I woke just before 7 Friday, August 31st . The clouds were amazing that morning—talk about your “temporary art.” Lots of people were out taking pictures. A guy with a camera commented, “It’s a great day to be a photographer.” I cleaned up around the bar, and found a headlamp. There was beer in the cooler! Where’d that come from? It was like the Beer Fairy paid us a visit.
Brian Bong and Billy came back to camp after being out all night. Michael complained the power went out just as a camp down the street started playing techno music. It was annoying on several levels. The ground was spackled from the rain. Jenn stopped by early that morning; her dad had indeed passed away. She was going to pack up and head out that morning, and then catch a plane to the East Coast. She cried on my shoulder before leaving.
It turned out Deelee and James were also leaving early. The lived in California—I had the idea they were from Florida, for some reason. Nadine came through heartbroken because she lost her camera… and then I found it for her. It was under the bar, stuck in between some bottles. Erin shaved her head. Annette showed me her journal, but she’d only written a paragraph or so since arriving. I spoke to one guy who’d kept a daily diary since 1973.

I couldn’t believe I’d been on-playa for seven days, a whole week-- and I wouldn’t be leaving for another four days. Out on Rod’s Road, a parade of ladybug cars rolled by, all driven by Rangers. They’d been confiscated and were headed for the impound lot. Did the Rangers have a fleet of cars now? In the MASH tent, I started to cook up some ramen noodles, but my propane canister ran empty. That was the first time I’d ever killed a propane canister. I had another, luckily. From camp, I watched a thunderhead off to the east, but it soon lumbered northward. A lady walked through playing bagpipes. She said she’d been playing since 1972, but couldn’t play as soon as she arrived on the playa because the reeds in the pipes needed time to acclimate. Jarvis joked, “Why do bagpipers walk when they play? They’re trying to get away from the sound.” The Party Snail arrived and brought us more mixers.

I cleaned my feet, put on moisturizer, and got out some clean socks. I’d brought a bag of new socks just for my Ranger shifts. I pulled the inserts out of my shoes and put them in my boots, to see what would happen. I checked in for my afternoon shift, and got paired up with Ranger Orion, who was celebrating his 10th year at Burning Man. Kimistry was at HQ, so I asked her what happened with the missing child report on Thursday. (That was why the Gate was closed most of Thursday afternoon.) Kimistry said the call had been changed from missing child to “runaway,” and there were now wanted posters up at the Ranger outposts as people looked for the 17-year-old girl. I ran into Pitbull, from Sandman training, and saw Firecracker.

Ranger SciFi made announcements for the afternoon shift. There seemed to be a lot of activity along the 5:30 road. The ladybug cars had been ordered confiscated, but there were still four unaccounted for. We were told to keep an eye out for them. Services were on the way for a plane that had unexpectedly landed on the outer playa. SciFi assigned Orion and me to Zone 4, 8 to 10 O’clock, so we took off on our bikes. The air was calm, but the sky was full of unsettled clouds.

At Outpost Tokyo, I spoke with Ranger Mockingbird, who said it was fine with her if it turned out to be an overcast day. I noticed a lot of Green Dot calls that day. There always seemed to be at least three going at a time. There was also a 007 call in progress, and dispatch said to be on the lookout for an art car shaped like a caterpillar, maybe somewhere between 9 and 10 O’clock. We rode out to 6, then up to 10. There was a big pyramid on the corner for one of the sound camps. At 9 and I, we stopped at the Noodle Dip to check out their Hall & Oates One Shoe Dance Party. Everyone dancing only had one shoe. Their shade structure was made up of used t-shirts.
On the radio, Ranger Creech announced he found one of the missing ladybug cars. Someone had removed the roof in an effort do disguise it. Soon afterwards, another was discovered out in the inner playa between the Man and the Temple. It was abandoned, with the engine running. Two down, two to go. We swung back by Tokyo, where Ranger Biteme was called to give Creech a hand. “It’s a great handle,” she admitted. We were going to swing around to 8 O’clock and work our way back around when Orion spotted a car shaped like a caterpillar in the 9 O’clock portal. I called it in, and dispatch asked if I had one of the wanted posters for the runaway girl. It seems the last time she was seen, it was on an art car shaped like a caterpillar. I didn’t have one, so I shot back to Tokyo to grab theirs. We talked to the people in the camp, and the art car people, but they did not recognize the picture. They were not even licensed to drive at night, so it probably wasn’t them. They said they’d keep an eye out for her. (Before showing them the picture, I eyeballed the people in the camp to see if she was hiding there.)

Orion and I circled around and headed for the outer ring. At one camp, I moved a couple of bikes out of the road and reminded the bartender to be vigilant. Back on L, a guy on a wind surfboard said the winds might be shifting to the east. The clouds were really swirling around, darkening parts of the playa. That’s where the Minibego zoomed by. It was a scale model of a Winnebego RV, build to fit over a go-cart frame. Orion knew the owner, and said he just rents a new go-cart every year.

I think it was at Outpost Tokyo we overheard somebody tell the story of two cases of epic failure. A guy at a camp thought it would be a great idea to store gasoline in water bottles. The second failure was when a different guy thought he’d do somebody a favor and refill their Camelbak—from one of the water bottles filled with gasoline. No one involved was amused.

It was mid-afternoon, and after listening to other Rangers get reassigned, he called in to dispatch to see if they wanted us anyplace different. Dispatch called back and sent us across the city to the 2 to 4 O’clock wedge. We started to cut across the inner playa, which would have takes us right by the Critical Tits parade (oh, shucks) but just then a wave of dust hit, turning into an intense white-out. For several minutes, we couldn’t see five feet in front of us. That’s when I found a big feather floating across the ground; I stuck it in my hat.

We finally inched our way across to the far side of the city. That’s when Orion noticed a long line of people on the Esplanade. A pretty girl in line explained that the Dark Nebula camp was serving veggie dogs, and dozens of people were lined up to get one. I had no idea veggie dogs were so popular. The line was orderly and not blocking traffic, so we moved on. We stopped at Orion’s camp, was a very well-organized setup. His wife just finished baking some delicious cookies. She got to take a ride on a plane at the airport that day, which she said was awesome. A forecast of rain came over on the radio, and half the sky was filled with dark clouds. There was also a sighting of the runaway girl. Someone reported seeing her with a guy, both wearing matching hats, near 9:15 and C, headed towards Wall Street… right where we were just patrolling. Subsequent sightings all seemed to be center around where we had just been. The missing girl had met herself a young man.

The roads on that end of the city were all thick with dunes of playa dust covering a hard, pocketed surface, which made bike riding particularly hard. “This side sucks,” Orion noted. We slowed down to make sure everything was safe at a camp that was having a stripper pole contest. The camp across the street was doing ballroom dancing, and they seemed to be trying to outdo each other. The roads got more hard-packed and a little easier to ride on the further out we went. We headed out towards the 2 O’clock road, and I pointed out the amazing scorpion car… but a pretty girl in a pink wig said they were dismantling it. Technical difficulties had kept the art car from operation, and rather than spending the whole time trying to make it work, they decided to shut it down, enjoy the burn, and try again next year. It was a mature, responsible attitude.

We rounded the corner at the end of L and started back up towards the Esplanade. Orion had his own website, and had actually heard of mine. The last two ladybug cars were found parked together on the Esplanade. We rangered the local porta-potties and found they were in dire need of service. Orion actually used his knife to lock out a particularly nasty potty. That’s where we were when we got the word that the missing, runaway teenager had been found, and was currently in the company of a sheriff’s deputy. A collective sigh of relief seemed to rise across the playa. Orion pointed out, “She has no idea how much trouble she stirred up.” 

Someone on the radio quipped, “Can we open the Gate now?” 

We started down the Esplanade, and that’s when a show-stopping, overwhelming white-out slammed down on everybody. Visibility disappeared all together, and there was nothing to do but stand there helpless, hammered by the wind and the dust. Any kind of movement at all during something like that could put you in the path of a bicycle, or an art car. The best thing to do is to stand still until it passes, but this one took a long time to pass. The wind pushed playa dust in around the edges of my goggles and into my eyes. The Sun got blacked out, there was so much dust pounding across the playa.

It let up a little, so we made our way over to Outpost Berlin to wait it out, but it didn’t stop—the wind just kept blowing. Orion laughed at how covered with dust I was. By then, it was almost the end of our shift, and we were soon called to make our way to HQ. Dispatch announced the Anubis burn, which I thought was scheduled for midnight, would be at 9 PM that evening. The Wall Street burn, scheduled for midnight, was postponed until 1 AM Sunday morning, after the Man burn. Halfway to HQ, we got a report of a different missing person, another 17-year-old girl. The description said she was "dressed like a hippie," and I thought, Well, that narrows it down
The next shift needed our radios, so we hurried back to HQ. Wild Childe was coming in for an evening shift, and remarked how covered in dust I was. Just as we were checking out, there was an announcement of a medical emergency… at Hair of the Dog! As soon as we got checked out, Orion and I hurried over. It seems a guy in the bar had had some kind of attack and passed out. Emergency crews were already on the scene, but as soon as the guy came to he refused treatment. Michael also commented on how dusty I was. I gave Mark the news about the missing girl and Wall Street to announce to the bar, and then Orion and I headed over to the commissary for supper. I really was covered with dust as I stopped to wash up. Supper was salmon with Brussels sprouts. I went back for salad. Orion and I sat with Blurose, who talked about having to refuse a license to an art car. It was just a golf cart, with hardly any decoration. Blurose said that if an art car isn’t big enough to carry a bunch of people, and therefore be of service to the city, it had to at least provide an artistic and aesthetic service to the community by being unique—otherwise, it’s just a golf cart. It was a shame that somebody like that, who was sincere but unfulfilling in his intentions, could be refused a license, and then some rich fatcat comes along with a bunch of identical art cars and abuses the system.

Back at Hair of the Dog, I relaxed on the “porch.” Mark shared a beer, and some macaroni. (The secret ingredient was love.) Shadow was helping out behind the bar, and was very popular. Curly was playing a gig at Cirque de Cliché that evening, but I was beat and lied down in my tent to take a nap. When I got up two hours later, it was already dark. In the bar, I met up with Spoon, and we sat talking and telling old jokes and tales of the road. J.C. and Harvest arrived and unfurled a banner declaring HOTD “Sad Song Camp.” They proceeded to play sad songs on the speakers, and the sadder they were, the funnier they became. It was a tempestuous night, with high winds and lots of dust in the air. The big HOTD letters at the front of the bar were swinging back and forth in the wind. Just sitting and talking to someone made you want to put on dust goggles. Somebody said the Anubis burn was awesome. The whole tent was shaking from the wind when I crashed for the night. I knew it was going to be a cold night, so I got out my extra sleeping bag to snuggle under.

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
Pages formatted for 1024 x 768 screen. If your image appears on this site, and you'd rather it didn't, drop me a line and I'll remove it. Pictures appearing on this website are for personal use and are not for sale. 
LINKS: Dark Nebula 
Last updated: September, 2012