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Save Yourself for a Better Man
by Deena Dion

If youāre a Burning Man virgin planning to go all the way to Black Rock City this summer, you might want to read this. If I can help just one other girl from feeling as dirty and used as I did, Iāll feel better.

Last year, a couple of my sorority sisters and some Sigma Chis from back in my Chico days thought it would be a blast to go to this new Labor Day festival in Nevada weād read about. I figured I had the right crew to get crazy with. Once we all went to Cabo over spring break and almost everyone hooked up, except for Kevin, whose taste for Bacardi and beer bong chasers ensured an early crash-and-burn. The rest of us were all at least semi-pro in the partying division, and I saw some freaky stuff at a Grateful Dead show once, but nothing prepared me for this.

Now the main thing about Burning Man is that youāre supposed to do these wacky ćtheme camps.ä We were totally into it and had this cool idea to do a Hawaiian one where we all wore super loud shirts and leis. Kristi even brought some zinc oxide for our noses.

We got there late on Friday night, and the problems started right away. First off, they wouldnāt let us drive around to find a spot to park and camp. How about hiking around in the dark and setting up a new tent for the first time? No thanks. It was almost 11:00 anyway, so we just crashed in our Cherokees. The next day I awoke to a virtual hell on Earth. The temperature was like 150 degrees, the monotony of which was broken up by the occasional blinding dust storm. When we did leave the shelter of our Jeeps, en route to the gnarliest bathrooms this side of Trainspotting, we got the full Burning Man experience: nudists, druggies, and artists, all trying so hard to be different that they all seemed the same. One dusty Day-Glo hippie blended into the next. Some of these wannabe Picassos should spend a little less time in the studio and a little more time in the gym. I mean, I work hard to look as good as I do, but these people donāt seem to have any self respect, much less shame. They should realize not everyone wants to see their wrinkly, wagging willie, even if it is painted red with plastic google-eyes glued on each side. Thereās a reason theyāre called privates.

At last the sun began to go down, so we were finally able to start setting up our camp. We had brought tiki torches for ambience, and no sooner had we lit them than this rent-a-ranger came up and told us they werenāt permitted, nor was the campfire the guys were making. His reasoning was that fires leave marks on the ground. Duh. Why I can have a huge bonfire on a beautiful beach in SoCal and not here in the godforsaken desert is something he should think about. And why he didnāt bust Camp Loser next door for burning so much weed, I donāt know. Apparently, at this festival there is no concern for other peopleās space or property, as a parade of freaks traipsed through our campsite at will. They were so annoying. Within hours, my personal 12-pack stash of Bud Light was sacked by freeloaders. I only got seven of them, and just as I was ready to break out the Cuervo for shooters, it was time to see the big guy get burned.

I figured we could stop and get some beers on the way, but I swear we couldnāt find a booth anywhere. What kind of self-respecting festival doesnāt have plenty of grub and T-shirt stands? I could have really gone for a gyro, too. But the supposed highlight was upon us, so we all went out to get a look at the man before he went hasta la bye-bye.

I guess we didnāt realize how hella far away it was. We had been walking for at least 10 minutes deep into the desert aiming for this stick figure on the horizon. You would think that someone would have brought a boombox or something, but instead of jamminā tunes we got incessant drumming. We were about 50 yards away (felt like a half-mile) when the thing went up with fireworks and white-hot flames. Iāll admit that this part was pretty cool ÷ the bonfire was even bigger than homecoming my sophomore year. Everyone was going nuts, screaming and running around. I felt like I had finally found a little piece of Mexico outside of Reno, and if there had been a bar around, I wouldāve danced on it. But it didnāt last long. Fifteen minutes later and it was back to the Iām-Stranger-Than-You-Parade.

I got separated from my friends and tried to find our campsite in the dark, with no success. Damn that ranger and his no-tiki policy! And just my luck, I couldnāt get a signal on my cell. So there I was, lost and alone amongst the skanky masses. Then, like an oasis of good taste, I heard a Dave Matthews CD pumping out of an RV. Inside were four of the coolest (and hottest) guys Iād met in quite a while, or maybe it just seemed that way in contrast to all the geeks and scuzzoids there. In any case, they salvaged my weekend from total disasterdom by giving me cold Coronas and shelter from the techno music. They even had a VCR and a tape of Austin Powers.

I found my friends the next day; they had stayed up until two a.m. at some stupid rave thing like three campsites over. On the ride home the weary silence was broken by complaints of hunger, hair condition, and clean-toilet envy. In truth I think they were all a little jealous that I was the only one who hooked up.

So if, after all this, you still want to break your Burning Man cherry, at least now you know ÷ Black Rock City wonāt be gentle, and it wonāt respect you in the morning.

÷ Deena Dion has a BA in Liberal Studies from Chico State University and works for a well-known advertising agency. She lives in the Marina District of San Francisco. Reprinted without any permission from the SF Weekly.

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