Deep Playa in Long Island

Though I am intrigued by Burning Man, I have never attended. I am haunted by the words, “and then it’s three in the morning and you’re on acid, trying to keep your fur cape out of the Port-A-Potty.” I am wary of desert environments without coin-operated bathing opportunities, and August is my brokest time of year. By that Sunday of months, I’ve long since spent my meager summer savings on gas, gear and beer. I’ve never been able to budget for that final thousand-dollar expenditure on granola bars, baby wipes and a styrofoam igloo, no matter how often I am promised by the growing number of Burning Man devotees that I will get it all back, and more, in experience and backrubs from strangers.

Furthermore, there is the matter of my aversion to large crowds, my firm belief that civilization minus sewage system equals refugee camp, and my discomfort with techno music and group sexual expression, which I can only imagine would increase under the influence of the psychedelic pharmacopia I would feel compelled to ingest at such an event.

Psychedelics are neither social nor sexual for me, though I keep making the occasional stab, ever since a friend told me that during the climactic moment of a psilocybin-enhanced sexual experience, she hallucinated a flock of butterflies. Maybe I’m in a rut, but lately when I blow my own mind all I want is a mountain stream next to which I might weep uninterrupted in solitude. My interest in public nudity is firmly tied to the presence of water (either very hot or very cold) and my interest in techno music is limited to the Pandora selections of the employees of my climbing gym. It has occurred to me that all of these so-called reasons not to attend Burning Man are just the type of hangups, neuroses and pre-conceived notions that Burning Man is designed to incinerate. And–I was momentarily sold when I was told I could wear a bikini, fur boots and goggles the whole time. But–I’d rather be climbing.

I related all of these concerns to a fellow lone wolf and one-time Burning Man attendee. He smiled, shook his head knowingly and said, “Deep Playa.”

Deep Playa, he said, was place beyond the place, the “there” beyond the there there, the edge, the outside, the empty space. It was the wilderness of the temporary city in the emptiness. The desert’s desert.

Out there, he said, you walked or biked across the sand, and found empty space, or a movie theater with red velvet curtains. It was quiet. You could see all the stars. You could stay out there all night.

So now, when I think of Burning Man, I think of Deep Playa. But at the moment, I am in Long Island, as far from Burning Man as you can get. I’m visiting my parents in the house I grew up in. They are kindly taking me to the beach every few days, first at dawn, today at sunset.

The beach is the best thing about Long Island. I would say that the beach is the only thing about Long Island that I would not like to see non-violently bombed back to its prehistoric state, miraculously without harming anyone, but that seems extreme.

This evening at the beach, we all swam. Then, we walked a little, together. Then I walked on, alone.

One thing I miss since I moved to California is walking for a long time on a warm, sandy beach. Beaches out west are cold, foggy, craggy and rocky. But on Jones Beach, you can walk for miles. The Eastern reaches of Jones Beach State Park are an unofficial gay nude beach. It was on this gay nude beach where, walking with my youngest cousin, when she was about eight, we saw a man with a Prince Albert.

Further out, the beach was mostly empty, save for the occasional naked man, or pair of naked men, not wholly unlike how I imagined Burning Man would be.

There were odd driftwood structures out here, a few crude teepees. Some of them looked purposeful, others sculptural. I had entered the Deep Playa of Jones Beach.

I was mostly alone on the beach now, save for a shimmering figure here or there on the horizon. Our passing greetings were slight. The borderland is not a friendly place.

Why is it that I am drawn to the edges? As soon as I arrive anywhere, I want to find the place where no one else is.

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