How You Know Clothes Have Been to the Playa

And by the playa, I don’t mean the beach. I mean Burning Man, the place where all collective intentionality coalesces generating a mind-bending, spirit-stretching, communo-phenomatic experience.

Yesterday I posted about the clothing swap. Well, at said clothing swap I picked up a gorgeous red-pink-magenta-maroon-toned, hand-knit scarf. I’ve seen similar ones at Urban Outfitters, but never could quite convince myself to pony up the cash for an accessory. So when I saw the scarf, I did not hesitate to grab it and stuff it in my pile of takens before anyone else did.

However, when I got home and pulled out the scarf, an overwhelming, overpowering odor hit me upside the snout. It wasn’t musty like attic, or noxious like BO. It wasn’t even a bad smell, really, just some indefinable brand of pungent. And there’s only one thing on earth that could create a smell like that–the Black Rock Desert. And clearly this scarf had not been washed since. Most likely its former owner came back exhausted, euphoric and caked in playa, shoved the scarf into some unknown recesses not wanting to deal with de-playafying it and forgot about it until the swap. Tossing it in the swap pile is easier than coping with such an object.

This object, this scarf, was the succubus of clothing. The smell was so pungent it infiltrated all the clothes around it, and infused them all with its evil. I had to hand wash it separately to prevent further spread of the nefarious fumes.

And this is how you really know an object has been to the playa: it takes four separate hand-washings to get out the grey alkali mud that is so fine it is invisible on the object, but nevertheless fills the suds you rinse out of it. It takes four washings to turn the soap suds from grey to white. Then it takes a fifth washing to get the object to almost smell as if it had been washed. And your hands feel chalky even though they’re clean. It almost makes you want to douse the thing in vinegar, set it on fire and have done with it.

Cleaning up after the Burn is a pain in the ass. I bitch, but anyone who has been to Burning Man knows, I bitch with love. (And would happily subject myself to it all over again.)

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