[personal profile] nemorathwald
Lakes Of Fire people: Help me out. I was planning to get a ticket, but I'm really struggling with a feeling of dread about attending a camping event. Whenever I hear about Burning Man and its regional satellite events ("Burns"), the complaints are specific (and devastatingly severe), but the praise is vague. Can you tell a story about something that happened to you at a Burn that was good, that would not happen just by staying home?

For a person who dislikes the outdoors, camping, bodies of water, rave music, dancing, and getting intoxicated, what is good about a Burning Man regional event? How much art is there which I can't see at my local hacker space (where much LOF art is built)? Is there food in a campsite, that I can't get a hundred times better at a restaurant?

Is a Burn just a spiritual training exercise in the "10 principles", or is it a form of enjoyment, or both? Do you enjoy it for some reason other than the outdoors and intoxicants? Do people just sit around talking? Or worse, getting obnoxiously drunk? Do I have to be radically inclusive toward intrusive behavior from drunks?

I enjoy creating experiences that other people enjoy! So, I've been trying to think of some experience I could provide to LOF attendees in the harsh and deprived environment of camping, while I'm all sticky, gross, smelly, camping, miserable, sleep-deprived, camping, begging others to gift me with the necessities to avoid becoming a filthy, starving, shivering, diseased animal, because of camping.

Is it acceptable to sleep in a local hotel? Exactly how frowned-upon is that practice?

Will I leave with both middle fingers raised in a "NOPE NOPE NOPE" the way I did at Pennsic?

Date: 2015-02-02 05:18 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] s kennedy (from livejournal.com)
Well, I'll try to take these some at a time, but perhaps not in the order you asked.

The 10 principles are essentially a way to enjoy the space, each other, and our creations without getting in the way of each other, or disrespecting ourselves or the place we are at.

The burn itself is a celebration, but it is also an act of destruction and moving forward much in the way of any pyre - many people write on the effigy itself, leave notes or letters or other flammable artifacts that represent part of their life they want to move forward from. Drums are beat, fire performers celebrate, fireworks go off, and then (after they're removed), the effigy goes up. I wrote a little something about my grandma, who passed away a number of years ago and would have loved something like Lakes, had she been able to experience it.

Like other events, the most important thing is that you are open to experiencing the event, vs spectating from a mental distance.

Lakes is only a few thousand people - it's nothing like Pennsic, that's for sure. It's also on a lake, which means if the showers are taking too long (and there are showers), you can head to the lake and soap up there.

There are plenty of people, in my experience, not getting drunk or high, and at least in my experience, even the drunk people were friendly, caring, and only interested in seeing everyone have a good time. YMMV.

Last year, my wife and I, along with a large number of friends, made Camp Cornucopia, where we offered (as a group) corn things like we made cornmeal pancakes (johnny cakes) in the morning for passers-by and we brought a huge container of dried corn husks, and helped people make and string up their own personal effigy creations. Then we walked them down and tied them onto the actual effigy, and when it went up in flames, so did everyone's creations. All of that felt very rewarding. Also, Nuri and I made packets of copper salts which people embedded in their effigies, causing blue and green flames to pop up here and there. ;)

Food ranges from typical breakfast fare to elaborate stews, two pig roasts and various smoked meats, frozen delicacies, coffee everywhere, and a smoothie station, but really, if you want amazing food, I suggest preparing and bringing your own, both to satisfy your own needs and to give back.

If you come expecting to have to beg others to give you what you need to survive, you will not have a good time, and neither will the people around you. Come planning for your own needs (build a fold-out yurt if you need more space, make a cot and put an inflatable mattress on it if you need to be off the ground, etc etc), and then anything that is offered to you is a delightful surprise rather than an expectation.

Chicago is also pretty heavily involved in the art grants, so you'll definitely see projects that aren't done here. Is the art worth it? Depends on the person. The first year I went, tucked deep into the trees was a sort of small gypsy caravan where a man was playing music while his wife beckoned people into the space - they'd installed green LEDs flickering and flitting about in the tree canopy, and a sort of dust display on the ground that reacted to your movement - they were creating a fascinating space, and I loved it. I should say I was entirely sober, too.

Someone else brought a huge moving truck whose interior was built into a sort of White Rabbit / Alice in Wonderland theme with lots to explore in and around.

Radical inclusion does not mean that you have to be accepting of the behavior of anyone - it means you have to acknowledge that people are equally welcome at the event, no matter what their background is. They're still expected to behave themselves, and there is plenty of staff around to enforce that.

At lakes, you cannot sleep at a local hotel. They do not allow re-entry. If you wanted to come for just part of the time, or for just a day, that is totally fine, but if you leave without a medical reason, you aren't coming back in.

pt 2

Date: 2015-02-02 05:22 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] s kennedy (from livejournal.com)
The environment is not that deprived. A reasonable number of theme camps have (sound-blocked) generators, there are portapotties everywhere, and a decent set of showers. Our group had a number of camp stoves and meal plans prepared in advance that people could participate in or not as they wanted. We brought enough food to feed ourselves, gave plenty away, and still went home with a lot.

LoF, unlike BM, has strict sound limits - after 11 or 12, all sound has to be below a certain # of db, and that is strictly enforced to prevent involvement from the authorities.

Pennsic (in my understanding as someone who has not attended) is very different from LoF in that there is far less structure to your time at LoF - it's what you make of it, entirely, with no obligation to your time. And yet, there are strong expectations that you will be responsible for yourself, that you will behave in a generally caring way toward others and toward the environment you're in, and that you will show up to give it a go and not just take pictures.

A number of my friends found the whole experience very moving - non-spiritual friends, mind you, who were not in any way high.

Last year was themed the year of the Kraken. I brought my very favorite wide-brimmed black hat and a black vest. There's a group of people who basically offer a free costume camp (give or take), in which I found a red cape I tied on, and I went around the lake trying to find the best place to get my 3-dimensional pirate ship kite into the air. It wasn't easy, and everywhere I went, people cheered me on, and in some places people offered to run the kite for me or help me get it to higher ground.

At that moment, I was having a blast, and I was also giving a sort of gift in that I was creating a silly experience for other people to watch. When I got it stuck in the tops of the enormous trees over by the effigy, I climbed the pyramid structure and tugged from the very top until it came loose, and an entire crowd applauded, and people from our camp (across the lake) said they watched the whole thing play out.

It's hard to get without going. Lakes is the easiest BM-like experience you can have, so if you're looking to get a feel for what it's about without spending a fortune putting yourself in deadly desert peril, this is the place.

And ultimately, it's all about your expectations and which ones you can leave at the door. If you come to understand a cultural experience, do your best to engage fully with others, and decide to drive home after a day deciding it isn't for you... that's still a great learning experience, IMO, as long as it doesn't come with resentment. And it shouldn't, because, as said, what you get out of Lakes has a lot more to do with what you put into it than with everyone else.

Date: 2015-02-02 05:28 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] s kennedy (from livejournal.com)
All that said ... it's still camping in one fashion or another. If you don't bring what it takes to make yourself comfortable, well, you have what you have.

I think you have a great imagination, you just need to figure out the mindset, which is pretty difficult to do without being there.

My biggest and most effective suggestion to you for figuring out whether this is for you is to talk, in person, to Janet.

Date: 2015-02-02 06:22 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] matt-arnold.livejournal.com
Thanks. Those stories are what I was looking for.

I should be clear about two things. First, I have proven to myself through past experiences that if I do choose to go, I will be respectful of everyone else's good time. At Pennsic I said precisely once, "I don't like to come into other people's fun and shit all over it, so I'll just say this once. I have been unhappy; I'm far enough in that I do not see any hump to get over; and I haven't figured out how to solve it. I am now letting it drop." I stayed extremely pleasant, externally.

Second, I need to get over my psychological hangups around preparing for camping. I take my physical needs for granted, so I don't successfully predict what I need to pack. It's challenging to turn my mind toward adequate mental effort to solve problems like food and shelter, when I know:

(A) They are already solved at home,
(B) I am re-inflicting them on myself and could choose not to by just staying home,
(C) I will solve them poorly (comfort will be impossible no matter what), and
(D) I'm unclear about what benefits I will gain for my sacrifice. (Thanks for helping alleviate this fourth concern.)

I don't forget everything, but I usually forget more than one thing. I don't consider anyone else obligated to me, but I lack confidence in my radical self-reliance, in this regard. So any advice would be helpful.

An elegant trick now occurs to me. I would like to burn all the camping supplies that I bring. For me, they represent my problems that are self-inflicted and inadequately solved, releasing my bad memories and all the hangups surrounding them. The thought fills me with satisfaction. This is so much better than glaring at camping supplies stacked in a corner, filling up space the rest of the year!

Date: 2015-02-03 03:15 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] s kennedy (from livejournal.com)
God, I forgot how awful LJ is about losing your text, ugh.

I'm not at all concerned about how you might impact other people, so much as how you might impact yourself. Fortunately, Lakes is close enough that if you're not enjoying yourself, you can just drive home. Expectations can be killer, but if you can figure out a way that, even if you leave early, you'll look back on it as a valuable experience, that is the mental place to inhabit... and opens the way for a better experience.

Melanie and Jason came to camp last year, never having done it before, and they were very overwhelmed. First thing that helps is being part of a group - we had spreadsheets of what everyone was going to bring so you we didn't bring too much of the sort of things that weren't needed individually. Also, they got their hands on a packing spreadsheet from someone who had been to BM before, and I believe it got prioritized for Lakes, which is very different environment.

Here is my example of how I prepared:

Date: 2015-02-03 03:40 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] s kennedy (from livejournal.com)
I want to be comfortable in my personal space, so I (and my wife) brought a reasonably large tent to fit what we need indoors (and a tarp under the tent for waterproofing). Sleeping arrangements consisted of a sleeping bag, on top of a thin self-inflating camp bed, on top of those square connecting floor mats you can get in big batches at costco. Also pillows, blankets, and earplugs.

I want to stay clean and healthy, so I picked up a small container for a week's worth of body wash, toothbrush/paste, and small packs of pain meds, stomach meds, allergy meds, deodorant and neosporin/bandaids.

I want to ensure that I have enough personal fuel for the weekend, so I brought clif bars and beverages (though water is free from a few taps). We also brought stuff to make sandwiches and other food we'd actually enjoy making and sharing around. Since we knew other people in our camp were bringing a camp stove, we did not worry about that. If that hadn't worked out, I feel comfortable walking around asking if I could heat up my dinner on someone else's stove, but there are also plenty of campfires.

I like to have a place to relax and have conversation away from the hubbub, so we brought two folding double-chairs... but also our theme camp set up a special large tent that we all contributed pillows and blankets to, just for chilling, cuddling, talking, whatever, all welcome. (more)

Date: 2015-02-03 03:51 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] s kennedy (from livejournal.com)
Also, I like to be well-prepared in clothing, so I brought at least one pair of jeans, shorts, swim shorts, a sweatshirt (this is Michigan), sandals I don't mind getting wet/swimming in, comfy shoes, something to wear if/when it rains (and boy did it last year, that was fun)... and that doesn't include the fun attire like my best, my wide-brimmed hat, my nerd shirts, one blank shirt to get silkscreened (that happens each year), LED fun-lights and flashlights for after-dark visibility, etc.

And I brought toys and books - things to relax with or to play around with others with when I didn't feel like wandering around the campground. While you certainly CAN spend 4 or more solid days walking the 1-mile-circumference lake, interacting constantly, I need some downtime.

I think the most important thing is to ask for help, make an inventory list, have someone look it over to make sure you didn't forget something you'll regret... and remember that it's only a few days. If you forgot something that isn't absolutely pivotal... it'll be okay. You're out here to be part of an experience, and it will go all too quickly, and you will be back to your comfortable home before you know it.

Sheryl knows all about some of the "new to burning man" events that happen in our area - maybe she can point one out to you, because they're a super great way to figure things out.

Oh, and did I mention volunteering on location? :D I do it, even when I already have my hours, because A) it allows me to feel like I am giving back during the event, B) it lets me get to know the kind of people who would make an event like this happen, C) there's a volunteer gratitude party or two out there, which is just one small way they make sure you feel appreciated.

Date: 2015-02-03 04:49 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] matt-arnold.livejournal.com
I'm finding cots for $10 and 4-person tents for $100 on Craigslist. The cots are wood and canvas; I don't think any of these tents will be flammable, though. The fumes would probably smell pretty bad.

Date: 2015-02-03 03:15 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] s kennedy (from livejournal.com)
God, I forgot how awful LJ is about losing your text, ugh.

I'm not at all concerned about how you might impact other people, so much as how you might impact yourself. Fortunately, Lakes is close enough that if you're not enjoying yourself, you can just drive home. Expectations can be killer, but if you can figure out a way that, even if you leave early, you'll look back on it as a valuable experience, that is the mental place to inhabit... and opens the way for a better experience.

Melanie and Jason came to camp last year, never having done it before, and they were very overwhelmed. First thing that helps is being part of a group - we had spreadsheets of what everyone was going to bring so you we didn't bring too much of the sort of things that weren't needed individually. Also, they got their hands on a packing spreadsheet from someone who had been to BM before, and I believe it got prioritized for Lakes, which is very different environment.

Here is my example of how I prepared:

Date: 2015-02-07 03:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] atropis.livejournal.com
Borrow or rent a full size van. Put down the back seat and sleep on that. It's like having a real bed, and you don't have to fool around with gear at all. Or even a minivan is not so bad for the purpose if you pull out the back seat and throw a mattress in its place. It's like camping without camping. You still get baked out in the morning, once the sun is strong enough (usually about 8am), but that's really the only downside.

Pennsic and Burningman are pretty different events. Different themes tends to mean different crowds and different focus overall. Can't speak directly to Lakes of Fire as I haven't attended that one.

Date: 2015-02-07 06:16 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] matt-arnold.livejournal.com
OOOOOOOOOOOOOOH!!!!! I LOVE THAT IDEA!

Have I told you lately how much I value your perspective? Thank you!

Date: 2015-02-10 11:57 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] atropis.livejournal.com
Happy to be of assistance. :D

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