? I searched the sky, but it was gone. I wondered, could it be one of those life-sized kites made to look like a bird? But that didn’t make any sense. Why fly it at night? If it got loose, why didn’t it just crash? For the rest of the week, I hesitated to mention it to anybody, it sounded so crazy.
Curly was playing a gig at Cirque de Cliché, but I was just too bushed after a long day. I looked at my smartphone and found a text message. I could get texts? I tried sending one to the Missus back home, and she replied! That was amazing. I crashed about 10:30.
Prologue  Aug. 22  Aug. 23  Aug. 24  Aug. 25 
Sunday  Monday  Tuesday  Wednesday  Thursday  Friday  Saturday  Sunday  Monday 
Sept. 4  Sept. 5  Sept. 6  Sept. 7 & Epilogue
Original material (c)opyright 2012 by Tim Frayser
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Last updated: September, 2012