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Ah, the infamous DPW, or Department of Public Works. A hardened crew of bikers, carnies, and general miscreants who invade the desert for two months each year to build and tear down Black Rock City. If Burning Man has a "wrong side of the tracks" it is DPW territory on the outer ring.

One day our campmate Loyal, a Burning Man virgin, came storming back to camp in a fury, explaining that a bunch of jerks had killed his happy Burning Man buzz by refusing him passage on their art car, demanding beer, and taunting him cruelly over his floral print dress.

"Loyal," I said, "please tell me you did not try to board the annual DPW beer parade."

I explained this tradition, in which the violently intoxicated DPW emerge from their lair to parade through the city in flatbed trucks and Mad Max cars, shouting obscenities and demanding beer in exchange for their work in building the city. The best response is to hand over large quantities of cold beverages and retreat as quickly as possible. One should never, ever, attempt to board their vehicles, especially in a floral print dress.

My explanation seemed to calm Loyal a bit. "They're still jerks," he said. But he had learned a valuable lesson—that all is not sweetness and light at Burning Man.


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©2006 by Philosopher