It was still dark when I woke up. Somebody off in the distance was singing “Bali Ha'i,” from the musical "South Pacific." It was 4:30 in the morning, Thursday, August 30th, and I’d slept for about 6 hours. At the camp porta-potty, I ran into Mark, who said we had a “guest” sleeping in the MASH tent, and possibly someone asleep in the back of the truck. I got my camera, with fresh batteries, and rode my bike out to the Man. The air was still and cool. A space shuttle with green lights for rockets rumbled past. Four people in thick fur coats hurried off to my right, and a couple lit up in EL wire strolled in the dark.
At the Man, many people were climbing around on the centerpiece structure, and someone was leading them in an A cappella sing-along. (Was that the “Bali Ha'i” I heard?) I rode past the Midwest Burners CORE towers, and then started back towards Center Camp. On the way, I realized the Moon was setting behind the western mountains. I hurried to get a picture. When I pointed it out to a passing biker, he said, “Beautiful!”
At Center Camp, the bike racks were almost empty. A guy was on stage performing for maybe a couple dozen people. Empty benches were everywhere. I sat down to catch up on my writing, and to drop off copies of the book of quotes I’d collected over the past year. A couple of burners dozed on cots, but a lady came around and nudged them that they couldn’t sleep in Center Camp. Where were all the people? Burning Man had a high percentage of new people that year. Did they not realize Center Camp was open 24/7? Outside, it was just getting light in the east. When the commissary opened, I went in for breakfast. I ran into Halston coming off shift. She always worked graveyards. She said it was a good night—a couple of Green Dot calls, but calm ones. I sat with Judas; I told him about my run-in with the ladybug cars on Wednesday. The sunrise was amazing.
At the bar, a very young-looking kid came by looking for a drink. He looked too young to be drinking. I said the bar wasn’t open and sent him on his way. I didn’t want to get arrested for serving to a minor. Annette got up and boiled some water so that I could have a cup of tea—a civilized way to start the morning. The big camp stove was running low on propane. She liked the maps in my notebook. Annette lost the What Where When book that she got when she arrived, so I was going to see if I could find an extra one. I met Ollie, Honey Badger’s boyfriend, who explained, “Everything around her is designed to confuse you.” The family of his friend Peter distilled whiskey. I met Darren, who worked at Bruno’s in Gerlach. Locals got special wrist bands like my staff credential so that they could get in to the event. Jenn was volunteering at the bus depot that afternoon. Blurose was making a run to Gerlach that afternoon, and offered to pick up Annette’s luggage, which had apparently finally arrived.

Steph’s sore throat was worse that day, and since she and Kris shared a cup the day before, “I’ll get it, too,” she said. Pretty girls relaxed on lounge chairs at the camp across the street. Anne left to visit a friend at Kidsville. Steph demanded, “Who put beer in the drinking ice?” While I was behind the bar, two pretty British girls visited: Kate and Alice, whom I remembered from the year before. Shadow came by with more bad jokes. She had a great laugh.

I went for a ride on my bike. Center Camp was full of people, with the bike racks overflowing. I walked right into the Critical Dicks march, lucky me. I went to the post office to mail some postcards, but it was closed. I rode out to Wall Street, out near the 10 O’Clock road, and climbed all the way to the top of the highest structure.
I rode out to the Temple, and set up my memorial to my friends Cathy and Braz. It was a very moving place. Inside the main Temple, it was quiet and respectful. I also made a tribute to the late Midwest Burner, Wicked Wench. I accidentally stepped into somebody’s shot as he took a picture; a friend just laughed it off and said, “Now, you’re part of his story.” There was another post office in the 3 O’Clock keyhole, so I rode over there to mail my stuff. The girl at the window also wanted something in return, so I did a little dance. She gave me a hug.

It was very hot and dry out. Back at HOTD, I got out my canteen and vinegar and soaked my feet. I had been lucky with my feet so far. Nadine was not feeling well; she had the symptoms of dehydration, so I told her to cool off, get some water, and rest in the shade. She was soon feeling much better. Spoon arrived! We talked and he gave me a blinky pin. I gave him a button I’d been saving for him. I went over to the bus depot, and saw a bunch of people waiting on the next bus. They’d been waiting since noon, because the Rangers were dealing with a lost child situation, and that shuts down the Gate—nobody in, nobody out, and no bus service. She invited me over to her camp for supper.

That afternoon, I used my digital recorder to record some jam sessions on stage. Emory had a much more elaborate setup for recording. Deelee and James borrowed my bike, on the condition they get it back by sunset. Shadow was helping out behind the bar. John C. and Payette were in the bar and said hi. When the open mike session ended, Mark said they were switching to “D.J. I-pod,” but the jamming kept going on. A pretty redhead with a do-rag sat in on the music. Her name was Sark, and she was from Phoenix. She said it took her two days to get to Black Rock City, and 7 hours to get through at the Gate. Lisa said supplies at the bar were low. “I just had to serve a guy brandy and water!” Someone was giving out eye drops to people. Rhino stopped by for a visit. I gave him the cup I saved from Cathy’s wake—he liked it. A guy from the airport brought a whole truckload of booze for the bar—we were back in business. A bunch of stuff was hidden away to be rationed out to the bar as needed.

I washed my hair in the shower, but in the process soaked my khaki pants; I had to dig out my other pair. Blurose made deviled eggs to share with the camp. He volunteered with the DMV, and it turned out there were more issues with the ladybug cars. After Rangers dealt with them, the DMV had a “come to Jesus meeting” with the drivers and laid down the vehicle laws. Each ladybug was assigned one person per vehicle… but even so, they still had three Ranger calls overnight: speeding, reckless driving, and worse. So, the DMV pulled their licenses so they couldn’t drive around any more.

It was getting late, and James & Deelee hadn’t returned with my bike yet, so I just took off walking for Jenn’s camp. It wasn’t far. They were having chili for supper, and she also made me a grilled cheese sandwich. The CORE burn was that night after sunset, and her camp let me ride out on their art car, the Cuddle Shuttle. Jenn helped put the lights together. (We were traveling pretty fast, and I hoped we didn’t get pulled over by the Rangers for speeding; that would have been awkward.) There were a bunch of art cars on the inner playa, all headed for the circle of effigies. Just when we arrived at the CORE ring near the South Bay effigy, somebody caught up with Jenn and told her there was an “emergency message” waiting for her at Playa Info. She took off running. She’d been worried about her dad all week.

The CORE burns started up while she was gone. There were 35 effigies surrounding the Man that year, but from my position I could only see the closest 5 or 6. The sky did not light up red like I remembered it doing the year before. One of the effigies was really pouring out smoke, possibly from diesel fuel used to accelerate the burn. The ones I saw were pretty dramatic, but there were so many effigies the sheer number seemed to deaden the impact. The South Bay effigy burned pretty good. Some girl hassled me because I was wearing my Interfuse InterRanger shirt. She said I was a “fraud” and “not a real ranger.”
When Jenn returned, the emergency message turned out to be, basically, “call home.” That was it. She still didn’t know what the emergency was. She borrowed a bike and hurried back to her camp. A friend back in camp could receive text messages, and there were hopes of a message with details. I just walked back to HOTD. The Moon had been bright all week, and there was hardly any need for a flashlight. The bar was full of people, even though we had no mixers. My bike was back. It was a beautiful, clear night. A live band started up on stage just as I went to bed.
I woke when the music stopped about 3 AM, and soon afterwards came the tap tap tap of rain. It was soon pouring down hard. Thunder boomed, and when the sky flashed with lightning, I could hear people all around me go, “Oooooooh...!” 
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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LINKS: Bali Ha'i Circle of Regional Effigies InterRangers 
Last updated: September, 2012