Welcome Paul. Excellent creative writing!
I understand your fear of the unknown. I had it myself and frankly I was scared to death of this. It's a matter of hitting your fears head on and not looking back.
Yes, you should read all the guides, but practical information is very good too. You might consider joining a regional group and meeting some veterans who can help guide you.
I will also add, that one of my favorite things to do at BM, is to head out in the morning by myself, and see, do and meet as many people as possible. It's that kind of place where you don't need to travel in a group to have a good time. The art, artcars, theme camps and performance art, are something you can take in all by yourself. With that said, you will meet new friends before you even hit the main entry gate.
As far as a ticket goes; if you want one, you will get one. There are hundreds of people who have a change in plans at the last minute. Just plan on going and it will happen.
Check here for the regional group in your area. http://regionals.burningman.com/us_ca_oc.html
Good luck with your plans and we'll see you on the playa.