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.
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.