***Now, for some gross stuff…hey, sh*t happens when you hit the dessert! Playa dust can transform body parts and functions in ways you didn’t know existed. There is something known as ‘Playa Foot,’ which is when the alkaline filled dusty ground dries out your feet, resulting in painful cracks, sores and rash. Luckily I escaped this nastiness, but in order to avoid this, you should wash your feet in vinegar, or lemon water. Then, what I did for insurance, was to plaster them with lotion and/or Vaseline, before covering them with socks and closed-toe shoes. Cutesy sandals and flip-flops are NOT the ideal fashion for the playa, as it is way
too much exposure to the elements. Also, as I did experience, there is also ‘Playa Headache,’ ‘Playa Nose,’ ‘Playa Hair,’ ‘Playa Skin,’ and ‘Playa Eyes!’ I know, it makes you wonder why anyone would EVER want to experience such torture again. Don’t ask me….I can’t explain it, but people repeat this adventure year after year! For my own personal definitional interpretations of these ailments, see below:
~Playa Headache – breathing so much dusty playa air that the sinuses go on on overload, causing a pain in the head.
~Playa Nose – when an excess of playa dust enters the nostrils and causes a surplus of gunky snot, which requires depositing it with thrusting force into wads of tissues.
~Playa Hair – when such a massive collection of playa dust gathers in the hair that it is such a struggle, nearly impossible, and/or too aggravating to attempt the passing of a brush/comb,/fork,/bulldozer, through the rat-mop-nest!
~Playa Skin – the shriveled, dry, pale epidermis that results from layers of dust collecting on dehydrated and wind-sucked-dry, sun-beaten skin.
~Playa Eyes – gunky, crust-filled eye sockets working overtime to eliminate the overabundance of playa dust upon the once clear and visually effective eyeballs.
Other than these particular ailments, everything was dreamy. Well, maybe not, but the positives of this adventure outweighed the negatives. People come every year to this event, and I’m seriously considering coming for my second time next year. So just like having babies, many people choose to do it again!!
***Eating can be a little bit of a challenge out on the playa, not because there aren’t any restaurants (well, that is one reason why,) but because of the heat, dust, and loss of appetite. I’m not sure everyone experiences a loss of appetite, but I did. It could be
because of the heat, or maybe the fact that you tend to eat the same few things, because of simplicity and/or lack of inventory. The
heat causes thirst, and it’s a strong suggestion that each person drink at least a gallon of water/liquid a day. This also tends to keep the belly filled with the false sense that it isn’t hungry. Also, because it isn’t easy to prepare a meal in the dusty heat, keeping meals simple trumped variety, for me at least. So, it was sandwiches, cereal, and cheese rolled up in deli meats that sustained me, for the most part. Luckily, I was with the HOTD, which asked for someone to be in charge of a different night’s meal for the camp. This way, we got to eat a nicely prepared dinner every night with the responsibility of cooking for everyone one night in return. A capital idea that seemed to work for all! In exchange for a chicken fajita dinner with beans, rice, and the works, I was fed for the five or six remaining nights. So, we were all treated with dinners, involving pasta, chili, chicken, beef, salads, veggies, and more. It kept many of us from the doldrums of same the ‘ol, same ‘ol, as well as brought us all together once a day for a meal and conversation.
Besides the need to drink gallons of water, it is essential to consume salt in order to retain the water, and a good idea to ingest electrolytes, too, in order to keep the body’s sodium, chloride, calcium, magnesium and potassium levels in check. The body is an interesting thing, because I noticed a craving for salty foods almost immediately. Not only that, but there were a number of camps that passed out pickles, bologna sandwiches, bacon, etc. At first I thought, ‘Mmmm, yummy bad food!’ Then, I realized they satisfied cravings!! I passed on the sandwiches (had plenty of my own,) got much in the bacon department with many of our campmates serving it up with eggs some mornings, but went on a search for “The Pickle Joint” so I could fulfill my desire for these dill-ish-ous delights! Ah, what a wonderful place this pickle joint was. Conveniently located (thank gawd!) near Center Camp, it was an easy cruise from Hair of the Dog camp. The PJ is has been serving up fresh, cold, crisp, brisk pickles and spicy pickletinis – the essential and legendary playa treat since 2002. I stayed long enough to cool down from my sweaty bike ride, and enjoy a deliciously dill pickle, a semi-sweet pickle, and a cute little Pickle-tini! It definitely quenched my salt craving for time being!
**Day Two of early arrival (aka. one day till the start of Burning Man!!) revolved almost entirely around setting up our camp, ‘Hair of the Dog’. Since we have a good sized bar and sitting area, as well as a pretty big stage and viewing area, we had lots to do. And, we did it – raising the roofs, setting up chairs and tables, putting up the stage, and finally, stocking the bar. But, this was no ordinary bar, this is a Burning Man bar, meaning that all customers are served for FREE. Although, we do have a motto: “You bring the booze and music; we provide the music and booze.” In other words, we get it stocked and rolling, but we can only stay open as long as people continue to help us out by donating alcohol and mixers. And, they do!! People on the Playa are amazingly kind and generous-it’s just too bad it can’t be like this in daily life! So, after many hours of work, and we were all set up and ready to go for tomorrow, I was on my bike again to explore. This time I was impressed with the elaborate campsites, from huge Native American teepees to a Taj Mahal style tent, a mini version of New Orleans’ French Quarter, mini-golf, Twister camps, dodge ball, roller derby, domes, parachutes, RVs, and various random vehicles that had been transformed into campers (school buses, ambulances, tour buses, a hearse, etc.) Something that I noticed immediately was that so many of the campers, RVs, and trailers were vintage 1970s. It felt like I flashbacked into my childhood after seeing so many of them, as well as other ‘old skool’ camping vehicles. I guess, because people either took over their parents’ campers or they bought them cheap off eBay, they were represented en masse here in Black Rock City. Ya gotta do what you can do with what ya got..!
Music emanates from everywhere in BRC – the art cars, campsites, playa clubs, even some bikes – so it feels like one big outdoor nightclub. In reality, it’s a big circus, complete with costumes, characters, and the strangest sights you’ll ever find in one place. And, it’s a city that never sleeps with noise, activity, and energy in constant motion. It’s pretty crazy to think that, for one week out of the year, BRC is the fourth largest city in Nevada, and for the rest of the year it is completely barren and deserted!
Wind and playa dust kick up without a moment’s notice, so you need to be prepared with a dust mask and goggles at all times. White Outs happen pretty regularly and are pretty miserable. You can’t see more than a few feet (sometimes inches) in front of you, so for survival and sanity sake, just hunker down and wait for it to pass. This is a good time to kick it in your tent, hang out at a new and/or fun camp, or come to ‘Hair of the Dog’ and throw down a few drinks while chillaxing at our bar!!
According to the Urban Dictionary, the definition of playa dust is as follows: Playa Dust – n. (plah-yah dust) Dried, packed, and ground up alkali lake bed dust, specifically from Black Rock Desert, NV. It’s an unpopular souvenir from Burning Man that gets into absolutely everything. So miniscule are its particles that you’ll be getting them out of whatever you bring for years to come. No means known yet to man is effective for completely removing this substance from items that have been to the event; all attempts to do so will merely end in utter frustration.” You don’t really realize it while you’re there, but this dust has a bit of an odor to it, and a chalky taste, which is in and around everything. It really stands out when you return home and start kicking up the dust while unpacking. Suddenly, I was slightly revolted by the smell that consumed my life for a week at Black Rock City…as well as fascinated by the stuff. In fact, while doing a little research on it, I came across an article that listed what playa dust is made up of. See this if you’re curious: http://silverjacket.typepad.com/blog/2008/12/whats-in-playa-dust-and-pixie-dust.html But, even more fascinating to me was that there is a Facebook page dedicated to this dusty stuff! Yep, it’s true…check it out for yourself: https://www.facebook.com/playadust. There are even Youtube videos on the darned junk! Sheesh….I guess there’s more to it than just dust in the wind!
Keep your goggles and dust masks on….there’s more to come!!