Millennium Rollover-
Danger Ranger on the Playa

Burning Man is an event, which often induces visions, creates expanded consciousness and provides life-changing experiences. At Burning Man '94, I had a futuristic vision of a tribe of primitives that lived on the Black Rock Desert. They existed almost invisibly in the twilight of time after the TechnoRapture, when accelerating computer intelligence reached self-consciousness. To recapture the feeling of that vision, I decided that, at the turn of our millennium calendar, Danger Ranger would spend the night out on the Playa, under the stars, naked, wrapped in a blanket of dead animal skins. Surviving a winter night in Northern Nevada is challenge enough with modern gear, but I wanted to do it in the Buffalo-robed style of Native American heritage. Real fur would be the only material which has the insulating and ascetic quality for this vision quest. How does one get fur in this age of PETA? My solution was thrift store mink coats, cut up and sewn together for a blanket.

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Danger Ranger & the
buffalo/mink robe.

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Cowboy Bob, a sincere and colorful character who tends bar at the Black Rock Saloon when he isn't working for DPW during the Burning Man event.

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DPW ramrod Flynn & Danger Ranger at the C-Punch Ranch, discussing the taste of frog legs raised in sulfur water.

I arrived in Gerlach a few days before New Years Eve to prepare for the experience, which included time for contemplation, reading and visiting with Burning Man staffers and local supporters. I spent some time at the Helen Thrasher Commemorative Library, a warm, cozy place, filled with books, historical objects and Internet access. There's a sign on the door which reads "No Dogs, No Smoking & No Sex Beyond This Point." I have spent many evenings here, quietly reading or sometimes engaged in lively discussion about the meaning of all things. Helen Thrasher was one of the pioneer women who helped create the community of Gerlach and one of the few people to live in three centuries. She is now 106 and living in Portola, California. I intend to visit her when I make the Burning Man community tour this spring.

This town is an interesting mix of characters. I wonder if it's an effect of the radioactive drinking water. A recent test of the town water supply indicated five times the acceptable levels of uranium.

The last days of 2000 were spent with trips around the local area. I drove by the gravel pit on Hwy 34, just past the 12 mile access and noticed some cattle trucks and a temporary corral filled with horses. The BLM is currently engaged in a wild horse roundup to reduce the local population. A private contractor with a helicopter and bunch of cowboys has been hired do the job. In the last 2 weeks they have rounded up over 800 wild horses in the Black Rock area. They are getting paid $230 per horse. And those horses are only worth about $50 each on the open market.

Had lunch with DPW's Mr. Metric out at the Fly Hot Springs and then took a quick dip into the sacred waters, where my goddess amulet slithered to the muddy bottom in '97. It was in one of the pools that the Water Woman sculpture stood for a couple of years. I found and retrieved the last remnant, a 3-foot long wooden lock of hair, which hung down her back.

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Looking out the window of the Helen Thrasher Library.

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Millennium sunset in Black Rock Desert.

On New Years Eve day, I stopped at Bill Stapleton's gas station and found that conditions on the Playa were favorable. The surface was spongy, but dry and passable. That evening, I loaded the fur blanket, some water, 2 burn-barrels and some firewood into a pickup truck and drove north on the Playa. "Bring everything you need to survive." echoed through my brain. Navigating by the outline of the mountains at night, I headed towards Double Hot Springs for a midnight rendezvous with DPW's Bill Carson and Ranger FearlessOne. Arriving minutes before midnight, I was handed a glass of champagne. After a suitable toast, I elected not to get wet in an environment where the air temperature was rapidly declining towards zero. After bidding goodnight, I drove back onto the flat of the Playa. The sky was full of stars as I steered towards the constellation Orion. Feeling the changes in the Playa under my tires, I pulled up to a spot that seemed right.

Primitives Camp is located at N 40° 54.194, W 119° 05.062, altitude 3,887 feet, one mile east of the BM'96 site. I set up the two barrels about 10 feet apart. My nest will be between these two fires. The air temperature is now 3 degrees Fahrenheit.

What is it like to be in 3 degrees?
— At 3 degrees, your breath looks like a steam locomotive.
— At 3 degrees, your 2 gallons of drinking water is a block of ice.
— At 3 degrees, your CD player will not play CDs.
— At 3 degrees, the 6-pack of beer you brought is slush.
— At 3 degrees, the LCD screen on your laptop displays alien hieroglyphics.
— At 3 degrees, you pour water into a coffee pot, and watch in amazement as a layer of ice crystallizes on the surface before you can get it over the fire.

It's damn cold at 3 degrees. My mind recalls the story of a local rancher who got stuck in the mud out on the Playa one cold January night, 60 years ago. He died of exposure inside the cab of his Model T. Personal survival is an option in the Black Rock Desert. Danger can survive this, I thought to myself, and besides, the goddess is with us. After firing up the barrels, I curl under the fur blanket for a while to warm up and then strip down. It seems warm enough. I drift off to a night of broken sleep, rolling over from time to time and moving my head as the frost forms inches from my nose. The hours pass.

Finally, I awake with my head and face a numbing cold. The fires are now down to a few live embers in the bottom of the barrels. The rest of my body is still fairly warm under the blanket of mink. I say a prayer of thank you to the furry little critters. The moisture in my breath has created a semi-circle of frost on the top of the blanket. I discover that shivering, a muscle spasm reaction of the body to cold, uses a lot of energy.

The sky is just starting to lighten above the mountains to the east. Still under the blanket, I pull on some clothes and then throw off the blanket, jump up and madly toss more wood into the barrels.

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Bill Stapleton, proprietor of the only gas station in town and a living version of the Gerlach Internet.

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FearlessOne, a Black Rock Ranger skilled at the art of survival with style.

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Bill Carson, Burning Man computer whiz and a relentless protector of the Playa.

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Danger Ranger & pet rattlesnake at the site of Primitives Camp.

The sun begins to lift above the mountains and the entire panorama changes from a black outline of mountains into that which we are so familiar with. I have survived. Sleep deprivation and the magic of this place finally sets in. With the sun completely up now, I close my eyes once more and the vision comes... an orange-red playa surface seems to flow towards me. I set the brain on record as I fly through Playa Space. Soon enough, I open my eyes. It will take months to decode the memory of this one.

Why? —Danger Ranger, 01/01/2001


Equipment: Macintosh Powerbook 3400, Panasonic CD player, Garmin eTrex Summit GPS, Nikon CoolPix 990 camera, Ford F-150 pickup and some old mink coats.

Danger Rangers' sound track: Dead Can Dance, Lyle Lovett, Gram Parsons, Philip Glass, Brian Eno, Peter Gabriel, JJ Cale, Cowboy Junkies, Bella Sonus, Tom Waits, Lumin, Enigma, Beau Brummels and Neal Young.

Reading material: Prehistory Of The Mind" - the cognitive origins of art, religon and science, by Stephen Mithen, "Wisdom Of The Serpent" -myths of death, rebirth and resurrection, by Henderson and Oaks, "Why Sex Is Fun" -the evolution of human sexuality, by Jared Diamond, "Synchronicity" -the psychological concepts of pattern recognition, by Carl Jung

Danger Rangers' entire 5-day food supply donated by Burning Man participants. It's manna from the desert. Favorite breakfast: John McCann coarse ground Irish oatmeal in the metal can. Drug of choice: Corona with slice of lime. It's Mexican beer made from Asian rice.

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And thank you Dusty for fashioning the mink, channeling the code and being midwife to the goddess.