Monday morning, September 3rd, I woke to the sound of… silence. That was a little strange. There was no sound anywhere. I was used to at least hearing somebody on a drum. Everyone else in camp seemed asleep. I drank some water just as Blurose returned from a ride on his bike.
I got on my bike and rode way out to L Street. There was a project I'd been waiting to do. Before leaving home, I made up some certificates to hand out to people leaving, thanking them for their “participation” in Burning Man, like the participation certificates they give away at seminars. I stood beside the road waiting for cars leaving the playa and handed them out one by one. They were gone in no time. Printing them up was a hassle, but the smiles of surprise and delight I got made it all worthwhile. Totally worth it. 

There was a steady of stream of vehicles leaving the playa, with no apparent holdups, no lines. 

Back at camp, breakfast was a tuna cup, an orange and a can of V-8. I had been thinking of what a hassle it was going to be to get up early Tuesday morning to take down the tent, and then I decided I could take it down early and sleep in the van Monday night. It took about a half hour to take down the tent, and about as long to pack it up and secure it to the roof of Satori. 
I almost forgot my folding table, which was still in use in the bar. Satori’s oil level was good, with hardly any leakage. I walked over to Center Camp, where I filled out a census form. Playa Info was busy dismantling their structure. One of the walls still standing had population figures for the city. The chart said the city’s population was about 48,700 on Saturday, actually down from over 56,000 on Friday. A guy in a sombrero said a lot of people were apparently “spooked” by the idea of an overcrowded Exodus and left early. “An interesting paradox in mass psychology,” he observed.

I helped take down the main camp shade structure. On BMIR, the DJ talked to somebody from Toronto who was looking for a ride home. In return, he could offer the driver ...a bottle of whisky. The DJ asked, “What kind of whiskey?” “Uh, Canadian,” the guy replied.

I dressed casually in my Ranger t-shirt for my last afternoon shift. While waiting to check in, the Ranger in front of me kept trying to clear something up. “Baptism by fire is how some people excel,” she explained. The Hatrack was being taken apart. It was a big success that year, offering shady chill space for off-duty Rangers. I don’t know what happened to the picture I brought; I hoped it found a good home. I also don't know if anybody used the Anti-Monkey Butt Powder I brought for the potties. Staffing was pretty bare bones that day. I got partnered with Ranger Malware, a 2nd-year Ranger but a 14 year Burning Man veteran. He was a retired software engineer from San Diego. We got assigned to patrol from 8 to 10 O’clock.

On the radio, Kiote described a “person of interest” that seemed to be videotaping people. A couple of people were reported missing. A Burner flagged us down to see if we could call AAA about his broken car. He’d already called, but they never responded. We couldn’t raise them on the radio, but we did find out where AAA was camped, which wasn’t far, so that’s where we suggested the Burner make contact.

Way out on 10, we ran into a girl called Grateful who had lost her wedding ring at one of the dance camps. She and her husband Tetris were looking for someone with a metal detector to help find it. We had just seen someone using a magnetic rake to collect moop in their camp, so we asked around, but a magnet wouldn’t pick up gold, anyway. Lost & Found seemed to be their best bet. A redhead from Alternate Energy Zone was reported missing; something “interesting” was apparently found in her backpack. A Ranger replied she sounded like someone who had already been taken off-playa.

It was very hot and bright out. Many camps were gone or were packing for the exodus, leaving precious little shade anywhere. A Burner whose art car was stolen Friday wondered if it had been recovered; I did not hear that disposition. 

Malware and I patrolled down a side street and found the steampunk Nautilus. The radio reported somebody leaving with one of the Yellow Bikes strapped to the roof of their car. Why would anybody steal one? Earlier that week, we found one that somebody had painted purple, so that it could be stolen. The guy that was missing from one of the Esplanade camps was reported found. We rode past the Shark Car, being dismantled. I liked how it was hinged in the middle so that it could move like a shark.

A nearby bar camp had been serving “homojitos.” We got a call that the Starving Artists Camp was serving food to Rangers, so we moseyed on over. They were giving away bowls of cauliflower soup (not vegan, there was chicken broth in it) and bacon-wrapped hot peppers. Everything was wonderful, and the camp was very gracious. They had been giving away food all week, and estimated they’d served 8,000 meals to Burners. We passed a “plug-and-play” trailer camp, and stopped to look at the dismantled steampunk octopus.

The day just seemed to go on and on. At 8:45 and H, a Burner flagged us down to point out a camp that had left overnight, dumping a bunch of junk behind, including jugs of water, a barbecue, and a big roll of carpet (that still had a price tag on the end). A neighbor had already “repurposed” the barbecue. 

A couple of guys drove up and asked us the way to the Exodus. The line was a block behind them; they were actually driving in the opposite direction. We showed them how to turn around. At several intersections, abandoned bicycles were left in jumbled piles. 

At Outpost Tokyo, Ranger Twilight gave away some cool stickers. We went out on the Esplanade, and were hailed by a pretty brunette girl from Opulent Temple. Her camp had been carefully cleaning up moop twice a day all week, but the camp next door didn’t clean up at all, and now that they moved out all their crap was blowing over into the Opulent Temple. She said they’d been a problem all week: loud music, rude campers, medical calls, people falling over drunk; they were one big headache after another the whole time. She had high praise for the Krishna Kitchen, which served meals every day. Malware pointed out one camp that just ripped up their evaporation pond, dumping all their grey water all over the place. Not cool. At noon, there was no wait at the Gate for Exodus. By 4 PM, BMIR reported there was… no wait time. People just weren’t leaving.

Dispatch called to see if we’d like to relieve Rangers monitoring the remains of the Man. I said, “We would be delighted.” Malware and I headed out across the inner playa. I needed new goggles. Out at the Man, people were bringing leftover wood and lumber to burn. The DPW was requesting people check with them first, because they were separating out the lumber that was still usable, which would be donated someplace worthy. Cardboard and paper were being refused, because it was just too windy. A smoldering scrap of paper can get blown by the wind and set something on fire miles away.

I spoke to a girl named Bernadette, who had been doing massages all week. She and her boyfriend left when the wind picked up. Off on the playa, a huge dust devil rollend and churned, gnawing on the ground as it roared along. People kept coming up on bicycles and in cars with stuff to burn. One girl rolled up on a bike with literally a bale of cardboard in her hands. She had no idea what else to do with it. The best we could suggest was find a camp that had a burn barrell, or just pack it out. An artist started setting up frames for a multi-part art piece. It was an effigy that was to be burned later that night. Rangers and DPW both wondered how it was all going to work. At first, there were fork lifts to move things around, but when the machines left he decided enough people could move things around. I noticed a humming sound, and realized it was the sound of the wind vibrating the feather in my hat.

We were relieved right at 6 PM by two Rangers that showed up with the Sun at their backs. I shook Malware’s hand when we checked out at HQ. When I walked by HOTD, Mark and Steph and most of the rest of the camp were gone. Lisa, Michael, Sweets, Blurose and Nadine were about the only ones left. I went to the commissary with my last meal ticket: chicken and rice. I thought I might turn in early, but then Lisa invited me to a party out at the airport. I get invited to so few parties it felt like an honor. Lisa gifted me some lens cleaner for my glasses. She complimented me on my “minimalist” camping setup, and was surprised I could get all my stuff inside Satori and still have room to sleep.

The Sun was just going down when I rode out to the airport with Lisa and Michael. I could see planes parked out in the dusty twilight. I met Ron, Ed, Airport Lisa, Little Piggy, and Hoot, who used to be a cop, I think. Everybody seemed to be a pilot. I was offered a pretty, etched glass, but I wasn’t sure if it was a gift or not. I didn’t want to be rude and just take it. Perimeter was still at work, stopping looters from getting in. Airport Lisa warned of looters trying to sneak in after the event was over, grabbing bikes, generators, anything they could find.  I found out the Black Rock Desert was the 13th emergency landing place in the world for the Space Shuttle. The airport at Black Rock was compared to “landing in a salad bowl.”

I’m afraid I was not the best company that evening. I was beat after being out in the Sun all day and anxious to get some sleep before hitting the road in the morning. I had a long day ahead of me. Once more, my sinuses made my throat really sore, and I cherished any cold beverage to help ease the pain. The founder of Facebook was allegedly on-playa that year. The president of Google is said to have arrived alone at the airport, with only a backpack. One by one everyone seemed to disperse. I was exhausted. We made it back to camp late that night. Lisa gave me a big hug, and said I was a good addition to the camp. That made me feel really good. The sense of community is one of the things I have always liked about Burning Man, the feeling that we can all get through anything if we work together. I bundled up in the back of Satori, set the alarm, and immediately fell asleep.
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