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How to score drugs at Burning Man 2003
Taking the high road
by Sugar Larry

Every August, like hundreds of other Canadian Burners, I leave a well-stocked box of drugs at home so that I can safely make the border crossing to Burning Man. And, like hundreds of other Canadian Burners, I cross my fingers and hope I'll manage to find a way to stay stoned for the week. This is no small task. A process that is usually convenient, safe, and reliable in Vancouver becomes an ordeal at Black Rock City.

I know that many Americans face the challenge of finding drugs on the playa as well, but jeez - if you live south of the 49th parallel, there's really no excuse for not showing up with enough drugs to render Nick Nolte comatose. Try asking your sister's weird boyfriend or that sketchy-looking kid who slings your coffee. Burning Man is about preparedness, after all - like the Boy Scouts, though probably with more nudity.

Anyway, scoring drugs on the playa isn't impossible, but you should be prepared for mixed results. One moment you could score some nice clean acid and have the best night of your life grooving at Space Cowboys, and the next you'll swallow a concoction of expired cold medicine, Ritalin, and baby laxatives - believing it's E - only to spend the day wandering around in an unpleasant, thoroughly demented haze ... all while trying to avoid run-ins with the Law who, let's face it, are looking for weirdos like you.

Over the years, we've experimented with a number of drug-foraging schemes. These range from setting up sketchy rendezvous with knowledgeable locals at service stations during the drive south, to posting blatant ads in Center Camp that direct drug-consultants to our camp. Yeah, I know that sounds blisteringly stupid, but we actually managed to secure a big bag of mushrooms this way, as well as some acid from a guy who floated into our camp with a huge balloon full of nitrous. (Incidentally, I got so high from the mushrooms that I lost the acid, because I kept taking it out of my pocket to make sure that I hadn't lost it. Doh!)

The best course of action is to keep your search simple and to do what you'd do back home if you ran out of sugar: haul out your measuring cup and ask the neighbors. This approach dovetails nicely with the notion that, here at Black Rock, we're all just one big family that has finally arrived "home" - but it doesn't always work. If you don't look like a cop, fellow Burners are often willing to help you find party favors. Plus, for some strange reason, people (read: men) seem to embrace the spirit of generosity more freely when it comes to women.

Aside from presenting logistical challenges, acquiring drugs from fellow Burners can also be dogmatically confusing, since it violates BRC's "no vending" policy. Of course, you can get around this philosophical issue if you happen to encounter one of those benevolent souls who gifts you drugs instead of expecting cash. This occasionally does happen, so don't lose hope that somebody may bestow upon you the gift of highness. And if someone is déclassé enough to demand hard cash in exchange for drugs, try not to be too disappointed with them. Because really, you are in no position to dictate morality.

If you're not a drug enthusiast - or even if you are - by now you may be saying to yourself, "You really don't need drugs to enjoy Burning Man." Author Dave Eggers agrees. In his forward to the recently-published book, Drama in the Desert: The Sights and Sounds of Burning Man, Eggers suggests that participants consider not using drugs at Burning Man. He makes a pretty good case for this approach, arguing that BRC in and of itself holds enough power to deliver participants from consensus reality, thus making drugs redundant - or perhaps even detrimental - to the experience.

After I read that, Eggers almost had me convinced - for a second. But then I gave my head a firm shake and regained my senses. Sure, Burning Man is a wondrous place, and yeah, tearing across the playa on a living room full of drag queens is pretty weird in and of itself. But doing it with a head full of chemicals is a surefire way to kick it up a notch or two. Do you really want to be the one saying to yourself on the car ride home, "I had a pretty weird time, but I expect it could've been even weirder"?

And besides, let's not forget that, on a purely physical level, Burning Man without drugs is sorta like anal sex without lube: dry and uncomfortable.



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