Burning Man 2014

Burning Man 2014

 dusty playa
Hi there, It’s probably best to convey my 14th Burning Man to you now while it’s fresh rather than wait till the 11th, so, here goes.

After a Spring and Summer where I wasn’t doubting for a second that I’d be attending this year’s Burning Man, I suddenly got a very strong NO from the universe with about a week to go before the event. I earnestly talked to friends about the 500 reasons I didn’t want to attend; and it literally felt like there were that many reasons and more not to go. I may compile those reasons at some point, but to continue the story, I had a visit from Mr. Yes and that turned me around on the Thursday before the weekend we were to leave for the playa.

Mr. Yes? Why, yes!  One night, I turned off my phone, put it down, hopped on my bike, and started riding southeast from my house. During that ride I had the idea that I could adjust my course and visit a massage place that I’d heard about on 82nd and Division – a walk-in place. Well, that course adjustment and my subsequent excellent full-body massage for $20 reminded me of some of what I love about Burning Man – the opportunity to change course at will for something that caught my fancy. Sonad (“Spinning on a Dime“) as my friend, Abigail, pointed out! So, after my Mr. Yes visit, I decided that building my business could wait; that Eecole had arranged the most amazing transport/living situation I’d ever experienced at Burning Man; and that I could travel to Burning Man with my favorite person in the world, Eecole. Best friend, partner of almost 9 years – why would I not want to do this?

The Egg
The Egg

So, away we went!  Trailer (we called it the egg) lent to us by our friends, Dwight and Nicole; massage table; tons of food; clothes; bikes – we got going on Saturday. First up was an overnight at Summer Lake Hot Springs (one of my favorite places on the planet) where we pulled in by the lake/pond and had our first night of sleep in the Egg. Delightful. Quiet. The next day we cruised to Burning Man, spent 3 hours in line and another hour trying to figure out where to park ourselves. Then, we hopped on our bikes and cruised the playa for a couple hours and arrived. That night we also stopped by to visit our Portland friends Bob, Sam, and Ted who brought their amazing art car – Pipes of Passion (NSFW), to the playa. We had thought about camping with them, but their neighborhood was full of art cars/noise – so, instead, we plopped ourselves down in the quiet burbs of K & 7:50.  This is also one of my favorite areas to camp over the years as it’s a great place to watch the sunset – as it’s almost all the way out on the Western edge of things – facing some dear mountains. 

Playa sunsets rock  

Early Monday morning we heard the crashing sounds of thunder and lightening! 3-4 times – and then, Rain!!!! If you know anything about the Black Rock Desert, you know that rain can make the surface very clompy – and make it impossible to move about – especially with vehicles. We rushed outside, and brought in some of the things that could get damaged, and then went back to sleep. When we woke again and looked outside it was cool, and damp. We couldn’t easily leave, so just slept some more 🙂  But for thousands of Burners, this was a very hard time – many theme camps couldn’t keep building their infrastructure – art projects were stalled; and thousands of people were halted at the entryway to the playa – where a small lake had formed. Many had to wait in their vehicles for 24 hours until they were given permission to come in! Those who were along the road coming in were advised to travel back to Reno and try again the next day!

Burning Man Is Closed 2014 Part 1
Burning Man Is Closed 2014 Part 1

One result of the rain and the fact that Monday arrival didn’t happen was that the playa was quieter than I’ve experienced it since my first year in 2000 (after the rain that year :)(see above video). It also meant that the streets were not filled with cars trying to park; ports-potties were easily accessible and clean from the day before. It was really noticeable difference. We spent the morning setting up camp and then the rest of the day tooling about the open playa and enjoying the art and car-empty streets. This led me to think that it might be a good idea for Burning Man to try staggering the entrance, on purpose.  2 days on, 1 day off, would really make a big difference.

Burning Man 2014 Walks on the Playa
Burning Man 2014 Walks on the Playa

Burning Man this year was different from other years in many ways. For the past couple years there have been a huge influx of 1st-timers (virgins). Just like any activity, it’s useful to know the “rules” and Burning Man sends all ticket-holders a beautifully-written Survival Guide (after all you’re entering some very harsh conditions – hot during the day, cold at night – possible storms…) that really should be required reading by all. By now, I could probably write the guide in my sleep; but for those who have never read it and show up at Burning Man it’s very easy to hurt yourself, hurt others or make big mistakes. Note: leave your car keys, passports, valuables at your camp – don’t take your phone to a rave 🙂

Playastan Crossroads!

On the plus side the event has continued to attract beautiful, interesting, gigantic pieces of art (and incredible thinkers, dreamers, revolutionaries, and the curious). And there’s nothing like plying the playa by bike and seeing specs in the distance suddenly turn into art before your eyes. And the backdrop of the Black Rock Desert is the greatest gallery that could be imagined – dusty or not. This year was not a huge dust year. It was a big heat year, though. Traveling around during the day I felt my back getting fried at times. Luckily, there are great camps like Northwest Mist, which provide a respite from the heat and light.

This year’s PO9

One of the things that guided me this year was my understanding of how to use mail at Burning Man as a guide. I’m overdue to write up the history of the Postal System at Burning Man. If you’ve been reading my thoughts over the years, you know I’ve been involved in this “theme camp” since 2002. This year I decided to retire, and instead used the Burner Map appto locate my friends and create cards to lead me to them. Each day I’d pull out some cards and travel to the camps listed – sending myself as post, in a way. I visited people I am friends with on FB, only, and people I work with. I got to visit Carrie Katz, who I lived with on Kibbutz Urim in 1979 and hadn’t seen since! That was certainly a highlight. She’s become a professional songwriter and is also out there changing the world like me!

Burning Man - the Man
Photo by Eecole

I had a hard year. I often say “this is my last year” or “I’m not going“, but this time, I really think I’m done. Though Burning Man is an incredible experience, I may have gotten what I need from the event after 14 years of going and it’s probably time for me to move on. It also can just be incredibly challenging to go, set up one’s camp, participate intensely and endure the conditions. This year felt harder on my body than year’s past. Maybe I’m just getting older 🙂

That said, wow – the lessons one can learn from going are quite incredible. I often say to people it’s like getting a graduate education in a week. Part of my excitement about the number of virgins going is that I hope they will learn some of what is offered and not just waste their time there. You can often learn lessons so quickly at Burning Man. Also, with a collection of so many smart people; artists; musicians; makers; you learn so many interesting references that it can take you a year just to follow up on all of the great ones. And, it can be super fun. And funny.  And sexy. And smart. And uplifting.

Being a part of a gifting economy for a week – I don’t know anywhere else on the planet where one can experience that.  Do you?

El Pulpo and Mini Pulpo
El Pulpo!

We left before the Burning of the Man. It’s something I’ve been doing for the last 3 visits to the playa. It leads to not having any lines on the way out and for some beautiful sunsets on the way North. This year we stopped overnight in the Modoc National Forest which I’d been wanting to do for years. Though we were a bit fried, we did not swerve for bunnies (which is one way people die leaving the event each year) – sorry, Mr. Bunny. We also did not swerve for a skunk. Sorry, Mr. Skunk. 

On the second day heading back to Portland, we overnighted outside of Sisters, Oregon and woke up to see the sunrise at the 3 Sisters Wilderness area – see these pictures – it was one of the most beautiful mornings and this lava bed area is worth a visit.

Dee Observatory near Sisters, OR

Dee Observatory near Sisters, OR

Today we finally finished cleaning the Egg and returned it. 

I’m so appreciative for the opportunity to make this pilgrimage each year. It’s such a luxury. If you have never been, you might want to try it, sometime 🙂  Tickets go on sale in the Spring. Also, there are a lot of ways to travel to Burning Man as a volunteer.

I’ll probably be writing a lot more about Burning Man 2014 because I think the event is at a crossroads. I’d love to see it continue to retain some of its greatness, but I think it can only do that if the people who come get a little more educated about what it is before arriving.  And, the numbers of people are also causing some challenges – this year there were about 70K people which stresses various systems. When I first went in 2000, we were 20K!

If you went to Burning Man this year, I’d be curious to hear your thoughts, and if you have any feedback about my reflections, please write back! Happy decompressing!

OK, enough about Burning Man! I’m home, back in Portland!  I’ll be speaking this coming Wednesday, September 10th, at the Alberta Rose Theatre as part of a marketing mega-event from 9-12 – come on out or tell your friends who are small business people to come! I also have a free class I’m doing with Heather Fulton, on September 24th about the use of Social Media – details below.

Also, a while back I learned about the Garcia Birthday Band (GBB) and thought they’d be fun to dance to in a ballroom.  Join me this coming Friday for the first (and I hope first of many!) time the GBB will be playing at the Village Ballroom!

I hope all is going well in your world and that you’re enjoying yourself and nurturing yourself.

Sincerely,

 

Albert Kaufman

“Nutmeg Alfredo” (my playa name)

 

Gray
Albert Kaufman

Upcoming Events

Social Media Marketing for Small Business Success

Wednesday September 24, 2014 from 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM PDT

Come learn about social media from local expert, Albert Kaufman. This presentation is a guide for small businesses or nonprofits who have been using social media marketing, but need some tips to take them to an intermediate level and/or add new channels to their marketing efforts. Heather Fulton, Social Media Worldwide, will also be speaking – see link above for more information about Heather! 

Uptown Billiards – Coffee and drink service available. Also, so many people responded positively to the idea of having lunch together after class – that we’re definitely on!  

Heather Fulton

Gifting Economy

Freecycle Portland
I was having a discussion with folks in the Portland Burning Man community yesterday, and here’s something I penned about gifting:

“Jason, I would say it’s not an exact science, and rather perhaps more of an
art form this giving and receiving.  I’ve been working on something
recently that’s in a similar vein, Farm My Yard (http://farmmyyard.org ) and it’s been an interesting trip.  I thought it would be an a + b = c kind
of experience, but instead, it’s full of thousands of variables and every
situation is different.

same with giving and receiving.  it’s not that cut and dry.  each of us is
in a very different place in life – may be same age, but diff class
background.  may have same skin color, but different gender.  may have
different life experiences – having had a lot, easy access to stuff; or
none at all.

that said, I take each situation as well as I can in the moment and use my
judgement, wisdom, and also make plenty of misjudges and mistakes along the
way.

thank God there has been Burning Man, because that has been an incredible
crucible for me to try this type of exchanging, gifting, asking/receiving,
activity out for the last 12 years.

one year I came back and started FreecylePortland – and I don’t mean that
as a show-offy comment, just that I think about this concept A LOT.  and
try to live it, and share it, and yeah

hope everyone’s having fun preparing this year….

Then, later, I added this in. Feel free to play in the comments section!

I’d love to hear you take a few minutes and spell out what a gifting
economy is.  your words, a few paragraphs, go.

winner is all of us.

Image by Larz

Ready for Burning Man 2015 – Supposedly with a 747 Art Car!

I’ve gifted you with some of my understanding of gifting economy 🙂  what’s yours? 

Great year at Burning Man 2011

Another fantastic year at Burning Man!

[slideshow]

BRCPO 2011

Here we go again!   Black Rock City, Republic of Burning Man.  Countdown 1: two months to burn.  Countdown 2: one month to get the Post Office funded – we need your help!
Kickstarter: http://pdx.be/brcpo

BRPCO
Have you ever mailed yourself or someone you love a post card from the playa?  Well, The Black Rock City International Post Office Village @  9:00 Plaza needs you.  Your support enables us to transport, build & store our super funky & fun themecamp™ so you can send mail to people you love.  Inside our artistically crafted walls, participants are in for radical participation and fun from the Black Rock City community*, with gifts like bureaucratic performance pieces, postcard making, stickers, stamps and hilarious international shenanagrins.  All of those gifts, plus mail!, are spread over Black Rock City and the world each and every day through the PO.

The rewards for donating to this year’s amazing Post Office have all been generously donated.  100% of your donation goes directly to supporting our art.  To see photographs of the beautiful rewards, please visit http://brcpo2oh.weebly.com/fundraising–donating.html.  To see the PO camp, head over to http://brcpo2oh.weebly.com/camp.html.
And better yet, to donate, please visit the Post Office Village site at Kickstarter, at http://pdx.be/brcpo.

We hope you choose to support the PO ~ and send your love out from Burning Man, too.

See you at the burn!

*The Black Rock City International Post Office Village is home to:
– The BRC Post Office 2.Oh, Rites of Passage Post Cards,
– The Portrait Passage Post Card Making,
– The BRC Philately History Museum, and, of course,
– Ritual Delivery Services and Eu-ROP (Rites Of Passage.)

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