A Newbie lament

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A Newbie lament

Post by SquireM » Tue Jul 15, 2014 10:29 am

I attended my first regional this past weekend. I know you are supposed to leave your expectations at home, but they managed to tag along anyway. I really liked all the things I thought I would like. The sense of community, the openness, friendlessness, the generosity, the art (though there were only a few pieces), and of course the people.

The surprises.

I know it's not "all about the drugs", but I was surprised at how much it was about the drugs and alcohol. There was almost always pot being smoked, and I'd estimate 40% of the conversation was about drugs: What have you done? What's your favorite? What do you have? What are you planning to do tonight? How much do you remember about last night? This isn't inherently negative, just surprising after being told so much how it isn't about drugs. As I thus far don't partake, this was an aspect of the Burn I didn't experience, and therefore set me apart.

There were definitely "clicks", or at least groups of people camping together who obviously knew each other and weren't very welcoming. Again, not inherently negative, just unexpected, especially since the total attendance was ~200.

This may come across weird, but I was surprised at how not sexual the environment was. There were lots of really sexy people, but unlike other festivals I've been to (music, Renaissance) there wasn't the innuendo or sexual tension. People seemed to open to be bothered with that.

I spoke with a bunch of people about all of this and there seemed to be a consensus that since our event was only 2 nights and there wasn't very much to do, most decided to take something as entertainment. The clicklyness was explained as some people not seeing their burner friends very often and wanting to maximize their time together. The less than super sexy environment was probably caused by the physical environment which was hot, muggy and crazy buggy.

The only disappointments were, I believe, related to "Playa time". We had a Center Camp with a stage and there was a board with the stage schedule. As far as I can tell, nothing scheduled actually happened, or at very least not within several hours of the scheduled times. I volunteered to run a TED-like event and was scheduled for an hour at 3. 4 weeks prior to the event I posted on our Facebook site to find out if there were other people interested in presenting, several people came forward so I thought we had a viable talk. I showed up at 2:40 to check it out and was told no one else had signed up and I was the only one presenting. Oh, and the projector and screen were forgotten. I was disappointed but still planed to give my talk. No one showed up. There were a few people milling about but when I asked, no one was interested. After 40 min, someone came in with a silkscreening setup so I left.

There was an "open jam" session scheduled at 5 and I showed up with my uke and drum. I played a little but ended up leaving at 5:50 because no one else showed up.

There were two Burning Man storytelling sessions scheduled and I was looking forward to these more than anything, neither happened. One was scheduled for 7 so I showed up then. At 7:35 several musicians started setting up for the "open jam" (that was scheduled for 5), I listened for a while then went to get my uke and drum, but when I got back everyone was gone. One guy who seemed sort of in charge told me that the storytelling would be happening at 8 instead, but at 8:40 someone started DJing techno so I left.

At the effigy burn that night, several people asked me how my talk went. When I told them what happened most thought it was funny. This hurt, but perhaps I just need to let it go.

Frankly, I'm not sure what to make of the whole experience. It hasn't deterred me from wanting to go to BRC. The official volunteering I did seemed much appreciated as did the general helping out when anyone needed it. I met some fantastic people. No one seemed to want or care about what I thought was my gift to the community, my "TED" presentation. I'll try to stay involved with the community, but it wasn't the slice of utopia I was hoping for. I should have left my expectations at home.

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Re: A Newbie lament

Post by xdwingdx » Tue Jul 15, 2014 10:47 am

good job participating! sticking to a schedule can be tough, especially when most of the people are on drugs.
but you did it the right way. you showed up prepared to give. Do this on the Playa and magic will happen...

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Re: A Newbie lament

Post by GreyCoyote » Tue Jul 15, 2014 11:14 am

Once a regional gets a little larger, maybe some of this will pass. The small events can be a little clickish, but as you note, it isnt intentionally exclusive. Its more like "Hey! Havent seen you in a long time", and people focus on lost friends. Still good people and lots of fun to be had, but yeah, more attention gets directed to old friends perhaps than making new.

My suggestion is to create your own environment. Be your own burn. Bring it and enjoy it. And remember your feelings about being not-so-involved and an outsider. Use the memory to help yourself avoid being like that with others next year.

Finally, remember the laws of scale: if you did a talk at TTITD that drew 100 people, the same talk at a regional burn might draw just one. Nothing personal there. Its just that you cant expect 20 people out of 200 to care much about your pet subject.
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Re: A Newbie lament

Post by tahiti_treat » Tue Jul 15, 2014 11:16 am

Hey there and welcome.

Expectations are hard to manage. I find it difficult to leave them at home as well. I am finding it easier to acknowledge that they are there, and then keep reminding myself that they may not be fulfilled, rather than try to banish them altogether or beat myself up for having them.

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Re: A Newbie lament

Post by MacGlenver » Tue Jul 15, 2014 11:21 am

A burn with 200 people would definitely be challenging in all those areas. I'd probably want to invite a friend to one so small. I will say that that is worse than I would have thought (punctuality, etc). Cliques of people can be challenging at burns sometimes -- I know I've felt it (especially at an event that size). Breaking the ice with people often takes time, or just stumbling on the perfect group -- you can't rush it, and, again, you were at a tiny event, so your odds of finding an easy connection may be reduced. Once you break through with a few people, though, your network will expand quickly and it'll start to feel more like home rather than a hostile/unwelcoming environment that it sometimes can feel like. The best thing you can do to start breaking the ice is introduce yourself to your neighbors. Maybe do something nice for them (watermelon!). As for your TED talk, you have to realize that most people out there operate without a schedule of any kind (that's the way I usually do it), so expecting a critical mass of people to show up at an event that small would be tough. I'd encourage you to find an event that's a bit bigger (500+).

I'd also second Tahiti's comment.
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Re: A Newbie lament

Post by tamarakay » Tue Jul 15, 2014 11:37 am

As some very wise person once said "a regional (even the large ones) are to Burningman what a wading pool is to the ocean"
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Re: A Newbie lament

Post by trilobyte » Tue Jul 15, 2014 11:45 am

I'm giving this a nudge over to regional events, since that's a better fit for discussions about experiences at a regional event.

They're interesting experiences, to be sure, but not too terribly similar to what I've been experiencing going to Burning Man since 2004. I don't doubt those conversations are rampant in some circles, but that's not the kind of conversation I'd have or be involved in with someone I'd just met.

Your surprise at how not sexual it was kind of implies you had an expectation of it being sexual. Maybe it was your experiences at other festivals. I'd imagine that in a smaller campout, that kind of thing can vary widely depending on the small crowd. BRC's bigger, and has plenty of spaces/camps/etc where things are sexual... and plenty where things aren't.

Finally, speaking personally, if you're looking for anything to happen on a specific schedule (other than volunteer shifts), you're doing it wrong. To me, the concept of playa time is that you're not wearing a watch, and you're disconnecting from the default notion of what time even means. And that usually means that trying to get people together at a specific time is difficult - if not completely impossible. It sounds like that's what happened with your experience, and similar happens routinely in Black Rock City as well. It's phenomenal that you were participating and volunteering, but unfortunate that things worked out that way. My advice (and this is just me speaking personally, not in any kind of official capacity), avoid that kind of volunteering or participation at Burning Man in your first year. Bring your uke and drum, and feel free to bring them with you as you explore the city as often as you care to. You'll likely find countless opportunities to play and jam with others, sometimes in the most unlikely of places. Volunteering and participating on the playa can be awesome and rewarding, there are numerous 'on the day' walk-up volunteering opportunities...lamplighters, BRCPO, or just go to the playa info space near center camp, there's a daily job board where you can volunteer to help with any number of things. This lets you delve deep into playa time for yourself, as well as gives you lots of room to get acclimated to the climate and the environment.

My final bit of advice... find a way to stop using the word utopia. Even with quotes around it, that implies that whatever you may be telling yourself, you've set up some pretty impossible-to-meet expectations. If you can help it, don't set yourself up for failure, disillusionment or feeling hurt. You're going to an arts and culture festival, which also happens to be an extreme environment campout (high altitude desert on a dry lake bed rich in alkali dust). From my experience (with Burning Man and other events), the better you can strip away or minimize your expectations, the more open you'll be to connecting with what the event can be for you, and the better the overall experience will be.

Your mileage may vary, and of take what I say with a grain of salt. There's no one way to burn, good luck in finding what works best for you.

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Re: A Newbie lament

Post by Dr. Pyro » Tue Jul 15, 2014 11:50 am

I'll bet his view wouldn't be so jaundiced had he been part of the cliques.

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Re: A Newbie lament

Post by VultureChow » Tue Jul 15, 2014 11:59 am

Thanks for talking about your experience here, beside echoing what everyone else said, I should mention that for the first part of my first "regional" I had much the same experience.

Small, cliquish, nothing happened really as scheduled. Drugs I had never even heard of.

What changed this was:
1)Finding other misfits and creating our own clique.
2)Food and/or beverage gifting.

NOTHING opens up people and makes friends faster than good food and booze. I would even say food more so than booze. And you should go out and offer. Don't just set it up and wait for people to come by. Take it to the people. Especially if they're doing their own cooking because they're likely to ask you to hang around to try their breakfast burritos or whatever.

There a reason why hospitality in most cultures revolves around food.
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Re: A Newbie lament

Post by Savannah » Tue Jul 15, 2014 1:03 pm

SquireM wrote:I'll try to stay involved with the community, but it wasn't the slice of utopia I was hoping for. I should have left my expectations at home.
. . . I'm glad that's your conclusion. It strikes me as pretty much on-the-nose.
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Re: A Newbie lament

Post by gaminwench » Tue Jul 15, 2014 1:29 pm

Wise responses, all.

I'd like to add:
I've been teaching workshops on the playa for 11 (or12?) years.
Sometimes 5 people show up. :D
Sometimes 75 people show up. :shock:
Sometimes people show up at the wrong time/day. :roll:
Playa time is a very real thing.
Don't take it personally.

And really work on losing your expectations,
your burn (and life) will be so much more fun!
"the prophecies of doom were better last year" trilo

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Re: A Newbie lament

Post by BeeWeeDee » Tue Jul 15, 2014 2:32 pm

Plan the event
Plan the time
plan the food
plan the drinks
plan the theme



Plan the outcome.
The next morning you will wake up pretty much your old self except that a very unusual 16 hours will have been added to your store of life experience.

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Re: A Newbie lament

Post by goathead » Tue Jul 15, 2014 2:43 pm

blinky lights

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