Playa Wins: The Gooey Coat

Temple of Juno


Now that we’ve talked about our playa fails, let’s talk about playa miracles. The little wins and big scores that happen at Burning Man are part of the magic.

My first playa win came before I even got to the event. When the car overheated in Fairfield, Calif., my friend and I experienced our first playa fail.  But when we found a rental agency with one pickup truck in stock, we had our first playa miracle. They didn’t even ask us if we were going to Burning Man — heading to the desert can be a deal-breaker for most car rental agencies. Three hours after pulling off the highway we were back on the road and rocking out to satellite radio.

On my first night out in Black Rock City I lost my coat. I was riding my bike and suddenly the coat was gone. The coat was the color of playa dust — perfect, because it never looked dirty. This feature also made it impossible to find because it was camouflaged on the ground. I finally gave up, mad for losing it and mad for littering. I hoped it would make its way to someone who needed it.

The next morning I visited my friend Thumper at his camp. He put on a fresh pot of coffee and I settled into a lawn chair for a session. We were catching up and having a good laugh. “That bike your husband loaned me is a real cream puff,” he said. “It made it about 10 feet before breaking.”

I told him about losing my jacket. His face changed. “Hold on,” he said, “I have something for you” and ducked into his trailer.

He emerged carrying a coat on a hanger. It’s almost the same color as the one I lost but a vintage style with a furry shawl collar. I tried it on and it was a perfect fit. When he told me “It’s from the Gooey collection” my eyes welled with tears. Gooey was a friend — a lit firecracker, a generous soul and a Southern charmer. Her ashes went in the Temple after she decided to end her life.

One more burn for Gooey and warm nights for me. I know she’d want me to have the coat and I can’t help wonder if that’s why I lost mine. Coincidence? Miracle? Divine intervention? Call it what you will, there is magic in the desert.

Tell us… what was your playa win?

About the author: Molly Ditmore

Molly Ditmore

The night Molly Ditmore arrived at Burning Man 1998, she told everyone that she had come home. She didn't pack a flashlight or get any sleep. She volunteered at Media Mecca for six years, where she handled press inquiries from the music community and hosted an art tour. Costuming for Burning Man inspired her to sew again, a skill she learned in middle school home economics class. She is now a couture pattern-maker, custom clothier and rain hat maker. Molly got dusty from 1998-2009 and 2012-2015. She reads the comments.

12 Comments on “Playa Wins: The Gooey Coat

  • D says:

    I wrote a piece on the temple mourning the fact my brother has never expressed any interest in having a relationship with me beyond my visits home several times a year. (My entire family lives in one area, I on the other-hand live halfway across the country).

    I’d never thought of the temple as a wishing-well but a week after getting back from the playa my brother told me he was coming to visit for the first time.

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  • JK says:

    Two miracles: Danger’s Coconut Water & Apple Dude

    Third burn this year and I was completely beat to shit by Sunday. Meaning I probably should have gone to medical, but I was out of my head electrolyte depleted, and had a burst blood vessel in one eye to boot. Actually took off on my bike headed that way, but got lost and figured I should go back the way I came, before I couldn’t, and the Rangers picked me up off the playa. Not in good shape.

    I got back to camp Sunday, early afternoon, and Danger gave me (and made me slam) Coconut water. That shit is nasty. But damn if it doesn’t work. It definitely started my innards working again. I hadn’t even drank a beer in over a day, or eaten in longer than that. Surviving on dust, I think. Danger’s Coconut water = Miracle #1.

    Miracle #2: Apple dude. We left Monday morning at 4 AM for Exodus, and all I could think of was eating an apple. I considered every damn food item me and my friends had left on hand, and none of them seemed like something I could keep down, much less eat in the first place. Apples were the only food item I could envision eating. And I knew I was short on resources, with 1,000 miles to go. Looking grim. Around 9 AM or so some guy came walking through one of the pulse zones with a bag of apples.

    That was the best apple I ever ate in my life.

    Thanks, Danger & Apple dude!

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  • Zhust says:

    I think “Playa Miracle” is a bit strong a term and may be scaring off stories in the comments. I’d go with “Playa Wins” to properly the “fail/win” meme …

    In 2006, I was walking late at night with a campmate. We knew of a camp that cooked up grilled-cheese sandwiches and wanted to try and get some, but it clear on the other side of the Playa. We hailed a U-Boat and asked to come aboard. The captain said (and I have long-forgotten the actual names) “My name’s Steve, but my Playa name is Dave.” (Which is still a favorite in all the Playa names I’ve heard.) We asked if he wanted grilled cheese sandwiches. He said someone was supposed to come out to bring him some food, but jee never appeared, so grilled cheeses sounded awesome! We drove up to the camp and they said they had closed up for the night, but because we brought a U-Boat, they’d start up a couple grills. The sandwiches were the best grilled-cheese sandwiches I ever had.

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  • Author here. I want to high-five @zZhust — correct that using the term “win” better follows the theme we set with fail/win. The term “playa miracle” is well established but in terms of this here blog, continuing the win/fail channel works better.

    Thusly you will see the parenthetical (ed. note: headline changed 10/10/2011).

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  • uptoolate says:

    On our way years ago, somewhere in the Sacramento Smear east of the River, Sunday evening, light failing, amidst a barren landscape of abandoned industrial complexes post 2008, somewhat lost and not sure even how we got so off course (I had been dozing), awoken by a harsh grinding sound, a sound that raises the hair on your back when you are nursing an old RV that should have been retired long ago but instead is pulling a new 16 ft trailer because we didn’t have ENOUGH SHIT last year, already 24 hours behind schedule and hung over, (that part is normal), we halt to stagger about the yet another setback, the hitch was mangled in an unfathomable way.

    Davo, I say, I don’t suppose you have a grinder in that fucking trailer?

    Did you say you needed a grinder? a voice sounds behind me, and there appears out of literally nowhere two fairly beaten down Appalachian type guys in an equally beaten down Ford equipped to the hilt, they had been looking for an open bar. Monster, his name was, after the muppet, gets to work, sparks flying, no gloves, and fixes our issue in short order, never heard of Burning Man they say, but happy to help, been out of work since the Crash. Pass it on they say as they drive off back into nowhere. I’d wager there wasn’t a bar around for miles.

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  • Dr.Realz says:

    I was working on setting up my camp I was bent over tying something down to a stake it was hot I was tired and hungry and I am thinking man I could really us a hot dog right now. I heard something behind me I stood up and turned and a gorgeous woman was stand in front of me holding a … dog. I startled me so much that I took a step back then she said I am a vegetarian you want this. I screamed I love you took the hot dog hugged her and was grinning the rest of the day.

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  • chrissy2you says:

    so, my playa win this year was that everyone in my camp was in a good mood, pretty much the entire 9 days…….. when the ugly emos arose, they were handled quickly, quietly and with grace. It was such a blessing! 10 full-time campmates, and 3 to 7 constant visitors, and really, we had no emotional drama.

    Playa win, or Playa miracle? It was a miracle to me!

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  • Luscious Libby says:

    My second Burn, I joined the critical tits ride on Friday afternoon. Arrived at the party destiny in the thick of a white out. Felt suddenly claustrophobic and needed to get away from the maddening crowd. Followed the brake lights of an art car until they disappeared. It started to rain MUD so hunkered down until it passed. Had no idea whereabout on the playa I was. Suddenly the skies cleared to a stunning brilliant blue, and I was 10 feet in front of the most beautiful David Best temple, a place I had needed to land as I had lost my mom just 3 months earlier. The Playa takes care of me, always.

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  • lazy boy says:

    i was wondering the playa after a fight with my best friend and a campmate.i sighned up for some body work at a healing temple and when greetd by a young man we go in to a back room. we sit down and it turns out he is a physco theropist. we have a nice long talk and i have a nice ahh haa moment in witch i realize what needs to be done… and off i rode to make amends.

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  • mel says:

    synchrodestiny… love to you and for always gooey ~

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