A new kind of community was forged in the heart of the desert this summer, blooming and dispersing with all the poignant beauty of a cactus flower. Free from hatred, bigotry, or class- and race-consciousness, Black Rock City serves as an oasis of diversity and inclusion for the nearly 30,000 white people who attend the yearly Burning Man festival in Nevada.
"When people are spiritual and really feel the community, all that negativity and stuff just goes away," said Daniel, 34, white. "It's totally an inspiration."
"I wish all of society could be this way!" agreed Starjewel (26, white). "I just felt so comfortable with everyone. It's like we're all the same. You know, inside."
Many "Burners" talk about the common ground they have discovered with others much different from themselves. "It's so easy to talk to people at Burning Man," grinned Sam McKee (39, white). "Like, I met this guy, and he's all like freaky-weird, wearing this sarong and his skin's painted orange and stuff, but it turns out that we both come from San Francisco, and we both read Squidlist, and we even go to some of the same bars and stuff. I mean, what are the chances?"
Participants do stress that Black Rock City is not perfect. "It's a city and it's got all the same problems as any other city," said Daniel. "Theft, drug use...Except it's mostly acid and Ecstacy, or cocaine, but it's not like there are crack hos on the street. People don't get mugged, there's no drive-by shootings, and there aren't any cockroaches either. Oh, but we do get litter. Litter's a big problem."
One of the most prominent differences between Black Rock City and other urban centers is the "gift economy." Instead of spending money during their stay, participants must barter or simply rely on each other for life's necessities. "It shows you a different, kinder way to be. Money becomes meaningless; you don't need it," said 22-year-old Branwen (white). "Well, it cost me about $600 for a ticket and a tent and food and stuff. But after that, money is meaningless."
Asked if she had encountered any non-white Burning Man participants, Branwen nodded vigorously. "I saw this beautiful black guy walking down the street two days before I left," she said. "I don't know why, but he really stood out to me. I hope he had a great time."
The Frisco Kid is generally to be found all likkered up and spoiling for a fight. She's a sexy Wild West gunslinger in the great tradition of Annie Oakley and Calamity Jane, only a little less with the sharpshooting and a little more with the booze-fueled marathons of Star Trek and sodomy.