You’ve probably seen the pictures. Topless people, bottomless people, naked people – and “totally decked out, dressed-to-the-nines in colourful boas, fake furs, ginormous boots, mad goggles, top hats, utility kilts and enough accessories to keep Little Rickys in business for the next decade people”. Thing is, you can only pull off this kind of outrageously camp, good humored wear if you have the confidence to begin with. And to be honest, in earlier years we did not.

In particular, my son, who has rarely been one for fashion anyway, never bothered in the past with anything other than basic shorts and t-shirt, plus a hoody for the cool nights on the Playa. Two years since we last took a trip out there, I wasn’t sure it would be any different. In fact, I wasn’t sure we’d even get to the Playa at one point: being an impending 16-year old, he was so disappointed with his last-minute, much-needed hair cut that he refused to get out of the car at times when we went shopping in Reno. Fortunately, somebody tipped us off to the Melting Pot, a Reno boutique that specializes in Playa Wear.

Talk about a makeover. Within seconds of entering the store, which was buzzing with Burners and playing a particularly great “Peaceful Invasion” mix the by Fort Knox 5 that we subsequently downloaded from Soundcloud and took to the desert, he was running around trying on mad hats. A number of his friends back home have developed their own signature head wear, but until now, he has never gone out to find his own. Now, all of a sudden, the options were boundless. A jester’s hat? An imitation animal head thingy like Louise in Bob’s Burgers? Or a fake furry pilot’s hat with ear-muffs? He quickly plumped for the latter, and almost immediately cited it his “spirit hat,” a lovely turn of phrase that was all his own. Then on to the other items necessary to look the part on the Playa. These colourful goggles? Or those? This fake-furry waist-coat to go with the “spirit hat” – or these glittery gloves. It was like a new dawn; I swear I had never seen a kid go from sad to happy in such a quick time. We agreed to make the clothing part of his 16th Birthday present. He was so excited about his look that he even wore the spirit hat to a Reno restaurant that night.

…Not that he doesn’t know how to dress for day-time desert activities.

In turn, he insisted I get a couple of items at the Melting Pot as well. And I did, including the white boa you see below, some colorful leg-warmers for old times sake, and a pair of fingerless gloves that I slept in one night when it was perilously cold. At a store almost next door called Junkee, I picked up a pair of natty three-quarter length shorts for all of five bucks. (The Melting Pot is not cheap, but thrift stores in Reno offer a ton of great bargains.) I already had my Playa hat, acquired somehow on the last trip to Burning Man, and my friendly purple coat courtesy of a sale at Uniqlo in Manhattan…. Along with the new wear from Reno, I figured I had myself about as colorful as I can be on the Playa. thought I had myself made already.

But then, towards the end of the week at Burning Man, we headed out to the Letsgo Camp (to make a Mutant Vehicle out of Legos, of course) – and lo and behold if directly opposite, there wasn’t a camp busy announcing it Playa Makeover opportunities. (Round the corner, there were also a bunch of Brits on their first burn offering excellent pitchers of Pimms and a game of croquet while also blasting Primal Scream, but that’s another story!) A Playa Makeover essentialy involves raiding a wardrobe full of colourful, second-hand, crazy clothes, parading them down the runway, and walking away with them. (No commerce, remember.) It was one of those perfect moments. These pantaloons, I said; that bright pink shirt; and that crazy jester’s hat. All three fitted. More or less. (Nobody’s really checking at Burning Man.) And now I was a new person too. As you will see in another Post.

A father-son picture I expect to treasure forever.

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October 2021