10 Things You Need On The Playa

For years I thought about going to Burning Man so that I could experience this ‘self reliance’ and radical expression’ that I heard so much about. In 2008 I finally subscribed to Jack Rabbit Speaks and lived vicariously through the newsletter and photos. Finally making it to the playa was surreal, for lack of any word in existence that could possibly describe it.

Like many virgins, I thought I was prepared. I mean, c’mon; I read the newsletter for years, I knew the principles, I had signed up to volunteer, I scoured the internet for tips and I checked my packing list twice. I knew I needed a tent (I doubt I would ever RV it, personal preference), food, water and a bicycle. You definitely need those things to survive on the playa. There were still things that I forgot, things I was glad that I packed and things I learned along the way. Here’s my shortlist, in no particular order:

10. Participation. Participate. Participate? Participate! This cannot be repeated enough. Just because you don’t want to join a camp or can’t commit to four hours of work a day as a ranger doesn’t mean that you can’t give back to Black Rock City (BRC). You can spend a few hours at Playa Info, get on stage in Center Camp, support an event or create your own event to share with the other citizens of BRC.

9. Lights At Night. There is nothing worse than literally running into some unlit being on the open playa after dancing it up at Disorient on Tuesday night. Be a dear and put some blinkies or glow sticks on your bike as well as yourself when you head out at night. Mutant vehicles and art cars may not see you stumbling across the playa and we would all hate for you to be that inevitable fatality that we have grown to expect annually.

8. A Vinegar/Water Concoction. Be sure to label the spray bottle that you put this mixture in. After spending hours exploring the playa your sweaty feet will thank you for keeping them from learning what playa foot is all about. Simply spray a little of this on your hands and feet and pat dry. Be sure to finish this ritual off with some lotion or sunscreen.

7. A Backpack. This sounds obvious, but it’s not. Couples tend to bring one bag and share the space. It’s not fun being the designated bag carrier with 2 water bottles, sweaters and other essentials strapped to your back. What would you do if that bag carrier of yours just so happens to wander off? Now it’s getting dark and your thirsty, what are you going to do? Don’t even let this become a potential situation, each person should have a backpack! It also makes it a little easier to get to the things you want when you want them instead of pestering the person holding all of your super cool stuff.

6. Earplugs. I even do this when I go to parties in the default world. Earplugs will help filter out the noise that will cause eardrum damage and it makes it easier to understand what the cute person in the elephant costume is screaming in your ear at Nexus. Want to get a few restful hours of sleep in your freshly pitched tent after a six hour entry queue? Pop in those earplugs and let the playa dreams roll.

5. Baby wipes. Some people feel icky after going seven days without a proper shower, but consider it a right of passage when you live in BRC. You can always head over to Nectar Village for a steam bath if you do not want to undertake creating your owner shower structure and in between make use of baby wipes to get your clean, quick fix. Remember that you’re only going to re-dust yourself two seconds after stepping outside. Save your water for drinking and your energy for playing, baby wipe the dust away.

4. Reusable Cups. It’s easy to just buy a pack of paper or plastic cups, but they’re wasteful and will become MOOP a lot quicker than you expect. Instead opt for a sturdier cup. Pimp out your favorite plastic reuseable cup or invest in a shatterproof thermos that you can attach to your bag for easy access.

3. Chapstick. I like to lovingly call the effects of chapped lips on the playa Playa Herpes. Just like the default world version, this is something that you just don’t want and your friends will probably stop sharing their cups with you. Do yourself a favor and buy a six pack in case you lose a tube. You can always gift an unused tube to someone that appears to be in need!

2. MOOP Bags. There will come the time when you are peddling down 4:00 between Engagement & Divorce (2011 street names) and you come across a half dozen used glow stick bracelets waiting to be picked up. Help keep the playa clean and carry a little bag to collect matter out of place. When you make it back to your camp empty out your travel size MOOP bag into your camp MOOP bag.

1. Your Own Personality. Just because some people choose to dress themselves up with EL wire before hitting the town each night doesn’t mean that you’ve got to do the same. Some folks prefer a simple floral shirt and cargo shorts when they head over to Center Camp for a coffee while you’ve got others that feel incomplete without their hula hoop, yarn extensions and green fur coat. Do what feels comfortable to you and just be yourself. You know the saying, Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.’ Keep in mind that this is also the time to step outside your comfort zone and try something new without the fear of being judged.

Keep in mind that there’s one thing you don’t need on the playa; a bad attitude. We all get tired, dusty and possibly dehydrated at some point during our short time on the playa, but that does not mean that Oscar the Grouch needs to make an appearance (unless that is planned ensemble for burn night).

Whether it’s your first burn or your 27th you’ve got to remember that you make the city and the city also makes you. Don’t forget the bacon. The gate opens in 193 days and the Man burns in 198 days. )'(

Will Burning Man Overcome Scalping?

Approximately 53,000 Burning Man tickets were sold by July 24th, 2011, making it the first year that the event sold out in its 25 years of existence. In efforts to combat the growing  scalping attempts the Burning Man Organization (BMOrg) has instituted a lottery system, which began yesterday.

There are already a few resale sites that are offering tickets ranging for $700-1610 a piece.  Keep in mind that the highest price tickets are selling for through the legal portal is $390. Resellers are also showing that tickets will ship between February 1st and August 24th although BMOrg has stated that tickets will not ship until some time after June 1st, without giving a specific date. In Coachella’s attempt to thwart scalper’s buying up all tickets they decided to host identical festivals over two weekends, with the same lineup. Of course burning two men, two temples and cleaning out the city and ushering in 50,000 people for a second week of Burning Man is highly improbable.

There are a couple things that BMOrg can do to try and combat scalpers before they become a cancer to the event.

  • Associate names with ticket numbers so you can track the movement of a ticket, even if the names are only virtually paired
  • Force purchases to resell their tickets through a BMOrg portal
  • Include verbiage to combat scalping in the Terms & Conditions

We first heard of the lottery/random selection system a few months ago and are now seeing if this system will be viable. There are tens of thousands of ‘burners’ queuing for a chance to be randomly selected for one of the 40,000 tickets being offered at the end of this month, potentially including those that did not receive a ticket purchase confirmation during December’s 3,000 ticket pre-sale.

For the next 13 days, at least, it’s a waiting game. Shortly after January 22nd the lucky 40,000 tickets will be randomly distributed to their very lucky recipients. Let’s hope that the far majority actually go to people genuinely interested in attending Burning Man and not looking to make a quick buck off of someone that has been saving up for this amazing place they call ‘home.’

Do You Live To Travel?

I know I do! I’m not sure when my love for traveling started, but I do believe that it was passed on from my parents. They met abroad and spent many years traveling the world. That paired with living all over the US left me to want to see more of the world.

As a child I would write fictional stories about families living in Africa at the turn of the 20th century.  I even joined pen pal agencies and corresponded with a girl in China and another in Japan. Nowadays I wouldn’t advise giving your home address to someone you  met over the internet. Since this was before internet I assume the pen pal agency screened the applicants although I don’t remember what information was required. I didn’t get a passport until after I graduated college which means I have a lot of lost time to make up for.

As mentioned in a previous post, my overall goal is 100 countries and all 50 states which makes for at least 150 destinations. As of now I have 102 more destinations until I meet my goal, I’m almost 33% there. I’ve always been curious about those that have spent their entire life in one state, some people haven’t even left their own town. What keeps someone from leaving the nest? Is it a lack of drive to see the rest of the world, simply due to lack of funds, or is it a fear of leaving your comfort zone? I definitely don’t have the answer but I know that once you start you just can’t stop. I guess this is how coffee drinkers feel.

I’ve come to the realization that without the opportunity to see the world, or even get a change of scenery, on a regular basis I would be a pretty unhappy individual.I’ve created a pretty ambitious itinerary for myself that includes a blend of domestic and international travel. I’m pretty excited and I’m still looking for activities to fill my weekends with when I can’t make it across the Atlantic. I’m still curious to know why some people don’t travel, even it’s one weekend a year.

I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who learned about the Great Lakes, the Great Wall, and the Mayan ruins in school. Why not go beyond the textbooks and computer screen and really see ’em first hand? I finally made my pilgrimage to my state’s capital, and although Buffalo isn’t a dream destination, it was an interesting city with a lot of history. With low-cost options like Jetblue, Southwest, Spirit, Virgina America, and even Megabus, if you have a fear of flying, what’s the excuse?

I live to travel, do you?

Shooting my 1st Wedding

This past weekend I got to shoot two friends wedding. I was more of a second shooter as I let the more experienced photographer borrow some of my equipment. I definitely enjoyed it, it was a learning experience and I may enjoy shooting people more than I expected to. I’m still going through the shots that I took.

Wedding bands:

Just after they tied the knot:

I plan to post a few more after scanning the batch.

My Love For Snowpocalypse

How much do I love snow? Let me count the ways. I definitely have a pep in my step when it comes to weather forecasts showing a 50% chance of snow. The past two weeks in New York were a particularly happy time for me. This is taking into consideration the fact that most trains were not running and I had to suddenly shell out $104 for a monthly metrocard. Most people assume that I am only happy about the snow because I don’t drive in NYC and I don’t have a sidewalk or driveway to shove. Au contraire, I like to shovel as well.

After helping a friend shovel during our Christmas Weekend Snowpocalypse I tried to take a bus to my place. The #FailWhale showed his face and then I begin a trek to my train station. My walk was interesting to say the least. Although some people definitely showed little regard for their fellow human by speeding down streets in the heavy snow there were others out singing as they trudged home.

Snowpocalypse De. 2010

Two days later the snow was definitely in a less desirable state. I am keeping hope alive that the wintry mix forecast for next week changes to a total whiteout, you should too! For those that truly despise the snow and wish it wouldn’t snow in the Northeast, my suggestion is to move to the Caribbean, it’s bound to snow eventually up here.


Gay Today

I couldn’t think of a really catchy title but I also wanted to address quite a few things in my post, as I fight off the urge to reheat more of the pad thai I haphazardly made last night. Right after Halloween I had a friend share a blog posting about a little boy who wanted to dress up as Daphne for Halloween. I also received a Google Alert regarding an organization for gays in Morocco. Lastly I attended a conference for Pride organizers around the world, InterPride Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Long Beach, California.

At the AGM I met a bunch of people from around the world as well as saw what this organization was trying to do. Being there for the first time made me what to further my commitment to the global LGBT community. Although the community in the U.S. is not afforded full equality we still enjoy much more freedom than many others within our global community.  Hearing from individuals in Bulgaria and India about struggles they endure just to celebrate their diversity speaks volumes to me.  Another aspect was the lack of international involvement from groups in South America, Asia, and Africa. I want to help these people with their struggle somehow.

When I received the alert about the organization, Kif Kif, in Morocco that is working to organization for the equality of its LGBT countrymen that was like receiving a glimmer of hope that there is the potential that a religiously run country may potentially be accepting, in some manner, of things that may be in contrast to their beliefs.  I hope that their organization will have a lasting impact within Morocco, Africa, and the Muslim world as a whole.

So I’m not sure how much this story has been blasted but I must applause the mother who allowed her son to wear the costume of his choice. It’s similar to forcing a child into a field of study or sport that they do not enjoy. Isn’t that what being a parent is about, affording your child some freedom as long as it does not affect their wellbeing? I mean parents allow their children to be Jason and Freddy Kruger who are killers, how is that any better than letting a boy be the enthusiastic character known as Daphne (after he had already been Scooby).  Would it have been better if a daughter asked to be Spiderman or Scooby? What should be called into question is the way the mothers in the story reacted.

In all there have been strides made within the LGBT movement but there is so much more globally and locally that needs to be done to ensure the safety of over ever-growing diverse community. We don’t need to approve of everyone’s lifestyle but everyone should be able to live freely if it is not directly affecting others in a detrimental manner. If I don’t agree with polygamy that doesn’t mean others can’t practice it just as I may not agree with a vegan lifestyle but if someone chooses a specific dietary lifestyle that works for them then so be it.

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

#5 Checked off the Bucket “Life” List

Finally, I get the chance to cross something else off my bucket list. I had initially planned on skydiving with friends for my birthday but plans changed thanks to an opportunity to travel I decided I was going to try it while I was away. I found a place called Parachute Center in Lodi, CA which is about two hours outside of San Francisco. The best part about it was the price of course. I could have done a dive and landed on the beach in Santa Cruz or jumped from a plane over the Rocky Mountains but I figured the most economical place for a first jump was Parachute Center.

I headed out pretty early on a weekday to make sure that I was able to jump without too long of a wait time. Within two minutes of my arrival I was harnessed and prepped before the plane arrived to whisk me 13,000 feet into so I could jump, just for fun!

I can say that I didn’t feel a rush when we headed up and I can’t say that I felt a rush when I looked out the window once we leveled off, and I doubt I can say I felt a rush when I leaped out of the plane but the experience is one that I will never forget. Once I got the breathing part down it was all smooth free-falling until we made it to about 5,000 feet and then the parachute opened and I got to enjoy a little time controlling the chute. I opted out of the photo/video packages, I figured I would remember it as long as I needed to and if I needed to re-experience the jump I can always do it again.

I would definitely suggest trying skydiving if you’ve never done it. It is an extreme recreational activity/sport but the adrenaline rush is worth it, if even for only a few moments.