Ah — my Dear Friends and Fellow Burners — it’s Headmaster Janus from Play)A(Skool aka Jon La Grace, one of the people on the Plug and Play video, reaching out to all of you and hoping to address some of the notions and ideas of what Plug and Play IS and IS NOT. I represent Play)A(Skool — a Plug and Play Camp. Hopefully some of you were able to come and participate in our Interactive heavy schedule last year that included daily talks, classes, demonstrations in our SkoolHouse as well as hosting the first-ever TEDxBlackRockCity at our camp — an incredible venue to share some of the great voices and incredible Ideas Worth Spreading from OUR wonderful community. Or perhaps you stumbled on our Sunday Graduation party with the amazing Lee Burridge spinning for 7 hours leading up to the Temple Burn? Hundreds of people were there and the moment was, for me, sublime — We had envisioned this very party while planning Play)A(Skool, and that vision was eclipsed by the true beauty of the moment. Our gifts to the Burning Man community not only included these incredible events, but we also shared 8 different art cars in our camp including Shaggadelica – the big furry bus, Shagillac, Christina (the 70ft boat), The Scorpion, BalanceVille, FishTank I and II, and others. One of our campers created the now viral video called, “Home” — which hopefully you’ve seen? Images of Burning Man that were featured in many global media outlets from a number of famous Burner photographers — yes — they too are from Play)A(Skool. As a Plug and Play camp, we eagerly invite each and every one of you as our gift to the community. And we are very proud of our Family and their work to help bridge the gap —
Let me describe Play)A(Skool to you so perhaps it frames how our Plug and Play camp works. We are a NOT FOR PROFIT organization. Our books are open to anyone in our camp who requests to see them, as well as to the Burning Man Organization. Our financial model is simple: we look at what our needs are going to be for the year — power generation, water, dumping, providing shade structures for our lounge, kitchen, tenters, creating the SkoolHouse, Sound needs, Art provisions, etc.. — we take that number and divide it by the number of campers we have and that’s that! To me, that’s no different from when there were 8 of us at Hualapai Playa — we took the total cost of getting ourselves there and setting ourselves up and divided it by 8?? I’m not really sure how if we divide that number by 200 how all of the sudden we aren’t modeling the 10 principles? We had 1 person that volunteered his time to overseeing the camp operations and we allocated a ticket for that person. We also allocated tickets to an additional 4 people who volunteered as well. One person was licensed to drive the water truck. The other 3 who were licensed to build the SkoolHouse from pallet racks and operate the SkyTrak lift. We ended up taking a collection at the end from out campers as gratitude for these guys that took time from their full Burning Man experience and offered to pay them for their time and work. Additionally, we hired a team of people to come to the Playa to make sure our LNT plan was fulfilled. (Here’s the kicker — the team we actually DID pay — they failed the LNT plan and we ended up getting a red mark — so this year, we are eliminating even THAT component and instead we are asking a group of PlayaSkoolers to stay for an additional week to ensure our compliance.) Other than that, it was the 200 people in our camp that were told WELL in advance that they would be part of a cooking team and a moop team — that they would be responsible for their RV’s and costumes. For all this talk about the Entitled Plug and Players — I can’t tell you how FAR that is from the reality of PlayaSkool. That’s the ticket to PlayaSkool — it doesn’t matter if you are a CEO, MD, Ph’D, MBA, CFO, WTF — we are all equal on the Playa — anonymous — and you’re gonna be responsible for our camp. Period.
We at Playaskool ARE the servants — self-servants — self-reliant — giving — participating — and yes, Plug and Play.
7 of us form what we call the” Fakulty” — a group of volunteers who spend the entire year planning the camp. What an incredible journey it is for these people — the sacrifice becomes a test of many things: relationships, jobs, mental health. Last year our planning team were scattered all over the world: 2 in Cambodia, 2 in California, 1 in Canada, 1 in Colombia and 1 in London. We planned all year via Skype, WhatsApp, Free Conference Call and loads of emails. We never met in person — not once — until we were standing on the Playa in 2011. We didn’t pay anyone to do this job, we each volunteered our time and effort in the planning of the camp. To me, that smells like Self-Reliance. (And it sure felt like it — this will be year 13 for me and last year was one of the MOST demanding in my tenure at Black Rock City.) As a group of planners we dealt with Placement, Interactivity, Infrastructure, Kitchen Plans, MOOP, Layout, PR and Communication,etc.. Let’s face it — planning a camp of 200 takes a team of dedicated volunteers.
The other 193 people worked on art, decorating the camp, teaching classes, dj’ing, working on Art Cars, cooking, cleaning, setting up there little micro-camps within our group. In ALL my years at Burning Man, I honestly don’t find this ANY different than when I was a poor college student with a tent and a ticket. This year, I got to the Playa a week in advance of the start in my RV, set up my area, decorated, met others — not a speck of difference if I do that in a tent, yurt or RV. No one set this up for me or anyone else in our camp! And if they DO, it’s a fellow PlayaSkooler — not some paid person there to pamper and certainly not a “servant.” Setting up camp and breaking it down is still the FUN pain in the ass it has ALWAYS been — Yes, a vast majority of our campers camped in RV’s, many who already own their own vehicles. And yes, we provide an infrastructure for our campers. We had 2 bio-diesel generators and procured water from a local source (helping the local economy). I was pleased to see the the post regarding environmental impact — this is something we’ve actually spent some time researching and continue to study. We are not new to the Playa. MANY in our group are long-time Burners. So this conversation is not new to us — we constantly look to decrease the impact on the Playa as much as possible. The reality is, when we look at tents and yurts — providing power and water and restrooms and showers — there is as great an environmental impact as compared to RV’s, in fact there are more. Personally, I’ve done it all — tents, yurts, rv’s — for me, I want to provide a choice for people to choose what is comfortably right for them. This year, I’m going back to the tent to experiment with this idea. But that will take WAY more space than the RV because Ol’ Janus will build three sleeping tents, two dressing rooms, a very large hang out tent — all of which needs power and air condition. All of which I will do myself and with my fellow campers. All of which will have an environmental impact equal to if not outstripping that of my RV. But if the argument is about RV’s —- then we can easily switch that out and I personally will model what that means this year. Environmental impact? I think the jury is out on that one Kiddies.
Really — if you want a RADICAL self-reliant policy — then perhaps banning RV’s all-together is the solution? (Oh Janus! You didn’t!!)
We are a camp of 200 of the most incredible, giving, wonderful, dedicated Burners who come from all over the world for a week in the desert — to fill our creative well, to let go, to demonstrate a craft or realize a dream. For some it’s about building art and art cars and participating in conversations about how to bring these incredible gifts back to the default world. I’m proud of our Plug and Play camp and campers as I think we exemplify the creative spring and the fabric of Burning Man. I think we are a model community in many ways — and therefore really hope to continue the conversation about what Plug and Play means. The very image of Burning Man, the beautiful costumes and incredible art and one-of-a-kind experience — a great deal of those ARE Play)A(Skool, a Plug and Play camp. We are but one, there are others that are less self-reliant. But all things change in time and to just merely discount the value of this model would be dire. I was very pleased when Harley Dubois and Terry Schoop invited us to participate in this conversation because there are many different ways to do Plug and Play — but suffice to say — our model is NOT a Disneyland ride of tourists being whisked from place to place on the Playa like some sort of Falling Down the Rabbit Hole ride.
“Every generation gets a chance to change the world
Pity the nation that won’t listen to your boys and girls
Cos the sweetest melody is the one we haven’t heard”
As always — I’m happy to engage in helpful conversation —-
In Love and Dust Kiddies —