Andy’s skipped town (L.A.) and will be in Reno for a few days, interrupting his current acting gig as part of a clown troupe. That’s just as well, considering he created a clown character called The Naked Clown. (Don’t ask.)
After Reno, he’s headed to Burning Man, the temporary city near Gerlach, Nevada that erupts like chicken pox across the belly of the northern Nevada desert. Burning Man is a temporary community of five square miles in the Black Rock Desert, 120 miles north of Reno, on a mini-dry lake-bed playa. More than 50,000 people who value artistic self-expression and popular pharmaceuticals will pitch their tents to camp in extreme heat, freezing cold, dust and dust storms. At the end of the festivities a four story tall wooden man is burned to symbolize Burning Man’s major significance——to provide the fire for 50,000 s’mores.
This year’s theme is Evolution. The majority of attendees, who enjoy creating costumes, are expected to dress up as Charles Darwin, Clarence Darrow, monkeys, plant cells, human cells and sleeper cells. The remainder come dressed as Gideon Bibles or God.
There is no water at Burning Man, but there are 400 port-a-potties, which in my book is more important. It is not commonly known that Nevada, (“The Sagebrush State,” “The Silver State,” “The Battle Born State,” “The Dust Mite State”) has, since it was first admitted to the Union in 1864*, lacked sufficient numbers of 20th century restrooms.
* [State of Nevada expelled from Union in 1865, wait-listed 1866-68, re-admitted by doctor’s excuse in 1869]
Oh, I know what you’re thinking: places in Las Vegas have gargantuan hotels with ornate bathrooms like the one in the Venetian Hotel’s opulent world-renowned Zeffirino Restaurante, which recently won fourth place for “America’s Best Restroom.” The contest is sponsored by the Cintas Corporation, maker of bathroom hygiene products, which looks for nominees in answer to questions such as “What makes the experience of using a public restroom something special?” “Is it style? Is it elegance?” “Is that restroom so clean you are almost ashamed to go home?”
Zeffirino’s restroom includes spacious men and women’s rooms that feature custom-made mosaic tile artwork, marble floors and private restroom suites where patrons using the toilets may simultaneously dine on Zeffirino’s House Speciality, Tuna Noodle Casserole with Peas.
This is fine for big-city folks, but in less populated areas— the major part of Nevada—- restrooms are limited, if they exist at all. When I was young, I took the Greyhound Bus several times with my mother and sister from Portland to Las Vegas. Going by bus, at least, we had access to restrooms in the Nevada towns of Beatty and Tonopah. During these rest stops, nickels or dimes were not for slot machines but for pay toilets. Yes, children, for those of you unfamiliar with the name “Nik-O-Lok,” it was not a candy bar but a bar to your ability to use a public toilet unless you put money in the steel slot. This was country-wide. Generally all but one stall required a nickel or dime to use. For those unable or unwilling to pay, a free stall was provided, recognizable by its hay-covered floor and mucking rake.
Fortunately, the courtesy developed to hold the stall door open when you exited, so the next person could go in, gratis. If you didn’t like the looks of the person next in line waiting for you to leave, you could hold the door open until she came close, then allow the locking door to slam shut in front of her while uttering “Oops!” to avoid being beaten.