I dreamed about cannibals… The Sun was up when I woke up Friday,
August 30th. My bike was back in camp, safe and sound. My notebook
was behind the stage, right where I left it. Nobody was in the bar. I cooked
up some ramen noodles for breakfast. As I was eating, three different people
came by looking for Molly. Blurose passed by, headed for the commissary.
I rode my bike out to the Man. The base was constructed so that the only
way in was up a flight of stairs, and the only way out was down a long
slide. There were a lot of people there, all standing in line to get in,
and I was surprised to find it closed. It seemed some guy “tripping
balls” climbed up on the roof of the base and tried to climb up onto
the Man structure itself. The whole thing was shut down as Rangers
tried to talk him down. Ever since Paul Addis recklessly set fire to the
Man in 2007, there was a heightened sense of security at the Man.
I watched as the would-be climber came down the slide head-first and landed
unceremoniously on his butt. The girl in front of me said, “At least he
didn’t try to burn it down.”
|I followed the line and climbed up the steps into the base. It was
a huge structure; steps led you through three levels. Artwork and graffiti
were everywhere. One art set-up was Rupert the Robot, who said rude things
when you pushed his buttons. On the top level was a machine that made music
based on which switches you pressed. I'd been hearing the tones since I
got in line. It was all very impressive.
At a window immediately beneath the Man, a photographer smiled when
I pointed out the Moon was still out. The whole base was the size of a
three story house. I wondered what would happen when the structure was
set aflame. Would it tip over on its edge and roll out towards the crowd?
I had the idea that once all that wood was set aflame, it would be a quick,
very hot conflagration. The slide down was exciting.
Scattered people were cleaning up the remains of the CORE effigies.
I rode out to the sculpture called Truth is Beauty, which reminded
me of the Bliss sculpture from years past. I remembered Dot telling me
they lit this one up differently at night. The form was simple and graceful…
except, an 8-year-old ballet dancer thought the figure was not posing correctly.
“You tell her, honey,” the father said. There was a guest
book next to the sculpture which I signed. A passing art car played a Jamaican
hip-hop version of the "Doctor Who" theme.
Back in camp, I took a shower. There was good water pressure, and it
felt good to be cleaner. In the bar, Peanut talked about meeting his girlfriend.
Gravity Mike sat in the shade reading Science News. Rerun shared
a breakfast burrito, which really hit the spot. My tent was on the back
end of our designated camp space. The RV from the next camp that was parked
three feet from my tent coughed out exhaust as it ran its internal
kitchen. All week, I wondered if it was going to asphyxiate me in my sleep.
As it got towards noon, I got ready for my Ranger shift. I was scheduled
to work in Sanctuary as a Green Dot that afternoon. Sanctuary was
a place set up by the Rangers to help people. It's not for people that
are sick, and it's not for people that are injured... it's for people that
are, for the most part, overwhelmed; a place for them to recoup and get
their feet back on the ground. It's not a drunk tank. I relieved Rangers
Pax and Roslyn, who were going off-shift. There were no other Rangers with
me in Sanctuary, but a charming medic named Leah was assigned to help out.
Due to confidentiality issues, I'm not sure how much I can elaborate about
the people who passed through Sanctuary that afternoon. I think I can,
however, talk about my own experiences, such as meeting the person who
came in with a big problem. I sat and talked with them for a long time.
In retrospect, I probably could’ve been more wise or clever or eloquent,
but in the long run I don’t think me talking to them was
what that person needed. It sounded to me like the participant already
figured out what needed to be done, and they needed to say it out loud
to somebody to make it real. Burning Man was not a place without consequences.
Another person came in breathing hard with anxiety issues. After I got
them calmed down, it was obvious they were anxious because they couldn't
breathe. Medics were called in, and the participant was taken to Rampart,
the medical facility. Someone donated a 10-foot weather balloon to the
Rangers. It was tethered off behind HQ, the breeze making it goose anyone
who walked too close. The balloon got nicknamed the Batsignal.
The radio station said it was 92 degrees out. I saw Ranger Tulsa when I
checked out and told him the interview went well. There was a band on stage
when I returned to camp. They were playing Beatles covers in a bluesy,
jazzy style. I got a beer and heated up a can of spaghetti & meatballs
for supper. It turned into a beautiful evening. As the Sun went down, Gravity
Mike had his forge going, melting down more aluminum into beautiful objects.
Apparently, his whole rig was inexpensive and fairly easy to assemble.
I met a girl named Mawanna, also called Gorgeous, for obvious reasons.
She had trouble getting her friends to get out of their camp and explore
the city, but she got them to come to Hair of the Dog. I passed Hey You
at the ninja potties.
We had a long issue with one person who had a complicated backstory.
We were very fortunate to have the assistance of someone from the Mental
Health Branch who not only spoke the necessary lingo but also shared some
of the same cultural background. The situation was resolved, for the time
being, with the assistance of friends and campmates. A couple of people
came in dehydrated and and exhausted; they just needed a quiet place for
a while to get their bearings. Before the shift was over, I carried someone
in my arms, got goosed by a weather balloon, and learned how to break into
a locked porta potty (a dubious skill, but hey).
I met Peter, the medic lead for the shift, Ranger Grimm and Ranger
Zeitgeist. Ranger Judas said hi as he came through HQ. He was using an
electronic cigarette to help stop smoking, and he said it was really helping
him quit. Ranger Batman coordinated transportation. We were joined by Ranger
Freya, whom I met when I was in Denver for training. (Her partner had high
praise for Freya, and described her as a “rockstar.”) By then, it
was almost the end of the shift. My relief, Ranger Flash, showed up, and
I filled him in on what all happened that afternoon. He was working with
Inkwell, who didn’t remember me, and Ranger Rez. After an afternoon shift
with just me at Sanctuary, they had three Rangers for the swing shift.
I decided Sanctuary was an assignment I could totally do again. I think
I helped some people and made a difference. It was nice working with Leah.
She was scheduled to work in Sanctuary during the Saturday night burn,
so I suggested she find a good seat in the balcony of the Hatrack. It was
tough to leave Sanctuary at the end of the shift. I hoped I did okay. I
checked out at HQ and got my meal ticket.
As darkness fell, I got on my bike and rode out to the Man to get some
night time pictures, but they had already closed it off. They needed to
prep the site for the burn Saturday night. Fireworks had to be installed.
The whole area was closed off, and big lights were set up for the workers.
I rode out to the Temple – it seemed different at night. The shadowy passages
seemed to go on and on. My flashlight revealed almost every square inch
of reachable space was covered with tributes and memorials. It was all
very moving. Riding my bike in the dark, I heard a thunkity-thunk
sound. I couldn’t feel anything wrong with the bike so I kept riding. I
thought I’d run over some moop. At the potties, I discovered my bike lock
was gone. It must have fallen out of the basket, with the key and
everything. Somebody got themselves a new bike lock that night.
I rode around looking at all the lights on the camps and art cars. A nice
lady invited me in for a spanking. One camp featured a guy playing a slow
rap song on a cello. I thought of friends back home who would’ve griped
at the travel and hated the extremes of Burning Man, but would have been
thrilled at the midnight spectacle. The sheer creativity all around can
be astonishing. Even with all the exploring, I got back to camp at a decent
hour and went to bed. I had a big day ahead of me.
Last updated: September, 2013