Playa, –noun, Technically any dry lakebed can be referred to as a playa, but when a Burner says it, it’s almost always the Black Rock Desert, the modern home of Burning Man. The event takes place within the trash fence in a space that allows for the 1.5 mile-across Black Rock City plus room for the Temple and other large-scale installation art and some open space. This unoccupied area is known as Deep Playa or open playa. It remains empty except for rare artworks and occasional couples seeking open air intimacy.
The playa is not really sandy, but covered with a substance about the consistency of talc known as playa dust. Weather is notoriously harsh, with wide-ranging temperatures, frequent windstorms, and short-lived but heavy rains that can turn the surface to mud.
At regional burns, any focus of activity may be referred to as a playa. This leads to phrases like Burning Flipside‘s Grassy Playa, which refers to the large open expanse of Pyropolis where they build their effigy and largest theme camps. As a result, the phrase “See you on the playa,” can mean something more general than “see you next Labor Day weekend.”
Burning Man spent a year — 1997 — on another playa when it relocated to private land on the Hualapai Playa.
Thanks to Teo Del Fuego for input on this entry.
Other entries in A Burner Lexicon can be found at http://kitoconnell.com/lexicon/