In an earlier post concerning Burning Man I made a quick reference to Playa Magic and I promised to come back to the concept. So what is Playa Magic? I think that question is most easily answered by what it produces this year on the Playa a friend, who didn’t tell us he was coming, who has never been to the event before, simply drives up from LA, into a several mile diameter city full of over 50,000 people and drives right up to our camp. Just a coincidence most of you will say and I won’t disagree, but the frequency of the coincidences at Burning Man can sometime be mind boggling. I know of a huge number of instances where people have needed a particular auto part, or special screw, or type of medication and bam, the person in the next camp has it. I was explaining this concept to a virgin (first year burner) at Center Camp one year and he didn’t believe me. I had been so bold as to say that I bet you could stand up in Center Camp and loudly ask for anything and you would have it. He laughed at me and we chatted for awhile and we came back around to the concept of playa magic again and he took the challenge. He’d been craving fresh baked chocolate chip cookies, a few days on the playa usually leaves you craving something, so he stood up and loudly declared, “I want a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie.” He repeated this twice and sat down with a very satisfied look on his face and said, “well?” I told him to be patient and truly thought I’d been proven wrong when a woman leaned around the wooden bench we were on and said, “here you go, sorry, we ran out of milk,” and then scurried off. My new found friend just sat there staring at the cookie, “playa magic,” was all I said.
This little story really feeds in to my favorite category of playa magic, magic food. People who know me know that I’m a dedicated and passionate lover of pizza. Not any pizza, but real NY pizza and I have often proclaimed that I actually like pizza more than sex. That was almost tested in college but that’s a story for another post. So after my virgin year on the playa I had one complaint, that the Random Pizza Camp had somehow not delivered me a pizza. This camp has always been my favorite concept on the playa, they brought pizza ovens to Black Rock City and made pizzas and then walked out and randomly delivered them to people, talk about karma points. So my second year on the playa I’m walking along, I was tired and hadn’t eaten enough and was just a tad bit grouchy, when someone taps me on the shoulder and says, “have you been calling for this?” And there, like an angel, stood a man with a hot, pepperoni pizza and I just smiled, said, “yes” and took the pizza. It was wonderful to be standing there sharing a pizza with the people with me.
However the greatest magic food experience I ever had on the Playa, and the way I learned of the concept was during my virgin year while camping with the People United for Nothing (PUN). I was sitting at camp under the shade structure when one of my camp mates came in and told me he’d just run into a New York City hot dog cart and had a hot dog. I asked him where it was and immediately leaped on my bike and tore off after the cart. I didn’t find it. I engaged in a grid shaped search pattern for another twenty minutes and nothing. I returned to camp totally dejected. A few minutes later another camp mate came back and you guessed it, I was off again flying across the dust to get to the hot dog cart, again nothing, another search pattern, nothing. I returned to camp in a seriously foul mood, threw my bike down and isolated myself in the back of the camp to brood. As I was sitting there a person in our camp who I’d just met that morning tapped me on the shoulder and said, “ketchup, mustard or relish?” I did not find this amusing and proceeded to tell him so, the complete look of confusion on his face told me I was mistaken and so I said, “sorry, what?” He smiled, I’ve made hot dogs thought you might like a couple. I know, the non-believers will say, oh he overheard you, whatever. Playa Magic my friends, playa magic. My proof to you, like to my chocolate chip craving friend, will be to let the burners who read this relay their own stories of playa magic and show you how it works. So, residents of Black Rock, lay out a little Playa Magic in the comments for the non-believers.