August 25th, 2008 | by Brad McCray News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, CLEAN UP

THE BURNING BLOG: Bad Fashion, Bad Music, Bad Names

Day Three from Burning Man (read all Burning Blog posts here)


BLACK ROCK CITY, Nevada – The thunderous heartbeat of a thousand speakers mingled with incessant horns minutes after midnight Monday morning as burners, some of whom endured more than a three-hour wait, entered the gates.

Early in the evening, many of the theme camp builders assembled for dinner at The Pancake Playhouse. More than alcohol, food is the most precious commodity on the playa. The best meal burners ever eat is the first one after leaving Black Rock City.

Finishing the Playa Chapel

The city is not yet finished and many art projects are behind schedule. The art cars, costumes and nudity are not yet in full effect. Though the nudity dam is about to burst. During dinner, my long shirt draped lower than my shorts.

“Are you shirt-cocking it?” a shirtless, furry man asked. His name was written on his chest in lipstick. It is unprintable.

I lifted my shirt to reveal my shorts. Apparently the furry man had voiced the thoughts of many, because there was a collective groan.

“We're not there yet,” I explained. “It's only Sunday.”

Shirt-cocking is the act of wearing a shirt and shoes with no pants. Among the otherworldly aspects of Burning Man is the fact that this fashion NEEDED a name. By mid-week, the shirt-cockers will be out in force. Some will be decked with safari hats, goggles, water packs, socks and hiking bots, but still shirt-cocking. Sock-cocking and goggle-cocking takes the fashion predictable steps further. Once a running joke for men who…simply forgot pants, there are now dedicated shirt-cocking enthusiasts who shirt-cock just to shirt-cock.

But it's still too early for shirt-cockers. Apparently too early for the DJ culture to assert itself as well. Comically, about 75 percent of all burners identify themselves as DJs. But I was forced to listen—in succession—to Toto, Journey, Naked Eyes, Lionel Richie, George Michael, Phil Collins, Madonna, Bon Jovi and REO Speedwagon. WTF? Naked Eyes is good. But even the worst station manager in Portland wouldn't play that other crap.

“I didn't come to Burning Man to hear that,” Partyboy told me.

“No god damn Bon Jovi,” a passing biker yelled.

Finishing the Giant Hummer

Playa names are common: Jesus the Walrus, Desert Sage, Dust Bunny, S.A.S.T. (Short Attention Span Theater), Danger Girl, Desert Devo, Whorricane, Alarm the Clam. Not everyone plays along. When a man introduces himself to me as “Tinker,” there is always that awkward silence that follows my self-introduction as “Brad.” Am I not cool enough to adopt a playa name? Does he need to adopt a playa name to be cool? Eventually, the suspicious eyeing gives way to other matters and the name issue fades away.

Usually, I just invite them to my camp. “Slutgarden” will hold its first party tonight. We spent yesterday building shade structures and stages while perfecting the sound system, lighting and projection screens. We are part of a self-designated shopping district with “The Reno Housewives” next door. We provide clothes for the less-than fabulous campers who missed the memo about faux fur and shiny glam-rock attire. Not everyone has arrived, and we need vehicles to tie our shade structure to. Everyone is anxious about that because we have no phone service.

Camp Flag

We had time to get out to the playa this morning as a steady stream RVs and vans poured in. Soon pictures without people in them will be impossible. Unfortunately, my bike tire wanked and I had to carry it back about a mile.

Carry. It.

Navigating the city is remarkably simple. It is laid out like a clock—or a bicycle wheel—with The Man at the center. The spokes are the times. Concentric circles emanate outward and are designated by letters that have to do with the theme. This year's theme is The American Dream. It has aroused some controversy, since so many burners (a) are foreign, (b) are willfully casting themselves against the traditional American ideal or (c) have been stomped by it.

This year, the lettered roads are car names like Edsel or Hummer. Apparently, this means that "The American Dream" has to do with cars.

“I'm not digging on the car names,” Vixen said. He was from San Francisco and liked the cut of my white short shorts. “I have just been changing the names in my head. F stands for…”

Slutgarden is on the corner of Fairlane and Nine.
 
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